Landgraab Chateau, Windenburg
Bloodvein watched her through the windows, making note of the way she tossed her dark glossy hair over her shoulder and swiveled her hips in time with the music as she worked.
She was mortal, but he could see the appeal. Unlike the vampires he had tried to tempt Vladislaus with in the past, Jimena was soft…vulnerable. If the stories of the vampire king’s past were to be believed, he was helpless in the face of such weakness.
The sickening smell of freshly baked bread floated through an open window. Like any vampire seeking to become old and powerful, Bloodvein had long given up the ability to eat. Consumption is desire and desire is weakness, Vlad once told him.
Bloodvein had grown up on stories of Vladislaus—that he was not quite a vampire, that he fed in unspeakable ways. 175 years ago, when he’d first been recruited, he believed these tales. Giving up his mortal life was infinitely better than eking out a living as a displaced third son.
And if the first sims he fed on were his older brothers? Why, it was no cost at all, Bloodvein thought.
He had planned to kill them anyways.
Jimena stepped out onto the porch, setting her bread down to cool. Warm light poured out of the windows and the bulbs from the artfully placed string lights swayed in the breeze. As she posed in front of the camera, Bloodvein considered what other fun he could have before he drained her and snapped her pretty little neck.
She hardly let out a gasp before he silenced her with a compulsion. Even as her eyes went blank, he could still smell the sharp spike in her adrenaline, hear her pulse beating out an erratic rhythm.
“Hello poppet, there’ll be time for screaming later after you answer all my questions.”
StrangerVille Apartments, 2015
Ben sat down on one of the metal folding chairs in front of the apartment building. Although “sat” was probably not the right description. The thing about being a god was that you could be both nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.
Alice often accused him of being a pervert, but he didn’t stay with her when she was hooking up. He was bound to her life force, not her body.
Even before he got there, she was brimming with all the tools for godliness. Alice was smart, resourceful, inclined to follow the spirit of a rule, but not the letter. Her sense of how sims worked was uncanny and she really could hold her nectar. With time, Ben was sure she’d be able to out-drink even a Windenburg nun.
It was a shame she’d never get the chance.
The air in front of the table wavered and Miko Ojo appeared, her face a mask of frustration. “B’Ollithiranon! What are you doing here?” she screeched, stamping her foot.
The Fates and their Threads were a constant irritant. For them, every realm was a game board with pieces to be moved and manipulated. That they could travel back and forth in time in all directions made them the master chess players of the universe.
He sighed. “I go by Ben now.”
“Oh you do? You go by Ben? Have you lost your ever-lovin’ mind? This is what your conduit is doing with her free time?”
Miko took a seat without being invited, which was to be expected. Gods, even non-corporeal ones, were bound by time and could not supersede a Thread of Fate. And the Threads never let them forget it.
He knew his time was almost up. Not a single conduit over the last 1,995 years had survived. Even the ones he liked—and he liked Alice most of all—died.
“Why shouldn’t she enjoy her life? Or as much of it as she has left?” Ben snapped.
“That’s exactly the damn point! I’m trying to make sure she has plenty of life left! The Owl is going to reappear—”
Yes, yes, Ben knew. The Owl was going to reappear in four years and they’d need to get their hands on it before any other creature and Kyle wouldn’t be any help in keeping Alice—
Wait. How did he know Miko was going to say that?
How could he…unless he…unless they had been through this before.
Miko wasn’t just nudging her pieces into place, she was looping time—resetting the game board and breaking every universal law to do it.
“…so forget about Kyle. I need her to learn how to bake and to understand how to use her power without burning through the rest of her life force. Now, she and Vladislaus won’t meet until…”
Vladislaus Straud. Yes, he remembered now. The Good Order Monks had been trying to get his attention for centuries but Ben never really had time to return their call. Well, he had time, but no calendar…or record keeping system…or answering service for that matter.
Plus, he didn’t like them. It wasn’t his business what a bunch of mortal heretics got down to.
But if they couldn’t get him, they must’ve summoned—
“I agree,” Ben said.
“You agree?” Miko repeated hesitantly. “To my whole plan? Your godsworn agreement?”
“Of course,” Ben replied, crossing his non-corporeal fingers.
The spirit of her plan was to ensure Alice lived and used The Owl to become the God of Death. Ben could get behind that.
The letter of her plan, well, that was another matter entirely. The only reason for Miko to loop the timeline was if something catastrophic had happened. Why would he follow her exact instructions? Everyone knew there were no do-overs.
No, Ben would go about this in his own way. Why worry about baking when there was Vladislaus Straud? In the absence of his godly presence, the Monks had summoned Fear, and if there was anyone who could keep Alice alive, it was good old Phobus!
At least theoretically. Ben had no idea what it would be like to bind Fear into a living creature, even an immortal one. Fear was bloodthirsty and unhinged in the best of situations, unleashing that on the mortal world was probably not wise.
Though, if Miko was breaking rules, so could Ben. He was a god, after all. A few sacrifices, a poltergeist, a couple of blood rituals, meetings with the Grimm Reapers—it would cost him. But these were desperate times and Alice was his best friend.
She came stomping outside just as Miko disappeared. As far as she was concerned, Ben had never been anywhere at all.
“Are you even listening to me?” she demanded.
“Of course,” he assured her.
“Like I said, Kyle is garbage. Cat’s Meow? What a fucking idiot. We can go home now.”
“I agree, very good idea. Have I ever explained the twelve guardians who live along the main river of the Underworld?”
“Ughh Ben, not now. I’m hungover,” she groaned.
“What if I agreed to stay quiet during an entire episode of Real Homemakers?”
“Fine,” Alice grunted and started walking.
“Phobos, or Fear, lives at the mouth of the river. Rows of sharp teeth, lives for bloodshed, bit of a grouch…” Ben began.
THAT’S the fucking blazer you wore for the spy mission, Bloodvein?! Dude, you have to check out donaeis at some point; her story is plumb stuffed with vampires who’ve long decided they were Too Hot For Fashion, so there are scary men pining for the Old World in a crop top, board shorts, white socks, and black boots, covered in tattoos and piercings. You want an ancient legion of vampires with matching club bracelets? You get an ancient legion of vampires with matching club bracelets.
“Alice often accused him of being a pervert, but he didn’t stay with her when she was hooking up. He was bound to her life force, not her body.” Answering my pressing questions. Thank you.
I’m getting supernatural vibes from Jimena. Faint ones, but I’m not convinced Vlad and Alice are the only two magic people in the lineup. I hope she represents something like Peace or Love or Hope and sees her cause as counter to fear/death because she doesn’t understand carrying capacities or what happened to the reindeer on St. Matthew Island. Also keeping a close eye on the background contestants.
And now I can’t comment on the details because these two have decided to play catch with the idiot ball. In their defense, it’s hard to process and respond quickly to things they can’t predict happening, like casual necromancy or the word ‘courtship.’ And what the fuck is Vlad doing? Who let him watch Titanic?
Thank you for putting these two scenes in the same chapter; it made it easier to put the pieces together. But holy shit, Ben. You’re playing a high-stakes comedy of errors and you can’t even write down the info someone broke the laws of spacetime to deliver? Maybe that’s why he thought misleading Alice about what the O.o.U. was supposed to undo was a good idea.
I have never had more fun than when I am dressing Bloodvein. His choices are goddamn bananas. That blazer is tame in comparison to what he wears in future scenes. I need scary men in crop tops please, where do I find this story? God, I feel like wearing matching club bracelets is precisely what an ancient legion of vampires would do because an ancient legion of vampires would be completely unhinged. Less dark rituals, more “oohh look at these glow in the dark things! Let’s go on a rampage but make it fashion!”
I like that it only took me 28 chapters to finally explain why Ben is not riding shotgun whenever Alice has sex.
Wouldn’t it be crazy if every god got the same idea? Oh hey, I’ll just pop into this mortal body for a little while and win the contest so I can just unmake any other god who ever wronged me and I don’t care if thousands die in the process because my path is true and righteous? Wouldn’t it be depressing to find they are just regular sims caught in the middle of something extraordinary and since they aren’t the protagonist they just become cannon fodder?
Which was one is it? I say, laughing maniacally. (I love, love, love Jimena. The things I have planned for her are diabolical)
Okay, if you can defend Alice/Vlad in this chapter, then I haven’t made them too insufferable. Vlad has close intimate relationships with people who have his number and they are not fittin’ to let him get away with this lol. I cannot wait to post the second half of this chapter (some days Vlad-y is a homicidal maniac, some days he’s the original emo baby). I think Alice often comes off like she is more grounded but she is dramatic too. Don’t worry, they don’t get the opportunity to be idiots for very long.
I’ve been obsessed with the idea that there don’t have to be “black” moments (the main characters do something unforgivable to each other for emotional journey reasons) in every romance ever since I heard Courtney Milan on a podcast talking about Yuri on Ice. I have no idea if I can manage to pull it off and still maintain the tension, but hey! That’s what extremely time-consuming side hobbies are for! Thought experiments.
I’m glad this chapter helped illuminate some things! I’m always struggling with being too obvious or not obvious enough. Slowly but surely I am learning how to link pieces of the puzzle together in one or two chapters, instead of like…six. For all that Ben comes off like a funny sidekick, he is a god and arrogance is a defining character trait. In fact, everyone in this story is playing a high stakes game with other people’s lives and constantly justifying it to themselves.
Does the end of the world show up with a horde monsters or just because it’s really hard to not be selfish and justify our own bullshit? Too soon?
Next chapter includes the lines: “I wouldn’t call that Not Fancy” (thank you) and “If I can flay a sim alive, I’m sure I can handle a sage-forsaken pie.” Basically, I think one of your story wishes is about to come true.
Crop-top vampires show up in Xaos: https://donaeis.home.blog/xaos-index/ .
Series of images representing wtf is even going on in Xaos, other than hilariously portraying the patriarchal power struggle as a pointless dick-measuring contest between whiny babies: https://donaeis.tumblr.com/post/189755859294/did-cai-really-get-abducted-in-his-birthday-suit
Hmm, yeah, it would be crazy if everyone had the same idea. Hmm. I’m suspicious of the U.W.B.S. producers as well—what the heck’s their angle? Oh shit, are they using the owl as bait? Oh, shit. I’m going to keep throwing these speculations around, even if they’re wrong, because someone’s gotta.
The pacing and info delivery was great here. You know what, I was originally defending the human compulsion to follow up “I want to date you” with “huh? ‘date?’ what could that possibly mean?”, but now that you mention it, I love a good romance between characters who are majorly fucked up in the same direction. Not enough to be familiar with romance story tropes in general, though, so this is my first time hearing of a black moment. That’s true! But it’s still more entertaining than my compulsion to get the whirlwind romance over with and see if the relationship will stand the test of time. Speaking of which, you’re asking the wrong person whether it’s the time to make bleak jokes, bruh.
Ohohoh—so from the Part I in the title, I can deduce that it’s not Bernard, and there’s only one person who says ‘sage-forsaken’… I get your drift.
I’ve only had a chance to read the first part and don’t have time to go through the rest just yet, but argh, so many questions. Does Ben always have to have a conduit? Is the 13th beithday a pertinent time, or did he just reappear in Alice as soon as his last conduit died? Has Vlad met any previous conduits of the god of death (my guess is no, because I feel like he would have been drawn to them in some way like with Alice… though that was a different Vlad). Hm… hm….
I’ll be back to read the rest later!
Ok I’ve finished the chapter and you didn’t disappoint! That date in the graveyard was everything I could have hooed for, the romance, the revelations, the fear of getting lost too deep. I just feel bad for Vlad because he thinks she’s scared of him now, poor thing.
How the eff did Jimena NOT see Bloodvein? The satellites in space could pick him up with no problem. He had on THE BRIGHTEST blazer (and imo tackiest, but I find him obnoxious so if the blazer fits…). Fuck he’s like so creepy staring at her in her window, and this is just so excellently executed b/c (as I’ve mentioned before in our discussion) that when Twilight came out it was sexeh how Edward watches Bella sleep, but somehow we get the heebie jeebies when the nefarious vampire does the same (more or less). But now I’m sexually wired to want the nefarious vampire to be non-consensual (ew but not Bloodvein). Ugh, I blame Scream. Moving on…
Whoa, Ben realized what Miko has been doing, and he handled the realization rather well! Er, at least I *think* he did, he seemed to be really stuck in his head the entire conversation, but I get it… time is running out and Alice is gonna die (Ben’s words, not mine).
I’m getting a bit antsy b/c this was the first mention of GRIM REAPERS (plural???? Like are we talking different sims or is it just a bunch of Don Lothario’s running around like Billy from Scream, and omg why does that make me feel tingly elsewhere 0.o). Fucking-finally. I need to see this man hooded-up in the dark cloak of death. Ahem…
“How do I know you’re not the criminal mastermind?” Alice accused. “You could be anyone with all of your secrets.”
This, of course, was a cop-out. She was the one hiding big secrets, Vlad was just trying to avoid laying out all the emotional pain of his past life.
A muscle ticked in his jaw.
YO. What … WHAT … was that muscle twitch about? Is Alice onto something?!?!?! Because that is how I took that spasm. Mmmmmmmm. Interesting.
This got a bit Titanic-y (not in a bad way) with Vlad wanting Alice to paint his portrait, and then he started stripping (okay, just his shirt but you know, I was enjoying where it was taking me), and then he’s like I want you to see me… really see me… and I was a little concerned how much I liked where this was leading, and then he popped into his FEAR form and I was like NOPE. HARD PASS. And Alice fucking surprised the shit out of me and was like YOU’RE FUCKING BEAUTIFUL, WTF, RUN. LMAO. Like my goodness this poor woman’s life is a mess. She wants the owl. She doesn’t want the owl. All understandable. She finds the God of Fear to be a beautiful creature. Like goddamn.
I mean, she’d like graveyards regardless of Ben, but would she be attracted to the embodiment of Fear if not for Ben? Like maybe Ben isnt cock-blocking after all. He’s like, uh… cock-building?
“if the blazer fits…” I. AM. SCREAMING. Watching someone through their window is HELLA creepy. What I will say is just to remember that characters can only see what’s from their perspective and uh…things aren’t always what they seem.
Oh man, I forget which chapter Grim finally shows up but I am so excited for you to get to there.
The muscle tick. Oof. Well listen, Vlad is hiding something big but that reveal comes in the next part and it turns out, Alice knows more than she realizes. But also, the muscle tick is that Vlad is onto her and he is like: are you really trying to redirect me right now?
LOLOLOLOLOLOL I love that you were like: Knife Dick Vlad? Yes. Fear Form Vlad? Absolutely not.
Ben is definitely cock-building. Alice is in denial about how deeply weird she truly is, even without being the God of Death Lol.