DB began to feel the pressure of the warped mindscape I'd been drilling into his brain. Unlike earlier, when I corrected my fledgling by showing him cute Disney-esque scenery like fluffy bunnies and cuddly chipmunks, I filled his mind with realities. To add to the horrific vignettes, I pulled strength from my Master and our vampire clan linked to him. Simon smiled and whispered, "Take more, Natasha."
Being given permissions, I freely tapped deeper into my connection and absorbed what Simon was offering. Harry's strength melded with Simon's, rocking me back on my heels. I liked Harry supporting me physically as I went deeper into the abyss that was Damson Barlow's mind. I felt Harry's body against my back from where he was right behind me. Simon's eyes glowed with power. He was lit from inside fully radiating his energy and strength as a Master.
My fledgling had grown up as a human predator -- it wasn't something that was just necessarily brought out by becoming a vampire -- contrary to Hollywood's movie and TV images of us. While fully human he'd been one of the vile sociopath sorts who toyed with their prey, and since the memory of each of his human deaths were long buried inside both of us, I had some major ammo to launch. When I'd brought him over to vampirism I'd been flooded with every breath he'd taken in his entire life. The intensity of vampiric turning wasn't without pain and suffering -- on both sides. The fledgling gives blood, tears and memories. The flavor of those gifts varies from vampire to vampire. Later Simon had said that he'd felt my creating Damson. What I knew now was that he'd taken some of DB's darker memories and stored them safely inside his soul and now he was giving them to me so I could break my fledgling.
Simon smiled as I began to tug more and more from him and right through me, while filling in the cracks and missing bits from when I'd turned him into a vampire and I'd fed off my fledgling. With all the emotions and memories I created the final pill. When I was topped out with as much of DB's beginnings as possible I would literally shoved the horrid memories, thoughts and feelings back into Damson. In the back of my mind I always knew that the night would come and I'd be forced to battle Damson for my survival over his. I'd prepared myself a decade or so ago. Nobody talked about the rituals and journeys we vampires traveled in our immortality. I'd been careful when seeking information not to collect too much in any one place, because the process to sever a master-fledgling tie could bring a death sentence if not appropriate or approved. Basically I was sending DB to hell with all of his sins freshly polished.
Fully armed, I began the pain filled process of planting back DB's world into his soul. His eyes began to change as more and more of his human and vampire past washed over him. I didn't sugar coat a single memory, thought or deed. There was no need to say anything because Damson knew what I was doing. Had the roles been reversed he simply would've tossed me the little information that he'd gleaned from the night I'd crafted him. His arsenal would have been small and weak. Thankfully he never really knew me since he'd found me lacking as a master, and with his distain he'd distanced himself from me the minute he could.
Slamming through his disgusting life left me queasy and feeling somewhat tainted by the images and thoughts that patterned his existence -- human and vampiric. Later I'd found out that his raping and murdering had been somewhat legendary when he was a human being. Had I not brought him over he would have run his course within a year or two. His destructive nature was memorable as was he visually. The trembling around his peeling black mouth made me dig deeper and pull more. I kept force-feeding him his own history.
God, there was so much more. Buried in shallow graves the dead rose from his mind. From the very beginning he reveled in every sip of crimson blood that he'd ever taken. He'd begun to grow jaded lately at how easily humans were controlled and so he'd started chasing down other supernatural creatures. There was no such thing as an innocent to DB -- everyone was potential prey. The growing number of supernatural corpses in his mind were rapidly outpacing his human victims; those new memories wove around his past indiscretions. I flooded him with it all, the new and the old alike.
I worried about the repercussions for me that I had missed his recent deviant behavior. But then, it was Simon who had directed him to come down and play in Kenyon's club and make 'friends'. So I decided to skip the stress and finish the polishing of his tainted soul.
Damson began to moan -- and not with pleasure -- the more I slammed into him. Layers of torture, torment and tears were stacked in between the rotten bits and pieces that made his black soul. He struggled uselessly against the stakes pinning him to the floor. Harry made a slight sound. I then heard him softly say, "I think he's full."
And I had to agree. The poisonous fruits of his past deeds and life puffed him up in an odd way. It was like he was bloated by it all. His eyes were nearly rolled back into his skull as he was fighting the process. Simon met my eyes and nodded his approval. Then he pulled out the four stakes that had surrounded Damson's heart. Damson gasped, "Thank you, Master." Flashing me a smug grin he laughed. His broken fangs made his smile look like a rotting pumpkin. Simon shook his head and said, "No, Damson Barlow, thank you."
Then with vampiric quickness Simon struck. He took all four stakes in both hands and thrust them deep down into Damson's heart. The plunging stakes fell true and lethally. An arc of blue-green magic raced over the vampire and the stakes dissolved into DB's rapidly withering core. The stakes that had anchored his legs and hands also dissolved with arcs of magic. There would be no coming back for Damson. As his spirit left his putrid body I felt free. I looked to my Master and laughed.
"Thank you, Sire!" I was moved to cry out. Lightened by the death of my fledgling I was stunned, figuring out how much he'd been draining me. I couldn't imagine how Simon felt having so many fledglings. The pressure of all of our thoughts and needs clamoring for his attention must be maddening at times for my Master.
Simon looked to Harry while slowly rising. Harry helped me stand up and we watched Damson turn to ash. I found it ironic that he would be airborne along with the burning werewolves. The soot from the East County fires was still scenting the air even from inside the guesthouse.
"We need to get some rest," Harry said. "I've had a few of my trusted staff shut down the approaching roads in the area. Nobody will easily get to us here. It seems that there's been a gas leak and the air is corrupt. Or at least that's what folks are being told. There aren't too many humans living close. The ones near have been evacuated and put up down at the Hotel Del Coronado on our dime. So there are no complaints there." Knowing how expensive and luxurious the Hotel Del, as the locals referred to it, was I knew that the wealthy neighbors were happy to spend a day in the beach side get-away. (The food was world class and the staff had the old world charm sorely missed in the major chain hotels scattered around the county. It was famous for having a haunted room and having been the site were the movie, Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis was shot. )
Harry showed Simon and me to the spare bedrooms in his large guesthouse. I counted another four closed doors down the hallway. Each room had a small bathroom and was lightly furnished. The long hours since we'd landed at Palomar Airport pushed down on me. Suddenly I was beyond exhausted. Normally I would have followed Simon into his room but he caught my eyes and shook his head. Instead of feeling upset or concerned by his rebuff I felt relieved. I didn't want anyone around me. Harry showed me to my room after leading Simon to his across the hallway from where I was. He didn't make any comments but simply wished me a good night. I shut the door and escaped into solitude.
The Pacific Ocean was tumbling frantically outside the shuttered windows. The guesthouse, like the main house, had the same style of metal, rolling security windows. There was the added comfort of hotel quality black out curtains already pulled over the windows. Safely cocooned inside the room I stripped down and fell into the queen-sized bed. The fog from outside seemed to filter through the walls leaving behind a chill in my bones. Or maybe it was the hours of stress catching up with me. I crawled between the Egyptian cotton sheets and pulled the velvety, soft, down-stuffed comforter over my aching body.
Bone weary, I couldn't fall asleep. My brain was still tumbling through all I'd seen in Damson's mind. His thoughts were like a sticky web that trapped me in the middle. Fly-like I waited for the spider. A light tap on my bedroom door startled me.
"Yes?" I asked softly.
"Natasha," Simon's voice was a whisper of sound. He tickled my brain with his touch.
"Yes?" I repeated. I didn't bother to get out of bed. I think I was melted into the sheets. It wasn't like he hadn't seen me naked before -- he was my Master after all -- like any good parent he'd seen me in good times and bad. I wasn't sure what he wanted yet, but he slipped into the room and perched softly on the side of the bed closest to the door.
"You didn't do anything wrong," his voice was barely audible. He could have spoken directly to my mind but he understood how utterly full I was from Damson's demise.
"I know, Sire." Wearily I rose up on my elbow and looked at Simon. He stroked back a chunk of my hair that had fallen into my face. I arched under his touch. Strength came off my Master that was hard to explain. Simon Conner was centuries old and had a power base in one of the loveliest places in the United States. That Kenyon wished to seize that territory wasn't in the least shocking to us, but it wasn't to be allowed. Simon had sent both Damson and me down knowing there would be problems. What had happened was that DB had aligned himself with Kenyon and crossed the line. I knew it and Simon did too.
"Child, I never meant for DB to get so far out of control," the admission cost him something. It dawned on me that Simon felt that he had failed me. I was stunned. I thought my letting my fledgling become so out of control reflected on me and my abilities while here Simon was telling me it was his fault. I wasn't sure what to say.
I started to speak and his slender fingers stroked across my mouth. I fell silent.
"I let you have your own room tonight not to punish you, but myself. You will need the rest to come to terms with your loss." I must have looked startled.
He smiled and kissed my forehead, "Trust me, Child. There is a loss. It sounds odd right now but you will see."
With that, he left quietly. In the darkness I felt something tighten on my heart and sighed. I had a long night ahead of me and I needed to sleep. Punching my pillows down I shut my eyes and reluctantly gave into sleep.
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