Chapter 15 – Immortals
Afterlife sits on the corner of Carcadia Street and Nihom Way. The club is a converted warehouse, but instead of being completely renovated, only the glass in the windows was replaced. The rest of building was left complete with graffiti, flaking paint on the windows and chunks of concrete missing from the walls. The name of the club is marked in red block letters lit from above with lights. There is nothing glowing in neon, no flashing lights, and no red carpet, just a pair of bouncers standing on either side of the doors.
After looking at the line of people waiting to get in, I congratulate myself on dressing appropriately. Everyone is dressed like the stereotypical villain in modern vampire movies. Black leather, chains, vinyl, knee-high boots and exposed pale skin. The makeup is thick and dark on both men and women. I guess it's a good thing I brought along the outfit I'm wearing.
I had dressed carefully, wanting to make sure I wouldn't be too out of place no matter what type of club it had turned out to be. My pants were shiny vinyl tucked into knee-high boots with four-inch heels. The belt was thick with a silver buckle and my shirt was a black silk tank top with a sheer black long sleeved shirt over it. I had fussed with my hair for hours before Danny warned me we would be late if I didn't get a move on it. In the end, I threw it into a ponytail and put on some eyeliner.
Danny was another matter. He hadn't been able to bring any clothing and he was much smaller than anything Gavin had in his suitcase so we had gone shopping as soon as I had awakened. He was now dressed in a shiny black button-up shirt and black leather pants. His mid-calf boots were covered in silver buckles that matched the buckle on the studded collar he wore at his throat. Strangely enough, we had both found it funny to put a collar on a werewolf. Maybe my humor was catching.
It had been about ten o'clock when we arrived at the club and gotten into line. When we finally get past the bouncers, I check Danny's watch and find that it's almost eleven thirty. I hope Gavin's friend isn't a stickler for time.
Danny and I step to the side to let people get past us as we allow our senses to adjust to the club. The music is deafening and it takes some time for me to recognize what's playing. The beat is heavy and the song is heavy with electronic sounds and, strangely enough, violins. Above the instruments I hear a beautiful female voice singing what sounds like opera. As weird as the whole style of music is, I find that I like it.
Once I get past the music, I spur myself into action. I touch Danny's arm and move further into the club. The dance floor is huge and filled with men and women in black. I sigh and wonder how I'm supposed to find anyone in all of this. Danny's face mirrors my thoughts. I decide to move through the club anyway, putting my faith in Gavin's arrogant friend to find me, though without a description, I don't hold out too much hope.
We thread our way through the club, sticking close together to prevent separation and to keep anyone from wanting to interact with us. I don't want to attract the attention of anyone looking for company. After thirty minutes of fruitless search, Danny and I make our way to the far wall. Frustrated, I lean against the wall and watch the dancing.
After several minutes of watching people dance, my eye is caught by a flash of color in the sea of black. I straighten, alert for anything that is out of the ordinary. As if people knew I was trying to see past them, a couple moves slightly to the right. In the small gap, I see a woman in all white. Curious to see someone wearing any color other than black, I move a little closer to the dancing crowd to see her better. I feel Danny close to my back, almost pressed up against me and trying to see what has caught my attention. Ignoring him, I step to my left and can finally see her clearly.
Her outfit is all white, down to her shoes. Amid the crowd in black, the contrast is striking. Also surprising is the old style of her clothing. Her long white coat swings about her legs at mid-calf as she dances. The silk blouse is ruffled in the front and her pants are wide legged. The entire outfit is like something out of an old movie, yet altered slightly to look more modern. Also adding to the old style look is the long brown hair and the way it shimmers when one of the few lights in the club hits it.
The other striking thing about the woman is her dancing partner. He is the only man in the club with hair past his shoulders and wearing a scarlet silk shirt. I watch him dance and find myself reminded of the way nightcats move. It is a graceful, lethal kind of movement. I am sure he had killed before and am confident it wasn't animals he had hunted. Not only does he move dangerously, but he radiates sex. I could feel the sexuality even from across the room seeping through me and wondered how one person could be so sensual. I decide that anyone with his combination is deadly and make plans to avoid him.
Abruptly, they stop dancing and turn toward us as though sensing us. The couple heads toward us, she smiling and he with an arrogant smirk. It's the cocky attitude that makes me realize that this is the owner of the voice I had spoken to the night before.
As they draw closer, I'm struck by the old world beauty of the woman. Her pale skin is something only seen in modern times by vampire wannabes, but looks perfectly natural with her golden brown hair and heart-shaped face. Her small mouth, out of style now that women are obsessed with enlarging their lips, matches the rest of her appearance, which I notice is untouched by cosmetics. As I stare at her, trying to figure out where I have seen her before, it clicks.
"I've seen your portrait," I blurt when they stop in front of us. I shake my head at my uncouthness.
Luckily, she doesn't appear to find me stupid or rude and smiles. It's a warm smile, made to make you feel instantly at ease. It works. I feel the tension drain from my body and I return the smile.
"Where have you seen my portrait, Callie?" she asks in a strange, soft accent.
"In the Bailey Museum in Ruanna," I reply promptly and then my mouth falls open.
"So that is where it has gone. I had wondered," she tells the man beside her.
The man takes her hand and lifts it to his mouth. He presses a kiss to her knuckles and flashes her a winning smile. "I will get it back," he promises.
"Who are you?" I say, recognizing that she- no, they- can't be human to have lived so long.
"Forgive me, Callie, we know your name, but you do not know us," she replies but before she tells me who she is, she looks at Danny. "Perhaps it is best we take this upstairs."
I ponder her strange accent as Danny and I follow the couple through the club to a door labeled "private". I chalk the accent up to a combination of a foreign country and time. Once through the door, it is startlingly quiet. We walk a flight of stairs and go through an unadorned door.
The room is small, but comfortable. Oversized chairs fill the cream painted room. I watch the man pluck a blood red rose from one of the many vases and plays with the petals. He doesn't sit, opting instead to stand by the woman's chair opposite me. There is a large mirror on the far side of the room with a scenic painting opposite it. I note the hand-woven rug on the floor as I take a seat. Danny perches tensely at the end of the seat in the chair next to me. Oddly, I don't feel nervous at all.
Now that the four of us are alone, I feel the couple giving off power. It doesn't feel cool, like what I've been associating with vampires and it makes me wonder more. What kind of people are they? I glance at Danny and assume he must be feeling their power as well. Why I'm not as anxious as he is, I'm not sure. I know I should be concerned being alone with people radiating this kind of power.
"I would introduce us, but first, please tell me who is your companion," the woman says.
"Oh, this is Danny." I introduce lamely. Danny nods his head submissively, glancing at me out the corner of his eye. "He's, um, mine."
This earns me a raised eyebrow from the man. He sniffs the rose languidly as he regards us. With an air of boredom, he deposits the rose on a low table and drops himself into the chair next to the woman. Throwing his arm over one side of the chair and his leg over the other, he smirks at me.
"Care to explain?" he says in a tone that suggests we do.
"Right. Look, he's my…servant, for lack of a better word," I tell him defensively.
"You're too young to be making servants. Especially servants out of shapeshifters," he snorts. Danny starts and looks at me in surprise. "Yes, my little werewolf, I know what you are. And I'm guessing you're the reason she's in trouble with the werewolves."
Danny and I remain silent. He grins at us and I wonder what else he knows. The woman gives him a chiding look and he says nothing further. His smug look doesn't change, however.
"Well, Callie and Danny, my name is Carmen Darkstone, and this is my husband, Jubilex," Carmen says, smiling warmly at the man beside her. "Our names are of the past, so we are known as Lara and James to the public."
"So, tell us how you know Gavin and why he sent you to us," Jubilex demands. Before I can speak, however, Carmen interrupts him.
"There is no need, I can sense it. My blood flows through her veins," Carmen says simply.
I don't even have a chance to be shocked because Jubilex springs to his feet faster than even I could see. His face is unexpectedly filled with rage. Immediately, I jump to my feet and pull Danny out of his chair and shove him behind me. One of Jubilex's hands drops to his side as though reaching for something though I see nothing there. Carmen is beside Jubilex suddenly and touching his arm lightly. I don't see her speaking, but sense she is communicating with him, perhaps mentally. Danny and I stand still, waiting for the situation to defuse or to escalate. All at once, it ends and Jubilex tosses himself back into his chair in disgust.
Carmen smiles at us apologetically. "Forgive him, there is old anger between my husband and Gavin." Jubilex grunts as though to say she was understating the issue. "Please, seat yourselves."
Danny and I sit only after she has taken her seat and Jubilex doesn't make any further movements. I watch him carefully out the corner of my eye and don't believe his aloofness.
"What did you mean?" I ask tentatively, wondering if talking about it will set Jubilex off again. "You aren't a vampire."
Ignoring another snort of disgust from Jubilex, Carmen responds. "No, I am not a vampire. What I meant is that I can tell Gavin has made you. This explains why you are strong for such a young one. Had you not been of Gavin's line, you would not have been able to make Danny your servant. Normally, a vampire has to be much older than you to have a servant, especially a shapeshifter."
I know she avoided answering my question directly, but let it go in order to avoid upsetting Jubilex further. I can't imagine anything that could make anyone dislike Gavin so strongly, but wasn't willing to risk their help being withdrawn to satisfy a curiosity.
"You must tell us what has befallen you. Gavin would not send you to us unless he was desperate," Carmen says, looking me in the eyes.
I nod slowly and begin the tale with the first time I sensed Rastovan's presence. Carmen's response to his name is a displeased frown while Jubilex's reaction is much stronger.
"Rastovan!" he announces in disgust. "There's one I wished I hadn't missed."
"Hush, let Callie finish," Carmen admonishes gently.
I continue, not bothering to hide any of my shameful moments, which seem to be quite a lot, I notice in the telling of my misadventures. It's embarrassing to admit to all of my failures and at first, I can't bring myself to look at Carmen or Jubilex. After I get to the part where I reach the warehouse full of shapeshifters, I glance up to see how my pitiable narrative is being received. Carmen smiles encouragingly at me, seemingly not repulsed by my cowardice. Jubilex looks bored, which I find unsurprising despite my short acquaintance with him. I finish up with my tale and clasp my knees nervously.
"Rastovan; that abominable creature," Carmen says softly, leaning backwards in her chair.
Jubilex snorts in response. "There are worse things to say about him, like-"
"That won't be necessary, beloved," Carmen interrupts, smiling fondly at her longhaired husband. Jubilex shrugs carelessly, but I catch the mischievous glint in his eyes.
"Do you think he's all right?" I burst out, anxious for some word of my missing mentor.
"To be honest, Callie, I do not know," Carmen responds gently. She looks so genuinely apologetic that I swallow hard. "He is not easy to conquer and he is intensely loyal, so I suspect we shall hear from him soon."
"But, Rastovan," I start with anxiety.
"Rastovan is a vile creature, as intelligent as he is cruel. However," Carmen says quickly as my heart begins to sink, "he underestimates Gavin greatly."
I nod in agreement. I don't know Gavin as well as Carmen seems to know him, but it sounds accurate. I know deep down that he would never leave me to fend for myself, no matter the circumstances. Still, the chance that he is dead leaves me shaken.
Carmen leaves her chair and wraps her arm comfortingly around my shoulders. I feel warmth seep into my body as she pulls me lightly against her. The sense of safety is straight from my childhood and makes me think of my mother. I wonder how she is able to make me feel this way and wonder if she's doing it purposefully.
"Do not fret over Gavin, Callie. We will seek for word of him," Carmen comforts. "Come, you will stay with us. It is not safe for you or your werewolf at this time."
I glance at Danny. I don't want to appear too ignorant, so I use the connection between our minds to communicate with him.
"What's she mean by that?" I inquire.
"I think she means the local clan. They won't like a strange shapeshifter in their city. Normally, we ask for permission to enter another's territory. They also won't like it if they find out I'm your servant," Danny replies and I'm amazed that I actually got a straight answer out of him though I'm not keen on this whole territorial thing.
"Let's do this more often," I tell him."Do what?"
"This whole you-answering-my-questions-rather-than-being-cryptic thing." I say, smiling.
"Okay, Callie. I was just nervous before, you know? I've never been in this much shit before," he responds, shrugging apologetically.
I agree silently. I look back at Carmen who regards me patiently. Jubilex sighs dramatically and heads for the door. He swings the door open and bows mockingly to me, indicating the hallway.
"Are we done talking to our little pet and are ready to go now?" he sneers.
I'm starting to get irritated with his attitude, but bite my tongue and nod. I decide I should practice talking to Danny mentally so I can make it less obvious when I'm communicating with him privately. I catch Carmen give Jubilex a disapproving look as she exits the room. Jubilex follows her after smirking at me. I pray silently for patience and trail after the pair with Danny behind me.
We leave, not through the front doors as I expected, but following a short hallway and exit to the rear of the club. A shiny black car sits in the alley, lights on and engine running as though expecting us. The driver watches us but makes no move to get out but before I can wonder if he is being rude, Jubilex reaches the car and opens the door for Carmen. He turns to me as I approach the car.
"Have him sit up front. I'd have brought the limousine if you had bothered to tell me you were bringing a friend," Jubilex tells me in a civil tone, but we both know he's still baiting me.
I nod to Danny and get in the car after Jubilex is inside. Danny glances at me and I can see that he shares my exasperation with Jubilex's obnoxious attitude. I know he, too, respects the fact that we need help and can't alienate ourselves from Gavin's friends.
The car ride is painfully long as Jubilex continues trying to draw angry response out of me. I eventually come to the conclusion that he perversely enjoys pissing people off. The realization makes me want to remain cool and I wonder how long this kind of game will continue. Will I snap first or will he get bored? Danny glances back at me, probably sensing my growing irritation. I envy the fact that he gets to sit up with the driver.
Finally, Carmen sighs in exasperation and Jubilex falls silent. He leans over and kisses her cheek. After flashing me a mischievous grin, Jubilex looks out the window quietly. I silently thank Carmen for whatever she said to shut him up for a while.
As much as I want to ask Carmen how they plan on trying to locate Gavin, I'm afraid mentioning his name will set off Jubilex again. I definitely don't want that pain again so I keep quiet.
A short time later, we pull into a wealthy neighborhood tucked into the city of the city. The multimillion-dollar homes are each situated on a couple acres of land and surrounded by security fences. I watch the homes go past, counting them. We pull up to the gate of the last house, number seven. The driver punches in a security code and the gates slide open effortlessly. The driver eases the car down the long driveway and up to the large, white stucco house. Somehow, I pictured a small castle or something.
Jubilex, with boneless grace, gets out of the car and takes Carmen's hand to help her out. I follow and find Danny instantly by my side. We follow the couple inside, gaping at the obvious wealth of the place. It's not furnished nor decorated in a gaudy manner, but rather it has simple elegance with antique furniture. I don't have time to ogle as they lead us up a sweeping staircase though I do pause to look at huge thing on the wall when we reach the top.
It's a large, black plaque with a bright, gleaming sword centered on it. I move closer, unable to help myself, drawn to it by some unknown need. The center of the black hilt has a symbol of two silver snakes entwined in a sideways figure eight biting each other's tails. Fascinated by the huge sword and its symbol, I reach toward it.
Before I can touch it, a hand clamps down on my wrist. Startled, I look up to find myself staring into a pair of glittering deep blue eyes. Once I get past the eyes, I find that the man has a stern expression on his face. Oops. I apparently am trying to touch something I shouldn't be.
"I'm sorry," I say automatically, feeling guilty though he's said nothing.
"I prefer that my sword is untouched," he replies in a rather expressionless tone.
I stare at him, taking in his stoic features. He's handsome, with raven hair that comes down just past his ears, some strands falling almost across his sapphire eyes. There's a strange sort of mixture of sternness and sadness in his eyes. I feel like I should throw myself at his feet and beg him for forgiveness for daring to touch his sword.
As Carmen walks past me, he releases my wrist and turns his gaze to her. Immediately, there is a slight softening of his features. Barely perceptible, and if I hadn't been staring at him, I probably would have missed it. When she stretches up toward him, he leans down to kiss her. I blink and then my mouth falls open. It's definitely not an I've-missed-you-dear-friend kiss or even a sisterly kiss. No, they share a kiss reserved for lovers. With my mouth still unattractively open, I turn and look at Jubilex to see how her husband is reacting to the scene before me. Jubilex merely grins at my confusion.
"Callie, this is my husband Xanatos," Carmen says in introduction. I gape at her as she continues. "Xanatos, this is Callie, the friend of Gavin's we spoke about, and her servant, Danny."
Xanatos merely nods to me in greeting. Danny appears beside me, returning the nod and glancing at me, presumably to find out what to do next. I sense his bewilderment with the situation as well. I mean, how often do you meet women married to two men at the same time? It's common enough in Altair for women to have multiple husbands, but it's unheard of in any other country.
"Uh, so this sword is yours?" I say, feeling incredibly stupid that I can't think of anything better.
"Yes," he replies. After almost a minute of silence, he elaborates. "I have had it since I was fourteen. The sigil was added when I after I turned four hundred fourteen. It holds many memories and is very sharp."
Everything was said emotionlessly, but the expression in his eyes was anything but that. There were so many conflicting emotions that I couldn't catch more than a brief moment of anger and sadness.
"Four hundred fourteen!" I exclaim. "How old are you now? What are you people?"
Carmen smiles slightly and touches his arm lightly as though to prevent any outbursts. Xanatos frowns in displeasure as Jubilex begins laughing behind me. Danny tenses, wondering, as I am, if my rudeness is about to get us hurt.
"Yes, four hundred fourteen," he repeats, still frowning, pinning me to the spot with his piercing blue gaze. "I am now one thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven years old. We are Immortals."
Danny and I both stare at him, noting that the way 'immortals' was said with great importance. Somehow, when he says they are immortal, it is different than the way I am immortal. I don't recall Gavin telling me about anyone like this, but then, he had only mentioned that there were others out there that were different from us but immortal.
"I didn't know you really existed," Danny says in a near whisper. Then, in my mind, he continues. "My Clan has spoken of them, passing down stories of beings that can't die. It's pretty gruesome at times when they talk about them with their heads cut off, their hearts pierced, chained and buried in an attempt to escape the burdens of immortality – or as punishment by another Immortal. I always dismissed them as stories, but if he's truly one of them, we'll want to be careful. We don't know which type they are."
"What do you mean, which type?" I ask, grateful that we're actually communicating and sharing information for once.
"Good or evil," he replies. "If the stories of the Clan elders are true, they fight each other all the time. We don't want to end up on the wrong side."
Oh. No, I don't want that at all. I watch them worriedly for a moment, fretting about how to figure out if they're on the good side or not. I also don't really want to get involved in whatever fight they're in as I'm trying to get out of the mess I'm in, not blunder into a new one.
"Well, now you know we exist. Can we move along now?" Jubilex says with a sneer on his face. I resist the urge to turn around and tell him to drop the attitude. "We still have another brother for her to meet before we get all of this nonsense over with."
Carmen appears to ignore him, but silently leads the four of us down a hall and through a large oak door. Inside, it's cozy with a cheery fire burning in a large, stone fireplace. In one of the chairs, there's a man with dark brown hair and eyes. He doesn't look up at first, too busy writing. When he's finished he looks up and studies Danny and me. His hair is wavy, curling slightly as it touched his shoulders. Somehow, I guess that he's married to Carmen as well. While all three men have different features, they all look similar and my shock grows as it sinks in: these three men are brothers and they're all married to the same woman.
"Three husbands? And you're all brothers?" I blurt, astonished.
The man in the chair blinks before his gaze turns to the three behind me. He shrugs, gets up and approaches me.
"My name is Alleron," he says, grasping my hand and giving me a friendly smile. "I assume you are the Callie that Gavin sent to us."
Alleron doesn't ask for more information, so I assume he has already gotten the whole story from Jubilex and Carmen. I wonder why he's not introducing himself to Danny, hoping he's not being rude to him on purpose. It strikes me that Danny's technically my servant and that perhaps it would be considered rude to speak to him.
"You all can talk to Danny too, you know," I tell them, shrugging. "I don't know the rules, and he's supposed to be my servant and all, but it's too weird for me if you guys ignore him."
"It will be wise to learn the rules, at least the ones that pertain to shapeshifters. We will have to present you to them at some point," Alleron replies and favors Danny with a nod.
"Grand," I reply.
I am less than pleased at the idea of meeting more werewolves. A glance at Danny shows me that he's not thrilled either. Terrified is more accurate. Poor Danny, he's just a young guy and at the bottom of the shapeshifter ladder. It sucks to be a beta wolf.
"I won't let them hurt you, so calm down," I promise. I suppose I shouldn't be promising things I might not be able to keep, but he seems to relax with the reassurance. Silently, I beg the powers that be to give me some courage and cut me some slack.
"We will be meeting with them tomorrow night so I suggest you have your wolf boy teach you some wolfy manners," Jubilex says with a smirk.
So help me, I am going to lose it, scared of his power or not. He grins at me and I suspect he knows I am close to utterly losing my temper.
"Don't mind him, he's always an ass," Alleron says breezily and takes my arm. He pulls me from the room, leaving an irritated Jubilex behind. When we are far enough away, I grin at the youngest brother.
"I was beginning to think no one could make him stop," I tell him.
"I'm afraid he never really stops. He'll be especially obnoxious to you, I'm afraid. He's a bit prejudiced when it comes to vampires," Alleron says, sounding apologetic. "The True Blood are a real pain to deal with and most half-breeds are like Rastovan."
"He doesn't seem to like Gavin much either," I reply cautiously.
"That is another matter," Alleron sighs, "he hasn't forgiven poor Gavin for something that was not even his fault."
"What's that?" I venture.
"It is something you should ask Gavin when you see him again," Alleron replies in a tone that tells me that the matter is not up for discussion. Suddenly, the Immortal stops and opens a door to reveal a large suite. "Well, you should be comfortable in here. If not, please let me know and I will see to your needs. The drapes should be heavy enough to protect you from the sun. You will not need your servant to protect you during the day, you will not be harmed here."
I hadn't even realized we had been walking steadily deeper into the house. I glance around for a moment, finding Danny right on my heels, and turn my attention back to Alleron.
"Uh, I'm sure we'll be fine, thanks," I reply.
Alleron bows formally and then grins. Danny and I stare at him as he strides away. A real Immortal. Someone who really can't die. I wonder if that's a blessing or a curse. I shrug without knowing why and go into the room. The door clicks as Danny follows and closes it behind him. I nod slowly as he whistles in appreciation of the wealth and luxury of the room.
"Exactly. Well, let's get comfortable. We're going to be busy until dawn, I gather," I tell him. "God knows I don't want to make a complete ass out of myself tomorrow when we meet the local Clan."
Danny nods and we sit together on one of the plush sofas, making ourselves comfortable for whatever the hell I need to know for meeting strange shapeshifters. As much as happened to us tonight, I know we don't have time to dwell on it. I'd rather try to figure out the mystery of Gavin and these Darkstones or go follow them around until they give me word of him. Unfortunately, it was decided that we have to introduce ourselves properly.
Rules were a real pain in the butt sometimes..