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.
Laurel and Hodges Cemetery
To Vlad’s credit, he didn’t ask any questions. He waited patiently outside of the funeral home, raised an eyebrow when Alice directed him to the coffin, gave her a look when he saw the date on the grave, but he did not so much as wonder aloud about what was going on.
For her part, Barbara Jean had been a difficult revenant. She refused to go to ground without at least one glass of nectar and a few copyedits to her obituary. Alice had allowed both, smothering a sigh when she complained about the lining inside her coffin, and holding in laughter when Ben attempted to comfort her with stories about the Underworld.
“I’m not interested in your biased view, I plan to survey the place for myself when I arrive,” Barbara told him primly, as she pulled the lid closed on her coffin.
By the time they got to the graveyard, Ben departed with a simple wave. He had been subdued, for which Alice was grateful. She didn’t need any additional audience for her time with Vlad.
Sticking his shovel into the dirt, Vlad gave her a crooked smile. “Am I to receive no payment for services rendered?”
Alice perched herself on a grave. “What kind of reward were you looking for?”
“I would say answers, but you’ve restricted me from asking questions,” he drawled, leaning back on the stone and stretching out his long legs. “I can only imagine that I am, in fact, courting a criminal mastermind.”
“I contain multitudes,” Alice laughed, throwing his own line back at him. She ignored the part about him courting her, she didn’t know how to process that information.
Somewhere, a part of her brain screamed that she should tell him everything but she reigned it in, Miko’s daily warning to keep a low profile still fresh in her mind.
“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. Gracefully (to Alice’s great annoyance), he pushed off the stone and crossed over to her. “Well, I planned to tell you more on our date, but since we’re already here…” he gestured around them.
Alice immediately jumped down from the tombstone. “Here? As in…the graveyard?”
“I told you,” he shrugged. “Romance.”
Alice snorted, but she was secretly pleased. She really liked graveyards. In fact, she suspected that even when she was normal, this would still be the case.
“Unless you have other business with the dead tonight?”
If he only knew. “Nope! Nothing else! Just being a good samaritan. Let’s go on this grave date!”
Laurel and Hodges Cemetery Crypts
While Alice was talkative and full of questions as they wandered through the long corridors of the crypt, Vlad was tense and distracted.
He knew he had lost track of the conversation when he answered her question about what he’d killed down here.
“A Sasquatch. They love tombs. Regular weapons won’t kill them and they aren’t friendly no matter how they look.”
“Cool. But I asked if you built any of this down here…you know…or did you just stumble upon it?”
After that he tried to calm down and pay more attention.
As they neared the bottom floor, Vlad watched Alice for signs of her reaction.
“What do you think?” he asked hopefully.
“I think I wore the wrong shoes for walking down thirty million fucking stairs,” she grumbled.
But once they got to the ground floor, she stopped abruptly, finally seeing the easel.
“H-How did you? W-What is this?” she stammered.
“For you. You said that you painted and I thought you could paint a portrait,” he explained. Now that the moment had arrived, he had doubts. William almost certainly would have told him that this was too much too soon.
“Mine.” It came out calmer than he actually felt. Centuries of practice had taught him to lock away his emotions, but if she said no now, Vlad was sure he’d be unable to hide his hurt.
She rubbed her hands on her dress, suddenly nervous, almost shy. “Okay, well…I haven’t painted in a long time so…”
“Would it help if I were nude?”
She did a double take. “What? Yes. No. Yes. Well no, if you’re naked, that will lead to—” she stopped talking and began to laugh.
“Oh, I see what you did there. Okay, I’m fine.”
As she examined the canvas, he began unbuttoning his jacket.
“Hey! I thought we agreed—”
“I’m not taking all my clothes off,” he assured her. “Just my shirt. It’s…easier this way.”
“Easier for what?” she asked doubtfully.
He took a deep breath. “I want you to paint me as I really am.”
“As a vampire? I guess that could be—”
“Not quite,” Vlad told her, but didn’t elaborate. Instead, he turned and let the darkness envelope him. It felt easier now. The wings tore through the muscles in his back. A chorus of whispers swelled to a crescendo before they died down and Vlad was left with just a singular voice.
The thing that wasn’t quite Vlad, that was never quite calm, practically preened.
He let out a few hisses that he couldn’t contain before he got himself back under control.
“Holy fucking llamas.” Alice dropped her paintbrush.
Laurel and Hodges Cemetery Crypts
Alice’s throat constricted. She didn’t know why or how, but she knew exactly what—who—he was.
“Have I ever explained the twelve guardians who live along the main river of the Underworld?”
Actually, scratch that. She knew how. And now all those stories Ben insisted on telling her made more sense.
For a moment, she panicked. It was a lot to take in. The wings. The fangs. The blood red eyes. He was the creature from her dream, though for the life of her, she couldn’t understand how that made sense. She’d never seen Vlad like this. And she had certainly never been lost in some kind of magical forest.
Did he know what she was too?
Vlad cleared his throat lightly, and she realized she was staring.
“I…” but she couldn’t finish the sentence. Did he also have a head full of knowledge he never asked for and had no business knowing?
He held his hands up, voice soft, and she could tell he was trying very hard not to scare her. “Alice…”
“I…” She still couldn’t finish the sentence.
He lowered himself slowly to his knees. “I am not going to hurt you, I would never hurt you.”
She shook her head. Alice was one banana bread recipe closer to leaving all this supernatural shit behind. That’s what she had to focus on, repeated it to herself even as the sight of him on his knees, wings spread wide—as if in search of worship or absolution—threatened to undo her.
“I…have to…get up early,” she finished lamely, and then turned on her heel and ran.
Behind her, she heard his pained growl, the sound of stone scraping on stone, but Alice kept running.
She did so until her heels clattered on the cobblestones above the crypts, until the landscape was almost nothing but stars and rolling hills, until she had no idea how she got herself back to the In Between Inn.
He was beautiful to her.
That’s what she wanted to tell him. He wasn’t a monster anymore than zombies or skeletons. He was precisely as the Underworld intended. Alice wanted to ask him a thousand things and let loose every strange secret she had kept for the last 16 years. But the implications of his existence threw all her plans for this being temporary into chaos.
Before she set out on this journey, Alice felt like she was always alone, no friend in this world save for Ben. Now it turned out that had never been true and if she became normal in the next few weeks, she would abandon the only other thing in the Universe that shared her burden.
It was too much. Too big. Too scary.
She paused at door, something inside her begging to go back.
Things had spiraled since she left the confines of StrangerVille. And if she was being honest, she didn’t hate it.
In fact, she was good at it, so good that she worried about herself.
If she took so easily to ghosts and zombies and witches and monsters, what would she become? And would she still be Alice Martin at the end of it?
Pose Pack 25 by Katverse
Goth Poses, Male Stand Poses, Desperate Girl, Buffy Posepack and Scythe by Natalia-Auditore
Vampires Suck Poses by mememuru CC
TS4 Halloween Poses (Grave) by helgatisha
Sitting and Talking Poses by ratboysims
Paloma Dress by Colores Urbanos
From the Sims 4 Gallery
Run Down Country Manor by Aliceonthemoon5
Hollow Cemetery by Kaleidow (I cannot stress enough how absolutely stunning this lot is. Go download it!)
(Shout out to DollyLlama. I had a bit about how disorganized Ben is for a future chapter but a comment she made convinced me now was the time to foreshadow it.)