WitD3: Chapter 43

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 43

 

I made it back to the Sanctuary right before nightfall. The sunset sky was still bright red, so most of the Disavowed were in their pajamas. I didn’t know their names, and I didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but it was a huge relief to be around other vampires.

I finally found Michael leaning in the open doorway of the common room. He stared through the rolling picture on the television, lost in thought.

I didn’t know where to begin, so I said, “Hey.”

Michael yawned, deep circles under his eyes. “Hey, Tobias.” He jerked in surprise then spun toward me, his eyes wide. “Toby? Sweet bloody Jesus, where in the hell have you been?”

I took a step back at his intensity. “What? Why, what happened?’

Michael look at me as though this was the most outrageous thing he’d ever heard. “What happened? You’ve been missing for over a week, that’s what happened.”

I made a face. “What? No. I just left this morning.” Even as I spoke, I knew he was right and I was wrong.

“No,” he said, slow and deliberate, “a security camera caught you jumping off the roof of a hospital nine days ago. They didn’t find a body or any blood, but you were gone. I’ve filed a missing persons report, and everything. Hell, enough time’s passed, the cops told me that you were most likely dead.”

I closed my eyes as I shook my head. My life had gotten way too weird. “Well, I’m fine. Do I need to call somebody, or something?”

Michael shrugged. “Maybe Sebastian? I know they said they were going to question him.”

I thought about this then nodded. “Yeah. If I ever get murdered, he’d be the first person I’d look at.”

Michael passed his hand over his face. “You’ve missed so much. Your trial, for starters.”

My blood ran colder as I braced for the worst. “Is it over? Did they convict me?”

“No. The judge recused himself, claiming some sort of conflict of interest.”

“What? What conflict? What does that mean? Did they move the trial again?”

“No, they dismissed all charges.”

I stared at him, but I wasn’t even surprised. In fact, I’d kind of expected as much. Of course, I was going to be a free man. I’d worked so hard for the exact opposite.

As though sensing my disappointment, Michael said, “It’s been established by natural law that a feral vampire has no control over their actions.” He hesitated, as though he didn’t want to tell me the next part. “That, and all the files pertaining to your case disappeared after DA Halloran died. Five minutes after we were seated, the new judge threw out the case. So, congratulations, I guess?”

I rubbed the back of my neck. “Okay. Well, what about the assault charges? What about Elaina?”

“The statute of limitations expired, Toby. Too much time has passed.”

This was not the time to talk down to me. “Dude, I know what statute of limitations means.”

“I know you know,” Michael said, ever patient. “It’s hard, but there are some things you just can’t change. Now, where have you been?”

I laughed once in the back of my throat. “Dude, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Michael crossed his arms. “Try me.”

So, I did. I told him everything, and I spared no detail. By the time I’d finished, four of the Disavowed had gathered around us.

A male, golden-blond vampire spoke first. “Dude, bullshit.”

I gave him a go-to-hell look. I think, as a human, he’d been some sort of model. His career prospects dried up fast when he couldn’t be photographed anymore. He was extra screwed after his Progenitor lost interest. “You are giving me way too much credit if you think I can make up something like that.”

He made a face. “I’ve read your blog. You’re just trying to get attention.”

“Yeah, because everyone that knows me knows I’m all about that attention. Kindly see yourself the fuck out of this conversation.”

Golden Boy’s nose wrinkled as he turned to walk back into the common room. Song rolled her wheelchair into the gap he left behind. Her armrest rammed my thigh before she jerked on the brakes. I turned my hips, since she was at cock-punching level.

“Look who finally came back,” she said. Judging by her tone, I don’t think she missed me. “Thanks for forgetting me at that blood bar, asshole.”

“Yeah, sorry. Something came up.” It was weird, but I felt actual guilt. “How did it go?”

Song shrugged. “Fine. Better when he finally decided to bring me back.” She held up her hand, and I noticed that her missing fingers had begun to regenerate. A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.

“So, you have a bona fide fairy at your beck and call now?” one of the other vampires said. Snarls matted her dark hair. Her eyes and cheeks were hollow, and her clothes hung off her frame. This told me she was Newborn, and still too chicken-shit to bite a human.

Late to the conversation, Song made a face as she looked back and forth between us. “What?”

The third vampire pointed her chin at me. This one had spiky red hair and a fading tattoo on her cheek. “Prove it. Make her do something.”

I shook my head. “It doesn’t work that way.” Actually, it totally worked that way for the next three days, but I had nothing to prove to these people.

Ginger shook her head. “Let’s just say the Tepes Chalice and the fairy slave…let’s say all of that’s real. You’re going to use your only wish to become Pure? Are you crazy? Why don’t you use it to become human?”

I wondered if she was joking. “Why in the hell would I do that?” I said.

“Why wouldn’t you?” The fourth vampire was a middle-aged woman trapped in the body of a ten-year-old girl. She’d gotten turned for the same reason almost every child got turned. Most vampires were too polite to talk about it. “You’d be free. You could go out in the sun and the rain.”

“The sun burns, and water makes me shed skin too, you know.”

“But they don’t kill you,” Skinny said. “Christ, I would give anything to feel a hot shower again.”

Little Girl got a faraway look in her eyes. “I miss ice cream the most. I barely remember it anymore.”

Ginger snorted. “No, Emily had it right. I miss the sun. I used to love laying out in the sun. I miss my freckles. Now, I get migraines if the moon is too bright.”

Her comment jarred me. “Shit, the moon. When is the next new moon?”

Song looked at me like I was a dick for asking. “What do I look like, NASA? Google that shit.”

Skinny said, “No, the worst part about being a vampire is knowing that everyone we care about is going to grow old and die long before we do.”

The others turned on me when I scoffed.

“So, there’s no one you care about?” Michael said. I could tell he was offended.

Ginger drew her shoulders back. “Yeah, what about your little girlfriend? Or did she dump you when you went to prison?”

“No, I…wait, what girlfriend?”

Little Girl tugged on my sleeve.  “That cute dark-haired girl you used to hang out with. Whatever happened to her? She was nice. She never treated me like a kid.”

“I believe Emily is referring to Karen,” Michael said, as though I was too stupid to figure that out.

“I’m doing this for Karen,” I said. “It’s the only way I can get close to her now”.

“It may not be that simple, Toby,” Michael said. “I have a bad feeling about this. You might have to make a choice when the time comes; to become a Pure vampire or save Karen.”

If he was right, I didn’t even have to think about what I’d choose. Rather, who I’d choose. Before I could say as much, a well-dressed vampire pushed his way into the circle. The other Disavowed, except for Song, scattered like tuna before a great white shark.

“Greetings,” he said in a cool tone. This new vampire reeked of age and Purity. “Which of you is the proprietor of this establishment?”

Michael’s eyes narrowed as he looked him over. I sensed his guards go up. He wasn’t used to dealing with established vampires, never mind agents of the High Court. “Uh…me, I guess?”

Mr. Pure shoved a rolled-up piece of paper into Michael’s hands. “In accordance with the Genoa Treaty of 1349, all Turned vampires, with or without territory, as well as any Turned Disavowed, are commanded to report immediately to their nearest CDC outpost. There, they are to cooperate with human officials and perform organic hemorrhagic dialysis on as many victims of the Black Flu as their systems can tolerate.” Before anyone could open their mouths to protest, the Pure vampire said, “This command is nonnegotiable. Any vampire found to be not in compliance will face dire consequences.”

Mr. Pure straightened his perfect suit jacket then readjusted his perfect tie. He turned to leave, which was when he noticed me. He stared at my fangs and yellow eyes, then looked as though he’d sucked on a lemon. “Half-humans are exempt.” He turned his attention back to Michael as the other Disavowed grumbled in resentment. “Agents of the High Court will check in periodically.” He nodded once, then walked away.

Song shook her head as the Pure bastard pushed through the Sanctuary doors. “Are you sure you want to be one of us?” she said before rolling back into the common room.

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 4

Chapter 44>>>

WitD3: Chapter 42, pt. 4

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42, Part 4

The words flew out before I realized I was going to speak. “Gwen, go into that huge boulder over there.”

Xi froze. I didn’t know it was possible for a snake to look surprised.

I pressed the advantage. “Don’t ever come out. Not until I release you, or time stops.”

The gathered fairykin, including Xi, looked at the Elders.

Gwen’s eyes glistened, and her jaw trembled. I felt like a giant prick, but said, “You will stay in that rock forever. When it is sand, you will live in the sand.” I turned toward Khalid. For the first time since I’d known him, he appeared to be at a loss. “Did you see that coming, you fuck?”

Gwen slouched in despair as she took a step toward the pillar of stone. “No,” Hot Sister said as she threw her arms around Gwen. “Please, vampire, have mercy.”

My eyes still locked with Khalid’s, I held up my hand. “Actually, hold up, Gwen. You only have to go into the boulder if one of your brothers…hell, if any of these freak fairies come anywhere near me. In fact, go in if anything happens to me at all, ever. Even if it’s an accident. If I stub my toe in the dark, you go into that fucking boulder. Do you understand?”

Gwen bowed deep, then glared at Khalid. “Yes, my master,” she said in a barbed tone.

A spike of fury jumped off Khalid. “Well played, bloodsucker.”

The scales that formed Xi’s brow drew into a knot. He gave Hot Sister a sharp look, then jerked his head toward me.

Rhiannon’s beauty became almost unbearable when she smiled. She took a step in my direction and I backed away on reflex. “You just…keep your distance” I said.

“So, you say.” Her voice was a rich purr. “But your body says come ever so much closer. I can, if you like.”

Yes, please. “No.” I shook my head hard to clear it.

“Don’t you want me to?” Her disappointed tone cut me in half.

I did. God help me, I wanted nothing else. “I don’t trust you.”

Rhiannon’s pretty smile made an even prettier pout. My hands ached to know if her skin was as soft as the silk that clung to her body. “As well you shouldn’t. But I propose that we put an end to these games. I desire nothing except my precious sister’s freedom. In exchange, I offer one night of my favor.”

The passenger in my pants was immediately on board with this idea. I caught myself before I could agree outright. “Are you saying…”

“Sex. I would let you fuck me. One night of my warmth and considerable skill. In exchange, I would have your oath that my sister will be released at daybreak.”

She was making a lot of sense. However, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. She had an angle, I just couldn’t see what it was with her standing so close. “I can’t,” I said.

Rhiannon tilted her head. “You can’t? Seems to me you’re more than capable.”

“Well, maybe—wait, no. No.” I shut my eyes tight. “I can’t. I need Gwen’s help to free Karen.”

“Karen is free, remember?” I could hear the smile return to  Rhiannon’s voice. “That wholly unworthy djinn has been stripped of all his assets. There is nothing standing between us.”

Oh, yeah. My relief turned my limbs to jelly. Before I could make a move toward Rhiannon, Khalid said, “She is wrong.”

I glared at him. Cock blocker.

“Yes, my wealth and property have been taken, but Karen falls under neither category. Ours is a contract between teacher and student. I help her develop her powers and as payment, I use her powers as I see fit. This tribunal doesn’t have the authority to break that sort of contract.”

I frowned at Rhiannon. “Is that true?” I could tell by the look of resentment on her face that it was.

Rhiannon waved her hand in dismissal. “Come to me, Toby. Forget all others and fall into me. I promise you that this will be an experience unlike any you’ve ever known, or ever will again. Your death will be exquisite.”

It was like someone dropped an iceberg onto my libido. I was so stupid. I reminded myself that I could fuck Rhiannon every night for a hundred years; I’d still remember Gwen’s True Name. There was only one way to make sure I’d never use it again.

I tore my eyes away from Rhiannon then said, “Gwen, shut this bitch up.”

Gwen waved her hand. The look of shock on Rhiannon’s face was priceless as a thick black veil dropped over her head. Once she was out of sight, her power over me was broken.

The fairies murmured as Gwen’s squatty brother took a few steps toward me. His arms were longer than his legs, and he walked on his knuckles like a gorilla. He had a lumpy face and small, wide-spaced teeth. However, he had a lovely speaking voice. “Greetings,” the little goblin said.

I looked him over. If I made it out of that mountain alive, I’d have to draw him, just to show other vampires. “Hi,” I said.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you. You may call me Durin.”

My vampire instincts became a stern voice in my head. Don’t engage it. Don’t answer too many questions. Above all, don’t let it trick you into granting it a favor. “Okay.”

“I must say, you are far more resourceful and clever than any of us would have given you credit for.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.” If they were going to kill me, they would’ve done it already. Right?

Durin laughed. “Of that, I have no doubt, my friend. And, you clearly possess an impressive will. I have never witnessed my sister’s charms fail before. One can’t help but wonder how you managed it.”

I frowned at him. “Are you coming on to me?”

Durin blinked in surprise. “What? No. Perish the thought.”

I wondered how far I could kick him. “Then get to the point.”

“If you like,” Durin said. “You realize, don’t you, that there is no way we can allow you to leave here alive.”

I relaxed. If there’s one thing I’m used to, it’s death threats. “Is that so?”

“It is no secret that our two species have never borne any love for each other.”

“Yeah, no shit.”

“Your quick wit has saved you for now, but consider for a moment what this means.” He nodded toward Gwen. “For her. For you. Our sister being enslaved to a human was bad enough. We will never allow her to remain in thrall to a vampire.”

“Half-vampire, actually.”

Durin shook his ugly little head. “Still too much. The very idea of her granting your every desire is the most galling notion I’ve ever heard. I can assure you that this sentiment will be shared by all my kind, everywhere. In the land. In the sea. In the air. Across every known dimension and on every world, this will not abide.”

“So, suck it up. You know what happens to her if anything happens to me. Gwen?”

She looked at me.

“Got that? Anything.”

Gwen nodded once then glared at the ground.

To Durin, I said, “You can’t keep me here.”

The goblin sighed. “Look, Tobias…May I call you Tobias?”

“I honestly don’t give a shit.”

“All right. You can place whatever condition you like upon her service, but I assure you that we will find a way around it. Your every wish, once granted, will be corrupted, more curse than blessing. Just as it was for her first human master, and his long line of descendants.”

I didn’t doubt the truth of that, but it changed nothing. “I’ll take my chances. Gwen, come on.”

Durin’s voice hardened as Gwen walked toward me. “Tobias, you will have the whole of fairy kind putting their heads together on this one. We will find a way to thwart and punish you, as well as save her. Do you understand?”

I took Gwen by her boney wrist. “Do what you have to do. So will I.”

The corners of Durin’s mouth pulled down. “I see. Since you care so little about your own health and wellbeing, can I assume then that there is no one in the world you care about?”

I felt the granddaddy of all scowls settle over my face.

“The priest? That sanctuary for your kind? What about the daughter you crippled, or even that revenant?”

“Dude, she’s not my—you know what, you’re boring the shit out of me. You’re threatening me with bad luck? My father is a vampire and my mother was bat-shit crazy. I’ve been fucking homeless since I was five years old. The woman I loved cursed me with Waking Death. What you call bad luck, I call fucking Thursday. Gwen, open the portal. We’re going back.”

I turned my back on Durin as he said, “And what about that necromancer you are so eager to save? Is her safety of such little concern to you?”

I fucking hate fairies. “Enough. Gwen, the boulder thing extends to all my friends, family, the Sanctuary, hell, even people that say hello to me on the street. Say goodbye to your freak show.”

Gwen looked at Xi for help, but didn’t resist when I pulled her behind me. I took a step toward the portal, hesitated, then muttered curses under my breath.

I turned on my heels then walked toward Xi. The giant serpent’s eyes were hooded and distant, already plotting my demise. “Alright, Xi. You freaks like to make deals. Here’s my deal. Karen for Gwen. How about it?”

Xi gave me a long look. “Explain.”

“The only reason I need Gwen is to free Karen from that demon bastard’s control, right? Once that’s done, I’ll have no reason to say her True Name ever again. So, if you can bring me Karen, Gwen is free to go.”

Xi tilted his head, intrigued. “Gwen can give you wealth. Fame. Power. She could ensure that you never go hungry again.”

“Please. I can get those things on my own. Karen for Gwen. Do we have a deal?”

“Karen is not theirs to give,” Khalid said, making it hard for me to pretend he wasn’t there. “I suggest you make this deal with me.”

“Because I’m dumb enough to trust you not to fuck me over? Eat a cock.” I turned my attention back to Xi. “What do you say?”

Xi’s scales whispered against the stone as he slithered around me. “And why should we trust you to keep your word?”

I pulled Gwen closer, should he get any bright ideas. “Because I swear it on my life.”

The air began to thicken with magic. “What do you swear, and please be specific.”

I turned to look deep into Gwen’s eyes. “Gwen, once Karen is free from Khalid, you are free. I will never use your True Name again. If I break that promise, kill me. Put an aneurism in my head that’ll pop so hard, liquid brain comes out of my nose. And you won’t have to go into the boulder afterward. Okay?”

Gwen looked at me as though waiting for the other shoe to drop. Finally, she said, “I accept your terms.”

The press of magic vanished as Xi shrank back into his human form. “I also find your terms acceptable,” he said as he straightened his suit jacket.

This didn’t put me at ease. In fact, I was more suspicious than ever. “So now you and your kind have no reason to fuck with me or my friends because that donkey cock told me your sister’s True Name?”

Xi shrugged. “Sounds reasonable.”

I stuck out my hand. “So, do we have a deal?”

Before Xi could accept, Khalid stepped between us. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. There is only one thing you can offer me that would compel me to release Karen, especially since Karen has no desire to be free.”

Biker Fairy crossed his arms. “Would that one thing be me not breaking every bone in that body before we tear it off?”

“There is no need for violence, Prince Kailen. If this bloodsucker can prove capable of reason and mercy, I suppose I can do the same. I would at least like the opportunity to retain my relationship with the lovely Karen.”

“What do you propose?” Elder One said.

“This vampire cannot be trusted because his true desire is not to free Karen. His one and only desire is to become a Pure vampire. So, I offer that instead.” From the inner pocket of his suit jacket, Khalid pulled out a wide goblet. It was made of tarnished gold and studded with gems. “This is the Tepes chalice. I offer it, as well as the ritual to change him to a Pure vampire. I give it on the condition that once the ritual is finished, he will leave Karen in peace.”

Xi’s expression soured. “He has already struck a deal with me.”

“No deal has been struck at all. The choice is his. Karen or the chalice.” Khalid gave me a very cold look. “Of course, should he choose Karen, he will never exist in the same dimension as the chalice again. I propose that we make it a game.”

Khalid held out his other hand then opened his palm to reveal two small, silver coins. One had a female shape engraved on the surface, the other a chalice.

“I propose that the bloodsucker picks one token at random, and that will be the wish that is granted,” Khalid said.

I gave his offer some thought, as though I had a real choice. I didn’t doubt Khalid’s ability to take the chalice somewhere I’d never see it again. What would stop him from doing the same with Karen? At least, this way, I had a chance.

I stuck my hand toward Khalid.  “Fine.”

Khalid snatched my fingers in his before the word was out of my mouth. He ground my knuckles together as thunder clapped overhead. “Outstanding,” Khalid said. “However, I don’t like these odds. Would anyone else like to get in on this?”

Motherfucker. “Wait, no way. That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“But it is,” Khalid said. “You will be granted one uncorrupted wish, to be chosen at random, and then you will only speak Gwen’s True Name under pain of death. There was never any specification as to how many choices you’d be given.”

Son of a bitch. I’d forgotten I was a vampire for a minute.

Biker Fairy tugged his beard in thought. “I offer the death of his worst enemy. I will deliver Nicholai Santos to him, to be dealt with as he sees fit.” He dropped an axe token into Khalid’s hand then took a step back.

Rhiannon was next. “I offer to create for his lost love, Justine, a new body. A living, breathing body that will last as long as he does.” She placed a gleaming silver heart in Khalid’s palm. I noticed him twitch his fingers to touch her hand.

“That is enough,” Xi said, apathetic.

The rest of the fairies murmured to each other as Gwen attached thin, transparent threads to each token. She looped each thread around one of my fingers then took my hand. She led me to a pool in front of the Elders. Without a word, she dropped the tokens into the black water.

“Pick a finger,” Khalid said when I continued to stand there. “Any finger.”

I gave him a murderous look then flipped him the bird. Unblinking, I pulled that thread from the pool, my throat growing dry. When the token broke the surface, my heart knocked against my ribcage. I’d had no idea how much I’d wanted this.

Khalid nodded once, then handed over the Tepes chalice.

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 3

Chapter 43>>>

Whew. Sorry for the long wait. As you can see, this chapter was super long, it had a lot going on, and everything on this end has been ker-ay-zee. Thanks for sticking with me for this long. If you like what you’ve read, please, click on the like and share buttons. In that one simple act, you’ll be helping me more than you can possibly know. I hope all of you have a safe, happy Thanksgiving! This year, on top of all the blessings I already have in my life, I’m grateful for all of you.

Witd3; Chapter 42, pt. 3

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42, Part 3

Biker Fairy jerked hard on Aliese the Whore’s chain. She tripped, falling to her hands and knees at the base of the Elders’ thrones.

“Speak, ifrit,” Elder Two said. “Tell us of your relationship with Lord Khalid.”

Aliese the Whore got to her feet with difficulty. “I have served my lord faithfully, and in all ways, since before humankind harnessed the power of fire.” Her voice slurred, because it’s hard to speak with a broken jaw. “I have been loyal to him as no other woman has. Yet, here I am.”

Khalid didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed.

“Did you bear witness to the crime of which your lord stands accused?” Elder Three said.

Aliese the Whore shook her head at the unfairness of it all. “I did.”

Elder One, at least, seemed sympathetic. “Tell us, then, of what transpired, and spare no detail.”

Aliese the Whore’s breath wheezed through her crooked nose as she fought tears. “My lord commanded that I should come along to collect his necromancer from that bloodsucker. He worried the Princess of the Mists would collect herself and rightly seek revenge. He wanted his property secured before that happened.”

“This seems a simple enough task,” Elder Two said with a frown. “Did you not question why your master would require your presence on such a menial errand?”

“I don’t make a habit of questioning my lord’s orders. Besides…” Aliese the Whore bowed her head. “I know now why he wanted me there.”

“And why is that?” Xi said with smug satisfaction. I could tell that he already knew the answer, but wanted it stated for the record.

Aliese the Whore closed her eyes. “Because the only other witness was the bloodsucker.”

I laughed once in the back of my throat. People wonder why vampires hate demons.

Xi began to circle Aliese the Whore. Even hobbled, she turned to keep him in her line of sight. “Therefore, do you believe it was his intent to reveal my sister’s True Name in your presence all along, regardless of what that meant for you?”

Tears glistened in her eyes. “I do.”

“And did your master reveal my sister’s True Name in your presence?”

“He did.”

“Were there any other witnesses to the crime, beside the vampire?” Elder Three said.

Aliese the Whore lifted her shoulders with a tired sigh. “There was the necromancer and a revenant.”

The Elders considered one another. “Should we bring them here?” Elder One said.

Elder Two shook its head. “Revenants are dangerous and unpredictable. It would be folly to bring such an abomination to this place.”

Elder Three stroked its chin.  “I know of this revenant. She was a respected witch, in her time. That which reanimates her now is her burning need for revenge. It will not occur to her to use her knowledge of the Princess of the Mists’ True Name to exploit her powers.”

Elder One nodded in agreement. “Once her bloodlust has been sated, she will pass from this world.”

“Then it is agreed,” Elder Two said. “The problem will resolve itself.”

“But the necromancer may speak the princess’s True Name,” Elder Three said. “She should be here.”

I felt a stab of panic. “No!” I wasn’t supposed to speak, but it burst out of me. “No, Karen didn’t hear anything. She was unconscious.” Nik held out his arm when I took a step toward Khalid. “Tell them you had Karen knocked out, and that she couldn’t have heard you say Gwen’s True Name. Tell them!”

Khalid’s lips curled, but he said, “It’s true. I’d placed Karen in a deep slumber to ease her extraction from this bloodsucker’s custody. She heard nothing. I swear it on the sand.”

This pacified the fairies for some reason. They’re so fucking weird.

The Elders turned their attention back to Aliese the Whore. “Continue,” Elder Three said.

Aliese the Whore seemed reluctant, but said, “The vampire was unwilling to let my lord leave with his rightful property. Of course, he was powerless against my lord’s might. In true vampire fashion, he threatened to take his revenge against one that my lord held dear.”

Xi interrupted again. “So, it is your testimony that your lord not only revealed my sister’s True Name. He did so to a vampire that had explicitly threatened her life?”

Aliese the Whore bit her bottom lip. “Yes.”

This sparked another titter of outrage from the fairies.

“And now, the proof,” Elder One said. “Alga, the All-knowing, step forward.”

An ancient, hunched creature shuffled out of the crowd. She had stringy grey hair that looked as though it had never been washed. Her face was a mass of wrinkles and folds, but she had no mouth, nose, or eyes. What she had were giant ears that took up both sides of her head. Her earlobes dragged along the ground as she leaned on her walking stick.

Elder Two spoke. “Ifrit, in the softest whisper you can manage, speak the Princess of the Mist’s True Name.”

Aliese the Whore cast a worried look at Khalid, but he gave her a nod. She closed her eyes, pained, then leaned forward to whisper into Alga’s ear. Alga covered her face with her knotted hands, then her shoulders began to shake. Two more weirdos stepped out of the crowd. They allowed her to lean on them for support as they practically carried her away.

Elder Three shook its head. “And so it has been proven. Lord Khalid of the Shaytan Djinn, do you have anything to say in your own defense?”

“No. However, I would like to know when Gwen and I are to be married. I’d prefer the wedding take place as soon as possible.”

This was met with dead silence. The sheer massiveness of Khalid’s balls shocked everyone.

“I will never marry you!” Gwen screeched. “Ever! I hate you. I hate everything about you. I hate the sight of you. I hate the sound of your voice. The thought of you touching me makes me want to vomit. If I knew your True Name, I would broadcast it to the whole of China, in the hopes they would command your festering spirit into a rabid dog to be eaten alive by maggots until the end of time.”

This was an impressive level of hate, but Khalid took it in stride. “You have the right to your anger, and your grief, my love,” he said without a trace of irony. “I know that you believe I have committed a heinous crime against you. That the damage is irreparable and unforgivable.”

Xi looked at Khalid as though questioning his sanity. “And how do you deem the crime you have committed against her?”

“As a brutal necessity to free my beloved from bondage. I was successful in doing what needed to be done when her cowardly, sanctimonious siblings fought to do the exact opposite. She has been a slave for so long that she has forgotten what it is to be free. In time, she will forgive me.”

Gwen spat at him. “Never.”

Khalid’s tone grew more solemn, more determined. “You will love me again. I swear it.”

Gwen shook her head in disgust as she looked away.

“You speak as though we would allow you to occupy the same hemisphere as our sister ever again,” Xi said.

Khalid’s eyes began to burn. “Allow? Her hand was promised to me by your father, a contract he has never revoked. The Elders’ decreed that Gwen be punished, but that punishment has reached its natural end.”

Quick Brother laughed in disbelief. “Murder is natural, Infernal one?”

Khalid didn’t blink. “Prince Elrich, there is nothing in the universe more natural than murder.”

Biker Fairy snorted. “You’re daft if you think our father would uphold any contract with you after what you’ve done.”

“Perhaps you don’t know your father as well as you would like to believe.”

The goblin brother—the smart one?—reeled. “And now you have the brazen audacity to imply that you know our father better than we do?”

“History has demonstrated that I have far more in common with your father than any of you ever have. Do you think he will side with you after you took his wife away from him a piece at a time? If you are so sure that he wouldn’t uphold his contract with me, then perhaps we should wake him and have him weigh in on these proceedings.”

No one seemed to like that idea, not even Xi and his siblings.

“Lord Khalid,” Elder One said in a soothing tone, “the legitimacy of your claims are not without merit, but that is a matter for another day. Regardless of your motives, there is no justification for what you have done. Our course is clear.”

“The Seven demand his head,” Xi said without hesitation.

Khalid didn’t flinch. “And I would gladly give it, as husband to your precious sister, and brother-in-law to the rest of you.”

“We’d prefer it on a spike,” Quick Brother said.

Nik nodded. “To roast in the sun.”

Khalid raised his hands. “Brothers-to-be, no one understands the need for immediate, visceral revenge more than I do, but I fear you are being shortsighted. My contract is with your father, and not any of you. Prince Xivinaxus, you speak for your siblings, but not for Vesuvius. To make such a decision without his counsel, you risk incurring his wrath.”

“Agreed,” all three Elders said in unison.

Xi’s jaw bulged as he glared at Khalid, then he spun to face the Elders. “So be it. If I can’t have his life, then I will have his livelihood. Everything that he has of value must be stripped from him. His property, his wealth, his servants, his slaves, his title, and his rank in the Shaytan Djinn army. I will take the very skin from his back, forfeited to my sister in the first of many tributes he will make to her in amends.”

Khalid tilted his head. “That seems a bit extreme.”

“Djinn, I have only just begun to make your life unbearable,” Xi said.

“But…how will I give your sister countless hours of physical pleasure without a body?”

“Goddamn!” I said. Again, I couldn’t help myself. That was the most magnificent burn I’d ever heard.

“Well?” Xi said, his hands fisted at his sides. “How do the Elders decree?”

The Elders looked at one another for a few seconds, then Elder Two spoke. “The law is clear. For the crime of revealing the Princess’s True Name to a mortal—a vampire, no less—Lord Khalid’s life as he has known it is forfeit. Circumstances being what they are, execution is not an option, therefore Prince Xivinaxus’ alternative is acceptable. All of Lord Khalid’s wealth and property is hereby transferred to the youngest of the Seven.”

Xi smirked. “And so you have nothing, djinn. My sister’s engagement was to a general. You are now lower than the slaves that muck your stables. Do you think my father will still give her to you?”

Khalid made an indifferent gesture. He must be awesome at poker. “There is nothing I have lost that cannot be regained. Armies can be raised, fortresses built, fortunes accrued. Any price I have to pay is small, if my beloved’s freedom is the reward.”

Xi had nothing to say to that. The Elders nodded once, then Biker Fairy began to undo Aliese the Whore’s shackles.

Aliese the Whore stared at Khalid with obvious betrayal. “Did you ever truly love me?”

Khalid looked her straight in the eye. “There were times when I almost believed that I might. I always came to my senses quickly.”

Aliese the Whore’s chains fell. I had just enough time to think that she had a lot of healing to do before she could be pimped out again, then Xi burst out of his suit. The crowd surged back to make room for the colossal snake he had become. In the blink of an eye, he swallowed Aliese whole. The bulge slid down Xi’s throat, stretching his body as it twitched in pathetic struggle. There was a sickening crackle, then the lump disappeared.

I knew nothing about fairies or their anatomy, yet I understood what had happened. What little power Aliese the Whore had would be digested and absorbed, the rest shat out and forgotten. She had never mattered to anyone. She may as well have never existed. The worst she could do to Xi was give him syphilis.

I didn’t have time to catch my breath before Xi swung his enormous head toward me.

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 2

Chapter 42, pt. 4>>>

WitD3: Chapter 42, pt. 2

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42, part 2

 

Nik and Xi took me by the elbows to drag me deeper into the chamber. The mob parted to reveal wooden thrones growing out of the ground like gnarled trees. Seated upon them were three creatures I couldn’t begin to name. Their bright blue eyes bulged from their grey, alien faces. When they moved, even to blink or turn their heads, it was slow and deliberate. White hair and sheer robes floated around them like smoke. They wore silver crowns I realized after a moment were actually metallic horns.

Xi’s lips twisted into another unpleasant smile as he took a step toward them. “Elders, thank you for assembling this tribunal, and so quickly. The Children of Vesuvius are honored by your time and attention.”

As one, the creatures on the thrones nodded. The Elder to the left spoke first. “As the eldest of the Seven, do you speak on behalf of your siblings, clever Xivinaxus?” Its voice was like the wind through a narrow canyon.

“As always, wise Elder.”

“Speak your charges, then,” the middle one said. I wondered if these things were separate, or one being.

Xi turned to face the horde with more theatrics than ten drama majors. When he spoke, it was as though he addressed each individual freak. “Elders, kinsmen, I come before you today to charge one of our own, Lord Khalid of the Shaytan Djinn, of the most unthinkable, the most reprehensible, the most atrocious crime of which any of us could stand accused.”

The Elder on the right scowled. “You don’t mean…”

“Yes,” Xi said. “Lord Khalid has given my youngest sister’s True Name to a mortal.” There was a general murmur of shock through the crowd. “And not just any mortal. He has given her name to a vampire.”

The fairies erupted. I couldn’t understand most of what being shouted, so I craned my neck to find Gwen. She sat on the floor, as though she didn’t have the strength to stand. Quick Brother and Hot Sister kneeled beside her, cradling her in their arms as they stroked her hair. Gwen’s head was bowed, her shoulders hunched under the weight of her grief. Curls of her true form drifted into the air like steam.

Elder One had to shout to be heard above the rabble. “These are grievous charges, Prince Xivinaxus, and not to be made lightly.”

“Or without proof,” Elder Two said.

“I assure my Elders, we have the proof you need. The Seven demand justice.”

It was Elder Three’s turn to speak. “We know the Children bear no love for Lord Khalid. Given the mandatory punishment for such a crime, tell us you have more evidence than…” The Elders looked me over. “That.”

I rolled my eyes. “You won’t need more than me,” I said. “Gwen’s True Name is—”

The rest of my sentence was drowned out by the panicked outcry of the mob. I saw the flash of more than one weapon being drawn. I folded my hands in front of me, satisfied my point was made.

I heard the wood creak when Elder One gripped the arms of its throne with spindly fingers. “Prince Xivinaxus, you would do well to instruct your witness to hold his vile tongue.”

Xi bowed. “Of course, my Elder,” he said before whirling on me. “Speak again and I will weld a leaded mask over your head, so that you might live out the rest of your days as my feral dog. Do you doubt me?”

No. No, I did not. I shrugged as I said, “Damn, dude. Chill.”

Elder Two looked down its nose at me. “Aside from the fact that he is a vampire, this creature despises Lord Khalid. He would say anything to hurt him, and therefore cannot be trusted.”

Xi nodded. “True, which is why I shall provide a second witness, one that loves him.”

As though on cue, Biker Fairy stepped through the portal behind us. He carried a thick iron chain in his gloved hand. The heavy links sparked as they dragged along the ground. Biker Fairy jerked, then Aliese the Whore stumbled through the portal. She wore a spiked collar attached to thick metal cuffs around her wrists and ankles. She sported two black eyes and her nose dripped blood. Golden runes burned in her shackles, I assumed to keep the demon within from jumping ship.

Xi’s lips curled into a sneer. “This…woman, I suppose we shall call her, is inhabited by a lesser ifrit. She sustains her physical and metaphysical existence by whoring herself in Lord Khalid’s brothel. She goes by the name Aliese and her loyalty to that djinn is beyond contestation.”

The Elders looked over Aliese the Whore. “Is this true?” Elder Three said. “Speak, ifrit.”

Aliese the Whore looked like a baby goat in a den of lions. Before she could begin to beg for her life, Khalid stepped through the portal. “Greetings, Kinsmen,” he said with obscene cheer. “How strange it was to awaken to find my home invaded, my subordinates arrested, and to discover that I am on trial. Stranger still to have not been invited to the proceedings.” Despite his claim of having just woken up, Khalid wore a black suit and tie. His hair was perfect, his beard was smooth, and he had recently bathed. He lifted his chin toward Xi, as though noticing him for the first time. “Xivinaxus. Always a pleasure. My highest regards to your father.”

Elder One made a sour face at Khalid. I guess even his own kind didn’t care for him. “Lord Khalid, this is merely the accusation phase of the proceedings. Should it be determined that sufficient evidence exists to place you on trial, you would’ve been summoned.”

“And yet, here I am,” Khalid said. “Let Xivinaxus make his charges, then present his evidence. Afterwards, I see no reason not to move at once to my criminal trial.”

Gwen lifted her head as the line of her body hardened. I could feel hatred roll off her as she refused to look at Khalid.

“So, you admit that a crime has taken place?” Xi said.

Khalid shrugged.

Elder Two gave Khalid a suspicious look. “Justice should not be rushed, Lord Khalid. We do not suffer the human lifespan.” The various pyxies, gnomes, and ogres chuckled. “By all means, explain your urgency.”

Khalid sobered. “My urgency stems from the fact that this atrocity has been allowed to continue for far too long already.”

The Elders looked at one another, then Elder Three nodded toward Xi. “Prince Xivinaxus.”

Xi stared at Khalid as though trying to figure him out. After a few seconds, he said, “First thing’s first.” He began to pace around the circle again, and I noticed that his footsteps didn’t make a sound. “It is difficult to convey the profound heartache and rage suffered by the Seven at this moment. Everyone gathered here knows our story. They know our royal parents. The legend of their love, and the sacrifices they made, have become the standard by which all love is measured amongst our kind.

“We all know my father, of his reputation and his awe-inspiring power. We know of the savage army he unleashed upon this world to bring it to heel. He is the embodiment of war and ruthless brutality. At least, he was. That changed the very instant he first laid eyes upon my mother.

“She had been offered to him, effectively sacrificed, in the faint hope of peace. There was not a soul in the universe that expected her to crack the icy shell of his heart, comparatively humble as she was. Moreover, no one believed that she would genuinely love him in kind…or even survive her wedding night.” The fairies laughed again. “Yet the world rejoiced at the birth of their first son.”

I snuck a glance at Khalid. He was checking his phone.

“I was soon joined by my brothers, Kailen and Nik. It was then that the toll on my mother’s health became apparent. Her first child was bright and clever, yet her own wit had dimmed. Her second son was strapping and powerful, yet she herself could no longer dazzle the court with feats of strength. Her third son proved invulnerable to everything, from physical attacks to the deadliest toxins, yet our mother had grown weak and sickly.

“Everyone begged her to stop, to grace our father with no more offspring. Her love for him and her family was such that any part of herself was worth sacrificing to see more of her children into the world. His love for her was so great that he could deny her nothing.

“Her fourth son, Elrich, took her grace and fleetness of foot. Her first daughter, my sister Rhiannon, took her immense beauty.” Holy shit, did she ever. “My youngest brother, Durin, took her vast intellect. By this time, my mother could do little except lay in bed and whisper, and yet…” Xi closed his eyes as he pressed his hand against his heart. “Even those faint whispers could soothe the most wounded soul. Because, more than anything else, love defined my mother. It was all she was, all she had to give.

“And so, when my youngest sister came, the pain of my mother’s passing was mitigated by the knowledge that she had delivered unto this world another person defined by her capacity for love. There is no other being in existence that can love as completely and as deeply as our Gwen, and therefore she is the most beloved of us all.”

Xi’s tone darkened. “My siblings and I did not approve when our honorable father arranged her marriage to this…desert upstart—”

“A fact made plain from the beginning,” Khalid said without looking up. “I could hardly begrudge you your animosity, my prince, considering how thoroughly I’ve always defeated you on the field of battle.”

Xi’s jaw tightened. “We were aware that our sister loved him at once, because of course she loved him. That was what Gwen did. That was who she was. Sweet Gwen loved all things, everyone, without hesitation or reservation, no matter how unworthy they were of that love. While it could be argued that the feeling was mutual—”

“Because it was,” Khalid said.

Xi spoke louder. “We, her siblings, saw the disaster looming on the horizon. We knew that, left unchecked, Lord Khalid would destroy her.” Xi shoved more sarcasm into that word than I would’ve though possible.

“You fools knew nothing,” Khalid said under his breath.

“We knew that you would twist her spirit and break her gentle heart,” Biker Fairy said.

“Gwen never would’ve been enslaved by that boy, had she not attempted the come-hither to impress you,” Hot Sister said.

Khalid arched an eyebrow. “Beautiful Rhiannon. Did you hurt yourself on that stretch?”

Xi went back to pacing around the circle. “This is why, when the wise Elders—” Khalid made a contemptuous sound, “—decreed that Gwen should remain the boy’s slave until the end of his line, they did so with our full support. That support stemmed not from agreement with their verdict, necessarily, but because this was the only way we could delay Gwen’s union to one so far beneath her.”

Khalid said nothing. He didn’t need to. The look on his face said it all.

“This is also why we took it upon ourselves to protect the child, and his child, and his child’s child, on and on, against that djinn’s relentless campaign of extermination. We were not always successful, as Khalid layered curse upon curse against their bloodline, as well as any poor fool who dared to breed with them. Not one of the decedents lived to experience old age, but we kept the line going for over one hundred generations. Over the centuries, we came to love them, as Gwen did.

“Now, that line has ended with the one-hundred-sixteenth descendants, because we’ve failed them. We’ve failed Gwen. We do not simply mourn those two children, taken far too young. We swear vengeance in their honor.”

Rhiannon and Quick Brother hugged Gwen as she began to weep again. Biker Brother placed his enormous hand on top of her head.

Xi spoke with genuine sorrow, so I guess his speech wasn’t all for show. “We surrender their bodies to the flames, so that their ancestors might welcome them with open arms.” Xi lifted his gaze, then I saw a bright flicker dart across his eyes. “Go now into the next world, knowing that justice will be carried out.”

Except for Khalid, who might as well have been in traffic court, the horde seemed moved. After a few moments of respectful silence, Elder One said, “Let us proceed.”

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 1

Chapter 42, pt. 3>>>

WitD3: Chapter 42, pt. 1

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42: Part 1

 

The three men didn’t carry a scent, but they didn’t come off as Infernal, either. So…fairies. Not the Tinkerbelle-help-you-fly kind of fairies. These were the spin-straw-into-gold-in-exchange-for-your-firstborn sort of fairies.

A beast of a man stood behind the leader. His bald head scraped the ceiling as his black leather vest struggled to contain him. A bushy red beard and thick brow ridge took up most of his face. Bright tattoos covered his neck and arms. Though, being a fairy, that could’ve been his natural skin tone.

Biker Fairy stepped around the leader without a word. His shoulders jarred the bathroom counter as he crouched next to Gwen. He turned her onto her back, gentle despite his size. Gwen let out a heartbreaking sob when she saw him. “Kailen…”

The giant made a soothing sound as he gathered her up, then stood to leave.

“Hey!” I said, scrambling to my feet. The other two fairies moved to block the door. “Where are you taking her?” Gwen was a vital part of my plan to release Karen from thrall, but I didn’t have time to explain that. Instead, I yelled, “She’s mine.”

The leader smiled without humor, his thin lips a slit in his face. “So it would seem. Worry not, half-breed. You’re coming with us.”

The being to the left of the leader could almost be mistaken for human. Well, by dumbasses without the sense of smell to know better. Aside from the fact he wore armor, there was nothing remarkable about him. It was anyone’s guess how old they were. Their skin was marble smooth, but their eyes were ancient. Power radiated from them like heat from a nuclear reactor.

“Who are you people?” I said.

The leader placed his hand over his heart then bowed his head. “I am known as Prince Xivinaxus the Serpent.” I could see why he’d be called that. His eyes were like rubies, and there was a greenish-yellow gleam to his skin. “You may call me Xi. This is my brother and bodyguard, Prince Nikolas. Nik.”

Xi’s sandy brown hair looked as though a toddler had cut it. His suit and trench coat fluttered around his frame as he stood to the side then gestured toward the door. “After you.”

I didn’t want to turn my back on the…whatever the hell these things were, but Gwen was getting further and further away. “I know her True Name,” I said as I stepped into the hall.

“So, you do,” Xi said.

“That means I, like, own her now, right?”

Xi made a noncommittal sound.

We passed the open door of the nursery. Another tall, wispy being stood over the crib. Its sharp features were so pretty, it took a moment to figure out if the thing was male or female. I assumed male, due to a lack of boobs, but you can never tell with fairies.  His shoulder-length, reddish brown hair was a mass of tall cowlicks that didn’t distract from his pointed ears. He straightened when he saw me, and his large, green eyes narrowed. I noticed that he held a bloody dagger in his right hand.

I blinked, then the elf was nose-to-nose with me. Xi’s hand was on his chest, pushing him back as he clucked his tongue. “Now, now, Elrich. Patience. All in good time.”

The elf snarled, and I saw a row of jagged teeth. He turned in a huff then walked back into the nursery.

A small, squatty creature perched on the crib railing, shaking its head at the tragedy on the mattress. I guessed it was a goblin, or maybe some sort of kobold? I had no idea. Those things never revealed themselves to vampires.

A woman stood in the center of the room, her back to me as she cradled a small bundle. Her blue dress molded to her in a way that made it impossible not to notice her body…which was smoking hot. Chocolate brown hair cascaded down her back in shimmering waves. She looked at me over her shoulder, then I found myself frozen in place. Her face was far too perfect to be human, and her pale skin caught the light like a pearl.

I didn’t realize I was staring until I felt Nik’s hand between my shoulders. He gave me a hard shove toward the stairs. “Keep walking, bloodsucker.”

I stumbled but recovered. “How many fucking fairies are in this house?”

“Considering the gravity of the crime, we have all seen fit to ensure justice is done,” Xi said as we started down the stairs.

We stepped into the kitchen, then Nik said, “Continue out into the hall, then go into the first room on your left.”

The portrait room. I stopped in my tracks. “Why, what’s in there?”

Xi and Nik smirked at each other. “Judging by your tone, I think you know,” Xi said.

Every instinct in my body told me to cut my losses and run. Karen needed me, though, and to help her, I needed Gwen. I growled under my breath as I turned toward the hall. “Fine,” I said.

“There’s a good lad.” Xi’s neutral tone made it impossible to tell if he was being sarcastic.

I stepped into the portrait room just in time to see Biker Fairy duck through the mirror. He vanished with Gwen in his arms, and despair washed over me. I turned on Xi as though I had the power to make him do anything “Bring her back,” I said.

Xi nodded toward the portal. “You saw which way they went. Go after her.”

“Dude, no one’s that stupid. There’s no way in hell I’m going through a fairy door.”

“You say that as though you have a choice in the matter,” Nik said.

I debated calling Mata Diablo. I could maybe get one good stab into Xi before he knew what hit him, but I’d still have to deal with Nik and the others. And Gwen was already gone.

Fuck it. Whatever.

I stepped through the mirror. I’m sure I made vampire history, not that anyone would ever believe me. Turns out, there was nothing to it. I’ve had more trouble crossing wards after I’ve been invited. One second I was in Gwen’s crappy little house. The next, I stood on the set of Game of Thrones.

The first thing to strike me was darkness, and the smell. In that sense, I’m no different than any other vampire. The cold, salty stench of the ocean filled the air, but it wasn’t the ocean I knew. Under the saltwater, I could smell soot and burning wax. This was from the candles that dripped overhead and smoldering fire pits. Heavy chandeliers covered in rust provided a little light. They hung from rafters made of rotting tree trunks. The ceiling was so high that it disappeared into the shadows. Moss covered the stone floor, but I didn’t see any sort of masonry or brickwork.

I’d been teleported into a hollowed-out mountain. I didn’t think those things really existed, but I didn’t have a chance to wrap my head around it. My eyes adjusted to the gloom, then I realized I was surrounded.

Fairies. Demons. Goblins. Trolls. Even nixies swam in a crumbling fountain. The horde stood shoulder to shoulder, blocking every chance of escape.

I was supremely fucked.

<<<Chapter 41

Chapter 42, pt 2.>>>

WitD3: Chapter 41

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 41

 

Finding blood in the pea-soup fog was more like takeout than actual hunting. I started with an appetizer of strung-out looter, followed by a big helping of Thai mugger. For dessert, I topped my meal off with a few chugs of Mexican coke dealer. By the time I finished, my stomach felt like an overinflated water balloon. I knew I’d catch shit later, but I had more important things to worry about than territory. I had to be at full strength before I took on that fucking fairy.

When my ears quit ringing and I stopped seeing double, I looked myself over. My claws were blunt but hard as steel. My gums were sore where the new molars were growing in, but I still had my fangs. Shiny stumps covered the rest of the body parts I’d lost. My hair had grown, but only enough to get into my eyes. Luckily, the coke dealer had a skull cap he didn’t need anymore.

I made it back to Gwen’s place just before sunrise. I found her shop without trouble, despite the fog, which surprised me. Until then, I’d always thought that ‘I can’t see my hand in front of my face’ was just a figure of speech. I knew, though, that I hadn’t caught Gwen on the one day she’d failed to refresh the magic protecting her home. She’d been expecting me. Even so, I couldn’t risk being seen coming or going through her front door.

Gwen’s place was dark, and too quiet. I took a few exploratory sniffs, but they told me nothing. The fog must’ve blended with the morning mist rolling off the ocean. On top of the lack of visibility, a strange saltiness, almost like saline, hung in the air. The scent turned to cold acid in my sinuses then trickled down the back of my throat.

There are few things in life that irritate me more than nose-blindness.

I circled to the back alley then jumped over Gwen’s privacy fence. I landed in a crouch as I said, “Mata Diablo.”

I’d lost track of how many times I’d called the weapon since naming it. Even so, Mata Diablo always appeared. The problem was, I had to use the knife, or at least hold it tight, to keep it from disappearing again. It was like the instant I stopped thinking about it, Mata Diablo went away. It was annoying, but not a big deal. The issue was that Gwen had been the one to give me the dagger. It stood to reason that she could take it away. It was the most effective weapon I had against Gwen, but I couldn’t count on Mata Diablo during the fight.

So, that was it then? I’d committed to beating Gwen to death with my bare hands? Never mind that she’d only every helped me, all hexes aside. Never mind that she was one of the few Immortals in town trying to stop the plague. Never mind the fact she had two small children—

Ah, fuck me, I’d forgotten about her kids.

Who the hell was I kidding? I wasn’t going to kill Gwen to get to Khalid. I’d be just like him if I pulled shit like that. I couldn’t get Karen away from him by myself, though. Sure, Gwen was a fairy and I was a vampire. Not to mention Gwen had hired me to kill Karen, but I didn’t think that was anything personal. Maybe, if we worked together…I don’t know. I had to try.

Gwen’s back door stood open, and apparently, it had been for a while. Fog filled the house, so thick that it was hard to see the counter from the kitchen table. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I reached inside to knock on the door. I noticed at once that I didn’t feel any sort of resistance. What had happened to Gwen’s wards? I took a deep breath then stepped over the threshold into the kitchen, half-expecting to burst into flames. I didn’t feel so much as a twinge of pain or nausea.

My lips barely moved as I said, “Mata Diablo.” The dagger appeared then I gripped the handle tight. Something was very, very wrong. I knew Gwen wouldn’t have abandoned the place. Not if she held Domain. No, something evil had happened there. It was still nearby; I could feel it. Gwen’s home’s energy had been as bright and airy as a field of sunflowers. In less than a day, that same energy had grown darker, heavier, and colder than the deepest part of the ocean.

I moved closer to the wall, on high-alert for any threat, then my hip jarred the kitchen table. A vase full of dead flowers tipped over, crashing onto a plate of moldy food and silverware. It sounded like a redwood log rolling down a mountain of cymbals. I mouthed curses as I waited for some sort of fallout, but nothing happened. Far from reassured, I closed my eyes to open my other senses.

Aside from rustling in the nursery above, I heard nothing. I moved with extra care as I crept toward the staircase. I was so focused on stealth that I almost tripped over the warm body curled next to the stove.

Even though it lay at my feet, the figure was a dark blob in the mist. Only the curve of the hip let me know the victim was a woman. She lay on her side, facing away from me, but I could tell at once that it wasn’t Gwen. She wasn’t scrawny enough. Dark, wet hair covered the woman’s face. She wore jeans and a simple black tee shirt, not the fancy dresses Gwen seemed to prefer. I didn’t hear any heartbeat, nor did she take a breath.

Who was this, I wondered as I crouched down. More importantly, why hadn’t I smelled a dead body? I touched the woman’s shoulder to move her onto her back, then her pale face rolled into view. I snatched my hand away, as though bitten.

Justine’s mouth hung open, her lips white. Blood trickled from the gaping holes in her neck. Her eyes were open and unblinking, but her empty stare punched right through me. My heart began to pound as the breath in my lungs turned to fire.

Justine’s corpse lay between me and the stairs. To find Gwen, and therefore save Karen, I’d have to step over Justine’s dead body.

Nice. Subtle much?

I took a deep breath, steeling my resolve. “You’re not really there,” I said. “This is just a trick.” I forced myself to stand. As I did, rage twisted Justine’s features. Her hand shot out to seize my pant leg, almost yanking me off balance. We froze, our gazes locked, as the Infernal red glow pushed the chocolate brown from Justine’s eyes.

“I loved you.” Her voice was so clear, I almost forgot she was an illusion designed to torment me. “I know you were feral, but why me? Why did you kill me? You could’ve picked any of my neighbors.” She stared at me, as though silently pleading for an explanation. When I failed to provide one, a tear slid down her cheek. “Did you ever love me at all?”

I kicked her hand away, then stepped over her. I saw the hurt and betrayal in Justine’s eyes as she laid on the floor again in defeat. I didn’t look back as I entered the darkened stairwell.

Elaina—rather, eight-year-old Ellie—waited for me on the landing. She whimpered as she rocked back and forth, clutching her ruined leg. She tried to staunch the flow of blood with her tiny fingers, but her shattered femur jutted from her thigh. The jagged, splintered ends were pink, the bone itself having been sucked hollow.

A wave of dizzying nausea made me lean against the wall. I’d never had any real memory of this attack. For thirty years, I’d been spared that horror. That time was over. “You’re a sick bitch, Gwen,” I said as hot bile rose into my throat.

Ellie looked up at me in terror. “Help me. It hurts.”

I ground my teeth together as I walked past her. “You’re not really there,” I said with a cold distance I didn’t feel.

Ellie began to cry when she realized I was leaving her behind. “Please, Daddy. I can’t walk. I’ll never walk again.”

Every word was a fresh knife in my heart. “I’m not your father.”

“I love you, Daddy. Why did you hurt me and Mommy? Please, help us. Daddy!”

I turned to scream at her to go away, only to find she was already gone. A powerful tremble began in my limbs as I forced myself to continue up the stairs.

“Keep it together, asshole,” I said under my breath.

The stairwell had narrowed since the last time I’d been there. Just like in Gwen’s portrait room, overlapping frames covered the walls. The people in the pictures were strangers to me. At least…I thought they were strangers.

I realized their eyes were literally following me. A middle-aged white dude in a business suit glared as I passed. “Murderer,” he said, his voice a growl.

His face clicked. When it did, I recognized everyone else. “Go fuck yourself,” I said through clenched teeth.

I locked eyes with the portrait of a black man, surrounded by his wife and six children. “You killed us,” he said. “All of us.”

I remembered him. He was one of the first miserable pricks I’d feasted on after my curse lifted. “I didn’t kill you.”

Lighting began to arc from wall to wall, popping like firecrackers. The next portrait sneered. “You drained us then broke our necks. What do you think would happen to us?”

“I didn’t care what happened to you,” I said as I began to take the stairs two at a time.

The portraits laughed, a fiendish chorus of disdain. “You care. We wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care.”

 “You deserved what happened to you. You all deserved it.” Who was I trying to convince? Them, or myself?

“Who were you to judge us?” I couldn’t tell which one of the pictures spoke, but I guess it didn’t matter. “You’re the biggest monster of us all.”

I couldn’t deny it. “Go back to hell.”

The mass of pictures hissed as I breached the top of the stairs. A whisper on the wind said, “We’ll be waiting for you.”

I didn’t have time to catch my breath before I was confronted with Gwen’s next illusion. Duct-taped to dining chairs and placed side-by-side to block my way, my grandparents and young aunt glared at me. Their milky ghoul eyes radiated hunger as they fought against their restraints.

Filtered by childhood, I remembered them as being huge. As a man, that changed. One look told me everything I needed to know about my grandmother. Her bleached blonde hair had been brushed to gleaming perfection. She wore satin pajamas, and even a little makeup. However, her youthful appearance was a mask to cover her haggardness. Even as a ghoul, her posture was weak and submissive.

My mother’s younger sister, though…How old had she been? Seven? Eight? Smaller than Ellie when I’d attacked her. I’m sure my mother had her motives, but seeing that tiny neck covered in bite marks rendered them void.

My grandfather looked just as I remembered him. The first memory I had was of that man holding me underwater, screaming at me to drown. Hatred swelled up from the pit of my stomach, ugly and very familiar. I kicked him hard in his chest, putting enough power behind the blow to flip his chair twice.

The fog dropped around my aunt and grandmother like a curtain. I guess Gwen figured out that she’d plucked the wrong heartstring.

The nursery was the first room on the right. I mustered my nerve then stepped forward, already knowing which ghost from my past Gwen had waiting for me. I wasn’t disappointed. The glamour crouched next to the door, but nothing could’ve prepared me to face it.

The young woman wore a long dress that covered her from her neck to toe. The sleeves stretched past her fingertips. Her long hair was dark, like mine, but sleek and glossy with a natural wave. She was beautiful. I’d almost forgotten that. The sight of her twisted around my heart like strangling vines. I backed away as she took a step toward me, her hand outstretched.

My mother smiled in disbelief, tears streaming down her face. “Tobias? Is that really you? You’ve grown…” Her voice was breathy and weak, as though afraid to talk.

I said nothing. Her cold hand cupped my cheek, and I could feel every bone in her fingers.

She covered her mouth to muffle her sobs. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t crying. “Please, baby, don’t make any noise. He’ll hear you, and know I came up here.”

Jesus Christ, Sebastian. How old was this girl when you took a run at her? Fourteen? Even though I knew she was an illusion, I said, “Your father is dead, Olivia. He can’t hurt you ever again.”

My mother wiped her tears away, and blood smeared her cheeks. Her sleeves dipped back to expose dozens of crescent-shaped bite marks. Some were faded scars, some poorly-healed welts. The rest were raw and weeping. “Please don’t cry,” she said, even though I wasn’t crying. “I know you’re hungry, but I can’t. I just can’t. Not again.”

What if…what if this wasn’t an illusion? What if this really was my mother’s ghost, dragged from her eternal torment just to fuck with me? “You don’t have to feed me ever again, Olivia.”

My mother clutched my shirt with both hands. “I shouldn’t have made you come into this world.”

A deep chill settled over me. I’d forgotten that she used to say this to me all the time. Being a child, I’d had no idea what those words meant.

“I was so afraid someone would see me at the clinic and tell my father.”

“Stop,” I said, my mouth dry.

Her voice grew urgent, as though desperate to apologize. “I didn’t know what else to do. Then it was too late. Besides…you were my baby.”

Her fingers were so cold, they burned. “Stop.”

Olivia sobbed. “He said he loved me. He said he’d make me like him, but he never came back.”

I shoved down the violent urge to murder the hell out of Sebastian. “Enough!”

I realized an instant too late that Olivia held a matchbook. Her expression made her the poster child for psychopaths everywhere. Her gaze never wavered from mine as she struck a match, then the air ignited. The fireball whooshed like a tidal wave, peeling the flesh from my bones. It burned away my eyelids, so that flames were all that I saw.

Hell…My mother had dragged me with her, back to hell. I opened my mouth to scream, but the fire rushed down my throat.

Then, it was over. I found myself kneeling by the nursery door, surrounded by cool fog. My legs felt like jelly as I got to my feet and looked around to make sure I was alone. I saw no one, but that didn’t mean anything.

“Mata Diablo,” I said, my voice thick as I turned the door handle. It was unlocked.

The crib mattress creaked as I entered the room, and one of the babies gurgled. I took a step closer to the sound, only to be hit in the face by the smell of roadkill in a rotten diaper. The boy sat with his back to me as he played with a long string. He made small, animalistic grunts in the back of his throat.

Then, the reality of what I was seeing settled over me. The little boy’s skin was covered with the black flu rash. His chubby hands and cheeks were smeared with dried blood, his eyes white and unseeing. His sister…rather, what is left of her…was sprawled in the crib next to him.

Not much gets to me, but I had to close my eyes tight as I turned away. “This isn’t real.” I said in a desperate prayer. “This is another illusion.”

“If only that were true.’” I turned to find Gwen sitting in the rocking chair. She hugged her knees to her chest as she stared at the waking nightmare in the crib. The lines of her body were fuzzy, and I could see right through her.

Just then, I understood. The strange mist that had blanketed the city for almost twenty-four hours…this was Gwen’s true form. Grief had torn her apart.

Gwen’s face rippled like water, and her empty voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. “He had a fever, but that was nothing new. He ran a fever every time he cut a new tooth. I gave him some Tylenol to keep him comfortable, then we all laid down for a nap. Three hours later, I woke to his sister screaming.” Gwen closed her eyes in agony as more lightning arced through the air. “It was already too late to save her.”

I lifted my hand to rub my fingertips together. The mist that filled the air…I was covered head to toe in Gwen’s tears.

Rage surged through me. “Khalid. Khalid did this.”

Gwen let her head fall back, as though heartbroken to the point of exhaustion. “Khalid has been trying to kill my children since the beginning. He insisted that it was the only way to save me.” Her face hardened as she looked at me. “Now, with your help, he has finally succeeded.”

This knocked me for a loop. “The fuck? You’re blaming me?”

Gwen held out her hand, then opened her palm to reveal a dead butterfly. I recognized it at once as one of the golems Karen had made in her room at Kingdom Come. That one must’ve hitched a ride in my hoodie. “I have wards in place all around my home to protect myself and my children. I know Khalid. I know what he is capable of. I loved him, but only a fool would trust him.” Her voice took on a wicked resonance. “When you tricked my son into inviting you into our house, you brought this little bastard with you.” There was a hiss, then the butterfly’s delicate body disintegrated.

I couldn’t deny responsibility, not when it stared me in the face. “Then help me. Help me make him pay for what he’s done.”

Gwen stood as her hair transformed into a crown of flames. “You care nothing for my vengeance. You want only to protect the necromancer that murdered my children.”

Well, that settled that. “Mata Dia—”

Gwen’s scream drowned me out, then I was swept up in a tide of irresistible force. The invisible surge dragged me down the hall, banging me against walls and the ceiling. Before I could think to grab ahold of anything, I was slammed into the claw-footed bathtub. Saltwater flooded into my mouth and nose. Through the churning surface, I could see Gwen’s furious expression.

“You failed me, bloodsucker!” Her voice was like an earthquake and a volcanic eruption, all rolled up into one big ball of crazy. “Now you’ll pay the price!”

I had just enough time to wonder if she intended to drown me in her tears, or hold me under till I dissolved, when the water began to boil. The pain was immediate and beyond words. Panicked, I kicked and punched. I connected with nothing except the sides of the tub.

The second I accepted that this was the end, Gwen yanked me up. Her teeth scraped my ear as she said, “This is nothing compared to the suffering I will unleash upon your necromancer.” She shoved me under again, having become the sort of Infernal that can feed her kind for centuries.

I couldn’t call, but I was in definite need. Mata Diablo

Even through the agony, I felt the weapon in my hand. I took a blind swing, then thanked the blessed universe when the blade jarred against bone.

Gwen shrieked as the force holding me under the roiling water went away. I sat up, scalding tears cascaded down my face.

“Tenanye!” I said, coughing. I barely managed to squeeze the word through my swollen throat, but it was clear as a bell.

The enormous press of evil disappeared. “What did you call me?” she said, her voice small.

Somehow, I pulled myself over the edge of the tub then fell to the floor. I didn’t have to see my skin to know it was hanging from my flesh in ribbons. “Tenanye. Tenanye…I command you.”

There was another heartbeat of silence, then Gwen wailed.

“Heal me!” I had to shout to be heard above her wretched misery. “Tenanye, fucking heal me!”

Her scream turned into one of fury and absolute hatred. Regardless, in that same instant, my pain was gone. I could see, I could hear, and I could move freely. I pushed myself onto my hands and knees, to find all my missing body part had regrown. I had all my fingers and toes, and not a single blister on my skin.

The fog was gone. Gwen lay on her side next to me, sobbing in pure despair. Her cries were so pitiful that, despite everything, I felt a pang of guilt.

The bathroom door banged open, then a tall man walked into the room. He was flanked on either side by two more men, all three grim and angry. They appeared to be in their late-twenties and were dressed in fine silks. It was as though they’d stepped out of another century. Their faces were human, but, like Gwen, there was something off about all of them.

“Tell me, bloodsucker.” The leader shared Gwen’s strange accent. “How did you come to learn our sister’s true name?”

<<<Chapter 40

Chapter 42>>>

As always, thanks to all of you for following the story. I hope all of you enjoy what you’ve read so far, because, without you, there would be little point in writing it. If you like what you’ve read and want to help spread the word, please click the buttons below to like and share. You’d be doing more to help an independent author than you can possibly know. As always, stay blessed.

 

Chapter 41 will be delayed, because I do stupid, stupid things.

Hi. Ordinarily, I strive to keep my personal business off the internet because I’m an incredibly private person. Besides, it feels arrogant to presume anyone would care about my life or personal opinions. I’m here to tell stories, not change lives. I decided to make an exception today, so my story can serve as a warning to others.

Here’s the TL;DR: I haven’t been able to work on my book for a few days because my German Shepherd tried to rip my hand off.

Still with me? Okay, here’s the long version. Our family has four dogs. We never planned on having four dogs, but it just kind of panned out that way. This isn’t about all of our dogs, though; just the two males. koga

Koga is ten years old, and we’ve had him since he was a puppy. This dog is my freakin heart. He’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s funny, he gorgeous. You are literally looking at the best dog in the world.

ares

Ares is my son’s dog, and I personally delivered him. His mother was a stray, we took her in, and she thanked us a month later by giving birth to eleven puppies. We found homes for nine of the babies and the mom, but were left with two we just couldn’t place. The puppies, as they’re still known, will be two-years-old on New Year’s Eve.

Once upon a time, the boys got along very well. Then, Koga got old and Ares hit puberty. I guess the problem is that Koga feels as though he should still be in charge, and has never been above shoving the other dogs out of the way. The girls take his grumpy-old-manness in stride, but Ares has begun to take offense. Despite the fact that Ares is terrified of Koga–he trembles and growls every time Koga gets near him–they progressed to actual brawls about a month ago

Fast-forward to October eighteenth. What started this particular fight? Food. It’s almost always about food. Koga won’t let Ares near it unless I make him. Sometimes, Koga will run up and act like he’s going to take Ares’ food just to show he can, and that’s when Ares gets pissed.

img_5278

I know that looks terrible, but it all came from one scratch in the middle of his head. I posted it so you can see the horror I’m dealing with. Plus, it doesn’t help that Ares takes his job as guard dog extremely seriously. He acts like he was part of the Queen’s guard in a former life. img_5105

On October 18, the boys got into another knock-down-drag-out fight. My son and I tried to break them up by sticking a broom between them, since this has worked in the past, but not that day. Ares caught hold of Koga’s ear and would. Not. Let. Go.

I panicked and did the stupidest thing in the world. I reached between them, knowing it was a mistake, to grab them by the napes of their necks and drag them apart. Unfortunately, Koga decided to go for Ares’ neck at the same time. Guess who got bitten?

Yup. Me. I want to make this clear: I was at fault. I knew better. Everyone with sense knows not to reach between two fighting dogs. I was lucky in that Koga let go the instant he realized he’d gotten me and not his brother, and that he didn’t thrash his head. He didn’t have to. With the exception of that wide gash on my knuckle, those are puncture wounds that go all the way to the bone. Four days later, the bruises have risen to the surface and the swelling is just now starting to go down. For ten days, I get to enjoy a regimen of antibiotics that turn my stomach and make every inch of my skin feel like I’m covered in mosquito bites.

Oh, yeah. AND they didn’t give me stitches in the ER (Thanks, Obama) but instead decided to close my boo-boos with steri-strips. Guess what. I’m allergic to the adhesive in most bandages, and these were no different. Now, I have pus-filled blisters surrounding the bite marks, because why not?

Oh, btw? October the 18th is my birthday.

The good news is this seems to have taken the fight out of the boys. They mostly avoid one another now. While I know that some self-proclaimed dog experts won’t agree, we are not getting rid of either dog. It’s just not an option. These dogs are family. To us, and to each other. We are actively working to eliminate the stress-factors that play into the aggression between Koga and Ares. Instead of constant hostility, we are actively working to make them associate one another with fun and play instead of rivalry.

So, that’s why the new chapter is running late. I know, maybe three people in the world care if WitD3 is ever finished, but hey. You three people mean the world to me. And, for you three people…OMG LOOKIT MAH HAND!!!

I’m glad to be able to type again. Please, for the love of all that is holy, respect your animals. Big or small, dogs are dogs, and that is not a bad thing. That’s what makes them so wonderful. We have to love them as dogs. Not four-legged people, but dogs. My family is going to approach Koga and Ares’ problems from a perspective they, as dogs, can understand. To do anything else would be a disservice to them.