Of Love and Monsters

Chapter 34, Part 1: Pie-Related Schemes


This week has been hell on wheels.

Like…RBG…I just…I don’t even have the words.

I desperately need fluff. Maybe you do too. It might mean tacking on extra chapter or two down the road, but I decided that both parts of Chapter 34 are going to be Grade A, BBD Universe Fluff.

I’m not kidding. There’s like 5% angst that’s immediately resolved and followed by fluffffffffff. The characters might have sad thoughts but then FLUFFFFFFFFFF. There are gonna be fight scenes in part two but they are FLUFFFFFFFFFFFF.

You’ve been warned, but also, I just hope you enjoy it.

Sunset Bistro, Windenburg

Last Night…


“No, Sullivan, I just want you to observe them for now. And if getting iced coffee for Alice’s mother is the worst of things you have to suffer, consider yourself lucky. I’ll call when we’re ready.” Miss Hell hung up the phone before the vampire had a chance to answer and turned her attention back to Jimena, “I’m sorry, you were saying?”

Jimena’s smile was too broad, eyes too bright, “Like I said, I just happened to be in the neighborhood for dinner and thought I’d come by to help improve your plan.” 

“Please,” Miss Hell took a sip of her nectar. “I find myself anxious to hear how you think you can help me.”

She nodded as Jimena began to talk, though her mind drifted to Sullivan. Miss Hell started making her secret cache of vampires years ago, knowing that once she betrayed Vladislaus, she’d need lackeys that were loyal to her. A loyalty that only went one way, of course. She wasn’t a fool; she knew she there was an excellent chance those lackeys would have to become cannon fodder. 

“Rabbits are very fast, did you know that?” Jimena said, pushing back a lock of hair, “They can outrun predators, slip into small hidden places. They’re skittish, which seems like a weakness but really is a protective instinct. A skill.” 

Miss Hell gave her an exasperated look, “There are many ways to skin a rabbit, Jimena. What is the point of this digression?”

“You want to corner the rabbit by fear, trigger its skittish instincts before we’ve had a chance to close it in,” Jimena continued in a conspiratorial whisper. 

As if the Goddess Elmyra was the only creature who hunted. 

As if Alice Martin was a rabbit. 

It struck her then, just how far she had fallen since she made her deal with Somnus. When The Owl first appeared, she thought it would be the culmination of centuries worth of planning. Now she was sitting in some half-rate restaurant with some god’s delusional servant. If that’s what Jimena even was, Miss Hell had her suspicions. 

“It’s easy. You will strike and the rabbit will run,” Jimena leaned in again, eyes working overtime to pull Miss Hell into the drama of the moment, “And then you’ll be stuck chasing it.”

Von Haunt Estate, Windenburg



Gwendolyn stood next to Vlad, hands clasped behind her back. She gave Alice an innocent smile that did nothing to prove her trustworthiness. Alice had seen the kid put a sword through Vlad’s heart without hesitation. 

Still, there was no one better to act as Vlad’s taste-tester. No one would care about a little kid wandering around, and Gwendolyn had zero qualms about lying to adults. More importantly, she was not intimidated by Vlad in the least, so she’d tell him the truth if something sucked. 

Alice folded her arms and gave them both a stern look. “Listen, everything today needs to be normal—no setting appliances on fire, no pie-related schemes of any kind. Just bake and make sure the thing you bake doesn’t suck. Neither one of us can afford to get kicked off this week.”

They both nodded quickly. Almost too quickly.

“Come on,” she sighed. “Let’s go.”

Granite Falls


Akira had been furious with his sister many times, but this one was a contender for the top spot.

“Titania, are you fucking kidding me?”

“No,” she said as she pushed past him. “Miko! It’s been centuries. My brother is selfish and sought to keep you to himself, but I would never let something like that happen.”

He could see the emotions flashing across Miko’s face. However skilled she was at manipulating them, she wasn’t adept at hiding them in herself. She settled on a polite smile. “Titania, Oberon, it’s nice to see you too. I didn’t know you were coming, or we would have gotten a place with more room.” 

“Nonsense,” Titania scoffed. “There are two rooms and two beds. More than enough. Oberon and I have decided not to kill each other this week, so we can sleep in the same bed.”

Miko’s eyes widened in panic. Akira stepped in. “I’ll take the couch.” If he was going to be in Miko’s bed, he was going to be invited. He looked at the rickety piece of furniture with its patches and peeling varnish. “I’ve slept on worse.”

“Fuck it if that ain’t the truth! Remember the siege against the dragons? You slept in a muddy ditch for a week, son! Didn’t complain once, I might add,” Oberon announced with a wink.

Akira wondered again what the hell his family was doing here. 

“So, you’re going to negotiate with the gnomes?” Titania asked as she searched the kitchen for a clean glass. “Any plans for what boon you’re going to give them? You know if you pick the wrong thing, you’ll piss them off.”

Akira ground his teeth together. Titania was a know-it-all. Always had been and probably would be for the rest of their immortal lives. She baited Akira purposely just to see him lose his shit. “I’m not a fuckin’ idiot, Titania. We just got here an hour ago. Why don’t you just save us all the headache and tell us whatever bullshit you have planned?”

“Oh, well, I’m glad you asked. The answer is pie.”

Von Haunt Estate, Windenburg


He thrust another slice of pie towards Gwendolyn, “Your feedback, hellion.”

She took one bite and spat it out. “Gross!”

Vlad raked a frustrated hand through his hair. So far, he had managed to sneak out of the tent to bring Gwendolyn three different kinds of pie. Each time she made a face and told him how terrible it was. Lack of taste was a hurdle he had not considered when it came to baking. Call it hubris, but he thought his memory combined with his other senses would be enough. 

He did have a fantastic sense of smell, could tell if something was burned or undercooked, but he found that his memory of flavors was the emotions they evoked, not the actual taste.

He remembered chocolate as utter decadence. It was expensive in his day and reserved for formal occasions. His mother used to ask the palace cook to melt it down and serve it thick and piping hot. 

Blackberries evoked memories of lying in the sun with William and Tobias in between training sessions. They would gorge themselves after convincing Neva to steal a bucket from the palace kitchens. His younger sister had demanded payment, usually in the form of extra ink and parchment. What she did with it, Vlad never knew. And probably never would.

Her death had been an awful thing, a deep wound that never healed.

He looked at Gwendolyn, biting back a laugh at the way she gingerly shoved his pie off of the table.

A deep wound, yes, but perhaps it was healing.

Granite Falls


“Pie,” Akira repeated, staring at his sister so hard his eye was twitching.

“Yes, pie. Everyone knows the gnomes covet that which mortals value most. We steal some of the hermit’s prized apples and deliver them a pie. You’re fast enough to avoid the bear, aren’t you, brother?” Titania could not have looked more self-satisfied if she tried. 

Plans to present a softer, more refined version of himself forgotten, he growled and grabbed her arm, pulling her outside. 

“I got one chance, Titania, thanks to your fuckin’ oracles and prophecies. One chance to get this right. You told me there are no do-overs,” he pointed at her angrily, “So if you know that, why can’t you find it in yourself to give me a fuckin’ break!”

Titania slapped him. Akira was stunned. A blast of power, icicles at his head, even fire was an acceptable response, but a slap was personal. Titania was truly angry.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them, they were shining and cold. “You’re a big idiot; you know that? You don’t think Miko would have left you behind the first chance she got? She’s been giving you the slip for centuries, that isn’t going to change now just because she needs something.” 

Akira took a step back, unsure of what to do with his emotions. He hadn’t considered Miko leaving again. “You think you get a pass from having my back because you’re family!”

“No!” Titania snapped, “I think I’m your family because I never get a pass, and I always have your back!”

She turned and stomped back towards the house. She paused at the front door, and Akira had to strain to hear her. 

“She doesn’t deserve you. She’s selfish and manipulative and always thinks about herself. But you want her like you’ve never wanted anything in our entire lives. So be glad we’re here, brother. You need us. You need Oberon telling stories and making you look good. You need me to keep an eye on your wife, so she doesn’t up and leave you.”

Akira stood in the snow for a moment, battling with his pride. He could stand out here and fume, but Titania was right. There hadn’t been a day in all his eight centuries that she did not have his back.

“Alright,” he said, coming into the cabin and leaning against the door jamb, “How the fuck do you propose we get the ingredients for this pie?

Von Haunt Estate, Windenburg


“Yo, vampire, are you listening?” Gwendolyn demanded. “It’s rude to ignore someone.”

“I am a king, I don’t answer to you,” he lied.

Like Alice, the power Gwendolyn wielded over him was immense.

She seemed to know it. “Do you want to win or not?”

“Of course I want to win,” he shot back, tone incredulous, “What in the worlds do you think all of this effort is for?”

She shrugged and then reached under the table and pulled out a freshly baked pie. It was piping hot with a perfectly browned crust. Even with no sense of taste, Vlad was sure it was good.

“Where did you get that?” he pointed angrily.

Immediately, Gwendolyn began whistling and looking around as if the ceiling required her undivided attention. “Nowhere, just a pastry chef who bakes pies for a living and accidentally left this one outside to cool.”

Vlad very much doubted that, but he couldn’t chastise her for it. He had a very “by any means necessary” approach to life.

She clasped her hands together and gave him a look of utter piousness. “Alice said no pie schemes of any kind, but….”

“Oh, just give it to me,” he growled, snatching up the pie. “What’s your angle, hellspawn, what plasma debt do you demand in exchange for this act?”

Gwendolyn smirked and quirked an eyebrow. The memory of Atorn flashed bright in his mind.

“I’ll let you know.”

Vlad sighed. He had taught her well. Too well. 

Von Haunt Estate, Windenburg


She didn’t know how, but Vlad’s pie was definitely part of a pie-related scheme, not that she had even a moment to focus on it.

Jimena had been back in her usual form, sniping and pushing Alice out of the way. She was performing to the camera, but Alice noticed she wasn’t putting much energy into her baking.

Bailee, usually organized and pleasant, was instead rushing around to chop walnuts and roll sugared berries for the topping on her pie. It was insanely ambitious, even for a showstopper.

Dylan was painstakingly rolling out dough and cutting decorative shapes. He was also overly-ambitious, but unlike Bailee, that was his MO.

Alice shook her head, it didn’t matter what they were doing. It mattered what she was doing. Her dough was all prepped and ready to go. She just needed the ingredients for her filling. She waved at one of the producers, “Bathroom break please!” 

Summer nodded and put a flag on her station, signaling the cameras to avoid filming until Alice made it back. 

She walked out of the tent, taking up a sedate yet purposeful pace, but instead of heading inside the mansion, she pivoted and ran.

Pumping her arms as hard she could, Alice sprinted down the hillside and towards the maze, careful to stay out of sight of the tent’s windows. She whipped along the maze’s pathways following the directional signage that the museum installed to keep tourists from getting lost. 

By the time she reached the exit, she felt like her lungs might collapse in her chest. Panting heavily, she half-walked, half-limped to the small vegetable garden alongside the estate’s east border. 

Glancing around to make sure no one was coming, Alice let a curl of magic fall from her fingers, willing a perfect quality apple tree to burst forth out of the ground. It was so healthy it practically shimmered. And so what if a few other apple trees joined it?

Why look a gift horse in the mouth?

She snatched an apple off the branch, taking a bite. It was perfect, tart, and delicious.

Glancing at her watch, Alice moaned. To avoid taking too long, she’d have to sprint all the way back. 

Inside the tent, Alice wiped the sweat from her brow and set about adding her illicit ingredients to her pie. Was she God of Running? No. Not by a long shot. But she was damn good God of Agriculture. 

It was a struggle, but she managed to get her pie in the oven. If she was honest, her sprint was more like a jog, so she bumped up the heat to speed up the baking and make up the lost time.

Still panting, she downed a glass of water and gave Vlad a dirty look. It annoyed the ever-living shit out of her that his pie was finished and cooling on his counter. He frowned, motioning at her oven. 

“Pie-related scheme,” she mouthed back at him. Like she didn’t know how to use an oven! 


Alice burnt her pie. Vlad knew even if she couldn’t smell it. She would be furious when she found out, but this was why his decision to join the contest was so wise. It was much less likely that they would both fail. 

Not that he needed to worry. The homemaker’s overly-ambitious pie failed to bake in time. He could tell it was raw as soon as it came out of the oven because he’d turned it off when she was distractedly grabbing ingredients. Those lessons at Gwendolyn’s house had come in handy.

He felt no guilt about his actions. Alice’s life was on the line, and while the Elder-most manuscripts said one had to earn The Owl of Undoing, there was no rule against cheating. 

Jimena came in fourth place, and he could tell Alice was almost dizzy with schadenfreude. That Jimena threw an actual tantrum on camera and tossed a sack of flour at one of the producers just made the experience that much more enjoyable.

Dylan skated by in third place, having somehow managed to complete his pie on time. Vlad found it difficult to believe William had even bothered sleeping with the sim. He had quite enjoyed telling the vampire that he was in denial. 


What other delightful terms might one learn in therapy? No wonder Caleb waltzed around with such a smug sense of self.

It was now down to him and Alice. Rory, who Vlad had never liked, was doing his best to draw the announcement out. Was there any reason not to kill him? Alice had not expressly stated that they should keep him alive.

Though, she had not expressly stated that they should kill him either. He had time to make the call, perhaps he’d mention it to her?

“Alice, your pie was amazing. The judges laughed until they cried with unrelenting joy! But ultimately, the crust was burnt. This is the finals; you have to bring your A-game. That means in First Place; we have Vladislaus Straud!” 

Rory fell all over himself with praise. “What an inspired victory! Such command of flavor! King of Taste! Now, folks, make sure you tune in next week where we’ll be putting the cake in cupcake…”

Vlad reveled in Alice’s glare. It was so angry, so withering. Leaning over with undisguised glee, he whispered in her ear, “Remember, victory is the only thing that matters.”

Sunset Bistro, Windenburg

Last Night…


Miss Hell did not intend to be chasing anything, though it was her fault that she was being forced to act like she was considering it. Somnus told her to get close to Vladislaus, and in the process, she became so embedded in the politics and plotting that she lost sight of the big picture. Her schemes became complicated, needlessly so. 

Scheming, however, was not the work.

Down that road lie folly, and as far as Miss Hell could tell, it was a road that everyone was on. Assuming a baking contest really was the only way to obtain The Owl, it was wild to watch the gods twisting themselves into knots. They seemed to avoid the most direct path purposely. Why not just send a servant to the contest and make sure they out-baked and out-charmed everyone else? 

And it wasn’t just the Gods. The Sages were scrambling and plotting as if they weren’t the three most dominant beings in this Realm. Powerful supernatural creatures were eschewing centuries of conflicts to put their energy into hunting and killing the God of Death’s conduit. 

To what end? 


That’s all anything had been these past few months: untamed, unmitigated mayhem. 

“I’m not your enemy, I work for you, of course,” Jimena purred, “I just want to ensure that you are rewarded. Elmyra is a generous goddess.” 

Miss Hell arched an eyebrow and took another sip of her nectar. “I see, and I suppose I shall want for nothing in her service.”

Jimena tittered, and Miss Hell suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. 

At first, the fact that Vladislaus had not bothered to respond to the burning of Straud Manor was maddening. He should have lashed out, should have embroiled himself in some kind of fight to the death with the Sage of Untamed Magic. But he had laser focus. As a result, the vampire had two direct paths to The Owl: Alice and himself. 

That’s why Miss Hell was going back to basics: Get The Owl. And since she couldn’t enter the contest or win Alice’s heart, force the little conduit to turn it over.

Because Alice would win, that much Miss Hell was sure of. Whatever madness touched the rest of the gods, the God of Death did not seem to have it. Alice was focused on baking and (infuriatingly) staying alive.  

“So that’s my amendment,” Jimena explained, “We let them win pie week handily. Take cupcake week too. I’ll play my part, so they suspect nothing. Then we spring the trap.” 

She sat back satisfied, blithely unaware that she had suggested another needless complication. 

Miss Hell gave her an understanding smile. “Well, the Goddess Elmyra, your…” she paused, allowing Jimena to fill in the blanks.

“Mother,” the vain creature finally admitted, barely keeping malice out of her voice.

“Yes, your mother, I imagine she will be forced to applaud your efforts,” Miss Hell simpered, taking care not lay it on too thick.

Gods in the Elder Realms, she was stuck with a fucking demigod! It was just her luck. Spoiled, half-crazed brats, every single one of them.

“Mother is obsessed with The Owl,” Jimena scowled. “Do I matter? No. Everything is about me finding that little bitch and bringing her home. And don’t get me started on the Fates. Running this contest like a bunch of assholes! Rory is—” She glanced up, a shocked look on her face, “I mean…I…”

Instantly, a few things clicked into place. The story of The Owl never made sense before, but now…The Owl was not a what, but a who.

She took Jimena’s hand, gently tracing a pattern over top of her skin, ignoring the urge to sink her claws into the marrow. She needed the little demigod, at least until she could get The Owl and get the hell off this planet.

“Yes, that sounds awful, dear, just awful. But do you always do what your mother says?”

Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory

The Day After Judging…


Alice rolled over, face pulled into a grimace, “I will die in this house. I will die, become a god ghost, and then haunt it for eternity.”

Vlad arched an eyebrow, “Am I living in this house, or have I become a ghost too?”

“No, you can’t be near me. It’s too hot.” She paused and then launched herself at him, wrapping her limbs around him like an octopus. “You’re so cold! I take it back; you can live here. If you don’t want me to die, don’t move.”

Standing still was not a hardship for a vampire, though her skin was damp with sweat.

“Don’t think this means I’ve forgotten about judging yesterday either,” she mumbled into his shoulder.

He was under no such misapprehension.

“Is this…”—he stopped himself from using the word normal—”a thing that usually happens to you?”

“No!” she complained, sliding back down to the floor. “I’m from the desert but do you understand how hot it is right now?”

Vlad did not; he felt no cold or heat. But he had just seen sims walking around the woods, and nothing about their mode of dress indicated a heatwave. Yesterday, Gwendolyn had on a sweater. 

He added this to his list of concerns, which had grown exponentially since their conversation about her dream. Why were they both having visions? Were the Good Order Monks in his head? Was this overheating a sign that Alice was closer to death or farther away? How much longer could her body contain her powers? 

“How do you feel?” he asked, studying her closely. It was hard not to get distracted. He liked her hair wild, eyes full of flames, but he liked this too—strands gathered into two buns, eyes sleepy, tank top askew.

“Hot but not sick,” she laughed and then softened her voice, “We have time. I’m not dying just yet. This is probably just some mortal shit you forgot about because you’re like a million years old.”

“A million?” he scoffed.

“According to Gwendolyn.”

“I would not count on a nine-year-old as a reliable source of facts.”

“Eh, her facts seem legit,” Alice shrugged, giving him a taunting look as she reached for a towel, “She runs circles around you.

Vlad threw back his head and laughed. “She is rather manipulative. A small, cookie-wielding tyrant. She will be glorious, won’t she?”

Alice didn’t join in the laughter. “Who the hell are these witches who adopted Gwendolyn? No kid has that much free range if their parents give a shit about them. I mean, you’re a glorified warlord who literally eats witches. Who would let their kid within five feet of you?”

He thought back to his first encounter with Gwendolyn. He had been alarmed by her lack of supervision and proximity to him too. “Yes, I am persona non grata as far as witches are concerned, not to mention you have a record.”

“Whoa, whoa, hold up,” Alice exclaimed, “There’s no need to cast aspersions. First of all, StrangerVille’s jurisdiction doesn’t even go out this far! Maybe she was better off—”

“You would not want to know what happens in a witch’s orphanage,” Vlad answered, all the warmth gone from his voice, “Witches never talk about the Barrister family, though they were incredibly powerful right up until they disappeared. And before you ask, no, I did not kill them. Gwendolyn has no training, no protection. It’s egregious, even for an orphan—a status those magical sycophants consider worse than cursed.”

He growled, unable to tamp down his frustration, “Gwendolyn is a singular child. Not a one of them deserves her!” 

He watched Alice swallow nervously. He knew they had now officially moved into territory they had not yet discussed. The chaos of The Owl and everything else meant they lived in a perpetual state of right now—the details of their current moment in sharp relief, the things down the road considerably more blurry and undefined. 

She took a deep breath. “What are you saying?” 

“I do not wish to be parted from her,” he confessed with a vehemence that was not directed at her, but poured out all the same.

“You want to kidnap a child?”

He was quiet, but Alice narrowed her eyes. She had his number.

“Yes,” he bit out.

“Of course you do,” she said, leaning her head on his shoulder with a sigh. “It’s like my destiny to keep doing things that might get me arrested.”

Vlad chuckled, grabbing her hand to lead her down the hall to the shower. She did not make him choose and he could not have loved her more for it.

“You sound so grave,” he tutted, “We will collect The Owl, find out more about these Bjersten witches and then collect Gwendolyn too.”

“And stop a god war?”


He opened a shampoo bottle and sniffed it. Apricot Apple? Appalling. Vlad tossed it over his shoulder.  

“Hello!” Alice waved, “Quit destroying the bathroom. Who is supervising Gwendolyn while we do all of this?”

He gave her a lazy smile, feeling calm now that everything was in hand. Growing up in a castle was a misery, but after so many weeks of living with two vampires, a zombie, and a god, Vlad was reminded of what a loud, unruly household could bring. Joy, certainly, but also security…protection. 512 years ago, he had been a fool. He took his family to an isolated location, tried to watch over them by himself, tried to do everything alone, and failed. 

William tried to tell him then, but Vlad had not listened. He was older now, though, wiser. He would not make the same mistake again.

“We seek to stop a war amongst gods and monsters. Ergo, among gods and monsters is the safest place for Gwendolyn to be. William adores children, Caleb is a master of weapons, Deacon is virtually a child himself, and Phobos is the greatest monster of them all. We are an excellent choice of guardians.”

Alice snorted. “And me?”

“Your stance on sword-fighting notwithstanding, I am sure you are perfectly adequate.”

“Adequate my ass,” she smirked, shoving past him to turn on the water. “I’m a god, Phobos, and don’t you forget it.”

He smiled, tugging down the straps of her tank top to kiss her shoulder. “Of course.”

“Slow your roll,” she laughed, “We don’t have time for that. Her Majesty is waiting.”


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