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January 30, 2023

Further into the Darkness 6

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Six

Hell only knew how Harry had picked up the two weres and the slowly awakening witch, Jasmine, not to mention the silent man and Valerie the weird witch. It was far too early in the day to deal with all the complexities Harry'd brought into my world. I could be in Brazil or at least on my way down to Brazil not sitting in a crappy area of San Diego awaiting unknown killers' arrival and the possible upcoming attempts of obliteration.

Denied my input, Harry was forced to verbally reply without my help or opinions with his own thoughts to Valerie, "We are going to identify the Council's so-called sanctioned assassins and reeducate them -- the West has long been won -- we don't welcome them with their heavy-handed interference. Nobody here has revealed the various supernaturals to the humans. There have been a few glitches but nothing meriting this reaction. It's time to fight this naked grab for all that we have worked to perfect. The Council is overstepping their bounds."

Harry made it sound easy.

Even me -- on the fucking fringe of 'polite society' -- knew that there were fractures in the supernaturals and how they interacted. Also, I was aware of a few nasty overreaching vampires in Southern California who had been violating some basic vampire rules. I mentally shuddered at the idea that Harry expected me to be part of his revolution. I truly wasn't interested in a protracted Vampire Council Civil War -- those tended to become epic failures for the leaders of both sides.

Valerie perked up at Harry's words -- she was a fucking cheerleader -- and spouted out, "Yes! Yes, we can!" I expected her to start doing leaps and flips to her own applause. Nope, not my game. The zest and sheer zeal inside her was glowing and annoying. Caleb looked even more pissed off by her mere presence.

I was weary just watching the younger witch, Valerie, seeking approval from Harry. Her exclamations of support fell flat in our strange circle of predators. Jasmine was certainly hearing some of the conversations and I didn't know what flavor of witches they both were, much less if they even knew each other. From the spell that Jasmine had begun to throw my way earlier this morning I knew that she was playing with some of the Dark Arts. My Hungarian mother and her own ancestors had delved rather deeply into the underside of magic. Well, that and the Vampire Council's death decrees that they'd spoken of often in the past two or three hundred years kept my skills underemployed. Mostly.

Being a vampire required devotion to the rules passed on by an unseen Vampire Council who mostly resided in the Old World. The e-mail sent out -- modern age gizmo favored by centuries old supernaturals -- directed us younger vamps to the Dark Web. There by logging in, brought us the rules and nasty snuff videos of vampires who had broken those rules. But this declaration of a purge wasn't directed to just vampires. As we all had just read, it was to be a deep cleansing of the wild West and all supernaturals in their path. I was almost sickened by the tone, and viewing the faces of the surrounding creatures Harry had assembled, I wasn't alone.

The tray Eddie had brought into the library earlier was nearly completely empty when he left the room to fetch the newcomers. With near vampiric speed, Jasmine pulled her left hand free from the grasp of the big Nordic-looking werewolf and fell on the remaining food on the plates. Her eyes were half opened as her hands snapped one of the few remaining rib bones with meat nearly as sharply as Eddie had when he sucked down three quarters of the food he'd assembled on the tray. The meat was nearly raw but Jasmine didn't seem to mind as she tore into the food and she too sucked out the spongy wet marrow like Eddie had done.

Her companion sat back on the chair he'd carried into the room with a stunned look on his actually handsome face. She was making satisfied noises as she inhaled chunks of what looked like beef and chicken from one of the two plates on the tray. I watched her snatch up the raw vegetables there, cramming them into her mouth with the necessary audible chewing and gulping sounds making it awkward to observe. It was like Jasmine had been ravenous -- unfed for days -- and she was afraid the food would disappear before she could eat her fill. With a nearly feral gaze she looked around at the group while pulling another carrot to her face. Her hunger was making her manic. As she viewed our circle, she stopped frozen for a beat.

Using the carrot -- bunny rabbit food -- unpeeled, uncut with the top greens intact -- she pointed the end at me saying, "You!"

Not dropping my gaze from hers, I calmly replied, "Yup. Harry, if you need her for Round Two catch her up fast."

I caught out of the corner of my eye that Harry nodded acceptance of responsibility to keep his people in check. I didn't need to illustrate how I would handle it -- he knew my temper was barely reined in at the moment. Time hadn't changed that side of me.

"Jasmine, stop. I expressly told you not to attack Bethany or assume anything. You are lucky to be awake." His voice had softened but the reaction to his words wasn't in the least calm. The big werewolf physically launched himself up from the chair and I felt the air shift and the scent of fury and fur filled the room. Still fully clothed -- but I knew that if the guy kept shifting he'd split out of his clothes in a few minutes -- I sure hoped that Harry's closet had more bags full of spare clothing. Then I heard an electric sound that popped my ears and the man froze, nearly shifting, yet for some reason stopping before he could actually shift.

Just like that my Spidey senses let me know something about the unknown man sitting between Eddie and Valerie. He was a null. I'd heard about such unusual beings but never recalled actually meeting one. Legend has it they were rare creatures who can drain other supernaturals of their energies. So like a werewolf couldn't shift natures, a witch's spell could be stopped or altered and they had other kinds of energy sucks. Arching an eyebrow, I said drolly, "Gee, Harry, picked up a ringer, huh?"

He chuckled saying, "You know very well, Bethany, I love to win. That hasn't changed. Let's get some introductions out of the way, now shall we? Morgan, please stop posturing and sit your ass back down. As I told you all beforehand, we are at war. Bethany and her friend, Caleb, are not to be harmed -- period. Let's properly meet each other like civilized creatures." Here he flashed a bit of fang in his grin showing that the null either wasn't able to dampen his power or that he'd been given a charm to personally render the null neutral on his power. I needed to get one of those lovely charms fast. His voice brooked no arguments -- not that I intended to raise a fuss. Hells, the numbers definitely were not on my side.

"Fine," at the silence that greeted Harry's request, Jasmine finally spit out while she was chewing at the carrot she was holding gnawing at it instead of continuing to wave it at me. She swallowed the bite she'd taken and sighed out her intro, "Jasmine. A witch."

Harry growled out, "More words, Jasmine, we aren't the Vampire Council or some witch Tribunal. All the cards on the table. I already told you about Bethany, play nice."

I wondered exactly what all he had revealed to her and the others. Distractedly, I didn't even know what we would do with Caleb if we survived the Council and assassins. He wasn't a supernatural creature but an educated man with degrees and a quest for knowledge. There was a world being revealed that we kept carefully hidden for a damn good reason. I took my eyes off Jasmine to stare at Caleb. He looked mildly confused, from his obvious puzzlement I knew that he was thinking Jasmine's confession was like -- witch and Wiccan were the same things. He genuinely didn't get what she was telling him. I also knew that he was envisioning the weekly drum circles in Ocean Beach with women wearing gypsy style attire on the edges offering to read futures, and a few asked if they needed to curse someone's enemies for a small price, naturally. His smile began to fade as Jasmine let out an exasperated sigh saying, "Okay, fine, Harry -- whatever. It's your show after all right?"

Her words weren't mocking but damn close, "Jasmine, medium, death speaker, current host to a few dearly and not so dearly departed." Her voice went somehow deeper and decidedly more masculine than normal. I felt one of the forementioned ghosts pushing to be heard and the null was sipping and sapping that energy. The words nevertheless conflicted with Caleb's current knowledge of the world. Boy, was he in for a shock. Harry saying vampires existed hadn't yet registered, I thought, by watching Caleb's relaxed posture. Jasmine put her left hand to her throat as her words were being choked off by the energy drain. Yeah, this was definitely going to get weirder for the surfer -- Caleb's brow furrowed as he tried to rationalize her second answer in his thoughts.

I turned back after watching Caleb shake his head in confusion and denial -- I needed to pay attention to these folks, not my occasional companion. The werewolf next to Jasmine, Harry had called him Morgan just a minute ago, nodded as Harry pointed to him.

"Ah, Morgan. Jasmine's partner," here he glared angrily at me. If looks could kill the daggers of hate aimed at me would've been lethal -- no question. "I am a werewolf."

I noticed he didn't say his pack or who his alpha was. That was something traditionally detailed when properly introduced to others. I guess Harry could only push them to voluntarily give me so much information. I could always ask him later. Morgan didn't seem to feel like sharing more, I gathered, as he folded his arms over his chest defiantly while returning his attention to Jasmine -- she continued to scarf up everything on the tray now using both hands -- her hunger was not diminishing and I wondered why. I dismissed my concerns and looked over to Valerie to see what she'd volunteer.

"This is totally stupid, Harry." Gone was her cheerleader peppiness from a few minutes ago. I guess she wasn't happy. Like I cared? But after Harry cleared his throat, she complied with, "I am Valerie. I'm from New York City. Witch. My coven was destroyed in some unexplained fires while I was in Europe talking with our Grand Coven members. Harry asked me to fly out here as a personal favor to him as soon as I returned to New York about a week ago. I would do anything for Harry."

Okay. Then. That was an interesting introduction. I definitely had more questions than answers -- pretty much on par with this group. Caleb looked even more overwhelmed and we hadn't even finished with the basics. Valerie shut her mouth and turned towards the null, arching her eyebrow for him to talk. Guess that was it for her portion of supernatural share and tell.

The man between Valerie and Eddie shifted on the wooden chair uneasily before clearing his throat -- he looked very extremely uncomfortable being up next with everyone focusing on him. I couldn't push past the feeling he was nearly invisible in most situations on purpose. He kept flickering in and out of my thoughts -- it was like once he was out of my view he faded from my mind and was somehow erased from my thoughts completely and possibly irretrievably. Being a natural born witch could have something to do with that. I wanted to ask Harry. I needed to know -- were my vampire mental powers were allowing me to actually see him?

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-07-19
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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