Chapter 26, Part 2: The Things that Can Be Undone

Straud Manor

Content Warning: References to child abuse and domestic violence.

Vlad

Vladislaus Straud, who had been known to devour creatures whole—blood and bone and sinew and skin—was now living in inexorable fear of crossing a wide-eyed mortal named Alice Martin. 

Don’t you dare fucking follow me.

He paced the halls of Straud Manor like a caged animal. This place, that up until six months ago, had been one he never wanted to leave, suddenly felt like a trap. He wasn’t ashamed of Alice, he was ashamed of himself. 

Caleb and William would be delighted to hear that he considered Straud Manor unsuitable for company.

Delighted and probably filled with schadenfreude.

But it was the truth. Straud Manor was a tomb and he couldn’t imagine Alice would enjoy that. Commandeering Herr Bramley’s downtown apartment seemed like a good idea, a way to keep her from leaving him until…

Until?

She was mortal, but he couldn’t stop himself. Every time he thought about leaving her to her own devices, it summoned up an emotion he had no name for. Something bright and hot, with an edge of panic to it.  

He tried to lose himself in plans for obtaining The Owl, but that only reminded him of yet another obstacle: how to ensure Jimena handed it over without further infuriating the woman who had told him to “get bent.” 

On top of that, there was the summons from the Sages, the aliens Caleb kept ranting about, plus all the competitors he’d have to kill in the interim. 

Every time he thought about leaving her to her own devices, it summoned up an emotion he had no name for. Something bright and hot, with an edge of panic to it.  

He wasn’t even sure why he wanted The Owl anymore. All his initial reasoning felt wrong. Get rid of the curse but lose everything he felt with Alice? Undo every change to the world he despised but in the process, destroy all the things she liked? Bring back his wi—

He clamped down on the last thought before it could finish. 

Sacrifices and violence, that’s what it would take to get The Owl. And Vlad was made to endure the means to get to the end.

He tried sending Alice another message. 

No response.

And so, with the dignity afforded to him as a king, Vlad launched his phone straight into the wall.


William

It wasn’t that William had never seen Vladislaus throw anything into a wall before. But wasn’t the point of a conscience to smooth out these rough edges? Wasn’t “feeling” supposed to bring about a calmer Vladislaus who thought about consequences before he acted? Had William misunderstood the curse?

He hardly got a word out before his old friend was on the defensive. 

“Am I now to suffer a lecture from Aurelius William Redding too?” he spat, staring William down with cold eyes. 

It was meant to hurt—vampires wielded names like weapons. For his part, William had not heard his real first name uttered in centuries.

Once upon a time he had been Aurelius. Back when Josef Straud rode into the backwoods to snatch the strongest teenagers to serve the guard. His mother declared his name proudly and the King, who loved nothing more than to destroy the things that others wanted, declared he would only ever be William.  

Desire is weakness, Josef was fond of saying. It was his favorite lesson.

“I’ve not been Aurelius since my mother took me ‘round the side of the cottage and shook me ‘til my teeth rattled in my head,” William replied calmly. 

It was his clearest memory of his mother. What have I taught you, Aurelius? Only a fool would let them see what he truly wants. Only a fool would let them see him upset.

“The same mother who didn’t bother to see you off?” Vlad sneered, “What was it she said? Oh I recall now: I’ve other mouths to feed.”  

Another jab. But Vladislaus was wrong. It wasn’t until William watched his mother’s retreating back that he knew she truly loved him. 

Only a fool would let them see him upset.

Chuckling, William kept his tone purposefully light. “What ails you, Vladislaus? At this rate, courtship will kill you before the week is through.” 

Vlad’s answering look was bitter. I would not deign to tell you, it said, but William knew better. 

He remembered the boy who would creep into the barracks, having been beaten within in an inch of his life. He recalled stitching up wounds and resetting bones by candlelight, always careful to tell Vladislaus what his own mother had instilled in him: learn to play dead.

Desire is weakness, Josef was fond of saying. It was his favorite lesson.

Taking a step forward, William softened his voice. “I’m not your father. I’ve nothing to take from you and I’m not searching for weak spots.”

For a second, Vlad’s whole body went rigid. Then, vulnerability flashing in his eyes, he relented.

“Old habit.”

    10 comments
  • Dolly Llama
    April 16, 2020

    I hope Akira gets wind of Vlad’s Luddism. It’s less messy that way. Trap him in a flashmob! Escape from a swordfight using an elevator—or a revolving door! Bahaha.

    So Vlad knows that ‘mansplaining’ is a word but isn’t clear on what it means. It’s not like he’s going to look it up. And he accused someone *else* of mansplaining to him? Excuse me? I’m also thinking someone taught him the word in an earlier chapter, in the proper context, but can’t remember when. It was probably Alice. That’s the only reason he would be motivated to use a newfangled portmanteau anyway.

    The pose that lady does on the table: Titania may be a magical monarch but I doubt she has that core strength. Supernatural beings could probably fake it anyway.

    Oh, hey, Lily Feng is Wei Wuxian. I approve.

    • feroshgirl
      April 16, 2020

      -Oh Vlad 100% got it from Alice. He’s such a poor lovesick idiot. Meanwhile, everyone else is like: oh you’ve been living in this world for 600 years and NOW you care about how it works? His vanity is gonna have to come down like 500% before he bothers to actually listen to what other people say and not just run it through his own internal (sociopathic) filter.

      -That pose did not look like what I thought it was going to look like but then it was so bonkers I had to keep it. I like to think of Titania as the kind of magical monarch who would be impressed by that sort of thing. But also she’s a murder-happy genius who will 100% start dipping into the Oracle’s stash in later chapters.

      -HAHAHA the sims 4 pre-mades have such varied lives. I can see the fight seen with Lily Feng in my head, but I know coordinating it is going to be a nightmare.

      – What Akira has on Vlad in terms of actually understanding the modern world, he loses when it comes to thinking that Alice is dependent on him to save her. ::snort laughs:: Like dude, she might have some things to learn but she’s still a God. Get a grip.

      I have weirdly hit a spot where I’ve got a tone of chapters written and a ton of screenshots but no emotional bandwidth for editing because ::gestures around at everything::

      But we’ll see! It changes day to day. I plan to avoid having to read about vaccine development for as long as I can this weekend just to give myself some recovery time lol.

      • Dolly Llama
        April 18, 2020

        If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Alice can handle it herself. Akira’s a bit behind on his reading. Get your shit together, Akira! I’m waiting for a scene where he tries to heroically throw himself between her and Vlad and she rolls her eyes, snaps her fingers, and he finds himself in Times Square on NYE, i.e., hell.

        And have fun not scouring medRxiv for like two minutes this weekend. Man, I need to be more careful around you. You probably have enough information by now to deduce my field, and if not, know what to bait me with. (Not that I care about other SimLit authors knowing my identity. Just employers and undergrads.)

        (I downloaded this and thought of you: https://gumroad.com/l/shibuisimssunflowerrigsversion2ts4
        Took my expected pose-construction time down to 10–30 minutes. That should be shorter for emotions and stuff, since my poses are more along the lines of flipping the double bird with their feet up on a keyboard.)

      • feroshgirl
        April 21, 2020

        Oh god, the mention of undergrads is hitting too close to home! I am lucky that my work nowadays more involves helping people understand whats in medRxiv, and less having to know it for my own projects (bless). But yeah, I have a pretty good sense of what you do now. Don’t worry, I don’t want them to find you anymore than I want I them to find me lol.

        Maybe Sunflower Rigs will finally get me back into making my own poses! I tried it but the learning curve was steep just using blender and sims 4 studio. And my capacity for “new quarantine skills” has mainly extended to writing another D&D campaign for my nerd friends. This thing, however, I will investigate. A manual inside blender? YES PLEASE.

        Also, do not underestimate the value of a double bird. It communicates so many things!

        Akira, Akira, Akira, you silly fool. Oh he is definitely gone LEARN.

        I made all that fuss about having no bandwidth but I’m finalizing a chapter that I am *gasp* really happy with. And that’s a rarity! I credit getting our contactless alcohol pick-up and a very good virtual session with my therapist LOL

      • Dolly Llama
        May 5, 2020

        Dammit, WordPress didn’t tell me about this comment reply! Opposite situation here: thank hell I can spend my time working on my own projects rather than trying to explain things to students who leave bad reviews on RateMyProfessor because “if you don’t go to class, you WILL fail.” But your job sounds more fun than that.

        The double bird’s always relevant. I’m not releasing any pose packs until late June, but the first one up is going to be several double birds. To the viewer, to the sky, in someone’s face…

  • theplumbob
    July 9, 2020

    Titania and Oberon are such a treat. I’m loving how hard it is for Akira to deal with them, but he does it anyway, heh.

    I’m still so impressed at your use of premades. I tend to get attached to a few of my favourite ones and disregard the rest.

    Vlad’s dad (lol) better be dead. If I repeat that enough, it will be true. Right? Right? Right? Because that’s how it works! *eye twitches*

  • Ninja Pink Sex
    September 22, 2022

    “And so, with the dignity afforded to him as a king, Vlad launched his phone straight into the wall” LMAO.
    And then William looking from one side of the room to the other where Vlad just launched his phone. DEAD. Absolutely hilarious.

    Interesting history re. William and his real name. Also another reason to dislike Vlad’s father (do we need more, he’s a cruel m’er f’er).

    “Because dummy, they’ll all make the same mistake you did: thinking the God of Death will be in the body of some monster, not fumbling around trying to make the perfect soufflé!” Which NOW makes me wonder, WHAT IF they DO assume that one of the contestants is The God of Death. Which contestant would likely set off their suspicion radar? I’d go with the horny old guy. Horny old dudes are monsters imo.

    “How much of a monster I am,” Vlad finished irritably. “My life, as it is, is not what she wants so I tried to protect her and she got angry about it!”
    As William goes on, Vlad doesn’t know that b/c he is basing these thoughts on assumptions. Vlad is clearly a product of the patriarchy; protecting the helpless woman. Thinking THAT is his mission. There is nothing wrong with wanting help or knowing you need help, but having it thrust upon someone is def another consent issue/area that Vlad keeps falling into. Vlad, at this point you Alice needs protection from your inability to have a conversation lol. Dude, just TALK to Alice. Don’t assume. Goodness. Men. Vlad needs more positive women in his life (I say this as the only woman that is in his circle is Miss Hell). It is a very interesting take that William is more than just an older brother/positive father figure to Vlad. He is very open and listening in a way that isn’t normative for men/male characters. I like that William excels at this (even though he is severely flawed with his own consent issues and DOING what he thinks is best for Vlad, like a parent, and maybe he should take his own advice?). Like does THAT make William a bit of a hypocrite or condescending, that he can see the damage that Vlad is doing by not being open with Alice but he doesn’t see critically examine his own actions? Like I get that he is infantizing Vlad to a degree, but… dang, the same rules don’t apply to William has me 0.o. BUT I GET THAT HE DOESN’T QUESTION HIS BEHAVIOR. He is really holding onto the idea that he didn’t do anything wrong, even though he cannot be truthful with Vlad regarding it, my goodness. Really puts behaviors into perspective.

    Oberon is my favorite character. Sex-oriented hot surfer dude that has a roleplay game he and his wife play. I’m on board. LOVE THIS DUDE.

  • Ninja Pink Sex
    September 22, 2022

    I had to cut my comments short, so let me continue.
    Akira is such a cockblocker. Um, excuse me Oberon but MY problem is more important than your sex life. Akira wouldn’t be thinking THAT if he was getting some play with Miko. Just saying. I mean, he might still think that his problem is more prioritized, but without the cynicism. Or maybe not as much cynicism.

    okay, so the file is my favorite thing about this chapter. Or at least it ties in first place with Oberon. It was such a badass introduction to some crazy shit. The Goths look like cannibals’ — whatever they are, it’s terrifying. Lily Feng is badass. AND THEN WE COME TO VLAD and I was like YES YES YES TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME…. only to get Ferosh-teased LIKE IT’S PENNY/ANA ALL THE FUCK OVER AGAIN. Omg Fetish, why… WHY? … WHY!?!?! arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh! But GD it was so cool.

    Vlad and the salesperson. Goodness. Vlad just needs to go to a community college class where they teach you how to use a computer. I can just imagine Vlad calling Support and the tech saying “sir try turning it off and restarting it.” LOL poor Vlad. The world is constantly changing and is so fast-paced that if you snooze for just a second you have to learn the new tech. Ugh, I feel Vlad, and he has to start from THE BEGINNING. I can’t imagine how hard that must feel. I’d throw and kick shit too.

    I think we’re all worried for Vlad on some level. We’re just not going to do what we think is best for him without his consent. William, I hope to the God of Death you learned you are not exempt 0.o

    • feroshgirl
      September 24, 2022

      AKIRA IS A COCKBLOCKER I AM DEAD hahahahhaha.

      Okay, so confession, I loved writing Oberon. He’ll be back, don’t you worry. I also had so much fun creating those “case files.” I’m sorry I keep teasing Vlad (okay I’m not, but still).

      ::evil laughter here::

      LOL Vlad is not meant for public consumption okay? If they told him to restart the computer he’d mist into the office and break their neck. Seriously though, you have keyed in on something I was hoping to portray and my heart is so full that you’ve mentioned it. You are right. Vlad is overwhelmed. And because he hasn’t spent decade or so adapting, he is starting from scratch.

      There is no more perfect phrase than “I hope to the God of Death”

      (you are so right. And William knows this. Hence his guilt)

      • Ninja Pink Sex
        September 24, 2022

        I love reading about Oberon so this makes me happy. Honestly, wtf isn’t he in The Strauds? I’m rooting for this mofo to be in EVERY DAMN STORY YOU MAKE.

        SCRATCH THAT

        Look, I did Alice and I dig that she is a WOMAN poc, but for real Ferosh, can you make a story that revolves around Oberon? I would follow that man to the end of the earth.

        Okay no pressure. Clearly. But… it’s just a request that somewhere in the future this might happen. Even if it is just a short story. DID I MENTION I LOVE HIM?!?! Like not thirst trap love just my god…. if Ben is the anti-pink then he is the pro-pink. That’s all. Okay thank you for your consideration.

        Hahaha well then let’s make sure we use it ALL THE TIME. I hope to the God of Death that you will consider making Oberon the main protagonist (fuck I’m cool with an antagonist too) of a story <3

        Yeah, it comes across in your story that William is starting to question decisions he makes. That's good. He is also growing.

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