Chapter One

Like clockwork, Marc awoke just before sunset—as he always did. For one of his kind, he was an early-riser. Lucca lay on a bed in the next room, still asleep. Looking in on her peaceful face framed by the wavy dark hair, he could not help but smile. The necklace he had been given the night they met hung around their neck—a gift to her on an October night so long ago. In thirty-seven years, she had barely changed at all—an unchanging visage of a lost daughter restored to him. She had taken to calling him “Dad” in their years together, a title which brought a great joy and ease to both their minds. He had taught her all he could and protected her to the best of his ability. In their years together, she had developed into a great warrior and strong vampire—one that he regarded as an equal in nearly every way. They had numerous adventures, even managing to save the world by chance a couple of times.

Marc dressed himself in a white t-shirt and black khaki pants before he walked out of the bedroom into the larger rooms of the farmhouse. He ran his fingers though his short hair as air grew darker and cooler around him. As he reached the hall leading towards the balcony, he sensed the strange presence in the house. He walked out onto the balcony, looking out at the sky with the sun setting behind the far off mountains. His hands planted on the balcony, holding up his body. Looking out at the horizon, he scowled.

What do you want?” Marc asked. His gaze did not shift from the landscape before him.

Marc,” the creature in the chair said. “I come on a dire errand. I need your help.”

Marc turned to face the visitor.

Carib,” he said. He remembered the creature now. Dressed in a dark green t-shirt and black jeans with a pair of chucks, the daemon looking considerably less concerned with concealing his appearance from the world at that particular moment—looking more at ease in his surroundings. His face seemed more weary than Marc remembered, making the vampire wonder about the last thirty years. “What service can I do for you on this night? It’s been awhile since we last spoke. You still carrying messages from Cassandra?”

Yes,” he said. “One last message from your lady.” He looked off to the side before continuing. “Who’s that girl with you?”

My daughter,” he answered. “Don’t change the subject on me. Why are you here?”

She sent me to bring you to her,” the daemon said. “Cassandra needs you. Now.”

Really?” He stretched out with his senses, attempting to slip through the daemon’s defenses and determine his purpose. “What happened? Is she near?”

Yes,” Carib said. “She is near, dying as we speak. She is far enough gone that I do not know if you could sense her. Her last wish is to see you. Will you go to her?”

Yes.”

Can I come too?”

Lucca stood behind them. She had dressed all in black, a medium length black skirt and t-shirt with high black boots. Her hair was in stern looking bun held together around a hair stick. Looking at her now, she was a modern image of death—as Marc would have put it. She had Marc’s black jacket over forearm, her own tan one over the other.

Of course,” Marc said. He put on a pair of shoes, after which took the jacket and put it on as they moved towards the railing. “Let’s go.”

They leapt down from the balcony to the driveway below, briefly forsaking the high security they usually operated with. It was dusk and they knew that anybody who would see them would not believe it—on the off chance anyone would see them at the secluded farmhouse.

How do your kind acquire housing like this?” Carib asked. “Regardless of your gifts and appearance, I would imagine there would still be some kind of challenge there to work around.”

“There are those who would destroy us,” Marc explained. “That is a given for any race or people. But there are also those who are willing to help us as well. They purchase these houses and keep them available for all the peaceful vampires to use.”

Do they worship you?” Carib asked.

Not really,” Marc said. “It’s really more of a very easily manipulated envy. They’re hoping that if they’re good enough we’ll make them one of us. They don’t realize the blissful joys of death as we do. Of course it is forbidden to turn someone for such a reason. At least I never really considered it a wise course of action.”

Carib nodded. They entered the car and Carib drove them south towards Gloucester.

What happened to Cassandra?” Marc inquired. He doubted that she would willingly let him come and bring him to her and the daemon kept his mind closed to them about that.

That is for her to tell you,” Carib responded. “She didn’t want you to know what happened, and I would think it would be best for her to tell you herself. I came to you of my own volition and choice. She needs you now, more than ever. She won’t say it herself, but she does. When you see her, you will understand why.”

The trip continued on in silence. They weaved on through the outskirts of Gloucester, heading into the other industrial buildings. Lucca saw it as what Marc had often referred to her as “the relics”—leftovers from forgotten ages and times long since gone past. The car stopped near an abandoned fish processing plant. They left the car and followed Carib into the offices of the building. He led them across a room of desks and stopped at a door marked “Main Office.”

Wait here for a moment,” Carib said. He went into the office alone, gently closing the door behind him. The two vampires heard voices murmuring low and rapidly, a brief argument about the visitation. Lucca and Marc could both clearly detect the intense emotions being exchanged, the heated debate happening within. Beyond the argument was an intense resignation—an acceptance of fate. Carib came back out a moment later, looking dejected. “You go in alone Marc.”

Marc turned to Lucca, who nodded and sat down at a desk. Marc went into the office, a great weight suddenly pressing down on his mind. In that moment, he could not be sure he was really ready to be in that room. If he was of weaker stuff, he would have not gone in. But in regardless.

In the small room a single bed was set against the far wall, a table next to the bed. The table was scattered with various supplies and items, most of them intended to treat burns. Shades were drawn down around the office, the only source of light being the table lamp. On the bed lay a woman tightly wrapped in blankets, only her face visible. She looked as though she had been heavily burned and was barely recognizable as having a human shape on the bed. While darkened and crisped to ash, Marc could still see some trace of the brown hair he remember from the long since past time of his traveling with Cassandra. Her face had been blackened and burnt, flesh melted away to the bone. She opened her vibrant violet eyes as Marc approached and reached for her.

“Don’t look at me!” she pleaded. She began to turn away, groaning in pain with the motion. “I’m hideous—“

He stopped her. “Shush,” he said. “I would see you no matter what happened to you and still call you mine. You are still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Even as you are now, the spirit is still strong within you. That beautiful spirit I could not resist loving.”

My beautiful friend,” she whispered. She relaxed as he knelt beside the bed, taking her hand in his. Even with his gentle touch, it cracked under the pressure. With his other hand he moved the blanket aside enough to reveal her burned and scarred face. “I wish… I wish you didn’t… have to see me like this. You shouldn’t… have to see—”

It’s all right,” Marc said. “I’m here now.” He caressed and kissed her hand as she began to speak. The dry and cracked surface broke against his hand, flaking off charred fragments.

Can you… can you forgive me for what I’ve done to you?” she asked.

All the hate I ever had for you is long since lost,” he answered. “All I have left is love for you. I stopped hating you so long ago, I just never could admit it to myself. I was a fool to not return to you. You did so much to prove your regret for that, and I ignored it. I only hope that your pain will end and you can find that peace you deserve.”

I heard… I heard you travel with someone else now,” she said. “A young vampire. Quite… attractive… and powerful… from what I gather. A good sidekick for you in your adventures. Who… is she? What… what is she to you?”

Lucca. She’s a descendant of my daughter Erica, who somehow was missed on that fateful night that we met. My daughter in this new age. I wish you had known her. She is every bit the goddess you are.” He paused. “Tell me what happened to you. Please.”

It… It is good that you have found another kindred soul in this world. You’ll… need all the… help you can get. And her no less. That’s good… On that night… I couldn’t help… the others… But I managed… to get one away… before Horace noticed.”

You helped her escape?”

I never told you. I… I feared losing you.”

You wouldn’t have. What happened to you?”

The others… the others said I should… have gone to you sooner. Zane agreed on to help me only on the condition that we go to you. He was right. We needed you. I just… I just wanted to do this… without you knowing… until we had finished it. But I failed… One of my sins… caught up with me. A misdeed of mine… we thought lost to history. She captured me… subjected me… to torture… trying to find you.”

Who?”

Angelica.”

“What? Are you sure? She can’t still be alive.”

Cassandra’s eyes closed as she breathed deep, focusing her energies on suppressing her torment. Marc could sense the pain that she was going through as she related the facts to him.

She is,” Cassandra said. “A monster… from one of the other worlds… calling himself Alu… found her. I think… you and Zane… had some dealings with him… in the past. He trained… and bonded with her… giving her power… and immortality. Coupled with… the formidable witch… she already was… she has become… a powerful sorceress… beyond measure now.”

And they did this to you?”

Yes. I heard rumors… of Alu preparing… to make a move… against you. I wanted to stop them… without your knowing. But they… captured me.”

Can I fight them?”

I think… you can. I started to… put together a team… to help you do just that. They’re all… well trained… and familiar with this story… at least in passing. Most of them you’ve worked with in the past. With them backing you… Angelica should be… no problem. Regardless of what… you decide, Carib will try… to stand against them. He’s a good soul… who just wants… to do what’s right… and make his stand. He’s not… a terribly great warrior… but solid in battle. The thing he… most definitely isn’t… is a leader. I’ve worked… with him on… occasion in the past… and he is quite efficient. He’ll ask for your help. Be careful, her powers are greater than any you have ever known.” She spasmed in pain.

What have they done to you?”

They put within me the ‘Flames Unending.’ It is… slowly burning me away from the within.”

Have you found a witch to counter it?”

Met with several. It’s… too well set in… and this magic… is much too great… for any witch to overtake. Angelica… Alu… they are… much too powerful… for that.” She squeezed his hand and looked in his eyes. “And now… now that we have spoken… I am ready. I am sorry… that I… cannot help you… in the days… to come… but the time… for certain things… has arrived. I only ask two things of you. Forgive her. She is not herself. I could not reach her, but I think you can. Try to save her. Free her from the daemonic influence. That is my last request of you before I move on. Will you help me to do that?”

Of course.”

A sword leaned against the wall. Holding the sword he bent over to kiss her cracked lips.

I forgive you,” he said. “Good-bye, my love. I will always love you.”

Farewell… my beautiful friend,” she said. Her eyes slowly closed, a last sigh of relief escaping her lips. With one swing Marc severed her head from her body, allowing the flame to consume her. She burst into flames, the spell running its full course. He dropped the sword back against the wall and turned to leave. On the counter beside the door were the shattered remnants of a second sword. The shards were black—he recognized it as having been his from when he was a legionnaire. It had been shattered in his battle with the original seven—stained black in their destruction. He glanced at it and then left the room.

Carib and Lucca sat waiting. He faced Lucca first.

You are of my blood in more than one way,” he said. “I’ve loved you as much as I did the children I had two thousand years ago. You’re so beautiful and I’m very proud of you. I was an empty soul when I found you—lost and alone. You gave me a new energy and purpose. I can’t ask you to stay with me for what will happen now. Leave me, go where you’ll be safe.”

She got up stood face to face with him.

Marc,” she said. She shook her head and laughed. “Dad. Where else would I want to be other than with you?” With that she wrapped her arms around his torso, holding him close. “You’re all I’ve ever known, and being with you is the safest place I’ve ever been. If you’re doing to do this, I want to be a part of it and help you. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.” He held her close and looked at Carib.

They’re coming for me,” Marc said. Lucca moved away from him as he spoke to Carib. “I might as well try to get some help against them.”

Thank you,” Carib said. “You’ve already done more than I could’ve asked. I do not believe she would have allowed me to end her suffering without seeing you first—even with her refusals. Despite the history of it, you two did love each other more deeply than any I can recall. Few can make such a claim.”

That’s just how our friend history made us,” Marc replied. “What about these others?”.

There are two others who have agreed to join us. They’re waiting for us in Boston. Come along. We will retrieve your things from the house forthwith. I will tend to things here after we’ve returned to them.”

All around Boston, the sounds of the World Series could be heard. Rather than watch or listen to Game Six of the 1975 World Series—like just about everyone else in the city—Lucca was chasing a daemon known as Kryll through the streets. Having the daemon on the run, she had almost lost him several times. After eight years of training with Marc, he had finally given her an assignment to accomplish for on her own. She was nervous and excited, wanting to impress Marc with her skills. The assignment had been simple: locate and capture the ashy colored daemon known as Kryll. Of otherworldly origins, Kryll was one of the few daemons who had established and maintained a prosperous business in the human world, all without the aid of glamours or charms. He ran a fairly sizeable bookie operation as a cover for various other activities—many of them not having origins in that world—but Marc had neglected to give Lucca a specific reason for tracking down this daemon—only saying to have him by sunrise.

Running around the streets, the timing for their chase could not have been much better. A World Series game—especially a game six with the home team facing elimination—would keep the citizens of Boston busy and unaware of the supernatural goings on. As she hunted, the possibility of Marc being at the game became more of a certainty to her.

He always talks about the Sox, she thought. Even more since they got guys like Rice, Tiant, Lynn, “Pudge” Fisk coming up. Always makes sure we catch them on the radio or television—if we’re lucky. I’d bet he’s perched right up on the Green Monster or above the centerfield bleachers. Let’s me chase down Kryll while he goes to the ballgame. Sounds about right.

Kryll turned right on to Landsdowne. In the course of the chase, Lucca had lost track of time. She guessed it was around one in the morning. They ran along the backside of the Green Monster as a cheer rang out. Looking up, a baseball ricocheted off of the foul pole. In a stroke of luck and chance, the ball glanced straight downward and struck Kryll in the head. Given an opening as the daemon stumbled, Lucca pounced and took him to the ground. Pulling the cuffs from her pocket, she secured his hands behind his back.

Nicely done.”

Turning, she saw Marc walking towards her. In his hands was a baseball. With little concern, he tossed it from hand to hand. He smiled as he walked closer.

Thanks,” she said. “Enjoy the game?”

Fuck yeah,” he replied. He seemed more excited than she remembered ever seeing him. “You should have seen it. Twelfth Inning, Sox down. Pudge Fisk gets up there against Pat Darcy with a half a chance of doing something. He hits this fly ball to leftfield. It looks like it’s going foul. Pudge is just going crazy trying to will it to the right.” He mimiced the ballplayer’s motions while saying this, causing Lucca to laugh. “Everybody’s just thinking ‘Get over! Get over!’ It was fucking amazing. Hits the foul pole to win the game. Gave you a hand, it looks like.”

Remind me to thank him.”

She helped Kryll to his feet as he regained consciousness. Taking a hold of one arm, she waited as Marc went to the other side and took the opposite arm. They hurried away from the soon to be busy streets, moving to meet their contract.

So why was I chasing this guy?” she asked.

Kryll stole some things he really shouldn’t have,” Marc explained. “Stole a load of Dream matter and various other items from the faeries. He used them to manipulate the outcomes of sporting events to score himself a shit ton of money.”

Sporting events? You mean…” She jerked a thumb back towards Fenway.

He was trying to rig it for the Reds to win. Has several million riding on the series—if my sources aren’t mistaken. Doesn’t matter though.”

You mean since we apprehended him?”

And that Pudge just broke the influence of the dream matter. The series is free of its hold. All on them now.”

Wow. Do they actually have a chance?”

I don’t know. Like I said, It’s all on them now.”

You don’t sound optimistic.”

I don’t? Maybe you’re right. The Reds are a real good team this year. There’s a lot on my mind too…”

He gave quick glance back, as though he sensed something behind them. Not seeing anything, he returned his focus to their prisoner. They turned into the alley where their contractor was waiting. Two glowing figures waited for them. They looked like twins, identical androgynous figures in white dresses of shining indifference. With long blonde hair tied back in ponytails, they regarded the two vampires and their captive with a slightly bemused look. The shawls and black dresses they wore concealed most of their lithe and diminutive frames, making them appear even more ethereal to the two vampires.

He is unspoiled?” the one on the right asked.

Yep,” Lucca replied.

They regarded her with a cold glare, as though she were not supposed to speak. Without another word, they handed Marc a briefcase with the payment. He checked it quickly before signaling to Lucca it was time for them to leave. As they walked, he put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. Sighing, the feel of being close to him gave her more comfort than she expected it to.

You did great tonight,” he said. “I’m saying this because there was more of a test here than you know. I didn’t expect you to catch Kryll without some help. He’s skilled at evasion and escape.”

I’ll train harder and learn to do better for the next time,” she said. “I got lucky this time though. Nothing wrong with that, right?”

Sometimes that’s all you can hope for. And I know you’ll do better next time. Regardless, you’ve done great in a lot of ways. Vampires my age don’t sire other vampires often. We’re usually disconnected enough that we think it beneath us and such a creature would be of little benefit. I could cite any number of reasons for turning you. In the end, I guess I was just lonely and I knew it wasn’t your time to leave this world.” He stopped and turned to look at her. “I saw in you my daughter, something I needed and yearned for. Selfish reasons, but you’ve proven yourself to me. You’ve succeeded in ways I could not expect. For one only turned eight years, you have grown far stronger than I could have ever hoped or imagined. It is much more than the training I’ve given you. You are a true visage of death… The point I’ve been rambling to… is that I’m proud of you. Here.” He drew a necklace from his pocket, holding it out for her to see. “This belonged to one of my daughters, so many years ago. Now I give it to you.”

She took the briefcase from him as he put the necklace around her neck. It was a simple necklace, but beautiful and she loved the feel of it against her skin. She smiled and hugged him.

Thanks dad,” she whispered.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: