~The Wars of Demons IC~
“But you are sure he is returning to London? You are SURE Williams?”
“No Madame, no one is sure of anything, I only know he has left Valencia and is travelling North as we speak.”
There was a sharp crack of shattering glass as the Lady Carmen’s tightening hold caused webs of cracks to spread through her wine glass. She sighed heavily and set the glass down upon her side table, massaging her temple to try and soothe the angry and tight muscles in her brow. Of course the man would not be easy for once and actually tell anyone where he was going, he never did. He did want he wanted, the eternal and ultimate glutton. Damn him. Was it not enough that he had turned her ancestral home into a blood bath? No doubt a subtle slight to her pride. She was silent for a moment until her delicate hearing noted the anxious shuffling of her dutiful Servant. She looked up to the young man and sighed again. He was loyal for sure and clever in his own way, but he was to cautious, too frightened, too careful in every respect. He was not a bad informer but for things like this she really wished she had Adriano by her side, her ever trusted, ever faithful confidant.
But he had no business by her side right now, and that was as it should be. He needed to tend to his own matters. No she would have to do without him. In the old days she would have done it herself but by now she had far too much influence and was far too well known to pass unnoticed these days.
“That is all Williams, you have done your best, I can ask no more than that from you.”
The young man bowed low and turned on his heel in relief, eager to be away from her aura of weariness and frustration. She needed to calm her thoughts, this had occupied her mind for too long. She rose from her carved wooden seat, her hands absently stroking the ornate lionhead arm rests as she swept from her private quarters at the top of her stone tower. Her covern’s abode was large and grand, gothic statues gazing down on them all from above while giant fires roared in the many rooms. The grounds were even more impressive, acres and acres of woodland populated by both deer and wolves. And in the darkest parts of her forest, werewolves lived in peace, individuals whom she had deemed worthy of her protection. She was proud of what she had built here, but there always seemed more to do.
She lightly glided down her spiral staircase and into the main house, a whole room of red eyes darting to her form as soon as she appeared. Most bowed to her in reverent respect while a few greeted her with smiles and nods which she returned in kind. All her children loved her, she made sure of that, they all needed to know they could come to her, that she would protect and defend them above all else. It gave her a sense of purpose. Higgins appeared suddenly at her side, knowing that he would be wanted.
“Your orders Madame?”
He was finely dressed in butler garb, the head of all the footman as he was. So tidy and impeccable in every way, Carmen was lucky to have him.
“Inform all the staff that we leave for London Sebastian. I wish to be gone by the day after tomorrow, if possible.”
He bowed low to her and turned quickly on his heel to carry out her orders. She passed through the house, quickly dipping into the conversations of her charges to tell them of their imminent exodus. She knew they all couldn’t come, so she chose a few to accompany her. Some were trusted and long lasting friends, while others were new to their vampiric life and would benefit from seeing their London society. After this all was done she had a sudden thought. It took her a while to filter through her own emotions on the idea, was this a selfless exchange of useful information, or a selfish wish to have her loyal Servant at her side? Eventually she decided that whatever her own feelings on the subject, her reasons were valid enough and with that she swept out of the main doors and into the gardens. She came to a cherry tree orchard, their pink blossoms just losing their full bloom, petals littering her path. In one tree she found her quarry, a large black raven, impossible to see in the black of night for human eyes. But Carmen easily picked it out from the darkness and called it to her, cooing until it rested its knarled black feet on her arm.
“Find Adriano and tell him this. We are leaving for London and we will meet many Nobles there, Nobles who will quite possibly know of the whereabouts of Adrán’s brother. Come to my house in town if you wish and we will see what we can do. End message, repeat?”
The raven cawed and then, in an eerie likeness of Carmen’s own voice, repeated her message clearly and in full.
“Good, now find Adriano, go!”
The bird cawed again and took off, soaring up into the night sky and disappearing from view.
The sound of hoof beats on cobblestone echoed through the small Walsh town as Abel road a horse he had borrowed from a local stable down the center street. He kicked the heel of his boot into the horse's side, causing it to go faster. Where are you, mutt... As he rounded the corner, he saw a large shadow dodged into an alley way. There you are! Abel's mind raced as he urged the horse after the shadow. The horse leaped over a cart that had been carelessly left in the alley, but when they landed on the other side...The shadow was gone."Whoa, whoa, easy girl." He slowed the horse down as he entered the next street across from the alleyway."Come on out, monster." Abel raised his voice, as he took his musket off the side of the horse and held it in his hands.
Suddenly, his horse falls down, making a horrible sound as he fell to the ground, it's face ripped up and bleeding. Abel crawled out from under the corpse, pointing his weapon around and panting."Come on, wolf...Show yourself!" Dark clouds that had rolled in earlier were now pouring rain. Thunder cracked, as the lightning illuminated the werewolf standing down the street. Abel whipped around, pointing his musket at the creature."Let's dance." The sound of a gun shot rung out over the storm, smoke filling the street from the weapon being fired.
As the smoke cleared, Abel wondered if he had taken the beast down. He was answered by a powerful and terrifying howl, as the creature lunged through the smoke at Abel. He swung the butt of the musket at the werewolf's head, smacking it and knocking it off balance. They both went to the ground, but were soon back on their feet. Abel dropped the musket, pulling out his flintlock pistol in one hand and his rapier in the other. The creature was bleeding from the chest, where the musket ball had made contact, and it had some coming from it's forehead, though the wounds healed within seconds."How in the..." Abel started a sentence.
It came at him again before he could finish speaking, lunging for him. Abel fired off the pistol shot at the creature's head at point blank, at the same time trying to drive the rapier into the monster. Pain seared his chest as the severely wounded but still stand werewolf slashed his chest. the sound of claws against steel ringed out, as the creature hit his steel breastplate under the garb of a musketeer. He kicked it, and began limping away from the werewolf as it howled again."How is that thing still standing..." Abel muttered, turning around as he picked up his musket. He began pouring gun powder into it, and as soon as it was filled, he put the gun powder away and loaded in another musket ball. He pushed it to the back of the gun with a steel pole. He finished loading it, and pointed the weapon back at the werewolf."Game over..." He panted, pulling the trigger.
The creature was still standing after the smoke had cleared, and Abel could have sworn he saw it grinning at him. The beast charged again, tackling Abel and bringing him to the ground with ease. Abel used the musket to push at the werewolf's throat as it tried furiously to bite him in the face. Abel kicked at the beast, but it didn't budge. The werewolf began digging it's claws at the musketeer's breastplate, the metal being cut open like a can being attacked by a machete. The breastplate was strong, but it wouldn't hold off the werewolf for long. Abel began to panic as he realized that this werewolf could take his life at any moment."Where's a vampire when you need one!" He called out, as a desperate idea entered his mind. He bit his lip hard, the salty taste of blood filling his mouth."Let's hope they work fast..." Abel was fully intent on starting a contract with a vampire anyway, and having one come and save his life would be an added bonus.
Sophia's eyes were locked on the painting of rolling green hills on the wall opposite her. It was beautiful, probably the work of a famous artist and worth an obscene amount of money for something that few people would ever see, situated as it was in one of the smallest and least used bedrooms in the country manor. None of that crossed Sophia's mind however, as it was currently busy replaying scenes from the previous day. Her hands gripped the side of the bed she was sitting on, the frame of which was getting dangerously close to snapping under the force of her grip.
She had been overjoyed when Carmen had told her there was a way for her to live without the constant need to take life from others. Granted, she had been drinking blood from a cup instead of a vein but the memory of the first time she had fed combined with thoughts she could not completely suppress as to how Carmen had obtained the blood in the first place plagued her constantly. Her joy had evaporated quickly though as it was explained to her what she would have to do. In order to obtain a soul and regain control over her own body she must enter into a contract with a human, to obey their every command until their task was completed, at which point she would take the human's soul for herself and they would die. She had thought that being subject to the whims of a stranger and then having to take their life was horrific, until Carmen had introduced her to the human she was to bond to, Anthony, and he had told her what he would require of her. Her first instinct had been to run and hide, and it was only the gentle reassurances of Carmen, who she had come to trust, the only person left who she trusted, that had stopped her from bolting. The rest of the night was a blur and she still couldn't quite believe that she had agreed, that she had spoken the words that bound her to the human's will.
If she wasn't so terrified she would laugh. The idea that she, the 18 year old weakling who had barely ever left the house she grew up in, never mind the village, the vampire who had almost had a complete mental breakdown the first time she had fed and killed, could murder and manipulate her way to freeing a young noblewoman from an arranged marriage was... she couldn't think of adequate words to describe it. Anthony had obviously been thinking along the same lines, she didn't blame him for wondering whether her help would be worth the price of his soul. He too had listened to Carmen though and so here they were. Or at least, here she was, struggling to find the courage and self-control to make herself go downstairs to meet him.
How could Carmen put me through this? How could she think I was capable of this? Was I wrong to trust her? Her thoughts ran in panicked circles. Carmen had found her after she was turned, taken care of her. When Sophia had begun to trust her, Carmen had told Sophia that it was she who turned her. She claimed she had been asked to by Sophia's father, who was a rogue angel being hunted by other angels, because her half-angel blood made her weak and becoming a demon was the only way to save her life. It all made her head spin. Part of her wished she had been allowed to die naturally rather than being turned into a monster. But despite the fact that Carmen was a monster herself, one who didn't hide the fact that she killed humans, despite the unbelievable things Carmen had told her and the apparently impossible situation she had put her in, Sophia still trusted her. Maybe it was just because she couldn't face this world without someone to trust, but Carmen was all she had to hold onto so for now she wasn't going to question it too much.
Her new hearing picked up Carmen's voice from below, catching her attention from among the many she had blocked out. She was telling the others of a move to London. Sophia frowned, drawn out of her panicked thoughts for a moment. Carmen was moving to London, why? Would she leave Sophia behind? No, Sophia was going to have to go wherever Anthony went from now on. Hadn't he said his sister was in London though? Was that why Carmen was moving? She took a deep breath, she needed to find out what was going on and the thought of staying in this room alone for any longer was almost as bad as facing her fears downstairs.
She forced her hands to release their hold on the bed and stood up. She walked slowly to the door, feeling like the air had turned thick and was resisting movement. After a few moments pause she opened the door and stepped out into the corridor, looking around quickly to make sure there was no one else there. There were more people around as she made her way down to the ground floor towards where she had last heard Carmen's voice, most of them with bright red eyes matching her own identifying them as vampires. She flinched every time one of them greeted or even looked at her, seeming to shrink in on herself the further she got. She speed up, wanting to reach Carmen as soon as possible, rounded a corner and slammed straight into someone. She recoiled and stumbled, still not used to the capabilities of her new body.
“I... I'm sor...” She stuttered then cut off as she recognised the man, it was Anthony. She froze, wanting to run but not quite in control of her limbs anymore.
The wind howled as Robert ducked through an alleyway, intently tracking the monster that had dared to invade his city. Although Robert, as a vampire, did not have the keen senses that werewolves did, there were certain signs left behind and instincts to follow to help him locate his fellow demon. Suddenly, a sharp scent hit Robert's nostrils, one that was unmistakable to his vampiric senses: blood, and freshly drawn at that. Picking up his speed, he dashed across another road, following the smell in the hopes that it would lead him to the werewolf his sought. The weather seemed to worsen as Robert's excitement grew, and he had to calm himself despite the maddening smell of blood. He knew that if he wasn't in control of himself during the coming fight, he wouldn't last a second against the wolf, or worse, he might end up hurting a bystander. Bloody hell, he thought to himself, I was supposed to meet me mates at the pub tonight... Robert instantly knew that he wouldn't allow this demon wouldn't live to see the next sunrise.
Finally emerging from the network of alleys, Robert found his quarry; mindlessly clawing away at Abel, the werewolf was so distracted by its frenzy it hardly noticed Robert approach. After a moment of thought, Robert knew that he would have to be a bit more careful than he normally was if he wanted to save the werewolf's would-be victim. Subtleties like well thought-out plans, however, were not the forte of Bobby Arkwright. "Oi, pup!" He shouts over the wind. "Why dontcha hurry up and sit 'fore I whack your bloody lights out?" The werewolf took a moment to look up from his would-be victim, and that was all the distraction Robert needed. Robert throws his whole weight at the wolf, tackling it off of the prone Abel. He manages to slam the werewolf's head against the cobblestone road a few times, but it isn't long before the werewolf recovers. It fights back, raking a claw across Robert's chest, but Robert uses his large size to wrap the werewolf in his arms in an attempt to squeeze the life out of it. As the wolf struggles in his arms, Robert calls over to the man he had saved. "Hey mate, you alright?" A sick crack is heard as one of the wolf's bones break. "Gimme a shout if you're still alive"
Without waiting for an answer, Robert throws the wolf at a nearby wall, then watches to see if it's still alive.
Night had fallen over london and the sky had been lit up by stars. Adriano had been waiting outside the house for many hours and was beggining to feel slightly concerned for Adrán's safety. He normally didn't take this long. They had been all round london and had found a few leads which had turned out to be dead ends. Hopefully this time...
Then the door opened and Adrán emerged. He was wearing green coat and tails and had a cane in hand and was smoking a pipe as usual. Stepping down from the doorstep he looked around, he did not see Adriano who was standing just a few feet away. With two steps Adriano appeared before him out of the shadows. Adrán sighed.
"I wish you wouldn't do that, it always make me jump"
Adriano replied in a slightly bored tone.
"Would you prefer it if I waited out in the open like a dog"
Adrán laughed loudly.
"oh Adriano live a little, anyway I think we might be finally on to something"
So they made their way back to Adrán's house, a reasonably large place and run entirely by Adriano when they were staying there. Once there the latter gathered supplies whilst Adrán rested. At dawn Adriano woke Adrán and they set off. The morning air was cold and bitter and a foul mist permeated the air, Adriano was fine; Adrán however was frozen and was wearing enough clothes to fill a wardrobe.
A few hours later and they were well into the country and heading north. They spoke little and when they did it was mostly Adrán talking anyway. Adriano never spoke much to his contractor, it wasn't that he didn't like him but that he never felt like there was much to say. That and he spoke little these days anyway. At about lunchtime they reached the village. It was small and stank of pigs and rotting meat. This Adriano found a little strange. Adrán seemed to think nothing of it.
"Here we are at last! Darford, there is a healthy animal trade here"
Adriano thought for a moment, it smelt nasty here, very nasty.
"I don't like this place"
A look of annoyance crossed Adrán's face.
"Of course you don't! Because your you!"
They made their way into the vilage and to the local inn. It was an unfriendly place, everyone inside gave the newcomer's odd looks and stares. They rented a room and Adrán bought lunch. Once he had finished he went to ask around whilst Adriano made his way outside. He intended to find a criminal who he could feed off. However as he was heading down the street a loud call caused him to turn quick as a flash and look to where the noise had originated. Perched on a fence gate sat a large raven, it was looking right at him. Then it's beak opened and it began to speak, it sounded like Carmen's voice.
"We are leaving for London and we will meet many Nobles there, Nobles who will quite possibly know of the whereabouts of Adrán’s brother. Come to my house in town if you wish and we will see what we can do"
With that the raven took flight and was gone. Adriano eagerly strode back to the inn, surely Adrán would understand that this adventure round the countryside was a waste of time and that Carmen could help.
As he stepped through the threshold he saw a large man brandishing a knife at Adrán who was also armed with a knife. As the man made his move at Adrán Adriano stepped into action. Quicker than a man could blink he had crossed the room and had caught the man's arm. In one motion he easily snapped the man's wrist and drove the knife into his gut. The unfortunate thug fell to the floor...motionless. Adrán probably could have held his own against the man, but he didn't like taking chances. Looking around the room with a look of cold fury he said in an authoritive voice.
"You saw nothing here"
He was answered with many nods and shaky yes's.
Then he and Adrán dissapeared through the doorway.
Anthony took a deep pull of his Brandy shot, accidentally downing the whole thing in one. Well he had a vampire, he had what he had come for, but whether it was worth his soul was an entirely different matter. The girl was gentle, demure, shy and quiet and if Anthony had met her earlier in his life he would have liked her well enough. But he didnt want to like her, he wanted to care nothing for her at all, he wanted her to kill for him. Lady Martirio had said she would, his words were apparently the girls command and she could not refuse them, but still... He wished that Carmen could have been his ally in this, she seemed far more capable, in fact he would have settled for a man of any disposition! It made him uncomfortable to ask a lady to kill for him, she seemed so innocent, what had he sighed on for?
Looking unhappily at his finished glass of whiskey he replaced the glass and stood. The girl should have met him a while ago, he imagined she was escaping out of some window and running as far from him as possible. He would not have blamed her. The room that he occupied was deserted, it hadnt been when he had sat down but slowly his presence had driven out all but one of the red-eyed demons that inhabited the Manor. This solitary Vampire seemed busy with preparations and completely happy to ignore Anthony entirely but he turned to the servant anyway and cleared his throat to gain its attention.
The Vampire turned towards the sound with an unnerving speed that sent thrills up Anthony's spine, he wished they would stop doing that.
"Excuse me, I hope my presence isnt offensive to the inhabitants here.."
The Vampire actually smiled at him, it was patronising, a smile that one would direct towards an ignorant child, but it was still pleasant and unexpected.
"No Sir, most certainly not, it is simply that being so close to fresh blood is... tempting fate somewhat, and no one would want something to happen to little Sophia's contractor. She is such a dear little thing, our life of bloodshed and harsh times is not for her. The sooner she gets a soul the better, the Lady Carmen was particularly worried for her."
Anthony laughed humourlessly, darkly.
"So my soul is to be her savior, I bet you have been searching fitfully to find a man gullible enough to exchange his soul for her aid."
He was not usually cold or cruel but these were dark times of his. The vampire frowned, seemingly offended by the suggestion.
"No Sir indeed not, the suggestion that the Lady Carmen would use a Human so crassly... No in fact she asked specifically for you, little Sophia has seen no others. The Lady Carmen believed her to be a good match for you, she will be useful, trust in her Ladyship's wisdom for she certainly has more years of it than you do."
And with that the Vampire footman finished his duties quickly and strode from the room. Anthony cursed himself, it would do him no good to alienate his Vampire hosts. He eventually followed the footman out of the door and into the main hall by the staircase. His eye was caught by a luxurious portrait that hung over the fire, three figures sat in the painting. He recognised one as Carmen but the other two he did not know. One was a solemn looking man with slight greying to his short hair and the lines of many many years upon his face, those his eyes seemed to tell of even more years than his face did. The second man had strongly tanned skin and a fierce glint to his eye, very strong yet also with a warmth to his gaze. Carmen's gaze in the portrait was directed to this Arab looking man, while his was looking directly ahead, the elder looking Gentleman had his hand laid lightly upon Carmen's. It was an odd scene, Anthony wondered who the other two men were, probably some few paragons of history long forgotten.
However in his detailed examination of the picture Anthony had not been looking where he was going, so when a speeding golden-haired object collided with his chest he gave a gasp and nearly fell over backwards. He immediately recognised the girl as soon as he laid eyes upon her, she stuttered and almost apology, seemingly terrified in his presence. Anthony sighed, partly in frustration and partly pity for her. He kept his face emotionless before her and bowed low.
"I have been awaiting you Miss Brandon, I wished to speak with you of my task."
Their journey back to london was quick and without incident; Adrán looking rather ashamed most of the way. When Adriano asked Adrán said that he had only warned the thug he had friends in high places. This Adriano found very annoying, Adrán seemed like an old man with a child's mind. He was constantly drawing attention to himself and getting into trouble. Also with other vampire's out there and Adrán's weakness for women, Adriano feared that the contractor could all too easily be seduced by some seductress. It wouldn't take much...
When they entered london the night was closing in fast, the stars were already begging to shine when they reached Adrán's house. Just as they were entering the house Adrán asked Adriano.
"So you say this woman...can help us find my brother?"
Adriano hesitated, unsure of the point of the question.
"She is wise and powerful, yes she can help us find your brother"
A look of distinct happiness crossed Adrán's face.
"Maybe soon we will find him"
For the first time in a long while Adriano felt extremely sorry for Adrán. He was to most people's standards an old man, and should be being looked after by his children. But he had no children, and he wasn't resting but charging round the country constantly searching for his brother. Being aided by the one who would one day kill him. The prospect of death must be bitter sweet, Adriano thought as he headed up to his master's room to feed...
Abel struggled against the beast as best he could, but hope was quickly fading. When he thought his arms would give out under the werewolf's weight, he heard a voice. He chanced a look back to see a vampire, Robert, standing not all that far away from himself and the monster on top of him. As Robert tackled the monster off of him, Abel rolled away from the two. He spat the blood out of his mouth, rubbing his dazed eyes.
He adjusted himself before reloading his musket once more. After pouring the powder in he opened his ammunition pouch. He took out one of a few precious silver bullets he carried with him and stuffed it into the barrel, giving a silent prayer in hopes that God would bless this shot. He took aim at the werewolf. He didn't have an open shot as Robert seemed to be...hugging it to death."Yeah, I'm alive. But you won't be for long if you don't haul it outta there!" He called over to the vampire, answering his request for a yell.
As the werewolf hits the wall, Abel takes aim. Without hesitating he moves towards the spot where the creature was. The werewolf was somehow or another still alive, but barely. Robert's squeezing looked to have broken something, maybe a lung on the creature. Abel shoved the barrel of the gun onto the werewolf's head."Nighty-night, mutt." He squeezed the trigger, blood and brains flying in all directions. Abel turned to Robert, out stretching a hand."Many thanks for the assistance my demon friend." He shoved a hand out towards Robert, tucking the musket under his arm."I am Abel - Though I suppose you could call me a potential contractor. I want to make a contract ~ My soul for the life of every cursed werewolf in Europe. Or...At least until my thirst for vengeance is fulfilled." His voice was strong and stern, though that came from the many years of training as a musketeer, one of France's elite.
Sophia was worried that he would be angry with her, after all it would be reasonable to expect a vampire, renowned for their agility and reflexes, to show slightly more elegance than she just had. However he reacted with the same detached politeness he had shown yesterday, a sigh the only sign of emotion he gave. She watched him warily, as a human she had very rarely met new people due to her illness. Since her change she had met what seemed to her to be many members of Carmen's covern, most of whom had seemed to like her, in many cases getting rather protective, and the others avoided contact with her, perhaps too intimidated by Carmen to risk upsetting her. She didn't know what to expect from him and that scared her even more. He could command her to do anything and she would have to obey, she didn't know how he was going to use that power. Surely Carmen wouldn't have arranged the contract with him if she didn't think he was trustworthy? I already know he is going to tell me to kill for him. She felt a small flash of emotion at that thought and it shocked her; anger was not something she was used to feeling. Becoming a vampire had changed more than her body.
She realised that he was waiting for a response from her and she blushed and struggled to think of an appropriate answer, “Yes... I... I mean... um.” At this rate he was going to think she was an idiot as well as clumsy and a coward! “Please do.” She finished awkwardly, and tried not to show her embarrassment and fear on her face.
Robert reaches out, takes Abel's hand in a firm grip, and shakes his hand vigorously. "Pleased 'ta meetcha. Names Robert, Robert Arkwright, but call me Bobby, everyone does." He takes a step back, and clears his throat. "But you like to get right down to it, I think that's right professional of ya." Robert takes a moment to inspect the slain werewolf. He was certain that the damage that both he and Abel had inflicted on it was more than enough to kill it and then some, but you could never be too careful. As he kneels down to get a closer look, he continues. "But I feel I have to get down to the ol' brass tacks 'bout the whole 'sellin' yer soul' business." Confident that the wolf is dead, Robert draws himself up to his full height to look Abel in the face.
"It ain't an easy thing, and 'onestly there ain't a thing worth wishin' for that's worth yer soul. I mean, look at me!" He gestures to himself, his clothes covered in a few flecks of the wolf's blood. "I haven't got a soul to me name, and here I am fightin' demons in the drivin' wind and rain!" Robert gestures to nothing in particular, trying to put his feelings into words. "And let's not forget about the part where you've damned yourself to Hell for all eternity. I'd have you avoid that, if I could."
Robert pauses and thinks for a minute. "But that whole bit about slayin' werewolves...well, that happens to be somethin' I'm keen on. A personal interest of mine, you could say." He cleared his throat, and his voice took a slightly more serious tone. "If you're dead set on this, then I'll contract wit ya-but only if you're absolutely sure. There's a 'no takes-backsies' rule when it comes to souls, so you only get one contract-one wish, to be fulfilled by yours truly. But if you don't think you'll have any regrets..."
Robert holds out his hand again, a steely glint in his eyes.
"Then we'll form a contract, and I'll swear to you that I'll personally wring the neck of every werewolf in Christiandom."