CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence, gore.
Caleb’s Apartment, Glimmerbrook
The pillow hit Caleb in the back of the head with the precision one would expect from a fae marksman.
“Playtime is over,” Akira called out, “Time to do some actual work.”
Grumbling, Caleb sat up. His various hook-ups with Bella meant he wasn’t even getting the small amount of sleep his body required. “You’re being an asshole. I have been working.”
“You’ve been having mediocre sex,” Akira corrected, “I have been working. Your mom’s suggestion gave me some ideas, so now that I’ve put in some effort, and your mom has put in some effort, it’s time for you to get off your lazy vampire ass and do a little something too.”
“Fuck off, Akira. I’ve been doing plenty!” Caleb shot to his feet and crossed to his bureau, grabbing a shirt, “And I can’t imagine that sitting here reviewing theories you developed with the help of my mother—who, I might add, is a suspect—will help.”
“A) Your mom is not a real suspect, and B) I’m sick of my partner leaving me in the lurch. You know who is reporting to the Sages? Me. You know who’s fielding phone calls from angry wolf packs? Me. So why don’t you shape up and act like the past ninety-seven years have earned me at least a little loyalty.”
“Fine,” Caleb knew his friend was right, even if he wasn’t quite ready to admit it. He flopped onto the couch like a petulant child. “I’ll humor you.”
As Akira dragged the easel pad from its hiding place behind the shelving unit, Caleb laughed. The last time they’d used it was to rank his Yarney collection in order of stupidity—Akira’s scale, not Caleb’s.
“As you can see,” his partner pointed to a poorly drawn sketch at the top of the page, “Red Yarney still ranks 15 out of 10.”
“Red Yarney is the most expensive of the Yarnies and is out of stock everywhere, so show some respect,” Caleb replied with mock severity. He’d ordered the dolls after a drunken night and meant to send them back but then he stumbled upon a fan forum chocked full of sims waxing poetic about the craftwork. From that moment on, he was hooked.
“So we got one crime and I, for one, would like to solve it before the holidays,” Akira began.
“How do you figure that? Johnny Zest and Eliza Pancakes are also dead!”
“Those are not our cases,” Akira flipped over a fresh sheet and began scribbling. “Our case is these werewolves and the only relation to your mortal girlfriend’s victims is that I’m pretty sure one of them did it.”
Caleb sat straight up. “But what about the unnamed vampire? And the ritual site?” He was fast running out of reasons to investigate that didn’t have to do with Bella. “You said you agreed with my mother!”
“Real talk, bro? The Sages are going to disembowel you if you don’t get this wrapped up soon. So let’s do that, and then you can go play ‘private eye vampire’ with Bella when we’re done. Now,” he cleared his throat as if beginning a presentation, “My pick for the werewolf murders is our spellcaster/werewolf, Johnny Zest. Supernatural hybrids usually have undependable powers, but hear me out. Back in the day, a group of spellcasters used the moon’s energy to give themselves a wolf’s nature. Anyone descended from them would be a werewolf and have a stable command of magic. Hence, your ritual site.”
“You think Johnny is a mooncaster?” Caleb perked up. If he had to wrap up this case before helping Bella, at least he could do it quickly. “How does that work? Was he strong enough to hurt the other werewolves?”
“That’s the extent of my knowledge leading up to Operation Eternal Flame.”
“Wait,” Caleb narrowed his eyes, “You’re older than my parents. You seriously don’t know more about mooncasters and Operation Eternal Flame?”
“I don’t like your tone when you mention my age, and also, no. The fae sat that one out. Honestly, we were hoping everyone involved might just kill each other. If we want to know more, we’re gonna have to ask someone with more…intimate knowledge of the situation.”
Pepper’s Pub, Britechester
“No,” Caleb stopped inside the door and folded his arms, chin jutting downward. “You are not serious. This is the source with the intimate knowledge?”
Akira followed his gaze to the green-haired fae currently toasting himself at the bar. “I told you Oberon had an affair with the Moon. It was a major sticking point in the divorce settlement with Titania. Earth-bound broads are one thing, goddesses and magical personifications are completely different.”
Caleb swatted the air, grumbling, as he and Akira approached. He was sure Oberon had an affair with a woman named “Moon,” but he had serious doubts about the veracity of Akira’s claim that it was the actual moon. Like werewolves, the fae worshipped the Old Gods. They believed in the Fates and a series of invisible threads connecting multiple universes. Along with that came the idea that concepts, ideas, and, yes, even magic could be personified. It was absolutely nuts, but Caleb didn’t dare insult it. He was an asshole, but not that big of an asshole.
“Brother!” Oberon beamed, throwing his arms open wide. “You came to check out my show!”
He leaned in for a hug, but Akira stopped him. “Relax. We are not brothers. You and Titania are divorced, and the only reason I’m not killing you is that garnishing your wealth is a line item in the royal budget.”
If that phased Oberon, he didn’t show it. “We’re brothers of the heart,” he concluded confidently. “I don’t go on for another four hours. Students show up to start drinking around 11 pm, and I’m best with a crowd already well into their cups.”
Caleb rolled his eyes. He hadn’t been a fan of Oberon when he was King of the Fae and now that he was relieved of duty, Caleb was even less impressed. What sort of ancient being voluntarily spent their life on a college campus? Lilith was a professor, true, but she wasn’t hanging around for the collegiate nightlife.
“Oberon, I’m gonna tell you right now, that’s not a testament to your talent.” Akira gave his former brother-in-law a long suffering look, “And also, is the income I need to tell the lawyers about?”
The fae’s eyes glowed with pleasure at the mention of his talent, but his expression was confused. “Do you mean to suggest the University should be paying me? My agent says it’s common for the artists to pay the venue early in their career.”
“And how much are you paying them?”
Oberon blinked. “Not much, a mere 25,000 simoleons a show.”
“Oberon,” Akira sighed. “You don’t pay—”
“If we could leave behind this riveting discussion of Oberon’s finances just for a moment,” Caleb interrupted. “We are here for a reason.”
“Oh, right, you want to learn about mooncasters?” the green-haired fae clapped his hands.
“Yes,” Caleb bit out. “We have a suspect who we believe is a mooncaster. We need to know if that’s possible and, if so, what he’s capable of.”
Oberon led them to a table. “Obviously, the heartache is still with me after I chose to break up rather than have Titania puncture my lungs. The Moon was a demanding creature; it was the best sex I ever had, and I learned a lot.
“A lot about mooncasters?”
“No,” Oberon rubbed his chin, “Well, I mean, yes. What I’m saying is that the Moon helped me see what I was capable of, sexually speaking. I have an enormous appetite. I like to be held, and it really sets me over the edge to be gently spanked after—”
Akira put a quelling hand on Caleb’s arm. “Oberon, focus. No one is here about your kinks. Either give us the information, or we are leaving.”
Oberon leaned forward, eyebrows drawn in. “Please. Don’t leave. No one talks to me anymore, and it’s kind of lonely.”
This news was music to Caleb’s ears. The Magical Press covered Titania’s divorce with a breathlessness usually reserved for mortals tracking celebrities. Oberon had given an interview to anyone who asked and some who didn’t. It was mortifying for the Queen of the Fae, the sort of cruel, selfish thing men did when they wanted to punish a woman.
Caleb was familiar with the tactic.
It was his mother’s theatrical debut the night his father went berserk. The Magical Press speculated whether his family staged the tragedy to prevent her from failing onstage.
She never got over it.
“My apologies, really,” Oberon continued, “You wanted to know where Mooncasters come from, right?” He ran on stage and picked up his mandolin. “I have a song for that.”
He began plucking a few notes. “The story of the Mooncasters in three acts! Lyrics and composition by myself, of course.”
“Do you honestly expect me to sit through this performance and not rip out his spleen?” Caleb growled.
For reasons he could not understand, Akira gave him the same sigh he gave to Oberon earlier. “Yes, I expect you to question a source without tearing out their organs.”
Songs: “Soldier, Poet, King” by The Oh Hellos and “Mouth” by Bush
Pepper’s Pub, Britechester
Akira drew his coat tighter. The weather was turning, and unlike Caleb, the fae could feel it. “Now, do you agree with me?”
“It makes sense.” Caleb hated that Oberon’s song was so catchy. And helpful. “As a mooncaster, Johnny would have had the magical means to immobilize the wolves and the scent to mark him as a friend so they wouldn’t notice his approach. Now we just need proof.”
“You said so yourself; a witch needs supplies. I’m sure we start knocking on doors; some shop will have seen him.”
Caleb mumbled what he hoped was a placating response.
Akira laughed and smacked his arm, “Why do you look like that?”
“Like what?” It was insane that Akira was acting like he couldn’t hear the lively conversation between Oberon and the sim in the pink dress. “I’m fine. I—”
“—But I am available,” Oberon purred, “My ex-wife was a ruthless, soul-sucking bitch who had me tied up in knots. Sometimes literally. You’re the only one who can undo them. I’ve even written a song about it. Lyrics and composition by me, of course.”
Caleb’s next moves were automatic. He let his dark form wash over him and then glided into the brain of the sim, flicking through her synapses until he found the ones firing messages off to her muscles. He found little resistance.
The former King of the Fae turned, face bright with fury. The mask he was wearing earlier—that of a lonely outcast—gone. He swung his mandolin over his head, infusing it with a crackle of magic.
Caleb dodged and using his vampiric speed, hopped onto Oberon’s back, where he proceeded to tear into the fae’s throat. Oberon tried to counter, but his mandolin lay helplessly out of reach.
A part of Caleb knew he should let go, but another part of him—a larger part—relished the feel of Oberon’s flesh between his teeth.
“You think she’s a bitch?”
Oberon screamed as Caleb pinned him down. “I didn’t! I never said that!”
“Liar!” Caleb stretched his jaw. This time, he’d cut through the bone with his teeth.
“Caleb!” Akira’s voice was distant, “Bro, do you maybe want to not do this in the middle of a college campus?”
Caleb couldn’t think of anything else he’d rather do. Gripping Oberon by the neck, he hoisted him in the air, smiling as the former king struggled to breathe. “I think you want to apologize,” he sneered.
When Oberon hesitated, Caleb slammed him back down on the ground. “Do you need me to remind you how to form the words?”
“I…didn’t…mean it,” Oberon rasped.
With a desperate cry, the fae fell to the ground. It would be days before he could walk again—weeks before he was even close to being healed. Ancient Oberon may be, but he was not a vampire.
“Are you happy now?” Akira hissed, “I’m gonna have to carry his sorry ass back home and pay a witch double for healing potions. What are you even thinking?”
Caleb had no idea. He couldn’t stop enjoying the slick feel of Oberon’s plasma sliding down his chin. “I hate him,” he spat and turned to leave.
“Uh yeah,” Akira called after him, “I think we can both agree that is a fucking understatement. Where are you going?”
Britechester University, Lilith’s House
Lilith nearly shouted at the sight of her brother appearing in her living room.
“Does no one in this occult-forsaken family respect boundaries?” She frowned, noticing that he was covered in plasma. “What happened?”
The plasma was fresh and smelled deliciously magical. Also slightly spicey. Or was the spiciness something else? Why was she craving it?
“I’m becoming our parents,” Caleb curled his fingers and pressed them against his forehead like she’d seen their father do a million times.
Her brother’s worst fear was that he might somehow be related to all of them by more than circumstance. Usually, Lilith would delight in pointing out the flaws in this mode of thought, but she was enjoying having her brother around. He claimed he stopped by for work, but more often than not it was just to hang out. And he wasn’t always alone.
“I’ll repeat myself. What the hell happened to you?”
“Oberon. And mostly, I happened to him,” Caleb sighed. “I didn’t kill him, but I came very close. Akira’s going to be—”
Lilith whirled around to find the fae standing behind her. How the fuck did he keep getting the jump on her? “You also don’t respect boundaries, and you’re not even in this family!”
Akira ignored her, focusing on Caleb. “Are you out of your fucking mind? That sim—who was going to turn Oberon down, by the way, because they always do—was traumatized. I mean, what is it? You think I don’t have enough shit to do? I gotta handle work and making sure my idiot former brother-in-law doesn’t die?”
“Better you than Titania,” Caleb scoffed, “She shouldn’t have to deal with him. Maybe if you acted like her brother for once in your life, the former King of the Fae wouldn’t be a problem.”
Akira lunged and Lilith had to admit she was impressed by his speed. “Titania is godsdamned queen. She was disintegrating motherfuckers before you were born. She didn’t ask you to get in the middle of her divorce, and if I remember correctly, neither did I!”
“She didn’t have to ask!” her brother growled.
“Yeah, well, I would take that as a sign!”
“You certainly don’t!” Caleb retorted as the fae shoved him again. “You constantly do things she didn’t ask for.”
Akira pointed, “Because I’m her brother!”
“Well, I’m her friend…friend’s…brother’s friend!” Caleb gestured wildly, stumbling over his words.
It was embarrassing enough that Lilith took pity on him. “Enough! I do not need two juvenile idiots measuring their cocks in my living room. Caleb,” —she pointed at her brother— “Go to the bathroom and clean yourself up. Akira,” —she narrowed her eyes at the fae— “You’ve made your point, now get out.”
Akira stood there, jaw clenched, as Caleb stomped past him. In all the years she’d known the fae, Lilith never saw him lose his cool. His brooding lasted only an instant before his posture became casual again, even playful. “You really gonna kick me out before I give you your housewarming gift?”
Lilith remembered what it felt like to have her cheeks heat. “I-I don’t need a gift. I was going to move but circumstances changed.”
That didn’t explain why she hadn’t unpacked her boxes and Akira knew. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small bundle of thyme. “Feel free to specify which windows or doors I should use in the future.”
Lilith took it. Thyme wasn’t magical, per se, but the Fae had a long tradition of using it to mark entrances and exits. Like vampires, who could move in and out of spaces unrestricted, they needed some external way to tell each other where they were welcome. Not bothering to hide her smile, she placed a few sprigs on the sill of the window with a cascade of thorny rosebushes under it.
“It’s an excellent gift,” she gestured at the window, “Goodnight.”
“Fuckin vampires,” Akira’s expression was amused even as he shook his head. “Always trying to make somebody bleed. Make sure you knock some sense into your brother. He is always a lot but this is over the top.”
With a mocking salute, he slid through the window and dropped out of sight. There was a crashing sound and a mumbled series of curses accompanied by that sweet, sharp smell of plasma. Lilith leaned out the window, cackling as he brushed himself off.
“You could just glamour all that away, you know. No one would be wiser.”
“Nah,” he slid his hands behind his head giving that appearance of being unbothered that Lilith now found herself inexplicably drawn to. “That ain’t my style. I like my scars. Reminds me of the places it’s dangerous to go.”
Ha! She rested her chin in her hand, cocking an eyebrow. “Speaking of danger…”
“What? You got more rose bushes I have to climb through as penance?”
“No,” she laughed, “Nothing like that. But know this, fairy. The next time you shove my brother, I will wrap my hand around your still-beating heart and squeeze until the light leaves your eyes.”
Akira tilted his head, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. “Noted.”
She watched him gracefully jump over her fence, avoiding the rest of the vegetation without effort, making it clear he fell into those rose bushes by choice. Lilith let herself watch him for only a moment before turning her attention back inside.
It was time to knock some sense into her brother.
Eventually, Caleb decided he was ready to talk, and she made them both hot toddies.
“You didn’t need to set fire to my boots,” he pouted, “I’d already agreed to talk.”
“I did, because you’re being stupid. Despite your claim that you’re nothing like our parents, here you are, exhibiting the least amount of chill when it comes to someone you’re crushing on.”
“Wrong,” Caleb shook his head, “I’m not crushing on Titania. I’m already involved with someone else. The whole Oberon thing was just…” he trailed off, gazing down at his drink. “Maybe I am stupid.”
“Finally,” Lilith scoffed, “Some progress.”
Charms and Things, Glimmerbrook
Lilith’s lecture was still fresh in his mind after a week. Some of it he agreed with—he was being a shitty partner and a bad friend to Akira—and some of it he did not. Caleb didn’t have a track record of getting “over-involved,” and he certainly didn’t exhibit blatant signs of “codependency,” whatever that meant. He knew what she was hinting at—that Caleb fought his father that night at the theater, and it opened up a gulf between them so vast that 180 years wasn’t enough to cross it. But that’s where Lilith was wrong. He was defending his mother because no one else would. And as for his father? Their feud was Vladislaus’s fault.
“Darrel, Darrel, Darrel, you are bullshitting us, and we don’t appreciate it,” Akira said, holding the shop owner at sword point.
“I’m not! I’m an upstanding member of the Glimmerbrook community and—”
“You’re five years behind on your taxes,” Caleb tsked.
“That’s because I don’t want to slaughter a goat!” he cried, “It’s barbaric!”
Darrel Charm was genuinely full of shit. Witches had long elected to submit the magical overrun from their rituals instead of simoleons for taxes. The Charm family pushed for the legislation and yet, never paid it.
“You know as well as we do that there are vegetarian options,” Akira growled.
The sound Darrel made was indignant, but he quickly changed his tune when Akira tightened the hand wrapped around his throat. “What’s the deal with the teeth?” the fae demanded.
“Mostly fakes,” he croaked. “Matilda sells me the real thing, but I swear, I only give them to spellcasters skilled enough to know they need the real thing. And they always come from pack members who earned a punishment.”
It was barbaric but not illegal. Still, Caleb wanted to break Darrel’s neck. The glint in Akira’s eye said he was thinking the same thing, but somehow, the fae found the wherewithal to maneuver his sword away from the spellcaster’s neck and let him struggle to his feet.
“And what about him?” Caleb held up a photo of Johnny Zest, “Did he come in?”
“Y-yes. With a red-headed woman. They were shopping, buying ingredients and potions and….and…”
“Out with it! The Sages ain’t concerned about me running through witches who are behind on their taxes,” Akira threatened.
“He was nasty,” Darrel blinked rapidly, his hands twitching. “First, he asked to buy teeth, and then he threatened to kill me if I didn’t buy my next batch from him instead of Matilda. The woman kept saying they shouldn’t do this because their boss wouldn’t like it.”
Caleb’s eyes flashed. “Who is this boss?”
“I don’t know!” the spellcaster paled, “The woman was really upset, but Johnny calmed her down.”
“H-he just said he would handle him, give him something shiny and expensive to shut him up.” Darrel glanced around nervously, “They took the teeth and left.”
The lie was obvious. Akira gave the spellcaster an unkind smile. “We’ll need a list of everything they ever purchased from your store.”
“Is that really necessary?”
Caleb flashed his fangs and the spellcaster yelped.
“I mean of course it is, I’ll get you that list right away.” He rushed to the register and whispered an incantation. It fizzled and popped before spitting out a ledger. The spellcaster opened it, tore out a few pages, and handed them over. “It was all standard supplies. I just try to protect my customers’ privacy, that’s all.”
Caleb glanced at the list. It appeared to be exactly what Darrel said—eyes of newt, frogs legs, channeling crystals, a substantial amount of Focus No. 9 potion. “What’s this for?” Caleb asked, “Studying?”
“Witches use it to improve the focus of those around them, get everyone on the same page,” Darrel sniffed.
Caleb stuffed the pages in his pocket and followed Akira to the door who hefted his sword in one hand.
“Darrel, I hope for the sake of your balls you didn’t forget to tell us something, because if we have to come back, I’m cutting them off.”
They were just through the door when Darrel grabbed Caleb’s arm and pressed a bag into his palm. “I-I made a mistake. Johnny let me examine the teeth and then I switched them when he wasn’t looking. He knew the basics, probably enough to be dangerous to a pack of wolves without magic. But he wasn’t advanced enough to know they were fakes.”
He and Akira shared a look:
The Magic Realm
Caleb could do everything the mortal world required: drive, wear modern clothing, use a cell phone—but he liked the feel of the supernatural world.
He liked using magic portals for travel.
He liked bartering with the ghostly attendants on Caster’s Alley.
But mostly, Caleb liked working a case the good old-fashioned way with a friend. Even better when that case was solved.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said as the bartender refilled their drinks, “I have been an asshole. I just got caught up because I want this relationship to work.”
“What was that?” Akira cupped his ear.
Caleb tossed him a dirty look. “You heard me, asshole. I got caught up in my relationship. I know it’s a slippery slope, so I’ve been stressed about it.”
Akira’s booming laugh echoed throughout the bar. A few co-workers turned their heads, but the fae quickly shushed them. Turning back to Caleb, he lowered his voice. “A slippery slope to what?”
“How many times has my father been married?”
Akira snorted. “You are not your father. Is that what this Bella thing is about? You want a relationship with her?”
“I’m in a relationship with her,” Caleb corrected. “I think. Mostly. It’s complicated; she’s going through a divorce.” He covered his embarrassment by taking a drink.
“That sounds extremely ‘maybe baby’ for someone who needs their partner to commit to a complete species overhaul. Have you talked about turning Bella into a vampire? Does she want that? What’s your plan?”
Caleb didn’t have a plan. He had a feeling, which was just as good. “Bella is right for me, and we haven’t talked about all of that yet. This is new, and anyway, what would you know about it?”
“A lot.” A look of melancholy passed over Akira’s face. “Believe me.”
They’d been friends for close to a century, but there was still a lot about Akira that Caleb didn’t know. The fae seemed open and easygoing, but when it came to his past, he was as tight-lipped and slippery as a vampire.
“One case, down, but there really are more questions than answers.” Caleb tried and failed to be nonchalant, “Who killed Johnny and who killed Eliza? Those cases matter even if they Sages don’t care. Bella is still trying to pin down a solid lead.”
“Oh, your little cop girlfriend didn’t tell you?” Akira looked amused as he took a sip of his drink. “Eliza was working with some two-bit criminal named Salim Benali and his girlfriend, Alice Martin.”
“I know about Salim,” Caleb scowled, the back of his neck feeling hot. “Bella is running down some information on him, but she hasn’t been able to talk to him yet.”
“Sure. Well somehow, between playing vampire fantasy with you and not getting a chance to talk to Salim, someone updated the case file with notes about how Salim and Alice were working a heist while Salim and Eliza were having an affair. The heist failed. Salim sold out Alice for a reduced sentence. She did some time, but the military got involved, freed her, and sealed the records.”
Caleb grimaced and slid his glass over to the bartender for an instant refill. The plasma was warm, probably fresh, and helped the bitter taste of his continued embarrassment go down. “So the heist and the werewolf murders are connected, but how? If Johnny killed the werewolves, who killed him and Eliza?”
“Are you seriously worried about a mortal and murderer?”
“I’m worried about Bella. And you can call me stupid, but since our case is solved I want to do what you said.” He held his friend’s gaze. “I like her. A lot. And she has so much on her plate. She can investigate this case, but not like a supernatural. We can go places she can’t, use methods she doesn’t have. We have knowledge that she doesn’t because she’s not part of this world.”
Akira sighed. “Fine. I have an idea of where we can go for help. And in the meantime, I will lend you my intellect.”
“Don’t be too generous, I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself,” Caleb teased, laughing when Akira playfully shoved him.
“Maybe it was Nina,” he suggested, “Johnny turned her into a wolf and you know how that whole fated mates thing works. She was moon-eyed for Johnny, he was moon-eyed for someone else.”
“Maybe. Or the vampire who hired them is eliminating them now that the job is done. Johnny brought back those fake teeth, I don’t doubt the boss was pissed.”
“So Salim and Alice are next on his list? Or are they dead too?”
Caleb wasn’t sure, but it would be easy enough to find out. He and Akira continued to drink and bandy around theories until their conversation became more laughter and inside jokes than anything else.
“I like your haircut,” his friend slurred as they stumbled down the steps toward the portal.
Caleb giggled and pressed a hand to his forehead, “I needed a change. I was being stupid, so I tried to cut off all the stupid parts.”
“You missed your head,” Akira snickered, and for some reason, it made Caleb laugh so hard he nearly choked.
“I love you,” he wheezed as Akira hoisted him up.
“You’re so dumb,” the fae chuckled, “I love you too.”
The Realm of the Fae
Before everything went hazy, Akira promised to help Caleb get his hands on those sealed military records, which was the reason they were standing in the palace courtyard.
“Are you fucking kidding me with these chickens?” Akira shouted as they stepped down from the bridge.
Titania swept over from the fountain with all the grace of a queen, which made sense. She was one. “These are my therapy chickens,” she leveled her brother with a glare, “I’m divorced, and now I raise chickens. Deal with it.”
Akira’s sister did not look like she “raised chickens.” In fact, today, she was dressed in full warrior garb, which Caleb hoped wasn’t an indicator of her mood since he needed a favor.
The fae warrior moved to shoo one of the birds, but Titania snatched it up with a look of horror. “That’s Mr. Billington, and being shooed is beneath his dignity, asshole.”
“Asshole?” Akira exploded. “I’m not an asshole. You are out of your mind, and we are not having chickens in our fucking—“
Titania shot a bolt of power that knocked him flat on his back. She cupped an ear, “What was that, brother? I’m afraid I didn’t hear you.”
Akira moaned, and Titania turned on her heel, chickens clucking behind her. Caleb followed and watched as she perched on a stone bench in front of a porcelain tea tray.
He inclined his head. “Titania.”
“Caleb Vatore,” her gaze flicked up, “Long time no see. I invited you to a party 85 years ago; you never came. And yet here you are, in my lands with my idiot brother.”
He wondered if Titania knew what he’d done to Oberon. He smirked, trying to give off the air that he was carefree. “Akira and I work together, as you know, and I can’t believe you’re still hung up on some invitation I declined a hundred years ago.”
“Eighty-five. The fae are big on manners,” she arched a brow, “A good vampire would know that.”
The fae cared for manners about as much as vampires, that is to say, only when it was convenient for silencing an enemy or drawing a boundary. He dropped gracefully into the chair across from her, never breaking eye contact, “Haven’t you heard? I’m Vladislaus’s son. I am not a good vampire at all.”
Her tinkling laugh gave way to a snort. Niceties observed; she offered him a cup of tea which he declined.
“So you’re a bad vampire, and you’re superstitious.” Her smile was devilish. “How modern.”
The tea set stuttered to life and began pouring. Caleb rested a hand on his leg, enjoying how she wielded her magic. It was different than witches, much less pomp and mysticism. “You know I’ve come for a favor?”
She took a sip. “I wouldn’t be the Queen of the Fae if I didn’t have eyes and ears everywhere.”
“You don’t need eyes and ears. I was there when Akira called you.” He was lying with a pillow over his head and praying that whoever invented Gnome’s brew had a long and painful death, but his hearing was still good.
She pretended to sigh, but he could read the spark of excitement in her eyes. “You want me to use some magic to help you break into a high-security military office?”
“And it’s dangerous, with a high chance of failure and the possibility of losing life and limb?”
He stood and rolled his eyes. Titania was exaggerating. Maybe it was dangerous for a mortal, but for a vampire and the Queen of the Fae? A cakewalk. “You know I’m just asking you for a run-in-the-mill favor; what will it cost me?”
Titania followed suit, hands clasped behind her in an imitation of innocence. “Nothing.”
“Everything has a cost. I’d rather define the terms up front.”
Her expression turned challenging, the metal bands on her uniform clanking as she crossed her arms. “Fine, dickhead, I want to see the gem room at the Natural History Museum in Newcrest.”
For the fae, who wielded language as a weapon alongside manners, plain speech was akin to affection. It was quite the opposite of vampires who proffered their love and loyalty with long speeches and flowery declarations. Caleb smiled, “Well, I suppose I should prepare to escort Her Majesty to the museum.”
NEXT TIME, ON THE STRAUDS:
Trailer Song: “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man
POSES & ANIMATIONS
Emotions 2 Tall & Short by Eclypto
Posepack 20 by Katverse
Teacher Pack #1 by Steven Studios
I Should Kill You by Natalia-Auditore
Sephiroth Pose pack by Natalia- Auditore
Drunk and Beautiful Poses by Clumsyalienn
Drinking Tea by Natalia-Auditore
Male Poses 05 by Helgatisha
Male Poses 11 by Helgatisha
Trading Gold Poses by Natalia-Auditore
Trading Single Poses by Natalia-Auditore
Soul of the Bard (Poses and Lute) by Moriel
Come to My Window by Hula-Zombie
Have Some Coffee by Starry-simsie
Forgotten Town by ErynWithaY0320 (this lot is gorgeous and I CANNOT express how quickly you should download it)