Chapter 43, Part 2: A Different Path to Victory

Laurel and Hodges Funeral Home

Alice

3.5 Hours Earlier

Nearly every thought fled her brain as Vlad ran his tongue along the column of her neck. “We don’t actually have time for this,” she panted, pulling back, “Creatures are trying to kill us.”

“Creatures are always trying to kill us,” Vlad murmured, flipping her around and continuing his exploration. His fingers played across her stomach as he bit her shoulder, “The real challenge is that we have a precocious nine-year-old, nosy in-laws, the personification of your magic, and do not get me started on the Grim Reaper.”

Alice chuckled, “So you figure we’ll have a quickie at the funeral home in between skirmishes?”

Vlad turned her again and lifted her up against the wall, grinding his hips in a way that said yes, that’s precisely what he thought.

“Have you given any more thought to what I said about Miss Hell?”

He sighed and hung his head. “I bring you to a romantic location, and you bring up a vile creature I despise. Is sex not a thing you prefer anymore?” 

“You didn’t plan this. It just so happens that location of one of our first dates is near the cemetery,” Alice giggled as he lowered her to the ground. “And don’t try to play me, I am always DTF.” At his blank expression, she elaborated, “Down to fuck.”

“That’s an actual phrase?”

“Yeah.”

“That an individual might actually say in real life?”

Alice pinched him, “Yes! Everyone says it all the time. It means I’m very interested in—”

“I know what it means,” he scoffed, “It just seems like such a ridiculous phrase. And ridiculous a word. Fuck.”

He looked so adorably perplexed and insulted, Alice had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. For whatever reason, “fuck” was not a word that Vlad said. “Can you focus? We don’t have time for sex, and I want to know if you agree with what I asked.” 

A dark look crossed over his face, “Agree to let Anastasia sail on the winds so she can return on a breeze and stab us in the back?”

“You have the oddest sayings. And also, you don’t know that.”

“I do, in fact, know that. I’ve known her for centuries longer than you, so if anyone is an expert on what Anastasia will or will not do, it’s me.”  

Alice clenched and unclenched her jaw. Holy llamas, he was in a strange fucking mood. “Why is it possible for Jimena to be a victim and an enemy but not Miss Hell?”

“Jimena is a valuable asset.”

Yes,” Alice emphasized, “But we didn’t know that when you have her the benefit of the doubt.”

Vlad folded his arms, and she could practically see her line of argument sliding right off of him. 

“No one knows her full name. Three hundred years you’ve known her, but who turned her? Why? I mean, can you for one second consider that you might be wrong?”

“Wrong about which part?” he purred, his silky voice dark and dangerous, “The part where she burned down my house and sent werewolves to kill me in hopes of getting our child or where she spent 300 years by my side spying for one of your unnamed enemies?” 

Alice closed her eyes and prayed for patience. Miss Hell was dangerous but certainly not their biggest enemy. And to be fair, she wasn’t trying to steal Gwendolyn. She thought The Owl was an object like everyone else—including Vlad.  

“Alright, not wrong,” she made her voice placating, “Just not getting the full story. She did those things, yes, but maybe there are complications. Maverick said—”

“I’ll take advice about our enemies from your brother after he’s actually had to fight them.”

“Wow, okay, fuck your attitude,” she shoved past him, “You haven’t even met my brother yet. All I’m asking is—” 

“No, not all. You are never asking for a single bite. You, Alice Martin, require the entire meal.” 

“What the hell are you even talking about?”

“I give you everything, Alice. I meet you more than halfway. I deny my instincts, needs, hungers constantly for you. Because you ask it. Because you require it. Because I belong to you.”

Alice could not wipe the surprise off her face. “We belong to each other. And deny your hunger? What are you even talking about? You hunt for you and Gwendolyn all the—”

“Nothing,” Vlad said, stalking away from her. “Nevermind.”

“No,” Alice insisted, “Not ‘nevermind.’ We should talk about this. We need to…” Her phone began to beep. She looked down at the notifications. “Shit. They’re at the barn. We need to go.”

The Old Barn

Miss Hell

3.5 Hours Earlier

“You idiot!” Miss Hell shrieked, “He’s our ticket off this sage-forsaken planet.” 

“And he remains a ticket,” Jimena replied, tone bored, “We just need The Owl first.”  

Miss Hell shook her head, nostrils flaring. “The Owl, you spoiled little psychopath, is meaningless off this planet. You speak of realms, but there are whole other planets in this universe. Forget The Owl. Forget the Elder Realms. Wake up the alien, grab the suitcases and let’s go.”

She was surprised to find Jimena’s shoulders shaking with laughter. 

“What?”

“Oh, Somnus really did keep you in the dark. You are clueless.”

“I worked with the God of Sleep for centuries, and I was focused on a high-value target, not that it’s any of your—”

“Worked for, not with,” Jimena corrected, her eyes sparkling with malice. “And I know all about your high-value target. Did you think you were the only one trying to secure it? Though I suppose it’s fitting that Death would be the only thing Fear wishes to be inside of.”

“I don’t know what you’re—”

“Of course you don’t,” she laughed again, “Like I said, clueless. You see that alien over there? He’s not from some random planet; he’s from Sixam. Sixam has been in bed with the Gods since the forming of this world and believe me when I say, they know exactly what The Owl is.” She smoothed her hair down, “So you see, you’re not arranging for our escape; you were just fetching my transportation. Once I have The Owl, I’ll negotiate with the Sixam Empress for some kind of protection, and then she can do whatever she wants with this sorry little planet.”

“T-that’s impossible,” Miss Hell stammered. Dread gathered in her stomach like a lead weight. She tried not to think about Maverick and his desperate screams, but her mind wouldn’t block it out. “I made this plan up by myself. You…you were rotting a military facility. I rescued you!”

“Rescued me?” Jimena looked downright amused, “I’m a demigod. You don’t think I could escape from a mortal prison? Please. This was my plan; I just let it feel like yours.” 

No. That couldn’t be right. How could that be right?

“Don’t worry,” the demigod whispered, cradling Miss Hell’s face. “I’ll still keep you. I’m the daughter of the Goddess of the Hunt, and you’re nothing if not an excellent hunting dog.” 

They were outdoors, but Miss Hell felt like the space was closing in on her. The wind sounded louder as it blew through the grass; the glass panes on the old barn seemed to rattle ominously. “Miss Hell” was a name she chose to make her stronger, a moniker meant to remind her that she was not that naive country girl. But as she stood here with everything she thought she knew falling apart, it was alarmingly clear that she was still just Anastasia Barrister.

“I am not anyone’s hunting dog,” Miss Hell said, fighting to keep her voice steady. 

Jimena smirked, but her expression quickly fell. “Shit.”

Quick as a whip, Miss Hell whirled around only to find herself face to face with Vladislaus and…was that Alice? She growled, slashing the air with her claws.

“I wouldn’t, Anastasia,” Vlad looked calm but furious. “Even if the God of Death is not in a killing mood, I am.”

“You can release her,” he said to Alice, “She won’t run. I’ve seen her fears, and she’d much rather come with us.”

Slowly, Miss Hell turned to find Jimena suspended in mid-air, clutching at her throat. She gasped as the demigod held for another moment and then dropped to the ground. 

“We’re not going to kill you,” Alice explained, her expression pleasant, even as her eyes were still filled with flames. “If you come quietly, we’ll make sure you’re comfortable while we get in contact with Elmyra.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather the official story be that I fought tooth and nail. Oh, and I don’t want to be returned directly to my mother’s custody, no matter what she says. Have me remanded to one of her followers, or there’s no deal.” 

Miss Hell did a double-take, “What?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Jimena sighed, “She’s ascended. The God of Death has The Owl already. I’m negotiating the terms of my surrender.”

She turned back to Alice, “I assume you’ll take a palace when you visit the Elder Realms. If I’m still your prisoner when that happens, I’d prefer to stay at my condo. I’ll accept whatever guard you deem fit.” 

Alice shrugged, “I don’t know what that means, but assuming it’s not annoying as hell to manage. Sure.”

Jimena nodded, held up her hands, and began walking slowly towards them. If she was concerned about what might happen to Miss Hell, she didn’t show it.

“What about Maverick?” Miss Hell asked, feeling idiotic as soon as the words were out of her mouth. 

“Maverick? Oh, Maverick’s fine,” Alice answered distractedly as she checked her phone, “Contessa and I are old friends. That was fake. We just needed you to bring us Jimena.”

“Old friends,” Miss Hell repeated numbly. It wasn’t even real. All that grief she felt, and it was a ruse. She rubbed her eyes, as the sinking feeling in her stomach intensified. This was what gods did, toyed with the lives and emotions of regular creatures for their own amusement.

Alice motioned at Vladislaus, “Alright, we got what we came for. Can you grab—”

“We are not quite finished,” he said tightly, staring at Miss Hell.

Alice put her hands on her hips, “Vlad.”

He didn’t answer.

Phobos.”

Phobos? Who the fuck was—

I am not quite finished,” he replied, not taking his eyes off Miss Hell. She searched his expression for some level of recognition or warmth, anything that signaled to her that those centuries they spent together meant something. But his face…his face didn’t hold any of those things—not even anger, just…hunger, and she didn’t understand it.

Alice sighed and threw up her hands. “Fine! Do what you want! But we have a schedule, my dude. That awards ceremony is go time, and if you make us late, so help me…” 

She let the threat hang in the air and stormed off, mumbling loudly about how he always did this and could he just not for once in his everloving life. Jimena laughed and followed behind her, never even bothering to spare Miss Hell a glance.

“I resent that,” Vlad called after her, his tone petulant. “And for the record, I have never once made us late!” He turned his attention back to Miss Hell, his face a mask of irritation. “Well? You heard the God of Death: time is of the essence. Run.”

    1 comment
  • ThePlumbob
    June 7, 2021

    Oh wow, the images in the first section are so beautiful, with all the fire in the air! Amazing!

    Now, I’m probably just being unnecessarily suspicious (what else is new), but nobody really saw what happened to Gwendolyn, and Morgyn appeared oh so very conveniently, just in time to demonstrate how useful they are and how they can totally be trusted around Gwen because they’re healing her… Might be sheer coincidence, but it is a little sus.

    I completely forgot about Mikel. He is going to the Underworld too? Or was, rather, by the looks of it. Poor dude.

    I do remember the funeral home though! Oof, we’ve come a long way since. Aaw, looks like I may have been hard on Alice prematurely, seems she is giving what her brother said some consideration after all. Good.

    Damn it, why do these guys always have to change the subject just as they’re about to say something interesting!? I mean, I know why, but still! I want to know about the denying of hunger too. *grumbles*

    Aww man. Who knew we’d be wrapping the season feeling sorry for Miss Hell. Well done on that. I’m loving the rollercoaster! Also, the visuals in the chasing scene were amazing yet again.

    And double aww for Gwendolyn. Also, this line: “You’re going to make Alice mad with you, and I don’t want it! I like this family, and I don’t want it to break up because I don’t have anywhere to go.” Like, when she said that she was just a regular kid that had been abandoned and handed from foster home to foster home, forget the gods and demi-gods and vampires and witches. Poor thing.

    Actually, I forgot to mention earlier in between all the suspense, but what Jimena said about Alice reaching the Elder Realms has me wondering – will Alice want to stay in the Elder Realms? She technically belongs there as a god, sure, but would she really feel like she belongs? Then again, will she ever really belong on the mortal plane now either?

    Ok, I’m going to hope Mikel and Miss Hell’s escape plan worked. Hopefully. Aand, I thought maybe by the time we reach the present there would be something to make Morgyn look less incriminating in terms of the whole beginning with Gwendolyn, but… nope.

    Ermn, so Alice mourns for Mikel for two seconds before having playful banter with Vlad again. I realise it’s technically unfair to be mad at Alice about this and not blame Vlad, but Vlad’s been like this for centuries, he’s actually regaining humanity, in the grand scheme of things, while we’re seeing Alice’s own slipping. And that’s all before she even left the mortal world. Something is telling me that by the time she’s done in the Underworld, she will have changed beyond recognition.

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