heretic. lurker in the shadows
ok..updated..chapter 4 exists
Two lovers stand under a street lamp outside a brownstone apartment saying their goodbyes. Many minutes pass as the two enjoy a parting kiss. When the instant eternity passes they stare into each other?s eyes. A petite woman with long red hair, porcelain skin and emerald green eyes gazes into her lover?s dark brown eyes.
?Good night, you. Thank you for such a wonderful evening.? Her voice is light and breathy with a tone of contentment to it.
The object of her affection looks down at her with a smile on his face and answers with a smooth, baritone voice:? No, no. Thank you. You always have a way of making the evening more interesting. Who else could take a performing artist?s interpretation of MacBeth and make it an enjoyable evening??
Slightly embarrassed she looks up at him and says:? Well, it?s the least I could do. I didn?t realize it wasn?t a Shakespearean production. I knew it was off Broadway but not that off!?
His laugh resonated through the night. ?Yes, I?m sure he never had anyone who could heckle in 6 different languages.?
?Probably not but there?s a first time for everything.? With that said she leans up and brushes his shoulder length black hair out of the way so she can kiss him again.? Good night, Urian. I?ll talk to you tomorrow.?
With a mischievous smile he answers:? If you?re lucky. Good night, Ezebella.?
The evening ends and the two part ways. She disappears into her brownstone and he walks away down the darkened streets towards his home. He is still so caught up in the night that he is unaware of the presence following him.
A stray shadow here, a whiff of smoke there, steam from a grate are all that is seen before a short, emaciated man with close cropped brown hair and a pale complexion is standing at the corner of a building as Urian approaches.
When he speaks it?s in a nasally moderate pitch but his frankness resonates like a bass drum. ?You can?t keep seeing her. You know that. If anyone finds out about her??
Noticeably aggravated, Urian answers:? Killian?shut up. No one is going to find out. No one has for almost a year and no one will. The nicest thing about being in my position is that no one wants to know what I do or where I go when I?m not taking care of business.?
?Yes,? Killian spits out with a mixture of concern and disgust,? The worst part about doing what we do is that no one wants to know but everyone likes to know?just in case.?
Urian sighs heavily.? Why did I have to pick a dervish for my best friend??
With a wry smile Killian says,? Because of my good looks? Perhaps it was my charm? Oh! How about my sex appeal??
?Hmm?let me think about that. No, no, and hell no!? Urian tried to act disgusted but couldn?t hide the smirk on his face. His oldest friend was just trying to lighten the mood, after all.
?Look, Urian, I?m just trying to look out for you. You?re what...500, 600 years old now? You should know better than to try to have a relationship with a mortal. If any of our rivals found out they could turn her. And what about the shifters? If they discovered her you know what would happen.?
With a reserved sigh, Urian agrees? I know, my friend. I know. But?I don?t know. I have a great time with her. We laugh, we joke and we can just sit together and have a great time doing nothing. I like having her around. Oh, and I?m 956 years old.?
?No!? Killian jumps in front of Urian poking his friend?s chest with a stubby finger.
?Damn it, Uri! You love her don?t you? I can tell. You have that same look you had when you fell in love with that girl in Virginia. When was it? 1781? She got shifted remember? She had to be put out of her misery after she lost her mind. You can?t love this girl. In your position it?s almost a death sentence for her. You?re really that old??
?I know, Killian. It was hard for me to see my love put out like that. Even harder for me to know that a friend had to do the deed.? Urian growled through his teeth.
?Yeah, but a job is a job. That?s what you taught me. A Danite does his duty regardless of the situation. That is what you have always said. Besides, you know how hard it was for me to do it. I knew how much she meant to you but??
Urian finished his friend?s sentence? A job is a job, I know. Who do you think wrote the laws? Look, Kill; it?ll be different this time. I?ve been very careful. No one has tracked me.?
? No one but me.?
? I let you. I trust you.?
?If you say so, boss, but I?m just worried about you and what about her? Hasn?t she asked questions about you, your job, and friends??
Urian already had an answer for his concerned friend.? I was raised by a rich uncle after my parents died. I was an only child and I inherited his fortune after his death. I donate a good portion of it and invest the rest. My friends are mostly over seas and don?t visit the states much.?
?Well, what about not going out in the daylight, or your aversion to church or garlic??
Urian laughed. Some of the weight of the conversation melting away.? Kill, are you starting to believe everything Stoker wrote? Hell, the best thing he ever did for us was to write that piece of garbage. The daylight issue, though?I have told her I am usually very busy during the day and evening. She?s been ok with that so far.?
?Nope. I don?t believe it. I?m just trying to give you a hard time. Are you sure you know what you?re doing? Are you sure everything is going to be ok??
?Yes, Killian. I?m sure. I?ve been very careful.?
? OK, if you say so. I trust you, Uri. For her sake, though, I hope you?re right. So, changing the subject, do you want me to tell you about our next job??
?In a bit. First let?s go have a drink and I?ll regale you with stories of my past that you?ve never heard before.?
Killian snickered? Sure, but only if you?re buying. And, as far as the stories go, I?ve heard them all hundreds of times.?
?Ha! You have not! Hell, you didn?t even know how old I was. Come on, let?s go.?
The two friends walk into the night laughing and talking about old times. Everything seems to be right between the two comrades. They walk towards the pub unaware of a mist creeping into the brownstone apartment.
A short time later, in an English style pub downtown, two slightly inebriated friends laugh as though they have not a care in the world.
?So! So, the barkeep looks over and sees me feeling up the waitress. The next thing I know I?m being chased down the street and shot at. How was I supposed to know she was his daughter?? Urian spits out the last of the story with a bit of a slur and giggle.
Killian lets out another, hard laugh. ?I imagine that you didn?t know but you have always been the lady?s man?more lover than fighter. It makes me wonder how you got fooled into half the fights you?ve been in. Oh, and you told me that one the LAST time we got drunk. I told you that I?d heard them all, Uri.? Killian chuckled at the point he felt he?d made and downed another shot of bourbon.
Urian stared into his glass, contemplatively for a moment. As much as he loved his friend he had to find a story that he hadn?t told Killian. Something that would prove he didn?t know everything about his friend and wow him at the same time. Otherwise, he?d never hear the end of how Urian had run out of stories.
In the back of his mind he found one but he was hesitant to relate it just to win an argument. It was something that only a few others knew and something very personal.
?What the hell? he thought. ?I?m sure he?s always wondered and he?s been my best friend for most of the 300 years since he was turned. I guess I owe it to him.?
So, with a sigh, Urian looks up from his glass at his still snickering friend, stares him in the eyes, and says: ?I?ve got one.?
With an overconfident chuckle and smirk Killian chimes in:? sure you do, my friend. Tell you what, if its one I?ve never heard?hmm?ah! If it?s one I?ve never heard before I will pay the tab.?
Victory was going to be too sweet. With renewed enthusiasm, Urian smiled enough to show his long canines, cleared his throat and began to speak softly.? I?ll tell you how I was turned.?
Killian dropped his glass. This was one he hadn?t heard before. His best friend had always guarded his origins very closely. The one time he had gotten the courage to ask he was told, simply, that the story was best left untold. This was going to be a real treat, indeed. Even if it did just cost him the bar tab.
Breathing slowly, Urian began:? I was on my way to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. It was just before we landed and I was at the bow of the ship looking towards the ever-growing landmass that was about to be our next conquest.
William and the others were looking for new lands to conquer and new people to rule. I was just looking forward to the taste of blood and the thrill of battle. I had land and power but my greatest joy was in the sound of steel on steel and looking into my opponent?s eyes as their lifeblood drained from them. It was the passion in my life and it was so close that I could taste it, smell it, and feel it the coming battle was calling to me. The path of destruction I?d leave in my wake, the havoc and the chaos. I was the reaper of souls and I loved every minute of it. Standing on the bow, thinking about the war to come gave me such elation and goose bumps that I could barely contain myself.
I was so caught up in my daydreams that I didn?t notice someone approaching from behind until I felt a dagger at my back.
?That is how the great Urian Gouel becomes the late Urian Gouel.? He said with a bit of glee in his voice. His voice was always velvety smooth and controlled. I had never heard it crack or falter.
? I let you creep up on me, cousin. Otherwise, you?d have been dead by now.? I was lying. I never knew he was there but I wasn?t going to let him know that he?d caught me completely unaware.
? Sure you did.? He didn?t believe me but he played along to placate my pride. ? Do you ever think of anything but battle and war??
I looked at him and smiled.? What else is there? At what other instant can you feel closer to life and death simultaneously? What else can conjure so many emotions and so much energy??
?Love, my dear cousin. Have you even thought about Olivia since we left? Have you even given her a second thought? I?ve seen how she looks at you. You?re a lucky man to have a woman like that. She?s strong, beautiful, and a great cook. Hell, she even has a decent sword arm.?
?Of course she does. I taught her.?
?That?s not the point, Urian. The point is she loves you with all of her being. She wanted you to stay. William gave you the opportunity to stay behind. He didn?t do that because you?re a relative and a friend. He did that because even he, the great king and conqueror, knows true love and you turned him down. For what? For blood shed. Blood over love. I don?t understand you.?
By this point I was fairly upset and I got close enough to my cousin to touch his nose with mine and I spoke through clenched teeth.? She understands. She knows this is my life. You are right, though. She is MY woman and I will conduct my business with my woman as I see fit. And you, dear cousin, need to keep you nose out of my personal affairs.?
I think he got the point because he backed away, turned around and walked away.
He shouted at me as he walked away:? All I?m saying is that it would be a shame if anything would happen to you. What would happen to Olivia? Who would care for her and your lands, then??
I watched walk him away. He was my cousin and my sword brother. He and I looked so much alike that many swore we were brothers, not cousins. The same long, black hair, the same physical build, the same walk, the same intense look in our eyes. Indeed, I felt as thought he was my brother. He was someone I could trust with everything, including my life.
He disappeared below deck and I didn?t see him anymore until we landed but his words kept running through my mind. What would happen to Olivia if I died? Who would look out for her? I had to push these questions out of my mind because I knew that, if they persisted, I?d be vulnerable to defeat. One person had only bested me and he?d just walked below deck. I was not about to be bested by foreigners?especially with my cousin on my side.
We landed, finally and it was continuous battle from the time we hit the shore. The Brits were savage but they were no match for us. We were ruthless and blood thirsty. All we had ever known was battle. It was in our blood and souls, passed down from our Viking ancestors. We waged war and we were geniuses at the art.
The sun was setting on the day of the last battle when it happened. I had just dispatched my last adversary. The smell of death, rotting flesh and the metallic stench of blood lingered on the wind and in my nose. The gargling last breath of my opponent filled my ears, my hands were stained red with the blood of hundreds of the dead. In short, I was in heaven.
I looked around the battlefield and noticed I had become separated from everyone. It didn?t matter because only the dead surrounded me. A beautiful field of dead, a garden of blood and flesh. In a moment of utter joy and triumph I raised my sword in victory.
That was all it took for a sword to pierce my back and come through my abdomen. I looked down and stared in disbelief. How could I have let this happen? How could I have been so careless? Who could have gotten the better of me? What savage put an end to my life? Then I got my answer.
He leaned forward until his lips touched my right ear and whispered, almost inaudibly:? That is how the great Urian Gouel become the late Urian Gouel. Don?t worry, though, I?ll take good care of Olivia for you. Rest in peace, cousin. It really is a pity that you died on this island and not in the arms of the woman that loved you. I?ll be sure to console her.
With that, he pulled the sword from my body and I fell to the ground like the rest of carrion. No more than a feast for the ravens and vultures. I watched him walk away; wiping the blood from his sword with a scrap he tore from one of the corpses, laughing to himself.
The wound didn?t pierce anything major so it was a slow bleed, a slow death. The only thing that crossed my mind was how my cousin, my own blood, betrayed me. How could he throw away all we had been to each other? I had no answers, no resolution in sight. That feeling of impotence spawned an every growing hatred to take the place of the sadness I had been feeling. And it grew like a wild fire.
I?m not sure how long I laid on the battlefield after the betrayal but I knew it was near the witching hour by the moon. That?s when the wolves appeared.
I hadn?t died yet and I refused to let these dogs chew on me. I weakly clenched my sword and waited. Even near death I wasn?t going to the afterlife easily.
The wolves seemed to sense something because none of them came near me. They formed a circle around me and waited. I didn?t know what was about to happen and, honestly, I was scared. I was about to be torn to shreds by a pack of wolves and I wouldn?t be able to stop them.
I had noticed a fog coming from the moors all evening and, as the wolves circled, the fog drew in as well. It slowly engulfed the wolves. The next thing I remember is hearing yelping and howling before the mist dissipated. When it cleared the wolves were gone or dead. In their place stood two figures.
In my dazed state I thought they were my cousin and Olivia come to gloat over my body. I wasn?t going to allow that so I pulled my sword to my side and used my hatred and anger to force myself vertical. The way I saw things, it was one last battle and I was going to take one, or both of them, to hell with me. I didn?t get a chance.
The male figure motioned and had me held immobile by some black magic before I could think. He approached me and spoke in a very deep, resonating voice that seemed to flow from his mouth like the fog over the land.? I could feel your pain from across the field of suffering. Tell me, if I could give you another chance at life would you take it? If I gave you the ability to reap your vengeance would you grasp it with both hands? If I gave you eternal life and powers to accomplish almost anything you could imagine, would you want it??
I was delirious by now but still had the strength, or nerve, to ask:? Why? Why me??
He snickered when he answered.? In all honesty? We had been watching the better half of the battle and noticed you and your fervor for the fight. It amazed me that you had even more blood lust than us.
So, we watched you. We saw the way you fought, the passion in your eyes. We also saw the cowardly betrayal by one of your own. We would like to grant you the chance for vengeance and to continue the battle. So, fallen, do you accept??
I tried to look into his eyes but all I could see was his silhouette. His tall, lean silhouette. I couldn?t tell if he was a dream or reality. I didn?t know if I was slipping into a state of dreaming before death or if this was really happening. I didn?t care. I, weakly, shook my head yes and he approached me (as did his female companion). The next thing I remembered was waking up in the dungeon of a castle with a woman named Illya to tend to me and teach me the ways of the night breed.?
Killian sat back amazed at what he had just heard.? Whoa! What happened next? Was Illya the same woman that was on the battlefield? Who was the vampire that turned you? How did you get involved with the Danites? What happened to your cousin? Come on, don?t leave me hanging.?
Still sullen, Urian answered:? I don?t know who turned me. I never found out. Illya was the woman on the field but she was sworn to secrecy even to this day. I received my ?initiation? into the Danites as soon as I was well enough and able but, dear friend, that?s a different story.
My cousin was granted my share of land in Somerset as well as his own. Plus, he claimed my estate back home as well?and Olivia as his wife.
He turned into a vicious man and was eventually cursed for his evil ways and his line still carries the curse. Because of this, his surname was changed from Percival to Lupellus and it remains this way today.?
Killian screamed in amazement, not caring where they were:? HOLD ON! Slow down and rewind a second! I may not be the sharpest tooth in the mouth but I know the Lupellus name. Are you trying to tell me that Ascelin Lupellus, THE Ascelin Lupellus, is your cousin? The black wolf? The lord of the hunt? Right hand of Lupercus himself? The most vicious shifter in history shares your blood? You have got to be kidding me! You said he was cursed, right? All the legends say that he is pure blood. So, which is it??
Urian looked Killian in the eyes and simply said:? Yes.?
?Yes?? Killian said, exasperated? Yes? I hate when you give me that answer! You mean he?s curse AND he?s pure blood? That makes no sense. Plus, if he was pure blood then wouldn?t you be a shifter as well??
Urian sighed. He had expected questions. Not quite this many questions, but questions. There was no way to stop the onslaught of queries. He had, after all invited them by telling the story. He was now obligated to explain everything. So, with another swig of whiskey, he began to explain.
? Our family is pure blood but we?re sleepers. Sleepers are pure bloods that don?t go through the change. For whatever reason it never takes place. They, sleepers, are shifters that seem to have a block that prohibits them from changing. When Ascelin was cursed the block was, essentially, removed. The curse also augmented his natural abilities as a shifter. It?s that augmentation that, by all accounts and legends, has made him as large, cunning and vicious as he is today. The draw back is that his human form, even his very humanity, is slowly slipping away. From what I?ve learned, he can no longer walk among humans because he is becoming more lupine. He sends his family to do the minor errands. He still ventures forth to take care of ?important matters?, though.
I have no idea if the curse would have affected me. I can only guess that being turned may have prevented that and kept the ?block? in place.?
?Umm?boss. One more question. If you were brought back for vengeance, why is Lupellus still alive?? Killian asked this hesitantly knowing that it may strike a nerve. He was not wrong.
His friend and commander spoke through his teeth.? Thanks for reminding me. Nice way to pour salt on the wound. Ascelin?s still alive because, by the time I recovered, he had gone back to Normandy, claimed my life, my land and my love. I spent the first several centuries pursuing him and his family but he always seemed to stay one step ahead. He and his family are like rats, the more you kill, the more there seems to be. Damnedest thing about shifters, they can have children and we cant. Proof the Gods have a sense of humor, I guess.?
?Yeah, well, I don?t want to dampen the mood anymore than it already is but I think we should call it an evening. We?re both felling pretty numb and we have a long night ahead of us tomorrow. Look, my place is just a few miles. Why don?t you crash with me today? It?ll save you from going all the way out to your place.?
?I guess you?re right about the evening but I?m going to have to turn down the offer for a bed. I think I?ll swing by Ezebella?s again. You know, to check on her. I may get one last kiss before I turn in.? Urian?s voice went soft with the thought of seeing Ezebella again and Killian worried that his mentor and friend was getting in too deep for his own good.
?You don?t want to do that, Uri. She?s probably asleep already. Just come crash with me. Mortals and Embraced both need their beauty sleep. No offense but you could use about 60 years worth.? With that comment, Killian turned his glass up and slammed it back down onto the table to signify that he was done for the night.
He looked across the table at his friend to see if he?d finished his drink but Urian had already left. Killian rushed out the bar and down the street to find his friend. There was no doubt in his mind where he?d gone. He prayed to whatever gods may exist that he was wrong. Urian didn?t need this unnecessary attachment. Not now. Not with everything that was about to happen.
He found Urian, in front of Ezebella?s apartment. He also found paramedics, firemen, police officers and a large inferno coming from Ezebella?s bedroom window.
?God damn it, Urian,? Killian whispered to himself. ?I told you this was going to happen. Jesus, I tried to get you to stop.?
In front of him was his oldest and dearest friend on his knees, face in his hands crying and screaming into the night.
If anyone heard his screams, if any god heard them, no one answered. The fire consumed everything in the brownstone until all that was left was a pile of rubble, ash and one decimated heart.
Five miles outside town is an estate that was built by Thomas Jefferson for a close friend. It?s a 30,000 square foot house that sits in the middle of 200 acres of forest, gardens and a hedge maze. The house itself is very quaint. The brown brick is trimmed in white wood around the eaves and windows on both floors. The windows themselves are all original hand blown glass. The double doors are handcrafted and made from ironwood and stand ten feet tall and are two foot thick. It?s an imposing image for anyone who hasn?t ventured forth onto the grounds before. And an intimidating landmark for many that have visited.
Neither the grounds, nor the doors, nor the dogs bother the visitor that approaches on a vintage motorcycle as the last rays of sun disappear behind the horizon. He?s been here hundreds, maybe thousands, of times over the past 200 years. He is so familiar with the lay of the house and the grounds that he could walk or drive the blind folded. So, It?s no surprise when he nonchalantly parks the bike and strolls up the walkway to the doors.
A knock at the doors, a brief wait and an answer by a tall, gaunt figure. The gentleman who answers looks only a few years younger than the gods yet he stands as straight and proud as any king. His white hair is perfectly combed. Indeed, his entire demeanor resonates with propriety and protocol.
He looks at the visitor down the length of an very large and long roman nose and asks in a very nasally British accent:? May I help you, sir??
To him the visitor sounds like a disrespectful child when he answers:? You sure can, Dar. Where is he? I?ve been sent to try to bring him to his senses.?
In a practiced dead pan tone that has made some wonder if he was more automaton than human being the gaunt man answers:? The name, master Killian, is Darwin. I would appreciate the respect of using my full name. In return for that courtesy, I wont call the dogs on you?again.?
Remembering the pain the six guard dogs inflicted last time he showed up and disrespected Darwin, Killian agrees. Reluctantly, but he agrees nonetheless.
?So, Darwin, where?s Urian??
?He?s in his study, sir. I will ask if he is receiving visitors. Please wait??
He didn?t have time to finish his sentence before Killian brushed past him and started down the hall towards Urian?s study yelling:? Thanks but no thanks, Dar...err?Darwin. I don?t want to give him a reason to turn me away.?
Darwin is a proud man from a long line of servants that have assisted kings, heads of state and dignitaries for centuries. Propriety would not allow him to show his feelings outwardly but, as Killian rushes towards the study, he whispers:? Good luck, sir. Good Luck.?
He sits at his desk with a dying candle his only light. He?s sat in the same room through wars, famine, depressions and other world shattering, history altering events but this time the turmoil is inward. He?s argued with himself dozens of times as to whether it was his fault Ezebella died. Could he have done something, anything, to prevent it? If he had stayed a little longer (he tells himself) maybe she wouldn?t have been in the apartment. Maybe he should have kissed her a little longer. Maybe he should have talked more. Maybe he should have never met her to begin with.
As he?s pondering these things his mind drifts back to the only time he?d ever been in her apartment. It was a few months after they?d started dating and the first time they?d made love. He?d come over that evening to help her sleep and ended up making love to the sound of the rain all night. In the afterglow they held each other and talked about everything and nothing. As the conversation ebbed she mentioned cooking something to eat and taking the trash out. He offhandedly told her that he?d do both and for her to just rest.
She?d been laying on his chest but propped herself up to kiss him on the lips when it happened. Out of nowhere she said:? Thanks, honey. It?s great being with you. You?re intelligent, funny, and handsome, you cook, you clean, you do it all. It?s like being in love with superman.?
The shocked look on her face when she realized what she said was priceless. Her eyes got as large as bagels and a look of complete horror and shock came over her face. She jumped out of bed and started looking for her clothes as if she was trying to escape a burning building. He had never seen anyone so embarrassed about saying they loved another person. He let it go a few minutes before he reached up and took her hand and told her that he loved her as well.
Her face instantly relaxed and she fell back into the bed and his arms asking:? Really? You?re not just saying that??
He smiled warmly and answered:? Yes, love. Really.?
They held each other until it was almost dawn. He stayed with her that night until he was forced to leave or perish but perishing that night would have been such a beautiful thing compared to his torment now. He did love her with all his heart but she was gone now and nothing could be done to fix that.
In frustration (and with a tear stained face) he hurls a brass paperweight from his desk. It may have crashed into the wall had it not been caught in the left hand of his oldest and closest friend.
?It?s not your fault, Urian. It?s not. You need to get over this. Hell, it?s been almost three months now. This isn?t like you at all. I mean, she was just a mortal.?
If Killian had anything else to say, he wasn?t given the chance. Faster than he could follow, Urian was out of his chair, over his desk and across the room with Killian?s throat in his hand.
He?d known Urian for almost 500 years and had seen him in many degrees of anger but this was something different. His friend?s face was barely eight inches from his own. He could smell and feel his breath. He could see the despair, hurt and anger in Urian?s eyes. Urian had held Killian back during many fights so he knew his comrade?s strength but this was far more than that. Urian seemed possessed. He had such a fierce grip on Killian?s neck that his fingernails were slowly sinking into his best friends flesh. He had also pinned him against the wall and shocked Killian?s system so badly that he couldn?t dissipate into smoke to get loose. For the first time since he was turned Killian knew fear. Real, deep, spine-numbing fear for his life and it was because of his friend. And, for the first time since he?d met Urian, he had no idea what was going to happen next.
Urian was so full of anger that he couldn?t see whom he was holding and he didn?t seem to care. He just knew that he wanted to lash out at someone. He?d been looking for an opportunity like this for almost three months. He wanted blood and didn?t care whose it was.
He stared at his friend through rage filled eyes, flaring his nose to take in the smell of the room and Killian?s fear. He loved that scent. That was always the tell tale sign of winning a battle. When fear overtook an opponent, the opponent always lost. This, though, was different. It was his best friend. Someone that had fought and bled along side him. His friend and brother. This was not the enemy that his fury filled mind kept trying to convince him it was. So, with his nails drawing dark blood from Killian?s neck, he spat through clenched teeth:? Ezebella was my beloved! My soul! My heart! My last vestige of humanity and if you want to keep your head attached a bit longer,? he squeezed harder to emphasize his point,? you WILL NOT refer to her in an offhanded way or as someone or something disposable. Do you understand, Killian?? The last question was more to emphasize to Killian that he knew exactly what he was doing and to whom he was speaking.
Killian got the point loud and clear. ?Yes, sir. Now, would you let go of me before you accidentally decapitate me??
?Fine.? With that, Urian pulled his hand back, slightly ripping the flesh of Killian?s neck. It healed almost instantly but that didn?t matter. Killian knew his place.
Apologetically and almost forced, Killian whispered:? Look, Bro, I?m sorry. I knew you loved her?um?love her, but I didn?t realize how deep it was.?
With a lowered head Urian faintly said:? I was going to tell her the truth about everything the next time I saw her. I was going to ask her if she wanted to be turned so we could be together forever.?
?pooh.? Killian whispered to himself. He thought? What did we do?? But he said:? I?m sorry, Urian. I really am.?
?It?s ok. Just be careful of your words next time.?
?Sir!? Darwin was a professional, formally trained butler with years of experience and tons of decorum. He had experienced more than most people could imagine. He is not one to scream without reason? but he was, and repeatedly. ?Sir! You better hurry, please!?
Both Urian and Killian ran in the direction of the screams, towards the entryway and the ironwood doors. A thousand thoughts ran through Urian?s mind. He imagined a myriad of scenarios as to what could have made his servant and friend scream. What he saw was not one of those.
The double doors that had withstood troops, riots and even cannon fire were torn from their hinges. They were ten feet tall and, together, they are six feet wide. The creature they saw took up most of that space. It was nearly eight feet tall and four feet wide at the chest. Its massive arms were as large as its tree trunk size legs. Its entire being was framed in orange fur with black stripes. Its wide chest was heaving from the exertion of pulling the doors off their age-old hinges. It stood there for a moment growling and staring directly at Urian.
If the hot-tempered vampire heard his friend and commander, he didn?t respond. As fast as thought he raced toward the weretiger and seemed to evaporate into a mist.
What was supposed to happen was Killian?s favorite maneuver in battle. He would be inhaled by his opponent and become solid enough to burst his lungs. What actually happened was something altogether unexpected.
As he neared the beast he felt a wind blowing towards him, slowing his progress. Then, for the second time in less than an hour, he felt a hand around his throat, squeezing to the point of drawing blood.
?Would you call your dog off?? The voice came from the shifter. It was soft and low with a slight guttural inflection.
He continued:? I have come under the treatise set forth by Kane and Lupercus in the time of unity.?
?I require proof that you are acting in an honorable fashion, shifter.? The words forced their way out of Urian?s throat. He was being polite more for the sake of his friend, who was in the claws of this creature, than out of any respect for a tradition that hadn?t been observed in thousands of years. Still, though, he was intrigued as to what this beast may want.
?Very well.? The deep tone resonated through Killian?s ears as he was dropped. While he hit the floor, the weretiger shifted into a very tall, muscular Nubian with tattoos across his face, shoulders and arms. Even Urian had to admit to himself that the man was just has intimidating as the beast.
? I assume that was proof enough for you, undead?? The man?s voice was as deep and guttural as his shifted voice.
While Killian was picking himself off the floor and collecting himself, Urian approached the nearly seven foot tall shifter and extended both hands, palms up.
?I accept your proof, Kahlil, and I extend a welcome to you.? The words were ceremonial and the outstretched hands were to show he had no malicious intent. Truth be known, he?d have rather torn the shifter limb from limb with those hands.
? I see you are aware of the old ways, blood drinker, and I thank you for your ability to abide by them even though I?m sure its tearing you apart to be this close to a shifter.? Kahlil?s words poured from his mouth with a mixture of understanding, irony and pleasure. He was being diplomatic but the condescending undertone was there.
? I have come for one purpose, embraced, then I will take my leave.? Kahlil kept his eyes firmly fixed on Urian whose hands were still outstretched. Urian met, and kept, the gaze. The weretiger slowly reached into a satchel and pulled out a manila envelope.? This might of some interest to you, night breed.? Kahlil placed the envelop into Urian?s hands, bowed, turned and walked out of the house stopping only long enough to apologize to Darwin for the intrusion.
After the Nubian was out of sight, Urian opened the envelope wondering what the creature had just given him. Why come this far and risk life and limb to hand him an envelope?
Cautiously, he opened it and pulled the contents out to examine them.
Killian had recovered completely by now and started yelling:? You?re going to let him walk out? That was Kahlil! He was our next target! You can?t let him get away. We have to go after him! I knew he was a powerful mage but the both of us can take him. Let?s go, boss.?
Not even bothering to look up, Urian simply tells Killian:? Shut the hell up. We aren?t going after him.?
A lone figure walks towards the wood line of the estate. His task complete, he makes his way through the underbrush until he finds a small group of people.
One man steps forwards and greets the werebeast:? Hail and well met, Kahlil. I take it he received the package??
Kahlil nods? Aye, I just hope you know what you?re doing, Lord Ascelin."
Urian stared at the contents of the envelope for an eternity. Pictures are what he?d been given. Nothing more than pictures is what Killian saw. But Urian kept staring at them.
Killian slowly approached him and tried looking over Urian?s shoulder to get an idea of what had his friend transfixed but Urian was almost a foot taller than him so he was left with asking.
?Umm, Uri, what?s the matter? Why are you staring at those pictures? What?s wrong?? Killian tried hard to hide his fear and wasn?t sure if he?d been able to.
Urian passed them to his friend without looking up. ?You look at them and tell me what you see.?
After a moment Killian responded:? The fire at Ezebella?s? Man, I?m sorry, Uri. Why did he give these to you? Damned shifters are wastes of flesh. Evil little **TOS VIOLATION**ers.?
?Look at the pictures closer, Kill.? The statement was more of a command than a request and Killian knew it by the way Urian?s voice dropped.? What do you see??
?Um, I see the fire and the paramedics and the smoke. The same thing we saw the night it happened. I don?t see what any...?
?Look harder.? Urian?s voice was powerfully and demanding and it scared Killian.
? Damn it, Urian, I don?t see anything out of the ordinary. Like I told you, I see the fire and people and the smoke.? Killian was trying to sound confused and as clueless as possible.
Without taking the pictures from Killian?s hands, Urian pointed to a spot in the upper left hand corner of the frame.
?That! What is that?? The anger was rising in Urian?s voice like he knew something but Killian still played clueless.
? It?s smoke, Urian! Just **TOS VIOLATION**ing smoke! I don?t know what you want me to see but it?s just smoke!? Killian?s anger was rising as quickly as Urian?s but for a different reason.
?Wrong! Look again. Look at the direction that the flames and the rest of the smoke is taking and then look at that one trail. You see it now? It?s going in the opposite direction! The opposite damned direction!?
?Uri. I don?t know what to say.? He didn?t. Killian was speechless.
?It was one of us in her apartment!? Urian was outraged and snarling between breaths. ? What the hell did they intend to accomplish with this and who the hell was it??
Killian sighed:? Uri, I tried to tell you this would happen. I tried to tell you that you could be followed. Besides, who said it was one of us? It could be a shifter. You know how tricky they are.?
?Bullshit!? Urian spat through his teeth,? You?ve been around long enough to know that there are things we can do that they can?t and turning to vapor or smoke is one of them. For that matter that?s almost a lost talent. You?re the only one I know of that still knows how...unless you?ve taught someone else.? Urian got, uncomfortably close to Killian. ?Have you taught anyone else??
Killian didn?t have to lie about this.? I haven?t taught anyone, Uri. My sire, Joseph, taught me before he met his end with a mob in Salem. As far as I knew I was the last to have this talent. Well, until I heard your story. It sounds like your sire had the talent too. What can we do? It?s over. We just need to move??
A backhand from Urian sent Killian flying across the room in against the wall.? I will do nothing until I get to the bottom of this. Tell the council that they can sun bathe for all I care! Until I figure out why this was done I am not accepting any more assignments and you can leave with a limp if you mention leaving this alone one more time.?
?Darwin! I need you to get me gear ready. I am going out tonight to find answers.? Urian didn?t offer an apology to his old friend nor did he offer to help him up. He just looked at him and said? Your choice. You decide between duty and friendship.? With those words Urian walked towards his study to change.
Killian got up on his knees, wiped the blood from his lips and yelled out to Urian:? Uri, stop!?
Urian paused in his tracks but did not turn around.
? I have already made my choice Urian Gouel.? Killian let his anger seep from his voice for the first time in many years.
Urian turned his head just enough to make sure Killian heard him.? You have? And what is your choice Killian??
A long pause as the two friends silently sized each other up. Then Killian spoke: ? I will get my gear as well. We?re in this together. I?ll be back in an hour and a half at the most.?
Urian smiled, slightly, for the first time in months and said:? Good, my friend. I will be waiting.? And he continued walking to his study.
Killian made it to his feet and grabbed his helmet as he walked out the door and mounted his motorcycle. When he was out of earshot of the house he hit a button on the side of his helmet. A ring then an answer.
An ambiguous voice answered. ?Hello??
? This is Killian. I need to see you. I am on my way in.?
Killian drove off to his destination unaware of the eyes watching him from the bushes.
A man backed away from the road, turned around and ran back to an encampment as a wolf. Once there he shifted back and slowly approached his commander.
?Lord Ascelin, Killian has left the grounds. We have a flyer following him now and they should report back once he reaches his destination?
Ascelin nods in approval.? Very good, Jonathon. Be sure to let me know as soon as they arrive. I want to know Killian?s every step from this moment on.?
?Yes, sir? Jonathon bowed, turned and walked away.
Ascelin stood in silence staring in the direction of Urian?s house for some time before Kahlil walked up behind him.
?Lord Ascelin. It would be so easy to take him now. Urian Gouel has been the cause of so many deaths in the shifter and human community that he deserves to die. Just say the word and we will put an end to his unholy existence.?
Ascelin snickered a bit before answering.? Kahlil, my friend, I know what Urian has done to our kind. I know what you think he deserves. I also know that it is taking a lot to respect my wishes and I commend you for that. The gods know I wouldn?t have been able to walk into a place like you did without taking someone to the afterlife.
The fact remains that we need him. I am not saying to pull any punches when any of us meet him...and we will meet him. I am just asking you to realize that we need him alive. We need him more than you know. Please, Kahlil, just humor your old friend for a little longer and I promise you wont be disappointed, ok?? Ascelin put an arm across Kahlil and smiled.
Kahlil was a proud man. He was also very strong and stubborn. He had never disobeyed his friend and lord, though. So, with a deep sigh, he laughed and said:? Ok, my lord, but the moment you want him to see a sunrise I will be first in line to accomplish the task.?
Ascelin had to laugh at his friend?s attempt at levity.? If that time comes, I will let you do it and I will even help. Until then, thank you for humoring me one more time.?
Both of the men stood there and talked about old times and swapped war stories until Jonathon walked up and interrupted.
?Lord Ascelin. The flyer has found Killian?
? Where are we going, Uri?? Killian asked a little confused and a bit perturbed at the fact his friend hadn?t spoken one word since they?d left his house over an hour ago.? I mean, Jesus, we?ve been driving so long that we may not make it back home before day??
?We?re where? All I see is darkness and trees?lots of trees. What the hell, Urian??
? Killian,? Urian looked at his comrade with a very stern and matter of fact gaze? you can, either, come with me, or, sit in the car and wait. The choice is yours. Just don?t make so much noise.?
Killian watched his friend step out of the car, close the door, and wait. He hadn?t come this far to just sit in the car and not see whom Urian had traveled this far to see. So, with a sigh, Killian Gravenhoff climbed out of the car and stood alongside his friend.
Several minutes passed and nothing. Urian continued to stand in one spot with his eyes closed and muttering to himself. No one had ever claimed Killian was patient and he was not about to change that opinion.
Shoving Urian, Killian spoke loudly enough to cause an echo. ?Hey. What?s up? Why haven?t we moved? Why haven?t we done anything but stand here??
In an unexpectedly unperturbed voice Urian answered:? Because, my dear friend, I am waiting for her to acknowledge me and accept you so that we both may enter unharmed. She is not the most sociable being and isn?t prone to letting new visitors live. We can, however, pass through anytime we wish and risk being torn asunder by whatever traps or trials she has laid for unwary interlopers. What would you like to?ah?she has accepted and invites us in. Come, Killian. Let us proceed.?
Killian had come prepared to meet someone in a seedy bar or a back alley. That sort of thing was the norm for a Danite in the execution of his duties. What was going on here was far from anything he had ever experienced.
Urian stepped forward and disappeared into a tree. At first Killian thought that he?d gone behind the tree but a quick inspection proved him wrong. There were no footprints leading away from where Urian had stood. No indications that he had climbed the tree or left the area at all.
Perplexed and a little worried, Killian stood facing the tree and drew a deep breath before stepping from the forest road, through the tree and into a spacious, palatial ballroom.
Completely in shock at his surroundings he didn?t notice he friend standing next to him with a slight smirk on his face.
?Yeah. That?s the expression I had the first time I saw this place. I was in awe of the beauty of the entire estate...and it is an estate. It stretches over 1000 acres and has hundreds upon hundred of rooms. One could get lost in here for months. I know. I almost did.?
Flabbergasted by the idea that one minute ago he was standing outside a tree next to a barren strip of badly paved road and the next minute he was standing in a ballroom that would have made the czars jealous, all Killian could muster was.? Are?are we in the tree??
Amused by Killian?s comment Urian chuckled and replied? We are nowhere on our plane. Not that I know, anyway. We are in a place that, if the owner wished, we would never escape. This place is as large or as small as she wishes it to be and we are at her mercy in regards to all things here. Even our very lives are at her mercy.?
?Um. Urian. Who, exactly, is she?? Killian asked this with more than a little concern in his voice. The thought of being totally at someone?s mercy was a prospect that he did not relish.
?She?s a pseudo-ascended, Killian. There are a few things you have to remember before we get the??
Urian was interrupted by Killian screaming as though he?d been tied to a post to greet the sunrise.
? AN ASCENDED!? ARE YOU CRAZY? They?d just assume wipe out every creature in the realm before they talked to one of us! Jesus, Uri, I knew you were depressed but not suicidal! Why don?t? we just stand outside for a few more hours and just let the sun burn us to a crisp??
? Killian, shut up. I said she was a pseudo-ascended. She was a Fallen once. Her name is Emity. About 500 years ago I was assigned to terminate her. I had tracked her to one of the portals her kind uses to traverse from realm to realm when her underlings attacked me. There were a dozen and my death was imminent. I was lying prone under the largest of them. He had his mandibles around my neck and would have killed me but she disallowed it. There was an argument and she killed all of the Fallen with but a single word.
I had passed out during the battle between she and the others and when I awoke I was in her estate being cared for by servants. I was disoriented and began running through the corridors. I was lost for several days before she found me and brought me to her meeting room. That was a painful experience.
When I reached her, she was also in pain. She had done a great act of good and her body was reacting to that. She was entering a chrysalis stage so that she could handle whatever changes might occur. She?s gone through many of them over the years. I have helped her find her way back to the realm of light and she has helped me by being my eyes in the darkness as it were.
And, as I was saying, two things you need to remember. The first is that you should not move, under any circumstance. No matter what, don?t stray from where you are standing right now. Don?t, lean, shift your weight, and for your own good, don?t walk anywhere.?
Confused, Killian asked? Don?t move? What are you saying? How can we get to her if we don?t move??
?Just wait and see. Emity! We?re here! I seek an audience with you! Please, grant me this favor.?
There was silence for a time. Killian had the passing thought that his friend had gone insane and that they?d end up dead. As the doubt entered his mind, it was swept away like smoke in a breeze. He was about to voice his concern to Urian when everything blurred and appeared to be moving. The rooms, furniture, paintings, everything seemed to be moving to allow them to pass; yet they were motionless. It was as though something was pulling them towards their destination.
?Oh, Kill, ?
? Yeah, Uri.?
? I know you?ve seen quite a bit but try not to stare. She hates that. When in doubt, just follow my lead. We?re almost there now.?
It wasn?t a meeting room. It was more of a grand throne room with arches so high they were obscured in shadow, Paintings and sculptures that would have made the greatest human artist jealous and smells that seemed to tease the deepest desires. Urian had experienced the journey many times before yet it always seemed to leave him feeling uneasy. His body felt like it was out of synch with his soul. Killian had that reaction and much more. He found himself dry heaving the moment they ceased moving. His head felt like he?d been thrown inside a dryer set on high for 3 years.
Through the humming in his head, Killian heard Urian urging him to his feet.
? Get up, Killian. She doesn?t like it when visitors aren?t standing. It makes her nervous. Remember to stand, follow my lead if you need and don?t stare.?
A whisper of a hint of a voice came to both men?s ears.
?Ahhhhhh my favorite friend, my comrade, my redeemer, how I have missed your company. Feel welcome here, Urian Gouel as should you, Killian Gravenhoff. Yes, I know your name as I know much but many secrets are revealed in time, aren?t they??
Urian spoke up in a respectful tone? Emity, I have come to ask a favor. There are things going on that I need answers to. Will you help me??
? For you, love? Anything. Please. Come forward so that I may glean what I can from the both of you.?
Killian looked at Urian with a bit of apprehension but he got a nod of reassurance and proceeded to step forward with his blood friend.
?Oh, Kill. This?may hurt a bit.? Urian smiled the sadistic grin that he had for times when they were about to do something they may both regret.
It didn?t hurt too badly for Killian. The feeling was something akin to having a hot poker driven upward through his jaw and out the top of his head and then it was over. He looked to Urian for some sign that everything was on the level but his friend seemed lost in thought.
Thousands of images flashed through Urian?s mind but only one voice, Ezebella?s.
?Hi, nice to meet you too. My name is Ezebella?. Why, yes. I will go out with you?I love you too, Uri? Good night, Urian. I?ll talk to you tomorrow.?
It was Killian shouting at him.
Groggily Urian answered:? Yeah. Sorry, I was remembering. That?s what happens when Emity probes too deeply. How?d you handle it??
?Um. Ok. I guess. It felt like the lobotomy that one shifter tried to give me about 50 years ago. Other than that it was peachy. Now, When do we get to know what she knows and why did she do that, anyway??
?Emity is a seer but only a short term seer. She can only see a year or two ahead at the most. She probes a subject?s mind for all the information on the question then does whatever she does to come up with a conclusion.?
?Sounds interesting. Hey, how did you know all of that, Uri? You almost sound like you have the same talent.?
?Kill, unlike you, I ask questions. Now please be silent. Here she comes.?
A mist filled the room and the sound of running water followed. Urian stood still but Killian kept watch to see when the water would begin flowing at his feet. There was nothing but a single worm wriggling at his feet. No. Not a worm but a maggot. Not one but a dozen, no, thirty. Killian looked around and saw thousands of maggots writhing across the floor under the mist that had come in.
?Killian, ? Urian whispered? Remember, don?t stare. Please.?
? I don?t promise anything but I?ll try? Killian was wondering what connection the maggots had with their host.
? If you can?t promise, then we?re dead.? Urian?s voice was stern and serious and even a bit scared. That didn?t bode well.
?Ok, Uri. I promise.? If Urian was afraid of someone he called friend then Killian knew he should take care.
Killian watched as the maggots gathered a few feet away from he and Urian. Slowly the mass became a pile and the pile started taking on human characteristics. Out of the mass came the shape of a skull, then a neck, ribs, hips and legs. There was no real skin but the worms were the exterior façade. The form was that of a slender woman in her mid twenties with long, flowing hair and slight build.
Her voice was light and airy and seemed to resonate more through Killian?s head than the room in which they currently stood.
?Urian?you have friends in enemies, enemies for friends. Alliances with traitors, feuds with loyalists and a blind eye to what you need to see. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer but know who is who and which is which. Love is lost and regained and lost again only to be regained if you can trust those that you despise and despise those you trust. Urian, you think f yourself as the puppet master but the ties that bind you are greater than any other puppet in this play. Know when to cut the strings or you may be hung with them to greet the daylight that kisses your face like no other. Trust your instincts more than those around you and believe your eyes less than you believe your ears. Killian is...?
Her voice trailed off as though suddenly deep in thought then she suddenly screams? Judas! You must leave! Betrayal!?
Before Urian could ask any more questions he and Killian found themselves a few feet from their car and not alone.
? Do you think this is what she meant, Uri?? Killian asked as they both stared at the assembled mass of Counselors? Guards.
A large man in the front stepped up and practically yelled:? Killian Gravenhoff and Urian Gouel, you will both accompany us to the Counsel. You will come along peacefully.?
Urian calculated the odds of escaping or fighting and didn?t find them favorable so he, reluctantly, agreed. They were escorted to their vehicle. They were followed and lead by a caravan of guards
As the cars pulled away from the isolated area a large black wolf accompanied by a smaller grey one and a tiger disappear into the night.