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June 10, 2024

Further into the Darkness 13

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Thirteen

After Jasmine's plea to her partner, Morgan, he actually growled then snarled, "No, Miguel will kill you one day. You are weak right now. You were unconscious when I got here."

The witch actually gasped, not in denial of the fact, but rather she was upset at his words. Jasmine hadn't expected to be called on her skills and to hear those words from Morgan really bugged her. Obviously, she expected him to back her without explanation -- like werewolves were known for their abilities to be logical and reasonable -- not.

Finally, I'd had enough, "Harry, your turn to play fill in the blanks or I won't meet up with Jason ever again -- period. And as I am looking around the coffee table there isn't anyone here who could successfully pretend to be me. Drop the drama -- spill."

Harry gave me a brisk nod before answering, "Bethany, agreed but this isn't my story to tell. Jasmine better fill everyone in on who Miguel was." He again had his face pulled into what I called his Fed persona. Nothing to see here -- move along quietly now.

Jasmine, not looking at anyone else, nodded her agreement to Harry before saying, "Quite true, Harry. You will all have to bear with me. I need to give you some critical background before you can understand. I'm sorry, Morgan, do you mind grabbing me a mug of tea? This is a long story." Then she focused her eyes on her man with big old Bambi eyes.

Morgan stood up while deeply sighing -- not at her asking for tea, I knew, but knowing the story already -- he realized this was going to drain her even more -- not that I gave a damn, but I needed more information to make up my mind now. I was really growing tired of being ambushed by Harry's long game vampire plays.

"If you insist. Earl Grey?" He asked from the doorway.

"Yes, please. And thank you, Morgan, I wouldn't ask but I ..." here her voice trailed off letting him draw his own conclusions, clever little witch. She looked delicate -- almost breakable -- if I'd thought her skin was pale earlier, I saw now she resembled expensive bone china -- fragile porcelain nearly translucent.

Once we could all hear his footsteps receding down the hallway she whispered, "Harry, you must promise you will take him out if it gets too intense. I can't have him interfere."

"I will, Jasmine. You don't need to do this. I can figure out something. We don't need to go to the Lily Pond -- we can go to one of the other well-groomed gardens." Harry did sound sincere, I had to give him points for the effort, even if I was still skeptical -- Harry was amazing at manipulating people to suit his needs -- some things never changed, it seemed.

We all patiently waited for Jasmine to tell us about Miguel and from her drawn out silence she was waiting for tea or the physical and emotional support from Morgan. In the distance, I could hear Morgan puttering around preparing her tea. Cupboards were opened and closed as he searched for the needed supplies. A clatter of flatware -- he'd found the spoons, and finally the high pitched whistle from a tea kettle Harry's house staging crew must have brought with them. It alerted us that the tea was nearly ready. I remembered debris and dust as the components left in the long abandoned kitchen and just resisted shaking my head in stunned amazement. I don't know why I was shocked by his attention to details given my past with him. Harry really was thorough and from the distant sounds in that room Morgan was taking steps to make a proper cup of tea -- I could hear the boiling water poured into a mug -- I imagined he swirled it to heat the ceramic properly -- then he dumped out the water from the splash sound in the distant sink -- from the next sound I heard him refill something with kettle water just off the boil -- knowing Harry, a choice of loose tea with a stainless steel ball or paper tea bags filled were readily available. Soon we could hear Morgan walking back -- towards the room carrying a tray.

Eddie actually leapt up to help Morgan easily carry a full tray into the room by holding the library door widely open. Morgan had actually prepared a pot with tea -- poured off a mug for Jasmine -- I noticed that there were a couple more mugs on the tray with spoons, sugar and cream available as needed. Morgan also took the time to put linen napkins and fresh baked cookies on the tray. Valerie and Caleb quickly poured tea while snagging a cookie -- Caleb handed one of the mugs to Zach saying, "I don't know how you take it but always accept caffeine when vampires are involved. I figured out years ago that Bethany damn near mainlines the stuff -- seeing how Harry outfitted the kitchen I gathered it's a hint."

Zach smiled half-dead but quickly accepted Caleb's offering. I hadn't realized how often I drank espresso or strong teas around him, but I knew it was something I drank nearly as often as blood. Valerie was still mad at Caleb but nodded at Caleb's comment to Zach. They all bent over their cups of tea fussing like society ladies at an afternoon party. It struck me as funny, but I knew better than to giggle -- not exactly the crowd to see the humor in the situation. From Morgan's resting angry face I was glad I kept my amusement contained. Soon everyone who desired tea had fussed their beverages to their liking and sat back waiting for Jasmine to finally explain who Miguel was and why the Lily Pond set off so many extreme reactions.

"I don't know quite where I should start." Jasmine looked drawn out and energized at the same time. I gathered that her inner voices were warring beneath her skin. She slowly took small sips from her mug of tea while she paused with her eyes flickering to Harry -- silently imploring his help -- he shook his head denying her his assistance -- as he'd said it was her story to tell, not his.

"Okay then. Harry and I did a battle of sorts at the Lily Pond. My spell work was raw because Miguel was trying to completely and fully control me." Here she fumbled with a thought and I could tell that she was self-editing her memories. I knew she didn't want to risk revealing too much but Harry knew what her story was and he'd catch her in any lies or if she misled me -- another test of his, I thought to myself making sure to keep my face blank. Everyone else listening was just a part of the pack, where on the other hand, I was the one she was tasked with convincing. Not a happy thought.

Fumbling again with her tea she pondered her words carefully. "I have to explain so much. Nothing I tell you can ever be spoken of -- to anyone." She looked directly at me with an unflinching plea. Something skittered down my spine -- a chill -- she had a major secret or two that she was being forced to reveal by Harry. Offering no promises one way or the other I kept my face neutral and my mouth shut. I wasn't about to commit blindly to another witch especially one that had already tried to harm me not once but twice.

Looking skyward she spit out, "Morgan is also a vampire."

Okay, color me surprised, that little nugget shocked me. He smelled like a witch-caressed werewolf -- hell, he acted like a werewolf -- and looking out of the corner of my eye even Eddie looked pretty much stunned.

Caleb, bless his heard, without a second thought, blurted out, "What the hell did you do?"

Looking down into her mug she pretty much whispered her answer, "Magic."

A single word to a huge question. She had admitted to Dark Arts and a major spell in front of a mixture of humans and supernaturals. Immediate death sentence for all. Council members and any and all Grand Coven Witches sentence such creatures to annihilation and anyone who heard about the spell. I had no clue what Zach, our quiet, little invisible null, was required to do with such info but I sincerely doubted that it was good in any way.

Valerie spit out, "Damn, she fucking masked Morgan. He totally reads as werewolf until she spins out another set of spells to drop his 'costume'. Wicked hard to do but with enough juice and major arcane work -- doable I've read. Never sanctioned but can be done." Valerie looked both amazed and angered at the idea and the prime exhibit before us. Morgan squirmed as everyone was now openly staring at him. I could also taste the fear lacing the very air in the library as Valerie shook her head in disbelief. It also explained how Jasmine thought she'd be able to take me earlier -- she'd just miscalculated how strong I was despite Harry's warning.

Muttering to herself Jasmine finally began to use full sentences aloud. She spoke at first, slowly, but as she had already announced using one of the worse spells to all of us, it seemed to release a flood of words. It seemed she'd bottled up everything for so long it appeared to bring relief to tell another witch -- a humble brag I quickly stuffed deeply into my mind. Her tone was subtly laced with a bit of arrogance I found telling. With her words she was absolutely damning herself while proving her strengths and power as a witch -- interesting to say the least. I wasn't going to swap stories any time soon but I was fascinated despite my concerns -- we were a mixed bag of souls after all was said and done.

She nodded and waited for us to look back to her. Nope, no ego there. While we waited for any explanation of how Morgan became a werewolf, I saw a flutter of something like satisfaction briefly light her eyes and knew she wasn't going to offer us any more of that story. Yeah, the magic she'd used to make Morgan, the vampire, into a werewolf was going to be ignored for now. Something crossed Valerie's face and she was now frozen by Jasmine's crafting -- a stray thought of her peril must have surfaced as did the knowledge we all knew she'd been told and had more of a responsibility to report Jasmine's violation of their code than the rest of us. I was just an observer by this point -- my witch background wasn't known. Zach was positively glowing in his chair -- his abilities as a null didn't appear to be triggered but the energy level was highly flowing; it was automatically flowing into him. I could sense that he was both fascinated by the woman and yet at the same time repelled. Caleb just sat trying unsuccessfully to be invisible in a room full of actual predators, impossible, and yet he was engrossed fully by Jasmine.

"I was asked by Harry to assist in a problem at Balboa Park. A vampire named Simon had sent one of his down here. Natasha something. She ended up at the Lily Pond after dark. There were other vampires involved -- a cursed blade -- the dead Master vampire Miguel. It was a real mess. Oh yeah, and a bunch of werewolves in the mix didn't help." She was avoiding giving me names that I didn't already know. Sime was definitely familiar to me as was his Natasha. Any time Southern California was visited by Northern California vampires the Vampire Council made a point to tell some of us on the Dark Web vampire site. Not everyone given the typical games inside games as usual. Oh, not me either, I'd actually heard from Jason indirectly when he was messaging me about needing more cash.

Jason hadn't fully explained it to me. No, he'd just been gossiping while begging for help. I recalled some email about things being 'hot, hot, hot.' He'd told me to go take in some mountain air or some exotic locale. At that time, I was fully in self-imposed isolation mode and really it hadn't registered in my mind as anything. Little did I know.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-09-06
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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