Of Love and Monsters

Chapter 32, Part 2: Trips and Manuscripts


Britechester University Library


The part of himself that realized he’d let nearly a century pass between sexual partners was alarmed to find that his grand return was nothing to write home about. Spending the night with Dylan was supposed to set things in a groove and have William coasting along towards contentment and far away from pining over Morgyn.

Only it hadn’t quite worked out like that.

Just finding somewhere to go had exposed the fissures and cracks in William’s fantasy. Caleb had secured a house in the woods, protected by an outrageously expensive—his words—dryad spell. Any outsider they allowed in would have to be trusted implicitly and William was forced to grapple with whether or not Dylan made the cut.

Not that anyone in the household understood his predicament.

Or could be helpful.

Deacon’s answer was to just to “chillax” and “let things happen, bro.” Alice latched onto an off-hand comment he made about vampiric hearing and pressed him on how just how accurate that hearing was—specifically as it pertained to the location of the bedroom she shared with Vladislaus. Caleb told him to shut up, and then get a hotel room. Vladislaus looked him dead in the eye and announced, “You do not care for Dylan,” before misting out of the room. He only returned to a second later to explain that according to the book he was reading, William was “in denial.”

Never in his long life did he think that Vladislaus becoming more self-actualized and less of a murderous monster would be such an irritating process.

He ended up taking Caleb’s recommendation.

“Vulnerability is for morons,” the vampire advised, a sentiment that played in William’s mind over and over again throughout the night.

By the time he and Dylan headed out for their third coffee break, William was completely disengaged in the conversation. The whole walk to the cafeteria, all he could think about was the confident way Morgyn danced around the rooftop in that ridiculous suit and pirate boots. The Sage had a way of drawing William into a chase while simultaneously laying all of their intentions on the line.

He thought courting Dylan would be similar to courting Tobias. Both men were bookish, a little shy, far more interested in ideas than in action.

Though that wasn’t completely fair to his husband’s memory. Tobias had been booted from the archives and sent to the guard as one of Josef’s many punishments. The scholar emerged confident, brave, and a relatively decent swordsman. William was hard-pressed to imagine Dylan in any kind of dangerous situation.

As a mortal, William had longed to lay down his sword for a quiet life. But what about now? All these centuries later, is that what he was looking for? Was that who he still was?

Windenburg Island, Bjersten House


Vlad growled as he forcefully pounded the buttons on the electric stove, “I would not like a timer I would like to pre-heat, though what that means in relation to this infernal contraption is beyond me!”

“Relax would you? You just need to select the setting first and then put in the temperature,”—Alice looked around nervously—”Umm, are you sure we can be here? Whose house is this?”

“Mine,” Gwendolyn volunteered cheerfully as she walked into the room.

“You, hellion, are supposed to be in school,” Vlad chastized.

Alice’s eyebrows shot up, “You call her hellion? She’s a nine-year-old kid.”

“She’s a demon.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Alice scolded, “Hell is pretend!”

“And school is boring,” Gwendolyn said, pushing past them.

“School is important,” Alice insisted without enthusiasm, “You learn things and…read books.”

Gwendolyn waved her off. “I already read all of those books.”

She wasn’t being facetious. So limited was her school’s educational theory that Vladislaus was forced to raid Britechester’s Rare Book collection just to obtain appropriate material. During his nighttime hunts, he’d leave books in a box by her window and in turn, she’d leave notes about her progress. Her olde simlish verb conjugation was abysmal but her thoughts on 17th century Champs Les Sims politics had merit.

“Are you breaking my oven?” Gwendolyn demanded, scrunching up her small face.

“Your oven?” Vlad asked doubtfully.

“Fine,” she sighed. “My foster parents’ oven. Don’t break it. I can’t get kicked out. Even if they’re not he—busy. I mean if they’re too busy.”

Vlad hissed. Every time Gwendolyn mentioned being abandoned or ignored, it filled him with fury. For all their piety, witches were nothing more than animals when it came to treatment of orphaned children. 

“I would dearly love to see them try. And then I would dearly love to make them regret it.”

Alice smacked him in the chest, “What ails you? You can’t kill her foster parents!”

“Can’t I?” He raised an eyebrow.

She hesitated, “I mean I’m…yes, technically…I’m just…I’m asking you not to. Not…er…commanding. We should…talk about stuff like that…”

“Not that your family is in any danger,” she added quickly, giving Gwendolyn a too bright smile.

She looked so delightfully off-kilter that Vlad had to bite back a laugh. He had forgotten this side of himself, the one that enjoyed teasing.

“Of course,” he assured her, eyes dancing with amusement.

The In Between Inn


Miko stepped around Akira to grab a few sweaters out of her drawers. The gnomes did plenty of business in Windenburg but their main stronghold was in the snowy mountains of Granite Falls.  

“Ex-husband?” Akira repeated. “So these friends of yours, they think I’m your ex….as in divorced?”

Miko bit her cheek. They were working together for now, but she wasn’t going to fight about this.

“Yes, well, we are separated and I believe one of the last things I screamed at you was that I wanted a divorce.”

“But we didn’t get one,” Akira pointed out. “So you lied.”

It wasn’t a question, which made Miko bristle. She hated being called a liar. Life sometimes required being creative with the truth.

“I resent that accusation, Akira Kibo, and furthermore, while we are discussing past deeds, why don’t you just tell me about our vows. You know. The ones you broke!” she growled. 

She tried to turn away but Akira grabbed her wrist.

“How many times am I gonna to apologize for that? How many centuries?”

She struggled in his grip, “The same number of centuries that you screwed them! How many times was it, Akira? Do you even remember?”

He dropped her arm immediately, the look on his face stricken.

A small, very tiny part of her knew this was unfair because the truth was…life was…complicated.

He stepped past her.

“If I had ya power, I’d break every rule and go back in time and stop myself. I’d spend lifetimes earning you, Miko. Lifetimes.”

When she didn’t answer he sighed, defeated. “I’ll wait downstairs.”

Britechester University Library


William shut the book he was reading with a frustrated sigh. “It’s not here. This book doesn’t exist at all!” Had the Sage truly led him on a wild goose chase? William could not stave off the disappointment he felt even as he ticked off all the reasons why magical creatures were not to be trusted.

Dylan shook his head, “Just give me one more minute.” He set a book in front of William, “Look at this passage.”

William read it: 

And at which hour the three greatest hags did finish the booketh of longings, those gents did place in the careth of the librarians with the rest of the most wondrous magical w'rks 

He struggled. Funny that once upon a time, everyone William knew, including himself, wrote like this. And now, after so many centuries he could not make heads nor tails of it. 

“Could you?” he hesitated. 

“Oh yes, right,” Dylan read it and then translated, “And when the three greatest witches finished the Book of Longings, they placed it in the care of the librarians with the rest of the great magical works.”

“It supports your thesis,” Dylan explained happily. “The book is a mythical one, created by three witches and stored in a magical library. I imagine you’d find reference to it in other superstitious works of the day.”

“You’re a genius!” William exclaimed, giving the baker a quick, chaste hug.

“Thanks,” he replied, his ears bright red. “I don’t have to film for the baking show until the weekend…we could go back to the hotel.”

Suddenly, William felt that even his vampiric speed was not enough. He quickly gathered his notes. “I’ll…er…call you,” he promised and dashed out the door.

Windenburg Island, Bjersten House


After Vlad finished learning how to use the oven, which he was sure had killed a small part of him, he told Gwendolyn to get ready for her lesson.

“Your foster parents may be unrepentant reprobates and layabouts but I am not.”

She returned a few minutes later holding the small sword he had procured for her. It was more of a rapier, really, but it was good for practice.

“He said I’m a baby witch but I still needed to know how to gut someone if the situation calls for it,” Gwendolyn announced as she did a quick pivot and stab.

Alice’s mouth fell open. She closed it and then it fell open again. She looked from him to Gwendolyn and then back to him again. “You’re teaching a kid to fucking sword fight?”

Vlad gave her a pleasant smile. “Of course I am, you said I needed a hobby.”

“Like chess or taking photographs!”

“But I’m very good at teaching her. And I enjoy it. Shouldn’t the basis of a hobby be internal joy?” he stressed, quoting one of Caleb’s self-help books. “Or is the basis of your hobbies something different? In fact, we should discuss. What exactly are your hobbies, Alice?”

The look on her face was something between disbelief and rage. Vlad practically cackled.

She poked him in the chest. “Are you out of your fucking—?”

“Language,” Vlad tutted. “Gwendolyn is a child, you know.”

His phone ringing prevented him from addressing her scream of frustration.

Britechester University Library


Outside of the library, William dialed the only creature whose memories matched his own. Vladislaus answered, sounding suspiciously jovial given that he could hear Alice yelling in the background.

“William, delightful to hear from you.”

“What’s going on there?” William asked suspiciously. “Aren’t you two supposed to be working on recipes?”

“Indeed,” Vlad agreed. “It’s going well. Alice was just sharing her feedback on my chosen hobby.”

William made a surprised sound. Vladislaus speaking of hobbies was like a llama speaking of tax evasion. “Did you just say hobby?”

“Yes, I’ve decided to take one one up.”

“Okay then. Do you remember the priory?”

“The one I burned?”

“What the bloody—? Why would I be looking for—?” William took a breath. His next sentence was spoken slowly. “Do you remember Tobias’s priory? You left it at my request. What became of the property?”

The sound on the phone was muffled slightly and he heard Vlad say the words “Of course we use real swords!” He moved his hand and answered William’s question, “A developer purchased the property to build a neighborhood of condos. Caleb made sure the priory was declared a historic landmark so they were forced to relocate the building.”

“So where is it?” William asked with more patience than he felt.

“The neighborhood?” Vladislaus sounded wistful, “Oh, I took it apart brick by brick until the residents were so consumed by terror that they relocated. It took me months to track them all down.” 

“No! Is it not obvious that I am not trying to locate one of the many properties you’ve destroyed? The priory! Tobias’s priory! So help me, Vladislaus—”

Alice’s voice came on the phone. “What do you need William?”

“The location where the company paid to have the priory moved,” William said, trying not to let his frustration out on her.

She repeated the question to Vlad with a few choice words thrown in. Vladislaus answered cryptically, saying it was in the place where “everything good in the world went to die.”

Alice sighed, “Someone is way too dramatic and won’t just say the word gentrification. Try the west part of the modern district: Evergreen Harbor.”

William thanked her and hung up. The three witches could only be a reference to the Sages. Contrary to what Dylan believed, the magical library was real, and there was only one being that could get him access to it: the very same being who sent him on this scavenger hunt in the first place.

William tried and failed to tamp down his excitement at paying the Sage a visit.

Windenburg Island, Bjersten House


After she hung up with William, Alice turned back to Vlad and his little monster-in-training. She had to admit, it was kind of adorable. The fact that he insisted on real weapons because Gwendolyn needed to “learn the joy and folly involved in severing a muscle” was disturbing. But there were only so many edges you could round off the living embodiment of Fear itself. 

She worried about that…rounding those edges off. Vlad looked amused when she told him he couldn’t kill Gwendolyn’s foster parents, but deep down, Alice had been horrified. Sure, wielding her will wasn’t automatic but this was all so new. How would she know if she was doing it? What if she was unknowingly controlling him? She always felt safe around him, but she had never once considered if he was safe with her.

She wanted him to be free to move through the world and do things like teach Gwendolyn to defend herself even if Alice thought his methods were nuts. And she wanted to disagree with him, strongly, without being afraid that she was imposing her godly will upon him.

It was funny though, catching a glimpse of Vlad like this. Maybe it was because she was stressed out, but it made her think of her own father. Cyrus Martin taught Alice everything from riding a bike to picking a lock. The latter he considered a legitimate skill given his line of work, which was [redacted].

Every summer they’d drive out to Granite Falls for a father/daughter camping trip. Even after Maverick and Mayra were born, he kept it as a tradition between him and Alice. 

She loved getting up early in the morning and mapping out their hike. They’d sit at the table, her with her hot chocolate and Cyrus with his coffee, and discuss the news or school or whatever was on Alice’s mind. He treated her like an adult.

It was a tradition she kept until her 13th birthday. The summer came and Alice was friendless and miserable, scared of her new power. Her father made every arrangement for their trip but the morning of, Alice refused to come downstairs.

Her mother told him she just growing up and being a teenager but the truth was that Alice couldn’t imagine spending a weekend with her dad and not having her secret come out. 

The past was present sometimes. Here she was again, another summer, scared of her new power…

But not miserable…not alone…

She watched Vlad instructing Gwendolyn on the arc of her swing.

“Look alive, hell spawn, there are things out there that mean you harm. You will be underestimated because of your size. People will assume your only skill is magic—”

“But I don’t know any magic,” Gwendolyn interrupted. “My foster parents said I probably never will because I’m a covenless—”

“Not another word!” Vlad snarled, “You will never, never describe yourself as such. Do you believe you are wicked? Unworthy? Deserving of your abandonment?”

Sniffling, Gwendolyn shook her head and lowered her small sword. Alice held her breath, waiting for him to reel it back in.

“That phrase is superstition,” Vlad said, voice gentler than Alice had ever heard it, “Your foster parents said it because they are simpletons. But you are not a simpleton, unless I am mistaken?”

Gwendoyln growled.

“Good,” He shot Alice a wicked look, “Now, if you can manage to stab me in the heart, I’m sure Alice will bake you some cookies.”

Rolling her eyes but relieved, Alice walked back inside. Trying to make herself comfortable on the Bjersten’s formal bench-like couch, she dialed her home number.

Her mother answered, “Damn it, Sullivan, tomorrow I want iced coffee at the entrance of the lab not at my house. Why is that so difficult to—”

“Mom,” Alice interrupted, “It’s me.” She cringed a little, feeling bad for whoever her mother’s new lab assistant was.

“Alice!” she sounded excited. “Hold on!” she covered the receiver but Alice could still hear her as she shouted, “Cyrus, tell the secret service dinner can wait! Your daughter is on the phone!”

Her dad picked up the line, “Hey pumpkin, how ya doin’? We’ve been watching you on the show! You’re doing great.”

“Oh,” was all Alice could croak out. She hadn’t realized she was about to cry. 

“Everything okay?” her dad asked.

“Cyrus! What ails you? Don’t baby her. She’s a grown ass woman,” her mother snapped.

“Alice honey, are you okay?” her mother continued, “Do you have enough mace? Are you safe?”

Alice glanced out the window to where Windenburg’s Vampire King and Fear incarnate, sat on the ground with nine-year-old Gwendolyn Barrister discussing llamas knew what. Probably murder.

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m definitely safe,” she laughed.

“And happy,” she added after a beat.

“Good,” they both said at the same time.

“So you met someone,” Cyrus observed. Alice had forgotten how perceptive her father was. The government didn’t pay him exorbitant amounts of money to do undefined clandestine work for nothing. 

“Er…what do you mean? Define meet,” she stalled. 

“Oh. It’s that serious?” her father replied knowingly.

Alice was quiet for a moment. Serious did not even begin to cover it. But how did she explain Vlad? How did she explain herself?

“So how are you guys?” she laughed, changing the subject. “How’s home? I miss you.”

The In Between Inn


Penny waited exactly ten minutes before conjuring up her cauldron and heading out to the garden to gather herbs for a potion. She didn’t know why she had agreed to Miko’s plan so readily, but now that the pixie was gone, she felt a little more in control of herself.

Like any self-respecting witch, Penny kept her own herb garden and made sure it was full of every salve and poison she’d need to do her work. Most witches specialized in one form of magic but Camila Pizzazz had never aspired to mediocrity and so neither had Penny. 

Mikel trekked after her. “What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Penny stood. “Potions.”

Mikel was like a puppy dog who was always after her. He was kind and caring and everything about him made Penny feel suffocated. She was not used to kind and caring and in fact, did not prefer it.

When she was twelve, her entire family disappeared along with a few other members of her coven. They went to the Realm of Magic for the annual Solstice Celebration and never returned. 

Over the years, bounced from group home to magical orphanage, Penny had been told every excuse and story under the sun: they had been involved in dark magic or illegal dueling and likely killed each other, they ran off with stolen magical items, and her personal favorite, maybe they just didn’t want the responsibility of a child anymore. 

Orphaned witches were bad luck, Penny had been taught, everyone knew they brought it on themselves.

“Penny, what is the potion for? We don’t need a potion to visit the dryads…” Mikel started, but Penny ignored him.

Instead, she added the ingredients to her cauldron, swirling the concoction and chanting words that other witches needed books for but Penny knew by heart. 

“Penny!” Mikel called out, his voice sharp.

“Miko might want to spend the next few days going on adventures with her ex-husband and securing alliances for this much prophesied war, but I make my own prophecies and my own future. All this time, we’ve followed what she said, but if she was wrong about Alice then she can be wrong about the witches too. I’m onto something, and I’m not setting it aside for her crazy apocalyptic proclamations.”

She spat into the cauldron to cleanse it of spirits who meant her harm. “You have a choice to make, Mikel. You can help me with what I’m working on or you can run off and do Miko’s bidding. Don’t forget, that sweet talking harpy lied to you too.”


She ignored him.

“Penny!” he repeated.

“Shit or get off the pot, Mikel.”

He sighed, “If you’re looking to draw this under the light of a full moon, it’s going to be 7.82 minutes late tonight.”

Penny smiled. She had no understanding of how Mikel’s brain worked. In fact, he’d done such a good job of blending in as a regular sim that she sometimes forgot he was an alien. But every once and awhile, he’d let something slip.

“She’s our friend,” he said quietly, as they watched the cauldron bubble.


“Miko. We do her bidding because she’s our friend and we’re trying to help. It’s not bidding. It’s helping.”

Penny turned away. Mikel could call it whatever he wanted. She was done with it.

He grabbed her hand. “It’s okay to be scared.”

“Maybe your alien brain is broken. I’m not scared. I’m fucking pissed,” Penny snapped, but she couldn’t make herself let go of his hand. 

“You only use the word harpy when you’re scared. We’ll do whatever you want to do right now and then we’ll go and talk to the dryads.”

Mikel was an alien. He didn’t know shit. Still, she didn’t let go of his hand until she needed to add some more ingredients.

“It’s a transmutation potion,” she explained, “You use it to disguise yourself.”


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