1: On the Run
Garrett watched as his mother furtively glanced around the area surrounding their table. She had chosen the one furthest from the front door and closest to the back door. Ease of escape. That was what she said she was looking for. That was the reason they were sitting on hard chairs at a cold open table rather than comfortable in a booth such as the unoccupied one two feet from them.
They needed to be able to move on a moment's notice.
He peered down at the mottled purples and pinks of the tabletop, hidden for the most part by cheesy paper mats printed with the Chinese Zodiac. He glanced into her face again, even though she wasn't looking at him. Curly carrot colored hair obscured most of her features in profile. The tip of her pert nose pushed beyond it, freckles marring the lightness of the skin there. She was nearly forty, but her freckles would never fade.
If fact, they seemed to thicken as time ground forward
She sensed his stare, turning to regard him once more. Emerald green eyes glinted and shone, even in the shadow of her reddish mane.
He'd been living with her all his life, unabashed by the thought that he was nearly the age of emancipation and still living with his mother. All that time – and yet he felt now that he didn't know her at all.
Garrett had known early on that he was special – talented. His mother had always told him so, but she had never before specified just why she held such an opinion – until his father came after them.
Their coven was centralized around the bones of Old Chicago. The Chicago coven was a large group, supportive and strong. They might have defeated Meirakat had they stayed. The combined power of a hundred witches and warlocks were surely more than a match for an Ancient, no matter how powerful he was. Their protection didn't last. As soon as the coven found out that Meirakat was after the two of them, they had kicked them to the curb.
Actually, it wasn't merely that Meirakat was after them, it was why he was after them.
It was only after they were on the run that Katharina enlightened him as to why he was special – had informed him of the rules and covenants she had broken in order to bring him – him – into the world.
Before, she would only tell him that she had loved a man who had abandoned her when he found out she was pregnant. Garrett resented his father because of that. But finding that his father had never known in the first place, left him floundering with an anger he didn't know how to put to rest.
Katharina was a powerful witch – in line to take control of the coven.
The war between the covens and the broods had raged for at least two millennia. A heavy toll had been paid for the continuing bloodshed, both side so evenly matched that their respective groups were dwindling in strength and numbers. Katharina recognized this, and knew the only way to gain an edge was to find a way to shift power to the covens. Coming up through the ranks, she divined a way in which to make that happen. She concocted plot to seduce a vampire. Not any lowly mutt of diluted vampire breeding, an Ancient, an Empusai of the eldest lines.
His mother had dwelled in the Providence Court for several months, living with and bedding Meirakat – all the while beguiling him as to her true nature. After all, vampires could sniff that sort of thing out, what a person was, how pure or ill they were, with just a look. She must have severely taxed herself in order to keep from tipping him off to the ruse. It was a black widow spider's ploy, only in reverse. If Meirakat had gained his senses at any point – well the world would never have been Garrett's to explore. Her ploy was successful, and she escaped his clutches carrying the future in her womb.
Her purpose was to create a being which neither side had seen or thought of before. A warlock of the strongest line, bred with the talents and strengths of the vampire race.
Garrett looked down again at his pale hands, bright rust colored freckles splotching across the backs of them. The story explained a lot. It filled in gaps that had nagged at the back of his mind since he was little.
His first memories were filled with recollections of long fixed canines. Of painful moments of biting his lips or tongue with them. Then, when he was six, his mother took him to a dentist and had those teeth removed, an intensive surgery – traumatic for one so young.
He'd grown up covering the gaps with bridges.
Then there was the hunger.
He desired blood every two weeks or thereabouts. His mother had convinced him that their coven rituals, though obscure ones, involved the sacramental drinking of blood. It wasn't far-fetched, considering some of the arcane sacrifices and rituals he'd been witness to – participated in – in his short life. Katharina provided for him, drank with him, cementing the notion that there was nothing unnatural in what he was doing. After all this time, he merely figured he'd developed at taste for the stuff.
Though technically human, being a witch or a warlock still carried plenty of stigmas. Through centuries of careful breeding, their little evolutionary offshoot of the breed had honed their abilities to touch and use forces both unseen and unsensed by normal humans. That power – it made the rest of the human population jealous – scared even.
Mother refused to use her powers in public unless it was an emergency. She didn't want a confrontation with the populations. That was the reason they were running and not fighting. While supremely untalented in the arcane, humans could still cause damage to or kill a warlock or witch. Their numbers were far higher than the covens, especially after the nuclear accident. Their paranoia made them very reactive and violent in uncomfortable situations, and he knew, like she did, the moment she broke out her talents, she would be gunned down.
He'd promised her that he'd keep his talents under wraps too, and was as good – already surpassing his mother's talents – and at a mere seventeen. He'd learned spells and incantations, silent summons and other magical talents that many witches three times his age hadn't mastered. His higher than normal pain tolerance had a lot to do with that. Spells taxed the user, especially the harder ones – many of which were invoked silently. A majority of his kind only rose so high, held back by the pain of harder spells. He wasn't fettered in that manner.
And now he knew the reason why – and that brought on a weird pang of loss of identity. He'd been so sure of his world and his place in it, until Meirakat showed up, until his mother had come clean about why they were being hounded.
He'd heard of and seen dhampirs. Half human and half vampire, they were creatures barely tolerated by coven society, and only then because they were of the same mind – that vampire kind had to be eradicated. They were almost as fast as a vampire and much more deadly.
Did that definition explain him though?
Garrett shook his head, deciding it didn't matter. His upbringing was geared by his surroundings. He was an amazing warlock, but hadn't a clue what kind of dhampir he could be. What possible talents dhampirs possessed was a relative unknown to him. His mother would never let him near the dhampirs that did stray into their territory. Everything he ever heard about the creatures was always second hand.
"I think we'll be safe," Katharina sighed, breaking him out of his contemplation of the events leading to this moment. She scooted her chair closer to the table.
Garrett grunted, looking elsewhere and letting his disdain for her secrecy slip through. He flexed his hands once more, the trapped blood blending his freckles into their redness.
"Garrett, what's the matter?"
He glared at her. "You know what."
Power flickered at the edges of his awareness, and he sat on the autonomic reaction to his rage.
"How many times must I say I'm sorry?"
"You could shout it in mantra and still not make up for the deception." He shifted in his chair, sitting sideways and leaning his elbow onto the slick surface.
"I couldn't tell you. It would have only been that much more dangerous for you – for both of us."
His mother straightened, her hand slapping on the table. Electric shocks ran through the surface, making him pull his arm from it as the tingling traveled up to his shoulder. He glared at Katharina again.
"I'm still your mother. You will not speak to me that way."
Garrett fell silent, avoiding her eyes. He was bigger than she was, stronger than she was, physically, magically, and mentally. Those attributes – those advantages – had no bearing on how fearful he was of repercussion. Age and craft often overcame youth and speed. She would not forget this slight. He would pay for this at the most inopportune time.
And the idea didn't abate his anger in the slightest.
Neither spoke until the server brought their meal. Garrett found he wasn't hungry and picked at his wafer thin steak with the point of his knife.
"You must eat." She leaned in. "Daemon knows when we will get another opportunity to enjoy real food."
He shot daggers across the table at her, but made a show of cutting the steak and spearing it into his mouth. The first bite reminded him he really was hungry and he was more enthusiastic as he moved through the meat and into the side dishes.
Garrett finished eating single-mindedly and then rose, heading for the restrooms in the back. He took his time, even though he only had to piss, trying to put returning to his mother off as long as possible.
Washing his hands and staring into space, Garrett contemplated what might be in their future. Not a lot with an Ancient vampire on their tail. He missed the stability they used to have in his home with the coven. He had friends, a comfortable life, and a mother who – while tough on him – loved him very much. There had been the communion that came from living in a society with related interests and talents. It was gone now, all of it, and this place only felt cold and foreign to him.
They had arrived in Denver this morning, the huge dome overhead dwarfing even the ones around Chicago. There, the domes had been many, clumped together and connected by snake tubes. Here, in contrast, grandeur was paramount. The dome was one huge unit encompassing downtown all the way to the residences at the outskirts. Only one or two subsidiary bubbles existed outside Denver's dome.
The sheer difference between here and home made him loathe their leaving all that much more.
Sighing, Garrett shut off the water and shook the excess moisture into the rust stained basin.
As he turned to grab a towel, a commotion started within the confines of the restaurant. The warlock started for the door, but jumped back when the door swung violently inward.
Katharina's eyes were wide and wild as she hissed, "He's here – he's found us! We need a portal… in that wall. Get us out of here!"
Garrett didn't question her direction, hearing her begin the incantation to block and booby-trap the door. He began his own, drawing power to him from thin air and concentrating on creating a walkway through solid brick. Several motions later, a hole appeared, melting the structure until it was large enough for them to walk through together.
"Hurry!" he cried, feeling both the strain of the spell and the approach of a dreadful blackness at his back. It was like a sucking fog, pulling his emotions into the pitch to be lost forever. He fought the maddening feeling as his mother scurried past him and through the escape hatch. Fearing it would collapse, Garret stopped reinforcing the field and dove through his own handiwork.
Rolling over his shoulder, Garrett spun around and began to draw his power from the rift, watching the gap close. A flash of brilliant light and a mad howl of pain echoed through the room and then funneled through the hole. A crash followed, and a snarl of rage. Garrett squinted seeing a form moving through the smoke settling in the wake of the supernatural blast.
His heart squeezed as he caught a glimpse of the man who was his father. The vampire looked nothing like his mother, and yet he looked nothing like the vampires he'd seen before. Meirakat was short, no more than about five-foot-five. His frame was compact and heavily muscled. He wore a full length cape, tattered by the trap his mother had laid upon the door. The vampire threw the garment back from his arms exposing a shirtless jerkin, thick biceps strung tight with anger and vengeance. The creature was unnaturally pale, the skin nearly glowing in the low light of that decimated bathroom.
He wouldn't forget his father's face, however. It was square and scarred over most of the exposed skin there. Puckered flesh that was too glossy ran from his left eye down and across to where his jaw met his ear on the right. It was an exposure scar, the kind that only could have been left by direct sunlight. That was one scarring no vampire could recover from, solar radiation damage was permanent. Meirakat's dishwater hair was raggedly cut, hanging in uneven lengths around his face. The effect enunciated the bluntness of his feature, an effect that left fear in its wake.
The hole closed completely before Garrett could get much more of the vampire's appearance.
That was an Ancient?
Damn, he'd been romanticizing what kind of standards vampires held themselves to when they got that old – or else he'd been watching too many old vids. He had expected something a bit more debonair.
He stepped back, feeling the blackness seeping through the wall and rolling across his skin in numbing waves. His mother grabbed his shoulder and hastened his retreat.
He wheeled, skipped forward, and broke into a run. He would have outstripped his mother were it not for her skill with teleportation. He needn't have worried about her. She stayed at his side in small puffs of her phasing in and out of the space near him.
Their flight led them to a staging area for the many transports supplying the large city. Dodging between the trailers, Katharina and Garrett tried to elude their pursuit. The warlock dodged sideways as a loud clang sounded off to their left, but close enough that he could feel the waves Meirakat was pushing before him.
"He's here," Garrett announced, out of breath from such a prolonged flight.
She pulled her son toward a warehouse, one door ajar enough they could slip through it. His mother slammed it shut, hexing the lock, even though both of them knew it would do little good. She bolted across the cement floor heading for a truck bed being unloaded by a crew of workers.
Their entrance served to stop all motion, lifts and people coming to a halt to stare at mother and son. Neither Garrett nor Katharina bothered to even meet their gazes.
Katharina paused, motioning him toward the dark maw. "Get in!"
He did as she said.
"I'll come back for you."
Garrett clawed at her arm, frightened to be separated from her and the tie she represented to the normalcy he enjoyed in that previous life. "I can help! You can't take him alone!"
"Stay here!" she insisted. "Your survival is more important than mine. You're not strong enough to take him yet. He would tear you apart!"
She hit him with an invisible ball of energy, knocking him back and slamming the heavy doors before he could recover his footing. He charged the barrier, putting all his considerable strength behind it. He laid his shoulders into the gray panel, but the spell she managed to throw across the doors to protect him – both from himself and from his father – repelled his attempt at escape.
The darkened space echoed the impact and his own labored breathing, and beyond that he could hear incantations, snarls, and howls. Lastly he heard his mother's scream.
He extended his arms, bright in his night vision. He consciously swapped to visual sight to keep from blinding himself, as he conjured the needed spell, muttering the foreign words that drew dark forces to do his bidding.
Vacuum filled the trailer as the power built, the sound drowning any further noise from outside his prison. With a "whoom," the steel separated from its hinges, flying across the warehouse and decimating three crates before its momentum slowed. The clatter was slow to silence as it fell to the floor.
The sight that greeted him took his breath and froze him in place. The area all around where he'd been sequestered was in shambles. Stains reached high up the walls, body parts dangling from supports overhead. Detached arms and legs perched precariously high above, threatening to become widow-makers to the unwary. It seemed the dock workers had become collateral damage to the short-lived fight.
He reached out with unfamiliar and underused senses to try and seek out the vampire who had instigated their flight, scared more than he wanted to admit that Meirakat might still be close by. Yet, his seeking touched no sign of life. That meant his father was either dead or had retreated.
More urgently he searched for signs of the Ancient. Had Meirakat been scorched in the path of his mother's most powerful incantations? Search as he might, he could find no evidence that Meirakat had met a violent end. Nor could he ferret out signs of his mother's fate.
Stepping outside, Garret began a similar investigation, stopping short when his shoes nearly dragged through a slick of dark blood.
His gut sank.
Someone had been dragged from this spot – that much was evident. That his mother hadn't come to find him, and no evidence suggested the blood was his father's, made him uneasy – queasy even. Sick fascination kept him following the swath, dread growing in him.
The trail ended at an unmarked building. On the wall of the house someone wrote the anarchist symbol in blood. Pinned with splinters of crates across the ragged A– he sucked a reluctant breath trying not to be ill – his mother stared with eyeless sockets across the space at them. Her throat had been torn out, her gauzy dress stained beyond repair. One arm had been freed from her body and lay on the ground. He thought it might have been the instrument of writing for the symbol on the wall. The other extremity dangled by little more than a tendon.
He gulped another breath, then sobbed, and then vomited unable to help it.
"Daemon!" He breathed when his stomach stopped protesting. "Mother!"
He moved across the space, rage and guilt speeding his moves as he pulled her down from crucifixion. He couldn't delude himself. There was no life remaining in her body.
What had she done so wrong? Why had Meirakat taken her life for something as simple as bringing another life into the world? Was the covenant so damned important that a life hung in the balance for breaking it?
That was just it though, she intended to use him as a weapon, one more powerful than any dhampir ever known to exist. Meirakat must have figured that out, it must have been the reason for the Ancient to leave his East Coast haunt and hound them until they were run to ground.
Tilting his head, trying to see through the tears in his eyes, he wondered momentarily why this spot had been chosen. Only when he really studied the building did he divine the reason. It emanated power, wards and spells.
A coven house.
This was a warning. No doubt about it.
Garrett stood, staring at the coven house before him, grimacing. He knew he could elicit help from them, a traveler far from home and in dire need was always welcome in the local houses.
Yet, he felt he couldn't impose.
Hell they might just see Meirakat's warning as one to keep from helping him for fear of the Ancient's repercussions. They might slam their door in his face. For that…
He frowned, new tears coming, but these of anger.
The Chicago Coven shunned him after they'd found him out, why would the Denver Coven be any more understanding of his circumstances?
For a reason he couldn't readily identify he felt that the coven was the last place he wanted to go.
Garrett retreated from the scene of death and destruction, clinging to his mother's cooling flesh. As he rounded a corner he got the first unobstructed view of the towering building central to Denver's dome.
It looked like a church. Perhaps it had been on at some point in the history of the dome. However even he knew it was nothing of the sort now. The place held a reputation of its own, an organization that's history was nearly as long as either the covens or the broods. Mother had told him of that place as they approached the dome, warning him never to go near it. His heritage would not allow him access to such a facility. The humans who worked there hated witches and vampires equally. While their kind lived and worked all over the remains of the United States, this was their central headquarters.
Victor Sierra – the vampire slayers – the witch hunters.
The towering building drew him, called to him, and the idea that he could make them see the worth of his kind of talents gained life inside his skull. He knew in his bones that they held his future in their hands… they would help him avenge his mother's murder.
A/N: Okay let's try this again! This is a limited run of the story, I will be taking it down around October to finalize for print! Please comment if there's something you don't understand, you catch a typo, or even tell me something you really like about the way the story goes down!
I will be posting the story in blocks of chapters (I'm not really sure where I left off so I have five chapters up now). I will most likely put more chapters up on Wednesday and keep posting in blocks until I get to the end.
Remember this is a limited run! I could use any and all feedback you have for me regarding flow, grammar, spelling etc!