Chapter 91 - M.


They told me Mercer would be okay thanks to some kind of magic. I know it’s a lie, I saw his intestines through a peephole in his stomach. There is absolutely no way he could have survived that. Besides, we left him behind. I know they’re just trying to calm my nerves, but it won’t work. I know what I saw, I remember everything from it. The smell, the feel, the sounds, everything is tattooed on my brain with permanent ink. 

I just want to leave here. They won’t let me, I can’t blame them, my hands haven’t stopped shaking since that night. Elias calls to check in on me every now and then but he has no clue of what really happened to me. I can’t even remember what lie I told him. Pretty sure he thinks I’m just staying with Destiny and that couldn’t be further from the truth. She looked at me a few times, but every time she did it was nothing but pity in her eyes. Not empathy, or sorrow, it just looked like she was disgusted, but took pity on me. Maybe because we still didn’t get that damned cup she’s chasing after. I watched a man die, and I killed a vampire, but all she can think about is revenge. 

I watched Mercer die, looked his corpse right in the eyes. I didn’t see any fear, or anger. I didn’t even see his face at peace. I saw shock, as if he was sure it couldn’t happen to him. But it did, and I didn’t do anything to try stopping it. I’m just as bad as the murder. I’ve never felt anyone else’s blood and I still feel like I’m covered in it. I’ve had showers and baths but I can’t get it off me. I still feel the warm splatter of Mercer’s blood across my face. I still smell the stench of that cold vampire blood soaking through the flesh of my fingers and into my bones. I can’t shake it. They keep coming by to tell me the first kill is the hardest.

I once told Destiny that I wanted us to spend forever together. In response she told me that humans don’t live forever, so I should adjust my expectations. She was right, even if it took all of this happening for me to realize it. I was nothing to her but a play thing. I got played and I guess I deserved that for putting so much faith into us. I really thought we might be together forever, but I guess I was just fun to play with until her real goals were in front of her. 

“We need to strike back, a few well-placed light grenades could take out a lot of them,” one of the Wererats drunkenly slurs to another at the bar.

“I say we just rip the fucking house apart in the middle of the day. Watch them burn and scurry,” the second responds.

“I want to kill them myself,” a third joins in.

Again, I try to make my way out of their little clubhouse of doom and gloom. There’s nothing in here for me anymore, I guess there never was. Nobody is around to stop me this time, they’re all having a vigil for Mercer, I wasn’t invited. I’ve heard the whispers. The people who don’t lie to me about him being alive blame me for his death. There really isn’t any in-between on the subject, at least nobody wants revenge on me. I suppose killing the vampire was enough to spare me that, but not enough that everyone wants to keep me around.

I make it to the parking lot and Destiny is there smoking a cigarette. I don’t know how to feel when I see her. Rage washes over me, but so does Sadness. I’m not sure if I’m feeling betrayal, resentfulness, maybe even revulsion.

“What’s going on killer,” Destiny laughs as she spots me.

I usually like her good-natured teasing, but this isn’t that; this is just hurtful. It’s strange how I used to love that about her, now I hate it. Has she always been so mean spirited? Is this what it feels like when you don’t love someone anymore? I want to respond with some witty comment of my own, fight back, but I can’t find it. I just keep walking to my car. Her laughter cuts deep as I realize I don’t have my keys. They’re back inside, with my backpack. It’s like my head is spinning lately, I just can’t get it together.

“Wish I knew you were an asshole when I met you,” I mumble as I walk past her.

In an instant she’s in front of me, “who the fuck do you think you are?”

“Go away,” I try to step around her.

“You kill one vampire, and suddenly you think you’re hot shit,” she asks.

“You’re heartless. Did you know that,” has she always just been a bully?

“Vampire, comes with the territory.”

“I don’t get why you act like I did something to hurt you.”

“Maybe you did,” she walks away.

What the fuck is she talking about? I don’t want to be a mass murderer to get revenge on some vampires I don’t even know? That hurt her? This is stupid. I don’t get it, I don’t know how Elias does this all the time. I just need to get my keys and my bag, then I’m done with this world forever. I’ll go back to making websites for creepy detectives. 

Chapter 90 - M.


Destiny told me to live or leave with it. I chose to leave with it. I haven’t spoken to her in three days. I don’t think Elias could save this relationship with all of his expertise. It was great while it lasted but, all good things come to an end. I blamed myself for the last time we got into a fight, I accused her of using me with no proof. Now I know she just uses me, and doesn’t ever think about how I feel. Left a few things at her place, mostly hoodies. They smell like her now, and I don’t really want them back anymore. I was done with her and this whole revenge mission.

Then I got a phone call from Vicki. She explained how The Wererats needed this job, because they were going broke. The empty store they’re housed in, used to be up and running. It was a variety store for fencing products, but things had been slow. They needed a job like this to bring some credibility back to their name, and merchandise to their store. The wererats had been nothing but nice to me, and they aren’t all blood thirsty killers. They settled only no killing unless it’s in self-defense. I can live with that. I can’t live with trying to wipe out an entire blood line.  

Everyone took different rides to get to the mansion, I rode with my partner for this, Mercer Evans. A high elf, with a high self-esteem who can’t stop telling me how he’s the fastest safe cracker in the Great Lakes region. I don’t know if there’s any validity to that, I’ve never met a safe cracker before. I’ve never even met a professional thief before I knew these people. Now I’m part of a heist team. This isn’t anywhere near as exciting as the movies had made it seem.

We arrive at the back of the home and are welcomed by a small forest. The reason they told me to wear long sleeves and jeans makes sense. Some of the trees have thorns but Mercer doesn’t seem to be phased by any of this. He traverses the land as if he’s known it for his entire life. Meanwhile, I’m trying not to lose sight of him or get stabbed by too many of these thorns. I didn’t even know trees had thorns.

“How you doing back there,” Mercer asks.

“Just trying to avoid the thorns.”

“Good, because they’re magic. They’ll give you one hell of a trip. Don’t want you freaking out on me rookie. I can’t have you making me look bad,” as if the thinning but dyed hair doesn’t make him look bad.

We finally get through the trees and spot the home, if you can call it that. A giant pool larger than any public pool I’ve ever seen flanked by a tennis court on the left, and basketball court on the right. Massive arched windows, all tinted, but magnificent in design. The house had been modern but relics of the past remain. A shadow is cast across the back yard by a demonic looking gargoyle resembling an eagle.

A pair of bolt cutters pops the security box with no problem. The USB cable settles in neatly on my computer. I can’t find any live security camera feeds so I just shut the alarm off. I suppose they wouldn’t want one of their vampire massacres on camera. I hope I’m not a vampire massacre.

The storm cellar doors screech and pop as they open. The neglect is clear as flakes of rust stick to my gloves long after I let go of the handles. The stairway is dimly lit by the oversized flashlight Mercer had brought. Everything about him screams he has a massive ego and a low self-esteem. With that kind of combination, you either turn into Mike Tyson or the guy pushing forty who tries to pick up high school students. I wonder which one Mercer is, probably the high school daycare kind.

Metal clinks and taps together, leading me to peer over Mercer’s shoulder. He’s picking a lock on a large metal door. I could have sworn storm cellars didn’t lead to the house. Then again, this is an old house, and the storm cellar is probably just the basement. They told me that already, this is why I’m not a thief. It doesn’t take long before the muffling of a door dragging through dirt and occasionally bumping stone welcomes us to the basement.

The vault is center of the room, large magnificent and sparkling silver. The only thing modern in the basement. Mercer tosses me two big black duffel bags and orders me to fill them with whatever looks valuable while he works the safe. Even without the safe, there’s enough stuff in here to make a person very rich, and this isn’t even their main base of operations.  

There are plenty of stray jewels and magnificent pieces of jewelry. A thick layer of dust rubs off on my gloves as I snag some gold and silver bars. Relics of dead vampire hunters have to be worth something. I toss the first bag into my magic pocket and go to work on the next. Mirrors and guns etched with heavy engravings, books that nearly crumble at my touch. Most importantly, cash, lots of real cash. Mom would be ashamed of me, but I might be a very rich man depending on how we split the money. That would make her very happy.

I toss my second bag into the pocket and make my way back to Mercer, hopefully he’s almost done. My own screams stop me from finishing my thought as I lie against the basement wall. Vampire, I couldn’t spot her, hear or smell her.  

“Mercer, behind you,” I call out hoping he hears me.

Mercer turns and draws a wand from his pants pocket. A blast of light slams into a bookshelf but doesn’t touch the vampire. He blasts off another but she clutches his wrist. He refuses to scream but still tries to fight back with punches and kicks. Hachoir de guerre move into my hands without a second thought. I slash at the vampire's ankles and cleave into the spine. This is what Destiny taught me for, survival. Injured it turns to face me, but I don’t hesitate, I drive one of the blades into it’s heart and the movement stops. I expect it to turn into dust right away but it doesn’t. Cold black blood covers my hands and smells of death. But there’s warm blood too, on my face. Sticky and thick, but I don’t feel hurt at all.

“Mercer, get up,” I shake his body but don’t get a response. “Mercer, this isn’t funny.”

I try to hold together the torn pieces of flesh across his abdomen. It can’t be that bad, he didn’t even scream. I just need to make sure everything stays inside until help comes. Then he’ll be fine. I’m sure they heard my screams and will be on the way.

“Mercer stop joking, you’re not even hurt that bad. We’re going to get a little magic on there, and you’ll be good as new.”

Two members of the guild grab me and pull me away, but I hold onto Mercer. We can’t leave him behind. He needs medical attention. I can’t believe they’re leaving him behind.

“Guys stop, Mercer needs us,” I plead with them as I try to break free.

“He knew the risk, one of them says coldly dragging me past the tree line.”

Chapter 89 - M.


 

In my life I’ve played a lot of games. Board games, video games, sports games and so on. Planning always goes the same way in them all. Get a sheet of paper, a big board or maybe even a map. Get a few representatives of group or individual involved. Then you set the tone, here’s what’s happening, here’s what we’re going to do. This is how we finish and this is where we regroup. Thing is, real life doesn’t really mix with fantasy. At least it didn’t, until I fell in love with a vampire at first sight. What has my life become?

Kenneth is way more focused, and less fun than he was when we met yesterday. Sobriety tends to have that effect on people, but he actually seems competent. He’s got examples and references as to why each step of his plan will work. He’s been leading for 33 years and plans to retire soon. I’m just hoping this isn’t like a cop movie where he says he’s getting too old, then gets shot.

The actual plan is simple, we break into their mansion. We take it, broad daylight while they’re asleep. The plan gets complicated because The Wererats want to take more than just the chalice. They want to break into the vault. It’s a high-tech alarm, but the vault is something one of the Wererats could crack. That’s where I come in. I’m supposed to sneak down with one of the Wererats and break into the vault. They could outsource it to their usual contact, but they figure I’m cheaper. Despite me telling them I’m not an expert at cracking vaults or alarms they assure me I’ll be ready to go with a few days of preparation.

 What I’m scared of most is killing, it wasn’t on my list of worries. I hadn’t thought about the fact that we may still be discovered. The question came about what to do. The Wererats aren’t fighters, but they can survive and have plenty of anti-vampire stuff. Even if they aren’t human, I can’t help but think about what happens when a vampire dies. I was in the group that suggested contain any threat or alert everyone and flee before regrouping. I was surprised when Destiny disagreed with me. She didn’t care if we killed people, because vampires are people too. Same as Elves, goblins, orcs, Werewolves and every other creature I’ve met or seen lately. A conclusion that I’ve come to on my own, they’re sapient and just as capable as humans.

“If it was up to me, we’d just kill them all while they sleep. Maybe place sunlight runes around the home that trigger at midnight or something. Just to make sure they don’t come back later,” Destiny looks me in the eye as she suggests.

“That’s the afro firecracker I remember,” Kenneth’s boisterous laugh has irritated me already.

“We’re not murders. I’m not even a thief. I do internet security, and build websites on the side. You all steal from museums. Why would waste time trying to murder everyone? We get in, we get out,” I speak against her.

I can’t even remember what Destiny and I had fought about before, but I think this one might be worse. I’m not even sure why I’m involved in it. I wonder if Elias has any other tricks in his bag to help a relationship survive a big fight. Because that’s where we’re heading. In the end we don’t even get a solution to the kill or no kill rule. Just a lot of debate with Kenneth promising to make the final call. For now, we’re all supposed do our prep. For me that means learning about alarm systems. But I need to speak with Destiny first.

I don’t even get a chance to speak to her right away as she’s off discussing something with Kenneth. Instead a wood elf named Vycy, or Vicki for humans who can’t be bothered to learn the correct pronunciation, promises to email everything I’ll need to learn. Destiny and I don’t get to speak until we’re in the car a few hours later. Still, the subject hasn’t left my mind.

“Are we good,” I ask her as she drives.

“Yeah, everything is fine.”

“You sure, because you seemed kind of blood thirsty back there. And you got upset when I disagreed with you,” I’ve gotten better about not beating around the bush.

“I just feel like you shouldn’t have provided input on something you don’t really know about,” she shrugs.

“I know I don’t want to kill anyone, and that’s enough for me.”

“Then don’t kill anyone but if I’ve got a chance to wipe a bunch of them off the map, don’t make that decision for me,” she almost sounds like she’s threatening me.

“I figure we should discuss everything between us.”

“Us? There is no us.”

“I’m your boyfriend, in every way except you won’t just say it.”

“I won’t say it because it isn’t true.”

“Okay, if that’s how you feel, I guess I need to do some soul searching,”

“You should do some soul searching, instead of acting like a love-sick puppy expecting me to change your life,” that hurt me to hear.

“But, I’m still not killing. I don’t think you should either. It’s almost like you’re possessed by this idea of revenge and aren’t thinking straight.”

“I didn’t ask you help me with this,” Destiny responds.

“You didn’t give me much choice either,” I park in front of her apartment building. “You led me to the mall believing it was a date, or just friends hanging out. Right? Then you volunteered me to hack an alarm system because I make the computer do crazy stuff. Right?”

“You want choices,” she nods her head to herself. “I’ll give you choices. I’m looking for revenge. I’m going to take that chalice. I’m going to kill every little peon in the house that worships some idea of an ass backwards family. Then I’m going to burn down the house,” she gets out the car.

“That isn’t a choice,” I respond as she walks past my window.

“Oh, that’s right, choices. Pick your next more, you can leave or live with it.”

Chapter 88 - M.


 

I couldn’t sleep last night. I was too worried about Destiny, but too afraid to go see what happened. I usually don’t go to sleep on Friday nights because I’m up playing video games, but this was different. It was fear keeping me awake, what if they followed me? I could be next, Elias is sleeping on the other side of the apartment, he could be next. I’ve gotten pretty good with the Hachoir de guerre, not enough to be an expert, but good enough. I clutched them with fear all night, practicing around my bedroom. Hoping someone would intrude and give me a reason to test my abilities.  

Then she just pulls up outside and tells me come get breakfast with her. I watch as she just devours three breakfast burritos, as I struggle to finish mine. When I asked what happened, she just says they couldn’t attack her due to some stupid rule. The whole afternoon seemed like a blur as we wandered through the mall like old people. I keep trying to covertly check her for scars but I can’t see any. Maybe she didn’t have to fight because she’s in a great mood. 

“Alright, so this is where we’re meeting The Wererats,” she stops in front of an empty store. 

“I’m sorry, I spaced on all of that. Did you say Wererats?” 

“Yeah, like Werewolves, but big rats.” 

“What?” 

“Did you think Werewolves were the only Lycans?” 

“Yes.” 

“Well, there’s wolves, bears, rats, boars, lions, tigers, so many more around the world. If a culture finds strength in an animal, there’s probably a Lycan associated with the area. Why do you think California has a bear on the flag?” 

“I... but rats?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Why rats?” 

“Because thieves like rats, they’re sneaky,” she shrugs as if this is common knowledge. 

“So we’re meeting wererats?” 

“No, THE Wererats,” she emphasizes her words. 

“At an empty store in the deserted part of the mall?” 

“It’s not empty if you have a key.” 

She turns the lock and the door opens. We step into the empty store, judging by the space, it was probably a shoe store at some point. We make our way to a door separating the small display area from the back room. Behind the door there seems to be some kind of lounge set up in a much larger space. I’m entirely confused as there seems to be close to thirty people just hanging around. A few watching TV, others drinking, some just reading to themselves. I’d probably be more surprised if I hadn’t spent the last few months with Destiny visiting secret magic places with Destiny. Libraries, theaters, blood banks, grocery stores, even websites and TV Channels.  

“So are you telling me, all these people are wererats,” I ask Destiny, surprised by the number. 

“No, these are The Wererats. But there’s only one wererat in this group.” 

“You realize how confusing that sounds right?” 

“Well if it’ll help you remember, I’m the only one who transforms,” a chubby orangish goblin in flamboyant colors injects himself in the conversation. 

“What,” I ask, these last 24 hours have been hard on me. 

“I’m Kenneth B. Cooper, wererat and leader of The Wererats,” he extends his hand. 

“Aren’t you all thieves? Why are you wearing such bright colors,” I shake his hand and he grips mine tightly. 

“I’m off today,” he laughs in my face as if he just said something funny. 

“Long time no see,” Destiny hugs Kenneth. 

“I am just so confused,” I inadvertently whisper to myself. 

“Got you one that’s wet behind the ears,” Kenneth laughs hard in our faces. 

“He’s a fast learner,” she smiles. 

“Thanks, you,” I decide to retreat from the conversation. My confusion ads nothing. 

“What brings you back around? Haven’t seen you in years,” Kenneth smiles. 

“Need to get back in the game, for one last job,” Destiny pulls out her phone. 

“Well, let me take a look,” Kenneth glances at the photo of the chalice. “Now that is a risky job you got planned.” 

“You’ll get your cut,” Destiny smiles coyly. 

“You plan to sell it?” 

“Of course, what do I need it for?” 

“You vamps are a crazy bunch,” Kenneth gives another hearty laugh. 

“You lycans ain’t so different,” she joins in with him.  

I laugh so as not to be left out, and they stop, “so what’s the plan,” I make myself useful. 

“Well, first thing is first. You can’t do a job without being friends. Destiny is an old friend. We don’t know you. So we drink, and fuck until we’re friends. Then we plan,” Kenneth doesn’t laugh. 

“I don’t want....to fuck,” the words leave my mouth. 

“You don’t have to fuck me. I’ll watch you two fuck,” Kenneth lets out another boisterous laugh. 

“You always offer drinking and fucking, and nobody ever takes you up on the fucking,” Destiny laughs at him. 

“Well in that case,” Kenneth takes a deep breath, “we drink,” he yells out to everyone in the lounge before limping off towards the bar. 

“What is this place,” I immediately ask Destiny. 

“A thieves’ guild,” she responds. 

“There are still guilds,” like a video game? 

“Yeah, a little smaller but they still exit. Shadow Syndicate is essentially one big guild, but there’s alternatives.” 

It doesn’t take Kenneth long to return with big oval shaped glasses, some gold liquid that doesn’t seem to bubble fills each one. I take a deep breath, expecting tequila, I hate tequila. Instead, I’m met with a sweet drink, almost like milk chocolate. 

“What is this,” I ask feeling intoxicated almost immediately. 

“Special brew we stole the formula from a giant when I was a youngster. I’ll share it with you if the job goes well,” Kenneth smiles and raises his glass. 

Destiny follows his lead and I do the same. It isn’t long before every glass in the place is raised and we’re all waiting on Kenneth to say something.  

“Tonight we drink, for in the morning we plan and, soon we’ll take everything we want and more.” Kenneth drinks and The Wererats cheer. 

Chapter 87 - M.


 

Another night, another spectacular ball room. I’m not sure if Destiny enjoys these, or she’s still on the revenge mission. I haven’t spotted the murderous look in her eyes lately, but I wouldn’t put it past her. We’ve gotten closer than I could have ever imagined. Still, she doesn’t tell me about a lot of things. She didn’t even think to mention she had dated Chloe until she was able to call me bisexual and make jokes. She was excited when she found the information about the Chalice, but then didn’t bring it up anymore.

I’ve learned that each of these events is hosted by one of the families in the city. The colors are always different, representative of each house. Tonight, the Morson House hosts the event. The colors are a faded red and bright yellow. It looks like a fancy McDonalds to me, but supposedly the red is for courage and the yellow is for enlightenment. After meeting a few thralls at these events, they all seem the same, no sense of personality. Did I really want to be one? I was out of my mind. They’re all obsessed with pleasing their masters and seem to like interests or dreams of their own.

I’m just glad she lets me wear sneakers now. I’m going to just buy a tuxedo if I have to go to another one of these; rental fees are starting to stack up. I do wonder how much you need to drink before you turn into an alcoholic, because I’m starting to drink a lot at these events. She wanders off with the other vampires and does whatever she has to, and I sit here, drinking as they thralls tell me how important they are to their masters.

“Walk with me, we need to make an impression,” Destiny places a hand on my shoulder and whispers in my ear.

“Okay, what’s the deal,” I follow her.

“Well, you’re going to need to run out of here. Don’t be afraid to stab someone.”

“You’ll understand, and you’ll know to run. Just know I’ll pick you up tomorrow around noon,” she kisses me on the cheek.

She leads me through the party, not really in any real direction or towards any location, just leading. In the time that I’ve known Destiny she’s never lacked any confidence. Still, she’s moving through the crowd right now with more than I’ve ever seen her with. I’d honestly call it arrogance. She takes a drink from a waiter, sips it, then spits it out. She shakes her head and returns it to his tray before continuing. The thralls remain silent, they know their roles. Subservience to not just their master but all vampires is important, but Destiny as Adze, she’s not one of their own. She demands respect, but they don’t want to respect her.

“Can’t believe they let her walk through here with her head held high,” I hear someone in the crowd whisper.

“In the past, her kind wouldn’t even be allowed in here,” another comment.

“Slaves who played with magic beyond their control, gained all that power, but still dirt,” a woman whispers to her master who laughs.

At first, I thought it was just because she was Adze, but this is good old-fashioned racism. I forget some of these vampires were around when slavery was still a thing. They probably recruit thralls like them. The special Midwest brand of racism. Smile in your face, never call you Nigger but never really see you as human either. The same Midwest racism that had Martin Luther King leave Chicago feeling defeated. Racism is still alive, especially with these decrepit old vampires. They don’t even conceal it.

I realize she had been leading us back towards the door. She really does expect me to make a run for it. I bend down to make sure my shoes are tied tight as she discusses something with a vampire. For a moment I could have sworn she demanded a drink from the thrall. I couldn’t have heard that right, because Destiny doesn’t drink directly from people.

“I would never let your dirty lips drink from my thrall,” the uptight old man says.

“Very well,” Destiny turns towards me and winks.

A lot flows through my mind in that second. Dirty lips was not so coded racism. I’ve seen vampires share thralls all through these events. The wink lets me know I should run. I also wonder what Destiny is about to do. I get my answer as I watch her turn quickly and slit the vampires throat.

“I will not be disrespected by some fledgling vampire,” she shouts.

In the moment of chaos, I run as screams fill the room. Destiny doesn’t budge but I get out of there. I’d just slow her down if a fight happened. I need to run, because I trust her, even if I don’t believe she could win the fight. But I don’t hear any fighting as the door closes behind me. I don’t even buckle my seatbelt or check my mirrors, just pull out and hope she’s okay. She’ll be okay, she always has been.

Chapter 86 - M.


 

“Oh no, I can smell her,” Destiny shakes her head.

“Smell who?”

“Your brother’s girlfriend.”

Elias and his date had just walked into the restaurant and Destiny was getting bad scents from her which is something I didn’t know she could do? Could she smell me when we would train? I could be a little strong smelling after those sessions. I know Elias he gets around, but not usually with anyone that can be unhygienic.

“What exactly are you smelling.”

“Sex.”

“Oh, well they’re adults.”

“No, I smell sex and another man.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not good.”

“You need to tell him,” she suggests as they get closer.

“No. You smelt it you...delt it,” I refuse to be the one.

When Elias was twenty-two, he found out the girl he had been with for three years, had another boyfriend. Sometimes she’d be with them back-to-back on the same day. It broke his heart. Ever since then, he’s been in relationship after relationship. Some of them are even situationships, and plenty of one-night stands. But, he never cheated on anyone as far as I know. I hope he uses protection.

“You sure it isn’t him?”

“Does your brother like guys too? Does it run in your family?”

“Not as far as I can tell and shut up. It was one time,” I argue with her getting quieter as they’re greeted by the waiter.

“He just smells like art supplies and shampoo. Good shampoo, with lemons and berries.”

“Are you sure? I’ve never heard you talk about...super smell.”

“Well, you never asked, and I never needed to demonstrate it.”

“Crap,” try to find anything else to stare.

“What are you guys over here whispering about,” Elias and his date arrive to the table.

“There’s just such a lovely sent in the air tonight,” Destiny starts.

“I hadn’t noticed anything,” Elias’ date comments, Destiny fights a laugh quietly.

“Well everyone, this is Zoelandra,” Elias gives a lackluster introduction.

“You can call me Zoe or Zoey,” she smiles and fluffs the loose black curls of her hair.

“Should we start with an appetizer? I hear they have great spinach dip” I try to play it cool.

“No, we should start with wine,” Zoey suggests.

Things don’t fly off the hinges like I expect. I’m constantly playing defense and trying to change direction from Destiny’s hints about Zoey cheating. I don’t know why I’m calling her Zoey, I don’t know her like that, and she’s sleeping around on my little brother. I don’t have the best big brother instincts but I don’t have to let Elias go through this. I can do something about this one. I just don’t know what.

“I need to use the powder room, excuse me,” Destiny stands up in an overly polite manner.

“Oh, I’ll come too,” Zoey follows.

“Dude, you’re being awkward tonight,” Elias downs his third glass of wine before the main course arrives.

“I’m always awkward,” is all I can come back with.

“Nah, something isn’t right. You’re hiding something. You’re a terrible liar. Not a dishonest bone in your body.”

“I’m not being dishonest,” I down a glass of my own wine.

“Go easy, you’re driving.”

“Nah, Destiny is driving,” because she won’t get drunk off regular wine.

“Then drink up, loosen those lips,” he laughs.

“I’ll drink but there are no secrets.”

“Then try to keep up,” he pours another bottle.

“Is that a challenge,” I can’t win, I don’t drink regularly but need to change the topic.

I’ve never been on a double date before, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how they usually go. Elias and I spend most of dinner trying to out drink each other and discussing our partners. He’d talk about how great Zoey was at playing piano. I’d make something up about Destiny being a classically trained violinist. Elias, Destiny and I were having fun with the game. She played along, adding to the story, but after half an hour it was clear Zoey was feeling inadequate. That just gave Destiny more reason to play along. She’s become pretty defensive of Elias, as if he’s her own brother after meeting him so many times.

“I have to piss like a race horse,” Elias rudely interrupts Zoey’s joke.

“Oh, okay. I’ll finish when you come back,” Zoey feels slighted for the umpteenth time tonight.

“Don’t worry about. Walk with me, make sure I don’t get lost big bro,” Elias holds a hand out for me.

“Take care of your little brother,” Destiny nudges me.

I laugh and take Elias’ hand. Admittedly the whole thing is funny. I’m the older brother, but I always remember taking Elias’ hand and leading him to the bullies who were messing with me. I wasn’t much of a fighter, but I was a good distraction while he punched them out. We made a great team. When he’d take my hand, he’d be leading me to doing something I’d usually avoid like a basketball tournament. I don’t know how we won that tournament. We were both pretty good, but some of those other teams were way better. We just had the communications. Elias and I always communicate.

“So why have you been acting strange all night,” Elias asks as soon as we’re into the bathroom.

“I don’t want you to be upset.”

“I promise I won’t be.”

“Destiny said Zoey is cheating on you. There’s another guy. The team has got more than one star player. The chicken has more than one coop,” that came out blunter than I meant.

“How did Destiny know?”

“She recognized her. Said she saw her kissing another guy at a bar she goes to for lunch sometimes,” who’s a bad liar now Elias?

“Wow, and you guys weren’t going to tell me,” Elias laughs.

“She was throwing out hints, I was trying to tell you without hurting your feelings.”

“Aww, you wanted to protect me,” Elias hugs me, he’s always loving, more loving when drunk.

“Yeah, so what do we do?”

“Oh, me and you are leaving through the kitchen,” we’ll tip the waiters on the way.

“I’ll text Destiny. She’ll get out on her own,” we can read each other’s minds sometimes.

We leave the bathroom and make sure we aren’t spotted by Zoey. I hand the waiter sixty dollars, which is less than what I had planned to spend on our meal. She leads us through the kitchen and out the back door, assuring us she’ll catch Zoey. I send Destiny a text message explaining the situation. She responds with a semicolon and a parenthesis. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes for her to open the driver’s side door. All the laughter reminds me of Elias and I as kids getting away with something devious, it also lets me know that Destiny is still there, and hasn’t gone insane searching for revenge.

Chapter 85 - M.


 

I’ve been to a dozen different libraries, thousands of times. The money for textbooks wasn’t always freely available. Most colleges keep a few prior editions of the textbooks behind the counter. There’s always a way if you’re desperate. Still, I’m shocked that Destiny is leading me through the central library as if I’ve never been here before.

Every now and then, we take a turn. We should be moving in a circle but it seems like our path is forever changing. She promised there were magical spaces hidden in plain view, that my mind just wasn’t able to see them. I’m starting to think she may be right, especially now that we stand in front of a pair of ornate double doors. Intricate symbols are etched into each door, none repeat and it doesn’t seem to have any real method to the designs. Still, it feels as if something powerful awaits.

We head through the doors, and there seems to be an equally large library here. Mostly elves, a few humans, some Goblins, Dwarves and even a few Orcs. There was indeed a magical library hidden away. Destiny makes her way to the front counter to get whatever we came here looking for.

I take the moment to explore and observe. None of the books seem to be in any real order. The Dewey Decimals System has no place here. Instead people seem to approach small orbs that give them information before they scurry off to their book. There’re no computers, or microfiche readers. Instead there are massive tomes placed on some of the tables, I’m not sure how a single person would move them alone. Each one appears to be handwritten and older than anything I’ve ever written up close. I’m not a master of languages, but I recognize some Latin in one, some Spanish in another and maybe even hieroglyphics in a third.

 “I got what we need,” Destiny comes back with a book bearing a large decorative “L” on the front.

“What’s that?”

“I told you, they like their little kingdoms. They keep written histories of the founding of their houses and all that. This book, has information about the Lewis, Dynasty,” she uses air quotes over dynasty. “Everything how the very first was turned, each subsequent leader. Traditions, allies, enemies and everything else.”

“That sounds as if it is more historical than anything we can actually use.”

“You would think, but like I keep telling you, they hold onto the past way too much.”

The first head, Letcher Lewis was a merchant who arrived in the American South from England. He was quickly married and set up shop. Soon he owned several slaves, and was deemed a success. Crazy how owning slaves meant you were successful back then. Soon a group of locals extorted him for funds and when he refused he was beaten, and bitten. They were vampires, who thought they had killed him, but he lived. He became stronger in secret, eventually killing them. Then he moved on to found his own town. It makes for a great story, except the whole slave owner thing.

Another interesting story, John Humphry Noyes was one of theirs. He led sex a cult, they didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was. His cult allowed Charles J. Guiteau into his cult. But the man was so insufferable they tried to get him to leave for years. They also wouldn’t turn Charles into a vampire. Charles later went on to murder President James A. Garfield. For some reason, all of their stories seem to start happy and end in something bad. Not that sex cult is good, but they weren’t hurting anyone.

“I got it,” Destiny smiles.

“What did you get?”

“An artifact within reach. The Chalice of Metamorphosis is the sacred artifact for their local chapter. If we take it while Chloe is in town, she’ll come to us.”

“What does it do?”

“Legend says if one of them drinks from the chalice it will allow them to use magic.”

“Can’t you use magic?”

“Different kind of vampire. I told you this, you weren’t paying attention,” she pulls out a polaroid camera.

“So do they do rituals with this thing or what?”

“Probably mostly for show. Things lose powers over the years, especially if corrupted by evil.”

“Are you serious,” I can’t help but laugh as she takes a picture of the page.

“What? It’s for research in case I need to reference it later,” she shakes the photo.

“But that camera, is so old.”

 “You’re being really judgmental.”

“Me?”

“Yeah,” she gets up and closes the book.

The journey out of the library is a lot smoother, we exit the doors and appear right inside the real library. Is it the real library? They’re both real. The library that I know, doesn’t have as many twists and turns on the way out. I wonder if I could get back there without Destiny. I’m curious if there were things in there that I might find useful. Maybe I’m part of some long history of wizards.

“Hey Destiny,” I stop call her back after we part ways.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“What?”

“Making an enemy, or a bigger enemy of them? You’ve made them sound powerful.”

“I’m not worried, you shouldn’t be either.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“They haven’t been able to kill me so far, and I won’t let them kill you.”

“Yeah, but they haven’t been actively hunting you in the past.”

“Have some faith in me. My name is Destiny. Everyone knows you can’t run from your destiny.”

She gives me a quick kiss and heads off in the opposite direction. She doesn’t even glance back at me. Instead she pulls the picture from her purse and takes another look before tucking it away again. Part of me misses playing board games and sneaker shopping with her. It all seems so long ago now. Maybe I can get us back there somehow.

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