Everyone in the Existence tensed as the doors flew from their hinges into the bar and all eyes were directed to the doorway. The silence that followed the crash of the doors was deafening, then a slow click, click, click was heard. It was the sound of a measured pace walking through the entryway into the bar itself. I’d like to tell you that the face of evil was as hideous as her soul was black but I’d be lying to you. As they say, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.
The woman that entered the building was tall, close to six feet and maybe taller. She had the athletic build of a runner or swimmer judging by the toned muscles in her legs and arms. Her short wavy hair, the color of dark chocolate hung wildly around her head ending just before he shoulders. Her features were a mask of serene beauty marred only by the deep red glow from her eyes. In those eyes you could see the depraved evil running through her mind. It sent a chill down the spines of all who looked into them.
Following her through the door were at least forty other vampires, her children and the beginning of and army. She strode up to where she stood even with Arthur’s table before looking up to the catwalks and meeting his eyes. “Arthur Masters, you and Andrew Graves must stay, but anyone else who values their life should leave now,” she stated calmly as though she was conversing and not threatening everyone in the building and the city.
Arthur was our current spokesman as it was his place, “Madam, you will want to leave here in peace. This place is my home and an Elysium, do not violate the laws of Elysium and we will not be forced to stop you.”
Her laugh was sharp and the contempt could have cut like glass, “None of you are a threat and even together you haven’t the power to slow let alone stop me. I will march through here and leave your corpses for all to find. My enemies will learn to fear me and give in before we fight with your deaths.”
As Arthur was speaking all of those here to fight moved into the Club area, scattering across the catwalks and floor area to get in position. In stood at the center of the dance floor with Sindee at my back in preparation to stop her from the casting I sensed in my vision. Tapping into the magick I created swords made of magick; unlike the original rote that was only Primal and Forces Magicks I added Entropy, Spirit and Correspondence magick to the spell. I shared the rote with Arthur alone as he agreed with me that the power should be forgotten at the end of the battle if we survived. We both cast a contingency spell on our memory to lock away the rote except in times where it may be the only solution. The reason for these actions was a precaution against our own corruption. The original rote allowed the Mage to inflict damage to any being, supernatural or mortal that would need to be healed at mortally slow or to expend vast amount s of power. While those would be effective against most enemies, Vampire and Mage alike, a Lich may have greater healing abilities from the combination or Mage and Vampire magic. I studied and reworked the rote into this new form incorporating the addition three areas of magick with the intent of not only harming the Lich, but to possibly allow me to sever the Lich’s twisted connection to its Avatar. This would either free or destroy the Avatar and either option was better than leaving it enslaved to such a twisted creature as a Lich. While the fact remained that if the rote were successful, the power to remove a Mage’s access to magick shouldn’t be in anyone’s hands.
Arthur met her bloody gaze and said, “You leave us no choice but to stop you here and now.”
Her response while simple caused all hell to break loose within the Existence, “So be it.” At those words the horde of vampires following her rushed past and into the club where our own forces awaited. The battle was on and I had nothing to do for the time being but fight.
The security staff opened fire on the attackers from the catwalks, taking the time to aim for the heads and hearts in order to make a kill shot more likely. The muzzle flashes from those weapons gave an eerie feel to the battle to go along with the silenced weapons and the screams and sounds of struggle. The initial fights ended quickly as our numbers were close to even with those arrayed against us; we had more powerful allies than the new vampires she had brought with her. While the initial fighting went in our favor it wasn’t without cost. Many of the security staff had been swarmed after they opened fire costing us five of them as well as two vampires that had stayed to aid us. There were many others wounded and healing quickly to take her on.
From behind her more vampires and other creatures appeared through the front doors. She spoke again, “They were just pawns, too weak to make much of a difference to my army. You have chosen to stand and defy me, for that you will all die.” She charged into the fight followed by to many soldiers for me to count in the moments before the fight began anew.
Arthur grabbed his sword and leapt from the catwalks into her path as Roarke did the same behind her. She produced a paired set of swords from the air. While they were summoned by magick they were steel as the ring for her swords meeting theirs rang throughout the room. That was the last sight I had of the three of them for some time as I engaged those attacking Sindee and I, however I could hear the ring of crossing steel while I fought.
A tall lean being charged at me, what he was I didn’t know; only that he was there to try and kill me. His fingers morphed into long sharp and jagged claws the he swung for my neck with his right hand when he got close enough. I slid back just out of his reach before I dropped into a sweep of his legs. He had moved before I was halfway through the spin causing me to miss completely. As I finished my turn I saw him dropping down towards me with both hands ready to drive the talons through my head and chest. I was trying to bring my swords around before he got there but knew I wasn’t going to be fast enough. At the last possible moment he was suddenly thrown back and down to the floor by some force I didn’t see. I turned my head to see Sindee with her left hand extended towards him and realized that she saved my life. I used the crouch I was in to make a small leap above my enemy, driving the two magick bladed through the creatures head and let the energy burn him to cinders and ash before removing them. I spun to see Sindee fighting someone wielding a knife. The person seemed to be mortal but that was through my awareness with no additional information from sensory magick as I was conserving my power for the Lich if it came to that. I turned to move and aid her when she stepped inside of her opponents reach and drove her knife up through his chin with the blade piercing the top of the skull. I moved rapidly, placing us back to back to allow us to defend the spot where the Lich’s spell was to be cast. I tapped into my magick and our connection as I felt her do the same. We used our combined magick and the bond we shared to bring our minds together. The result was that we moved and fought as though we were one being and not two, using the skills and knowledge the other had as if we had learned it. Sindee tapped into my knowledge of spells and casting as I pulled from her knowledge of anatomy and healing. Our combined combat training was invaluable because it opened more possibilities for each of us.
The sounds of battle around us suggested that the fighting was not going well for either side and I offered a prayer for my friends and allies as we continued the battle. As Sindee’s and my muscles began to tire I pulled on the magick to refresh our bodies and we continued the battle. At some point I heard the sound a metal shattering over the noise of conflict followed by a scream of rage and pain. I felt a pressure wave burst across the combatants as many were knocked off their feet. Sindee or I, and there was no way for us to tell as deeply linked as we were, cast a quick forces spell allowing us to absorb and convert the kinetic energy of the pressure into useable energy for our bodies. We both moved around to the enemies around us who were felled by the blast wave and delivered killing blows. It was at this point that I realized I was no longer wielding twin blades of magick as one of them was in Sindee’s hand; somehow we had managed to transfer the control of a rote she had no knowledge of to her hand along with the ability to wield it as a sword. At that moment I was able to spot Ynara across the room, she had been surrounded by several vampires and was barely holding them back. I prepared to move to her aid when a pure golden pillar of light surrounded her body; she lifted from the floor with her arms spread wide, hair floating like a burning aura around her and the glow spread out to encompass the enemies attacking her. One moment she was under siege by no less than a dozen vampires and the next a cloud of ash was floating to the ground.
Since vampires don’t usually turn to as when destroyed I had no idea what just happened to them and had more important things to worry about at the moment as I was caught in the left shoulder by four raking claws. With a pulse of magick I sealed the wound, not taking the time or energy needed to heal it completely and spun my weapon into a reversed grip, driving it back through my attackers chest before slicing downward splitting it from heart to groin spilling organs and blood to the ground. As I performed the downward stroke Sindee spun whipping her weapon through and severing the head from the rest of its body. The fight continued like this for what felt like forever as the bodies from both sides piled up. As fast as the bodies were compiled so was the list of injuries sustained as well. After finally getting a break in the fighting I was once again able to spot the others in the fight. Roarke was laying against the divider on the club side of the glass, blood staining the right side of his face and neck and his eyes were closed. Marcus was trying to heal those knocked out of the fight near him in the back of the room while Kyra was defending their position. Most of the security staff on the catwalks was either dead or at least out of the fight as there were no living enemies up there with them. Sam was a whirling dervish of fangs, claws and steel as she cut through those that attacked her. JD was out of the fight leaning against a wall near the corner, his head turned away so that I couldn’t see his face, but the white shirt he wore was now crimson with blood that I didn’t know if it was his or from those he killed. George was in the war form of the werewolves fighting with a rage that even frightened me as Talia lay at his feet, eyes closed and in human form. Jarvis was in the back corner near the sublevel access to his and Elayna’s residence standing between her injured form and any who tried to get near her. I spotted many of our allies bodies among those of our enemies including more than half of Donovan’s pack members that stayed and a few of Alexander’s warriors and children. A half dozen of the bodies belonged to members on Talia’s pack from my land and were scatter among the bodies that surrounded hers. Arthur was still fighting the Lich, he was covered in numerous scratches and cut from her swords. He was unable to seal them, let alone heal because he was wielding not only his sword but Roarke’s Primium weapon as well.
With a thought I passed all that to Sindee and rushed to aid Arthur against the Lich. As I approached I crafted a new spell on the fly and cast it out to the room at my enemies that lay injured and dying. I used Mind, Life and Prime in this casting and performed a spell that would haunt me for the rest of my life, but chose to do it and would do so again to save the lives of my friends and allies. I used mind to search out and identify those who were my enemy and would be susceptible to my magick, those unprotected and unable to counter it. I then used the power of life to latch onto the energy of their bodies drawing it in and used Prime to rip from them the Quintessence that bound all things to reality and was the power behind Magick. While the energy was drawn in and healed my injuries, the horror at what I had just done made me want to vomit the dreams, hopes and thoughts of sentient beings passed through me in the instant their souls were shredded from reality. That kind of power could corrupt, but the horror would ensure that I never attempted the spell on a sentient being ever again. I used the vast energy reserve that I pulled in after healing my injuries to cast a powerfully charges counter spell around myself against the magick of everyone else but Sindee and Arthur as I joined the fray with the Lich. Sindee released her hold on the rote in our mind returning my second sword to my control and I blocked a swing from the Lich. I fought defensively against her until I could interpose my body between her and Arthur. I used my body to shove Arthur back and out of this fight towards Sindee to allow him to recover and heal before he came back in. I immediately felt a spell blasted at me from the Lich and the shock on her features when the spell failed to destroy me was priceless.
She came at me harder and faster with her weapons when the magick failed using both the speed granted from magick as well as Vampiric powers. I was able to keep up because of the natural speed of my body and my magick for the most part but she landed a number of scratched and slices that I could take no more time than to just seal them if I were to stay alive in this fight. As she drew her blade across my right thigh, cutting deep into the muscle barely missing the femoral artery I managed to get a strike past her defenses, driving the blade into left shoulder joint, disrupting her attack on my leg. The growl of pain and rare as she released her sword was deafening. Her shoulder and arm went limp and black ichor flowed from the wound. She released her other sword and pushed my chest so had that I flew twenty feet back across the room and landed on the center bar before falling to the floor behind it smashing my head into the metal sink on the way down.
I opened my eyes to Arthur’s face above me as he grabbed my arm to pull me to my feet. I surveyed the rest of the scene quickly before deciding a course of action. Sam was still entrenched within a swarm of enemies while George was in the clear but distracted, cradling Talia’s body against his chest with tears flowing. JD still hadn’t moved from where he lay in the corner while Roarke was no longer where I spotted him last, but I couldn’t see where he got to. Jarvis and Elayna were gone, but the security door blocking their daylight retreat was in place. Kyra was ripping apart anything that got near her as she stood over Marcus; I couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive from where I stood all the spells I had running dropped upon my losing conscious as I went over the bar. Alexander and Donovan were both tied up with the continued fighting as they were attacked; they fought as a team Vampire and Werewolf who outside of the Existence would have been more likely to be killing one another. Sindee was circling the Lich, using magick and speed to stay just outside of her reach but not letting her have time to cast the spell. Jaq was back up and moving on the catwalks grabbing the fallen guard’s weapons and taking shots as targets presented themselves. When Sindee backed away from the Lich Jaq would take a shot at it, giving her no time to do more than fight. As I watch the Lich sent a burst of magick towards Jaq who attempted to counter a spell directed at her. This failed as the magick was directed at the catwalk, as it hit and twisted the metal screamed and Jaq was thrown over the railing. As she plummeted to the floor Arthur disappeared from beside me to catch her. The impact put both of them out of the fight for now.
The Lich spun and focused her attentions on Sindee and I felt the power being drawn for another spell. I recast the rote I used for my swords as I used correspondence to interpose myself between the Lich and Sindee. The Lich’s spell hit my weapons and drove me to my knees. I pushed back against the energy directing it towards the floor. As I fought it to the floor to protect myself and Sindee I opened myself for attack. The Lich grabbed be, pulled me to my feet with my back spun to be against her chest. She sank her fangs into my neck from behind and a sense of peace and rapture flowed through me. I had no mental defenses in place to stop the effects of the Kiss from a Vampires bite. While our minds were linked Sindee was unaffected by the Kiss and I felt an inspiration flash into her mind. Sindee tapped into her Avatar and mine fed power to her as well through the connection we shared. She used her incredible knowledge and power of Life with the understanding of Prime she pulled from my Avatar then altered the rote I used to erase the assassin from reality into an entirely new casting. She reached out and grabbed the Lich’s face in her hands and shoved the spell through the physical connections of her hands and the sympathetic magick of my blood that she drank to bypass any counter spells the Lich may have been able to cast. Sindee’s spell was a flash of pure inspiration and served to save my life as she obliterated and erased that which made the Lich a Vampire from her body. As soon as that was done I was released from the Kiss and was now fighting a powerful yet twisted mage. As I was freed from the kiss and the Lich screamed as the twisted connection to her Avatar shattered at it freed itself. The backlash of the magick released burnt the Lich’s body from the inside out until all that was left was a pile of petrified ash. Moments after watching the end of the Lich I passed out again as blood flowed from the tear in my neck.
I was healed and came to several hours later lying in the spare bedroom of Arthur’s apartment above the Existence with Sindee a warm presence beside me. I was still completely drained of energy and unable to move much but forced myself to turn and look at Sindee. She was sitting up beside me with her back against the wall running her hands lightly through my hair. I managed a weak smile before falling back into a deep sleep as my body healed and regenerated the blood loss. When I woke again I was alone in the room but able to move. I got up and grabbed the robe someone left hanging behind the door for me before I headed out into the living room of the apartment. The room was as full as I’d ever seen it and the expressions were somber with some hope behind them. The fallen members of our groups could be spotted by their absence in this gathering. Arthur and Jaq were sitting together in a slightly oversized chair, bodies together as she hugged in and provided support for his losses. Sam was standing against the back wall of the room, he somber look etched with anger and pain at the members who were missing from this gathering. George and Kyra sat alone in another corner of the room, both supporting the other as the tears of loss filled their eyes and tried to crush their spirits. Elayna sat in a chair on her own with a lost expression on her face; Roarke stood behind her with his hand on her shoulder as Jarvis usually did. Ynara had been sitting on the sofa when I walked in but moved to George and Kyra to help comfort them. Sindee was sitting on the love seat looking at me with love and sorrow as I crossed the room to her. We had lost Marcus, JD, Talia, Guido and Jarvis in the battle. While Jarvis was a quiet presence in most settings her was the person who always made sure everyone was taken care of when we gathered. He always had a friendly word and a smile for you. Guido was a true Italian in that he made you feel at home when he was around which is an interesting talent for a cleaner, but he treated everyone who at from his kitchen as though they were the very idea of family to him. Talia was a loss to many of us, kind and strong in spirit she was able to help others work through that which was hurting them and she had grown so close to George I felt for him and Kyra both. JD was something of an enigma to me, his playful manner and noble attitude made him stand apart from the man you assumed he was when first introduce and his loss was a shock as he seemed to pull off an attitude that made him seem untouchable in the time I’d known him. The most painful blow to me at the moment was Marcus. He was the first Mage who I found and taught me well in not just how to use my powers by why to use them. He used to quote to me in Latin a simple axiom that I took to heart; the translation of which is: What is a man is he doesn’t make the world better. That and other lessons have helped me use my magick responsibly and without malice as much as possible and remains part of the reason for my horror at gathering the quintessence from sentient beings, even if they were trying to kill me. We sat like that for a few hours, silently mourning the dead each in our own way when Arthur finally spoke up.
He raised his head and drew Jaq towards him, kissing her and holding her tighter. He then turned to face everyone in the room, “We fought and won at a great personal cost to all of us. Among those who fought with us and fell were some of the people closest to our hearts; family to us in the truest sense of the word. I feel a hollow wound inside where each of them resided but I also know that JD would be here kicking my ass and telling me to think about better times and get this place reopened. I’d like to tell you how JD and I met and share some of the other stories we all have. I would like for all of you to know them as I did and to hear all of your stories of them as well.”
With that he proceeded to tell the tales of how he met each of those he lost with the exception of Jarvis as that was Elayna’s story to tell. JD and Arthur had met when JD had walked into the Existence when it was still a bar. JD was a hunter at the time and was tracking down a dangerous vampire named Red who had been traveling across the country leaving behind a trail of bodies. Arthur was able to get some information to JD and while that hunt was unsuccessful as Red had already been chased out of Las Vegas by others JD had other targets present themselves. He had initially been planning to leave the city after a couple of weeks when a new problem presented itself, or more precisely two groups of problems. The first was a group of Anarchs, vampires that followed no laws or organization, from LA where JD had grown up and started his hunting. Problem number two was another group of Hunters who had found out about JD’s own paranormal abilities and decided that a supernatural being with knowledge of the inner workings of hunters was a threat that needed to be eliminated. Arthur gave him sanctuary and aided JD in setting up the anarchs and the hunters in fighting each other. JD was always the one to offer the enemy sarcasm and confusion when they fought together and was an expert strategist for Arthur’s team. Sam told us of weapons training and how JD had been banned from using firearms in her presence after managing to shoot her while at a gun range. George related some of the pranks that JD had pulled on the Ragabash, werewolves who made their first change under the new moon making them the tricksters and scouts among the ranks. He managed a slight smile when he explained there were few who could pull the wool over their eyes.
Arthur then spoke of Guido with the simplest explanation. Guido had been hired to hunt down and kill Arthur. Arthur got a last second warning as Guido attacked and managed to win the fight. At his loss Guido was willing to submit to death or any other punishment Arthur had to offer and explained that if he lived the contract was void and would never be attempted again. Arthur asked who had sent him and Guido refused to tell him. Guido told Arthur that while he was a cold blooded killer, he had his honor and reputation and would not betray a client. That was good enough for Arthur and he hired him to work at the bar and to aid him in the wars he fought. None of Guido’s employers had ever respected him and that enforced more loyalty than any amount of money ever could. Guido had grown up with is Great Grandmother, Grandmother, mother and sisters surrounding him. There were no other men in the house as their professions caused them to meet an early end so while he worked hard outside the home and learning to fight he also spent much time learning to cook from all of the women he lived with as he was the youngest child and by a gap of ten years from the youngest of his sisters.
Elayna picked up where Arthur left off and told of Jarvis. She had been living in England in the early fifteen hundreds and worked as a bar maid when in the middle of a cold winter night a stranger arrived seeking shelter in the tavern. Her father had let him in and set a place by the fire for this stranger. He had not been human and during the night he had killed her father and locked her inside the building with him. He spent the next few nights using her and doing things that she wouldn’t speak of. After about a week he had tired of playing games with an easily injured mortal and decided to turn her. This was another form of torture as he gave her only enough blood to make the turn and keep her alive. He would then tie her to a chair and stand in the show behind the door and open and close it during the day letting the sun burn into her. At night he would hunt and bring people she knew back and force her to feed on and kill them. As it was deep in winter there were few travelers and people weren’t noticed to be missing until a couple weeks had past. This stranger had inflicted upon her great mental, emotional and physical pain for his own sick amusement. A night finally came when the stranger was out hunting that a lone soldier, a scout was sent to check on the farms, villages and people when word stop coming to the castle about them. This scout entered through the taverns unlocked door to find her tied to the chair again with her face and chest covered in the blood of the body at her feet. He moved toward her and she looked up, eyes feral and fangs bared in a hiss. The soldier moved away and stood beside the door studying her. She was barely aware of her surroundings and the stranger had drained most of the blood from the body before giving it to her having left just enough for her to survive on. She fought to focus on the stranger before her did more to harm her. She fought hard past the blood lust and rage in herself to gain focus when she spotted the soldier standing against the wall beside the closed door. She could smell his skin and blood and hear his heartbeat from across the room. She closed her eyes and used the steady beat to gain focus and control from the blood lust. The front door swung open hiding the soldier behind it as the stranger entered with the body of a young girl she knew from a neighboring farm in his arms. The child was still breathing and just appeared to be asleep in the monsters arm. The stranger crossed the room to stand right before Elayna and placed the small child in her lap, seating the girls night right where Elayna could simply lean down and bite, drinking her fill until it killed the child. Elayna fought with every ounce of control she had not to hurt the child in her lap. While she fought for that control the soldier charged up behind the stranger and swung for his head with hammer her carried. The stranger caught the sound just in time to stop the soldiers attack and lifted him off the floor by his neck. Seeing the soldier in danger and knowing that he was there to help her and could save the little girl Elayna gathered bloodlust and rage and focused it on the stranger. She ripped her arms through the bonds that held her in the chair and attacked the stranger from behind. She jumped onto his back and sank her teeth into his neck and drank of him until her was an empty husk and she kept drinking, pulling everything she could from him. When she finally released him it was to see the soldier who had come to help dying, a wound in his neck spilling his blood across the floor. She remembered that the stranger had forced his blood upon her to force the change and decided to save this soldier the same way. She bit into her own wrist and forced her blood from it into the soldier’s mouth; she pinched his nose to force him to swallow it. Almost instantly the wound in his neck sealed and continued to heal as more of her blood flowed into his mouth. He didn’t change into the same thing she was however and she didn’t understand. She moved across the room away from both the soldier and the child to keep herself from further harming either of them. At sunrise she moved into the dark cellar where the grains and ales were stored to hide away from the burning sunlight. The Soldier took the girl back to her farm and family who were starting to search for her and returned to the Tavern. He went down into the cellar and sat across from Elayna. He thanked her for saving his life and the girls and told his name was Jarvis. That evening after sundown, they burned the tavern to the ground and left together, travelling in the night. It was months later when she ran into another like the stranger, however this being didn’t attack and harm but explained to her what she now was and the laws of their kind. She asked why Jarvis hadn’t been changed like she had and her new teacher explained how a turning works and the effects of her blood on a living being. She told Jarvis that if she gave him some of her blood on a regular basis he would stop aging as she had and be able to stay with her as long as he wanted to. Since that night they had been together, master and slave to most Vampires and outsiders but husband and wife to between them and their family. Together for over five hundred years. Pink tinged tears flowed gently down her cheeks as she recounted the tale and I had newfound respect for the good man we lost and the woman who loved him.
George and Kyra we unable to speak past their grief so related how I met Talia and the way things worked out for all of us. After that I explained my history with Marcus to everyone here. Most had heard the tales but it was nice to repeat them and think of better times.
Ynara moved around the room to each of us in turn offering a gentle hug, a kiss on the cheek. She spread compassion, comfort and warmth as she moved between each of us. After going to Jaq and Arthur she stepped back and turned to face everyone in the room, “Thank you for sharing the stories of your friends and family with me. Though I didn’t know them I feel I do now and mourn their loss to you and to the world. I wish I could stay and continue to help you, but for now I must be going. Before I do however I have a message for all of you from the Ascendant who created this plane.” Her voice changed into a neutral tone and filled with power, “You have all done well here tonight and need to rebuild your families and lives as in time you may be called upon again. You have all stood before the darkness and protected those that couldn’t stand against it and I will see you and your friends in my care until the time comes for you to join them or them to rejoin you.”
We all looked over at her in amazement as for whoever was speaking it wasn’t Ynara. Moments after the voice faded Ynara stepped away and disappeared. We all sat and comforted each other for the rest of night then slept the day away. When evening once again came upon us we decided it was time to get motivated and moving. We headed down to the club in order to begin the cleaning and repairs that were needed. As we reached the foot of the stairs we found that everything had been cleaned, the bodies removed, the catwalk and doors repaired and the walls were being repainted. Those that remained of our allies in the fight filled the room along with their people. They were working on getting the Existence back into top shape for Arthur.
Alexander and Donovan walked over towards us. Alexander was the first to speak, “None of us knew how to thank you for placing your home and family in the path of the Lich. While we all lost people in this fight, all of you lost family. Doing this here was at least a start towards showing the depth of our feeling in regards to their sacrifices.” His voice trailed off.
Donovan picked up from there, “While what we are doing her is just a start we have other news. Word of what happened here is spreading through the supernatural races and communities in this city and possibly further. I can tell you that most of the shifter packs and communities are arranging to meet with the vampire’s Prince and other leaders in Las Vegas to set a peace within the city between all the races. While conflicts may not stop entirely we hope you’ll remain here to help the involved partied work through them as you have been.”
Alexander picked up again as Donovan finished. Her turned to face Sindee and I directly, “You both my personal gratitude and that of the Prince and Sheriff. They have already spread the word to all of the Vampires within the city that you are inviolate along with your land, the hospital where you work and those who work or live there are also protected. You each may also call in a favor from the Sheriff and from the Prince and they will grant it if it is within their power.” He turned to Arthur, “The Prince and Sheriff have also told me to tell you the same in regard to the favor. All of your staff and family are also no inviolate while outside the club as you had them protected within. The Prince also has a personal request of you. He requests the use of the Existence as a location to negotiate the proposed agreements between the races as you have always treated as neutral territory and that you act as a moderator in the event tempers flare. That means that you will be able to act to stop any violence, including acting against him without repercussion.”
Arthur looked Alexander in the eyes before replying, “You can rest assured that I will continue to run the Existence as I always have and that I think it is a fine location for the talks. As for the personal request; it would be my honor to aid in capacity your highness.” All eyes shifted to Alexander as a shocked expression crossed his features before he could control it, “Yes Alexander, I’ve known for quite a while who you really are. You’ve been welcome here as you followed the rules and respected all of my people including Elayna as she is a vampire within the city, who never reported to you, you had the right of your laws to censure her when she was outside of the Existence. As I know that you both spoke on many occasions at events that you attended and have always been kind you had my respect and the friendship I offered you here was and in quite genuine.”
Elayna looked between Arthur and Alexander with some confusion before facing Arthur first, “You knew he was the Prince and that I didn’t and chose not to tell me?” Without waiting for an answer from him she turned to Alexander, “And you!! You’re the Prince and didn’t feel that I should be told. I have treated you with respect, but there were times that I was downright rude to you due to your behavior.”
Alexander was the first to respond as he cut Arthur off, “I chose not to tell you because I respected your spirit and your way of thinking. As for your being rude to me, I was here in your home and was not respectful of the bond you shared with Jarvis. I can see how his loss is hurting you and wish there was something I could do about that. I was also here as most others are, to enjoy the anonymity and freedom of an Elysium that catered to all walks of life and am thankful that Arthur didn’t reveal my secret to anyone. His revealing now was not an issue because as soon as the talks began I would have to identify myself. The man that most Vampires who enter this city meet, those that will most likely see the Prince only once is my seneschal who is being trained and prepared to run a city himself someday.”
The rest of the night and the next couple of weeks flashed passes as we helped Arthur repair and restock the Existence. After the manual labor was done we started to interview new staff with him. Most of the security force had been killed or injured so severely that they retired. There were applicants from all walks of life, awakened mortal mercenaries, shifters that had lost pack members in the fighting, vampires who were soldiers or security prior to their turning, several types of magic users and even a young Mage who was looking for work and a teacher. The Mage had awakened the night of the battle with the Lich and felt a pull towards the Existence almost immediately. I offered to take over the books for Arthur with the loss of JD and he accepted. The kitchen would remain closed for a short while until we could find someone as exceptional as Guido. That happened far faster than anyone expected as just a few days before Arthur planned to reopen the club a tall, thin woman entered the bar and walked right up to Arthur’s table and sat down while he and I were going over the books JD had kept.
Arthur looked up and smiled at her, “Good afternoon ma’am, can I assist you with anything?” As he did that I took a quick peek at her through sensory magick. She was mostly mortal, but there was something special about her as well.
She smiled back at Arthur and looked at me briefly as the sensory magick flowed around her. She turned back to Arthur, “Maybe, are you Arthur Masters?”
“Then you’ve helped as I’m here to see you,” she replied. She took a breath before continuing, “I’m here to for a couple of reasons. The first of which is to thank you for the care you showed my brother and the message you sent to our family. It helped with Guido’s loss. We were glad that he found a place that he enjoyed and people that accepted who and what he was,” a tear rolled down her cheek as she spoke the last. “A few days after you sent word of what happened I received a package from Guido. It had been placed at a remailer to be sent out unless he called weekly to keep it on hold. There were two books and a letter in it. The letter was a set of instructions that he wanted me to carry out.” She reached into the satchel she carried with her and withdrew a small leather bound journal. Handing it to Arthur she said, “In that book you will find the records of all of his clients with details of who and what they were, the jobs they hired him for and the records of how each ended. The letter instructed that I give this to you to do with as you choose, but to pass on a request. He wants you to get the information you need on the contract taken out on you and to scour the supernatural references from the book; after that he’d like you to turn it over to international law enforcement with the certificate of his death and the letter in the back. His belief is that with his death his honor to those he worked for is satisfied and that he honors you and our family by stopping monsters like the men he worked for before meeting you.”
Arthur took the book and placed it before him reverently, “I will do exactly as requested. I find that honoring the last wish of someone who was family to me quite appropriate and a genuine pleasure.”
She took a few breaths and fought the tears in her eyes to keep them from falling, “Guido was right about you. As kind a soul as you are strong as a warrior he told me. The last piece of instruction was more a bit of advice and a request to me.” She reached into the bag again and pulled out two thick books with worn covers and yellowing edges to the pages within. “He knew that I saw more of the world than others like he did and suggested that I come and meet you to talk about it. Until now I was able to convince myself to stay home and keep my head down. The top of these two books was his. It is the journal that he kept his recipes and his thoughts in. He wrote of all the things in this world and how you and those you call friends and family stand between those that would harm others. From his words I know that you are more than you seem and I saw that for myself when I walked through the doors. Guido also wrote that unless I truly believed that I needed to come here I wouldn’t find the place and he was right there as well. I spent a few days wandering this part of town trying to decide if I truly wanted to face the reality he wrote about. I guarantee that I walked past this block at least a dozen times while I made the choice. As soon as I did I saw the doors as I walked past them again and I entered. His advice was to come and talk with you and I plan to do so in depth. His request in related to both his book and mine below it. That is my recipe book and journal and I’d like to run his kitchen if you’ll have me Mr. Masters?”
Arthur looked surprised and a small smile genuine smile played across his lips. I hadn’t seen a real smile from many of us since that night. Sindee and I would smile when we were together but it still held the bit of sadness we were feeling after everything that happened. I guessed that was everyone was feeling.
Arthur gave her an evaluating look, “What’s your name?”
“Isabella Teresa Scallotti,” she said, “but those who know me call me Izzy.”
“Well Isabella, before I decide to hire you or not, we need to know what you can do.” With that he stood up and offered her his hand. He looked over at me and gestured for me to follow as well. She took his hand and he walked her back to Guido’s kitchen. “Isabella, make any recipe of yours for use to try, you choose it.”
Izzy was a whirlwind in the kitchen moving from storage rack to cooler and freezer to gather her ingredients and began preparing her recipe as Arthur and I sat and watched from the butcher’s block that Guido had installed. She moved through the kitchen as though cooking was a dance and she was very graceful. While she was cooking Roarke came into the kitchen wearing a security jacket for the Existence. He had called back home to Ireland and told those who now trained at the home there to continue their training and he would send information to them. He would also go back for a month after two months here and teach them what he learned from Arthur and the rest of us. He was teaching his charges that Hunters weren’t just killers, but guardians and that not all supernatural beings were evil. Some of us agreed to travel over and aid him in imparting this knowledge when he requested it. He sat down to the butcher block and followed Isabella with his eyes. About twenty minutes later she turned and set four plates on the block in front of us and sat down to join our group.
“While this took me a while today it will be faster to prepare when the kitchen is open as I will have my prep work done and I’ll know the layout better. This is one of the recipes that Guido always wanted me to teach him because he liked it so much. Of course with sibling rivalry I had to withhold it from him. I always planned to come see him and teach it but always thought there would be more time.” She took a moment to calm herself, “I hope that you enjoy as much as he did.”
I’m no expert on food as I just know what I like and how to cook what my mother taught me. The flavors in this dish were simply divine and showed she had talent that rivaled Guido’s in the kitchen. From the sounds Arthur and Roarke were making I’d bet they felt the same.
Arthur ate more than half the dish before remembering why we were sitting there, “Isabella, I have to say that this is an incredibly delicious meal. If you truly wish to run the kitchen it’s yours, but only if you call me Arthur. Those who work for me are at the very least my friends and being Guido’s sister you are more extended family.”
She smiled again, “Fair enough Arthur as long as you call me Izzy as the same applies to you. Guido spoke of you like an uncle or father though you are too young for that title and as such you are also my extended family.”
Arthur replied, “Agreed, you can start when we reopen, but the kitchen is now yours to stock and use as you’d like. Guido stayed in an apartment above the club and that is also yours if you wish it.” Before she had a chance to reply he gently grabbed my elbow and led me back to his table and our review of the books. As we exited the kitchen, Roarke was sitting there eating slowly and just watching Izzy check over her kitchen.
Two days before the grand reopening we had the place staffed, stocked and ready for a party. Izzy had moved in to Guido’s old place and had taken the time to sit with Arthur and discuss what her brother wrote in the letter and journals. George and Kyra were spending time over with Sindee and me as we all enjoyed the company and were able to remember to good times with our lost family members. They were starting to come out of the depression that they felt. Kyra took over Talia’s role in the pack and George aided her in learning more about it while waiting for the Existence to re-open. Sam was training the new security people hard to ensure that no one else was lost under her watch. Things were starting to slow down to a normal peaceful pace for all of us and I know I welcomed the break. I hadn’t had any more visions of the Nephandi or dark futures recently. While they may came in time, perhaps the knowledge and power gained by all of us protecting the city has averted that possibility for a time.
I spend the last day before Arthur reopened refining the accounting and ordering programs as well as showing him how to use them. He was a quick study as most Mages are and made the task easy. The day progressed and the staff was told to take the night off and arrive before noon unless they started after sundown the next day. As I was heading for the door Arthur called me back over to the bar. He reached under it and pulled out a bottle of Cristal Champagne.
Handing me the bottle he said, “Take this, I ordered for you and Sindee. You both deserve it.”
A little surprised by the generosity for simply doing what I can to help I accepted the bottle, “Thank you Arthur. I’ll be sure to let Sindee know it’s from you.” He flashed a knowing smile in return. I wondered what was going through his mind at the smile, but decided to leave it alone because at least it was a genuine smile.
I drove back to our house thinking of Sindee the whole way. She had left the house that morning before I even woke for the day which was unusual because I preferred to get up with her and spend time together before she got out of the house. We had a nice evening together the previous night, another quick trip to Hawaii that included me teaching her how to work the Correspondence rote that allowed us to travel instantly. Think of it as folding space time and you may get an inkling of how it works. As it was more than halfway through March the night on the beach was warm and peaceful for us.
When I pulled into the driveway I noticed that while the front porch light was own, most of the interior light were off. I walked in through the front door to Sindee standing by the dining room table wearing a simple sundress in pastel yellow. Behind her the table was lit by candles surrounding two plates that were together along one side. She walked over to me without saying a word, kissed me hello and led me to our seats. I set the bottle of champagne on the table as she handed me a small white gift bag. As I knew it wasn’t our anniversary, my birthday or any other occasion I was surprised, though I don’t wait for holidays to surprise her so I shouldn’t have been. I pulled the tissue paper out of the top of the bag and reached in. I pulled out a pale blue and a pink newborn sized outfits. I tuned to look at her in surprise, the joy written all over my features as she nodded. I tapped into the magick and used a life scan on her, immediately spotting the two additional signatures growing with her. As a Life Mage she would have felt the change immediately and tonight’s surprise explains the behavior from the morning. I pulled her into me and carefully embraced her to me. My eyes fell to the bottle of champagne that Arthur sent with me. One of these days I was going to find out what he was now, but for the moment Sindee and our own future were foremost in my mind.
Thank you all for reading and sticking with me this far.