Before we dive into this chapter, I just want to say a few things because I’m black and it’s been a hell of a week(s). Writing makes me feel good. Escaping to fantasy worlds is my way of practicing self-care and I’m prioritizing that because the trauma is real. I’m tired, exhausted even, but it’s not because I have work to do. I do not, point in fact, have any work to do.
You (not you, per se, but the “royal you”) might be wondering what I mean by that. You might even be squaring yourself up to list the myriad of things you think I need to do. You may be using words like “we” and phrases like “stand together” and lord help me, you may even think this is the moment when I, a black person, am going to illuminate for you a nuanced description of what happened in a way that takes into account your discomfort or feelings.
This is not that party, and I am not sorry. My father had that party once in the 40s when he had to swallow down his panic at being followed in a car by a group of white men who called him “boy” and asked him where he thought he was going. We learn from our past mistakes, don’t we?
Yes, you might be thinking that with all the things going on the world, I’ve got plenty to “do.” But I am about full up of all the ways I am supposed to contort my black body to survive in a world that does not value it.
You should know that I have perfect clarity on this situation. The color of my skin is not a problem that needs to be fixed. My existence is not wrong in any way, shape, or form. There is no better way I’m supposed to be doing anything because this is not a “me” problem.
I’m not really in the mood to educate anyone. Bless my lovely white husband who was wise enough to say to me this morning, “I love you and I’m not behind you, I’m in front of you.” It reminded me of that time we went to a restaurant that wouldn’t serve us (because racism) and the slow, agonizing seconds that ticked by while he absorbed their anger too. Weird how racism keeps popping up even though we wrote some articles about how it was gone when Obama got elected.
But if you are confused, may I suggest a “Timeline of Events That Led to the 2020 ‘Fed-Up’-rising“? It starts in 1619, in case you were wondering what kind of article it is. If, like me, you’re tired of “educating” this one does a good job of explaining the problem’s size and scope. You know. For people who aren’t tuned in to what’s be going on the last 400 years or so.
That’s about all I have to say for now. CW for this chapter for reference to sexual assault. I’m not sure what time I’m posting this because time is pretend and I have not been sleeping due to ::gestures around at everything::
Other than that, read on and enjoy. I finally got some zombies up in here so I’m really happy.
Oh and due the world being really racist, I didn’t feel like going back and fixing Vlad’s hair in his dark form. I didn’t notice it until I was already done with all the screenshots and I figure if there’s any week that I can let a small detail go, it’s this one.
Werewolves were overzealous by nature. Perfect for a fight with a powerful vampire. Hell on the furniture. She said as much in a dry quip to Bloodvein that did not communicate her profound concern over being wrong. Vladislaus had not been to the manor in at least a day and now they’d lost the element of surprise. Failure when she could least afford it.
Centuries ago, when she sat at her vanity, covering her bruises for the umpteenth time, she’d prayed for deliverance. When it didn’t come, she prayed instead for revenge and the God of Sleep slid into her dreams like a soothing balm.
“They call me Somnus, and I will deliver your vengeance. All I ask is for this one little thing…”
It was never just “one little thing,” Miss Hell thought bitterly, as the flames licked higher and one of the tower gargoyles crashed to the ground.
“I wish for the Underworld,” Somnus told her, “I dream of Gods and steel and heaps of dead.” 1
She’d always meant to deliver the wish, but not the dream. The dream was a dangerous thing—sims waking up with “dust in their eyes and gods in their mouths.” 2 Miss Hell could not let it come to pass. Her freedom meant nothing if this world were reduced to a pile of ash and rubble.
Taking a cleansing breath, she drew closer to the smoldering mass of gargoyle, dropping a pair of cufflinks that matched a blue silk suit.3 Failure was too strong a word. This was a setback. A setback that could be overcome just by pointing Vladislaus in the right direction to obtain his retribution.
Or die trying, motherfucker.
Miss Hell saluted the flames as she scanned the property line for any observers. Somnus’s greatest wish was to rule the Underworld. If she accomplished that, he’d have no reason to make his way to this realm. The Sages wanted Vladislaus in exchange for disposing of the God of Death, but things changed, alliances shifted, and Miss Hell had learned that if you wanted something done right—you had to do it yourself.
Taking on bat form, she caught a wind current and steered herself towards the Von Haunt Estate.
“The body is disposed of and William is at the manor procuring supplies,” Caleb explained, brushing some dirt off his shirt. “It would be easier if we had electricity.”
“If you need it,” Vlad shrugged with a nonchalance that made Caleb see red. Now that Alice held his heart in a vice, Vladislaus was open to change?
“Is that how you feel about it?” Caleb said with humorless laugh. He crossed his arms. “No comments on how you can hear the energy waves? Just install it? In this cottage you’ve kept as a virtual mausoleum?”
Vlad finally looked at him, eyes flashing, a tick in his jaw. “Would you like me to have comments?” he ground out.
“What is going on?” Alice complained as she came up behind him. Vlad shot him a dirty look before turning on a smile and crossing the room to see if she had slept okay. Caleb eyed them both with disgust. Did she think she was special because Vladislaus was making a show of good behavior?
“Well, it’s good you’re up,” Caleb snapped. “How much training did you get in before B’Ollithiranon gave up his godhood? Is it just additional power he gave you or was he able to extend your life?”
Alice fumbled around for words but Caleb cut her off. “Alice, we don’t have time for you to wallow. B’Ollithiranon is gone. Count your blessings he had the decency to make you a god five times over before he departed.”
“He’s missing,” Alice enunciated. “And I’m going to need more than five fucking seconds to process what’s going on.”
“You have time,” Vlad said mildly.
“She does not!” Caleb shouted, anger or something like it roiling in his gut. Now, Vladislaus had patience? Where was that patience when Lilith struggled to embrace life as a vampire? Fuming, he revealed his dark form and Vlad, perceiving his action as a threat, turned too.
Alice was undaunted. “Yeah, I’m going to need you to get off my case. My life was just turned upside down. I’m alone—”
“Are you?” Caleb glowered.
“Am I what?”
“Alone.” He didn’t make it a question because he knew the answer.
“I’m…” Alice trailed off, suddenly on her guard.
“Perhaps I should rephrase the question. How are you alone, Alice Martin, eldest daughter of Valeria and Cyrus, who paid for her to travel to Windenburg for this contest? Sister to Maverick who loans her bail money, and to Mayra, who painted her trailer which is parked, incidentally, in her parents’ backyard?”
She stared at him, jaw clenched, but Caleb pressed on.
“Were you about to say I don’t understand?” he spat. “Because your life has been so hard? Because in 1759 Vladislaus made you play a game for your sister’s mortality and you lost?”
“Caleb!” Vlad shouted. His tone was a warning but Caleb could not stop himself. If Alice thought Vladislaus would get better just because she snapped her fingers, she had another thing coming. Caleb had been at this for two hundred years, William even longer.
“No, that can’t be it. Maybe your father was a sociopath who imprisoned you and held your family hostage until you agreed to fight a battle that he rigged in some nefarious plot to turn you into a weapon? He didn’t say that part did he?” Caleb challenged. “That he fought and died for a family he never had any chance of getting back at all? That he wanted The Owl to burn the world because he never recovered?”
“She knows,” Vlad roared, but didn’t approach. Caleb reeled back, not from fear but from shock.
“Just the other day, I had to put a sword through your femoral artery because you threw a violent tantrum over a haircut. And now you’re holding back?”
“Oh, I don’t have to,” Vlad threatened before Alice smacked—smacked!—him in the arm. “What the hell is wrong with you?” she hissed. Chastised, he dispelled his dark form.
“And you?” she cried, gesturing at Caleb. “If you hate him so much, why are you still here?”
A question that had preoccupied him for most of the last hundred years. “It’s complicated,” he scoffed.
Before he could elaborate, William burst through the front door and skidded to a halt, eyes focused on the suit of armor behind the chair. “I haven’t been here in an age,” he breathed. “I was wondering where that got to. You really are quite the hoarder, Vladislaus, worse than I thought.”
He chuckled as he took in Caleb’s furious look. “What’s going on here? You all look half a tick away from killing each other…”
“A small disagreement,” Vlad bit out and Caleb was pleased to see he wasn’t the only one affected.
“Right. Well, we have a problem. Straud Manor has been compromised.”
Alice scrunched up her face. “Like by spies?”
“Worse,” Wiliam said solemnly. “Werewolves.”