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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Flash Fiction: The Darkest Dawn

Chapter 18

It had taken about 10 minutes before the paramedics had shown up. After discovering Quint nailed to the wall, I had dashed upstairs and grabbed Bella. Despite her weakened state, she had gamely pitched in and channeled enough of our own life energy to keep him stabilized until the EMT’s could get here. Quint had fallen unconscious after his revelation and had now lapsed into a coma.

The cops had tried bucking me for details but I flashed them my ID and my pointed pearly whites and they took the hint. Most cops and feds knew about my kind and my jurisdiction and steered clear of us. The less they knew the better they felt. Besides this was my fucking case and if I wasn’t pissed off enough before, I was really fucking pissed off now. I had called the emergency number that Father Malkin had given me originally in case of a shit storm and Vatican officials had assured me that re-enforcements would be there in the morning. That would mean Users and healing for both Quint and Bella.

I looked towards the moon and figured I had about an hour before True Dawn. I forced Bella onto the ambulance with Quint, under the pretense of her keeping an eye on him until his people showed up, but really so she could get treatment for her wounds. I told her I’d meet her at the hospital at False Dawn, when the Vatican guys had showed up. I needed some time to think. I watched Bella in the ambulances rear window as it pulled away and flashed her a quick smile and nod. Then I told the cops to be on their toes as they escorted the ambulance back to the hospital.

Quint’s revelation that Tristan had been a part of the conspiracy both left me confused and made a lot of sense. Only someone with his kind of inside knowledge could provide these guys with the materials and means necessary to lead an attack like this. While he may not have the skills to make a charm like my rosary to allow passage, he had access to the spells and the means necessary to grant others the abilities to do so.

The kicker was that Tristan was a small fucking fish in the scheme of things. While I always knew that he was an asshole, there was no way that he had access to the resources or the skills that tonight had proven. If he was a conduit for another User, I would have detected it with my Second Sight any residual magic coursing through him. Even on the outside that he wasn’t a conduit or that they never channeled through him in accordance to when I was around, Quint or I would have detected that level of magic in him. That and the Vatican authorities kept pretty close observation on these guys, if he was rolling in that kind of money to outsource this shit, they would have caught it.

No, there was some bigger fucking fish here and Tristan was just a worm. A worm that I owed a fucking beating on, but a worm none the less. That would have to wait though, first things first I would need to find some answers and there wasn’t enough time in the day left to do what needed to be done. To get those answers I needed to figure out the question and how this all linked up.

I reached into my pocket and fished out my smokes, flicking my lighter and lighting up. Damn this shit felt good. Nothing like a smoke after watching your two best friends get the fuck kicked out of them eh? Then I thumbed open my cell. I needed to make two calls. First I called Gear over at Vickers and asked him to send some muscle over to the hospital and watch Bella and Quint. I wasn’t underestimating these guys again. Bella was a big girl and could watch herself, but I knew she could use the backup. I left Quint alone once before, I wasn’t fucking up again. I didn’t think they would go after Quint again, not after getting what they wanted in the form of Sera, but fuck all I wasn’t taking the risk. After Gear assured me that he would head over himself with a few of his boys, I thanked him and made my second call, a cab. I needed to go somewhere to get some answers, and for the second time tonight, I was gonna show up someplace I hadn’t been in years and may not be welcomed at. Dear old Dad’s.

I think I mentioned my Pop was an Ancient. One of the elder vampires in the city and as such he had a lot of influence in Santa Diego. He was one of the first of his kind to settle in the town, back when it had been a minor coastal stop between the lumber and mining towns that dotted the countryside. Over the years he had evolved along with the city and now owned several posh blocks in the urban downtown shopping centers. Honestly, if the Norms ever knew who owned all those trendy boutiques they loved so much I doubt they would sleep that well at night.

Dad had set up several trendy night clubs throughout the downtown over the last few years, both for our kind and for Norms. Never let it be said he wasn’t an opportunist. It not only provided means of entertainment for Night Walkers and Fell, but helped him keep an eye out for potential human conduits. Dad himself had moved out of the penthouse of his downtown estates to a deluxe Brownstown in the heart of the city. It supposedly was a key locale for magic use, something about the alignment of the Earth or some shit. It also allowed him to expand downward, developing protected areas for others during the daylight hours. It had also been my childhood home.

Coming back now for the first time in over a decade was pretty fucking surreal. I smoked half the fucking pack on the cab ride over and now I stood nervously outside the security gate he had installed in the small front courtyard. I knew his fucking cronies could see me on the security camera but I didn’t care. I could feel them watching as I reloaded my guns, slapping UV encased silver rounds into both chambers. Right tool for the right job eh Bella? I chuckled at my own little joke before lighting up my last smoke. Finally without any other excuses, and the tell tale glow of True Dawn approaching, I thumbed the intercom. I took another drag as the silence stretched out. Finally I heard the gate click open and pull back.

Fuckers didn’t even answer me. That’s bad manners. I crumpled up the empty pack of smokes and flung it onto the small lawn on my way down the cement path to the old oak door to his house. Petty I am sure but it made me feel better. I took the few steps in front of the door all at once but didn’t even get a chance to raise my hand to knock when it swung open. Standing in the doorway was a man in a dark black cloak pulled over his head.

“HOOD!” How the fuck you been?”

I greeted him with a big fucking smile that I knew grated the shit out of him. Hood was a nickname I had given him when he was training me. He hated it. He always wore the fucking thing, his face having been badly scarred by the sunlight shortly after his turning. So badly that no amount of healing or feasting over the years had been able to heal it. It was said he stayed alive only by his sheer anger. I believed it, he was a mean old cuss that had been serving my Father since far before my birth. He was also Belladonna’s dad.

He ushered me inside and closed the door before drawing the hood back from his head. He was completely bald and his face was mess of old burnt skin. His thin lips were drawn in a sneer as he took measure of me. He had resented training me and even more resented the impact I had on his daughter, driving the wedge further between them. It’s not like he was father of the year though, he had kept Bella’s mother captured against her will and his treatment of her led to Bella’s mom own suicide shortly after Bell’s birth. Nymphs just were not meant to be held in captivity, they were free spirits. I always thought he had done it because of the scars, if somebody had something he wanted, he took it. The only guy he seemed afraid of my Dad.

“Master Alex. You have returned home after all these years.”

“Cut the shit Hood. I know he is expecting me.”

He winced again at the nick name, but led me up the stairs to my Father’s study. It felt like it had those years ago when Hood would lead me up there after I had been caught sneaking out. On my way to be punished. Little had changed though. Thick velvet draperies still adorned the windows and Hood’s shoes still clicked on the hardwood floors. The great mirror still hung at the end of the hall, enchanted to reflect ones true self. I could see Hood, head held back and fangs bared as giant vein wings grew from his back. His bald head still deformed, eyes black as coal. Mine shifted uncomfortable, never staying on one form for to long, the inky blackness melding into the burning creature of light that I had no control over. I didn’t let myself think about it. It was pretty good defense mechanism.

We reached my Father’s study and Hood knocked. I could hear my father’s deep baritone voice call us in. Hood led me in and I was taken back by how bright it was. As opposed to the dimly light bulbs throughout the rest of the house, here it was light up almost like normal. There was a fire burning in the hearth that made the room uncomfortably warm. There was also my Father.

He was sitting on his desk with his shirt off as short Norm spread Green healing energies into him. His pale skin had cuts and abrasions all over it and it looked like his face still had traces of dried blood on it. His aura shown heavy with Black had faint traces of Blue running throughout, calling on the slight holy magic that came through those that Pledged to him, drawing on their belief in him to fill him with healing energies. When he saw me walk in, he dismissed the lesser tending him and grabbed a fresh white silk shirt off the hook behind him.

“Ahh Alistair, I see you have brought my erstwhile son before me this night. My deepest thanks old friend. Now Alex, it seems to me you said all you had to say to me last night. Or have you changed your mind?”

He had said that last part with a mocking smile and I knew he was trying to push my buttons. At least I know what side of the old family I got that little trait from. I didn’t let it bug me though, he had been in a fight and recently and I didn’t think it was a fucking coincidence. Someone had come looking for me and they had come here. That was either very brave, or very fucking stupid.

“Hey Dad. Look, I know we haven’t exactly had a “Leave it to Beaver” type of relationship here, but I know something is going on. More importantly I know YOU know something is going on, I came here, to you, for the first time in my life, looking for answers. Asking for help. If you wanna hold old grudges against me, fine, tell me to fuck off and I’ll get out of here. Otherwise, I’ll lay my cards on the table.”

Dad looked me over. Really looked me over, those red eyes staring intently at me, probing me. We said nothing as he stared at me and I never let my gaze falter. Finally he broke contact and sighed.

“You are stubborn my son, a trait you inherited from your mother but you are correct. Come and sit, we have much to discuss and True Dawn approaches. Alistair, bring us refreshments as I am drained from our earlier…..exploits and rejoin us. I would welcome your opinion.”

We took a seat and Hood sent the short lackey from earlier to retrieve the order. After he had returned with the food and departed, my Father turned to me.

“So my son, I know you have many questions. Though I cannot claim to have all the answers, tell me of what you know and together we may be able to fill in some of the blanks.”

He didn’t so much as sit down, he languished in the chair, a kind of fluid comfort that only a Night Walker can know. Poised and relaxed, but you could still sense the deadly grace that belayed his frame. He was drinking a deep red liquid that I probably didn’t want to know to much about, though they had brought me a couple of beers. Guess Dad had been keepin’ tabs on me, it was even my brand. I threw one back, draining it, before opening another one and launching into my story. I told him of the attack at St. Augustine’s and the Greater Demon. Of the discovery and supposed prophecy of Serapha and her claims. Then of the attack at the Academy on myself and Bella, which sent Hood into an uproar until Dad assured him that she was all right. I guess my word didn’t mean shit with him. I ended with the second attack at Augustine’s and the crucifixition of Quint and the betrayal of Tristan.

The whole time Dad didn’t so much as move, except with the mention of the return of the Light Walkers and the uprisal of another like me, where he arched his thin black eyebrows before resuming his usual stoic demeanor. When I was done with my tale, I took another long pull of the beer and patted my pockets before remembering I had already smoked my last one. Dad got up from the chair he had been in and turned his back to me, lost in thought. The silence seemed to stretch out between us again though I knew he would be the first to talk. Finally, he turned back around.

“Alistair, the time we have discussed is upon us, just as we predicted. Please send some of your vassals to watch over your daughter and dear Father Quinton until Alex can rejoin them.”

Hood nodded and left the room as my Father turned back to me.

“It seems there is much I must tell you, for a moment long prophesied is about to come to pass. A moment your mother herself once asked me to help prepare for. The Armies of Heaven have come to usher all those unworthy from this Earth and they are led by a woman like you, a woman who can walk both in the light and the dark. A woman named Allegra Devaine. A woman who is your twin sister Alex.”


End of Line.

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