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Posts posted by Kyo

  1. Curtis had left Darkpine hours before the night had came. His entire family had packed up and left, travelling a 2 hour drive out of town on to a reserve, and a further 2 hour in to the depths of forests surrounding the rocky mountains. They had always went to the same place on a full moon, a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization. The cabin had belonged to Curtis' grandather, Isaac, and had been the agreed territory for his pack during the full moon ever since. According to Sam, it was important to shift in a location that was familiar, something that their primal selves would understand to be their territory. This would stop them wandering off too far, and in general just made the whole experience a lot less stressful. 


    When night fell the only light in the forest was coming from their cabin, and music played from an old record player. The entire pack were sat around the large lounge room of the cabin. The air was thick with cigar smoke that danced around the room in a haze. The coffee table was littered with empty beer bottles and a couple of whisky bottles that were almost depleted. Curtis threw back the glass of whisky he held in his hand, it's contents burning his throat. Despite the appearance, this wasn't really a party. The music playing came from Granpda Isaac's old record collection, and it was music that was familiar to all of them and it had become a sort of ritual to play it on a full moon. The alcohol was also a ritual. 


    Werewolves heal quickly, and this includes the processing of alcohol within their body. The upside to this was no hangovers, the downside was you didn't stay drunk for very long. The lead up to the full moon was a time when the pack avoided alcohol, but on the night itself they made up for it. It might have been nice to get drunk with his family on any other night, but on these occasions it was out of necessity. As the time to shift grew nearer, the more the pack suffered. Curtis had awoke that morning feeling tired and irritable. By the afternoon he could feel a prickling heat through his body, his muscles ached with tension, he was always hungry, always horny. This was happening to all of them, which was a recipe for disaster. The alcohol was a way to provide some form of relief, to numb the sensations they were all feeling. 


    All except Sam, of course. The Alpha, himself, had not touched a drink all night, and seemed content with calmly and quietly overseeing everything. Becoming an Alpha is complicated, there are no set rules or procedures involved. Strictly speaking an Alpha is a werewolf who has truly accepted his primal nature, and has achieved full control through understanding and embracing that part of them.It's easier said than done, however, for wolves are not meant to be tamed. Curtis, at that time, could only curse the wild animal within. Even amidst the drunken haze, he could feel his skin prickling and the steady thump, thump, thump of the cluster headache pounding through his entire face. Nobody was speaking, nobody wanted to. Despite the good music, the drinks, they were all going through hell. 


    Justin seemed to be in a similar state to Curtis, and was quietly nursing a beer and nervously tapping his fingers over his leg. He was sat on a sofa across from Curtis, with his father, Cain, sat to his left and his mother, Rowan, to the right. Cain was huffing away on a cigar and sipping whisky, he looked irritable and grouchy but he was holding it together like a man who had been doing this for a lifetime. Rowan was laying on the sofa with her feet resting on Justin's lap. She was normally a very graceful woman who only spoke when there was something worth saying, but lying there she looked tired and old. 


    Curtis' other uncle, Dominic, was sat on an armchair with a beer in his hand. Dominic was the youngest of the three brothers, he had tanned skin and tired eyes, his hair a mess of short, black curls. Despite looking weary, his expression was gentle. He had always been that way since he had became a father, always tired but always grateful for what he had. His two boys weren't there, of course, they were too young to be a part of this. However his wife, Claire, was sat on his lap, her body draped around him in a fitting embrace that seemed to show just how in love they were. Claire wasn't always a werewolf, but she had taken to it like a duck does water. She had long, wavy, dirty blonde hair and she looked strong, despite the difficult time. It was clear to Curtis that she was the pillar that held her family unit together, a wilf and confident woman, a good mother, and a good wife. 


    For a moment Curtis thought of Vivian, but his mind was muddled and he was struggling to focus. He had always wondered what his mother had been like at these events. He remembered very little of her, but what he did remember was that she was gentle and wise. She had never looked at anyone judgmentally, and she was always smiling in the memories he had of her. He couldn't picture her necking back shots of liquor and wishing hateful shit on the world like he was. Curtis craned his head around to look at his father. Sam was stood across the room, resting his back against the wall with his arms folded. Stood not too far away from him was Marcus who, while also enjoying a beer like the rest of them, looked relatively calm. For a long time now, they had all had Marcus pegged to be the next Alpha. Curtis didn't like to think about that. After all if Marcus became the Alpha, it would be because Sam was dead. Hopefully, that would be a long time from now. 


    Sam had caught his eye, and suddenly became alert. He pushed himself away from the wall and eyed Curtis carefully. 

    "It's time." He said, and pointed at his own eyes, "You're showing." At this Curtis stood up, stumbling a little, and caught a look at himself in the mirror. His eyes were a bright yellow. He turned around to look at the rest of the pack, and noticed that each of their eyes had also became yellow. The full moon was out and it's power was coming to a head. Curtis knew what this meant, he had done it enough times now. The pack were slowly getting up, and Sam had made his way to the door and stepped outside. Curtis followed suit, pulling his t-shirt off as he went and throwing it on the floor. He joined his father outside, and was slowly removing his clothes as he did. The rest of the pack were following suit. 


    Being naked in a forest with your entire family is not a comfortable experience. The first time Curtis had joined the pack he had refused to remove his clothes. That night the clothes he had worn had been torn to pieces. He had learned quickly that this was something that the pack had to do. That didn't make it any more comforting though. The alcohol probably helped with this too, he thought. But even now he could feel his senses becoming sharper, the effects of the alcohol fading quickly. The pack gave each other a quick look over, and then they nodded collectively and waited for Sam to guide them. Sam looked up at the sky, and to the full moon overhead. He frowned. Curtis looked up too. 

    "" Curtis said. The moon in the sky was casting a sinister, crimson glow. He had never seen anything like it. 

    "Nothing to worry about." Sam said. "Probably just some freak meteorological thing. Come on, let's go." 


    The last part had carried the weight of a command with it. Sam's eyes had turned crimson, like the moon, and then he ran off in to the woods, melting in to the darkness. The pack followed, one after the other, they ran. Once Curtis had started running, he knew it would be hard to stop. The tension had reached it's climax, and there was something freeing about running that helped him let go. He knew that in a moment he wouldn't be able to think about his human concerns. He pushed away the pain pulsing through his body. Only running mattered. He could hear his family running around him, he could smell their scent carrying through the air. Then, for a moment, the pain become overwhelming. His body screamed as bones began to break and re-align, muscles tore and re-formed. It became unbearable and in the last moment Curtis let out a scream as he leapt forward through the air. 


    It happened quickly, but for Curtis it had felt slow and agonizing. Mid-leap, his body suddenly exploded in movement, and like a snake shedding it's skin, a wolf emerged from where a boy once was. The wolf was large and covered in thick, black fur. It's paws were as large as human hands, and it's eyes were a piercing yellow. The wolf padded slowly through the forest, it's nose to the ground, suddenly aware of all the new sensations that had appeared. He could smell a hundred different things, and with it a hundred different stories. He knew which animals had passed by this area, and which direction they had left in. The wolf's ears pricked and it raised it's head. Something rustled in the darkness. His head darted to the right quickly, catching something move. He felt an overwhelming urge to give chase, to catch this thing. He almost did, when his attention was entirely taken by a low and deep howl that flowed through the night. More followed, and each was unique and different. They were his kin, and he could identify each by their howl. However the first howl was the important one. It was the one that commanded absolute obedience. 


    The Alpha had called for him. He howled back in return, and then began to move through the forest to where he had heard the sound. He could sense other wolves converging in the area around him. The closer he came to the Alpha the more wolves appeared, until eventually they all stood together, circling and sniffing each other. The pack were mixture of colours, most with the same yellow eyes, except for the Alpha who had crimson eyes. The wolves all sensed the Alpha's heightened awareness. He was more than they were, he comprehended more than they could. If he had called them, then it was time to hunt. The Alpha had found prey, something large enough for them to eat. He licked his lips hungrily and looked searchingly for direction. Standing with the rest of his pack, the wolf felt stronger. Alone they were dangerous, but together they were unstoppable. The Alpha made a chuffing noise and then began walking quickly. The pack followed eagerly, ready to hunt. The wolf was hungry, and in it's eyes there was little on this earth that it did not consider to be prey. And prey was to be killed. 





    The doors to the E.R burst open as a body was pulled along hurriedly on a wheeled stretcher. The form was difficult to decipher. There were deep wounds and gashes, and lots of blood. Nurses rushed to the aid of the Paramedics, as they wheeled the young man through the corridors. It was chaos as people shouted orders at one another, and others rushed to retrieve equipment. Eventually the stretcher disappeared through a set of double doors, leaving only a lone middle-aged man ambling along behind. He was dressed in a policeman's uniform and wore a cowboy hat. The Sheriff had a harrowed expression as he stopped in his tracks, letting out a heavy sigh. 

    "Just what happened to that boy, Sheriff?" A nurse asked as she approached him.

    "Lord knows. We were called out about a traffic accident." The Sheriff said. "Sure enough we found him near his car. It was a wreck. Forensics are sweeping the scene as we speak."

    "A car accident?" The Nurse said. "But...those wounds. They looked like bite marks!" The Sheriff let out another heavy sigh. 

    "That they do." He said with a sombre nod. "Hard to tell what he got from the crash, he's a mess. But most of the wounds look like teeth marks, maybe claws. It's hard to tell, I haven't seen anything like it before."


    "But...what could have done that?" The Nurse asked

    "No idea. Wild cat, maybe a bear." The Sheriff replied, but he didn't sound too convinced by his answer. 

    " you think it's still on the loose?" The Nurse asked. 

    "Whatever did this...there wasn't any sign of it at the scene." The Sheriff said. "Besides, truth be told I've never seen a bear attack in this town. It's not like 'em to stray out from the forest too much. This is just...barbaric. Rest assured though, I have my best officers on the case. If this is a dangerous animal then we need to deal with it before there are other casualties. Hopefully the boy will wake up. I need to inform his family."

    "Who is he?" The Nurse asked. 

    "We were lucky we managed to I.D him at all." The Sheriff said. "He's one of the boy's on the college football team, Matt Haynes, Quarterback."

    "Oh God...that poor boy." The Nurse said, holding her mouth to her hands. "I hope he pulls through."

    "Me too...although even if he does..." The Sheriff shook his head wearily. "...his football days are over."

  2. "Hi!" Jin said in response, thrusting his fist out like he was punching the air, but he held it there like an offering. "I'm Hideo Jin, pleased to meet you." 

    "Satomi Sayuri. Call me Yuri." She replied with a smile, then looked down at the boy's fist. She pulled back one sleeve and grasped Jin's fist with her hand and shook it like a handshake.

    "Uh...alright!" Jin said, and he gave a little giggle. "Well, Yuri, I hope we can be friends, but I have to tell you..." Jin turned away from her and folded his arms across his chest. "...I'll be the one taking Sensei's money!"


    Hisato leapt out of a nearby tree, quickly pursued by Yuri who yelled across the courtyard, "No you won't!" And reached out to grab the note hanging from their teacher's belt. As she tried to grab it however, the Hisato in front of her disappeared in a puff of smoke and she over-extended, landing quite unceremoniously on her face. She tumbled across the ground and then they heard from nowhere, yet everywhere.
    "That's one secret!"
    Yuri picked herself up and brushed herself off, clenching her teeth in frustration, "Fine!" She barked, crossing her arms as she thought for a moment, "The Satomi clan use bugs in their jutsu!"
    "That's not a secret!!" Hisato's voice corrected.
    "Dammit... we bond with the bugs even when we're in the womb, it's the only way we can have that fully symbiotic relationship."
    "Better!" Hisato called back. Yuri grouched, crossing her arms and pouting further.
    "...Bugs, huh?" Jin said, his face fixed in what was a clearly forced smile. "That's...that's" He added, before shivering. 
    "R-really?" Yuri perked up and smiled at Jin. It wasn't every day that someone complimented her clan in that way. Even with her mother being the Hokage, people had a peculiar dislike of their jutsu. But it was all Yuri had ever known, it wasn't unpleasant to her. "Wanna see?" She asked.
    "Uh...yeah, sure." Jin said, shifting uncomfortably like the mere thought made his skin crawl. "Just remember, you have to give me another secret if you mess up again."
    Oblivious to Jin's discomfort, Yuri pulled back one sleeve of her jacket and held out her hand, holding out her forefinger in front of Jin's face. Then, the tip of her finger darkened, and the little black area grew out until it was in the air like a golfball-sized cloud of smoke, "They're really small, you can't really see them unless you look really close. But they're quite pretty..."
    Yeah, Jin thought, pretty creepy. But he forced another smile in an attempt to mask the fact he was screaming internally. He couldn't help but think it might be useful though. Lot's of ninja clans had special relationships with animals, and used those bonds to extend their skills in the field. The thought of using bugs, however, was still an uncomfortable thought. "That's a pretty unique skill...I can't say I have anything like that." Jin said, although he didn't seem to feel too bad about it. "My dad trained me in Taijutsu, and my mom...well she works a lot so she hasn't taught me much, just one ninjutsu." What Jin hadn't mentioned was that during this conversation, he had been watching. His father, Isamu, had always stressed the importance of observation, and that mastery of the skill was far more useful than any ninja technique. When Hisato had disappeared, he had suspected that the figure that had stood there was a clone. Yuri's brief altercation only confirmed that suspicion. 
    "Listen, Yuri." Jin said. "Sensei is a Jounin. So attacking head on is out of the question. As long as he can predict our movements then he can control the flow of battle, and we won't stand a chance. Standing out here we're too easy to anticipate. So...I'm going to hide, see ya!" And with that Jin went off at a sprint, disappearing in to the trees. 
    [bad Situation]
    Yuri opened her mouth to speak, but it was too late, Jin was gone. She puffed out her cheeks in frustration, but then something occurred to her. She grinned and held out her arms, and the little black cloud was dwarfed as a large black mass spewed from the ends of her sleeves, fluttering them as they left. They hovered in the air for a moment, and then dispersed. "I'll find him first, Jin!" She called out, and sauntered across the courtyard, waiting for the telltale signs. Hidden among the trees, Jin smiled at Yuri's response. 
    "I'm counting on it..." He said to himself. Then he placed his hands together to form a seal, and released his chakra. 4 perfect clones of Jin appeared in the tree branches around him. "Spread out and find Sensei, don't worry about making a ruckus."
    "On it!" The clones said in unison, and the each of them disappeared in different directions through the trees. Jin stayed where he was, watching Yuri carefully. "Sorry to use you as a decoy, but that money is mine."
    A few seconds passed and then Yuri paused, mid-step. She frowned and turned her head at an angle, "Why are there five of you...?" She muttered, but at that moment, she felt something. They'd found him. Hisato exploded out of a nearby bush and Yuri dove towards him but missed, he was just too fast.
    "Secret!!" Hisato barked, as he vanished.
    "My bugs can secrete a variety of oils and toxins!" She barked back, "Including a paralysing toxin, and the secret is you've been bitten!!" She yelled irritably, but then smiled at her triumph. Though, she suspected their leader knew about her abilities and had come prepared, so she didn't sit around waiting. Equally, she knew he was just too fast, she was going to have to work with Jin, or else neither of them would win the prize. "Jin!!" She called out, "Pincer?!"
    In response, Jin shot out from the trees in front of Hisato and made a beeline for him. However Hisato was still to fast, and swung a right, running off with Jin and Yuri hot on his heels. Then, to Hisato's surprise, three more of Jin leapt out from the trees and cut him off. The first leapt at him with a spinning kick, which Hisato deftly blocked with his arm and brought his other fist up, catching the clone straight in the chest, followed by a pop and a cloud of smoke. The second slid across the ground to kick his feet out from under him, but Hisato leapt up and kicked the clone in the face and it also disappeared. The third came at him head on with a punch, which he deflected and struck back, dispersing it also. However by this point the real Jin and Yuri had closed in on him. Hisato turned and smirked, as the pair rushed him with fist's clenched. As the fists collied with him, there was a pop and a rush of smoke, and Jin lay on the floor, clutching his face. 
    [Fooling Mode]
    "Eh!?" The other Jin stammered. 
    "Idiot! Why'd you punch me!?" The real Jin yelled, clearly considering he hadn't disappeared like the other clones. 
    "Why'd you get in my way, idiot!?" The clone roared back. 
    "I didn't I was hiding in the tree, idiot!" The real one screamed. 
    "But you're right here! Idiot!" The clone yelled. 

    "Stop... arguing with yourself." Yuri raised an eyebrow. And people thought she was strange. She shook her head, "Hey, wait... do clones count as attempts?"


    "Indeed they do." Hisato's voice echoed around them once more. "Jin, you now owe 5 secrets."

    "What!?" Jin barked. He cursed and placed his hands together, dispelling the clone and then sat huffing on the grass. He gave a heavy sigh and then lay back on the grass, staring up at the sky. "Fine...well where should I start?" He said rhetorically. "Well I do have one secret, but it's not mine to tell. A ninja is supposed to hold the secrets of others dear, so I won't tell you that. Well the first thing is, I'm actually thirteen years old. I failed my first exam at the academy and had to wait another year. Second is...let's see...oh, the ninjutsu I used is called a Shadow Clone. It's the only ninjutsu technique that I know besides the basics. Thirdly, bugs really creep me out. I'm sorry, I didn't want to hurt your feelings."

    "Oh..." Yuri's expression sunk, but was quickly replaced with a devious smile, "That's fine. I guess i'll just have these back then." And as she finished speaking, a thin black mist rose up from Jin's body and returned to Yuri, disappearing into her sleeves.



    Jin froze, like a statue. His eyes slowly moved to look at Yuri, but his body remained still, like a painting with eyes that follow you. "Y-you...they...on me...I..."

    "They're not on you any more." Yuri rolled her eyes, "I just thought it'd be a good way to get to this." Yuri pulled out Hisato's note and snapped it, "We got it!!" She called out, a few seconds passed and then Hisato appeared in front of them. 
    "No, you don't. Cloning a piece of paper is academy-level." Hisato pulled his note off his belt and held it out in front of them, "Right?"
    "You can all come back, too." Yuri replied, and then the note in Hisato's hand dissipated, changed colour and returned to her as a small puff of black smoke. "We win!"
    "You mean you win." Jin said. "I just tried to play get it for myself."
    [Daylight of Konoha]
    "Yeah, and I did the same thing to you, but /we/ won." Yuri replied with a smile, letting Jin hold the note, "I knew I wasn't fast enough to get close to Hisato-sensei, so I planted my bugs on you, and they transferred when you got close enough. If not for you, we wouldn't have it." Jin mused on this and examined the note. Maybe they hadn't gone the right way about it, but they had managed to complete the task. Perhaps that was what mattered. As he looked at the note he frowned. 
    "Hey...wait a minute!" He said as he swiped his thumb over all the zeros, and noticed that they had come off in his hand, until only the number 1 was left. "You tricked us!"
    "Hahaha!" Hisato's let out his barking laugh as he threw his head back. "You guys didn't think I was gonna let you get your hands on my cash, did you?"
    "That's not fair, you told us we'd win a lot more!" Yuri crossed her arms as her temper blossomed, "You made a promise, we told secrets, and now you have to buy us lunch." She grinned, "At... Ibiki's." Hisato raised his eyebrow at Yuri and folded his arms. 
    "I'll tell you what." Hisato said. "I'll buy you lunch if you can pass the real test. You might have completed the objective, but you did so by using each other. If you pull that kind of crap on a mission you could get each other killed. So why don't you each tell me what you have learned about each other, and if you answer correctly then lunch is on me."
    "Well." Jin said as he pushed himself off the ground and stood up. "I learned that my Sensei is a trickster who doesn't play by the rules. I suppose our enemies won't play by the rules either, so that kind of attitude is probably useful. As for Yuri..." Jin turned to her and looked her over for a moment. "Her bugs are pretty creepy, but they're useful. With Yuri's abilities we can perform reconaissance effectively and possibly avoid fighting altogether in most situations. Even if we do get in a fight, well, it's like my dad taught me. Interpreting your opponents next move is one thing, but Yuri forces her opponent to make the move she desires, and as such she controls the flow of battle far more effectively than someone who merely knows the next move."
    "More rules..." Yuri muttered, "I've learnt I can't trust a word that comes out of my Sensei's mouth, this is probably just another trick." She let out a deep sigh, "But, I also learnt that working together is more important than winning at any cost. I learnt that I could bolster my own weaknesses by using the strengths of my comrade. I'm pretty strong, and fast, I think," Hisato grinned at her and raised an accusatory eyebrow, "For a genin! Alright.... but, Jin is faster, yeah... and I don't know how to make shadow clones. I probably can't, actually, even halving my chakra once would be a bad idea, plus my clones wouldn't be able to exist without the bugs, they regulate too much of my system." She let out another sigh and shook her head, "Teamwork wins, Jin is almost as smart as me, blah blahblah." She grinned sheepishly.
    "I guess that'll do." Hisako said, giving his team a hearty grin. "Come on then, let's go eat!"
    "Finally!" Jin said, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation. "Oh I guess that's another secret. I have a really high metabolism, so I eat a lot."
    "You stuff your face all the time and you'll get fat, kid." Hisato said. 
    "Yeah my dad thought so too. But you ask him, I can eat 10 bowls of ramen and still have room for desert. And..." Jin tapped his stomach to show how firm it was. "Not a scrap of fat on me."
    "10 bowls?" Hisato said with a sigh. "I'm regretting this offe for lunch already."
    "Oh I'll make sure that you do." Jin said with a cocky grin. Then the trio laughed and made their way back to town. 

  3. The story of our past is one that is etched in bone by the point of a blade. For as long as can be remembered humanity has waged war against one another. Factions formed and rose up against one another to control the land and make their mark as rulers. Nations rose and fell, but the fighting never ended. In order to employ more effective means of fighting one another, the ninja were born. Expert fighters who specialised in sneaking in to enemy territory undetected using special equipment and tools, and no short supply of skill. At some point in time humanity discovered chakra, and with that ninjutsu was born. Utilising the inner power of chakra, ninja were capable of strange and powerful abilities which were used to crush their foes. In the end ninja only made the fighting worse, and so the war went on. 


    It was at this point that the ninja decided that change was in order. The ninja of each country worked together and formed their own Hidden Villages within each nation. Inside this village the strongest of the shinobi was appointed as the leader, awarded the title of Kage. The Kage of each village would take requests from all people, and decide which ninja to dispatch on any mission, considering the money being offered, the difficulty of the mission, and whether the mission should be taken at all. And so it is now that each village thrives thanks to the ninja who do the difficult tasks that the every day folk cannot. This is a story of one such village. A village in the vast forest of the Land of Fire. 


    A village hidden within the leaves. 






    [Chain Explosion - Naruto The Last OST]



    Footsteps cut through the trees with the speed and grace of the wind. Three figures dressed in black moved under the cover of night, their presence concealed. As the trees began to thin out they spread out and went off in different directions. One figure was dressed in tight fitting, black gear, with a metal breastplate, hidden under a dark purple poncho that flowed in the wind as she hopped from tree to tree. Finally she breached the forest and the cover of the leaves. She wore a black mini-skirt and long stockings, a pair of simple black sandals on her feet. Her head was covered by a purple scarf that was tied around her forehead like a bandana, long red hair flowing out from the back of it. 


    She landed on the soft grass with barely a sound, and sprinted across it and ducking behind a nearby formation of rocks. She stopped to catch her breath under the white, taking sharp breaths under the white, featureless mask she wore over her face. She chanced a glance over the rock and examined her target. A short distance away was a stronghold, a fort manned with guards along it's walls. The woman gave lifted her hand and gave three distinct signals, communicating to her comrades that were hidden nearby. As soon as she had done so, two other black shapes shot out from nearby hiding places and tore off towards the fort. 


    The red-haired shinobi followed suit, moving from her hiding spot and sprinting through the grassy plain that lead to the fort. When she came to the wall she tapped off the ground with her feet and simply continued running, moving up the wall with the same speed and grace as she had on the ground. Then as she reached the edge she grabbed it and pulled herself over, flipping through the air and landing with a soft thump on top of one of the guards, pushing his head hard in to the floor to knock him unconscious. Her fingers felt around his neck for a pulse, and quickly found one. It was faint but the man was still alive. The shinobi pressed on, speeding down the fortifications outer wall until she found an opening and leapt, descending down on to the tiled roof of on of the buildings, allowing herself to slide down it's inclined side, and dropped off the edge. 


    She hit the dry dirt with a tap and stood up, looking around. She heard the murmuring of two people talking. It was coming from her left, from around the corner. It was growing louder. She moved to her right and around the corner of the building, pressing herself tight against the wall, and listening. The people were talking about something irrelevant, she didn't bother to make a mental record of it, but instead listened to it's volume. She waited until the noise had faded, and then she moved from the wall and continued on her path. Inside her head was a mental map of this fort, one constructed by the hard work of multiple reconnaissance missions. She knew where she was, and where she must go. 


    She made her way quietly across the fort, moving in between the buildings for cover. Before long the had reached the building she needed and moved round to the side of it. Then she scaled the wall and grabbed the ledge of a window, slowly pushing it open and climbing inside. She adjusted quickly to the warm glow of the lamps lighting the inner corridor. The light would completely invalidate her camouflage, but she was on the home stretch. She had to keep moving, trusting that her comrades would be in position as well. She moved down the corridor and took a sharp right, and descending the stairs to the lower floors. Then she made her way to a sliding door and pushed it across, finding herself in a fair sized room with grass mat floors and a small shrine on the other end. She walked across the room to the shrine and inspected it. The ornate lion figure was familiar to her, she felt around it carefully until she found the hidden latch she knew was there. She pressed it and a small compartment popped open at the front. 


    It was empty. She froze for a second, surprised by the realisation. They had found it. If they had done so, had they known the importance of the statue after all? How much did they know? Perhaps they could even anticipate that she would be here. If that was the case then...


    Alert to the danger, she turned to leave the room, only to find her way barred by a lone figure. The young man was slim with athletic muscle. He was dressed in a tight fitting, sleeveless top, and had long black gloves on each arm. He was wearing baggy cargo shorts and sandals, and he wore a strip of cloth tied around his neck, with a metal plate over the front showing a strange symbol on the front. His hair was a grayish white and cut straight at his collar. "Pleased ta meet ya, Anbu-chan." He said, with a sly fox-like grin. "Don't tell me ya gotta skedaddle already? I was hopin' ta show ya our special brand of hospitality."

    The red-haired shinobi's hands blurred as she formed a particular set of seals. There was a popping noise and clouds of smoke exploded at either side of her. She darted towards the figure, and from the smoke came two more shinobi, exact copies of her. She reached the white haired shinobi and pulled a kunai from her pouch, swinging it at his throat. With his sly grin still in place the shinobi leaned back casually, the tip of the kunai narrowly missing his neck. Then he pulled his leg up and out, kicking her in the chest and sending her back in to the room as one her clones came at him with another kunai. He nimbly dodged the strike, allowing her arm to stretch over his right shoulder. He lifted his arms and grabbed hers, locking her in place, before birning up his knee and catching her in the stomach, causing the clone to explode in to smoke and disappear. Then the ninja dodged the blow of the third by ducking down and sweeping out his leg to knock her feet out from under her. As she hit the ground he brought his hand down and clasped it around her throat, choking her until she stopped struggling and disappeared with a pop. 


    Meanwhile the real version stood up from inside the room. She gingerly rubbed at her stomach for a moment, and then readied herself. 

    "Shadow clones, eh?" The white haired shinobi said with a grin. "Ya gonna have ta do better than that." 

    "I'll show you just what I can do!" The red haired shinobi said quietly. The she sprinted forward and brought her leg up for a kick to his side. He lifted his arm to block it and struck back with his other arm. A flurry of punches and kicks ensued as each of the ninja brought blows to one another, before finally, the white haired ninja brought a Kunai out from his own pouch, and stabbed it violently in to her neck. The red-haired Shinobi froze in shock for a moment. Then, like the others, she disappeared with a pop and a burst of smoke. 

    "Another 'un!?" The white haired ninja said through clenched teeth. He spun on his heel and sprinted from the building only to see the red-haired shinobi rejoin her comrades, and sprint off over the wall of the fort. The white-haired shook his head, but another sly grin appeared on his face. "Doesn't matter. Konoha are in fer some bad times ahead."








    A young boy sat himself up in bed, stretching and letting out a big yawn. His hair was medium length and spiky, and he had a pair of dark blue eyes. He got out of bed dressed in white pajamas with little green lizards on them, and shuffled over to his closet. He took out his clothes and got dressed, swapping the pajamas for a pair of black three-quarter length shorts, a pair of black sandals, a fishnet vest, and finally a white jacket with a high collar and black stripes down each sleeve. He left his room and made his way downstairs where he found a plate on the table with a bowl of rice and a small note next to it which read:



    Had to head out for a while. Left you some breakfast. Good luck today. 



    Jin smirked and lifted the bowl off the table, gobbling up it's contents in mere seconds. Then he patted his stomach and let out a relieved sigh. On the table next to the bowl was a forehead protector with the leaf-like symbol of the village he lived in, Konohagakure. He picked it up and examined the symbol for a moment, a bit of pride swelling inside him. Then he took the forehead protector and tied it around his head. In Konoha, to be given a forehead protector was a sign that an academy student had graduated, and had began their path as a ninja. Jin had become a Genin, the first raknk of ninja, and today would be his first day of working in that role. He was to meet his new Jounin leader, an accomplished ninja, who would guide him on his journey, along with another Genin who he would be paired with. 


    He turned around to leave his house only to see the door open. A women stepped inside, dressed in leggings and a knee-length purple skirt, and a black t-shirt, with a purple scarf wrapped loosely around her neck. The woman had dark blue eyes and red hair just like her son, and when she caught sight of him she gave a soft smile. "Oh, you're still here." She said. "I've just got back."

    "Mom!" Jin exclaimed, "I was just about to leave. I have my first mission today!"

    "Yes, I remember." His mother said. 

    "How did yours go?" Jin asked. 

    "It...well you know I can't talk about it." she replied, giving an awkward and forced smile. "Nothing you have to worry about anyway."


    Hideo Jin was the son of two well known ninja. His father, Isamu, was a Jounin assigned to serve and protect the most important ninja in the village, the Hokage. His mother, Saya, was a member of Konoha's elite special ops ninja known as the ANBU. He knew very little about what she did, and most people in the village didn't even know of her position. While operating as an ANBU shinobi she had a code name, and a mask, to protect her identity. However to Jin, Saya was just his mother. She was a kind woman who was very encouraging, and a better cook than his father. He struggled to picture her dressed in the garb of a ninja, going on dangerous missions. But he knew she was strong, so strong that he wanted to be just like her. 


    "Do you know who my leader is?" He asked Saya. 

    "Of course I do." Saya replied with a smile. "But it's more fun for you to find out on your own."

    "Aw c' he tough? I mean I guess he has to be or...hey wait is it a girl!?"

    "Go find out for yourself." Saya said, and she gave her son a hug. "I have faith in you, I know you'll do well."

    "Thanks, I'll make you proud." Jin said. 

    "I already am." Saya replied, and she let go of her son and let him leave. "Go on, you don't want to be late."


    "I'll tell you all about it when I get back." Jin said with a confident grin. Then he walked out the door. When it closed behind him, Saya's warm smile faded and was replaced by a cold and distant look. She had failed today, failed in a mission that could bring great danger to the villagers of Konoha, and danger to her son. She wanted to sleep, but she knew that she would have to leave again soon. She had much to report. 


    Jin walked over the steps in the street near his house and made his way in to an open market area. Beyond that were rows of houses, buildings, watch towers and beyond that was the academy where he had trained. Even further still was the Hokage's office, and beyond that a great rocky mountain that stood over Konoha. Etched in to the stone were the faces of each Hokage that had served the village. In total there were now 7 faces up on the wall, the rightmost one being the current Hokage. Jin wondered if, perhaps, his own face would be carved upon that mountain. Or maybe it would be his partner who would have that particular glory. He knew she was a girl, but he hadn't been told who it was yet. He wondered if they would be good friends, or perhaps they would be rivals. There seemed to be endless possibilities in front of him, and for the first time in a while. he was totally excited about his future. 

  4. In the morning Curtis had woken up early, as was normal. He had gotten a shower and dressed himself in a simple white t-shirt and a blue overall he wore for work. He went down the stairs and in to the kitschy living room to find his father sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee in hand, a half eaten plate of scrambled eggs and toast on his lap. He looked up at Curtis, looked him over, and then inclined his head backwards towards the kitchen. "There's coffee in the pot, and your breakfast is in the oven keeping warm." He said. Curtis wasn't really used to his dad being up before him, or having breakfast made for him. He just nodded and went to the kitchen to get himself a coffee and his own plate of scrambled eggs and toast.


    He sat on the armchair across from Sam and took a sip of his coffee. It was black, and bitter, but contained the rejuvenating nectar that was caffeine, and so it was good.  They sat in silence while he ate, he wasn't sure what to say. When he had arrived home the previous evening, Sam had wanted to talk to him, but he had ignored him and went straight to bed. He got the feeling that his father had risen early and made him breakfast with the express purpose of making sure they would talk. Curtis wasn't sure if he was ready for that yet. Somehow, he didn't think it mattered any more. Sure enough Sam cleared his throat and Curtis rested back in his chair, waiting for an explanation. 


    "So..." Sam said, pausing to choose his words. "Did Vivian explain anything to you?"

    "Yeah." Curtis replied. "She did."

    "Care to tell me what?" Sam asked. 

    "Not really." Curtis said. "How about you talk, and I'll see if what you say adds up with what Vivian said."

    "I'm not going to lie to you, boy." Sam said. 

    "You've lied to me my whole life, apparently." Curtis said, a jab of anger in his words. 


    "I didn't lie. I just...I was waiting for the right time." Sam said, his head lowering in shame. 

    "Your splitting hairs on that one." Curtis said. "Don't even try to justify it, because it wasn't right."

    "Curtis...I just wanted..." Sam sighed and shook his head. "I didn't want this for you. I wanted you to live as much of your life as possible without knowing. I didn't want it to hold you back, to make you feel more pressured."

    "I know why you did it." Curtis said with a nod. "I understand. Really, I do. That doesn't mean it was right, though. You should have told me. I could have been prepared for this. I mean Vivian said it was a curse, that it wasn't our fault, or yours. She said it started with her Grandmother, and Grandpa Isaac."


    "That's right." Sam said with a nod. "Your Grandpa had accepted it by the time I was born. He introduced me to Penelope when we were children. He didn't want us to resent each other, he thought it would endanger us both. It worked for a time. Penelope and I were friends to some fashion when we were children. We might have even been closer than that at some point...I'm not sure, I wasn't the brightest of kids. That all changed though, when your Emily came along." Curtis' gaze fell to his feet at the utterance of his mother's name, but his father continued. "I was head over heels for your mother. Penelope became a nuisance to me, having to protect her like that...I resented her for it. That was my fault, though. I was young and arrogant. Emily always understood though, she often took Penelope's side when there was an argument. Then when you were about 5 years old, Penelope had little Vivian. I was...furious."


    "Why?" Curtis asked.

    "Because it wasn't like it was an accident. She went to great lengths to have a child. She did it knowing I had my own child, and knowing that doing so would make you and her child vulnerable to the same curse, and the same life. I couldn't forgive her for that. That was when I cut my ties with her, as much as I could. We agreed to stay away from each other, and keep our children away from each other until the time came. Of course when she was in danger I would have to come running, but outside of that we never spoke. We still don't."

    "But...she's allowed to have a kid, Dad." Curtis said. "I did. You knew it was a risk but you had me."

    "I never said it was justified to treat her like that." Sam replied. "I'm not proud of my actions back then. I had only just become an Alpha, and I was still getting used to that responsibility. But...then your mother got sick a year or so later. She...well I knew she was going to die. I stayed by her day and night for weeks. Then one night a man came to Darkpine, someone who had a score to settle with me. He kidnapped Penelope, and of course, I came running. I made sure he paid dearly for doing that."


    "That was...the night Mom died, wasn't it?" Curtis said. 

    "Yeah." Sam said, nodding. "She died while I was off protecting Penelope. It wasn't her fault...but this curse stopped me from saying goodbye to Emily. It has interfered with my life so much, and I just don't want that for you. I wanted you to have a normal life."

    "Normal?" Curtis said. "We're Werewolves, Dad. Normal is a bit of a stretch."

    "That's a fair point." Sam said in agreement. "But here we are. Now you know the truth, and like it or not, protecting Vivian is your responsibility."

    "Well...I don't know how I feel about that." Curtis said. "I wanted to kill Lex the other night. What if I kill someone, Dad? I don't want to become a murderer."


    "I wouldn't worry too much about that." Sam said. "The curse had you react like that because you weren't aware. So it pulled on your instincts. Now that you'll recognize the signs. If you try to ignore it then you'll be forced to action like last night, but if you make the choice to protect Vivian then you will be able to approach the danger rationally. You are bound to protect her, you don't have to kill anything if you don't want to."

    "Well...that's a relief." Curtis said. "Well then I guess it's okay for now. I mean I don't have a girlfriend to get in the way, so it should be a little easier, right?"

    "It might be." Sam said with a nod. "Don't think I haven't noticed how she looks though. Spitting image of her mother. Don't get any ideas there, you hear me?"

    "Uh...what?" Curtis said, looking anywhere but at his father. "I don't know what you're talking about."


    "She's a Witch, son." Sam said. "And protecting her, situations like that can make your emotions run a bit high. But you have to remember that you're a wolf, and your partner in life must also be a wolf. Isaac turned your Aunt Rowan, and your mother. I turned Claire for Dominic. I won't do that to Vivian."

    "Are you for real?" Curtis said, incredulously. "I only met her last night. Give me a break, weirdo." Curtis stood up from the chair and took his plate through to the kitchen. He came back to see his father standing up. "So we better get to work." Curtis said. 

    "Actually, about that." Sam replied. "I need you to work late tonight"

    " come?" Curtis asked

    "You need to fix that Vampire's car. He's a customer." Sam said with a smirk. "Considering what he is, you'll need to work at night."





    It wasn't quite nightfall when Curtis pulled up to Lex's house. Although he noted that the cover provided by the trees meant there wasn't a great deal of sunlight that could get through. He wondered if this was perhaps intentional. He pulled up outside and got out of his car, carrying a bag of tools with him. He walked up to the door, and he heard the slightest of noises, little signs of movement. Lex had probably heard him arrive. He tensed for a moment, he wasn't entirely sure how Lex would react. The last time he had saw him he was trying to hurt him. But he had damaged his car, so he owed Lex an apology, and he'd repair his car. It was the least he could do. He took another few steps and then knocked loudly on the door. 


    "Lex. It's, uh...It's Curtis." He said loudly. "I wanted to take a look at your car if...if that's okay."


    A moment passed. Nothing. Then the door opened. 


  5. The tires of Curtis' dark blue Jeep Wrangler crunched against the gravel road of the parking area near Carrow Hill. He pulled in to the lot and found a spot, noting there were a few other cars there. When he got out there was nobody around and it was already dark. Beyond the parking lot was a slim grassy path through the woods that led upwards to the clearing known as Carrow Hill. His sensitive hearing had already picked up on the dull bass that was thumping through the night from up the hill. He was dressed in a pair of blue jeans and black boots, with a royal blue, sleeveless t-shirt and a grey hooded sweater over it. He ambled up the hill as the

    grew louder and clearer. Among the usual woodland scents picked up by his heightened sense of smell, he could also smell beer, sweat and the sweat of a bunch of rowdy millennials looking to have a good time. When he was younger and his senses had first kicked in he had really struggled with the less than desirable smells, but over the years he had managed to filter them out. They were still present, but he was able to separate them, and focus on the ones he wanted to. 


    When he emerged over the top of the hill he looked out on to a flat area of grass with a substantial crowd of people. Someone had brought those torches you can buy at Home Depot, and there was a distinctive scattering of everyone's party favourite, the red Solo cups. A tall boy had noticed his arrival and was walking towards him. The lanky figure was skinny and had a friendly, gentle face as well as a mane of wild, untameable hair. When he approached he brought his hand up in a fist and Curtis bumped it with his own. 

    "Curtis, glad you could make it!" He said with a grin. 

    "So am I, Danny." Curtis said with a smirk. "Looks like a big turn out."

    "Yeah, man. Some dude who just moved here arranged it. Looks like he makes friends real fast."

    "You're not kidding." Curtis said with a nod. 


    "Come on let's get in there. I'll get you a beer." Danny said. 

    "No thanks, I'm driving." Curtis said. 

    "Oh come on, man." Danny replied. "One beer. It can't hurt."

    "I promised my dad." Curtis said, shaking his head. 

    "Ah, okay. Well it's your loss." Danny said, admitting defeat. "Oh I think Justin is around here somewhere."


    The pair made their way in to the party and began to mingle with the guests. They found themselves sitting on the back of someone's pickup truck with a few other people, chatting and watching the drunker party goers dancing a little away from them. Further off a bunch of college kids were tossing around a football, and someone else had brought a grill and was flipping burgers. Curtis was sipping Coke from a solo cup when the music died down and was replaced by the gentle strumming of a

    . Curtis looked up as he heard a girl singing, and when he looked at her he felt his eyes focus on her, making everything around her become blurry and irrelevant. 


    She was dressed in a leather top and a long, red slip-skirt. Her hair was long and the whitest blonde, and her make-up was minimalist but distinctive. His gaze lingered on her crimson lips for a moment, they looked soft. That, along with the pleasant sensation that came from hearing her voice, gave him a sudden and overwhelming need. It was not entirely pleasant. It was often described as having butterflies in your stomach, but with Curtis it was just that little bit worse. There was something deep and primal about his urges, something that became worse as the full moon grew nearer. It was one thing to keep the animal inside in check, he could do that much, even now. That didn't stop the feeling though, and he was always just a little sad when he felt those predatory desires within him. He was lost for a moment in her song, not even managing to particularly take notice of the guitarist she was with, who despite her talent seemed just as unimportant as everything else. 


    And then she stopped singing, and his heart sank a little. People clapped, but he had been too lost in his thoughts to follow suit. The party music started again and Curtis became aware that he had gotten out of the back of the pick up and was walking. He could distantly hear Danny asking him where he was going but he didn't feel like responding. He moved through the people, tilting his head as passers by blocked his view of the pretty blonde. He just wanted to talk to her, he told himself. Yet the assurance did little to comfort him. His legs were moving on his own. The wolf inside had control, and he was just a passenger. However, before he could reach the girl, he felt someone grab him firmly at his shoulder from behind. The strong grip pulled him 180 and he was suddenly facing his cousin, Justin. 


    "Uh-uh, buddy." Justin said, he was frowning a little. "I know that look. Have you been drinking?"

    "" Curtis said, shaking his head. "I was just...gonna talk to that girl."

    "Ah...I get it." Justin said, shaking his head as a little relieved smirk spread across his face. He looked over at the two girls and then back to Curtis. "Well I can see why. You still lost control of yourself though."

    "Give me a break. Can't I talk to a cute girl?" Curtis asked. 

    "Cute?" Justin said, smiling again. "That girl is hot, dude. You're talking about the brunette, right?"

    "No, the blonde..." Curtis said. 


    "Dude, she's not for you." Justin said dismissively. "Actually...I kind of like that brunette. You should probably just give up on them altogether."

    "Shut up!" Curtis said, giving Justin a playful punch on the arm. "Look...I'm going over there. Why don't you join me since you like that brunette so much?"

    "Well the bro code dictates that I can't deny a request to be a wingman." Justin said, smirking some more. 

    "You're a piece of work, you know that?" Curtis said. 


    Together they made their way over to the two girls. When they looked at him, he suddenly felt incredibly shy. What, exactly, was he supposed to say now? Apparently Justin seemed to have that avenue covered. "Evening, girls." He said confidently, making sure to keep his gaze on the brunette. "I'm Justin. This here is my cousin, Curtis."

    "Uh...hey, how's it going?" Curtis said with a bashful smile, whilst inwardly picturing himself dying a slow and painful death. 

    Lily who had been facing their direction as they approached looked Justin up and down deciding if it was worth speaking, her mouth tilted to the side in a cute sorta way and then turned into a smirk and after a few seconds she had decided. "Evening to you as well gentlemen. .. I'm Lily" She then motioned a hitch hiking thumb over her shoulder to Vivian who was facing the opposite way looking around at the party curiously. "That's Vivi" Vivian then glanced over her shoulder as she heard her name, just now realizing they had a conversation going. She quickly turned around and her long split skirt flared to the sides. "Hello." She said with a happy smile. She probably would have felt more uncomfortable if not for the courage charm Lily had performed earlier.


    "We were just admiring your music." Justin said. "So are you girls like a band or something?"

    "Yes we are!" Lily had just decided this now with out consulting Vivian. Vivian looked a bit wide eyed at her friend and then back at the guys and shrugged her shoulders. "I guess so, ...we don't have a name yet..." She laughed. "Any suggestions?"

    "Uh...hmm." Justin put his hand to his chin thoughtfully. "...sorry but I guess that's not really my strong suit. You got anything Curtis?"

    Curtis looked at Justin for a moment, then he shrugged uncomfortably. "Uh...not really. I mean...I guess I don't really know that much about music."

    "You play guitar, dude." Justin said, nudging his shoulder. 

    "Well...I don't think playing old Nirvana songs in my bedroom is really the same thing to be honest." Curtis replied. "Sorry, uh, Lily, right? I guess I'm just a dumb jock who's not in High School any more."


    Lily looked bored. "Well I guess if 'dumb jock' is all you have to offer, I'm gonna go get a drink." She began to walk away, when she noticed Vivian wasn't following. She hadn't heard anything after Justin mentioned Curtis played guitar. Vivian simply responded to his statement about Nirvana songs as if she were intrigued. "I love Nirvana. Maybe we could collaborate some time." Lily looked back at her and rolled her eyes. Without another word she continued off to an area a little bit away where some guys were playing beer pong. 

    Justin sighed and walked off to go after Lily, making sure to slap Curtis across the back of the head and mutter "Way to go, numb nuts!" before he disappeared in to the crowd, leaving Curtis alone with Vivian. 


    "Uh...yeah I guess..." Curtis said as he nervously scratched the back of his head. "I mean I'm not really that good. I just play sometimes when I'm alone. My grandpa was really good on the guitar, he used to play these really good blues songs. So do you sing, like, professionally? I're really good."

    Feeling fairly confident Vivian seemed to get a bit excited. "Aw, Thanks! Actually this was my first time singing publicly. Lily has been trying to get me to do this for years, but uh, I didn't feel as good about it before today! That's awesome that you have music in your family though. I'm the only one interested in that sort of thing with mine."

    "Well my Grandpa died when I was just a kid. I have a pretty big family though, two uncles and aunts, four cousins..." Curtis realised he was rambling a little. "Then there's just me and my dad. We all run the local auto repair garage in town. What about you? I haven't seen you around before."

    "Oh wow, that's the opposite of me. Just my mom's and my grandma. " Vivian thought for a second. "But we are all apart of a pretty big , um, women's club thing, that is basically family." After responding she thought about what he said about the local auto repair place. The only one she knew of belonged to Sam Archer, her mother specifically never let Vivian go there because of all the turmoil between their families. "Wait..." Vivian looked a bit shocked and leaned in close to Curtis and whispered. "You're not an Archer are you?" She hadn't really noticed yet but their faces were awkwardly close together now.


    "Uh..." Curtis found himself lost for words for a moment. She was really close to him. He could smell the subtle fragrances of the shampoo she used on her hair. "...yeah, that's me. Curtis Archer. How did you know?"

    The courage charm that had been cast now quickly dispelled. Vivian looked as if she had seen a ghost. Things had been going so well, he was cute, they had common interests... now what. Maybe it wasn't his son. Maybe he was a cousin, wait that would make Justin the wolf she was bonded with then. She had to clear this up for her own knowledge. "Um, so, you're his son...or nephew? Sam's I mean...the owner. Just curious. No particular reason." Vivian was terrible at lying. Her hands nervously gripped the sides of her skirt. She hadn't moved away yet, she was now just staring at his handsome face, praying for a specific answer. She wasn't sure which would be worse though to be honest.

    "Yeah, that's right." Curtis said, licking his lips nervously. "...Is that...a problem?"


    So he was his son. "Oh. Well....its nice to meet you...I uh, I've heard a lot about you." By that she meant she had been told by everyone not to ever talk to him. She gave a weak smile. She looked at him with a bit of longing, but then quickly took a couple steps back and let out a sigh. She looked away for a second to see where exactly Lily had run off to, but didn't move.

    "Are you okay?" Curtis asked. He could sense the change in her. She had grown suddenly nervous. Was it something he had done? 

    "Heh...yea I'm fine...Does the name Clearwater mean anything to you?"

    "Oh, yeah." Curtis said with a nod. "My dad knows someone with that name. Penelope, I think. Hey...are you, like, her daughter? I dad said she was into girls so..." Curtis looked away for a moment. "I mean. uh...sorry."

    Vivian felt a bit more comfortable. But there was still a sad tone to her voice. "It's okay. Yea, I have two moms." She wasn't going to explain the ritual they had done so she gave a non magic explanation. "They used a sperm donor. Um, from my other mom's family. So were all still you know, same blood and everything."


    "Well that sounds kinda cool to be honest." Curtis said with a smirk. "I mean...I figured it might have been magic or something, but I don't really know how that works..."

    "Oh!" Vivian perked up. "You know about the coven! It was..I just didn't to act. So I guess it's ok I know your a wolfman then...and you must know about the bond and everything. You seem super okay with that." She smiled.

    "Werewolf." Curtis corrected. "And yeah my dad mentioned the Clearwaters were witches. You guys are basically the only other supernaturals in town so...hang on." Curtis gave her a confused look. "What do you"

    All of the blood rushed from Vivian's face. "Um... uh..." She was lost for words and looked a bit scared. Curtis frowned and moved closer to her again. 

    "What are you talking about?" He asked. "I don't know anything about-" He stopped what he was saying. A commotion had caught his attention. People were coming up the hill and he could hear sirens coming from town. He walked towards his friend Danny who was arguing with some woman dressed in a smart skirt and jacket.


    "Come on we're not doing any harm." Danny said, holding his hands up in protest.

    "On the contrary young man." The woman replied. "This event has not been approved by the Darkpine Social Events Committee, and the music is far too loud, no doubt breaking the noise pollution policies in place. There is alcohol being distributed without a licence, and not to mention this is just a breeding ground for fornication! This is making a mockery of our good town. I have had no choice but to call the authorities."

    "Are you for real?" Danny said as he rolled his eyes. "It's just a party. Lighten up!"

    "I don't have any time for your complaining. This event is being shut down, right now!" The woman snapped back. "Now tell me who organised this event."


    Quite quietly and calmly a figure seemed to appear at the edge of the crowd. Had he been there all along? Curtis was sure he hadn't been. However he knew the man on sight, they had just been speaking a few hours ago. "Lex..." he said.  

  6. Considering we haven't spoken in so long I don't really know what to say about that. As for this being my creation, well I feel it was collaborative. When you wanted to do this I didn't want to, and I said at the time you could go ahead and do it without me and I wouldn't mind. I dunno I guess I didn't realise it was a big deal.

    If you're really pissed about it then talk to me privately at some point because I don't really feel like discussing it here.

  7. "...I think if we don't fix this, and soon, she's going to die..."


    The words cut through him like a knife. Vincent sat at the edge of his own bed, his gaze fixed on his sister as she slept, apparently quite peacefully from what he could tell. For a long time he had been silent. In fact he wasn't sure if he had spoken at all since he had returned home. He was processing. A lot had happened. They had been captured by the Faerie Queen of Spring, He had murdered that Queen with some kind of power he did not yet understand, He had burdened himself with the well being of a young warlock who didn't have any control of her magic, and he had recently discovered that his sister, Violet, was a Nagloshi. Thanks to his father's Grimoire, he now knew exactly what that was, and he had planned to explain it to Violet when they returned. And now she was in some kind of coma, slowly approaching death, and he had no idea why. 


    "...How long do we have?" Vincent asked. 

    "Hours, days, i've no idea." James replied, "This isn't exactly my speciality." He checked his attitude and continued with a sigh, "At the current rate, maybe a week? There's a war raging inside her right now. All we've been able to find thus far is sometimes she's giving out incredible amounts of magical energy, like off the chart... and at other times it's almost non-existent. It's like there's two sides to her, and one is definitely winning right now. Problem is, I don't know whether it's supposed to be or not. Maybe it is? Or maybe it's killing her."
    "Short answer--" David added, "We just don't know."
    "Then..." Vincent paused and exhaled, his nostrils flaring. "Then we don't have time to worry about being ethical, or being careful."
    "Vincent..." David said cautiously. 
    "I'm not talking about Dark Magic, David." Vincent said to him. "Right now...we need all the help we can get. I know a few people who can possibly shed some light. The first...well that's up to James." Vincent turned to the Familiar and gave him a grave expression "You're from the Void, right? you know what Violet is?"
    "Why do you say i'm from the Void, Vincent?" James asked, crossing his arms with a quizzical look on his face.
    "I don't have time for your stupid fucking games!" Vincent snarled. "I know what you are. Now tell me right you know that she is a...a Nagloshi." Vincent's stare was penetrating as he said the word. It was the first time he had said it out loud, even to himself. 
    At the mention of the word, James recoiled as though he'd been stung. "Don't... don't say that word." James growled, anger replacing his usually cool expression, if only for a moment. "I couldn't be sure, she wasn't like anything i'd ever... I..." James trailed off as his words left him and completed his sentence with a feeble shrug of his shoulders. Vincent, however, did not let up. 
    "James, if you want to protect her then you're going to have to grow some balls." He said. "I need you to go to the Void. You need to find one dangerous bitch called Vael. Whatever Violet is...Vael is the real deal. She's dangerous but...we need her."
    "I won't." James replied simply, tightening his arms about his chest.
    "You will." Vincent growled, standing up from the foot of the bed, his hand's clenching in to fists. "...This isn't a request...don't make me force you."
    "Vincent!" David said, his tone that of concern and surprise. 
    "David, back off." Vincent replied. "This is Violet we're talking about..."
    "God-dammit, Vincent." James lowered his arms and started pacing, "There's a reason half the Void creatures left that dimension, even if most of them no longer remember." He started shaking his head, "I step into that place, and i'm as good as dead. Vael senses energy, and i'm tied to Violet. Soon as I step into that place the first thing to find me will be her, and I WON'T do that." His breathing was quickening, "You think faeries are bad? Faeries are like... dogs. They just maul something they take a fancy to. Nagloshi are like cats. You ever see a cat with a mouse? They toy with it, pull it apart, bit by bit. Let it go, just to see if they can catch it again." He let out a hollow laugh, "And I should know."
    "Yeah..." Vincent nodded. "I've seen her in action. But her daughter is dying. She'll still be dangerous but...I think she'll help. Maybe I just hope she will. I'll try anything, James. You've helped us out, you've been Violet's friend, but I'll do whatever it takes. The Laws don't apply to demons, so don't think I won't make you do it."
    "Fuck you, Vincent!" James hissed venomously, losing his cool entirely, "Don't you ask my help and then call me that name!" Then he said something in a language nobody in the room recognised. Seconds passed and then slowly James calmed himself and took a step back. "I have to, for Violet... whatever happens, is on you." He growled, "Tell Violet, I..." He shook his head. Between blinks, James was gone. Vanished without a trace.
    "Vincent..." It mas Meredith. "Wh-what's...what's a Nagloshi."
    "It's..." Vincent sighed and thought for a moment. "Nagloshi are an ancient race from the Void. They are immortal, and probably as old as the Faerie Queens. James wasn't overreacting, the one time I encountered Vael I think the only reason I left with my life was because she got bored. If he does find her then it will be trouble, but I think she'll at least try to help Violet. After that...well we can cross that bridge when we come to it."
    "That doesn't sound like much of a plan." David said. "You're being irrational."
    "Yeah...I know that." Vincent said, then he made for the door, stopping as he opened it. "I have someone else I think can help. I need to take a trip. Both of you stay here and watch Violet. Meredith, if you look in the stand by the bed you'll find an amulet that looks like the one Violet and I both wear. Put it on, and if you get in any trouble just speak in to it. I'll come back."
    "Okay..." Meredith said, giving a soft nod. " there anything I can do...for Violet?"
    "Just stay with her." Vincent said. "I heard somewhere that people in comas can still hear people talking sometimes. It's worth a shot."
    "Don't you think she'd rather hear your voice?" Meredith asked. 
    "Maybe...but I have to take care of a few things. This is the best thing you can do for her, and for me." Vincent said. 
    "Right...I'll do my best." Meredith said. 
    With that Vincent left the apartment. David made the symbolic gesture of the cross over his body, and then he stepped out of the bed room. "I'll go make us something to eat. Stay with her child." He said, and he closed the door behind him. Meredith walked over to Violet cautiously, she held her hand out to touch her, but only moved it over her head, never touching her. She was shaking a little, and she looked scared. A single tear welled up in one of her eyes and she swallowed as she pulled her hand back. She leaned down to the bed and held her head above Violet's. "Please..." she whispered. "Please get better. I...I only just started getting to know you. I...don't want to lose you yet...Auntie Vi..."

    Vincent appeared through the mirror-like Way and found himself standing on a long dirt path that went through a forest. The sky was growing dim as the afternoon became early evening, and he made his way down the dirt path with the confidence of knowing this particular trail. The path was away from the main roads and was a fairly steep climb up the moss-covered hill it was built on. Vincent had never much liked Missouri, but the Ozarks were quite a peaceful place all things said. As he climbed further up he spotted an old farmhouse in the distance. 
    If memory served him this place wasn't far from Joplin, and yet it didn't get a lot of visitors. Even as he walked he could feel the magical incanations around this place. A series of subtle charms layered upon one another to keep mortals from coming near. There was nothing as barbaric as any actual traps that would cause harm, the person who lived here didn't operate like that. He didn't need to, Vincent thought, since the man himself was a force of nature. He also knew something else about this patch of land. It's owner had lived on it for years, and had made an effort to memorize every last part of it. When a person with magic does such a thing, they can declare sanctum over the land. In doing so they invoke powerful magic known as Intellectus. 
    In short it gave them omniscient knowledge of the land. They knew how many leaves were on each tree, how many animals were nesting nearby. They knew when the first flower of spring had bloomed and when the last one had died. More importantly they also knew when foolish punks like Vincent were marching up the dirt path to knock on their door. Sure enough when he reached the tired, old house the front door was open and a man stood in the threshold. He was dressed in brown overcoat, blue jeans and brown, leather boots. His hair was grey, long and untidy, and he had an overgrown beard to match. His eyes were like steel, and were a glassy blue. He held a cigarette to his mouth and by simply cupping his palm over it he had lit it's end with magic. He looked at Vincent with wise and knowing eyes. He lifted his head up and adjusted the tip of the brown, leather "cowboy hat" he was wearing, and gave a heavy sigh. 
    "Well, well, if it ain't that lil' boy from Iowa..." He said in a southern drawl. "Somethin' tells me this ain't a social call."
    "Alphonse Regulus's good to see you, well..." Vincent scratched his head. "It would be if it weren't such a bad time."
    "Mmm...seems to always be a bad time when you're aroun', Hoss." Alphonse said. "So I take it yer lookin' for help from this old dog, then?"
    "Yes, sir." Vincent said with a nod. "It's Violet...something is wrong with her. I need you to help me find out what."
    "Well, shit." Al said before spitting at the ground. "What makes you think a' have all the answers? You're a grown man now, least you as tall as one any how. I did my part, I taught you everythin' tha a wizard needs to be taught. It's up to you to figure out what to do with it."
    " left out a lot." Vincent said, his tone becoming tired. "Like the truth about my dad. About the Grimoire, the...the power I have. And Violet...I'm pretty sure you knew she was a Nagloshi. Hell you know it all, don't you, sir?" Vincent tried to glare at his mentor, but the old man had the ability to make him feel like a scared 10 year old all over again. 
    "Well...guess you grown up after all, Hoss." Al said with a nod. "But I ain't givin' you the answers, not yet at least. I will help you with Lil' Vi, though. I can't stand by and watch that darlin' suffer. You know that."
    "Good." Vincent said with a nod. "Because I've also sent for her mother to come see her."
    "Boy..." There was a flicker of anger in his voice, and for a split second there was a burst of power that felt like it could engulf the entire forest. "...You jes like him...he was always askin' fer trouble too. C'mon Hoss...we're wastin' time."

  8. It was late in the day and it the sky was beginning to grow dark. Justin had left about an hour ago but Curtis was busying himself cleaning up the shop. A

    was playing on the radio as he stood by a tool bench putting things away. He grabbed a broom at his side and was about to get to work with sweeping the floor. However when he turned the bright lights of car headlights flashed across his field of view. 


    Lex drove his car into the garage and parked. Before he even got out of the car, he recognised a scent. It was always the same with werewolves. A mixture of 'dog' and pine needles. Not unpleasant, but unmistakable. It was the smell of the wilderness. Lex grinned, it seemed he wasn't the only oddity in Darkpine, not that he believed he was, but auto-mechanics? He got out of the car and stopped to look around before he shut the door hard enough that everyone on the floor would have heard it. "Needin' a tune-up, if ye got the time for 'er."

    "...Whoa" Curtis replied, casting his gaze over the Impala. "That a 68? No- a 67, right?"

    "Yeah, it's a 67', ye know much 'bout cars, then?" Lex looked at the young man's Broncos t-shirt and grinned before meeting with his eyes once more. He liked the kid. Knew his cars, his sports, and seemed like an honest sort. But he was also a werewolf. He felt for the kid, he was still young. Not easy being a werewolf, all the more true when you haven't a grey hair on your head.


    "Well it's the family business." Curtis said. "I watched my dad when I was a kid and, I'm working on them myself. Never seen a 67' before though. Just a tune-up, you said? I don't think we'd have the parts in stock for anything major. Stuff like that usually needs a special order." Curtis looked at the man up and down. Aside from the scars he didn't seem all that imposing. He wasn't particularly big, and his skin was quite pale. Yet his instincts were nagging at him, like he was staring down a fellow predator. This man wasn't a werewolf though, he'd know the scent. He figured it was due to the full moon being a couple of days away. Probably nothing to worry about. 

    Lex watched the boy carefully and after a long silence his grin widened and he licked his lips before opening them to speak, "That feelin' yer gettin', ye ain't wrong, kid. I ain't human." He laughed and then pointed at his car, "Gon' take long?"


    "Uh..." Curtis tried to form a sentence but found himself caught off guard. He hadn't really met any non-humans outside of his own family. Although he knew it wasn't considered common for supernatural types to just come out and say it like that. More than that, combined with the feeling he was having, he began to wonder if this man was indeed a threat. "Uh...I'll need to take a look and see. We're supposed to be closing but I can spare a little time. Pop the hood and let's take a look."

    Lex did as he was asked, then started off into the office, "Coffee in here, is it?" He asked, walking inside. He picked up a mug and poured the stagnant black water into it, while he trapped his thumb between the canines in the corner of his mouth and punctured the skin. He let the blood drip into the mug and once he was done he licked the wound and it quickly sealed. A little white scar remained in the centre of his thumb, much like the rest of his fingers. He took a sip of the coffee, looked around the office and then walked back out.


    In the meantime Curtis busied himself taking a mounted light and taking a look at the engine. He tried to ignore the faint whiff of blood that his heightened sense of smell had caught coming from the office, and instead took the time to admire the craftsmanship of the vehicle. When the man returned Curtis took his head out from the hood and put his arms on his hips, his gaze still fixed on the car. "It's in really good condition, all things considered. I could tune up the transmission and take a look at the brakes, that's where you see a lot of general wear and tear. Have you noticed any problems in particular?" He turned his gaze to the man and couldn't help but give a nervous gulp. The more time he spent with him, the more concerned he felt. His his instincts were telling him to run, and they almost never did that. 


    "Ah just keep hearin' this crunchin' noise when ah switch gears is all." Lex replied, taking a sip of his coffee, "Makes me nervous like, ah have a car but ah don't generally subscribe to technology, anythin' out the ordinary and i'm like to get it seen."

    "Sounds like something wrong with your transmission. I'll take a look at the clutch." Curtis went back in to the hood and got to work. He began taking apart the transmission actuator. He felt a little awkward, he wasn't used to customers watching him work. He thought about speaking for a moment, but he only really had one thing he wanted to ask. He took a deep breath and said it: "So...I don't want to be rude or anything...uh...but what are...well if you're not human..." He said, unsure of how to go about saying it. 

    "Then what am I?" Lex finished for him, with a grin. He took a sip of coffee and after savouring the bitter flavour, swallowed and opened his mouth wide. With a quiet popping sound his two upper canines extended so they were inch-long fangs. "Three guesses?" He said jokingly, then the fangs snapped back up and they appeared normal once again, more or less.


    "Holy shit..." Curtis said, he'd flinched a little when the fangs had popped out. "Wow...that' you're a vampire then? I didn't know there were town. I mean it's pretty much just us here, I mean. Well I, I mean my family and I. We're..." He hesitated. He wasn't sure if he should really be telling this to a stranger, supernatural or not. 

    "Werewolves. Ah know, now take a breather boy yer givin' me heart palpitations." Lex let out a deep, throaty laugh and took a sip of his coffee.

    "Oh...sorry." Curtis said and he took control of his breath. "It's just a little surprising. I mean, being a werewolf I know perceptions can be pretty far off but, I dunno. My's not that he dislikes vampires, it's more like...he likes a quiet life. He told me vampires are trouble."

    "Vampires..." Lex began and trailed off, shrugging his shoulders. "Vampires like trouble. Ah don't know if we /are/ trouble, though." He grinned, "Ah like to think there are more good Vampires than bad. True of most folk, ah think."


    "That makes sense." Curtis said with a nod. He turned his attention back to the car for a moment, burying his head back in the hood. After a moment of silence he said from inside the hood. "Well I've got good news and bad. You need a new clutch. I can order one in but it will probably take a few days to arrive. The good news is, in the meantime...if I just..." There was a clunking sound as Curtis moved something inside the car. "...there we go. I've adjusted it so it shouldn't grind any more. It's okay to drive but there's damage so you really do need a replacement long-term."

    "Send me the bill." Lex replied, smiling. He held out the empty coffee cup for Curtis to take and then opened his car door, "If ye ever need a doctor, i'm in the book." He sat in the driver's seat and started the engine, "Jus' do me a favour an' if you come knockin' in the day you don't go openin' no windows, huh?" He grinned.


    "Uh, sure." Curtis said, and he couldn't help but smirk. "Oh uh...I don't know your address."

    "Huh... ah don't rightly know my address yet..." Lex licked his teeth thoughtfully, a habit of his. "Tell ye what, come by whenever ye want. I'll pay ye then. On the north side of town, as ye leavin' Park Rd. keep goin' fer a few minutes, first left, dirt road. Modern house, tinted windows."

    "Alright I think I know where that is. How about I get the order in, and when it arrives I'll stop by and replace it. We can settle up after that. Sound good?" Curtis said. 

    "Sure, kid." Lex replied, then closed the door and pressed the button to lower the driver side window, "Good luck, y'know fer yer whole moon thing in ah couple days. See ye 'round."

    "Uh, thanks." Curtis replied, and watched as the vampire drove off from the garage. 


    It was getting late and he started to quickly get cleaned up. He needed to get home and get his car so he could drive up to Carrow Hill for the party. He didn't really feel up for it any more, but he knew he'd perk up once he was there. It was strange meeting a vampire though. He thought about telling his father, but he wasn't sure if that was a good idea. Sam Archer seemed to have a pretty low view of them, but the one he had met seemed nice enough. He didn't want to cause any trouble for him. But equally, what if he wasn't being entirely honest? A vampire really could mean trouble in Darkpine, the kind of trouble that could affect their pack. He let out a heavy sigh and continued sweeping. He'd worry about it in the morning. 

  9. Curtis Archer was an early riser. He accounted this trait to being the only child of a single father. When his mother had passed away when he was just a boy it had left all the responsibility to his father. And from his early teens Curtis had decided that the least he could do was make breakfast for his father every morning. So there he stood in the kitchen of their old house in the woods, the

    playing, with bacon and sausage sizzling in a pan over the stove. He put on a pot of coffee and placed 4 slices of bread in the toaster. With a few minutes to spare he went in to the living room which was furnished with old, floral patterned furniture and wallpaper, which hadn't changed since his mother's passing. He examined himself in the mirror on the wall. He was a clear-skinned 24 year old with dark hair that was swept back over his head, and shaved short at the back and sides. He was dressed in an old, blue Denver Broncos t-shirt and a pair of worn jeans, and battered old boots. He gave a soft grin that vain twenty-somethings often give themselves, as he scanned his look with his hazel eyes. He wasn't a bodybuilder or anything, but he had a toned, muscular frame. The kind you see on labourers. 


    He heard the dull thumping of boots across the floor from up the stairs and made his way back to the kitchen. The toast popped out of the toaster and he laid it on two plates, along with the bacon and sausage. He poured two cups of black coffee and put them on the small table in the kitchen, and sat himself down. His father entered the kitchen and sat himself down at the table without a word. He was a man in his late forties with long, brown hair that had soft curls at the end, and a thin stubbling beard that had areas of silver running through it. "Morning, pop." Curtis said before taking a bite of toast and washing it down with some coffee. Sam Archer gave his son a cursory glance before he took a sip of his own coffee. He swallowed and paused for a moment, lingering in the moment. 

    "Morning." Sam said finally. Then he picked up his cutlery and began eating his breakfast. 

    "You look tired. I heard you come in late last night" Curtis asked his dad. 

    "Broken down sedan out on the other side of town. Battery gave out." Sam explained. Curtis nodded. 


    The Archer family ran their own business in the small Colorado town of Darkpine Valley. Sam and his two brothers, Cain the eldest, and Dominic the youngest, ran a successful auto-repair service. Cain and his eldest son Marcus dealt with external business side of things, working with stock suppliers, networking with dealerships and securing repair service deals with other companies. Sam ran the shop, and Curtis helped him along with Cain's youngest son Justin. Dominic helped out when he could, but having twin six year old boys made his life a bit hectic and so he and his wife Claire weren't always available. So for the most part it was just Curtis, his dad and Justin who did the day to day work. On the surface it was a typical family business that had grown from the hard work of three brothers born and raised here in Darkpine Valley. However the Archers weren't quite so ordinary. 


    "How are you feeling, boy?" Sam asked. "The change is coming two nights from now. How are the urges?" Curtis shrugged at the question and took a bite of bacon. 

    "Nothing out of the ordinary. I think I have a handle on it now, I've been doing this since I was 16." He replied. 

    "And I've been doing it since I was 16. Don't think it gets easier with age, you need to be ready. Sometimes it's fine, other times it can get real ugly. You understand me, boy?" 

    "Yeah, I get you, pop." Curtis said with resignation. "So...that being said I was going to go to a party up on Carrow Hill tonight."

    "Nope." Sam replied without skipping a beat. 

    "Uh...I wasn't asking?" Curtis said. 

    "I don't care. I'm telling you no, boy." Sam said. "You get some booze down you and see a pretty girl, this time that could be dangerous."

    "I'm not like that." Curtis said, a little angered by the comment. 

    "No, you're not. But the wolf inside's an animal, Curtis. It wants to eat, and hunt, and fu-"

    "Dad!" Curtis snapped. "I just want to hang out with some friends. I won't be drinking anyway. I've got to drive home. Thing about being a mechanic is you see the aftermath of having a few beers ad taking a drive. I'll be a regular old boy scout, I promise." Sam chewed on his food for a moment and then gave a sigh. 


    "Fine." He said. "...I couldn't stop you anyway. Some Alpha I am, can't even control my boy."

    "You know you could." Curtis replied. "Like if you laid the ol' howl on me. You just won't, y'know, because you're a cool dad."

    "Alright, boy you already got what you want so you can stop kissing my ass." Sam replied and he cracked a smile. "Finish your food, we've got work."

    "Sure thing, dad." Curtis replied, before scarfing down the rest of his breakfast. 





    Later in the day Curtis was at the auto-repair garage in town. Sam had gone off in his truck to deal with another breakdown which left Curtis and his cousin Justin in charge of the garage. Justin was the same age as Curtis but looked pretty different. He had blonde hair, styled up with a spiky look, and he was wearing a tight, white t-shirt covered in grease stains, and a pair of old jeans. His form was athletic and muscular, but unlike Curtis he actually went to gym. Justin was a typical gym-junkie, obsessed with his looks and outside from work and the gym his only major concern was partying and chasing tail. This was an Archer who let his inner wolf take the wheel most of the time. But he was family, and he wasn't a complete asshole. 



    in the garage was on and Justin was trying to look busy while basically slacking off, meanwhile Curtis was underneath the old fiat they were working on, on a runner. Justin was looking at himself in the sideview mirror of the car and carefully adjusting the strands of his hair. "So did your old man shoot you down then?" He asked Curtis. 

    "Actually he was cool with it." Curtis replied from underneath the car. "What about yours?"

    "My dad doesn't give a shit." Justin replied, still focused on his hair. "You know what he's like. He's happy as long as I settle down and make him some grandkids before he kicks the bucket. Besides he's way more concerned with Marcus right now."

    "How come?" Curtis asked. 

    "'s a pretty awkward thing to talk about with you. I mean your dad..."


    "I'm not an idiot." Curtis said, and he slid out from under the car. Justin tossed him a rag and he began cleaning the oil from his fingers. "Cain's hoping Marcus will lead the pack when the time comes. He's probably the right choice anyway."

    "Yeah, maybe." Justin said. "But Dad wants Marcus to have a family. He says 'a lone wolf is a weak wolf' and then they end up arguing. It's kind of bullshit to be honest."

    "I guess." Curtis said. "I mean Uncle Cain just wants the best for the family, right? I mean...he has a point."

    "What because having babies makes then man? Give me a break." Justin snorted. 

    "No it's keeps him grounded I suppose. You know what we can do, if you abuse that power then innocent people get hurt, or we get discovered."


    "Yeah well with all that said I think I'm just gonna keep partying and worry about the consequences later. I'm too young to be thinking about marriage and kids. All I want to focus on is tonight. Everyone is going to be there. You never know we might be able to get you laid, finally!"

    "Yeah, thanks, but no thanks." Curtis said with a sheepish grin. "The last girl you set me up with had an adderall addiction."

    "Yeah but she was pretty hot though..." Justin said. "Hey anyway that wasn't what I meant earlier. I meant college you moron. Have you even asked Sam yet?"

    "Nope..." Curtis said. "He'll just tell me it's pointless. Plus money is tight..."

    "Excuses, dude." Justin said, shaking his head. "I mean what do you do? You work and go home. I'm paying for my gym membership, my cell phone contracts, my ride, my weed, dates, parties, whey protein, new clothes. All you do is read books and play that beat up old guitar. You must have savings, man."


    "A little..." Curtis admitted. "Look I'll think about it."

    "You think too much, dude. Just do." Justin said. 

    "...Alright, I'll ask him tomorrow." Curtis said. 

  10. James was a nimble and quick person, but on this occasion Vincent had beaten him to Violet. He was at his sister's side in an instant, on his knees on the floor beside her. "Violet!" He said frantically. "Violet, it's me. What happened? You have to tell me what happened!"

    Violet jumped in surprise as she felt something come into contact with her, "Vincent?!" She called, searching with her hands, the tears still hot on her cheeks. "I don't know, I don't know! I can't see! I can't see!" She brought her hand back in and started touching at her face frantically. Vincent gently took her hand in his and removed it from her face. He placed it at his chest and held it there. 

    "Violet...I know it's hard but need to try to calm down." He said, his own voice shaky as he tried to control his own emotions. "Deep breaths...just focus on breathing." He added, taking a deep breath so she could feel his chest moving. "Me and James are right here...we're not going anywhere. We're going to help you."

    "How are you going to help me Vincent?! I'm blind!!" Violet yanked her hand away from Vincent's grasp.

    "Because the only thing I'm good at is magic." He replied. "This is magic, Violet. It's old, and strange and I don't understand it yet but you need to trust me. For once, please trust me to help you. I know it's weird, it's normally me who needs the help..." He gave a heavy sigh, closing his eyes. "I will help you with this, somehow. I promise."

    "I can't see, I can't work... I can't... I'm never going to be able to work." Violet pushed her hands through her long raven hair, "Just get us out of here, Vincent."


    "I can do that." Vincent said with a nod. He had more to say, he wanted to tell Violet that he would take care of her. He wanted to tell her that, while he didn't know what was happening to her, he knew the reason it was happening. He knew what she was, but he couldn't tell her, not right now. Most of all he wanted to reassure her, but that too was impossible. You can't force someone to digest things like this. She was going to suffer through it, no matter what he said. "James, can you carry Violet? I'm not doubting your skills but I think I might be the heavier hitter in this scenario, at least."

    "I know my limits, Vincent." James walked past him and helped Violet to her feet. "So what are we doing?" James asked without looking at him.

    "We're getting the rest of the team, and then we're getting out." Vincent said. "Queen Shaylee has rather cleverly and painstakingly hidden all the Ways as far as I can see. But the Ways cannot be closed or removed, even by a Faerie Queen. She can move them, slowly, and with a great deal of effort. I just have to find one and we'll make our escape. Luckily I was taught by an expert of the Ways, one just as clever as Queen Shaylee, perhaps more so."


    "You could just say 'We're leaving', y'know?" James replied.

    "And you could stick to licking your asshole like a real cat." Vincent said. "Got any more quips or do you want to tell me where David and Meredith are?"

    James took a deep breath, keeping his temper in check and nodded down the hall. "At the far end, down the stairs first left."

    "Let's go." Vincent said, and he moved forward a little more slowly than before, but made sure to keep a fair distance ahead of James and Violet. They were vulnerable with her, but he wouldn't let anything get past him. Even if it killed him. 


    They made their way down the hall as James instructed. Fortunately they didn't face any creeps along the way. They descended the steps and went left through another corridor that looked much the same as the rest, probably to keep them from getting a good idea of where they were. There was no Faeries barring their path, which was alarming in it's own way. There should have been more. When Vincent passed a room James inclined his head to it and Vincent doubled back. He went for the door but it was locked. He heard something crash from within and fear shot up his spine. He turned it to anger, and used it to kick open the door, marching inside with his cane held in front of him. 


    Inside the room there were two people. David lay on the floor, a shadow of what he was before. He was pale and for the first time in Vincent's presence he looked like the aged man he was. He trembled in fear, mouthing wordlessly at the other figure who had been slowly advancing on him. The Sidhe Faerie looked young and strong, with long blonde hair and pointed ears that, combined with the armour that was designed to resemble leaves, made him look like one of the Elven people of Tolkien's books. The Sidhe turned his gaze to Vincent and glared at him with cold, blue eyes. 

    "Get away from him!" Vincent snarled. The Sidhe simply smirked at the threatening command. 

    "Or what, Wizard?" He asked, his voice smooth and charming. "I assure you I won't fall as easily as one of my Ogre cousins. I am Sidhe, you do not stand a hope in...Hell, is it?"

    "I'll show you Hell if you don't get out of my sight right now." Vincent replied. "To quote a famous physicist: You won't like me when I'm angry."


    "Oh I'm afraid I don't much like you now, you uppity, foolish mortal." The Sidhe replied. "Let me show you how magic should be handled!" and with nothing more than a subtle gesture the Sidhe summoned green vines that snaked across the floor, lashing at Vincent, twisting to get at him. Vincent pointed his cane let out a wave of fire, but it's touch only made them grow and advance more quickly. Before he could raise his barrier they had coiled around his arms and legs and hoisted him off of his feet. He heard the Sidhe let out a cruel laugh, and then he advanced of David once more. The old man cowered before the Sidhe, and Vincent feared what horrible things the Faerie must have done to break his resolve. He didn't know anyone who had a stronger nerve than David. He felt the vines coil around his throat, tightening around his windpipe and slowly crushing it. As he felt his life slowly leaving him, Vincent cursed his own foolishness. He had just talked a big game to James and Violet, he had promised to protect his sister. Now he was here, powerless and about to completely fail in keeping that promise, not moments after making it. 


    David, meanwhile, crawled hastily backwards along the floor, fearful but holding himself in front of the Sidhe. However he was not cowering despite what it might have seemed. He was afraid, of course. He was tired and felt more helpless than he had ever felt in all his years. Yet he still had his faith, and the Lord had charged him with protecting the innocent. And so there he was, stood in between the Sidhe, and the other figure who was hiding under the bed. Dark brown hair emerged from under the bed. The girl stood and raised her hands up, her hazel eyes filled with tears. "Leave him alone!" She screamed, and with the scream came power. Raw magical force surged across the room, causing every one to tremble in it's might. The Sidhe glared at her with venomous eyes, and he thrust his hand towards her. His vines snaked towards her but were barred from getting close by the power of the magical pulse emanating from her. Then the air suddenly shifted as the young woman's fear turned to anger. A dark and terrible dread filled the room and the magical force changed. Pain rattled through the Sidhe, sheer and undeniable agony that rocked him to his core. 


    The vines holding Vincent loosened their grip and dropped him on the floor, as they began to wither away and die, turning to tiny, blackened and dried up twigs. Vincent choked for breath as he stood up, pointing his cane frantically at the young girl, ready to take her out. When he looked at her his heart nearly leapt out of his throat, and he let the cane fall to his side. "...Meredith?" He gasped. Her hair had darkened and become flatter, and her eye colour had changed. Her flawless skin has become a little pinker and there were a few freckles on her cheek. She had lost her Fae beauty, but underneath the changes it was undeniably the same girl. She fell to her knees, quietly weeping. Vincent surveyed the damage she had done. The Sidhe was collapsed on the floor, his eyes wide with agony and terror, but he lay still, trapped in an endless cycle of pain. 


    "That was..." Vincent shuddered as he spoke. "Meredith...I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He went to her and knelt down, wrapping his arms around her. She quivered in his embrace but he held her tight, knowing what she was going through. Meredith had saved him, saved them all for the second time since he had met her. He had began to realise what she had given up in order to have Queen Shaylee save them in the forest. The dark hair, the change in her eye colour, her skin. She ahd become human, entirely. She had given up her Faerie half and become a mortal wizard. That alone was enough for him to owe her a great debt. Not to mention how he had treated her before, he had shown her no trust whatsoever. And she had deserved all of his trust. Every scrap. And yet this was not the worst of it. Even as he held her he could feel the touch of darkness she had allowed to form inside her. The stain of dark magic was unmistakable. He knew it because he had one too, and he had went through similar feeling a long time ago. 


    "I didn't...I didn't mean to..." She whispered, sobbing. "I...cant control it any more. M-my...magic...I'm sorry!"

    "'s okay." Vincent said softly. "It's going to be okay. I promise." He shuddered inwardly as he heard himself make another promise that he wasn't sure he could keep. 

    "Vincent..." David's voice said from behind him. The old man had stood up but looked weary. "He tried to take her...something about using her as a bargaining tool."

    "Shaylee..." Vincent said. "She was going to hold her ransom." That was the most reasonable conclusion he could make. But why Meredith? Why not Violet? Or David? He was closer to both of them. Perhaps Shaylee assumed he would consider the life of a child to be more valuable. If she did, then she was right on the money in that regard. "Come on, we need to move." Vincent said, and he helped Meredith to her feet. "We can sort this out when we get out of here. I'll take care of you. I know what comes next."


    " would do that?" Meredith asked, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. "Why?"

    "Because I owe you my life, and the life of my friends, my family." Vincent said. "And because you will need someone with you for a time. Going the next few months alone would be very hard."

    "Thank you..." Meredith whispered, more tears welling in her eyes as she gave a grateful and relieved smile. 

    "Don't worry about it." Vincent said. "But no more magic." he added. "No more magic ever again, until I say so. Do you understand?" She hesitated for a moment, but then she nodded silently. Vincent moved away from her and left the room with everyone following behind. Now they were altogether. They were hurt and tired, but they were together. Now came the final push. 


    "Okay...the gang's all here." Vincent said. "When we leave this building all hell is going to break loose. We need to move as quickly as possible. David, James, I'll take the front and take the brunt of it but I need you both to back me up if I miss something. Don't let anyone get to Violet or Meredith."

    "No problem." James replied, "Well not literally but you get my meaning." He cleared his throat uncomfortably but smiled when he saw Violet's cheek twitch ever so slightly.

    "All right." Vincent said, and then he took a deep breath, calming himself and focusing his will. "It's now or never...let's go."





    The doors to the building exploded outwards, the ancient wood instantly charred to black as it shattered to pieces and crumbled on to the ground and crashed down the stone steps. Vincent emerged, with the rest of the team following closely behind him. He held his hand out in front of him, his charm bracelet creating a wide barrier around them, protecting them from a frontal assault. The building faced out on to a large valley. Buildings and streets were constructed in to the valley itself, their outer walls covered in vines that were blossoming in all manner of different petals. The valley itself was green and luscious, and the sky was pink and cloudless. The picturesque view would have been beautiful on any other day, but they had little time to take it in. This was the Esperius Valley, the heart of Spring. Vincent had to push down the sick feeling he had in his stomach. When he escaped Arctaeros all those years ago he had been told he had been the only mortal to do so in over a century. Now he was about to attempt to do the same in the Esperius Valey. He wasn't so sure he could achieve the impossible twice in one lifetime. 


    However his mind became focused on the more immediate problem. The courtyard ahead of him was filled with all manner of Faerie creatures. A small army had amassed itself in front of their prison and was waiting for them to burst through the doors. Far back beyond the forces of Spring sat their Queen astride a golden furred stag. She was not smiling and beautiful as she had been in her meeting with Vincent earlier. Her eyes were ablaze with fury, the pupils thin and cat-like. The forces readied to advance, and with a flick of her wrist Queen Shaylee gave that order. There was a cacophony of shouting and roars as the Faerie creatures raised crystalline swords and axes, or simply charged forward. The sky darkened as arrows were loosed and magic arced overhead. Vincent grit his teeth and raised his barrier above them, and he charged down the steps. 


    The arrows and bolts of magic crashed against his barrier, each strike hammering away at his will, but his fury drove him onwards in to the fray. The front lines came at him, all muscle and no brains. Goblins, Ogres, Trolls and Centaurs rushed the small group. Vincent held his cane forward and sent his will surging down it. "Ingus Magna!" he roared, and the white lance of flame thundered from his cane, carving through the forces like butter, parting them like Moses did the sea. They ran through the opening and the forces began to converge around them, cutting them off from all angles. Each one that came at him, he sent backwards with a blast of kinetic force from his cane, and they crashed in to the ones behind them. The rush of it all kept him going, but he could feel cold sweat dripping down his neck and forehead, and his head was pounding from exerting so much magic at one time. 


    Before long it became too much and Vincent struggled to keep them from advancing any longer. He tapped his cane against the ground and focused on the spell he had been weaving since before he had left the building. The Grimoire has taught him a spell that his father had favoured. It wasn't an easy spell, it took a while to prepare. One had to establish a link with the earth beneath ones feet. Vincent had been pushing out his senses, navigating the ground with his magic and inspecting it thoroughly. He hadn't had as much time as he would have liked but he had to try it anyway. He channelled his will through his cane and in to the ground. Then he spoke the incantation that had been written in the Grimoire in his father's own handwriting. 


    "Terram Exterriti!" He roared as the Faerie army closed in. There was a sudden pressure as his energy expelled outwards. Then the ground rumbled and shook, before exploding outwards, earth and rock spinning and crashing like a typhoon, the creatures ripped up along with it, with only a small stretch of ground around Vincent and his friends remaining untouched. He couldn't see far beyond that reach. The rest was pandemonium. The noise of crashing rocks, screaming and rumbling of the earth and the cries of their enemies was simply deafening. Then at last he felt the remains of the magic he had fed in to the spell dissipate, and the rocks and earth tumbled once more to the ground with a thunderous crash. 


    He couldn't see through the dust that filled the air, but he was certain that he had just destroyed a large portion of the courtyard. "Come on!" He yelled at the group and he lead them in to the dust. Without sight to help him he focused on the parts of his senses he had learned to communicate with when he had studied the Ways. He clambered over the upturned rocks and felt his way through the dust, making sure not to stray too far from the group. The dust began to fade as they emerged in to the beginnings of a wood. He weaved through the trees, letting his sense guide him, following the subtle signs that showed a practitioner to a Way. Finally he arrived in a clearing, and he stopped with the group, and looked around. "It's here..." He said as he tried to pinpoint it. He paused for another moment of two, then he turned to a pile of moss-covered stones and pointed at it. "That's it." He said. He held his hand out, focused his will, and snapped his fingers. The Way opened with much less effort than the other one had. Peculiar, he thought. He felt pretty tapped out, had it always been that easy? 


    With the familiar rushing, whispering screech followed by a silencing vacuum, the Way opened and showed them a mirror in to a completely different location. "Go." Vincent said, "You'll be in France, so try not to panic. I'll get us home soon."

    "Alright, see you on the other side." James replied. 

    "Be safe... " Violet added, but she was lost in her thoughts to give any real input. David and Meredith followed shortly afterwards. When they were all through Vincent went to follow afterwards. Before he could enter, however, he felt a terrible thrum of energy from behind him. He turned around to see Queen Shaylee stood at the far edge of the clearing, her eyes dark and filled with quiet rage. 

    "You..." She hissed. 


    "Me." Vincent replied darkly. "I don't suppose you've come to say goodbye?"

    "You have brought death unto the realm of beginnings..." Shaylee said. "You have slaughtered my kin. You have ended the lives of the everlong, and I will not forgive you."

    "I warned you." Vincent said simply. He was tired. "You immortals are all so...arrogant. You can't even entertain the idea that you might be beaten. If you weren't so damned sure of yourself then I probably wouldn't have managed it."

    "You will not leave here." She said, her tone that of finality. 

    "Are you going to stop me?" Vincent asked. "I'm, like, two feet away from this Way. I think I can get there before-"


    The sensation washed over him immediately, and he was filled with dread. He had felt this kind of feeling before, only once. It was power. Power enough to move mountains and dry up entire seas. It was the kind of terror you would feel if you truly met your creator. It was the power that made the Queens of Faerie just that, Queens. Incalculable, unfathomable, mighty power, enough to shatter the heavens and the earth with the snap of a finger. At least it felt that way to him. The true extent of it was difficult for a mortal to comprehend. With power like this you couldn't be sure if you were grossly overestimating or underestimating it. It had frozen him in place. He tried to tell his feet to move, but they simply weren't listening. Shaylee advanced towards him, slowly and gracefully like a predator would an easy kill. She came so close that her skin was mere inches from his. She lifted her hand and gave him the faintest of touches on his cheek, and the sensation nearly brought him to his knees. 


    "You are in my domain, and I will not permit you to leave." Shaylee said. "You are...mine!"

    The words echoed through his head. Memories flooded back to him, ones that had always been there but right at the back, foggy and unclear. For some reason they seemed crystal clear now, and he began to relive every moment as if it were a very real dream. 


    He was standing in a chamber made of crystalline ice. He was surrounded by creatures of the Fae, all stood in the distance as if spectators at a court hearing. Vincent was angry. He had been fooled and now the revelations had all come to him, which had led him to standing in this very room, seeking audience with the Queen of Winter, Isoleth. She was sat in her throne of ice, dressed in a shimmering, blue garment, her hair as white as snow and her eyes a piercing emerald. She was smiling at him, a cruel and confident grin. Her eyes were calm but intense, thin and cat-like as was the norm for her kind. Sat comfortably in her arms was a tiny little thing, wrapped in silk blankets, with only the hint of a pale pink head poking out. 


    "Vincent, my darling." Isoleth said warmly. "Were you that desperate to see me."

    "Stop it..." Vincent growled. "I don't want to talk. Just give her to me!"

    "Why ever would I do that, boy?" Isoleth asked, and she glanced at the little baby in her arms. "A daughter should be with her mother, after all."

    "No!" Vincent snarled. "I won't let that happen. tricked me! You tricked me to get her and..." Tears welled in his eyes. "...Why? I..."

    "You...what?" Isoleth asked, raising her brow in amusement. 

    "I...loved you." Vincent whispered, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. "I loved you! But not as much as I love her! I won't let you take her from me!"


    "My boy, you are welcome to stay here with her and I." Isoleth said. "I am a reasonable woman."

    "If you stays here...she'll become a monster. Just like you." Vincent said. "Just like everything in this fucking realm!" At this Isoleth gave a soft chuckle, and shook her head the way grown ups do when arguing with a child. 

    "You sought this realm out. You were fascinated by it. You still are, in fact." She said. 

    "I was...tricked by you and your lies. Everything was just an illusion. I thought this realm was one of wonder's just cruel and heartless."

    Isoleth considered him for a moment, then she spoke. "What would you offer in return?"


    "Anything." Vincent said immediately. "I'll give you anything. If you stay away from her then I will give you all that I have."

    "And you have much, boy." Isoleth said with a short nod. "Very well. My daughter will live her life away from her mother, and in return I shall have you."

    Isoleth got up from her throne and she practically glided to Vincent. When she reached him she held out the child in her arms, and placed her in his. He looked down at the little girl and for a moment he felt unfathomable joy. He reminded himself that he would not be able to be with her either, but she would have a better life without him. "Agreed." He said, and he felt something twinge inside him as the magical contract was set. And then he felt cold crawl up his arms and wash over the sleeping child. She did not stir as her form was completely frozen, her skin turning blue and a layer of frost coating her skin. Vincent choked in panic, he fell to his knees, clutching the poor child. Distantly he could hear screaming. It took him a moment to realise it was him. 


    Isoleth leant down next to him and gave him a cruel smile. "I never said she would have a long life, boy." She said harshly. Vincent couldn't reply. He couldn't stop screaming. Then Isoleth leant in closer, her lips gently hovering next to his ear. She whispered to him, slowly and venomously: "Your are...mine!"


    When Vincent opened his eyes again he realised the screaming wasn't coming from him after all. He realised immediately that his hand was clasped around the throat of Queen Shaylee. She was screaming in agony as a dark green energy pulsed through his arm, penetrating her flesh and scolding her. Her cat-like eyes were filled with panic as she gazed upon him. He had never seen fear on a Queen's face before. Startled he released his grip and Shaylee fell to the floor, her flesh still smoking from what had happened. Vincent could only stare down at her, completely terrified by what he had done. Whatever he had done, he had no idea what it was, or where it had came from. However he knew the feeling dark magic brought on it's wielder, and this was not that. It was...different. Yet the consequences of it's wrath were terrible. 


    "Oh...shit." Vincent whispered, trembling. He turned and left through the Way, still trying to digest what he had just done. He had killed a Faerie Queen. He had killed an immortal, one that was more ancient than he could fathom. He had ended the life of the arbiter of Spring. The consequences of such an just didn't bear thinking about. All he knew was not good. 

  11. The Masquerade was in full swing. Wine flowed and with it came smug laughter, and dancing, and the lowering of inhibitions. Raphael had sampled the wine, tilting his mask to sip from a goblet. His tastes were incredibly sharp and intuitive. The wine was rich, dense and the subtle notes told him that it was crafted of local fruits. No doubt a blend commissioned by the Medici themselves. He drained the goblet and set it aside, fixing his mask back in place. It was a deep red, porcelain mask with a caricature of a grinning man. The expression was macabre and very reminiscent of jesters and clowns. He thought it rather apt, for that was what he was on this eve, a jester. Raphael was no noble, but with coin he had managed to walk among them. He had grown used to the odd stares and the hushed whispers, and more importantly he had learned to eradicate them altogether when he wanted to. 


    Not a soul was paying him any attention. In that moment he was nothing more than an unimportant movement in the corner of their eyes. He moved through the guests and surveyed them without incident. For one such as him it had became a simple task to influence the minds of those around him. The subtle powers of suggestion he held could slowly make people love him, hate him, and in this case be utterly bored by his presence. This was what he wanted for now. He enjoyed moments of peace, moments where he could simply be a spectator to the grand events of the rich and powerful. Firenze, he had found, was no exception to this. The people drank and forgot the hardships of this city quite effortlessly. Perhaps they simply did not care in the first place. 


    Observing people like this was an excellent way to learn. He had watched the rich and the poor, men and women, children, beggars and murderers. He had found that each one could not help but be like the others of their kind. Wealth brought a smug sense of importance, those who did not inevitably become rotten by money were a rare sight. Not that he had any particular disdain for it. He had once been a poor man, or rather a poor boy. He had seen plenty of rot going on among the penniless as well. Jealousy, desperation and anger at their lack of success could drive men and women to be quite disgusting creatures. It was the way of the short-lived, the way of mortals. It was difficult to have hope of anything better, or fear of anything worse when your life is so short. Indeed, if life had been different he might have looked to be the older man that he truly was, and no doubt he would have become sick. Perhaps he would already be dead. 


    He moved in to the main hall and found the man, Uberto, standing by his prized possession. He moved to Uberto and greeted him with a casual nod. The masked man seemed to gaze at him quizically for a moment before he recognized Raphael. Sure enough upon the realisation he held out his arms in a welcoming gesture. "There you are, Raphael!" He said jubilantly, "I was beginning to think you had decided not to attend."

    "As if I would miss such a wonderful...festivity." Raphael replied, bringing Uberto in for a short and formal embrace. Then Uberto fetched him another goblet of wine and the pair surveyed the gathering together. 

    "It is quite an affair, is it not?" Uberto said, and Raphael sensed there was a grin under his mask. He nodded in agreement. 

    "A peculiar one, I think" Raphael replied, "Everyone gets so excited about wearing a mask. It's as if they don't realise that we all wear masks, every day."

    "Ah, but on nights like this it is the opposite, my friend." Uberto explained. "We can all wear a mask on the outside, and let our true selves out to play for the evening."


    Raphael gave a soft chuckle, and nodded once again. "I suppose there is something in what you say. But please, Uberto, let us not keep everyone waiting. I will play something...something to entice their inner selves, and allow them to fully explore the depths of their basest desires."

    "Oh, well that does sound very exciting!" Uberto said joyously. "Very well, I will not keep you." He added, and with that he stepped away from the Viola Da Gamba, and Raphael sat himself on the stool next to it. He allowed his suggestion to pulse just a little, enough for a few people to take notice. They eyed him with anticipation as he rested the viola da gamba in between his legs. He held it's neck firmly in his left hand, his fingers placed delicately on the strings. Then he rose the bow in his right arm, resting his fingers on the bowstrings to give him control. And then he struck the instrument's string and a sharp, short note pierced through the mumblings and laughter. 


    He had mixed it with his suggestive powers, and the note had demanded the attention of every person within the room. He brushed the string with the bow, and played a series of long and mournful notes. With them he played the guests a melancholy story. The arrangement was on of his own. It told the story of a young man with nothing, alone in the world with no hope in sight. However, the man had hope all the same. He began to introduce more sharp, short notes. The room was silent, transfixed on his playing. All eyes were on him, and he liked it. The notes became higher as the story became one of joy. The young man had been given a new life, and a new meaning. The arrangement showed a family, one that became as close to the young man as his own flesh and blood. The music told them that his life had became one of wealth, one of opportunity and fulfilment. Slowly it began to peak, with light and optimistic tones, safe tones of contentment. 


    And just as he felt the room acclimatising to this feeling of joy, the song shifted. Dark, slow notes of dread began to sneak their way in, creeping like shadows through the happiness. As they grew more prominent he felt the room shudder, and he smiled under his mask. Short, sharp notes came once more, but they grew deeper and deeper. He played with finesse and speed, as he pulled the room in to madness and despair. Unimaginable pain, indescribable sorrow. Churning away, brewing in a pot of cold iron. Soon the madness became deafening and undeniable. Fury and passion burst out from the music. Lust, hunger and pain. Yet the notes carried an embrace to them. There was celebration in this dark spiral of madness. The boy had embraced the darkness and the madness. He had become those things entirely, and in doing so he had become more fulfilled than he had ever been. And then the music stopped with a final, sharp note. Silence fell. 


    Raphael's gaze had fixed on a certain point in the crowd. Distantly he could hear the beginning of applause, but it had become suddenly irrelevant. Instead he looked one at a single guest. Her hair was the colour of a warm fire, and her skin was pale like the moon. Her beauty had bewitched him, and the entire room seemed to melt before him. This treasure, she was young. Young enough to be his daughter, in fact. She was at the very prime of her existence. He thought about her beauty, his eyes scanning her flawless neck, which was far more beautiful than the trinket she had adorned it with. Then he remembered that like all people, her beauty would fade. Time would steal it from the world, would batter and bruise it, strip it of the life that oozed from it. The thought made his heart sink. 


    He could not bear such a thought. Such a treasure should not be ravaged by time, he thought. He gazed upon this woman and was only vaguely aware that he had left his instrument behind, and that his legs were moving across the room. That hair, such a vibrant colour. It gave him a warmth inside his body that he had not felt in many years. In his eyes this young girl was the brightest thing in the room. She reminded him of the wonderful sunshine that he had lost many years ago, one that he longed to gaze upon once more. And most importantly he felt a great deal of desire for this woman. Not a sexual desire, nothing so crass. He wanted her, in her entirety, to be his. No, more. He needed her. He had to have her. He had to feel that pearl-like skin quiver beneath his power. He had to taste the warm blood that coursed underneath her skin. He would not be denied it, he had decided. 


    "Good evening." He said, and the room came rushing back in to focus around him. He was stood so close to her now, it was almost dazzling to be in her presence. " not believe we have met." He said, and he reached out and took her hand, kissing it softly. "I am Raphael D'Antonio. And who are you, Signora?"

  12. Without dreams sleep is but a function. We have journeys when we slumber, ones that carry us through our innermost thoughts and finding new things to discov. We find answers in our nagging doubts and indulge our deepest fantasies. We process all that our mind finds vital to our continued existence. Without the dream sleep is quiet and meaningless. It is cold, and dark and incredibly boring. But even for those who do not require dreams, an active body requires rest. And so he lay for hours, still, and quiet, and cold, and bored. His senses were, however, completely alert. With each inhalation came the smell of slowly dying wood, varnish, the vaguest hints of dirt. The faintest scent of stale sweat lingering in tiny portions of fabric. He was cold, always cold. Yet he could feel warmth slowly travelling around him, drifting over him, teasing him but never entering him. Distant sounds came to him clearly, distinct in their newness. The ticking clocks, the sporadic scuttling of mice, and insects. The gentle cacophony of shuffling and grumbling that was the masses who inhabited the streets outside. Yet these sounds were new, they echoed through the house and rested upon his ears as if he had been standing among them, listening attentively. 


    "I am afraid he still rests. He is a bit of a night owl, you see." A woman's voice. Middle aged, fussy and a hint of mild irritation at her own words. "Even when he stays inside he insists on busying himself on matters that can surely wait until the dawn." The fussy woman's voice was familiar. Carlotta, his paid guest. She attended him in a motherly way in which he had never experienced as a boy. Always fussing. 


    "Apologies, Signora." This one was definitely male. His voice was light and charming. A dandy fellow, indeed. Also entirely unfamiliar. "I must speak with him about the Masquerade that is being held this evening. He did receive an invite, did he not?"

    "Yes I believe so...Signor...uh." Carlotta paused, uncertainty lingering at the end of her words. 

    "Uberto, Signora" The man, apparently Uberto, replied. "Uberto D'Pazzi da Firenze. Would it be too much trouble to wake him?"

    "Well...if it is important." Carlotta replied. "I will go see if I can wake him. Please stay here." 


    Footsteps. They were rising, moving swiftly up wooden stairs. His eyes sprang open but saw only darkness. He carefully pushed the layers of thick blankets away from his face and looked out in to the bedroom. His curtains were still drawn, the thick material hiding the sunlight. The dim room was clean and decorated beautifully with typical furniture of the City. There were no personal items to speak of, he had not been here long enough to have procured much. He moved from the bed, naked and light footed. No sound escaped him as he moved across the room, snatching his robe and pulling it over himself. The footsteps drew closer. Carefully he moved the edge of the curtain, but a crack. A dark orange beam of light invaded the dark room, and the man immediately drew the curtain back over it, cursing silently. 


    Dusk had not yet arrived. The footsteps drew closer and he pressed himself against the door of the room, listening intently, feeling the heat on the other side of the room. It was fading fast but the sunlight's warmth was still coursing through the opposite room. There was a momentary twinge of panic. He feared discovery. He feared a demise that was perhaps long overdue for him. Only for a moment, of course. Calm returned to him swiftly, and as the footsteps came to the opposite side of the door he tugged on it's handle and pulled it in, carefully stepping so he stayed behind the door and away from the light that entered through the threshold. Carlotta did not say anything but he had heard her startled intake of breath. 


    "Carlotta, please come in. It's quite alright." He said warmly. She entered the room and he swiftly closed the door behind her. She looked at him for a moment, pursing her lips. Always fussing. 

    "Raphael I did not know you were awake." She said as she waddle-walked across the room and immediately began tidying the blankets on his bed. She was a round, short woman in her early 40's with greying hair that was once very dark, and her olive skin was cracked and wrinkled around her eyes and her mouth, time-woven scars brought on by the frowning and fussing, he assumed. Raphael was a man but only a few years older than her, but you could not tell by looking. 


    He was a pale man for one who lived in such climates. His chestnut hair was long and a little scruffy. His eyes were a pale grey, his eyebrows thick and dark. He had a lean jaw and had grown a short but tidy beard. Underneath his robe he was gifted with a lean and strong form, and those who knew him would be hard pushed to say he was a man of 47, in fact he looked to be in his early 30's. He began to become aware that he had not spoken in a short time, and that perhaps the situation demanded a response. 


    "I am only just out of bed, Carlotta." He explained. "I am sorry if I startled you, I heard you coming along the hall and I thought it polite to open the door."

    "It was, I had just not expected you to be awake my boy." She sad as she continued fluffing his pillows and tidying his blankets. "There is a man in the lobby who wishes to speak with you. Uberto D'Pazzi I think he said."

    "I don't suppose he could return later?" Raphael asked. "I would like to get dressed."

    "I am quite sure he will wait." She replied. "He seemed quite certain he must speak with you now."

    "I see..." Raphael said with a hint of a sigh. "Very well. Please give me a moment to dress and then send him up."


    "Up here?" Carlotta asked. "Wouldn't you rather-"

    "I would not." Raphael interrupted, his tone a little short. "I do not know this man. I have only just awoken and I would prefer to continue my routine undisturbed. If it is so urgent then he can come up here and speak to me himself."

    "Uh...okay then." Carlotta replied, and she moved for the door. Raphael carefully moved away from where the light would protrude, and tried to do so in as natural a way as was possible. He went to the dresser in the corner and Carlotta exited the room, closing the door behind her. 


    Raphael dressed quickly. He put on a simple, white shirt with an open collar, and frilled cuffs. He put on a pair of simple, black breeches and left his feet bare. He lit the room with candles in preparation for his guest. Then he sat himself on the stool next to his dresser, facing the door from the far side of the room where the light could not touch him. A few moments passed and then the door to the room opened slowly, and a man dressed in fine clothing stepped through, his black hair was short and swept back, and he had thinly trimmed goatee and a mustache that had been styled to a point with wax. Yes indeed, he was a dandy fellow after all. 


    "Signor Uberto D'Pazzi, is it?" Raphael asked as the man entered and closed the door behind him. Uberto looked around the room for a moment, a little perplexed by the set up. "It helps the mood, for when I play." Raphael clarified, inclining his head toward the dark oak viola da gamba that rested on an armchair in the corner. Uberto looked at it for a moment before he gave a soft smile and raised his brow like he had been let in on a little secret. 

    "Ah, of course!" He said with a grin. "An artist's muse is complex thing, who am I to judge? I beg pardon for the interruption. Raphael D'Antonio da Venice, it is a pleasure to meet you."

    "I have not been to Venice in a long time." Raphael said with a polite smile. "I spent more of my life in Hungary if I am honest. D'Pazzi...I have heard this name. You are a man of influence in Firenze?"


    "A little." Uberto replied modestly, but a sly smirk escaped his lips. Raphael got a sense that Uberto was a man who gained the ear of many with his charms. He was an attractive man as well, and no doubt his nobility helped to accentuate his greater features. He was a man born in to nobility, one always destined for it. Raphael, on the other hand, was a thief. He was the son of a poor man, one who had been provided comfort from the pity of a foreign noble. That man was now dead, and Raphael had stolen his riches and the mystique of foreign lands to force himself in to the company of nobles. Yet they all knew he was an outsider, a pretender in their court. Yet they allowed him to stay if only to enjoy his music and make snide comments about him in hushed whispers. 


    "What can I do for you?" Raphael asked, clasping his fingers together in front of him. 

    "Well, Raphael. You are in the midst of a fan." Uberto explained. "Many speak highly of your performances. I, myself saw you play last year. Truly, it was a breathtaking experience."

    "Your words are too kind." Raphael said with a nod. "I assume you have come to proposition me to play at the Medici's grand Masquerade this evening?"

    "Ah, so you understand Signor." Uberto said with another charming smile. He was a healthy man. His heartbeat was steady and he was in the prime of his life. A fine wine, of sorts. 


    "I was under the impression that I was to be attending as a guest." Raphael said. 

    "Ah but if you play then you would be a most honoured guest, Signor." Uberto replied. "Not to mention the benefits that would come of enhancing an evening arranged by the Medici. I am sure they would consider the gesture most favourably. The benefits..." The way he had inclined his head had made the skin around his neck tighten. The creeping hunger inside Raphael made a sudden jolt in his stomach, but he suppressed it. Patience was it's own reward, after all. 

    "I suppose I could play a little." Raphael said finally. "Since you are such a fan."


    "That is fantastic news, Signor!" Uberto cried joviantly. 

    "Please, Raphael is fine." He replied. "Although I have things to take care of. Can you take my instrument with you? I think it would be proper to put it on display beforehand."

    "Of course, Raphael." Uberto said, and he picked up the viola da gamba and it's bow, holding it carefully. He would have no way to defend himself with his hands occupied like that. It would be so easy. He made his way to the door and turned back one last time. "I will see you tonight, my friend."

    "Or perhaps not." Raphael replied with a smirk. "As I understand it is customary to wear a mask to these affairs."

    "Aha! Indeed, Raphael. Indeed." Uberto replied. "Well then, I look forward to hearing you play once more."


    Uberto left and closed the door behind him. Finally alone Raphael sagged on the stool. Poor Uberto, he had no idea how close he had come to death. The price of never ageing, never growing old, and never dying. A hunger that not even the finest of foods could satiate. Raphael would never consider hurting his dear Carlotta, she was passed her prime and he had grown quite fond of her in any case. Yet this strong and healthy man had entered his domain. He had stood in his quarters, earnest and completely undefended. He was primed and ready to be taken. Raphael had struggled not to imagine ripping the throat out of that charming man. It would have been so easy to do it, and he would have drained him of his life. He would have had his fill of the only thing that gave him warmth. No mortal could fathom the deep and unyielding hunger that he possessed. He wanted it more than anything in the world. Blood. 

  13. The Renaissance was a rebirth that occurred throughout most of Europe. However, the changes that we associate with the Renaissance first occurred in the Italian city of Florence and continued to be more pervasive there than anywhere else. The city's economy and its writers, painters, architects, and philosophers all made Florence a model of Renaissance culture. Fifteenth century Florence was an exciting place to be. In 1450 the city had a population of 60,000 and was a self-governed, independent city-state. Twelve artist guilds that regulated the trades were the basis of Florence's commercial success. Members of the guilds, who were wealthy and held positions in government, were some of Florence's most influential people in society and politics. Because of its strong economy and a political philosophy that was dedicated to the welfare of the city, Florence thrived. Due in no small part to the House of Medici.


    The Medici were a banking family with a long political dynasty with considerable influence that grew throughout the fifteenth century. The family gained prominence under Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici and became the de facto rulers of Florence, controlling the city from behind the scenes. As their notoriety grew, so too did the great care they took with their secrets, which were very dark indeed. There were many tales surrounding the City of Florence and the great House of Medici, and many more that were strategically stricken from the history books. For the most interesting tales are found in the darkness, and behind closed doors. A great dynasty was born in the heart of Florence, but it was not the Medici. Like all great stories it begins with the chance meeting of a man and a woman, a couple who were completely unaware of the catalyst that was their first meeting, and how on that night their actions would lead to the rise of an empire like no other. 


    Dark creatures walk among us. The talk with us, laugh with us and even love with us, but they are not the same. There are predators that roam the night, and we are their prey. 




    The Midnight Court







    Name: Raphael D'Antonio

    Age: 47 (32 when turned)



    Personality: Raphael is a free-spirited individual who likes to think he wears a mask in front of most people. When performing for the nobility he is charming, polite and courteous. He appears to be quite wise compared to how he physically looks. Away from the social pleasantries of high society however, he is a man who cares little for titles and nobility. Somewhat arrogantly, he considers himself a new breed who is superior to the masses. He accepts his predatory instincts and makes a point to feed his hunger, but does not do so wastefully. As a young vampire he has yet to face the more horrible aspects of the life, and as such he can be quite impulsive and quick to act. 


    Biography: When Raphael was a young boy he lived in poverty. The only thing he could truly do well was play violin. His mother died when he was a baby, and in his teens his father passed away leaving him alone and incapable of  fending for himself. He was fortunately taken in by a Hungarian noble family who enjoyed his music. The family cared for him and he grew accustomed to the life of a nobleman. He lived with them in Hungary for many years, until in his early 30's. He awoke one night to screaming, and found that the family home was under attack by gruesome monsters. He watched as they butchered the family who had taken him in, and then they finally turned their teeth on him. He remembers little of the horrors they inflicted on him, but he awoke a few days later, among the corpses of his adoptive family. 


    From that day onward he found that he had become stronger and faster. His wounds healed rapidly, and he did not age even a single day more. As the days went by, however, he found it increasingly unbearable to be out in the sun, until the day that it's touch on his skin would burn like acid. What's more while his senses were stronger, and food and wine became far more enjoyable, they did not quell his hunger. In time he realised that he was no longer human, that he was something else. The men and women around him had became his prey, and their blood the only food he required. As he embraced his new life, he found new powers emerging to him. He could persuade all men and women to love him, and equally could make them ignore him if he so chose. Using this to his advantage he returned to Italy and travelled the country as a successful musician, playing for the nobility every evening, earning coin, and then picking off the most desirable from the herd so he could dine. 


    Soon he made his way to Florence, to play at a grand Masquerade held for the nobility. Little did he know he would discover in this place that he was not alone in his gift, and that he would turn another. What's more he had not yet discovered that his gift was, perhaps, a curse. 

  14. When the door to Vincent's guest room/prison opened he was sat at the coffee table, with his feet up. He was casually reading over a leather bound book and sipping on a cup of black coffee. He lifted his head from the pages with only a cursory glance. The woman who had entered, much like all Sidhe he had encountered in his life, was a vision. She was slim and curvaceous with pinkish, smooth skin. She was dressed in a rather plain, cream coloured dress with a brown sash and dark brown boots that reminded Vincent of the type of clothes mortal women wore who were in to that whole "natural, hippie-chiq lifestyle." Her hair was long and styled in golden blonde dreadlocks, and her eyes were a pale blue. Despite her beauty, Vincent barely registered her and turned back to his book. "Queen Shaylee, is it?" He asked before taking another sip of the coffee. 


    "It is." She replied, a warm smile on her face. She walked over to the coffee table and sat on the opposite side of the sofa from him. "I see you are comfortable, Vincent. Although I do not recall having coffee sent to you, or that book."

    "I had Fidget get me it." Vincent replied. "And he picked the book up from my apartment for me."

    "Fidget?" Shaylee said, still smiling but her eyebrows were raised. 

    "Yeah, Fidget." Vincent said and the little pixie guard appeared on queue. 

    "My Queen!" He said with a swift bow, his wings beating furiously. "I apologise if I have displeased you. Vincent...well...he's really nice when you get to know him. I didn't think it would do any harm."


    "Fehjurtzhobaram, it's fine." Shaylee said, still smiling. "The mortal will need something to read if he is to be here for so long. You did a very nice thing, I assume you were rewarded?"

    "Oh yes!" Fidget said in reply. "Firstly he gave me a really was it? a knack-name?"

    "Nickname." Vincent corrected. 

    "Right! A nickname!" Fidget nodded. "I really like it. I retrieved the coffee for that. And for the book he let me take one of the pots of ramen noodles from his fridge. They taste so good...mmm...salty!"


    Shaylee gave a little giggle. This was a little surprising to Vincent. The only other Faerie Queen he had met was, well, a horrible person. Queen Shaylee seemed to delight in the happiness of her kind. "Well thank you for rewarding little Fidget, you know our customs so well." She said to Vincent, and she was genuinely appreciative. 

    "Don't mention it." Vincent said before putting down his book and the coffee. He retrieved a pack of cigarettes and a lighter and lit one, puffing away for a moment. 

    "For those he let me have his Iron Man bobble-head toy!" Fidget remarked. 

    "The things I do for cancer." Vincent said with a smile. "Fidget, could you give me and Queen Shaylee some privacy please?"

    "Oh, certainly." Fidget said with a nod, and then he zipped off and disappeared from sight. Vincent had always found it remarkable how quick pixies were. 


    "So." He said, turning to Shaylee. "What do you want?"

    "From you?" Shaylee asked. "Why, nothing at all. I just want you to be comfortable while you are here."

    "Well you've put some sort of anti-magic field around this room." Vincent said. "That makes me a bit uncomfortable. Being a wizard and all."

    "I'm sure you will get used to it." Shaylee said. 

    "Well I'd rather not. I'd rather go home." Vincent said. "Nice as it is here, I have things to do. So why don't you tell me what I have to do to get me and my friends free. Right now."


    "I'm afraid you have nothing I want." Shaylee said simply. "Meredith made a bargain with me that I transport you from the Wylds and that I cannot harm you or your friends while you are guests. I agreed, but of course the girl neglected to stipulate if I should let you leave. Of course my reign for the year had only just begun, and to summon me like that is very disrespectful. As such I have chosen to imprison you all for 300 years. It is not unreasonable. You will be allowed to leave with your lives when the sentence has been completed, and I promise your life here will be full and peaceful. Consider it as a very long vacation, if you will."


    "Okay." Vincent said, exhaling smoke. "How about, instead, I fight you every step of the way? I will be the biggest pain in your ass and I will do everything within my power to escape."

    "Ah, threats..." Shaylee looked a little disappointed. "You have no power, Vincent. I have saw to that." Vincent gave her a little smile, and then he flicked the cigarette in to the air and flexed his fingers towards it. The cigarette exploded in a small burst of fire, very controlled and doing no harm, but a bang echoed through the room. Shaylee's eyes narrowed at Vincent, and for the first time she stopped smiling. 

    "How?" She asked. 

    "This isn't the first time I've been held captive by a Faerie Queen, and let me tell you, the Winter Queen isn't all that lenient."


    "How did you break the spell?" Shaylee asked, standing up and looming over him. This was much more how Vincent had expected a Sidhe to be. Power hungry predators who hated being undermined. Vincent stood up to meet her gaze, his expression confident and fierce. 

    "I have lived in The Fae. I learned the Ways, I was taught them by the fucking Queen of Winter herself. I have laughed and cried with your kind, danced with them, fought with them, been tortured by them. I have even lay with one." As he spoke the anger in his voice grew and grew. "I have already lost the most important thing to me because of your kind. And when that happened they locked me up in the deepest dungeon of Arctaeros, the oldest stronghold within Winter. And I escaped that place. Now you have my friends, my family, and I promise you I will do everything within my power to free them from here. Do you understand?"


    Shaylee broke from his gaze and strode across the room. She stopped by the door and turned back her head towards him. "I will not make the mistake Isoleth did. Pain gives a wizard great and terrible power. Here you will only experience pleasure, and before long you will come to accept it, even welcome it. I will eradicate all the fight within you, and I have plenty of time to do so."

    "Not as much as you think." Vincent said, picking up the book he had been reading. "I'll grow stronger every day, and I will get free."

    "You think your father's Grimoire will help you, child?" Shaylee said with a smile on her lips once more. "That book will bring you far more suffering than I ever could. It will destroy you, just as it did all the others who held it. Including your father." Vincent froze. He tried to remove the expression of shock from his face but Shaylee had seen it and made no effort to hide her satisfaction. "There is much you do not know, child. You have a terrible purpose, you and your sister. A cruel legacy that will unfold in time, should I let you leave. Keeping you here is perhaps a very generous gift in that respect, one that requires no payment in return. A rare thing to receive from one such as I."


    "This doesn't change anything." Vincent said bitterly. "I'm going to get out of here, mark my words." Shaylee simply turned her back on him and left the room, having nothing more to say, leaving Vincent alone in his room. Except he wasn't alone, no sooner had Shaylee left had a cat appeared at his balcony, tilting it's head as it looked at him. Vincent stepped towards it, eyeing it cautiously. 

    "...Violet?" He asked. He was surprised when the cat responded with a simple "Try again." and the voice was male. More importantly the cat spoke, like actually spoke with it's mouth moving and everything. He recognised the voice though, and as it did he sighed with relief, finally something was happening that could help them. 


    "Okay, James." Vincent said with a wry smile. "I'm officially impressed."

    "You should be. I'm rather impressive." James replied, then looked around the room before setting his feline eyes back upon Vincent, "Wish I could say the same about the great Vincent Hallow, given what Violet says about you you're kind of a let down."

    "Yeah, well we'll see how you feel once I get us out of this place." Vincent replied. "I just need to figure out how."

    "If you get out of there on your own, then I will have to re-evaluate Violet's assessment of you. I'm waiting." He sat down and licked his front right paw with a patient grin on his face.

    "Notice there are no bars on the windows." Vincent pointed out. "I can walk out of here at any time. The real trouble comes after that. You ever fought a troll? They are mean."

    "I don't have to fight a troll to show how great I am, I didn't get caught in the first place." He paused and looked down at the window sill, "You can't fight a troll?"


    "Of course I can." Vincent said, before adding: "With my tools. My staff is gone, I don't have my charm bracelet, or my ring. Without a focus my evocation is a bit messy. So going out guns blazing is a fast way to die. Besides we're in the The Fae, so there could be a lot of trolls...and goblins, dryads, phobophages, ogres, pixies, and let's not forget the army of Sidhe."

    "Oh please, that's every other Sunday." James rolled his eyes and thought, while his long tail swished behind him. "Why don't I bring you your little trinkets, and then we'll come out guns blazing, hmm?"

    "You know where they're being kept?" Vincent asked

    "I wouldn't offer if I didn't." James replied, "It's not like i've been basking in the sun for the past two weeks." He paused, "Well it's not the only thing i've done."

    "Right, sorry." Vincent said. "And...I don't suppose they have my coat too?"


    "Is that going to help you escape as well or are you a little chilly?" He raised an eyebrow quizically.

    "No I just..." Vincent shrugged, "I like that coat." James stared at Vincent in silence, his tail swishing back and forth. "Look if you can get my coat then I'll owe you one, all right?"

    "I can't wait." James replied sarcastically. Then he turned and disappeared from the window sill. Vincent turned back to his empty room and decided it was time to get to work. If they were going to do this then they'd need to be prepared. 


    He sat himself down by the coffee table again and picked up the Grimoire. When he opened it he felt a peculiar presence that had, in his short time with the book, become quite familiar. An inhuman, bellowing voice spoke in his mind.

    "Vincent Hallow, you have need of me?" It asked. 

    "Oh yeah." Vincent replied to The Keeper. "I'm going to tell you what my situation is. Do you think you can give me suggestions based on that?"

    "I can." The Keeper replied almost instantly. Vincent proceeded to tell him about where he was, who his captor was, and what he wanted to do. After a moment the book's pages flipped and ink began to appear on the pages. Vincent examined them for a moment, feeling a sense of momentary contentedness. Magic had a way of giving him focus. "This is..." He muttered to himself. "...Do you think I could do this spell right off the bat? I mean I'd need to practice."

    "This spell was favoured by your father." The Keeper replied. "Read it carefully. It appears to be simple evocation, but it is not. It is something more aligned with your particular areas of skill."


    "And how do you know what my area of skill is?" Vincent asked

    "I have tasted your blood." The Keeper replied. "Once when you were a child, and once only a few weeks ago. Through it I see potential, and where that potential has been achieved."

    "That is...creepy." Vincent said, shivering at the thought. He re-read the passage a few times, memorizing it so he could use it later. "This is useful in a fight, but what else do you have? Spells are useful but information would be better."

    "I have no information on the Esperius Valley in which you reside." The Keeper said. "I would suggest you find a Way and escape. The Sidhe have no power over you in the mortal world."

    "Well, duh." Vincent replied. "But it's getting out that's important. We need some serious power to take on the Faeries in their home turf. in Arctaeros I had to use magic that...that I'm not proud of. I can't do that again."

    "The taint of dark magic lies within you Vincent Hallow." The Keeper said ominously. "If you harnessed it you could escape this place."


    "That's not going to happen." Vincent said in but a whisper. "Give me something in this book that can help me. Please." There was no response from the Keeper, and a good minute passed before anything happened, but then the pages flipped again and ink spilled across the pages. Vincent read through what was written and his eyes widened with shock. " does this help?"

    "It will help her understand." The Keeper replied. "She will be stronger if she embraces it."

    "...At what cost?" Vincent said, his nostrils flaring as he sighed a breath out of them. "I'm not showing her this. Not right now." Vincent snapped the book shut and shook his head. "Fat lot of good you were...I guess a suicide mission will have to do."

  15. Violet's voice filled Vincent's head, muffled and difficult to understand. It was like she was speaking to him from the other side of a brick wall. Something was banging repeatedly, over and over. So much that it sounded like an incoming thunderstorm. Vincent winced as he opened his eyes, pushing himself up from whoever was carrying him, and putting all of his will in to the simple task of moving one foot in front of the other. He staggered, the pain shooting through him, fresh and unrelenting. He hugged his own chest with one of his arms, he definitely had a couple of broken ribs. He swallowed, struggling, his throat was so dry. Slowly what Violet had said to him began to register. 


    "Um..." He said as he caught his breath. He was in no state to run. He pushed the pain bank and focused on thinking. Steadying his breath he held out his arm, gesturing at the group around him. "Meredith..." He groaned. 

    "Here." She said, her voice filled with nervous fear but also an eagerness to help. She stepped in front of Vincent so he could look at her. He swayed a little on his feet and looked down at her. "Make a circle." He said. She looked around as if hoping someone would suggest something to her. Vincent quickly clarified. "An illusion. Make a circle around us."

    "Oh, right." She said quickly, before drawing a wand from her belt and moving it rhythmically like a conductor. A faint, glowing outline of a circle appeared around them on the floor. It was enough for him to do what he needed. With the image to help his focus he funnelled his will in to the circle, and there was a dull thrum of energy as the circle activated around them, designed to keep anything from getting inside. "Okay, that's bought us some time." He said. 


    "I hope you have something else up your sleeve other than a magic circle, Vincent." James muttered, "We're not exactly in our element."

    "Oh, sorry." Vincent said without the usual ethusiasm that came with his sass, "I'll just ask the internal bleeding to kindly stop for a while so I can think of a genius escape plan." He shook his head and turned to address everyone properly. "I'm tapped out, There's no way I can open a Way. I only barely managed to throw the circle up. I'm afraid I don't have much else to offer right about now."

    "Meredith?" Violet asked, turning to face the most reticent of their group.

    "Uh...I know the theory but..." Meredith scratched her head, "It's not as easy as that."

    "She's right, it's not." Vincent said. "It's not just like opening a door, you have to feel it out, read the signs. It can take weeks just to learn the basics."


    The conversation came short as the rumbling of hooves finally reached them, and Centaurs poured out from the woods, circling them with all manner of bows, nets and spears. They spread out, cutting off access from every direction. Finally their leader emerged from the trees and glanced at the group, raising a brow at the scene and giving a soft smirk. "Admirable though it is that you fight to the bitter end, this is a disappointing state to find you." He said. "You fought well hunters, but you have failed. Lower this barrier and face death gracefully, we will break it down soon any way. You are only delaying the inevitable."


    "Well it's all I can do." Vincent replied with a half hearted shrug. "But with enough time anything could happen. I'll keep the barrier up if you don't mind."

    "Very well." The Centaur said with a nod. "I will offer you one final chance to speak your last words."

    "W-wait!" Meredith said nervously. "We could make another deal, right? You could take...this." Meredith took a crystalline orb from her pocket and held it up. It was the Chronoweaver, the crystal construct clearly of Faerie design. "This is pretty valuable. Is it worth our lives?" The Centaur replied without even a second thought. 

    "It is of no worth to us. Time is only valuable to mortals." He said gravely. "Besides which, the Equinox is almost over, the trinket's power fades."


    "So rule of the Fae has passed to Spring?" Vincent asked. 

    "Indeed." The Centaur replied. "Also of no consequences. No kingdom of seasons can ever rule the Wyldfae. Face it, mortal. Your time is at an end." Vincent didn't bother arguing. He was tired, too tired to fight any longer. Hell, even standing was quickly becoming a chore to hard to bear. He rubbed his head, massaging his temples gently. No matter how much he wanted to have a way out, there simply wasn't one. They were done. 


    "I...I have an idea." Meredith said hesitantly. "You won't like it,'s worth a try."

    "I'll take anything at this point." Vincent said. "What have you got?"

    "Gifts are frowned upon in The Fae, all favours must be returned in kind." Meredith said. "Spring is in power now. They cannot enter the Wylds of their own will, but if they were summoned..."

    "That's sort of a 'out of the frying pan, into the fire' kind of deal, kid." Vincent replied. "A favour is never simply just a favour when it comes to the Sidhe. Besides we have nothing to offer."

    "I do." Meredith said. "I'm sorry but...I'm doing it." She held out her hands and spoke. "First light, first life. Harbinger of Beginnings, Queen of Birth and Bloom..."


    "Attack!" The Centaur leader yelled. Arrows rained through the air, whistling and crashing against the invisible barrier, causing ripple like effects across the air as they deflected, falling to the floor. More Centaurs charged forwards, driving their spears at the barrier with great force, causing it to ripple violently, beginning to tear at the seams. "...Queen of Spring, Shaylee...I summon thee!" Meredith called finally. As she spoke the final words there was an almighty rush of force from within the circle, shattering it from the inside out, but also blasting the centaur's back across the woodland ground. Everything afterwards became but a distant haze. At some point Vincent must have lost consciousness again. He struggled to remember. He was drifting away, falling deeper and deeper. He could rest now. 





    He awoke to infinite darkness. He who could not remember his own name, stared out at the nothingness and felt empty. A scent of wild leaves and something sweet passed him by, even though there was no wind to carry it. He peered deeper in to the darkness, and found a growing light. A woman with red hair stood at the bottom of a spiralling staircase, her form illuminated in a spotlight. She glanced at him with eyes of hazel, and he felt something tug at his heart. She was the most beautiful thing in the world, and his thoughts became filled with desire. His feet moved underneath him, and he found himself running towards the woman. She smirked and began to walk quickly up the spiral staircase. 


    He broke in to a run, and so too did she. Before long he was sprinting as fast as his legs would carry him. He ascended the staircase in pursuit, but the red haired woman did not seem any closer. Higher and higher he rose, running for hours, days, weeks, perhaps even years. No closer did she come. After an eternity of running he stopped, collapsing on the stairs in defeat. Misery followed. Crushing despair and pain at his loss. He clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles cracked, and he became aware of how wet it felt around his eyes. The staircase faded and once again he was plunged into never ending darkness. Once again he was alone. He lay on his hands and knees, only the steady drip, drip, drip sound of water hitting the surface. And then, again, the smell of wild leaves and sweetness. 


    "Hello, boy." A voice said to him, oozing with kindness and love. The man sprung to his feet and turned on his heel, eager to see his red haired love from where the voice had came. Instead he saw that he was stood in a grand crystalline throne room. And sat on a throne of coldest ice sat a woman with the snow white hair, and piercing green eyes. She was beautiful, powerful and all so terrifying. A narrow smile escaped her lips and she held her hand out, beckoning towards him. "Kneel." She commanded. The urge to do so was overwhelming. All his desires had simply vanished, replaced by the one, true desire to serve this porcelain skinned Goddess. He bent down to go on one knee, and found a hand on his shoulder, pulling him roughly back to his feet. He turned to face the figure, and found that the hand was reaching out from a tall mirror directly behind him. In the mirror he could see himself, a tall and skinny man with shoulder length, black hair, emerald green eyes, wearing a black shirt, black skinny jeans, red boots and a brown duster. 


    The man in the mirror was quite different from him. This man was strong and confident. He had a dark and discerning stare as he stood with both of his hands now in his pockets. He looked unhappy, disappointed perhaps. "Who are you?" He asked the man in the mirror. 

    "Did you really just ask yourself that question?" The man in the mirror replied. "Think about it. Come on, use your brain. It's the best tool you have."

    "I..." The man replied, hesitant. "I am...Vin-"

    "Vincent!" Another voice snapped, female and strong. Vincent turned to find another woman stood with the Ice Queen. This woman had darker skin, and dark hair like his own. "It's a trick, Vincent. Get away from that thing!"


    "V..Violet?" Vincent said. "What...what's going on?"

    " me." Violet said as she held out her hand. "Come over here with me. You need to keep away from that thing."

    "Oh come on!" The mirror Vincent protested. "Are you buying this? Look at who she is standing with! Come on, you know this." Vincent looked to the Ice Queen, and all he could feel was dread. 

    "No..." He said as he shook his head. "Get the hell away from me!"

    "That a boy!" His mirror self said encouragingly. 


    "Violet, darling." The Ice Queen said softly, but her voice was cold. "You cannot convince him with words. You're strong, just take him."

    "Vincent..." Violet growled. She began to stride towards him. He tried to step back, but there was nowhere he could go. He shook on the spot. He was terrified. 

    "That's enough!" his mirror self said, and then he stepped out from the mirror and strode forwards to meet Violet, passing his other self by. He rose his hand, and a black cane materialised within it, pointed directly at Violet. "Ignus!" Vincent snarled, and a lance of brilliant white flame shot from the tip of the cane, crashing over Violet and engulfing her. 

    "What are you doing!?" The other Vincent demanded in a panic. 

    "Just look." His other self replied. 


    Violet emerged from the flames, her skin had been burned away, along with her clothes and her hair. The form that strode forwards was glowing so brightly he could not truly make out it's form. It went at a sprint and the braver, stronger Vincent ran to meet it. As the glowing form closed in, it changed again, becoming another familiar face, like Vilets but more mature, with wicked, cruel eyes and a menacing grin. Her hand went thrust forward, flat like a blade, and penetrated straight through other Vincent's head. He was frozen in shock, unable to move. Vincent watched himself being violated by this woman, and it felt horrifyingly familiar. 


    "It is at this point in which I managed to locate it." Another voice said from behind him. The scene had frozen, and Vincent turned to see a tall man with pale, white skin, and an endless darkness in his eyes. His hair was long, black and wirey, and he wore a cloak that seemed to stretch on forever and ever in to the darkness. The pale man inclined his head and it looked like he might have been glancing at Vincent, but with no eyes to speak of it was hard to tell. 

    "This...happened before?" He asked the pale man. 

    "Indeed." came the response. "This...old one. Vael. She invaded your mind, and made attempts to twist it."

    "I...I remember." Vincent said with a nod. "Is...this about her?"


    "Vael is but a catalyst to my being here." The pale man said. "Her assault on your mind forced the contagion to reveal itself."

    "Contagion?" Vincent asked

    "It has eluded me for a long time. The contagion is careful, silent and patient. But Vael forced it to act, and thus reveal itself to me. And so I have travelled here to remove it from my domain."

    "Uh...your domain?" Vincent asked. "Who are you?"

    "That is a complicated question, one that you would struggle to fathom." The pale one replied. "Do not concern yourself with my identity. All of this will be over in a moment."


    The pale figure glided forward with an eerie grace. He moved past the still forms of Vael, and other Vincent. He moved instead to the Ice Queen. She smirked, eyeing his presence. 

    "Took you long enough." She said

    "Insolent witch." The pale one replied. "You have dared to meddle in my domain. There will be a heavy price."

    "Hah!" She looked genuinely amused. "And what can you possibly do to me?"

    "My hand cannot reach you, that is true." the pale one said with a single nod. "But I will guide another, who will unravel your plan. I will watch through this being, and that will be enough to satisfy me." The Ice Queen's glared at the pale one and her lips tightened. "You will not dare to meddle, old one. Interfering in mortal matters is against your rules."


    "Our rules." The pale one corrected. "And yet I would not be the first to bend them. My eldest sister has made quite a habit of it. She is so fond of mortals."

    "I am also quite fond of them." The Ice Queen said. "This one in particular is very dear to me."

    "All the more reason to take him from you." the pale one said. "Now, begone from my domain. I tire of you." And with that the pale man lifted his hand and with a barest of gestures the Ice Queen shattered in to dust, cascading to the floor and disappearing altogether. The pale man glided back to Vincent and cocked his head slightly, as if curious. 


    "I'm not entirely sure what just happened." Vncent said. "But I feel I owe you my gratitude."

    "Unnecessary." The pale one replied. "Do not mistake my actions as a kindness Vincent Hallow. It may be a keen observation but it is still a wrong one. There is far more to this than appears. The contagion has twisted your memories, and completely hidden others away. Slowly they will return to you, and it will bring you a great deal of pain and suffering. I take no pleasure in that either. The reason for my action is quite a simple one."

    "Which is?" Vincent asked. 

    "This is my domain." The pale one said. "I will not tolerate any one who seeks to use it as their own."

    " might not have been your intention but I have a feeling you just did me a massive favour all the same." Vincent said. "So, thanks."

    "...You're welcome." The pale one said in resignation. "...And now your time here comes to an end. Good luck, Vincent Hallow."





    Vincent shot up with a gasp, the clean air stinging his throat. Energy coursed through him as if he had just stuck his finger in an electrical outlet. His eyes darted around the room frantically, surveying it. Golden sunshine shone in from a window with a balcony. The entire room was made of marble, but all the edges had a layer of growing vines with colourful blossom. Even the bed he lay on was covered in vines, blossom and petals of various flowers. The air was sweet like perfume. He looked at his hand, and then his arm. His eyes moved over his body but there was no bruising or scars like he had expected. He got out of the bed to find it surprisingly easy to stand. He was wearing a pain of pure white jeans, and his feet and chest was bare with the exception of the pentacle amulet around his neck. "What the...fuck?" He said to himself. 


    "Halt, prisoner!" A tiny, squeaky voice called out. A tiny ball of pink light zipped across the room. The little person had golden hair, and she was dressed in a crystalline armour, her little faerie wings buzzing like a bees'. She pointed a sword at him that was no bigger than a letter opener, but her eyes were focused and filled with a warriors resolve. 

    "Uh...prisoner?" Vincent asked, looking around the room. "This is a prison? Really?"

    "Of course!" The tiny faerie replied. "You are a prisoner of Queen Shaylee. You have been captured alongside your companions. The Holy man, The youngling and the darkling. Queen Shaylee has ordered that you do not leave this room, by penalty of death! And Queen Shaylee really doesn't like death! She would be so upset if she had to kill you. Do you really want to do that to her?"

    "Do that to her?" Vincent looked completely baffled. "I don't want her to kill me. She could just not kill me."


    "Orders are orders!" the pixie said. "Queen Shaylee has provided you with mortal comforts, she has provided you with mortal food and healed your wounds. She has saved you from the Wyldfae...all as was agreed. Now you are her dearest prisoners, and you will be kept here in the heart of Spring, to be cared for until the sentence is complete."

    "This is a weird punishment..." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. "'re totally weird. So when's the sentence over?"

    "300 mortal years." The pixie replied, as if that was a fairly reasonable thing to say. 

    "What!?" Vincent snapped. "But I need to return to L.A. Like, right now! We can't..." He sighed, it was pointless arguing with one of the wee folk, they had a one-track mind and were very forgetful. He'd figured it out by now. 


    Spring Faeries were not quite so cruel as their Winter cousins. At least not in the same way. They celebrated life, after all. But it was all too easy to be sucked in to. So many mortals had been tempted to spend a night with the Sidhe of Spring, only to return to find hundreds of years had passed and all who they had loved were dead and gone. While he was here, if he behaved he would probably be treated very well. But if he objected...well they'd still kill him. They would also consider it a great insult to them that they were forced to end a life. He'd said it before, and he would say it again. Faeries were weird.


    "I want to see my sister, and David." Vincent said. "Can that be arranged?"

    "Of course." The pixie replied. "All prisoners are entitled to visitation, once every 10 years. You may see your friend in 9 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and a day."

    "Uh..." Vincent didn't even know where to begin with that one. "Hang on...I've been here for nearly two weeks!?"

    "Yes. You were badly wounded." The pixie said. "Queen Shaylee tended to you for a long time. You should consider it an honour."

    "Uh, yeah...right." Vincent said. "Can I speak with Queen Shaylee? I have some things I'd like to clear up."

    "Certainly...she is due to check on you in..." 

    "Please don't say 10 years..."

    " hour." The pixie finished. "You will have to wait until then. Please, do take a seat."


    "Thanks..." Vincent grumbled and sat down on the bed again. He scratched his head and wondered how he had gotten in to this mess. And then he remembered. "Meredith..." he growled. 


  16. As Violet and James lured the Dhampir out in to the open, Vincent was on the move. He walked quickly but carefully, making sure not to stray too far from David and Meredtih. There was a sensation of magical energy delicately weaving around of him, but unlike when he had created a veil, Meredith's was on another level. If he could describe his veil it was sort of like a bubble around him. This, however, was more like a fine mist. All the little fragments were working independently but together they created a complex network of illusions that masked them from view, eliminated their sound and their smell. He found himself feeling a little impressed by it. Only a little. 


    "Are you sure they won't hear us?" He whispered back at Meredith as they moved closer to the camp. 

    "Pretty sure." Meredith replied. "I mean...I hope so."

    "Have faith." David said encouragingly. "We can prevail this night."

    "I hope you're right." Vincent replied. 


    They moved inside the camp and Vincent's eyes were locked on the hut. Things were stirring inside, and shadowy forms moved around the perimeter. He listened intently as a voice came from one o the shadowy figures. "Be vigilant. The darkling is trying to lure us away. She likely has allies moving upon us."

    "I'd smell it if someone got close." The other replied, his voice deep, almost a snarl.

    "Fool." the first hissed sharply, the voice female but harsh and raspy. "The magi can hide from our senses. They could be sneaking up on us right now and you wouldn't have a clue." The second shadow flinched, looking around as i the very mention would provoke his attackers. Vincent had been tempted to draw his revolver and blow a hole in the Dhampir's chest, but it would only alert the rest of them and send them running back to the camp. He had to give Violet more time to despatch them. 


    "Okay Meredith." Vincent said in a hushed tone. "When David and I strike, you keep your veil up and move or the pends where they have the humans kept. Keep out of sight and wait or a moment to set them free. Got that?"

    "Uh, yeah." Meredith replied nervously. "But what about the Chronoweaver. Do you think one of them has it."

    "I don't know." Vincent said. "But they are guarding this camp so it's around here somewhere."

    "We're wasting time." David interjected. "We must act."


    "Right." Vincent said, trying to push back the fear. His knuckles trembled as he gripped his cane in his hand and held the other around the Khukuri at his belt, ready to draw it at a moments notice. "Okay...I'll go first. Here it goes..."


    Vincent rushed forward, gathering his will. He felt a thin curtain of magical energy wash over him like a sheet as he emerged from the confines o the veil and suddenly became apparent for all to see. The Dhampir sensed his presence instantly and he held his staff out in front of him and roared "Ignus!" and a lance of brilliant flame shot from the tip of his cane, catching the deep voiced Dhampir in the chest, and he exploded in a burst of fire and ash. The other hissed and moved away from the fire and into the darkness. Vincent tried his best to follow her with the point of his cane, but she was seriously quick. 


    Before he knew what was happening she was on him, her human mask had fallen and what came at him was a horrible, leather-skinned nightmare, with a gaping maw of razor sharp teeth that looked like they could chew through metal. A long arm stretched for his throat, the fingers tipped with spear-like claws. He leant backwards, narrowly avoiding the strike, tilting his body to the side and drawing the Khukuri from his belt and slashing upwards at the Dhampir's forearm. The blade cut through flesh but scraped against bone as strong as steel. With another hiss the Dhampir whipped the injured arm back and dropped low, swinging out her leg in a vicious sweep that caught Vincent and knocked him to the floor with a thump. 


    He winced as pain shot up his back, and desperately raised his hand up in an effort to summon a shield barrier. He need not have. Just then David emerged from nothingness, his broadsword drawn as he let out a mighty battlecry and swung at the Dhampir. She leapt back with brilliant speed and avoided the powerful horizontal slash and then she leapt in to the air, clearing the full height of David and brought down her flaws hands. The old Professor was ready. He planted his feet firmly and brought his sword upwards in an arcing slash. 


    The blade connected with her arm and this time the sharp metal cut clean through it as if she had been made of butter. The Dhampir let out a blood curdling scream of pain and surprise as she reeled back, clutching at the freshly shorn stump with her good hand. David did not wait for her to regain her composure. He strode forwards, a ruthless fury burning in his eyes. He hefted the broadsword once more, raising it over his head and bringing it down in a vertical slash on the Dhampir. The blade passed through her, as her form completely dissolved i to a thin mist and moved around him with ease. She reappeared at his back and lunged toward him. 


    "David!" Vincent cried, now on his feet. He had dropped the Khukuri and was reaching in to his duster. David got the message and sprinted away from his position as Vincent drew the revolver and held it out in front of him. He squeezed on the trigger and there was an almighty bang and a flash. All sound was drowned out by a high pitched whistling noise, and his right arm was throbbing with a dull ache. When his eyes re-focused the Dhampir was lying on the ground motionless. There was a large, bloody hole in her chest and her flesh and bone was slowly eroding away, burning from the impact of the silver bullet. 


    The two Dhampi were bested, but a horrible feeling crept up inside Vincent's stomach. The gun fire had been incredibly loud. There was rustling in the forest around them, sounds of things moving at rapid speed, darting through the shadows out of sight. "We've got more incoming." Vincent warned David. 

    "We must persevere, Vincent." David replied, readying his broadsword. 

    "Just keep your eyes peeled." Vincent said. "This isn't over."


    There was a sound of scrambling from above them and they turned in time to see another Dhampir leap from the roof of the hut, this one brawny and incredibly mean looking. He let out a terrible roar as he descended upon them, and Vincent held his cane skyward and shot another bolt of flame at the creature. It connected and the fire spread over the disgusting, leathery flesh, but the Dhampir seemed unfazed. He dropped down on Vincent, and he felt a white hot pain and stumbled backwards. He felt something wet dripping down his chest and knew the vampire had managed to cut him. He didn't know how deep but he had no time to check. 


    "Vincent!" David cried as he took a run at the Dhampir, but was caught in a clash with another that shot out from the bushes by the hut. Brawny went at Vincent again but the scrawny wizard went at a run, keeping his distance, pointing his cane behind him. "Ignus!" He roared and shot another lance of fire. The Dhampir took it head on and ran straight through it, completely unafected by the charring of his flesh. The creature caught him in a dump tackle and pinned him to the floor, straddling him so he couldn't move. 

    "You'll pay for killing my sister, wizard?" He growled, baring his horrible sharp teeth. Saliva oozed rom his lips and thick globs fell on to Vincent's face.


    The effect was instant. Vincent's pain washed away into nothingness and suddenly he could remember where he was. Ripples of sick euphoria coursed through his body, it felt wholly unnatural but at the same time he couldn't fight it. He didn't want to fight it. With every pulse he felt a powerful surge of predatory lust. He was strong, and full of need. A dark hunger washed over him, and all he could think about was taking everything he ever wanted. Screw the consequences. It didn't mattered. All that mattered was his own needs, and he was strong enough to take them from anybody he wanted. And finally came pain. Tremendous and unyielding pain, like his entire body was on fire. 


    His focus came rushing back and fear was quick to follow. The Dhampir that had pinned him was no longer there. He stood up, his knees trembling weakly and he wiped cold sweat from his head with his sleeve. The revolver he had been carrying was gone, lost in the dirt somewhere. He fumbled in his pocket and retrieved the potion he had made for this occasion, and he took a swig of it's content. Better to do it now before the side-affects of the venom kicked in fully. 


    He looked around to see that there were now four Dhampir nearby. Brawny was stood next to the one that had attacked David, along with two more, one with long, greasy hair, and another who was completely bald but his head was almost black with tattoos. "Well looks like Rocksteady and Bebop are here." Vincent croaked and gave a short nod towards the newcomers. "So where's the Shredder?"

    "That would be me." came a light and cruel voice with a vaguely British accent. A figure dressed in a dark cowl emerged from the hut. He was dragging something heavy behind him, and as he drew closer Vincent's heart sank as he realised it was David, unconscious and covered in blood and bruises. 


    "Get the fuck away from him!" Vincent snarled, chanelling his will on pure instinct. He realised a little too late that he didn't have his cane on him either. Brawny held up his cane and waved it in a taunting fashion, giving a deep chuckle. Vincent bit down in anger, his teeth grinding against each other. 

    "You are outnumbered and outclassed, young man." the cowled figure said. Vincent noted the thick, oozing aura that crept from him. Dark Magic. The cowled figure was no Dhampir, he was a Warlock. 

    "So you're the one who plans to use the Chronoweaver." Vincent said coldly. 

    "My, my aren't you quite the well informed little worm." Cowl sneered. "Take our guest inside and tie him up with his friend. Wizard blood will sustain you or a long time if you drink sparingly."


    "What about the brat?" Rocksteady asked

    "She is no threat." Cowl said. "The magic she used to protect the Wizard was just an illusion. I doubt she had any real power."

    Meredith? Vincent frowned and looked out in to the night. They hadn't found her, she was probably nearby, still hiding behind her veil. But what had Cowl said? She had protected him, stopped Brawny from ripping his throat out. He felt a momentary pang of guilt for having been so hard on her. Then he shook his head, now was not the time from dwindling on the past. He turned around to see that Bebop had moved right up to him, and he felt his world go black as a fist collided with the side of his jaw. 


    Violet. he thought, as he felt his body limply hit the ground. You better not be dead.

  17. Vincent entered his apartment in a hurry, closing the door behind him and then lifting his hand up somewhat carelessly, and all the candle around the room ignited at once. He removed the suit jacket and the tie from his shirt, tossing them carelessly on the floor, before kicking off the black leather shoes and making his way over to his small kitchen area, which looked more like a chemistry lab. He fixed the gas container to the Bunsen burner on his counter top, released the gas, and then with another gesture of will the flame ignited. He found a few beakers and began to rifle through his cupboards for ingredients. He found what he needed and put the potions together quickly, he didn’t have a lot of time but he’d made these ones before so he could afford to rush a little.


    While they boiled he changed his clothes, swapping the rented tux for a pair of black jeans and a pair of black hiking boots. He pulled a long sleeve grey shirt over his head and cursed his overall lack of tactical clothing. When you get in a real fight, equipment can make a real difference. Sadly Kevlar vests are not cheap, although they weren’t much good against teeth and claws at any rate. He untied his hair and let it hang loose, lighting a cigarette at he waited for the potions to finish. As he exhaled the nicotine infused rush had calmed his nerves. It had also, unfortunately, made him more acutely aware of how tired he was. He hadn’t slept in almost 30 hours now.


    Everything seemed to be slowly stacking against him lately. He was too tired for this right now. Not to mention what was going on with Violet. He wanted to investigate that one, perhaps look in the Grimoire, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be burying himself in research. Dhampir were bad news, and Faeries were really bad news. Combining the two was just…well, it didn’t bear thinking about. He had no choice but to stop this before it was too late. He was beginning to doubt that he could. Even with Violet helping him, he wasn’t cut out for the kind of fight that would come of this. The Dhampir were warriors forged in times long forgotten, and they were insanely tough to kill.


    Right now would be a good time for some extra help, he thought. And just as he did, he heard a knock at his door. That was…strange. Granted he was no psychic, but he had placed ward spells around his apartment which allowed him to sense the approach of magical energy. So the only conclusion was that whoever was behind that door was mortal. He walked over and opened it, half expecting to see his grumpy landlord standing on the other side. Instead he saw a kindly looking man with blonde hair and a well-trimmed beard, dressed in the same green plaid shirt he had been wearing the previous evening, with a pair of blue jeans on and workman’s boots. David had added a long, black overcoat to his ensemble, but looked otherwise the same.


    “David?†Vincent raised his eyebrow, “Uh…what are you doing here?â€

    “I’ve told you enough times.†David replied with a warm smile. “I go where I am needed.†Vincent simply stared at his friend. He was never quite sure if David was a genuine psychic, or a combination of incredibly lucky and crazy, or if he really did have the G-man on his side. Although…his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. For a brief moment Vincent looked up at his ceiling, as if staring out at something far beyond it.

    “Is it really so hard to believe for you?†David asked with a knowing look. Vincent shook his head and invited David inside.


    “I don’t have time for the lecture about how I need Jesus in my heart right now, David.†Vincent said as he crossed the room and began to decant his potions in to three vials. One of them was a dark crimson, like blood. The other was a matte silver, like liquid metal. The third was clear like water. David eyed the vials with a discerning look and seemed to puff his chest out a bit as he inhaled.

    “Are you entirely sure you should be meddling in such dark arts?†He asked.

    “Alchemy?†Vincent said with a raised brow. “C’mon man, it’s not as creepy as you think. I use all natural ingredients. Frankly it’s not entirely different from making smoothies. This one even has wheatgrass in it.†He pointed as the silver potion.


    “And how exactly does it benefit you?†David asked. “It looks like you melted down a bicycle chain.â€

    “It’s an anti-venom for Les Voix Terribles.†Vincent said. “Dhampir saliva contains a powerful narcotic venom. It can be pretty deibilitating but you can overcome it in a pinch. The real trouble comes much later. Nightmares, cold sweats, a hunger that you can’t satiate. It’s essentially an addictive substance.â€

    “Yes, I am familiar with The Terrible Kiss.†David said with a nod. “Some believe it is where the Vamprism Disease originates.â€

    “Hmm, maybe.†Vincent replied. “But we have an anti-venom, so it’s all good.â€


    “And the other two vials?†David asked. He never gave up, when it came to magic. Vincent felt like a naughty child trying to hide porn magazines from his overly prudish parents.

    “The red one isn’t for drinking. If you ignite the contents it…well it makes bad things die very quickly. I won’t spoil the fun anymore than that.†Vincent then held up the clear one and looked David in his eyes, his expression calm and serious. “This one is just a contingency. If I get captured, if I can drink this I’ll die quickly and peacefully.â€


    “Vincent…†David shook his head. “Thinking like that is dangerous. You must have faith.â€

    “Oh I don’t plan on dying.†Vincent added, “I like being alive quite a lot. But I don’t plan on being tortured to death, either.â€

    “Torture…†David let out a heavy sigh. “Disgusting creatures.â€

    “That we agree on.†Vincent said with a wry smile. “I take it you’re coming whether I like it or not?â€


    “Indeed.†David said. Vincent nodded and went over to his large wooden cupboard where he kept his various toys. He opened it and began examining the contents when David stepped forward and gave an audible murmur. “Vincent…is that a battle axe?†He asked.

    “Yup.†Vincent replied, taking the large weapon out and holding it up. “Never used it actually, but you never know when things might come in handy.â€

    “Like tonight for example?†David asked.

    “Nah.†Vincent said as he put it back. “What I need is….this!â€


    Vincent retrieved a genuine Smith & Wesson 500 revolver. The gun was huge, and incredibly powerful. What was more important about it, however, were the .50 caliber silver bullets. The revolver was a five-shot, and he only had five bullets which were already loaded in to the chamber. If he was going to fire he’d have to make it count, but if he shot true then…bye-bye vampire. He retrieved a chest-strap holster and fastened it to himself, as well as another at his belt which held a Khukuri knife. He pulled his duster over his shoulders, fastening it to cover the sight of the gun and the knife, and then he held his hands out at David. “Take what you want, If you’re coming then I want you ready.â€


    “I have all I need.†David replied. Vincent assumed he had meant God was with him, but perhaps it was also in regard to the broadsword he usually took with him. Vincent picked up his cane and was almost ready to go when his phone rang. When he answered Violet explained her situation and that they were to meet at Skid Row. Vincent gave a sigh as he hung up. Skid Row was a rough area, and so even a large amount of disappearances didn’t cause much of a stir. Not to mention it’s huge homeless population. How often did L.A.P.D get reports of a hobo going missing? Something told him that there were probably far more than what the police reported.


    “Skid Row.†Vincent said to David and began to explain the entire situation. When he was done David simply nodded his head, as if the whole ordeal wasn’t completely terrifying.

    “Well it seems I really was needed tonight.†David said finally. “Let’s not waste any more time.â€

    “Skid Row isn’t far.†Vincent said, pushing back a feeling of depression at his living situation, and then he went for the door. His hand froze as it hovered over the brass knob, and he became very still. Subtle energy coursed through him, like a shiver in the cold. It was brief but definitely present. Someone was using magic outside of his door, and they were doing it so delicately that his wards had barely picked up on it. His nostrils flared as it dawned on him. He yanked the door open and pointed his cane across it’s threshold and out in to the empty hallway.


    “I told you to stay out of my way!†He barked out to the empty hallway.

    “Vincent?†David asked, a little alarmed.

    “I know you’re out there.†Vincent said, ignoring David. “Drop the veil or I’ll just set the whole stairway on fire for good measure.â€

    “No!†The voice came from nowhere, but only a second or two afterwards Meredith phased in to existence, stood directly in front of him. “I’m sorry it’s just…I thought I could be a look out! I-I can help I-“
    “I told you not to, and you did it anyway.†Vincent said, his eyes wide with anger.


    “But…it’s okay I wasn’t getting in your way.†Meredith said, forcing a smile and shifting nervously. “I didn’t know where to go and I just wanted to help.â€

    “Faeries…you’re so stupid!†He replied coldly. “You don’t even get it. You want me to trust you, when you do the exact opposite of what I tell you. I don’t care how much you want to help, if you can’t even follow a simple instruction then what good are you? Huh?â€

    “Vincent…†David called from behind him.

    “You’re just a stupid kid with your head in the clouds, you don’t even get what it means to be human. You’ve spent your whole life in The Fae and it’s written all over you. You think you’re different but you’re just not old enough yet to be a truly devious bi-“

    “Vincent!†David’s voice was louder that time, and spoke with absolute authority.


    Vincent turned around to see the ageing man glaring at him. It was strange to see David’s anger. He had the furious scowl of a truly righteous man, great and terrifying, but still pure and without malice or hate. That look made Vincent feel incredibly small. He turned back to Meredith, who was still standing there nervously, trying to look like she was fine but there was fear in her eyes.

    “Don’t even try that…†Vincent practically muttered. “…acting is just second nature to the likes of you.â€

    “Vincent…stop it!†David snapped as he came up behind him and moved him out of the way, stepping out of the threshold and putting his hand on Meredith’s shoulder in a comforting gesture.


    “Young lady, are you alright?†He asked.

    “Yeah…†Meredith said with a nod. “It’s okay…I mean I understand. I know…what Vincent went through, I’d feel the same.â€

    “You know?†Vincent asked.

    “Of course.†Meredith replied. “You escaped the Winter Queen. Everyone in The Fae knows that.â€

    “Great.†Vincent said with a sigh. “Fame is not what I need right now.â€


    “I don’t think they’d all recognize you. It’s just your name that’s famous.†Meredith said, trying to sound reassuring.

    “Vincent, time is of the essence.†David reminded him. Vincent nodded and stepped out, closing his door behind him. “Come on then, Violet will be waiting.â€





    Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the area known as Skid Row is all the tents, old shopping carts and old boxes all over the floor. Homelessness was at an all-time high and the neighbourhood wasn’t the kind you wanted to be walking through at night. Yet strangely there wasn’t much activity on this night. Funny thing about scary monsters prowling around is that, eventually, people get a sense of it. They start to keep indoors when darkness comes, sort of like faint psychic alarm bell was ringing in their heads. A few blocks in Vincent and his rag tag group spotted two figures, one of which he instantly recognized as Violet. He approached them on the street and they turned to greet the group.


    “Sis.†Vincent said with a slight upward nod at Violet.

    “Lord above…†David chimed in, stepping forward with an open armed gesture. “Violet...well look at you. How long has it been?â€

    “Too long professor.†Violet smiled in surprise at seeing her old history professor, while James’ eyes casually drifted over the other people who had arrived. Has my brother dragged you into this as well?†She asked, grinning.

    “I was guided by a higher authority than Vincent.†David said with a warm smile.


    “Who’s this guy?†Vincent asked, indicating to James with his finger. “Your boyfriend?â€

    James smiled, I’m here to stop you fools from getting killed. Good enough?â€

    Violet rolled her eyes, “Testosterone.â€

    “Let’s compare dicks later when Violet’s not here†Vincent said with a smirk. “Hers is clearly the biggest.â€

    “Vincent…†David chided.


    “Alright, alright!†Vincent said holding his hands up in surrender. “I won’t talk about my sister’s incredibly large penis any more.â€

    “Who is this guy?†James raised an eyebrow questioningly. He looked unimpressed.

    “I’m family.†Vincent replied, giving a particularly toothy smile, before clapping his hands together and rubbing them in a scheming fashion. “Okay so this is fun but we should probably get to work before a bunch of crazy Vampires become insanely powerful and plunges the world in to eternal darkness, or whatever it is Vampire Gods like to do.â€


    “There is only one God, Vincent.†David replied.

    “Yeah we know, David, you’ve got Jesus in your heart.†Vincent replied irritably, “But where we’re going, the G-man might not be much help.â€

    “Who’s Jesus?†Meredith asked quizzically.

    “Are you for real?†Vincent snapped at her, in pure disbelief.

    “Kidding…†Meredith said with a smirk. “I grew up in The Fae, not the moon.â€


    “Whatever.†Vincent said, turning to his sister. “Okay so let’s pull our resources. Dhampir stink like…like…well let’s just say it’s a really particular scent. Think you can pick it up and lead us somewhere? If we can retrace their steps, then I’ll be able to figure out which Way they used. I could track it but I’d need an object or some DNA, which I don’t have. “ Vincent pulled a cigarette from his carton when he was finished talking and lit it, taking a drag. 

  18. "Vampires, indeed." Vincent said. He and Violet were now stood outside Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, also known as LACE. Vincent was dressed in a black tuxedo, a rental. His hair was tied back in a ponytail and, for once, his cane sort of matched his outfit. It was a real shame that he didn't suit the ensemble at all in that case. He was a little too tall and skinny to be looking particularly sharp but he would look just fine for appearances sake. After all he was only getting dressed up because he had been instructed to do so. Violet was wearing a pair of black jeans, boots and a slim-fitting crimson blouse with the brown jacket she practically lived in. 


    "Lucia is inside. Other than that I don't know what to expect. This is a social gathering, there'll be mortals so she will probably play nice." Vincent explained. "Also, technically I was formally invited here by her, with you as my plus 1. That should mean we are awarded rights of hospitality under the accords. She can't harm us as long as we behave, and she must do all in her power to prevent any other guests from harming us. All the same, it's best to stay sharp. It wouldn't be the first time someone broke the rules."

    "Well I won't be the first to break any, but if they start something..." Violet said. 

    "Let's just get inside." Vincent replied.


    They stepped up to the door and there names were checked against a list by the bouncer. He sent them through and they walked inside, passing through the main reception and in to a large square room filled with people. The walls were completely white and paintings were fixed across the walls. The people were drinking champagne and mingling, probably discussing the art work, their high class lifestyles and exchanging notes on how best to maximise their pompous assholery. A few people exchanged glances at Vincent, as if they could simply sense that he did not belong there. Before he could get a good look around a woman in a white cocktail dress, with dark brown hair styled in thick curls, placed her arm on his shoulder quite possessively and leaned in towards his ear. "Vincent." She purred before giving him a soft peck on the cheek. "I'm so glad you could come, darling."


    "Lucia." Vincent replied, without any inflection in his voice. "What the hell is this?"

    "I'm hosting this gathering." Lucia explained, "It's better that we meet in a public place. This kind of work attracts all sorts of attention, and I don't need anyone thinking you're working for me."

    "A phone call would have been just fine." Vincent said. 

    "Perhaps, but I wanted you here." Lucia said confidently. "And I get what I want." Her eyes slowly moved over Violet, and there was a flicker of something wary in her gaze, like a predator who had spotted a rival. "And you brought your lovely sister, excellent." She said with a soft smirk. "How are you dear?"

    "Impatient." Violet replied, her face stern.


    "Delightful as ever." Lucia said, showing amusement.

    "Cut the shit, Lucia." Vincent growled. "Why are we here?"

    "To meet your partner, of course." Lucia replied. 

    "Parter? You didn't say anything about-"

    "I'm saying it now, child." Lucia said, cutting him off. "Come, we'll discuss the plan when we're all together."


    Lucia led Vincent and Violet away from the crowds. Vincent noticed the eyes following him, and realised that many of the guests were vampires of Lucia's brood. They were watching him to make sure he didn't pull a fast one. He had already underestimated Lucia once, and he had no intention of doing so again. They moved from the main room and in to a closed off area, where they were finally alone. They stood silently for a moment, until Vincent grew impatient. "Well?" he asked. Instead of a verbal response from Lucia, Vincent was instead immediately alerted to a sudden presence. A young woman had materialised out of thin air, standing with them as if she had been there all the time. A veil? He hadn't even had the slightest idea the woman had been there. She was skinny but attractive, although very young, definitely below the legal drinking age. 


    She wasn't dressed like the others at the event. Instead she wore a pair of black knee high boots and fishnet stockings. She had a tartan miniskirt and wore a black leather jacket, with a tight fitted, white T-shirt underneath, and she wore a silver chain around her neck with a little blue amulet attached to it. Her eyes were a light blue, and her hair was entirely white, cut in a short punky style. The white hair wasn't a particularly alarming tip off, or at least it wouldn't have been if it hadn't been for the perfect veil she had been casting. He had only known one such creature that could pull of something that flawless. 


    "Faerie!" He snarled as if speaking a profanity.

    "Half, actually." The young woman replied, her voice light and energetic, and with an eagerness to it. 

    "Great." Violet let out a sigh and rested back on her heels.


    "I don't work with Faeries." Vincent said, looking at Lucia for an explanation. 

    "She's a changeling dear. She can't help her lineage any more than you can." Lucia said with another smirk. "Besides, you don't have a choice. You owe me."

    "You don't get it." Vincent replied. "I don't get along with Faeries, especially the ones from Winter. And her white hair...well that's a characteristic of Winter Sidhe."

    "Um..." The girl seemed a little nervous, which struck Vincent as strange. "I'm not with Winter...I mean, well, my mother is, obviously. I, name is Meredith."

    "I don't give a shit." Vincent replied coldly. "Faeries are devious, and Winter are the most devious. And you're a changeling, which means you even have the ability to straight up lie to me. There is no way I'm buying even a word that comes from your mouth." He glared at Meredith, angry just at the sight of her. Her own blue eyes gazed back at him, but she didn't have that cold and confident gaze he had seen on so many Sidhe. She looked...a little frightened. 


    "Vincent." Lucia said with a tone of authority. "You will work with Meredith. She is required in order for our task to proceed. You will need her veils."

    "I can veil just fine on my own." Vincent bit back. "And Violet is my partner, you know what she can do. We don't need this...menace." He noticed the flinch Meredith had made as he had said the word. She looked genuinely hurt by his words. But he'd seen how convincing the act of a Faerie was before. He had suffered greatly for trusting it, and he wouldn't do so again. 

    "You think your veil will hold up against the House of Dracul?" Lucia asked. Vincent just froze. 


    The House of Dracul were also vampires. However they were not like Lucia, they were far worse. The progenitor species that had created the contagion that spread and became the vampires of the Midnight Court. They were nasty creatures of The Void, horrible monsters hiding behind glamours of human form. They were unbelievably strong and fast, and had a range of magical abilities that seemed to advance with their age. Most commonly was that their saliva was like a powerful narcotic, and it's contact on your skin could send you in to a euphoric haze. Not to mention they didn't have any weakness to garlic or wooden stakes. The only metal that could cut them deep was silver. They were seriously bad news. 


    "Dhampir." Vincent said finally, turning his gaze to Violet.

    "Dracul?" Violet repeated, "As in...?" She rolled her eyes and let out a noise that meant something along the lines of 'that better be a joke'.

    "Oh I assure you, Vlad is still alive and well." Lucia said in amusement. "Unlike his son, the one you would know as Impaler, or Tepes."

    "Lucia, what the fuck is going on?" Vincent asked. "Midnight and Dracul are allies. Why do you have beef with them?"


    "Oh don't be so vulgar, child." Lucia said dismissively. "The House of Dracul are our trusted allies. Fear not, Vlad is well hidden in Europe somewhere. I only wish you to take care of a single cell. This group have...overstepped."

    "I'm going to need a little more than that." Vincent said. 

    "I cannot openly confront member of The House of Dracul." Lucia said simply. "But both of our families have lived this long through deception and subterfuge. You are my secret weapon in this case."

    "Great." Vincent replied with a sigh. "So what's the job?"


    "Retrieval." Meredith cut in, eagerly trying to seem helpful. "It's my job to get you in. It's your job to get us there."

    "Uh...what?" Vincent asked. 

    " know the Ways, right?" Meredith asked. Vincent sighed. The Ways was a term referring to the points where The Fae and the mortal world were connected. If you knew where the points led to you could potentially move very quickly across the earth. Hell if he wanted to Vincent could be in Paris in about 30 minutes. There was a slight problem with that though. 

    "I am not going in to The Fae." Vincent said. 


    "It's fine, I can veil you, keep you safe." Meredith assured. "Besides we need to go to the Wylds, the other kingdoms cannot go there unless they relinquish their loyalty. That's why I'm helping...I left Winter a long time ago. I'm a Wyldfae."

    "So you're Wyldfae now? A minute ago you were trying to assure me you weren't all that different from human." Vincent said darkly. "Just what is your game here? What do you gain from all of this?"

    "Um..." Meredith replied hesitantly, but before she could say more Lucia had stepped in. 


    "Enough, child." She snapped. "All you must concern yourself with is to go to the Wylds, find these Dhampir and retrieve that which they have stolen. They were helped by some...sneak. They have taken a valuable treasure of mine, one that is most dangerous in their hands."

    "If they got in to The Fae then I'm guessing they have help on the inside. Fuckin' Faeries..." Vincent shook his head. "What have they taken?"

    "It's a Chronoweaver. One of the last still intact." Lucia replied. "The artefact can only be used in The Fae, and only at certain times of the year. That is...the change of the seasons."

    "Winter to Spring." Vincent said with a nod. "I know what it is. It's the same power the Queens can use, it allows them to shift the passage of time in The Fae."


    "Indeed." Lucia said with a nod. "And Spring could begin any time within the next few days. They could use the Chronoweaver to make thousands of years pass in but a heartbeat for them, if they so desired. That kind of power, it is troublesome in the wrong hands. Dhampir grow stronger with age. If they do this...they could surpass Vlad himself. It could spark a war that would turn this world upside down."

    "This is...just not my day." Vincent said with a sigh. "So where'd they enter? The sooner we do this the better."

    "All I know is they entered from L.A." Lucia replied. "You best get to doing that detective work you seem so keen on."

    "Great." Vincent shook his head. He turned to Meredith and held out his hand. "Phone." he demanded. She obliged him and he typed his own cell phone number in to the phone. "Alright, now get lost. I'll call you when I'm ready to go to The Fae."


    "But..." Meredith said nervously. 

    "Stay out of my way." Vincent snapped. "I don't need you for this, got it?"

    "Ye-yeah...okay." Meredith said apprehensively. "I'll go..." she added, and then she disappeared just as quickly as she had appeared. Lucia looked to Vincent expectantly and he held his hands up. 

    "Yeah, yeah, I'm gone." Vincent said exasperatedly. He nodded at Violent and the pair of them left LACE and stopped outside in the street. Vincent felt the cool breeze as they stepped outside, and missed the warmth and cover of his duster.


    "Alright." Vincent said. "I want to go home and change. Then we can grab a coffee and start hitting the streets. Dhampir have a pretty noticeable stink, and they stockpile their food. Can you check with L.A.P.D and find out if there has been any missing persons in a clustered area recently? If we can get a starting point we can probably track them back to whichever Way they are coming in from." he said it quite calmly, but inside he was absolutely terrified.He didn't know which was scaring him more, the thought of facing Dhampir, or of getting found by a bunch of pissed off Faeries. "That is...if you're still game. This is a pretty fucked up situation." 

    "It's always a fucked up situation." Violet replied, raising an eyebrow. "I'll check in with the L.A.P.D., you can do what you do best. Go find some trouble."


    "All right." Vincent said. "I'll call you." and then he walked off down the street in the general direction of his apartment. 

  19. It was pitch black when Vincent’s El Camino pulled up in a secluded area of The Valley, not far from Burbank. The wheels crunched over the gravel outside the old lumber yard and the beams of his headlights were extinguished as he slowed to a stop and killed the engine. Vincent sat at the wheel looking out at the deserted warehouse and looked a little on edge. His hair hung limp the length of his shoulders and he was dressed in a Ramones T-shirt, along with his usual pentacle amulet around his neck, and he wore his brown duster. “Looks like the place.†He said to the passenger.

    “Indeed.†Came the response.


    Across from him sat a gentleman who must have been approaching 50. He was wearing stone wash jeans and brown hiking boots, and wore a green check shirt, buttoned up with a white t-shirt visible at the neck, as well as a thin, silver chain bearing a small Latin cross. The man had blonde hair that was swept back over his head, and a thick beard that was short and tidy. His brown eyes were strong and confident, but there was something very gentle about them. The passenger was a stark contrast of Vincent, he was clean, orderly and presentable. “We should proceed quietly.†He said as he went for the passenger door. “I’d like to avoid conflict if at all possible, Vincent.â€


    “You know me, David.†Vincent said with a smirk, “I’m a paragon of diplomacy.â€

    “I mean it†David replied reproachfully, but he gave a soft smile. “I am not here to hurt these people, but to save them.â€

    “So says God’s hitman.†Vincent replied as he stepped out of his side of the car. He retrieved his cane from the back seat, along with a sheet of black cloth wrapped in string, which he passed to David, who began to remove the fixings. From the coverings he withdrew a long, cross-hilted broadsword in a simple black sheath with silver adornments.


    David Argent was many things. Most of the time he was a simple man with a simple life. He was a Professor of History at The University of Iowa, which was how he had met Vincent many years ago when he had went there to study. David was also a dedicated husband, and a father to a small army of children, seven in total. He was a devout Catholic who was greatly involved in the community and he was, in every way, a decent man. However every so often he would travel, and he would take up the sword he carried at that moment. For he was, or at least he believed he was, a servant sent by God. Vincent had never been entirely convinced about the existence of the G-man, but in a world of magical monsters, faeries, and a handful of Eldritch horrors, he couldn’t really flat out deny that the Lord might be real.


    David was a practitioner, at least as far as Vincent was concerned. The man himself hummed with a pure and solid sensation of power. In fact Vincent was certain that the man had enough magical juice to make a decent wizard, if he wanted to. David was not a man of spells and potions, however, he was a man of God. His power was drawn from pure and unyielding faith. Perhaps God had a hand in it, or perhaps David’s belief was simply so strong that it gave him that power. Faith had that kind of effect, especially on the magically gifted.


    “I am not a hitman.†David said, apparently unaware of the irony of saying that whilst brandishing a freaking broadsword. “I am but a humble servant of the Lord.†Vincent rolled his eyes but said nothing, and the pair quietly moved across the gravel to find a quiet entrance in to the building. Together they crept in to the warehouse, and moved carefully along it’s edge, using the shadows of the heavy machinery as cover. There was light coming from an open space in the centre. Probably candles, Vincent thought. He began to gather his will for a spell, but it would take a moment.


    This had all started two days ago. Vincent hadn’t had a lot of success with Client’s in the last couple of weeks. He didn’t remember much about what had happened at New York. Despite all that had happened, he hadn’t spoken much to Violet on the trip back. She had used her money to get them flights back to L.A but they hadn’t really addressed the event that had transpired in The Void. In fairness Vincent was suffering from a severe case of psychic trauma. Vael had gotten in to his head, and the images were burned in to his head. Every time he closed his eyes he was back in that dream, entirely helpless in a room with two entities he had found entirely terrifying. When they had returned to L.A Vincent had went home to rest, and Violet seemed to want to do the same.


    After a period of rest, a series of cleansing rituals, meditation and quite a lot of beer, Vincent had more or less straightened himself out. He had tried to contact Violet, but she hadn’t been taking his calls. He was worried about her, but he knew that his sister was not a bear that was worth poking when she wanted to be left alone. Especially since she could turn in to an actual bear. So he tried his best to get on with his daily routine. Work had been scarce, however, and so he had settled on his usual research. Violet had retrieved the Grimoire, fortunately. Vincent had spent some time since researching it’s contents somewhat tentatively. In truth the book was a little scary, and so soon after a mental assault he really didn’t feel like overwhelming his brain with new and horrifying information.


    Right when he was at a point of financial desperation, David had turned up at his door. Social calls aside, David only turned up for one reason. Demons. Just the sort of thing Vincent needed to get back in to the fray. David was a vigilante of sorts and didn’t do his work for payment, but he had always been happy to offer Vincent something for his help. David had a good sense of when trouble was happening, but he was no investigator, and he needed Vincent for that. They had spent the remaining time following leads which had lead them to the discovery that someone had been summoning a demon and using it’s power to commit a few crimes around the city. Mostly robbery, which seemed a little odd at first. Further digging had lead them to discover the source was a young man called Declan McManus.


    Declan was barely 20 years old, but clearly had discovered a gift for magic. There are no schools for this kind of thing. You don’t get a letter to Hogwarts when you come of age, and you’re pretty lucky if a kindly old wizard decides to find you and train you. Most practitioners don’t really have a potent level of ability, and as such they can’t cause a lot of harm. Sometimes, however, you get a pretty talented person emerging with no idea about the dangers of what they are doing. Declan had been using dark magic, and while he hadn’t killed anyone yet, he had summoned a demon and bound it to his will. He hadn’t broken any of the Laws as such, but binding a demon was akin to enthrallment, it still tapped in to the same dark energy, the kind that rotted your soul.

    Vincent had finished his spell and as a result, the already dark room had grown darker, or at least his vision had. Veils were a delicate sort of magic, and not something Vincent was particularly good at. Even at his best, his veil would only sort of blur himself and David, and muffle their speech. Also, as a result, anything he saw or heard outside of the veil was a little fuzzy as well. But it would be enough to allow him and David to move carefully without detection, and speak quietly.


    “Looks like the kid’s been living here.†Vincent whispered as he peered out from behind a large crate. “There’s an old cot there, he’s standing over a desk. Lot’s of books. Aw geez…he’s wearing a black cloak. Who does that? I swear television rots the brain.â€

    “Can you sense the Demon?†David asked from behind him.

    “Oh yeah.†Vincent replied. The air was filled with a menacing energy. “It’s dormant but it’s definitely here. Can’t really tell how badass it is though.â€

    “Have faith.†David replied confidently. “The Lord will guide us this night.â€

    “That’s great and all, but I think I’ll stick to using magic if it’s all the same to you.†Vincent replied.


    “As you wish.†David said. “How do you wish to proceed?â€

    “I’ll keep the veil on you.†Vincent said. “I’ll step out and get his attention. If I spook him then he’ll probably wake the demon up and then you can do your thing. Okay?â€

    “Very well.†David said with a nod. “Let’s go.â€


    Vincent stepped forward, leaving the veil behind and feeling it’s cover peel away from him like a thin sheet. His vision grew clearer and the sound became crisp. He walked with a confident stride, letting his boots drum against the concrete to alert the young Warlock to his presence. The cloaked figure spun around in surprise, and despite the dark shadows under his eyes, he still looked young and fresh-faced for the most part. “Wait a minute…†Vincent said loudly, holding his hands out in exasperation. “This isn’t the cosplay convention at all!â€

    “Wh-who are you!?†Declan demanded nervously.

    “I am your father!†Vincent bellowed ominously.

    “What!?†Declan squeaked.
    “Not really.†Vincent said with a smirk, rolling his eyes. “Look, kid. I’m obligated to tell you that what you’re walking down a dark path, and you’re becoming a danger to yourself and those around you. It’s not your fault but you’re using magic the wrong way and-“


    “Silence!†Declan snapped. “You dare to lecture one such as I? Do you have any idea what peril you have walked in to, mortal?â€

    “Oh boy…†Vincent said with a sigh. “Look, kid this isn’t Dungeons & Dragons. Cut the bullshit, it’s pretty lame.â€

    “You dare!†Declan yelled. He thrust out his palm and gave a snarling utterance laced with magic. Sparks shot from his hand and lightning leapt across the room towards Vincent. He lifted his hand calmly and focused only a tiny amount of will in to his charm bracelet, and created a shield which absorbed the blast and left him unscathed.


    “I get it, you’ve got lot’s of magical muscle.†Vincent said with a cocky smirk. “But that just won’t cut it against a real wizard.â€

    “How…did you do that?†Declan asked nervously.

    “Magic!†Vincent replied, waggling his fingers in a mystical gesture.

    “Well I’ll show you!†Declan said with an angry scowl. “I’ll show you what I can do! Come forth! Aszog Shogoth! Your master commands you!â€

    “Well…that was stupid.†Vincent said, shaking his head. As he spoke a dark shadow materialised between him and Declan, taking ship as a billowing mass with bulky shoulders, and whispy claws. It’s eyes were glowing with red energy and looked fierce and menacing. It loomed over Vincent, ready to rip his throat out with a single command.


    “Aszog Shogoth!†Vincent barked, and he tapped his cane on the floor for emphasis. The Demon stopped in it’s tracks, frozen by the utterance of it’s name.

    “Demonology: 101, kid.†Vincent called over to Declan. “If you are controlling a demon through it’s name, then don’t you think another wizard can too?â€

    “Wh-what!?†Declan stammered. “No…he’s mine! He belongs to me!â€

    “Wrong again.†Vincent said, now frowning at Declan. “When you bind a demon to yourself, it’s a trade. All the while you command him, he’s eating you from the inside out. Until there’s nothing left of your humanity. That’s kind of what they do.†Vincent turned his attention to the shadowy spectre and spoke it’s name again. “Aszog Shogoth…you are unbound from this mortal. Free to roam this mortal plane.â€


    The simple allowance was enough. Aszog made a deep croaking noise that sounded like a distorted chuckle of glee. This foolish, upstart wizard had freed him of his binding, and thus he was now free to kill and maim every living thing in his path. And he would start with both of the wizards. Aszog lurched towards Vincent again, but became distracted and turned to the sound of metal scraping. David had emerged from the veil and drawn his broadsword, it’s metal gleaming. “Uh-oh!†Vincent said with a grin. “Sorry big guy…actually I’m not.â€


    “Lord in Heaven give me strength!†David bellowed, his prayers thrumming with the same power as a wizard’s spell. “Cleanse this place of the foul and wretched, drive back the darkness!†Aszog hissed in pain, as if each word had struck him like a baseball bat. It grew livid and lunged at David in a frenzy, moving across the room with incredible speed. David did not flinch. He advanced in a steady stride, his sword drawn, and those gentle eyes were filled with steely resolve. Shadowy claws raked at him, but with a single swing of his sword he removed them from their owner, and Aszog reeled back, screeching as if the touch of the steel had burned him. “Be gone from this world, by the light of God!†David thundered, and he brought the sword up in a sweeping slash.


    The demon roared in anger as light erupted from it’s wound, and it suddenly burst into swirling clouds, it’s wails still carrying even without form. The holy light engulfed the dark creature, and it’s wails faded as it was quickly removed from this plane of existence. It wasn’t dead, strictly speaking you couldn’t kill a demon. But it would send them back to The Void. Vincent gave an unenthusiastic “Hooray!†as he smiled at David, he looked pleased with his work. Feet shuffled, and Vincent turned to see Declan making a run for it. He lifted his cane and pointed it forward, before dragging it back like he was pulling on something.


    Unseen force caught Declan and tripped him up, sending him sprawling backwards across the ground, before tumbling and landing next to Vincent’s feet. “Not so fast, Voldemort.†Vincent said with a smirk. “You’ve been a bad boy, time to pay the piper.â€

    “Please don’t kill me!†Declan pleaded fearfully.

    “Geez always so dramatic.†Vincent replied. “You’re going to the precinct, knucklehead. The cops can deal with you. Oh and uh…I’m pretty sure another wizard will be visiting you soon. I suggest you play ball when he does, otherwise he probably will kill you.â€

    “Vincent, do not tease the boy.†David said with a sigh. “He will pay for his crimes as the police department dictate. Then he will be given chance to repent.â€


    “I wasn’t teasing.†Vincent replied. “The Wise don’t share your penchant for forgiveness, David.â€

    “And that is sorely disappointing.†David replied. “Perhaps you could…refrain from reporting him?â€

    “No can do.†Vincent said, shaking his head. “They might kill me if I did that. Also…he hasn’t actually broken the Laws, technically. They’ll make sure he gets re-educated. It won’t be very pleasant but…uh…it’ll be good for him.â€

    “I suppose….†David looked a little uneasy. “I suppose that is all I can ask for. Thank you for your help, Vincent.â€

    “Any time.†Vincent replied with a smile.





    After driving Declan to the police station, Vincent dropped David off at his hotel and said his goodbyes. Apparently David would be in town for the next few days visiting friends, and had asked Vincent to call him if anything was up. Vincent had thanked him, and then thanked him again for the 500 bucks he’d been given for the job. It wasn’t a lot considering his usual rate, but anything was good right now. It was the early hours of the morning by the time he got back to his apartment, and the sun would be rising soon. He had just thought about turning in when his phone had rang. He answered it immediately, hoping that it might be Violet.


    “Good morning, child.†Lucia said in to the phone. “I hope I didn’t wake you.â€

    “Um…†Vincent said. Shit! He cursed inwardly. “Lucia…is it that time already?â€

    “Indeed it is, child.†She said pleasantly. “Your retainer has been wired to your account already, double your usual rate.â€

    “Two grand?†Vincent gasped, “I haven’t even done anything yet!â€

    “Call it a good faith payment.†Lucia said.

    “Right…and how do you know my bank-“

    “Best not to ask questions you won’t like the answer too, darling.†Lucia said, cutting him off. “7PM tonight, LACE art gallery has an exhibition on tonight, hosted by myself. You are on the list with a plus one. Be there sharp, dress appropriately and I suggest you bring the darkling as your date. You will probably require her help.â€


    Lucia hung up, and Vincent just stood there for a moment. Formal dress? It was a good thing he’d been given an advance. He’d have to rent a tuxedo. However that really wasn’t the biggest problem. He had to bring Violet along. Worse still, she didn’t know he’d agreed to work with a vampire. As if she needed more reasons to kick his ass. He sighed and decided he better get to work. He showered, changed, and left his apartment again. He grabbed a bagel on his way to the Gethsemane hotel. Violet hadn’t been taking his calls, so it was time for a visit. He had a lot of explaining to do. 

  20. The white stone walls of Griffith Observatory were always very clean, and along with the freshly cut and tidy grass, and the clean and un-littered paths it was quite the impressive tourist attraction. Not to mention it looked out on to the city of L.A from the hills of Hollywood. Vincent and Violet stood at the large, white stone monument that was the centrepiece of the garden walkway outside of the observatory. The Astronomers Monument was tall, and depicted sculptures of the six greatest astronomers; Hipparchus, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Herschel. On top of the Astronomers Monument is a 900-pound, hollow bronze armillary sphere, an astronomical instrument composed of rings representing celestial latitude, longitude, and the ecliptic. Prior to the invention of the telescope, it was the main instrument used by astronomers to determine celestial position. Across from the monument was an equatorial sundial, also made of bronze. 


    Vincent looked away from the monument, and over to the observatory itself. At night it was always beautifully lit in white lights that made it stand out in the deep blue night of the City of Los Angeles. Here in The Void, the eerie green light it gave off was entirely unsettling, and the shadows seemed to writhe and creep around. "This place is a hallmark of science." Vincent said as he walked the centre path of the garden towards the building. "Yet here it looks like it would be right at home next to Castle Grayskull. I hate this place, it takes all the nice stuff in our world and gives it a cheesy horror makeover."

    "It isn't so bad once you get used to it." Violet replied, though her ragged breathing seemed to say otherwise. "I could get used to it if they sold ice cream." She wiped the sweat beading on her forehead. Vincent let out a stifled laugh but quickly swallowed it back down. They proceeded to the main doors and pushed them open, finding them unlocked.


    They entered the building and found it to be dark and incredibly creepy. The real building was usually very well lit, but there were no lights at all in this place. Vincent reached for the pentacle amulet around his neck and removed it, wrapping the chain around his knuckles and holding his hand out so that the pendant hung loosely from his hand. The symbol itself was important to Vincent. The 5 pointed star represented the five elements in pagan beliefs; Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit. The circle around the star represented order, and it was this same concept that gave birth to the magic circle that all wizards used. A circle was complete, and constants, with no beginning or end. Together with the star the pendant was a perfect representation of Vincent's own brand of faith, his faith in magic. He focused on that faith, and in reaction his amulet began to glow a brilliant white light. The shadows seemed to visibly recoil from the light, and he stepped forward, illuminating the way. "Any idea where we'll find her?" He asked Violet. 


    "Because I think like a necromancer that likes to spend her free time in a dimension that houses monsters." Violet replied sarcastically, blinking to adjust to the dim light.

    "Well you led us here in the first place." Vincent replied. "Although thinking about it...based on the interaction we've had with this woman, she seems to like a little razzmatazz. If I wanted to put on a show here I know where I'd be standing." Vincent pointed down the main corridor. "The Planetarium, right? I mean it's basically a theatre." 

    "Well I could feel her energy, but we're so close now it's sort of everywhere." Violet turned to look at Vincent and opened her eyes wide in surprise. He looked as though he was bathed in blue light. She blinked, and he was plain, scruffy Vincent again. "Can we hurry this up, I'm starting to lose my taste for this plane of existence."


    "All right." Vincent said and he pushed ahead, his cane at the ready in his other hand. The moved through the corridor and the slithering shadows edged away from the light of Vincent's amulet. Normally the observatory had plenty of interesting things to see, but he didn't have the time nor the inclination at this point, They quickly moved to the opposite side of the observatory and through one of the double doors that led to the Planetarium. When they entered they were greeted by an entirely unworldly sight. 


    All the seats in the Planetarium were filled. The people sitting in them wore clothing from all different time periods, and more importantly they were incorporeal. You could look straight through one to see the others behind it. They were all sitting quietly with their heads back, staring up at the domed ceiling. Normally visitors would be greeted with a wonderful view of the night sky, and all the stars in the galaxy. However above them there were only swirling, cascading clouds that glowed that same eerie green as the lights outside. The light bathed the room and the energy pouring over it had felt like snakes slithering over Vincent's skin. In the centre of the Planetarium, strapped across the globe-like projector, was a middle aged man. He was completely naked and shackled to the sphere in thick, black chains. The way he was lying looked like a great strain on his back, and his expression was downright miserable. He was letting out a soft whimper, like he was unable to scream any more. "Holy...shit." Vincent whispered as he gazed upon the scene. 


    Violet reached for her gun, but as her fingers touched her empty holster she was reluctantly reminded of the loss of her gun. "Shit." She muttered, "Well it can't get much worse." 
    "Wrong." A voice chimed.  "I've been waiting."
    "Cut him loose." Vincent called out, not wasting his time on pleasantries. He was afraid, but he didn't dare let it show in his voice. "Now." he added.
    "Why?" The question was long drawn out, amused by the demand. A figure wreathed in black, hooded, stepped from the shadows.
    "Because I've been running errands for you all day and frankly..." Vincent held out his cane at the robed figure in a threatening gesture, "I'm sick of your shit. Cut him loose or you'll never get what you want from the Grimoire."
    "You'll never give me the grimoire, Vincent." The hooded figure held its hands up, "So, where do we go from here?" A feminine laugh escaped it's lips.
    "Yeah?" Vincent placed his amulet in his pocket and the light disappeared. He reached in to his bag and pulled out the Grimoire. "Here. Take it. You know as well as I do that it won't work for you. I'm in no mood for the theatrics, so cut the shit. Release the innocent and tell me what you want."
    "I want Violet." She replied. 
    "You can try, but you won't like what you'll take home." Violet replied defiantly. 
    "Animals? Honestly..." The women paused and then refocused on Vincent. "Violet and the grimoire and you can take the pasty fleshbag, no fuss."
    "Try again." Vincent replied. "I know the dark stuff tends to fuck up your perception a bit, but try to remember what it's like to be human." Vincent didn't like what he was saying, but it didn't make it any less true. "Family is more important than strangers, even if they are in danger. Not that Violet's life is mine to trade anyway. So like I said, try again."
    "Alright. I could keep the grimoire and Violet and the mortal and vaporise you." A purple blast of magical energy shot towards them and Violet dove to one side. As she looked up she saw the hooded figure - the necromancer - was gone. Yet her voice lingered, "I got what I wanted, thanks kids. See you soon." She laughed and then silence spread through the room. Until Violet collapsed, her fall echoing in the acoustics of the planetarium.
    "Alright. I could keep the grimoire and Violet and the mortal and vaporise you." A purple blast of magical energy shot towards them and Violet dove to one side. As she looked up she saw the hooded figure - the necromancer - was gone. Yet her voice lingered, "I got what I wanted, thanks kids. See you soon." She laughed and then silence spread through the room. Until Violet collapsed, her fall echoing in the acoustics of the planetarium. 
    "Violet!" Vincent yelled as he dropped down to check on his sister. She was burning up, but she was breathing. He needed to get her out of here right now. He stood up again and looked back at the chained up man. He looked in pretty bad shape too. He couldn't leave him her. He strode forwards, and instantly realised the shift in energy in the room. The ghosts sitting in the seats had suddenly taken notice of him. They moved all at once, flying across the room and passing through the seats as if they were a hologram. He stopped mid stride and pulled his amulet from his pocket and held it in his hand, holding it aloft above him. "In nomine dei!" He cried in latin, his voice booming around the room as it was suddenly engulfed in white light. 
    The Ghost's seemed to be hurting under the light and fled to the far corners of the room. The light pulsed out in waves, like a beacon of energy that pushed the shades back from Violet, the chained man and himself. "Lava quod est sordium!" He bellowed, "sana quod est saucium!" The light pulsed more rapidly, and the ghosts began to shriek and howl in pain. Faith's light had also repelled the horrible, clinging dark energy of The Void, allowing a comforting warmth to wash over Vincent. Confidence rose up from within him and he pointed his cane towards the outer circle of shrieking ghosts. Then he spoke a final utterance. "Ignus!" he cried, and a shot of brilliant white flame shot out from the end of his can like a lance. It hit the far wall and exploded, spreading around the circular room like a wild fire, igniting the ghosts and causing them to slowly fade away in to nothingness. 
    It was at this point that he realised that the flames had covered the entire outer area of the Planetarium, forming a perfect circle of his own magic. Perhaps fortune was smiling upon him when the Necromancer has chosen this room for their meeting. He focused his will and sealed the room. It was now his domain, a realm of order in a world of chaos. He felt something akin to a vacuum sensation, before a final hissing snap, as the negative energy of The Void was expelled from the room. With another gesture of his cane towards the chained man he said "Solvo." and the chains shook a little, before collapsing from the man and clattering on the ground. He slipped off of the sphere and hit the ground with a soft thump. He walked over to the man to check on him, and found him barely conscious but still whimpering. His wounds weren't terribly grave, but no doubt his soul had been ravaged. It would be a long recovery for him, if he ever recovered at all. 
    "Violet?" Vincent called back across the room. "Violet!" He called again, a little frantic this time. "I really need you to wake up! I can't carry both of you!"
    "I'm tired... Five more minutes, Vince..." Violet groaned back, still half asleep.
    "Five more minutes and I'll be out too!" Vincent yelled back. "This circle took a lot of juice. We need to get out of here!"
    "Circle..." Violet groaned, rubbing at her face, and then something clicked. She wasn't at home, with her brother, being yelled awake for a school morning. "Circle?!" Violet shot upright, she looked around the room in a bleary haze. "What's going on Vince? Did I..." She was going to say 'faint' but hated that word, "Did I black out?" She asked. "Did we get her?"
    "No we got our ass kicked." Vincent replied. "Well I think we did, but I have the book and this guy is free so let's just get the hell out of here."
    "You're interesting to watch." The voice returned, but this time - though hooded - the figure was not cloaked by shadow, she strode forwards in confidence and looked at the two wizards. Violet tried to pull herself to her feet, and while she succeeded she felt like she couldn't stay upright for long. "All it takes is a little shadow puppet and you just let down your guard." Long black hair hung down from the hood and a glimpse of tan skin hid inside.
    "Ignus!" Vincent roared without skipping a beat, pointing his cane forward and sending out another lance of brilliant flame towards the Necromancer.
    The flame shot towards the necromancer and she quickly whispered something and held out her hand in front of her. The flame splashed against her and a look of surprise washed over her as she was knocked back. She growled as her hood was blown back, and she held her head low as she pulled herself back to her full height and examined her arm. Where there was once flesh, now none remained. Only a deep, dense purple light, in the shape of her missing limb. "That hurt." She muttered, "I haven't felt that sensation in two decades. Well done, Vincent. You're rather good." She said, "For a mortal." She added, as an afterthought. She raised up her glowing hand and her lips moved silently. Darkness enveloped the room.
    Vincent raised his amulet once more, focusing his will. "In nomine dei!" he cried out once more and white light emanated from his amulet, fighting back against the darkness. It was not as overwhelming as before, and his light seemed to be struggling to penetrate the darkness. "Lava quod est sordium! Sana quod est saucium!"
    "Fire and light, Vincent?" The necromancer asked, her tone mocking. "I knew Violet got her good looks from her mother, but not her magical talent as well. Though it can't be helped, I suppose." Suddenly the darkness was gone, lifted as though it never existed. Stood before them was the necromancer. If Violet could have remained standing any longer, she would never know. She collapsed to the ground, staring at the necromancer. The woman was in her early forties, her long black hair framed a beautiful face of native american lineage. 
    "Mom?" Violet asked in disbelief.
    "Hi, honey." The woman replied with a smile, "Close your mouth, dear, it's unseemly."
    "Don't trust her, Violet!" Vincent snarled, advancing forward and extending his palm so that his shield rose up, protecting him and his sister from any incoming attacks. He stared at the Necromancer, fury burning in his eyes. He had never met Violet's mother, but he had seen photos. For this twisted bitch to wear her face so brazenly was inexcusable. "Listen to me, Necrobitch." Vincent said firmly. "I don't care what you think. Violet is not yours, and you can't have her. And now you've really pissed me off. You're not getting anything from this. Not the innocent, not the Grimoire, and certainly not my fucking sister! Got it?"


  21. Vincent slumped down at the back of the couch, which he had just finished shoving up to the wall of his apartment. He took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it as he looked across his apartment. He had moved everything he could in to the far corners, leaving behind a large empty space in the middle of the room. He had also rolled up his various rugs, leaving only the bare hardwood floor underneath. He puffed on his cigarette for a moment as he caught his breath, hard labour really wasn’t his strong point. After a moment he got up and continued making preparations. In a small drawer he managed to find what looked to be a coiled up length of thin metal. He held it together in his hand before throwing it over the space on his floor. The spring steel sprung apart in to a large circle.


    Vincent had found this material, often used for pop-up tents, and decided it was perfect for a quick-use circle. Also it meant he didn’t have to get chalk over his floor. The circle he used for enchanting was too small for what he was about to do. So this was going to have to do in a pinch. He finished his cigarette and extinguished it in a glass ashtray, and then got to work. He picked up the Grimoire and placed it inside the circle, in the centre. Then he made sure the floor was clear of any dust and debris. Then he held out his hand towards the circle around him, and focused his will.


    This time he had taken a moment to build up a degree of focus. He could do this relatively quickly, most wizards had to pick up that particular skill if they wanted to be anything beyond ordinary. The extra focus was a necessary measure in this case. When the circle finally activated it thrummed with power, and standing inside it made his the hairs on his arms stand on end, like there was a field of static in the air. The circle was strong, and designed not to let anything get out unless he broke it with his own will. Well, at least that was what he hoped.


    He had no way of telling what kind of protections were built in to the Grimoire, for all he knew it had the power to nuke the entire city. He felt it unlikely, but then again magic didn’t really have much in terms of limitations, and the enchantments on the book were like nothing he had seen. At least this way, if something went wrong, he would be the only one being eviscerated. Hopefully.


    Vincent sat cross legged on the floor and opened the book up. He examined it again with his will but found no change in behaviour. If the book was linked to Violet and himself, then there would have to be something that activated the connection. An incantation was unlikely, there were plenty of things that could read minds, or even forcibly remove information from another. For something as powerful as this there would have to be a strong physical connection, and nothing was stronger than blood. Still, that seemed far too easy. An enemy could easily kill him and just let his blood out over the book and gain access. But at this point he didn’t have any other ideas.


    From his pocket he retrieved a small folded knife and released the catch so that the blade flicked out. He drew it over his palm quickly, and calmly, like a surgeon doing a procedure he had done a thousand times before. The cut wasn’t deep, but the blood wept out quickly and he held his hand over the open pages of the book. His blood dripped down on to the pages and were quickly absorbed, staining them. Then after a moment, as he had anticipated, the blood began to disappear from the pages, as if the book was devouring the red liquid.


    For a moment nothing else happened. There was no burst of power or activity. The book simply soaked up his dripping blood, and did nothing. Vincent sighed and took his hand away, cursing that he hadn’t lifted a bandage to press on the wound. Instead he just removed his t-shirt and wrapped it around his palm, pressing tightly on the cut. Then something happened that made him jerk his head up in surprise. He heard a voice.


    “Blood has been given.†It said, the voice was deep and commanding and Vincent’s mind flashed with images of Darth Vader bearing down on him. “Blood has been given.†It said again, more clearly. “Provide your name, spoken freely, from your own mouth.â€

    “Uh…†Vincent said hesitantly. “Vincent Gideon Hallow.†He added quickly.

    “Blood has been given. The name has been given. I bid you greeting, Vincent Gideon Hallow.†The voice said. It was at this point Vincent realised that it wasn’t coming from anywhere in the room, but was speaking directly to his mind, through a telepathic link.


    “…Thaumaturgy.†Vincent said uneasily. “You require the blood to create a link with the living entity. Then the name spoken freely confirms that I am not under any physical or mental persuasion.†The thing about speaking your own name out loud, is it has a power. If another wizard was controlling your mind, even if they knew your name, they wouldn’t quite be able to have you say it in exactly the way you would on your own. It was a subtle magic of life, and in this case it was being used as a security measure.


    “Correct.†The voice responded, and then abruptly silenced once more.

    “Right…so who are you?†Vincent asked.

    “I am not a who.†The voice responded simply.

    “…Right†Vincent said with a sigh. “What are you then?†he asked. There was a long pause.

    “I am knowledge.†It replied. Vincent shook his head in irritation.

    “Can you be more specific?†He asked.


    “I am knowledge within the confines of this vessel.†It said. “All that is recorded, is what I am.â€

    “So…some sort of intellectual spirit?†Vincent suggested.

    “No.†Came the response.

    “Merlin’s beard you’re difficult.†Vincent said as he held his head in his hands. “Are you some kind of…†Vincent lifted his head from his hand. “You’re a Keeper, right?â€

    “Indeed.†The Keeper affirmed.


    Vincent smirked a little a shook his head in disbelief. A Keeper wasn’t really a living entity at all, it was more akin to a computer programme, but a magical one. Back in the old days they were used to compile information and keep a record of it. The thought hadn’t really come naturally to him, the spell was practically unheard of in this day and age. There wasn’t really much requirement for them, not when you had google on your phone. But this helped him. Keepers were essentially all knowing, at least within the confines of their vessel. Whatever was written within the Grimoire was automatically added to the Keeper’s knowledge, with perfect recall. Sort of like the world’s most accomplished librarian.


    “Okay, okay.†Vincent said after his moment of though. “So I know you used to belong to my dad. Are you able to give me information?â€

    “The rite has been done. You are bound, Vincent Gideon Hallow.†The Keeper replied.

    “But what does that mean?†Vincent asked. “Elias Wolfwood Hallow is your current owner, correct?â€

    “No.†The Keeper replied. “Vincent Gideon Hallow is my current owner.â€

    “Oh…well that’s good.†Vincent said with an approving nod. “So how many owners have you had?â€

    “Twelve, currently.†The Keeper replied. “Instructions were left, a thirteenth is also entitled to perform the rite and access my knowledge.â€

    “Violet.†Vincent said instantly, now full on smiling like a child with a new toy. “So…you must have a ton of information. How much?â€


    “That is incalculable.†The Keeper replied. “In terms of volume, the information I hold would require a large library, over 1 million pages of information. However, the information I hold is not widely known. It is fair to say that my value is priceless.â€

    “Well holy shit…†Vincent said, adding a whistle. “This is a lot to process. I don’t really have the time. Let’s see…can you show me what you have on Necromancy?â€

    “Certainly.†The Keeper replied, and the pages of the book flipped on their own to another set of blank pages. Then, slowly, ink began to spill on the pages and formed words, diagrams and notes. Vincent scanned the pages and flicked through them, the entire book was filled with various writings, all of their hand writing different.


    “Well that’s…a lot.†Vincent said as he rubbed his chin. “Okay…show me all entries written by Elias Hallow.â€

    The pages began to re-write themselves until there was only one page of content. The entry was simple enough. In fact Vincent already knew what was written. The entry was regarding the resurrection of corpses. In order to control a corpse, once you have risen it, a Necromancer must use what is often referred to as a “drumâ€. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal drum, it could simply be tapping something off your hip, or clapping, as long as it carried a beat. The idea was to simulate a heartbeat, which created a connection with the corpses and the Necromancer, allowing for manipulation. It was probably one of the most basic lessons of Necromancy.


    “This doesn’t help either.†Vincent sighed. He scanned is eyes over a few notes and scribbles, until he noticed that some of them were ones he didn’t recognize. He was no academic on symbols, but he had a fair idea about them. However he had never seen these strange markings before. “Keeper, are these symbols druidic or something? Where do they come from?â€

    “That information is not known.†The Keeper replied. “However these symbols do appear in other passages.â€

    “Show me.†Vincent asked. The book transformed again and he was left with a two page spread with drawings and writing.


    “This is…†Vincent scanned the pages. “It’s a binding spell. Pretty uh…pretty complicated. Holy shit…â€

    “This ritual is used to suppress the nature of a being from The Void.†The Keeper stated. “However it requires the victim to have a soul, to be mortal.â€

    “Uh…that doesn’t make sense.†Vincent said to the Keeper. “Void creatures don’t have souls.â€

    “Half breeds have the potential to possess a soul.†The Keeper said.

    “Half breeds of what?†Vincent asked

    “An ancient creature. It has many names, and many faces.†The Keeper replied.


    “Well, this is getting me nowhere.†Vincent said with a sigh. Perhaps Violet would have something. He looked across to his window and saw that it was dark outside and the street lamps were on. Time was running out. He closed the Grimoire and put it aside. He already had a circle up so he supposed this was probably the best time to get in touch with Violet. Communicating through The Void wasn’t easy. But he had a connection to Violet. He took his shirt away from his hand and looked at his weeping wound. He had blood. It wasn’t hers, but they were family. She was only his half sister as well. Still, there was a good chance he could get a short message to her. He let some of the blood fall to the floor and then he held his other hand over the droplets on the ground.


    He focused on the blood, took note of the properties it held. Then he focused on his mouth, and his throat. He thought of sound and how it carriedthrough the wind. Then he brought up as many memories of Violet as he could. He built all of this information on top of each other, and then he spoke only a few words, as only a short message was likely to reach her.


    “Violet, I have the key. It belongs to dad.â€

  22. Vincent put his phone back on the table and went to a large wardrobe sitting against one of his walls. He opened it and inside was a small armoury of weapons. He ignored the more brutal implements such as the mace, the axe, and several varieties of swords. Instead he took a simple piece of ash wood, with a leather bound handle and carved to a fine point on the end. Wooden stakes were an effective weapon against vampires of the Midnight Court, but it had to be carved from a white ash tree. He closed the wardrobe and began to gather the rest of his things. He put on his ring, his charm bracelet, and of course he put on his trusty duster. He also opened one of his kitchen drawers and took out a fully loaded p229 Sig Sauer pistol. You could never be too careful. Finally he grabbed his cane and made for the door. 


    When Vincent arrived at Lucia's manor it was mid-afternoon. As he pulled up to the front gate a familiar looking thug came over to the driver window of his El Camino. "Hey Lurch." he said with a grin. 

    "Lady Lucia isn't taking guests right now." Lurch said in almost the exact same tone as last time. 

    "Do we really have to do this dance, Lurch?" Vincent asked. "Look I know she's asleep at this hour but I don't have time to wait for dark."

    "Don't care." Lurch replied. "Lucia said you weren't welcome here any more. She said something about...if you come in then you're breaking the accords, she won't extend hospitality."

    "Well on any other day I'd be down with that but I'm afraid I'm going to have to go in anyway." Vincent said with a smirk, then he leaned his head out of the window and focused his gaze on lurch. "Quiesco" he whispered, and the big guard blinked once, before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Vincent opened his door and got out of the car, climbing over the gate and landing softly on the other side. 


    He walked through the garden and made his way to the front of the house. The guards by the door noticed him and their hands moved for their coats, and he was pretty sure they weren't reaching for their wallets. He held his cane out in front of him and gathered his will. He released it and the guards both flinched and dropped the guns they had pulled out of their holsters, which were now on the floor and red hot. Then with another gesture of his cane he sent out unseen kinetic force, sending the guards crashing back through the front door and left sprawled across the ground in the lobby. He stepped over them without a word and strode down the hall, pulling the Sig from his pocket for extra measure and proceeded cautiously in to the dark home. 


    A quick sweep revealed the ground floor to be empty, and he knew better than to go searching upstairs. Instead he took a door off of the kitchen which lead down in to the basement. No doubt this was where Lucia and her brood would slumber. He moved slowly and as quietly as he could, but he knew that even a sleeping vampire would hear him and that Lucia was no doubt already alerted to his presence. He reached the bottom of the stairs and found himself in a dark room. With an effort of will the end of his cane glowed in an eerie blue light and he held it out in front of him, sweeping it over the darkness. There was nothing quite as cliche as empty coffins, but there were sections of the floor decorated with lavish pillows and blankets, like some sort of far eastern brothel. The various makeshift beds were recently disturbed, and no doubt the vampires were still in the room, waiting in the shadows. 


    "Lucia, sweetheart." Vincent called out. "Come on out, I'd like a word." There was a hiss in the darkness after he spoke. Then there was a light sound of movement, and he felt the hairs on his neck stand to attention. A blur came out of the darkness and struck him hard in the side, sending him crashing to the floor, his pistol falling somewhere on the ground. Before he could get up he felt a powerful but slender grip around his throat, pulling him up and pinning him to the wall. In the dim blue light he saw the face of a pale young woman, her eyes wide with fury and her fangs bared, as she slowly began to crush his windpipe. Panic set it quickly, but he pushed it down before it could overcome him. he brought his now free hand up and let it connect with her face, and the force hit the female vamp with a crunch, her jaw completely dislodged by the punch, and she reeled back screaming in pain. 


    Now Vincent wasn't a particularly tough guy. He was tall, but skinny. Not in an athletic way but more like a malnourished way. However the ring he wore on his finger was enchanted to take kinetic energy from every tiny movement he made while wearing it. It would accumulate and store that energy until he chose to unleash it, as he had just done. So as a one off, he had punched that vampire with all the power of a small car going along at 40 miles per hour. 


    As she released him Vincent gave a choking cough, before holding his arm out again and forcing his will in to his charm bracelet. The air seemed to snap around him as he formed a curved wall in front of him, a physical barrier of magic to stop any more frontal assaults. The female vamp scrambled to her feet but Vincent pointed his cane at her and it ignited with fire. She hissed again and backed off. The fire illuminated the basement much more vibrantly, and he noticed that there were at least 10 vampires in the room, that he could see in the light. All of them stalked the room, eyeing him with an expression of lustful hunger and venomous anger. "I didn't come here for a fight." He called out. "I just want to talk."


    "I warned you." came a familiar voice from the darkness. It was light and feminine, and sounded more amused than angry. "That one day you would not be able to hide behind the accords, and that on that day I would kill you. I didn't expect it to happen to soon, mind you."

    "Lucia. Cut the shit and face me." Vincent snarled. The dark skinned Countess of the Midnight Court emerged in to the firelight, wearing next only a matching set of red lingerie. The light danced off of her feminine curves and the way she walked was incredibly alluring. Vincent swallowed as he felt a shiver of excitement flow through him. This was no simple vampire glamour, this kind of pull was far stronger than the standard two bit vamp. Lucia was over 200 years old and her power was considerable. Not to mention she was sex on legs and Vincent was a warm blooded heterosexual, which certainly did not help matters. 


    "Vincent you are always so cut and dry." Lucia purred. "Why don't you lower that barrier and come and sit with us. I promise I can make your death quick and painless. In fact you'd probably like it." Vincent gulped. He had no doubt about that, with her skills he'd probably die in ecstasy. Yet he didn't much feel like it all the same. 

    "Sorry, I've got a busy night ahead of me. Maybe another time." He said. 

    "Where's that delightful darkling sister of yours, hm?" Lucia asked as she stepped closer. "She smelled wonderful, I think I'd have happily kept her a few days. All the better to enjoy her more thoroughly."

    "She's busy." Vincent said, a little more forcefully now. He had began to construct walls in his mind, shutting off his desires and keeping the intense pull of the glamour at bay. "I'm here for the key, whatever the hell that is. You've been dealing with a Necromancer lately. She pointed me in your direction, so I want whatever you have."


    "So direct." Lucia said with a smile. "Although I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. I have regular business with many of your kind. I do not tend to ask about the particular fields they practice." Lucia extended her arm, reaching out towards Vincent as if she longed for nothing more than to feel his skin beneath her fingertips. "You're playing a very dangerous game, child. I warned you before. From what I can tell you don't even have a clue of what is really going on. I thought you were supposed to be an investigator."

    "You could say my hand is being forced on this occasion." Vincent replied. He dropped his barrier, keeping it up would only tire him and then he would be able to do nothing when the vampires closed in. However he kept the torch of fire ignited at the end of his cane. "I'm not here on behalf of the Wise, I'm here because our mutual...associate, well she pointed me at you. It's that simple."


    "Oh dear boy, it's nowhere near that simple." Lucia said with a smirk. "For a start, what makes you think this woman is my ally? Think about James, and that ghastly affair with LaChance. I know you mortals are a bit forgetful but it was only a few days past."

    "So she is involved with that." Vincent said with a slight smirk. "I had my suspicions. But you told me her quarrel wasn't with the Midnight Court, it was just with Jimmy."

    "No." Lucia said, shaking her head but she was smiling, enjoying his ignorance. "I told you that LaChance had no quarrel with us. He is simply a pawn in this, much like yourself. Don't you see, child? You're a chess piece, nothing more. If she has sent you to collect something from us, then she must have something to gain from it. If she were my ally then all she would have to do was ask." Lucia's eyes flashed with a predatory look. "That woman is a menace. I would love nothing more than to have her put down."


    "Then help me." Vincent said. 
    "You really need to work on your bargaining technique, child." Lucia said. "I would have thought all that time with the Sidhe would have taught you that much."

    "The Sidhe cannot lie, Lucia." Vincent replied, his tone growing darker. "There bargains are trustworthy, at least." At this Lucia threw her head back and gave a pure and sweet laugh. 
    "Oh, child..." She said as she put her finger to her lips. "The Sidhe are full of tricks, they may not be able to lie but they pepper there words with half-truths and vague wording. They are as devious as can be. At least my kind are direct."

    "Fine, fine." Vincent said with a sigh. "So you want a bargain? Very well. You know what the Necromancer wants, what she has sent me to obtain. What will it cost me?"


    Lucia gave another warm smile and her eyes lit up with excitement. "Well, is true that there are a few things you can offer me. However if I give you what you seek then you must bear the consequences of what comes next. Furthermore, should you survive the ordeal you must give me one thing."

    "Name it already." Vincent said.

    "You will give me your services. One favour, I will pay you of course. However you must do what I ask while you are contracted to me." Lucia came closer, so close that the fire from his cane was surely hot against her skin. "Does that sound reasonable?" Vincent's nostrils flared at the thought. If a Vampire wanted him for a job then it wasn't likely to be anything he'd consider moral. But a life was on the line, and potentially worse if he sat back and did nothing. He gave a heavy sigh. 


    "I have conditions." He said. "First of all, if I do this for you I do it in my own way. I'll get you the result you want, but I use my own methods and you will not question me. Secondly you cannot order me to take a mortal life, or to hurt the innocent or people I care about."

    "And if I refuse your conditions?" Lucia asked. 

    "Then I'll burn you and your brood and then I'll take what I need." Vincent said. As he spoke, however, Lucia made a quick gesture with her hand and the fire from his cane was extinguished. Before he could react she had moved forward like a blur, and she pinned him against the wall. He felt her nails pressed against his throat, and her face was inches from his own. Her scent was sweet and delicate, but more alluring than ever. As she pressed up against him he felt her glamour enveloping him. Her tongue brushed lightly over his neck and he shivered in a pleasure that he had no control over. Then the point of her fangs against his neck sent cold waves through his body. The were so sharp that he barely felt them pierce his neck. Her lips pressed against him as she sucked on the wound, and amidst the sheer terror who still could not shake the overwhelming pleasure of it all. Every fiber of his neanderthal brain urged him to take her, but he was frozen. He could do nothing. 


    And then, as quickly as they had came, the sensations faded in to nothingness and he was left feeling cold and weak. Lucia had released her grip from him, and he had slumped to the floor, his legs giving way. "Y-you're..." he stammered. "You're a-a...wizard."

    "I believe that term was coined by The Order of the Wise, child." Lucia replied. "And I doubt they consider me to be a member. Warlock is probably more appropriate. Or at least I was once upon a time. It is difficult to retain your magic once you become a vampire, as I'm sure you know. But I still have enough skill to extinguish a bit of fire. I suggest you keep that in mind. I could have killed you right now, child. I could have drained you until you were nothing but a dried up husk, and it was sorely tempting. The blood of a practitioner is always more...electrifying."

    "...Why?" Vincent asked, unsure why he was still alive. 

    "Because I have use for you." Lucia replied. "I simply wanted you to understand how in over your head you were. Don't worry about the bite either, when you've been around as long as me you have a great deal of control over who you turn. You would make a wonderful vampire but...I prefer to take the willing."


    Vincent pulled himself to his feet. Lucia had walked in to the darkness and had returned with the pistol he had dropped and handed it to him. He took it and put it in his pocket. He felt stupid, the stake he had carried with him had been no measure of protection at all. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he had grossly underestimated Lucia. As she had just displayed, she was quite the badass. "So you accept then, with the conditions?" Vincent asked. 

    "I do." Lucia replied and she started walking up the stairs. "Come along, child. I will give you what you came for."





    Lucia had lead him to the second floor of the manor and in to a beautifully furnished library room. The walls were covered in book cases, each one completely full. There were comfortable looking leather sofas and a small table with an ornate lamp. Lucia went to one of the book cases and retrieved a very old and worn-looking book. She returned to Vincent and handed it to him. He examined it. The cover was leather bound with strange runes and symbols etched in to it. He opened it to scan the pages but found them all to be blank. There was something about the book that seemed familiar to him, but he couldn't quite place it. "What is it?" He asked. 

    "A Grimoire." Lucia said. "A very old and much coveted one. The contents of it are hidden by very delicate and precise magic. Only the right people are able to unlock it's contents."

    "And who's was it?" Vincent asked. Most magic practitioners had a Grimoire of their own, a place where they could record their own personal finding about magic. This one was quite thick, but he could feel the thrum of magic pulsing from it. No doubt, even with it's size, it was enchanted to hold more pages than would be physically possible. It was quite possible that this book alone was an entire library of information in and of itself.


    "It has been in the possession of many wizards." Lucia explained. "Most recently it belonged to Elias Wolfwood H-"

    "My father..." Vincent interrupted. "...What the fuck are you doing with my father's Grimoire?"

    "If you wanted to know that you should have stipulated it in your bargain, child." Lucia said with a smirk. "Now do you understand why she wants you to have this book? And why the consequences are yours to bear?"

    "Doesn't take a genius." Vincent replied. "She wants something hidden within the book. And she thinks that I'll be able to open it."

    "You or the darkling." Lucia said with a nod. 

    "Do not call my sister that." Vincent growled. 

    "It's not an insulting term, child." Lucia replied. "It's simply a fact. She is from the other side of the mirror, I can smell it on her."


    "I don't care, stop calling her that." Vincent replied. He snapped the book's empty pages shut and pocketed it. "Thanks, I guess. I need to go."

    "Remember our deal, Vincent." Lucia reminded him. "In a month to today's date I will require your services. If you betray me I will make sure you suffer."

    "Right." Vincent said with a sigh. "Well I'll be seeing you, then."

    "Goodbye, child." Lucia said as he left. "and tread carefully."





    Within the hour Vincent was back at his apartment. He had discarded his duster and was sitting once more on his sofa with his father's Grimoire laid out on the table in front of him. He had been staring at it for ten minutes. While it may have looked like he was doing nothing, he had been extending his will unto the book, examining it thoroughly. It was potent with magical energy, layers upon layers of enchantments designed to protect it's contents. He had only seen magic like this on the rarest of occasions, and while he knew enough to understand it's complexity, he couldn't even hope to perform such delicate magic. Furthermore it was not something he could reverse engineer, nor did he think anyone could. The only way to unlock it's secrets would be to do as his father had intended. Lucia had implied that only he or Violet could open it, and so the magic was likely tied to his own bloodline. 


    Perhaps if he had known the slightest thing about his father, then it would have been more apparent. Elias Wolfwood Hallow had left his family and disappeared before Vincent was even 10 years old. When he did disappear, he left behind a little girl who had been taken in by their mother. His father had an affair with another woman at some point, and the two had bore a child. It was difficult to process as a young boy, but with his years he grew to understand these things. He did not blame or condemn his father for that action. After all, Violet was his family all the same. Sure when they were children it hadn't been easy but it could have been worse all the same. When he was 10 Vincent had began to discover his gift for magic. It had come as a bit of a surprise to him. 


    He never really knew about magic. His father had certainly never practised it around him. He knew of Faeries and monsters. One of his earliest memories was of playing with pixies in the garden at their home in Illinois. His father had chased them off when he had saw, and had warned Vincent to stay away from Faeries. He never really thought about it at the time, but his father couldn't have been more right on that one. Hindsight is a bitch. "Shit, pops..." Vincent said with a sigh. "What have you gotten us in to?"

  23. Vincent stepped out on to the side walk and sighed, his breath visible in the cold L.A night. He began walking swiftly down the street. He was certain the cops would be by soon and he wanted nothing to do with them. He'd never had anything against the L.A.P.D as such but he'd found in the past that they struggled to buy his particular explanation as to things that had happened. That behaviour was typical of mortals. They go on about how there is no evidence of the supernatural, and yet they encounter it almost every day of their lives.


    When mortals encounter something they can't explain they naturally try to make sense of it. When they encounter a ghost, or a vampire attack, or evidence of magic they lie to themselves because it's easier than facing up to the truth that there's a whole world out there that they haven't got a clue about. So they convince themselves that it was a hallucination, or that something equally unlikely had happened. It's not even the small stuff either. News channels report stories where all witnesses were reported to have hallucinated a monster attack due to a gas leak or something. Because methane is well known for it's ability to have people imagine that a 10ft tall werewolf gutted a family of three in an alley way.


    However there are times where people cannot simply chalk things up to a bad dream, as much as they may want to. The Adaro had been dealt with but not before he'd managed to end one girls life, and scarred the life of another. Although perhaps Vincent was partly accountable for that. He took out his phone and navigated through his call list, found the number he wanted and called it. He put the phone to his ear and it rang a couple of times before a female voice answered.


    “Chelsea.†Vincent said

    “Uh...Mr. Hallow?†Chelsea's voice asked.

    “We need to talk.†Vincent said. “You know where my office is, right? Can you come over there right away?â€

    “†she hesitated. “O-okay. I'll be there soon.â€

    “Thank you.†Vincent said before hanging up and pocketing the phone. Then he began the walk to his office. All in all it took him around a half hour. He stopped by a Burger King and got himself a bacon cheeseburger and a sprite, depleting the last five bucks he had to his name. When he arrived at his office Chelsea was already waiting for him and he took out his keys and let her in.


    After closing the door he turned on the lamp by his desk and took off his duster. “Take a seat.†He said to Chelsea and offered her the chair by his desk and he sat on the other side, putting his feet up on the desk. “I suppose you know about Rebecca?â€

    “Uh...yeah.†Chelsea replied. Her voice was a little hoarse, like she'd been crying.

    “ were right about her boss. He is a vampire.†Vincent said. “But he didn't kill Rebecca. In much as he is a dirt bag he probably wasn't hurting her at all.â€


    “He was biting her†Chelsea said.

    “True.†Vincent replied. “But in fairness when we eat an animal we kill it and cut it in to pieces. He looked after his girls. In fact he was trying to hard to keep them off of drugs that it got him in some trouble. Something else killed Rebecca, and tried to make it look like he did it. We got the guy so he won't be hurting anyone else. I was too late though, I'm sorry.â€


    Chelsea was quiet for a moment. It was a difficult conversation and for Vincent it certainly wasn't the first. It never got any easier though. Death is natural and it will come for us all, but it's never pleasant. It's always messy, always undignified and always causes grief to people around the victim. Coping with that is hard enough without having to deal with the existence of monsters and magic. But Chelsea would never be able to allow herself to ignore that any more. She had Soulgazed Vincent, and that experience would be with her until the day she died, just as it would Vincent.


    “That night...†Chelsea said finally. “I...saw-â€

    “I don't want to know.†Vincent interrupted. “I'm sorry that happened, I hadn't intended it to. But it did and I can't take it back I'm afraid. I just wanted you to know that Rebecca's killer is gone, I figured you deserved at least that much.â€

    “Thank you.†Chelsea said with a slight nod. “ much more do I owe you?â€

    “Nothing.†Vincent replied simply. He really could have done with more cash but it just didn't feel right. “You hired me to find out if Jimmy was a vampire and I'd figured that part out within the hour. Everything else...well that wasn't part of the deal.â€


    “I see.†Chelsea said with a nod. “Well, thank you for doing that for Rebecca. Um...what happens now?â€

    “You go back to your life, and I go back to mine.†Vincent said. “It will be hard for you from now on. Your eyes are open so you'll start to notice the things that everyone else doesn't. But...there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to try to work past it.â€

    “Couldn't†Chelsea hesitated again. “Couldn't you make me forget? Like...with magic?†Vincent gave a short sigh, and considered it for but only a moment before shaking his head.


    “I could.†He admitted. “But I won't. Magic doesn't solve problems. I could get inside your head and hide away the memories...and maybe you would be fine if I managed to avoid damaging your psyche. But you could also end up much worse off. Paranoia, hallucinations. Memories aren't supposed to be tampered with and they...they try to cling on. You don't want that.â€

    “I don't want to keep feeling like this either.†Chelsea replied.


    “Look, Chelsea.†Vincent took his feet off the desk and leaned forward, looking her in the eyes. It was fine to do so now. “If I take away your memories of the past few days then you won't remember that Rebecca died, or the how and why. I take away all your memories of Rebecca? Do you know how many gaps that will leave in your mind? There are...laws that we magic people have. One of them is that we don't go poking around in people's heads. I'm sorry but I won't do that.â€


    “...Okay.†Chelsea said finally. “Thank you Mr. Hallow.â€

    “Look...if you're finding it hard to cope in future...give me a call.†Vincent stood up and walked her to the door of his office. “No charge, of course.†He added. Chelsea only nodded, and then she left and Vincent was alone again. He grabbed his coat and made for the door again, this time to go home.


    --- --- ---


    Three days had passed and Vincent lay on the sofa in his apartment, holding a paperback romance novel in one hand as he read it. His hair was damp and lay limp against his bare shoulders. He had showered and shaved, and the scent of apples that his hair was giving off seemed a little intense to his nostrils. He should probably have cared more that his body reacted that way to the smell of cleanliness but he was far too engrossed in Baroness Vivier and her heaving bosom.


    He hadn't heard from Violet, nor did he expect to. He hadn't seen her in 10 years before and the other night didn't change their relationship in any way. They had never been the best of friends by any means, but they had got along at times. In his younger years Vincent had been much more arrogant, and his sister...well she had always been a bit of a mystery to him. She came in to his life only a short time before his gifts began to manifest, and hers had followed shortly afterwards.


    It was difficult at first. To learn that his father had loved another woman, and bore a child with her. He was much too young to be learning that his father was not perfect. It all seemed quite silly now, as he neared 30. He didn't blame anyone, and the situation didn't bring him any pain. His mother had even welcomed Violet and loved her as her own. It would have been much harder if she had not been the woman she was, someone capable of loving any child. Vincent had never bore any animosity towards his sister either, not really. He had been much too fascinated with his own emerging powers. To him if magic was a drug, then it was heroin and he had immersed himself in it.


    Something had been troubling him though. Violet disliked that he was part of the Wise, and that was understandable to a degree. They weren't exactly a forgiving bunch, and their ruling was absolute. They did not involve themselves in mortal affairs but had declared themselves judge, jury and executioner when it came to policing the magically gifted. There was a time where Vincent would have wanted nothing to do with them either, hell sometimes he still didn't.


    Yet he had grown to agree to their laws. He understood them as a necessity. It wasn't about right or wrong, good or evil. It was about what had to be done. He thought that Violet might have understood that, after all she had always been the more logical thinker when they were younger. He had been so foolish when they were younger, and she had never missed an opportunity to remind him so. Surely she would have been happy that he had become more...ordered.


    Vincent was pulled from his thoughts when his phone rattled across his coffee table, vibrating aggressively. He picked it up and put the phone to his ear. “What?†He asked into the phone.

    “I believe 'who' is more appropriate, Vincent.†The feminine voice on the other end said.

    “Fine. Who the fuck are you?†Vincent asked, his tone one of annoyance.

    “That is the challenge I am posing to you now.†The voice said. “You are an investigator after all. I like games, Vincent. Three days have passed and, frankly, I'm growing rather bored. Apparently you need some more motivation in order to do your job, and so now I am challenging you. A person will die tonight unless you stop it from happening.â€


    “Do you think this is funny?†Vincent asked with a frown

    “Oh very much so.†The voice purred. “Midnight holds the key but the door lies within the mirror. Good luck...Vincent. Gideon. Hallow.†Vincent's eyes widened with terror. There was a click as the person on the other end hung up. He sat up from his sofa and fumbled around his untidy apartment for a t-shirt. Eventually he pulled a Ramones T-shirt over his head and went through his phone to find Violets number.


    The woman had known his name. His entire name. Shit.

  24. The hour had become late once again as Vincent and Violet pulled up outside Aether for the second night in a row. Vincent pulled a couple of vials out of his pocket and tossed one of them to Violet. "Drink that." He said as he twisted the cap off his own and swallowed it's contents. 

    "I don't take drinks from strange men." Violet muttered, shaking the vial as she stared at it's liquid contents, "What is it?"

    "It's a warming potion." Vincent explained. "It'll run you a little hot, but not dangerously so. Just in case that Adaro decides to 'ghost' you. It won't totally stop the chill but it'll keep you sharp enough to bounce back."

    "I run plenty hot enough." Violet replied, knowing her body's temperature was a lot higher than a human's. Nevertheless, she drank the liquid. Having a ghost move through you is an unpleasant experience, and if her brother's little potion would help at all, that was fine by her. "What's the plan?" She asked.


    "Alright, so..." Vincent began as he clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "I'm not much of an actor so I'm just going to be my usual, delightful self. You shift in to Giuseppe and when we head in you treat me a little rough. Try and get us somewhere private with LaChance and you can tell him you found me snooping around, and you think I know about their operation. Probably best to be a little vague, we don't know if Giuseppe is in on the whole magic deal. But we know they're in the drug business so we can lean on that. The club should be pretty full, I doubt LaChance would risk hurting me in public. We see what he spills and take it from there. If you can get some of his DNA I can use thaumaturgy to shut him down, but I'll need some quiet. Maybe you could toss me somewhere as a 'prisoner'. Then you can keep him occupied while I work the spell." Vincent fished three more vials from is pocket and handed them to Violet. "If the Adaro acts then you'll have a better shot. I've already funnelled my will in to them, so just toss them at it. One at a time, okay? If you do all three it could be...messy."


    "Good to know." Violet put the vials into her inside jacket pocket, "Ready when--" And as she spoke, she quickly shifted into Arturo Giuseppe, "--you are." She finished, ending the sentence with his voice. "Here, if I don't do this now, you won't bruise in time." She added, and then sucker-punched Vincent in the eye. Vincent held his hand over his throbbing eye and glared at his sister with his good one, but said nothing. His flaring nostrils said it all. He opened the door and got out of the car, closing it behind him and waited for Violet to grab him and escort him in to the building. 

    "Oh please, that was a love tap." Violet smiled and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and pulled him into the club. The music was loud and people were dancing everywhere. Nobody really took notice of the scruffy, beaten man being pulled through to the back by the greaseball thug. They came to a door at the back, Violet knocked on it, opened the door and walked in, closing it behind them both. LaChance was sat at a desk at the far side of a large room. He frowned when he saw Vincent.
    "Mr. Hallow, what are you doing here?" LaChance asked, "Oh, Arturo, don't tell me you've hurt Mr. Hallow unduly?"
    "He was snoopin' around, and he knows about our plans." Violet replied, and threw Vincent forwards onto the ground. She pulled her pistol which she had morphed to appear like Giuseppe's, and aimed it at the back of her brother's head, pressing the barrel firmly against him. "What should we do?" She asked.
    LaChance barely reacted at all to the news. Vincent suspected that this guy had a killer poker face, he couldn't read his intentions at all. After a short pause LaChance held up his hand to Violet and gave a very warm smile. "Please, Arturo." He said calmly. "Allow Mr. Hallow to stand up and explain himself. After all he is only a P.I, not a police officer. We can perhaps reach an understanding." Violet dutifully lowered her gun from Vincent but kept it in her hand, and Vincent stood up straight, tapping his cane twice on the floor. 
    "Much obliged, LaChance." Vincent said as he composed himself. "I'm not a police consultant. It's not my job to arrest anybody."
    "Indeed." LaChance replied. "However, your partner who was with you the other night. She is a police officer, no?"
    "A fellow P.I" Vincent corrected. "She does work for the L.A.P.D sometimes. I was working with her on a separate matter as you know."
    "Yes, the incident and Jimmy's place. A real shame." LaChance replied, lightly placing his fingers together as he leaned back on his chair. "However I'd like to know what you think you know about my business practices, and that of my good friend Arturo."
    "Drugs." Vincent replied coolly. "You guys are bringing in product wholesale. This club is probably just a front. Not exactly rocket science once you get pointed in the right direction."
    "And who has pointed you?" LaChance asked. 
    "Rachel, actually." Vincent replied simply. "Well, in a round about way."
    "Who is this Rachel?" LaChance asked. 
    "She was the girl who was murdered last night." Vincent explained. "I've been following the trail, and it's lead to you." He stared LaChance down, hoping for him to break, but the man did not. Instead he simply raised an eyebrow curiously, and calmly shrugged his shoulders. 
    "I am afraid you are misinformed. I was in Aether the whole night, I had nothing to do with that incident." LaChance replied. 
    "Well that's true enough." Vincent replied. "Thing is...the thing that did kill her made an effort to make it look like someone else did it. Fangs marks in the cop is going to think much about that. It has me thinking though...whoever ordered the hit must know about the things in this city that kill with fangs. But to set them up...well that wasn't for the benefit of the L.A.P.D was it? I reckon you probably have them in your pocket anyway. Guys like you always do."
    Finally LaChance's expression broke. It was only for a moment, but Vincent had caught the look in his eyes. It was the tiniest glimpse of surprise. That meant he knew about their world. Otherwise he'd have just rolled his eyes and pegged Vincent as a nut-case. "Unless you have solid evidence I fail to see how I am involved." LaChance replied. "But that does not explain why you were snooping around Arturo. What are you up to Mr. Hallow?"
    "Well I think..." Vincent took a step forward and tapped his cane on the floor once more. "...I think Jimmy, dirt-bag though he is, really looks after his girls. I think he was less than happy when he found out your crew were supplying them. I think he threatened you, and I think you don't like being threatened, LaChance. I think you sent him a message. You told him to back the fuck off, and you killed one of his girls. And you did it in a way that made him look guilty, just for a little insurance. Does that sound about right?"
    LaChance's nostrils flared, betraying his otherwise calm expression. Vincent smirked wickedly, pleased that he was getting to him. Part of him wanted to roast the guy on the spot, but he thought better of it. He waited, and LaChance finally spoke. "I think Mr. Hallow has had a stressful few days. It would be rude of me not to allow him to rest while he is in my hospitality." LaChance said with a smile. "Arturo, kindly escort Mr. Hallow in to the next room. Restrain him, and make sure he's knocked out. I cannot risk doing anything while there are people downstairs. We will deal with him when the club closes."
    "Alright," Violet picked Vincent up by his hair and led him out.
    When they were in the next room and Violet had let him go, Vincent held his head in pain and scowled at her. "You didn't have to pull my hair!" he whispered as he started looking around the room. 
    "You wanted it to be believable." Violet retorted, "Would you have liked a palanquin instead?"
    "Bite me." Vincent replied irritably. "Look you better get back. I'll have a look around in here and find something. Just keep him talking."
    "Don't tempt me." Violet replied with a toothy grin, but as she walked out, she looked back at her brother, "Be careful." And she left.
    Vincent examined the room. It was small and full of old boxes, probably just a storage room. He quietly moved some things around, trying to find something he could use. He began to get the impression that LaChance didn't come in here very often. Finding something to use for a spell did not look very hopeful at this point. He sighed and rubbed his chin, listening to the dull thumping bass coming from the nightclub. Finding nothing of use he started thinking of other options. There was a reason the Adaro was linked to LaChance. Lot's of powerful spirits could operate on their own, or were summoned by others. Usually if it was tied to someone it was a survival thing. Most likely, he determined, it was so that the Adaro couldn't be banished back to The Void. This meant the banishing potions were likely to be useless, even if they would normally be effective. 
    He channelled his will through his cane, and the handle lit up in a cool blue light. He waved it around the room, trying to see if there was something he had missed. It was only then that he spotted it. In the back of the room there was an old gym bag. He opened it up and looked inside. He pulled out a pair of tennis shorts and a pair of white socks. With a tentative sniff he confirmed that they had been used. Shivering in disgust he laid them down on the floor and fumbled in his pocket for the piece of chalk he had. He drew a circle on the floor around the garments and took a deep breath. "This better work..." he sighed as he held out his hand and pushed his will in to the circle, feeling a small hum of magic as the circle activated. He rubbed his hands together and then closed his eyes, extending his will outwards again. 
    In his mind, slowly he began to broaden his senses. His will pushed out, and very quickly he made a connection. Thaumaturgy was ideal for magic over long distances. It was elegant and much more powerful, but it required more in return. Since LaChance was in the next room it hadn't taken him long to find the link and focus on it. He could feel LaChance's energy in his mind. It was cool and confident. While it held no real talent for magic, he could feel something coiled around it. It was as if a dark hand was choking him, restricting him from moving. He guessed this was the Adaro that was latched on to him. He began to analyse the relationship between the Adaro and it's host. Their bond slowly materialised in his head like a detailed road map. The Adaro was indeed a spirit of The Void, that much was clear. He sensed that the creature was tying itself to LaChance's desires. Not just any desires of course, but his dark desires. 
    Not only that but the Adaro reinforced them, made them a stronger presence within LaChance. The more he used the Adaro to enact violent acts, the more he would find himself desiring to do so. It was a vicious cycle that was incredibly common with dark magic. This was why Vincent knew the Law of Magic were necessary, even if enforcing them often seemed cruel. Using dark magic left a sort of stain on a person's soul. The more they used it, the worse it got. He often considered how easily it could begin. For a young wizard to subtly change their school teacher's mind to get a slightly better score on a test seemed harmless enough. However it was the slipperiest of slopes. At any rate this information gave Vincent power. If the Adaro was attached via angry and violent emotions, then all he had to do was gather his own emotions, ones of peace and forgiveness. 
    Vincent summoned his emotions in his mind. He thought of the people in his life who had wronged him, who had made him angry. He thought of Violet, and the many times she had angered him both big and small. He thought of their mentor when they had grown up, and how hard he had been on them at times. He thought of men in shadows, judging him as he lay helpless on his knees. And then he thought of a beautiful, graceful woman with long, flowing, white hair with lips an icy blue colour, and eyes as emerald green as his own. He thought about all of the anger he felt towards these people...and then he let it all go. He forgave each of the transgressions in turn, feeling peace build up inside of him until it was about to burst. He lingered on the white haired woman though. Try as he might, he could not forgive her. Never. Instead he removed her from his thoughts and gathered up all he had and sent it towards LaChance. No sooner had he done so than he heard noises of a struggle next door. 
    If what he had done had worked, then the Adaro would have been forcibly removed from LaChance. No doubt it would be extremely pissed about that, and it would take physical form and unleash it's fury upon Violet. Vincent stood up and gripped his cane, making a run to barge through the door to kick some ass, and with any luck, not die in the process.