Thursday, May 29, 2008

The missing Omegan doctor

From Joah's tablet and sheaf of GrrBrool's notes, written in pencil, and ringed with tea stains.

I walked into the library, having fed, expecting a quiet evening. What I found instead was a red-haired man, head down, wearing a mask behind which came a whirring noise. To me he was an unfamiliar figure, but I gathered from the Omega’s expression, not an unknown one. He sat in a chair across from the fireplace: slumped masked and wrapped in clothes. I quietly settled in and watched him carefully, listening to the whirring and coughing, waiting to see what he would say. Mirah sat by the fire, fur bristling, and eyes wary.

GrrBrool entered the Library and began sniffing. He frowned and crossed behind the man, taking a seat on the central cushion, back to the fire. The Lady's chair was to his right, the stranger before him. I learned later that Grr and the stranger had exchanged words the night before in the Diner, brief but telling. The stranger’s name was Dominic Salming. A doctor. The missing Omegan Doctor, in fact.

Grr's posture neither was that of encroached territory, nor hostile nor threatened but ill at ease. As the stranger gave no introduction, GrrBrool watched and waited. A deep sigh and a whirring from the face of the stranger finally stirred Grr to speak. "Ya seem ta sit there pretty comfortably, like yer used to it." A mumbled response to the affirmative came from the man, eliciting a frown from the Praetor. "Not been here fer a while then?" Another monosyllabic sentence came in reply.

Grr blinked incredulously at the stranger, then looked to his right to Omega and back. "I guess ya've missed out on a lot of things then." Again, muttered answers, followed by more whirring from the man's face, behind the mask of cloth. Grr bristled slightly and pressed on, "So, where have you been?" Yet another unhelpful answer grumbled from the man. The frown on Omega's face could have cut glass. GrrBrool flattened his ears and continued "Awright then, what’s that whirrin in yer face? I ask cause I worry it could be a bomb, ya never know. And yer all covered."

With a great huffing, coughing and dramatic sighing the stranger unwrapped his face and sullenly exposed his noisy-cybernetic optics. GrrBrool was quite irritated at this point and was in no mood for further evasion. "Look, after our talk last night I checked the files. I know who ya are so why dontcha give me a report?” Once again, the man muttered a less than helpful response: "Research." GrrBrool looked again to Omega, whose expression had smoothed to the cold indifference reserved for the most tedious of interlopers. "Maybe ya don't know me, maybe that’s what’s got yer gander up, well I’m GrrBrool, Praetor of Tha Institute and THIS" he gestured expansively with a paw, "in case ya fergot, is Her Ladyship Omega, who's Institute ya serve, so I suggest ya start reportin where ya been and whatcha been doin."

It was Omega's time to speak. "Oh, the Doctor knows very well who I am." Having enough of it, the Omega rose and crossed the room. “If you've no intention of sharing your research, and in fact will not even announce yourself, as is courteous . . . I wonder - why are you here?”

The man called Dominic Salming let out a tired yawn. "Good to visit every so often ain't it? Also, my notebook got full." It was the most he’d said thus far.

The Omega spoke quietly and with authority. “As a member of this Institute, certain things are expected of you. The disclosure of information, as you know, is one of them.”

I looked toward Dominic, not knowing what to expect. Frankly, I’m unaccustomed to seeing disrespect of the Omega by one of her own. I knew the Lady would not brook it.

"Sorry. I must have forgotten while I was away. Please forgive me.” Dominic yawned again, but this time he took out his notebook. “Most of this would be hard to understand anyway."

“Well, with you here to explain it, I'm sure we'll manage. Won't we?” Omega held out her hand. Dominic placed the notebook in her palm, grumbling and swearing under his breath.

With a small nod, Omega took the notebook and handed it directly to GrrBrool with a smile. “Thank you,” she nodded to Dominic. “Now you've gotten yourself into quite the mess.”

The doctor turned, pointing to Grr. "Rip any pages, and I'll be coming for you."

Mirah’s hair began to stand straight up as she said softly, “You may want to rethink those words.”

“I can assure you Dominic, My Praetors are not in the habit of damaging things I place in their possession. And I dare say if you were foolish enough to ‘come for him’ as you say - you would find it to be the last error you made.” Omega’s words were steel. “Things have changed since you were away. Or perhaps you have changed.”

The Lady raised her hand and the books began to rumble. Small arcs of lighting danced on the shelves and down the pillars of the library. “You will not threaten me or mine again. Do you understand me?”

The doctor's one good eye narrowed as he nodded slowly, “Perfectly.”

I studied the group: All were quiet.
Even GrrBrool blanched at the dressing down that the erstwhile Doctor had received. Mirah’s eyes never left the the man. Hers was the stillness a cat ready to pounce on prey. Suddenly, the Omega bared her fangs at Dominic, closed her raised hand into a fist, and the Library stilled. I thought of Nareth’s burned hand, knowing that the Omega’s commands are not to be breached lightly.

The doctor’s cybernetic eye twisted and buzzed as it focused on the Omega. "Glad to be home at last." He words were full of double meaning.

“I'm sure you are,” Omega replied in a cold voice just above a whisper. “Let us hope we can share in your sentiment soon.”

I silently agreed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The incautious herbalist

It was an odd evening. I walked into the Library to find a man in rather large cybernetic armor, another man professing to be a Time Lord, and my friend, MaryCat discussing – well, who knows what they were discussing actually? The conversation seemed to center along lines of chain smoking, deals and exoskeletal weapons systems – I gave the usual warnings about arms in the Library. The armored man denied he was powering up any, even though the books in the Library had begun to stir. At my insistence, he finally stood down.

As everyone drifted out into the street, I could hear Rellis puttering around upstairs. Rellis – lycan, herbalist and botanist – possibly the clumsiest scientist I know (with the possible exception of Sorenz). I heard a loud pop, then a sizzling sound. "Crap,” Rellis muttered, “Look out down there . . . a bit of acid coming your way."

“Oh, my God. Rellis!” I quirked my head toward the ceiling with exasperation, watching the hole begin to form.

"What!?" Rellis yelled. I could hear him breaking more glass in an attempt to get the acid under control fast. "I do this all the time. I’ll get it fixed!”

"You'd best move quickly, Rellis." I drew a small ball of flame from my palms, flicking it back and forth, preparing to toss it up to the ceiling if the hole did not close immediately.

Rellis shouted, “Hold your horses. I always fix what I break up here, although I do have to say I am having some bad luck today with the new potions." That, I thought, was the understatement of the year. I headed up the stairs, two at a time.

A woman was sitting near the windows, reading. I ignored her for the moment and headed straight to Rellis, watching the acid still eat away at the floor. "Rellis, we've either got to help you become . . . a bit more coordinated, or invest in unbreakable supplies.”

Rellis scrambled, dropping some liquid over the floor and tracing something in the air above the hole. “That wouldn’t work. I need to see what happens with the potions.” He stood up, and began making another mixture, all the while referring to his notes as he worked. Finally he swirled the phial and knelt over the floor again. “A lot of the breaking I can easily fix." He poured the new potion on the floor at the edge of the hole. It began to fill.

I sighed and began to meditate, floating in the air and flicking the ball of flame back and forth in my hands, waiting to see if this fix would work or create another problem. I could easily envision, Alice-like, the floor beginning to grow. "What are you working on today, Rellis?"

Rellis brightened. "Just random mixes. I’m using this herb as my independent variable." He held up an odd looking bit of plant that looked as if it would lash out at you were it alive. My curiosity was piqued. I continue to wonder whether there exists in the city a plant and animal hybrid. "It's really hard to get these!” He held the plant between his thumb and forefinger. “Although it is starting to look like I would not want them anyway."

I studied the plant carefully. "I am an herbalist, too.” I thought about how I’d used my art mostly to better purposes since becoming Omegan. I’d found less need for poisons here. Mostly. I could imagine the plant curling and lashing. "I'm quite curious about plant and animal hybrids. So far I've seen plants that have animal qualities . . . but no sentience.” I gestured toward the windows. "Who knows what might thrive in the waste?" The little ball of flame still hovered in my hand.

Rellis chuckled and cut a small piece from the end of the plant. "Now. . . .” He laid the plant in a marble mortar and began grinding it with a pestle, smoothing it into a paste. "Well, I found this in the city, that’s the reason I’m working with it. I don’t see much coming out of it though.”

I thought Rellis hasty in his pronouncement. I’ve observed that he sometimes jumps to a conclusion, when a more thorough analysis is warranted. The mutated skunkweed for example – he rushed to find a cure before Lyra’s analysis was complete. While he believes the serum to work, it has not been tested. And nothing has yet accounted for the days-long blindness Mirah experienced after exposure. Not even Lorne’s magicks were immediately effective. Pontifex surmised that perhaps Mirah suffered some sort of allergic reaction. But we still do not know. Nor do we know if the skunkweed can be distilled into a potent weapon.

I continued to watch Rellis calmly crush what little life remained out of the plant. I could see a gray-green aura rise from it and dissipate. "It looks as though that might be useful for poison." I gave my wrist a little flick. With a pop, the ball of flame disappeared. I stood. "Perhaps you and I should begin methodically collecting and cataloging what plants we can find here."

From the corner of the room, I heard the woman’s clothing rustling as she laid down her book and began looking around. “I already have,” replied Rellis. “I’ve found three different plants so far. One of them is in my potion of essence." The famous potion of essence, I thought. Powerful, but difficult to use. Rellis pulled a small sheet of paper containing the recipe for the essence potion from his robe and handed it to me. He then began scraping the paste from the mortar and attempting to get it into a phial.

A murmur came from the seating area by the window. “Oh my, I've done it again.” I glanced over to the woman, then began to read the instructions for Rellis’s potion of essence. The woman rose and walked over. “Sorry, I trust I wasn't interrupting?”

Rellis kept working, ears twitching. "Not at all.”

"It is unusual for anyone other than Omegans to rest up here. But we have no secrets. Your are welcome to stay," I replied. I returned to reading.

The woman appeared a little distracted. "I come up here to read sometimes and I just lose track of time." She peered over the lab table. “What are you working on?”

Rellis virtually ignored the woman; he was absorbed in the phials in front of him. “Now, a little of this and. . . ." He waited a second as the mix settled, then tilted his head. "Well, it seems good right now,” he muttered, taking a close look at the phial. Rellis began smiling. “It seems we have a stable one." I rather doubted that. Personally, I just hoped the concoction would remain in the phials on the table or in his hands and not end up on the floor in shatters of glass.

The woman smiled. "Thanks. I guess I'm an unofficial 'Friend of Omega' since I hang out here so much. I'm a friend with Poncho and Merma."

I looked up from my reading and welcomed her. "You look very familiar to me. Perhaps we've met before. I'm Joah. This is Rellis."

"I'm Penemue. My friends sometimes call me Penny. I answer to both. I usually work at the Haven, when I work." Penny glanced at the different ingredients on the table. "Oh, my. Nasty looking plant."

Rellis did not ease my concerns as he began poking about in the drawers of the lab table, talking to himself. "Now where did I put that?" He snapped his fingers, then started looking in his robe, going through the same pockets over and over.

I folded the paper and handed it back to Rellis. "The problem I see with the potion of essence, Rellis, is that it requires healthy DNA to have been extracted prior to the illness in order for the potion to work. I daresay few would be willing to allow such sampling here." The potion of essence is a healing draught. Rellis says it heals physical injuries to the point at which the injury was inflicted.

I turned back to Penny. “Have you been working at the Haven long, Penny?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “Off and on. I was away from Toxia. Just came back a few days ago.” Penny seemed very interested in Rellis’s potion. “Defeats the purpose of a cure if you need prior DNA, no?"

I agreed. “Much mischief can be done with a DNA sample. I would not be willing to allow mine to be stored somewhere.”

Rellis nodded in abstraction, setting the phials he had been working on in a stand on the lab table. He smiled and pulled out a stoppered phial from his robe. The liquid within was white in color with a bit of black swirling inside. "Here it is.” He was clearly proud of his discovery. “It takes a bit of work to make, but it counters a lot of poisons and it helps me test a lot of potions I could not before." He pulled out the stopper, tipped the phial to his lips and downed it one gulp. "Mmm . . . always tastes good, too."

"Lycans," I laughed, thinking it a waste of a perfectly good essence potion.

Rellis waited a few seconds as the potion settled, and then he grabbed the new one from the table and downed it. A scientist who uses himself as his own lab rat may one day wake up to find himself in good company with Mr. Hyde.

Penny grinned. "I'm just impressed he can do such delicate work with such long claws. I'm clumsy enough, and my nails are pretty short."

Well," I glanced at the shards of glass in the waste bin, "Rellis does run through quite a bit of glassware."

Penny’s eyes roved over the remaining glass on the floor and what appeared to be a patched up hole.

Rellis nodded. "It takes a lot of practice. And I am not always the most graceful with my work." He pointed to the spot floor on the floor that was now mended and much cleaner then the rest. “Well, that potion is a dud . . . nothing." He began mixing another batch of the essence potion so that he would have his spare back.

“Have you found a home since returning to the city?” I asked Penny. “You are friends with Pontifex and Merma; you would be most welcome in the Library.”

“I've thought about it, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am joining a group. Although if I were to join any, this one seems a good fit.” Penny leaned over the lab table, poking the plant with the tip of her finger. "That looks like a mutated goldenseal flower."

“One of your fellow bartenders is Praetor here. Have you met Grr yet?” I wondered if I might snag a bit of the goldenseal-like flower for a tincture. “He’s lycan. Red wolf. Aussie.”

“Penny shook her head. “Grr? No, I don't think I've met him yet.”

Rellis chuckled. "He’s a nice guy. He’s the one who got me into the Institute after I left the pack." Rellis opened a drawer, pulled out a piece of rubber tubing and tied it around his arm, just above the elbow. He clenched his fist a few times, and then removed a syringe from a pocket inside his robe. He uncapped the syringe with his teeth and stuck the needle in his wrist, drawing blood from his arm. He spat the cap onto the table. "There we go.” He pulled the needle from his vein and injected the blood into the new phial of essence potion. It immediately began to turn white. “Another potion of essence ready to go." Rellis plugged the phial with a stopper, tucked it into his robe and untied the tourniquet from his arm. He seemed unaware of the blood dripping from his wrist.


He turned toward me. “Yes?”

“I think we need to formalize the process of plant collection,” I began, trying to be very clear about what I wanted, given Rellis’s tendency toward abstraction. “Please write a formal report on the three plants you found in the city. I'd like to know where you collected them and at what time of day. I want a thorough description of each with a complete analysis.”

Rellis laughed. "That could be a problem, hon. People can get hurt by these plants."

Hon, I frowned. “Rellis. You will not address me as 'hon'." He looked at me uncertainly, slowly realizing his words were far from appropriate. “As a Praetor, I have assigned you a task. I expect you to complete it and submit the report to me at your earliest convenience.” I paused. “Are we clear?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Rellis glanced downward. He then pulled a small pad and pen from his pocket and began to write. “I will write it in elemental speak, so that few but shamans can read it.”

“That is acceptable, Rellis. I’d like intact specimens preserved, too. You should work with Lyra. At minimum, I’d like your written report by tomorrow evening.”

Penny interjected, "It might help helpful to collect when the plants aren’t blooming. Like morning glories, they might only bloom at a certain time of day. If you want, I can collect a few of these while I'm about town.” She pointed at the remains of the plant Rellis had been working with. “I think that one bit me once,” she grinned.

“That would be helpful, Penny. Rellis can instruct you on any precautions you need to take.” I smiled at Rellis a bit ruefully. "Though his talent with beakers and phials is somewhat questionable, he is a powerful herbalist and botanist."

“Definitely powerful,” Penny grinned. “I'll keep an eye out. In the meantime, however, I gotta prep for work. It was great meeting you two."

I nodded. "I must walk, myself. My hunger grows. Be safe, Penny.” I turned to wave a goodbye to Rellis, but already he was bent over his pad of paper, lost in thought. I wonder what his report will reveal.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Subita morte exstingui

For Larissa

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me:
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Christina Rosetti

Baby blessings

The balloons swayed in the gentle May breeze. The brightly wrapped presents seemed full of promise, paper and ribbons glistening in the late afternoon sun. The smell of hot chocolate, fresh date bread, cupcakes and cake filled the air mixed with the almond scent of oleander, and the sweet fragrance of yellow jasmine.

It was to be a small gathering of friends, a celebration of new life, a gifting to Larissa for the birth of her little one. I was making a few final arrangements, lighting the candles on the cake, straightening the tablecloths when Larissa arrived. She looked around in amazement, taking in the waterfalls and the tropical greenery, her eyes moving to the tables with their adornments.

Blushing and grinning, she greeted me as she looked around. “The waterfalls are beautiful. The balloons!” Larissa poured herself a mug of hot chocolate, plopping in several marshmallows. “I have a cake!” she laughed. “A Warm Welcome to Toxia’s Newest Little Hellion,” it read amidst whirls of icing.

I gave Larissa a hug, as Lyra arrived with a bottle of wine and a square box, wrapped in blue. She kissed Larissa, sat the box on the gift table, put the bottle in the grass by a log, kicked off her shoes and sat down. Uncharacteristically for the scientist, she wore a party dress. She looked rather more sweet than stern. “I didn’t know if we had to dress girly,” she grinned. Hopping up to grab a mug of hot chocolate, she asked, “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”

“Definitely a girl,” Larissa replied. “Abigail.”

“Abigail? That means ‘father’s joy,” Lar.” Thinking of Lorne’s seeming indifference to the birth of his child I said, “Interesting choice.”

Larissa frowned a bit at this, but patting her tummy gently she replied, “I still love the name.”

I breathed in the clean, warm air. “Living in the city makes one forget that the sun still does shine.”

Lyra nodded. “My partner and I live on the beach. We have a little dojo. Our living quarters are above it.”

“Dojo?” I asked as Merma arrived, giving greetings to all and a hug to Larissa. I grinned at Merma. “Apparently, Lyra is skilled in the martial arts.”

“Eh . . . a lot of good that does me,” Lyra laughed. “I’m much better with a book than a katana.”

“Anything can be a weapon if you use it right,” Merma said with mock seriousness as Larissa helped herself to a second slice of cake. Merma joined her. “That cake is sweet!” they echoed in unison.

After relaxing and chatting a bit more, we got down to the serious business of gift opening. Lyra went first, handing the blue box to Larissa while winking and teasing about a gift to help her get started on the next baby. Larissa tore off the gift’s wrappings, then begin to blush furiously: SexGen T.B.C. Toybox, it read. As she began to examine the contents, she burst out laughing.

“Oh my God,” Merma giggled. “Dear Lord, who gave you that?”

Larissa cleared her throat, “Umm, thank you, Lyra.” She rewrapped the package carefully.

My notions of Lyra’s scientific aloofness had been completely revised in the past few days due to her recent conversations about the habits of incubi with Severus, and her gifting to Larissa. Clearly, behind the lab coat there lurked a minx. “I have something for you too, Lar. Perhaps a little less risqué.” I handed Larissa a box wrapped in red paper, tied with a gold bow.

Larissa unwrapped the box and began grinning. “She will love this Joah.” I know that rollerblades aren’t usually considered a baby gift, but, given how fast the baby had been growing inside Larissa, I thought little Abigail might be playing with them sooner rather than later.

Merma’s gift was large, wrapped loosely with pink paper and a silver bow. Larissa pulled off the wrappings to reveal a beautiful crib made of burnished oak. “I didn’t know what else to get,” she said softly.

“It’s lovely,” sighed Larissa. “Beautiful,” I agreed as Lyra popped the cork on her wine and poured a glass, lifting it in toast to Larissa.

Tracing her hand along the crib railing, Larissa turned to Merma. “The gift of your blessings would be great, Merma.”

Merma smiled with great affection. “You know you have those, Lar. They’ll put a little good into that demon child.”

Lyra sipped her wine. “Why does everyone keep calling it a demon child? That’s not very nice.”

Merma began, “Because she’s half demon . . .”

“Lorne is the father,” I said.

Larissa interrupted. “She is still half me.”

“And that part of her will be sweet and strong, Larissa,” I replied.

Larissa patted her tummy again, “Ah, she is gonna be a rascal.” Lyra began muttering something about not knowing about having kittens.

I sighed, hoping for blessings. “That reminds me, I suppose I’d best give you the last gift. It’s a message from Nareth.” I walked over to the table and picked up a small parchment envelope, sealed with red wax, and handed it to Larissa.

“Speaking of Nareth,” Lyra began, “I haven’t seen her in forever. Where has she disappeared to?”

Larissa looked thoughtful. “She is . . . distant,” she murmured, gazing at the note she had removed from it’s envelope.

“Would your read the message to us, Larissa?” I asked.

Talking softly, Larissa read: “Nareth gives to Larissa a promise: I will do my best to insure that no action of mine hand, and no omission of action by mine hand, brings your daughter to harm. And I shall watch over her, when I may.”

We listened quietly, till I finally asked, “What do you make of it, Lar?”

Larissa smiled. “That she loves me,” she whispered.

We sat in silence a few moments, the rose to explore the caverns.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The seed knows its time

I hugged Brit and kissed her lightly on the cheek in greeting. The ocean from the sea wall was nearly beautiful, a swirl of toxic green and blue. Brit looked across the water, “It is way pretty here,” she sighed, “I think Toxia is most pretty.” Brit was right; the green blinked kaleidoscope-like over the blue water.

“You see beauty in everything, Brit,” I marveled.

“I don’t know, Joah, but it looks like a moving painting. So beautiful.” Brit’s fiery hair whipped in the wind. “Several people asked me . . . um . . . why we were married in Toxia . . . but . . . I thought the church was beautiful . . . and we live in Toxia. I’m glad Ethan did not pick anywhere else.”

I smiled at the new bride. “All weddings are beautiful, Brit. You and Ethan chose well.” The swirling water drew my focus away from Brit for a moment. “Pity that what is so beautiful is also so deadly,” I mused. “But that’s the nature of evil isn’t, it? Lucifer, son of the morning. . . .”

“I don’t really understand evil, Joah.” Brit lisped quietly. “People have told me that Vlad is evil, but he has only been kind to me.”

I do not know Vlad. I have seen him, seen the respect and fear he engenders, and seen Brit’s fondness for him. But then again, Brit sees beauty in everything. “He has always protected you and that is good. So perhaps there is some good in him. I don’t understand much of the ways of vampires, the Lady included.”

Brit began to smile and talk rapidly. “I’ve never seen him do anything horrible. He made me toys that moved. And colored with me. And gave me things just because he wanted me to have them. He helped me make a necklace that protected me . . . and always kept ice cream in his home for me. He told all of those who lived with him that I was welcome and protected. Vlad calls me his one good deed. He told all of those who lived there with him that I was welcome and protected. Vlad calls me his spawn and says I was his one good deed.”

I could not help but be drawn to the necklace around Brit’s throat. The glimmer of it both attracted and repelled me, as always. Every time I’ve tried to touch it, an indefinable something holds me back. I lifted my hand to try again, felt the same old uneasiness and dropped my hand quickly to my side. The necklace made by others for Brit. “Vlad is your father?”

Brit bit her lower lip. “I don't know," she worried. "Ethan said I should not tell anyone he said that.” She paused. “Do not say it to anyone. Okay?” She shrugged a bit, face frowning in concentration. “Pars said my parents were mortal, human like me.” I watched as Brit began shifting back and forth in agitation. “Pars took me from the hospital to the garden the day I was born.”

I had heard this story before. And again, I was puzzled about Pars and his theft of the baby Brit. The theft that Brit always seemed to take for granted as natural in the course of things. Perhaps a theft from Vlad. “How old is Vlad, Brit? How long as he been as he is?” I searched for words, trying to formulate the thoughts in my mind. “He must have been human at one time.”

“Oh, Vlad is very old. Older than Ethan. Ethan was a monk when he was mortal, for Constantine the First.”

I considered this. Vlad’s time as man born of earth would have been far too long ago for him to sire Brit. But I also knew there are other ways of fathering. “It is not,” I began slowly, “unheard of for a vampire to father a child.” I wondered how to explain this to Brit so that she would understand. “Have you ever heard of Elkiminus?”

Brit shook her head with puzzlement. “Ethan said his kind do not reproduce.”

“No, generally they do not.” How best to explain? “But Elkiminus . . . they’re half spirit, half vampire. Invisible. They possess human beings in order to take on corporeal form.”

Brit considered this for a moment. “Vlad . . . is . . . um…he is not a typical vampire. He is many and one.”

I thought of Legion and the thousands of souls in it. “What do you mean, Brit?”

Brit began to drift a bit. “He keeps those who have gone alive. Like Dr. Harlow. And Olivia. And he gives all kinds of presents. He gave Ethan a seed.”

I shifted from foot to foot, trying to find a way into Brit’s inner thoughts. I had no idea who Dr. Harlow and Olivia were, nor did I understand the seed given to Ethan. “So the seed was Vlad’s present to Ethan? Did it make him happy?”

But, as is so often the case with Brit, the moment was lost. Overtaken by the thought of Vlad’s gifts, Brit pulled a small mannequin from her pack. A toy, I thought at first, animated, yet there was no key in his back. He stepped lightly in her hand, as though he were a courtier attending the throne of a monarch.

Brit held him out to me and as he crossed in to my palm, I pushed a bit toward him. I was both shocked and surprised; this was no toy. I felt prana. But he was not unhappy. He twirled in my hand as I blew him a kiss. He walked seriously back to Brit’s hand, gave me a salute, and then leapt into her pack.

She then began coloring for me, suns and roses and happy pictures, un'impressione sull'aria. There would be no more talk of fathers and seeds today.

Brit, there is so much I want to know about you. Though you say not, you are far from ordinary. Your seemingly unintended arrival in the city . . . I suspect it was no mere coincidence and that Vlad wanted you here. Your necklace. The seed. You are a puzzle box and I want to find the key.

Monday, May 12, 2008


My mind wants no greater thing than to escape into the unknown abyss of what lies ahead, to wander into nothingness. My very being cries out to be free of my mind's tyranny. My fingers curl, my body wretches, my lungs burn as I die inside. It refuses to leave me: it caves in upon itself, chains pulling me to the ground. My prayers taste like ashes. Nothing can give me breath again. Nothing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Grr laughed with amusement as I asked to touch Larissa’s belly, to feel the life growing within her. She assented with a smile, and as I touched her I felt within Larissa the singleness of heart and purpose given to one only. She is not, I think, a woman who fragments her heart or splits her loyalties. The sadness of her misplaced affection washed over me. But the little one inside . . . this baby growing more quickly than humanly possible in her womb . . . strong, mischievous, and different somehow--I saw her borne with blood and grief: a child, yet not a child. How can this be?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A cluster of thoughts

Did she push me or did I fall? I remember only being asked to help with a lesson. She opened up the void within her; I felt the lifeblood drained from me and a bitter cold within. She said I had no choice but to drink from her. She said she saved my life. Perhaps she did. I would have frozen in the abyss that is Nareth.

I could not be with her, yet I could not leave. I both longed for her and despised her. The blood of the Omega runs through her veins. And that is not a gift to be rejected lightly.

I chose to walk away. Nicholette, for your sake, I hope I did the right thing. . . .


Burned and black. Burned and black. Larissa, dear friend, you would not have forth told were it not to be. Yet this dream of death must be mutable. Despite Pontifex’s mocking, there must be free will. The Creator has made it so. Dear friend, you placed a white rose in my hand--a funerary ornament or the way to rebirth?


A lovely pink heart. A silly pink mustache. I watched with amazement as Brit drew them sparkling in the air. She said Lorne had given her dream ink in which to dip her colors. A two-edged demon gift. Not all dreams are those we wish to come true. There is the dark side, the nightmares we keep hidden within. I wondered, though, whether a nightmare so beckoned might prove to protect Brit if other defenses failed. “Can you draw one”, I asked? “You mean a scary picture?” Brit questioned. She closed her eyes and lifted her hand, crayon poised . . . and a toxic waste monster appeared. . . .


I walked the streets and the shore, searching to satisfy my hunger. The building drew me. Would there be answers inside? The woman, Scarlette, had said she descries the future, not by crystal ball, but by the cards. “Watch me read,” she invited. Perhaps I was too much of a Silver-Hair, though I tested neither beds nor porridge. Yet a sword was drawn on me, with the threat of sending me back to the Omega in pieces. I only sought answers.