THE OLD BARN
The Old Barn was not supposed to be the sort of place that gave up secrets easily. In 1862, when Old Man Fyres first constructed it, the red paint was meant to be an omen, a warning to all who approached:
Here be Old Man Fyres’ grain and hay, don’t ye dare fuckin’ steal it.
The color, of course, had the opposite effect. It drew attention, making any who wandered by curious about its contents. Eventually, Old Man Fyres realized that the only proper deterrent was him standing just inside the doors holding an axe that was dripping with the plasma of the last sim who tried to sneak in.
This was how the Old Barn got its reputation: look, but don’t touch.
No one in the barn tonight had heard that story, though. Or if they heard it, they didn’t believe it.
Laughing, they gathered more pieces of metal, plants, and anything that shimmered.
So enamored of their bounty were they, that they didn’t hear the click of the light-switch until it was too late.
As per usual with the Old Barn, the threat was coming from the inside.
Everyone who could—who was left—scattered after getting that first flash of green skin.
Though a few gave chase as it bounded up the hillside, towards the In Between Inn.
At that point, they stopped and whispered to each other. There was no use following if this was where the creature was headed. Everyone knew that just because you could see something, didn’t mean it was there.
Caleb loved the way steel glinted in the light. Polishing it helped him get his mind in the right place to do his work. After being gone for so many days, he was behind schedule. Someone had to do the actual work of keeping a kingdom running and it certainly wasn’t going to be the “king.”
Caleb had taxes to collect, various lines of inquiry to track down about the alien spaceship, not to mention the fact that he wanted to meet with a decorator about his new apartment. The Owl of Undoing was another problem, but he and William were no longer on the same page about the solution, so as far as Caleb was concerned, the decorator took precedence.
He and his therapist had decided that it was time to move out. Not that anyone really lived at Straud manor anyways. Vampires didn’t need to sleep. And he and William had a series of friends (and in Caleb’s case, lovers) who provided a multitude of places to “call home.”
Still, as his therapist pointed out, the closest thing Caleb had to an actual home was uninhabitable. Vladislaus was impossible. He had been restless, argumentative, and unhinged since the day they installed the last gargoyle on the roof of the house. It was as if finally destroying his enemies and literally building on top of their bones was not enough to satisfy Windenburg’s Vampire King.
No, Straud Manor was full of too much—
“How long can we delay the summons?” Vlad demanded as he stormed into the dining room.
“We can’t do anything,” Caleb replied without missing a beat, “But you can probably buy a week. The King of Windenburg is known for being churlish and flouting rules.”
Turning back to his polishing, he tried to ignore the way Vladislaus was hovering by the doorway. Unlike William, he did not feel that his every waking moment needed to revolve around Vlad. He had plans and activities beyond his work, which was what he now considered good old King Vlad-y: work. Maybe they had been friends once, but that time was so long ago and grounded in so much codependency that Caleb thought it best to pretend it didn’t happen at all.
Boundaries, his therapist said.
Vlad cleared his throat and continued to wait by the doorway, radiating so much anxiety that Caleb felt himself getting nervous. Sighing, he put down the dagger he was polishing and fixed the vampire with a look.
“What. Is. It. You. Need?”
Vlad’s lip curled, “Need? I wasn’t aware I asked for something.”
“You’re hovering,” Caleb insisted.
“I’m standing,” Vlad shot back.
“You’re lingering like an anxious parent dropping a child off at school!” Caleb snapped.
Immediately, he regretted it. He tried never to mention children around Vladislaus. They had many problems and had hurt each other in an alarming number of ways, but Atorn was a wound that Caleb considered to be off-limits.
He gripped the dagger, but Vlad’s response was unexpectedly calm.
“Don’t be churlish, Caleb,” he tutted, his eyes cold. “It doesn’t suit you.”
He turned to leave and Caleb knew the right thing was to let him go. Establishing boundaries meant recognizing that he was not responsible for Vladislaus’s emotions.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that,” Caleb called out. “I like to polish my weapons in peace is all. What is it?”
Vlad hesitated, but then reluctantly mumbled his question.
“What?” Caleb had to have misheard him. “Say that again?”
Vlad ran his fingers angrily through this hair. “I said, how will I know when she’s been settled safely?”
He looked away as he repeated the last part.
“I…I don’t know how to text.”
Windenburg – Old Town District
It all went wrong because Alice liked libraries and Ben promised her an afternoon of peace and quiet. Though, “promise” was perhaps, too strong a word. More like Ben was distracted and when she asked him how long he thought he could keep quiet, he off-handedly told her the entire day.
Alice, who was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, took his offer as an opportunity to practice being normal. She considered, briefly, how handsome vampires figured into a normal life, but quickly shoved the thought aside. The thing with Vlad was TBD.
To be determined.
A tomorrow problem.
So Alice enjoyed her quiet time. She selected a book without arguing about the title for fifteen minutes.
Read without any running commentary (though when Ben got his body back—a body?—she would still force him to talk with her about books. His commentary was actually pretty hilarious).
Basically, she passed an entire afternoon in complete and utter bliss.
Only it wasn’t an afternoon.
It was part of the evening too.
At first, this didn’t really present a problem. She called a rideshare service and asked them to take her to the Inn Between Inn. But after 45 minutes of riding around in circles, the driver kicked her out.
“The In Between Inn ain’t on any map I can see!” he shouted, before dumping her off in some completely unknown part of the city.
It just figured that the In Between Inn would turn out to be fucking suspect. Alice should have known.
The website listed no physical address. The “Book Now!” link had simply asked her for her name and her favorite song. When she went to click “Payment” it brought her to a page that said “Thanks! See you Soon!” with no place to put her credit card information.
Not that she was complaining about that last part. Ben really did overspend in San Myshuno.
When she checked the website again on her phone, the only directions she got (if they could even be called directions) said: “Head to the Windenburg countryside and just keep going until you get here!”
With a groan, Alice allowed herself exactly five minutes of wandering around and feeling hopeless before she got serious.
And when you were lost in a foreign country and your hotel doesn’t exist on any map, getting serious meant borrowing—stealing—a bike that some idiot left on the side of the road.
And that was how Alice ended up pedaling furiously through the city streets of Windenburg…
And over to the countryside.
It turned out that she accidentally left her luggage in the trunk of the car, which was probably for the best. She didn’t have the patience to figure out how to strap a suitcase to the rickety-ass bike she stole and, after a few miles, it was clear she wouldn’t have had the cardio to carry it either.
Luggage was also a tomorrow problem and Alice was handling that news very well. In fact, she was handling the entire thing well!
She only screamed once when Ben asked her if she could pedal any faster.
Caleb shook his head, unable to believe what Vladislaus had just said. He didn’t know how to text? Well, of course he didn’t know how to text. He hated technology, not to mention electricity. He believed he could hear the sound of the current running through the lights for sages sake!
“Vladislaus, you…you don’t…why would you…you hate cell phones!” Caleb sputtered, his concentration on cleaning and sharpening his weapons now well and truly broken.
“Because they are vortexes where all sense of decorum and elegance goes to die! Are they convenient? I will grant you that. But will they ruin society? Absolutely. Whatever happened to letters? Correspondence? Penmanship?” Vlad raised his fist, warming up to his rant.
This was why Caleb needed boundaries.
“So then why do you need to text?” he interrupted, feeling like he had somehow lost the thread of the conversation.
“It’s been hours! She said she would text when she reached her lodging!”
Alice. Why Vladislaus let the mortal think he understood the first thing about cell phones was a moral lesson in vanity that Caleb did not have time to teach.
He motioned at Vlad’s phone. “Come on, I’ll help you. Let me see it.”
Relief flashed across the vampire’s features as he handed it over.
“What’s her number?” Caleb asked scrolling through the phone to open the messaging app.
“Her what?” Confusion flitted across Vladislaus’s face.
“Her phone number,” Caleb repeated slowly, “So you can contact her.”
“I…I don’t just have that already?”
Caleb groaned. “What is wrong with you Vladislaus? Of course you don’t already have it! How do you think phone numbers work?”
“I don’t! I only use the contacts that already exist and the rest…” he trailed off.
Caleb already knew the answer. The rest was taken care of by him and William. Vladislaus wasn’t interested in learning about the modern world and for the most part, he didn’t have to. William and Caleb interfaced with anything that the vampire found too overwhelming to learn.
Learning new things, however, was necessary for survival. Caleb might have been born in 1709, but as each new decade showed up with its improvements and innovations, he absorbed them. He had been to University sixteen times. He had learned to drive, use appliances, even program computers, which was convenient when he needed to seize unpaid taxes. But in all of this time, he never once considered that he wasn’t doing Vladislaus a favor.
He was leaving him behind.
“Does she have your phone number?” Caleb asked.
“Well then, there’s nothing to do but wait,” he shrugged, handing the phone back and taking a seat to return to his work.
“For how long?” Vladislaus grit out.
Caleb grabbed a rag and began polishing his favorite bone saw. “Until she gets around to it.”
The look Vladislaus gave him was murderous and Caleb had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.
“I’m sure she’s fine Vladislaus, just find something to keep you busy.”
Shrieking Llama Pub
The back wheel of the bike gave out and sent Alice hurtling towards the ground with an undignified amount of speed.
“Fuuuuuuccckkkk—“ she cried, thrusting her arms out in an attempt to break her fall.
She landed with a thunk and refused to move.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked.
“Praying that all my bones are broken and I’ll never have to move again,” Alice muttered.
“Well, that sounds horrific. Why would you wish for that? Although, now that you mention it, broken bones are quite useful for making keys. Do we need keys?”
“Shhh, Ben, I’m starting my new life here. Living on the ground.”
“What about a little nectar? A little Granite Falls Blanco to pick you up?” Ben nudged.
Normally, she hated when he talked to her like she was a toddler in the midst of a tantrum, but she did like Granite Falls Blanco so she sat up and cracked open an eye.
“We…er…you,” Ben amended quickly, “Landed in front of a pub!”
A pub? Alice considered the merits of this statement.
Well, it couldn’t hurt to dry off and have a drink somewhere warm.
45 minutes earlier, Shrieking Llama Pub
Shrieking Llama Pub
Akira stood in the park across the street from the Shrieking Llama. All this time tracking her, and it had come to this. Of course she would end up in Windenburg—nothing worth having was ever easy.
The pub sat squarely in Vladislaus’s territory, as evidenced by the two vampires hanging out front, hissing and scenting the air.
Akira cursed softly. He couldn’t be 100% sure she’d come through here tonight, but if she did, they would only create fear and confusion and he didn’t need that right now.
As he conjured his bow and lifted it, he thought of the last time he had aimed at a real monster.
Vladislaus Straud was not so much a monster as he was a weapon—the twisted making of a king that Akira regretted ever knowing.
Josef Straud still haunted him. Akira could remember clearly the Fae’s clandestine meetings with the King back in 1482. If he closed his eyes, he could almost see the shocked face of their diplomatic envoy as Josef calmly explained that he would have immortality and infinite power—
And his son would be the one to deliver it to him.
Akira fussed with the drawstring, trying to ignore the roaring sound the memory created in his ears. He was just security back then, there was nothing he could do. The Fae offered gold, lands, magical treasure, but nothing could steer Windenburg’s king away from the brink.
“I will mold him to be the perfect vessel. Even if I have to break every bone to do it.”
For Josef, it had been a passing observation. He murmured it almost gleefully while watching Vladislaus play in the castle gardens.
For Akira, those words…
…he would never forget them.
The bow sagged briefly, heavy in his hands. He adjusted his stance, elbows parallel to the ground, propping it up.
The two vampires cast a hungry look in his direction. The glamour would tell them he was no threat and held no weapon. He knew they waited for his heart rate to increase and flood his plasma with delicious adrenaline.
Rising slowly in the air, he aimed and let loose two arrows in quick succession. They flew through the air, barely a whistling sound before hitting both their targets in the heart.
It was over in seconds. Akira took a calming breath. It was all for her.
Everything he did was for her.
Standing over them, he watched the light leave their eyes. Garlic prevented a vampire’s wounds from healing and knowing that his quarry had made her way to Windenburg, Akira came prepared.
You don’t know, do you? His plans for you? What you’re to become?
Another deep breath and picturing her in his arms. Now was not the time to be lost in memory.
He pulled out the arrows and began wiping off the plasma as he watched the bodies disintegrate. Vampires were predators—fast, strong, and deadly too. But no one, not a single creature, was fast as the Fae.
Poses & CC by Natalia-Auditore
- Saint seiya poses 20 arrow
Elf Ears by Sikoi
From the Sims 4 Gallery
In Between Inn is actually the Up & Up Inn by Kulthero777 (Part of it lives in a soundstage on my sim studio lot, but the Inn itself is lovely and I use a bunch of areas in it for screenshots!)
Mermaids by OliveL0410 (bless the simmers who put random families on the gallery so that I don’t have to create every character from scratch)
Simray by rubinriese (double shout out to the simmers that put objects on the gallery so that when you write a scene with a fucking simray, you don’t have to put someone through the science career to get it)