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.”
Deacon nudged the side of the dumpster with his foot, trying to reveal the location of a shiny bauble that rolled underneath. “I thought you said you didn’t care about Amisyia.”
“I don’t,” Caleb replied, checking the tracking app on his phone for the third time. “She hasn’t returned my phone calls.”
The explanation did not satisfy the zombie.
“But you don’t want her to,” he pointed out, “You said sirens were trouble, Amisyia especially.”
“I said no such—” Caleb cut himself off with a growl. It was annoying to have your exact words and phrases repeated back to you. “You’ll notice I have not asked why you’re here.”
“Oh!” Deacon exclaimed, “That’s easy. I want to help Amisyia.”
“You want to help?” Caleb repeated.
“I like her.”
“You like her? What does that even mean!”
“You don’t know her!” Caleb snapped, trying and failing to keep his cool. It wasn’t jealousy because Caleb was not a jealous creature. Amisyia didn’t matter, and even if she did, it was not like the zombie was a better option than him.
“Well yeah,” Deacon replied, surprised, “I don’t know her because I just met her.”
No, definitely not better. Amisyia was savvy and a genius. Deacon was slow on the uptake. Caleb went back to fiddling with his phone. “Fine.”
“So, are we not helping anymore?”
“Helping anymore with what?”
“Getting that Owl thing, so Death doesn’t die…whoa! That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Death dying? How is that possible?”
Internally, Caleb winced. In the morning light, walking away from saving Alice and stopping a God War seemed overdramatic at best. But he didn’t know how to help without becoming hopelessly entangled, and that’s not what he wanted, was it?
“Why do you hate Mr. Death—er—Vlad so much?” Deacon asked.
“I don’t hate him, I just…it’s complicated,” Caleb sighed, unsure of how to respond in a way that was not defensive. He didn’t think the zombie was trying to attack him. In fact, maybe saying it out loud would actually help. “Vladislaus made me, do you know what the means?”
Deacon shook his head.
“It means he passed on the curse of vampirism to me. My mortal life ended, and my supernatural life began.”
“Ohhh, so Vlad is your father, that’s why you hate him.”
“What? No. It’s a bond, but that bond can be anything—friendship, service, mentorship. Some vampires treat the ones they make like family. But some don’t. And I don’t hate him, I…” Caleb trailed off. “Sometimes I hate him,” he admitted.
Deacon’s body posture perked up, and Caleb sighed again. “I was made in 1781. My sister, Lilith, was turning 18, and our financial situation had slid from precariousness into wholesale collapse. We were wealthy until my father gambled away our fortune, and for Lilith’s birthday, I wanted her to have a taste of the decadence we used to enjoy.”
“No,” Caleb smirked, “In fact, she was up to her ears in laundry jobs. She told me to ‘dream small’ and either help her hang these blankets or else get out of the way.”
“I wanted to heed, really I did. But as our father used to say, I was born trying too hard. I was supposed to be getting my accounting degree so I could improve our station. But I blew off the semester to take odd jobs and save up enough money for a night out on the town.”
‘That’s so mean,” Deacon gasped.
“Blowing off the semester and putting our livelihood at stake? I suppose—”
“No! Saying you were born trying too hard. The ancestor spirits really like when you put in an effort. Your other dad was wrong.”
Caleb’s eyes widened, and he fumbled around, trying to absorb Deacon’s comment. He’d always been made to feel that his desire to be accepted, to be loved, was somehow a personal failing. “Vladislaus is not my father,” he coughed, “But thank you. I…anyway, I got us tickets to the ballet and the cheapest carriage service my poor little savings could buy. Lilith tried to scold me, but she was excited.”
“Not even mending the holes in our one good set of clothes was enough to dampen her enthusiasm.”
“So, how was it?” Deacon asked.
“Stunning,” Caleb breathed. “The dancers were magnificent; we drank champagne and flirted with the only sims who seemed content to ignore our painfully obvious lack of wealth.”
“It turned out to be a trap, but in the moment it was…” he tried to speak around the tickle in his throat, “It was marvelous. My best worst memory.”
“And?” Deacon tilted his body forward, “That was when you became a vampire? Mr. Death threw a party for you?”
Caleb looked away. How could he explain that nothing about the party was celebratory? “We were prey and didn’t know it,” he said quietly, images from the night still crisp in his mind.
“We were stupid…I was stupid. All I saw was the food and the treats; I never once considered that I was putting Lilith in danger.”
“There is no gentle way to make a vampire. Every single one of us is drawn to the adrenaline rush of violence.”
“My making was a horror. As was Lilith’s.”
The corners of Deacon’s mouth dipped down. “But William is nice, so not everyone is—”
“If there was a gentle way to make a vampire, I do not know it,” Caleb clarified. He tried to wipe away the tear that was falling but couldn’t seem to get a hold of himself. He stood there, trembling, trapped in the loop of the memory.
“Grim sent me a pic of his junk. Is that why you don’t want me to date him? You think it’s too much?” Deacon pondered.
“What?” Caleb snapped, immediately distracted by the sheer absurdity of the question, “No! Aside from the fact that he’s an idiot and you’re an idiot,” he paused, “Nevermind. You’re both idiots. May you have a long, happy life together.”
Deacon smiled and in an instant, Caleb knew what the zombie had done. “Thank you, I was…stuck. Sometimes the past feels very present and with Vladislaus here it makes…”
“It makes it really hard for you to not be there,” Deacon finished. “Your nightmare was your landlord, that’s like, super deep.”
Caleb curled his hands inward, heat prickling the back of his neck. The story never included much about what the elder Vatore sibling was doing before he was turned. “A creature can be many things at once…nightmare included.” He straightened and flashed his fangs, “Now, someone has to devise a plan. We don’t have any idea about who has Amisyia or how many there are and—”
“But we do,” Deacon insisted, pointing his finger, “That’s the vampire lady that you and Mr. Death hate.”
Caleb turned to see Miss Hell chattering on her cell phone. The image of her in a tutu, tearing open another dancer’s throat, flashed his mind.
Why yes, he did hate her.
“Are you crazy?” Alice cried, “We did everything to prevent this! And now you’re saying you want to pick up where they left off? How is this better than resurrection?”
“Resurrection requires a fully powered god, which you are not. Summoning is so easy a bunch of fucking mortals can do it. Tell them, Penny.”
Vlad zeroed in on the witch. She looked uncomfortable, her throat working as she appeared to weigh out her options.
“Penny,” Alice began, her voice barely above a whisper, “I love this kid…” her gaze flickered to Vlad, “We love this kid. We can’t let her die. Is it true?”
Penny sighed, “It’s…in a word: yes. I was freaking out earlier. She’s not exactly dead. It’s called suspended animation. Think of her like a vessel the Monks never got to fill up. But…” she trailed off, looking almost ill at the thought of finishing her sentence.
“But?” Alice prompted.
“But she is a mortal vessel, which means not really in a good place to be suffused with a shit ton of magic,” Grim interjected, “Not to worry, we have a solution. Phobos, how are those chompers working?”
If Vlad had a working heart, it would have stuttered. “My…?”
“Teeth,” Grim snapped, “Fangs. I said Gwendolyn won’t die, and she won’t. Not if we make her immortal before we summon the magic.”
The rage which flared earlier became a high-pitched whistle. Suddenly, Vlad was back in that dingy motel room with Grim eager to discuss how Phobos was made.
Not like this. But even as Vlad thought it, he knew he would do anything. “It is impossible,” he bit out.
“It is not,” Grim disagreed, “After six hundred years of abject misery and being a terror to the world, you, my dear Phobos, are living proof. A thousand timelines worth of it.”
A thousand timelines and living proof?
Vlad pressed his lips together as the answer clicked into place. He was not the Monks’ experiment…he was Fate’s.
Penny gulped, “It’s…”
“Statistically significant,” Mikel finished with wonder in his voice, “What an elegant simulation.”
Vlad did not know what any of that meant, but he did understand that punishment for him was an opportunity for Gwendolyn. He’d made Caleb and Lilith out of spite, out of the dark, angry part of himself that longed to relieve his misery by inflicting it elsewhere. But Gwendolyn would be different because he was different. He had been cursed and broken and built back up.
He had learned things about himself.
Locking eyes with Alice, he watched as her face softened.
Love—he was capable of it.
Penny didn’t agree to the summoning. Her body agreed, doing some mechanical function as if it understood what was at stake. But her mind was still trapped in horror.
All those witches.
And she hadn’t hesitated.
She’d dated Timothy in high school, sketched his name inside of her notebook with little hearts. She heard the whispers that he was “slumming it,” but she pretended she didn’t care. And when they hid out by the bluffs, making out under cover of his smoke magic, she pretended he wasn’t hiding her.
Her inferniate spell burned him from the inside out. His eyes were so surprised, so hurt, Penny almost forgot that they were battling—that he was trying to kill her.
She tried to swallow her grief, but her mind wouldn’t comply. Why did she feel such attachment to creatures who didn’t care for her?
Hands shaking, she drew the symbol of a cleansing spell to reset the energy of the circle. Vlad crept into the center and gently lifted Gwendolyn’s small form.
Penny bit down on her tongue so viciously plasma flooded her mouth.
She wanted to save Gwendolyn. She’d imagined delivering the kid to a group of kindly, open-minded witches. Bjorn would be prosecuted by the Sages because it would turn out that Penny was wrong about the corruption. Her family would be found. The vampires would leave Windenburg.
It was fantasy, all of it. She could see that now. Gwendolyn’s “family” was a collection of beasts. Things witches called lusus naturae. Maybe they treated her poorly, maybe they were corrupt, but some things they were not wrong about.
Every molecule in Penny’s body rebelled as she watched Vlad prepare to turn Gwendolyn. Alice might look like a sim, might act like a sim, but she wasn’t one if she allowed this.
Vlad could pretend by whispering soothing endearments and smoothing Gwendolyn’s hair. But Penny knew it was only that. Pretending.
His true nature called out a witch’s blood. His real desires were well known: hunt, capture, kill.
Her thoughts were so loud, she worried everyone could hear them.
This is not saving, they said; you helped make another monster.
“Alright,” Grim snapped his fingers and pointed at Penny and Mikel, “The circle if you please. Alice,”—he jerked his head towards the bookcase—”Over there, and don’t turn up the god powers until I tell you.”
“Everyone thinks there is a shortcut around bad things,” he declared as he adjusted the positioning of Mikel’s arms, “But some things just are and when the Fates put you on a path, you follow it.”
The ritual seemed to take on a life of its own. Before she knew it, Grim was shouting instructions at her.
“Look at me. Time is of the essence, and now is your part. She ain’t gonna get any less vampire. Choose.”
It was a big choice. Enduring. The kind of god shit that had increasingly become a regular part of her life. It was hard to make the call with so much going on around her—Penny and Mikel chanting, Gwendolyn on the ground, Vlad standing there with tears in his eyes. It broke something open in her. It broke—
She had decided that Gwendolyn was her kid long before she verbalized it to Vlad. She had no explanation for it, just something in her bones that told her she couldn’t let go.
“Pick one,” Grim instructed. “Grief, Anxiety, Hunger, Agony, Discord, or Disease. Them’s the choices. And if you want my opinion given freely, do not choose Agony. That will make things very weird for Bonehilda.”
Something about his words: “Them’s the choices…Opinion given freely…”
Alice gasped, “Those aren’t the only choices.”
Ben told her as much months ago; she just didn’t get it. He said The Owl was incredibly powerful, and the creation of it was terrifying. It sounded like he was talking about the past, but he wasn’t. Time was linear, sure, but it didn’t have to be, not when you had the Fates.
He was right; the creation of The Owl was—is—terrifying.
“I’ve made up my mind,” she said firmly.
Grim’s eyes widened, “You sure? It’s a risky bet. There’s still one more round left in the baking contest. One round between you and the prize.”
That was true, and she was sure that’s what the Fates wanted everyone to believe, but Alice had worked in retail and was a connoisseur of reality tv. Every half-off sale, every giveaway, every prize was always a “yes, and” situation.
Yes, this contact card will enter you in a drawing for 100 simoleons, and we need email addresses for our marketing database.
Yes, the Fates are running a baking contest with a prize, and The Owl must be earned or freely given.
Trying to win the baking contest put her on a path to embracing her godhood and becoming the kind of fearsome creature that would do everything to keep The Owl safe. If that wasn’t earning it, she didn’t know what was.
“Oh, I’m sure,” she confirmed, narrowing her eyes.
Grim gave her an affectionate smile, “Aversion to taking compliments about your tits aside, I always knew Benny made the right choice.”
“Stop fishing for compliments and get to the point,” Miss Hell complained, “You are out of the contest, and you have no hope of winning The Owl. Call your mother and return to the Elder Realms.”
“I’m out of the contest, yes, but the hunt is still on. You said you would steal it and then hand it over to me so I could still succeed.”
Jimena was silent for a few seconds. “I told you who The Owl was because I trust you. And now I’m in trouble, and I need you to come get me.”
That vulnerable voice. Miss Hell attempted to ignore what it did to her heart.
“Of course I won’t come get you,” she declared. “You trusting me is your own mistake, demigod. I’m delighted you’re in trouble, one less thing for me to worry about when I snatch up that contest judge and get the hell out of—”
A loud crash sounded. Lowering the phone, Miss Hell ran back into the warehouse to find Amisyia gone and Jade dead on the floor.
She didn’t notice the grilled cheese sandwich until it was too late.
Spitting out dirt and picking glass out of her hair, Miss Hell climbed to her feet and limped to where her phone landed a few feet away. She was dazed, tired, and possibly missing the back half of her head.
“Where in Windenburg are you?” she sighed, not bothering to explain the explosion. She had an alien to find and The Owl to kidnap, and her last vampire lackey was now a pile of mush.
“I’m not in Windenburg,” Jimena replied, “I’m in StrangerVille.”
Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory
It was late when Vlad walked into the room. Alice sat on the twin bed across from Gwendolyn, watching her chest rise and fall. Vampires didn’t breathe; she knew that from months with Vlad. Did this mean the summoning didn’t work? Had they done something wrong? She felt very confident about her choice at the moment but now? Not so much.
“It’s reflexive,” Vlad said, answering her unspoken question. He closed the door gently behind him. “Most vampires still breathe. The habit is hard to break.”
“How did you—”
“You were staring. I did the same thing when Atorn was born. I checked his breathing so often that Kaylynn accused me of being a cat trying to steal his soul.”
Alice snorted, “Kaylynn sounds awesome. I think she was someone I would have liked.”
“Yes, I imagine you would have. She was, as you are fond of saying, disinterested in putting up with my shit.“
Alice laughed, but her mind immediately began to wonder. A vampire might take anywhere from 1-3 days to rise. Until then, there was nothing to do but wait and watch…obsessively.
Before she could get up to adjust Gwendolyn’s covers for the fifth time, Vlad kicked off his boots and climbed into the small bed, forcing her to lay down beside him. His long limbs took up most of the space.
“What are you doing?” she hissed, but there was no heat in it.
“I know another cat when I see one.”
Alice hid a smile. It seemed like they took turns being the most worried. “You secured Bjorn?”
“And you didn’t kill him?”
“Not yet,” he pressed a kiss into her palm, “Gwendolyn will be starving when she wakes. I wanted to make arrangements.” At Alice’s worried look, he elaborated, “I settled for hikers because I love you and I used that abhorrent blender contraption also for love. Everything is in a thermos in case I become too…preoccupied.”
Only Vlad could make murdering hikers and blending their organs sound like he’d been forced to buy generic at the supermarket.”You’re such a food snob. Eating hikers is not some grand sacrifice, and Gwendolyn will not know the difference.” At least, she hoped. The idea of managing another bloodthirsty picky eater gave Alice a bit of a headache. She inched closer to him, “And don’t enjoy yourself too much. You need to get answers to our questions before you break all his bones.”
“You think I would get so carried away as to—”
“Yes,” Alice interrupted, “I know you. Don’t kill him before he tells us about Somnus. And ask him about the witches too.”
“The witches?” Vlad was incredulous, “Whatever for?”
“For Penny. She helped us even though it meant killing other witches. If we can get her some information, then we should. You’re torturing him anyways; what do you care?”
“I care that she thinks Gwendolyn is a monster.”
Alice clamped down on her answer, waiting until she heard Mikel turn off the shower and trudge downstairs. She didn’t know if aliens had preternatural hearing, but she wasn’t taking any chances.
“I know,” she said softly. “Penny won’t be the last to think our kid is a monster. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want Gwendolyn to hurt someone before she understands her own power. I mean, she’s nine. Ben was in my body at thirteen, and while, yes, some of the sims I hurt were huge assholes, some of them didn’t deserve it. I almost sucked the life out of my high school boyfriend!”
Vlad’s eyes lit up with interest. “You killed him?”
“No! What part of almost is unclear to you? Anyways, I withdrew from everyone because I was afraid. I don’t want that for Gwendolyn.”
“I agree,” Vlad tucked her in close, “You know I just enjoy when you’re ruthless.”
“We have to keep her safe,” Alice reiterated, “I don’t know what Fates are planning, but there is a reason they wanted Gwendolyn to become The Owl. All these creatures trying to capture her and use her. Everyone trying to hurt—”
“No one will hurt her,” Vlad’s voice was calm, but rage flared in his eyes. “We will make a plan.”
“Not to rain on your parade, but planning is not our strong suit. We’re ‘good in the moment,’ but long term strategy? No.“
“We’ll get help, then. William will return soon, and I’ll beg Caleb if I have to.” He kissed her forehead and gently brushed her cheek, “You are a God, but you are tired. I’ll lay here until you fall asleep.”
“It’s hard,” Alice whispered, “I’m scared, and I feel like we don’t have any idea what the fuck we’re doing. How can I sleep?”
“Easy,” Vlad whispered back, “When Gwendolyn wakes, she’ll be nocturnal, so now is the time to stock up on rest.”
Alice laughed and burrowed in closer, appreciating the way his cool skin made her feel relaxed.
“Well, that was cuttin’ it awfully close,” Liberty huffed.
“I take responsibility for that,” Rory groaned, “Untamed magic just gets my goat every single time. Can you believe what we had to promise to pull this off? Though, Grim was a better salesman than we thought.”
Liberty’s eyes gleamed. “That’s because this is the right Alice.”
“That’s because we had 999 tests. Waste not, want not, I always say. Anyways, that part is done,” Rory lifted his glass in a toast, “All’s well that ends well…or will end well, when this finally happens.”
“It did happen; we just haven’t gotten there yet, which is why we’re on time,” Summer beamed.
Pushing back her chair, she stood and called to her power. “I think this next part requires privacy. Shall we?”
“I am not saying ‘double, double, toil and trouble,'” Liberty swore, “So you can forget that shit.”
Unbothered, Summer smiled and flicked her ponytail over her shoulder. With a snap and flourish, she transportalated them to the second floor where a cauldron was waiting.
“Why does it smell like that?” Rory scrunched up his face.
“Entrails,” Summer shrugged, “Hard to keep ’em fresh in this heat. But even stinky, they get the job done.”
“Now, y’all wanted to see the loose ends to tie up,” she continued, “The witch, magic help us, that one is between two paths and I don’t if she’ll choose dark or—”
“Is that a new future?” Rory interrupted.
“Yes,” Summer frowned as she stirred, “That’s my fault. I stepped away for a minute.”
“And that’s Bjorn?” Liberty growled, “I had to smile at that shithead, Somnus, at least I get to take care of this one!”
“No!” Summer shrieked, “Remember the long game! Don’t throw it all away now. Besides, it’ll be fine, just watch. Things might get messy.”
“Might?” Rory raised an eyebrow, “Phobos is involved. It will definitely get messy. You’ll like it, Liberty; Fear is exactly your kind of creature: ruthless, cruel, only likes like five other beings. Speaking of which, is Anastasia in—”
“Not yet,” Summer chirped, “Did you bring the book? It’s your turn to take notes.”
“Ugh, yes,” Rory pouted, “I know, I know. Remind me again why we thought the Book of Longings was a good idea?”
Agnes Crumplebottom’s Ladies’ Fashions
Agnes Crumplebottom’s basement was built for killing, and she was all too happy to turn it over. Witches didn’t like wendigos, included them on a list of unlawful abominations, barely above vampires.
“I am a father,” Bjorn croaked, eyeing Vlad warily as the vampire examined a selection of knives hanging on the wall.
It was not quite begging.
Vlad wanted begging.
“Please,” he corrected, “As in, ‘I am a father. Don’t hurt me, please.'”
Bjorn swallowed and squared his shoulders as if he thought there might be some reward for bravery. “I am a father. Don’t hurt me, please,” he amended.
Vlad imagined the words tasted like ash on his tongue.
It was an old trick, demanding that a prisoner beg. Vlad learned at the feet of the master and was thus, personally familiar with the effectiveness of that word. Please. A small bit of hope hung on it, but he was Phobos and Fear Itself was not in the business of hope.
“What a coincidence that you would mention that,” Vlad chuckled, his hand hovering over a silver dagger, “How many children did you have, Bjorn, two or three?”
The witch made a small anxious sound in the back of his throat, and it was good, but not good enough. Gwendolyn’s fear had been ten times that, her heart beating out a panicked rhythm Vlad could hear even as he fought off witches a floor below her.
“Kneel,” he instructed, cracking his neck. “How fitting that you would mention fatherhood to me, knowing of my long history with the Monks. The things you did changed me in ways you could not imagine.” Vlad paused, letting the blade of the dagger play across his fingers, “But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re here because the God of Death wishes me to take your confession.”
Terror flooded Bjorn’s veins, Vlad could almost taste it, but there was something else too—a fervent look in the witch’s eyes as he took in the dagger.
“I refuse to cower. I am a servant of Somnus. I am doing his will and it is just. We will all bow to him eventually, he will set things back in the proper order.”
“A proper order? That’s what you call it?” Vlad raised his eyebrows in amusement, “My, my. Times like these, I’m sorry I didn’t pack the bone saw.”
Bjorn tried unsuccessfully to scoot back. “No! Get away from me! This is bigger than you or I. If…if you just would have allowed us to do our work. The orphan is wicked, she is nothing, merely a—”
Vlad flashed his teeth and thrust the dagger into Bjorn’s thigh. “I would not use the word ‘wicked.’“
The witch howled, retched, and passed out. Vlad walked to the corner of the room and poured himself a glass of nectar.
He could drag this out. He should. But Gwendolyn would be disoriented when she woke, and Alice was in no shape to manage a baby vampire. She slept for fifteen hours straight and was still exhausted when he left.
Glancing down at his phone, he quickly scrolled through the long list of questions she texted. He adored her, but why each one required a smiley face was beyond his comprehension. And her liberal deployment of abbreviations was downright appalling.
Not that it mattered, he didn’t plan on asking them. Thorough as they were, Bjorn would only be able to answer with the useless talking points of a power-obsessed madman. And Vlad should know, he was a power-obsessed madman.
Plans flowed over madmen like water. They were just as likely to abandon a tactical position for a petty grievance as for strategy. Why had he killed so many Forgotten Hollow vampires? Spite. What made him ignore the feud between the wizards? Irritation. If Somnus was anything like Vlad, and Vlad believed he was, his plans would be made of equally bloodthirsty nonsense.
No, there was only one question he intended to ask, and then he would finally have his dinner. Alice was right; Vlad was a food snob. He preferred to dine on his enemies.
After draining the last of his drink, Vlad stood and threw his goblet down on the floor. The glass shattered, waking Bjorn with a jolt.
“Why won’t Somnus just march into the Underworld and take it by force?”
“I…what?” Bjorn sobbed, “What do you mean?”
Vlad crossed and hauled the witch up by his shoulders. “Somnus wants the Underworld, yet here he sits; there must be some reason he plans to make his war here. What is it?”
“I…” Bjorn grimaced and tried to turn his head, “Why would he destroy the place he intends to rule from?”
“Men like Somnus, like me, we are not deterred by a pyrrhic victory,” Vlad placed a hand under Bjorn’s chin drawing the dagger closer, “Try again.”
“Because he is…” Bjorn shook his head, “There is a reason, but I’ll only tell you if you agree not to kill me.”
Vlad chortled as he lifted Bjorn’s chin. “Oh, I intend to kill you. If you answer the question, I’ll do it now. If you don’t,” he tightened his hold, “I’ll wait until after I’ve finished eating.”
“Gods can’t die,” Bjorn whispered, a tear tracking down his face, “Only the dead and Death’s servants can enter the Underworld. He’s not planning a war; he’s building an army.”
Male Stand Poses 5 by Natalia-Auditore
Male Stand Poses 4 by Natalia-Auditore
Stay with Me by RayGun
Dead on Objects by Natalia-Auditore
Reaper Eyepatch by PralineSims
Vlad’s wings by Natalia-Auditore
Panic Crouch Animation by FlowersSimFactory
Blood Acc by Natalia-Auditore
Werewolf Posepack by Natalia-Auditore
Emotions 1-9 by Simmerberlin
Couple Drinking by Natalia-Auditore
Storyteller #1 by WhatTheSims
My Sacrifice Pose + Dagger by Natalia-Auditore
Rope ACC + Poses by Natalia-Auditore
Daddy and Child Posepack by Natalia-Auditore
Dead on Objects by Natalia-Auditore
Blood on Floor by Natalia-Auditore
Talking in Bed Animation Pack by Zac Frietas
Badass Villain Animation Pack by StevenStudios
Combat Poses by JoanneBernice
Phone Accessory by Quiddity-Jones
Love Hurts by Simmerberlin
Note: I took the shots from Caleb’s flashback over a year ago for a different version of this story and because I’m the worst, I have no idea what cc I used. If this is your stuff, let me know!