My now improved spell snapped into its functioning place as I finished the final words and power flowed off me then through me into the words I was speaking. My eyes opened to see Morgan and Valerie roughly yank the werecat inside the house as all the called beasties and bugs attacked the remaining creatures outside. Their shrill screams were cut short -- abruptly at times -- as bugs flowed down from the skies and up from the ground. Feral cats and half-starved coyotes had joined the stray dogs, long abandoned pets -- actually I had cast my spell to attract any furry predators within a mile of us. Soon they all were in the backyard tearing, stinging or ripping at flesh and fur of the unfortunate creatures outside as I'd commanded in my spell. Harry was stroking my hair as he tried to keep me grounded. He, too, could feel and taste the calling from Mother Earth.
I knew without opening the vampiric mindspeak between Harry and myself that he knew what was happening. The battle between my witch nature and vampiric. My very soul was still being torn and pulled. Even though my fangs had retreated as my spell flowed out, there was a call from the Earth lingering. This was warring with Harry as he'd promised my Master long ago to keep me safe and protected. This wasn't something even my Master had ever thought could happen or indeed, was ever considered when the promises were made in blood and vampire wishes -- not something done lightly nor easily ignored much less broken. Harry was murmuring unintelligible words and soft caring sounds. My soul was soothed and I finally pulled completely free from Mother Earth and her erotic promises ever so reluctantly. There were creatures to interrogate. I didn't have time to play.
"Bethany, are you okay?" Harry whispered softly into my hair as I moved from his arms. I watched unresponsively and disconnected while Harry then commanded Morgan and Valerie to the basement with the werecat who was hanging loosely in their grasp. We were all cluttered in between the library pocket doorway, the backyard door and on a landing that went into the basement. Unasked Caleb slammed shut the back door, not that it was needed, there wasn't anything left alive in the yard that was in any way a danger to us.
The bugs and beasties were quite nicely satisfying their own base hungers with the corpses of the invaders. My spell had been very specific that those of us inside the portals were not in any way to be harmed. It was a hard to explain concept to insects and animals but I'd succeeded as nothing crossed over our thresholds front or back so far. Anything in the front or back yard -- right now -- another difficult concept -- must be destroyed. I'd played with the casting very carefully. Time was such a human term. I wanted to put in a precise time frame, but I wasn't sure if more of the Vampire Council's Enforcers had been dropped off on the way to the house and were even now lurking unseen outside the property lines. Harry had kept a crew a few blocks away from us, for now, holding the line as it were. The cameras and drones were obviously still in play so I just relaxed and let Harry be in control.
Once Caleb secured the door, he turned to me; his eyes were slightly glazed and I could tell he was battling with his very nature to keep from babbling a ton of questions. His thoughts were pushed down and all he asked was, "Bethany, what next?"
Nodding to Harry, I let him answer. I'd been happy zapping Caleb unconscious for the next round of chaos but I couldn't keep trying to protect him. His education was happening faster than most but I might need him to watch my back sooner than later.
Harry said, "Caleb, why don't you grab both laptops from the library and head down to the basement. We need to find out who sent this wave before the next hits us. Also, we need to get ready to meet up with Bethany's vampire friend, Jason, tonight."
I laughed -- a dark nasty sound -- and cut in with, "I'm not so sure that Jason's my friend, Harry. The Vampire Council maybe using him as a pawn against me -- willingly or not. But that's for later. We need to find out what's going on here." With that I edged past both men heading to the basement. We found all three creatures were stuffed inside the sparse cells. They were all conscious but looking worse for the wear. I noticed they were glaring at Jasmine and Zach with anger that dripped off all three and they were standing in the middle of each cell. The thin mattresses on the beds bolted to walls were ignored as they stood defiantly not seeming to comprehend that they weren't the ones in control. I could see the spells Jasmine had used to strengthen my spell craft in the iron. They were woven with death speaker marks and should one of the inhabitants try to break free, her craft, coupled with Miguel's hunger, Jasmine's dead vampire wasn't pushed back very deeply from what I could read but rather lurking on the edges of the witch's face ready to fully take control, a deadly trap was now a part of the spells on the bars, walls and the very floors of the cells they occupied. I was reluctantly impressed.
My earlier words bound Jasmine from trapping me in her net. I could savor her skills without concern, but still I had no desire to get too close to that action. Valerie wasn't so smart.
The younger East Coast witch boldly sauntered up to the bars and spit out, "Not so powerful now, are you?" It really wasn't a question but the witch, I gathered, in the far right cage replied, "Stronger than you, child." The voice was crone aged and despite the spells extremely power filled. Valerie reached out, before any of us could stop her, and pulled the creature's face in her right hand towards the bars. I heard someone gasp, I think it was Zach but didn't risk a glance as I was frozen in place. The crone laughed a horrid, dry cackle and flayed open Valerie's arm, from her elbow up to her right hand holding the witch's face, the skin rolled off in a single sheet of gore -- completely removed the flesh from Valerie's exposed forearm. Valerie screamed as she tried to yank her injured arm back from inside the cell. The crone pulled free from Valerie's hand. A hand that was nearly lifeless as the skin looked desiccated and gray, the skin that was now in the old, caged witch's hand free from Valerie's body.
She danced away with the snatched up dermis triumphantly hoisted up, and she was laughing all the time and then dropped on the ground on the furthest side of the cell and began to examine her treasure. To everyone's disgust the crone quickly ate the skin, pausing to lick her blood-soaked fingers, like humans do after enjoying a butter-soaked hunk of lobster, with a dark, nearly black, tongue. Eyes lit up with madness fired by the unexpected gift the crone spoke out, "Now, Valerie, you belong to me."
Harry pulled Valerie back and said, "Get out of here, now. Go upstairs into the second bedroom there is a full medical kit and necessary herbs in the closet. Get yourself inside a protective circle, NOW!" His voice had all of his vampiric power laced with the commander voice. Valerie clutched her injured arm to her chest and stumbled for the stairs. Her eyes were huge and filled with pain and bone-chilling fear. The crone continued to chatter about Valerie revealing, all of the woman's deeply kept secrets. The knowledge was a gift from the very skin she'd just consumed. Even inside the bespelled cage the crone was still amazingly powerful. Valerie was now a complete liability as long as that creature lived. I must've made a noise because Harry sighed deeply, looking over to me, he asked, "Yes or no? Crone stays or goes?" Harry hadn't inquired how I felt about Valerie, I noticed.
But killing the crone would narrow our contestants in the Russian Roulette version of kill 'em or keep 'em down to two but it was tempting. I could still hear Valerie as she stumbled above us in the bedroom Harry'd directed her to and I refrained from answering. Instead, I turned to Caleb and asked him, "You've been used by Valerie. So, what do you think we should do? Sacrifice the crone before we question her?"
With huge eyes turned to me, he wasn't in the least confused by Harry's question nor my fobbing it off on him. He'd been used pretty badly by Valerie the first night we'd met her. She was a game player. But he also had watched the crone drink down Valerie's secrets and spit them out with glee. Layers of issues for him to weigh. A pang of regret traced over me as I saw a further sign of Caleb's innocence further eroded by just knowing me. Humans were so fragile. I hated their softness and vulnerability now more than ever. I kept away from them for a reason.
"Maybe this creature has necessary pieces of the puzzle. Can we isolate each cell while we ask them questions?" I was impressed by his assessment; as it was now, they could overhear each other currently. I hadn't thought to cast isolation spells preventing them from conversing. It hadn't been something I'd needed because none of the prior occupants had made it out alive. From what I'd seen in Jasmine's castings she hadn't issued anything like that either.
There hadn't been any time since we'd pulled them out of my yards from them to compare or plot, but now it was possible. Jasmine, also, grasped Caleb's words and automatically chanted out a new spell. This one glowed orange then bright blue before fading into the runes that appeared on the very iron bars and along the walls of the cages and the concrete floors. Just like that each cell was frozen apart from the others -- nobody inside could hear or talk to the others or us unless we altered the spell or spoke directly to the creature. Morgan went to Jasmine and pulled her from the center of our focus. She seemed nearly translucent, as if she was actually flickering in and out of time and space. I watched Miguel, the dead vampire encased in Jasmine's very soul, try to push forth but Morgan said some archaic words, softly spoken softly into Jasmine's ear and the power words pushed Miguel back. Anger, at being denied, flowed over Miguel's spirit but he visibly retreated. Morgan then led Jasmine unresistingly to the faux leather couch I had in the basement. And he continued to murmur to his lover while getting her seated and calmed. Jasmine had expended far too much power and wasn't up to anything more at this time.
I appreciated her doing the spell work enhancing and entrapping the three occupants of the cells. The next few hours could be far more difficult than either Harry or I anticipated. I wanted all my power available to respond to anything these unknown creatures threw at us. So far, the other two jailed hadn't spoken but simply observed us. Now that Valerie was injured and gone along with Morgan and Jasmine licking their wounds on the couch, I could see both of them calculating the best way out of their current situation. I didn't blame them one bit, but it was doubtful that any of their plans would work -- at least not how they were thinking. It was far from the first time Harry and I had been underestimated. I saw Harry bite back a smile as he easily picked up on their self-serving thoughts as well as mine. Not self-serving but amused on my part.
Caleb's idea of isolating the three was well done. He seemed to be hesitating momentarily as he obviously had something to say but for whatever reason was reluctant to venture out with his notion. Harry took the lead and asked simply, "What are you thinking, Caleb?"