Content Warning because parts of this chapter are violently entertaining and also just violent (I mean, you know me by now).
Oh, and I am over the moon about the skin tones update and the new sliders. The glitch with children from interracial pairings coming out with white skin as the default is not great, but I expect it to be fixed. Plus, I can at least “cas.fulleditmode” a temporary fix in the meantime. Representation is a beautiful thing.
…yes, I know this chapter is really late. End of year is crazy.
Some loss was unbearable, a reflection of things you longed for placed just beyond the length of your fingertips. I cannot be purged, it would warn, I will fester so long as you reach for me. It was this familiarity with the experience that froze Vlad in place as if not moving was an end-run around life disappearing.
“We were too late,” Penny whispered, but the sound of her voice was loud to Vlad’s ears. Both her halting tone and anguished expression grated on him.
“I-I knew it!” the witch continued, squeezing her eyes shut as if that would block out the horror. With a cry, she barreled towards him, only stopping when Mikel grabbed her by the arm. “I knew we were too slow, but you made me feel like it was all in my fucking head!”
Vlad said nothing in response.
It didn’t matter.
Penny didn’t matter.
Folding back his wings, he fixed his gaze on Gwendolyn. Her eyelids fluttered. That was a good sign, wasn’t it? “You needn’t be afraid, hellion, but you must…you must stay,” he commanded softly, “If you leave, you’ll lose the opportunity to make great demands of me and…and I am prepared to visit every arcade, lose every game…”
She didn’t respond, but he kept talking, his promises nestled between gentle nonsense and their inside jokes, “You were wrong; I don’t have one boss, I have two. You and the God of Death. She is here, and you’re—”
“Dead,” Penny rasped, still trying to pull out of Mikel’s grip, “She’s dead.”
Miss Hell made a dramatic show of studying her nails. “I’m not really even interested in you, Amisyia. I have the spaceship; I just need the identity of the alien. What good would it do me to kill you?”
“You mean it will not do you good to kill me before you have your information,” Amisyia’s Champs Les Sims accent was laced with threat.
It would have had more impact were she not shivering with dehydration.
Gesturing at the bathtub, Miss Hell sought to remind the siren of her desperate situation. “I don’t have to kill you. Mermaids need water to survive. At this rate, you’ll be dead before—”
The urgent ring of a cell phone cut Miss Hell off. Jade, her newest underling, gave a choked cry of surprise.
“Answer it,” Miss Hell commanded with a dismissive wave of her hand. Baring her teeth at Amisyia, she continued with her threat. “As I was saying, mermaids need water to survive. At this rate—”
The phone rang again.
“Is this a joke?” Miss Hell whirled around, “What part of ‘answer that’ was not clear?”
“Nothing! I mean everything! I mean…” Jade looked worried, “It’s just you said if I ever answered your phone, you’d tear off my head and sell it to the dryads for fertilizer.”
Apparently, good help was impossible to find, even when you made it yourself. “That was then, this is now,” Miss Hell encouraged, her tone saccharine.
Jade nodded but held out the device as if it were an explosive or an offering.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Miss Hell groaned, snatching it out of her grip. “This had better be good!” she growled into the receiver.
Jimena? She hadn’t thought a lick about the demigod since the simpleton handed over the location of The Owl and got herself booted from the baking contest. It was a lovely parting gift, The Owl’s identity. Miss Hell didn’t even care that the little traitor immediately took up again with Bloodvein.
“What do you want?” she seethed.
“I’ve been thinking about you,” Jimena said, her voice a low purr.
“You can’t con a con,” Miss Hell deadpanned, “I was a prostitute, remember?”
“You say I can’t seduce you, Anastasia, and yet, you’ve always watched my every move.” She laughed, “Admit you’re curious; you want to know why I called.”
Miss Hell was not curious; she was busy. Busy trying to find an alien to pilot her ship, busy trying to figure out the best way to kidnap The Owl. She would not let that creature’s appearance fool her. Wrinkles did not mean anything when it came to magic.
“I am not,” Miss Hell insisted, glancing over her shoulder at Jade as she stepped outside the door for privacy.
“Take her out,” Vlad said with more calm than he felt. Gwendolyn was breathing, but just barely. He tracked the slight rise and fall of her chest, trying to decide if it was speeding up or slowing down.
“It’s not anyone’s fault,” Mikel tried, “We did all we could. Penny is just—”
“Out!” Vlad shouted, “Take her out now or I will—”
He crouched back down without finishing the threat. “You are safe, hellion. Not dead, safe.”
“Hey!” Grim called out, “Being as taking out the dead is my line of work, I’ll be the one making the determinations.” He motioned at Penny and Mikel, “If you two are cracking under pressure, take five and come back. We got work to do.”
“No,” Alice cleared her throat, “Penny, Mikel, thank you, but if you don’t want to stay for this, you don’t have to. You did a lot, and I can—”
“You can what?” Grim snarled, “Resurrect her? I see those wheels turnin’, but now is not the time to play that card.”
“God of Death and also Resurrection. I know. But you are not thinking clearly. Do you see The Owl of Undoing around here? Because without it, you’ll wipe yourself out, too.”
Vlad shot to his feet. That got his attention.
“Thank you for joining the conversation,” Grim jeered, “You are finally fuckin’ listening, which is good because you have work to do too.”
He didn’t know what the Reaper meant. Even in the realm of the supernatural, Vlad was not a creature built for healing. Inflicting punishment? Great horror? Yes. But he could not give Gwendolyn back her life. Magic did this. Magic would have to undo it.
“The Owl?” Vlad croaked, “It can fix this? It can save her?”
“Forget about The Owl for a minute. You think I intend to carry your kid’s soul down to Benny? No. Fuck no. But we need to stop thinking like a bunch of mortals and start thinking like the powerful supernatural creatures we are.”
Vlad looked at Alice. She was tired, too tired to handle the level of magic she was suggesting. “If not a resurrection, then what? We have a witch, an alien, a god in a mortal body, and whatever it is you would categorize me and you as. If there is a potion or object or—”
“None of the above,” Grim interrupted. “We are gonna finish what these assholes started.”
Holy crap. It seems these days like every new chapter is the best chapter, and then it tops itself. I had to read the opening paragraph ten times because the words tasted so nice. (Full disclosure: I didn’t invent that phrase. It came from an Armenian poem.) And then I had to read the entire thing again.
So Gwendolyn probably isn’t the Owl, but I’m appreciating the parallels between her predicament and Vlad’s past—it’s just that final push over the edge to sell how deeply affected he is, despite his callousness at the beginning. Oh, shoot, almost missed the ‘wrinkles’ line. Shoot. Argh, if only my brain had room for more than one premade. Since she didn’t become the Owl, and the monks had one other experiment… sounds like Jimena lied to Miss Hell about the Owl’s identity. Which, coupled with Summer’s comment about Miss Hell’s location, suggests she’s in cahoots with the Fates. That’s not ethical baking-show code. Speaking of, I’m behind on the latest GBBO season but Hermine is the best in every possible way and if she doesn’t win, I will throw a slipper at a baby.
I’m not entirely convinced by Grim’s reasoning. Is the resurrection an issue now because Alice has full access to her powers after the time loop merge, or it is because Gwendolyn has been pumped full of GOM badness? She did bring back Deacon and the banana bread lady with minimal problems.
Hold the phone: is Deacon calling Vlad “Mr. Death” the same way old people address letters to “Mr. and Mrs. Man’s Name”? BECAUSE IF SO, I LOVE IT. Okay. Vlad is now no longer Vlad, he is either Mr. Alice Martin or Mr. God of Death, Resurrection, Farming, Booze, and A Fifth Thing.
Those flashback scenes with Lilith are spiffy and the character design must have taken forever, but what stuck out to me was the line “trapped in the loop of a memory.” How the heck did I miss the connection between the time loop mechanic and PTSD?! And then right as I’m ruminating about what other deeper themes I’m missing, it hits me with Grim Reaper dick pics. Ahahaha. You know I live for that degree of mood whiplash.
I’m cackling in my seat. Deacon. What?! What does this mean?! Is this an “Eat the Rich” thing? Deacon’s gonna solve income inequality! He’s graduated from banshees and he’s ready to punch abstract ideas! Punch wage slavery! Punch trickle-down economics!
There are seven hundred other things I could comment on but I’ll end on the hope that one of the jokes in Underworld Summer Vacation is “Dad, we’re not having hikers again, are we?!” Oh my god, does Gwendolyn get to eat Bjorn with Mr. Alice Martin’s help? Oh my god.
I am cackling delightedly and now I’m wondering what you will make of the next chapter. That is high praise and I love that phrase, “the words tasted so nice.” Now I gotta track down that poem.
So in my mind, making a zombie or a revenant, which Deacon and Barbara are, is much easier than a true Resurrection. I mean, it’s one thing to make someone into a walking corpse, it’s another to actually restore them back to full life. Alice has full access to her powers, but still a mortal body until she gets The Owl…which should be fine now, right? I mean…why would you think Gwendolyn is not The Owl right now? Miss Hell is off to snatch up the contest judge (just as soon as she picks up Jimena), but maybe Jimena wasn’t lying. I mean…timing is everything…
Interesting theory that Miss Hell is in cahoots with the Fates, who are, of course, the *most* ethical. They would never use an evil creature to carry out their purposes! That’s not their…oh…ohhh….hmmm
We shall see, shan’t we?
(oh god, “shan’t we?” that sentence is ridiculous but I’m not going to take it back)
Uh yes, Deacon is 100% like: Vlad is Mr. God of Death. I mean, Alice is his god, she created him. Vlad is just the dude she is with. Also, I feel like I missed the opportunity to say Mr. Alice Martin and now I’m sad lol.
Gah, I’m just so glad I got to use these shots! I did not want Caleb and Lilith’s backstory to go to waste. Also, I located my cache of 18th-century cc deep in my Google Drive so now I’m going to have to make more flashback scenes, obviously.
YES! THANK YOU FOR MAKING THE CONNECTION ALSO HERE IS A DICK JOKE FOR YOUR TROUBLE.
(really though, it is not a mistake that characters find themselves not suffering from the effects of the time loop as they evolve and work through their emotional trauma)
Oh man, I feel like every once in a while I give Deacon a deep thought that he does not have the capacity to follow up on. IRL I be yelling about capitalism but in my story I’m just like: everyone is rich because this is the sims and I don’t want to worry about MONIES.
Underworld Summer Vacation, aka Domestic Times with Death and Fear will definitely have to address Vlad’s bad influence on Gwendolyn’s eating habits. Although, is it bad, really? I mean, why have hikers when you could have witches?
Oh sorry, one more thing.
::steps up to podium::
JUSTICE FOR HERMIONE! DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME? YOU THINK THESE JELLY CAKES ARE NOT EVERYTHING GOOD AND PURE IN THIS WORLD? WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!!!!
Thank you for explaining the resurrection detail! I’ll… ruminate on Gwendolyn’s owl status. Hmmm.
Wait… justice?! I just watched the jelly cake episode! Does she not win and if so, how the F? If I were in a baking competition and someone else said their specialty was French patisserie, I’d be like, welp, second place isn’t so bad. (That being said, after Japan week, I do want to double-check that she knows what country pandas come from, and also I have 300 unrelated comments about Japan week. But if she knew that her competitors would be making a chicken-shaped bun full of chicken, a pig-shaped bun full of pork, and a lamb-shaped bun full of lamb, the panda was an inspired choice. Anyway. Mmmm! Japanese baozi and gâteau de crêpes.)
This comment has succeeded in making me hungry. Also, yes to these 300 comments. I mean can we talk about steamed buns? Because I am ready to get into it.
GBBO is a crazy place. I mean, I’d never survive. I’d just be like: I am meant to eat this food you make, not compete with it.
Those 300 comments? Eh, they’re just the same “none of this food is even Japanese” comments that everyone else made. Because when British people make Asian food… always funny.
Holy hell, what an ending, a lovely army of the dead awaiting, oh boy. Also, Vlad looked like an angel of doom in that last scene and I’m here for it.
So first things first, the main event, Gwen becoming a vampire. If any parents can handle a vampire child, it would be Vlad and Alice, but damn, what does this mean? Is it reversible, with Alice being god of death? Or will she forever be a vampire child? Because while Vlad and Alice may want to have a little family unit forever (god war outcome permitting, haha), Gwendolyn moght not be all that content with that in a hundred years, or even a couple of decades. Then again, nobody’s really making long term plans here, by the looks of it, everyone is hyperfocused on the owl and not so much on what happens once they get it… which seems like it would only be the beginning. Though I suppose the owl can technically undo it all, but won’t they just put themselves in a spiral of repeating things over again? Let’s learn from Miko, guys – not that they have the opportunity to do that. Anyway, I’m frying my brain here, and am now thinking about whether Gwen was turned in other timelines… let’s just move on.
Deacon is so fantastic. That little chat Caleb and him had during the rescue mission, just on the side, seemed to have made so much more progress in one tiny spače of time than years of therapy did for Caleb. I’m impressed. Also, ye olde times with Caleb and Lilith were awesome (well, not for them I suppose), loved learning more about Caleb’s background.
And speaking of backgrounds, the more we learn about Penny’s tragic backstory, the more my love for her grows. She is such an underrated character and is slowly but surely stealing my heart. I adore her. But she’s in such a shitty headspace right now, nothing’s going her ways. I really want things to turn for the better for her, but have no idea how that would be possible. Oh man.
Vlad in the murder basement was one of my fave scenes to edit because he just looked cool as hell. Angel of doom indeed!
I should say upfront that I prescribe to the Sims version of vampires where a child’s immortality and permanent form aren’t locked in until they are teenagers. I could make some story noises about Gwendolyn having been a witch when she was returned and whatnot, but mostly, I just need Gwendolyn to age for story reasons.
But you are right, no one is thinking long term and being hyper-focused on The Owl is just the beginning. They are about to learn, trust me.
As is Miko. (hehe)
Deacon deserves so many awards. He might have like, one brain cell, but sometimes he really comes out with some profound statements. Plus, he just doesn’t get rattled by Caleb’s outbursts, makes him the perfect listener.
LOL yes I love a flashback scene! Even when that flashback is ultimately Caleb and Lilith’s brutal murder at the hands of Vlad 🙂
Whew boy, Penny is really a dark horse in this story. I have many plans for her in Book Two so this is really just the beginning of her journey. But I’m so glad she stole your heart!
Makes sense, that is how it’s intended in the sims universe, my head only deviates from that because I’m so stuck in my interpretations of vampires 😆
Penny did steal my heart, legit. Confession: I have made the picture of her with the lantern from the AU Halloween special my laptop background. I am a loser 😁
OMG I LOVE IT. That lantern cc was so awesome, it made me want to write an entire story around it.
This is why I love your interpretation of vampires so much. I mean, it was a pretty bold choice and it brought a level of darkness into the story that made me sit up and pay attention. I still remember being like: IS THAT CHILD DRINKING WINE?!?!?!?!?!?!
I wanted to shout out my love for the time loops! It’s such a wonderful allegory for healing and growth and also a cool philosophical concept!
Most notably, I love watching Alice and Vlad grow. Alice, learning to embrace her power, Vlad, learning to love (TBT to my Buffy & Angel times!). I love the throwbacks and parallels to their earlier selves (Alice relying on her savvy from her retail days, recurring motifs of fathers and torture as Vlad tortures Bjorn, Vlad simultaneously entering fatherhood with a newfound faith in his ability to love, callbacks to violent vampire turnings as they attempt to humanely turn Gwendolyn…)
Random aside: I also like the irony that Miko, who should be most familiar with this story’s complicated stitchwork of time, seems the most obliviously enslaved in it.
And this is barely the tip of the iceberg! SO MUCH delicious gooeyness in this pie of a story you’ve created; I’m a little sad I can only appreciate a fraction of it!
(I’m still not sure what time actually looks like here–loops? parallel realities? branches? flat circle? Is there a way to break the cycles and achieve moksha? Based on the beautiful character development of the main cast, my gut says yes. And, you know, sometimes all it takes to break out is a well-timed mention of a dick pic.)
This made my damn day, my gosh. It’s funny, there are so many things I intended with BBD and then I sort of felt like I failed to pull them off. But then I read a comment like this and I’m just like: OMFG I DID DO A LITTLE GOOD!!!
You are spot on about Miko. Everyone else, though, is just experiencing the loops and living them. Miko is orchestrating them, and I think it just doesn’t give her the same opportunity to learn and heal. I’m SO excited about her in the Strauds though, because we’ll see what she learned.
Is there a way to break the cycle? Oof. Good question. You and I have the same hope <3