Chapter Two

They drove into Boston later that night, Marc silently reflecting over what Cassandra had said to him. He and Lucca usually packed light, so it took little time for them to pack. He wished he could have saved her, that his anger towards her had not been as steadfast and had not prevented him from being by her side when she was captured by Alu and Angelica. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he convinced himself that he could have saved her.

From the seat beside him, Lucca could see the pain on her father’s face. It made her sad to see him in anguish. She reached over and rubbed his shoulder.

You alright?” she asked.

I think I will be,” he said. He smiled at her. “When I said you shouldn’t stay with me, it wasn’t because I didn’t think you could handle being here.”

I know.” She unbuckled and wrapped her arms around him. “I know you just want to protect me. Tell me about her. Cassandra, I mean. You only really have mentioned her in passing. She was very important to you and I’d like to know more about her.”

Taking a deep breath, Marc thought for a long moment.

She had a hard life,” he began. “She was born in Greece, sold into slavery at a young age. She was often sold from house to house, a very valuable. Eventually she ended up serving an advisor to a Pharaoh and fell in love with her master. So much so that she threw herself to share his fate at his damning. I wonder sometimes about why she did that. Was it really for him? Or was it so she wouldn’t have live with the knowledge of being a slave? I don’t know. When I met her, she was very tired, but very beautiful. In the years after the death of my family, she comforted me. She was patient, offering me her life every night. I could never take it.”

Did you love her?” Lucca asked.

Deeply. I was actually the one to teach her to read. She loved to read. As I reached my peace with the past, I lost myself to her. We lost ourselves in each other. All plans much come to an end eventually.”

What happened with her?”

Ask me again some time. Right now, we have other things to worry about.”

They went to a house in the south district of Boston. From the outside the house was falling apart. Lucca withheld her comments as they went inside. When they entered, Carib guided them to the back with the kitchen. They saw two beings sitting at a kitchen table playing poker. On one side sat a tall, slender looking man, with long black hair tied back in a ponytail. He had large, pointed ears that twitched seemingly at random, with an angular face that matched the ears perfectly. He wore a black suit, looking the most formal of the group. He gazed intently at the cards as they walked into the room. From her training, study, and adventures, Lucca recognized the tall and slender one as an elf, one of the many races known to cross over into their world. She could clearly sense the magic permeating his form as he played the game. He had strong powers tied to the earth, the Gaia as the elves were known to call it.

Marc recognized the elf. “Hello Zane,” he said. “It’s been a while. Too long since we last teamed up.”

Yes it has,” the elf replied. His voice was smooth and elegant, an arrogance to it. Lucca thought it sounded very seductive as he spoke. “I can’t believe it’s been over two hundred years since we last spoke. It’s been weird not having you to get me in trouble all the time. I’m sorry about Cassandra. I was late for our rendezvous when she got captured. Tried to get her out, but it was too late. That was some powerful stuff they did and there was nothing I could do to help her. Glad you’re going to be helping us though. I always thought you were the man.” Marc solemnly nodded. Then the elf saw Lucca. “Who’s this one with you?”

Lucca,” Marc replied. She shyly waved at the elf. The general tone of the room made her nervous, feeling like a child. She had not worked with elves or daemons or whatever the last being was on a regular basis and was uncomfortable in their presence. She could sense their age, nobility and regal nature—each comparing well her father. For the most part, Marc had kept her having regular associates from this world and face its own set of oddities in the hope of not overwhelming her. “My daughter.”

Marc turned to the other being sitting at the table. The creature was huge, close to seven feet tall and well bulked beneath the heavy tan robes. His skin was an ashy red in the dim light of the house. His face seemed carved out of stone, a rigid and solid looking structure to his features. He had short black hair around his head. what looked like great sheets of leather, but actually were wings, were draped over his bare shoulders.

Hello Lark,” Marc said. He turned to Carib. “Well we got two vampires, a daemon, an elf and a faerie. We going to get a human to join us, or is this exclusive to immortal races?”

Wait,” Lucca interrupted. She pointed at Lark. “That’s a faerie?” She tried not to laugh. Her previous experiences with faeries involved ones that looked nothing like him. Marc had taught her about the faerie race and the dream folk, but they tended to stick to themselves and remain isolated.

Yes I am a faerie,” Lark responded with gruff tones. He smiled a knowing smile at the young vampire. “One of the rarer breed in the Dream actually. You can laugh if you want. Hollywood has had too much say in what a faerie actually looks like. They limit it to the pixie and ignore the other breeds. Believe this though, there is really nothing small about some of the faerie.”

Enough,” Marc said. With the exception of Lucca, they had all heard Lark make this speech about the nature of the faerie races and knew how he ended it. They decided she was better off not hearing it. “Although we only really had that one bit of business together in Texas, it is good to see you again. How are things on the Dream?”

About the same as ever,” the faerie said. “Some unsettling events recently, but nothing of great import. I am pleased that we are working together again as well. You were most impressive during our dealings in Texas. Have you looked in on the girl recently?”

No, I have not. After I deposited her with the doctor, I figured it would best for me to stay clear of her. I hope she is well.”

As well as can be expected. Enough pleasantries though. We’re here for a job, are we not?”

They all turned to Carib. Clearing his throat, he started to explain the plan he had devised.

We are planning to go on the offensive against Angelica,” he began. “Not directly, just engaging against her interests. That seems like the most logical course of action at this juncture. If we are to confront her head on, I would prefer it be on our terms—at a moment that is better for us. It is obvious she wants something here in Boston, as we have seen an increased number of those we have confirmed were her operatives moving around the area. Whatever it is, we have to get to it first. She has hired the vampire known as Argyle to do some business for her here. He will arrive tomorrow.”

So what are we going to do?” Marc asked. He frowned at the name Argyle. He had too many dealings with Argyle in the past, and it did not bode well.

Two of us will try to apprehend him tonight,” Carib said. “But if we do not capture him then, Lark will follow him to see where he goes. If he can lead us to Angelica and Alu, then we have succeeded. But if he is leading you in circles, take him. Feel free to make it rough. I know most of us have had dealings with him and we would greatly appreciate taking a few shots at him, but we need him in one piece for the time being. So hold back on making him dust until it is absolutely necessary.”

Where will he be?” Zane asked.

My contact indicate he will be at the train station at the Fleetcenter,” the silver daemon said. “He is going to settle a grudge he has against a Hunter before doing Angelica’s assignment. Someone named Baker, I’m told.”

Marc smiled, detecting Lucca’s reaction. The confluence of old friends and comrades gathering in Boston boded well for him, a feeling of fate giving him a decent hand to work with. Lucca’s annoyance at the mention of the Hunter made Marc smirk a bit more. The tone of things was beginning to feel familial to him.

This sounds good,” he said. “Lucca and Zane will go after Argyle. Like Carib said, feel free to go rough on him. I doubt they would send Argyle to the station without watching him though. He’s a moron. Been around forever, but still an idiot. And since his brother was killed, he’s been increasingly unstable. I’ll see what I can see there, see who else is involved in this. Like Carib said, Lark should stay in reserve in case he’s needed to follow Argyle by air.” Then he turned to Carib. “I think there’s something we don’t know yet, Carib. Something we need to know. I’ve been out of touch for the last few years, so I’m not sure how reliable my contacts are right now. I’m too out of the loop. Check with your informants again, see what they know.”

Sure,” the daemon said.

One more thing,” Marc pointed out. They all looked at him. “A name. A fellowship such as ours, we should give it a fitting name.”

Carib nodded as he considered, the others mulling it as well. With a smile, Marc looked to Lucca.

What do you think we should call ourselves?” he asked.

Just about everything that sounds cool has been taken,” she replied. “I’d hate to rip somebody off.”

She does raise a valid point,” Zane added.

I suppose she does,” Marc replied. He looked to Lucca. “Still, what would you suggest?”

Lucca looked up at the ceiling and smiled.

Challengers of the Shadow,” she whispered.

The others smiled as they repeated it, letting themselves get used to the sound.

I like it,” Marc said. He kissed Lucca on the forehead. “I knew you’d come up with something good.”

They all prepared for their upcoming activities as dawn came and the day passed.

Sunset arrived and they were ready for action. Just before they were about to leave, Marc stopped Zane and Lucca. She had dressed in her special combat gear—a tight black armor suit that would turn back most weapons, black boots, and a jacket over it. Zane, for his part, merely wore a fresh black suit. His clinging to a certain level of charm and dignity was apparent.

Ask the Hunter to join us,” he said.

Why?” Zane asked.

The Hunters have a vast network of resources at their disposal. A few of them even legal. We can use them. It would be good to have some additional outlets to help us out. And we’re going to need all the help we can get.”

That doesn’t seem like a good idea,” Lucca said. “He’s a Hunter and he’s alone. We can’t trust him.”

We can and we will,” Marc said. He looked her in the eye. “If you try anything stupid—like killing him—I will be greatly disappointed.”

The parade outside played loudly as Marc sat in the tiny restaurant, planning out his night. Mardi Gras was in full swing as he flipped through the tour book. Lucca had gone off to South America while he was spending some time in New Orleans. Rumor had spread of a werewolf going on rampages in several small villages—somewhere in Venezuela—and she could not resist the chance to go investigate. With a shrug and a smile, he allowed her to go on her own. Nervous as he was, she was his child and he could not deny her. The years of training and practice gave him confidence that she would be able to handle things on her own.

Meanwhile, Marc was going to spend some time in the Big Easy with the general climate that had been established due to the Anne Rice’s novels. The emergence of New Orleans as a good place for vampires was quick and unsurprising—many liked to haunt it already—and he figured he should at least experience it before dismissing it as a popular culture waste of time. He had been planning to stroll about the city and take in the sights—possible get a bite to drink—when the faerie called to him. A faerie’s call was something hard to ignore—it usually overwhelmed the recipient’s mind. Curious, Marc proceeded to the bar where the faerie wanted to meet him, his long jacket billowing behind him. He sat at the table with the large crimson creature dressed in tanned and heavy looking robes.

Greetings Marc,” the faerie said. “It is truly an honor to meet you.”

I’m sure I will say the same before we’re done,” Marc said. “But you have me at a disadvantage. What are you called?”

I am called Lark, a guardian of dreams.”

I’ve heard of you. I think we met briefly when I toured the Dream. You’re the one who trains the Dreamwalkers. The permission of your people is rather questionable in that regard—if I’m informed correctly.”

Sounds like you are. You aren’t called the “great detective vampire” for nothing I see. Clearly our meeting in the past was all too brief. Your reputation precedes you as well.”

What do you need my help for?”

There is a cult in Texas. They have learned some spells and rites of the Dream and believe they can control it for their purposes. My people—regardless of how they approve or disapprove of my involvement in certain matters—understand and know all too well that this is not something to be left unmarked. I come to you for assistance in ‘handling’ this matter with extreme prejudice.”

This basically an extermination mission?”

More or less.”

Define more or less.”

Lark sighed as he considered the implications of telling Marc the rest. It was a bit of a personal matter for him, and he rather leave the vampire in the dark if he could. But trust was important too.

They have taken a child prisoner,” he explained. “A newborn infant, barely a week old. Somehow they have come to the belief that she will be some kind of messiah for them, and are going to anoint her as such. Her mother once was a student of mine—until she was deceived by the cult. She died in childbirth, her child taken from her. Before she passed, she told me about this, making me promise to save her child.”

Alright,” Marc replied. “Crazed cults? Infants in danger? That sounds like my kind of fight. I’m in. When do we leave?”

I have a witch ready to teleport us the second you are ready. She’s right over there.”

Let’s go then.”

They went over to the witch and spoke to her, and she led them to a back room where she was going to cast the teleportation spell. Having the vampire and faerie standing side by side, she began the process of folding space and time that would send them to Texas. With a flash of light, they stood in front of the small church in Texas.

They could hear loud chanting from within the tiny country church—in a language that Marc did not recognize. Marc looked to the faerie to get a read of the situation.

They are using one of the ancient languages,” Lark hissed. His anger was apparent as he spoke. “A language my people only use for the most sacred of purposes. No outsider should hear it, much less know it. Their blasphemies must be put to a stop.”

Let’s take them,” Marc said. He reached into his jacket, drawing out the two collapsible swords and snapping them out to their full length.

On my signal,” Lark said.

The vampire nodded as Lark jumped up and glided to the roof of the church. Crawling along the roof, the faerie listened closely to the voices beneath him. His plan was to wait for the moment where the child would be in the least danger and strike then. As he listened, he could hear a single voice speaking. A male voice, he recognized it as the leader of the cult—the child’s father. The speech paused momentarily as the speaker caught his breath. It began again, this time in a different language. Shifting from one language to another was a common practice in faerie spells, a simple trick to keep other races from using them. Lark grimaced as he recognized the language—one of the most sacred known to the faerie folk. Most faeries did not even know it. One that no human should know, much less be able to speak. There was no choice left. He signaled for Marc to move in.

The vampire moved in as Lark slammed a fist down into the roof. The shingles shattered in waves around him, the roof caving and dropping the chapel below. The people took cover as Lark landed behind the altar.

They looked on him in fear—a nightmare come to life. As he rose to his full height, Lark surveyed the gathering before him. He was positioned on a dais, just behind the altar with the platform giving him more height to loom over with. Before him were a full set of pews, people staring up at him. They were mostly young people, easily seduced by the promises that the cult leaders made. The faerie set his jaw and clenched a fist. Their leader had been covering a cradle just in front of the altar, coming to his senses as his followers were starting to draw out weapons. He raised his arms to calm the people.

Stay calm!” he shouted. “Stay calm! Do not be afraid! We are safe. This is a creature of the Dream. He is here to help and protect us. He is the champion of our cause!”

I’m a champion of something alright,” Lark growled. “Not for you losers though. Not by a long shot.”

At that moment, Marc kicked open the door, blades raised and ready for a fight. The people in the pews raised up their weapons and opened fire on the vampire and the faerie. With the altar for cover, Lark ducked out of sight and waited. They stopped firing and waited for the smoke to clear. Marc’s mangled body was laid out on the floor, riddled with bleeding bullet wounds.

One of the cultists—a burley and strong man dressed in plaid and overalls—left his seat to check the body. He poked at Marc’s head with his rifle before check for a pulse.

Looks dead,” he said.

Marc’s left hand grabbed a hold of the man’s wrist, pulling him down. He looked at the vampire’s face, seeing the eyes shoot open.

Yeah,” Marc hissed. “I’m dead alright.”

Grabbing a hold of the man’s collar and pulling down, Marc sank his teeth into his victim’s neck. The crowd was paralyzed in shock their enemy took the blood he needed to heal, draining their compatriot with ease.

Satiated, Marc threw the now drained body down the aisle. On his feet, the mesmerization of the cult wore off and they started to raise their weapons again. Without hesitation, he kicked he pew to his right, knocking it forward in to the next one. Three or four pews were displaced by the quick action, throwing off the cultists in their reloading and aiming. Not really seeing it as much of fight, Marc proceeded to rapidly slice through them without much concern or conscious thought—not using any finesse or actual technique as he cut through the group in front of him.

Dream Atihsa.”

The fingers barely touched the back of Marc’s neck, but that was all that was needed. His eyes rolled up and his mouth dropped to a drooling gape. A second later he spun and fell to the floor.

His mind drifted back—shifting to strange, long ago ages. As his perspective settled in, Marc looked down as he was dressed in his legionnaire uniform and armor. The wind blew against his bare legs as a cool breeze rose up. He stood outside a Roman villa, a light-haired woman in a purple dress calling to him. Her hair was decorated with laurels as she gave a bright and impish smile at him.

Druscilla?” he asked.

Of course, my love,” she replied. The soft lyrics of her voice were calming as she spoke. “Who else would it be? I’ve been waiting for your return all these long months. Are you alright? You look a bit confused.”

I think I am. Something doesn’t feel right. Like I’m not really here.”

Of course you’re here.” She moved to him, unlatching and removing the chest plate to reveal his red tunic. Running a hand across his chest, she rested her head against his shoulder. “You do have that look on your face though.”

What look?”

Like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders. Maybe I can that off for awhile.”

Marc nodded, but noticed the air around them getting fuzzier and less defined. Druscilla noticed it too and huddled up closer against him.

What’s happening Marcus?” she asked.

Before he could reply, she turned to dust. He clutched at the drifting particles and the world around them broke down to black.

Marc?”

His eyes blinked open to Lark kneeling over him, a large hand resting on his shoulder. Regaining his bearings, Marc looked around at the carnage around him. The faerie had been violent in his work, killing nearly all the cultists with his bare hands. Body parts and broken pews were scattered around the room, blood accentuating and emphasizing the death—a few victims wailing in agony for their last moments of life. On many levels, Marc was surprised and impressed.

You alright?” Lark asked.

What happened?” Marc asked.

He tried to trap you in your dreams. You were lucky he doesn’t have much control over his abilities, and did not manage to bury you very deep.”

Yeah.”

Waaaahhh!”

The cry of the infant caught their attention, drawing a look to the cradle by the altar before they moved. Inside was a tiny, crying infant, wrapped in a green blanket.

Doesn’t look she’s been hit,” Marc said. “I think she’s fine.”

Excellent,” Lark replied. He held up a folded piece of paper out to Marc. “Take her to the address on this piece of paper. There’s a doctor there that will take her in for the time being. He will take care of her until further arrangements can be made.”

Marc took the paper and gave it a quick glance. He picked up the child and smiled at her, tickling her as she rested in his arms. Her crying slowed to giggles as played with her. The vampire smiled as she settled down.

Are you performing glamours?” Lark asked.

Once upon a time I had four children,” the vampire replied. “That was a long time ago, but the things you learn in that are not something you really forget that easily. Calming an infant is an art I had nearly mastered after four daughters. What’s her name?”

Jane. Jane Gable. You okay taking her to the doctor?”

Should be. What about you?”

The faerie pointed to the wall. Slouched against the wall was the cult leader, groggily groaning on the edge of consciousness.

He has learned secrets of the Dream that only my kind should know,” Lark explained. “There is… work to be done here. Work an infant should be spirited away from.”

Nodding, Marc held the baby to his chest and left Lark to do his work in the church. The tiny girl gurgled gently in his arms as he moved down the empty street towards the doctor’s home. Most people are unaware of the residue that experiences can leave on a person—even if they do not comprehend them. After what she had been through, the girl was heavily saturated in negative energies. Such an amount would overwhelm her at an early age if something was not done to alleviate the pressure. Closing his eyes, he held baby Jane close, kissing her forehead. He instantly felt heavier as he took on the burden. The baby giggled happily. With a satisfied and content smile, he continued towards the doctor’s house.

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