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Chapter 19: Strange Encounters

CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence.

8 Bells, StrangerVille

CALEB

Titania Kibo slid off the hood of one of the military trucks, her outfit somehow free of dust and debris. 

“Well, this is not exactly inconspicuous,” Caleb remarked.

“Sorry,” she gave him a sassy salute, not looking at all apologetic.

She waved a hand, and Caleb felt sharp sparks of magic flit across his skin. “Is this better?” she purred. 

He hunched over, biting down on his discomfort as whatever she cast rattled every molecule in his body. “I thought we were breaking into a records office to look at a file, not attacking each other.”

She chuckled, “What are you? 100? Stop being such a baby.” She tugged his arm, forcing him to follow her into the bar, where he was shocked to find himself with a reflection. 

A reflection that wasn’t his.

And wasn’t hers either. 

“What the—”

“Glamour,” she lifted a shoulder, “It’s not my favorite magic, but it is the one we are most known for. Let’s get a drink and find out what we’re walking into. I don’t want to spend all godsdamned day searching through filing cabinets if someone can direct us to its exact location.”

Caleb felt distinctly uncomfortable with his reflection as they ordered their drinks. “Did you have to glamour me into a balding, middle-aged man?”

“Hush,” she poked him, “Use that stupid vampiric hearing and get us something useful.”

Begrudgingly, he took in the conversations around them. There was a lot of chatter about Clive Beeden’s retirement and his son’s promotion. The gossip was flattering, bordering on sycophancy. Apparently, Clive was a strategic genius who was “protecting sims from the real threats” and “harnessing the power of their enemies.” His son was continuing the legacy. Whatever that meant. 

Finally, a research scientist began complaining about access to the records office. According to him, the paper files were still in the old building, and the place was a mess. Caleb glanced at Titania to see if she heard anything, but she was busy chatting with some young soldier about battle formations.

“But if you put two sets of archers in the rear, it’ll be like a never-ending deluge of arrows because one group is always reloading while the other is firing.”

The young man balked. “I’m not sure the military even uses arrows, ma’am.”

“What is going on here?” Caleb growled.

“N-nothing!” the soldier stammered, “I’m just trying to answer her questions, and I don’t understand them!” 

“Not you,” Caleb scoffed; he leveled a glare at Titania, “Her.”

Titania pouted as Caleb grabbed her arm and dragged her away, “Glamour is no good if you talk to the mortals about a military strategy that is centuries out of date.”

She snatched her arm back, “Jokes on you, dummy, the fae use that strategy now. And I wasn’t talking; I was flirting.”

Oh, Caleb could tell. It annoyed the ever-living shit out of him. “Were you going to invite him to a weeklong ball where he was enchanted and made to dance until he passed out?”

She threw up her arms, “He had great thighs! And a mortal hasn’t died at one of our balls in a decade, so there.

“We don’t have time for flirting,” he snapped. “The paper records are at the old facility on the outskirts of town. We should head there.”

She looked down, “I should have brought running shoes then. What are we talking about? Ten? Fifteen miles?”

“Running? Please,” he lifted her and let the occult energy flow around them before taking off at supernatural speed. 

They sped through the town and were standing outside the gates of an old laboratory within minutes. He set her down, smirking. 

She smoothed her skirt and folded her arms. “Now, who’s flirting?”

Goth Summer Home, Brindleton Bay

BIFFINGTON

Biffington cleared his throat as he stepped up to the podium. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, necessary, but it lent a certain amount of gravitas, and besides, Biffington had rarely been allowed to use it. Technically, he was the club’s secretary—keeping the minutes and organizing the voting. They used female secretaries in the fifties, but that was mainly because of the war, which was before his time, anyway.

He cleared his throat. “I grappled with the vampire, forcing him into a corner as he thrust his claws toward me. Only years of tennis practice gave me the dexterity to evade him. He slammed me into the wall, I parried and—”

“Stabbed him with your fist?” Jacques interrupted with a laugh, “You expect us to believe that you bested a male vampire of advanced age?”

“I-I acted cleverly!” Biffington sputtered, “And he was definitely an elder vampire. He was able to mist, and according to the works of Goodley, that skill takes centuries to master.” 

“We don’t doubt his age,” Bjorn sneered, “We doubt that you did anything except weep and beg for your life. This club—”

“Has enough information to verify the veracity of your claims,” Mortimer finished. His tone was firm but kind. “Thank you for your presentation. And the…er…photos.”

Biffington had been proud of the photos. He’d cropped them perfectly. Despite his pain, he’d managed to snap a few while the vampire sat on the phone having an illicit conversation with a woman named Alice. Biffington left that part out because it conflicted with his story of brave struggle. Besides, the conversation was unseemly. 

You don’t need ropes to bring me to my knees, but I’d appreciate them, the vampire had whispered to the woman on the phone. He took himself in hand at one point, making several erotic promises. It was not in a man’s nature to submit, and yet—

Begging should be its own separate kink. Is that on your list, dear Alice? Do you intend to make me beg?

Thank llamas, something had caught the woman’s attention, and she hung up, or Biffington would have truly embarrassed himself. 

“Fine,” Bjorn rose to pour himself another drink, “Regardless of Biffington’s questionable heroism during his account, he has provided us with the proof this club has searched for across the decades. Now what?”

Roswell Labs, StrangerVille

CALEB

The walls had splashes of discoloration, pipes creaked and moaned while files fluttered on the floor around furniture shoved haphazardly; whatever happened here, sims got out in a hurry. But despite all that, Caleb couldn’t stop thinking about flirting.

He didn’t mean to flirt with Titania; it just sort of happened. Probably because he’d been spending a lot of time in the mortal world lately. It felt good to take a break from pretending to breathe and walk at a normal pace and his excitement at being with another supernatural creature was coming off as flirting. That was all. 

“What the hell happened to this place?” Titania nudged an open file box with her foot, “Mortals are so messy. And that smell. Gods, I’m surprised you’re still standing.”

The place did smell atrocious. “Let’s find what we’re looking for and get out of here before I pass out.”

Nothing was in alphabetical order, so he took one pile while Titania took the other. Luckily, his efforts met with success. 

Or a modicum of success. Given the nature of the crime and the way the military stepped in, he expected a thick folder with notes about the technology she used to make the bomb or some description of what national secret they were protecting. Instead, he found a few flimsy sheets of paper, including a letter from Cyrus Martin asking for help defending his daughter and correspondence from the museum. He grabbed the whole folder anyways.

“What did you say they were stealing?” Titania asked.

“I don’t know. I thought the case file would—”

“Well, what does the museum say is missing?” she insisted, reaching for the folder.

He held it out of her reach, “I’m already looking at that. Why are you being so grabby?”

“I’m not being grabby,” she narrowed her eyes, “You grabbed me and probably flashed the entire street my vagina when you did it.”

“I was traveling at supernatural speed; I didn’t show your vagina to anyone!” Caleb tried to ignore the way his skin prickled as the implications of her statement dawned on him. “Are you seriously not wearing underwear?”  

“In this skirt? Of course not! Do you want panty lines, Caleb? Because that’s how you get panty lines.”

Now he couldn’t think about anything but panty lines. He forced out an annoyed huff. “You are unwell. And quit trying to get the jump on me. You won’t succeed.”

She conjured a small ball of power, letting it roll over her fingertips as she glared at him. “Glamour, vampire, is not the only magic the fae have.”

He didn’t doubt she would throw it at him. In fact, he kind of wanted it? Mother of occult, what the hell was wrong with him? “We are not going to light this building on fire,” he replied firmly. “So put down the—” he paused as a crackling sound whipped through the building. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

Outside, someone shut off the car radio as they cut the engine. To Caleb, it was as plain as if it were happening in the next room. “That.”

He grabbed her arm and quickly pulled her into a closet, shifting them, so his back was to the door. He told himself he was being practical; a vampire of Caleb’s age could take a hit, and Titania would be better off conjuring magic uninjured. But it was mostly because he wasn’t sure he could handle seeing her get cut down by some gun-happy mortal, immortality notwithstanding.

Ugh. His sister was right. He really was acting like an idiot caveman with Titania.

Outside the closet, there was a clatter and then voices. The first sounded like it belonged to a young man. 

“I’m telling you, dad; we should just burn the whole place down.”

The voice that replied was an older man. He spoke with a slow drawl and an easy kind of warmth that made Caleb feel unsettled. “You are always so quick to abandon the path, my son. Waste not, want not. We pick what we need from here and bring it to the new facility.”

Goth Summer Home, Brindleton Bay

BIFFINGTON

“Now we see if what is in that book is true. Our forefathers prepared for years, but none were blessed to have such an interaction.” Jacques glared at Biffington, “What does the manuscript tell us?”

Biffington tried to project an air of confidence. His ancestor was the librarian that kept Goodley’s notes. For generations, Bobridges had used their possession of the original manuscript to maintain their membership in a club that had always declared them lacking in both finances and patriarchal power. Mortimer came from old money, Bjorn was a tech billionaire, and Jacques was a longtime real-estate developer.

“Goodley wrote extensively about pushing man to the status of Grand Master Vampire,” Biffington explained. “But he also claimed that with the proper methods, the powers of other supernatural creatures could be added until the man was less a vampire and more a god.”

“Well, I, for one, have no interest in having a series of experiments run on me. It’s obvious we’ll need a vampire to test this on,” Bjorn declared.

“Wait,” Mortimer threw up his hands, “Wait. What are we talking about here? Becoming vampires? That’s madness; why would you want to become monsters?”

“We don’t,” Bjorn grinned, “We want to become more than vampires; we want to become gods. Have you not been listening?”

“Yes, why are you looking so green?” Jacques laughed, “Have you a bit of the Biffington about you? Your ancestor had the stomach for this work, you’re always talking tradition, and now you’re backing down?”

Mortimer frowned. “I know what my ancestors thought, and yes, this club has been dedicated to finding proof of the supernatural, but we’re about books and theories, not—”

“A young vampire wouldn’t be difficult to capture!” Biffington blurted. He was tired of being considered a joke, and thankfully, his suggestion had the desired result. Bjorn and Jacques looked at him with less disdain and more interest.

“Young vampires are still susceptible to death, so they can be threatened, even physically overpowered, particularly if grabbed as the sun rises,” he finished.

Bjorn set down his glass and clapped his hands. “So, blue sky thinking, everyone! Where can we find a line of young vampires waiting to be snatched up at dawn’s first light?”

Roswell Labs, StrangerVille

CALEB

At first, the smell in the closet was worse, so much so that he rested his head on Titania’s shoulder, afraid he would pass out.

But no sooner had he felt his legs go weak; than the smell faded, allowing him to think clearly.

Hiding was the right move. Mortals weren’t hard to kill, but it was an administrative nightmare. Yes, some sims decided to live off the grid, but it wasn’t 1882 anymore. Even if you “left town,” your family expected a text message or a Simsbook update. 

After the voices and commotion faded, he pushed the door open. Titania tumbled out, landing hard on her hands and knees. As he knelt to help her, the smell rushed back with a vengeance. 

“You were filtering it?” He helped her up.

“Glamouring, every inch of air around us so your stupid vampire ass didn’t fall on me.”

“Thank you.”  

She tapped his cheek playfully, but her eyes were tired. “Just think of it as a ‘thank you’ for kicking Oberon’s ass.”

“My sister said you’d be annoyed.” He grimaced at how rough his voice sounded. Titania was completely unhinged in a way that he found alluring and terrifying. He wished the alluring part was weaker because he knew she was not who he should be with.

“I am, but I also really enjoy Oberon’s suffering, so I’m going to let it go without locking you in the palace dungeons.”

Caleb chuckled, but he wasn’t sure she was joking.

“Hey!” A man matching the voice from earlier called out. “Do you two have clearance?”

They adopted a defensive posture almost automatically. 

The man lifted his gun, “I don’t recognize you two. What are your ID numbers?”

Caleb hadn’t actually planned for them to talk to anyone! Shit! “I…uh…we…”

Titania put a quelling hand on his arm. Her posture changed from defiant to seductive. “Our numbers are 46357 and 57546, sir. We don’t have clearance. We thought this facility was empty, and we’re just looking for somewhere”—she coughed—“quiet.” She brushed her hand against Caleb’s.

A spike of excitement lashed through him even though it was all a ploy.

The gun didn’t lower, but an older man walked up and put a comforting hand on the officer’s shoulder. “That’s alright, Jerry, let ‘em go. We were all young once.”

“Congratulations on your retirement, Grand Marshal Beeden,” Titania leaned forward, her tone simpering, “After a long service, we’re all sorry to see you go, but we look forward to serving under the new Grand Marshal Beeden.”

Caleb bit back a smile. He didn’t even need to be here. Titania could’ve run this entire operation by herself.

Her flattery did the trick. They were escorted out of the building and walked a mile past the lab before Caleb used his vampiric speed to carry her back to town. 

“Still want to go to the gem room?” he asked. 

Titania frowned, “Of course, you’re not getting out of your payment that easily. Take me to this stupid museum, and gods have mercy if the mortals who took my shit are hanging around.”

Caleb balked, “Wait, is that why you want to go? To rob the museum?”

Titania gave him a cool look and swept past him, “Only because they robbed me first. It’s called colonialism, dummy; look it up.”

Natural History Museum, Newcrest

CALEB

The museum was closing when they arrived. Titania paid the warnings no mind as she covered them in more glamour magic. They weren’t invisible, more like a passing shadow. Mortals sensed they’d seen something out of the corner of their eye…

But when they went looking…

…it was gone. 

Caleb liked their small gasps of fear more than he wanted to admit. And coupled with Titania’s tinkling laugh? The whole thing had an air of playful mischief. 

It took her no time at all to retrieve the gems. She conjured a small portal, cackling as she tossed them back in. 

“So we’re done here?” Caleb asked, anxious to get back to reviewing the case file.

“Your payment has been accepted,” she studied her nails, “Though it seems a waste not to enjoy the museum. And besides, you need help with your case.”

They wandered into the Historical Artifacts section, which had a new exhibit of Princess Cordelia’s furniture.

“I can’t believe mortals treat this shit with such reverence,” she grumbled, “It’s not even that old.”

Caleb laughed. “All this obsession over accuracy and ‘truth’ about the past, and they haven’t the faintest idea how it happened. The room didn’t even look like this.”

“You would know,” Titania quipped. Her tone had no judgment, which Caleb was grateful for. Vladislaus’s marriage to everyone’s favorite princess was something he’d love to forget. His mother had constant affairs with Cordelia in hopes of pissing Vladislaus off. Meanwhile, his father responded by directing the royal guard to set fire to his mother’s properties, and then there was the mortifying year that they lived as a throuple. Family dinners were a nightmare for a good portion of the 19th century.

“I thought you liked mortals,” Titania said accusingly. She whipped up a bit of magic to animate the mannequins. 

The one dressed in one of Cordelia’s old gowns stuttered to life and then politely pulled out chairs for them and began mixing drinks from the globe bar.  

“Akira said you’re always going on and on about the rules,” she continued.

“Rules, yes, mortals….” Caleb hesitated. He liked Bella, but that was despite her mortality, not because of it. He cleared his throat. “I’m an agent of the MIU, Titania, it’s a real job, and there are protocols around lots of things, including mortals.”

“Very few protocols,” she smirked.

She was right, but he ignored it. “I’m dedicated to my work. Speaking of which, you said you were going to help me here,” he thrust the folder at her, “Look through some of these papers with me.”

As they read, he filled her in on the case. Explaining it out loud to someone else who wasn’t involved was helpful. The more he spoke, the more pieces began to fall into place. 

“Well, your vampire is Salim,” Titania said. 

“Why do you think that?”

“It’s obvious. Johnny was on the crew because he could deal with the werewolves. Alice was there for her thieving skills—someone with a brain had to break into the museum. That leaves Salim as your ringleader.”

“And what about Eliza?”

“Who?”

Caleb sighed and waved for the mannequin to continue playing the violin. Eliza was the problem he couldn’t solve. Alice’s juvenile record proved she was mortal—natural born vampires like his father were rare nowadays. But as Titania pointed out, she was a mortal with skills. Eliza was also mortal but for the life of him, Caleb couldn’t figure out what she brought to the table.

“Why did they need the teeth?” Caleb wondered absently. “What were they stealing?”

“That’s easy,” Titania crossed her legs and signaled for the mannequin to refill her glass. “The military reimbursed the museum for damage to the Space Exhibit and the Historical Artifacts Gallery. Your vampire chose the perfect mortal girlfriend, by the way. The only thing missing and not recovered was the Wand of the Inferioriem.”

Caleb stood up, alert. “The Wand of Infer-what? What the fuck is that?”

“The Netherwand,” she rolled her eyes, “Gives you the power to control the dead, convert life energy, destroy it.”

“That sounds…unnatural.” A chill ran up his spine. “Why would the Sages let such a powerful item out into the mortal world?”

“It’s cute how you think the Sages are in charge of everything.” She tossed the papers down on the desk and got to her feet. “The rulers of the Magic Realm are one missing immortality potion dose from turning to dust. They aren’t all-powerful, even if they torture your little vampiric ass, and they’re no match for Gods. If the Fates want the wand in the world, they will make it so.”

There was that fairy fanaticism again. At least they could agree about the rarity of the artifact. “What would someone do with this Netherwand and werewolf teeth?”

Her expression turned thoughtful. “The Netherwand is ancient; even I’m not old enough to remember what stories about it are real and which are myths. But powerful witches usually use werewolf teeth as part of anti-aging potions.”

“That makes sense,” Caleb mused, “Unlike us, werewolves age slowly. If Salim wanted to undercut the spellcaster market, he’d make a killing. Johnny mentioned being able to ply him with money.” 

It was also more evidence his mother was right. A young vampire still needed to secure their wealth. If Salim was a few decades or even a century old, he’d be trying to get enough capital to fund an immortal life. You couldn’t afford to work a job for decades when you didn’t age. Most vampires took long sabbaticals between careers to ensure they didn’t raise any red flags. That Lilith had gotten away with attending and teaching at the same university for decades was a testament to her ingenuity. He’d seen her morph from errant graduate student to harried professor right before his eyes, without even changing her clothes.

Speaking of which…

“Clive Beeden let us go because he thought we were stealing off to have sex.”

“You’re welcome,” Titania arched a brow, “I’m quick on my feet.” 

“Yes, but he said, ‘we were all young once.’ You didn’t make me young. You made me middle-aged and balding.”

Her sigh was long-suffering. “Honestly, Caleb, I didn’t think you had such a pronounced sense of vanity.”

Goth Summer Home, Brindleton Bay

BIFFINGTON

“We just need to look in the right place.” Jacques had taken to pacing now that most of the liquor was gone. “If I had a dollar for every time I got a little slap and tickle at the drive-in and then stumbled home as the sun came up, I’d be rich. And I’m very rich.”

“There are no more drive-ins,” Mortimer replied drily.

“Then a bar or a club of some sort,” Bjorn said. “Something after-hours and full of young sims. And we have everything we need. The basement is finished. Has been since Goth’s ancestor built the house.”

“Yes, and Biffington has the recipe,” Jacques added. 

“Recipe” was said with a sneer because it brought to mind women’s work. Biffington wanted to point out that it simply meant a series of instructions, but he didn’t dare disagree. 

Mortimer had no such compunction. “This is insane,” he growled, “It was all well and good when this was just talking. I do care about tradition and maybe I was going through something so I ignored all the talk about ‘a man’s rightful place’ and whatever. But…but now you are all talking madness. I have kids and a mortgage and a—”

Click.

Bjorn cocked a gun he’d pulled from his pocket. “And a commitment to this club. Or have you forgotten? The Brindleton Bay Men’s Club of Knowledge and Knowing is tasked with acquiring and securing important knowledge at all costs. I haven’t invested millions of dollars and wasted years pretending to give a shit about old books for nothing. I was promised power, youth, and immortality, and I intend to get it.”

The room was so silent, Biffington could hear his own breath rattling in his chest as he fought to stay calm.

“O-of course,” Mortimer replied, keeping his voice light. He flashed Biffington a desperate look. “Of course, I remember. Let’s just put the gun down and have a civilized talk about it.” 

NEXT TIME, ON THE STRAUDS:

A short holiday hiatus! I’ve been swamped with work and need to build up this next batch of chapters. I have a holiday gift planned for December 25th, and then I’ll take a break for a few weeks.


CREDITS

In addition to the  CC I regularly use in the game and buildings from the Fleuralia Save File, I also used the following builds and custom content:

Poses & Animations

Emotional Sitting by Eclypto

Hey Girl Pose by Cassandra Grusel

Couple 09 Pose by Rinvalee

Drinking Stand Poses by Natalia-Auditore

Crazy About You Poses by Cassandra Grusel 

Gun Poses by Sewer Sims

The Drug in Me is You 4 by Cassandra Grusel

Bartender Accessory by Crystaroshsonia

Bartender Pose by Crystaroshsonia

Model 3 Poses by Starry Simsie

Seated Poses 2 by Starry Simsie

Reading Letter 3 by Natalia-Auditore

Reading Letter 2 by Natalia-Auditore

Clothing & Accessories

Top Bundle by Madlen

Top & Jeans with Leather Accessory by Darte77

Rini Boots by Madlen

Angel Numbers Tattoo Set by StarrySimsie

Wine Glasses by Quiddity

Mannequin Skin by Pralinesims

Mondstadt Furniture by Natalia-Auditore

Johnny Hair by JohnnySims

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