Hell Week

The week or so after Halloween is always the busiest, requiring the most cleanup. People believe it's the day when the "spirit" world and the human world are closest, the veil between the supernatural and natural thinnest. They're wrong, of course, that would be the summer and winter solstices, but they're not that far off. Magic comes through belief and will alongside natural energy and ability, so most of the monsters from stories and nightmares are able to take out beliefs and charge themselves for one long night of fun. For the most part they leave humans alone, but there are always a few who manage to get themselves into trouble. That's where I come in. I take care of all the monsters running from the law, and also the ones who get hurt over the course of the night. Sometimes I get paid to clean up messes, too. Regardless of what I'm doing or what I'm protecting, this week- dubbed "hell week" by others- is always my busiest and most profitable. This year I had managed to scrounge up enough cash to last me another three months of rent if I didn't spend any on food or gas.

My name is Karrin Storm. You may have heard of my family before. In some circles the name alone carries enough power to strike fear into the heart of a vampire priestess. In my family, though, I'm a bit of a black sheep. I was disowned when I was eighteen, a little under two years ago, but I haven't seen my family since I turned sixteen and left for good. Let's just say our political views are on different ends of the spectrum.

Basically, I'm a wizard. We're actually called Tricksters- it dates back to a court fool who the queen of the time loved. He could perform real magic and they had an affair and blah, blah, blah. You don't care about ancient history, and neither do I.

I'm writing this because I need to. I need someone else to know, to share in my adventures, as crazy as they are, and know that there is a shadow world hidden just beneath the surface. I need someone in the future to look back at these books and know that I- Karrin Storm, daughter of Larissa Storm and Gabriel Benson, granddaughter of Benjamin Storm and Amelia Rone- left a mark on society. I know how my story ends. I didn't know it at the time, but when the events of this book happened, they would be life changing. I want someone to know why I ended up the way I did, and how it happened.

This is my story:

It's a cool, fall day in the suburbs of the windy city. The breeze rustles against the trees, all in their different forms of decay. Some are mere skeletons with only a dead leaves clinging on my a thread while others still think it's summer and are in full coats of green armor. I'm not tall, but the branches on this particular sidewalk hang low enough that I can reach up and brush my fingers gently over their undersides.

Back at my little town-house I have my own familiar- a tree that I had grown from a sapling. It was still rather young, but it was beautiful. Were it a normal tree it would be ready for winter by now, but seeing as it was my tree, it wouldn't ever be shedding its leaves.

The Starbucks I'm heading towards is my favorite. There isn't a particular reason it's my favorite, but I've been going there for almost two years now and I find it hard to break habits. There's nothing wrong with this one, so why change?

Under my arm I have a library book clenched tightly. Some contemporary love story. I hadn't started it yet, but give me a day or so and it'd be returned already. I'm a book whore, really, going from one story to the next in a matter of hours. I get a lot of free time in my profession, so it makes sense that I'd constantly need stimulation.

Like all Tricksters I crave newness. It's the fault of our particular magic. We need some kind of idea or creativity to be in us all the time. It's hard to not imagine. I love television, it's so vibrant, but I can't pay for cable. Books are the next best thing, and there are so many more of them.

Approaching my Starbucks I notice something is off. There isn't anyone there. No one at all. I stop in front of the door and peer into the darkened and closed off shop. A frown tugs down the corners of my mouth and in my head I give a little whimper. The sign on the front door just says CLOSED. No explanation given in the least.

I imagine kicking the door with my foot. It's a childish thought, but who cares what you think. My toe would hurt, if I kicked hard enough, and a scuff mark might appear. I look down at where I would kick. Disappointed I realize there is no scuff mark and my toe doesn't hurt.

Turning away I continue down the street. There's another Starbucks in two blocks. I think they were trying to do a block apart thing at some point, but I don't live in the heart of the city so that doesn't really work.

I send out a little wish that the next one won't be closed. Luckily, the wish is either small enough, or unneeded, that it works. I smile to myself and nearly skip inside. The warm smell of coffee permeates the air. It's thick and rich. The flavors, like chocolate and vanilla, are also running around the room. This must be what heaven smells like.

At the counter I order something hot, with a lot of caffeine, and too many sweet things. I love it. It's thick and rich and I mentally jot down what it's called. With my luck it's a seasonal drink that won't be here next time.

Taking a seat near the window so I can people watch I crack open my book. It still has clean pages and smells like the bookstore so it must be new. The type is in a dark ink, fresh, and the pages invite me in. I take a sip of my drink. When I say sip I don't mean that sissy slurping noise people make, you know the swisp noise. I take a heart swallow of it, even though it's hot. I can't stand that noise.

Another important thing about Tricksters: we're a little sensitive. We can't help it. We get angry easily and have super senses that make the normal world sharper- and more annoying. I can hear a lot better than a normal human, see a lot farther, smell a lot more, taste the secret ingredients and feel the grains in wood. I hate it. It comes in handy on the job, but it makes socializing with people- normal people- difficult. Tricksters aren't the only ones in this boat. Any Turned creature has the same problems. I guess that's why I get along better with them.

It also has something to do with the fact that normal humans are very, very clumsy.

"Hey!" I push the book out of the way first. It's the only thing I manage to save. The idiot guy was rushing past me and knocked my whole drink over. It splashes onto my shirt, pants and the chair. It'll stain. Of course, I'm wearing white.

"Sorry," the stranger says, but he continues to rush onward, not even sparing me a parting look. Angrily I send out a wish that'll he trip and fall. It doesn't work.

The store manager rushes from the back. She takes one look at me, promises a full refund, and apologizes profusely. I'm really glad about the refund, I could use it, and tell her it's OK. "I don't like this shirt that much anyway," we both know it's a lie. You don't wear a shirt you don't like out in public. You sleep in it, or wear it around the house.

I go to the bathroom and attempt to clean up. I check the two stalls, pushing them open, to see if anyone is there. Empty. I pull my shirt of an attempt a Trick. It's a relatively simple one. I tie the shirt into a false knot and then pull. When I "undue" the knot with the pull, it should come out clean and fresh. It doesn't. Nothing at all happens. I swear under my breath. Hell week has been over for two days and I'm still pretty drained.

I dunk the shirt in the sink a couple times instead. It helps, but not by a lot. It still looks like crap. And there's nothing I can do for my pants.

I walk back out and take the refund. The manager apologizes again, but as soon as I'm gone I'm sure she won't care. I make it all the way back to my town house when I realize I left the book. I change quickly and leave again. That's when I fall over the vampire who's decided to take up residence on my doormat.

The palms of my hands and my knees graze the ground, ripping them open. The vampire leaps up from his half dead position, a feral expression across his face, and his fangs bared. Dammit, he's half rabid.

Normally the sun is powerful enough to hurt any vampire. This one had to be at least two hundred since it wasn't taking much of an effect. If he were that old it would also mean that it took him longer to become rabid. He hadn't eaten in, probably, three, four days. A younger vamp would be dead.

This one tried to twist his features to something of a smile, but his wild nature was taking over. I got to my feet quickly. He stared at me. I was bleeding. "Dammit!" I said out loud. I sent out a wish that my Tricks would be back, and, grabbing a pencil out of my pocket- I'm always stocked up on pencils and pens- I stab him in the chest.

Humans were right when they said that you need a wooden stake to kill a vampire. A pencil wouldn't normally cut it, especially one that isn't blessed, but for a Trickster, the pencil can become a stake in the middle of the actual staking. My wish worked, and the pencil changed.

I didn't kill him. In fact, I didn't even paralyze him. I just slowed him down. A lot. He was old, but he was also starving. The vamp hissed at me from his position crouched on his knees. I turned my head quickly, making sure no one was watching. Just because I couldn't see them, though, didn't mean they weren't there. I hoped the month old glamour I had bought on my home was still working. I needed to renew it badly, but I hadn't had the cash or a suitable baby to trade.

I'm just kidding about the baby, by the way. I would never do that. As much as I needed the fairies, I didn't traffic human beings. I'd actually been friends with an anti-changeling fairy one time. I think he got eaten by a ghoul. That, or the other fairies killed him and made it look like a ghoul did it. Either way, I hadn't talked to him in ages.

I shoved the vamp into my place, getting the front carpet even dirtier than it already was- my vacuum cleaner was broken- and kicked him a couple of times for good measure. Knowing I wouldn't be able to get him to my spare room, where I kept all the "guests", I had to lock him up where he lay. Where he wouldn't be laying for much longer because he was pulling the stake from his chest.

I turned to the vase next to me. I didn't have garlic, but I had the next best thing- Holy Water. Holy Water blessed by a Bishop, no less. Powerful stuff. I pulled the flowers out- wolfsbane, in case there were werewolves- and poured the water over his face. He screamed. I winced. I really hoped that glamour was holding up.

I hurried to the closet down the hall. The vamp was on the edge of unconsciousness, but I wasn't sure how long he'd stay down. I grabbed a length of rope and, while I was tying it up, Tricked it. He wouldn't be able to get out of it now. I watched him as he recovered, hissing and spitting. He struggled against the binds, but they didn't give. I thanked the higher powers and went to the garage.

In the garage I keep a fridge stocked with everything a recovering Supernatural might need, especially blood. I had all types, all stolen from various blood banks, and grabbed a couple of each for my newest guest. I didn't know what would help him heal fastest, it was always the vamps original blood type, so I made sure I had each of them.

When I returned he had managed to pull out the stake. I shuddered to think of what it might be like to have to do that to yourself. I could never. I feared pain, actually. Just the thought of breaking an arm or a leg made me crazy. I was accustom to throwing myself out there while on the job, but so far I had come out mainly unscathed. While I was working I normally had a lot of Tricks protecting me and a bit of adrenaline keeping me moving. The combination made the fear go away for the time being. Right now, though, I was still recovering my magic and the adrenaline alone wouldn't do it.

"Bitch," he snarled. At least that's what I think he said. He was more animal then human, or vampire, right now.

I sat across from him on the floor, far enough away he couldn't get me easily, but close enough to react to any new complications. I tossed him a blood bag. He bit into it like a cat into its prey. Blood sprayed every which way and he devoured as much as he could before falling onto his front and licking at the floor.

Once I had found this disgusting. Well, this particular action I still thought was disgusting, but blood drinking in general. I had grown used to it, being a donor myself, rather often.

The one bag didn't sate his hunger. It made him hungrier. I tossed him another bag. He managed to suck more of it out and spill less, but it still was a mess. I sighed. I hated cleaning out bloodstains. Impossible, really, without magic.

After the second bag was empty he had managed to calm down slightly. He panted heavily. I tossed him another. This time he didn't let any of it get away and drank it a little more politely. After the fourth bag I thought he was ready to talk.

"Who are you?" I asked. He stared at the bag I held in my hands. "Tell me your name and you get it."

His gaze never left the food. "Owen."

I gave it to him.

"Untie me," he said when he finished.

"Yeah, not happening. Sorry. I'll take that stake out," I offered. He let me. I needed to make sure I could trust him.

After two more bags he began the conversation on his own.

"My name is Owen. You're the Trickster? The Storm girl?"

I nod.

"I need your help."

"I'm already helping you."

"And I thank you for that," his voice had a rather patrician tone to it. Someone old and of noble birth. I wondered where he had come from. "I'll reimburse you for all the blood I have taken," he looked around him at the mess of my front room and hallway, "and for the damages I have caused. But I need your help beyond that. If you would untie me, I will tell you, but I prefer to speak civilly, on equal ground."

"I thought that's what we were doing," I gestured at the restraints. "I don't exactly trust you won't rip out my throat."

"I give you my promise," he said.

For some Supernaturals this means a lot. With vamps it varies. Sometimes they take their promises seriously, other times not. It depends on who the vampire was when they were alive.

I believe Owen for whatever reason. Maybe it was his age, or rank, or something else. But I untied him and we went to my kitchen. It's small, with a tiny table that only houses two chairs. I give him the other two packets of blood. He opens one and takes a sip but doesn't devour it right away. Already he was getting control of himself.

"Something was stolen from me," he begins. I take a spare pad of paper out of the cabinet and take notes. "I'm also being chased by several people. A hunter, whose name I don't know, and the rest of my clan."

"What'd you do? Need help hiding?"

"I stole something from them."

"Same thing that was stolen from you."

"Yes."

"And you don't need a hiding place?"

He shakes his head. "I have a safe house nearby. I might, however, need to stay the night, if that's alright," he looks a little sheepish when he asks.

"It's fine, but it'll cost you extra."

"Of course. I assume you need to be paid up front. A deposit at least," he pushes a stack of money at me.

I don't normally ask my clients to do this, but I'm not going to turn him down.

"What exactly am I looking for?"

"You'll take the job," he doesn't seem surprised. Or happy. Indifferent, really.

"Yes."

"I stole a very powerful artifact. One of the twelve bloodstones."

I gape at him: "What?!"