Casa Loma War Day Three

TIMELINE

 

NIGHT OF AUGUST 3 & 4

 

Looking Back                                                          Daytime

Afternoon in the Park                                              Afternoon

et Voila                                                                    Daytime

While We Dallied                                                    8:00 p.m.

Darkness Falls                                                        Sunset

Wrong Side of the Bed                                            8:00 p.m.

Horton Strikes Again                                              8:00 p.m.

You Found What?                                                   8:15 p.m.

Divulging the Tragedy                                            8:25 p.m.

Into the Night, part one                                           8:25 p.m.

Steam Heat                                                              8:30 p.m.

All Things Must                                                      9:00 p.m.

Into the Night, part two                                           9:25 p.m.

Enter Stage Left                                                       9:30 p.m.

Castle on a Hill                                                        9:30 p.m.

Tiny Little Morsel                                                   9:50 p.m.

Jetting to Nowhere                                                  10:00 p.m.

Would You Like Fries?                                           10:30 p.m.

That’s MY Toy                                                       11:00 p.m.

Needle in a Haystack                                               11:00 p.m.

Into the Night, the series                                         11:30 p.m.

Psychos                                                                   12:00 a.m.

After the Lovin’                                                      12:00 a.m.

Unexpected Surprises                                             12:00 a.m.

Petty Thoughts                                                        12:10 a.m.

Charge!                                                                   12:15 a.m.

When It’s Time                                                       1:00 a.m.

How Many Things                                                  1:15 a.m.

More Small Thoughts                                             1:20 a.m.

Not Quite Home Free 1,2,3                                     1:30 a.m.

The Bell Jar                                                             2:00 a.m.

All Together Now                                                   2:00 a.m.

Time is the Fire                                                       2:05 a.m.

Event Horizon (1 – 4)                                              2:10 a.m.

Brief Reprieve                                                         2:30 a.m.

Something Wicked                                                  2:45 a.m.

Unhappy Kitty                                                         3:00 a.m.

How Much Can a Poor                                           3:00 a.m.

Here Kitty Kitty                                                       3:10 a.m.

The Party’s Over                                                     3:15 a.m.

The Smoke Clears                                                   3:15 a.m.

A Not So Simple Twist                                           3:20 a.m.

Special Delivery                                                      3:20 a.m.

Under Duress                                                          3:30 a.m.

Brief reprieve, pt 2                                                  3:40 a.m.

Fruit of the Vine                                                      3:45 a.m.

Vengeance is Ours                                                  3:45 a.m.

Those Were the Days                                              4:00 a.m.

V2                                                                           4:10 a.m.

Bringing Warren, part one                                       4:30 a.m.

Embrace Me                                                            4:30 a.m.

Just a Little Bit                                                        4:30 a.m.

Heart of Darkness                                                   4:45 a.m.

Bringing Warren Across, part two                          5:00 a.m.

Sidestep                                                                   5:25 a.m.

Immortal Beloved                                                    5:30 a.m.

The Cure                                                                 5:30 a.m.

By the Strength                                                       5:35 a.m.


Looking Back

by RavenKat

August 3

Four Seasons

Daytime

The $2000 a night, lavishly decorated bedroom suite could have doubled as a mausoleum; It was lightless, still and cool.  Had the hotel cleaning staff been allowed in, they would have discovered two unkempt and bloody bodies stashed in the bed.  Instead, because Kat generously rewarded discretion, she and her guest passed the daylight hours in peace.

That is, until the dreams began.

In her sleep, for almost 800 years, Kat was forced to relive the last few hours of her mortal life.  She had originally welcomed the chance to try and fill in the blank parts of her memory ‑ to discover her origins ‑ but after centuries of the same dream with the same ending  . . .  Kat had grown tired of it.  Until tonight, she hadn’t been plagued by this particular dream for more than 50 years.  Perhaps it was because she had come to an uneasy truce with her past, perhaps because of her continual lack of breakthrough.  Either way,  here she was again, poised to experience the moments leading up to her death.

1228

Outside Paris

It was the middle of the night and she stood in the doorway straining to hear.  She had checked the satchel hidden in her sleeve for the third time ‑ all she needed now was unobstructed passage to the barn and its rear gate.  Other than assorted snores and murmured prayers, there was nothing to give her pause . . .  no shuffle of wandering monks, no hushed conversations of  long‑winded priors.

Being one of the first warm days of the year, it had been full of outdoor and physically demanding chores.  The good brothers, having grown soft with winter, would be sleeping soundly until morning vespers.  She would have several hours to herself until then.  It was more than enough time.

The air outdoors promised to be crisp, so she pulled the cowl about her head.  In addition, it helped her to feel well hidden.  She greyed her spirit and headed out of the dormitory.  If anyone was awake at this hour, unless they knew what to look for, they wouldn’t even see her walking by.  Her biggest concern was her own silence.

Skirting the courtyard area, she progressed quickly past the refectory and the kitchen to the outer walls of the cloister.  As she entered the barn, only a few of the animals paid her any mind; They were quite accustomed to her night walks.

She loved this place; It was her haven here at St. Etienne.  Although the brethren dismissed them as lesser creatures of God, she often sought solace with the farm animals.  The connection she shared with them was stronger than any  she might have had with the men.

Crossing the barn, she chose to ignore the proffered snouts ‑ if she started scratching and patting now, she would be here until morning.  Stealthily she lifted the wooden latch and opened the gate that led to the pasture.  She stepped out, pulled the barn door behind her and took a moment to gaze at the beautiful Parisian countryside.  The full moon had just broken through and was shining down brightly, illuminating her path away from the monastery.

 

Afternoon in the Park

by Evie/Phoenix

August 3

At the Waterfront Centre, Toronto

Mid-afternoon

 

“Holy Shit!”

 

“You could say that.”

 

The two women looked very dismal at the moment.  Dennis looked from Trapper to Evie and back again.  “Holy Shit,” he repeated softly.  “This is one ugly scene.”

 

Evie pushed her hair out of her eyes in a nervous gesture.  She was sitting cross-legged waiting for the band preceding them to begin playing.  Trapper got up and began to pace restlessly.

 

“I can’t just let it happen,” Evie implored.  “I’ve got to do something.”

 

“Of course,” Trapper replied shortly.  “The question is – what?”  She stopped and Evie had to shield her eyes from the sun to look up at her.  The twin reflections staring back at her from Trapper’s shades looked as worried as she felt.  “If we go charging in there without a plan we’re going to wind up dead,”  the blond woman continued.

 

“Or worse,” she added, beginning her pacing again.  The encounter with Nick the night before had left her feeling off-balance.  Of course she’d always been attracted to vampires, especially stunningly good-looking ones.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to *be* one.  On the other hand, she smiled to herself. ‘I could do without wrinkles, grey hair, not worrying about my weight.’ “But could I really do without triple lattes?” she mused out loud.

 

“What?” Evie said.

 

“Oh nothing, just thinking out loud.”

 

Evie leaned over and stared at the stage.  “They’re about ready to start.”

 

“I don’t know,” Dennis commented as the band began its first tune, a thrash version of “Lord of the Dance.”  “I’m not sure I’d want to play under a band name like ‘Clumsy Lovers’.”

 

“Yeah, but they’re great,” Michael enthused as he arrived.  “That fiddler is *hot*.”

 

They were good, Trapper had to concede.  Not a bad act to follow.  Which brought her back to the present.  “Let’s get backstage,” she urged.  “We still have to tune and get ready.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Evie grunted, getting to her feet.  “Some of us have to tune.”  She grinned at the vocalist who smirked back.

 

They found James backstage, chatting up a cute stagehand.

 

“You tuned?” Trapper asked him.

 

“Honey, I tuned an hour ago,” he replied casually, tossing his black hair back with one hand.  He gave the stagehand a regretful grin and turned to the band.  “But let’s all do it together.”

 

As collected their instruments and set up, none of them noticed the two shadowed figures who watched them intently from under the trees.

 

Evie and Trapper had agreed it would be better to keep Michael and James out of whatever scene might develop from the Raven.  So after the gig they left the boys with promises to meet up for dinner, and promptly found the nearest coffee shop to discuss strategy.  To their dismay, Dennis had insisted on accompanying them.

 

“Hey, I’m in it now,” he had replied when they suggested he should stay out of it.

 

“Listen Mister,” Evie started, “this isn’t a game.  Things are likely to get downright dangerous, and no offense but both Trapper and I are better prepared to deal with them than you are.”

 

Dennis merely shrugged.  “If it concerns you, it concerns me.”

 

“What Evie means to say,” Trapper continued with hardly more grace, “is that we don’t want to have to worry about saving your scrawny ass at a crucial moment.”

 

The drummer looked from one woman to the other.  “Would it make you feel better if I told you I studied Tae Kwan Do for 20 years?  These drumsticks,” he took one out and twirled it with a flourish, earning a disapproving look from a neighboring table,  “are lethal weapons.”  To illustrate his point, he drove it, point first, onto the table top, scratching the varnish.  The waitress glared at him and he sheepishly put the drumstick back in his back pocket.

 

Evie looked at him, disbelieving.  “Who are you?  And what have you done with our drummer?”

 

Trapper suddenly laughed out loud.  The other two looked at her, and she grinned.  “The Incredible Vampire Hunters,” she explained.  “Larry, Curly and Moe go after Salem’s Lot.”

 

“Shemp,” Dennis blurted out. “I want to be Shemp.”

 

“Huh?” Evie said turning. “Why Shemp?”

 

“Simple. Shemp has hair. Of course, it’s not as long and luxuriant as mine,” Dennis tossed his hair, which had come loose from its ponytail holder.

 

They all laughed at that, and then the planning began in earnest.

 

 

Et Voila

by RavenKat

August 3

Four Seasons

Daytime

 

No matter how many times Kat dreamed it, she could never extricate herself from feeling every sensation of her last mortal hours.  She could smell the air and feel the rub of her shoes, just as she had then.  In the back of Kat’s sleeping mind, she knew the dream’s plot and the inevitable outcome, but the young woman in the dream – the young woman she actually was way back then – was blissfully ignorant of what was about to befall her.  Kat had long ago stopped trying to warn her, to break through the dream barrier and put a halt to it all.  As usual, she let the dream wash over her and carry both of them to its unsatisfactory end.

 

Paris

1228

 

Passing the first marker, she started reciting the alphabet.  By the time she reached her destination, she had finished all of her favorite prayers and was deeply into summarizing what she had transcribed earlier in the week.  She may have taken a vow of silence to protect herself within the walls of the monastery, but it did not apply here.  Besides, that vow was made to a god that she did not believe in.

 

Her head was bare and the cassock was as loose fitting as she could make it.  Even though the night was chilly, the exertion of walking and stooping had heated her up.  The heavy, beaded chain that she wore around her waist was laying hidden in the trunk of a tree, quite a way back.  She was almost of the mind to remove the plain brown garment all together!  The image of a long, pale naked woman running through the countryside, picking flowers and talking to herself was scandalous and it made her laugh.

 

The little cave that she used as her hideaway was well covered from open view with overgrown weeds and a full season’s fallen branches . . . not to mention the few larger pieces carefully placed there last autumn.  It wasn’t actually a cave but more of a large niche, on the steep side of a small hill.  Inside, it was just large enough for her to stand or to lie down in any direction.  She had never slept here, she would be missed at St. Etienne, it was solely a storage place for her meager belongings.

 

Before going in she would have to clear the growth.  She emptied the contents of her satchel in the small clearing nearby.  All the plants she had collected on her trip, she lay in distinct piles.  There were not many out this time of year, but the few cuttings she had were good and healthy.

 

At the bottom of the cloth bag was the twine she used to tie up the bunches and hang them to dry.  She cut the twine, as she had the sprigs, with a small leaf-shaped blade that fit into the palm of her hand.  The side against her skin was wide and dull, with slight indentations for the base of her fingers, but the other side was razor sharp.  It had been made specifically to be easily concealed but deadly.  She may live within a society of ‘chaste’ men, but she was not stupid.

 

Finishing up, she stood to stretch her back.  Just as she did so, clouds overtook the moon and she heard a soft thump behind her.  She froze.  The idea that a brother had found her outside the cloister walls terrified her.  Before she could turn around and face her accuser, she heard a feral growl and was hit from behind with a force that knocked her, face first, to the ground.

 

Every other time Kat had dreamed of this moment, it had faded into blackness.  It was as if a blanket had been thrown over her – only to be lifted again at the carnage in the burial room.  Her waking experiences here in Toronto had unlocked something in her mind. Tonight she was going to see herself die.

 

Something was clawing at her.  It was savagely pulling at the cassock and trying to rip it off of her.  She was being attacked by an animal!  The wind had been knocked out of her lungs, making it impossible for her to scream but she fought with all of her strength.  The beast bit down on the back of her neck.  The pain was excruciating.

 

Her eyes were stinging – she couldn’t see, but she could hear its growling and snarling up close in her ear.  It released its grip and reared back to take another, more successful bite.  She was kicking and twisting but the creature was large and held her down with its weight.  Knowing she couldn’t fight back with her arms pinned underneath her and her face shoved into the dirt, she forced her body over.  Her shoulder was burning, she was blind and mute, but she still had the small knife in her hand.

 

The beast was frantically tearing at her front now.  She reached up to guard herself from its vicious snout and felt a face!  Whatever was ripping her to shreds and biting out pieces of her shoulder was a man!  This was beyond comprehension!  In that moment of confusion, she paused in her struggle.  The monster, the man, actually laughed when she had realized what was killing her.

 

All that was left was the final act.  He bent down and bit into her neck like a crazed, starving man into a beautifully ripe peach.  Her blood spurted and he noisily sucked and slurped her life away.  Her mind was swimming, filling with bizarre images of unknown people and places.  It was not completely unpleasant.

 

At the last moment she realized that she must not let this man get away with killing innocents in the woods.  She could not stop him, but she could mark him so that others would see his disfigurement and run the other way.  With her final strength, she brought her hand with the razor up to her attacker and began to slash at him.  As her life ebbed away she could taste his blood, as well as hers, on her lips for they were both bathed in it.

 

 

While We Dallied

by HannaClay

August 3

The Raven

8:00 p.m.

 

Starr sauntered in like a cat who had just gotten into a full container of milk.  And Friedreich followed after her, looking only slightly less smug.

“Oh, hell,” Methos muttered under his breath.  Duncan just held his head in his hands.

“What?” Starr asked defensively.  “What did I do this time?”

“Why don’t you tell us, Starr?” Methos ventured, signaling to a nearby  bar stool.

She sat where indicated, back straight, head high.  An apple wouldn’t have fallen off her head.

“I didn’t do anything . . . except what needed to be done.”

“And Julian is?”

“Extra Crispy Recipe!”  She giggled.

Methos shook his head.

“You have to admit, my ancient friend,” Friedreich added as he placed a large hand on Methos’ shoulder, “after what he did in there, he wasn’t about to continue living.”

“Granted.  But I still think it would have been better handled by Hanna herself, not  this . . . upstart!”

Starr was about to pretend offense, and instead stuck her tongue out.

“So what took you so long?” Duncan ventured, noticing the all too‑familiar look of casual guilt.

Starr laughed and Friedreich blushed.

“I see.  Never mind.  I don’t want to know.”

Starr laughed again, and Friedreich ignored her.

“Where’s Hanna?”

Methos and Duncan looked at each other.  Sky studied the bar.  Starr stopped laughing.  And Friedreich snarled.

“Where is she?”

Methos cleared his throat.  “It seems the lady, Dawson, Shayna, Warren and . . . Elmo, went out for a bit to Watcher HQ.  They haven’t, as of yet returned.”

“And how long ago was this?”

They exchanged glances again, and Duncan answered this time.  “We don’t know. We weren’t here.”

“Let me get this straight,” Starr asked as she moved off the stool, “you guys left and while you were gone, Hanna and the others split.  And you don’t know if they’re okay, or if Horton’s gotten to them, or if August has gotten to them, or what.  Right?”

“We aren’t even sure they are in any danger.  Relax, Starr.  They can take care of themselves.”

“Like hell!”

“Where is Watcher HQ?” Friedreich wasn’t going to give Starr the time to work into one of her tantrums.

“Well, it’s . . . ”

“Never mind.  Take us there.”

 

 

Darkness Falls

by HannaClay

August 3

Toronto

Sunset

 

The Raven was still relatively still.  Not yet open to the public; The only people inside were dead, one way or another, except for one or two mortals like Skye.

 

LaCroix stroked the jawline of his dark goddess as she slept.  Oh, but she had surprised him at Casa Loma, when she had finally bared her fangs.  He laughed quietly to himself at the pun.  Then a more somber attitude struck him as he pondered Micah and his plight.  He wouldn’t be surprised if Micah took his own life after the ordeal was over…if he lived that long.  LaCroix cringed against the humiliation that had been inflicted upon Micah.  He would never have tolerated it.  He would never have permitted it.  Of course, he had never been in Micah’s situation, either.

 

He leaned back against the wall, musing to himself.  It was either that he was too confident in his own nest to believe he would be attacked here, or that the ‘feeling’ that signaled the arrival of one of his own was so familiar that he thought nothing of it.

 

So, he was absolutely shocked when he opened his eyes again and found Janette standing before him.  She had a stake in one hand, a bag in the other.  He couldn’t really tell what was in the bag, but he could smell garlic and feel the power of holy water.  What was she doing?

 

Before he could move, before Angelique roused herself from her deep slumber, Janette moved forward, stake raised and brought it down upon him.  She knew that it wouldn’t kill him, but it would keep him in place long enough for her to make certain that he paid for his crime.

 

Angelique stirred beside him.  Her eyes opened slowly and she recognized Janette’s face.  Only, it wasn’t Janette.  Was it?  Her face had been burned black, as if she had traveled in the daylight hours to get here.  Her hands were charred as well.  And her eyes burned with an unholy fire.

 

“Janette?” she whispered, struggling to rouse herself from her lethargy.  What are you doing?”

 

The visiting vampire hissed in response.  She pulled out the garlic, ignoring the pain.  After the tortuous sunlight, the garlic was a minor annoyance.  She wrapped around LaCroix’s neck and stuffed a bulb of it into his mouth for good measure.

 

“Stop!” Angelique hissed at her, trying to force her limbs to respond to her wishes.

 

“Not a chance!” she screamed as she brought out the vial of holy water.  “I am tired of his little games!  I am tired of the way he tries to control me!  And I am tired of him killing MY CHILDREN!”

 

LaCroix’s eyes widened.  As Janette was about to give him a bath in the holy water, she caught the look in his eyes.  He was so very afraid.  And hurt.  And …proud?  He was the only person she had ever known who could be proud of one of his children trying to kill him.  Of course, technically, he wasn’t her father anymore.  But 1200 years under his wing could not be erased by Nick’s embrace.

 

“He didn’t kill anyone!” Angelique screamed at the crazed woman.  THERE!  She worked her arm free enough to swing, hitting Janette and sending her flying off of LaCroix.  The holy water splashed about, hitting the three of them in tiny little drops, enough to irritate Angelique all the more.

 

“I know..” Janette whispered, as she struggled to her feet.

 

“What do you mean you know?  Then why the HELL…?”

 

“Look into his eyes!  I can see it there!  He didn’t kill her…” she bowed her head in her hands.

 

“Kill who?”

 

“Beverly.  She called herself Lola, but her name was Beverly.”  Blood tears streaked down her face, though whether they were for her lost Childe or for what she had done to LaCroix, she wasn’t sure.

 

Angelique tried to master her anger.  Something was going on here.  For some reason she suddenly smelled August and Horton, as if they had just entered the room.

 

“Why don’t you tell us about it?” she asked, as she wrapped some of the blankets around her hands so she could pull the garlic out of LaCroix’s mouth.

 

While Janette told them what had happened to Beverly, and especially about the corkscrew from the Raven, Angelique worked to heal LaCroix.  Janette contributed some blood and she tried to avoid the hard look LaCroix was giving her.

 

“It looks like the dynamic duo has struck again,” Angelique muttered between clenched teeth.

 

“In Chicago?” Lucien responded, trying to spit the last of the garlic out of his burned mouth.

 

“Well, maybe they have more than just this tiny group working for them?  Perhaps they have a large group, spread about the globe.  How would we know?  Here, we’ve been just thinking that it was a handful of renegade Watchers murdering vampires.  Now, it looks like, not only are they more than a handful, but they are also not simply Watchers.”

 

“What’s this about Watchers?” Janette interjected.

 

“You see,” Angelique started, “Lately, there has been a large number of…”

 

There was a discreet knock on the door.

 

“What?” LaCroix demanded; He was in a very bad mood.

 

“Sorry, Master, but there are two men out here who are looking for Hanna.”

 

“She isn’t here.”

 

“I know.  I’m sorry, but they insist on seeing you.  It has something to do with the death of 23 vampires in the city of New Jerusalem.”

 

“Twenty-three?” the three of them intoned together.

 

“We’ll be out in a moment,” LaCroix muttered.  “Now, would you ladies care to finish repairing the damage first?”

 

 

Wrong Side of the Bed

by RavenKat

August 3

Four Seasons

8:00 p.m.

 

Kat . . .

 

She had been lying there staring at the ceiling, unaware that she was even awake, when she heard her name.

 

Javier tried whispering it again, “Kat . . . ”

 

As she closed her eyes, he noticed a single red tear running down her cheek.  Remaining deathly still, she asked him, “How many others?”

 

The question caught him totally off-guard.  He paused, trying to decipher its meaning.  Kat turned suddenly over onto her side and faced him across the vast expanse of pastel sheeting.  Impatient, she restated her question, “How many others have you brought across?”  Before he could utter a word, she rushed on.  “In your whole lifetime, say . . . like ten? twenty?”

 

In one swift move she pushed back the covers, flipped back over and got out of bed.  “Why don’t you just round it off? If that’s easier,” she added sarcastically.

 

Kat was already across the room – on her way out – when he shot back, “Can I answer?!”

 

“By all means . . . ”  Without waiting at all, she marched into the bathroom.  Flicking on the bright light, she caught a glimpse of her worn and weary face and immediately turned the light back off.  In her preparations to brush her teeth, Kat made as much excess noise as possible . . . yanking the brush out of the holder, slamming the cap onto the counter top, turning the water on full blast.

 

By chance, she looked up and saw Vachon reflected in the mirror.  He was standing behind her, his arms crossed and held close to his body as if he were cold.  Kat turned off the water but kept her back to him.

 

Without making eye contact, he said in a soft and anguished voice, “Just Urs.”

 

Horton Strikes Again

By Kustenhin & HannaClay

August 3

Watcher HQ

8:00 p.m.

 

Joe was pacing the room, fuming.  Elmo followed behind him, a bubble pipe in his mouth, blowing bubbles as he moved along.  Every few turns or so, Joe would stop, turn, and look hard at Elmo, who pretended to be doing something else.  After about ten minutes of this, Joe stopped and turned on Shayna.

 

“For the love of . . . ! Does he have to keep doing that?”

 

Shayna looked pointedly at Joe.  “Are you going to argue with him?”

 

Joe looked at Elmo, who flashed his fangs.  “No,” he sighed, shuddering.

 

Shayna smiled.  “Didn’t think so.”  Looking at Elmo, she motioned to him, “Come here, bud.”  Elmo casually floated over to her lap, trailing bubbles behind him. Joe picked up his pacing again.

 

“I’ll kill that bastard,” he muttered to himself.  Hanna watched Joe silently, trying not to look at the box covered with smiley paper.  Elmo looked up at Shayna.

 

“Why is the funny man in pieces?”

 

Joe looked at Elmo hard.  “Because that sick bastard thought it was funny!”  Elmo looked from Joe to Shayna, then started to giggle.

Hanna looked at Elmo sharply.

 

“What is so funny?”  Elmo stopped laughing, and looked around, puzzled.  Joe held up one hand.

 

“No, let me guess.  It’s because I said that sick bastard thought it was funny, right?”

 

Elmo nodded, “Scruffy man said it was funny!”

 

Joe held out his arms, gesturing wildly, “Do I know Elmo or what?”

 

Elmo laughed.  “Yeah! Scruffy man read Elmo like a story!”

 

Joe rolled his eyes, then turned and started to bang his head against the wall.  Elmo proceeded to jump up and down in Shayna’s lap the way only a three-year-old can.  He stopped and looked at Joe.  “Scruffy man?  Does that hurt?”

 

Joe hit his head against the wall again.  “Yeah it hurts!  But I figure, what the Hell, if I do it hard enough, the situation will go away!”

 

Hanna sighed.  “Elmo that is not quite what Joseph meant.”

 

Shayna patted Elmo on the head, “Yeah, you little hairball!  He meant that he didn’t think it was funny but, that the sick bugger who did it, does!”  Hanna watched Joe, the concern plain on her face.

 

“Horton?”

 

Warren sighed weakly from the couch, “I doubt any of this will go away that easily, Joe.”

 

Joe looked at him, a little crazy about the eyes.  “I know.  But I can hope!”  Warren propped himself up on the couch, with a good deal of effort.

 

“Hope is a wondrous thing.  It’s all some people have.”

 

Hanna looked at Warren sadly.  He closed his eyes against unpleasant memories . . . and the dull ache.

 

“What wrong Warren?” she asked, still concerned.  Elmo sat still on Shayna’s lap, his red, furry head tilted to the side. Warren sighed heavily.  “I just can’t get away from some bad memories.  Everything that happened last night brought back something I would have just as soon forgotten.”

 

Hanna walked over to him, touched his hand.  “There is much we would all like to forget.”

 

Warren shook his head.  “Well, I would rather have no memories of home at all.  That’s why I took to this form of existence so quickly.  It’s like home . . . but not.”  He paused for a moment, then closed his eyes again.  “Thank the Goddess for small favors.”

 

Hanna watched him in sympathy.  “It cannot be all that bad.  It made you the way you are, which provides it some saving grace.”

 

Warren ignored her, rubbed his eyes, and then gagged again.

 

“You are not handling this well are you?” she asked.  “If it is the blood that is bothering you, I suggest you vomit to purge it from your system.”

 

He shook slightly, and then responded, a bit too breathlessly, “No.  I have to learn control so . . . ,” his voice faded into nothing.

 

Hanna turned to Joe.  “Take him to the restroom, please Joseph.”

 

Warren retched violently, then shouted, “NO! Don’t touch me!”

 

“Warren, please think for a moment.  Shayna is not exactly well at the moment either, considering her new . . . ornamentation.  If you are sick in front of her, she is liable to become sick as well.”

 

He shook, his voice unstable and soft.  “Please, just leave me alone . . . ”

 

Shayna disavowed any discomfort.  “Hey, it’s not that bad.  Flesh squares . . . that’s bad.  But he’s been sick like this before.”

 

Hanna laid a cool hand on his forehead.  “He is not well.  There must be something that can be done.”

 

Shayna scratched at the tattoo absently.  “He just needs to be left alone.  It’s worked before.”

 

Elmo climbed down from Shayna’s lap, his head still cocked to the side as he listened.

 

Hanna sighed, “Are you certain there is nothing I can do for him?”

 

“Well, the last time he got sick was when he first got here; He had absorbed the aura of my cat.”

 

“Your cat?” she asked, her eyes widening just a bit.

 

“Yea.  All of it.  He wasn’t oriented to his new existence yet . . . ”

 

“So he basically took the existence of your cat over?”

 

“No.  He didn’t take it over.”

 

“He just absorbed the aura.  The life-force,” she was struggling to understand.  “The soul.”

 

“He absorbed all the energies that made it what it was . . . Chance was a small creature.”  She paused for a moment.  “It killed him.  And for about a week, he acted like a cat occasionally.  You should have seen us trying to convince my parents he was a distant cousin from Britain.”

 

Hanna backed away slowly from Warren, her natural aversion to magic users reasserting itself.  As Shayna spoke, images of the fires of the Inquisition burned in her memory.  Magic had started that as well.

 

“You see, back on Terra, he was nearly . . . what’s the word again? …brought across? No . . . Embraced? No . . . well, you know what I mean.”

 

Hanna nodded.

 

“But the vampire that had tried to do it was stopped before he could complete the process.”

 

“Greer?” she asked, remembering the name from earlier.

 

“No.  He was trying to gain control of Warren’s abilities.  Greer was his wife.”

 

“Ah, so Greer died saving his life then?”

 

“No.  She was still alive, but not the same.  She was turned against him.”

 

“How so?”

 

“She was totally under her master’s influence.  She tried to finish what he had started.”

 

Warren moved again, only slightly, but enough to make Hanna flinch.

 

“He had no idea what she had become.  Let’s just say that he is a halfling.”

 

Hanna watched Warren carefully as she whispered, “Tragic.”

 

“Absorbing that small part of your aura he needed to help you as well as the blood bond aggravated the delicate balance he had achieved.”

 

Hanna sighed, “I almost wish he had let me go, and spared himself the trouble.”

 

Shayna shrugged.  “That’s his station.  He never half-finishes anything.”

 

Hanna shook her head.  “He did not have to start in the first place.”

 

Joe turned away from the wall and looked at Hanna.  There was something in her tone of voice that carried something to him.  He knew Shayna didn’t hear it, but he could feel the need for destruction that carried in her voice.

 

Shayna pulled Hanna aside and whispered, “I thought that, helping a vampire, would help him live it all down.  I didn’t think this would happen.”

 

Hanna looked at her.  “It was very noble of you, and of him.  But it was unnecessary.”

 

Joe walked over to them both.  “I hope he gets better soon, because we’re going to need all the help we can get if we are going after Horton.”

 

Hanna shrugged, “Why not let me handle Horton?  He is obviously more than a mere mortal.”

 

Elmo walked up to the door and pressed his ear against it.

 

Joe shook his head.  “I owe it to too many dead people to make sure his head is taken.  This is personal.  I shouldn’t even involve any of you.”

 

Hanna laughed rather callously.  “Then I will send you his head on a platter.  I have been involved in this far longer than you have been alive.  And besides, he is the same person that killed Darius, yes?”

 

Joe nodded.  “Yes.”

 

“Darius was an old friend.”

 

“Well then, it looks like we both have good reasons to be in this.  We’re in this together.”

 

Hanna smiled.  “At least for Seilidhe’s sake.”

 

Joe raised an eyebrow.  “You know Sei . . . of course you do.  I’m just glad she’s not involved in this one.  I couldn’t stand her being in this much danger.”

 

Hanna smiled.  “I doubt she would be pleased that you are involved in this situation either!”

 

Elmo walked over to Shayna and began to pull on her pant leg.  Hanna watched him carefully, her senses suddenly afire.

 

Elmo started to jump up and down.  “Someone downstairs . . . store closed  . . . that’s bad!”

 

Hanna looked at Joe.  “Horton.”

 

Warren sat up and cocked an ear to listen.

 

Elmo jumped some more.  “Burglar!”

 

Hanna stepped forward into the shadows, melded with them, and then slid under the door.

 

Shayna moved to the door, opened it, and started creeping slowly down the stairs.  Joe and Zara, with her scimitar drawn, followed close behind.

 

Warren shouted, “Wait!”  He lowered his voice quickly.  “I don’t like the way this feels.”  He struggled to get up, and despite several protests from the others, he moved to follow them.  “Don’t go down there . . . wait!”

 

Elmo descended behind everyone else, holding on to the railing.

 

Horton was waiting in the shadows downstairs, and as Shayna passed him, he grabbed her.

 

Warren was struggling down the stairs, whispering, “Shayna, don’t go . . . of course, you won’t listen to me . . . Shayna?  Shayna?”

 

Zara turned quickly and snapped in a whisper, “Shhh!  Do you want him to hear us coming?”

 

Shayna struggled against Horton and shouted, though it was muffled by Horton’s hand.  “W”RREN!”

 

Warren cursed, in several different languages.

 

Horton laughed rather sadistically, “What do we have here?  I have always enjoyed fresh meat!”

 

Shayna froze, and squeaked under Horton’s hand, “FRESH ME”T?”

 

Horton smiled, and then licked the side of her face.  “And she tastes so sweet!”  As Joe descended the stairs, Horton smiled at him.  “Ah, Joe!  A present?  For me?  You shouldn’t have!”

 

Warren came down the stairs and pushed his way pass Zara.  “LET HER GO!” he growled.

 

Horton pulled out the same stiletto he used on Alma, and put it against Shayna’s throat.  “Not so fast there, BOY!  Now, where’s the rest of the party?”

 

Elmo scampered down the stairs, and approached Horton, hopping back and forth from one foot to the other.  “Elmo Elmo Elmo!”

 

Horton watched the approach of the Muppet.  “Hold it there, furry one, or the girl dies.”

 

Elmo laughed.  “Elmo no like bad man . . . Elmo still hungry . . . Elmo want dinner!  HA HA HA!”

 

Joe grabbed Elmo as he passed.  “Not now!”

 

Elmo struggled.  “Elmo help friend and Elmo have dinner!”

 

Joe yelled at him, “No!  If Elmo tries to help friend, bad man will kill friend!”  He looked sick, though whether it was because of Horton, or that he was talking like Elmo, no one knew.

 

Warren drew one of his daggers.  “If you don’t let her go in the next five seconds . . . ” He turned a bit paler, and Zara had to catch him to keep him from falling.

 

Horton laughed, “Or what?  You’ll stick me?”

 

Warren tried to continue.  “Or I’ll have your head so fast . . . ” He couldn’t finish.

 

Horton watched him fumble and laughed.  “Keep trying, weakling.  I’ll eat her heart before you move two steps!”

 

Joe still held onto the struggling Elmo.  “Let her go, Horton!”

 

Shayna watched Warren’s struggle mournfully.  “Just save your strength!  When you get better, you can have the pleasure of sticking this sicko in the Nightmare Vortex!”

 

Elmo struggled some more.  “ELMO WANT TO HELP FRIEND!”  Then he stopped for a moment, as if he were listening to something else.  He grinned, and then vanished.

 

Horton turned paler, and then smirked, “Well, I’ll see you losers later, once I finish with the baby girl!”  He held onto Shayna tighter.  A harsh breeze began to blow through the room, and papers flew everywhere.

 

Shayna struggled harder.  “Let me go you FREAK!”

 

When the papers settled, they were gone.  Zara and Joe both held Warren to keep him from falling.

 

Warren mumbled, “No . . . can’t let her go . . . ” He tried to stand on his own, and couldn’t.

 

“We’ve got to find him,” Joe snarled.

 

“And how do you suggest we do that?” Zara asked, flabbergasted.

 

Joe looked about the room for a moment, then asked Zara, “Where’s Hanna?”

 

Zara shook her head as she tried to help Warren stand.  “I haven’t seen her since she . . . melted.”

 

“What about Elmo?”

 

Warren muttered weakly, “Gone . . . part of the darkness.”

 

They both turn to Warren to help in any way they could.  He tried to stop, but began to vomit blood all over Joe and Zara.

 

“HEE HEE HEE!”

 

Joe looked around, drenched in regurgitated blood.  “What the hell was that?”

 

Elmo reappeared in the doorway.  “YUMMY!”

 

Zara looked as if she were about to be sick.

 

Elmo moved closer.  “Elmo still hungry!  Elmo’s tummy empty!  Elmo want red stuff!”

 

Warren spit some more blood into his hand.  “Be my guest, little guy!”

 

“YEAH!”  He ran over and began to lap the blood out of Warren’s hand.

 

“That’s disgusting,” Joe gagged.  He watched for a second or two before running over to a corner and vomiting.

 

Zara watched in disgusted fascination.  “I’ve seen some strange things in my time, but this takes the cake.  A Muppet drinking blood out of a Mage’s hand like it was a bird feeder!”

 

Elmo looked up from his lunch.  “Elmo likes cake!  Elmo likes cake on Elmo’s birthday!”  He finished his meal, then patted his furry belly.

 

“Sorry, little guy,” Warren whispered, not quite as weakly as before, “but cake will make you sick.  You can only have the red stuff now.”

 

Joe returned, pale and shaking slightly.

 

“But Elmo likes cake!”

 

Warren shrugged.  “Well, maybe if I eat some cake before I feed you the next time.”

 

Elmo clapped his hands.  “Really?  Elmo’s friend Warren give Elmo cake?”

 

Joe ran back to the corner.

 

Warren stood up slowly by himself.  “OH YEA SURE!  NOW I START TO FEEL BETTER!  USELESS!  FUCKING USELESS!”  He started to pound his fists against the shelves.

 

Elmo jumped when he started to yell, and he ran to Zara, and hid himself in her clothes.

 

Zara watched Warren.  “Looks like Hanna was right.  You needed to throw it up.”

 

Joe came back from the corner, and wiped his mouth.  “This isn’t going to help her, Warren.”

 

Warren turned on Joe, his eyes a cold, whitish-blue and fangs barred.  “WH”T DO YOU SUGGEST I DO?  Besides killing that bastard!”

 

Elmo yelled something, but it was muffled by Zara’s clothes.  She held up a hand and said, “Wait a second.  What was that, Elmo?”  She leaned down and listened, then straightened, a particularly devilish smile on her lips.

 

“What?”  Warren asked impatiently.

 

“You aren’t going to believe this!”

 

“WHAT?”  Both he and Joe ask together.

 

She pulled Elmo out.  “Tell them!”

 

Elmo started reluctantly.  “Tiny-Hanna-lady sent Elmo back to get you.”

 

Joe looked at him, surprised.  “To get us?  Where is she?”

 

“Hanna-lady said bad man was taking Elmo’s friend to bad lady.  Bad lady Elmo bit!”

 

Warren growled, “What bad lady?  Not August!?”

 

Elmo nodded, then started jumping up and down.  “YEAH!  Elmo bite bad lady again!”

 

Joe ran on hand through his hair.  “Great!  Just great!  I bet that sadistic mother-f***er probably works for her!”

 

Zara thought about it for a moment.  “Or, more likely . . . ”

 

Elmo shouted as he jumped up and down, “Bad Lady is Bad Man’s Mommy!”

 

Warren looked hard at the little red Muppet.  “He’s one of her creations?”

 

He laughed.  “That’s right!”

 

“FUCK!” came from Warren and Joe, collectively again.

 

Zara shrugged.  “That would explain how he left like that.”

 

Elmo stopped jumping and grew very still.  “Hanna-Lady wants Elmo to tell you something very important.”

 

They all watched him expectantly.  Elmo opened his mouth, but Hanna’s voice came out instead.

 

“He’s taking her to Casa Loma.  The others have already been there.  If you hurry, you might be able to save not only Shayna, but Micah as well.  Now hurry.  There is not much time.”  And she was gone.

 

Warren wondered to himself, “Where’s Casa . . . never mind.  I’ll be able to find her.”

 

Elmo laughed to himself.  “WOW!  Elmo thinks that was fun!”

 

Warren sheathed his knife as he spoke to himself, “I have to pick up something from our hotel room first.”

 

Joe shrugged, “Casa Loma.  I know where it is.  It was a museum.”  He looked from Warren to Zara to Elmo.  “We’ll all go together.”

 

Warren smiled in an uncharacteristically evil way, which gave Zara and Joe the chills.  “That bastard is going to fry!”

 

 

You Found What in the Box?

HannaClay

August 3

Watcher HQ

8:15 p.m.

 

Friedreich had to force the door open for them to get inside.  Once in, they couldn’t get any power to the lights.

 

“Great!” Sky muttered.  “Hold on.  I’ll be right back.”  She ran out, and returned a few moments later with a flashlight she had snagged off the “X-Files” set.

 

“Hey!  Isn’t that . . . ?” Starr asked, shielding her eyes.

 

“Yeah.  I stopped by the X-Files set one day to see the filming, and one of those mega-flashlights was just . . . lying around.  So I borrowed it.”

 

Starr laughed.  “Sounds perfectly normal to me!”

 

“It would,” Friedreich muttered to Methos.  The Immortal smiled back at him.

 

The downstairs was a mess.  Books, papers and a lot of everything had been tossed about the room like they had been nothing.  Everyone exchanged glances.

 

“Horton was here,” Friedreich announced suddenly.

 

“You sure?” Sky asked.

 

He glanced at her, then remembered that she didn’t know he was a Garou.  “Yes.  I can smell him.”

 

She looked at him dubiously.

 

They made their way upstairs.  The first thing that hit them was the smell of blood.  Old, rotted blood.  And slightly digested blood.  And vomit.

 

The room was still quite tidy, save for the splotches of vomited blood all over the floor.  And the corner where it looked like someone had vomited.

 

On the center table, there was a box wrapped in smiley paper.  It was slightly open, and the smell was nauseating.

 

Starr went to examine the box before anyone could stop her.

 

“Don’t!”  Friedreich yelled, his stomach turning at the stench.  A heightened sense of smell wasn’t always a good thing.

 

Too late.

 

“SHIT!” she screamed as she threw the box across the room.  “There’s a chopped-up body in there!”

 

Methos nudged Friedreich.  “Anyone we know?”

 

He glared at Methos.  They walked over to the package and those contents that managed to stay in the box, and sniffed.

 

“No.”

 

Methos shrugged.  “Good.”

 

“Well, they aren’t here,” Sky announced after making sure she checked every corner.

 

“Figured that out yourself, eh?” Starr snapped, still shaken by the discovery.

 

Sky glared daggers at her.

 

“Enough, ladies.” Methos held out a small piece of paper.  “Here’s a bit of a hint though.  The package was definitely from Horton.”

 

The others read the note that Horton had left with “Mickey’s” remains.

 

“So, what do we do then?” Sky asked, looking at the others.

 

“Go back to the Raven,” Methos answered.

 

“Find Hanna,” Friedreich added.

 

“Kill Horton,” Starr snarled, putting in her two cents.  Though, she only wanted to kill Horton because his package had scared her.  Reason enough, the way she saw it.

 

Sky shook her head.  “I think everyone is gunning for Horton, so that’s pointless.  And Hanna, whoever that is, if she’s with the others, will probably go back with everyone else.  So going to the Raven is the best idea.  Besides, I’m sure the others there would like to know what we’ve found.”

 

“Right,” Methos agreed.  “Let’s go.”

 

 

Divulging the Tragedy

HannaClay

August 3

The Raven

8:35 p.m.

 

The two men climbed out of the taxi in front of the Raven.  They both looked haggard.  They both looked run over.  And they both looked like they carried more than a few centuries in years, or at least felt them.  After what had just happened, they thought so too.

 

The crowd was just starting to pick up when they walked inside.  They made their way past the twisting and jerking dancers on the floor to the bar.

 

One of them, the one that looked like a Greek god, caught Miklos’ attention and asked, “Could you tell me where I might find a wonderful, tiny little slip of a woman that goes by the name of Hanna?”

 

Miklos gave him a strange look.  “Depends on who’s asking.”

 

He raised an eyebrow.  “An old friend.”  He emphasized the “old.”

 

“Sorry.  Right now, that doesn’t mean much.”

 

His companion looked at him, then the bartender.  “And why is that?”

 

“It seems quite a few of the lady’s old friends are looking for her.  At least, the ones that want her dead.”

 

The Greek god reached forward, grabbed Miklos by the shirt, and pulled him forward.  “I hope for your sake she isn’t dead.”  The hand that held Miklos by his collar suddenly became quite scaly, and definitely putrid.  And the glorious blue eyes turned a rather sickly green color, almost like the toxic waste in a bad horror movie.  And almost as quickly as the change appeared, it was gone, and the Greek god was there once again.

 

“You’re slipping,” his companion warned him.

 

He let Miklos go.  “Your pardon.  Concern for the lady has . . . altered my mood.”

 

Miklos straightened his shirt, and gave him a baleful glare.  “The lady isn’t here at the moment.  Perhaps the owner might be of assistance.”  He turned, and went to the back room.

 

“John?  Is that you?”

 

They both turned to find Starr and Friedreich approaching them from the other end of the bar, with Duncan, Methos and Sky following close behind.

 

“Friedreich!” the one called John exclaimed.

 

The Garou looked at the other man a bit puzzled.  He knew him.  He had to, if he was traveling with John.

 

“I’m in disguise,” he smiled wickedly.

 

“Marcus?”

 

“Alexander,” he corrected, “for the moment, anyway.”

 

Starr pushed forward.  “I know you!  You’re that sewer rat that stood by and let that bastard husband of hers bond me!”

 

Marcus/Alexander moved closer to her, leaned forward, and licked the side of her face.  “That’s right, Sweets.  And you taste as lovely now as you did then!”

 

She backed away quickly, wiping her face in disgust.

 

Friedreich laughed to himself.  Well, what did she expect from a “real” Nosferatu?  “So, what brings the two of you here?  To Toronto that is.”

 

“There’s been a bit of a tragedy . . . travesty . . . back . . . ”  Marcus quit.  He couldn’t continue as the images of his burning Children filled his brain.

 

“No,” Friedreich whispered.  “Not there too.”

 

The three of them, Friedreich, John and Marcus, stared at each other in silence.

 

Just then, Miklos returned, followed by Angelique, LaCroix and a still rather crispy Janette.

 

LaCroix approached them.  “I hear you are looking for Hanna.  I’d like to know why.”

 

 

Into the Night, part one

by Trapper

August 3

The Raven

8:25 p.m. (concurrent w/ Divulging the Tragedy)

 

Evie, Dennis and Trapper chose a table in the shadows, next to one of the many pillars in the Raven.  Trapper quickly surveyed the room from her vantage point.  OK. I can see both entrances, the bar, the way to the office and the sound booth from here, she thought.  I think we’ve got it covered.

 

“So now what?” Dennis fidgeted and looked around nervously.  So far, it was quiet, just Miklos and the two strange dudes at the bar. Trapper turned in her chair to look at him through her mirrored glasses.  She always gave him the creeps when she did that.  It felt sort of like having someone who was blind look into your soul.  Dennis shivered.

 

“Now?” Trapper answered softly.  “Now, we sit and wait, quietly, patiently, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.”

 

“Like this is something we do well?”  Evie asked wryly, a smile turning up one corner of her mouth.  “Somehow, Traps, I think we’re anything but inconspicuous.”

 

Trapper pulled down her shades slightly to look at Evie over them.  “Compared to vampires, werewolves, catwomen, immortals and a bright red, bloodsucking Muppet, I’d say we were pretty low‑key,” she smiled back at Evie.  She turned to Dennis and pushed her shades back up.  “What do you think, Dennis?”

 

“I think,” he said, trying to keep the quaver out of his voice, Athat we should all click our heels together and chant  there’s no place like home three times.  But, since I left my ruby sneakers back in Seattle, I’ll settle for a drink.”  He started to rise.

 

“Oh, no,” said Evie, pulling him back down into his seat. “We’re not letting you anywhere near the bar right now.  Trapper?  It looks dangerous. You go first.”

 

“Thanks so much,”Trapper responded dryly.  “So, what are you having? Coffee, tea, Kokanee, Labatts, Granville Island Bock, or something else? I do think I’d stay away from the . . . wine.  It’s probably a rather odd vintage.  And remember, we may need our wits about us.”

 

While Evie and Dennis discussed the merits of various beers, Trapper went through a mental checklist: Sleeve daggers, boot knives, spurs, as many of my silver rings as I can fit on each hand, some of Duane’s killer banishing incense, snap‑on fangs, a pentacle necklace, that old crucifix that great‑granddad won in the poker game with the nun, and she smiled, my wooden knitting needles. She remembered how Evie had shaken her head at them, wondering about taking knitting projects on tour.

 

“Yoo Hoo! Oh, Trapper! Could you take our order?”

 

Trapper returned to the present moment. Evie and Dennis were both waving money at her. Without thinking, her hand snaked out and plucked away the bills they were holding.

 

“Nice one, Trapper,” Dennis said, staring at his hand.  “Next time, leave the fingers?”

 

“Evie,” Trapper ignored Dennis’ remark as she took their drink requests.  “Did you bring earplugs with you?”

 

“Of course!”  Evie patted one of her many jacket pockets.  “And an extra pair for Dennis.  I figured if there was even the slightest chance that you were going to use The Voice, I’d bring them.  Bleeding eardrums look so incredibly gauche.”  She and Trapper started to snicker at some private joke.

 

Trapper rose and sauntered toward the bar.  Evie looked at Dennis out of the corner of her eye and shook her head.  What were we thinking of? she silently asked herself.  Dennis is such an innocent, and here we’re dragging him into the lion’s den.  We’ll have to keep an eye on him, since all he’s got to defend himself with are his drumsticks.

 

She allowed herself the briefest moment to luxuriate in the comfortable weight of the 44 Magnum in its shoulder holster.  They had very carefully blessed their weapons and silver bullets before they left the hotel, so she felt reasonably secure.  Dennis, of course, was something else entirely.  Most definitely the weakest link, she sighed.  All they were going to do was find the Raven, hang out and visit friends.  Now, it looked as if they’d fallen into the middle of a witch war, with no way out but to fight.  Well, life was interesting.

 

Evie thanked all of the deities she could think of that James and Michael were safely out of harm’s way.  James had still been chatting up the adorable little stagehand when they left.  Michael, on the other hand, had already made his move on the fiddler from the other band.  Last time she’d seen them, they were laughing and walking out the door.  Well, good for them.  Evie wished that she could’ve wrapped herself around a lusty thought like that, instead of having an overdeveloped sense of duty and loyalty.  Perhaps there would be time later.  She fervently HOPED there would be time later . . . for anything . . . like breathing, maybe.

 

Trapper leaned her elbows on the bar.  “Excuse me.  I don’t mean to interrupt, but if you could take time out from trying to intimidate each other, I’d really like to order.”   Miklos and the two men continued to stare at each other as if they hadn’t heard her.  “OK. I tried to be polite,” she sighed and vaulted over the bar.   “Now, let’s see where they keep the beer around here.”  She pulled two Granvilles out of the small bar refrigerator, and then turned to the espresso machine. “Hi there, short, hot and steamy.  How’s about a drink?”

 

Evie suddenly appeared at the bar to retrieve the beers.  “Well, so much for low‑key, dear.”

 

Trapper walked back around the bar with her double tall latte.  “Hey, what can I say? They’re STILL acting like I’m not even here! Hmph.  How dare they?”

 

“C’mon, Traps. Let’s get back to the table. I left Dennis there beating out the drum solo to “Inna‑gadda‑da‑vida” on the table.”

 

As they approached the table, Trapper and Evie caught their breath.  It was as if a chill had passed through both of them.  No, not a chill, more like an absence of  . . . something indefinable.  Dennis was nowhere to be found.

 

“Damn!” Evie cursed to no one in particular.  She set her beer down.  “I TOLD him not to go anywhere!” She started scanning the crowd that had arrived.

 

“Evie, it’s ok.  He’s probably just gone to the men’s room.”  Trapper turned Evie around with her free hand.  “Look, something’s going down at the bar.  Let’s go back there and check it out.  If he’s still gone when we’re done, then we can worry.”

 

Evie retrieved her beer and they headed back to the bar, never noticing Dennis’ abandoned drumsticks beneath the table, looking like they’d been chewed.

 

 

Steam Heat

by RavenKat

August 3

Hotel

8:30 p.m.

 

Whatever resentment Kat had churned up during sleep was instantly put aside.  This handsome, dark vampire was obviously in pain over the loss of his childe.  The issues Kat had with her own death could wait.  Right now she needed to pay attention to Vachon and the situation in Toronto. But later, she would be more that happy to confront the man who actually deserved her ire – LaCroix.

 

Leaving the toiletries on the sink, she went to Javier.  “I’m sorry,” was all she could say.  She lay her hand on his arm to emphasize her words.  With visible effort, he shifted his focus from the pain to the gentle pressure of her hand and then to her face.   Who was this woman?

 

He touched her cheek to make sure she was real.  Kat had no connections – no allegiance to anyone – yet, here she was helping him in his hour of need.  She brushed her lips against his hand. She was so beautiful and so strong;  Running his fingers slowly down her long, slender neck, he wondered what her blood would taste like.

 

Javier continued his tender exploration, pausing briefly at the swell of her breast, to rest finally at her waist.  His gaze, having followed his hand on its journey, returned to her eyes.  She wore an unsure expression but she had begun to squeeze his arm in response to his touch.  He pulled her closer.

 

This was wholly unlike anything Kat had ever experienced.  Up close, she could feel his power rippling just below the surface.  The slight smell of sandalwood and blood, plus the cold electricity between them was intoxicating.  Javier Vachon was definitely not a mortal man.  Kat leaned in, pressing her body full length against him.  The sensations were overwhelming her.  At a loss for anything else to do, she kissed him.  It was a quick little kiss that simply ignited the need for more.

 

Their next kiss was long and passionate.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and he, around the small of her back.  Not wanting to rush, but feeling the growing lust between them, Kat broke their embrace.  She began to quickly unbutton Javier’s shirt.  He pulled at the hem of her T-shirt, causing her to stop what she was doing and let him pull it up over her head.

 

Vachon moaned hungrily at the sight of her.  Whatever incredible body Kat had died with 800 years ago was still in perfect form.  Kissing her deeply again, he began to undo the velvet pants he had found so enticing earlier . . . now all he wanted was her out of them.  She had continued to pluck at his shirt, but they had reached a point where they would have to do a bit of undressing on their own.

 

Kat had only gotten as far as her bra and panties when a shirtless Vachon approached her and they started kissing again.  He moved forward, pushing her up against the opposite wall.  The hunger was growing  – Kat could feel a burning between her legs, as well as in her veins.  She ran her hands all over his muscled back, savoring the feel of his skin.  He was caressing her breasts, fingering her nipples beneath the satin of her bra.

 

She reached down between their bodies and began to unfasten Vachon’s pants.  He pulled away from their kiss and looked at her. She watched as his eyes began to glow a deep gold – He saw hers change, as well.  She leaned in and began to nibble on his ear.  Still pressing her against the bedroom wall, he lifted her up and easily tore off her underwear with one hand.  She took two handfuls of hair at the nape of his neck and pulled her legs up around his hips.  Vachon never wore underwear, so as his jeans were pushed down a bit, he was ready to go.

 

With one hand braced against the wall and the other on Kat’s thigh, he thrust into her.  She abruptly stopped what she was doing and gasped.  He began to slowly move in and out of her while nuzzling her neck.  As their passion mounted, Vachon reared his head back and opened his mouth revealing fangs.  Kat was totally lost in their delicious rhythmic motions when she felt his teeth pierce her flesh.  She moaned loudly at the sharp pain and the sensual tugging sensation of Javier drinking her blood.  Digging her nails into his shoulders and squeezing her legs tighter, she hung on for dear life.

 

Their movements became more frenzied as they neared the edge.  Javier drove hard up into Kat’s welcoming body as he climaxed.  She quivered violently as she, too, died the small death.

 

 

All Things Must . . .

HannaClay

August 3

At the Raven

9:00 p.m.

 

John glanced at LaCroix nonchalantly, but Marcus bristled.

 

“Why we are looking for Mrs. Clay,” he stressed, “is our concern.”

 

“She isn’t here,” Starr muttered, glaring at both LaCroix and Marcus.

 

Marcus turned his attention away from LaCroix and back to Starr.  He remembered her well from that night, long ago, when Jonas had caught her on the run in the streets of L.A.  There was spunk in her then, but there was more of it now.  Hanna’s influence, no doubt.  The only vampire he had ever known that believed her Children should have their freedom.  “Then where might she be?”

 

Friedreich shook his head.  “We aren’t exactly sure.  It seems that, while Starr was off killing Julian,” Marcus raised an eyebrow, but said nothing, Aand LaCroix and the others had ventured to Casa Loma to see about helping Micah out, Hanna and a few others left and went to the Watcher HQ in town.”

 

“Ah, yes,” Marcus let out a sigh that was close to a snarl, “the Watchers.  Tasty mortals, every one of them.”  He smiled at the look that Methos and Duncan shot him.

 

Friedreich shook his head.  “Anyway, when we got there, the place was a mess.  Something happened there, and it wasn’t pretty.  There was also a present there, left by none other than Horton.”

 

Everyone looked at each other in apprehension.  Horton.  Not again . . .

 

“It seems that he took a dislike to the operator of the bookstore, cut him into tiny pieces and put him in a box.  Then he sent the box back, wrapped in smiley paper.  The box was open, so they had to have seen it.  It also looks like there was a scuffle downstairs.  And Horton was involved in it.  Along with Shayna.  Could be wrong, but I don’t think so.  She has a distinctive scent.”

 

“Who is Shayna?” Marcus asked curiously.

 

“Someone you’d like entirely too much, so stay away from her, ugly!” Starr snarled at him.

 

He laughed lecherously, then turned his attention back to Friedreich.

 

“That’s about it.  Knowing Hanna, she went after August.”

 

John came out of his seat with a start, and both he and Marcus nearly shouted “August?!”

 

“Yeah.  She’s up at Casa Loma it seems.  With Micah as boy-toy.”

 

John looked at Marcus.  “Well, that explains it then, doesn’t it?”

 

“Explains what?” LaCroix put forward, trying to get back into the conversation.

 

John looked pointedly at Friedreich.  “New Jerusalem has been . . . depopulated.”

 

His hairy jaw dropped.  “What do you mean, depopulated?  Don’t tell me she had everyone in the city killed!”

 

“No.  Nothing like that.  But the Taboo burned to the ground, with most of the city’s vampire population inside.  Including . . . Jocasta.”  He stopped.  A sudden flash in his mind of the bright, willful Brujah that had come to dominate his heart nearly broke him.

 

Friedreich stared at him in shock, and then in sympathy.

 

“Yes,” Marcus continued because he knew that John could not, Athe Prince was dragged out of his tower, and staked in the morning sun.”

 

Friedreich almost laughed at that.  He cared for Nicola even less than he did Julian Luna.  As far as he was concerned, that 10-year-old little bastard got what he deserved.

 

“All told, save for our friend John and myself, every other vampire was destroyed.”

 

Methos leaned forward, not really wanting to intrude.  “How many vampires, would you say?”

 

Marcus paused for a moment, not wanting to say the number, because saying it would admit that he believed it true.  And he didn’t want to believe it.  Wasn’t ready to believe it.  “Twenty-three.”

 

“Twen . . . ,” Starr started then stopped, shocked.

 

Silence descended upon the party at the bar.  Twenty-three vampires.  All in one city.

 

Duncan was the first to shake himself into movement.  “But why?  They’ve only been killing one or two here or there!  Why so many in one city?”

 

John looked at Duncan and would have answered, only he didn’t know him, and didn’t know what he thought of Hanna.

 

Friedreich did, however.  “She did it because of Hanna.  Because she knew, it would hurt her.  And there isn’t anything in the world she loves more than hurting Hanna.”

 

 

Into the Night, part 2

by Evie‑Phoenix

August 3

The Raven

9:30‑ish p.m.

 

Evie and Trapper fell into the stunned silence following the news of the massacre at New Salem.  “Twenty‑three,” Evie breathed quietly.  And suddenly found herself the focus of 10 pairs of eyes, not all of them friendly.

 

LaCroix was the first to speak.  Frowning, he addressed the two women:  “I see you’ve returned.  Well, I suppose if you insist on being in the middle of things, there’s no help for it.”

 

John and Marcus looked from LaCroix to the two women and back.  LaCroix shrugged.  “Groupies.”

 

Trapper bristled and raised her eyes to glare at him. “Perhaps in your dreams,” she said softly.

 

“Nightmares all, I assure you,” LaCroix replied easily. Despite himself, the banter with these two W”S amusing.

 

“So what’s your link with Hanna?” Evie looked at the two newcomers, who glared at her in return.

 

LaCroix waved his hand in mock defeat.  “Oh, no secrets here.  She’s an old friend.”  He smiled maliciously.

 

“Funny, they don’t look like vampires,” Duncan murmured to Methos.

 

“Evie,” Starr stepped forward, letting the other woman see her for the first time.  “What a surprise.”

 

Evie’s jaw dropped.  “Gee, Starr,” she began uncomfortably.  “Long time no see.  You look so… different.  Have you lost weight?”

 

The vampire giggled.  “You could say that.  Lost some baggage, too.”

 

“Well, this old home week is very nice, but it’s not helping us decide what to do next,” Duncan interjected.  “We’ve still got a couple of maniacs on the loose, and friends in danger.”

 

“So let’s all sit down and have a drink and see if we can’t hash out a plan,” Methos suggested, gesturing to an empty table.  They all moved to sit down.

 

“Omigod!” Evie exclaimed suddenly, startling everyone.  “Dennis!”

 

“Who?”  Friedreich frowned.

 

“Our drummer,” Trapper cursed under her breath.  “He’s disappeared.”

 

“People do that here,” LaCroix assured them.  “Well, mortals do, anyway.”

 

“Can one of you fine gentlemen check the men’s room?” Evie looked at the assemblage.  The men looked from one to the other, ’til Miklos moved from the bar.  “I’ll look.  I know his face.”

 

Evie and Trapper excused themselves and cruised the room, searching for their missing rhythm section.

 

When they got back to the table Starr said “Miklos says he’s not in the loo.”

 

Evie and Traps looked at each other, both faces etched with worry.  “Where could he be?”  Trapper spoke their shared thought aloud.

 

“Traps!”  Evie suddenly reached across the table and grabbed her friend’s arm.  “Do you still have Nick’s card?  You could call him.”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Trapper grinned, relieved.  “I mean, it may be a little premature for a missing persons report, but if anyone knows how dangerous this place can be…” She stood and stretched.  “LaCroix,” she leaned toward the ancient vampire.  “May I use your phone?”

 

 

Enter, Stage Left

by Evie/Phoenix

August 3

Toronto

around 9:30 p.m.

Nick wasn’t feeling very well, but didn’t really think he could take sick time right at the moment.  What excuse could he make? He thought miserably: my “daughter” was killed the other night, a group of strange people dropped into my life, chaos in their wake, and I sucked the life out of a “Tickle‑me Elmo” doll?  As Tracy would say, he thought to himself, “I don’t think so.”  Instead, he pulled himself together well enough to go into the office and head for his desk.

It didn’t particularly shock him to see someone sitting on the corner of his desk.  But when that person turned and he realized who it was, the surprise staggered him.  “Schanke!” he managed to choke out, grasping blindly for a chair to support him.

“Oh, there you are, Knight,” his old partner replied easily.  “I was wondering when you would decide to show.”  Don Schanke hoisted his rear off  the corner of Nick’s desk and walked around to the front.

“But,” Nick spluttered, “But I . . .  I thought you were . . . ”

“On vacation?  Yeah, I know I was supposed to be gone for two more weeks, but Myra had to come back early.  Family emergency, something with her sister.  She wouldn’t let me stay in Paradise unchaperoned, as it were, so hey, here I am.  Miss me?”

Nick felt his world shudder a little, then settle back into place.  “More than you’ll ever know.”

“Great!” Schanke clapped his hands and rubbed them together.  “So what’s on the list for tonight?”

“Does Reese know you’re back early?” Nick glanced at the captain’s door, which was shut.

“No, I haven’t had the pleasure of informing him yet,” Don replied.  “And, by the way, I did see Cohen.  She’s doing great.”

“I thought you weren’t going to Okinawa.” Nick looked puzzled.

“Well, it was a bonus stopover on the cruise.  We had dinner at her family’s home ‑ terrific people.  Just don’t ever need to fly out of  there on a family emergency.  The airport is a joke.”

“She doesn’t miss police work at all, does she?” Nick speculated.

“Well, she says she doesn’t,” Schanke said doubtfully.  “Personally,  I think that once it gets a hold of  you, it never lets you go, even when you try to leave it behind.”  “She did ask about you,” he added.

“Hm,” Nick glanced at the pile of paperwork accumulating on his desk.

“Oh, no,” Schanke warned, following his gaze.  “I’m not doing your paperwork.  “Uh, uh.”

“Aw, c’mon Schanke,” Nick said hopefully.  “You know this is the best way to get caught up on what’s happening.”  And keep you out of the way while I get things sorted out.

“No way,” Schanke was adamant.  “You dug yourself this hole.  You dig your way out.”  He picked up a file laying on Nick’s desk and glanced through it idly. “So what’s this?”

“I really haven’t had time to start on that one,” Nick looked over his shoulder, distracted, as Natalie walked up behind him.

“Hey, Schanke, you’re back early,” the medical examiner greeted Nick’s partner.  “The sea air didn’t agree with Myra?”

“Nah., she loved it,” Don replied.  “But it looks like Nicky‑boy has gotten himself spoiled in my absence.  Did my replacement do you paperwork for you?”

“Probably more than her share,” Nick acknowledged, guilty.  “Look, give me a break!  I’m just thinking of how to best get you caught up.”

“Yeah, right,” Schanke snorted.

“Maybe Tracy can help you both,” Natalie suggested suddenly.  The two men looked at her, incredulous.  “Well, she can help Nick with his paperwork,” she continued in the face of their disbelief, “and she can help Schanke get  oriented to what’s on the table right now.”

Nick and Schanke looked at each other, then back to her.  “Well, she hasn’t been reassigned yet, if that’s what you’re wondering,” she defended.  “In fact,” she went on firmly, “she tells me there won’t be a place for her for another two weeks yet.  Everybody expected you to stay gone, y’know, Schanke,” she glared at him in mock irritation.

Nick shrugged.  “Fine with me, if she wants to help out.”  He looked to Don, who was returning Nat’s glare.  “Schanke. We could use her.  Really.”

Schanke, seeing himself outnumbered, threw his hands in the air.  “All right! But I think she’s way out of her league.  Who’s bright idea was it anyway, assigning the commissioner’s daughter to homicide?”

“Hers, I believe,” Nat replied crisply.  “She’s got a good head, Schanke. Give her a chance.”

Don looked to Nick, who nodded.  “Okay,” he agreed, grudgingly.  “But you get to babysit her, Knight.”

Nick and Nat looked at each other and rolled their eyes in unison as Don turned away.  “So where is she, Knight?  We haven’t got all night, you know. Bring her in, by all means, and A‑S‑A‑P.”

“I’ll get right on it,” Nick grinned at Don’s back.  “Oh, and Schanke?”

“What.”

“Welcome home.”

 

 

Castle on the Hill

by Kustenhin

August 3

Casa Loma

9:30 p.m.

 

Casa Loma was a ninety-eight-room castle in the middle of Toronto.  Secret passages, tunnels, the whole bit.  Under other circumstances, like say . . . in tourist mode, Shayna would have admired the architecture, had she even been able to see what the place looked like, or where she was. Unfortunately, the blind fold prevented that.  She couldn’t see, but she could hear.  A taunting, raspy, slightly accented voice.  Could do without that. Maybe ripping his vocal cords out wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  She wouldn’t get that far, but it was an entertaining thought.  One of the few she had in the past few hours.

 

Horton had asked her about the plan.  About HER plan.  Even though it was just suggestion, somehow, Horton had gotten wind of it. Probably tortured it out of poor Micky  That’s all he had asked her about. The Plan.  And she kept telling him that there was no definite plan – that it was only a suggestion.  And not everyone agreed that it was even the best plan of action.

 

But, the psycho was convinced that there was one, and every time Shayna denied it, he cut her with the straight razor.  They were only little cuts, but they were agonizing.  There were so many now that she would probably start bleeding to death soon.  They were little nicks, paper cuts, but they were all over.  The meditation techniques that Warren had taught her weren’t working on the pain, but perhaps they did help her stick to her story.  Maybe if she just stuck to it a little longer, the others would find her . . .

 

“Well little one, do you have any more information to volunteer?”  Horton had come back.  Time for a little slicing and dicing.

 

“No,” Shayna barely whispered.

 

“I see.  Well, I think I know why that is . . . you haven’t had dinner.”  Dinner?!  Horton’s demeanor had changed . . . he actually sounded . . . Nice?  That scared Shayna even more. The phrase ‘calm before the storm’ had new meaning.

 

“Here,” said Horton in a friendly voice, “Have some corn beef.  Hope you like yellow mustard on your sandwiches. Unfortunately, I won’t be joining you.  I’m on a strictly liquid diet.”

 

Shayna’s hands were uncuffed and she, despite who offered it, ate the sandwich.  After all she did need to keep her strength up . . .

Shayna had never been sicker in her entire life.

 

Horton’s laughter echoed throughout the castle.  Now she just might be more receptive. This could be fun . . .

 

 

Tiny Little Morsel

by HannaClay

August 3

Casa Loma

9:50 p.m.

 

Horton stroked Shayna’s hair pensively as he hummed to himself.  Oh, the things he wanted to do to her!  So young, so fresh, so…

 

“I brought you a present!”

 

Horton looked away from the tied and gagged Shayna, to see one of his Watchers walk in, proud as a kitten in a dairy.  Behind him, another Watcher and one of the Immortals carried between them an unconscious man.  Most definitely mortal.

 

Horton licked his lips.  “Oh, well done, my boys!” He walked over and lifted his head.  “Hmmm.  Practice!  I can’t wait!”  He smiled approvingly at his men.  “Where did you find him?”

 

“At the Raven.  We were keeping an eye on their activities.  Would you believe that they still haven’t made any plans to come after us?  They’re still moping around in their self-pity!  Anyway, he came in with two women, mortals both, who appeared to know LaCroix at least.  Musicians of some sort.  Anyway, they left him at their table, and I figured that he would make a lovely addition to your…collection of toys.  He tried to stake me with his drumsticks, but Lionel here took care of that.”  He pointed to the other Watcher.  The man was trying to remove a splinter from his top lip.

 

“Yes!  Bring him over here.  I want my dear little peach here to watch how I like to work.”

 

They carried him over to the workbench, then stripped and strapped him down.  Horton looked over his tools, picked a long, leather-braided whip, and smacked him across his bare chest.

 

““AAAAAAGGGGGHHH!!!!”  Dennis woke with a yell.  He tried to sit up, but the straps wouldn’t let him move more than an inch either way.  “What the Hell?!”

 

Horton leaned over him, smiled, and purred, “Welcome to my world!”

 

Dennis’ eyes widened.  Oh shit!  What did he get himself into!?  And who the hell was this pervert?

 

Horton had already turned to his table of tools, searching for whichever one might suit his mood.  Since Shayna had a clear view of what he was looking over, she winced visibly, and Dennis wished fervently that she was just over‑reacting.

 

“Let’s see, my little boy‑toy, we should start simple.  I don’t want to wear you down…just yet.”  Horton turned around, holding a pair of pliers.

 

“Hey!  What the Hell do you think you’re doing?!” Dennis struggled vainly against his restraints.  Whatever this nut was going to do, he didn’t want to know, and he sure as Hell didn’t want to be part of it!

 

“Why, I’m playing, my pretty!  You see, I’m in a particularly lethal mood right now.  And if I work on my little peach here,” he reached out and stroked Shayna’s cheek, “I’ll become excessive.  And I don’t want to do that with my little flower.  I wish to be delicate and gentle.  Which, unfortunately for you, means that I need to get the…destructive tendencies out of my system, before I start on my peach.”

 

“I don’t even know you!  Why are you doing this to me?!”

 

“Let’s just say you presented yourself at entirely the…right time, in the wrong place.  You see, you were at the Raven.  And anyone at the Raven is fair game.”

 

“What?  Does this have to do with those vampires?”

 

Shayna yelped, though the sound was muffled by her gag.  Dennis looked over at her, and realized suddenly that keeping his mouth shut was a good idea.

 

Horton leaned over him.  “Which vampires?”

 

Dennis made a visible show of closing his mouth tight.

 

Horton laughed hysterically.  “Oh!  But I do love boys with some spirit!”

 

The pliers flashed, and before Dennis felt the pain, he was missing his right pinkie.  “GODDA….!!!!”

 

Horton covered Dennis’ mouth with his blood‑covered hand.  “No, no.  None of that.  You see, I don’t like to hear the name of our Lord taken in vain.”

 

Dennis continued to scream obscenities under Horton’s hand.  Horton frowned passively.

 

“That just won’t do,” he said in disapproval as he ripped off first a fingernail, and then the ring finger, on the right hand.

 

Dennis screamed again.

 

“Stop it!!!” Shayna screamed, though it can out quite differently through the gag.  The tears streamed down her face.  She realized that Horton wasn’t really doing it to pleasure himself.  He was going to torture him because of her.  Because he wanted to break her more easily.

 

“OH!”  Horton’s bloody hand rested on his own cheek.  “Now see what you’ve done?  You’ve upset my peach!”  The little toe on Dennis’ left foot was the next to go.

 

Dennis screamed again, a bit weaker, as the pain flooded him.  The he passed out.

 

“Tsk, tsk.”  Horton shook his head.  “Water!”

 

The two Watchers threw buckets of water on Dennis, and as he gasped awake, Horton touched a button on his table.  Dennis’ whole body writhed in pain as electric shock coursed through him.

 

“You see.  You are not allowed to sleep while we are working!  It interferes with the process, and I won’t have that!  Now, no more passing out, understand?”

 

Dennis lay, gasping for air, trying to ignore the pain of the shock, and the pain of his missing digits.  Of course, it was at this time that he lost yet another finger.  This time, it was the middle one on his left hand, and Horton took his time, instead of doing it quickly.  Dennis, naturally, passed out again, and was given a repeat of the “shock treatment”.

 

Shayna tried closing her eyes.  She didn’t want to see this.  She didn’t want to hear it.  Horton nodded to one of the Watchers, who came over and pried her eyes open with bamboo.

 

“Ah, yes!  The bamboo!  Here,” he handed his pliers to one of the men.  “I want to try something I read in a book once!”  He walked to the table and grabbed a bamboo whisk.

 

“I guess the Chinese invented this torture centuries ago.  Supposedly, it should make whatever I hit swell.  Oh, the whisk itself doesn’t really hurt.  It’s the swelling that causes the pain!”  He nodded to his Watchers, and they moved forward and turned Dennis over onto his stomach, then latched him back into place.

 

Horton lightly smack him on the bottom of his feet, on the palms of his hands, and on his exposed buttocks.  After working each area carefully, Horton put away his whisk.  He grinned as he watched the skin expand with its swelling.

 

“Now, here’s the fun part!”  Horton pulled a tiny string off his shirt, and then smiled lovingly as he ran it over Dennis’ body.

 

At first, Dennis felt the tingle of tickling as the string moved down his back.  When it reached his rear though, he felt an eruption of pain.

 

“You see, dear boy, the whisk causes the blood to rush to the affected areas, in which case, they swell.  And even a water drop,” he illustrated this by dipping his finger into one of the nearby buckets of water and then letting it drip onto Dennis’ foot,” causes excruciating pain!”

 

Dennis jumped when the droplet hit his foot, and screamed again.  He never believed that anything could hurt this much.  Even when he lost the fingers…his hands were already numbing in shock.  But the blood kept rushing to the swollen areas, and the pain was kept fresh.

 

“Stand him up!”

 

They dragged him up, and each stood on one foot to make him put them on the floor.

 

“SWEET JESUS!” he screamed in agony, trying desperately to lift his feet off the ground.

 

Horton smacked him across the face with the whisk.  “I told you about that!  No blaspheming!”

 

Dennis broke down, and started crying in great sobbing gasps.

 

“Oh, poor baby!” Horton cooed in mock sympathy.  He nodded, and the Watchers moved, letting Dennis lift his feet.  They carried him back to the table and strapped him down again on his backside.  Dennis shrieked through the tears at the fresh pain.

 

“Hmmmmm, what to do next?”  Horton tapped his chin thoughtfully.  He looked over his tools, then picked one that caught his attention.  “Ahhhh!  This is one of my favorites!  You see, this is one they use to flay animals with.  Of course, the animals are usually dead, though I can’t imagine why!  It’s so much more fun to hear them squeal!”

 

Horton carefully removed the skin on Dennis’ upper thighs and arms.  He had fainted twice during the procedure, and Horton had woken him each time with the electric shock.

 

Horton was busy licking the blood from each piece he removed.  Shayna threw up at the site, and they had to remove her gag to keep her from choking.

 

When he was done, Horton smiled again as he picked up his newly‑cleaned pliers.  “Where were we?”

 

It took almost a half hour, but by the time Horton was done, Dennis was missing every toe and finger, and was left with only his thumbs.  He had fainted only twice, even though Horton had lingered on each digit purposefully.

 

“I’m proud of you, dear boy!  You only fainted twice!”  Horton clapped.

 

“You sick fuck!”  Shayna screamed.  “Why don’t you just kill him and put him out of his misery?!”

 

“Tsk, tsk, my sweet peach!  The sooner I finish him, the sooner I start on you!”

 

She paled visibly, but held her ground.  “He didn’t do anything to deserve this!  Let him die!  Stop playing with him!”

 

“No, dearest.  Not yet.”  He turned back to Dennis.  “Now, I’m going to ask you some questions.”

 

“NOW?!”  Dennis gasped, half in shock, half in fear.

 

“I wanted to make sure you were…properly motivated.  The women you were with.  What are their names?”

 

Dennis shook his head.  He would die before he gave them up.

 

“That’s what you think!” This was a woman’s voice, and Dennis opened his eyes in surprise.

 

August walked forward, wrinkling her nose at the smell.  “I see you’ve been playing again.”

 

Horton smiled at her.  “I enjoy my work.”

 

She smiled ruefully.  “I noticed.”  Turning on Dennis, she stroked his cheek.  “So dear, let’s start with your name.”

 

He shook his head.  I’m not telling her.

 

“Thank you, Dennis.”  She kissed the tip of his nose.  You see, that was so easy.”

 

His mouth hung open in shock and surprise.  What, did she just pick the thought out of his head or something?

 

“Exactly dear.  Next, the women you were with?”

 

“NO!”

 

“Ahh…Evie.  Why does that seem familiar?  And Trapper?  What an unfortunate woman!”

 

“NO! NO! NO!”  He screamed as he started crying again.  “Not them.  Leave them alone!”

 

“Oh, Dennis, I’m surprised at you!  You know we can’t do that!  You see, you were at the Raven, and you know about the vampires there, which means that you consort with them.  If you don’t, your lady friends do.  In which case, you are still consorting with the enemy.  Now, since we eviscerate them, what do you think we’re going to do to an insignificant mortal like yourself?”

 

He thought about Evie and Trapper on the table, in Horton’s hands, and screamed in frustration and fear.

 

August stared at him distastefully.  Turning to Horton, she snarled, “Finish him.  I want him quiet!”

 

Horton sighed.  He was just starting to enjoy his toy.

 

He nodded to his Watchers, who then left the room briefly.  They returned, three others with them, two Immortals and one more Watcher/vampire.  The two original helpers pushed between them a small, black pot, that steamed.

 

Two of the Watchers released Dennis from the table, then forced him down into a kneeling position.  The other Watcher place a strap around his forehead, and pulled backwards.

 

“You see, Dennis,” Horton laughed smugly, “they used to do this to Roman Senators that got too greedy.  But when I read about it, I thought about how unjust it was to reserve it only for Senators!”

 

The two Immortals placed the protective gear on, so that they wouldn’t burn.  Then they lifted up the steaming pot.

 

“Open your mouth.”

 

Dennis clamped his lips tight.

 

“I said, open your mouth!”  Horton took a clothes‑line pin, put it over Dennis’ nose.

 

When Dennis couldn’t hold his breath anymore, his mouth opened in a gasp.

 

The Immortals began to pour, with Shayna screaming the entire time…

 

 

Jetting to Nowhere

by HannaClay

August 3

On a plane to Toronto

10:00 p.m.

 

Amanda watched the water through her window.  The way the moon seemed to ripple along as it led the way to MacLeod.

 

Duncan was going to be furious.  Though she didn’t know which would upset him more; the fact that the barge was a wreck, or that Fitzhugh was dead.

 

Either way, when she reached him, he would probably blame her for it.  He always did.

 

By sheer coincidence, on the same plane, on a return flight from Paris, scanning diligently over some last minute paperwork, was Detective Tracy Vetter.  She had gone to Paris to check up on a link in a case she and Nick had been working on.  Well, it was supposed to have been a vacation, but she wasn’t about to tell Captain Reese the real reason she had wanted to go to Paris.  He wouldn’t have let her without asking her father.  And Nick would have definitely been against the idea.  So she just didn’t tell them.

 

She still felt that she had to prove to them that she wasn’t just the Commissioner’s daughter.  She was a good cop.  If they would only let her be.

 

The plane landed about sundown.

 

Since neither woman had announced to anyone that they would be coming, none of their friends that might have helped them were present to save them.

 

Tracy was taken almost the minute she got off the plane.  Amanda, who had sensed the presence of another Immortal, had made a run for it.  She would have gotten away, if it hadn’t been for the damn car that had slammed into her.  She was locked in paralysis, at least until her body remembered how to live again.

 

It was all the time they needed to load her in the trunk of the car, next to the unconscious Tracy.

 

Of course, neither woman would know what to expect once they reached Casa Loma.  Neither knew what had been happening.  Neither knew the danger they were in.

 

But they would.

 

 

Would You Like Fries with That?

By HannaClay

August 3

Casa Loma

10:30 p.m.

 

Shayna was curled up into a ball.  The pain in her stomach was unlike anything she had ever felt before.  Her tongue was swollen, her throat nearly closed, and her head felt like it had been split open by an axe.

 

“I see he started.”

 

She heard the voice come from somewhere beyond.  She wasn’t about to try to focus her senses to find out where.  She just wanted the throbbing in her head to stop.  She wanted a drink.  She wanted to throw up, but it hurt too much when she did.  She wanted…

 

“To be out of here?  Of course you do little one.  It’s only natural.  And I can help you leave, just like you want to.”

 

Leave?  That word reached her when none of the others had.  Yes.  She wanted to leave.  Go back to Warren.  Learn to be a Watcher.  Even play with Elmo.  Well, maybe play with Elmo.

 

“Yes, Sweets.  I can help you leave.  But first, you must show me that you trust me to help you.”

 

“How?”  She spoke through the sandpaper that was her throat.  Her lips cracked as she moved them, and started to bleed.

 

“Just a little information and you’ll be on your way.”

 

Information?

 

“Yes pet.  Information.  I’m not interested in his ideas.  He thinks you’ve created some devilish plan to destroy him, and he’ll work to wring that out of you, whether it is true or not.  I would like to know more about the reasons that you are helping these people.  You are, after all, only sixteen.  You should be in school, not running around with vampires and Immortals.  Now, tell me.  I want to know why you’re doing this.”

 

Shayna’s vision swam.  She could make out the shape of someone standing in front of her, but nothing more than a dark blur.  Still, all the voice wanted to know was why she was here, and then she could go, right?  But, what was there that she could tell?  Or should tell….

 

 

That’s MY Toy

HannaClay

August 3

11:00 p.m.

“What the Hell do you think you are doing?”

August wheeled around and stared in amazement at Horton.  “What?!”

“That’s my pet!  I’m the one who gets to play with her!  And none of this  ‘oh, if you tell me what I want to know, I’ll let you go’,” his voice had dropped into a high‑pitched, mocking whine.

 

“Horton,” she snarled, “I will do whatever I want, with whomever I want whenever I want! Remember who I am!”

The last was delivered with a rather harsh mental slap, and Horton reeled from the blow.  He nearly fell into the men who had brought Micah into the room to watch Shayna’s torture.

“Now, Shayna.  You must tell me what you know.  Or else, I will have to let Horton do as he pleases.”

Shayna shook her head, not to clear her vision, but to deny her accuser.  “I’m not going to tell you anything!”

“Defiant little bitch!”  She slapped Shayna across the face, then moved back.  “She’s yours Horton.  But I’m watching.  And so is Micah.  Make certain he hears every scream!”

Horton leaned against the wall for a moment.  He was actually contemplating the murder of his Sire until she released Shayna to him.  Then he didn’t care.  All he wanted was to hurt someone.  Anyone.  He rose to his feet and smiled at his maker.

He pulled out a straight razor as he walked toward Shayna.

“Don’t,” Micah whispered.

Horton laughed at his meek protest.  “Quiet, pet.  I haven’t finished with you either!  If the little one here is lucky, she might even get to see what I’m going to do to you.”

Shayna struggled to get to her knees, but there was no way in hell her splitting headache was going to let her.

“That’s right, baby.  Try to fight it!  Show Horton what you’re made of.”  He gently rubbed his razor down one ear, then the other.

Shayna stiffened.  She didn’t actually feel the cuts, until Horton licked them.

“Oh, it’s been so long since I had a sweet little thing like you!  Tell Horton, baby.  You can be honest.  Are you still a virgin?”  He drew the blade across her neck, giving her a few more delicate cuts.  “I haven’t had a virgin in so long.  Let’s find out, shall we?”

Shayna heard the distinctive sound of a switchblade opening, and she started to shake.  Horton was about to cut away her clothes, when he was tackled from behind.

“You sick fucking bastard!  I’ll gut you with that, you freak!”

Horton and Micah rolled around on the floor, each trying to get the switchblade away from the other.  Micah would be damned if he let Horton rape that defenseless girl.

The blade entered Micah through his sternum, and he coughed up blood.  “Damn fine rescue,” he muttered to himself.

The Watcher and the Immortal guards that had brought him, carried him out of the room and threw him in the pool.  He wasn’t quite dead yet, but if he didn’t get out of the water, he soon would be.

Horton was just getting back to Shayna, when August stopped him.

“Take a break.  I want Micah back in the room before you start again.”

Horton was about to argue, but decided not to.  He could use the time to gather some more toys: the poker from the fireplace, a pair of scissors, which he saw used in a lovely way in the movie “Blue Velvet,” a carving knife, a curling iron . . .

August laughed as he left the room, his mind open to her.  She really didn’t care what happened to the girl.  Or how Micah felt about it.  The only thing that mattered now was that Hanna had entered the building . . .

 

Needle in a Haystack

by Kustenhin

August 3

Casa Loma (Actually outside and underneath it.)

After Fries

 

“Shhhhh.”

 

“Okay scruffy man.”

 

“Elmo get off my head!”

 

“Elmo, come here.”

 

The little Muppet floated over and came to rest on Zara’s shoulder. After spending some ‘quality time’ with the fur ball, her abhorrence of the little thing lessened considerably. After all, he had only attacked her by happenstance. It wasn’t his fault, really. Sometimes he had no real control over his actions.

 

“So where is Hanna anyway, Elmo?”

 

Joe hated actually having to ask the Muppet a direct question. He hated talking to the thing period. Just the idea of a quasi-vampire Muppet with a three year old mentality gave him the creeps.

 

“HannaLady is close. So is Warren.”

 

“Where did he go anyway? I hope he isn’t in the museum levels already. Man, after he put on that armor of his, he…well, lets not think about TH”T too much.”

 

“Ooooo, shhhhhhhhhhh ScruffyMan. Bad people in front of us.”

 

Dawson drew a sword from his cane.  Zara readied her scimitar.  And Elmo bared his fangs.

 

From deep within the subterranean corridor connected to the upper levels of Casa Loma, two renegade Watcher/Vampires approached. Joe let out a relieved breath; At least it was an even match. Luckily he and Zara had come prepared. The edge of Dawson’s sword had a thin layer of wood sharpened around it -Handy in paralyzing and taking a head. If that failed, he had a revolver loaded with silver bullets. That last bit was at Warren’s suggestion. A paranoid reflex because at the end of it all, he still thought Garou were at the heart of all of his problems. And a bullet would kill or slow down just about anything.

 

As a preplanned distraction, Elmo hovered ahead of them. The furry little vampire floated in front of the black clad figures.

 

“What’s this? A puppet show? Where are the two mortals?”

 

Elmo just looked at them funny.

 

“Snack time!”

 

Elmo latched onto the first guard.

 

“WHAT THE HELL?”

 

As the other guard tried to pull Elmo off his comrade’s neck, Dawson took the time to answer his question.

 

“Not what, where. That’s exactly where your going.”

 

Elmo detached himself just in time. Dawson came down with the killing blow to the neck.  And the guard fell, now headless.  His partner, however, refused to suffer a similar fate.  Drawing a previously hidden sword, he came down with a killing blow of his own.  But that was blocked by the timely intervention of Zara’s delicate looking blade.

 

It was anything but. In the hands of an expert such as Zara, it was arguably twice as deadly as a larger, heavier blade could ever hope to be.  The guard never new what hit him.

 

“We make a pretty good team,” Dawson smiled grimly at Zara.

 

The trio stepped over the decapitated bodies. More accurately: Dawson and Zara stepped over them. Elmo, jumped over them as if they were pebbles in a hop-scotch square. He laughed gleefully. “Bad men not gonna bother anybody now!”

 

“Shut up Elmo”

 

“Okay ScruffyMan.”

 

The three of them made their way down the corridor. Dawson worried even more. They’d been walking for what seemed like hours and still hadn’t run into Hanna or Warren.

 

Where were they?

 

 

Into the Night, the Series

by Trapper

August 3

The Raven

about 11:30 p.m.

 

The door to the Raven threatened to leap off its hinges as it crashed open to herald Nick’s arrival. His black duster blew out behind him as he strode into the club, eyes scanning until he found the one he sought.

 

“Nick!” Trapper came running from across the room. “Gods, I’m glad you’re here. Dennis is still missing and I’ve got a really bad feeling about it.”

 

Nick swept her into a bear hug. “I’m glad you’re all right,” he murmured into her hair. They pulled apart, still holding each other’s arms, both looking slightly bemused. ‘Now why did I say that?’ he thought. ‘I barely know her, yet I feel as if I’ve always known her.’

 

Trapper thought the same as she looked back at him.

 

Nick attempted to regain his composure. “I mean, whoever’s responsible for Dennis missing could’ve gotten you too.” He looked beyond her. “Where is Evie?”

 

“Evie’s fine,” Evie said, as she crawled from beneath a table and dusted herself off. “But, I’m afraid this is starting to look worse than I thought. By the way,” she looked around. “Where’s your partner?”

 

Nick and Trapper walked toward Evie. “Oh, Schanke decided that there was a souvlaki down the street from the precinct with his name on it, so he figured I could handle this one on my own,” Nick smiled. “Just as well. I’m not terribly comfortable having him at the Raven.” He looked down at Evie. “What have you got there?”

 

Evie held out her hand to show them, and heard Trapper moan, “Oh, no! Oh, Dennis!”

 

In her hand were the remains of two drumsticks. One looked gnawed on, and the other was broken and bloodied. “It looks like he put up a fight,” Nick said quietly as he took the bloody stick to look at it more closely. “Hmm.” He sniffed at it. “Human blood. He must’ve been trying to use it as a weapon. Someone’s got a nasty wound on them this evening, to judge by the amount of blood.” He looked up again. “Where  did you find these?”

 

Evie jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “Under our table. The bastards must’ve hit him right after I walked up to the bar.”

 

“And the espresso steamer would’ve hidden the sound,” Trapper said. “Damn them!” Her voice exploded in the quiet bar. “If they’ve hurt him, someone’s going to die for it.”

 

Nick and Evie both stared at her, startled by her sudden anger.

 

“Don’t you see?” she demanded. “This is my fault! I knew how innocent he was! I should’ve made him stay put!” She stared off, arms crossed, and bit her lower lip, thankful for the shades that hid her tears of frustration.

 

“Trapper,” Evie put a hand on her arm. “It’s no one’s fault. You and I both know that he wouldn’t stay behind.”

 

Nick leaned over and pulled Trapper’s shades down onto her nose. “Don’t blame yourself for things you can’t control. Believe me, I do it all the time, and it’s no fun!” He smiled, kissed her forehead, and pushed her shades back up. “Your camouflage is once again in place, Mlle.”

 

“Merci,” she allowed herself a smile.

 

Evie gasped suddenly and turned to them, her hand over her mouth. “Oh, no!” she breathed. “What if Horton or August has him?”

 

“August?” Nick exclaimed. “What has August to do with this?”

 

Trapper and Evie filled him in on what they had just heard. He bit his knuckle and closed his eyes in despair as he heard of the massacre. “Where is everyone now?”

 

“They’re all discussing this,” Evie began.

 

“And arguing,” Trapper interjected.

 

“In the back room.” Evie nodded in that direction.

 

“I need to know more about this.” He put his arms around both of them. “C’mon, you two, let’s find out what’s going on. It might give us more of a handle on where to look for your missing drummer.” He herded them to the back room, where it was getting quite noisy.

 

 

Will All the Psychopaths Please Raise Their Hands?

By Kustenhin

August 4

Casa Loma

Midnight

 

At this point, as you could probably guess, Warren was about to call on some pretty bitchin’ spells to pound these bastards to oblivion.  Of course, the focus of said destructive thoughts (August and Horton) would probably be able to escape, or hide, or get out of the way…You know, generally do that last-minute villain stuff.

 

His throwing a spell would be cool, though: a massive build up of blue energy, forming into a ball and hurled at said villains.  But, such a huge use of skill would take up too much time and energy reserves that frankly, he just didn’t have.  Micah and Shayna didn’t look like they could take too much more.  Well, at least Shayna couldn’t.  Micah, on the other hand, looked..well, better than he should have looked considering.

 

Warren cursed himself in several long forgotten languages, “Damn it!  He should have done something!”  Look at her.  She was…well, a weak little book worm to begin with…the torture did NOT help.  Now she had small cuts and bruises all over her face and neck…NO!  Those couldn’t be puncture wounds…

 

Before he could swoop down from his perch onto the (hopefully) unsuspecting psychos, a tingly sensation worked its way up Warren’s spine into his brain.  He looked down at the metallic silver box that covered him.  Reflected in his gauntlet braces were four figures grouped around a door…the silvery metal-cloth flexed a bit and the figures became more defined.  Now he could make out Joe, Elmo, Zara and Hanna poised behind a door, ready to bust through it.

 

Warren glanced down to see the scene playing out below.  Horton had taken to slicing Shayna on her ears and the top of her head.  August was forcing Micah to watch.

 

A low growl and hiss brewed in the Mage’s chest. (How many languages can you say chop in? <G’)

 

At the last minute, he decided to meet up with his stray comrades…better to do that than get their lines crossed…who knows what chaos would ensue otherwise?  Warren glanced once more at Shayna, who had long ago lost consciousness.  He growled once more then disappeared in a soft glow of midnight blue.

 

In case you’re wondering . . . Warren wears really cool silver and black armor  with all kinds of relevant  clan and occupational symbols melted on it when called to ‘battle’, and uses it in some cool ways.  It can morph from light armor that looks like cloth, to heavier armor that looks to be thin and weak, but can withstand some serious damage. Although it has no truly special functions, it can show him the ‘battle field’.  That would also include images of Joe, Zara, and Elmo about to enter the ‘play room.’

 

He also carries a modified Claymore (sheathed on his back), two matching daggers (crossed on his waist), and a shield (slung on his back that covers the Claymore and daggers).  He’s drawn the Claymore and has the Shield in a battle ready position, about to slice Horton and August to little bits (and any thralls, ghouls, etc. that get in his way).  But when the image of Joe, Zara, and Elmo  (whom he’s completely lost track of by this time) is reflected in his gauntlet, he decides to catch up with them BEFORE chopping everyone’s favorite evil/psychotic villains to teeny, tiny fish food size bits.  He decides it would be better lest they get their paths crossed . . . and I would imagine he can sense Hanna lurking somewhere (NOT with Joe and co.) . . .

After the Lovin’

by RavenKat

August 4

Hotel

Midnight

 

The two vampires took a long and leisurely shower together, both to clean up and to extend their time together.  The rest of their evening would be spent at the Raven dealing with their respective problems so, the more time they spent washing each other, the longer it would be before they had to face reality.

 

Near midnight, Kat finally acquiesced and retrieved a shirt for Javier.  A vintage tuxedo shirt was the only garment she had with her that would fit the young conquistador.  While Kat got ready, she asked Vachon to finish telling her about last night’s pow wow in LaCroix’s back room.  He had given her a brief outline on the way to the church, but she needed to hear it again – fleshed out.

 

During a hilarious description of ‘Elmo, the Muppet from Hell,’ Kat slipped her 16th century parrying dagger into her boot.  While Javier tried, aloud, to sort out who was connected to whom, she stuffed various odds and ends into her pant’s pockets.  Not knowing what to bring, she found herself picking up all kinds of useless crap and later discarding it on the bed.  Other than the knife, most of what she hid on her body was superstitious rather than protective.

 

Kat had no plans whatsoever to involve herself with Toronto’s recent psycho takeover – but her senses kept telling her to pack an Uzi while she was at it.  She would be happy to help Javier anyway she could, but all she really wanted was to locate LaCroix and ask him a few questions . .

 

 

Unexpected Surprises

by HannaClay

August 3

Casa Loma

midnight

 

She held close to shadows as she passed through the partially lit halls of Casa Loma.  The others were here.  She could hear Elmo irritating Joe in the back of her mind.  She wished they would keep the noise to a minimum, since August was bound to hear them sooner or later.  Most likely sooner at the rate they were carrying on.

 

She could hear the slow dripping of water nearby and changed her course.  The last thing she needed to do was to succumb to that this close to her long-time enemy.

 

The further she went, however, the more water she could hear.  She cursed to herself, something she never did.  She could practically feel both Micah and Shayna just around the corner, and yet both were well within the range of a large body of water.

 

And indoor pool, she thought to herself.  Of course they would be kept near something like that.  August may not be able to hold off the others, but then, they were not the ones she cared about.  August’s prime concern was Hanna.  To kill her, or convert her.  And as far as Hanna was concerned, dying was what she had come here to do.

 

She rounded another corner, and felt a strong sense of Micah.  When she entered the room, she realized that it had been made into a make-shift dungeon.  There was only one cell, though it was empty, save for a shelf above it, occupied by a small urn.  Micah may have been here before, but he certainly wasn’t here now.

 

She turned around and started to move away when she heard, and felt, a feral snarl.  She stopped and waited for whatever attack came.  None did.  Puzzled, she looked about when she heard the snarl again.  Her eyes caught sight of the urn again, and it was as if someone had reached inside her and ripped out her heart.  She had not felt that way since the day she found Jonas dead…

 

“By all the forgotten Gods!” she nearly screamed as she ran to the urn.  Tenderly, she tried to reach it, but could not.  It had been put deliberately out of her reach.  She shrieked, whether in anger or grief was beyond the point.

 

“Jonas?” she whispered to it.

 

“What if it is?”

 

She whirled as the voice came from behind.  Four men occupied doorway, the only means of escape.  She hissed as she extended her claws.

 

“Whoa there, pretty baby!  All’s we wanna do is have ourselves some fun!  No need to be a shrew!”

 

“I think it has something to do with being a vampire.  Turns you into a cold fish or something.”

 

“Yeah, well maybe we oughta re-ignite the cold fish there!  I ain’t slipped into anything female in a few days!”

 

“No, you’ve been busy trying it with that Immie they’ve got upstairs!”

 

“Well, shit!  He’s damn pretty!  It ain’t my fault his rump is as slick as…”

 

They never said another word.  In the matter of seconds, there wasn’t a single one of them that wasn’t in various pieces.

 

She hadn’t even realized she did it, until she leaned against the wall under the urn, and stared at the mangled and mingled pieces of flesh before her.  Gasping in great heaves, she covered her face with her bloody hands and wept.

 

“Now, that was well done, my wife.”

 

Her head came up quickly, her tears stopped.  She looked up, and though she could only see the shelf, she “knew” he was up there.  She crawled out a bit from under it, then turned to see the urn.

 

“Jonas?” she asked again, not realizing how much she was hoping she wasn’t crazy.

 

“Who else would it be?”

 

“But how?  She kil…I do not understand.”

 

“She merely destroyed the body.  It can be reformed from my ashes.  You know this.  Now.  Get up on your feet, woman.”

 

She looked at the urn, startled.  But she did what she was told.

 

“Now, wipe your face.  You look like a slaughterhouse.”

 

“I should, after what I just did!”  But she still pulled up a bit of her dress that wasn’t blood-soaked, and wiped her face with it.

 

“Better.  Not wonderful.  But it will do.  Now you have work to do.”

 

“But I cannot reach Shayna or Micah,” she stumbled over his name, and cursed herself for doing so.  “She has them near and indoor pool.  I can feel it.  I will not be able to get anywhere near them.”

 

There was a pause for a moment, and then the disembodied voice began again.

 

“Then you’ll have to forget them for now.”

 

“I cannot!  Shayna is a sixteen-year-old child in the hands of a monster!  I doubt I need to remind you what happened to ME at that same age!  I will NOT abandon her to the same fate!”

 

There was an audible sigh.  “Then you’ll have to abandon your fear of water.”

 

She froze.

 

“It’s the only way you can save your friend.”

 

“Julian staked me this morning using a water gun to immobilize me.  How easily do you think I will be able to “overcome” this?  Have you forgotten the fate in store for me?”

 

“You came here to die, didn’t you?”

 

“Of course I did.  I had no idea that you were here like this though.  Had I known what she had done, no force on earth could have prevented me from helping you!”

 

“Exactly.  Wherever others are concerned, you rise above yourself to help them.  Don’t you remember Paolo?”

 

She winced.  “How could I forget?”  He had, until Starr, been her only childe.

 

“And yet you forget the fact that you crossed a stream to try to keep him from burning.  I was there after all.  I saw you do it.”

 

She shook her head.  “I was not thinking of it at the time.”

 

“Exactly.  Whenever you are more concerned about another than yourself, you can accomplish the impossible.  Until you set it in your mind you can’t!  You are limited by nothing except your own fear!”

 

She bowed her head.  Now, she remembered why she sometimes DIDN’T miss Jonas!  She hated the tone of voice he used when he spoke at her…no, only when he thought she was behaving stupidly.  But it was often enough to make her nearly walk away from him now!

 

“Damn it, woman!  You are MY wife!  I will not allow you to act like some two-bit tart with fluff between her head for brains!”

 

“Why you pompous, self-centered, self-deluded, over-bearing bastard!” She drew herself up to her full height (not that it made her any taller!) and nearly shouted at him, “I don’t care if I’m the wife of Attila the Hun!  I am tired of you treating my like this!”

 

There was a chuckle.

 

“Sit up there and rot!”

 

She turned to storm out of the cell, when he called back, “And don’t forget to go around the pool!”

 

She turned back, and was about to snap out a harsh retort, when she brought herself up short.  She bowed briskly, growling, “Yes, your Imperial Majesty!”  She turned again, walked a few feet, before snapping her fingers and turning around.  “Oh, that’s right!  You never were the Emperor!”

 

And then she was gone.  He laughed to himself in his confinement.  Oh, how he loved his fiery little wife!  She probably hadn’t noticed that he had enraged her to the point that she started using contractions, something she never did because she considered it a sign of laziness.  He enjoyed the fury of her.  And he wished fervently to get his body back.  He’d show his wife a thing or two about “Majesty”!

 

She stormed around the corner, cursing him to oblivion.  She raged about Shayna and the fact that the girl was out of her reach.  She raged about the fact that she had risen to the bait Jonas had set for her. How on earth could he speak to her?  If it were true what August had done, then his spirit would have remained trapped with his ashes.  She winced at the thought of him trapped for nearly 80 years in a bottle.  Then stopped herself mentally.  Good!  He deserved it!

 

By the time she had got to raging about the fact that Micah was probably being tortured this very moment, she heard the lapping of water, and froze.  When she looked to her surroundings, she found that she was half-way down the length of the pool.  By Caine!  She had walked all this way besides it, and hadn’t noticed it at all!

 

“Bastard!” she muttered to herself.  He was right, of course.  He knew that, should her mind be occupied by something other than the nearby water, she’d be able to pass by it.  He knew her better than she knew herself.  Just as she knew him.

 

She laughed aloud.  He deliberately enraged her to accomplish this very thing!  By Caine, she did love him!  The arrogant bastard!

 

She walked slowly, step by tiny step, along the edge of the pool.  By the time she reached the end, she could hear Micah shouting.  And August shouting back.  And Shayna was somewhere in the middle of it.

 

She reached the stairway, then grabbed the shadows again.  She moved quickly to a side door, one that was near Joe and the others, one they could see the light from, and opened it wide.  Then she moved with the shadows to rescue Shayna and Micah.

 

 

Petty Thoughts

by CookyCook

August 3

Casa Loma

12:10 a.m.

 

As they moved their way past the bodies, Zara returned her scimitar to it’s place at her side.  She could tell that Elmo was pissing off Dawson, but it was too entertaining to stop.  Sure, the little Muppet had attacked her, but he was just too adorable to stay mad at for long.  Besides, the little bugger had helped out a little.

 

What an interesting time this was.  The scene they had made back at the Raven, Shayna receiving her tattoo, that head in the box and Shayna being kidnapped by that ass who calls himself Horton.  Not to mention, Warren throwing up on her.  She was proud of herself for not joining Dawson in the corner; Just thinking about all that blood made her queasy.

 

Now she had to focus on helping the others save Shayna and this ever-so-popular Micah person.  At least she had her scimitar to use against these creatures.  Joe wasn’t all that bad with that cane of his, either.  Elmo had been a little added surprise.  Not a bad team.

 

She just hoped that they would find Hanna soon.  With her vampire skills, the group would be a force to be reckoned with.  Quite an image, actually: a vampire leading the way on a battlefield.  Behind her, a mortal holding a sword with a wood tipped blade, a vamped-out Elmo floating a foot off the ground, and an Immortal wielding a scimitar.

 

“Now that would be an interesting painting,” Zara mumbled.

 

“What was that?” Dawson asked her.

 

She grinned.  “Nothing.  Just thinking,” she replied.

 

Dawson shrugged and they continued on.  Once again her thoughts drifted to Methos.  At least he was okay.  She looked around carefully, again.  Where was Hanna?

 

 

CHARGE!

by HannaClay

August 3

Casa Loma

12:15 a.m.

Hanna was planning to wait for the others, but then Horton left the room.  Micah was brought back inside and Shayna was left to her misery.  But despite her cuts and whatever had made her vomit, she was basically unharmed.

And of course, there was August.  Proud as a peacock.  Well, we’ll see about that, won’t we?

She slid into the room, clinging to the shadows until the last moment.  Shayna opened her eyes to see the tiny woman emerge from the shadows as if she had been bled from them.  Micah breathed a heavy sigh and August let out a feral snarl.

“My, my.  It’s my tiny little bitch come to rescue her baby‑love!”

“Spare me, you cheap, two‑bit whore.  I was never your anything.  And never will be, either.”

“HA!  Micah’s already mine, pet!  He will be until the day I kill him!”

Hanna crouched.  “Unless you die first.”  Her claws extended,  she launched herself at her most-hated enemy.

Micah saw the opportunity to bolt, but was brought up short when Hanna called, “Don’t leave Shayna!”

He looked at the girl curled up in the fetal position, and in spite of his aching body, he picked her up and moved for the door.

A handful of August’s men came into the room.  If Micah had a sword, he could have taken them all.  But unarmed, carrying a helpless girl he was defenseless.

“Twelve against two?  Well, one and a half really.  It’s not exactly what I’d call a fair fight!”

The guards wheeled around, just in time to see the cavalry arrive.   Zara led, her scimitar swinging into one of the men as she leapt into the room.  Elmo flew at another, sinking in his fangs.  Joe used his sword the best he could, but his legs, as always, hindered him.

 

Warren picked this time as the perfect opportunity to join the party, and came tumbling into the room, planting a well place sidekick into the abdomen of another assailant.

Zara had gutted three of the men, and was working on another, who had pulled a sword of all things!  Joe had killed two of the vampires that had come at him, more by luck than anything.

The silver of Warren’s daggers could be seen at the throats of two victims, when Shayna screamed something that made them stop.

“They’re getting back up!”

Zara didn’t pause in her fighting – she wouldn’t make that mistake – but as she cut up and into the chest of her current foe, she glanced briefly to those she had killed.  They  were getting up!

“What the Hell?” Joe gasped as he struggled with his aggressor.

“They’re Immortals!”  Micah spat.  He put Shayna down in a corner near the door then grabbed a nearby broken piece of furniture.  He parried a sword cut, then ran the Immortal through, taking the sword and beheading him.

Zara lopped the heads off one of the men she had “killed,” then drove another one to his knees as she parried a thrust from yet another Immortal.

“All twelve of them are Immortal?” Warren yelled above the screams of Elmo’s victim.

“No!  It’s half and half.  Six Immortal, six Watcher/vampires!”

“Good God!” Joe shouted as well, killing yet another vampire.

There were a few static discharges, and both Zara and Micah were stunned by the charges that hit them.

 

“Shit!” Joe swore, pushing a vampire down the stairs behind him.  “Warren! They’re going to have Quickenings!  They’ll be defenseless!”

Warren tried to move faster.  He killed two more, one of each, before Micah, and then Zara, were hit again.

Zara felt a tinge of panic.  She had killed two Immortals.  Two Quickenings at once.  Damn it, Methos!  I screwed myself in a big way!

Micah agreed as he felt the familiar paralysis creep into his body.  Only, he really didn’t mind dying right now.  This was cleansing; It would help him purge what Horton had done.

“HEE HEE!  Elmo play  with a big knife!  Elmo play with bad man’s head!”  He laughed as he cut off the head of the man Zara had on his knees.

The last Immortal, who watched as his comrades died, was struck by the discharge of the latest Quickening.  He had been about to take Zara’s head, but being closer to the Immortal than she, he too became paralyzed.

Warren tore out the heart of the last vampire/Watcher, and watched as he turned to ash in a puff.  Satisfied, he turned to his beloved Shayna in the corner and worried over her cuts and bruises.

Elmo yipped as the Immortal fell to his knees.  Joe looked over and saw that the little furball had been impaled through the foot by the falling sword.

Zara was still panting from her final Quickening when Micah took the head of the final Immortal.  Between the two of them, Zara had three Quickenings, Micah two.  And Zara would be damned if she raised her sword again.  At least, that is, until her arms stopped shaking.

When Joe released Elmo from his pinning, Elmo wrapped his furry little arms around Joe’s neck.  “Elmo thanks you, Scruffy Man!”

Joe patted him on the back.  “No problem, furball.”

“Where’s Hanna?” Micah whispered as he stood up.

They looked about the room, but neither she, nor August, was anywhere to be found.

 

When it’s Time for an Exit

HannaClay

August 3

Casa Loma

1:00 a.m.

Micah led the way past the pool.  He knew this place better than the rest of them.  And he would lead them out.  But what he really wanted to do was find Horton, and take that fireplace poker, and pay that son‑of‑a‑bitch back!

“This way!” he shouted as he turned a corner.

“Micah, wait!” Zara yelled, trying to catch up.

“Why?”

“Because we’ve all just been in a nice little fight, and Shayna isn’t exactly able to walk on her own, so Warren has to carry her!  And Joe can’t walk fast with his legs the way they are!”

He slowed a little.  “We’ve got to hurry, before they send reinforcements!”

They turned another corner, then came to a T‑intersection.  Micah knew this place well.  One path led to the secret tunnel under the stables.  The other led to his old cell.

“Come on.”  He turned down the path to the stables.

“Take the urn!”

They all stopped when they heard Hanna scream at them.

“Hanna-lady!”  Elmo clapped, then looked puzzled when he couldn’t find her.

“Free him, Micah!”

There were more screams, not all of them female, that came from all over.

“I hate the way this place echoes,” Zara muttered, shaking off a shiver that the creeps had given her.  The screams were hideous.

“Oh, hell!”  Micah went at a run into his old cell, grabbing the urn off the shelf.  When he got back to the party, he nestled it carefully in Shayna’s backpack, then zipped it tight.

“Let’s go!”

Joe stopped.  “What about Hanna?”

Micah shook his head.  “Listen to that, man!  She’s buying us escape time with her life!  Now, move!”

They made it out the secret passage way.

“Elmo, quick!”  Zara opened her jacket, and zipped the furry Muppet inside.

“Where to?”  Warren asked breathlessly.

“Where else?  We’ve got to get to the Raven.”

There was another high‑pitched scream from inside Casa Loma.  And then there was silence.

They all looked at each other, speechless.

And then there was an almost high‑pitched keening.  At first, Zara thought it might have been Elmo grieving for Hanna, but as she cocked her ear and listened, it seemed to come from Shayna’s backpack, which hung on Warren’s back.

“Micah, what the Hell is in that urn?”

They all listened to the keening for a moment before he answered.

“Her husband.  Jonas.”

The keening became one, very loud wail of “NO!”   And then there was silence.

 

 

How Many Things Can a Mage Carry?

by Kustenhin

August 3

Casa Loma

1:15 a.m.

Warren’s head exploded.  Not literally of course . . . but it sure felt like it to him.  The rock solid stance he had adopted when he had heard the urn wail, which apparently contained Hanna’s husband, wavered.  He nearly dropped Shayna.

 

Zara took the EXTREMELY unconscious pin cushion from Warrens arms.

 

“I …” Warren stammered, not far from Jonas’ echoing sentiment.

 

Micah looked grimly down the hall.

 

 

More Small Thoughts

by CookyCook

August 3

Casa Loma

1:20 a.m.

 

The silence was disturbing to Zara. The first question that came to mind was how the hell Hanna’s husband got into an urn.  Once she took a moment to think about it, she realized that he was trapped in his own ashes.  She wondered how long he had been in there;  it must be hell for him.  Her thoughts slipped back to the five years she spent entombed and shuddered.

 

Her body was still tingled from the three quickenings she had received.  She wondered what Methos would say if he found out about her being in that situation.  No matter what, they all had to get out of here, alive.

 

 

Not Quite Home Free

by CookyCook and HannaClay

August 4

Casa Loma

1:30 a.m.

 

They were all reeling from the apparent death of Hanna.  Joe looked around at everyone, ran his hand through his hair, and muttered, “Aw, hell!”

 

Elmo looked up at Joe, then started to whimper.  “Hanna-lady?”

 

Warren sank to his knees, shaking his head.

 

Zara caught Shayna as Warren was about to drop her, then snorted, “This is a lively group.”

 

Micah’s eyes flashed as he looked at her.  Then he nodded.  “Right.  We need to get out of here.”

 

Zara breathed deeply, trying to keep a reign on her temper.  “Good idea.  And what are we going to do about the Mage?”

 

Micah looked at Warren carefully, the walked up to him and got in his face.  “Get on your feet, man!”

 

Warren shook his head.  “We can’t just leave her!”

 

Zara adjusted Shayna until she was on her back, then turned to Joe.  “How ’bout you?  You okay?”

 

Joe breathed out heavily.  “Yeah.”

 

And there was silence from the urn, though Zara was delighted at that, she didn’t know if it was a good thing or not that Jonas was finally quiet.

 

She shuddered, then whispered, “This is getting creepy!”

 

Elmo shook his head as he jumped up and down.  He yelled, “Go get Hanna-lady!  Get Elmo’s friend!”

 

Zara looked at Micah carefully.  “You know her better than I do.  Should we try to get to her, or can she make it out on her own?”

 

Joe watched as Elmo started to throw his fit.  And suddenly, he started to hear a cocksure voice.

 

“You let him kill me, man!” it came, whispered.  “Damn, boy scout!  I thought you were my friend!”

 

Micah shook his head.  “I don’t think there is anything left to save.”

 

Zara stared at him.  “You don’t think that Hanna is . . . ”  She couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence.  Her heart sank, and she hoped that Micah was wrong.

 

Joe looked around and whispered, “Cord?”

 

Micah blinked back tears at Zara’s unfinished question, then turned to Warren.  “Come on Mage, get up!”

 

Zara saw Joe in the corner of her eye, speaking to someone who wasn’t there, and began to worry about his sanity.

 

“Why did you do it?  I saved your life, boy scout!  Why did you let him kill me?”  Cord appeared off in the distance, though only Joe seemed to see him.

 

Warren struggled to his feet.  “You’re a cold hearted bastard!”

 

Micah replied, almost feral, “Yeah?  So?”

 

Zara sensed that they would erupt at each other soon, and so stepped between them.  “No need to fight, boys.  Now, we need to get out of here, with or without Hanna.”

 

Joe ignored them all as he walked slowly over to Cord.

 

Micah snapped suddenly.  “Without!  Just ask him in there!”  He points to the backpack that contained the urn.  “He knows it too.  Better than the rest of us!”

 

Zara sighed, feeling as if she were in a bad horror movie.  But she turned to the backpack anyway and asked quietly, “Jonas, is it true?”

 

There was a brief silence before he answered.  “I’ve lost her.”

 

Zara hung her head, then realized something.  “Where’s Joe?”

 

He rounded the corner of the stables, and came close to Cord.  Smiling, he laughed, “Hey man!”

 

Cord stared at him.  “Why did you do it, man?  Were those sixteen miles I carried you on my back nothing to you?”

 

Micah started to look.  “I don’t know.”  And then he stopped himself short.  “Don’t know.  Don’t care.  He’s a Watcher, just like the rest of them in there.”

 

Zara frowned.  “Aw, shit!  This is the last thing we need.”  And then what Micah had said penetrated her worry.  “Okay, now you “RE starting to sound like a cold hearted son-of-a-bitch!”

 

Micah shrugged.  “Like I care.  Now let’s go.  The only ass I feel like saving is my own.”

 

Zara glared at him, then looked to Shayna and Warren.  Sighing, she turned back to Micah.  “You know your way around here, right?”

 

Micah shrugged, “Yeah.  Pretty much.”

 

Joe moved forward toward Cord.  “Hey man, I’m sorry.  But it wasn’t my fault!”

 

Zara nodded, then moved down to Warren.  “You’ve got to take care of Shayna.  Now, go with Micah and I’ll find Joe.”

 

Cord stepped forward.  “Yes it was.  You set me up, boy scout.”

 

Warren stared at Zara as if she were a snake.  “I’m the reason she’s like this.  If I hadn’t helped Hanna, I wouldn’t have gotten sick.  And I could have saved her.”

 

Zara burned to slap him, but she yelled at him instead.  “Snap out of it!  Stop blaming yourself and help her, damn it!”

 

Warren reeled from her verbal slap.

 

“It’s in the past,” she snapped at him.  “Now get over it, or die!”  And she meant it, quite literally.

 

He nodded.  “Right.  I don’t want to screw it up again.”  He took Shayna from her arms.

 

Zara looked at him, then rolled her eyes before turning back to Micah.  “How do you get out from here?”

 

Micah shrugged again.  “Depends on where you want to go.”

 

Zara’s patience with Micah and his attitude started to fray.  “Anywhere!  OUT is where I want to go!  Now, how do you get out from here?!”

 

Micah snarled, “Try the front door!”

 

Joe backed away from Cord a little.  “There was nothing I could have done.  You killed Charlie.  There was no way I could have stopped him!”

 

It seemed Elmo had enough of Micah’s attitude as well, because he suddenly latched his little fangs onto Micah’s calf.  After giving him a good bite, he let go.  “Be nice to Elmo’s friend!”

 

Zara looked at the furry little Muppet and smiled.

 

Micah shook his leg and muttered, “Fine.  Go down past the end of the stables.  Take a left.  If there aren’t any guards, you should have a clear path to the road.”

 

Zara nodded.  “Okay.  You take Warren and Shayna.  I’m going after Joe.”

 

Micah looked at Warren, who was lost in his thoughts as he held onto Shayna, in contempt.  “Come on.  Let’s get out of here.”

 

Cord stepped closer to Joe.  “I gave you your life, Joe.  You owe me boy scout!”

 

Joe stepped back again, not noticing how close to the cliff’s edge he was.  “I’m sorry man!  I didn’t mean for it to happen!”  A few rocks fall under the pressure of Joe’s weight.

 

Zara began to look around for Joe, then remembered that he had been looking toward the stables.  She moved off, hoping he wasn’t in any danger.

 

Cord snarled suddenly.  “Sorry ain’t good enough, boy scout!”

 

Zara rounded the corner in time to see Joe backing up to the edge of the cliff, looking at nothing.  “JOE!” she screamed.  “Joe, what the Hell are you doing?”

 

Joe didn’t hear her.  “What do you want me to do?”

 

Zara thought he was talking to her, and shouted, “I want you to get away from that cliff!”

 

Cord laughed.  “I want you to DIE!”  He lunged at him.

 

Joe fell backwards, just as Zara leaped forward and grabbed him by the wrist.  He was shocked out of his daze by the jolt, and stared at Zara in surprise.  “Zara!  What the Hell’s going on?”

 

She tried pulling him up.  His legs were useless, so he couldn’t offer her any help.  “Damn it, Joe!” she snarled as she tried harder.

 

Suddenly, there was a red flash.  Elmo yelled as he flew down to get under Joe’s feet, “Elmo help friend and Scruffy Man!”

 

Zara’s eyes widened, then she resumed her pulling.  After a short while, and much struggling, the succeeded in getting Joe back on solid ground.  She got to her feet, then held out a hand to help Joe up.

 

“Thanks,” he muttered, a bit breathless.

 

Elmo flew up the rest of the way.  “YE”H!  Elmo and Zara save Scruffy Man!”

 

Zara rolled her eyes as she helped Joe up.  “What the Hell was the matter with you?”

 

“I don’t know.  Just thought I saw someone.”  He suddenly didn’t want to talk about it.

 

Zara looked at him, a bit confused.  “Must have been Abe Lincoln, if it scared you that bad.”

 

Joe shook his head, and didn’t laugh.  “No.  It was an old friend.”

 

Zara looked at him concerned that she and Elmo were the only sane ones left.

 

Joe shuddered.  “But I could have sworn he was really there!”

 

Zara nodded.  “In any event, we need to haul ass outta here!”

 

“Well, he may not have been there,” a voice came from behind Zara, “but I am here!”

 

Zara whirled around to see the source of the voice.  And Elmo did his best imitation of a hissing cat.

 

Three men stand there, with smug looks on their faces.  One has a sword drawn.  The other two had fangs, and tattoos.

 

Zara had gotten the sensation of another immortal, but only when she turned around.  Oh great, she thought to herself, is August capable of hiding Immortals from each other now?  She drew her scimitar, then shouted back to Elmo, “Elmo!  Help Joe kill ugly vampires!”

 

Elmo responded by jumping up and down.  “YEAH!  More red stuff!”

 

Joe pulled out his wooden sword and braced himself.

 

The Immortal smiled at Zara.  “I am Gregor Gregorivich.  And I will enjoy your Quickening.  There can be only one.”

 

Zara returned the grin.  “And I am Zara of Mesopotamia.  Let’s get it on!”

 

Gregor brought down his blade, and Zara parried easily, then returned with a “nifty” counterstrike.  Gregor spun away from the “nifty” counterstrike, and returned with one of his own.  Zara dodged the attack, and made a well-placed lunge at his right shoulder.  Gregor snarled and then switched hands, Zara smiling all the while.

 

As Joe sliced into one of the vampires with his wooden sword, the other one fastened his fangs into Joe’s neck.  Elmo leaped to Joe’s rescue, and fastened his own fangs on the neck of the attacking vampire.  “Ugly vampire man not hurt Elmo’s scruffy man!”

 

Gregor moved to thrust, but as Zara went to parry, he switched movements, and nicked her in the hip.  Zara winced.  She shook it off by moving in and slicing him across the stomach.

 

As Gregor doubled over, Zara lifted her blade.  With a slightly maddened gaze, she smiled as she said, “There can be only . . . ME!”  And down came the blade upon his neck.

 

As Joe fell to the ground, Elmo rushed to his side.  “Scruffy man?”

 

Joe raised his head, and gasping, he nodded, “Yes, Elmo.  I’m okay.”  Elmo sighed, and then patted his hand.

 

Zara began to feel the charges of the Quickening hit her body, and she used her scimitar for support as they became more powerful.  A moan escaped her lips, and it grew until it was a muffled yelling.

 

Micah stopped dead in his tracks as he heard and felt the telltale signs of a Quickening.  “Oh, shit!  Zara!”

 

Warren looked at him, and said nothing.

 

The currents of the Quickening began to lessen, and then were gone entirely.  Zara collapsed to the ground and gasped from where she lay, “I never thought I’d say this, but no more damn Quickenings!”

 

When she looked up, she found herself surrounded by solid rock.  She tried to shake of the delusion, but it was still there.  No matter which way she looked, there was nothing but solid rock.  Almost as if she were . . . entombed.

 

“Oh, Gods!  No!”  she shuddered as she started to panic.

 

“Zara?” Joe asked, though she couldn’t hear him.

 

She looked about the walls for a way out.  Then, they began to creak a little.  And then a little more.  And then a little more.  Suddenly, they start to move, closing in on her.

 

Zara, scared as hell, curled up in a ball and started to whine, “No! No! No!”  She stood up, crouched over as if the ceiling were too small for her, and then threw herself against the wall.

 

Joe crawled over to her on his elbows.  “ZARA!”

 

And the rock was gone.

 

She fell forward, and landed on Elmo.  She looked up, still panicked from the rock.

 

“Zara!” Elmo cried out, his voice muffled.

 

She felt the Muppet squirming beneath her, and moved quickly.

 

“Ouch, Zara!  That hurt Elmo!”

 

Joe shook his head as he looked at her.  “I’d say you’ve had one too many Quickenings.”

 

She shook off the last shiver.  “Look who’s talking, delusion boy!”

 

“Hey, it wasn’t my fault.  I swear, he was really there!”

 

Zara finally understood.  “It was the same for me, Joe.”

 

“What did you see?”

 

“I was surrounded by rock.  It was like being back in the . . . ” she broke off and shuddered again, instead of saying the word “tomb.”

 

Joe looked at her.  “Are you claustrophobic?”

 

She laughed harshly, since it was the understatement of the year.  “Well, I was only entombed for five years before Methos found me and showed me what I was.”

 

Joe shuddered.  “I’d say that’s a big yes!”

 

She looked around, still a bit paranoid.  “Let’s get the Hell out of here.”  She turned to Elmo.  “You okay, little guy?”

 

“Elmo’s friend squished Elmo.”

 

She smiled at him apologetically.  “I’m sorry, Elmo.”

 

He laughed.  “That tickled!”

 

She smiled at him, and then picked up her scimitar.

 

“Uh, Zara,” Joe muttered from the ground, “if you help me up, we can be on our way.”

 

She strapped the scimitar under her coat then turned to Joe, still smiling.  “All right, Joseph.”  She held out her hand, and helped him to his feet.

 

Joe dusted himself off.  “Thanks.”

 

She nodded, and they moved off in the direction that Micah had given.

 

Micah waited by the road, fearing the worst for Zara.  Warren shook his head, and sang to Shayna under his breath.

 

Micah felt the approach of another Immortal, and stood, just as Zara and Joe came into view, with Elmo flying behind them.

 

“I was worried you were dead there, for a minute.”

 

“I am 4050 years old!  I think I should know how to fight!”

 

Micah raised his hands defensively.  “Hey, someone might get lucky.”  And then he started to smart under the fact that she was older than he was.  He turned to Joe.  “What happened to you?”

 

“I got bit.  Can we talk about this at the Raven?”

 

Zara began to feel woozy after her four Quickenings.  “Yes, please!”

 

Micah nodded.  “Right.  Let’s go.”

 

A bus happened to be passing by.  Micah moved to stop it, muttering, “I’m not walking all the way there!”

 

Zara nodded in agreement.  “Hey, Elmo!  Mind catching that bus for us?”

 

The bus driver stopped when he saw the red flash.  Elmo flew back to Zara as the moved to get on the bus, and then hid in her coat.

 

Micah moved up to the bus driver.  “The Raven.  We’ll pay you when we get there.”

 

“Hey, I ain’t no taxi!”

 

Micah leaned over him.  “Look, I’ve had a really bad last couple of months.  Now, I want to go to the Raven.  I will pay you enough to cover the “inconvenience” when we get there.  Until then, don’t give me any shit!”  Then he settled down into a seat near the driver, just in case.

 

Joe struggled to get on the bus, then found his seat.

 

Zara smiled at Micah, then moved to the back of the bus, and promptly fell asleep.

 

 

The Bell Jar

HannaClay

August 4

On the bus to the Raven

2:00 a.m.

 

She was gone.

 

That was all he could think about.

 

In the near thousand years that she had lived, he had never felt so alone.

 

Even when they fought, or when they were apart as they had been these past eighty years, he had never felt like this.

 

He couldn’t be certain.  He’d never be certain of it.  But he knew it in his heart.  He heard it in her final scream.  She was gone.  And that particular light in his life would never shine again.

 

It felt very nearly like when he had lost Cinnilla, his first wife.  She had only been a delicate sixteen when she died in childbirth.  But they had lived together for most of their lives, and she had been like a sister to him, before she was his wife.

 

It felt the way it had when he had lost his beloved Julia, his only child that had actually lived.  She had died trying to give Pompeii a son.  Oh, how he had grieved for his beloved daughter.  She had shone like the moon for only a small score of years.  And then she was gone.

 

Or when he had lost his mother.  The beautiful, regal Aurelia.  In his youth, she had held herself aloof from him.  She had never been deliberately cold, but she never gave any warmth.  She had always known the man her son would become, if allowed to reach manhood.  And she had been so afraid that if she indulged him, he would have become a monster.  So she kept herself from him.  Until he had grown, and she realized that he would become many things, but never a monster.  And all the love that she had never given her son in his early years radiated from her.

 

But it was also unlike anything he had ever experienced in well more than 2000 years.  Of everyone who had come before, he had chosen none of them.  He never chose any of his three other wives for love.  The first had been chosen by his parents when he was a child.  The second, he had chosen for her name and her appearance.  The third, also for her name, and her faithful practicality.

 

Hanna had been the totality of every woman he had ever encountered in his life.  She was beautiful, naive, compassionate, cold, brutal, savage, alluring, gentle . . . he could go on forever.

 

But above all else, she had been his.  He had chosen her.  He had given her a part of life that no one else could have, or would have.  He had given her the freedom to find herself.  He had given her himself.  She had been everything he had ever wanted.

 

And now, she was gone.

 

It would be a simple thing, once they reached Friedreich, to tell his old friend to scatter his ashes to the winds.  He would understand.  Friedreich was the only one who had know exactly what Hanna had meant to him.  He doubted even Hanna herself had known.

 

Yes, he would be obliterated by the wind.  He refused to live without her.  He didn’t have the kind of self-denial that she had.  She had survived, thinking he was dead, because she knew others had needed her and could not abandon them to fate.  He had no one.  Only her.

 

And she was gone.

 

 

All Together Now

by Kustenhin

August 4

the Raven

2:00 a.m.

 

“Are you sure Shayna’ll be alright, Warren?”

 

“Yes, she will, Dawson. And thanks to Elmo’s surprisingly effective whammy , she’ll only remember what I wanted her to.”

 

Dawson nodded in relief.  She would have made a great Watcher, but considering recent events, he was thankful Warren had used one of his spells to get her back home safe and sound. “What about the tattoo?”

 

Warren smiled slyly. “Hey, you never know what’ll happen in the span of two years. A freshman college student will be an even better cover, not to mention that great big library she’d have access to at NYU.”

 

Dawson smiled, remembering that the head librarian was a Watcher. “Yea, maybe in a few years…But won’t her parents still raise hell about the tattoo?”

 

“No, not after I think of something creative to tell them when I get back to Texas.”

 

Their conversation dwindled as they approached Micah, Zara and Elmo standing on a street corner, not to far from their intended destination.  Warren and Joe’s mood sombered greatly as they caught the cloud of despair that hung over their companions like L.A. smog. Well, hung over everybody but Elmo, whom still hadn’t quite grasped the fact that his Hanna-lady was gone.

 

“Hello Dragon man,” Elmo giggled.  The new name tag the psycho three year old had bestowed upon Warren caught him off guard.

Micah scowled at Elmo, shifting the balance of Jonas’ silent urn from his left hand to his right.  Zara frowned, shifting uncomfortably, Elmo’s toddler like energy starting to annoy her.  Warren and Joe just blankly stared at Elmo, wondering where he pulled that one from.

 

“What do you mean ‘Dragon Man’ Elmo,” Warren knelt down as adults tend to do when addressing children.

 

“Elmo see dragon on big metal stick.”  He pointed towards Warren’s chest.  He had hidden all of his weapons in an empty vortex plain, and his armor had re-sharpened to a basic black suit with a banded collar shirt.  The only thing that could have earned him his new nick-name was the painstakingly detailed dragon embroidered in silver thread on the lapel of his black waist coat.

 

“Draconis,” Elmo squeaked.

 

Warren was taken aback.  And his normally smooth voice took on an instant of roughness. “Elmo, never ever say that name out loud, unless you know what you are speaking of…and considering your origins, I think you should simply KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.”

 

Elmo actually looked serious..for about five tenths of a second. “Okay Dragon man.”  Elmo leaped into Warren’s arms. “Where is Shayna and Hanna-lady?”

 

Warrens eyes shifted around hoping he’d be able to avoid answering…  “Well little buddy, Shayna went home and Hanna is…” his voice caught slightly, he had never meant for anything to happen to any of his new friends, but apparently he was not able, and although he hated to admit it, unwilling to dissuade Hanna from going after August and Horton.  He understood wanting revenge that badly, wanting to make someone pay for all of the butchery and need for violence…..

“WHERE IS H”NNA L”DY!”

 

Micah, who had his back turned, looking up at the night sky mournfully, snapped around on a dime.  “WOULD YOU SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU STUPID LITTLE RODENT!  SHE IS DE”D! SHE IS DE”D “ND SHE IS NEVER GOING TO COME B”CK!!! “RE YOU H”PPY NOW YOU LITTLE FRE”K!”

 

Elmo was peering over Warrens shoulder. “Why is mean man yelling?”  Then what had actually been yelled at him sunk in.

 

“Why is Hanna-lady dead….?”  Elmo rolled up into a ball at Warren’s feet, and began to sob.  “Elmo never going to see tiny lady again. Elmo liked Hanna lady. Was Elmo’s friend. WHY IS HANNA DEAD? WHY IS FRIEND DEAD?!!!!!!!!!”  Elmo began to sob uncontrollably. He rocked back and forth, then stood, arms outstretched. “Dragon man pick Elmo up.”

 

“Ahhh, it’s alright lil’un.”  He picked up the tiny red form, and patted him comfortingly, shooting Micah dirty looks all the while.

Zara slapped Micah on the back as hard as she dared.

 

“Are you happy now?! Yelling and screaming isn’t going to bring her back. Who do you think you are any way? Yelling at the poor little thing like that?!!!”

 

Joe finally was able to get in a word in edge wise “Let’s just get inside. Regrouping would be the wisest course of action. Come on.”

Joe hobbled through the metal doors. Everyone followed, and walked into a very heated six way conversation.  Janette was yelling at Duncan, Angelique was attempting to actually speak with out much success. Two men none of them had ever seen before were standing to the side of the argument, being wise enough not to speak.

 

And LaCroix was simply watching…and being well, being LaCroix.

 

That’s exactly what had Warren worried.

 

 

 

Time is the Fire in Which She Burns

by HannaClay

August 4

Casa Loma

2:05 a.m.

 

It was calm.  Quiet.  Peaceful.  Except in her mind.

 

She hated it.  Wished she could accomplish that mind set Jonas had put her in, so that she would be able to escape.  But she could not.  She was too afraid.

 

She tried to command her arms to move, but they would not.  She tried to move her legs, but even if they weren’t chained to the pool drain, she still wouldn’t have been able to move them.

 

Damn them all, she thought, and took it back instantly.  She had known the price she would pay for saving their lives, and she willingly accepted it.  She would have no one die if she could prevent it.

 

But being chained to the drain in the swimming pool was torture enough.  It was her fate.  Her destiny.  She had seen it in her dreams since she was a child.  And once she had become a Cainite, the dreams occurred every time she slept.  She would die slowly, violently, in water.  She had always known this.  Which was one of the reasons she feared water enough to immobilize herself.

 

She had screamed, and known the others had heard her, when August dragged her to the pool.  High pitched, full of fear, it was the scream of frustration.  She had tried to avoid it for so long, and her fate found her out anyway.  But then, such was Karma.

 

August walked into the pool room, accompanied by two Watchers with a large tank on a table.

 

“Are you ready?” she could hear the words muffled through the water.

 

August waited for any answer, any sign that she would win finally, but Hanna did not give her the pleasure.  “Do it!” she nodded to the Watchers.

 

They carefully poured the contents of the large tank into the pool.  About 50 medium‑sized black fish.

 

“Let them work on her for a little while.  Then drain the pool.  Let them die, and then fill it again.”

 

As Hanna watched the black cloud approaching her, she felt a chill all the way down to her core.

 

 

 

A Brief Reprieve

by HannaClay

August 4

Casa Loma

2:30 a.m.??

 

She lay in the puddle of water that surrounded her, trying not to scream anymore.  Not that she would be able.  Her throat bled from the efforts of her screams earlier.  And no one had heard her.

 

Some of the piranha fought long enough for life to try for a few more bites before they joined their fellows in an airless death.  Some of them were still fastened to her in a few places, their tiny jaws refusing to release her, even in death.

 

“Alright, let’s clear the little nasties off.  So we can start again.”

 

“This is going to be fun!  I’ve never tortured a vampire before!”

 

“You got that blood ready?”

 

“Yeah, right here.”

 

“You sure you got it from someone violent?  Remember, she can only feed off the blood of violent men.”

 

“Yep.  Got it from Horton himself.  I think he’s trying to bond her.”

 

“HA!  Won’t that be fun?”

 

She could feel them pulling the piranha from her body, not caring whether they ripped off chunks of her flesh or not when they did it.  One of them looked down at her, seeing that her clothes were as shredded as she was.

 

“Ya think we might have a go at it first?”

 

“Nah!  She’d probably rip your throat out while you do it.”

 

“August said she can’t move when she’s in water.  Ya saw the way she just stood there, not even flinching this way or that when them piranha was munching on her!”

 

“You’ve got a point.  But do you really want to have it with that…mess?”

 

“Oh, I don’t mind the mess!  Did it in a pig wallow once.  But ya saw what she looked like before.  Damn tasty if ya ask me.  And damned proud too!  Won’t be too proud once I finish her!”

 

The other looked down out her, leering.  If she could have screamed, she would have.  He looked almost a spitting image of Racine…

 

“Yeah, why not?  It’ll be interesting to watch her eyes, knowing that she knows she can’t do a damned thing about it!”

 

The first one undid his belt, then let his pants drop.  He pressed himself on her, and tore away what was left of her clothes.

 

“This is gonna hurt ya more than me, but ya know somethin’?  I don’t care!”

 

As he rammed himself inside of her, she screamed.  But only in her mind.

 

God, Jonas!  Not again!  Don’t let them do this to me again!

 

 

Event Horizon

by CousinSuk, CookyCook, Kustenhin, HannaClay, and Starr257

August 4

The Raven

about 2:10 a.m.

 

Micah and crew surveyed the situation at the bar for a moment before proceeding forward.  Janette and Duncan were arguing about something, but none of them actually cared about what.  Elmo hung loosely from inside Zara’s coat, and Zara carried in her arms the urn that held Jonas’ ashes.

 

As they approached, Starr and Friedreich, along with Marcus and John, converged on the party, but everyone ignored them.  Micah shuddered at the thought of what anyone of them would do once they found out what happened to…

 

“So, I see that everyone has decided to once again grace us with their presence,” LaCroix leered.

 

Warren instantly bristled.  “You don’t have to be so bitingly sarcastic, old man!”

 

One eyebrow raised.  “Indeed?”

 

Warren shrugged, “Hey, someone has to keep you in line.”

 

LaCroix turned away from him to the others.  “Since our friend here is in yet another one of his moods to pick a fight, shall we all adjourn to the back room?”

 

Elmo peaked his head out of Zara’s jacket.  “Will there be red stuff?”

 

LaCroix ignored him and waited for the others.

 

Elmo climbed out of Zara’s jacket, walked over and pulled on LaCroix’s pant leg.  “HEY, MAN WITH THE POOFY EYEBROWS, WILL THERE BE RED STUFF!!?”

 

LaCroix shook his leg in a vain effort to dislodge the Muppet.  “NO!  There won’t be any RED STUFF!”

 

Angelique watched closely, and smirked at the sight of LaCroix almost losing his temper.

 

Warren muttered, “Calm down, Elmo.  I’ll feed you later.”

 

Elmo hissed at LaCroix, “Poofy Eyebrows needs to be spanked by his mommy real good!”

 

Micah, fed up with it, pushed his way between LaCroix and Elmo.  “In the back.  NOW!”

 

As Warren was still on the defensive, he mistook Micah’s order as having been meant for him.  “MICAH!  Be patient!  If you order me around one more time…!”

 

Micah turned on him.  “You’ll what?  Twiddle your fingers at me?  You couldn’t keep Horton from taking your precious Shayna.  Don’t even think you can take me!”

 

Warren pulled out one of his silver daggers.  “No.  I’ll take your head, and let Zara have your Quickening.  Although, I doubt she’d want it.  Or have use for it!”

 

Zara, at the mention of her name, lifted her head.  “No…no more Quickenings!”

 

Joe pushed his way forward.  “That’s enough!  All of you!  Most of you have rules you have to operate under, and you’re about to break most of them!  Now, go in that room and beat each other’s brains in if you have to, but do it in PRIV”TE!”

 

Warren shook his head.  “Joe, I’m not even from this universe.  Back there, I make my own rules, and Druids be damned!  I think pretty boy and I need to step outside.”

 

Joe started to fume.  “Fine!  But I doubt you are one who likes to see innocents murdered for no reason!  And that’s exactly what will happen if an Enforcer or Justicar gets wind of this!”

 

Warren, again misunderstood, and snorted, “HA!  If he’s innocent, I’m the Queen Mother!”

 

Joe snapped, “Damn it!  I mean the people in this club!  The people watching the scene you’re making!”

 

Zara looked around, noticed the crowd, and agreed with Joe.  “He’s right.   Warren, Micah…take it someplace else!”

 

Warren shook his head.  “No one will be hurt, and I could care less whoever the hell they are.  But I’ve had enough of him!”

 

Joe was almost to the point of losing control.  “You want them all to die because you decided to pick a fight?  Fine!  You are sick of him!  So take it in the back, where no one will see!  The Enforcers and Justicars will kill everyone here for no reason!”

 

Warren poked Micah in the chest hard.  “ON THE ROOF NOW!”

 

Friedreich moved forward.  “No.  Not now.  You came back without Hanna or Shayna.  I want to know why.  And I want to know NOW!”

 

Zara watched silently as the men beefed it out, and thought to herself, “Go figure…men!”

 

Warren grabbed Micah by the shirt and snarled, “Listen, you little…”

 

Friedreich grabbed Warren’s hand and pulled it off Micah.  “I said NOW!”

 

Warren relinquished Micah, then turned to Friedreich.  “Friedreich…I…um…”

 

Joe bowed his head as Starr, Marcus and John moved forward.  “In the back,” he whispered.  “Please.”

 

All the steam that Warren had been venting was gone, and he reverted to his usual, mellow self.  “I’m sorry.  Hanna’s dead, and I had to flash Shayna home.  Gods, what is happening?  Everywhere I go…”

 

Friedreich nearly Crinosed as he erupted, “WH”T?!”

 

Warren backed up a few steps.  “Friedreich, I’m sorry!  She went after August, and I didn’t stop her…I’m sorry seems so poor and inadequate.”

 

Starr took one look at the Garou and muttered, “Ah, hell!”  She grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the back room.

 

Zara looked around the club, and noticed a bit nervously all the attention they were receiving.

 

Methos and Duncan take one look at each other, and then dragged Warren between them to the back room.

 

LaCroix followed Zara’s gaze about the club, and slowly began to work on the perceptions of the people in the club.

 

As Zara walked by him, she whispered, “Smooth.”

 

Angelique stood at the bar and glared at Micah until he too journeyed to the back room.

 

LaCroix had finished with the people and was about to move to the back room himself, when Elmo attached himself to his leg.

 

Elmo laughed, “Poofy Eyebrows is Elmo’s new friend!  Take Elmo to back!”

 

LaCroix snarled, “Someone get this thing OFF ME!”

 

Warren peaked his head out the door.  “That’s right Elmo.  LaCroix needs a new friend.  But you better be nice to your new Uncle now!”  Then he ducked quickly back into the room before LaCroix could kill him.

 

LaCroix stared after him with a look that could have frozen Hell.

 

(As the last of them reach the back room, Kat and Vachon joined the group.)  Elmo looked a bit wide‑eyed as LaCroix walked to the back room, and Elmo clung to his leg.

 

“You is Elmo’s Uncle!  OH GOODY!  HAHA!”

 

As soon as Micah walked through the door, he felt himself lifted and thrown against the wall by a very large and hairy Friedreich.

 

“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO HER?!” he screamed in his face.

 

“I didn’t do anything to her!”  Micah thought very carefully about the ramifications of being ripped apart by a Garou.  It was entirely possible that Friedreich wouldn’t take his head off, and then when he regained life, his body would be in shambles.  The concept chilled him to the core.

 

Zara watched them closely, her throat constricted in anxiety.

 

Warren perched himself in a nearby chair, and being hostile for very few reasons, elected to ease the situation.  “Friedreich!”

 

The Crinosed Garou kept his attention on Micah, but snarled at Warren, “What?”

 

Warren shook his head.  “He didn’t do anything to her.  She went after August on her own.  Do you even know what it’s like to want revenge the way she did?  None of us had the right to keep her from it.”

 

Joe sighed and bowed his head.  “That isn’t what happened.”

 

Suddenly, all eyes were on the grey‑haired Watcher.  Those who had been at Casa Loma looked at him, slightly confused.  The others, including Friedreich, burned holes into him with their glares.

 

“August was working up some kind of…conflagration.  I saw the heat shimmering around her, which is why I didn’t respond when we were first attacked.  And Hanna…she was close to her.  I saw her clothes start to catch fire.  But she dived at August, and they…went through the floor somehow.”

 

“What do you mean, Joe?  Is this August bitch capable of using some sort of magic?” Warren asked, rising out of his seat.

 

“I don’t know.  I don’t know August.  I just know what I saw.”

 

Warren thought about it for a moment, and then considered something else.  “And fire?  What color?”

 

“What?  The flame?  I don’t know.  Hanna’s clothes just burned.  There wasn’t any flame around August.  Just the shimmering.  It was almost like a…rainbow.”

 

Warren turned on Micah, who was still in Friedreich’s hairy grasp, “What kind of demon is the August?”

 

Micah shrugged, “Demon is about right.  But don’t ask me.  I didn’t know her beforehand.”  He smiled a little wickedly.  “Why don’t you ask dog boy here?”

 

Warren looked at Friedreich.  “Well, Garou?  Do you have any valuable information?”

 

Friedreich snarled again at Micah, but answered Warren, “I’ve never known her to use any Infernalist magic.  If she is doing it, she’s just learned it.”  He raised his one hand, and extended his claws.  “Now, let’s see who’s the dog, boy!”

 

Joe moved forward, trying to head of the fight, “The point is Hanna died trying to save us from whatever August was planning.  It wasn’t revenge.  She saved us.”

 

Warren moved away from the others, saying only, “Hanna died honorably.  In the service of life.”  Then he began to mutter a short Celtic prayer under his breath.

 

John pondered it for a moment as well.  “He’s right.  She was never like that before.  Never capable of committing the atrocities that she has lately.”

 

Warren looked at him.  “She reminds me of Arckon, the bastard!”

 

Starr gave him a puzzled look.  “Eh?  Who you talkin’ about?”

 

Warren looked at her, a rather evil‑looking gaze in his eyes.  “Someone you are fortunate not to know.”

 

Starr’s eyes narrowed as she met his gaze, “Oh?”

 

“From what Joe just said…it reminded me of him.”

 

Starr looked away, shaking her head.

 

Friedreich put down Micah in disgust and turned away from him.  Angelique took the opportunity to approach her brother, “Micah!  These people have risked their lives for you!  I would show a little respect!”

 

Micah stared at his sister, too angry at them all to speak.  After everything that happened to him, the least they could do is give him some leeway!

 

Warren continued pensively to himself, “I wonder what would happen if he crossed over into this universe.”

 

Sky looked at him hard, and then muttered under her breath, “Why not?  Everyone else has!”

 

Nick heard someone whisper “Brick”, and immediately defended himself.  “I am not a brick!”

 

Starr snorted at him, “Yes you are, Nick!”

 

Warren echoed her, “Yes, you are Nicky!  Oh, did you like that human vintage I dropped off at your loft?”

 

Starr laughed as Nick looked around guiltily.  “Yes, I did…HEY!”

 

Warren’s eyes widened as he realized that he just revealed to Nick that he was the one responsible for the cow decorations.  Nick glared at Warren.  Warren grinned at him wickedly.

 

Starr laughed, until she realized it was making her hungry.  “I would think that people would think you’re part of that computer company.”

 

Zara looked at them all, too tired to respond to anything.  She also realized that of those present, she only knew a few.

 

Then suddenly, a disembodied voice echoed through the room.  “This is all very interesting, and none of it important!”

 

Warren stiffened and came to attention, his eyes burning a cold blue, his fangs bared.  Joe hung his head in recognition, and Friedreich came to as well.

 

“Jonas?”  Friedreich looked around, his eyes very wide.

 

Warren tapped him on the arm.  “You mean that guy in the urn?”

 

Friedreich looked at him.  “What urn?”

 

“You just said Jonas.”

 

“Right.  That was his voice.  Now, what urn?”

 

Warren looked at him askance.  “Hanna’s ex?  He’s still in the urn, right?”

 

Jonas’ voice reverberated through the room.  “I am NOT her ex!”

 

Starr looked around and mumbled, “Welcome to the Twilight Zone!”

 

Warren was still in “that” sort of mood, so he replied, “Well, pal, I suggest you get with the program.  I believe your wife has moved on.  ‘s what you get for being ashes, I guess.”

 

All the others stared at the urn.  Friedreich leaned over to Warren and whispered, “I’d be careful if I were you.”

 

Warren sneered at him, “Friedreich, I don’t make a habit of being afraid of dust!”

 

Elmo ran over to the table and climbed up, grabbed a letter opener, and began to bang on the urn.  “HELLO FUNNY VOICE!”

 

Marcus moved over, dropping his visual mask as he went.  His Greek beauty was gone, and he was suddenly hideous.  He was bald, the skin a dull, grey, molted color.  A huge purple growth that oozed started near the front of his face, around his right cheekbone, then wrapped itself around his head, going up the back of it, to rest in an unhealthy glob on the top of his head.  His ears were pointed, and were so large that the tips bent over.  He had his two fangs as his only teeth.  His fingers were elongated, the index and middle were the exact same length, and the poisonous nails curled under slightly.

 

“Ye Gods!” Angelique exclaimed.

 

He leaned over, in front of Elmo and whispered, “Move, fuzzy!”

 

Elmo gave him his best googly face.  “You ugly!  Elmo want to see dust!”

 

“Elmo will not see dust, unless Elmo wants to become dust.”

 

Warren came to the defense of his Muppet, “Hey, ugly, leave my pet alone.  Dust begets dust!”

 

Elmo laughed, then flew back to LaCroix and bear‑hugged him around the neck.  “Elmo LOVES Uncle!”

 

Janette laughed, and Angelique smiled at the disgusted look on LaCroix’s face.

 

Starr looked pale suddenly, and Joe moved to her side.  “Starr?  You okay?”

 

She sat there, and began to sweat blood.

 

Micah moved closer, “Starr?”

 

She looked at him, blood streaming down her cheeks.

 

Micah touched her cheek, “You too?  Oh, Starr!”

 

Warren was about to move towards Starr when he happened to glance at the space behind LaCroix.  He came up with a start, his mouth hung open in amazement.

 

“Greer?  By the Goddess, it can’t really be you!”  He started to move forward, his knees weak beneath him.

 

She stepped forward, slowly nodding her head, the four, thin braids that held within them tiny flowers, swayed with the movement.  Warren took in the image of her.  Her reddish-brown hair, her emerald green eyes, her simple, loam-colored dress, that fit her in a way that made his heart catch in his throat.  He noticed her lovely hands, missed their soft touch…and saw her union band as it hung from her wrist.  Oh, but this was his beloved wife.  His Greer.

 

She smiled as she neared him.  “Yes, husband.  It is me.”

 

Warren stared into her eyes.  “I don’t understand…How?…Why?…I…”

 

She reached forward, touched his lips.  “It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that we can finally be together.  The way we were meant to be.”

 

She lunged at him, and before he could move, she sank her fangs into his neck.

 

“NO!” he gasped as his beloved wife drained his essence.

 

After a brief eternity, she pulled away from him.  “Please, don’t leave me again Warren.  I can’t stand living under Arckron’s influence.  Please, come and join me.  We can be together always.  You won’t have to worry about your station.”

 

Warren swooned from her attack, “No, Greer.  Not this way…never.  You’re gone.  I can’t…We can never be together now.”

 

She reached out and touched his face again, very nearly the woman that he married.  “You made a promise to me.  It’s really not that bad.  You felt it when you helped Hanna.  You saw the peace and bliss.”

 

He nodded, almost falling into her offer…

 

******************************************

 

LaCroix watched Starr with only minor interest.  What happened to her concerned him very little.

 

“How very typical of you, Lucius.”

 

He turned with a hiss.  “Divia?!”

 

She smiled evilly as she walked towards him.  “Naturally.  You didn’t actually think you could destroy me, did you, father?  I created you.  I’m stronger than you.  You should have learned.”

 

He looked around for help, refugee, anything.  But none of the others were anywhere to be found.

 

“That’s right, Lucius.  No one to run to for help.  You have to face me alone.  And this time, father, I’m going to make sure I finish what I started.”

 

He backed up as she advanced on him.  “Divia!  Wait!”

 

She smiled again, and then vanished.  LaCroix looked frantically around, trying to pinpoint where she was.  Then he saw a blinding flash, and his world started to spin.

 

***************************

 

Zara opened her exhausted eyes, and wished she hadn’t.

 

She was surrounded by rocks again.  Everywhere.

 

She started to shake her head.  “No!  Not again!”

 

And then they started to cave in on her, and she curled up into a ball.

 

“Methos!  METHOS!” she shrieked.  She knew he wouldn’t come for her.  He had saved her the first time.  He wasn’t here this time.  She would spend eternity trapped in the rocks.  Crushed for eternity.

 

She started to howl in fear and frustration…METHOS!

 

*****************************

 

Duncan looked up when he felt the feather-light touch on his shoulder.  He turned around, and looked into the eyes of his beloved Tessa.

 

“Duncan.”  She smiled, and his heart caved in.

 

“Tessa?  Is it really you?”

 

She sighed.  “Oh, Duncan!  How could you?”

 

His eyebrows furrowed.  “How could I what?  What did I do?”

 

“You swore you loved me like no other!”

 

“But I do!  Oh, Tessa!  My life has been Hell without you!”

 

“Then why do you keep fighting to live?  Why won’t you let someone take your head, so we can be together again?”

 

His eyes filled with tears.  “Tessa…”

 

“Here, Duncan my love.  Let me help you.  And we can be together forever!”

 

She raised the blade of his katana…

 

************************************

 

Kat hung back behind Vachon.  She didn’t know most of the people here.  She really didn’t care about any of them either.  She just wanted to deal with LaCroix and be on her merry way.

 

And then she smelled fresh blood.  Intoxicating.  Inviting.  Like the first time she tasted it.

 

She turned this way and that, not believing her eyes.  There was blood everywhere.  It covered everything.  It ran freely on the floor.

 

Her mind reeled.  She felt that familiar tightening in her stomach.  Oh, but she was thirsty!

 

Her hands felt sticky, and she looked down at them.  They were covered with blood.  Her brain exploded, and her fangs readied themselves.  She was going to feed.  She had to feed.  She could smell the blood all around her.  Not just the free-flowing blood, but she could smell mortal blood as well.  She could hear the heartbeats.

 

She licked her lips, and leaped towards the mortal…

 

****************************

 

Janette watched as the others tended to Starr.  She was still trying to heal the sun damage she had suffered on the way up here.

 

“There you are!”

 

She jumped at the sound of that voice.  After all the years she had put between herself and that voice…

 

“I’ve been waiting for you, whore!”

 

She turned to see the man that had been her husband, and had sold her into prostitution, approaching her, his hands clenched in ire.

 

“No!  Not you!”  she backed away.

 

“I’ll show you!  Not good enough for you, eh?  Won’t bear my children?”  He bears down on her, raising his hands to beat her.  “I’ll show you!”

 

*********************

 

“Nicholas?”

 

He looked up from his fuming over what Warren had done to him to see his long-dead wife approaching him.

 

“You left me behind.”

 

“But…”

 

“You killed me.”

 

“But…” he backed up into LaCroix’s desk.

 

“Here, let me return the favor.”  She raised the stake, and started to drive it home…

 

***********************

 

Friedreich stood near Starr and the others.  He felt something wrong in the air, but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure it out.

 

And then the room was full of the howls of wolves.  He looked about, and found himself surrounded by the members of his tribe.  Long dead, for nearly 1500 years.  Weren’t they?

 

“Abomination!”  they shouted in one voice.

 

“You are Garou!  And yet you serve a leech and his whore!”

 

“You take the blood of the Wyrm into you!  You are polluted!”

 

“Purify him!” “Purify him!”

 

He struggled to maintain his control under the onslaught.  His tribe, his people, his family.  And they denounced him for evil.

 

“Gauntlet!”  “He runs the gauntlet as punishment!”  “He must be purified!”

 

They all Crinosed, and formed a two-sided line.  There were weapons drawn, and he could smell silver amongst them.

 

“RUN!”  He was pushed from behind, and he felt the burning of silver in his veins.

 

“RUN! RUN! RUN!”

 

**************************

 

Angelique stood, watching as Lucien gazed into space, his eyes wide.

 

Then she thought she could smell it.  The one thing she never had any wish to smell ever again.

 

 

She closed her eyes to dislodge the foul odor, but when she opened her eyes she was there, back in that place.  The slave ship.

 

She wanted to curl up into herself and escape the stench, but in the overcrowded, lightless hold it was not possible.   Death was in the air, and the miasma of hundreds of unwashed bodies, stacked like firewood, mingled with the sickness.

 

She had feed well for the first few nights, being in the cargo hold was like eternal night, and the sun avoided the miserable place.  Then the deaths had started from natural causes.  Those bodies she was not able to slip over the side of the ship after dark.  Now, the scent of decomposing bodies and dying men, women and children was overpowering to her sensitive nose.

 

She was feeding well.  She ushered in peace to the worst off, ignoring the taint of sickness in their blood, answering the begging for release.

 

The begging.  It hounded her.  They hounded her.  The Angel of Mercy, they called her, called to her, begging her to visit them and take them away from this death ship.

 

She was beginning to hope that the sun was bright where they landed, so as to stop the begging, the pleading, the misery that was starting to engulf her.

 

********************

 

Joe rubbed his hands over his face.  God, he needed rest.

 

“Oh, you’ll get it, boy scout.”

 

His hands dropped in shock.  “Cord?”

 

The black Immortal, who had once been a friend, was before him, decomposing.  “You see what you did to me, boy scout?”

 

“I already told you!  I didn’t do it!”

 

“MacLeod was your friend!  You lead him to me!”

 

“NO!  You killed Charlie!  You gave him no choice!”  He felt the straps on his artificial legs snap.  He tried to grab them, reattach them, but Cord snatched them before he could reach them.

 

“I gave you life, Joe!  And you took mine from me!”  He pulled out his sword.  “Time to pay!”

 

Joe pushed himself backwards on the floor, trying to get away from Cord, knowing that his arms would never let him move fast enough…

 

*****************

 

Vachon smelled the sickly sweet smell of death.  And looked up to see his beautiful Urs walking towards him, trailing her entrails behind her.

 

“You see what they did to me, Javie?”

 

“Ursula…” he sighed, blood tears welling in his eyes.

 

“They wanted you, Javie.  But they took me instead.  Because you let them.”  She stepped forward, the skin of her exposed chest flapping as she moved.

 

“Let them?” he blinked.

 

“You never cared about me!  I was just another toy!  You left me alone, so they gutted me!”

 

He shook his head as he reached forward to his lost Urs.

 

“‘s right, matey!”  Screed’s voice came from behind.

 

Vachon whirled to find the carouche bearing down on him, and looking like a puzzle that was badly pieced together.

 

“Screed!?”

 

They bother bore down on him, dragging him screaming to the floor.  Urs held a corkscrew in her hand, Screed held a whale-gutting knife.  They both raised their weapons to strike….

********************

 

Marcus turned to John, both of them overwhelmed by the way everyone was suddenly acting.  Almost as if they were seeing visions…

 

“Infernalist?” John asked, knowing the answer.

 

“With a bit of Chemistry to boot,” Marcus added, referring to the gypsy magic that allowed them to create illusions.

 

“Is there anything either of you can do to break the illusions?  Before any of them are truly damaged?” Jonas was exasperated.

 

“What the Hell is going on?” Both Micah and Methos asked together, with Elmo clutching tightly to Micah’s leg.

 

“Illusions.”

 

“Then why aren’t we affected?” Methos asked, referring to himself, Micah, Elmo, John, Marcus and Sky.

 

“Micah has already endured more than his share at August’s hands,” Marcus explained as John started chanting over some clay jars he brought with him.  “I suspect that neither you, nor I, nor John, nor the lady Sky are affected because she is not aware of our presence here.  And Elmo…well, he is only made of stuffing.”

 

A red-blue haze emerged from the clay pots, surrounding everyone in the room.  When everyone was sufficiently surrounded, and just in the nick of time, John smashed the two jars together.  The haze erupted in a gaseous outburst, and when it cleared, everyone had collapsed onto the floor.

 

Except for Starr, who still sat dazed and sweating blood…

 

 

Something Wicked

by RavenKat

August 4

The Raven

2:45 a.m.

 

She licked her lips and leaped toward the mortal…

 

All vestiges of the control she fought so many years to achieve just slipped away.  With one gore-covered hand she wiped the blood drool from her chin and with the other she savagely dug her nails into the mortal’s shoulder and whipped him around to face his destiny.  What she saw froze her there, in the steaming river of blood.

 

“Pere Christophe?” she whispered.

 

He wore the face of the one friendly priest at St. Etienne.  For the first few seconds he looked alive and healthy.

 

“Mon fils (my son),” he intoned sadly at Kat.

 

She was immediately overcome by shame.  Her teethed ached, her veins burned like fire and her eyes shown a deep gold – Kat intended to devour the holy man, humiliation or not.

 

As she pulled him closer, his neck burst open spewing hot, salty blood all over her face.  His face shredded and lay in strips from his chin.  Within seconds, he became the ravaged corpse that was the real Father Christophe…the one she had found with two attending brothers strewn about the monastery burial room 800 years ago,

 

Releasing him like a poisonous snake, Kat screamed a hoarse, “Noooo!”  His body dropped to the cold stone floor; Now only large puddles where waves of blood were moments ago.

 

She was in the burial chamber, her burial chamber.  She was still in the torn cassock from the attack in the woods, but how did she get here?  The remains of her brethren were thrown against the fall wall, discarded husks with tattered faces and throats.  Kat ran to them even though she knew they must be dead.  What kind of a creature would rend human beings like so much mutton?!

 

Father Christophe’s disembodied voice echoed through the dismal room, “Cest toi….” (it’s you)

 

 

Unhappy Kitty

by CousinSuk

August 4

The Raven

2:50 a.m.

 

The brightness pressed into her, capturing her, searing her retinas.  She stiffened and waited for the agony, for the burning of her flesh as Ra punished his banished child.

 

It never came.

 

She opened her eyes to find Sky standing over her.

 

“Angelique?” Sky held out one hand.

 

It was odd taking the hand of a stranger but she did and accepted the Immortal watcher’s help off the floor.  “Thank you.”

 

There was an audible commotion in the club; Screams could be faintly heard through the office door.  The door shuddered and bowed as something battered against it.

 

Everyone in the room froze as Cleo burst through the door, her eyes red with rage, claws extended, and leapt at Friedreich.

 

 

How Much Can a Poor Girl Take?!

by CookyCook

August 4

The Raven

3:00 a.m.

 

The rock faded and disappeared and suddenly Zara found herself on the floor. Her weak eyes looked around the room but only focused on the one thing she was concerned about. She pulled herself to her feet and stumbled over to Methos.

 

“Methos!” Her voice said in an exhausted tone. They embraced each other and her legs came out from under her. “Methos you would never believe what happened! Look at me! I’m shaking! What the hells going on around here!”

 

Methos moved down into a sitting position and held her in his arms. He gently rubbed her back, trying to soothe her. “Zara, calm down. Tell me what happened, one at a time.” his voice was calm and comforting. She took a deep breath and eventually she stopped shaking.

 

“I was in the tomb again Methos. I was trapped, solid rock! Then it started to collapse…” the frightened look appeared on her face and she couldn’t finish.

 

Methos looked at her with wide eyes. Dammit, it could have been anything but that. So long ago that it happened and it still didn’t surprise him that she was so afraid. “Zara, it’s okay. It’s over now. The tomb has been gone for 40 centuries. No need to fear it.”

 

His calm voice made her relax against him. Oh how she had missed him all these years. It had been to long, far to long. She owed him her life. If the rocks came back again and he wasn’t there, it just might drive her insane.

 

As she lay there, she silently began chanting prayers to long forgotten gods. After she became to tired she rested against his body as she listened to all else that was going on, to tired to do much else. She shut her eyes and listened tentatively to everything that was happening in the room…

 

 

Here Kitty Kitty

by HannaClay

August 4

The Raven

3:10 a.m.

 

Friedreich would have stayed crinosed, but decided at the last second that what this situation needed was a stronger Alpha.  So, as the leopard jumped at him, he changed into a wolf.

 

Cleo saw the change as she was flying toward him and screamed a battle cry.  She wasn’t going to let that halfling hurt hermistress!

 

Friedreich snarled back his challenge as he leapt at her, and the two collided in mid-air.  The people in the room, mortal or otherwise, moved out of range of the cat and the wolf.

 

I’ll rip out your throat she screamed at him in defiance.

 

You’ll have to get close enough, kitty

 

No problem, there

 

Perhaps, but it’ll put you in the range of my claws and teeth, so bring it on

 

She screeched as she batted him in the face with her claws.  She was furious that one like this would get near her mistress, and try to harm her.

 

Friedreich ducked under the onslaught of her claws, and fastened his teeth around her throat.  Using his hind legs, he pushed back on them, rolled them both over, and pinned Cleo under him.

 

I could kill you cat  his teeth pressed in hard enough for her to know that he meant, and could do, what he threatened.  But I don’t want to kill you.  I don’t want to kill anyone…in this room, that is.  So, make like a nice kitty or your mistress will have to get a new pet

 

Cleo reluctantly went limp under him, signaling her submission.  For now.  But, she’d make him pay for this.

 

He changed back into his human form, letting Cleo up as he did so.  He wiped the blood from his face and then snarled at Angelique, “It’s only because Hanna would disapprove, that your cat is not dead.  The next time I won’t be so congenial!”

 

 

The Smoke Clears

by RavenKat

August 4

The Raven

3:15 a.m.

 

One minute she was watching a Muppet and a Nosferatu fight over a jar of cremated remains, and the next she was reliving the horror of her first night as a vampire.  Right when the hunger had inspired her to begin nipping at complete strangers, Kat was overcome by smoke.  Now, she found herself very unceremoniously plopped on the floor of LaCroix’s back room.

 

It looked like a war zone back here.  Half of the attendees of tonight’s impromptu gathering were on the floor, and the other half were playing nursemaid.  Kat spotted Javier lying a few feet away and crawled over to him.  She wiped the blood sweat off of his forehead, trying desperately to ignore her ravenous hunger.

 

He awoke with a start and instantly began to fight her.  As Kat pulled back in surprise, Vachon realized he was no longer in the grip of a nightmare.

 

“Kat?” he asked, sitting up.  Before she could answer, he hugged her fiercely.

 

“I could use a drink.  How about you?” she asked shakily, still in their embrace.  Chuckling once, Vachon released her.  “Come on,” he said, pulling her up with him.  They made their way carefully through the settling chaos, quietly taking note that everyone else seemed no worse for wear.

 

Kat chose a stool at the bar and Vachon continued around her to find a bottle.  Luckily it was Sunday night and the Raven staff had ushered out most of the mortals soon after everyone had assembled in the back.  Javier checked a few labels, discarded Flossie with a grimace and passed his selection over to Kat.  Not waiting for a glass, she uncorked the bottle with her teeth and tipped it back to drink.  She froze momentarily, having spotted a black leopard on the dance floor.  She then raised the bottle in salute to the cat and took a long swig.

 

 

The Party’s Over

by Trapper

August 4,

from about 3:00 to 4:00 a.m.(after the hallucinations)

 

Trapper sat up and looked around. The smoke from the broken jars was starting to clear, and she was able to start looking around. Bodies were lying everywhere, in all sorts of positions. There was no sense that anyone had died, though, so Trapper scanned for her partner.  She could hear Evie coughing somewhere close by, so she crawled slowly in that direction.

 

Evie was wrapped around a pillar and soaked in sweat.  Trapper mopped her forehead with her shirttail.

 

“Are you all right?”

 

Evie opened bloodshot eyes.  “I’m not sure I’ll ever be all right again,” she croaked.   “I don’t know what just happened, and I don’t think I want to. Is there anything around to drink?”

 

“I’ll see what I can find.”  Trapper made her way to the bar and back, carefully picking her way through the people and furniture that littered the floor.  “Here you are.”  She handed the still‑coughing woman a glass of water.  “I’m going to see if I can find Nick. Will you be OK?”  Evie nodded, gulping at the water.

 

Nick was still unconscious, lying crumpled by the exit.  He looks as though he’s been tossed here, she thought.

 

“Nick?” She shook him gently.  “Nick?”  No response. Trapper got to her feet and returned to the bar for more water.  She knelt back at Nick’s side and lifted his head into her lap.  Unbuttoning her shirt, she dipped the tail in the water and began wiping his face.

 

“Mmm.”  Nick opened his eyes.  “Now this is a sight for sore eyes,” he smiled.  His gaze traveled down from her face.  “Oh, yes indeed.  And a black bra.  My favorite color.”  His eyes sparkled mischievously.

 

Trapper followed his gaze and colored. “Men.  I’m trying to make sure you’re not dead, and here you are, taking advantage already.”

 

“Nice vantage, too,” he murmured, just before she slapped his arm.

 

Trapper held a dark bottle out to him.  “Here. I grabbed this from under the bar. It had  Nick’s stock: Flossie written on it.  I figured it would be safe for you.”

 

He drank deeply, sighed and let his head fall back into her lap again.  “Thanks. I didn’t realize how badly I needed that.”  He looked at her chest again. “Or this.”

 

“Ahem.”  Trapper got to her feet, rebuttoned her shirt, and held out a hand.  “Let’s find my partner, shall we?”

 

Together, they made their way over to the table where Evie was sitting.  She looked up at them dully.

 

“Pull up a chair and have a seat.  You look like you’ve been through the same mill as everyone else here, Nick.”  She gestured at the rest of the room, where people were beginning to stagger to their feet.

 

“I’m afraid I have.”  A quizzical look crossed his face as he looked to Trapper.  “Why not you?”

 

“Huh?” Trapper looked at him blankly.

 

“Why didn’t this happen to you?”  Nick asked.  “You seem fine.”

 

“I am, except for exhaustion. I don’t know.  What I saw was that suddenly, everyone went crazy.  The only thing I can think of, is that the ones responsible don’t know Evie and I.”   Trapper shook her head and got a faraway look in her eyes.  “I remember that LaCroix was obviously terrified of someone named Divia, Duncan was talking to a non‑existent Tessa. When Kat started randomly attacking people and moaning about rivers of blood, I hid under a table.  It seemed like the path of least resistance.”

 

“Under the circumstances, I think you did the safest thing.”   Evie looked at her friend.  “I barely managed to get out of the way when Angelique’s snarling leopard came charging through. Then those jars went off, and I grabbed the pillar.”  She shook her head again. “I don’t remember anything else…except…”  She went pale.  “Dennis! I heard him screaming, over and over! Omigod! I think he was trying to warn us!”  Evie pressed whitened knuckles against her mouth.  She stared across the table at Trapper.  “I think he’s in awful danger…or dead!”

 

“Look,” Nick said, rising, “I’m going to check on everyone else, and see if any of them have felt anything about this. You both stay put. I’m sure that you can both defend yourselves, but I don’t want to lose track of either of you after a night like this one. I’ll have Miklos bring you something to drink, OK?”   He looked from Trapper to Evie and back again.  “Let’s see, an Irish coffee for Evie, and a double tall latte for Trapper. Am I right?”

 

Evie gestured.  “He’s good!”

 

“Hey, I’m a detective,” Nick said over his shoulder as he walked to the bar.   “That’s why I make the big bucks!”

 

Miklos returned in short order, looking as unruffled as usual.  “Let’s see, Evie gets the Irish coffee, and Trapper, the one who’s vibrating in her chair,” he smirked, “gets the double tall.”

 

“How does he do that?” Evie said to his retreating back.

 

“I don’t know, but it’s absolutely unnatural! It’s just not normal to look that tidy by this time of night.”

 

Eventually, Nick returned, looking pensive.

 

“Did you find out anything?” Evie looked up hopefully.

 

Nick shook his head and leaned over the table.  Obviously something had gone on that he really didn’t want to discuss.

 

“First things first,” Nick said.  “I don’t think it’s safe for you two to return to your hotel. At least, not until after sunrise.”

 

Trapper hit the table with her fist.  “You’re right.  We can’t risk leading anyone back to James and Michael.  Though,” she smiled, “if our friends got as lucky as I think they did, they’re probably not there anyway.”

 

“Oh, great!” said Evie.  “So, what do you suggest? I sure don’t want to stay HERE for what’s left of the night.”

 

No one had noticed during their intense conversation that Duncan had wearily crossed the room to stand behind Evie.  “Well, personally,” he said, leaning forward, “I think Evie should come home with me.”  Evie looked up at him, surprised at the invitation (though secretly pleased).  “You’re far too vulnerable if you’re together.”

 

“Sounds good,” Nick said.  “I’ll take Trapper home with me, then.”

 

“And I’ll plan to stop by your place sometime around noon, Nick, to pick up Trapper and deliver both of these lovely ladies to their hotel. Maybe they should consider checking out.”

 

Evie raised her eyebrows at Trapper.  “Well, Traps, it looks like they’ve got this all figured out for us.”

 

“It does, doesn’t it?”  Trapper got up from the table and stretched.  “In that case, we should probably all get going. I don’t know about you all,” she widened her eyes in mock innocence, “but I’m absolutely dead!”

 

Everyone at the table groaned and rolled up their eyes at the bad joke.

 

“Hey, me too!” Nick grinned.

 

“Ha. Funny.” Eve sighed. “Let’s just get out of here.”

 

Duncan nodded. “Later, everyone. Get some sleep.”

 

They gathered themselves up, and made for the door, picking their way through the debris.  It had been a long, strange night, both sad and terrifying.  But they were alive, and it was enough.  Sometimes, that’s the most one can hope for.

 

 

A Not So Simple Twist of Fate

by Kustenhin

August 4

On the roof of the Raven

3:20 a.m.

 

Warren was, by nature, a loner.  It’s the way he’d been all his life, until he had met Greer.  It seemed for the one short year they were together, he could do what the Arch-Druids had always said was impossible for a man like him.  He could fulfill his destiny, and have something he had always wanted . . . someone to love, someone who could love him . . . maybe even a real family someday.

 

But his “destiny” had gotten in his way.  Because of a vendetta that was old when his grandfather was in diapers, his beautiful Greer had been turned against him, dishonored . . .  It still made him rage to the very core when he thought of the look on Greer’s face that first time.  Her accusations, her screams, hurt him in ways mere words couldn’t describe.  He had forsaken her, refused to join her in the darkness.  It had been the most painful, most difficult thing he had ever done in his short twenty one years of existence.  Even after he had been touched by Ackron’s “gift,” he had refused, fought back . . . caused even more pain than was really necessary.  Becoming angrier, ruthless, cold.  All the while losing a bit of the man he was.  Sure, he joked and laughed and cried. But it was different.  Perhaps there was a bit of insanity and too much grief to it.

 

Now  he was in this strange place, home, but not quite.  Nothing had changed in him.  No, it had gotten worse.  The prank he had pulled on poor guilt-ridden Nicholas, was a fine example.  If he had met Nicholas before . . . well, he would have still pranked his friend, sure enough.  But it would have been far more tactful, and a bit more gentle on the conscious perceptions.  He shook his head.  Look at him. Sitting on a roof, staring  out at a familiar, but foreign skyline, crying over what he couldn’t change.

 

No, he couldn’t change it.  But, he could make up for it.  All he had to do was let a vampire finish what Ackron and Greer had started. Then he would go . . . Where would he go?  Casa Loma,  of course. August had been the source of this entire city’s problems from the very beginning.  Somehow Warren knew she had something to do with Greer being here instead of  back on Terra.  All he had to do now was find a vampire who was willing to bring him across.

 

“LaCroix.”

 

It was a statement, not a question.  The elder vampire emerged from the shadow of the buildings’ roof entrance. Behind him was an ever-so-slightly paved brick . . . er, Nick.  The ancient vampire arched a thick eyebrow at the mortal whom he knew to be much more that appearances.

 

“Nicholas tells me you played a rather, mischievous trick on him the other night.”

 

If Warren didn’t know better, he would have thought LaCroix was doing everything he could to stifle an out right grin.

 

“Yea, well he deserved it.” The comment was aimed pointedly at Nick.

 

“Yes, Nicholas deserves a lot . . . but really Warren, that was in poor taste. Don’t you think?”

 

“No.”

 

LaCroix looked from his son to his mortal friend.

 

“Well, Nicholas, I did the best I could.” LaCroix shrugged, and grew more serious, maybe even a bit uncomfortable.  It was hard for Warren to tell.  Before LaCroix could continue the conversation in a more delicate manner, Nick blurted out:  “You saw something down there too didn’t you, Warren?”

 

Now it was his turn to be more uncomfortable.

 

“Yes, but it wasn’t a hallucination.”

 

“What do you mean?” This piqued LaCroix’s curiosity.

 

“I…I…I saw my wife.”

 

“Greer?” Nick remembered Warren telling him about her.  She sounded like a lovely woman.  So, that’s what had made Warren leave the room so quickly.

 

“She’s here.  Somehow she was brought here.  Probably in a very similar way to the way I was.  I don’t know how, and I really don’t care.  But it’s time I stopped resisting and . . . ”

 

“NO!  Warren, you can’t do that.  Not after the way you fought so hard to keep your mortality!” Nick was beginning to remember Warren’s sad tale.  After all the poor boy’d been through, he couldn’t give in like this . . .

 

LaCroix was definitely liking the way Warren was thinking. The boy did show some potential.  He had been contemplating bringing him across for some time now . . . However, he was wary.  LaCroix, as much as he wouldn’t admit it freely to anyone else, wasn’t sure what would happen.  After all Warren W”S. well, different . . .

 

“I should have guessed YOU would say that Nick. So in that case . . . ” Warren took a deep breath, “LaCroix, I want you to bring me across.”

 

LaCroix seriously considered it for a moment, and instead, remembered that there was someone who would be more suited to the task.

 

“No, Warren. But there is someone . . . ”

 

 

Special Delivery

by HannaClay

August 4

the Raven

3:20 a.m.

 

There was a discrete knock on the side entrance to the Raven.  Miklos only heard it because he was down getting some more bottles of “special” vintages.

 

He opened the door, and there was a man dressed in a UPS uniform.  “What the Hell?  What do you want?”

 

He cleared his throat.  “I have a special delivery for either a Ms. Evie or a Ms….Trapper.”

 

Miklos looked him over.  The man was a vampire.  He knew it.  “Hold on, and I’ll get them.”

 

The UPS man wheeled in a rather large, bulky package.

 

Miklos entered the back room, and headed straight for Evie and Trapper.  “There’s a UPS delivery for you.  At the back entrance.  If it isn’t a set up, I haven’t learned anything in all the years I’ve lived.”

 

“Fine,” Nick intoned cheerfully.  “Then some of us will go with them.”

 

Duncan, Methos, LaCroix, Nick and Friedreich all went with Evie and Trapper to the back stock room.  One look at the party that accompanied the women, the UPS man bolted.  But not fast enough to escape the reflexes of two vampires and one Garou.

 

Evie looked the package over.  “What is it?”

 

The UPS man, fangs extended, snarled at her, but said nothing.

 

“Open it,” LaCroix muttered.

 

Trapper noticed the card first, opened it, and read aloud:

 

“To my darling ladies,

 

My apologies that I have, as of yet, not been able to make your acquaintances.  But I hope to

alleviate that situation soon.  From the present company you keep, I am certain you will not disdain MY

company!

Until that time, accept this gift as a token of my esteem and affection.

 

Ever Yours,

Horton”

 

 

“Oh shit!” Duncan spat.  He didn’t know what they had done to piss off Horton, but whatever it was, it was lethal.

 

Evie hesitated, then she opened it.  And wished she hadn’t.

 

Dennis was still bound, what was still free of his leather straps had been leaded to the base of the “sculpture”.  He was arched over backwards, as if someone had been pulling him over a barrel.  His arms were pulled back behind him, as if someone had been holding him in place by way of them.  But his face…what was left of it that could be distinguished, was contorted in absolute agony, and for very good reason.

 

It looked as if someone had poured molten gold down his throat and then, for good measure, covered the rest of him with it, and created a golden statue of a tortured soul…

 

 

Under Duress

by Kustenhin and CousinSuk

August 4

the Raven

3:30 a.m.

 

“You want me to what?”  Angelique started at LaCroix like he’d spouted a second head.  “Why ever for?”

 

LaCroix made a languid hand movement towards Warren.  “Let him explain.”

 

“I have to become…one of you. It’s the only way I can get Greer back. It’s the only way I can finally be sure of what I truly am.”

 

“I don’t know.  I haven’t had a child since Sion.”  Angelique’s eyes went hollow with grief.  “And look want happened to him.”

 

Warren looked at the woman that presented his last hope.  “‘What did happen?”

 

“Sion was my last child.  After falling in love with a mortal he was made mortal again. Starr,” She hissed the name.  “called in the enforcers. To save him and the mortal, I was force to erase 800 years of memories, and the memory of his love for the mortal.”

 

“I have no wish to be anything but a vampire.”  Warren spoke into the silence.

 

“We all make tragic mistakes Angelique.”  LaCroix had come up behind Angelique and touched her shoulder.  “Perhaps, this can be a way for you to move on.”

 

She turned her head and touched her face to his hand for a moment, taking a deep, unnecessary breath.  Then she studied Warren.  Finally, after an endless moment, she nodded.  “Alright.”  She turned to LaCroix.  “I need to go home to do this.”

 

“You cannot use upstairs?”

 

“I must do it in my lair.”

 

“Alright.  I will go with you.”

 

She nodded.  “I want Micah too.”

 

“I will go get him.”

 

She looked at Warren.  “One last chance to change your mind.”

 

He raised his chin and gave a brief negative shake.  “No chance.”

 

 

Fruit of the Vine

by RavenKat

August 4

The Raven

3:45 a.m.

 

“You know what I’d be doing right now if I were at home?”  Kat asked to no one in particular.  “I’d be coming home from the ‘Back Alley’.”  She took a long and determined pull off the bottle of blood wine.

 

Javier was seated next to her at the bar, but he was only half listening.  Instead, he was contemplating how satisfying it would be to dismember August and her army of goons with his bare hands.

 

“Yep. Coming home from a leisurely night of dancing and drinking…” she trailed off, lost in the pleasant memories.

 

“Right about now, I’d be sitting in a very expensive car, having a completely mindless conversation with Adam, or Glenn, or Marc-with-a-C…” Kat continued loudly.  She began to spin on her barstool, gripping the bottle tightly and swinging her legs out like a little kid.

 

Several now familiar people, including LaCroix, passed by Kat and her brooding comrade on their way to do other things.  “You’re drunk,” someone muttered under their breath.

 

“And I’d be waiting for just the right moment to take him down,” she added, her words still loud and carefree.

 

“I’d bite him hard, suck him dry and send him on his merry way.”  She took another swallow.  “And you know what?  He’d love it!  Hell, he’d be calling me the next day asking me for another date!”  Kat’s voice began to grow harsh.

 

“But you know what I definitely would NOT be doing?”

 

Vachon turned, brought out of his revenge plotting by the rising desperation in Kat’s monologue.

 

“I wouldn’t be sitting here thinking about that wonderful night in the Parisian woods.  And I wouldn’t be having a drink at the bar owned by the bastard that murdered me a thousand years ago…” Kat was almost yelling.  She slowly stopped twirling, ending up with her back to the bar.

 

“And I would not be getting mind-fucked by some psycho bitch with too much time on her hands!”  Kat suddenly spun the last 180 degrees and sent the nearly empty bottle smashing into the mirrored wall behind the bar.

 

 

Vengeance Is Ours, part one

by Trapper

August 4

The Raven

3:45 a.m.

 

It looked as if someone had poured molten gold down his throat and then, for good measure, covered the rest of him with it, and created a golden statue of a tortured soul.

 

Evie let out a stream of curses and gripped the sides of the box tightly. Her face was contorted with grief for the poor, innocent Dennis. Duncan and Methos laid comforting hands on her shoulders. Trapper stood next to them, trembling with rage.  Her shades hid her eyes, but her long, red fingernails had drawn blood from her clenched fists.  The crumpled card fell to the floor.  She lifted her head to look over at the captured vampire, and strode over to where Nick, LaCroix and Friedreich held him.  The disheveled captive began to snarl, and fought to get closer to the blonde woman who stood so silently in front of him.

 

“Say something!” he spit. “Oh, come on, bitch! Don’t you want to cry over him? We took him out of here so easy! And he screamed like all coward mortals before we were done!”

 

Still not speaking, Trapper cracked her fist into his face.  Her heavy silver rings smashed his fangs to splinters.  He began to howl as his stolen blood flowed down his chin.

 

“Shhh,” was all she said before her next punch caught him in the throat.  He began to gag and cough. She smiled. “I think this is going to be a little…messy.”  Trapper spoke in measured, icy tones.  “Do you think we could move this somewhere like, oh say, the roof?”

 

Unnoticed, Elmo had bounced over and was happily humming to himself as he lapped the blood off the floor.

 

“Done,” said LaCroix.  “I don’t really want the likes of this one fouling up my establishment.”  The threesome hauled the bleeding, whimpering undead toward the stairs.

 

Trapper stopped to stand next to Evie.  “Coming?”

 

Evie hissed, “I wouldn’t miss this for anything!”  She closed the lid on the box, and sadly shook her head.

 

“The bright side is,” said Trapper as they strolled toward the stairs, Aat least this way, Dennis’ funeral is paid for.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, if I’m not mistaken, that’s gold he’s covered in.”

 

“TR”PPER!!” Evie, Duncan and Methos all stared at her.

 

She shrugged. “If you don’t laugh, you cry. Me, I’d rather laugh. It will make this revenge all the sweeter.”

 

Elmo bounced after them.  “Red stuff! Yummy!”

 

When Trapper and Evie arrived on the roof, they saw that the men had taken the liberty of stripping and tying the prisoner, spread‑eagled over a plastic sheet, between a couple of roof stanchions.

 

“Thank you.”  Trapper turned to the men.  “You may want to wait for us downstairs.”

 

“And miss this?” LaCroix said.  “Oh, no!”

 

“Fine.  In that case, you might want to stand back just a bit.”  Trapper removed a bottle of holy water from one of her zipper pockets, and poured it into the latte cup that been on the table in the club.  She dipped her fingernails into the cup, and then walked to the wide eyed vampire.  Grasping an earlobe between her finger and thumbnails, she leaned over to whisper in his ear.  “By the way, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me. In fact, I don’t feel anything at all.”  She squeezed her nails together, piercing his ear. “Now,” she said as he moaned, “what’s your name? The swiftness of your death depends on your answer.”

 

“L‑L‑Lionel,” came out of the gaping wound that had been his mouth.

 

“There. Was that so hard?”  She dipped her fingers in the holy water again. “Who else helped you?”

 

A certain amount of bravado returned to Lionel with the respite from pain.  “Eat it, cow!”

 

“Tsk.”  She carefully drew her ten claws down his bare chest.  The bloody wounds sizzled from the holy water.

 

“AAAAAAAAAA!!!!”

 

Trapper stood up and removed another vial from her coat.  This time it was the “killer” incense that Duane had made.  Two of the ingredients were blessed salt and powdered garlic. “I just knew this would come in handy.”  She sprinkled it over the wounds.

 

Lionel convulsed from the agony.  It felt like everything was eating its way through his skin slowly.  Which, of course, it was.

 

Trapper stood back and crossed her arms.

 

Lionel stared at her.  He saw a mirror‑eyed demon that smiled at him.  “Wha…what…” he tried to speak.

 

“I just wanted to wait until the pain subsided a bit, and you, perhaps, began to heal. Oh, that’s right. You don’t heal too well from this kind of wound, do you? Hmm. What’s next?”  Her scalpel‑like sleeve daggers came out of their hiding places.  She dipped them in the holy water and used them lightly to make tiny incisions, like paper cuts, down across his belly and toward his testicles.  Trapper paused only long enough to sprinkle incense as she went along.   She paused, with her knives poised at his genitals.  “Last time. Who else was with you?”

 

Lionel was terrified.  He could feel exactly where those knives were, through the torment of his hurts.  When he was a living Watcher, his prowess had been a great source of pride.  Even though he hadn’t made a lot of use of  the boys since his death, he was rather loath to lose them.  He began to babble.  “Eddie! a..a..and Vincent! Eddie’s like me, but Vincent’s Immortal! But it was Horton! All of it! He..made us do it!”

 

“Ah, names.  Thank you so much, Lionel! Did you know that names have power? I could explain it to you, but that would take quite a while.  Frankly, you don’t have TH”T long.”

 

“You said death would be quicker if I told…please.”

 

“Did I? Guess what? I lied.”  With her knives still at the ready, she turned to the increasingly uncomfortable males standing behind her.

 

“Umm,” Methos said, almost sprinting for the stairs.  “I’M suddenly very thirsty.  Anyone else want a drink?”

 

“Great idea, Methos!”

 

“Count me in, too.”

 

“Hey, don’t forget me!”

 

There was a general exodus from the roof.  Only LaCroix remained.

 

Trapper deftly sliced open the scrotal sack.  Lionel began to scream in earnest.  Evie leaned over and stuffed his UPS shirt in his mouth.  “Shut up. Trapper can’t concentrate with all of your racket.”

 

Trapper reached a holy water bathed nail in and hooked the testicular tubing out.  As she did, she spoke to him in a quiet monotone, as if she were lecturing.  “You know, the human body is really quite amazing. Although, human doesn’t really apply to you anymore. I thought I read somewhere that there’s almost a mile of this stuff.”   After she had a bloody little pile, she slowly poured holy water over it.

 

Lionel screamed and promptly fainted.

 

“Oh, damn!”  She noticed an old bottle of half‑coagulated blood lying on the metal roof.  She picked it up and dashed it into his face. He sputtered and tried to back away from himself.  The stench of the rotting blood was almost overpowering, but neither Evie or Trapper could smell it anymore.  “That’s better! I want you wide awake for the main event!”  Trapper gestured. “Oh, Evie! It’s your turn!”

 

LaCroix smiled to himself in the darkness.   I think I may have misjudged these mortals, he mused.  They may have some potential after all.

 

 

Those Were the Days

by RavenKat

August 4

the Raven

during V2, around 4:00 a.m.

 

Blood and wine had splattered everywhere and dark green shards of glass had flown in all directions yet, luckily, the wall behind the bar didn’t so much as crack.  Vachon put his hand on Kat’s shoulder; She wasn’t sure if he meant to comfort her or restrain her.

 

“Feelin’ better?”

 

Kat turned to see who had spoken.  Three men and a Muppet were walking through the dance area, on their way to the back room.  Only one, the classically beautiful one with the pony tail, had a smirk on his face.  The other two looked worried and in a hurry to rejoin the group in the back.

 

“Not particularly,” Kat responded.  She started around the bar so she could clean up before Miklos got back.  Facing away, she added sarcastically in a flawless Highland’s accent, “But I thank ya for askin’.”

 

Javier looked from MacLeod to Kat and back again.  If these two were acquainted, they had a strange way of showing it.

 

“Anytime, Tiny,” Duncan replied, bowing in exaggerated chivalry.

 

“Puh leeze,” she laughed.  “That was 400 years ago . . . Dunce.”

 

MacLeod pulled away from his friends, waving at them to go ahead.  He walked up to the bar where Kat was busily wiping the mirror with a rag and pointedly ignoring him.  Winking at Vachon, who was thoroughly confused by the whole conversation, he leaned over the bar as far as he could.

 

In his snidest voice, he whispered conspiratorially, “Yes, but 400 years ago you were a MAN!”  He finished with a happy shout.

 

Duncan deftly pulled back just as Kat spun around to grab him.

 

“You were a man?” Vachon interjected.

 

Stepping back only as far as necessary to avoid getting hurt, MacLeod held out his arms to demonstrate his innocence.  “Am I right?”

 

“Not!” Kat responded, forcing a laugh.

 

Instead of flying out and tackling him, Kat threw the soggy wash rag as hard as she could.  He ducked.  It whipped by his head, catching him on the ear.  He performed a little jig and started toward the back of the club.  “Still a great shot, I see.”

 

Vachon looked at the now fuming redhead.  “I thought you didn’t know any . . . ”

 

Kat interrupted him, “I said I never met any vampires.”  She stooped down and grabbed a large chunk of glass off the floor.  “He’s not a vampire.”  Reappearing, she raised her voice to be heard in the back, “He’s a Scottish Immortal HORSE’S ASS!”

 

Kat suddenly felt a shiver run up her spine, stopping her commentary.  A muffled scream of agony could be heard from somewhere overhead.  It was a harsh reminder of the seriousness of their situation here at the Raven.

 

Pausing briefly, Kat looked at the mess she had created earlier.  “You know what?  I think I’ll just leave this here.”  Digging into her back pocket, she brought out a silver clip full of US currency.  She briskly peeled off a couple of fifties and stuck them in the oversized brandy snifter that served as Miklos’ tip jar.

 

She came around and started to tug on Javier.  “Do you still want to stop by your  . . .  church  . . .  and pick up a few things?”

 

Vachon didn’t understand her motives at the moment, but he was getting tired of simply sitting here.  “Yeah, sure.”

 

Kat kept looking at the stairway to the roof as she pushed him toward the front entrance.  The heavy metal door swung shut behind them as LaCroix entered, followed by Evie and Trapper.

 

 

Vengeance is Ours, part two

by Evie‑Phoenix

August 4

on the Roof of the Raven

4:10 a.m.

 

“So,” Evie remarked conversationally to Trapper, as she pulled the whole bulbs of garlic from her bag and walked over to the semiconscious vampire, “Do you know what I wonder?”

 

“What’s that?” Trapper leaned over to clean her knives on the UPS uniform that still served as a gag.

 

“I wonder how different substances affect a creature like this,”  Evie took one bulb of garlic and inserted it, none too gently, into the scrotal sack, replacing the ruined testicle.  The vampire writhed violently, his body arching convulsively as it attempted to expel the poisonous substance.  “I mean, is it actually some physical property of the item in question, or,” she shoved the second clove of garlic into the scrotum next to the first, producing similar effect in the writhing vampire, “Is there some spiritual or magical effect going on here as well?”  She then opened the sewing kit she always carried in her “ready bag,” as she called it, took out a needle and thread and proceeded to stitch the incision, Trapper holding the weakened vampire still.  LaCroix winced delicately and looked away.

 

“What I really find interesting, though,” she remarked as she pulled a large silver cross out of her bag, “is how long does it take to kill one of these things.”  Evie stared hard at his ruined face, then leaned over and yanked the gag from what remained of the unfortunate Lionel’s mouth.  He took a deep breath, choking on the stench of old, dead blood.  “I want to hear him scream,” she said suddenly, her face contorted into a snarl as she carefully placed the cross on his forehead.   “Oh, look,” she remarked, showing real interest for the first time.

 

The other woman leaned over to examine the vampire’s face.  “Nothing,” she observed with some surprise.  “That doesn’t seem to affect him.”  Trapper reached down into her blouse, pulling out a small silver pentacle necklace and removed it from her neck.  She handed it to Evie.  “Here, try this.”

 

As Evie placed the holy artifact on the vampire’s forehead, Lionel let out a shriek.   A thin trail of smoke rose from it.  “I guess it depends more on what you believe than on what he believes,” she commented.  “Now,” she continued, opening her toolkit, “Let’s see what he’s made of.  Y’know, science always was my favorite subject.”

 

After 15 minutes of vivisection, the gag having been replaced, Evie remarked with some interest, “Hmm.  I don’t know what this is.”  Trapper came over from where she’d been sitting, admiring the city skyline.  “Now mind you, I’m not a pre‑med student or anything, but I did pass A & P,” she explained to Traps.  “It’s amazing, really, how similar all earth animals are.  And I’ve never seen an organ like this.”  She poked at the item in question with her x‑acto knife.

 

“Hmm, interesting,” Trapper agreed.

 

“Come girls,” LaCroix startled them both with his presence.  “This has been fun, as well as instructive, but it’s getting late.”

 

“Ah, you’re right,” Evie started to clean her tools.  ” Let’s toast him later and send him back to his master in a box.”

 

“With a greeting card,” Trapper agreed.  “Pay backs are a bitch.”  As a parting gesture she poured more incense into the exposed body cavity.  “A real bitch.”

 

“I will make certain no one disturbs the sacrifice,” LaCroix informed them sardonically.

 

“That would be very kind of you,” Trapper’s tone was as cold as her expression.  “He gets no worse than he deserves.”

 

“Would you like to stake him out for the sunrise?”  LaCroix seemed disinterested.

 

“No.”  Evie looked back at the mangled corpse that helped destroy her friend.  “I want to watch.”  The vampire gave her an evaluating stare, then nodded and left to inform his staff.

 

As the two women went to rejoin the others, Evie suddenly burst into tears.  Trapper hugged her as she cried out her grief.  “I know,” she said gruffly, “It’s awful to lose someone you care about.  Especially this way.”

 

Evie nodded, wiping her face and blowing her nose.  “What are we going to do with his body?  Oh, goddess!  What will we tell his parents?”

 

Trapper made a face.  “I don’t know.  Right now I’m only thinking about getting the ones responsible.”

 

As they arrived back downstairs, she turned to Evie.  “I’m curious,” she said, “I expected you to use your gun.  Why didn’t you?”

 

“I may yet, just to try it out” Evie replied, slitting her eyes.  “But mostly, I’m saving that for Horton.  That bastard’s going to bite it.”

 

“Tomorrow,” Trapper agreed, “is another day.”  They nodded and rejoined their escorts, noting that Miklos had taken care of removing the “evidence.”   Time to deal with Dennis’ remains later.  For now, it was time to leave.

 

It was definitely time to leave, Evie thought as Duncan took her arm and led her to his car.  The sky was beginning to lighten and she suddenly realized she was up way past her bedtime.  “I’m too old for this shit,” she muttered as Duncan started the car.

 

“Yeah, me too,” he replied with a grin.

 

She laughed and shook her head, leaning back into the seat.  OK, she thought.  Tomorrow is another day.  Let’s try to get through it in one piece.

 

 

Bringing Warren Across, part one

by CousinSuk

Angelique’s place

Toronto

4:15 a.m.

 

“Have a seat.”  Angelique motioned to the earth toned couch.   She sat on the couch next to Warren , but not quite touching.  “I have a few questions I need answered for this to work.” LaCroix handed her a glass of ruby liquid.  “And I need to explain the process to you.”

 

Warren nodded.  “Go ahead.”

 

“Do you find me attractive?”

 

Warren blinked.  He studied her for a moment, her dark exotic face and nodded.  “I guess.  Why?”

 

“For this to work I need you to find me attractive.”  Angelique sipped at her glass.  “I need to create a certain,” she paused and smiled faintly.  “Atmosphere.”

 

Warren raised one eyebrow ” I think I could manage.”  He glanced up at LaCroix.  “What about him?”

 

“I will be nearby.  But I will leave you to your privacy.”  LaCroix didn’t look happy.

 

“One more thing.  It will take until tomorrow night for this to happen.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“You will be watched over by Lucius and Cleo.  Tomorrow night I will have a first kill ready for you.” She looked at him.  “It will be human.  An animal will turn you into a caroushe.”

 

“I understand.”

 

“Do you?” Angelique mumbled as she stood.  “I must go prepare.  Do you need something to relax?”

 

He shook his head.  She walked off, and he watched her, his soon to be mistress.  She was going to be so disappointed when he left to find Greer at Casa Loma.

 

Micah stepped out of the shadows.  “I guess I should welcome you to the family.”  He looked so ancient for his ageless face.  “She is the dearest thing to me with Hanna gone.  Hurt her and face me.”

 

“Hurting her would defeat the entire purpose, wouldn’t it?” looked at Micah.

 

Micah’s face flashed rage before composing into a calm mask.  “You’ve been warned.”

 

“I too would be most unhappy if you hurt her.”  LaCroix put his two cents worth in.

 

Angelique appeared at the stairs leading to her bedroom.  “All is ready.”

 

 

Embrace Me, My Sweet Embraceable You

by Trapper

August 4

Nick’s Loft

4:30 a.m.

 

The elevator stopped with the sound of ancient gears clashing together and a sudden jolt as the car settled at the floor of Nick’s loft. Nick opened the door and waved Trapper through.

 

“Come in and sit down. I’m sure you’re exhausted.”  Nick put his arm around her shoulders and steered her toward the couch.  “Just sit here. I’ll get you something to drink.”

 

Trapper hugged her coat around herself and shivered.  It had been a long night, and her nerves were strung as tight as a violin string.  She could hear Nick clattering around the kitchen dimly, as if through cotton.  She jumped at the touch of his hand on her shoulder and looked up at him.  He was holding a steaming mug out to her.

 

“Come on, drink this. I don’t know what it’ll taste like, since I don’t usually make coffee. But, I can guarantee it’s strong and hot.”

 

She smiled wanly at him and took the cup in both hands.  “The two main criteria for coffee, in my opinion,” she replied.  And men, she thought to herself with an inward grin.

 

He sat down next to her and watched her silently while she drank.  He could hear her heart beat, see her pulse throbbing in the hollow of her throat.  She’s so lovely, he thought, and fragile. Like some exotic flower that blooms for one night. Like all humans, he thought grimly.  Their lives were brief candle flames.  He’d always known that, but tonight it seemed particularly difficult to bear.  The idea of her life snuffed out…He closed his eyes and ran a weary hand across his face.  Why was he feeling like this?  He hardly knew her, really.  And yet, he felt as if he’d always known her, wanted her, needed her.  But that wasn’t really possible, now, was it?

 

“You look tired yourself.”

 

Nick looked up to find Trapper watching him from across the couch with a little half‑smile on her face.  She’d taken her boots off, and curled her feet up.  Her arm rested on the back of the couch.  “I guess I am,” he admitted with a grin.  “There’s just been too much happening lately to think about it.”  He reached up to touch her hand, and was surprised to see her eyes suddenly dilate at the contact. Nick could hear her heart speed up as she entwined her fingers with his.

 

Neither of them were aware of when they moved into each others arms.  He touched her hair, her face, her eyes, her lips.  She kissed his fingertips as they brushed past, and then moved closer to kiss his forehead, his eyelids.  They paused, not daring to breathe, and gazed into one another’s eyes.  His arms tightened around her, and he pulled her to him and kissed her.

 

Trapper felt her heart race as Nick’s lips touched hers. His mouth was fire, and it devoured her hungrily.  She returned his kiss with the same heat as she pressed up against him.  He took her arms and held her away from him as she strained to reach him with her mouth.  He kissed her throat, moving down toward the hollow with little nips that wrenched a groan from her.  All he could hear was her heartbeat, pounding like waves against him as he moved down.  His hot breath caressed her nipples, grown suddenly hard beneath her clothes.  She gasped and writhed to press her breasts to his mouth.  He took a mouthful of her shirt and worried at it, growling playfully and smiling up at her.  Trapper could stand it no longer.  She shrugged out of her leather coat and pulled away from Nick long enough to pull off her silk shirt.  He watched, rapt as the snowy skin appeared from beneath the black cloth.  He reached to touch her, fascinated with the sight of her, and slowly drew down one black bra strap.  He leaned forward to kiss the top of her shoulder, slowly licking his way down to her breast as he moved the bra out of the way.  Trapper let out a little cry as teeth and tongue found her nipples and teased at them.  The bra fell, unnoticed, to the floor.  Her breath began to come in little gasps as she found the buttons to Nick’s shirt and feverishly began to undo them.  He moaned as her hands found his skin.  She explored his chest and stomach as if blind, memorizing each muscle with her fingers.  She kissed his hair as his face pressed up against her breasts and he suckled, each lick sending electric shocks through her.  She arched to kiss his neck.  As she did, he froze.

 

He moved away from her, panting as she did.  “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, with his head turned away.  “I’m not safe to be around. You should…go.”  The words rose out of him painfully.

 

“You don’t sound or act like a man who wants me to leave,” Trapper replied in a low, throaty voice.  “How can I go?”

 

“You have to,” he said, and tried to rise from the couch. “I can’t risk hurting you. You don’t understand.”

 

Trapper dragged him back down, and took his face in her hands.  He tried to look away, but she forced him to look at her.  His golden eyes blazed and his fangs showed.  “You think I don’t know what you are? I’ve always known. I want you.  I choose.”

 

“You don’t know what you’re saying, what you’re offering. This just…isn’t possible.”  He tried to rise again.

 

“Oh, but I do, and it is,” she whispered breathlessly and kissed him full on the mouth.  Her searching tongue found his fangs and she kissed him harder.  He growled and gave himself up to the tempest that was building inside him, returning the kiss tenfold and ripping off her leggings as he brought her to her feet.  He swept her up in his arms and flew to the upper floor.

 

“Oh, again!” she breathed as he laid her down on the satin sheets.  She grabbed for his belt buckle, but he swatted her hands away to undo it himself.  He stopped to look at her, lying on the black sheets.  Her hair was molten gold flowing across the pillow.  Skin the color of alabaster dazzled his eyes.  He sank to his knees at the side of the bed to bury his face in her bosom.  Trapper reached down and deftly removed the offending jeans as she dragged him into the bed, laughing.  He chuckled in return and they wrestled like children briefly, each trying to see who would be on top.  Inevitably, Nick won, and pinned her wrists over her head with one hand, as he explored this uncharted territory with the other.  He watched the color rise to her face as his hand moved down over her taut, now trembling belly, and then lower, to discover that she was already wet and feverishly hot.

 

She writhed and bucked beneath his touch, trying to free herself, to touch him.  He was driving her crazy.  In a frenzy, she won free and grasped his head to pull him up to her.  “I can’t wait any longer,”  she growled as she pulled him up and into her, wrapping her legs around him.  They both gasped at the delicious sensation of him sliding up into her.  Neither of them had ever felt this way before.  Old lovers paled into the shadows with every thrust they made together, hips grinding in symphony, breathy little gasps the only sound in the loft.  Trapper looked up to kiss his chest, his lips.  She nibbled at his ear, and ran her tongue down the side of his throat.  He turned his head to stare into her eyes.

 

They were deep brown, almost black, and in their depths danced tiny gold sparks of light.  He could drown in those eyes, he thought, and never want to come up for air.  She looked up into his, yellow fire that hid the blue green beneath.  Trapper moved to stroke his cheek.  Nick kissed her palm and gently took her finger in his teeth.

 

“Now,” she said.  “Please.”

 

“I..I..I can’t.”

 

She snarled, thrust her hips into him, driving him in deeper, and bit his neck.  He gasped in response and, without thinking, sank his fangs in her throat.

 

“YES!” she cried out.  The feel of his teeth took her breath away.  A million sensations, memories, thoughts ran through her mind, sending her reeling to the very edge.  Her words were lost in the soul‑searing hurricane of emotions that seized her.

 

Sweet, he thought. Oh, Christ, what a taste!  Her blood effervesced into his mouth like champagne. He tasted flowers, incense, the salt air in her face as she walked on the beach.  He felt it all, saw it all, drank it all in her blood.  It flooded his mind, his body, as they both shuddered to climax, not stopping, not wanting to stop, but riding the waves of it, moving in time to her heartbeat.

 

Finally, he pulled away, sweating, panting, dazed from all of the feelings.  She lay against the sheets, beads of sweat glistening on her forehead.  He kissed them away, unwilling to let any taste of her away from him.  She murmured and opened her eyes, smiling up at him, and weakly raising a hand to wipe his face.  She licked her hand.  “Mmmm. Is that me?” she whispered.  Her heart beat faintly in the distance.

 

Suddenly panic‑stricken, he gathered her into his arms, feeling her fragile little bird‑bones, so human, so frail.  If he’d taken too much…the thought was too terrible to contemplate. There was no time to think anymore.  Was that her heart growing weak?  No way to get her to a hospital in time if it was.  There was only one thing left to do, or risk losing her forever.  He raised his hand to his mouth and ripped open his wrist with his teeth.  When the thick red liquid oozed to the surface, he held it over her lips, willing the drops to fall into her mouth.  First one, then another ruby drop fell to crimson her lips and slide over.  At first, there was no response. He groaned, “Oh, please, by all that’s holy!”

 

A shudder ran through her still form.  She took a deep breath and licked her lips, sucking the blood off them.  Dark eyes opened slowly, lazily, and she beamed up at him as she arched up to lick his wounded wrist.  Trapper looked into Nick’s worried face and smoothed his creased forehead with a finger.  “Please don’t worry,” she said quietly. “I’m fine. In fact, I’m wonderful.”

 

Nick arched his eyebrow.  “Actually, you’re great, but I’m still going to worry.  I shouldn’t have done that to you.”

 

“Complaints?” she teased.

 

“No, no, no. That’s not what I meant.” He looked at her again.  “And you know that very well, don’t you?”

 

“Mmhmm. And I have only one thing to say to you, Detective Knight.”  She pulled him close to whisper in his ear, “Again.”

 

“Why, you insatiable wench! Again?”

 

“Again!”  Trapper blinked her yellow eyes and used her new fangs on his throat.  Nick gasped and returned the favor.  They began…again.

 

Much later, the morning’s summer sun was beating vainly on the metal shutters of the loft.  Inside, it was quiet and half‑lit.  Nick lay on his side, watching the woman sleep.  She lay on her side, facing him, a small half‑smile of contentment upon her face.  He marveled at the sight of her, of those sooty lashes lying against white, white flesh, of the masses of golden hair, fine as spun silk, that fell like a veil down her back.  He stroked her hair.  She purred and snuggled closer to kiss his chest in her satisfied sleep.  Nick sighed happily, put his head down to kiss her head, and they both slept, arms entwined, like two exhausted children after a storm.

 

 

Just a Little off the Top

by RavenKat

August 4

The Church

4:30 a.m.

 

The visit to the abandoned church had been more intense than either of them had expected.  Their initial plan of simply popping in and grabbing a few things seemed ludicrous once they got there.  Kat agreed to stand guard, i.e. “wait here”, while Javier went in by himself.

 

Moving quickly, he snatched his guitar, an armful of clothes and his straight razor.  Until this very moment, Vachon had never understood how some vampires could become sentimental about a place.  I’m not leaving forever, he kept telling himself, just finding a place to hole up until things calm down a bit.

 

The undead conquistador had always prided himself on his ability to pick up and leave on a whim, even if it meant going it alone.  But now that he really was alone, he felt a potent need to stay and fight.  The visions he had endured earlier only added fuel to that fire.  Urs’ ghost had been wrong about his true feelings for her but not about the circumstances of her death; Vachon should have been here, not her.  Not his beautiful and tragic Urs.

 

“Um.  You got a match?” Kat stated plainly, then began to giggle nervously.

 

Vachon flinched.  He had to get used to her uncanny ability to mask herself.  “A match?”  He turned to face her.  “I…think…so…”  Something was definitely wrong.

 

His new red-headed friend stepped out from the stairway, covered in blood.  She was smiling but her hands shook as she ran them through her hair.  “Yeah,” she cleared her throat.  “I got this guy pinned to the floor downstairs, but he’s not dead.”

 

Vachon was shocked silent.  His eyebrows going up and his jaw dropping down were the only things that moved.

 

Kat was talking too fast and frantically trying to appear calm.  “I, uh, stuck him in the heart and all, but it’s steel.  I mean, he’s a vampire and I need wood, right?”  She would wipe her hands, then stick them in her pockets, then pull them out and fuss with her T-shirt and then start all over again.  “Oh shit!  I just killed a vampire!”  She started to giggle again.  “So, how about that match?”

 

“Show me where he is,” Javier forced himself to say.

 

Kat lead the way down to the main chapel.  She was jumping and twitching the whole time.

 

Sure enough, there was a vampire impaled on the floor of the vestibule.  And, he was definitely not dead.  He writhed and growled as he attempted to free himself from his predicament.

 

“And you want to set him on fire?” Vachon asked as he circled the unhappy man on the ground.  Kat had not only run him through with her dagger, pinning him to the floor, she had used sufficient force to drive the handle into his chest.

 

“I wasn’t sure. I mean, I’ve never done this before!”  She was about to lose it.  Tonight had been just one event too eventful.

 

The man started hissing obscenities at his captors.  His wild flailing revealed a circular tattoo on his inner forearm.  “I’ll take care of this,” Javier announced calmly.  He set his meager belongings down, then opened the straight razor with a flick of his wrist.  He slowly crouched beside the frothing vampire’s head.

 

“Coming back to finish the job?” Vachon asked, his voice low and deadly.  He grasped the man’s chin and pulled it back, mimicking any good barber’s moves.  Ever so slowly he shaved the flesh from the man’s neck and face, stopping occasionally to wipe the blade clean.  The screaming continued until his vocal chords were severed, but the vampire Watcher did not achieve true death until his head was cut clean off.

 

 

Heart of Darkness

by HannaClay

August 4

the Raven

4:45 a.m.

 

Marcus and Friedreich worked carefully, making certain not to damage John’s body in any way.  They placed him in the corner on the floor, far away from the front of the room, and hopefully away from anyone that might bother him.  It would be unfortunate for anyone who happened upon him, for his Ka would attack to protect his Khat.

 

As they moved back to the husk of a body that was Jonas, Zara stirred briefly.  Friedreich held up a hand, motioning for Marcus to wait.

 

“Zara?”  Friedreich whispered as he touched her shoulder.

 

“Mmm…?” she muttered as she moved.

 

“Hon, I know you’re tired after everything that happened, but we aren’t going to get much of a reprieve here.  We need you alert, in case any trouble comes.  Can you try to wake up?”

 

She was dead asleep, but she still managed to snarl, “No.”

 

Marcus shook his head, “Give her a few more minutes.  Let’s finish up with Jonas, and then we can try again.”

 

Friedreich nodded, smoothed Zara’s rumpled hair, then moved back to his old friend.

 

Jonas’ body may have been whole, but it was far from completed.  John had devoted all of the energy of his Ba to reforming him, but he couldn’t donate any blood.  So all that existed was a hollow husk of a man, with his soul painfully occupying it.

 

Marcus, naturally, couldn’t give any.  His blood would pervert Jonas’, and his long-time friend would become just another Nosferatu.  And Friedreich, since he was still, basically, mortal, could only give so much.  Which was far from enough.

 

Friedreich thought for a moment, then whispered to Marcus, “I’ll be right back.”

 

He moved outside, found Miklos, and pulled him aside.

 

“We need blood.  We need lots of it.  Do you have anything especially potent, or can you spare about 20 or 30 pints?”

 

Miklos’ eyebrows came together in concentration.  “What do you need that much blood for?!”

 

Friedreich shook his head.  “You don’t want to know.”

 

“Well, I can look.  I might have some of LaCroix or Janette’s personal backups left.  They always keep some, in case of emergencies.  Will that do?”

 

Friedreich smiled as he nodded.  “It would be perfect.”

 

Miklos moved off to get the “private stock”, and Friedreich noticed the entry of a none-too-popular person into the Raven.  He walked over rather casually.

 

“Lost someone, Cash?”

 

The Gangrel jump visibly.  “Oh.  It’s just you.”

 

“‘Just’ me?  Considering who you are, who you serve, and what has been done, don’t you think I am more than enough?”

 

“Huh?  What has been done?  I don’t get it.”

 

“Don’t tell me that Julian left you out of his little plan.  I’m sure he would have shared with you.”

 

“Shared what?  All I know is he came out of that back room after Hanna sicked that…little red puppet on him for no reason, and now, I can’t find him anywhere!”

 

“For no reason?!  That bastard tried to diablerize her!”

 

Cash paled visibly.  “He…what?!”

 

“You heard me.  He tried to kill her, and that is why Elmo attacked him.  And you can’t find him because he is absolutely, without question, burning in Hell as we speak.”

 

“You killed him?!”

 

“No.  Not I.  But he got what he deserved.  And you will get the same.”

 

Cash grabbed him by his arm.  “I swear to you on my life I had nothing to do with it!  I didn’t know anything about it!  He said he needed to talk to her, and I thought he just wanted to let her know about what August was planning for her.”

 

“What August was…?  You mean to tell me that rat-fink was working for August?”

 

Cash nodded.  “For years!  He even helped her kill Hanna’s husband.”

 

Friedreich began to steam.  He was about to rip Cash apart then and there, when he heard, “No.  Bring him to me instead.”

 

He turned and looked at the trembling Gangrel.  “Fine.  Let’s talk about this in the back room.  It’s too…public out here.  We don’t want any Archons getting the wrong ideas.”

 

Cash felt that warning tingle in the pit of his stomach, but he ignored it.  Whatever Friedreich might try to do to him, he could handle it a lot better that he could handle punishment at the hands of a Justicar.

 

They moved to the back room, and Cash nearly bolted when he saw Marcus.

 

“Oh, look!  If it isn’t Boy Wonder!”  Marcus sneered as he let his mask drop.

 

Cash flinched.  The one thing he could never stomach about Nosferatu.  How they could be so damned ugly!

 

Then he noticed the “mold” of a body on LaCroix’s desk.  “What the Hell is that?”

 

“Jonas.”  Friedreich whispered it in his ear as he pinned his arms behind him, then manhandled him over to the body.

 

Marcus was going to bite him to make him bleed, but again, Jonas intervened.  “No.  You’ll poison him.  Just cut his wrist.”

 

Marcus grabbed a paper cutter, and ripped open Cash’s wrist.  The blood trickled in a steady rhythm into Jonas’ mouth.  Slowly, the husk started to gain substance.

 

Cash was nearly ready to drop into Torpor when Marcus dabbed his finger in the saliva of Cash’s mouth, then rubbed it on his wrist.  The wound healed almost instantly.

 

“I could have licked it myself, but then, that would have poisoned you as well.  And for some reason, Jonas doesn’t want that to happen.”

 

“Jonas doesn’t want that to happen because Cash has really done nothing wrong.”  His disembodied voice answered sardonically.

 

“Then why did you attack him?” Zara asked.  She had come fully awake when Cash had started struggling.

 

“Because, Zara of Mesopotamia, he staked my wife and left her for dead once.  She did not, in fact die, but experienced her first frenzy.  After nearly a thousand years of trying to prevent her from knowing what that was like, I felt that a little punishment was in order.  He aided in the perverting of my wife.  He deserves to be punished for it.  He will live, but only because she did not die.”

 

Miklos entered the room with half a dozen bottles in his arms.  He looked at the scene and decided he really didn’t want to know.  He handed Friedreich the bottles and prudently left.

 

Friedreich and Marcus quickly removed the stoppers from the bottles, then poured them one by one down Jonas’ open mouth.

 

Zara was amazed when, roughly about 15 minutes later, gorgeous, glorious Julius Caesar sat up on LaCroix’s desk and gave her a smile that melted her knees like butter.

 

“Turning on the charm already, eh?” Marcus muttered playfully.

 

He and Jonas clasped hands, and then embraced as very old friends.  Then he and Friedreich did the same.

 

“We were convinced we lost you.”  Friedreich stated matter-of-factly.

 

“So was I.”  He smiled again, this time without the seductive charm.

 

Friedreich returned the smile then asked, “What now, boss?”

 

“Now, we go to rescue my wife.”

 

 

Bringing Warren across, Part 2

by Sukh and Shayna

August 4

Angelique’s place

5:00 a.m.

 

LaCroix led Warren up the stair into Angelique’s bedroom.

 

She stood in a shimmering, sheer Egyptian gown, her dark skin warmed by the light of the hundred candles set about the room.  She motioned Warren forward and took his hand.  “Don’t be nervous,” She reassured him as she slipped off his trench coat.  “Please take off  your weapons.”

 

“No.”

 

“I will not do this unless you do.  You can lay them with in reach of you want.” He did as told and stood glaring at her.

 

Angelique shook her head, her dark hair in small, long braids, whipped around her in a dark flurry.  “This will not do.”  She stepped up to Warren and trailed her hands over his crossed arms.  “You need to relax.” She smiled at him.  “Most of my childer ended up enjoying this quite a bit.”  She touched a finger to his lips.  “Consent?”

 

Warren looked into her cat eyes.  “Consent given. Freely.”

 

The corners of her full lips curled up into a catlike smile.  “Good.”  she trailed one hand up the side of Warren’s face, he turned and touched his mouth to her palm.  “You understand.”  She whispered as he raked his teeth across her palm . She shivered with anticipation.  “Now lay on the bed.”

 

He let her hand go and slid onto her Egyptian cotton comforter.  He watched as she bent over him, then straddled his hips.  She leaned forward and trailed her mouth down his neck, searching for the strong carotid, savoring the heat and salty taste of Warren’s skin.  He stretched his head, allowing her access, a low groan of pleasure trapped in his throat as she scraped her fangs across the sensitive flesh of his neck.

 

His hands crept up and touched her back, trailing through her braids, as she explored his neck.  She found his artery and pressed her tongue against it, savoring the hot pulse of blood waiting for her.  Fresh copper life, all for her to feast on. She bared her fangs and bit, relishing the give of his skin as she gulped the first hot burst of his blood.

 

He arched under her, taken in by the exquisite pleasure of her deadly kiss, the voluptuous feel of her sampling his life.

 

Angelique tasted his life as she took him into her, a small village, Celtic in looks… a tall, powerfully build man with a long mane of red hair, dressed in silver robes, handing Warren a shield…. a woman as he called her mother….  flashes of blue, swirling…a man biting a woman… rage, green jealous rage…a woman, reddish‑brown hair,  emerald green eyes, a simple, loam‑colored dress, lovely hands, …Oh, but this was his beloved wife.  His Greer…she absorbed his lust, and pain and all the maelstrom of feelings he had for this woman until the white‑hot pleasure of the feed took over in a fierce wave of sensuality.

 

She pulled out with a sharp gasp of carnal gratification and lay against his chest, listening to Warren’s heart labor to pump what was left of his blood through him.   LaCroix appeared beside her, and touched her hair.  “Angelique, you must complete the next step.”  He waited as she sat up and opened up the top of her dress.  With a small Egyptian dagger she made a small cut in the top of her breast.  LaCroix lifted Warren so that his mouth touched the cut.

 

Warren was floating in a dark red tide of cold.  A thick warm fluid touched his lips, beckoning him to taste.  His tongue snaked out and sampled the heat of the salty fluid. “Drink, drink Warren and live forever.” A husky voice was encouraging him as he started to drink.  Flashes of another life came to him as he savored the live giving blood.  Hot sunny days and sultry nights…Cats and Pharaohs… Ancient decadent Rome…LaCroix in a toga.. a malevolent blonde child.. darkness.. and light again. LaCroix… Nick… Cleo and Vlad…Vachon.. Sion his dark blue eyes hardened as he asked to be brought across…Her female childe life and death…And above this all, and exquisite carnal pleasure in the taste of her long, powerful life.  He could fee his body being enveloped in searing heat, and he wanted more.

 

“Stop.”  Angelique fought the weakness of blood loss.  “Warren stop!”

 

He was yanked away from the dark ecstasy of Angelique’s blood.  Then the pain started.  He curled into a ball with a groan of agony.  A cool hand touched his head.  “The pain will be over in a few hours. Then you will be hibernating until tomorrow evening.  When you wake, you will feel first hunger and I will have a kill waiting.”

 

Warren was left alone in his agony.

 

LaCroix helped Angelique down to her couch.  Micah and Skye wandered in arguing.

 

“I don’t want to be with Duncan right now,” Skye grumbled.  “He’s busy with some chick named Evie.”

 

“I certainly don’t need you following me around.”  He stopped at the sight of his trembling sister. “What in the name of Orisis happened to her?”

 

“She brought Warren across.”  LaCroix looked at her, frowning.  “And I think she is having a bad reaction to his blood.”

 

 

The Sidestep, a very brief interlude

By Trapper

August 4

Angelique’s Place

5:25 a.m.

 

LaCroix stepped toward Angelique and stopped suddenly. He reached to the wall for support and shook his head, as if to clear it.  Micah and Sky were at his side immediately.

 

“What’s wrong?” asked Micah.

 

“I’m not sure.”  LaCroix looked at them both, a puzzled expression on his face. “I just had the oddest feeling, as if,…” he struggled to find the proper words.

 

“One of my children has just brought someone across.”  He furrowed his brow.

 

“Nicholas?” His face brightened as he shook it off. “Ridiculous. Nicholas would never do that.  I must be imagining things. It’s been a very long night.”

 

He returned to Angelique’s side. He couldn’t shake the sense of disturbance, though. And of all things, he was thinking of coffee.

 

 

Immortal Beloved

by Evie‑Phoenix

August 4

Duncan’s hotel

5:30 a.m.

 

“Well, here we are,” Duncan held the door open for Evie.  She came suddenly awake, realizing she was very tired indeed, to have fallen asleep in the car.   She stumbled out of the car and stood, looking up at the dojo that was a converted store front, then back to Duncan.  “You sleep here?”

 

“Yeah, well,” Duncan walked her up to the door, “I opened one of these in Seacouver, and then I decided I needed a place to stay when I’m in Toronto, and well, the first one was doing so well it looked like branching off into a chain was a really good idea.”  He gave her his best serious face.  “No, really.  My tax advisor recommended it.”  Her dubious expression remained unchanged, but she followed him in.

 

“I have an apartment upstairs,” he reassured her.  “We don’t have to sleep on the floor.”

 

“Nice place,” she admired the main room as they walked to the back stairs.

 

“You work out?”

 

“I fence.  A little rapier and main gauche.  Never worked two‑hand.”

 

“You should try it some time,” he suggested.  “Come by my place, I’d be happy to teach you.”  They took the stairs up and he unlocked the door and peeked in.  “Nobody home yet,” he informed her.

 

“Were you expecting someone?”

 

“Sky.  I’m not sure where she’s gotten to tonight.”

 

“Last I saw, she was with Angelique.”  Evie looked around, admiring the spare but elegant decoration.  “She your girlfriend?”

 

“Sort of.”  Duncan seemed disinclined to elaborate.  “My relationships are a little… complex.”

 

Evie gave him a one‑sided grin.  “I see that.”

 

“Anyway,” he fussed his way into the kitchen, “there’s no problem with you being here.”

 

“Well, that’s reassuring.” Evie sat at the table.  “And I do appreciate very much, having a safe place to stay.”

 

“No place is exactly safe,” Duncan reminded her, putting the tea kettle on.  “Want a cup of tea before you go to bed?”

 

“That would be great,” she sighed, pushing her hair back from her eyes, and resting her arms on the table.  Duncan came around to rub her shoulders and she leaned into him and closed her eyes, luxuriating in the feeling of someone else being strong.  It felt so good to let go, she was tempted to sit there for an hour or two.  The shrilling of the tea kettle brought them both back, and he stepped around to get the cups.

 

“You seem really tense,” he observed, watching as she sipped her tea.  Their eyes met and he continued, with an easy smile, “There is something we could do about that.”  Evie felt her body responding, despite the exhaustion she’d felt earlier.  “If you want to, that is.” Duncan shrugged, slightly embarrassed, wondering if he’d overstepped some limit.  “If I want to?” She laughed breathily, and took his hand across the table.  “I’d kill for the opportunity.”  They rose as one and stepped toward each other, moving from the room.

 

Evie tensed, her eyes hazel locked with Duncan’s brown ones, as they danced the timeless dance.  Her breathing quickened as he moved closer and she found herself responding instinctively.  All conscious thought receded and was replaced by pure motion, the surge and retreat of the ocean.  Caught up in the rhythm of their movements she simply responded as her body commanded.  Her mind stood back, admiring his technique.

 

She gasped and cried out suddenly as he gave one last thrust, and she found herself on her back, breath coming short.  “That was great!” she exulted, rolling over and raising up on one arm.  “Can you show me that move again?”

 

Duncan stepped back with his sword and dropped into a defensive stance.  “All right,” he cautioned her, “Now this time, try following that parry with a combination.”

 

 

The Cure

by Sukh

August 4

Angelique’s place

9:40 p.m.

 

  1. LaCroix thought about it for a moment.  Yes, that was it.   “Skye?”

 

Skye looked at LaCroix, her green eyes narrowed with suspicion.  “Yes?”

 

“I need some coffee.  No, make that  espresso.”  He stood and handed her a few large Canadian bills.  “An extra large.”

 

“Sure.”  her face registered an odd puzzlement.  “What a vampire needs with coffee is beyond me.”  She mumbled as she went to run the mystery errand.

 

Skye handed LaCroix the large espresso concoction.  “I had some chocolate syrup put in it to make it taste better.”

 

“Chocolate will not help the foulness.” LaCroix grumbled as he took a healthy swig of the steaming stuff.  He pulled a grimace of distaste as he managed to down the scalding brew.  Then he turned to Angelique. She sat on the couch glaring, her body racked with shivers.  He unbuttoned his black silk shirt to bare his neck.  “Perhaps this might help, Angel.”

 

She accepted his invitation, sinking her fangs into the pale flesh of his neck with a sensual sigh.  Ah, yes, the caffeine was reacting chemically with Warrens blood, calming her, soothing her overstimulated nerves.  She pulled out of LaCroix’s neck and curled around him, much like the cats she so loved.  “Thank you Lucien.  That helped quite a bit.”  She stroked the side of his face.  “The chocolate was lovely.”

 

Skye and Micah exchanged dumbfounded looks.  Then Micah grinned at Skye, a slow sexy grin that would have put Mac himself to shame.  Skye grinned back.  “Never question vampire behavior.” They quipped as they walked outside to stand sentry for the soon to be rising sun.

 

She is kinda cute, Micah thought as Skye leaned over and patted Lucius’s head.

 

 

By the Strength of My Will

by HannaClay

August 4

Casa Loma

(roughly around half an hour before dawn)

 

She lay at the bottom of the pool again.  Little dead piranha all around.  She didn’t know which hurt more: her body, her pride, or her spirit.

 

She could endure pain.  Pain, if dealt with properly, could be ignored with the proper mind set.  Even if she couldn’t block the pain, she could force herself to deal with it.

 

Her pride was wounded nearly the way it had been when she was mortal.  Shayna’s tender age of sixteen.  And a virgin.  In the hands of a Norman cohort.  After watching her father and all her people slaughtered, she was raped so many times she still couldn’t remember the number.  And then Jonas came in his knight’s armor and not only saved her from the men, but took her to his own home, and later made her his wife.  When no other would have her.  A despoiled noble of the conquered people.  And yet, he looked kindly on her, and made her smile again.

 

But it was the damaging of her spirit that caused the most harm.  Her will to live, to survive, was nearly gone.  For one who was so stubborn, who’s will was so strong that Caine himself remarked upon it, it was devastating.  Everyone that had ever know her, or of her, knew that, once she set her mind to something, unless she was killed, she would fight for it until the bitter end.  And now, that legendary will was almost vanquished.

 

  1. But not quite.  There was still that remote, tiny spark of fight left in her.  That core of her being that wouldn’t die until she was truly dead.

 

If she survived this, if she lived, she would never be the same.  It took her nearly a millennia to overcome her mortal past.  And now, she was back at the beginning.  No, worse.  She was far worse off than she had been then.  She had all the markings of a dog that had once been fierce, and was now so properly broken and abused that it did nothing but cower in the corner and whimper.

 

And it was almost a definite fact that she would never smile again.

 

The same two Watcher/vampires that had “tended” to her before returned, bearing with them pints of Horton’s blood to heal her.  As before, they raped her repeatedly first, then fed her the blood.

 

As she healed, she could hear August come into the pool room.

 

“Oh, my darling pet.  Look at the sad state you’ve come to!  Imagine what Jonas, were he alive, would think!”

 

She listened carefully to her, and came to the conclusion that not only did she not know that Micah had relieved her of the urn that had contained Jonas, but also that Hanna knew of it’s existence.

 

“Have you had enough?  Will you finally give me what I want, or must this go on forever?  Decide quickly.  Horton is just getting warmed up, and I’m running out of piranha.”

 

She thought about it for a moment.  She could do it, couldn’t she?  Give in.  It wouldn’t matter.  Not to anyone.  No one cared enough about her to be upset by it if she gave in and served August.  And it would stop the rape.  It would stop the piranha.  And, most importantly, it would stop Horton.  And Horton scared her more than August did, more than water did.  In him, she sensed Racine in all his perverted desires.  The man who impaled screaming children, laughed, then pissed in their faces as they died.  Horton was Racine, the man who slaughtered her people and cut off her father’s head, then stuck it on a pole and made her watch as he rammed his penis into her dead father’s open mouth.  Horton was Racine, only worse.  He was a vampire as well.  As a child of August, he was the same Generation as Jonas was from Caine, and therefore, by default, more powerful than Hanna would ever be.  He may not have been at his full potential yet, but then, he was still a relatively new vampire.  In a few years, he would be absolutely unstoppable.

 

She didn’t care.  She just wanted to stop the pain, the rape, Horton, before it got any worse.

 

“Yes…” the whisper barely made it past her shredded throat.

 

“What was that, my precious?  I didn’t hear you.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Yes?  Yes what?”

 

“Make…it…stop.”

 

August howled in laughter as she danced around in little triumphant circles.  “Oh!  Sweet victory!”

 

Blood tears rolled down Hanna’s cheeks.  Tears of pain.  Of defeat.  Of shame.

 

After a few moments of gleeful joy, August stopped laughing when Horton entered the pool room.  Turning back to Hanna, she gloated, “Of course, darling.  It will stop.  I promise.”  She smiled at Horton, and said, “But first, Horton has another present he’d like to give you.”

 

She heard their screams, their wails.  NO!  Not…

 

“Yes, dear.  Horton’s brought you a few presents he thought you might like.  You see, I know that you really don’t care anything for your own life.  Which makes your defeat a bit hollow.  But you can’t bear to see an innocent suffer, especially in your name!  Which will make this sweeter!”  She turned to the two Watcher/vampires and nodded.

 

They chained them to drain along with her, hooking each different chain to her own.  Then they climbed out of the pool.

 

“Now,” August smiled with bloodlust in her eyes, “fill it only high enough to leave their heads above the water.  I want them to be able to breathe, so they are alive when the piranha attack.”

 

They began to fill the pool again.  After only a short while, August gave the order for the final school of piranha to be released into the waters.

 

Through the water, Hanna could hear their panicked screams.  They knew what piranha were.  They knew what was going to happen to them.  And they were terrified.

 

NO!  She couldn’t allow it.  Her own suffering was one thing.  But she wasn’t about to allow August, Horton, or those little beasts harm these innocents.

 

Tiny children, no older than perhaps first graders, all chained with their heads above the water.  Ten of them, all near dead with fear.

 

NO!  She wouldn’t allow it!

 

She bit her tongue, and tasted the blood in her mouth, and went mad.  Her only hope before she did it was that she wouldn’t harm the children.  She knew that she wouldn’t be able to control herself, but she hoped that she would have enough to be able to restrain herself from hurting them.

 

Even in the water, her mouth foamed bloody.  She reached down to the chain, and tore it out in a single movement.  She broke the link that held the children to herself, and turned as she felt the first tiny bits.

 

The children swam for the steps, those who couldn’t swim were dragged by the others.

 

The piranha, of course, were concerned with their first encountered prey.  They’d move to the others when they finished here.

 

In movements that were lightning quick, yet dreadfully slow under water, she tore and ripped and squashed the piranha around her.  The water that would normally immobilize her was forgotten as she lived the ancient bequest of her people.

 

She had seen her uncle berserk once.  In the forest, when a bear had attacked her.  He had come to her rescue and killed the bear single‑handedly after he had bit his tongue, and tasted his own blood.  Her father couldn’t do it.  But she could.

 

Horton drained the pool in disappointment as he watched her destroy the last of his favorite fish.  August, however, was bloated with glee.  The children huddled together in a corner, soaking wet, full of terror, and not understanding anything that was happening.

 

And Hanna stood in the middle of the now empty pool, bloody foam running down her chin…

About Kristi Deming

RAFO

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