“Filming is paused, a contestant is missing, and Vladislaus Straud has not appeared!” Simeon roared, as he burst onto the Magic HQ rooftop. “We have risked everything and we have nothing to show for it!”
L. Faba took one look at Simeon’s furious expression and went back to reading the paper.
“Missing, probably dead,” Morgyn sighed, helping themselves to another plate before signaling to one of the attendants.
“Do you have any of those little salmon croquettes? I just love a finger food.”
“That is precisely my point!” Simeon seethed. “Some set of befouled creatures have already taken steps and yet here we sit.” When no one responded, he conjured a ball of magic, holding it aloft. “Am I the only one concerned with the whereabouts and activities of Vladislaus Straud?”
The waitstaff gasped and began to whisper. L. Faba set her paper down in huff. “Leave us!”
Plates, cups, and serving dishes clattered as the staff quickly made their way through the portal door.
“Damn it, Simeon! Do you know how much magic it takes to hold open a portal to the finest restaurant in San Myshuno?”
Simeon straightened and glared at her.
“A lot! It costs a lot and you are ruining it!” she hissed.
As Simeon and L. Faba continued eye each other angrily, Morgyn rose from their chair, delicately dabbing at their mouth with a napkin. “Simeon is wound entirely too tight, but clearly one of the groups vying for The Owl is…what are the kids calling it? Coming in hot. I have plans in town, I’ll meet with our contacts and get a status update.”
“You propose to go out at a time like this?” Simeon jeered, voice dripping with criticism. “When our power is needed to—”
“Give it a rest, Simeon,” L. Faba sighed, reaching again for her paper. “We all know Morgyn needs his little diversions. Why don’t you work on something useful. Like getting an update from those witches you love so dearly and their hunt for the God of Death.”
Simeon looked put out. “Even if they found whatever vicious creature he has surely taken up residence in, what would you have me do?”
“Kill him,” L. Faba muttered with a roll of her eyes. “And save me the headache.”
Simeon looked decidedly uncomfortable.
Miss Hell plastered a smile on her face despite her rigid posture. While Bloodvein was wearing his normal sneering mask and making thoughtless comments, his hand drummed nervously on the table.
He should be scared. It was his fault they were sitting here now.
“We have made some progress,” she explained, now that The Sage of Untamed Magic had finished their massage. “Vladislaus made war against the witches to such a degree that they cursed him. They look to the Sages for guidance even more now.”
“It’s Simeon who prefers the simpering adoration of witches, not I,” Morgyn purred. “I do not reward failure, I punish it.” He let a curl of magic roll off his finger tips. Jimena yelped, leaning back in her chair.
“Now, now, Bloodvein, if your pets aren’t housetrained, they shall simply have to wait outside,” Morgyn giggled, eyes gleaming with malice. “Although training them could be quite fun!”
The Sage of Untamed Magic’s definition of fun was not one that would make any creature happy. Even Miss Hell, who still enjoyed consuming her meal while the heart was beating, understood the difference between fun and bloodlust.
“I believe we made a small error in judgement,” she replied, careful to maintain a mask of good-nature. It did not calm the situation.
“An error in judgement?” Morgyn seethed, his emphasis on each word sending a tidal wave of fear crashing through her. She knew better than to let the Sage of Untamed Magic know she was riled, but she had to steel herself not to respond.
He took a breath. His conversational tone returned, but the air was different. Tense. “An error would be showing up with Vladislaus a few hours late. Instead, you have not shown up with him at all, despite your promises and platitudes. Add to that, your incomprehensible actions of yesterday. Killing a contestant so early in the game?”
“Oh that’s a simple matter, that,” Bloodvein sneered with a wave of his hand. “They’ll be up and running in a few days’ time and we’ll get back to our work.”
Miss Hell closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath. “I believe what my love is trying to say is—”
“A simple matter?” Morgyn repeated, leaping to their feet. Everyone followed suit, the tension breaking into something wild and dangerous. Miss Hell braced herself for the pain she knew was coming. It was Morgyn’s way. You didn’t hurt your enemy, you hurt the thing your enemy valued and as far as the Sages of the Realm were concerned, Bloodvein valued his lover: Miss Hell.
Morgyn was fast, casting a beam of light that hit Jimena square in the chest.
She erupted into a myriad of sparks before settling back down on the floor as a stuffed teddy bear holding a heart. Bloodvein yelped, baring his fangs before drawing them back in again. He was riled but cowed into submission.
Miss Hell couldn’t hold back the gasp that fell from her mouth. Stupid. That’s what she was. Stupid! She was better trained than this! You never let a client put their affections elsewhere, not because you were jealous but because then you lost control. If she were back in Magnolia Promenade, Madame Caliente would have had her head.
But you’re not back there. You will never go back there.
When she could command her limbs to move again, she sauntered across the room, following Morgyn to the closet.
“Our deepest apologies,” she nodded, pleased to note that there was no waver in her voice. “We can clean this up and handle the matter with Vladislaus discreetly. Perhaps if we knew more about Vladislaus is and how he can help you—”
“You know all you need to know,” Morgyn said calmly, staring at the row of suits. “The time for discreet is over, Anastasia. Go big or go home.”
They waved a hand and there was an audible click as the door unlocked. “Take your little stuffed animal and get out of my sight.”
“I…but what would you have us do?”
Morgyn ignored her, focusing their attention on closet, running a hand over the fabric of the suits. “Yes, the blue silk will do nicely, I think.”
The message was clear. She was dismissed and in her least favorite position: being at someone else’s mercy with no leverage to speak of.
He curled his hands around hers, listening to the steady sound of her breath. He didn’t sleep, didn’t need to, and so he simply closed his eyes and listened.
“What did you mean you have feelings now?” she whispered.
“What?” His eyes flashed open. He hadn’t realized she was awake.
“At Von Haunt,” she clarified, still staring at the ceiling. “You said you had feelings now and you liked them.” Her voice was hollow, like she was making an observation from far away.
“Like is a strong word,” Vlad replied. But that evasiveness was a knee jerk reaction. He swallowed and forced himself to actually answer. “I do prefer them, I think. It’s hard to know. I didn’t choose to feel, I was cursed by a witch seven months ago.”
“My depravity became too much even for witches,” he quipped.
Another dodge. He tried again, aiming for truth over flippancy. He told her about the cease and desist, the hunting of witches, the boy who went over the cliff. The more truth he poured out, the more he began to understand why the witches had risked everything to curse him. He had become a menace long before the incident on the cliffs.
“I think I was desperate for war, starved for terror and carnage,” he said, realization dawning on him. “The modern era was so quiet…I felt myself without purpose, wasting away.”
And then because one truth begets another, he told her what it was like to feel. “Painful at first. A jumble of physical signals I could neither parse nor predict. My conscience was a voice and at first, even the smallest amount of guilt was overwhelming. Before you, I longed to use The Owl to return myself to my previous state, to undo everything I found…disappointing.”
“But you changed your mind.” It was half a question and he didn’t understand why she was asking it. Of course he changed his mind, she needed it.
“I experienced feelings I had long forgotten. The good ones: joy, desire, contentment. I suppose I’ve become addicted to them.”
To you, he thought quietly in his mind, knowing that it was a wildly inappropriate answer. It wasn’t just that he felt those things with her, she reminded him that they were possible and he wanted to do was feel them with her. But he didn’t know how to say that without sounding crazy. Obsessed.
She sat up. “If Phobos took your feelings, do you think I—”
“No,” Vlad said quickly, finally understanding her line of questioning. “Alice, it won’t be permanent. However he did it, Ben’s sacrifice gave you power, and maybe other things we don’t yet know. But you will be mad or sad or happy again. I was…I was empty long before Phobos came along.”
The bitterness of the thought almost swept him away. He had never bothered to learn what was bound inside of him. There was only hunger and nothingness and power. It made sense now, why carnage provided such sustenance, why Alice didn’t fear him, why any hint of her fear turned his stomach.
“He’s not sacrificed, he’s missing,” she fumed as she climbed out of bed.
A little fury was good. He followed her into the main room, smiling when her stomach rumbled. “Hungry?”
She didn’t answer, only looked shell-shocked again, the fury gone almost as soon as it appeared.
The rain made a fire outside impossible, so he set about chopping vegetables from the overgrown garden and adding some fish he caught earlier into a pot for stew. Keeping his voice light, he chatted with her as he cooked. “I don’t imagine your delivery system comes this far out.”
If she was surprised by his ability to cook, she didn’t let it show. He was gratified to see that she took a seat on the bench near the table. Ever since Alice, worry was a new old emotion that had been cropping up, he added it to the list of ones he did not prefer.
“My father used to own all these woods. This was one of his hunting cabins. I built onto it…”—he paused to survey a crooked column—“Poorly. My father did not approve of Kaylnn, or my desire to flout his rules. We lived here in secret until Atorn was nearly 8 years old.”
She didn’t say anything so he continued, occasionally stoking the fire to bring the stew to a boil. “There’s a pond not too far from here. Always full of fish, even in winter.”
Alice stared, and he kept talking, not sure if it was for him or for her. “Kaylnn did not like to cook,” he recalled with a crooked smile, the memory warm when he shared it, instead of painful. “She said she’d rather be strung up on the gallows than put a meal in a pan. But for me, it was a new skill to throw myself into learning. As you can imagine, in that day, princes did not cook.”
He tamped the fire down and scooped out a portion of stew, pouring it into a chipped bowl before handing it to her. She swallowed a spoonful and moaned, a little expression of joy that gave Vlad hope.
As the quiet dragged on though, he found himself in the role that was usually reserved for William or Caleb. He could now appreciate what labor it must be to coax out how he felt. Should he try a joke like William? Feign disinterest like Caleb?
“Tell me about Ben,” he said, unable to find any sort of smooth transition.
“I don’t want…” she hesitated and looked down. “He’s annoying. And bossy. A know-it-all…and my best friend.”
The longer they sat there, Alice picking at her stew, the more of the story came out. She told him about how Ben leapt into her head on her 13th birthday. How hard it was to manage school work or activities because he demanded constant attention. She talked about hunting ghosts and raising the dead and the irritating way he recited the Book of the Dead every night before bed.
By the time she got to the contest and the part where she decided to go after The Owl, they were cuddled together on the bench.
“And then I said yes…because I wanted to be normal. I wanted everything I didn’t have because he was stuck in my head.”
That’s why she was unsure. Like him, she wanted The Owl to fix something about herself, but other desires stood in the way.
He must’ve said it out loud because she sat up angrily. “That’s not why…it’s not always about you and me and whether or not we’re going to bone!”
“My whole life is in shambles!” she snapped. “Ben is missing! Everything I wanted is gone and all you want to do is talk about is a relationship we don’t even have!”
She was clearly in denial. Ben wasn’t missing, he was gone, sacrificed so she could have a fighting chance. And as for them having nothing…Vlad’s expression darkened. “Everything you want is gone? Everything, Alice? Tell me, what have you lost? What dreams are not fulfilled because of this supernatural life?”
“I-I don’t…” she sputtered. “LIFE!” she finally exclaimed, throwing up her hands.
“Am I not, in a manner of speaking, alive?” he demanded, his voice dangerous. She didn’t take the bait, and he was glad because a wiser part of him knew she didn’t mean it like that.
“I want normal stuff! Like…like…buying a house!”
“Do supernatural creatures not buy homes?” Vlad shot back.
“Having a career, with meetings…and coworkers.”
Meetings? She wanted to go to meetings? Ha. Vlad gave her an impassive look. “I assure you even the immortal are not immune to meetings.”
“Going on dates and hanging out with friends,” she said hotly, “Doing fun activities with people and not having them look at you like a freak!”
“And when, Alice Martin, did I ever make you feel like a freak?” he growled, feeling his irritation rising. Why couldn’t she see what this was really about? “You haven’t described a single thing that you don’t already have or can’t get. The only difference is that you think you need The Owl to do it and the rest of us understand that’s not how it works!”
Her eyes widened. He didn’t mean to raise his voice.
“This is stupid,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with what I want.”
“Alice,” he scrubbed a hand over his face. “That’s not what I’m saying—”
“I’m tired,” she announced. “I’m going back to sleep.”
He followed but she turned around and gave him a mutinous look.
“You know what’s not normal?” she exploded, gesturing angrily at the room. “Fucking murders! Calling the flames of the Underworld! A boyfriend who enjoys literal fucking bloodshed! Magical statues! And for the record, telling me The Owl won’t fix all my motherfucking problems is especially rich coming from you, since the only reason why we met was because you intended to use me to get it!”
When she was finished shouting she turned on her heel, muttering about the cottage’s distinct lack of doors, and threw herself down on the bed.
Vlad didn’t correct her. Technically, he had discarded the idea of using her pretty early on…mostly because he didn’t think she could win. But that was unlikely to go over well. And perhaps he had been a small amount of denial himself about The Owl, but that was the key word: small.
Either way, he was right: she would feel something again. Even if it was anger, which now that he knew she was a god and capable of smiting him off the face of this world, kind of turned him on. Cognizant of her need for space, he cast about for something to occupy himself with when he froze…
…had she…had she called him her boyfriend?
Vlad’s Office, Downtown Windenburg
“How could you be so stupid!” she raged, ignoring for the moment, the “aw shucks” look on Bloodvein’s face.
Jimena rubbed her arms, looking around at the decor items warily. Miss Hell tried, and failed to feel some level of empathy for the sim.
You could be an inanimate object without a spell. Miss Hell had spent hours sitting in a parlor as such, waiting to be noticed and chosen and bought for the night.
You are not going back there. Those days are gone.
They certainly were. Miss Hell had survived and Madame Caliente and all her ilk had been dead for centuries.
“Where is the body, Bloodvein, did you think about that for even a moment?”
“I—” he choked off a squeak and cleared his throat. “Of course I did! Buried and taken care of, isn’t it.”
Now that he was nervous, he had dropped his imitation of Vladislaus’s accent. He didn’t look at Miss Hell with desire, more like agitation and guilt. She had gone from lover to mother in the blink of an eye and all because she demanded just a hint of maturity and common sense. Men were all the same, unable to countenance the existence of female anger.
Still furious, she checked her phone. Wherever Vladislaus was, he wasn’t answering and the tracker she installed wasn’t picking anything up. He was prone to rages, though. Just last week she had to reinstall her tracking software after he smashed his phone against a wall. He was probably home, waiting for his errand boys to take him to procure another replacement.
Go big or go home.
“Call our allies, tell them to be at Straud Manor within the hour.”
Bloodvein glanced at Jimena for approval and she smiled encouragingly, as they got up.
As soon as she realized Miss Hell looking, she cut it off. Bloodvein didn’t get the memo, reaching for Jimena’s hand without realizing that Miss Hell was watching.
He was still the same simpering fool she convinced Vladislaus to turn all those years ago.
“Why do you want him?” Vladislaus had asked her.
“Because he’s worthless,” she’d told him. “And sometimes worthless things are good to have around when you’re protecting something of value.”
Jimena tried to follow Bloodvein out, but Miss Hell called her back.
“Why are we keeping you, Jimena?”
“I’m sorry?” she gasped, wringing her hands nervously, “I-I don’t understand…”
“Why. Are. We. Keeping. You?” Miss Hell repeated, punctuating every word. “You aren’t useful. You’re clearly not fucking Vladislaus or you’d have better information. You picked out some idiot surfer as the God of Death, and you mean to tell me you’re attracted to Lionel?”
“What? I’m j-just trying to stay alive…I don’t mean to upset you…” she cast her eyes downward and Miss Hell could not help but notice how long her lashes were.
“You can save the frightened act, I don’t buy it in the least. You can’t possibly be attracted to Richard.”
“Richard Lionel. His real name.”
Jimena could not hide the wince that flashed across her face. “I answer to a higher power,” she said finally.
“What a coincidence,” Miss Hell drawled, arching an eyebrow. “Well, now you answer to me.”
Jimena nodded. She strolled towards the door with confidence, but paused, her hand hovering over the handle. “I really am trying to survive,” she said softly.
Miss Hell knew. It was the same thing she told herself.
If you want some theme music to go along with this next part, here’s what was playing in my head.
Newspaper accessory by soloriya
Reading Newspaper by rethdis-love
Couple Poses on Bed by shianae
Paired on Sofa Poses by helgatisa
Male Poses by Natalia-Auditore
Werewolf Costume by Natalia-Auditore
Werewolf Posepack by Natalia-Auditore
Emotions 1-9 by Simmerberlin
Sitting and Talking Pose Collection by Ratboysims
Table Manners by Something Wicked Sims
Arguing Poses by radioactive
From the Sims 4 Gallery
Spa Room by SpazzyShanice
Lost in the Woods 16K by lluispire