Chapter 40, Part 1: The Best Laid Plans

Notes:

I downloaded Living Rum and Bafroom and Kichen and I’m building Alice and Vlad a New Orleans style mansion and also my cc folder is out of control. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory

Alice

“So that’s the plan,” Alice’s father announced, pointing at the board. “Straightforward. Simple.”

“Yep, simple,” Alice rolled her eyes, “I’ll just win the baking contest so we can pretend to get The Owl, which we already have. Then we’ll help our enemy steal it from us in a very public way before somehow eliminating her and making a completely impossible escape before anyone notices.”

The logical part of her understood that they had to get the heat off her back. Gwendolyn’s status as The Owl had to remain secret, and Alice’s family couldn’t very well stay here—they would be targets. Just thinking about how they were uprooting their lives filled her with guilt, and yet, watching them swoop in to save the day made her feel decidedly ungodlike. She didn’t use to mind taking a back seat, but now?

It kind of pissed her off.

“Not impossible,” her mother said, “Grim and I are reviewing the tenets of inter-dimensional portals and the metaphysics of being in more than one place at a time.”

“Oh, sorry, excuse me. I mean an escape that works perfectly fine save for the fact that everyone except me, Vlad, Grim, and Deacon need to be dead to enter the Underworld!” Alice eyed everyone at the table angrily.

“Gwendolyn can probably go too,” Deacon suggested. “Because she’s like a bird.”

This time, even Grim shook his head. “Gwendolyn is not a bird, Deac. The Owl is a metaphor.”

“But—”

“And the plan has phases,” Cyrus reminded everyone. “First step, help Miss Hell and her accomplice get back to Windenburg.”


“No, no, Corporal Maverick Martin,” Alice repeated, impatience creeping into her voice. She motioned for Gwendolyn to go outside with Deacon. 

The tiny terror pouted, her gray and pink eyes shining in the light. She had gotten some control of her dark form with Vlad’s help, but it was by no means consistent, and apparently, the eyes and the fangs were permanent. 

Alice smothered a sigh and pulled the dagger out of Deacon’s back. The last thing she needed was her parents catching sight of that. She already got a lecture about Gwendolyn’s sleep schedule and lack of schooling, as if it wasn’t glaringly apparent that this was not an ideal situation. The joke was on them. She hated school even before this fucking chaos. The kid was probably delighted to not have to sit in some elementary school classroom.

And where did her parents get off telling her how to be a par—what to do with her kid?

“Stop stabbing him!” she mouthed and then angrily pointed at the back door.

“You’re looking for Corporal Maverick Martin?” a different voice on the phone asked, “You want us to pull him from his shift?” 

Alice groaned; StrangerVille base was insanely bureaucratic. This was the third person she’d been transferred to. “Yes!” she snapped. Then remembering that Miss Hell could be there already, “Don’t tell him it’s his sister calling.”

“Oh, it’s you,” the voice turned flat, almost mocking. “You need bail money or bar tab money?” 

Shit. Alice finally recognized who was speaking: Dylan Sigworth, a friend of her brother’s. He’d been over for dinner a bunch of times and flirted with Alice. The night they were supposed to go out, she’d been administering rites to a group of sims Ben swore had the spirits of ancient warriors inside them. They all came back to the house, drunk and rowdy, and drank some more.

Which was how Maverick and Dylan found her, passed out on the couch, and, for some reason, missing her shirt. 

Hot shame burned through her. Not so much about the date, though it was a pretty dick move on her part. It was more from the fact that she’d borrowed money so liberally from Maverick that she was notorious for it.

Well, no more! She didn’t need money. The perks of being a god with a supernatural warlord meant she had plenty of money. Most of it in gold bars, priceless treasure, and off-shore accounts only Caleb knew how to access, but still

“Okay, asshat, listen. I don’t need—” Alice paused. If Miss Hell got even a hint that they were manipulating her, the whole plan would go to shit. She did have an important role to play, apparently the role she had always played: the fuck-up.

Ignoring the way it cut at her pride, she sighed and made her voice sound pleading. “Uh yeah, you know me! Bail money. I’m in another country, which is technically a parole violation, so I’m in deep trouble. If he knows it’s me, he’ll hang up right away.”

Alice heard a snort of disbelief on the other line and then a long beat of silence before Maverick picked up the phone.  

“Okay, they didn’t say who it was, but I know it’s you, Al—”

“Shut up!”

“What is your damn problem?” he hissed. 

“Listen very closely to me. I’m with mom, dad, and Mayra. I know all of this will sound crazy, but you’ll confirm it if you look at dad’s notes. The woman in your custody was with a group of vampires, yes they are real, and I’ll get to that in a minute. One of them, Miss Hell, is super dangerous and might show up trying to get her back.”

She gave Maverick a minute to argue, but he didn’t. 

“Actually,” he said wryly, “I believe you.” 

    6 comments
  • Dolly Llama
    February 21, 2021

    Oh man. This chapter is so tight and sets up so much suspense that I don’t have anything major to speculate on because I have no clue what’s going to happen next. Every single one of these vignettes was brilliant. So please accept this disjointed, not-at-all insightful comment that pretty much recaps most of the chapter.

    Starting with the observation that I don’t think Cyrus is allowed to touch that chalkboard.

    Penny. Penny! I feel you, girl. Sometimes one person makes all the difference. And I do appreciate the message in some fictional works that we need to recognize those people when they come along and honor them for the good they do, but we certainly need more stories where a person’s true friends/found family don’t come along until they’ve suffered years of emotional damage. So, so hard to internalize it’s not your fault. True to form, the problem’s not being solved clearly or immediately either. And Penny of course does what one does when there’s no clear path forward. (guess who’s been dropping the ball on making a BBD TV Tropes page for months)

    “She was practically vibrating with hostility, which meant Vlad had to remain calm”: Interesting—Valeria and Cyrus also explicitly have this same whose-turn-is-it-for-the-emotions dynamic, and it’s a favorite of mine. (It’s like leashing a chihuahua to a tree.) But for prose snippets that reveal way more than the character intended, it’s hard to beat “how to be a par—“. Man, you’re really driving it home that she does not need this right now.

    Of the screenshots this chapter, it’s hard to beat the orgy pose with Ben chilling there holding a foot. Like I was about to say something about the hitherto-unseen giddy smile Vlad gets at the prospect of teaching Gwendolyn how to torture, but this brain of mine is like naw, mention again how Ben’s fallen asleep with some dude’s sneaker on him.

    Okay, so, the bonding. LMAO. The interrogation reveal got the biggest laugh out of me this chapter. Dear Goodman, Vlad just has infinite patience when it comes to this kid. Enough for Voidcritter Go even. But Boomers, note that even Vlad understands that talking on the phone is the worst.

    From what we’ve seen so far, Gwendolyn needs to get used to people being dumber than her, and fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Gwendolyn who finally tells Alice “oh my god, just take a pregnancy test already.”

    Is Gwendolyn’s and Vlad’s ice cream flavor called…

    Candy Heart?

    (For real, are you just saving all the premades with food names for these stealth jokes???)

  • feroshgirl
    February 25, 2021

    Didn’t you hear? NO ONE is allowed to touch that chalkboard.

    Thank you! I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again, I LOVE A HEIST. So much so that I needed to shoehorn one into here. In fact, this is my favorite part of the heist movie when a plan is starting to take shape and they are gathering resources but for what? And what will they do with them? And you know the twist is coming but how?

    But Penny was the star of this chapter in my heart. Yeah, you are not wrong about Penny and for reasons that have not yet been revealed, this really is like she is waking up for the first time and the grief and desperation is hitting her all at once. Penny is finally getting to feel her feelings, and the result is one of my favorite tv tropes of all time (I purposely made Penny’s hair long because I wanted this scene so badly lol).

    YES! Hahaha thank you for spotting those matching relationship dynamics. Another reason why Vlad and Alice work. Vlad has had centuries of other people carrying his emotions for him while he has the outbursts. Alice/Gwendolyn is the first time he’s doing that for someone else in a long (600 years) time. He’s willing to do that work because he loves her, but I wanted that to be a big part of his evolution. Meanwhile, I wanted the women in the story to be allowed to have freak-outs and breakdowns and be pissed off without having to reign themselves in and do a bunch of emotional labor because this is a fantasy and I get to reform patriarchy however I want! Yay!

    I told you there’d be more sneakers.

    Every scene with Vlad and Gwendolyn is just me having the best time. I mean it had to be Vlad, right? The reasons why he can be so long-suffering are traumatic, but its really a lovely thing in the end. CANDY HEART IS A DEEP CUT! YOU GET A MILLION POINTS.

    But seriously, who is going to tell Alice to take a pregnancy test? Grim?

  • ThePlumbob
    March 5, 2021

    Ah yeah, I can see why this would make Alice feel ungodlike; her parents are trying to help and being supportive, but definitely cramping her style. She’s only just stated to feel in control of all of her powers too, so this is a tocuhy territory. Does Gwendolyn need to be dead to enter the underworld in her vampy form? I suppose it’s more their godhood than their undeadness that lets them go in 🙂 Still not sure what the deal with Alice’s brother is. Is he rebelling by being a knob? In a family of misfits?

    Aww, I like that you brought focus to how Gwen is adjusting to this whole thing. She’s had a lot to process in a very short time, her life changing so drastically and now she’s on the run ith an adoptive family and all the grown ups talking tensely about her being the owl which she probbly doesn’t even know what means (not that we do, exactly, haha). Oh, and casual murder that somehow feel like daddy and daughter going out for ice cream, lol.

    Oh that romantic barn so clashes with Amisya and Caleb’s actual scene, which I’m sure was deliberate. Dang.

    I have a tough time thinking of that painting as anything but the Carys painting, heh. Aww, Penny. Poor Penny. She really did not get a good deal here, taken for a ride because she’s attached to Gwen/feels for Gwen as a fellow orphan, and helping destroy everything that meant something to her. And what does she have to show for it? Nothing. I’m not surprised she’s pissed. Alice should have come herself. I know she has a lot going on, but I feel like Alice and Vlad do owe Penny that much,a t least, not send errand boys, err, gals. Poor Penny. I do feel for her. What does she have left, really? And here go Alice and Vlad being like “you better play ball or else” … because why, exactly? Why are their agendas and egos more important than hers? I’d not be impressed if I were her either. #TeamPenny

    • feroshgirl
      March 6, 2021

      I am obsessed with calling Maverick a knob hahahaha. Yes, Alice is going through quite the adjustment. I was hoping her family would bring a new sort of dynamic into the mix. Yes, Gwendolyn should be fine getting into the Underworld. Interesting that you referred to her as a god…hehe.

      Yes! I wanted to find a moment to deal with the fact that Gwendolyn is struggling. It’s hard with so many characters as I come down the home stretch, but I wanted to foreshadow some of the stuff I’ve got planned for “book two.” Also, just wanted her and Vlad to have some quality time together, you know, with ice cream and murders hahahaha.

      I mean, are Amisyia and Caleb fighting or flirting?

      LOL that painting. You know, as I was writing this I was getting mad at my own characters. I mean, I did this to them, but you’re right. Alice is a bit self-absorbed and even if there are good reasons, it still affects other people. She isn’t use to thinking about her actions as having far-reaching consequences in that way. And frankly, Vlad is no help, he only cares about the small number of creatures in his orbit. Basically, Alice needs a better advisor.

      You picked up on the fact that Alice wasn’t the one to go see Penny!! Yes!

      But really, I just love Penny so much. I can’t wait to write more of her. She’s struggling and trying to find her place in the world. And she’s really been thrown for a loop. I think she’s gonna get back on her feet, but…eh…it might get worse before it gets better.

      #TeamPenny

  • Yimiki
    March 30, 2021

    “Then we’ll help our enemy steal it from us in a very public way”
    But… the owl has to be earned or freely given, doesn’t it? I guess this depends on your definition of “earned”, but if they can get away with Marjorie that easily, won’t some alarm bells start ringing with the enemy, too?

    Her parents do seem to be a little quick at jumping down her throat, especially her mother and sister – but to be fair, Alice is also incredibly stubborn at accepting help when she needs it, recognizing that she needs help, and analyzing herself in general. She’s essentially a baby god. She’s a natural at it, but still. Accept all the help you can get, and if it’s a bad plan they serve you, then work with them to come up with a better one. They’re trying very hard to help. 😅

    Haha, Gwen and Vlad tricking people together will never not be entertaining to watch. Aw, their bonding moment was so precious. She’s really having a rough time and that’s without the added problem of not having anyone her age to bond with. Poor kid. At least Vlad is there to help her. Aaaaand then you remind me that Vlad is a stone cold killer and eats people’s hearts because it’s a delicacy and they’re gleefully murdering innocent bystanders as a father-daughter activity. How can it be so disturbing and so funny at the same time? 😂

    “It’s not enough for Miss Hell to steal The Owl,” Cyrus continued, “She needs to be seen stealing The Owl.”
    But… but.. it has to be.. earned or freely given… 🤔

    Poor Penny. Everyone keeps using her and then casting her aside when she’s no longer useful to them. First the witches, then Miko, and now Alice and Vlad. All she wants is to find out what happened to her family. I still wonder why Miko was so dead-set on keeping that information from her – what link is there between Penny’s family and Miko not getting what she wants?
    Oh gods, Penny is not doing well. I hope she’s not close to snapping but it sounds like she is. And everyone just keeps pushing her instead of helping. This can’t end well.

    Did… did Gwendolyn put the sims version of Pokémon Go on Vlad’s cell phone? xDDDD

    • feroshgirl
      March 31, 2021

      Lololol you need to be on Alice’s shoulder giving her the business!

      Umm yes Gwendolyn totally installed Pokémon Go and Vlad is both annoyed by it and unsure if it’s actually a game or a hunt for creatures in real time.

      Oh yeah, I’m really giving Penny a rough time. But you are definitely asking the right questions about Miko.

      I wish I could say it gets better for Penny but ::looks off in the distance:: I guess we’ll see…

      Vlad and Gwen quality time! There’s an arcade! There’s a comforting chat! There’s the indiscriminate murder as a means to make ice cream out of people’s organs!

      Wait, what?

      Lol glad you enjoyed it!

      Oh The Owl, yes, I mean, why are you so worried about it? I’m sure it’s *fine* and the plan is perfect and no one is missing vital pieces of information at all 😉

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