"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Read Part Seven here

Shaking with rage, I lifted the boy from the filthy rain puddle he had been left in, brushing wet hair from his face.  I whispered his name, gently using my fingertips to pry open his eyes.  The pupils were fixed and dilated, turning his irises into twin black holes.  He was dying, right there in my arms.  I could feel him teetering on the edge, right to the point of expiration I had been before Athena turned me.  What did I do?  Could I open my veins right here and turn him into a creature like me?  I had no idea if I even possessed that strength yet.

Panic gripped me, and I hated myself fiercely right there and then.  You fucking idiot, running off like that.  You don't know the first goddamn thing about the world you've been reborn into, and look at what you have done.  You have gotten this loyal, faithful child killed.  If the sun could have killed me, I think that for a black minute or so there I would have waited for it to rise.

No.  There had to be something I could do.  Call an ambulance?  Bring him up to the hotel?  Calling an ambulance was pretty much out of the question; any vampire can lick the wounds he leaves on a victim after feeding and close them, healing them up so they look like nothing more than an ugly bruise.  But these marks were left by another...and I could only close the ones I myself inflicted.  If Stefan went to the hospital, twin punctures in his throat and veins drained of blood...no.  Out of the question.

Turn him.  Give him your Blood and make him like you.

I reminded myself that he was a Familiar, that he was stronger than the Quick.  Maybe I could get him up to the room if I ran fast enough, moving like a blur through the crowded lobby and up the stairs.  He could rest there.  Maybe. 

Decide, Damien, and decide fast.

That was when I saw him.

Not many can creep up on one of us, except of course for those of our own kind.  So immediately I tensed, baring my fangs.  My face contorted into a hideous death mask, eyes blazing.  And in that instant I learned a power I didn't previously know I had...with sickening popping noises, my fingers elongated, nails stretching into claws.  

"I'm not the guy who hurt him," he told me, a light accent edging his English.  "But I am pretty sure I know who did."

My senses leapt out invisibly, taking everything in.  He was no vampire.  His heart beat strong and steady in his chest, and his lungs pulled and released air.  A stab of guilt shot through me...showing myself like this, exposing my nature to one of the Quick, was a crime among my kind.  

Despite my appearance, he took a step closer.  He was young and slender, not skinny, but sleek.  If I hadn't heard his voice, I might have initially taken him for a girl.  He had tawny, almond-shaped eyes that seemed to glitter even in the dark alleyway, watching me from under a wild mane of thick, dyed blue hair.  He was wearing a long vinyl jacket, skin tight pants, and knee-high leather boots with ridiculously high heels.  His partially see-through tank-top had blue leopard spots, almost making it look like the pattern was part of his pale skin.  A giant set of headphones was around his long neck.  "I shouldn't have followed you like that," he said, "but when you blew by me like that I was curious.  Bad habit, that.  Someday it might kill me."  He flashed a white grin.

His nonchalant manner kept me on my guard.  I didn't back down.  After all...he was saying that he felt me run by him.  How?  I could move fast enough to be invisible to the Quick.

"Look, I might be able to help.  If you'll let me."  He nodded down at Stefan.  

Slowly, I straightened up.  "How?  How can you help me?"

"I know some vamps," he replied casually, the same way someone might say I have some gay friends, like it was nothing.  "They might be able to help him.  I know they've got some stuff for quick transfusions."

I narrowed my eyes.  "How far?"

"Not far," he said noncommittally.  "But first I have to ask which kind you are.  I mean, are you one of the blood-drinkers, or one of the soul-takers?  These guys don't mix well with the soul-taking crowd."

Soul-takers?  I had no idea what he was talking about.  "Blood-drinker," I said quietly, looking back down at Stefan again.  "Please.  Can you help him or not?"

The blue-haired boy flashed me a wry grin.  "Aw that is sweet.  You are really worried about him."  He nodded suddenly.  "Yeah, sure.  Got nothing better to do tonight."  He gave me an address and told me to let him call ahead.  "I need to let them know you are coming."

He took out a smartphone and started speaking to someone in French, nodding.  The glow of the screen lit up his hair in the dark, making it glow an eerie electric blue.  After a few minutes he nodded and hung up.  "Yeah.  They'll do it.  They owe me a solid.  Course you know this means now you owe me a solid."  To my surprise he poked me in the chest with his finger.

All of it--his casual attitude, his lack of fear or surprise--confused me.  I just stared at him like an idiot, the rain beating at my face.  I didn't even realise that my face and claws had returned to their normal human state.  

He smiled slyly.  "You know you are kinda hot when you drop the whole scary vamp 'tude.  I'm already starting to think of ways you can pay me back."  He laughed at this, and shook rain from his mane of hair.  "C'mon. Get your little boyfriend there.  You run faster than I do.  I'll catch up."

I nodded again, scooping Stefan up in my arms and pressing him protectively against my chest.  Without a word, I ran, blurring past the wild, blue-haired boy out into the street, streaking between the traffic.  As I raced, my head crowded with questions, but I swatted them all aside.  There was nothing that couldn't be answered later.  All the same, I suddenly found myself wishing Athena was there, wishing so hard it hurt.

Holding Stefan close, I pushed myself harder, summoning every ounce of strength I had...and to my amazement I awoke another power.  I was literally flying, my feet no longer touching the ground.

And then, I was there.

I had to stop to scan the house numbers, and to human eyes it must have looked like I just appeared out of nowhere, a boy cradled in my arms.  Fortunately, the street was empty, and lightless as well.  No one was about and none of the street lamps seemed to be working.  "Hold on, Stefan," I whispered, searching for the right address.  "Just hold on."

"Over here," she said, speaking in the eerie sing-song voice we used when we wished to be unheard by the Quick.  I glanced around until I saw her, standing in the darkened entrance of a basement doorway.  "Bring him to me."

I nodded, crossing the vacant street towards her.  I understood how foolish all of this was.  I was in a city I didn't know, and my Familiar has just been attacked by an unknown vampire.  I was following directions from a Quick I knew nothing about, a Quick who apparently knew more about my kind than I did...and now I was getting aid from a vampire I knew nothing about.  My Sire must have been shaking her head in disappointment wherever she currently was.  But what else was there for me to do?  I wasn't prepared to let Stefan die for my stupidity.

"Hello," I said to her.

"Hello," she replied.  She looked me up and down, her eyes glowing faintly from the shadows.  She looked at Stefan.  "Your Familiar is nearly gone.  We will need to act quickly."  She gestured at the doorway behind her.  "Welcome to my House.  Enter freely, and of your own will."

Oh great, I thought darkly, a vampire that likes to quote Dracula.

I nodded, and carried Stefan inside.

Narrow stairs led down into the basement, and the well-worn stone steps were old.  So too were the cellars, a nest of them supported by arches and vaulted ceilings.  The girl swept by me, beckoning for me to follow, and I did.  Ahead of us, from down a narrow hall, came the pale white of fluorescent light.  She moved towards it.

The hall opened into what looked like a make-shift hospital, or underground clinic.  There were a a trio of narrow tables in the centre of the room, one of which was already being set up for transfusion.  I watched them suspend a plastic bag of blood from the IV rack.  "I don't know his blood type..." I stammered.

There was laughter around me, not just the girl, but also from the young man hanging the blood.  "AB," the man said.  "I smelled it the moment you brought him in."

"You are a young one, aren't you."  The girl said.  Her voice was flat and emotionless, and I couldn't tell if it was meant as a jibe or not.

The man took Stefan from me and laid him out on the table.  He shook his head in what looked like disgust.  I wondered who he was disgusted with, the attacker, or me for letting it happen.  Maybe I was just projecting my own self disgust on him.  As I watched, beating myself up, he fed a line into Stefan's arm, and the red blood started to flow.

The girl appeared beside me.  "It will take time now, for him to heal."

"Who are you?"  The man asked, whirling around.  I saw a flicker of red in his eyes, and felt the warning hint of danger.  "Why haven't you presented yourself?"

I stared blankly at him.  "Presented?"

The two exchanged glances, and the woman put her hand on my arm.  "How old are you, Fledgling?  And how is it the one who Sired you told you none of these things?"

I looked between the two of them.  "I was Sired less than six weeks ago.  I am in the Clan Tenebrati, in the Raven's Claw..."

"One of Athena's brood?"  The male asked, drawing closer.  

"She is my Sire, yes."

"Athena is your Sire?"  The woman's eyebrows shot up. "I find it hard to believe she would release one of her own into the world without a proper education first.  The Mother Lioness is ever so protective of her cubs."

"And you have a stench about you," the male added, leaning just inches from my face and taking a deep whiff of me.  "Something old and unclean, I think."

"What is your name?"  The woman asked.

"My name is Damien Draegonne, and I am telling you the truth."  I didn't like where this was going, and was mentally assessing my position.  I was in their lair, and Stefan was in no condition to be moved.  It was two against one.  In short, the odds were all very much against me coming out on top of this if it went bad.  "I was sent here because that blue-haired kid thought you could help.  I am not looking for trouble."

"Draegonne?"  The male stepped even closer, so that our noses were almost touching.  He said my name slowly, like he didn't believe it.  "Sind Sie von der Nacht Palast?"

I stared, caught off guard.  The Night Palace.  Twice in one night.  That could not be coincidence.  He must have seen the look of recognition in my eyes because he snatched me by the throat, showing his fangs.  I unsheathed mine as well, ready for a fight.

"Bad time then?"

The male released me, snarling over my shoulder at the blue-haired boy.  

"Sorry to be late.  'The Dead travel fast' but the rest of us need to deal with traffic."  He moved around us towards the table, looking at Stefan.  "Will the kid pull through then?"

"What did you get us into this time, Kit Kat?"  She was speaking to the blue-haired boy, but her cold eyes never left me.  "This one comes stinking of lost things better left forgotten."

The boy, 'Kit Kat,' shrugged.  "You lot owed me big time, now our slate is clean.  That is what matters here, I think.  Besides," he winked at me.  "I like this one.  So handsome and all devoted to his little Blood Doll there.  I think I might play with him awhile."

I yanked away from the male vampire, staring between the three of them.  "Listen, I am not ungrateful here, but who are you people?  I understand about ten percent of what is going on."

The girl frowned, then straightened up to her full height.  "I am Noetia, Damien Draegonne of the Tenebrati.  And this is my Brother in the Blood, Roman.  Noetia and Roman Drachen."  She emphasised the surname, never taking her eyes from mine.  "That name, and its variations, is common to those in our Blood Line.  We are of the Order of the Dragon."

I nodded, though with all the revelations of the night whirling in my head, I couldn't fully grasp the weight she was putting on the name.  I knew of the Order of the Dragon from Athena, as I knew a bit about all the other Blood Lines.  I knew they were strong in Eastern Europe, that they had a long and bloody history, and that they had a penchant for Embracing human nobles into their Blood Line.  That was all I could remember.

"I am very grateful to you both," I said carefully.  "Really I am."

Kit Kat cleared his throat.  "Moi, handsome.  Grateful to moi. I am the guy who called in his markers tonight."

I nodded impatiently.  "Yes, grateful to you all.  And I am sorry I didn't present myself or whatever.  I had to leave my clan quickly...to see to business here.  I didn't realise it was customary to present yourself to the local vampire population."

Noetia frowned, glancing at Roman.  He was having none of it, and continued glaring at me.  "More than just customary.  If you don't present yourself, we might just assume you are another Outcast."  He narrowed his eyes.  "And I am not convinced you aren't...you smell of the Raven's Claw, yes.  But there is a foulness there as well."

Harot.  Harot's Blood.  After all these years he can still sense it.

"And don't try to pretend you don't know what the Night Palace is, little Fledgling.  I saw it in your eyes."  Roman finished, his voice icy.

Feint, I told myself.  I turned and looked at Kit Kat.  "And you?  We haven't been introduced either."

He leaned against the table where Stefan lay, grinning at me. "Kit Katsuyama, at your service."  His grin broadened and he winked.  "And if you need servicing, let me know."

I tried to ignore him.  "You said you knew who did this to Stefan?"

"I said I might," he looked over at Noetia and Roman.  "I spotted one of the Nikolea and his group in that area earlier."

Roman sneered.  "Outcast scum."

Noetia nodded cooly.  "He must have smelled the Tenebrati on your Familiar, Draegonne."

I looked at her.  "Why?  What makes you say that?"

Roman scoffed.  "This Fledge really doesn't pay attention."  He spoke slowly to me, as if addressing a child.  "Tensions have been flaring, Little Fledge.  Your Clan and the Outcasts are pretty much at War.  We all may be soon."

I nodded at this, recalling the whispers I had heard in the clan hall.  I cursed myself again for bringing Stefan here, looking at him lying so pale on the table.  So much was going on I needed to understand.  And Harot seemed to be part of it.  Biting my lower lip, I decided to roll the dice, and looked directly at Roman Drachen.  "You mentioned the Night Palace.  You were right...I had heard the name before, but the first time was earlier tonight.  That's why it surprised me.  What is it?  Why did you bring it up?"

Roman looked at Noetia, and she furrowed her brow at me.  "You really don't know?"

I nodded.  "I really don't."

Roman sighed.  "The Night Palace once was held by those of our Blood, Noetia and mine, I mean.  He ruled the Black Forest from its walls.  Upon being Embraced into the Order of the Dragon, as Noetia told you was common, he changed his surname and that of his mortal descendants to a variation of 'Dragon.'  Noetia and I are Drachen.  Drakulea was the name assumed by one of our more famous Brothers in the Blood.  This Dragon fell, however, and for his treachery was made Outcast.  He was exiled, and his Night Palace forfeit."

Recognition dawned on my features.  "Harot?  His name was Harot?"

"You just don't listen, do you," Roman snapped, a sneer on his face.  "'Harot' was the name he used before joining us in the Blood.  The ruler of the Night Palace, and the mortal family that served him there, was called 'Draegonne.'"

It took everything I had not to scream.      

Catch Part Nine here.    





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