Finally the vampire sent by the Vampire Council to meet up with Ben Richland stopped kicking Maxwell into a bloody pulp. Maxwell didn't raise a finger against the enforcer for it would have meant certain death. As it was, Max didn't have enough energy to do anything after the brutal abuse heaped on him. Jerry Cooper nearly felt bad for the vampire. When he'd made Julia he'd been able to access the vampires within hundreds of miles and he'd seen through the vamp's eyes when watching Ben. He was happy to be undetected, and he knew that the vamp, Maxwell, wasn't happy at being brutalized, but there weren't many options available for him. With the ritual that had drained the territory he was well aware that until Max got massive amounts of blood in him he'd be in utter pain-filled misery.
The vampire turned, looking due west -- thankfully never turning towards Jerry and Julia. They were nestled in the shadows of trees and brush near the bridge but out of direct visual range. The guards that normally checked folks in and out of the gated community were missing, so humans weren't watching them. Jerry had been employing a simple glamour, but if the vampire truly scrutinized the area they might be detected. As it was the agony of Max was drifting in the wind like nectar, pulling at both the hidden vampires. His pain was all encompassing and he suffered nearly in silence other than a stray whimper or two.
Finally Ben approached from the West on Camino Real. He didn't walk quickly, but casually as if just strolling in the rain-damaged area.
"Don't you care about this vampire?" The Council's envoy shouted out as he stood there with his hands on his hips. Every line of his body was held in check. Ben meant something to this vampire beyond the message. Jerry didn't have to dip into their minds to know this -- it was obvious.
"I don't know why I should? He's just a pest who's been living on my coattails for months now, calling me silly names and drinking my blood whenever he could." Jerry knew Ben meant the stored blood in the fridge, but from the way the Council's Vampire stiffened and clenched his fist by his side, it would seem the vampire took it to mean something different. Something more substantial, from what Jerry gathered.
"He's yours then?" Again the tone was nearly calm, but pretty telling in the stress cutting just along the edges detectable by vampiric hearing.
"No, Maxwell is his own soul." Seemed to be a neutral answer, but the vampire growled softly. There was a subtext that was definitely more than an enforcer vampire coming to deliver a message from the Council. Jerry waited to see what would happen next.
He took a second to think into Julia's thoughts, "They know each other very well. There is a history between them. I venture a rather intimate sort of past."
Julia's eyes went even larger, but at least she'd stopped crying blood-laced tears. That had really bothered Jerry more than he'd care to admit. His fledgling was starting to work her way past his base defenses. That wasn't necessarily a good thing. Given everything that'd been going on and the vamps they were up against, he even wasn't sure if she'd even survive the rest of the night.
A stray gust of wind picked up some dead palm fronds that had been littering the ground and whirled them around the area near the quiet fountain. The power outage had some victims, and the fountains had yet to restart. Maxwell wasn't moving much, but then it was probably in his best interest to play dead so he didn't end up true dead. It didn't seem like the visiting vampire followed many of the common courtesies that usually were extended to vampires of the Council's entourage.
"He seems to be more than that to you," the vampire said while still staring at Ben as he slowly approached the fountain. They were no more than three feet apart when Ben moved faster than he'd moved since Jerry'd seen him coming. Not completely full speed vampire but extremely fast. Faster than a human could move and that was a sight to see, watching Julia softly inhale. She hadn't seen vampires move at full speed since Jerry'd created her, and it was not human.
And it was definitely fast enough to hit the Council's envoy full across the jaw to his utter surprise. The strike would've been worse had Ben been at fighting strength, but as it was all that happened was that the vampire's head spun slightly but there wasn't any noticeable damage.
Except for the stunned look on the vampire's face. The punch was unexpected. Lenny hadn't expected Ben to strike him. Score one for the underdog. Jerry was less than impressed since Ben wasn't on his top ten list of vampires he'd share a pint with ... blood or beer.
Holding a hand to his jaw the vamp wiggled his face slightly back and forth checking for any true damage. "Why the hell did you do that Ben?"
He genuinely was surprised.
"Because you kicked the shit out of another vampire for no good reason." Was his lackluster answer to the situation.
"I've seen you do worse to vampires."
And Jerry could certainly vouch for that. But he didn't see the need to call the attention to their presence just at the moment. He'd like to keep the element of surprise on his side in this little venture. At least for as long as he could.
"And I've seen you do equally nasty things. But there was no need to brutally attack Maxwell. He hasn't done anything to merit such a direct attack, and you perfectly well know he isn't allowed to lift a fang to defend himself. He's schooled in the 'rules' of the Vampire Council and you used that against him." Ben's words were spoken calmly but with an intensity that said the matter wasn't done. And with out any warning Ben lashed out again at the vampire and this time the vampire was ready. His fist caught Ben's and he stopped the hand from landing on his face again.
"I'll let you hit me if you let me hit you back," it was said very softly. Again Jerry had the definite impression there was subtext happening and very rich history between the two. Maxwell had yet to move; considering the temperament of both vampires standing near him, Jerry didn't blame the vamp.
"Leonardo, you aren't going to win any points if you kill me." Ben offered with a slight smile.
"I go by Lenny now, and are you sure?"
A confused look flew over Ben's face, "Lenny?"
"Yes, that's my current name, Ben. Not like vampires keep the same names all their lives you know." He said, dryly pretending to not know what Ben was asking. A beat of silence as Ben waited for a reply. It became obvious that he wasn't going to speak. A light moan came from their feet where Maxwell wasn't healing.
"No, how is it you seem so sure you could just kill me and gain favor?" Ben had a horrified look in his eyes, which warmed Jerry in unexpectedly delightful places.
A smile with a slight hint of fangs graced Lenny's lips as he said, "Because you screwed up big time, Benny boy. You allowed a Master Vampire to use an ancient forbidden ritual in your territory. Anything I do would be considered justified. Just like kicking the crap out of your toy here. I can do whatever I want to do in order to bring this region back into the fold, and all the Master Vampires are clamoring for someone to pay the piper."
"You were here when the ritual happened. I can easily argue that you allowed it to happen on your watch, since you are older and have just come from the Council's arms." Ben laughed at the speed in which Lenny's face shut down as he processed Ben's reply. "How do you like it flipped back on you, huh? Sort of like you just pissed into the wind. Got a bit on you I see," Ben stepped around Lenny, not hesitating to show the vampire his back. It was a display of arrogance, but at the same time Jerry could see the stiffness in Ben's stride that most vampires would have missed if they hadn't his experience with the executioner. Ben wasn't as sure of what Lenny's reactions would be as he seemed to be on the surface.
Lenny spun on his heel and visibly held his fists tight to the sides of his body. Jerry easily could see what reaction was pulling on the older vampire. He wanted to literally tear Ben's head from his shoulder. That wouldn't do for Jerry at all, because if Ben died, with him also possibly died the name of which of his clan gave his blood to the Council. Not to mention the location of the rest of the crew that had tried to annihilate his entire line ending with him. No, it wouldn't do at all. Jerry shook his head, hoping that Lenny could restrain himself and get to the real point of the meeting.
Ben checked on Max and said, "Fuck me. Now where are we going to get some human blood to get him better? Cause I am not going to give him any of mine and the Council wouldn't like it if he became your bitch."
Lenny knelt next to the broken vampire and sighed, "Damn you, Ben. You always brought out the worse in me. I hate to say it but he's gotta man up and wait til nature heals him."
Ben laughed and slapped Lenny lightly on the shoulders and said, "Max here isn't exactly the 'man up' sort. He's more along the lines of weasel slash hyena boy."
Max spit out, "I am not dead here, Benji. I can hear you."
Lenny laughed and said, "Oh, I see what you mean."
Both vampires spun up on their heels with a near ballet movement in elegance and poetry of motion. Jerry could see they'd worked very closely together. His fangs hurt from clenching his jaw so tightly together. He'd had minions and fledglings but nothing that close in centuries. It was old age vampirism in its finest form.
"Sorry about that, Ben. I thought he was a trap. Since we are diminished somewhat, I have a tendency to react first and apologize later. It seems I owe your companion here an apology." Lenny sounded sincere but Jerry knew it was a ploy to make Ben soften. And it did. Ben nodded and said, "Sure, no problem."
They both glanced around but neither of them saw Jerry and Julia as they were slipped in between the shadows. Jerry's glamour wasn't running full force, but enough for the physically and emotionally drained vampires. If the two hadn't had a history they might have been able to see through the vampire's skill. But they were both being so guarded in their responses to each other and their own pasts that they assumed they were alone.
Most of the humans within a half a block or so had retreated to their own pursuits of escape. A few were still trying to head out, erroneously thinking the hurricane was no longer a problem while others were seeking sanctuary in the bottle of a glass or with the misuse of recreational drugs and legal narcotics. Known as the pain capital of the world in many ways, Floridians were well insulated with oxycodone and other pain management medications obtained still more easily for personal consumption. The pill mills of a few years ago were greatly reduced, but local doctors still had the view that their patients would never abuse drugs. Thus alcohol and drugs easily fortified those still lingering in their homes. The flickering candles lit the ones without generators or a deal with the local power company. The homes with electricity blazed like massive beacons calling all the predatory souls to come join in on the feast. Jerry sensed that more than one of those rich idiots had perished because of the mistaken belief that ADT or whatever security service they paid massive amounts of money to annually were actually going to respond to an alarm. Such illusions of control were delicious and tempting to vampires. Humans were so easily slain while thinking they were safely tucked away inside their self-made prisons.