Thinking back at Jason's convoluted, gossipy email I refrained from swearing aloud. It was all I could do to not jump in and start spitting out questions to Jasmine. Harry wasn't assisting the witch in her tale and I took a clue to keep my mouth shut and let her tell the story in her own way. Everyone else either knew the story already or was equally enthralled. I know Caleb had a million more questions as Jasmine kept dropping revelations to the group. Morgan, her companion knew, as did Harry. The rest of us were still waiting for more information.
I'd already detected that Jasmine was not afraid of talking. For whatever reason she now found us all 'safe' with her secrets. That alone concerned me. I'd not promised to keep them but rather simply listened to her humblebrags as I'd catalogued what she'd told us so far. Morgan had appeared, smelled and acted as a strong werewolf when Harry had introduced us earlier. But, no! She'd told us moments ago that he was in fact a vampire. That had gone over like a lead balloon to say the least. My human companion, Caleb, was quietly listening as was Harry's pet null, Zachary. Then Valerie interrupted my thoughts, "Jasmine, wait back up. Miguel? Master Vampire of what? I don't know that name."
Drolly Jasmine answered the other witch, "Why would you? You're not from the West after all, are you?"
Snarky but true. Caleb, Valerie, Harry and I had a lovely dinner at The Poseidon restaurant in Del Mar what seemed like a lifetime ago but hadn't even been two days. Valerie had flown in from the East Coast after spending time in Europe. I hadn't heard of any relationship between the two witches yet other than a knowledge of Harry. As a vampire I'd known him for centuries, but I never ceased to be amazed by the sheer number of creatures he knew. That Harry had a null on speed dial more than a bit freaked me out. Eddie, the other werewolf in the library, was still statue frozen in his chair. He, too, hadn't realized Morgan wasn't also a werewolf. I watched, letting Valerie play with Jasmine.
I vaguely remembered how Jason had been pretty insistent that I simply disappear for a while -- out of town -- with no questions asked. Over the years since I'd come out to the West Coast, I'd had more than one message or call from him all worked up about something happening in the local vampire politics. He genuinely expected me to pack my shit up and fly out of town at a moment's notice. Granted, I had a to-go bag or three, but I decided when and who could command me to flee. Yet, I did understand where Jason was coming from -- after all our Master had been slain true death. I'd been very close to our Master, but actually I was granted more favors and gifts than the rest of the fledglings and minions, while Jason had been a relatively new acquisition in our clan. He was really needy and we both had handled our losses much differently. Jason wanted to belong to a large, strong vampire clan. I knew his identity depended on community and connections whereas I was different.
Even then I was in full isolationist mode. So when Jason began blathering about huge happenings in downtown San Diego and around Balboa Park I wasn't looking to get involved in any of the Northern vs Southern California politics. But I took his advice and stayed out of the Park and pretty much off the grid for a few months without physically leaving the city. I also didn't ask too many questions or bother to try to figure out what was going on with the blood battles. I'd heard whispers about a pending war but with vampires and werewolves that was always rumored. It didn't matter to me. Any time both creatures in any number clashed the end of the world was proclaimed by someone. I was amused because rarely did "war" happen -- usually a few bodies appeared, or disappeared, while the basic territorial pissing went on -- nothing remotely like I'd seen in the old world vampire battles. I didn't give a fuck so I wandered off grid and kept my head down while dodging seasonal brush fires or epic rainfalls.
Jasmine continued revealing her closely held secrets at Harry's slight nod. Ever manipulating, Harry was always the prime shot caller. After all it was his rodeo -- not mine -- so I allowed everyone to think his illusion was in line with mine. The jury was still out on all of that. I waited.
"So, yeah, Morgan is actually another vampire. His devotion to me," here she glanced down at her obvious understatement. She shuddered slightly then continued, "It marked him. He has more than one death bounty on his head and not just Kenyon's crew of misfits and sociopaths, but also the Vampire Council. It's forbidden for us to ever be together. Centuries of lore have told us strong witches and vampires can bring down dynasties, empires, entire civilizations and have. Death decrees to us all with no exceptions. While witches and werewolves aren't natural companions they are forbidden."
Eddie's eyes were wide as all her words sunk in and clicked off something in his thoughts. He was nodding in agreement as I was somewhat skeptical but I kept my opinions to myself for now. She kept on with her story about Miguel and how the Lily Pond in Balboa Park all played out in her existence.
"As you may have heard," here she looked directly at Valerie with slight amount of distain etched into her features, "Or not." Valerie's eyes were in no way happy. She had figured out despite Jasmine and Morgan's prohibited relationship that Harry held her in high regard. Simply put Jasmine was clawing out her rank in Harry's army, pushing Valerie out of her self-perceived top spot. Valerie kept her spells to herself but they shimmered. Zach's abilities as a null flared and she gasped while Zach sat quietly fading into the chair when the energy was softly absorbed into his. He really was good at disappearing in plain sight.
"Kenyon has been making waves in San Diego. He's building a strong, violent clan of vampires, minions and goth devotees. Nearly cult statis -- all the time without any care to follow the Vampire Council's rules. He's crossed lines and he doesn't seem to think anyone can or ever will best him."
She paused to sip her tea. I noticed both Caleb and Zach had already drained their mugs. The pause gave me time to think about Kenyon Huston. He ran a club downtown for wannabe vampires and their chosen minions. Most of what I'd heard came from Jason and gossip online the Dark Web. I couldn't recall ever meeting the vamp but then I avoided any and all vampires for decades. A couple of reasons if I were honest with myself. I didn't need to attract notice from the Vampire Council and be forced to select a new Master or begin the process of becoming one. Also, we vampires truly were stronger when not playing games over land and humans; my centuries of being had given me perspective most didn't enjoy. Harry caught my eye and flashed me a slight smile -- he still seemed to easily read my mind. That really bugged me.
"As I said, Kenyon had been flexing his vampire muscles and territories were being rapidly carved out in flesh of vamps, weres and humans without any thought to consequences. It was a growing issue and guaranteed to attract the attention or simply attract a nosy news team. Harry met with me because he knew I was a strong death speaker. So, we ended up at Balboa Park late one night." I could feel she was self-editing again but Harry didn't interrupt so I waited to see if there was ever going to be a point or if she was going to keep meandering with the telling of her story. I adjusted my shoulders and kept my focus on Zach; the null was quite visible, so I knew he also was extremely interested in where Jasmine was going with all of this.
"At the Lily Pond a vampire named Cynthia came forward. She'd used Miguel in many ways as only a young extremely attractive female can. She resisted his bite while learning at his knee all that an older vampire has to share with a beloved fledgling. Only after he'd super charged his body with so many strong minions did she claim her love of him and that she was ready to be transformed." Her voice dropped suddenly much deeper and immediately identifiable as male to me. I suppressed a shiver. I knew that Miguel was pushing forth from Jasmine's body and now in control of the witch. Morgan automatically fell away and I watched slight revulsion danced over his face, he'd turned away from Jasmine trying to keep from showing his raw hatred.
It was dawning on everyone else by the voice change that it was Miguel who spoke from Jasmine, nearly growling, "Cynthia held such promise until she turned, defying me and sucking down all my power. She drained me, staked me, and left me in the desert mistakenly thinking I'd died my true and final death. Her youthful arrogance and lack of a real foundation as a vampire saved me. She didn't take my head and heart -- true death isn't as easy as literature and Hollywood shows humans. Her ignorance saved me and Jasmine took me into her body and soul." I wondered why but Miguel was well in control. He filled her shell and was an imposing figure. She now seemed to be taller and possibly stronger. Miguel's eyes flickered flatly and they felt colder more remote than Jasmine's eyes had been. The sheen was emptier but strong like Master vampires portrayed to their clans and others.
"Cynthia had learned some strong and dangerous Magic after she left me to die. Harry Adkison here and another Master Vampire Simon something," I don't know why I was shocked to hear Simon's name on Jasmine-Miguel's lips. There was an undercurrent of anger on their lips that I was clueless why. I knew Simon to be a very strong Master Vampire without many surviving enemies. Natasha, as I said had also been here. I hadn't realized the depth of Jasmine's interaction with them all. Her casual mention of them earlier had been a passing comment that seemed unremarkable at the time. Harry must have pushed her to tell us more. The revelation that Miguel had been observing his fledgling control two vampires as formidable as them was world changing -- this wasn't good. Damn it, news of all this had to have been revealed to the Vampire Council. I now knew damn well why Harry had reached out and found me -- we were so fucked.
Miguel continued his story from Jasmine's lips, "We countered Cynthia's control and pushed Natasha to her limits in doing so. There were boundaries to safeguard." Jasmine was barely holding this Master Vampire inside her skin. I wondered what would happen if Miguel overtook the witch. Would Harry have to stake her and decapitate like traditional vamps? Questions kept popping unbidden into my thoughts.
I again felt like there was so much being left unsaid by Miguel. I looked over to Harry and arched my eyebrow. He shrugged slightly and he gave me a nod to my unasked question for more words. I really did see that Miguel in Jasmine was crazy but it was part of her abilities as a death speaker. I'd never seen it manifest in such a strong way but knew it was critical in the upcoming meet with Jason. I was frustrated as Jasmine wasn't going to tell us much more -- instinctively I knew this -- but if we survived the possible upcoming annihilation Harry had silently promised to fill in the blanks.
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