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This is Ch. 5 in an ongoing story
I’m posting a little faster (than Ch 4)! I’m so, so grateful to everyone who’s given feedback. Truly. Rest assured, no one wants this completed more than me. Ch. 6 is almost drafted and ready for some fantastically brilliant beta readers, Berry the glass simply exploded.
“It was a hex,” Rhea called out.
She heard Bethanny twist the knob of the door to the hallway. Rhea scowled; it was these sorts of lapses in judgment that kept her from initiating.
“Don’t open the door, something’s wrong!” Rhea yelled.
“What do you mean?” Bethanny called back.
Rhea scowled to herself in irritation. “I was hexed!” she yelled, “if it’s still active, your energy might reignite it.” She then noticed three massive shards of glass drive into the wall like daggers. They still quivered with the force that propelled them into the wall. Two shards were side by side the other several inches below. It was an intentional shape, like a narrow triangle that was inverted. The top shards seemed about eye level, the lower one would have punctured her solar plexus.
Rhea hopped over the glass gingerly. When she emerged from the bathroom she saw Bethanny standing in the threshold to the hallway. “Are you sure it’s a hex?” asked Bethanny. Rhea pointed toward the bathroom and said “It’s like the mirror tried to kill me.”
Which meant the caster managed to bypass innumerable layers of protection magick. And knew she was here
This was a hit.
“Wow,” said Bethanny.
“Yeah. Wow.” replied Rhea as she stalked over to her bag and retrieved a small satchel. She pulled out a small handful of black powder that smelled faintly of herbs and burning wood. She whispered into her cupped handful and dark gray smoke began to rise from the fine powder and filled the room with the smell of burning ash. She threw the powder across the shattered glass and some at the mirror frame for good measure. The powder began to dissolve in hissing, popping snaps. Then, with a loud crack, the 3 daggers of glass fell to the ground.
“Is that black salt?” asked Bethanny.
Rhea nodded. Most witches used some form of black salt to eliminate hostile energy, but necromancers salt was particularly effective. “Can I have some?” Bethanny asked. Rhea looked at her with a raised brow and said, “You need to initiate as a witch first. Then we’ll teach you how to use it.”
Bethanny’s curled her lip in response. She said “The smell is really strong. It’s gonna stink up the hallway and I’m gonna get shit for it.” She walked towards the bathroom. Rhea shook her head. Though Bethanny struggled with discipline, the woman damn well knew the rules.
“Why would someone hex you?” asked Bethanny, from the bathroom. She slid the window open. Some of the glass crunched under her slippers.
Rhea considered chastising her for standing on the glass but was too fatigued by worry to bother. Maybe consequences might finally get Bethanny to think– though the hex looked deactivated, whoever did this managed to overcome protection magick Rhea had thought was impenetrable. She began to gather her belongings and said “I think I should leave. You’ll need to sweep that glass with a ritual broom into a paper bag. Burn the bag in the firepit then scrub your whole body and wash the clothes you wore.”
“What do you mean?” asked Bethanny.
“Whoever did this is targeting me. If I stay here, you’re in danger,” answered Rhea
Bethanny pursed her lips, “But where will you go?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” lied Rhea. The less she knew of Rhea’s whereabouts, the safer she would be. The safer they would all be. There was a cafe nearby and the crowded energy would shield her for a while. It would give her time to think.
“Do you think it was the vampire who did this?” asked Bethanny
“Probably not,” said Rhea. She didn’t know for certain what magick Lucy was capable of but knew she wasn’t capable of this.
“But wouldn’t she be the first suspect?” asked Bethanny. “She knows where the enclave is.”
“She doesn’t” answered Rhea. “You said not to bring her here.”
“Oh,” said Bethanny.
“Lucy wants to figure this out just as much as I do,” said Rhea. “Whatever killed the witch also poisoned a vampire. And if she wanted to take the body, she wouldn’t have needed all that spectacle.” Bethanny made a tight sound in her throat. Rhea looked up and saw Bethanny’s eyes, large and a bit bulging, now bright red with tears.
“I’m sorry,” said Rhea, “did you know her?”
Bethanny nodded. “Yeah, I knew her. Janice.”
Rhea realized she hadn’t thought to learn the dead witch’s name. Janice, who was still trapped between worlds. Rhea grabbed her bag and turned towards the door when a thought struck her.
“The flies,” she said urgently. She dropped her bag and turned towards london escorts the bathroom. “Bethanny,” she said, “when you clean the glass, make sure you get the dead flies.”
But when she got to the bathroom, the window sill was bare.
“There’s no flies in here,” said Bethanny.
Rhea tilted her head “I must be remembering wrong.”
The rain had resumed by the time Rhea had reached the coffee shop. Her mind still raced and she didn’t have the wherewithal to scan the menu so she ordered the house special written on a blackboard in thick chalk lines: horchata with 2 shots of espresso. She managed to find a table and sat to collect her thoughts.
She couldn’t retreat to the island; it was too dangerous if the caster found her again. She sighed and pressed her middle finger hard into her temple, abating the blooming tension headache somewhat. Fear and cold sweat now weakened her resolve to keep this from the others to keep them safe. She thought of the dead witch– Janice. And unknown souls that might join her if Rhea failed. She looked at her phone for a few long moments.
Are you up? texted Rhea
Her phone buzzed and a text followed:That’s a loaded phrase these days, darling.
Something’s happened. Can you talk?
Lucy (vampire) surfaced across her screen.
She knocked lightly on Lucy’s door and was answered by footsteps. “Rhea?” called out Lucy.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Rhea managed.
There was no natural light in the hallway. Lucy swung the door open. Rhea walked inside and tried to take a deep breath as she heard the lock slide into place; her lungs felt tight. Lucy placed a hand on each of Rhea’s shoulders and squeezed gently. “Is necromancer business always like this?” she asked. “I thought your lot were the boring ones.” Her voice was tender.
The tight muscles relaxed somewhat under Lucy’s hands and Rhea found her focus wholly eclipsed by the sensation. It was a moment of merciful oblivion beyond the place of devouring dread.
“Non-stop thrills,” she said, with as much brightness as she could muster and turned around to face the vampire. Saying nothing, Lucy pulled Rhea into her arms. Rhea broke. She tried to bring her hands to her eyes to block hot tears from absorbing into the soft silk of Lucy’s shirt.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped.
Lucy held her, still warm from yesterday’s feed, and said “It’s ok.” She ran her palm down Rhea’s back but Rhea pulled away.
“I don’t– I don’t think it is,” she said. She removed her jacket and draped it over her rolling suitcase. “We have nothing and someone was able to get to me. At an enclave.” A spike of fear blurred her vision and she allowed her eyes to rest on a massive painting to steady herself. It was mounted on the wall above Lucy’s bed.
Lucy picked up Rhea’s jacket and hung it on a wall hook. “We don’t havenothing,” she said. “I’ve been translating the book and I reached the vampire I got it from. And he told me more about the auction.”
Rhea looked back at Lucy who said, “He didn’t know much,– he really didn’t care about cultivating The Gift, you’ll recall. But the auction was highly secretive.”
Rhea listened but looked back to the mounted canvas. It was dominated by the curious image of a feminine body, a dark silhouette of harsh and efficient lines against the cream background. The figure squat, knees open like the wings of a butterfly and arms were high. The dark figure stared at it’s own shadow stretched before it, illuminated by a simple circle of a moon.
“A bit embarrassing, I’ll admit, that I wasn’t in the know,” Lucy continued. “Underground objects of magickal origin and all. And the price point! The human rival spent millions for that book.” Lucy’s face was washed in the gentle ambient light of the room.
“So we don’t know where the book came from?” asked Rhea.
“Not yet,” answered Lucy, “but I discovered the broker; a vampire named Afonso Braga.”
“Do you know him?” asked Rhea.
“Oh, yes,” said Lucy. “I know Braga. Anybody, human or otherwise, who deals in magickal goods eventually crosses paths with Braga. He’s old, far older than any California vampire. He’s controlled the market for generations now.” Lucy’s voice felt far away.
“Is he dangerous?” asked Rhea.
“Yes,” said Lucy. Her face seemed to grow stern.
“Worse than Kyle?” responded Rhea.
Lucy considered her words carefully, “Both are dangerous. Kyle, despite the bloody trail of bodies he leaves behind, is more bombastic than anything. Remember: he’s the one who organized his vampires to work with necromancers. He didn’t do all that out of love for witches. Technology has made humans very traceable. And Kyle, for all his faults, saw this london escort coming. Should the wrong human turn up dead, it brings the wrong kind of attention these days. The serum eliminates the issue entirely and which allows him to focus on his preferred activities.”
“Debauchery?” Rhea asked.
“Debauchery plus the necessary assets to fund it,” said Lucy. “And his reputation. Debauchery demands allies, after all. Braga has different motives.”
Rhea moved to the couch and watched Lucy as she spoke.
The vampire laid across her bed. “Braga,” said Lucy, “likes power. And control.”
“How do you know him?” asked Rhea.
“I used to work for him, here and there,” said Lucy. “Because I study magick I could handle cursed objects better than the others. I’m not welcome company these days, not since I stopped working for him. “
Rhea was quiet for a moment, then asked, “Are you scared of him?”
Lucy sat upwards and rested on an elbow. “He’s strong. Sadistic, and creatively so. But when he feels crossed in business– cruelty unchained. He loves blood. Eating it. Splattering it on the wall. Pouring down over him as humans hung from the ceiling bleed out over the crazed carnality of his inner circle.”
Rhea shuddered. “And he’s the only one who can tell us where that book came from?”
Lucy laid on her back. “I think so,” she said with a heavy exhale.
“Is there a way to get ahold of him?” asked Rhea.
“Possibly,” answered the vampire as she pulled out her phone. She stared at it, motionless for a few moments, and said “I should also mention he’s very interested in your operation on the island.”
“What do you mean?”asked Rhea. Her jaw clenched.
“Those skin care products. Braga feels entitled, I guess, to a share of the profit. Him being both a vampire and powerful broker of bewitched goods and all.” She rolled on her side and looked at Rhea. “If, and I mean if, he will speak to me, he’ll start to wonder why. And it won’t take him long to figure out Kyle reached out to the necromancers. And then Braga will be curious.”
Anger surged within Rhea, but she didn’t doubt Lucy. But no matter how strong the vampire was, he wouldn’t be stronger than the coven. “I don’t think we have a choice,” replied Rhea.
Lucy nodded but didn’t look at her. “I’ll text Kyle, see if he knows what Braga is up to these days.” Her phone rang a few moments after she sent the text. “It’s Kyle,” she said, surprised. In one graceful movement Lucy was up and speaking. Rhea pulled out her phone and searched for updates on the stolen body but found no new information. She heard Lucy end the call.
“Interesting…” she said and sat beside Rhea. “Braga rarely leaves his home in Portugal these days. Yet, he’s making a sudden trip. To this very city in fact. He arrives the same day we’ll get back from the mountain.”
“You think he’s involved?” asked Rhea.
Lucy nodded. “The book he auctioned describes the magick that holds your Janice. That book, and other works by that same witch-priest, were auctioned off just before the vampire and his human girlfriend turned up dead.”
Rhea’s eyes opened wide in horror, “So, how many copies could be out there?”
“In good news,” explained Lucy, “everything he sold at that auction seems to be useless. My vampire client said Braga got a lot of wealthy, power-hungry buyers excited with stories about ancient magick hidden in tomes. But the book I have is a lot of errant notes and reflections. Certainly nothing substantial. And, after some prodding, it turns out there are multiple disgruntled buyers.”
Lucy watched Rhea carefully. “If Braga has the key to a mysterious magick, he’s keeping it to himself. For now. Kyle thinks he’ll agree to meet with you. Now he wouldn’t agree to that without a hidden motive. The bigger problem is,” the vampire continued, “I’m still not welcome.”
“So I’d have to go alone,” said Rhea.
“Let’s keep that as the last option,” said Lucy
“Why?” asked Rhea. She could feel irritation stirring within her.
“Because Braga isdifferent,” said Lucy. “The vampires you know are young– turned for 40, 50 years at best. Braga is from a different world.”
Rhea gave Lucy a hard look. “I want to meet with him, if that’s what it takes. And if he won’t tell what he knows, I’ll do what I did to your brother and force him to his knees.”
Lucy smiled, the delight reaching her eyes. “Please don’t do that,” she said. “While I enjoy your conviction, if you use any necromancer magick on him, you’ll have to kill him. He still believes I’ve transgressed against him. So we need to be cautious.”
“Well, he’s in for a surprise, I can tell you that right now.” said Rhea, who resisted squirming as Lucy looked at her with keen, heavy eyes. Rhea’s blood ran hot just under the surface of london escort agency her skin.
“I want to believe you.” said Lucy with a smile.
Rhea flared her brows at the vampire. “I’m the witch you’re all scared of, remember,” she said.
“I’m not scared of you,” Lucy grumbled.
“But that’s what you said!” responded Rhea, playful. “And I remember, at the full moon ritual– after I took Patrick down you were all ‘Don’t use it on me,” Rhea lowered her voice to mimic the vampire’s grave timbre. The vampire smiled. “You were trying to look tough in the fancy leather jacket,” added Rhea.
Lucy leaned into the back of the couch and rested her chin on her hand. “Your power don’t scare us, they make us angry,” said Lucy, eyes unwavering.
“Angry that you’re scared,” retorted Rhea.
Lucy laughed. “Well, if you do end up using that neat trick on Braga,” she warned, “be prepared to kill him.” Then she asked “Do you know how to kill a vampire?”
“Stab them through the heart, chop off the head,” answered Rhea.
“Have you ever tried it?” asked Lucy
“Have I ever tried to kill a vampire?” asked Rhea, incredulous. “No. I can’t say that I have.”
“So let’s practice,” said Lucy, as she popped to her feet. “Just in case.” She gestured for Rhea to follow. Rhea rose and took a few hesitant steps after her. When the vampire reached her desk, she pulled open a drawer to reveal 3 sheathed bowie knives. “I don’t want it to come to this,” said Lucy. “But Braga won’t hesitate to kill you.”
Lucy grabbed a bowie knife, still in its sheath, and handed it to Rhea. “Stand a few yards that way,” said Lucy and pointed towards a column in the middle of the room. Rhea stood there and fingered the leather strap that held the sheath in place. She released the button fastener and pulled the knife out. The blade was so sharp it made a quiet ringing sound in the open air. The wooden handle was intricately painted with roses and lilies.
“Glad it fascinates you, darling but let’s put it away. This is pretend, remember?” Lucy called.
Rhea slid the blade carefully back into its pouch. When she looked up, Lucy was towering over her, having closed the distance between them in one silent instant. Rhea gasped. Lucy smirked and paced bouncily back to her original position. She called over her shoulder “Braga won’t warn you he’s coming.” Rhea gripped the blade and raised it level with her head but Lucy was again before her and now gripped her wrist.
“You’ve seen too many slashers,” said Lucy, nonplussed. “See, now all your vitals are vulnerable.”
Rhea tried to pull back but Lucy’s grip was strong. There was scant distance between them as Lucy’s hand held Rhea’s wrist just above her head. Rhea heard herself breathing. Gently, Lucy drew Rhea’s wrist down in front of her chest. “I enjoy the flair of stabbing like in a Hitchcock movie,” said the vampire. She rotated the knife in Rhea’s hand, “but if you hold it this way, your strike will be more accurate.”
She guided Rhea’s wrist forward until the sheathed blade pressed into the middle-left of her chest. “You’ll have one chance to aim here and drive the knife forward as hard as you can,” said Lucy. Rhea tried to push but her arm wobbled. “Not like you’re trying to push an elevator button,” said Lucy, “give it everything you’ve got.”
With an inhale, Rhea pulled her arm back and drove the knife into Lucy’s chest with as much force as she could muster. It was like stabbing a cement pillar.
“Good,” said Lucy, “like that. Try again.” Rhea sent the blade forward and rammed it into the vampire’s chest with a thud.
“Very good,” said Lucy as she looked into Rhea’s eyes and rubbed her chest as if it were tender. Then, “Again.”
Rhea sent the blade forward but this time it didn’t connect. Lucy stood a few centimeters just out of range. “You have to be fast.” said Lucy. Rhea tried to lunge but the room around her seemed to stretch around her, as if Lucy’s magick could bend time distort her senses just to keep out of range.
“That was a trick,” said Lucy, as Rhea steadied herself. “You won’t be faster than a vampire. Let him come to you.”
Lucy shot forward and, on instinct, Rhea lifted the blade level with Lucy’s heart with a millimeter of distance from the point. “Good,” said Lucy, more heartily this time. She took a few steps back and lunged again. This time, she darted to the side at an impossible speed and grabbed Rhea’s arm from behind. “Don’t hesitate,” she whispered. Rhea tried to turn but Lucy grabbed Rhea’s other arm and held her. Rhea gasped as her back collided with the vampire’s chest.
“Too slow,” Lucy said. “And now both sides of your neck are exposed.” Rhea’s heart pounded.
Lucy released her arms and stepped back in front of her. “Let’s try again.”
The vampire shot forward. This time, Rhea pointed the knife in front of her. “Stop,” she intoned, the powers of the ages flowing through the entirety of her body, though the tip of the blade. All motion was sucked from the vampire in an instant, leaving her frozen in place.
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