Of Love and Monsters

Chapter 20: A Query and a Summons

The Underworld has six consecutive months of October, two months of November (for Harvest Festival purposes) and two Decembers (because even denizens of the down below enjoy gifts). The Grand Demon Council will vote on whether or not to add a July for pool party purposes and is collecting feedback as we speak. – The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition

ALICE

Alice kept her cool when she returned to the dressing room. The stockings—borrowed from Contessa—and the ball gown she cut up to make the skirt were discarded immediately in favor of a comfortable pair of jeans. As soon as she slipped them on, she felt like herself again. Only then did she take a moment to squeal with excitement.

It all worked! (Even the poem, which, she had a new appreciation for now that she actually understood what it was about. And to think, she had recited it during a high school Lockup & Llamas gaming session. Sheesh!) 

The producers gave her the thumbs up before she left the stage, she was on the show! Ben was right! It was the exact perfect amount!

And man did it feel good to rub it in Vlad’s face. The look he gave her: like he wanted to shove her up against a wall and eat her up…okay…well that look had actually been pretty good. But the other look, the one where he was shocked that she didn’t fall at his feet. That was awesome!

“Congratulations!” 

Alice whirled around. Jimena was smiling at her with fake enthusiasm. Jimena who thought she could rattle Alice by doing the same mean girl act Alice had been dealing with all her life. 

“No one can do Alice better than you,” Ben cackled.

Alice agreed.

“She would not be welcome in the underworld at all,” Ben whispered sharply.

On that they agreed too. Though, the requirements for admittance into the Underworld were somewhat murky. Ben had tried to explaining it but as far as Alice could tell, it mostly boiled down to just let in whoever she liked best.

Not that she was going to be letting anyone in, mind you. Being the God of Death was a temporary position.

Alice cracked a smile at Ben’s sniping. “Stop!” and then at Jimena’s strange look, “I mean, um, congratulations to you too.” 

The rest of the final contestants filed back into the room and introduced themselves.

“Whoa, dudette, that was a seriously awesome performance. Rockin’!” Deacon whistled, with an appreciative nod and a fist pump.

“Uh, thanks,” Alice replied, the influx of so many sims already beginning to make her uncomfortable.

“So, your friend, what’s his name? Oh right, Vladislaus. He’s so handsome and supportive. I think we talked to each other all night after the mixer!” Jimena cooed, this time with fake innocence.

Well, the joke was on her, Alice thought. Mister “Handsome and Supportive” was also a vampire and not a very nice one as far as Alice could tell. He couldn’t possibly be interested in any real commitment to someone who’s expiration date was so soon by comparison. Not that it was any of Alice’s business. Not that she cared. 

Ben snorted.

One of the producers swept in with release forms and other paperwork. “I trust you’ve all secured your lodging in Windenburg. Your flight is, of course, covered by the network but make sure you check into the airport at least two hours before your flight departs.”

Secured lodging in Windenburg? She didn’t remember Ben mentioning that, but she’d check with him once they were alone.

“Oh.”

Alice took a step back and turned away from the group. “What do you mean: ‘oh?’” she whispered. 

“Well, I had a lot going on what with the corporeal form the kitchen and the hotel…”

“Just spit it out!” Alice hissed under her breath.

“Uh…Alice?” Dylan asked.

Alice faked a coughing fit, and continued whispering furtively to Ben with her back still turned.

“What. Did. You. Do?”

“It’s more like what I did not do, if we’re going to get technical about it…”

“Ben!”

“I didn’t book lodging alright? I forgot. And if you think that as an all powerful being, I’m not embarrassed, then think again missy!”

Alice resisted the urge to scream. She put a hand to her forehead and then to her stomach. She couldn’t decide which was worse: feeling like she was going to faint or feeling like she was going to throw up.

She turned back to the group who all stared at her with matching looks of confusion and concern. 

“Yup, well, just got a little cake stuck in my throat so you know…” Alice waved her hands, “Choking is a real threat! Everyone should have a glass of milk at their stations…”

Baillee gave her a sympathetic nod. “I always tell Moira that the kids can’t eat that many spooky cookies without a glass of milk nearby!”

Jimena narrowed her eyes at Alice and then clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “Oh excuse me, listen up everyone! I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of you so much. I rented a huge chateau in Windenburg but it’s way too big for just me. I’ve got room for all four of you, what do you say?”

Everyone gasped and began talking all at once.

“Oh that sounds like a real vacation, how thoughtful of you, Jimena,” Bailee crooned.

“Dope, does it have a pool?’ Deacon asked. 

“I will need a quiet space for working on my abstract,” Dylan insisted.

“Anyone need to share a bedroom, or a bed?” Giancarlo growled, waggling his eyebrows.

Alice tried to cut through the commotion, “Wait, four? But there are five of us.” 

“Oh Alice, I assumed you’d want your own space. I’m sorry, there’s really only room for five people.”

“But you said it was huge!” Alice countered.

“Did I? Oh, I meant it’s the perfect size for me and four friends.”

Rory strolled up, “Hey, am I still invited to the chateau?”

Jimena turned to him and smiled, “Absolutely!” she gave him a wink and turned back to Alice. “Six. It’s really only got room for me and six friends.”

Alice blinked. Was she fucking kidding? They were adults for llama’s sake.

“So really you don’t have room for me?”

Jemina smiled, “Oh no Alice, I don’t. You know the saying: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

And with that, she turned on her heel motioning for everyone to follow. “I’ve got reservations at Villa Bovine so we can celebrate!”

Alice watched as her so-called co-stars followed Jimena with no questions asked. She would bet serious simoleons that there wasn’t enough room for her at the dinner table either. 

“Oh, hey let us know where you’re staying, dudette, maybe we can party!” Deacon called over his shoulder.

“I don’t think we should party with them,” Ben said, his tone severe.

“Well we can’t party anywhere if we don’t have a place to stay,” Alice replied testily.

Booking a last minute hotel in a huge city like Windenburg. How hard could it be?

San Myshuno International Airport

ALICE

It was hard. Booking a last minute hotel in Windenburg was, for reasons Alice could not understand, virtually impossible. First, there was the money issue. Ben had no sense of what a simoleon was actually worth. When she got the bill for her stay at the hotel, she nearly passed out. A week had cost her in the high five figures and that was including the alarming amount of room service Ben had ordered the first night when he was in control of her body. 

“Ten orders of caviar crackers? Are you fucking nuts?” she had screamed at him in the taxi on the way to the airport. The driver had given her a concerned look, but Alice was used to those. She paid him no mind and continued berating Ben.

Now, she sat here in some airport bar scrolling through lists of hotels that were either booked up or too far out of her price range. Along with the problems of winning the contest, vampires wanting favors…scratch that, the existence of vampires and llama’s knew what else (Ben had been decidedly vague about the information he provided), money was also something she’d have to figure out how to resolve over the next few weeks.

She glanced up from her laptop to see Vlad and William along with another vampire she had never seen before. At least she was getting good at identifying SimNation’s overabundance of plasma-drinkers.

William waved, the other vampire smirked, and Vlad…well Vlad stared at her intently and licked his lips.

She shivered and added “get laid” to her list of future problems. She needed Vladislaus Straud out of her system, STAT. 

“Why not just search cheap but really nice place to stay in Windenburg that fits my budget and gives me exactly what I need?” Ben suggested. “The Internet is vast, surely it can handle a query such as that.”

“Ben, the Internet doesn’t work like that.” Alice sighed and typed the sentence into the search bar just to show him.

And wouldn’t llamas know, it fucking worked.

The In Between Inn is a cozy, quaint, bed and breakfast located in the Windenburg Countryside. Inexpensive, warm, friendly, and relaxing, we have a room ready for you guaranteed!

Alice flipped through the pictures. The place looked great and she couldn’t believe the price. 

She clicked the “Book Now!” button and smiled with relief.

San Myshuno International Airport

VLAD

Vlad tried and failed to take his eyes off of Alice. He wanted what he wanted. In fact, now that feelings swam in his veins, he was almost dizzy with the wanting. She didn’t fear him, that much was evidenced by the fact that she wasn’t worried about the repercussions of telling a vampire to go fuck themselves. 

How naive. He was a monster. Alice had been lucky not to run into Contessa if this was how she dealt with supernaturals. 

He tilted his head as he studied her. She was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he decided, and that thrilled him. Why would she turn him down? He wasn’t a fool. She had been angry with him, which was a new experience. 

Kaylnn had never been furious with him, she—he swallowed hard and clamped down on the thought, refocusing on Alice.

Yes, she was angry with him but he hadn’t missed the shiver she gave.   

Alice glanced up briefly and then looked away, biting her lip. She closed her laptop and walked out of the bar. He couldn’t stop the lurch of his heart as she ventured beyond his sight but he suppressed the urge to follow her. She’d be in Windenburg soon. He hadn’t given up on his plans to have his cake… 

And oh, the eating of it…

He turned his attention back to the conversation. William and Caleb finished their drinks at the bar. 

“I still think we have to take the threat of aliens seriously,” William insisted.

“Aliens? Or a spell the dryads got the witches to cast to hide their real secret?” Caleb countered.

William angrily waved a hand. “But why would you disguise something you don’t want to find as something else that will attract attention? No, Caleb. You’re wrong on this. Mark my words. Aliens have come to the realm.”

Vlad shook his head. He was inclined to agree with William. If the dryads wanted to hide something, they could have just as easily gotten a witch to make it look like an abandoned barn full of junk. The same way Caleb had gotten them to make it look like the second floor of the Shrieking Llama simply didn’t exist.

“I agree with William. The owl is bringing all sorts of creatures out of the woodworks…” Vlad paused to consider. The creature from the other night had been the God of Death’s. His bones knew it. But what exactly was his plan?

Caleb cut in, his mind always working a scheme or an angle. “We need more information. There is no way to make a solid plan of attack if we don’t know the other players on the board.”

Vlad was just about to answer when a mass of flower petals rained down from the ceiling. The bartender scrambled to pull out their phone.

“I’m sorry! Must be our air ducts! I’ll get help.” He stepped back to dial airport maintenance and began berating whatever poor soul had picked up the line.

But this was no problem that airport maintenance could solve. 

“A summons from the sages,” Caleb breathed. Instantly, William went on high alert.

It looked like they would get some information on their competition after all.

If the Sages didn’t kill him first. Vlad never thought the day would come when he’d be tired of his enemies hunting him down.

And yet, here we are, he said to himself.


Credits

From SimmerBerlin:

(I did not build the exterior of that awesome airport but the Gallery is misbehaving. As soon as I can get things working, I’ll update this post with the credit to the builder!)

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