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January 30, 2023

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 16

By Lydia Manx

I was torn with the desire to fade into the rapidly thickening fog and track down whomever -- hell 'whatever' -- was out in the darkness trying to kill us, but I knew better than that. Without any lethal weapons other than my wits and body, I would be more vulnerable than I cared to be, and I was still extremely exhausted from the jail time after killing that stupid troll. Charlie Woodvine had screwed me up more than I cared to admit. I would have some serious explaining to do with the committee once I surfaced and called in to give my factual and full report. The full part would take time, and not to mention that there could possibly be some immediate repercussions. I was utterly pissed off at Archie leaving me in jail far too long and wasn't willing to go do report just yet because it would make him look like he'd been a good superior. Reluctantly I didn't feed my inclination to track and torture -- I mean question yeah that was it -- the ass who'd been shooting at Ruby, which was probably running away as I'd hesitated for too long. Instead I was nodding my head towards the house as we crept around to the side garage door.

Not seeing any obvious traps on the doorway, Ruby used her key and magically thickened the fog to pea soup density with a bit of moisture that felt slimier than average. The supernatural shooter -- if still out there in the shadows -- couldn't find us without making noise while stumbling around in the fog, so we quickly ducked inside the house from the side door into the garage. Being as quiet as possible we went carefully through the full garage towards her home. She risked a small ball of light spell so I didn't kill myself on a rake or something that lined the walls of her home. She either did extensive gardening or had a gardener show up and use her stuff. Not caring, I mentally shrugged and followed.

"Okay, Delilah, that totally sucked," Ruby admitted once we closed the door from the garage and went through the laundry room into her house. She was certainly fully sober now. Getting shot at does tend to do that.

"Agreed." I was still pushing my senses out and trying to see if the supernatural creature who'd just tried to kill Ruby was nearby waiting for another chance at my friend. My heart knew before my brain caught up that she'd been shot at by a supernatural asshole. All I felt was an abyss of nothing but pain. The pain began to recede, and like that, I knew that the threat, for now, was long gone. The creature was decidedly supernatural and on its way back to where it had come from without having killed Ruby. That was part of the pain, I knew as a hunter. The predator left without killing its prey and would have to pay for the transgression. I felt instinctively that it was not supposed to leave without verifying Ruby's death, and yet it wasn't willing to risk the uncertainty of the fog to get closer. Not a stupid predator at all, and that was fiercely bugging me.

We went inside, me feeling battered and bruised. Ruby took a minute at her niche and there was a pungent aroma of sage coming from that corner of her world. I knew that sage was used to rid homes of dark spots and evil spirits or such, but she had added a layer of her soul to the offering and I knew it was heartfelt and sincere. She definitely wasn't in the least drunk anymore; I could see now that we were inside. I had to admit that the bullet nearly killing her had completely sobered her up, my earlier thought confirmed. While I hadn't been drunk; I just ached from pouncing her to the ground.

Once she was done she spun to me and said, "What the hell just happened?" She lit a few more candles, still leaving us in semi-darkness. The window to her backyard was filled with the thick fog pushing like a living creature against the house. The candlelight flickered warmly, while the sight of the fog chilled me to my bones. I went to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. Uncapping the sealed drink I finished it and said, "Life?"

Ruby groaned and I added, "You, are on someone's list."

"Tell me something I don't know," she quipped.

Knowing she really didn't mean it I still answered, "It wasn't from the committee, but I think one of Aster's acquaintances."

Laughing roughly, she said, "Fuck me."

"Probably they'll do that if given the chance."

Looking at me with huge eyes, she asked, "Are they going to kill me?"

"I hope not." I wasn't so sure.

Ruby had crossed more than a few boundaries and she certainly hadn't seemed to learn from any of her experiences. I wondered again if there was a huge fucking red target now plastered all over me because of my association with her. I didn't see an immediate out, but at the same time, she'd always had my back in the past. My earlier misgivings had been pushed aside after some supernatural jerk had taken a potshot at her. I wasn't going to lose one of my favorite people -- scatter brained as she was -- to something so vile. She was doing her time in San Diego, and since she'd been playing around the world for decades, being shoved into a small city for her was pretty much a horrible sentence. Now she had to really be concerned that she was on the radar of the enemies of Aster Star. And that vampire had some hard core enemies both outside her family, and from what I'd been told, a few closer blood relations. A nasty factor in Ruby's equation for survival. The Vermilion Court of vamps and their assorted minions was large, but getting smaller by the night. I didn't envy either Aster or Ruby. The blood feud had been going on as long as I'd been alive but had grown more intense in the past decade as they gained power from their clans.

Many things I'd done in my life that went beyond explanation, because I was interested in finding out the where and why of something, but even the faintest idea of getting on the vampires' radar wasn't even a mild curiosity. Ruby's getting mixed up with Aster had opened a door I had no intention of ever touching. I wasn't a normal human, but I wasn't a vampire or in any way associated with vampires, so to them I was little more than dust. With Ruby as my friend I may have immediately become a creature of interest to the warring vampires.

Vampires were solitary in nature. They had their clans and minions but were such apex predators that if they stayed too close to each other, something in their very nature caused them tormenting pain. I think it was part of their original design. If there were too many vampires in the same regions, there would be too many humans dying from severe blood loss.

The vamps fed off their minions, but they preferred the unfettered chase. I always found it similar to wild animals in a zoo. The zookeepers could feed the predators all the fresh kill they wanted. They could even go so far as playing games with their food, hiding raw meat in trees, or wedged into crevices on huge rocks, making the animals have to seek the food, but still that base hunger in their heart for the hunt remained. If the wild animal found a chance at escaping it would do so just to have the fresh breeze and the opportunity to possibly hunt and kill again. Like escaped zoo animals, I often thought that vampires also lived in the 'now' for all their natures. They both lived, so to speak, to kill.

Vampires did enjoy the unexpected killing of unaware humans or weaker creatures. In part it was the vampire's game when you came down to it. They grew tired of the minions and supplicants, all too overly compliant, not giving the vamp any taste of the fears and the rush from the subsequent brutal death. When a vampire killed one of its minions, the human welcomed the vampire, thinking erroneously that it would assure their being turned into a vampire. It didn't work out for them as a rule.

It was quite literally a rule within the vampires' councils, both in the New World as well as the Old World. They knew better than making more vampires at random. As vampires grew older, they grew less attached to the humans they needed to drink from, and wanted to run wild slaying, as they felt was due for their superiority of being a vampire. At the same time, vampires had to kill each other to keep their numbers down so they didn't attract any unwanted attention.

And Ruby had received a blood offering from one of the highest vampires in the lands. Joy! She either hadn't wanted to realize that would instantly make her a target, or decided not to acknowledge that possibility. Now that somebody had made a move on her I knew that it limited my time staying at her home. She would have to report the attempt to Archibald. Then I'd have to call up the committee and report that I had witnessed the incident. Next the committee and I would either have to get together and talk about my recent jail stint at the main bounty hunting office or somewhere nearby they controlled. This would have to happen once I'd told them that I'd been here with Ruby since I'd gotten off the plane. If I didn't call in first, I ran the risk of being caught in her home, and that would certainly add into my own growing troubles with the committee. I mentally grumbled at the crappy choices.

Ruby automatically went to get a bottle of wine from the fridge and I saw something chase across her features. Keeping my features impassive, I waited to see what she was going to do. A flicker of fear and she put the wine bottle on the kitchen counter between us.

"I'm really not sure I want to drink anything." Her voice tumbled over that and then she offered, "You can open the bottle if you want. I think I am going to bed. I need to think about all of this." Waving at the outside fog still lingering and keeping the house surrounded, she put the corkscrew next to the unopened bottle and walked away deep in thought.

Looking at the bottle of chardonnay she'd pulled out, I simply returned it to the refridgerator and snatched out another bottle of water instead. I, too, needed to think and was certain that wine wouldn't help me make the best decision. The corkscrew was left where she'd set it as I wasn't going to rummage through her kitchen drawers to guess where it belonged.

I went to the main living room and curled up on one of the oversized chairs she had facing the large window and its current lack of view. The candles back-lit the chair flickering in and out in the reflection of the room on the window where I was focused. The fog ebbed away slightly, and I caught sight of a sliver of the moon in the distance. I felt isolated and lost and a bit sorry for myself. Ruby was now poison for me. I couldn't risk her getting killed for me or by vampires. Once I was gone, she'd have no true choice but working with Archie and the Amber Consulting Firm. The committee couldn't risk losing the chance at an alliance with the Vermilion Court and if it was discovered that she'd helped me she'd be in danger for sure. I got up slowly and blew out the candles. The scent of the wax and the burnt wicks comforted me and I went to the guestroom and packed to go. I decided to leave my luggage and instead loaded what I absolutely needed into a backpack I found in the closet.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-02-02
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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