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November 28, 2022

Strange Bedfellows 59

By Lydia Manx

The dragon-like forms made up from the litany of vampires that Harry and Simon had called upon, that I envisioned had been fighting in the air above us had dissipated for me when Jasmine had clapped her hands. I wasn't sure if the images were swallowed by the now thicker fog layer or just disappeared when Simon and Harry stopped chanting the names of the vampires with living lines and lines long erased. I wasn't even certain that they had actually been overhead, or if they were part of all the spells like blow back or something equally disturbing. But at least both Simon and Harry looked better. I guess that was something, but I still wasn't sure that it mattered because I certainly wasn't happy with my visit to the Park. The lack of control over the whole situation added to my discomfort as well as the pure hatred I had for the rogue vampire Cynthia. The werewolves in the distance had begun to sing a new song that made me think they were taunting the people they encountered. Carlos, in his full werewolf shape, had begun something rather scary, and frankly I faulted Jasmine, not the werewolf. As Simon's enforcer and Harry's ... friend, I guess you'd say, the medium telling us what to do and the display of unknown magical ability wasn't making me comfortable, because too much was at risk.

Carlos had used his pure werewolf form and voice to let loose a war cry into the city. Marcus added his own howl and sang out with his alpha leader. Together they'd begun a new variation of the hell that was chasing through the town. Jasmine's counter spell to what Cynthia had placed on Harry and Simon released our truest side of our natures. Personally I wasn't pleased by Jasmine's work. Yeah, I was getting cranky.

"Natasha?" Renee broke into my thoughts softly.

"Yes, Renee?" I kept looking to the edges of the pathways around Balboa Park. The Botanical Building was well known and from our location in front of the Lily Pond it wasn't going to be long before something decided to join us -- good or bad. The sword was still in my left hand, but I figured in a close fight my fangs and fingers were better. Not that I would part with the weapon. I hefted it a bit higher, liking the weight in my fist.

A moonbeam bounced off the Civil War sword that Renee had given me in Kentucky. The Confederate blade was well balanced and positively glowed from within when the light hit the edge. Jasmine really noticed it. She started at the sight of my weapon, looked at it and then over to me. Come to think of it, I doubted she'd had much time to notice much of anything but Harry, Simon and Cynthia since she'd arrived. That and having a dead Master vampire piggy-backing her to confront Cynthia had to be a bit of a distraction. Miguel had stopped using Jasmine as his personal puppet for now but I wasn't sure that he wasn't still looking through her eyes. That and her blood link to Morgan, another vampire I'd yet to have the pleasure of meeting, made Jasmine a formidable human -- supernaturally tied but still bound by the Earth and human laws, I think. I could sense Morgan, the presumably missing vampire, but with the way the night had been going I wasn't exactly counting on his staying away and his aroma floated on her skin like her own personal perfume.

Renee didn't get a chance to ask me her question because Jasmine stood right in front of me and demanded, "Where'd you get that sword?"

Nonplussed, I resisted turning around to Renee and pointing, a childish impulse I barely squelched. I arched my eyebrow at her and wisely kept my mouth shut. Harry and Simon shook themselves free of whatever oddity was chasing through their minds and stiffened.

I still had no mental link with Simon -- he was just another vampire to my brain and heart. I felt no blood tie to him or even Harry though I had exchanged blood with both of them. It was a freedom I hadn't ever had in my entire vampiric existence -- I felt a level of peace and serenity. My Master's voice was absent inside my brain as was the constant awareness of him. Having my own fledgling and just experiencing his final and true death hadn't given me such an open free feeling. Simon had been an absolute for me for as long as I could remember. Damson, my fledgling, had fought me and plotted my demise. So I hadn't had much of a bond with my minion and what was there wasn't very strong. Hell, he hated me as much as he could feel anything. I didn't have love for Damson but there'd been a tolerance with occasionally a need for him to do something, usually at Simon's behest. We hadn't ever 'bonded' like a good match of Master and Fledgling, not even in the beginning. But what Simon and I shared had been more -- there was a depth and a love that was missing right now.

Harry broke in with, "Jasmine, why do you ask?"

His tone was reasonable and he seemed to be protective of me. It was strange not having any mental tie to him so I had to take his words at their face value. I had lost a vampiric sense, it seemed, by not being tied to my Master or either of their minds. I still wasn't willing to risk being taken over by Jasmine or any other unseen creature. The night was weird enough and I didn't see the need to add another door for more hell to arrive. There was little doubt in my mind that hell wasn't that far away.

Jasmine jerked herself towards Harry, nearly robotic and awkward. Then another voice, one I immediately recognized, came from her face. Only it wasn't her face anymore but Miguel's speech and manner -- which effectively answered my earlier question if Miguel had left the medium. That would be a big no.

"Ah, Harry Addison, how good to see you. I missed you there when dealing with Cynthia." Miguel looked amused at something. Then he glanced down at Cynthia and said, "Bitch, why won't you just die already? Must one of these nice vampires be forced to stake you? Or perhaps Carlos will let Marcus shred you into bite-sized pieces? Anyway it won't matter since you aren't going to be around for tomorrow's sunrise." He spit at her and growled.

The venom in his voice was to be expected given how Cynthia had used him. He had been well romanced by the young girl into thinking that she had wanted to be his prize fledgling and light of his dark life. He'd turned many minion for her. Which proved to be the only reason that she'd held out so long for his bite. Once bitten, she in turn took his life's blood. She had left him in the desert after draining and staking him. Somehow Jasmine had found his abandoned corpse and pulled his spirit into her. So many lines had been crossed that I didn't even know what the vampire council's reaction would be. Who was I kidding? I wasn't even sure that there was anything that they could do. Seemed like mediums or dead-speakers had their own set of rules. Any way I looked at it didn't matter, because it just wasn't right.

Miguel stood inside Jasmine's skin looking down at me. She wasn't that much taller than me, but when he filled her she seemed to be nearly six feet tall and from the shared memories of Cynthia and Miguel, that was about his height when he was alive. His eyes flickered down to the sword in my hand and again he asked, "Where did you get the blade?"

Renee pushed past me and got in between Miguel-Jasmine saying, "From me, why?"

A curious thing happened once she spoke: both Carlos and Marcus sprung fully furred past me to flank Renee and they growled their support while dropping down onto their four legs. They were extremely large werewolves and from the way their fur rippled across their muscles they were ready to leap in any direction if need be.

The medium took a step back and Miguel's features faded for a second from her face and demeanor. It was odd to watch Miguel dissolve into Jasmine and she gasped, "He means no harm."

I didn't think it through, but simply lifted the sword up and held it with two hands firmly saying, "Then step back and explain. Or let him explain."

She did and her hands began to move.

"Knock off the gestures or I'll take your hands off at the wrists and see if you can magic them back." I wasn't giving an inch. I'd seen the results of magic lately and had no reason to trust her despite Harry's assurances when vouching for her. I figured it wasn't like he'd been in his right mind when he'd made that decision and I didn't care for the idea of getting bespelled any more. Go figure.

Her hands froze and she nodded slowly with wide eyes. At least she took me seriously. I'd started to wonder if she had any sense of self-preservation, taking a vampire for a lover and allowing another to slip inside her.

Miguel wiggled back to the front and said, "Ah, this one's feisty. She'd have made a better fledgling for me that that one." His head nodded to a drifting Cynthia; she wasn't doing much now but dying from all appearances. Not that I was taking that with a grain of salt given how slippery she'd been in her past.

Simon interjected, "She's mine."

I didn't bother to correct his mistaken idea -- no need to tell anyone I felt less than connected to my vampires just in case it was simply a short-term side effect from Jasmine's spell casting like my fangs.

The sword felt warm in my palm like the attention being given was causing it to heat up. It was a ridiculous notion but one that was firmly in my mind. Everyone was looking at my weapon with varying degrees of interest. I wasn't quite sure about the werewolves because their fur-shaped faces weren't easily read. But by Marcus' posture and the hackles still raised on his back, I knew he wasn't any more relaxed by the unwanted attention than I was. I still wondered how he knew Jasmine. But I shoved the thoughts down to analyze later. I needed to keep my wits about me -- bad things kept happening at lightning speed.

Rough masculine sounding laughter immerged from Jasmine's lips. Miguel was amused by something and back in control of the dead-speaker.

"Simon, calm down. Obviously I am in no condition to challenge you for your delightful fledgling." That little comment fell flat as Simon glared at the medium. The implication of his words weren't lost on any of us. He was basically announcing that given a chance, Miguel would love to challenge my Master for ownership of me.

Harry sighed, "Enough. Miguel, why are you concerned about the sword Natasha has?"

"Because it looks extremely familiar," slowly came the reply. Jasmine had stopped moving her hands, so I knew at least she'd taken my warning seriously.

Renee cleared her throat, dragging everyone's attention to her again, for that I was thankful and the sword immediately cooled a bit in my hand, which was slightly unnerving. What was going on was anyone's guess but the blade shouldn't respond to attention in any normal world. The magic in the air wasn't dissipating with time but still swelling and squirming around trying to cause trouble.

"I got it during the Conflict." She'd put emphasis on 'conflict' letting me know that she had her side and I figured given it was a Confederate soldier's weapon it was more than likely she'd been pro the South.

"I see, did you know the owner?" Miguel was speaking slowly and looking intently at Renee. Her answer was more important than his dying fledgling and the little tidbit that he was already dead didn't seem to matter. I seriously doubted that Jasmine was going to let him keep running her like a badly crafted marionette -- it had to be draining -- but that wasn't my worry yet.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-10-18
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