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February 19, 2024

Further into the Darkness 16

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Sixteen

Looking at Harry, I thought back to our shared history. He could deny many things, but my ability to adapt had been well established during the purging that happened in Europe centuries ago. The Old World hosted various nasty events after starvation, wars -- both the major and minor skirmishes -- the type that created mass executions of humans and in turn, some rather unknown nonhumans, it was during these decades that it was deemed to be in our best interests to relocate. So, both my Master and Harry had decided to make it happen and we set out for the unknown New World not knowing what we were going to encounter along the way.

"I get it, Bethany, you have some concerns." Harry was using his power-filled vampire voice wrapped softly with layers of charm and sexy, sensual persuasion -- it was there that he'd overplayed his hand.

"Let's go, Caleb. Harry isn't ready or willing to talk. He's gaming us." I snatched up Caleb's backpack tossing it to him with an arched eyebrow. He knew I was telling him to be ready to arm himself. His eyes -- wide -- met mine and he nodded slightly in understanding.

Zach was still looking pretty out of it while Morgan was frantically trying to waken Jasmine. None of us even glanced at Valerie; Caleb ignored her so obviously I knew I'd have to find out what exactly happened there. I had my guesses, but I'd check once all this crap was finished. Eddie looked confused as all hell -- he was unsure of what he was supposed to be doing for Harry. I'd already magically turned him from the big bad werewolf into a naked gooey human -- he hadn't forgotten despite his desired loyalty to Harry. I could quite easily override Harry's control -- we all knew it. Caleb nodded his goodbyes, polite as ever, and I simply headed for the door. I wasn't kidding around -- this lack of information wasn't going to fly with me. I wasn't some toothless fledgling to be 'managed' by the grownups. Harry had pushed all my buttons -- like usual -- there was a good reason we'd parted ways.

Harry stood up as my hand reached the doorknob to leave.

"Wait, Bethany, please sit back down, I'll answer all your questions," his voice was his normal liquid gold tones without a vampiric push behind his words.

Spinning, nearly knocking Caleb on his ass -- he'd been following me too close as he knew without having to be told that it wasn't smart to turn your back on apex predators of any flavor -- I snarled, "Bullshit, Harry. I call total bullshit. There's no way you'll answer all my questions. This is just another of your creative long games. Let's not forget Zach, Jasmine, and Valerie are all pretty useless to any of us right now."

Harry looked at the null and two witches nodding my assessment of his current situation as accurate. He went on with, "Bethany, I'll do my best. You are absolutely right. I am not any good at sharing."

Okay, I still wasn't anywhere near convinced. Yet, the idea of fleeing the Vampire Council's barely leashed goons pissed me off more than Harry. Nodding Caleb back to his seat with a tilt of my head, I rejoined the group reluctantly. Harry sighed and returned to his place in front of one of the two computers in the library. I sighed my own feelings and said, "Well? Who is joining us? What's really going on here? I feel like I came in halfway through a movie. I am definitely missing parts of the plot."

Harry laughed, "How I missed you, Bethany." He'd yet to answer anything I'd asked. He kept deflecting my questions skillfully I had noticed.

A growl broke from my lips and Harry continued to grin. I rose up and he said, "Sorry. I can't resist. There are so few left who know me. I have a few vampires and weres that have been in the region for the past few months or longer that are aware of the Council's decree. It's been on the agenda for a few decades. Kenyon's extreme flaunting of their laws and order has been pushing the members of the Council into the slaughtering of us all. It's a grab for new territory under the appearance of cleaning up all the 'problems.' As you read on the Dark Web they have no allowances for exceptions or amnesty for any of us."

He was right but had yet to name names. I didn't think he would tell me and from Morgan's angry face I knew that I had it right. Morgan was still unable to awaken his witch but from the tilt of his head he was listening carefully to Harry.

Before Harry could speak a loud vibrating sound came from inside Harry's coat pocket. He ignored it, then it no sooner stopped then noisily started up again. Looking over to me, as if for my permission, I arched an eyebrow then at his shrug I reluctantly nodded my okay. I wasn't in charge of this mess but his waiting for my approval seemed somehow in line with more of his convoluted vampire games. Harry's face was devoid of any emotion as he read whatever text messages were on his cell phone. Without his realizing he'd given me a clue how bad the messages were. Harry's blank face was a tell to me.

Decades of distance and time hadn't changed his mode of operating. Slight micro expressions at best -- well erased by centuries of vampirism -- played nicely into his wheelhouse both vamp and whatever current federal job he hid behind in his world. Harry had always prided himself on his various secrets -- real or imaginary -- time hadn't changed his game. I kept my face just as composed while he quickly tapped out a reply to the unseen messenger. We just were stuck watching Harry. Neither of the witches had moved and Zach was barely coming around from his overload. He had moved carefully into the chair he'd temporarily abandoned when he stood between the two pissed off witches and drained their power into him. Caleb tossed me a glance. I shook my head, he'd wanted to help the null, I wasn't sure if that would be smart given all the magical energy flying around the room. Letting Harry finish a freakishly fast reply to the messages on his cell, I impatiently waited for the vampire to fill me in on what had him so frazzled. His brow furrowed slightly as he saw me staring directly at him. His lighthearted attitude was gone -- that was for sure.

An actual growl from Harry for a change of pace and then he said, "Laptop, Bethany."

It wasn't a question, request or even a statement. High-handed Harry wasn't his usual personality but his tone wasn't to be ignored. Not replying I simply opened up to see the message icon blinking on the laptop that I'd been using all morning. Instead pushing into my thoughts Harry was using messenger. He wasn't sharing with the gang.

Harry: Incoming hot problems
Me: Who? What?
Harry: Unclear but all the bells and whistles are lighting up for a two block radius.
Me: Plans?
Harry: My guards are trying to slow them down but I have been told they are willing to sacrifice players.
Me: Clarify -- fast
Harry: Headshots my men are taking -- there are SUVs arriving in all cardinal directions and they are all crashing but more keep coming despite their losses.

Then I could hear what Harry was talking about around us -- crashing metal, glass breaking, and steel and plastic cars exploding into shards and pieces on houses, curbs, trees and various abandoned pieces of furniture and broken appliances left on vacant lots near the house where we were currently meeting. I wasn't the only supernatural creature hearing the mayhem outside. Caleb was the only one of us not graced with extra good hearing -- well maybe the unconscious witches, not that they were capable of hearing anything, even Zach was visibly flinching in response to the sounds blocks away. As the noises kept getting closer Harry was busy. His fingers were flying rapidly over his laptop's keyboard. More messages popped up on my computer from Harry's keying.

Harry: Situation grave, Bethany. My men are being forced to back up in order to give us aid.
Me: How many?
Harry: Dozens. Plus, the vamps in the houses surrounding us.

That answered my unasked question about how much of "my" neighborhood did Harry buy -- apparently all of it. I pushed that thought aside for now -- not like I could do much at this point.

Me: Game plan?
Harry: Let's tell them what's coming. First, huge favor. Can you wake the witches for me? Safely.
Me: Yes. But now you really owe me. Plus, you need to talk to Zach. He needs to keep his power out of my spell work. Understood?

Harry nodded and spoke to the men, "As you all may have heard there are some folks approaching. They aren't vampires but still willing to sacrifice and die for whomever is in charge." More crashes and sounds of devastation danced in the air -- percussions could be felt inside our bellies as they grew louder -- closer.

Throwing Harry a pointed glance, I let my eyes swing to Zach and waited for Harry to instruct the null.

"We need Jasmine and Valerie at their full strength," Harry explained, "so Bethany needs to wake them up now. Zach, please help us and tamp down your ability."

I have to admit Zach did not look in the least like he was in any shape to play 'null' but I didn't wish to zap the witches up and put Zach into cardiac arrest or worse. And yes, with me there is most certainly an "or worse."

Zach said, "Not a problem, Harry. Honestly Bethany isn't somebody I even want to tangle with -- she's got something around her that I can't touch and never even seen or heard of in all my years." Harry looked nonplussed by the info but I wasn't in the least surprised. There were things about me that Harry never found and I wanted to keep it that way.

I was forced to go to the two witches and physically touch them in order to direct my spell precisely. Morgan jumped away from me as I neared his woman. Despite his size and own skillset, he was in no way interested in finding out if I could damage him. Harry grinned slightly and waited for me -- he continued working his keyboard and directing whomever he had close by -- I knew they were not vampires. It wasn't even close to dark -- our forces were obviously reduced to weres, humans, and witches. Mentally shaking my thoughts, I concentrated on the spell. I didn't need to use potions and herbs for this particular incantation -- it was all about the power of my words and the depth of my knowledge.

I crafted the awake spell using ancient phrases and directed intent as I'd been taught by my mother who had learned at the knees of her aunts, grandmothers, and other women in their coven. Yes, my family had been those types of witches. My own skills were centuries in the making -- the very blood that had coursed through generations upon generations of women in my family. The vampire who'd made me -- my Master -- had knowingly created the forbidden -- I was stronger than my own bloodline -- a secret weapon. He'd crafted me in shadows and raised me to be a powerful creature.

My incantation wasn't in English or even Hungarian or Slovakian but a powerful combination of Latin with another long forgotten language. I spoke it with strength -- yet nearly in a whisper -- I knew the vampires could hear my softly spoken words but Caleb and Zach probably didn't hear anything. From Eddie's soft gasp I knew that he had overheard my forbidden chant.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-09-27
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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