based on an idea by Trevor Taylor [firstname.lastname@example.org]
written between Feb. and Oct. 1993
copyright 1993, by the authors
A vicious cold edged wind blew across the center of the lake. As it passed, it raised brief, but turbulent white caps over the water. The white caps were barely visible in the dark; slightly blue shades, appearing and disappearing, as the breeze passed. The night was the color of midnight blue; no moon, no light. The inky darkness of the water absorbed the dim light provided by the the stars, which were masked by a thin cloud cover.
The wind began building from a breeze to just below a gale. Across the water, in the direction of the travel, lay the city. It was now just a dim glow, like an open campfire seen from distance. The speed increased, the city grew. The force struck the shoreline, scattering debris and discarded paper. It swooped towards the center of the city, past pulsing neon signs, ruffling the clothing of sleeping drunks. The wind, now a gale, narrowed to more of a stream of force. It struck the base of a skyscraper, shooting straight up and over, viewing the city from twenty floors up.
It veered suddenly, as if it had located a specific destination, as if it possessed not a soul, but a purpose. The wind howled over businesses, shops and houses, until it came to a decrepit industrial zone, walled in by shattered windows and fossilized machinery. It roared to a building on the edge of the zone and from its height drove straight down. At the bottom of its descent in tightened further and aimed at an old sign hanging by one rusty bolt from the side of the building, beside a stairway leading down. It struck, snapping the remaining bolt and casting the sign down the stairwell, impacting a steel door at the bottom.
The door opened with a metallic screech and the hinges cried as they were put to use. A dark figure, barely visible, noted the sign and with an invisible sneer, mumbled:
"Welcome to the Ravager's Kiss, enter and be....entertained....."
Mordred stood in the doorway looking at the figure hunched in the shadows that had just spoken these words to him. Of course with his unholy vision the figure stood out like blazing bonfire. His eyes slowly scanned up and down the length of the vampyre in front of him. It felt good to be in the presence of his own kind, he still considered himself master, but at least Mordred knew the beings inside would be for the most part above his contempt.
"Geoffrey de Lafluer! The esteemed owner and sole proprieter of 'Ravager's Kiss'...it's been a long time, *friend*."
Mordred hissed out the word friend as if it was the vilest of epitaphs. He could see Geoffrey cringe, no doubt remembering back to that incident in Spain. A cruel thin smile played about Mordred's lips as he realized nothing had really changed...he loved the things in this world that lasted.
Mordred stepped fully into the converted basement-turned bar of this incarnation of the Kiss. He swept off a long heavy black cloak revealing his rather dated mode of dress: a white cotton shirt with a high straight collar under a deep red vest and a long formal black coat, coming to the middle of his thighs in both front and back.
Geoffrey got a good look at his old "friend" as he stepped into the light. His thoughts echoed Mordred's earlier ones...some things never change. His gazed shifted over the tall noble form of this ancient vampyre. The first thing he noticed, the first thing anyone ever notices about Mordred, were his eyes. They were ageless, and these flashing grey orbs seemed to pierce straight into Geoffrey's mind. Lafluer had been a vampyre for many centuries, but he still felt a bit of awe in Mordred's presence. He had never exactly figured out how old the fearsome creature was, certainly the oldest of his kind Geoffrey had ever encountered...at least that he knew of.
The vampyre bar-keep noticed that Mordred still kept his jet black hair long and swept back from those thick brows which gives him a perpetual look of deep thought or intense emotions. His eyes are next drawn to the two pronounced scars on either cheek, vertical slashes Geoffrey had always figured were caused by a piercing weapon back before Mordred was turned. He also noticed the stout wooden cane in Mordred's hand. Geoffrey knew enough about this vampyre to figure out what that cane really was. He knew with a flick of Mordred's wrist, he could draw on the silver dragon's head handle to reveal at least two feet of glittering sharpened steel. Ever since the wearing of swords became obsolete, Geoffrey had never seen Mordred without some kind of concealed blade.
"It *has* been a long time. I haven't seen you in over a century Mor...um, or do you still prefer Richard?"
"Actually it was Sir Richard at one point, but now that I am back among my own kind I do not mind being referred to as Mordred again."
Mordred thoughtfully stroked a long end of his thick black mustache.
"We will have plenty of chances to 'catch up on old times' Geoffrey, I think I will see what kind of patrons this place attracts now that it is in America, AND in the twentieth century..."
As he scanned the darkened bar he noticed quite a few figures. Most blazed with the unholy life-force of his race, yet he also noticed quite a few appeared to be mortal. Quite interesting, he thought to himself. This should be quite a visit. He strolled over to a table and bowed to a lovely young mortal woman with raven tresses and sparkling green eyes...
An icy wind swept through her mind, numbing all thought patterns, numbing all emotions. She was alone, alone again. Only the comfort of the old gods remained for Ragna and gave her the courage to mix with the undead. That, and a certain knowledge passed on from her grand parents.
She remembered, when only a very small child, maybe one year old, being carried on the shoulders of an individual, a very unusuall individual. She had a strange smell, a smell neither of milk nor mother. This person, from what young Ragna's blurry eyes could tell, didn't look like a person at all. More waxen, like a porcelein doll.
Ragna remembered it was the time of no light, but permanent dark, which struck fear into the villager's hearts. She remembered that as she was being carried off, the people of the village pursuing, calling to the Old Gods for support. On the edge of the base of a cliff the villagers caught Ragna and the other. She remembered flying through the air, having been launched, and being caught by one of the villagers. Her grandfather had then approached her kidnapper. He had shouted a few words and a set of gleaming fangs had greeted him, as her kidnapper jump at her grandfather. He had then removed a small, teardrop shaped bronze medallion, which he placed firmly on the bare skin of the approaching vampyre. The sound had tore through the countryside, bouncing from rock to rock, through the village huts and had then moved out to sea. This, was the death howl of the undead. The last she remembered was her grandfather putting the medallion over her tiny shoulders, and saying "keep this always, little one, for you have been marked and need the old ones protection". And so she had, for the medallion now rested warmly between her breasts, hidden from common view. And she had used it in the recent past, the very recent past.
Ragna was jerked awake by the approach of an individual. Her medallion momentarily sent a wave of cold through her skin, but she needed no help in recognizing the creature for what he was; undead. He held no interest for her, because he was not the one she searched for. A wave of disappointment shot through her mind. The undead bowed and Ragna, after a moments hesitation, said;
"Sit were you will, undead-one, it matters not to me"
With that, she turned her back to him, and continued to scan the crowd, searching...and hoping....
Outside, the wind howls coldly and sensible mortals have long let the nightime streets. All around the Kiss things are quiet and dark. In the distance a solitary light pokes it's head over a hilltop then careers down the other side. Gradually it gets closer and closer to the Kiss until it's source is revealed, the single headlamp of an old beatup Harley. The bike slowly edges up to the front of the Kiss where it grinds to a halt. The rider dismounts in a haphazard fashion and promptly deposits himself on the ground.
Inside, Geoffrey is busy being the 'good' barman serving drinks, cleaning glasses, the usual barman stuff. However, this will not be a usual evening not with Mordred here and Caine only knows who else will arrive. He reckons it could turn nasty if there are too many of the older vampyres here since many that he knows have grudges against one another. His thoughts are distracted by the sound of a motor approaching. Great, he thinks to himself, that's all I need.
From the corner Mordred hears the sound long before Geoffrey. Who could this be he wonders, perhaps another fool come to see the excitement of the Kiss. A stange sound starts to emenate from just outside the door, very faintly at first then louder and louder until it is cut off by a gruff voice, cursing in some obscure tongue. Finally the door screeches open and the rider stumbles into the place. He appears to be slightly dirty from his fall and considerably drunk. Ragna views the stranger's entrance with interest. Who could this be, could it possibly be the one ... It is impossible to tell with the grimy, weathered cape and hat which reveal nothing of the owner.
With a flourish, the figure at the bar removes his grimy cape to reveal an altogether brighter exterior. He is clad in the latest Paris and New York fashions, the best clothes money can buy, and yet somehow he manages to look dated and old, oh so old, in them. His suit is a slightly off yellow colour which along with his vermillion tie and lavander shirt provide cause for amusement in the other patrons.
Having ordered his drink, Klaus surveys the room. It hasn't been a bad night so far, he thinks. Have to do something about that bike though if I'm gonna keep using it ... could always fly, but hey who gives a damn. His thoughts are disturbed when his eyes cross to the corner of the room where a lovely young mortal sits. Ah he thinks things are most definitly picking up, but wait, she already appears to have a companion, and a rather powerful one as Klaus notices the aura around the other vampyre. No matter he thinks, all this calls for is a little charm. He chuckles as he moves off to the table.
Ragna views the stranger as he approaches and wonders if this could be the one whom she is seeking .......
Ragna and Mordred gazed upon Klaus with cautious reservations. Unknown to them and the rest of the regulars, a silent stranger casually lounged in a dim litted booth on the far corner, witnessing the event. He almost smiled, even started to create a possible story for the situation, but stopped himself immediately. Careful, Bryan told himself, some of the old ones may be able to hear you.
The candles on the stone wall playfully flickered. They gave off a slight, sweet fragrance. One of them illuminated his soft, mellow face. His calm, carribean-blue eyes moved towards an old picture of him and a young woman. The picture showed him standing and holding the girl around the waist in a snow covered field on a gray, late winter's day. They were both grinning from ear to ear, as the girl held out red carnation. In the picture, he was wearing a black jean jacket with dark grey jeans, and the girl was wearing black jeans with a dark blue coat. Their dirty, white tennis shoes were partially hidden in the snow. A `tear' slid down his face, almost dropping onto the picture.
"May they never touch you." He quietly said to himself, silently praying for the girl's safety. Bryan still had a trace of an old, southern accent, even after so many years.
Bryan looked backed toward the woman and man. He saw another man approach them. Bryan slid the picture back in his teal-green and black flannel shirt, not wanting anyone to see her. He slouched in his booth, curiously watching the group. The man walking towards them started talking in a smooth tone. He gave the woman a mystical, red rose. Ragna began to admire the rose, but her attension was "pulled" towards Mordred. The mystical rose slowly turned white.......
The woman screamed as she rounded the corner, blinded by her fear and
the pain that had been inflicted upon her. She stopped, and spun around,
peering in the deep, grey fog for any sign of movement.
The attack came from the one direction she wasn't expeecting it from, above her. A large form detached itself from the fog above her, landing with a thud, no more than 3 feet in front of her. The figure, a large humanoid, dressed in grey, bent his knees expertly to absorb the impact of the fall. The form rose from it's crouch, drawing itself to it's full height of over 6 feet, turning to face her...
15 minutes later, Sebastien Knight strode out of the alley, his grey duster flapping in the steadily rising wind. He walked on, at home in the urban jungle. Sebastien smiled to himself, lit a cigarette, and headed for that place they called the Ravager's Kiss...
As he scanned the darkened bar he noticed quite a few figures. Most blazed with the unholy life-force of his race, yet he also noticed quite a few appeared to be mortal. Quite interesting, he thought to himself. This should be quite a visit. He strolled over to a table and bowed to a lovely young mortal woman with raven tresses and sparkling green eyes. 'This one should fall quickly to my charms!', he thought to himself.
She game a tiny jump, most likely not able to be detected by human senses, and turned her flashing eyes almost hopefully to his face. After a brief moment's hesitation, during which her look obviously soured, she said:
"Sit were you will, undead-one, it matters not to me"
Mordred was taken aback. 'Did this upstart young woman just dismiss me with a glance? What was she searching for in my face? Why was she disappointed when she looked upon me?' Herein lies a mystery. Mordred knew he could just turn his otherworldly charm on and make her submit to his will, but he was past that. It had lost it's appeal long ago. He much preferred the chase, the capture. Mordred was a predatory creature. He decided he'd just wait this one out a bit, take stock of the situation.
He took a seat at her table, but on the other side. Far enough away not to be a threat, but close enough to keep a close eye, and ear, on her. He watched her scan the crowd. 'What is she looking for? Obviously she knew I was a vampyre, but not the one she was hoping for.'
At that point a strange sound came to Mordred's ears. It was an engine...and the sound of spitting gravel...it slowly moved up to the outside door, but Mordred could hear it like he was standing right there. Ahhh, it was a Harley. Mordred never cared for autos and cycles. He liked to ride horses, or use his own natural, and unnatural, powers to get about.
'Who could this be?' he wonders, 'Perhaps another mortal fool come to see the excitement of the Kiss'. But then as a figure bursts through the door all doubt is erased. It's Klaus. Even with a long cape and dusty hat Mordred recognized the aura surrounding this one. He had clashed with Klaus about 200 years ago...a day neither of them would soon forget. This time Mordred will *not* underestimate his opponent.
With an attempt at a drunken flourish, the grimy vampyre removes his cape to reveal an hideously offensive outlandish outfit. 'Isn't that how it all started that last time?', Mordred thinks to himself. Then he notices his female companion's pulse jump considerably. 'Ah, she's waiting to see if this is "the one"' he decides.
Klaus looks around, then chuckles as he moves off to the table where Mordred has joined the pretty young mortal. 'He obviously only has eyes for her. The fool, he doesn't even realize it's me.' Mordred doesn't even hear the words that are streaming out of Klaus' mouth in low smooth tones. He is fingering his sword-cane, wondering what is going to happen when Klaus notices him. Wondering if he should make the first move.
Klaus reaches under his gaudy off-yellow coat and in that split second
Mordred leaps to his feet hissing. But instead of a weapon, all that is
in Klaus' hand is a red rose, glowing with an eerie power given to it with
the warped powers of this shabby, but vicious vampyre. With a twitch of
his finger and a second of thought Mordred clamps his power down on Klaus,
literal taking control of his mystic force. The glitter in the rose is
instantly gone, and along with it the very red color in the petals drains
from it, as if it was a human drained of every drop of blood.
Finally the stem turns to ash and drifts to the floor.
These two fearsome creatures lock eyes. The hatred between them can be felt by all those in the room, a small wave of what feels like static electricity climbs the spines of those watching. Then the young lady breaks the silence...
Ragna watched the unfolding scene, with a small amusement and harsh thoughts. She had seen this sort of scene many times over the past two weeks. That was a problem with the undead ; a penchant for the dramatic.
'Well', she thought, 'what else are they supposed to do with all that time on their hands...pathetic!'
After a moment she realised she was as pathetic as they. Sitting in bar feeling uncomfortable...waiting for her 'friend'. A sense of displacement came upon Ragna.. that sort of uncomfortable icy feeling that causes the legs to twitch and the mind to berate itself. That hyper self piteous feeling she had known so much so recently.
She realised her emotions must have shown on here face for the two sparring undead were looking at her with *that* look. The look of 'ahhhh, she's vulnerable!'
This was intolerable. Ragna stood and shouted:
"You shithead undead ! Always so theatrical when all you really want is to have your insignificant mortal lives back. You can't have me ! I invite you to try. Pathetic all of you !"
With that she strode to the bar, her face now resolute and her emotions safely and self-destructively buried.
"Uh, oh," Bryan thought, "don't get involved with them." His thoughts were powerless as he felt himself slide out from the booth. Mordred and Klaus gave the previously `cloaked' regular no attention, as they were both still glaring at one another from the minor dispute.
"Maybe I can make them see right past me?" Bryan gave a slight grin, and turned his ring once to the left. Mordred and Klaus seemed to be frozen in time, facing the other with rage. They didn't seem to notice anybody else around them. Bryan turned his attension to Ragna.
"I'm not going to ah...`pick you up.' I was just curious as to `who' you were looking for, if you don't mind me asking." 'Great going, Bryan', Bryan thought, 'just so good at poking your nose in other people's business!' He didn't really want to impose on Ragna. All he wanted to do was to say something that would ease her troubles.
Ragna's diamond eyes slashed him as if he was butter. "Why do you want to know? Of what benefit will it be to you??"
"Well..." Crud, now what do I say? "Actually, I was just trying to see if I could ease your troubles. Maybe I could help you, maybe I know who it is you're looking for?? I don't know--" Bryan noticed that Ragna's glaring eyes appeared to be calm, her aura didn't seem to be so defensive anymore. "--I uh, well, I'm sorry to have troubled you...."
"Ah, well..." Bryan started to add something when the bar-keep gave Ragna a drink...
Outside, the near-new moon shedding little light on the cracked door, Joanna almost didn't enter. She'd been coming there for ages, in one form or another, and she felt she could read the Kiss like a penny dreadful, easily and instantly. She's seen drunken orgies, fights, murders, and even a few nights where nothing went wrong. All had their signature, a particular noise that flowed outside to the night air.
She didn't recognize the near-silence that ripped through the Kiss. "Do I really want to be a part of this?" she murmured to herself. She paused, then opened the door, curiousity overcoming preservation. Anyway, she thought, that's my home in there.
Two men stood in the middle of the attention. One was Mordred, still grasping his sword, half drawn. Joanna met the vampyre maybe a half-dozen times before, and even during her most manic phases she hadn't dared cross him. His bark may be worse than his bite, she thought, but with that much bark, why risk it. The other one, dressed in colors seldom seen in the Kiss, she didn't know. Probably a killer, too, she thought. Instinct told her to stay away from that one as well.
Although, lately instinct told her to stay away from everyone these days.
She wove her way home along the edge of the Kiss, between the crowds. She heard people whispering over the background noise as she passed by, and some stared at her. She did not return the looks, and did not want the attention. Not to say that their attention wasn't warrented, she thought. There's been a few days..., but those are over now. I want to create this time, not destroy.
Her table next to the wall was within sight when she noticed the other source of the weirdness. A new-comer, female, young, relaxed, was sitting at the bar. Someone like that would always generate excitement among the males. A cloaked figure sat next to her, giving her the welcome, she thought. He looked familiar. She tried to listen in, but the noise was slightly too loud and they were slightly too far. A feeling of deja vu hit as preservation and curiousity waged war once again.
Preservation won this time. She stayed where she was, watching the scene unfold...
Kate slowly raised her head from the top of the table and decided that, at present, her head didn't like heights. She had only been a week out of hospital and she was back at the Kiss like a bad penny. She knew she shouldn't be drinking along with the antibiotics but she was beyond caring. She looked out at the world through her dark glasses but could only make out the shapes of people. She raised the glasses and the dark indistinct blurry figures she had seen through them, became coloured blurry figures.
After a few minutes of this, the blurring seemed to recede and the images and sounds meshed together. The Kiss was surprisingly quiet until she saw the pair of guys sizing each other up. Why didn't they just go outside and get their fight over with. Strange pair, but who wasn't in this place. Ignoring them she scanned the room for someone who could give her what she craved, but none of them were in, and neither was her Alan. He gave her more than she got from the others. She was his to command but he never did. He had so much power over her but all she had known with him was happiness. She belonged with him, but he was nowhere.
As her eyes alighted on the back of a head, a feeling of recognition flew through her mind but he was talking to a nice looking girl so he was occupied. Then her eyes turned and caught a fleeting glimpse of a figure walk past to a table behind her. Probably another girl, but you could never tell just because they seemed to walk that way. Last time she'd made that mistake she'd got a really big surprise.
That thought brought her out of her reverie's and back to the present. The pair were still staring at one another intently, and the gnawing feeling she had in her body had started to build again so that she had become aware of it. Must be the drugs the doctors gave me, she thought. If they don't know whats wrong they just pump you full of drugs and hope for the best. Oh god, that hurts, where are those pain killers? She popped open a small plastic bottle and tossed in 2 pills swallowing them with a gulp from her whisky and within minutes her head started to loll backwards onto the seat with a slightly glazed look to her eyes.
'Hmmm... A new town, or rather, wasteland. Laid out similar to every other coagulation of mortals - the teeming inner city with its gleaming skyscrapers and garbage strewn industrial sites. And surrounding it all, lie the havens these mortals think will keep them safe - from pollution, disease and death. Tonight, however, death comes to stalk you!'
These morbid thoughts spew angrily from the lanky, leather clad youth riding noisily through the suburbs of a large city. He has been in this scene before, and he will play it again.
He turns his bike in to a park area, kept clean by the wealthier citizens of this town who can't bear to see decay anywhere. His short black hair gleams under the street light. He stashes his bike behind some bushes and walks back under the light. It gleams off his pale skin, but only for a moment, before it goes out with a loud *pop*.
Silently, he stalks through the neighborhood for about an hour. Suddenly, he sees them -- a couple of lovers out for a nightly stroll. How quaint. Not!
He waits for the right moment and swoops down upon them in a blur. Screams are started, and then cut off abruptly. The young woman falls to the ground, knocked out by a quick touch in the right place. The young man, also knocked out, gets carried away into the night.
The immortal drinks quickly but shallowly from his victim, and waits for the rather cute young man to wake. When he does, the immortal delivers his message and knocks him out again, leaving the boy to his nightmares. The last things the young man will remember of his assailant will be his deep blue eyes and the words "Remember - AIDS kills!"
Mordred had his dragon-cane blade half drawn, his eyes were locked with Klaus'. The hatred between them could be felt by all those in the room, a small wave of power swept between them and all the kindred in the room. Both of them knew this wasn't really about the mortal woman...it was about prestige, power, control. Mordred was one of the most powerful vampyre's the Kiss had ever seen, but he felt the constant need to dominate, to control.
Then the young lady's breathing abruptly changed, her heart sped slightly faster, Mordred recognised these signs as either fear...or loss of control. It was the time he savored, when anything was possible. He turned to look at her as words erupted from her mouth.
"You shithead undead! Always so theatrical when all you really want is to have your insignificant mortal lives back. You can't have me! I invite you to try. Pathetic all of you!"
With that she strode to the bar, her heart-rate plunging back to normal after her adrenalin rush.
'How very strange,' thought Mordred 'this one is going to take a bit longer to crack...perhaps another approach is needed.' He looked over at Klaus, who looked like he was at a complete loss of what to do. Klaus looked a little deflated, and scurried off to one of the back rooms of the Kiss, perhaps to gamble, perhaps to scheme. Whatever he was up to, Mordred would be ready.
Mordred once again scanned the crowd, and then his eyes lighted on the perfect target. He knew the face, it just took him a few seconds of flicking through his memories to come up with enough details to serve his purpose.
He strolled over to the table where she sat. Her hair was as he last saw her, shoulder-length, light brown, and straight as an arrow. Her large round eyes were a mixture of colors, they could be called hazel. She looked heavily built slumped in the chair defensively, but Mordred knew she could move with grace and lightning speed when she needed to.
"Ahhhh...my dear. It has been a while, has it not?"
She looked up, startled, like prey seeing its predator.
"You remember me?"
"I believe the last time I had the pleasure of your company was in France, it must have been around D-Day. Do you still go by the enchanting name of Laura?" Mordred's voice poured out like honey.
"Um...no. Joanna. My real name."
"I see, all things come full circle, no? I am also going by my *ahem* original name as well. As I recall...the first time we crossed paths I was working for MI-5 during the war, and you were with that liaison officer for the American troops, what was his name?"
Her eyes darted around the room, she refused to look at Mordred directly for more than a few seconds.
"Um, I don't recall. God, that was a long time ago."
Mordred chuckles. "It's been quite a while since I've heard one of the kindred refer to a divine creator!"
"Well...just a habit I guess. You know, slang."
Mordred raises his eyebrows...is it his imagination, or is Joanna acting more like a mortal than one of his brethren? He decided to file it in the back of his mind and return to the matter at hand...gaining her trust.
"I suppose I never did thank you for getting me out of that tight spot in Boston, if you hadn't gotten me indoors..."
"Oh, just repaying the favors you gave me. We all had to stick together. So, what brings you here?"
He decided she was acting very nervous...he needed to put her at ease.
"It's been so long since I had been to the Kiss! I suppose the last time I was here was when Geoffry was running it in Morocco. I've always had a soft spot for America, but you know how I spend most of my time in over in Brittani...er...the United Kingdom rather. But since I found myself over here, I thought it was time to drop by again. And are you living in this area, or just passing through?"
"Oh, I found a low-rent place around here. Cozy, and I can do my work in peace there. So you are just passing through?"
He noted she kept turning the questions back at him...he just had to keep the conversation rolling, he could work this in his favor.
"That all depends on if The Ravager's Kiss is still as exciting as it used to be. What are your opinions about the Kiss? Spending alot of your time here? During the 50's I always saw you here, or rather in the Kiss over there. What has this new location done to it?"
"Oh," and for the first time in the conversation does a smile come, "it's wonderful, lively, lots of energy, though the noise sometimes keeps me from work sometimes. I was just heading hom..."
"Joanna my dear, let me accompany you. We'll catch up on old times and I'd love to find out more about your 'work'..."
"What do you want from me?"
"And what does that mean? I am simply enjoying your company! Would you listen to us? Almost at each other's throats...I guess seeing Klaus again got my temper up...let's just relax. Care for a cigarette?"
Mordred produced a shiny silver cigarette case and with a flick of his wrist, opened it. Joanna glanced at Mordred, then at the case. A puzzled look crossed her face, then she caught sight of the inscription on the case. She leaped to her feet knocking over her chair...
Bryan had slowly turned his attention away from Ragna and looked at the small group. Dare I? Dare I not? Is it in my nature to do so??
Of course, what else? Bryan thought. But, just a moment longer...
Mordred sensed Bryan's presence. He saw Ragna looking at her drink with morbid eyes. He all of a sudden wondered how Bryan fit into all of this.
Uh, oh. Bryan thought it was better not to get involved any more in in the situation. He saw Mordred looking at him with a strange curiosity. Ragna was also looking at him. Her attention glazed over Joanna.
A flash of silver caught Bryan's eyes. In silver letters, he saw letters form over Mordred and Joanna, capital letters rising like smoke to the ceiling. Bryan felt his voice flowing out of his mouth. "WHODR...." Bryan shook his head, and the letters disappeared. Mordred put a cigarette case into his coat pocket, the same silver as the letters. He looked around; it seemed that no one else had seen them. "WHODR?," he repeated, "What does that mean?" The vision moved him, touched him in a way he couldn't pin down. At any rate, he thought, it's time to act. The chair scraped on the tile as he stood up. I must be unnoticed no longer here.
"Where did you get that!" Joanna asked, jumping up. Her eyes were fixed on it, couldn't look up at Mordred's face, his eyes. The case started to blur, and she felt her eyes almost water, almost cry.
"Oh, just picked it up somewhere, I do travel quite extensively. You should know that, Joanna."
"Please, it's important, it's..." No, I can't tell him, she thought. He knows too much already. I can't do anything anyway.
"Well, I may be able to remember. But...", he paused dramatically arching one dark eyebrow. "Everything has its price. Again...you know that."
"Tell me. Please, don't torture me like this."
Mordred smiled, and she saw his fangs glitter in the low light. "I'm sure we can come to some deal. You tell me what you know, I'll fill in the blanks, and you can do me a...favor."
Joanna sighed and felt the walls closing in, the noise of the Kiss crashing against her head. She nodded yes. "Kurt Galloway. He was a friend of mine a good friend. We met during the War, he was a medic. He was the one that helped you escape, while you were out."
"Kurt Galloway? An odd name for a Scotsman."
"His mother was German." She smiled, remembering how he told the story, his accent thick and with a smile. "He got a lot of ribbing from his friends, with his first name and all." She remembered his large hands against her back, rubbing, holding. "We stayed together after the War, for a while. But..."
"Then? Come on, Joanna, you can trust me."
"Then he got curious and I...we left. Peacefully, but we left." She felt herself unable to speak, just looking at the case. "I carved that for him. That was his." Mordred closed it with a snap and put it in his coat pocket. Joanna looked at him, his eyes stripping her, his mouth in a thin-lipped grin.
"Where did you get that."
"Let's see, this Kurt of yours, red hair, about 6 feet, 4 inches, soft blue eyes if I am right, am I not Joanna?" She nodded, her voice gone. "Yes, he gave me this, right before he died. You do know he's dead, don't you." She shook her head. "Well, he is. In fact, he was killed. Rather brutally actually...blood everywhere." He stopped for a second searching Joanna's face. "Killed by a vampyre." He tapped the case through his pocket, right over his heart. "He gave me this for protecting him, but not even my powers could save him."
"He died? Are you sure? He wasn't..." Her voice faded away.
"Turned, Joanna?," Mordred's voice rising with a sharp edge. "Changed into one of us, one of our ferocious, horrible kindred?" His voice lowered. "No, Joanna, as far as I know, he's dead. Now sit down, Joanna, let's take care of your part of the bargain." Joanna looked around, didn't realize she was still standing. She sat down, and a tinging sensation went through her legs. "Do you see that person, sitting there?" He pointed to the bar. A lady sat, alone, with long dark hair. "Her name is Ragna. She interests me. Talk with her, see what you can find out about her." He threw a handkerchief on the table. "And wipe up your eyes; vampyres don't cry."
She didn't touch the handkerchief. "You're not going to...don't curse her. If you must, kill her and get it over with, but don't curse her."
"I won't. I promise I won't. I just want to learn a few things."
She paused, trying to think, to pin down all the emotions raging inside her. She closed her eyes, but she couldn't shut out the voices. "I need time, alone. Let me go, please."
"Joanna," he growled, "I deal in good faith, and I expect you to do so as well." Her hands started shaking. "Fine, go. Be back in ten minutes, not one second later. Starting now."
She stood up and ran away, towards the back of the Kiss. She needed to go home. She ran through the corridor, sloping down and twisting. It took a month to find a habitable place in the maze of the sewers under the Kiss, and five months more to memorize the way there. She opened her door and walked inside. She was safe.
There was no furniture in her house, no bed, no chairs, no kitchen. Just concrete, pipes, rats, paints, chisels, and artwork. A lot of artwork, drawings, sculptures, engravings, all self-done, all strewn around the huge room. A white curtain divided the room into two, and she almost entered the other side. No, I can't, not yet, she thought. There will be time for that later. And I have to leave soon anyway. Ragna, she thought, a different name. She picked up paper and pencil, quickly sketching the memory of the lady. Then she left, still carrying the paper.
Ragna stared at the drink that the bartender had waiting for her by the time she had arrived. It was a most unusual colour and had a musty odour, a mix of humus, dried peat and wet cobblestones. The little umbrella placed within must have been a joke, for this certainly was no drink for casual bar fly. She glanced again and swirled the concoction, noting with little interest the large quantity of sediment. Her icon burned as sudden and fierce cold against her chest...the drink was drugged somehow. She glanced at the bartender, who was studiously ignoring her but was looking at someone behind. She turned briefly and noted a quick signal from the occupant of a table across the room. It was a signal of thanks, or agreement of action.
Rage burned her soul. She was interrupted briefly by the spectacle of a woman being tortured mentally. She watched dispassionately, until the woman undead fled the room. She was sickened at the antics of the other undead, especially his apparent joy of psychological stress. She memorized the woman's face, for future reference, an ally, certainly. Ragna decided that a certain vampyre required some...adjustments.
She grasped the drink tightly and turned, to see the look of anticipation, almost sexual, cross Mordred's face. With that she drained the liquid in one swallow and stood, glaring, the rage clearly visible. The searching and loneliness transformed.
The drug began to take effect, the room wavered. Sounds became thoughts...absent and nagging. The air felt viscous and soothing. She had a strong desire to lie down. Instead she moved forward, feeling the grubby floor becoming smooth stones, the sound of the sea and gulls getting louder. The faces of the patrons disappeared, the walls, the ceiling. She was walking down a stony beach of her homeland in iceland. The sea scoured rocks sliding beneath her bare feet and the water, chill, biting lapping around her calves and ankles. The sky was a dim grey, as it was during midsummer, when the sun never set. A fire, flickering strongly, burning no fuel, no peat, no wood.
She entered the cave and within stood an old woman, cowled and ancient, who was apparently sleeping.
Ragna patiently waited, for that is what she knew was right. After awhile the old woman jerked awake.
"Ah, my daughter, you have arrived.", said a voice full of stones, salt and rough seas.
"The Old ones may be waiting, and weak, for now, but we still have enough power to look after our chosen ones, even if they are foolish enough to take the offerings of what are now known as undead."
The scolding tone caused Ragna to flinch, and back away. Her nature came to the forefront and she moved towards the woman and shouted "Who are you old one, to control my actions! Who are you to treat me thus?"
A voice thundered "Behold, for this is what I am!" A gale force wind blew, knocking Ragna to the ground. "We have a task for you, and you shall not fail". The fire blossomed, the cave filling with swirling grey smoke. Sounds and figures formed in the dark obscurity. The smell of carnage, the sounds of clashing bronze on bronze, then iron and steel. She briefly glimpsed vague figures of men and woman crudely dressed, running in berserk fashion towards another group of similarly clad people. Death cries assaulted her ears, and a cold wind began to howl. The howl increased blocking her vision, ears and senses. The howl struck her chest, having somehow become a projectile. It twisted within her chest, centering on her icon. The twisting intensified, became pain. The universe was the pain, the icy dagger digging within her . She opened her mouth to scream but no noise emerged. Then dark, nothing more.
She awoke standing in the Kiss, the rooms attention having been focused upon her. A single tear ran down her face; blood red.
She felt cleansed, and knew her stupidity for drinking. But the oldness had come and burned the foul liquid from her blood and left her purposeful and, yes, frightened. They had a task for her, what it was she would be told in time. She smiled a radiant smile, her rage forgotten for the moment and walked towards the direction the other woman had gone.
Steffan, guided by marks that mortals can't, or wont, see, made his way through the town towards the night spot he knew would provide some fun and entertainment. As he approached, he noted the old sign lying on the ground. "The Ravager's Kiss." Hmm. Sounds promising.
'A quiet entrance will probably be in order, at least until I can scope the place out and find out what kind hang out here.' He slips in through the door, making as little noise as possible, but the door still makes a small squeak as he enters. Those that notice his entrance see a lanky figure in leather, not uncommon to this kind of establishment, at least to the kind that cater to mortals. He is, as is also common of his crowd, wearing all black, which makes his skin's gleam a little more noticeable under his dark black hair. His eyes seem to shine, their piercing green bearing down on the recipient of his gaze. He projects an image that you do not want to meet in a dark alley.
A quick scan of the room reveals that there is a high level of energy floating about - as if there were a confrontation in progress, or one that has just finished. Steffan notices no such battle, so he decides to find a table and have a seat to watch what happens.
As he watches, a young vampyric woman leaps from her seat, where she has been talking to a very powerful member of the kindred. They exchange some more words, and she retreats to the back of the Kiss. Steffan wonders what that was all about. But there will be time to find out. There is always time. With that, he lights a cigarette, adding to the already smoky atmosphere in the place, and saunters over to the elder vampyre...
Mordred stood there his mind racing...'Ahhh the thrill of the game,' he thought, 'The shifting balance of power, the struggle of wills, this is truly the only way to recapture the feeling of being alive once one has left the world of the living!' He watched carefully, with his vision, both natural and other-worldly, as Joanna closed her eyes tightly, as if to shut him out of her world. He could feel the rage of emotions inside her, he drew upon them, feasting in her psyche, drinking deeply of her turmoil.
"I need time, alone. Let me go, please." She said in an almost whisper.
"Joanna," he growled, "I deal in good faith, and I expect you to do so as well." He laughed inside as he thought how ironic that statement was. The once was a time when he was chivalrous... But that was long ago.
He weighed the options in his mind, she'd return. "Fine, go. Be back in ten minutes, not one second later. Starting now." He already had her jumping at his commands. His will controlled hers, wrapping her around his mind...controlling her unholy power.
Mordred almost became lost in his rhapsody, in the sheer joy of having control in an existence that was so unnatural that it almost shattered the concept of self control. His eyes glazed over, his aura blazed brightly, but then as his power reached out he felt a cold shiver, as if a knife blade had been slipped between his ribs.
His mind surfaced into reality with a gasp. He felt mental contact, he had allowed his mental defenses to drop. 'DAMN!' he cursed under his breath. He wasn't used to being in the company of so many others of his kind. He quickly scanned the room, 'Who has taken an interest in my affairs?' Then his eyes reached two figures at the bar. One was the mortal female who had rebuked him earlier with such venom, the other was a young vampyre, but his soft blue-green eyes, and fine brown feathered hair gave him a very natural appearance, almost as if he was still mortal. 'Who is this being? What is his role in this?'
At this point the young female at the bar turned with a drink in her hand. A look of rage on her face. There was a burning aura of emotion pulsing through her veins, much stronger than that of a normal mortal. She lifted her drink and swallowed the contents in one gulp. For a few seconds strange contortions controlled her face, as if they were demons skittering across a pond leaving ugly gashed ripples on the surface. But as soon as it started, it was over. The girl smiled a radiant smile, the rage gone from her face. Mordred's body gave a small shudder, and his mind leaped back to a time long ago in his past. A vision of his mother, hunched over an eerie green flame in a brazier leapt into his mind, with that exact same look on her face...
As Mordred tried to sort out these thoughts, to make sense of the strange visions conjured from a deep corner of his psyche, the young woman strode from the room. As Mordred's eyes followed her out he spotted another figure sauntering towards him. His body was lean, and clad in black leather, with an almost human punk look about him, but he was illuminated by the unholy glow of a vampyric aura. Mordred's unconscious habits took hold and noticed small details about the figure, a ring on the little finger of his left hand, his dark, short hair which appeared to have been sheared recently, and the sneer on his face, the same sneer that Mordred used to wear in his first few years of being a vampyre...'This member of the kindred is young, and he hates his existence' Mordred told himself.
"I don't know what you did to those woman to make them run like that... but I hate it when people force their will on others - we're not supposed to be dictators! Or was there something else going on?"
"We?" Mordred chuckles with a low sound in the back of his throat. He stares deeply in the others eyes for a few moments. "You say you hate when one forces their will on another? You are young still, you must embrace your will to survive my child. You are vampyre now...and for ever."
Joanna stepped into the darkness, the dampness of the sewer. A rat ran across her path, scampering through the puddles. Dripping water echoed through the tunnels. She looked at her watch, three minutes to go. She quickened her pace. She thought, I have to get there or Mordred.... A voice inside her said, "Mordred's going to hurt you anyway. You've seen what he's done." She ignored it. "You can make it easy for him, or give him a fight, which will it be." Joanna started whistling, and that drowned out the other voice inside her.
She came to the Crossroads, an open space with ten different tunnels crisscrossing like spider webs. The Kiss was due west from here, and noise of the party drifted in with the smell of alcohol. She climbed a ladder in the far corner of the room, the ladder creaking on every step. Water dripped in her eyes, and she paused to rub it out. The climb was quick, and she pushed on the grating above her until it slid off with a scraping of metal.
The night air was cool, and a drizzle of cold rain hit her face. She looked to the moon, barely visible through the clouds, a crescent. She could almost see it changing phases, growing to it's fullness and shrinking again to new. "I never wished this before, I don't know if I should. Still, give me power, I need the power." The moon said nothing in return. A pack of dogs barked in the distance, and a flash of lightning lit the landscape. She looked at her watch, one minute to go. She climbed down the ladder and bolted the grate above her.
At the bottom of the ladder, she looked at the sketch she made of the woman. She looks so innocent, so human. Why does Mordred want her? Probably for that humanness, Joanna thought. She looked up from her sketch and saw her, in person, one hand on the slimy walls, the other outstreched in front of her, stepping slowly. She must be blind in here, Joanna thought. I could just stay here, let her wander around until she finds her way out, and head back to Mordred, "oh, she's not here. Oh well." He would get mad, punish me, and that would be that. Much safer, she thought, best for all of us.
The woman was in the Crossroads, and feeling along the walls, trying to find an opening. "Hello," Joanna said quietly, but her voice amplified itself with the echoes. "My name's Joanna. You look lost." She wondered if she was doing the right thing, scared, but she couldn't back down. "Can I help you?"
The young vampyre stood calmly facing the regulars in the bar. His silky, milk-white fingers casually traced the rim of the glass. Thoughts of winters of yesteryear graced the realms of his mind. Where was she? Was she safe? Was anybody protecting her? He cried silently to himself, unable to have the luxury of knowing how his loved one was doing.
"That's it," Bryan thought. "I've got to find her before it kills me."
If it kills me...or her....Bryan's mind lapsed into cruel thoughts.
No! No!! NO!!! Bryan's eyes winced shut. He felt his heart slipping through the rib cage, pounding to be released, begging to end his suffering. His teeth grasped a death-grip on together. OH...the hunger cuddled and cradled his heart, his body, his mind, his soul. All were prisoners, serving a never-ending sentence.
Bryan nearly doubled-over in pain. His whole existence was locked in a Tango with `charley-horses', and waltzing in undecided pain. His blood-shot eyes gazed at everyone. Gotta get out of here, gotta find her...help! Bryan bolted from his seat, sending the stool to clang metallic echos into the blood-thick air.
"Ah, sorry..." He silently muttered the words as he flew to the door. Brilliant, black-marble darkness leached onto his body. Shoot! No car, no bike, not even a horse was around to offer transportation. He forced his legs to chase the road. He passed several people on the streets, not caring if they saw him or not. He only knew that he could not live without his love and hoped she was unharmed.
Blood channeled rapidly through his veins. Hunger became angrier and more furious with him as each second passed. Feed me, give in to me, I shall ease your pain and make you well again, hunger seemed to say. Bryan ignored his pain and suffering. The only cure would be to see her once more....
Kate slowly came back from the abyss that she had been temporarily visiting. The sounds slowly filtered through to her ears and the light brightened, almost banishing the thick milky tint to her eyes. With sound and vision came feeling, and nausea. The room swirled, and figures seemed to loom out of the darkness towards her. A figure brushed past her and a metallic clang hurt her ears. It was about the same height and size, male and the movement seemed the same. Maybe it was Adam, but why would he leave and ignore her.
The sounds of the Kiss seemed to rip through her as she tried to get out of her chair. Her arms could hardly push her body up at first but they strengthened and she managed to drape herself across the back of the booth. Her head kept clearing, but this only helped to convince her of the state she was in, and it was good. She felt awful, and seemed to be attracting the glare of half the bar as she steadily managed to place one foot in front of the other until she had reached the safety of the bar. Using it for some purchase, she inched her way along towards the door.
As she got close to the opening and the clean air, her head suddenly felt as if someone had decided to use it for target practice. "Oh god, I feel awf..." she said before having to run for the door and somewhere to throw up.
As she leaned back against the wall her hand dropped to her side and the small packet she called heaven. "Oh boy" she said to the shadows clustered around the door, "remind me to eat something next time I do that." Looking about she couldn't see anyone else around the place so she lit up and inhaled throwing herself into a coughing fit. "Hell, I never realised I was so ill. Oh well, first day back to work tomorrow and I'll get a chance to find out who that weirdo was last time. Better check my equipment." From out of the jacket came a revolver which was checked and replaced in seconds. A couple of pats around her body confirm she had everything with her and she walked slowly back into the Kiss stopping to order a orange and water at the bar. The way she felt now, meant she would have a huge hangover in the morning. She sighed to herself sarcastically.
"Yeah, isn't life wonderful"...
"We?" Mordred chuckles with a low sound in the back of his throat. He stares deeply in the others eyes for a few moments. "You say you hate when one forces their will on another? You are young still, you must embrace your will to survive my child. You are vampyre now...and for ever."
"My will to survive?" Steffan's eyes fill with hate and anger. "What would you know about survival!? Sure, you've been around a while, but have you ever had to struggle to keep your existence, to fight for a mere breath?" He hisses softly as he says the words that could endanger his life: "I believe that, for all your power and strength, you are still weak in character."
"Weak am I?!?" Mordred snarls, "I had to scrape out an existence back in a dark age of the past with none of your futuristic, modern conviences and comforts! What do you know of survival whelp???"
His eyes still blazing, Steffan explains himself. "When you were young, your existence was easy. Until recently, people were terrified by the myths you and your kind created. They were so terrified, you had no organized opposition to worry about except the church, and they were easy to corrupt."
Steffan continues, contempt showing on his face, "And now, as you become older and more powerful, I bet you have the power to control others, very few of whom have any power against you. That is why I call you weak." With this, Steffan sits down and leans back in his chair, looking at Mordred with challenge written all over his face.
"You may think it's easy to grow up in this 'modern' era, with machines and other gadgets to do our work, but there are more and deadlier dangers in *this* world than the one in which you grew up. You never had to worry about whether the world will be around tomorrow or will just be a small ball of smoldering ashes."
Stephan leans forward, now that he is on his soapbox. "You have never before had to worry that the blood that runs in your veins might be contaminated with a disease that will kill you. And now, while this terrible thing is about, you have power that comes with age and can probably deal with things like this with ease."
Stephan noticed a strange look in Mordred's eyes. They burned like a black ember, smouldering, emanating...Mordred seemed suddenly lost in his thoughts. Stephan felt like this elder vampyre no longer realized there was a young angry kin of his standing in defiance in front of him. When Mordred did finally look into Stephan's eyes again, Stephan had a strange feeling that he wasn't what Mordred was looking at. 'What does he see in me? What could I have triggered off in him?' Stephan wondered, then finally the big question...
'Is he going to destroy me?'
Mordred was strolling down a darkened alleyway, he was on his way to The Ravager's Kiss once again. He had arrived in America about 10 days ago but it hadn't taken him long to hunt down the Kiss. He had visited it last week, the first time for Mordred in over a century. But he hadn't found what he was looking for and he was determined to keep going back until he had a lead.
Mordred was very familar with the Kiss and it's owner, Geoffrey de Lafluer. He used to visit it regularly back in the 18th and 19th centuries. You see the Kiss is not just a bar, it is a concept. Geoffrey had established it as a meeting place for vampyres, a place where killing and fighting would not happen, where the masquerade could be relaxed and a vampyre could mingle with its kindred. The Kiss had many locations over the years, Geoffrey would move it from country to country as the need arose. And now that it was located in America it seemed a few aspects of it had changed... when he had visited last week Mordred was a bit surprised that so many mortals now had access to the Kiss. In the past it was almost all undead, but things change, Mordred knew that more than anyone.
But he was hoping he might still find a link to the past. Mordred had taken up his quest again. It had been many years since he had last sought this knowledge, in the past he had travelled all over the world seeking this one being, following rumors and false leads. Maybe the current incarnation of the Kiss would hold the key.
As Mordred's thoughts turned back to the thing he sought, a strange feeling crept over his body. A loud buzzing drowned out his surroundings, the long shadows of the alley began to turn into a thick mist in his mind, his unholy vision was becoming clouded. A sharp emotion stabbed at Mordred's chest, the place where a living heart used to beat. It was a strange emotion, one he had never felt before...wait, he had felt this before, long ago when he was still mortal...this feeling was fear!
Mordred's vision snapped back into focus, but he could no longer see the urban squalor surrounding him, he was deep within a vision, a memory, perfectly recreated in his mind. Some inner force had turned his mind back, it had raced back through the mists of time to a place far from here. There was still a figure before him and it was shouting in his face.
This figure emanated an unholy power, it was speaking with a strange accent, it had dark skin, and it was holding a lifeless body in its arms. Mordred's pulse began to race. 'WAIT! My pulse? But I am undead! I do not live!' The fear began to grow each passing moment, it gripped every fiber of his being with icy talons rendering him immobile.
"LOOK AT HER!" The figure shouted, "See what I have done! I have given her the greatest gift! The gift of ETERNAL LIFE!"
Mordred's gaze was also driven by the inner force, it was as if
this creature standing in front of him was bending his will with the power
of its voice. The sight that confronted Mordred was even more terrifying
in this vision than it was when it really happened, fourteen centuries ago.
In the arms of this undead creature was a woman with blood streaming from
her neck, the same blood on the creature's lips, his mother's blood...
...the blood of Morgana.
Sarah looked up at last to see where her wandering feet had taken her and was shocked to discover she was standing across the street from that strange bar she had found last week. She stared at the spot she knew the entrance was and debated a second visit. Sarah shifted her camera, only a standard 35mm tonight, to her other shoulder and sighed. She was suddenly aware of another presence on the street and peered into the darkness to see the dark figure of a large man approach the bar entrance. The figure suddenly stopped and seemed to meld with the shadows. So still was he that Sarah was not sure she had seen him in the first place.
Sarah stood indecisively for a moment, wondering if it was safe to approach the bar entrance with that unknown figure lurking there. A scraping noise from somewhere behind made up her mind for her, and she figured it was safer inside the bar than outside. Glancing up and down the street, Sarah hurried across, staring into the darkness, hoping to gain the entrance before anything decided to pursue her. Her heart was pounding and sweat sprang out on her palms as she felt a dozen eyes on her timid flight across the street. She fumbled at the doorlatch in a panic and was swept off the street and into the bar as if propelled by her fear.
The same weird crowd was milling about the large barroom. Sarah made her way to the bar feeling rather conspicuous by virtue of her normalcy. Tonight, the morose bartender seemed to be in a more cheerful mood and he actually nearly smiled at her as he brought over a bottle of Jack Daniels and a rocks glass. Sarah raised her eyebrows at him. "How did you know I wanted JD?" The bartender stared at her wordlessly and Sarah shivered into silence. She drew a ten out of her jeans and slid it across to him. The bartender finally spoke: "Compliments of a friend." he hissed at her. "The *whole* bottle?" Sarah queried. The man nodded and moved away to wait on other customers. Sarah shrugged and poured herself a generous drink. She lit a cigarette, turning to survey the clientele. "Nice crowd," she murmured to herself wondering what in hell kept bringing her back to this oddball joint.
Alex was hungry, not just hungry, but starving. Her mate had been feeding her, but that seemed like a long time ago. He had told her that there were "places" she could go to observe and learn. That she would be able to feel them, to hear them. She thought she could feel one of those places now as she walked through the fog laden ally. She could hear noises and talking, she could feel an almost electric sensation, but she could see nothing but run down warehouses. Ahead she saw some dim light. As she approached, she could see a sign that looked old and weather beaten, it said "The Ravager's Kiss". Alex shuddered slightly as a bead of sweat rolled down her back. She checked to make sure the collar on her black turtleneck was up and in place.
She wore black jeans with black boots, and a gold dragon on her left ear. Her hair was down and slightly damp from walking around in the night fog, and hung in loose gold curls down her back. She took a deep breath and reached for the door, after all, what did she have to be afraid of, she was a vampyre.
The door screeched slightly as she drew it open and stepped inside. The bar was dark and there was a smoky, musky smell to it. As she walked in she could feel eyes everywhere. She tried to appear as totally calm and in control. As she looked around, using her unholy vision to scan the auras of those in the bar. She was amazed to realize that most of the beings here were vampyres. She put here eyes to the floor and tried to walk as smoothly as possible to the far side of the bar.
She took the stool at the end sat down and lit a cigarette. 'This is bad', Alex thought as she glanced out of the side of her eyes. Her mate had warned her to be very careful about being around other vampyres. "Stay calm Alex", she reminded herself in a bare whisper. They don't know you, so they will probably be just as cautious of you as you are of them.
Alex put some money on the bar, and the bartender brought over a glass of red wine. Alex was so overwhelmed with the whole scene, she never even noticed that she hadn't ordered. She took a deep sip and realized that this wine was very old, and very good. She felt better now. She looked down the bar and saw a woman sitting by herself drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels. "Nice crowd", she heard the woman say as she took another pull of her JD. Alex looked closely, this woman was a mortal! How odd, Alex thought. As she took another deep drink from her wine, she wished so much that her mate was here to explain things to her.
As she sat drinking and smoking, she unconsciously pulled up her turtleneck again...
Ragna examined the dark circles and waxen skin around her eyes in the dirty mirror of the flop house hotel she was currently inhabiting. She was tired. No not tired, exhausted. Out of the corner of her vision she seemed to be able to make out dark figures, dark smudges, all moving. Her night vision seemed to be improving and bright lights were painful. She hadn't slept in a couple of days. Or was it something else ?
After her vision in the Kiss she felt the urge to return to her homeland, to find more knowledge as to what the Old Ones wanted her to perform. She stepped off the aircraft in Rekyavik, full of Celtic pride and vague feelings of the Celtic twilight, intent on searching out the elders of her village. In her arrogance, and with the tear drop shaped amulet sliding warmly on the skin of her chest, she strode through the streets, enjoying the feeling of power, and what she had thought were awe struck looks received from her fellow citizens. She had then travelled to her home village , in search of people who might have knowledge. But all the elders turned their backs on her; would not speak. A few spat in her path. She cast off the puzzlement in her arrogance, thinking the behaviour was envy.
Her feet had taken her to the craggy shore line, where she had been drawn, against her will, and with her amulet shooting white heat through her body, to a dark crevice. Within the crevice was an ancient individual who once may have been human. The body was covered with a shapeless grey cloak, and the eyes burned from within.
" I also, have been waiting for you", cracked a toneless voice, a sexless voice, " for many centuries. I have been waiting, my existence miserable, to carry out my deal with your cursed Old Ones. "
Ragna had begun to build an anger. Who was this pathetic undead to speak like this ? She began to open her mouth, to speak. The hag's hand had shot out, gnarled fingers and long curved yellow nails had grasped her with an extraordinary strength, choking her.
"I am old and tired. Weak. Far weaker than those who burn so brightly across the seas. And I could kill you here, on the spot. No amulet would stop me. But I will not, and you will have your chance young one, for that is my bargain with your feeble gods. But before this I will reveal a few truths about the Old Ones. You will discover, that you are a tool in thir hands. They have bestowed a power upon you, but they would never give you enough to match even their little strength. You will find, that outwardly, you will begin to resemble the undead, physically and habitually, yet you will never have the power that a true undead does. You will appear as an undead, and will be able to fool almost all of my brothers and sisters. And you will remain this way for the rest of your *mortal* life. This is how your gods will treat you. As for the task before you, I say nothing...and in this I break my bargain with the Old Ones, but I do not care..."
The hag had unsheathed a set of long, ill-used fangs and gone for her throat. Deliberately, the creature released Ragna's neck, and gave her time to pull her amulet from beneath her shirt. Ragna had placed it on the cancerous, pale skin of the vampyre. The effect had been overwhelming. A smell of dead carcass had issued forth. And the contact was like a powerful electric shock, which had sent her sprawling. But it was the howl, the scream of the destruction of an undead, that filled her consciousness. The sound had carried out to send chills up the spines of other undead around the world.
Ragna had then returned home, recognizing now that the awe struck looks she thought she received were actually looks of irrational fear. She was confused, and lacked much self-confidence. She was unsure of her search for the friend that disappeared not three weeks ago. She was unsure of the truth of old vampyre's words. She was unsure of her Old Ones.
Ragna came back to the present, and shook her head. She was sure that she must be at The Ravager's Kiss tonight, fatigue or no fatigue. She sighed, ran her fingers through her hair, and departed.
She arrived at the Kiss and entered, ignoring the looks she received. She sat at the bar, next to a woman slowly draining an entire bottle of Whiskey. Before her appeared a drink, the same musty smell and texture as the one that caused her vision. In the eyes of the bartender was a challenge, and an amusement. Ragna, unsure of what to do turned to the woman next to her, and stared intently.
"I said no! You are not going back to that seamy dive, and that's final! You could've gotten yourself killed..."
"Aw, c'mon, 'Lex, they turned out to be really nice people... well, I suppose they aren't really _people_, but there were plenty of people there, too... nice people. I mean, they let me use their phone, after all..."
"Stephen!" shouted the blond woman, instantly regretting her decision as the young man before her recoiled like a chastised puppy, hurt in his eyes. She sighed, and wondered once again whether she would ever be able to make him understand how precarious his new position was... she had embraced him to find a lover, and ended up with more of a child... well, a very handsome and well-built child, she thought with a smirk. But he had to learn to stop taking the risks he did... he'd been lucky so far, but best not to let him out of her sight for awhile. And that meant he was _not_ going back to the Kiss... especially not alone, and especially not when rumors were flying that Mordred had come to town...
"You never let me have any fun..." Stephen protested as he threw himself into a nearby plush chair. "I'm sick of being cooped up in here... and you've been watching me like a hawk all week... I'm not your property, y'know..."
"Of course not, Stephen," Alexandra crooned as she walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. He half-heartedly pulled away. "I'm just worried about you, that's all. The world is a dangerous place for our kind, mostly because of our kind... other vampyres just want to use you, wring you dry for their own ends. They might hurt you if you don't cooperate..."
"I can take care of myself..." Stephen grumbled, not looking at her. She gently took his face in her hand and turned it up until his eyes met hers. Such beautiful eyes...
"I know you can, Stephen. But the Kiss is a bad place, and I don't want you going there until you've had some more experience. I've got to go to a meeting, but I want you to stay here tonight. Please?"
Stephen sighed disappointedly. "Oh, alright."
"Cross my heart, hope to... umm... hrm... yes, I promise." he said, looking at her with wide, earnest eyes. She laughed in spite of herself, and he grinned at her, showing the dimples in his cheeks.
"That's my boy," she said, patting his cheek. "I'll be back around four, and I'll bring us both some breakfast, eh? Good. Good Night, Sweet Prince..." she said, as she gathered her things and swept out the door. Stephen kept smiling until the door closed and the sound of her footsteps had retreated down the hall. Then he held up his crossed fingers...
The cab let him off at the corner, and almost as soon as he disembarked, took off once again, no doubt seeking better surroundings. Stephen wasn't worried, though. This time he was prepared... underneath his tweed overcoat was a long sheathed rapier, a prop from some production he had been in. So what if the edges were blunt?... it was pointy enough, and sure looked real. Besides, he wouldn't really need to use it, he was here to have fun, and trouble wouldn't look for him unless he looked for it, right? Right. Really, 'Lex could be such a worrywart sometimes... Stephen had gotten along fine without her help for years... gone to college out of state, everything. He didn't need to be nursemaided... he'd show her...
He paused in front of the doorway to make sure everything was in order, primping at his hair by the murky reflection of a shattered window. There, perfect. Here goes nothing...
Opening the door, he entered.
She had staked her territory well tonight. A good view of the Kiss was always a must. Rifling through the pockets of her leather jacket she produced centuries of sketch pads. Idly browsing through them she viewed long forgotten faces.
"Wonder how many have come to this country?" she queried the wine Geoffrey brought her.
Tara flipped a few pages of the most recent book before finding a blank page. Some of her work from the week before graced those previous pages.
There was this fair mortal named Sarah. A handsome woman, and a photographer by trade. She smirked to herself. Her trade was obvious, few people voluntarily lugged that much equipment around. She should go talk to Sarah sometime, just to see what drew a mortal like her to the Kiss. "Not now," she mumbled to the sketch, "She seems very engrossed in her JD at the moment..."
Tara then turned her attention to the vampyre next to her. "A young one..." she grinned, "I should..."
Suddenly waves of strong emotion assaulted her 'other' senses. Her unprepared mind reeled with their intensity causing her to crush the crystal beneath her delicate fingers before slamming down her shields to that potent emotion.
Fear? No one should have cause to fear hereabouts. A raven haired mortal entered but the emotion she sensed hadn't been from her. Scanning quickly Tara caught Geoffrey's concerned gaze. With questions in her eyes she started to rise, but his warning glare forced her to remain seated.
"What is going on?" she mused as she brushed an idle red hair behind her ear, "And why the...Oh Hells. What a waste of good wine."
"See you tomorrow, Jack. And try not to be late again. I can only cover for you so often."
"Hey, don't worry Katie. I'll be early for once. I have to drop off my kids at school."
"Arrggh, you know I hate that Jack. The name's Kate for God's sake, Officer Morrison to you, you pain. You do that just to annoy me, right?!"
"Well, it works doesn't it. See you tomorrow."
Jack bent his large 6ft frame almost double to get into the drivers seat, shut the door of the car behind him, and within seconds he was mingling with the other traffic. Left on her own in the almost deserted parking lot, Kate turned her thoughts to the nights entertainment. The video and TV held no interest tonight. She had to do something else. A feeling of genuine discomfort had started to flow through her within the last week. Utter and complete boredom had set in. Nothing was happening. Her work was boring because she was tied to a desk. She wanted to get back on the streets but after being in the hospital, her Captain thought it would be "a good idea for a short while". Even one week typing and pushing files had almost sent her begging to the Captain. It was so boring and tedious that she felt her life had stopped. Even her favourite haunt 'The Ravager's Kiss' had been pretty dead the week previous although the painkillers mixed with the alcohol had made her drowsy and half concious for much of the time.
'Maybe I should go to the Kiss tonight' she thought to herself as she climbed onto her bike and strapped on her helmet. 'I wasn't really all that with it last week. Perhaps Adam is back. Maybe someone will be there I know. Oh well, it can't be any worse than staying at home'. With that parting thought she focussed her attention on the traffic and steering the bike through the cars and trucks that vied for position along the freeway.
By the time she approached the Kiss, Kate was feeling better. She felt almost drawn to its inviting atmosphere and the strange people that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was a safe place for her. The first time she had entered she had met Adam and everything had come together. He had wanted her to be with him "forever" and they had almost been inseperable since. Whenever she visited the Kiss, Adam was there waiting for her. And then he had vanished.
She'd tried to find him or any sign of him for weeks. She'd asked anyone and everyone in the Kiss. She had used her own resources and the departments computers to try to locate him but without luck. And yet, she kept coming back in a vain hope he would come back.
Questions seemed to float around the place like 'Why do I get involved with the people from the Kiss?' or 'What draws me to them? I would never even think of it anywhere else'. Maybe the man who had been with her last month when she had passed out and had to be taken to hospital would be in. Maybe he could give her some answers. Whatever, she needed some answers quickly as it didn't make any sense.
She opened the door and looked in at a few familiar faces in a crowd of people. 'A drink to start with' she thought and headed to the bar. Again Geoffrey the barman had her glass of whiskey in front of her before she could ask. She stared at him and remembered his strange hissing lisp and decided not to ask again. A smooth turn and she headed towards the back of the room and an empty booth.
She noticed the camera sitting beside a stool and almost paused to warn the lady on the stool about carrying expensive equipment around in public. But she was off duty so she continued on down to the table and slumped into the leather seat letting her hands relax around the drink and slowly sipping it while keeping the occasional watchful eye on the camera and the rest of her attention on the door.
She'd planned the date so carefully. Ami had talked her into going out again with Sid, a friend of Ami's boyfriend Jeff. Nikki'd taken the time to bathe in perfumed bubbles (Navy, her favorite), choose her dress carefully and put on her make-up in plenty of time. She'd dressed in a tight, white dress, off the shoulder with long, tight sleeves and a hem that reached mid-thigh. She added silvery-white stockings, white spiked high heels and a velvet ribbon around her neck in a choker style. She'd swept the front part of her brownish/black hair up into a ponytail with a white, lace ribbon so that she had large curls spilling down her back to below her shoulders.
She'd been sparing with her make-up (as usual) so that her brown/black eyes were widened without seeming to be made-up.
She met Ami, Jeff and Sid at "Lucifer's", a popular nightclub. Everything had been going just fine. She'd been drinking her 7-up and lime while the others enjoyed their mixed drinks and cigarettes. Sid and she had danced a few times, but she noticed that, unlike the other two times they'd gone out, he seemed to be getting drunk. This wasn't a good sign. Then he'd danced her into a corner at the back of the club. His first kiss had been rather forceful in a semi-romantic kind of way... sort of something that might be read in a romance novel. Then he'd started pawing her. She tried to push him back, but he didn't seem to notice. It wasn't until she'd managed to hit his head a few times and then, when he drew back, slap him across the face, that he realized anything was wrong. It wasn't due to her seeming acquiescence... it was due to his drunken state.
Full of fury, Nikki strode back to the table where Ami and Jeff cuddled, grabbed her small, white purse and growled about men being pigs. She left the club in a huff and decided, to work off this anger, she'd best try to walk home. She found herself thinking back on all the relationships she'd had. It seemed that each one had ended much this way, with the man trying to bed her in one way or another. She didn't like that. Why must it be that way? Why did men have to be out to "score"? What happened to saving oneself for marriage? What in the world had happened to ROMANCE, doggone it?! It seemed as if a guy bought you anything these days, he expected some sort of sexual favor for it!
The men where she works at Simmons Detective Agency said she was "too romantic, too soft, too unrealistic". Perhaps they were right, but she just couldn't bring herself to fall into the "liberated woman's" way of thinking. She sighed as she realized that most of the relationship difficulties she was having just might be her own fault. Then she noticed where she was.
This area looked none too good. She was chilly too. When had the temperature changed and where did that awful fog come from? Great. She was totally lost. This was turning into a really horrendous night. "What else could go wrong?" she asked herself and then reminded herself not to ask that question... after all, there was no better way to find out than to wonder something like that.
She took a wrong turn and ended up in an alleyway. She had just decided to turn and go back when she saw a door open. She only saw a vague figure enter, but she could hear music coming from the area and decided it must be a club of some sort. She decided to go on in. This, at least, would give her something to do instead of running right home. Plus they'd probably have a telephone which (she chuckled softly at the complete obviousness of this observation) is a great thing to have when you want to call a cab.
She entered The Ravager's Kiss, totally unaware of what kind of place she was going into. At the top of the stairs, she unconsciously struck the model's pose that her mother had taught her so many years ago. It was the kind of pose that said "I have arrived" and commanded that all eyes turn toward the poser. If Nikki had known she was doing this, she would have blushed and either tried to make a graceful retreat or hurried down the stairs. However, this behavior was so ingrained that she was completely unaware of it.
Nikki decided this place was strange. It might be amusing for a while, however she didn't really want to be noticed. She approached the bar and was shocked when the bartender handed her a 7-up and lime without her asking for it. She placed a few bills on the bar and wandered off, leaving the rest of the money as a tip. She found a table toward the back, in the darker part of the club, and settled in to watch the people.
Mordred stood shaking, leaning up against the brick wall. His dragon-headed sword cane was the only thing holding him up, he knew if he relaxed his grip he'd slide down into the sludge coating the ground in the alley. 'You've got to pull yourself together man!', he mentally berated himself. 'Is this any way for a one thousand, four hundred and forty eight year old vampyre to act? I've been through dozens of wars, a few crusades, faced destruction countless times and I'm this shaken up over a memory?' He felt there was something greater at work tonight, forces shaping that he couldn't even understand.
He tried to straighten up, wiped the beads of perspiration off his heavy brow, and took a number of very deep breaths. Glancing down at his body he remembered he was dressed differently. Mordred decided to attire himself in a more current style this trip to the Kiss. He needed to try a different tactic if he was to learn more of his quest. He was wearing a dark blue T-shirt under a black sports-coat with loose grey slacks. He still wore his favorite heavy black woolen cloak over all of it, Mordred drew a certain strength from its feel. The familiarity helped him get a grip on his senses and calm down.
'Ok,' he thought to himself, 'I am once again in control.' He was a creature of control and this recent outbreak of fear deeply disturbed him, but he forced it down. 'Must press on, I can deal with anything I encounter.'
The door of the Kiss groaned slightly as he drew it outward. He gripped his cane and strode into the bar. Mordred quickly scanned the crowd as was his common practice, he always wanted to be ready for anything. 'No sign of Klaus, that's good news.' He noted that there was as large a group of mortals in the Kiss as last time he was here. He even saw a few faces he recognized.
'There is that blonde at the bar, the one with the camera. And next to her is that raven haired mortal that intrigued me last time. There is more to her than meets the eye.' He decided not to confront her again so soon, he'd wait and observe her and try to learn more. He took a quick assessment of the vampyres there as well. 'Most of them are just young whelps, a few freshly turned this year.' A flicker out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.
There was the aura of a very young vampyre in one of the darker areas of the back of the bar. But it seemed different, something was not quite right. 'This definitely needs looking into, perhaps this is related to what I seek.' He drew off his cloak and hung it near the door. He nodded to Geoffrey as passed the bar. His old "friend" seemed to make himself very busy mixing a drink, pulling slightly away from Mordred's gaze. As Mordred crossed the room in his trade-mark elegant and arrogant way he took a closer look at the being who had first drawn his attention.
She was sitting nervously at a small table in a corner and was dressed in quite a fancy manner. Her white off the shoulder dress glittered slightly in the low light and she fidgeted in her seat pulling at the curls of her dark hair. He examined the aura surrounding her with his unholy vision and was taken aback! He faltered in one of his smooth strides as he realized his first deduction about her was wrong. She was not a vampyre, but simply a young female mortal. There was no hint of a vampyric aura around her now. This was strange indeed. He could have sworn she at first seemed like a newly turned undead. He was usually never wrong about these things. 'This night seems to be full of surprises.'
Her body language told him she was out of place. 'What was it that drew her here?' Mordred decided to strike up a conversation and learn more of this mortal that seemed more than a mortal.
"Good evening. I don't believe I've seen you here before, Miss...?"
Nikki sat watching the people in the bar checking each other out. She unconsciously twirled a strand of hair around her finger. They were a strange lot. They acted almost as if they were afraid of each other or something. She didn't even notice the approach of the gentleman until he spoke to her.
"Good evening. I don't believe I've seen you here before, Miss...?"
"West." she responded, rather startled, "Nicole West. And you are...?"
He was a tall man and quite imposing. There was something...noble about his demeanor and perhaps a little haughty. The very first thing Nikki noticed about him was his eyes. They were and odd gray color and seemed commanding...almost as though he could read the very thoughts her heart held. It was frightening to her, in a way, yet also exciting. He had long, black hair swept back in a rather fashionable manner combined with a rather old fashioned, long mustache. She also noticed the two strange scars on his face and wondered briefly how he had received them. Then her eyes were drawn back to his.
"May I sit?" Feeling suddenly speechless, Nikki simply nodded.
"Thank you." He seated himself catty-corner from her, close enough to touch her, if he so wished, yet far enough to look into her eyes, "My name is Mordred... ah Robert Mordred, but I'm mostly known by my last name around here. I'm a bit of a regular." He paused and smiled in an open and friendly manner, then continued when Nikki didn't seem as though she were going to respond right away. She was busy trying to figure out the age of the handsome man before her. He looked like he might be 30. Then again, he could be somewhere in his 20s. Perhaps he was actually in his 40s. It was so hard to tell these days.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss West. Is this your first time to the Kiss?"
"Please call me Nikki. It's what most of my friends call me and I'm rather used to it. Yes, it is my first time here. In fact, I wasn't aware of the club's name at all."
"The full name is actually The Ravager's Kiss, rather ominous for a bar, wouldn't you say?" He smiled in such a way that the scars on his cheeks were made more prominent. Nikki once again found herself wondering what had caused those. She had a sudden feeling that, whatever they were from, it was a very romantic scene. She just couldn't have pictured him receiving those in something as mundane as a car accident. Nikki returned his smile with one of her own.
"I think it's a rather romantic name, It makes one think of what something like this might have been called in the days of knights and damsels."
"Interesting thought." He paused, seeming very amused by something. "And how did you find our little secret? Do you have friends that come here often?"
"Actually," Nikki responds with a blush, embarrassed to admit she'd been lost, "I fell across it. I was walking home and lost my way. If any of my friends come here, they haven't told me about it. It's quite an interesting place!"
"Come, come, Miss Wes...ah, Nikki," he seemed to be almost half doubting, half teasing her, "out wandering alone in a beautiful outfit like that? Are you sure you came here unescorted?"
"Yes." she blushed again, not wanting to discuss Sid with this man who seemed to be so much his opposite, "It's rather a long story. Let's just say I had a falling out with a gent... a _man_." Her strange pause was because of her opinion of the difference between a gentleman and a man. Mordred, as he preferred to be called, seemed to be an excellent example of the former while Sid had turned out to be an example of the latter.
"Oh... I'm sorry to hear that. I hope you don't think I'm being too forward coming up to you like this, but you caught my eye when I entered. I knew I'd hate myself if I didn't come talk to you."
"That's very kind of you to say." Nikki blushed again, "Where are you from? You don't sound like you're from this area." She was finding Mordred's complete attention to her to be very flattering. He made her feel every bit the lady and she enjoyed that feeling.
"No, actually I'm from Briton originally, but I do travel quite a bit. I consider the entire world my home. Whenever I'm in this area I have to come visit the Kiss and I'm especially glad I did tonight." he informed her. Nikki blushed again and decided it might be best to ignore the compliment. She didn't want him to think she could be swayed by sheer flattery.
"What a wonderful idea, to consider the entire world your home. I went to England many years ago. I loved it. I hope to go again someday. I'm surprised you come to the Kiss often. It doesn't seem like the kind of place you'd frequent, though, judging from the variety of people here, that may not be a correct assumption."
"You'd be surprised at the kind of people I often find myself hanging out with in my travels." Mordred gave a strange sort of smile as though he were enjoying a private joke. When he didn't fill her in, Nikki started the conversation with the first thing she could think of.
"So, what kind of work do you do?" she asked. Mordred paused as though he had to think this over. He fascinated her. He seemed so different from everyone else! She hoped he wouldn't prove to be a disappointment.
"I'm into history. I mostly fund my own research. I had the good fortune of coming from a family that was quite well off and I was lucky to end up with a good deal of it." He flashed another of his quick smiles and it made her wonder just how serious he was. However, he didn't seem the kind to tease about such things, so she guessed he must be serious.
"How interesting! Do you publish books on the subject?"
"Not really... But how about you? What is it you do?" he responded. Nikki had the definite feeling that he didn't care to discuss his work. That was all right with her. Some people didn't care to.
"I'm an executive assistant at Simmons Detective Agency." she answered, and not really wanting to talk about that either, gave him a serious look (anything to be able to stare into those wonderful eyes), "Perhaps you could explain something that's been bothering me a little bit?" He raised an eyebrow, expecting something serious.
"How did that bartender know what I wanted to order before I'd said anything?" Mordred laughed at that. Nikki could see his point. It was a decidedly odd question. She blushed and chuckled with him.
Lilith strode through the dark streets with a determined pace, her cane giving a sharp click with every step. It was already well into the night, and a cool breeze was blowing. She was tired, but restless. The University had sent her to a conference here, in a bid to try and force her into teaching. Her! Stand in front of a room full of young mortals and lecture in broad daylight! It galled her that she had to fly on a daylight public flight to be greeted by bureaucrats, just to fight the decision. Even in her cloak, covered, the effort had drained her. Her research position was convenient though, providing income at little risk, and was worth the pain it caused her, she thought..
She laughed in the darkness. In a century or two she could be the foremost archaeologist on the planet, with firsthand experience of long-gone eras, if she chose to pursue the post. She shook out her long hair, bleached almost white from years in the sun in life. She knew there was a place near, a place she had heard of, where she could relax and rest a bit. A quaint place called The Ravager's Kiss.
As she turned into the alley that hid the Kiss, she slowed. She sensed something...there was a familiar feel in the air. Something ancient. Dangerous. Lilith entered the Kiss cautiously, a sense of foreboding suddenly overshadowing her previous curiosity. The place was full of kindred, some very powerful, she could see by their auras. There were also mortals here, but she guessed any place like this was bound to attract a few.
She continued to scan the room from a behind a goblet filled with deep red liqueur provided promptly by the barkeeper. She felt almost out of place at this bar, noting inwardly that she appeared older than anyone else in the place. The closest two appearance-wise to her fortyish were the barkeeper and a dark-haired man near the bar's rear. Both were very old and powerful kindred, and both appeared ten years her junior, near thirty. As she glanced at the dark-haired vampyre, the sense of foreboding returned. There was something...she couldn't place it. Until she remembered.
The last day of her mortal life...
And Lilith returned to that last day of blinding bright sun, and the dark, damp chamber free of the shifting sand for the first time in centuries. The walls were carved with runes and the workers had abandoned the place in fear as soon as they saw them. She recognized the marks as magical wards, and had cast her own signs of protection, as any student of the occult would. Against better judgement, however, and driven, it seemed with a desire to see what lay behind the hastily closed chamber of so long ago, she broke the seals and entered.
The thing inside had torn through her magical defenses like a child ripping wrapping paper off a gift. She stood, helpless once again, caught in the memory, unable to pull free, as the thing bore down on her. All her will was sapped in the effort not to scream...
As Sarah sipped at her bourbon, she felt the unmistakable pressure of eyes on her. She frowned into the middle distance, determined not to give in to her first impulse, which was to seek out the interested party. She reached down without looking to pick up the strap of her camera and hitch it up over her shoulder.
"Just leave me the hell alone," she muttered under her breath. Having recently come off a rather stormy relationship with a co-worker, Sarah was definitely not in the market for a new one. Not even a one-night stand. She swiveled around on her stool to face the bar again and reached for the bottle of Jack Daniels. Glancing up, her eyes were caught by the gaze of a woman sitting next to her. Sarah started violently, not having heard or seen the woman come in. She found herself gazing back, somehow fascinated with her eyes. The woman was all in black, a gold earring handing from her ear caught Sarah's attention and helped break the spell of those eyes.
Sarah blinked once or twice, then smiled hesitantly. Maybe she *was* in the mood for a new friendship after all. It had been a long time since Sarah had enjoyed the comfort of a female relationship. She tended to hang with the boys; women often confused and puzzled her. But tonight, Sarah was in a very strange mood. She felt the need for closeness suddenly. This woman was waking the oddest emotions in her...Sarah was not quite sure how to deal with this. To cover the sudden longing that surged over her , Sarah smiled hesitantly and reached to touch the woman's dragon earring.
"Nice dragon," she said, gazing once more into the woman's eyes...
Alex finished her glass of wine and turned to order another. She was paying attention this time as the bartender approached her with another glass. She was unable to suppress the urge of leaning back from the bar as he came up to her, she could feel all the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She looked at him more closely using her vampyric vision and saw an aura she had never seen before. Not only was this man a vampyre, but he was also a very powerful one. Geoffrey gave a sideways smile as he moved back down the bar.
Alex was starting to figure things out. If she could see that he was powerful, then it stood to reason that they could see that she was not. This could be a problem. She took two very large sips of her wine trying to steady herself. She was just starting to calm down when the door to the Kiss opened. She turned around to see who it was. This time she did let out a small hiss and leaned back against the bar. A man had entered carrying a dragon cane. His presence overwhelmed her unholy vision and sent her mind spinning. Whoever this man was, he was even more powerful than the bartender. She noted with relief, that he had not noticed her and had moved to the back of the bar.
Her mate had been old, but not this old. She could remember when he would brush her hair and tell her stories about vampyres and the other creatures of the night. He would hold her and tell her that she never needed to be afraid, because he would always be with her. Alex swallowed back a tear as she remembered his touch. She feared her mate was dead. There was no other explanation for his not returning to her. She shook off the fog in her mind and got back to the business at hand.
This whole place was alive with auras and feeling. She could hear voices and didn't know if they were thoughts or people talking. She was in way over her head. She scanned the room again using every vampyre sense that she knew. She could see that there were others like her, that were young and weak, but the majority seemed to be either mortal or older than her.
Alex turned her bar stool slightly so that she could keep a better eye on what was going on, and those old vampyres, and noticed the woman drinking the JD again. This woman was a mortal, but she was not afraid. 'She probably doesn't know enough to be afraid', Alex thought to herself. As she was looking at the mortal she heard her say "Just leave me the hell alone". Alex looked around quickly and noticed that the red haired woman next to the mortal was looking at her. She looked at the mortal again, and the woman reached over and touched her earring. "Nice dragon", she said. Alex looked at her carefully and detected no threat. Maybe she had found a friend, God knows she needed one .........
Stephen entered the bar with as much confidence as he could muster, striding his way to the bar with the kind of cocksure grace he'd watched older vampyres display. The noise and lights threatened once again to cloud his mind, but this time he was prepared for the effect, and for the most part managed to just focus on the task at hand, which was to order a drink from the man behind the counter... whose back was unfortunately, at the moment, turned from him.
Stephen gave his best smiles to the people neighboring him as he waited for the man to turn around. Which he didn't. Stephen began to feel nervous, unconsciously starting to drum the fingers of his left hand on the counter... he promptly put his right over the other hand, to stop it, smiling apologetically at his neighbors once again. He looked up at the barkeep, whose back was still turned...
Stephen sighed, and decided to bite the bullet and get his attention.
Immediately he regretted the action as the barkeep turned around and stared at him sullenly. Stephen blushed uncomfortably and looked down, nervously fiddling with a ring. The man continued to stare at him silently. Stephen smiled nervously and tried to strike up conversation...
"Err... my name's Stephen. What's yours...?"
Quieter: "Umm... nevermind... could I have a..."
The barkeep set a gin and tonic wordlessly on the counter before him. Stephen stared at it.
"Umm... yeah. Thanks..."
The barkeep grunted and turned away again, and Stephen shakily took the drink, wondering if this had been such a good idea after all...
Kate looked at the table and started playing with her empty glass. It twirled around her finger time after time as she tried to think of anything she could do. The rest was pretty dead again and yet there was an atmosphere of something she couldn't place. She could go home to her small flat but it wasn't a place you'd call 'Home' or she could go out and haunt another club but there she'd be recognised or picked on. Here she was left on her own unless she needed anyone or anything, then it just seemed to appear.
As she thought this, another glass appeared on the table in front of her. Without looking up, she knew Geoffrey was there with a smug grin. "Thanks. As usual, just when I needed it most" she said in mock praise as the glass emptied its contents into her throat. "Another please Geoff and I'll be back in a minute". With a slow gate she headed in the general direction of the toilets.
...." Just leave me the hell alone..", mumbled the woman, just as Ragna realized that she had been staring too long and hard. Must be fatigue. Things had begun to flit around the corners of her vision, and the lights occasionally seemed to dim, with no reason.
Her eyes continued to hurt, and the thought that she was slowly altering, to take on the undead characteristics, intruded in her all ready cloudy mind.
She shook her head once, then finished her drink quickly. The peaty liquid slid down her throat, soothing, comforting... She blinked quickly, aware that she had missed a few seconds of time... almost falling asleep at the bar. She knew that would be fatal, with her transformation not yet complete.
She looked up to find the bartender staring at her, an amused wrinkle in his left eye the only sign of emotion. He placed another drink in front of her; the smell of coffee filled her nose.
" Don't worry, I've put something...else in with coffee, it will keep you awake." said Geoffrey.
Ragna said nothing, but took the coffee. She raised the cup to her lips, and briefly gazed at the bartender. She received a feeling of honesty from the undead. Not from choice, but from habit; the Kiss was inviolate, a neutral ground. She drank the coffee, and her head cleared immediately. Although a small voice warned of repayment later.
She turned, and noticed that Mordred, as was his usual self, was attempting, with success, a seduction. Ragna was still a little angry from her and Mordred's initial contact. The rage flared briefly, and Ragna stood, and made her way over to Mordred.
"Sweet Danu..." Tara muttered under her breath as she pulled a thin sliver of crystal from her palm. Silently Geoffrey was there with a fresh goblet and disappeared just as quickly with the remains of the previous.
Several patrons had entered while she tended to her hand and only now did Tara bother to scan the room. Vampyres and a smattering of mortals. Definitely an interesting crowd tonight.
Then he walked in. "Mordred," she hissed under her breath. "He seems a bit shaken," she muttered to her wine and watched as he stalked across the room towards a young vampyre. "Wonder what..." Tara started to ask when she noticed that her first assessment of the young lady was incorrect, she wasn't vampyre, she was mortal!
Tara watched Mordred carefully, as a cat would watch a snake. With his usual flourish he invaded her space and made himself at home. But as he turned to sit she caught a look at the woman in the dress. A fine white evening dress that showed the hidden loveliness even while sitting. Her dark hair accented all the more by the whiteness of the dress. Then she caught a glimpse of her eyes. Deep and dark, like her sister's. "Oh, Megan..." she moaned in her soul.
Her mind played the ancient events before her eyes. She and her sister had borrowed the horse for the day and had run down to the beach to collect shells for the festival. Between the two of them they had had enough several hours before, but had stayed to watch the sunset on the water. Night decended quickly but the Moon was full. They cautiously made their way across the moors when suddenly the mare threw them and bolted off for home. They comforted each other but were suddenly set upon by a dark shadow. It was concentrating on her sister, of course, she was the lovely one... dark hair and dark eyes, and the lovely figure, whereas she still looked like an ungainly filly. Megan screamed and Tara grabbed her dagger from her belt and stabbed at the shadow. It turned and looked at her. Her blood froze in her veins, Tara never forgot those eyes, his eyes...
A females giggling brought her out of her reverie. He's changed, Tara noted, but then, so had she. "I won't stand by for this," she afirmed to herself as she grabbed her jacket and made her way through the maze of tables.
'I wonder what I'm getting myself into here.' Mordred mused as he gracefully strode to the table of this intriguing young female mortal. 'First I thought she was a newly turned vampyre, then I realized she was human.' He didn't know what this had to do with his quest but he was getting the feeling it could be very important. First the vision he had earlier, now this...something was definitely brewing. Hopefully having a brief chat with this lady would help enlighten him.
He walked to the table and asked to sit. Mordred struck up an easy banter as was his way when he needed. He turned on the charm, not his vampyric powers, but just his centuries of human interaction. He studied her closely as they talked, 'Yes there is that unholy flicker I noticed when I entered. She is definitely not a typical mortal.' he thought to himself.
They were talking about the name of the Kiss when she surprised him: "I think it's a rather romantic name, It makes one think of what something like this might have been called in the days of knights and damsels." She said in an off-hand manner. His awareness immediately sharpened. 'Is this a some kind of a trap? Does she in fact know of my origins, my knighthood?'
Mordred suppressed a shudder. His long search for his foe seemed to be drawing closer, but he had to remain cool and in control. He might be looking for phantoms where there were none. He had returned to the Kiss because he had heard rumors of a woman, an archeologist who had a strange encounter in Egypt. He had traced her trail to the States, to this city. He didn't know when she'd be arriving, but he had a feeling she might be found at the Kiss. There was no sign of her when he was here last week, and his inquires had turned up nothing. Now he was confronted by this woman, Nikki, with the enigmatic aura. Either she was an agent for the Egytian he was looking for, maybe someone who has contact with this archeologist. 'What was her name? Lilith...that was it...and I will be able to recognize her by her white hair, assuming she didn't alter her appearance.' Back to the matter at hand.
He continued to chat with Nikki, finding out nothing. She evaded his questions, maybe out of chance, or perhaps she was hiding something. He had to make a move. Just as he had about decided what his course of action should be there was a tingling at the back of his mind. He glanced over his shoulder and saw two people rise from their seats at the bar and head in his direction, almost simultaneously.
One was the raven haired mortal who rebuked him last week, the other was a kindred, a rather old vampyre, turned in her youth, she was a fetching red-head. Feelings of danger began to flame in mind, then he saw it! The first female, the one with the flashing green eyes and no fear of vampyres was emanating an aura of the undead! Just last week she had seemed a normal mortal and now this! 'What is going on here...' his thought was cut off abruptly as he noticed another figure still at the bar. She looked like a woman in her forties, she was definitely a vampyre, and she had long white hair.
Mordred muttered a curse in Celtic, evoking the name of Arawn, the god of the dead. He turned to Nikki and said, "*This* is going to be quite an evening, my dear."
Sarah drew her hand back slowly, getting the feeling she was not really allowed to touch this woman. She swallowed, briefly considering apologizing and ending the conversation. But she was too lonely tonight. All of her usual cronies had been ignoring her lately and she really needed someone to talk to.
"Where did you find that great earring," she asked breathlessly, suddenly feeling as if she were on the edge of something significant in her life.
Alex looked at the woman appraisingly and saw nothing. She looked again with her unholy vision she was just learning to control, and still she saw nothing, no malice, no intent, simply a lonely woman who was attempting to be kind. Alex felt bad for assuming the worst.
"It was a gift from my lover. It is very old, but I don't know where it comes from. He said that it was off of something...," Alex looked into her wine, trying very hard to keep the tears back, "but, that seems like a long time ago". Alex giggled a little, reminding herself that big vampyres don`t cry, and turned to address her strange companion. How was it that this mortal dare come to this place? There must be an interesting story here.
"My name is Alex", she said, and extended her hand..
Sarah smiled and took the hand, flinching slightly at the utter coldness of Alex's skin. "Sarah," she replied, trying to cover her initial shock. "I just killed a relationship, myself," she continued sympathetically. "Men can be such idiots, eh? Mine decided he was going to try and run my life. I got sick and tired of being told how to behave and how to dress, when I could kiss him, when it was inappropriate..." Sarah shook her head in disgust and gazed around the bar. "Weird crowd, huh? I just kind of stumbled on this place the other night. Looks like most of these people belong in a horror film." Sarah grinned at Alex, chuckling a little, then sobered at the look on Alex's face. "Umm...did I say something wrong?"
Alex felt a sudden wave overcome her. She hadn't missed how Sarah had pulled her hand back quickly, and the subtle look of revulsion that had crossed her face. Alex turned slightly and looked around the bar. The auras she could see coming from the other vampyres were almost blinding, particularly the older ones. She leaned back and sighed, and when she did, she could smell Sarah, her life, her heat. She quickly sat up again.
"No nothing", Alex finally replied as she reached for a cigarette to try to cover the smell. "They do kind of look like horror movie material". She could see that Sarah was feeling uncomfortable, and so she tried to lighten the mood a little.
"You must be very thirsty", Alex commented with a grin looking at Sarah's JD bottle.
Sarah felt suddenly ashamed of her reaction and tried to reconnect with this woman. She felt an inexplicable urge to hug her, tell her it would be all right, whatever was bothering her.
"Yeah," she glanced at the half-empty bottle. "That bartender...he just gave it to me." She peered at Alex quizzically. "How'd he know what I wanted? Unless he remembered from the other night..." Sarah took a large swallow from her glass and gasped as the searing liquid coursed down her throat. She gazed into the middle distance silently for a moment, trying to deal with this strange attraction she was feeling toward Alex. It was almost as if she were being ordered to cultivate a friendship with her. She cast around for another subject, desperately wanting to keep Alex's attention on her.
"Tell me about your lover," she said finally, turning to gaze into Alex's sorrowful eyes. "Is he still around somewhere?"
Alex looked into her wine trying to gather her thoughts. Stephen was something she needed to talk about, but didn't want to. She looked at the mortal sitting next to her. She could tell by the look on Sarah's face that she was just being a friend, and had no ulterior motives.
"His name is Stephen", Alex started slowly, "He said that an emergency had come up and that he had to leave for a while. I asked if I could go with him, but he had said that I was too young and had to stay here". Alex finished off her wine, and without looking handed the glass with perfect timing to the bartender who had just walked up and extended his hand. Alex was starting to feel that warm comfortable feeling that you get when you are drinking good wine. She could feel her senses unfolding like a favorite blanket. "I miss him very much, but I know he will be back soon, he promised". Alex looked into Sarah and knew what she was thinking. "Don't worry", Alex said taking Sarah's hand, "If he was dead, I would know it". Alex, for the first time in a long while felt quiet and comfortable, almost safe. She looked at her wine, then frowned slightly as she realized that she hadn't drank nearly enough to be producing this effect. She closed her eyes and reached out her senses. It felt good, like waking up and stretching after a long nap. She wasn't even aware that she still had her hand on Sarah's.
Suddenly, and without any warning, she felt Stephen. "Stephen!" Alex cried as she bolted to her feet, startling her companion who was also on her feet at this point. Sarah helped Alex sit back down. "I felt him, I could even smell him, he touched me", Alex explained to no one in particular. She took a sip of wine, and as she did it was as though she could feel fingers poking at her. Looking past Sarah, who probably thought she was some kind of escaped wacko at this point, she looked around the bar. She had attracted a lot of attention with that little outburst, and she was being investigated by the others of her kind. She tried to brush them off like hair on a sleeve, and after a minute the feeling was gone. Alex turned back to Sarah, but had no idea how she was going to explain all of that.
Ragna approached the table where Mordred and his victim sat. Mordred glanced up, a brief flash of annoyance clear in his eyes before his usual veil replaced it.
"Ah, Mordred...it has been a while since we talked," smiled Ragna, "and who is your charming young friend?"
Mordred gave her a puzzled glance, since the last time they communicated, Ragna was worse than hostile; she was indifferent. Nikki, noting the slight change in Mordred's demeanor, glanced curiously at the tall stranger.
However, Mordred was a well practiced gentleman, and with the ease that spoke of much experience, adjusted to Ragna's mood.
"Ahh, my dear, it is good to speak again. This charming young woman is Nikki, a new acquaintance of mine."
As Mordred said this, and glanced briefly at Nikki, who smiled in response, Ragna felt a brief flare of emotion from Mordred; a driving feeling. A feeling of stark and naked ferocity. Ragna was stunned for a moment and the black things flitting on the edges of her vision, expanded, threatening to block her entire vision.
She recovered quickly, to find Nikki patiently awaiting the other half of the social ritual to be completed.
"I am called Ragna. It is good to meet you."
"It's good to meet you, too." Nikki held out her hand to be shaken, "Have you two known each other long?"
Ragna grasped Nikki's hand but fatigue briefly got the best of her manners, she laughed, a harsh laugh, and said "Oh, about a week or so."
"Really?" Nikki glanced at them both and sensed something wrong. And then she began to get *that* feeling. The one where your seat suddenly becomes uncomfortable. Nikki wondered if Ragna and Mordred should be left alone, and her sense of unease increased. Nikki then decided upon a compromise; perhaps a brief absence would help.
"Could you point me to the ladies' room?" she smiled charmingly, "I need to powder my nose."
Ragna's vision was narrowing. Tunnel vision. She also began to feel an excitement within; she was coming close to the event that had forced her to the Kiss, that evening.
"Well, Nikki, I will show you..."
"Oh, no! I wouldn't want to interrupt your conversation!" Nikki said politely, "If you'd just point, I'm sure I can find it."
"Well, the route to the washroom is rather convoluted, and there are many side passages. A false turn, and you could end up lost in a warren of storage rooms. The bartender told me the first time I came here that the building is interconnected with many others, some of which are inhabited, and are best avoided."
A slight shudder ran down Nikki's spine at the sound of the word "inhabited". 'By what?', she wanted to ask, but wisely said instead: "Well, okay, then. Thank you!"
Both woman rose, and with Nikki beaming a smile at Mordred Ragna began to move towards a side door which led to the washrooms. Mordred also rose and inclined his head in their general direction. Ragna wondered if he was nodding at her or Nikki...
Ragna felt herself suddenly detached from herself, as if she was viewing all from a distance. The room's edges were smooth, fuzzy, and only a narrow dot directly in front of her face was clear. She felt as if she was moving at a disjointed pace; first accelerated, then too slow. And the smell. The smell of thick incense; the smell of old faded clothing...the smell of putrefaction came to her, all at once. The room lurched once more, but she fought off the coming darkness and continued towards the washroom. Nikki, unaware, continued to follow.
Finally, they entered the washroom. The gold baroque fittings offset the obsidian floor, and corpse white walls. The sound of trickling water, from the old fixtures, evoked images of dampness and cold. Ragna shuddered briefly.
Ragna, turned, and faced Nikki. All that was left in her field of view was Nikki's face, which was now just beginning to show concern.
An image vaulted in front of Ragna; two faces. One face was Nikki's, the other was an altered version. A more horrific version. The face of an angered undead. And Ragna knew, she was seeing a possible truth. A possible path in Nikki's future. In fact, a vision this strong, and this sensual, meant there was a high probability of the vision occuring. Ragna now knew why she was here this evening; to warn Nikki. Ragna had it in her power to alter this probability.
'Mordred, that pathetique undead *has* to have something to do with this. I feel it!' she thought to herself. A tinge of panic entered her mind; she could not let this seemingly nice woman fall to the un-life of a vampyre.
She cleared her voice, and said, in a strong monotone:
"I must warn you Nikki, that Mordred...Mordred is not to be trusted. I have seen him here before, with other young ladies. In fact, the last time I saw him taunt a young lady to the point where she fled, running."
"Is that so? It's hard to believe that of someone like him. He seems like such a gentleman." Nikki pulled a brush from her purse and brushed her hair in the mirror.
"He is a dangerous individual. He will have you tangled with his own twisted ways in a very short time. He has had much experience in this."
"You make him sound like some sort of rapist or pervert or... or... some sort of maniac! Surely he can't be that bad!" Nikki put the brush away and checked her make-up in the mirror.
Ragna felt her vision begin to close off entirely. She knew that Nikki was not believing her. She was failing! With a last mental effort, she touched her tear shaped amulet, and a look came over her face. Her eyes seemed to glow red, and Nikki felt as if Ragna filled the room. The growing unease now exploded to an outright fear, a fear that was rapidly threatening to become overwhleming.
In a strong voice, filled with conviction, Ragna nearly shouted; "He is evil Nikki, evil! Evil in an amoral way. All to him is a tool for his own use, whether human or otherwise!"
Nikki's jaw dropped. And the fear escalated. Her mind and body tensed. She desperately clutched her purse to her chest, stilling slightly the trembling she began to feel. But suddenly, and without a doubt, Nikki knew that for Ragna, this was the truth.
"I....I....", stammered Nikki, as a new sense of nausea overlayed the fear, casting a thin cold sweat across her forehead.
"Uh.... Uh....Th..thanks for the warning, Ragna. I .. ah...I'lll...ummmmmm... Thanks.." Nikki pushed her way out of the washroom, her mind confused. It had been perfectly clear not five minutes before.
Nikki exited the ladies room quickly. She started toward the table where Mordred waited, but her head was full of what had happened in the restroom. How could she just "know" that what Ragna had told her was true? She pictured herself looking into what she had thought were Mordred's "wonderful eyes"... and she shuddered. How could she keep him from finding out what she knew? Before he noticed her, she dashed up the stairs and to the door. She could almost feel his eyes upon her as she opened the door and rushed out.
It was pouring rain. Great. This was a wonderful night, Nikki decided sarcastically. She yanked the lace ribbon from her hair and shoved it into her purse. Her necklace felt too tight, so she pulled it off as well. Head down, she moved forward and tried to figure out how to get to the park. She could easily find her way home from there. Instead she found herself surrounded by abandon warehouses in different states of decay. She slipped into one of them to wait for the rain to let up. She shivered and hugged herself, being cold and soaked to the skin.
A feeling of imminent danger came upon her. She found herself backing away from the door, nervously looking into the blackness of the warehouse. Then a figure stepped into the doorway. Light from a streetlamp momentarily glinted off a dragon's head cane.
"Oh, it's you." Nikki said nervously, "You scared me. Why did you follow me?"
"I was worried, you bolted out of the Kiss like a startled deer."
"I'm sorry about that." Nikki responded, "It's just... well... there was a woman in the ladies room... that one who said she was your old friend... she... she frightened me. I just had to leave."
"Oh you poor thing, I was afraid she was going to frighten you." Mordred took a few steps closer to her and raised a hand as if to comfort her.
"I'm fine." Nikki couldn't help herself from stepping away from him, "Really."
"What's the matter? We seemed to be getting along so well just a few minutes ago. I'm not going to hurt you."
"Well..." Nikki tried to smile, but it didn't come out right, "I... I hardly know you."
"Just tell me what that women said to you. It's obvious that it upset you, but I can assure you she mostly harmless, but she tends to make up wild stories. What was it that she told you?"
"She said you were dangerous!" Nikki blurted, unable to stand the feeling that his eyes were garnering every response from her before she stated it.
Mordred paused then began to walk towards her. He was now no longer between her and the exit to the building.
"What do you want?" Nikki managed.
"It's not what I want, it's what I will have. Very soon you will be mine in body and soul."
"You're crazy!" Nikki screamed. She managed to dash past him and get out the door into the street, but she could swear she heard him laughing. The rain nearly blinded her, but not before she saw that he was ahead of her somehow, blocking her exit! How had he done it?!
"No!" Nikki managed, "This can't be happening!"
"Oh, but it is my dear." he said with a dry chuckle in the back of his throat.
"Please! Leave me alone!" Nikki spun and ran in the other direction. She glanced over her shoulder as she did so and saw that Mordred was no longer behind her! She skidded to a halt and looked around anxiously. There was no sign of him. She started backing away from the last spot where she'd seen him, her eyes feverishly checking out that area. She jumped when the hand fell on her shoulder, though something inside her had been expecting it. Not to be denied, the hand turned her around and she found herself staring up into Mordred's burning eyes. Her throat shut, cutting off the scream that was building inside her. He smiled, compounding her horror by revealing his fangs.
Nikki wanted to faint. She wanted to believe this wasn't happening, but her mind kept running, forcing her to deal with the reality of it. She saw his head move toward her throat; could have counted the raindrops in his hair, if she'd had the mental capability at the time. Only the pain of his incisors' invasion of her jugular vein caused any response at all. The trapped scream managed to voice itself in a low moan.
Nikki suddenly felt as though her mind, her heart, her very being were invaded with another presence. This presence was as black as pitch; more evil than anything she'd ever imagined. She wanted to scream, to run away, yet this strange invasion possessed an odd power. It held her rooted to the spot.
She had no idea how long this went on. All she knew was that it was gone as suddenly as it had come. She realized it had stopped raining. She felt weak and sick to her stomach. Something wet seemed to be running slowly from her neck to the front of her gown. She was too afraid to look down and see what it was. Besides, she knew what it was.
Her vision cleared momentarily and she saw Mordred standing before her. He had a thin, red line running from the corner of his mouth and she realized that it was her blood! Her head spun as she tried to catch her breath. His eyes locked on hers and he smiled wickedly at her.
"You are mine now."
Something within Nikki broke. She screamed a scream that sounded like someone realizing they were about to die. She turned and ran back the way she had come. With the illogic of all slightly maddened people, she could only think of returning to what had seemed to be the last haven of safety, The Ravager's Kiss. Names were flying through her head; people to ask for help. Ragna came to mind, she'd tried to warn Nikki. Paul, the head of Simmon's Detective Agency who always flirted outrageously yet worried about her deep down. Someone would help her. Even that strange bartender might. He'd at least let her use the telephone.
She never did know how she found her way back. She threw the door open and charged into the bar like a whirlwind. She wasn't aware of the scene she was causing or of anyone being in front of her until, after charging down the stairs, she ran full into someone and ended up with that person on top of her on the floor. The person quickly rose and she found herself half crouching, half sitting on the floor. She heard a male voice say something and only partially saw a hand reach toward her. She cringed away.
"Don't hurt me!" she cried, sounding like a little girl who had been through some cruel abuse, "Please, don't hurt me any more!"
Kate drew her feet up to her chest and stared at the grafitti on the cubicle door. It almost raised a smile to her face as she flipped from one side to the other but then reality intervened. Someone walked into the washroom closely followed by another pair of footsteps. They started to talk and one of the voices rose sharply with ever new statement. ' The last thing I need now is to listen to a lecture about someone else's boyfriend trouble' she thought to herself as she clamped her hands to her ears.
For a few moments there was a peaceful silence until it was shattered by the voice.
"He is evil Nikki, evil! Evil in an amoral way. All to him is a tool for his own use, whether human or otherwise!"
Stunned by the force of the voice and the statement, Kate sat still as the footsteps left. For what seemed like minutes she churned the phrase over and over in her head. '...Evil in an amoral way.'..... '..whether human or otherwise!'.....'He is evil Nikki, evil!'.
Part of her had felt the almost visible presence just beyond the door and had already started to run for the far recesses of her mind whilst another had weighed up the phrase and was on its way out the door to help, if need be. However, the most powerful kept her rooted to the seat swirling the phrase round and round in her mind.
As if finally coming to a decision she stretched out and lowered her feet to the floor. She disposed of the remains of her burned up sanity into the toilet and relocated the hash in the lining of her jacket. " Not on my night off. Someone else can deal with it" she said to herself. " Anyway, he can't be as bad as she made out, surely".
Kate ran the hot water over her hands almost without concern until it burnt and then dried them off with the towel. She looked at herself for a moment and then straightened out her hair in the mirror. The lipstick seemed to have a life of its own as she tried to clear up the smudges on her lips. Then she realised why. Her hands were trembling. With an effort, she slowed them down till it was all but noticeable and finished tidying herself up. As she left the washroom for the bar, she felt a phrase turn over one last time in her head. '..for his own use, whether human or otherwise!'.
The drink at the table was a double whisky but for once she didn't intend to finish it quickly. She looked around for 'Nikki' or her weird friend but only drew blanks as she tried to piece together a picture of the people from what she had heard. No-one even came close to the vivid pictures that flitted through brain...
As the darkness of the vision receded, Lilith saw only red. After a moment she realized it was not the deep red of her own life's blood, but merely the red of the wine before her. She felt cold, feeling again the chill of her own undead state as if anew. She looked up and saw again the dark visage of the scared Kindred. She felt he must have some connection...
She didn't know what to think. Nothing in her life had prepared her for undeath. She still couldn't cope sometimes, even after the past few years. She glanced around the Kiss. The place seemed to attract those whom normal, mortal life had little or no hold on. That old scarred Kindred was at a table with a woman, who had subsequently run out the door, and then back in, covered in blood; probably her own. Lilith hadn't been able to tell whether or not she had been a vampyre before. Now it seemed quite likely she would be one before the night is out...If she survived at all.
A dark-haired woman had briefly been with them...another who's status she could not place. Mortal or kindred? Lilith couldn't tell. First she seemed one, then the other. There was strange power in her aura that she could not place. She shook her head slowly. She did not understand.
The course of her...'afterlife' often seemed so confused. She had tried to cling to the remnants of her mortal life, but with little success. Undeath was a twisted path to follow. She was still haunted by the image from her vision, of that dark sire which started her on this timeless trip.
She felt somehow there must be a power near, gathering, for the shreds of her vision once again reformed...and the ancient being gripped her again, speaking those words that sealed her fate...or doom......
"You have freed me, and for that I shall be *eternally* grateful. And to repay you, now I give you the *gift* of Eternal Life......"
The fragments of the haunting dream faded, but the buzz of power did not. She fought the darkness in her mind but could not win. Words formed then, which she struggled to comprehend.
"Follow in the footsteps of the betrayer. The tangled web shall entangle the weaver, else all shall be naught."
She knew not from where the words came, but lately they came more often. All she knew was that the flashes of 'insight' that occasionally had aided her in her mortal life had now become a curse. Visions and dreams plagued her. She could not control them, rarely understood them. They were a plague she would have wished removed, but they had already saved her once. Perhaps they would again.
She clamped down on herself again, and shook her head to clear the last shreds of the episode. She looked around, hoping no one had noticed her mental absence. She noticed the dark vampyre had disappeared, and she guessed he may have been the one responsible for the young mortal(?)'s 'distraught' state. Since the 'static' of power seemed to have waned for the moment, Lilith took the opportunity to cast a quick ward around herself. The last thing she wanted was to succumb to persuasion in her own rather vulnerable state. As she completed the maneuver, Geoffrey the bartender raised an eyebrow in amusement. Lilith swiftly downed her drink and ordered another.
She looked around again and took a mental inventory. The dark-haired woman (mortal? kindred?), a red-haired kindred, another mortal.... mostly women....She wondered briefly if the dark kindred with the dragon cane would returned; she almost shuddered...She concentrated on her drink and forced her mind not to wander further, inviting another vision.
"Hurt you?" He looked mildly shocked at the concept, and withdrew his proffered hand as if she'd slapped it away...
Then his eyes met hers. Pain. Fear. Horror. Her soul seared his eyes with the intensity of the emotions, pounded at his temples... it was going to overwhelm him! Christ! He wanted to flee from this place, scream, get away from her and her fear... no! She needs help, get ahold of yourself! He grabbed the sides of his hair, pressing his palms to his temples and squeezing his eyes shut, fighting down the impulse. The effort left him flushed and breathing heavily as he opened his eyes to look down at the woman again... and this time he noticed the blood.
"Oh my God..." he bent down to her, reaching to touch her neck as she cringed away.
"Please, miss, it's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you..." He tried to give her a reassuring smile as he gently tilted her head to one side with his hand. Blood was everywhere, matting her hair at the nape of her neck, staining the bodice of her lovely white dress. He had to look down a moment, swallowing with difficulty and trying to remain calm as his stomach did gymnastics inside him. She could feel her wide eyes upon him as her body shivered... something deep within him stirred at the touches of that fear, tasting it with delight, wanting more, causing Stephen to feel another wave of revulsion as he shoved it far down and looked up to see if anyone else had noticed. No one had, it seemed... didn't anyone care?
He looked back at her neck again, and it was then he saw the two puncture marks. Oh jeezus...
"C... come on, miss. Let's get you out of here..." Stephen pulled her to her feet, darting fearful glances at the patrons behind him. Had one of them done this to her? He had to get her out of here now...
"Lean on me..." he whispered, putting her arm around his shoulders as he grasped her waist. She moved with him almost mechanically, eyes still wide, body still shivering like a babe left in the cold. Stephen got her across the foyer as quickly as possible, up the stairs, and threw open the door to the outside.
There was a bitter chill in the air, a dampness. Mist clung to the wet cement of the pavement under their feet... it must have rained while he was inside, thought Stephen. No wonder the poor woman was soaked. Pro- bably freezing, too... he took off his coat and put it around her shoulders, holding her close as he helped her out into the street.
It was only then that the obvious problem occurred to Stephen. He didn't have a car... how was he going to get the lady to the hospital without a car? A few buildings down he got them underneath an awning and gently set her down to rest against the doors there. Taking her wrist gently, he felt for her pulse: it was there... irregular, but still strong, thank God. He knelt down and brushed her wet hair gently away from her face, speaking as softly as possible.
"Miss... my name's Stephen. I think we need to get you to a doctor, but I don't have a car... do you have one?"
He watched her concernedly and waited for the answer...
Mordred stood in the alleyway with his back pressed against the wet brick wall. His mind reached back to the events of the last few weeks trying to grasp the significance of all that had happened.
He came here following a clue to his quest. He was trying to find more information about an ancient vampyre, the one that had first turned his mother, Morgana. He had been tracking this creature for centuries and had never given up the idea he would someday confront him again. Mordred had dug up some information about another young vampyre that might have some of the knowledge he was seeking. He had followed the trail here, to The Ravager's Kiss, where he hoped to find this female. Tonight he had found her. A white-haired vampyre sitting at the bar inside with an aura that showed that she had not lived the un-life of his kind for long.
But so much else had happened in the past two weeks. He had been so out of touch with the world of his kindred for the past few decades. First there was this "Ragna", a young mortal who seemed to have a connection to a world very different than this one. Then tonight he had met a female mortal named "Nikki", but her life-force flickered with an aura of power, a power of the undead. A sudden urge had made him want to possess her. He often relied on his instincts, and just a few minutes ago they had forced him to follow her out of the bar, stalk her into an abandoned warehouse and drink her blood. His head still reeled at the experience! He had proven himself right, she was not a normal mortal. There was a taste of vampyre in her, he could still feel the energy burn his insides.
But he still didn't know what this all meant. He had watched her rush back into the bar, then come out being helped by another young male vampyre! Mordred knew he had already formed a sinister bond between Nikki and himself. He decided to let her go off with this young whelp. He could track her down when the time was right.
He still didn't know what to make of Ragna, she had spoken with Nikki, warning her against him, calling him dangerous. Well she had gotten that part right at least. But the warning had not helped Nikki from falling prey to his thirst. Was this Ragna an agent or tool of his nemesis? If she was, it was good that he may now soon have a pawn of his own. And now he needed to speak with this mystery woman who may hold a clue to the whereabouts of the one he sought. This was the most important thing to him at the moment. He could find Nikki and deal with Ragna when the time was right, but he needed more information. Mordred needed to find out how all these pieces fit together. He knew it was no coincidence that they had all ended up at the Kiss together tonight.
The elder vampyre gripped the silver head of his cane, ran his fingers through his long, black, shock of hair and slipped from the shadows. As he entered the bar he saw the creature he needed to speak with right in front of him, still sitting at the bar. As he approached her he felt a quick stab of awareness. She jerked her head around before he had a chance to speak. As their eyes met he felt a connection.
'Yes, this may be very enlightening indeed' he thought to himself...
Ragna leaned against the wall, in the washroom, the energy she felt moments ago completely gone. She knew she should rush after Nikki, and stay with her, to further ensure her safety. But the truth-saying message she delivered had left her unable to move, temporarily. Nikki was on her own.
"I'd better get moving, if I don't want to fall down and sleep right here!"
She stumbled toward the door, a film covering here eyes, and the voices without sounding very distant. She pushed open the door, and failed to notice the approaching woman. A sudden collision, and she was on her knees. Her amulet burst with energy. She'd touched the bare flesh of an undead!
"Are you all right?" the woman said, "What a question, of course you are not!"
The woman, Tara, was confused. The brief direct contact had brought a wealth of impressions. Ragna seemed to be in flux; her powers weak and then overwhelming, Her skin glowing, then pale as a corpse. Tara assumed that Ragna was newly 'made'. If so, she'd never seen a more difficult and volatile transformation.
"Here, let me help you up", Tara grasped Ragna's covered arms, and glanced over at Geoffrey, hoping for help. But the Barman stood there, a small smile on his lips, and did nothing. This is odd, because Geoffry usually helped out anyone, mortal or immortal. The Kiss was sacrosanct; about as holy as anything ever got to the undead, and its proprietor was usually studiously helpful.
Ragna was barely awake, and mumbled:
"Tired....so tired....Hunger....Old ones....hot"
"Come on, if you are hot and hungry, we'll get you outside" A sudden wave of sympathy came over Tara, and she decided to help Ragna.
Once outside, Ragna, cool rain ignored, unzipped her clinging black sweater almost to her stomach, revealing pale skin, and the curves of her breasts; between hung the amulet. She leaned against the wall, and looked up as Tara's wrist, all ready opened, appeared before her face. Automatically, she bent, and ran her tongue and lips over Tara's blood.
A sudden shot of nausea hit Tara, making her weak and dizzy. She hadn't fed all that recently, and she thought this might be the cause. Bending down, not moving her arm, she carefull slid Ragna's shirt open, almost fully revealing her left breast. The pale curve seemed to glow in the dark. She carefully fastened her mouth and fangs on the milky, smooth skin, and began to feed. Ragna swayed suddenly, as she began to feed upon Tara's and her own blood, mixed. The movement was enough, to cause the amulet to sway towards Tara. She felt the amulet slide accross her now slick breast. Only for a millisecond, did the icon caress Tara's cheek. But it was enough.
An image burned in Ragna's eye, of her own mouth and tongue greedily gathering and of Tara, bent over. Then a cracking sound. The smell of burning peat and the ocean. And a murderous gale, rushing from behind, soaking both with salty spray. A quick sliver light, and Ragna was on the ground, stunned. Tara, was a good twenty feet away, having been blown like a stray sheet in a storm...
[TO BE CONTINUED...?]