Prism, by Bluelantern 2814
"How marvelous!" proclaimed Adele, her hold on Aide half-possessive and half-prideful, a mother basking in the accomplishments of her daughter. "How delicious!"
"A new aspect of the power," Aide said neutrally, staring at the image of Elspeth.
Except it wasn't Elspeth - it was magic, Magic. Addy knew that Magic was usually more talkative with Elspeth, but her projection was just as neutral and quiet as Aide. That made sense. The power was a gateway to give information, but more limited in receiving feedback. Magic was there but wasn't listening. Addy looked at Magic for merely a couple of seconds -
"Taste it!" Adele demanded, with a tinge of annoyance and hunger. "I want to taste it!"
Addy reached around with her real arm to the real Elspeth, grinning with anticipation.
"I... don't like them in here," said Magic, staring at the projections of both Adele and Aide.
"Can't say that I do," said Elspeth uncomfortably.
"So much delicious potential," murmured Adele, staring at Aide and seemingly unaware that she and Aide were in Elspeth's mind.
Elspeth was so repelled that her concentration broke and she exited the "blank space" where she had met her and Addy's selves.
Just as expected, Emel's power wasn't happy with being a captive. Adele could control her easily enough, though, but was obviously bored with the magnetic power.
The boredom didn't surprise Addy a bit. Emel tasted the same as before. While the copy of her power showed resistance to Adele's hold, there wasn't much that Adele (or Addy) could care about the taste besides its practical utility.
Addy watched the copied power trying to escape, but it was like watching a vampire holding a human. There was no hope that Adele would ever lose her grip.
Addy decided that it would be pointless to give a new name to the copied power, or even call her "Aide". So she went back to fixing the structural damage the latest dozen newborns had caused.
"It is simple," Elspeth said. "I project my magic in your mind, and if you concentrate you can see it, and a manifestation of your power. You can get in or out at any time of your choice".
Marcus had a problem holding his concentration to keep "himself" inside the mental blank. He was surprised that in "there" he couldn't see relationships, not even his own mate bond.
The other surprise was the appearance that his power had. Nearly identical to Marcus, and even with the same modern day clothing, but it had no glassy skin or lines and lines and lines of scars. It was a younger vampire version of Marcus with golden eyes.
"I surprise you," the power said, eyes familiarly unfocused.
"Yes," Marcus responded, imagining the line between them. Could you have a relationship with your own power?
"Everyone should be happy. What is wrong with bringing a little cheer to the world?" said Didi.
"There isn't anything wrong with that," said Didyme calmly, but with uncharacteristic impatience.
"Everyone should be happy. That is why I do it all the time," insisted Didi, still with her cheery tone. "It's very simple."
"It isn't," Didyme tried to object for the thousandth time. "I just want to go to... the funeral without being improper..."
"But you can!" Didi said with the most optimistic smile possible. "You should! We can't let people suffer like that. How can you? Everyone should be happy!"
Didyme felt that she couldn't argue with Didi, and at the same time wasn't all that willing to disagree. Even the projected princess's image seemed to smile brightly around her.
Edward didn't suffer with Marcus' lack of power in the blank space. Both Edwards, real and magical, had mind reading.
The result was like banging a microphone in a sound box.
After five times the Emperor finally got the hang of keeping his mind clear enough to keep his concentration to "talk" with his magic-representative counterpart. It was an unfamiliar and yet interesting experience to communicate with his own power in that way. He was used to being able to hear thoughts and then replying vocally.
He remembered what it was to be on the opposite side, speaking to Edward the mind reader, who answered the literally unasked questions, but Edward had never had a conversation with a mind reader using mindreading. Even with Aro (especially with Aro) the approach was usually as much verbal as both sides could make it.
It was a truly introspective experience.
Bella's big surprise with her "talking with yourself" session was revealed as soon as the empress managed to keep enough concentration to lower her shield and stay in the blank mental space.
The surprise was that there was nothing there but one single Bella.
Empress Regnant Bella sighed, unsure whether that meant that she had more layers to shed or that she knew herself very well.
The Seer's power had Alice's own, human eyes, an oddity that fascinated her for a half-second before the mental space became anything but blank.
Alice was used to seeing chaotic currents of possibility caused by indecision and accompanied by severe headaches.
What she never saw was the beauty that surrounded her, herself, and Addy's projected selves.
She saw multiple possibilities around them growing, dancing and multiplying themselves in breathtaking fractal patterns. All the imaginable conversations that Alice could have with "herself", every single choice and consequence displayed in a kaleidoscope of fates. Not as chaos, not as order, but something else entirely, something beautiful and serendipitous.
Alice never spoke a word with her own power. She didn't have to. They knew each other.
Benjamin's "power-self", as they were calling it, was probably unique, and considered the most unusual in appearance.
It was Benjamin-shaped, but in no way an exact duplicate. It was Fire, Air, Water and Earth, and alternated between those states. One time it looked like a statue of dirt or clay; another, still water, solid but not frozen; it then changed to a cloud of barely visible mist that would burst into flames which could kill a real Benjamin. The transformation would happen again without any order or reason, only change.
The power never spoke, nor seemed to be capable of understanding, but Benjamin was fascinated all the same.
Most powers took a while before answering. Addy wasn't sure what it meant. There wasn't a discernable change of taste in them, so it might have a psychological explanation. Mental powers seemed more "talkative" than physical ones. But nearly everyone felt that the experience was, if not pleasant, at least unique.
Many witches found themselves victims of their own powers. Alec's power would cause his "master" to fall limp on the floor. The illusionist found herself surrounded by an illusory forest. The identity thief was bombarded with everyone she had ever impersonated, all at once.
On the other hand, Dwi managed to do the "trick" by himself without further help from Elspeth or Addy. His power was especially chatty.
Most people tried the sessions until they got their powers to say something at least once.
"I exist to see, to find out what is hidden. I am very curious, aren't you?"
"They can't be ruled by their own emotions."
"Stop looking at me! Stop looking at me! Stop looking at me!"
"There is so much that no one can understand but us!"
"You know they are truthful, different from people, they are simple, wild, yet honest..."
"To understand people is to understand the people around them."
"To understand people, it is to peep inside their heads, hihihi-"
"Without limits people are just animals. I just enforce those limits, for their own good."
"You will recover their minds and souls."
"Burn and destroy them all."
"Because we can't be weak, and we aren't. We can take anything they throw at us!"
"I am here for you."
"This sounds really confusing," Bernadette said after hearing the explanation about the so called mental prism.
"It can be," admitted Elspeth.
"But do you think I should?" Bernadette replied as a red spark burst from her hand. "It will make me control my power better?"
"It will make you understand your power better," Elspeth said.
"Will that make me control my power better?" insisted the little witch.
"If your own power has a way to control..." Elspeth said, "It is possible. Either way, I recommend it. You can learn a lot from yourself."
Disconnected, by Marri
We never learned how to be alone, Jane and I. It was never even something we could comprehend. The idea of "aloneness" was for the people unlucky enough to be born by themselves. We were sometimes apart, but it was not the same as being alone. We were not alone; we had each other. And then we didn't, and now I am alone. What do I do now?
I don't remember much from when we were human. What I do remember all involves her. I can remember that our father had other children, but we always played by ourselves, without them. I'm not even sure how many half siblings we had, or what genders they were. I know we didn't get along, but only because I remember Jane protecting me from them. She protected me from everyone- from our stepmother, then from our half siblings, then other children, then the older villagers. She was our champion, and I loved her for it. She did her best to keep us safe, and I did my best to keep her happy in return, and we were content.
But then finally she couldn't keep them away any more. We were only fourteen, and they attacked us, calling us evil, witches and demon worshippers. They beat us and tied us up and burned us at the stake. Even when the Volturi saved us from the fire, our burns were too severe, and they had to turn us. So badly burned I should have died, and yet I lay there for days, on fire inside and out, and throughout it all I could hear the screams. Her screams. Jane, strong Jane, Jane who always knew what to do, Jane was screaming and screaming and I had to make it stop. She had always protected us and then she was screaming and she needed me. I would have given anything to make the pain stop, to make my pain stop and Jane's pain stop. And finally, when it was over, when it was too late to mean anything, I could.
She was so pleased by what we had become. We were immortal, and beautiful, and powerful. No one would touch us ever again, she said. We would be safe forever, if we helped Master Aro with his plans. "This is so much better than being human," she would sigh happily. "Now we will be together forever." And she would talk to Master Aro and relay his instructions, and we did what we were told. And Jane would smile and everything was all right.
Eventually, keeping Jane happy became the only thing I cared about. It was a habit, from when we were human, and I kept it when I turned. She had always been my guardian, and I had always trusted her, followed her lead and known on a gut level what she did was for the best. They say vampires don't change much, unless they mate; I certainly never did. Where she led, I would follow.
People said we were monsters, but hadn't they always? They called us monsters when we were human, too. And we were monsters, truly, if you look at what we did for the Volturi. But back when we were human, we were still vulnerable. As vampires, we were extraordinary. As Volturi, we were untouchable. Everyone feared us and did whatever what we said. And if they didn't obey? We made them. What did I care if people hated us? Jane knew how to keep us safe. And so I helped her, to make her happy. Little by little, we took over the world. And Jane smiled.
In some ways it was better, before Addy. I never cared much about anyone in particular in the guard- I had Jane, and it was good enough. At least, when I missed her, I knew what to do when she was gone. But not missing her was the only way I could stay alive. So I let Addy snip the thread, and I didn't miss Jane any more. But I didn't know what to do instead.
I try to fill the time. I work for the Empress, but I don't actually do very much. At first I read while people turned. Later, I tried video games, but they didn't seem worth the time I'd have to spend learning how to play. Nowadays I get university degrees, just to have something to do. Last time I counted, I had six or seven. Simplistic things, engineering degrees mostly, like math or statistics. Nothing where I have to analyze or interpret or convince anyone that somehow, my ideas are better than theirs, even though neither of us can know for certain. Better to stick to the sciences. Sit down, solve the problem, right or wrong.
I know the Empress still keeps an eye on me. Addy sometimes tells me things like that if we're tending a batch at the same time. She likes it when people react to what she tells them, I think, so she throws out tidbits to see if I'll respond. "Bella has Edward and I listen to you sometimes. You mope just like Pera did." She sulks when I ignore her, which I've always found strange. Why would I be surprised they're checking my thoughts? I was a Volturi. Of course they watch me. Why would I be upset? Aro did it for centuries, if only out of habit. I don't care that they spy. Or maybe I'm supposed to be upset that I sound like a girl?
It wouldn't surprise me, I guess, if I sound like Pera. We both lost the one person we relied on. Jane wasn't my mate any more than Brady was Pera's, but it still felt like she was the center of my world. Chelsea's power took that away from us. Only... now Pera has Razi. I'm not likely to ever find a mate. I can't fill the void it left when Addy made me be just Alec, instead of Jane's twin.
I don't know how to be Alec.
Truth 1, by James Orland
Slowly, so subtly she didn't see it happen, Elspeth fell in love. It started as a strange itch in her Magic. It was different from before, not quite as strong, but every bit as insistent. It remained there, though, even while she spoke the truth. After a while, she got annoyed enough that she put her hands on her face to find out what it was about.
And she was confused.
Magic looked disgruntled, and Memory was smirking. Well, actually every time Elspeth looked at Memory she remembered someone smirking, but that amounts to pretty much the same thing. Magic's facial expression was there, though, no remembering anything, and she was looking pretty annoyed.
"...What happened?" Elspeth asked both, after a while of staring contest.
"I don't know!" Magic exploded suddenly. "Memory told me we were missing something and it was true! And now I don't know what we're missing!"
Elspeth turned to Memory. "What are we missing?"
Just the smirk, followed by a shriek from Magic. "Well, once you find out, will you tell me? And stop itching, please," she asked of Magic.
Magic grimaced. "I can't! I can't just not itch when we're leaving something out!"
And so it went on itching. And the itch grew.
On a side note, she realized she spent more time with Jake. She thought more of Jake. And when she thought 'my Wolf,' the word 'my' had a slightly different tone. To Jacob, of course, she was still the center of the Universe. She was his imprint, he was her wolf, they'd discussed it already, it didn't have to look like anything else.
Still, she started swooning and sighing. And what she didn't realize was that she was also dreaming of him, quite often. Until he said, one morning:
"Last night you dreamed of me." He had his lips pursed to avoid smiling.
"...Yes? Don't I often dream of everyone I know?"
"This was... different," he said.
She had a weird feeling in her stomach. "How different?"
"Um... well... you were..." He cleared his throat. "You kissed me."
She stared at him, gaping, for ten seconds. "I-" She didn't know what to say to that. "I- I need to go to the bathroom," she decided, and she went, and closed the door behind herself.
Slowly, so subtly he didn't see it happen, Jacob fell in love. Elspeth was his imprint. Jacob was her wolf. That much he knew. She was the center of his universe, the one and only that could possibly be. Everything was about her, every smile was the sun, an undeserved gift; every frown was his fault, he'd done something wrong. And if she was so much the most important thing in the world to him and he wants to worship the ground where she walks and he would jump in front of a train for her, how would he realize when he actually fell in love with her?
It started with the dreams. He dreamt of holding her all night long, watching her dream, and just that. And he started acting on it, going to sleep later and later, trying to hold her for as long as he possibly cold before crashing, trying to wake up before she did, trying not to miss a single moment with her.
Then he started thinking about it. He felt it was somehow wrong. He knew he was hers to keep, not the other way round, but he still caught himself wishing that she would be his, that he could keep her forever, and imagining forever with her.
And during one of the nights he watched her dream, inside a little cottage in La Push, he saw them kissing. And kissing. And kissing. And it was just that. It was a simple, romantic dream, that lasted for about two hours, where they cuddled under the sun on the fjords of the place she was born. And then he fell asleep, and had exactly the same dream, which lasted all night long, until he woke up feeling her stir in his arms. And he smiled. But he had to hide the smile. It wasn't right. But it felt right, righter than it had a right to be. Once she was up, he said, "Last night you dreamed of me."
"...Yes? Don't I often dream of everyone I know?"
"This was... different," he said.
He felt a bit panicky. "How different?"
"Um... well... you were..." He cleared his throat. "You kissed me." He couldn't tell her he had had exactly the same dream, after he fell asleep, that he wanted it to be true.
She gaped at him, and he felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. He had done something wrong. "I- I- I need to go to the bathroom," she said, and he let her go, and she went to the bathroom. And despair took over him, because he had no idea what to do, no idea whether he had broken whatever it was they had, and he couldn't stand the thought of having scared her off and never being with her again and...
Elspeth sat on the floor and blinked, many times. She felt that itch again, stronger than ever, and once again put both hands on her face. Memory was smiling triumphantly, and Magic looked confused, but less annoyed than before. She looked between them, and finally asked: "What's happening?"
"I think..." Magic started, "that maybe... we... love Jacob."
Elspeth blinked once, and tried to find a way around it. "I know that. We always did, didn't we?"
"No," Magic said. "I mean, love love. As in... we are in love." That was the first time Elspeth saw Magic struggle for words. She was usually very articulate, very good in making herself understood, but this time... she was lost. And it was all the more terrifying when Memory nodded virtuously - or, rather, showed her a memory of someone doing that. That gave Magic more certainty in her statements.
"So," Elspeth said, and swallowed. "So," Magic concluded. "We are in love with Jacob."
And then it finally dawned on her. As she slowly lowered her hands from her face, her mouth hanging open, she whispered to herself: "I love Jacob." And it was true, and once that settled in, she couldn't take another minute away from him, and she stood up and opened the door behind herself.
He had both hands covering his face, thinking. How can I fix that? How could I be so STUPID to break it in the first place?! Of course, that was the general idea. Most of his thoughts were more like AAAAARRRGGHHHHH! and UUUUCK! and other inarticulate ideas. And then he finally, really asked himself why he was so stupid in the first place. And it dawned on him.
He loved Elspeth.
He loved loved Elspeth. As in, he was in love with Elspeth.
As soon as that hit him, the bathroom's door opened, and he raised his head to look at her. And she looked... what? He was usually so good at reading her face, at knowing what she was feeling. Not now. That was an expression he'd never seen her wear before.
"Elspeth..." he breathed, trying to explain himself, but no words came. Her face...
"Jacob," she stated, in that magical way she had of doing it, and he stopped short. It wasn't that he couldn't understand her expression. It was just that it was so much like his own feelings he couldn't distinguish it. The way she said his name brought to memory the dream again, what he was feeling from her then.
She walked in his direction, and sat in front of him on the bed. She just stared at him, and he felt and looked afraid, nervous, and confused. He blinked a few times while looking at her, and she didn't say a word. She was just looking at him with a certain intensity. And from her magic, he knew she had something in her mind, but she was confused. So he just waited for her to say something, and when it looked like she wasn't going to say anything, he started with "I'm..."
But then she leaned against him and kissed him.
They didn't do much talking for the next few hours.
She had to hold his hand to do that. She wasn't even sure how to do that, but she knew sooner or later her father would see it in her thoughts, so might as well be sooner. As they walked towards the compound, Jake squeezed her hand. She smiled at him, but kept thinking very hard and very loud please don't tell mom please don't tell mom please don't tell mom...
So, of course, dad told mom.
As soon as they got to the "throne room," Bella snatched her lightning fast and growled, which prompted an instinctual and instant phasing of Jacob. Edward had a weird expression on his face.
"Mom!" Elspeth cried. She'd stopped calling Bella 'Mama' a few years earlier.
"You!" she growled, looking at Jacob. "My daughter!" Oh. Of course. She forgot. La Push was within Edward's mental borders, at least when it came to familiar minds. So he would... he'd have... seen... everything...
Edward pursed his lips, looking guilty, as Elspeth slowly turned her head to look at him, horrified. Never mind that she did have the memory of their honeymoon, it was just a memory, which she tried oh so hard to suppress, she hadn't actually watched it. But then she heard Jacob bark, and floof, and her head snapped back to look at him. And... after earlier this day... looking at him naked was... different. Now it was Edward's turn to hiss. To Jacob's credit, he managed to look somewhat ashamed... or, at least, sheepish.
"Mom!" Elspeth repeated, more fiercely this time, in that magical voice. And Bella simply ignored it, possibly trying to stare a hole at Jake. Elspeth didn't see any sign between her parents, which led her to believe her mom learned how to lift her shield more reliably when Edward quietly nodded, still looking a bit angry, and bolted, returning one and a half seconds later and tossing a change of clothes in the wolf's direction.
"My little baby!" her mother hissed.
"Hold on. I'm not a baby! I haven't been a baby for a long time!"
She didn't turn around to look at Elspeth, and just said, "You told me nothing was going on between you two, and that he thought nothing like that!"
"That was fifteen years ago, mom! I'm old enough even by human standards to have a boyfriend!"
"Boyfriend?," Bella shrieked, finally spinning on her heels to stare at Elspeth. The growl in her voice made Jacob run and try to get between them, and Edward instantly put himself in front of the wolf. And to more of his credit, he managed not to phase, and instead just looked at Elspeth's father intently.
"Yes, mom, boyfriend! It was bound to happen! You knew it was going to happen eventually, I'm his imprint! He's my wolf!" Elspeth's words carried that weight of truth that forced Edward to look at her and sort of see her point. But Bella had her shield up, which meant that it had no effect.
Once again, through purely mental communication (or so Elspeth suspected), Bella asked Edward to move out of the way, and as soon as that happened Jacob didn't even have to move, because Elspeth sprinted towards him, making a point of holding his right hand. Bella was still looking menacing, but Edward was starting to look a little bit less angry, staring at Jacob with what was turning into curiosity and - was that awe?
It took another two seconds for Bella to calm down and straighten from her instinctual crouch, clearing her throat in the process. Not that it was needed. It was just a symbolic habit. "So," she said. "Boyfriend."
Elspeth held her boyfriend's - it was starting to become easier to think of Jake that way - hand tighter, and said, "Yes. Boyfriend. As in boyfriend and girlfriend. As in..."
"I know what it means," she interrupted, but then held back. "Sorry," she said. She herself hated being interrupted, so she tried not to do that.
"Good," Elspeth said, and Jacob relaxed visibly. "Now, I did come here to tell you. In fact, it was Jake's idea to come here so soon. We hadn't realized that dad would already know." She glared at Edward, who looked truly apologetic when he said, "Sorry."
Bella didn't look at him as he took a position beside her similar to how Jake was acting around Elspeth, holding her hand too. She seemed to be weighing something, pondering, except... "Mom, dad, could you please talk in a pitch we can hear?"
Dad suddenly went very still (stiller than he was, anyway), and Bella just sighed. "I'm sorry, Elspeth. I was just checking if..." She actually trailed off, to which her daughter said, "You know I can't lie. Or not convincingly anyway. I don't like lying."
Jacob cleared his throat them, to Elspeth's (and her parents') surprise, and said, "I'm sorry if it came in a bad time. I'm not sorry, though, that it had to be Elspeth. I love her, as I have since I first saw her. She's still the most important person to me. You can be sure I'll never ever let anything happen to her, never hurt her. I'm hers, for as long as she'll have me." The half-vampire looked at her wolf with awe and pride and love. She had known everything he was saying was true, but it still made her feel very good that he said it.
Bella looked between both of them, and finally sighed, resigned. "Okay. I'm sorry I reacted this way. I guess I should have seen it coming, you're a woman, and he's your wolf, and... I just wasn't prepared, that's all. My little baby..." she repeated, and it looked like she would tear up if she was capable of doing that.
Elspeth smiled, and leaned closer to her wolf, who immediately let go of her hand to wrap his right arm around her shoulders and hold her close to him. That was the happiest day he could remember in his life.
Elspeth wanted her wedding to be spectacular. And she was the daughter of the queen of the world, so that was quite easy to arrange. Everyone was invited. Literally. All of the Cullens, the Denalis, the Trafelis, the Grecos. Even Allirea went and managed to stay unfaded for the whole event.
Edward took his daughter to the altar, and Elspeth's beam could only be matched by Jacob's. She didn't pay enough attention to the fact that it was really odd that she looked older than her father. She didn't pay attention to the fact that Jacob looked older than her father. She had eyes only for her wolf. Hers.
And when she said "I do" and kissed him, she knew the world was beautiful and perfect and exactly the way it should be.
Truth 2, by James Orland
When Elspeth was 35, she got pregnant. And even though Bella had said that she wouldn't allow Elspeth to give her grandchildren until at least age 45, she didn't much mind, and was in fact really happy.
Ten weeks later, named after Jacob's mother, Sarah Black was born.
Elspeth's pregnancy went well, and she was born the conventional way; she didn't break any of Elspeth's bones, and didn't chew her way out. When they first saw her, they were taken by her. Even though she wasn't as lovely as an immortal child or even a half-vampire newborn, she was still lovelier than a human, and a very cute baby, too. She had her father's eyes and her mother's hair, and her skin didn't glow. That was expected of any one quarter vampire. And when she was born, no one noticed anything peculiar about her. She didn't seem to have any specific powers like her mother's, that showed very early. Her parents reasoned that either she would develop one later or she would never have one.
At age 6 months, Sarah said her first words, while she played with Elspeth's long head of hair: "Mommy, your hair's pretty!" And it was true. Truer than anything Elspeth could ever think of saying. The very idea that Sarah might be wrong or that what she said could be somewhat inaccurate or biased was tossed away immediately as insane. Nonsense.
Jacob was right there, and he grinned at his daughter. "It is," he agreed simply. He knew Elspeth's hair was pretty, but this was more than knowledge, it was a pressing certainty that felt like it would never leave him.
The next thing she said, after playing for five minutes with mommy's undoubtedly pretty hair, was "Chocolate is good," which prompted Jacob to go immediately to the kitchen and fetch some chocolate for her. Indeed it was one of the human foods she loved, but the fact that chocolate was good was much bigger than that. Elspeth furrowed her brows when Sarah said that and went herself to the kitchen, still holding her daughter, to grab a piece. She'd never thought of chocolate as particularly tasty, just barely passable as human food went; but with such certainty, there was no way that could be right.
And she bit down, and it still didn't have a good taste. Then, Elspeth herself must be wrong, because otherwise chocolate would be good. And that prompted immediate itching from her magic. Elspeth waited until she didn't have her arms busy anymore to touch her face with both hands, which brought an amused expression from Jacob. He hadn't seen her do that in over ten years. She saw Magic and Memory, and both looked very confused.
"What?" Elspeth asked. She didn't want to waste time with that, when she could be wasting time with Sarah, but she had learned not to ignore that itching.
"Something is not right..." Magic started.
"I remember the taste of chocolate and it's not good, not for us," Memory interjected.
"But it should be good. And it's not. And our body can't lie to us. So chocolate isn't good. So that's not true."
"Brilliant," Elspeth said, rolling her eyes.
"We know that chocolate isn't good through experience. And yet, it should be good." Magic continued, and went quiet for a beat. "How?"
"How do we know chocolate is good?"
"Well, of course it's good, because..." She was stumped. Memory offered, helpfully, the image of Sarah saying that chocolate was good. Then it dawned on Elspeth, who stopped touching her cheeks and smiled at Jacob, who was still looking at her and waiting curiously.
"I think our daughter is special," she said triumphantly.
"Well, we know that," Jacob said.
"No, I mean..." She sent a thought to him in her special way: Like this.
"Oh..." Jacob said, and looked at the baby on his arms.
"I'm special!" she giggled, and both felt it was true, but they also knew it.
"Wait. What does she do, then?"
Elspeth thought. "Her power looks like mine... except more powerful. We should ask Addy."
"Chocolate is goooood," Sarah giggled again, and Jake smiled and brought her more, while Elspeth had to magically dismiss the notion that chocolate was good in her head, with furrowed brows.
"Fascinating," Addy said, after touching Sarah. And it was obvious then that Sarah's power was indeed fascinating. Or... hang on...
"So?" Bella asked, expectantly. She had proven immune to whatever power Sarah had, and when they tired to speculate, she stopped to think for half a second and then decided to first see what Addy had to say about Elspeth.
Addy's eyes shone like she had just been given a new toy. "She has a power that's... in many ways... the exact opposite of Gwen's..."
And that was obviously true. "Who's Gwen?" Jacob asked.
"You may know her as the Cardiff Bint, that's how Maggie used to call her," Bella explained quietly. Then she asked Addy, "So, Sarah's power is to tell the truth?"
Elspeth looked curiously at her daughter, who looked confused but happy. "To tell her truth. While wearing her power I'm not even able to lie. If I tried to state that my name is Mary, it just wouldn't come out."
"You just said it," Bella pointed out, even though everyone else instantly believed Addy's words. Everyone else, here, consisted of Elspeth, Jacob, Sarah herself, Edward, Renata (who was paying more attention than usual), Alice and Jasper.
"I was being hypothetical. I had to say 'if' and 'tried' and 'wouldn't', because otherwise it would be just unpronounceable."
"Okay..." Bella said, thinking about it. "Is that it?"
"Not quite," Addy continued. "Her truths are stronger than even Elspeth's. People can still have different opinions from Elspeth's, while the instant Sarah says something, everyone else just can't help but believe it."
Sarah was looking at everyone curiously. Alice smiled in her direction. She'd learned how not to try to pry at any Hybrid's future anymore, to avoid the headaches, and now she could be around Elspeth and Jacob and Sarah with no problems. "What does it taste like?" Elspeth asked.
"Tutti-frutti bubblegum," she replied brightly. Then Addy, and Elspeth too, because she had many of Addy's memories and abilities inside her mind, started thinking about everything that power could mean.
"Jasper," Addy said as soon as Elspeth said, "No!"
"What?" Jasper looked confused.
"She's my daughter! You're not experimenting on her!" Edward didn't say anything. Why didn't Edward say anything?
"No, of course not. He can experiment on me."
"What?" Bella asked, curious now.
"You see, apparently now my truth is absolute. So I was wondering... how much I can extend that. Jasper, could you please try affecting my mood?" Sarah had decided she didn't want to participate in the conversation anymore and she was just giggling while Alice pulled faces at her. Of course, she was a vampire, so she could pay attention to the conversation while entertaining Sarah.
Jasper nodded quietly, and then furrowed his brows. He seemed to be concentrating, and Addy was still smiling cheerfully. "I can't," he finally said.
"What? Why?" Bella asked.
"My truth is absolute. What I am feeling is true, and nothing but myself can change it." Addy looked at Jasper for confirmation, and got a nod in response.
"It's like... I don't want to change it, or my power doesn't... like any mood but hers is incorrect." He actually looked like he was trying to concentrate on something, and Elspeth felt the notion that Sarah's power was really delicious...
And then Elspeth and Addy both turned to Edward at the same time. He raised both eyebrows, and seemed thoughtful. "Yes, apparently her thoughts feel true, too," he said to both vampire and half-vampire. The feeling of deliciousness disappeared as soon as Jasper seemed to get a grip on himself.
"Mine don't?" Elspeth asked.
"Yes, but... not the same way." He couldn't seem to find the words to explain it, so Elspeth gave it a shot.
"What I think feels true because I believe it, but what she thinks feels absolutely true, like there's no bigger truth than that, and anything else must be false."
"...Yes," Edward finally breathed after three seconds thinking about it.
"Chocolate is gooooood," Sarah repeated, because every time she did that a grownup seemed to go get some for her. Her parents no longer fell for that, even though Jake himself was starting to develop an unusual taste for the thing; but as soon as she heard it, Alice bolted away, probably to fetch some, while Bella asked, "So she does like human food..." All the other vampires looked confused, because it didn't make sense in their heads that chocolate could not be good, even though they all knew it wasn't.
Elspeth had an idea. She sent all of them a little blast of 'truth' so that they would know what was real for them and what was real for Sarah. They instantly looked better, and Alice showed up then, with chocolate, and gave it to the baby. Elspeth sent another truth blast towards Alice, which left the little vampire looking a bit confused.
"Can you turn it off?" Elspeth asked Addy.
The vampire thought about that for a moment. "Not at the moment. And I don't think she will ever be able to stop telling the truth, but she may be able to one day tone it down so that other people don't feel compelled to believe her." Addy had to stress the word 'may' because it was a remote possibility, and Sarah's power wouldn't let her lie even by omission. She thought a little bit more about it, and then said, "I think that maybe we have a new Pyotr here."
"What? How?" Bella asked, but Edward seemed to agree with her - in fact, everyone seemed to agree with her. That it was possible if nothing else.
"Well... it will probably not be as strong as Pyotr, because he had to be obeyed, when it worked, but maybe if she says it would be a very good idea to do something, it might be just enough to convince everyone to do whatever she wants them to do."
Of course Sarah wasn't thinking anything like that, and was just chewing on her chocolate cheerfully while she looked at the faces around. "...That doesn't sound very good," Elspeth said.
"Well, of course it would be limited by her nature," Addy continued. It looked like the power just forced her to spill the beans when she thought of some noteworthy aspect of the power. "She'd have to truly believe that it would be a good idea for someone to do a specific something, otherwise she wouldn't be able to even say it." Then she looked annoyed and decided she was tired of having to tell the truth all the time, and touched Edward instead. "It would be lovely if..."
"That's enough, Addy. I think we understand it," Elspeth said, and then sent a new wave of truth to everyone, so that they'd return to having their own opinions. Then she turned to Bella and asked, "So, why do you think you are immune to her? She's not a threat," Elspeth said.
"Hmm... Well, technically, she is. She's a threat to my beliefs and to what I think, since she would force me to believe whatever she believes, and I think my shield interprets that as bad." She didn't have to tell anyone that she agreed with the shield there.
Elspeth and Addy nodded, confirming their suspicions. Then Sarah yawned hugely and said, "Sleepy..." Apparently she didn't need to be very articulate with her truths. They all said their goodbyes, and then Alice said something about a vampire stalking a human in England, and Razi showed up. But that wasn't Elspeth's job, and they just left.
"Are you sure you can't push it?" Addy said. Apparently by borrowing Sarah's power, she became immune to it herself, because her truth was as absolute as Sarah's.
Sarah huffed impatiently. She'd been trying for over a month to use her power without words, like Elspeth's blasts, with absolutely no success. "Yes, I'm sure!"
Addy sighed. Sarah's power didn't taste like much potential, but it could be stretched pretty far. They'd been practicing for a year, all with Edward's supervision of course, to find out all that could be done.
They discovered that, yes, it was possible to compel people with her power, but it was limited. The mate or the imprint bond couldn't be overridden by anything, because even though it felt like there was nothing truer than what Sarah said, there really was nothing truer than the mate or the imprint bond. It was also impossible to convince someone to do something that goes against one's principles or one's mate's/imprint's principles. So, even if Sarah swore on her life that it would be a great idea to eat someone, Edward wouldn't be swayed by that because of how Bella would feel about it.
The power was also instantaneous. It worked at the moment Sarah said anything, but it could be reversed later. Elspeth herself had an easier time doing this because of her power, but anyone willing to challenge the notions implied by the power would be able to do so, after a while. But it was impossible, without Bella's shield, to prevent the power from having its effect.
Addy blinked twice and said quickly, before it became irrelevant, "Sarah, have you ever met Allirea?" How lucky, to have the little hybrid unfaded at that moment. Quite... convenient.
"Good," she said, and thought very hard, hoping that Edward would catch it. She closed her eyes tight to do that, and Sarah looked at her, curious. Then she relaxed and said, "Well, if you can't do blasts... I think we should try distorting the truth a little bit more."
Sarah sighed and hit her head against the table between them. "But that's hard!" It really was. Sarah's power didn't cooperate at all when she tried that. Unlike Elspeth's, Sarah's could detect out-of-context truths and omission lies, and it didn't like that one bit. But there was a trick to it. If Sarah could think of a more important truth that made those omissions and out-of-context truths necessary, it would (grudgingly) help. It would never ever outright lie, that was against its very design.
"I know it's hard, of course it's hard, that's why we have to practice! You've already learned how not to say everything that comes to your mind, now..." And then, she stopped talking, and there was a knock on the door behind her, which opened and let Bella, Edward, Elspeth and an unfaded Allirea in. Addy turned immediately and said as quick as possible, "Please don't fade." Allirea just looked up at Bella, who nodded. Elspeth looked at Addy. "Edward told my mom you wanted Allirea to help with Sarah's power?"
"Yes. I want to see if her truths work while she's faded."
Bella blinked, and asked, "Why would they?"
Addy shrugged. "Just a test."
Sarah, who was absolutely clueless, said, "Wait, wait, wait. What?" Elspeth answered sending a mental summary explaining Allirea's powers with useful examples. "Oh," Sarah said, and looked at Addy. "I don't think that'd work."
"Won't hurt to try, will it?" Sarah looked at Allirea and shrugged, standing up from the chair she was sitting on and walking towards the half-vampire. She thought to ask what would happen when Allirea faded her but realized she already knew the answer. Everyone was looking at her, and then suddenly Edward and Elspeth looked confused about why they were there.
"I can see you!" Sarah said, surprised. The only method she could think of (with Elspeth's summary) to see Allirea while being faded by her was by being shielded by Bella. Bella raised both eyebrows, and Allirea immediately shrieked, letting go of Sarah. "Now there's two!"
Addy was grinning, while Edward, Elspeth and Bella looked puzzled (though for different reasons). "Well, not quite what I had expected, but still quite interesting."
"What is?" Elspeth asked, and Addy kept grinning.
Bella shot Allirea a stern look, but Sarah didn't know what it was all about. "We were just seeing the results of our experiment with Allirea," she said. And then Elspeth and Edward looked at the little half-vampire, and she shrieked even more. Addy's grin couldn't be bigger if she tried. "Bella, are you by any chance shielding us?"
"Allirea, are you by any chance unfaded?"
She cringed at the mention of her name and shook her head, and Addy laughed. "Why, it looks like we just found us a way to cancel Allirea's power."
Elspeth looked at Addy with wide eyes, and Bella looked very impressed. "No!" Allirea cried. "That wasn't part of the deal! Make them stop!"
"Wait, what happened?" Sarah asked, still very confused, while Bella answered, "We will, but could you please stay unfaded so that... this... newfound... ability can't be used against you?"
"...Fine," she said, and everyone looked at Addy, except for Elspeth, who was looking at her daughter.
She cleared her throat just for effect, and said, "Sarah's power deals with her own truth. And nothing but herself can change that truth, as we've first seen a few years ago with Jasper and tested so many times. So, when she first saw Allirea, it was true that she was there. And even if Allirea didn't seem important anymore to anyone, it was still true that she was there, and the importance of that truth couldn't be ignored. And when Sarah talked about Allirea's presence, it was clear that she was here, because it's true.
"Also, apparently she can't use her power while faded on anyone but Allirea because no one's paying attention to what she's saying, and just the memory of her doing it doesn't seem to quite cut it."
Allirea scowled, and tried fading again, to no success. Everyone knew without a doubt that she was truly there. Then she unfaded again and said, "Well, how do you fix it?"
"That will probably be me," Elspeth said, sending a blast of truth at everyone, like she usually did when Sarah stated too many things. She considered keeping Sarah's truth for herself so she would always be able to see Allirea, but her Magic itched that it wasn't true in the right way, it was a forced, foreign truth, and so she sighed mentally and erased Sarah's influence from her own head. "Done."
"I have one last test, before you fade again," Addy said, and she touched Elspeth once, because she was closer, and said, "There. Fade again." Allirea did, and was satisfied to find that only Sarah and Bella seemed to notice her anymore, and then she unfaded, while Addy nodded. "Apparently my truth doesn't become sacred anymore while I don't have Sarah's power, so I can't see you - or notice you."
"Are we about done?" Allirea asked, strained because of all the attention she was getting all of a sudden.
"Yes," Addy answered. "I think we've had enough for today. Tomorrow, same time, Sarah?"
Sarah nodded, and Allirea faded, which made everyone forget her existence. "Well, what a disappointing day. I hope tomorrow we meet more success," she said, and trotted off.
The others left at a leisurely pace. Forks had ended up being their main base, now that she had enough staff to keep every capital open all year long. While they walked, Bella thought of something. "Allirea... would you want your children and grandchildren to know you existed all the time?"
That question seemed to leave the little half-vampire stumped. Yes, it was true that she didn't like being noticed. But she also loved her children, and wanted them to remember they had a mother. "...Yes," she said, after half a minute thinking. Edward and Elspeth were ignoring Bella, assuming she was talking about unimportant topics with Sarah. Bella looked at her grandchild.
"Could you lend Addy your power so that she could tell Allirea's family about her?"
Sarah nodded absentmindedly. Her power did say a lot about her, she was all about the truth. So she was curious, and even though she didn't like much exercising with Addy, she wanted to know more about her own power, and that day felt like she'd just found a new application of the word truth, not any new ways to use her power.
And so, Addy borrowed Elspeth's power, savoring the bubblegum, and brought Allirea to notice to her family.
One year later, Sarah floofed. No one had given that possibility much thought. Well, in fact, they'd given it a lot of thought, but while she was growing up she kept everyone else busy with her fascinating power.
When she first phased, she looked different. Her fur was silver, and glowed in the sun. Her teeth were sharper than a regular wolf's, and her enhanced senses in human form carried over to her wolf form.
Furthermore, no one had given much thought to what would happen once Jake's pack shared a mind with a quarter vampire whose thoughts forced everyone to agree with them. And she also had so much room. Much more than a regular human's mind, even if less than a half-vampire. So, when she first turned, everyone shut up, and the first to talk was a wolf whose name Sarah never memorized, asking, "Whoa, did we just get fifty new wolves activating at the same time?"
"No, I'm Sarah!" the wolf thought. Of course, they didn't use words to talk in wolf form, but that was the general idea. "I'm..."
"My daughter," Jake completed as soon as he phased. Everyone snapped out of the stupor and welcomed her enthusiastically, and the surge of anger in the little quarter vampire was gone. Her power knew it wasn't hers, not really, that rage, so it tried to block it, but she argued, using the higher truth that she needed that fake rage at least once to phase, which got a temporary permission for the fake rage to build up.
But it was gone now, of course. Her power made her even better than Bella herself at sending her emotions away, because all she had to do was realize if they were true to her, and if they were not, they were crushed. The downside was that if they were true, and justified, her power enhanced them more than Elspeth's. If the half-vampire wore her heart on her sleeve, her daughter wore it as her regular outfit.
And suddenly everyone felt that feeling when someone who just imprinted phased, and Seth Clearwater thought: "Sarah."
Sparks, by Wren
Melody had been old. Her bones had creaked, her joints had barely worked, and cold weather had made it nearly impossible to get around. Then her daughter - just as young as she had last seen the little thing, barely 22 - showed her the papers, and explained everything. Melody was too old to opt for having a vampire child, but her Sarah had told her that having family members who were vampires helped.
There was a terrible burning, now, at the back of her throat. But every part of her body obeyed her perfectly, and that was more than enough.
Steve curls in his mate's arms, exhausted enough that he almost believes he could sleep. "Charles?"
"Do you have anywhere you need to be today?"
There's a brief pause that Steve recognizes as Charles sorting through what he can put off. "No."
Steve's eyes close. "Thank you."
Jenny hesitated at the edge of the room, swallowing some venom that had come with the stress. The club was better-lit than she had expected, and so she had her eyes glued to the ground. Meeting her mate's eyes across a crowded room had seemed so romantic when it had just been in theory, but in practice...
How would Mom feel? Meeting someone in a club, then spending literally the rest of eternity with whomever. And I don't know anything about who it'll be, even if it will be male or female (she vaguely wishes she weren't bisexual here, though there isn't much weight behind the sentiment). And do I really want to be with someone I met in a club?
Jenny decided to leave and glanced around for the exit before going completely still at the vision in front of her.
"Hi," says the woman with the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. "I'm Linda."
"I don't want to die yet." There was so much in that tone. Part of it was what Amanda had expected of any person with a terminal disease, the simple, obvious desperation, a literally hopeless desire. Another part was surprise, as if Genevieve had thought she had shed the desire to live when she shed any hope of living.
Amanda put a hand over Genevieve's. "I can help."
Gwen had finished her degree. She and her mate had all the time the world could offer to do anything and everything, as long as neither did anything stupid enough to attract the Golden Coven. She had never understood people who complained at the rules; they were much laxer than anything she'd dealt with as a human. This was her first time out without some sort of chaperone.
So, naturally, she was climbing Mt. Everest barefoot.
Whenever anyone asked why, she just shrugged. "Why not?"
James noticed the woman looking at him, and managed half a smile before she was by his side.
"Oh. Uh," he stammered. She just smiled at him. She was surprisingly forward, which he found himself liking, and beautiful enough to bring to mind legends of sirens and mermaids. James did not yet know why his mind kept skipping to creatures that lure young sailors to their death.
"My name is Victoria."
Blood & Gold IV: Fall of Volterra
Ingrid jumped over the back of the couch to see how Carl's game was going. "Oh, hey, you got the good ending. Nice!"
"Eh, whatever," Carl said with an eye roll. "The good ending's never canonical."
"It was in the first one."
"Yeah, until you found out the characters you were playing were the villains in the later games. And they dropped hints at that throughout, too."
Ingrid paused, still not sure if there existed a right way to start this conversation. "So... if you could be a vampire, like in the games... would you be?"
Once, on a snowy winter night in a land Fay had not visited in decades, her mother had built her a fire to keep the both of them warm. Fay had pretended to sleep so her mother would, but had cracked her eyes open soon after to watch the merry crackle of the fire.
Addy seemed focused on using the fire Fay could conjure to destroy or make large changes: to melt metal, to cage vampires with a ring they could not penetrate, to sever things from a distance. More for show than anything else, since technology could do most of that and other witches could do the rest, but apparently, "Fay tastes spicy, like good curry," and Addy seemed to find the developing flavor as interesting as Fay's developing power. Something about the flavors not having blended yet.
Fay called a little fire to her hand and watched it crackle, meditating on it. Then, because Addy wasn't wrong about everything, she created a spark across the room to light a candle.
They wandered through another hallway in another hospital. Between dying patients, he said, with reverence and humor, "You never give up, do you?"
"Of course not." Plain as day, no arguments possible. "There are still people to save."
"You can't be serious."
"Come on! It'd be fun."
Maria rolled her eyes at Peter. "You realize we would have to practice the routine, right? And you'd have to be around me for that?" Maria had just barely learned to tolerate Peter's sickly-sweet stench, and she knew he had more trouble. "And if I sweat, it's going to get stronger."
Peter shrugged and smiled. "Still. How many skating pairs in the games do you think are going to have a wolf and a vampire?"
His eyes had lit up in that determined little way that reminded Maria of her son talking about activating, and she knew it would be more trouble than it was worth to argue. She sighed. "Do you have a song picked out yet?"
Kelsey knew it was horribly clichéd to have her mind changed about becoming a vampire simply because some boy who looked her age and was over twice that had mated on her, but he was sweet and she liked him and didn't want him hurt and he was kissing her -
Kelsey had sprinted to where she could get blood, first thing, and found that a vampire sprinting was rather impressive. Not just in terms of speed, but in how clear absolutely every detail remained; even while sprinting she could have counted each individual thread on every piece of clothing she passed.
And even now, weeks later, if she cared to she could still count them all, even distracted by the lazy circles her mate drew with his fingers on her back. Though, granted, the threads were far from a high priority.
Michael spent exactly 52 hours, 8 minutes and nine seconds doing nothing but paint Fay holding a consistent flame in her hand before it occurred to either of them that they had mated.
"Here, I want to show you something," Lionel said, holding Raven's hand.
"What is it?" Raven asked a little blearily, the hybrid having woken up a few minutes before she normally would.
"You remember last summer, when you woke up early enough to see all the flowers?"
"Yeah," Raven said, stretching. "Too bad they all close at night."
Lionel smiled at her. "I planted a garden. Come on, this is fun to watch."
She stepped in to a circle of bushes and promptly stopped. There must have been hundred of flowers, and every one was opening to greet the moon.
Addy stood in the woods and watched the little witch work. Jane? She thought she'd heard the leader call her that.
Addy knew of the Volturi, and knew exactly how constricting getting tied up with them would likely be. Jane would be one flavor, and the risk might deprive Addy of so many more.
The copycat watched the torturer. Addy's hand twitched.
The other flavors were theories, while Jane was here, now, tempting, going to be gnawing at the back of her mind until she just -
Addy touched Jane's skin. It was briefly satisfying to know the flavor, and then she had a fraction of a second to realize why Jane was turning, which meant they hit each other rather than just Jane hitting Addy.
Jane screamed, Aro was interested, and the rest was Addy's game of speed chess.
"Amanda, you look..." pristine, Lila wanted to say. Not just as if she hadn't aged a day, but as if she had never really aged at all. Grown, yes. Amanda was clearly and adult. But when they were in school together, Amanda had had freckles, scars. She had been beautiful with them, more beautiful, Lila thought. Now all the little imperfections living life had given her were just...gone. "Stunning," Lila settled on, if only because it was the literal truth.
"It doesn't make sense to be so devoted to anyone," his hard-eyed Jillian states.
"And yet I am." Lyle is just as unmoved, though the wolf and she had started at different places.
"Then you want me to be with you forever, due to some random bit of magic that's floating around?" She jabs his chest with her index finger, and neither of them comment on the fact that the action hurts her finger more than anything else.
"I would like to be with you forever. Should you desire otherwise, tell me so and I will go. Regardless of what you decide, I felt you deserved to know."
Jillian's mouth twists, and Lyle can't tell if she's suppressing a smile or a scowl. "The only way for us to be together forever is if I turn into a vampire. What if I mate on someone?"
"That's never happened before, so I find it unlikely. I also do not need to be with you romantically at all. Should you desire no partner, or one or more partners who are not me, I would not take offense. I want to be with you, and I want you to live." Lyle had compared how awful vampires smelled to how he thought he would feel if Jillian died, and decided the discomfort was more than worth it.
Jillian stares at him for a moment, then throws up her hands. "Go away. I need to think about this on my own."
Lyle nods. "Please call me when you decide."
"What, should I whistle?"
He smiles. "I believe most would use a phone. But if I hear you whistle, I will come running."
It wasn't quite the same as it should have been, Alice knew. Elspeth had happened upon a few snatches of memory around her life, a precious few second-hand, and all the rest third- or fourth-hand. It wasn't the same as knowing, as remembering.
But when she spoke to what remained of her family, sometimes it was enough to have any link.
"But... you said we were mates." Kelly's brow furrowed a bit, trying to maintain her confusion because the alternative was more than she wanted to deal with, more than she could deal with. "Shouldn't I... feel something?"
Trent, if that was even his real name, shrugged. "I lied. Wanted to see if it could get past Edward, if you believed it."
Joham watched the human women closely enough to get in their beds, but never bothered much beyond that. If someone had asked, he might have compared it to picking a lock. One might be skilled at picking locks, and, in fact, might even enjoy the activity. But in the end, as soon as the door was unlocked, one moved through. He wanted a child. If he broke a few lockpicks that would hardly last a few decades anyway, it was annoying, nothing more.
The subway had about as many people as it always did, though Dahlia noticed that there were steadily increasing numbers of wolves, hybrids, and vampires on her daily commute. She wasn't any herself yet, but she'd always been able to spot them. When she was about twelve, she'd decided turning could wait either until she was 25 or until someone decided she was the center of the universe.
Given that she traveled the subway every day, the fact that she ended up turning at 23 was not that much of a surprise.
Maggie sat by Gianna and tried to give what comfort she could. Gianna was in pain. Maggie knew how much pain because it was her first clear memory, screaming beyond anything coherent. But she had been alone.
Maggie remembered overhearing Emmett speak of his turning, how Rosalie and Carlisle had made it easier, because he'd known he had someone. She'd hoped to help, and tried singing, because Alice said Gianna would like it -
"Make it stop," Maggie was stuck in her memories of her own turning, wishing she could take the pain, because anything was better than watching her mate go through this. "I never asked you for anything - anything - this is the one thing I want - if you love me -"
Maggie hurt. She spilled truth, barely even paying attention to the words, just trying to help any way she could. "It's almost over," Maggie said desperately, then tried singing again.
Allirea was unfaded for the moment, and Adam couldn't decide which was weirder: the normally outgoing Mark sitting alone at his table - when she was faded - or a wolf half-successfully ignoring his imprint like this. Adam hadn't even known one could exude complete devotion without appearing to pay attention, but he supposed Mark had gotten a few years' practice.
Then Allirea saw Adam looking and she wasn't important.
Steve had been a peculiar case. He, personally, wasn't that old of a vampire, but he still occasionally showed habits of a much earlier age, simply because the one who had turned him had been so old.
That was the entire reason he had been turned, actually. A guest in Alex's home had been injured too badly for mundane means. So Alex... healed him.
Edward, perhaps, understood how Carlisle felt when he left Esme. Mindreader, and all that. Esme had wondered, occasionally, if that had helped. Knowing that someone knew how you felt, and why you felt it, even if they couldn't fully empathize.
She didn't know if she felt a little more for Edward and Jasper was because they had needed more help staying off humans - needed her as a mother in a way neither Alice nor Bella did - or because either of them would understand.
Melody knew that the universe would keep surprising her, that she would find more fantastic things that she would hardly be able to believe. She recognized that she had endless years in which to see whatever she wanted to, and that everything would keep turning, shifting, changing, like a diamond showing a new facet, like a child growing, like nothing any metaphor could do justice.
But still, she believed that being the first to walk barefoot on the moon was one of the most amazing things she'd ever feel.
Never Forgotten, by Bluelantern 2814This story is still in progress, and it has many chapters! Read it on its own page.
Sparks 2, by Bluelantern 2814
Melody overheard two people talking about what to do with immortality. One of them said that they could just wait until faster than light travel was invented, or invent it themselves.
And something as simple as that was enough to set her path.
"Only humans of whatever kind can do... magic." Samara was still uncomfortable with the term that she fought so long during her life.
"Are you counting vampires as humans?" Yuri asked.
Samara blinked. "If you prefer the term 'people,' I will use it, but honestly, it is foolish to argue about these details. What it matters is that only creatures capable of intelligent thought can do magic."
"And you theory is that it's caused by Noetics?"
"Noetics is the science that studies the phenomenon caused by thoughts. Doesn't magic sound like that?" Samara said, unsure whether she was herself a bad teacher, or if vampires aren't the fast learners as she'd heard.
At every unanswered question, things got tenser.
"How old are you? Where do you work? Where were you born? What are your intentions with my granddaughter? Your parents? What can you eat?!?" Richard finally shouted exasperated while his wife and daughter fell silence.
To his credit, Augustus didn't let the mask of cordiality fall. He looked over his mate and Alexis noded, trying to calm herself down and wiping the sweat in her forehead. Silently, Alexis's mother made a gesture meaning, "go on."
Augustus answered, "I am almost two thousand years old. I work for the Golden Empire Research and Development department. Rome. Staying with her for the rest of our lives. My parents died long ago... and the last answer is a bit tricky."
Mariano always wished that he had had a child before being turned, but that was not the case, and he spent a couple of centuries longing for a "heir", much more than he longed for a mate.
Until the day he had a visit from a fellow named Razi with annoyingly important news, who happened to share one bit of information that delighted Mariano so much that he couldn't even care that he no longer could eat people.
Now Mariano just needed to find a mate.
It was going to be a normal day for Renée until Phil answered the door and called her, sounding confused.
Renée saw the similarities between the bald girl and her own daughter. After so long she learned to ignore thinking about her lost child, it wouldn't make her happy.
She knew Bella would want her to be happy.
"Do I look familiar?" said the girl... who was more familiar than Renée would admit... or hope for.
"Please, look at me," Eric said with his new vampire voice. It was beautiful and unfamiliar, he rarely spoke before.
Julius didn't want to look at Eric, but he forced himself.
With his mind-sight he saw again, Eric didn't love him, there were bright blue circles and purple waves of gratitude and pity, but not the bright red-purple starburst of love that there was before... and absolutely no cloak of all-colored mate bond layering his entire being.
Part of Julius wanted to say, "How could you not mate to me?" but the hybrid couldn't bring himself to say the words.
Siobhan was holding the newspaper near her body, and with an uncharacteristically playful voice she said to her mate, "Liam, dear," and Liam was already at her side kissing her earlobe, "remember last week when you said that despite all things that humans can do, you don't see the point of hiding from them? Because they are harmless despite everything they came up just in the last half century?"
"Yes," Liam said slowly stopping his caress.
Almost theatrically Siobhan opened the paper to show it to her mate. "Well take note of august sixth, 1945... the day they proved you wrong."
Change of Values
Tina was a whole five months old, looking five or six, and was half-covered with blood from the small mountain lion that she killed all by herself.
"Daddy! Daddy!" she happily shouted while running to her parents. "I did it! I hunted it down and ate it without any help!" Carrying the motionless body on her back with some difficulty.
"Yes, you did!" Her father fussed with her hair. "Now get yourself clean, I think this one is in good enough condition to be stuffed."
Golden Campaign - Chapter 23: Two thousands years of unshed tears.
"So how do you like the new Blood & Gold so far?" Pleione asked.
"I stopped playing a week ago," Damien said distracted with a newspaper article.
"You did?" Pleione said, secretly wondering if she should say anything anyway.
"Yeah, the story got so," Damien made a disgusted face, "I stopped in the chapter where it explains how The Mourning Emperor lost his wife..."
"The Gleeful Empress..."
"Yes, the Gleeful Empress," Damien said rolling his eyes. "I mean, seriously, where did they come up with this stuff? I can't believe any game that ridiculous can be so popular with a story like that."
"So we are in love forever. It's that simple?"
"So you are in love with me forever?"
"That sounds so complicated."
"Not to me."
"So... now what?"
"I don't know."
"Do you think I do?"
"Yes... or maybe, I don't know."
The doctor walked in the room, the patients' screams were loud, but he managed to hear what the others doctors are saying.
"They have been like this for three days, they won't even sleep."
"They complain of fire and their temperature keeps dropping."
"I think they started to feel something in their chest too."
The doctor got closer to one of the older women, who was holding her chest like her heart was trying to escape from her body, and then the woman jerked one last time and stopped shaking.
"Inside this vault there are the only known samples of the Eurasian-Werewolf infection in the world," said the scientist paralyzed from the neck down.
"Do they still work?" the mysterious man asks.
"Who knows? Maybe... It's not like we can test it, and the precog can't see the potential results too."
"Perfect" The mysterious man opens the vault, taking all the samples. "Absolutely perfect."
"I'm starting to wish that we did dress up as Batman and Robin."
"I will keep saying that no one will crime-fight around me dressed as Robin."
"This is a bad idea, what if..."
And just like in the stories, they both heard the scream and jumped through rooftops to rescue.
The car accident was terrible, Eliana died instantaneously. However, both her husband and daughter survived, and with their wolf regeneration they would wake up in just a few hours.
Teresa was the only aware of all of this and was the only family member around. The doctors were surprised that Teresa's niece and brother had survived at all, and they were assuming that neither would wake up.
Teresa knew they would wake up, and that her brother would find out that Eliana was dead. The center of his universe was dead.
Teresa asked the doctor to shut down the machines that kept her brother alive for the time being, and hoped that this meant that her brother would die peacefully.
At least Teresa would be there for her niece.
It was a simple thing, a miscalculated step, a random chance, a fold in the carpet, a shoe too loose. Steve fell down the stairs and unluckily hit his head and lost consciousness.
Alex was at his side a fraction of a second after Steve fell in darkness, too late to stop any damage already done, too late to call a doctor, too late for Steve to keep his heartbeat. There was no remedy in the world that could save him.
But there was one solution, which was definitely no remedy.
Alex decided that this misfortune was his responsibility; thereby he had to do the only thing that could be done to preserve Steve's life.
Smells, particles of dirt and dust in his clothes, the lingering scent of humanity, sweet and burning at same time.
Taste, the throat burned, his mouth was coated with venom, wet yet only giving him more thirst, no trace of the chocolate bar, the last "food" that he had eaten, no desire to eat more.
Sound, the heartbeat of dozen of people still turning, but beating faster than any human heart could beat, the echo of footsteps, not only his or Alec's, but from everywhere, the music of the friction and collision of every surface.
Touch, the fibers of each thread in his shirt, pants and underwear, the hair in his scalp a small unshaved strand of facial hair that escaped the razor blade.
The emptiness of his eye sockets.
It was a lot to take in one second.
"You know the real Amelia?" Peter asked Cody.
"Wow," Cody replied. "You are slow, and her name is Emily."
"Sorry, it's a lot to take," Peter said, "finding out that my favorite video game is based on real facts."
"Real facts is exaggerating," Cody replied. "I think that half of Blood & Silver is made up. The Blood & Gold series are mostly accurate. For example, vampire venom doesn't transform animals, that was added for game balance only."
Melody was standing watching the sky for solid fourteen hours before being interrupted.
"You know," said Radamantes, "the stars will be there tomorrow."
"I was admiring the new constellations," Melody said softly. "Maybe they are going to point me to my next path."
Radamantes was surprised "We just got here."
"I know, but there is no reason not to think about tomorrow," Melody said smiling.
Sparkmas, by assorted authors
Sparkmas by Bluelantern2814
Merry Saturnalia of Athenodora.
Athenodora had only a handful of memories about cooking, but a few days observing let her memorize and learn enough. She prepared the meal easily. The scent of food, the regular kind, was nowhere close to tasty, but she found herself enjoying the fine details of the soup brewing or the meat cooking.
Finally she brought the meal to the dinning table, where she found Caius quietly looking over her Bion. Athenodora felt a moment of regret; she knew that her Caius felt that this show was too much, but she also knew it was only going to be once.
"Master Bion," Athenodora said. Loving the sound of her voice, she purred a little. "I know you are confused and have so many questions..."
Bion might actually have had many questions, but his heart was beating too fast for him to speak, and he just stared at her, probably wondering why the dead had returned to haunt him after so many years.
Caius watched, knowing too well that was the only thing she demanded from him, and controlling himself not to take the man's life. Not out of thirst, though; Bion's fat wife had feed him well enough.
"...It is Saturnalia, the day that the normal is reversed and the masters serve the slaves." Athenodora smiled. "But you don't have to serve me today." Her smile turned into a grin of expectant revenge.
If the tradition of Saturnalia demanded that the normal was reversed then it was only expected that a vampire was going to feed a human.
At least during the holidays.
Merry Christmas of Elspeth Cullen.
For half my life (almost two months!), the TV talked about the day and sometimes the grown ups did too.
But they weren't very Merry about Christmas... except Aunt Rosalie! She told me everything about Christmas, including Santa Claus, who Uncle Emmet commented lived next door; but then Aunt Carmen wondered "out loud" if it was healthy to lie to me. It took me a whole day to figure out that Santa wasn't real. I stared angrily at Uncle Emmet until he swept me from the floor and held me high making me fly. I giggled.
I helped when they set up the Christmas tree.
Christmas day was fun, and I got a dozen of toys and I made my new Barbie bite a stuffed reindeer, because Barbie was blond just like Aunt Rosalie.
But they weren't very Merry about Christmas, because they missed Mama, Daddy and my aunt Alice and my uncle Jasper.
I missed them too.
Merry Holidays of Jacob Black
Jacob woke up in the middle of the night, only a little confused by the lights that crept from the doorway, too many colors. But then he remembered what they were.
He got up slowly and walked into the small living room, and blinked at the tree.
Jacob had nearly lost count of how many times Elspeth had set up the lights and the trees, but it was always marvelous to see, the way the multicolored lights sparkled between the evergreen leaves and the figures of golden birds and silver wolves. Jacob knew her dedication and her personal tradition of setting up the tree herself.
Elspeth's head turned when Jacob walked in the room, her smile beaming with more power than all lights in the word. Her hand was placing a red glass apple.
"Merry Newtonmas!" she sang.
"Merry Newtomas!" Jacob sang back, watching as Elspeth finished.
Jacob remembered a vague moment from a century or two ago, when he'd expressed feeling a little bad about the "loss" of Christmas. But Elspeth had said to him that the true constant in those dates was that they should always spent with the people that mattered to you.
And she was so right.
Sparkmas by Alethiophile
He doesn't know what he was expecting to be behind the impossibly perfect people who he was starting to see more and more often in the street, the subway, the mall, but he's sure it was more along the lines of a shadowy conspiracy, rather than the perfectly forthright... vampire... sitting in front of him. They have pamphlets, for heaven's sake. It is disconcertingly ordinary.
"So, let me get this straight," he says, after a moment to digest the information that has been provided to him. "You don't age, you don't get sick, you get stronger, faster, you look like," he gestures helplessly around the room, "you, and you basically can't die unless someone sets you on fire. And that won't stick unless they break you apart first, because if they don't you can stop, drop and roll faster than previously considered physically possible. The only catch is that you lose the sense of taste and you gain a constant thirst for human blood. And they say that might well be fixed sometime in the next few decades, which you can be absolutely certain you will live to see."
"That's pretty much it," she says, with a cheery grin. The expression is unrealistically perfect, like everything the... vampires... ever do; it's as if there's someone doing professional-quality airbrushing jobs on them in real time. "Any questions?"
His mouth opens and closes for a moment before he manages to speak. "Why am I having to come to you about this?"
She looks at him as if surprised for an almost imperceptible moment, before breaking into a laugh. Predictably enough, it is entirely perfect; he throws off the distracting effect by reminding himself that, from what he's been told, she's currently exerting self-control beyond anything he's ever known to keep from killing him and drinking his blood, and if it ever lapsed she could do it in half a second.
"You know," she says, as she stops laughing, "I think you and the Empress would get along just fine."
Sparkmas by Red Wren
Maggie smiled and settled into Gianna. The next morning, Molly would come bounding down to see what Santa had left in her stocking, but for the moment the two had a few hours to pass in harmonious quiet.
"Does that take much focus?" Michael asked.
Fay tilted her head to one side. "Not really. Making a flame never has, and I suppose I've just gotten used to making sparks."
"Huh. You know, fire burns different colors when you use different materials or temperatures?"
By the end of the evening, she'd gotten red, green, white, blue, and a yellow Michael insisted on calling gold. Fay smiled. The flickering flames formed into a triangular tree, with a white star at the top and varied spots of color all over it. "Merry Christmas."
"How do you feel, Lila?"
The new vampire's eyes snapped to her. Amanda had enough experience to avoid asking right away, but Lila had barely drunk her fill of blood—or blood-substitute, she supposed, though she couldn't imagine blood-blood would taste much better than this. "Sharp," the newborn finally replied. No more than a second had passed, she was sure, but she'd felt every instant. She knew the pattern on the walls, saw two scars from vampire bites on Amanda, watched the other newborns sprint past her and not blur at all... Eternity was going to be quite long, if she felt every instant like this.
Lila smiled at the thought.
Turning was...surprisingly boring, really. Dahlia's mate had been an old vampire, and one who had been smart enough to figure out the Volturi. She didn't expect the vampire to trust the Golden Coven anytime soon, which was why she'd brought some friends to turn with her. Evidently, that didn't set off any alarm bells, perhaps because Dahlia's friends, like Dahlia, were nervous but not violent. Really, her mate's description of turning would make anyone nervous; she wasn't even sure if the others were nervous of the Golden Coven.
For now Dahlia was watching It's a Wonderful Life and waiting to finish so she could find her mate again.
"Kelly," Rose said, barely above a whisper, "I love you. I want to spend every moment with you. My heart is yours, and my soul, too."
"Rose," Kelly answered, still bursting with excitement to have found her, "I love you. I cannot imagine stopping. I am as much yours as I am." Not, 'as I am anyone's', though some had suggested it. Simply, 'as much as I am.'
"Do you, Kelly, take Rose to be your wife, as long as you both shall live?"
"And do you, Rose, take Kelly to be your wife, as long as you both shall live?"
"I now pronounce you wife and wife." (They both liked the original rhythm.)
"What about when I die?" Jillian asked.
"Are you planning on it?" That got a rare smile out of his dear lovely.
"If I am."
Lyle leaned back a little. "I go on as best I can, I suppose. I would be an interesting experiment at worst, and an inspiration to widowed immortals at best." He's not quite allowing himself to think it, because the doubt will eat away at him more than even the fact would. "I do hope you choose otherwise."
Jillian nodded. "I need to think about it."
Lyle's heart skipped a beat. She was making a big decision, so she'd asked him. That was... "I love you," he said, unable to keep a touch of hope out of his voice.
His dear, lovely, hard-eyed Jillian looked straight at him. "I love you, too."
Presents by Anya
"You really didn't have to get me anything. If I even wanted something I would have gone out to get it myself." Lucian spoke from the upstairs study.
"Honey. This really isn't something that you could go out and buy. Now get out of that chair, and get down here already," Kaylee says from the driveway. She didn't raise her voice; they could hear each other fine
"As you command, my mate." Lucian stands and is downstairs and outside in mere seconds.
Kaylee smiles and moves to the side, revealing a young boy. "Meet your new son."
Lucian blinks in surprise, and smiles widely. "He's perfect."
The human boy scowls up at him. "I can hear you. My name is Tim."
The two vampires laugh. "Welcome to the family, Tim."
Sparkniversary, by assorted authors
SPARKS BY GOLDENCERES
Rebecca glared at the screen of her cell phone. None of her so-called friends were ever there when she needed them. The same went for her family. She wished she could find someone completely reliable that would always be there for her, come hell or high water. Her wish came true when she met the vampire Brian Miller. He was sweet, attentive and she was the first priority in his life. Rebecca signed the turning papers he gave her without needing to dwell much on it. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Hadrian blinked as the beautiful human got off the train that he was about to board. He wanted to stare at her forever and that desire made something go click in his brain. She was his mate, finally arrived in his life, after 834 years of waiting. He only had to quell her unexplainable fear of him and everything would be perfect.
Blake glanced at the three girls that entered the class and found himself unable to tear his gaze away. All three of them were beyond beautiful. One in particular, the blonde one, stood out to him. But she also was way out of his league. With a pang of sadness he looked dutifully to his book and tried not to sneak any glances at the lovely classmate. There was no way she would even look his way; after all, Blake was only human. And she was a goddess come to earth.
"So, how did your witchcraft emerge?" Andrea asked her hybrid friend. She had recently learned what he was. Not that she hadn't noticed odd things before. But she couldn't believe that the very beautiful woman that looked even younger than Andrea was Apollo's mother. When she came across the bizarre sight of the eternally eighteen woman berating the twenty looking Apollo after the boat sinking accident, Andrea thought she was a bossy younger sister or cousin. The fact that Apollo had been able to swim for three hours while carrying Andrea on his back had made her really suspicious but she had imagined he was taking performance enhancing drugs or something.
"Well, I was two days old and watching a documentary about arson and arsonists with my grandfather Philippe. Mom was not done turning and dad did not want to leave her out of his sight, so grandpa was looking after me until my parents could come."
Andrea recalled the smoking hot heartthrob that her friend called grandfather and felt surreal and rather dizzy.
"I thought that the flames were really pretty and made my mother's favorite cashmere scarf light up. Grandpa let out a screech that he to this day maintains was very dignified and masculine." Apollo shook his head as he smiled at the memory.
The utterly mouthwatering, ambrosial scent hit him with the devastation of a newborn army. Civility and goodwill evaporated like water on a hot furnace and the animal took over. He sprang, heedless of everything else, his only objective to taste that heavenly elixir contained within her veins. Later, when the ultimate temptation was away, he was overcome with regret at his actions and relieved that she had not been harmed. He hoped she would not hate him for it.
Addy arrived to find the hybrid Apollo completely engrossed on a rather thick book and not acknowledging her presence. She felt like strangling the rude brat and thanked her lucky stars his ridiculously overprotective empath mother was not there. His force field father was escorting him instead. Tasty, intriguingly elusive Hadrian, with his peach pie flavor, one she had only sampled once, while the other vampire was distracted by his amorous mate. Well, the son with his still developing cinnamon roll taste was interesting enough to keep her fascinated.
"Hey dad, which Hogwarts House would Addy be in?" mockingly asked the brat once he'd finally finished reading the blasted book with his hybrid speed.
"Fine," Addy said with a false smile. "Slytherin!"
"You don't want to be a Slytherin," Apollo said. "No one wants to be a Slytherin."
Addy gritted her teeth, wishing that the little witch hadn't such an interesting and useful power, or that she hadn't indirectly read the books through Aro's power (she definitely wished that some of the horrid fanfiction hadn't been there too). At least she could've said that she knew nothing about it; but, of course, everyone knows how much she does.
"Maybe she would be a Hufflepuff, " Hadrian said.
THE HAZARDS OF KNOWING
Andrea was delighted when Apollo told her of 'things.' He was her best friend and she had always had the nagging feeling that there were huge secrets in his life. But after she was informed, the strains formed by the secrets disappeared and their friendship grew stronger. But there was a serious drawback. Every time she heard someone exclaim that magic and vampires were not real, she couldn't help but laugh uncontrollably, drawing strange looks. When it was her time to turn, she helped a few others with stories similar to hers write a pamphlet on the problems a human in the know had to face. It caused too much laughing.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, AND CAME BACK
Duncan had truly loved her. And he had been devastated when she'd left him for the rich boy with excellent prospects. His sister had told him that he should be glad to be rid of the shallow, materialistic girl that did not deserve him, and he almost yelled at his baby sister for insulting her. He knew her and how hard her life had been. He did not fault her for aiming for security and comfort for herself and her future children. But he never got over her. Occasionally he would see her about with her husband or her daughter and son. Often he saw himself in the place of her husband, but it was not to be. Then she went missing for several weeks after her neighbors had called his station due to hearing horrible screams from her house. Her son had been the most aggressive about his investigation; strangely defensive too, and to Duncan the boy looked guilty. It was not until she came back, lovelier than ever, that his worry abated. But fate also saw fit to reward him with her. Because she mated on him, not on her husband. His sister was disgruntled but eventually came around.
Sik watched the vampire Joham and his progeny. Among them was the tiny hybrid that had killed his beloved sister coming into the world. He had told Hie-Min to stop seeing the strange white man, but like always, she had thought he was being overprotective and had disregarded his sound advice. Killing Joham in revenge was out of the question. The Golden Empire would find out, plus he almost always had a bad feeling that it was a horrible idea, like he was guaranteed to lose that fight. His witchcraft was useful in that regard, he always knew what he should avoid doing. But he could get his revenge through his sister's daughter. Iseul, she was called. Joham dearly valued his children and it would be a deep blow to him to lose her affections, at least in part. He would contact the hybrid and show her pictures and mementos of the mother she never got to know due to her father's selfishness, disregard and cruelty. After all, the hybrids born under the Golden Empire had both their parents. And a young girl would long for a mother.
Duncan did not say a word when he learned of the choice that his stepdaughter had made. His mate was practically spiting nails, remembering all too well the heartache her cheating former husband had caused her. To Duncan he had been an obstacle, the rival that had won. Until fate had decided to throw Duncan a bone. He could not take her from him again. The mating bond was absolute. But he could rob Duncan of the affections of his family. His stepchildren were unlikely to forgive their biological father, but their children had not truly known him. Duncan feared that his precious grandchildren would prefer the other.
People-watching was one of Justina's hobbies. The more interesting someone was, the less likely it was that she would eat them. After more than twelve centuries of being alive, Justina had mastered her instincts and civilized herself. She always fed on a schedule to enforce discipline and clear-headedness, and she always fed on boring or rude people.
For several days she watched the grandson of the richest landlord in the area. He was intriguing, with his flawless swordsmanship and the books he read. But there was something else as well in the way his opponents sometimes became slow around him. Maybe there was witchcraft. Interested, she decided to watch a little more. The human’s avaricious relatives who pushed him out of a window to fall to his death on the sharp rocks below irksomely interrupted her observation. Again, that slowness appeared. Glad she had fed on a stringy, ill-tempered innkeeper earlier, Justina took off like a shot in his direction, after having made sure no one was watching. Gently and carefully, she bit him and carried him off to a cave nearby where he could scream himself hoarse without disturbing anyone. When he was two days into the transformation, she left him for a while and went to grab the two treacherous relatives. Her creation would need to eat once he was done turning and who better than the people who had caused the event?
As a human, Hadrian longed for change and adventure. His life had been planed for him from the moment he had come out of his mother. He was to master the arts of learning and war and to succeed his grandfather when the time came. Then his aunt decided that she wanted her idiot son to inherit their family lands. The attempted assassination was so very sudden; one second he was talking to his aunt and the next he was airborne. He barely had time to be surprised. But he was surprised when, while he was lying broken on the ground waiting for the gates of Heaven to open, he was bitten by a stunningly beautiful woman. He thought she might be an angel at first, but her devilish smile quelled that hope. The burning pain that followed almost convinced him that he was in hell, except that he could feel the change in his mind. When he was done and was given a quick explanation of what he was, Hadrian could not be sad that he had to leave everything behind. Justina then presented him with his aunt and cousin as his first meals. Due to his rage and newborn thirst, their deaths were far too quick.
SPARKS BY BLUELANTERN2814
Alice saw Suzie's life.
She was about to get married, they wanted a short engagement and to soon have children.
Alice saw Suzie's life.
Disappeared under mysterious circumstances; the police would blame her fiance. Their families would become enemies, blaming each other.
Alice saw Suzie's life.
And decided not to drink her blood.
"So... my dear quarter-vampire friend," Clarice said teasingly, "what is so weird about the rest of your family?"
"Remember that I said I have many brothers?" Radamantes asked rhetorically. "It is... very complicated."
"How so?" Clarice asked.
"My mom was married 3 times before her current husband..."
"Well she must be long lived..." Clarice said.
"She is," Radamantes said, "but each husband was from a different species."
"Yeah, they were a half-half, a wolf, a vampire and finally my dad, human."
"How did that happen?"
"Well, Thor the hybrid was a regular dating then marriage case - until Simon imprinted on her..."
"She divorced Thor?"
"Not right away, they lived together for a while... My older siblings were born during that period."
"Then she went through some hard times emotionally."
"Then Carlito the vampire came and mated on Mon, and Thor decided to live with his twins."
"Simon didn't have a choice."
"No, and while they stayed like that for some time, it ended badly."
"Bruno was born after Simon and Carlito's funerals... He is Carlito's son."
"Okay... I am sorry."
"Then 23 years later Mon met my dad. She says that she is happy with a relationship that won't last forever."
After Jacob's decision that Elspeth was old enough to date, it took him a year to convince her to go out.
Eslpeth dressed simply, but stunning as always, with a plain dress and a necklace, rare on her. She walked out of the bedroom and Jacob smiled at her.
Walking over her, he kissed and hugged her.
"Have fun tonight," Jacob said, "and be safe."
After she was gone, Jacob sat in his lazy chair and read a book.
When Franklin was 40 he realized that he had just a few decades left before the Masquerade was off.
So he decided to pretend he was a robot.
When else would he get the chance?
It was weird growing up with an unimportant mother.
Orlan didn't realize this at first, of course, he simply couldn't due to the sheer lack of reference.
Everyday in the exact same hour he was taken and locked in his bedroom/cage. It wasn't uncomfortable but it was small and he couldn't get out. Then, mother unfaded and said it was time to sleep.
It wasn't until their visits to civilization got longer than a quick meal that Orlan started to notice.
Everyone's mothers are always important.
It wasn't important how but Johan knew that half-vampires were possible, they were.
Sometimes he did remember that he had a daughter when Allirea was unfaded. Not always, and still she wasn't important enough to make him care about her.
But it gave him hope to continue his work.
Ella preferred it when her mother was faded. It wasn't like she didn't love her non-human parent. She did.
But remembering her mom was also remembering what she ate.
Ella never knew the victims, and if she did most of time she wouldn't care.
But that only made the moments when she did care all the more intense.
Nahuel never liked talking about his family, much less so after their first visit. His aunt couldn't remember Allirea, or maybe she did, but it was like trying to talk about a specific grain of sand in the desert.
Knowing that he had sisters... half-sisters, because Nahuel's mother was taken by the demon, but knowing about his family all the same, almost made Nahuel's life feel less of a tragedy.
"I have been working with private investigations for 34 years," Cole said. "I have seen the bad, the very bad," for effect Cole corrected himself, "and more importantly, the Empire has seen it too."
That made much of his "audience" move uncomfortably. The term audience didn't seem fit for a group of 20 people, half of them his friends, even if they were that indeed.
"They are overworked," Cole said. "The Golden Empire has an important job to do, I am not going to lie, keeping our kind..." one of the werewolves narrowed his eyes, "under control is important, but there is a lot to be done."
There are half-vampires, three-quarters, one-quarters, one-eights, three-eights, five-eights, and many other fractions; there were the "no longer one-eights" and full vampires now; there were their mates, or their imprinted wolves, or their own imprints: some were human, while others were hybrids, and there were of course the wolf-hybrids, much more welcoming than the full wolves.
There were witches, and the merely gifted; there were the ones that excelled in a field, and ones that were masters of all trades.
Marriage, birth, lines and blood.
And finally, a family reunion in Natal. The year was 2100 and it was a really big event, with lots of pictures, including the biggest family photo since the invention of photos.
Joham smiled all the time and was finally happy, his dream of siring a master race finally come true.
Lucy was mildly amused at him and very glad to be the matriarch of such a large family.
With immortal families cropping up over decades, naming was bound to become more and more complicated. Even when one carefully avoided repeating names or naming someone after someone else in the family, repeated names weren't uncommon. Additionally, not everyone took such care, even when that caused many Juniors, II, III and IV in the same family reunion.
So with such task and so little time it shouldn't come as a surprise that many parents asked the hybrids themselves to decide.
Marietta wanted to cry; her skin was hard and cold, no make-up would hold onto it, her body would stay on that shape forever, only her hair would change... by growing very slowly.
She wanted to kill her creator, even if he'd saved her life by turning her.
Rather, Marietta looked in the mirror again, and Adolfo's reflex looked back, beautiful like any other vampire, but not matching what her soul really was.
THE UGLY AND THE BEAST
Sometimes Christian was just surprised at how rude people could be with their staring. Eventually he grew accustomed with the averting of eyes; his scars were pretty bad, and he could only be thankful that he hadn't lost the use of his eyes or any of his parts, even if his nephew wouldn't look at him.
But that brunette was truly rude, staring at him with that obviously faked admiration and awe. What could a creature like her want with a war veteran like him?
"I think he is perfect for her-" Eva started saying to Mariella.
"I can't believe that you're still talking about this!" Mario shouted suddenly to his classmates. "'Should she get the elf or the dragon? Or both?' Or any insanity! Just grow up! Go read a good drama book! Magic isn't real!"
At that point Eva the human witch and Mariella the hybrid just looked at each other for a second before bursting into laughter so uncontrollable they had to leave class.
Without You, by Golden Ceres
Marissa had just gotten engaged and was to get married in six months time before it happened. She and her fiance had been dating for almost four years. They had had difficult times and good ones as well. Their relationship was a strong one based on hard work and devotion. Or that was what Marissa had thought for a long time. She still had felt rather threatened when the stunningly beautiful woman had stared entranced at Ash during her old classmate's birthday party.
She should have known that something was wrong when she saw that Helena did not seem to have aged at all from the last time Marissa had seen her old friend, or that she was still married to and so over the top affectionate with the suspicious, too beautiful to be true man that had swept her of her feet in their senior year and had caused her to drop from the face of earth for weeks. Neither had she been very wary about all the impossibly beautiful golden eyed (surely contacts!) pale people in the party, that were conspicuously not enjoying the delicious refreshments and finger foods. Then Helena introduced her stand offish friend Camille to her and Ash. Camille had barely even glanced at Marissa and had murmured a quick but polite greeting.
Then she had started the same minimal social interaction on Ash, but had stopped short when taking a look at him and her breath had hitched. Ash for his part had looked surprised but flattered at the rapt attention. Helena had sworn out loud, her husband had sighed and the beautiful people had suddenly stilled. Marissa had felt a cold chill go down her spine. She barely heard the explanation that followed and demanded to Ash that they leave immediately, the outburst had been met with grave, disapproving expressions from the beautiful people (vampires). Camille had almost lunged in her direction before being intercepted by a pair of vampires and was dragged away struggling. It was so strange, full of impossible things and pamphlets of all things. Why should pamphlets and the existence of the supernatural be mentioned in the same sentence? Marissa would not spend another minute in the presence of such strangeness.
Ash had been very silent during the ride back. Not for the first time she had wished he was not so hard to read. In the week that followed he was rarely home. A month later he told her that they needed to talk. He had apparently gone to the closest vampire capital to pick up pamphlets and talk to the PR person. He had also met Camille a few times, chaperoned by the vampire warden in case Camille misbehaved and tried to turn him.
Ash was breaking up with her because he wanted to be a vampire and he thought that Camille needed him far more than Marissa did. The four years together meant nothing to the promise of immortal life and assured eternal love. Marissa watched him pack everything that was his and smile sadly with some guilt as he left his keys over the counter and was out of the door and out of her life. Once he was gone she broke down and cried for a long time. As Helena's husband had explained with one look Camille had fallen so deeply in love with Ash that nothing in existence could compare. Her slow and hard build love for him was insignificant in comparison. But it did not lessen the ache in her heart.
Ash always had trouble connecting to others. His old therapists thought it was because of his lonely childhood and emotionally distant parents. The 'therapies' did not work, he spend high school just being the lonely kid. College was almost the same; any relationships did not last long. All his girlfriends told him in tears that he needed to try harder and be warmer. Ash never understood what he was doing wrong as he went through the motions by the book.
Marissa was different; she never called it off by screaming that he was too cold. Ash always wondered why he could not love her, or why he had never truly loved anyone. Often he wondered if there was something wrong with him. Marissa was comfortable to be around even if he could not make himself to love her. Still they had a halfway decent relationship and Marissa did not seem bothered by his lack of declarations of love. He made sure do often do nice, romantic things for her. When he proposed it was mostly because after four years of dating it just felt the proper thing to do and he could not think of anyone better to spend his life with. And she loved him. Ash did not want to hurt someone that had affection for him.
He never thought he would have to choose between two women in love with him. On one side there was Marissa, who had been there for four years and was the first successful, lasting relationship that he had. On the other was Camille, the complete stranger who was chained to him by an unbreakable, absolute and eternal bond of love. Ash spoke with many vampires and arrived at the conclusion that Marissa could live without him and get over a break up. Camille could not.
It was very hard to break up with Marissa. They had spent the last four years together, and she was a wonderful woman. But he had to make a choice that would do the less harm. And that it would make it possible for him to truly feel love. It was hard to hurt Marissa and he thought to himself that the only saving grace was that they had not gotten married.
Camille always avoided meeting human men. She remembered the agony that her brother Terry had gone through when his then human mate had been extremely recalcitrant to accept him and consider turning herself. Luckily the capricious woman had then decided that she wanted to become a vampire after all. But it had been two years of torture for her brother. He even had to be put in the hiding place after he had failed the evaluation so he would not forcibly turn his mate.
Even after twenty years and two precious hybrid nieces Camille had yet to forgive Cara. She could not express her dislike openly. It would only antagonize her brother and endanger her relationships to her nieces. What she could do was to never place herself in the same position. She worked from home and only met with other vampires.
Her friend Helena always tried to get her to be more social and attend a few mixed occasions. In the last decades it was almost impossible to find a safe and solely vampire celebration. Any occasion was peppered with hybrids, humans in the know and sometimes humans not in the know. A recipe for disaster in Camille's opinion, but Helena was good at convincing people to go ahead with her ideas.
Camille mated on an attached man at the party. The month that followed was a nightmare. He might not want to be with her. She felt sorry for his fiancee but Marissa could live without him. And she could never love Ash as much as Camille did. Marissa would be able to forget Ash and met someone else and fall in love again. Why was everyone bothering so much about her feelings? Marissa could get herself turned and her love for Ash would fade that way, and she could find a mate of her own. And leave Camille's mate free. The love of a human was so flimsy compared to that of a vampire.
When things looked bleak Camille wondered often if it was possible to set herself on fire and not drop and roll on instinct. The emperor heard the thoughts and placed her on a suicide watch. Camille was determined to find a way around the constant surveillance. But then Ash came to her, telling Camille had he had chosen her; she could not contain her happiness.
Sky, by Golden CeresThis story is still in progress, and it has many chapters! Read it on its own page.
Gate, by Not A Spy
At first I didn't believe her. Hell, I don't think anyone believes them the first time they say it. "Vampires are real" is the kind of assertation you see on crackpot one-page websites featuring 'first-hand' stories of alien abductions, holy experiences brought on by crystal energy, that sort of thing. And usually also featuring HTML that was cutting-edge... in 1998. Then again, it wasn't like what I could do was any less strange than faith healing and desert-dwelling sand fairies. My power was that if I focused a particular wall long enough, eventually a sort of doorway would appear. More like a pipe, or a zip-line, really. It wasn't visible, but I could feel it, and reach out and grab it. Once I grabbed on, I was taken along on a ride to wherever it let out, and appeared, nauseous, on the other end. Going through a gate like this could feel like hours to me, and I got hungry and thirsty too, but no time passed while I'm in transit.
Each gate could only be connected to one other, and I had to choose where it would go when I made them in the first place. I couldn't change a gate after I had created it, no matter how hard I tried. It was an odd feeling, making a gate. Like I was reaching my hand into a crack behind the fridge, trying to grope about for the power outlet without actually knowing where it is. My mind didn't quite fit into wherever the gates went through and I got shoved about if I tried to go too deep, but I could skirt about the edges for a shortcut just fine. My gates had to be anchored to about a square-meter section of a wall, though, and if the wall stopped being in one piece the gate would just disappear. They also slowly seeped closed if I didn't go through them once in a while, and would eventually collapse.
The fact that feelings of touch let me pull myself through inspired me to try to force the walls of my 'gates' to become stone, instead of like the soft clay they naturally were. Keep in mind, I didn't just experiment with my gates all day (preferring to spend my time wandering around strange cities), I realized the stone thing over probably three or four years. My new stonewalled gates were permanent, or close to it, so I started building a network. I wouldn't take the time to make a permenant gate if I'm just taking a shortcut from my latest dropoff point back to my apartment, but if I'm going to use a particular gate more than once or twice, I tend to put in the extra effort to make it permanent.
I couldn't pull other people through the links, but anything I was touching would come through just fine (only if I wanted them to come with, and only if there was room for them on the other side). I used my power for smuggling. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed either. I never did drugs, too afraid of getting shot or stabbed by some buzzed-out loco, even though I could have scored ten times as much cash, even just doing pot. Mostly cracked knockoff electronics and cheap pawnshop stuff from overseas that could be sold higher here (tax-free, of course) were my cargo. I did stop doing that eventually, after I had plenty of money saved up. I took the guy who was unhappy enough with my delivery to try to shoot me as a sign it was time to take a break. Small miracle that I managed to run into my back-alley escape gate with only a long, thin burn on my cheek. I still had no idea how I made the gates, or jumped from one side of a gate to the other. I just did it.
Anyway, with all my pseudo-teleporting, strange things other than me really shouldn't have been all that surprising. And yet they were. Two months after I quit smuggling, a tall, pale, ridiculously beautiful Asian lady confronted me at the exit of a convenience store and told me everything. She spoke slowly enough, but I failed to comprehend more than the first few sentences. Apparently every anime fanboy's dream had just come true. A beautiful Japanese woman was madly in love with me. I think I said something like "This sort of thing doesn't happen in real life."
Seeing that she was making no progress, Hitomi gave me a phone number and told me to say that 'a vampire had mated on me'. I called it, and upon uttering what I thought was a password, I was transferred to the most earnest-sounding voice I had ever heard. "Hello, this is Elspeth Cullen. I have been told that a vampire has just revealed our world to you. I don't know how much she explained, but I'm here to tell you whatever you want to know. Do you have any questions?"
I stammered for I don't know how long. Eventually, I managed to say "I have no idea what to do about this. I don't understand. I was just shopping and now vampires are real and this one is completely fixated on me and I don't know what to do."
Elspeth replied, "That's okay. There's no pressure. No vampire will ever harm you or force you to do anything, or they will face severe punishment under our law, even the death penalty for extreme cases. Usually we prefer to speak with people like you in person, it makes explaining things easier. Can you get to the state of Washington? Our current active office is in a small town there. Given your situation, we can even pay for travel expenses, but not lost wages. We have other offices as well, if somewhere else is more convenient. Florida, Quebec…"
"Washington will be fine. Where, exactly?" She gave me an address. Oh, Washington the state, not DC. I walked back over to Hitomi. "I need to hear more about this before I choose. Something like this, you can't decide in five minutes. But I've never been the type to waffle over a decision for days, either. I have a way of getting there very quickly. I... assume you will want to follow me, but no matter how fast you are, I think I'll get there first. Just to let you know."
"I'd love it if you decided right now, but it's against the law to make you do that, and I don't want to make you do anything you don't want to. At least you're hearing me out, and talking to the goldens. One of my friends' mates didn't believe her at all. That was painful for her." I grimaced at this not-so-subtle prodding. She seemed to notice, "Sorry. I won't pressure you anymore about anything, though I do want to get to know you, if you'll tolerate me."
"That's fine. Just don't mention anything a human wouldn't. I'm having trouble getting used to the whole idea. I mean, talking about being faster and stronger is fine, but don't say vampire, or true-love-at-first-sight, or... did she mention a werewolf?"
"Yes, werewolves. Not the bitey, full-moon kind or so I've been told. But that can wait. I apologize for being overly eager. But I'm wondering... How can you get to Washington before me when I can run faster than a car on I-88, and beat you to either O'hare or Midway airports? Can you teleport? The Golden Coven has someone who can do that."
"Yeah, I can sorta teleport. I can make these... Gates, between any two spots that I visit, and then go instantly from one end of a gate to the other. Well, instantly to an objective observer. It takes a while from the inside, like being yanked through a pitch-black bottomless basement. There's no sensation except for being pulled. I can hop from a back alley near here to my apartment, and from there to another apartment in California, get a snack 'cause that'll feel like an hour or so to me, and from there jump to a bathroom in the Seattle international airport. It'll take like twenty minutes to get ninety-five percent of the way there, and then I can just get a rental car and be there twelve hours earlier than you can run all the way from Illinois to the west coast."
"Can you take people with you?"
"Unfortunately, no. I can bring objects, but anything alive just won't go. Plants, animals, even fungus. I warped a moldy old mattress to the dump once, and the mold just disappeared, plopped straight onto my floor, I had to clean it up when I got back. Good thing I didn't use a mop from the dump for that, half of it would have stayed behind."
She giggled, which made me feel even stranger. That trash-mop line was just a sarcastic comment, and not even a good one. I decided to distract myself. "So," I said, "I think you said you're from Japan? At some point? Where exactly?"
"I was born in a nameless village in Kyushu, and I was turned in the same place. I don't remember much of it, I never even found it later. It's hard to remember landmarks from when I was human. This was way back, before Shoguns took over power from the emperor, like 1200 years ago."
Huh. Ancient Japan. I can't help but think 'samurai,' even though that's the wrong time period and wrong gender too. "Do you have any interesting stories?"
"I spent most of my time wandering around alone. I could tell you how I became a vampire."
I twitched a little, but said "Sure. I gather mine won't be the same, though."
"Yeah, they do it painlessly now. Well, my creator found me bleeding to death, pinned under the corpse of a tiger that had impaled itself on my naginata as it pounced on me. It was only a little unusual for a craftsman's wife to be trained and armed, in those days. I wasn't really a good fighter, I just had some kind of instinct that warned me I was being hunted, and I whirled just in time to see the tiger leaping at me. My creator, Qing-po, thought I was a brave warrior. But it hurt. I cannot describe how much it hurt, it is literally more pain than you could think is possible. Turning me saved my life, though, so I offered her an oath of service, to help protect her from her many enemies. I served her as a guard of sorts for exactly three hundred years, and neither of us died but many others did. And then I vowed never to fight again. So far I have kept that vow."
"Quite an interesting story. What did you do after that?"
"I wandered around a lot, all over the world, mostly in the wilderness. I'm probably not what you'd picture a regular Japanese person to be, especially a modern one. And I'm definitely not some ani-manga schoolgirl. I'm no onna-bushi either, despite the dramatic circumstances leading up to my turning. I'm afraid I don't really fulfill any of the stereotypes. There aren't really many... people like me (vampires, I mentally annotated) in the East. And I'm afraid I'm being terribly boring. Feel free to leave if you want."
"You're not boring. I'm just still sort of reeling. Uh, what do you like to do?"
"I like climbing mountains."
"Mountains?" I never bothered to gate the top of a mountain that didn’t have a ski lift or highway or similar. Too much work to climb for hours, too much other stuff to do to take the time to get up there. "You're super-fast, right? How fast can you get to the top of Everest?"
"Two hours, give or take. A little longer if I accidentally land on a crevasse and have to dig myself out. But I don't really see what the big deal is about Mount Everest, even though it is the tallest. It's almost boring compared to some of the steeper slopes. One time I challenged myself to climb the Malaku as fast as I could without using my hands or arms at all, even for balance. That was interesting enough the first time but I never did it again. Everest is crowded, too."
I chuckled. "Well, it is the most famous one." She nods. I sigh. "I don't want to brush you off, this is a big deal for you too, but I need to go think, alone, for now. Meet me in that Forks place in a day or two if you want."
With a radiant grin, she replied, "I'll see you there! Unless you change your mind and decide you don't want me to be there. The new Empire said that we should say things like that a lot. Like Elspeth said, I'll never harm you or force you into anything, I just hope you choose to be a vampire with me!"
Wait. "Your hearing is sharp enough to hear a phone conversation from thirty feet away?"
Being actually next to a large number of vampires and werewolves who could physically prove their outlandish claims calmed down my rising fear that I had gone insane. The receptionist and a few others seemed surprised that I got there from Illinois after only two hours. I hesitated to tell them much, sticking with the simple statement, "I can go places in ways other people can't." Oddly, that satisfied them. One called me a 'witch'. Elspeth had claimed to have magical truth powers, and she did sound extremely earnest. I supposed magic must have been normal enough, to them.
The Imperial Soothsayer had a crown-circlet thing that was probably not real gold, and also bodyguards. And pamphlets, which I decided to forego in favor of her 'instant magical summary'. She stared at me and I blinked a couple of times. "Huh. What about... Wait, I know that. Well that was helpful."
Elspeth smiled. "I've gotten a lot better at using my magic recently. By the way, the Empress would like to meet you, since she was here on business anyway and you are apparently a potentially powerful witch."
When I explained what I could do, the Empress said, "Well... That has obvious applications."
I nodded. I could deliver hazardous materials straight to the Nevada desert or Antarctica, without all that risky overland transport. I could bring medicine from the best pharmacies in the world to the littlest African clinics, or get food and water and bandages and maybe rafts and stuff (if there was a repeat of Katrina) into a disaster area fast. I could provide dirt-cheap shipping, since you don't have to pay for a truck driver, a harbor's loading fees, a ship's charter, and another truck to get your stuff across the ocean. I could cut the world's dependence on fossil fuels in half if I made enough gates. Of course, there was only one of me, the guy who could use them.
Isabella continued, "If you were turned you could move things around with extreme speed, even down to a few seconds per delivery if you had... A hub, or something. I wonder how fast we would want to implement something like a global teleportation gate network. It would throw the economy in completely unpredictable directions. I can already hear the politicians arguing and the oil companies lobbying to ban it. That's something to think about later, though. You might not get more powerful as a vampire. Oh, sorry, I got too eager. You don't have to become a vampire. You will never be required to turn. It's your choice and always will be. But I do really, really recommend it."
I sighed. "So far the benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks. Especially immortality. If I could distribute immortality pills, I would, as fast as I could make them, and damn the social consequences. " Bella grinned at me. "Is it really that intense, being a vampire? So intense that 'human memories don't even compare,' as Hitomi told me?" I asked.
"Yes. Everything vampire is a hundred times more. Unfortunately I have to leave soon, but if you're not hungry or tired, I'd like you to meet Adelaide, our Imperial Factorum. She can copy witch powers like yours, and she is very good at helping witches improve. Sorry I couldn't spend more time with you!" She strode away, followed by her mind-reading mate and tiny bodyguard (Renata, I think someone mentioned), her real-live golden crown glittering off the energy-efficient lightbulbs.
Elspeth said, "I have stuff to do, too. But Addy's right there if you need anything." The vampire in question strode over, grinning, and shook my hand. "Huh, that's odd. Chicken and barbeque sauce and mustard."
"Chicken?" I asked.
"I taste powers, even though I don't taste real food anymore. Yours is like chicken. Which is odd, I don't get meat-tasting powers very often."
"Huh. And what else can you tell me about my... Power?"
"You've done a great job expanding it on your own, especially for a human. You made the leap that your clothes came with you and so you could carry along other things. You made your portals more permanent by realizing you used your power like feeling around with your hands. It feels like you sped up how fast you travel through them subjectively, too. Probably just practice, that. I've never tasted a power like yours before, one that leaves traces on physical objects, but traces only detectable by you. What happens if you put a gate on a wall and the wall gets moved? Can you make gates on the floor or ceiling? If someone disassembles a brick wall with a gate on it and puts it back together in exactly the same way, or if they lift a gated sheet of steel and set it down on the floor? Does the wall have to be enclosing anything or does it just have to be there?"
I answered this barrage of questions with a series of "I don't knows."
"Hmm. There's lots of stuff we can try, but the first thing is... I think that you really should be able to carry living things through with you. Have you ever had ticks in your hair? If your power really didn't transport any living thing but you, they would be left behind and you'd get better instantly."
I could recall having ticks as a teenager. Not fun. By that time I was warping to school and back, too. I had ticks for nearly a week. "No, they didn't fall off when I warped."
"See? You can bring living things along with you, you just have to trick yourself into doing it."
This seemed oddly profound to me, and I pondered it as Addy left to acquire a garden plant and something for me to eat.
I stared down at the throngs of people below, each one hurrying to get to their departure gate on time. A family of seven humans here, tourists probably, the kids gushing about their latest gadgets. Two vampires there. Mates. A lone hybrid, and a gaggle of wolves. I was a little surprised at the ratio of humans to not-humans in the Teleport Gate Station (this vast airport-like structure that was only possible due to me). Almost one out of every five of the people passing through were vampires, wolves, or hybrids. Perhaps people in the know are more likely to trust the so-called "revolutionary technology" that made this place possible. Then again, the masquerade was so far gone by now that maybe a third of the world had been explicitly told about 'Things'. And most of the rest had either sort of peripherally absorbed it or shielded themselves in denial by now. Maybe the world really was one fifth vamps, wolves, and hybrids by now.
I had improved my power over the years, and I was now glad for Addy's relentless training, since it let me do things like this. If I worked at a particular gate for half an hour it was permanent, smart enough to avoid letting something come through if the space on the other side was blocked, could be moved around from place to place via rails attached to the steel plate that was the 'wall' I gated, and could even be controlled and triggered by someone other than me, based how the steel plate was angled. What's more, there was no noticeable delay between entering and leaving. Truly instantaneous travel. Of course, Bella couldn't pass up the chance to build a magical transport network once I achieved this. Magically improving everyone’s lives was the whole point of turning people and making hybrids.
I tired of the potpourri of blood I couldn't drink and dashed over to the shipping terminal. The same thing was going on here, but with thousands of workers shuffling about tens of thousands of huge metal crates on a horribly complicated system of heavy-duty rails. The place was bigger than four football stadiums put together. I still didn't understand how computers could keep track of a thousand miles of rails, motors, switches, 'parking spots' (to store crates off to the side until their path was clear), catwalks, pumps, and carts, all in constant motion. Even with vampire perception aiding the managers and wolven coordination helping the cargo handlers, and an entire room full of whirring servers to keep track of it all, it still felt like the whole thing would crash to a halt at any moment. But even this chaos was cheaper and faster than old-fashioned 'shipping' on actual ships.
I didn't like the hustle and bustle. I'd come in and make new gates when they asked me to, and I'd take the money that kept rolling in, 5% of every passenger ticket and shipping container that goes anywhere in the network. Other than that I spent most of my time walking through what was left of the wilderness with Himiko. Maybe I'd build myself a mansion on the moon, after a few thousand more successful launches of the Phoenix II rocket system made me feel safe enough to visit the place and make a gate there. I'm sure Bella would love a cheap way to get stuff out to the moon, and back to Earth.
Wait a minute. I had managed to make gates on removable steel plates that stayed there when they were moved around. Was there any reason I couldn't move a gate plate inside a spaceship that could go to the moon by itself, and warp to that once it was safely landed? I guess nobody had thought of it, since the gateport walls were slightly maneuverable but not detachable. I whipped out my cell phone and called Elspeth to tell her about my idea.
Before vampires, progress in space exploration was measured in decades. First orbital flight. A man on the moon. The Voyager probes. Decades later, a few robots on mars. Then in the 21st century, some private firms looking into space flight once again (I'm afraid I bankrupted those, gates are cheaper and safer than rocketships). After the Moongate in the Sea of Tranquility, there was a permenant settlement of 200 wolves, humans, and hybrids living there within a year. They had huge airtight domes, small ones at first, built on-site by vampires. It was practically a little slice of Earth. As long as some wolf took a few hours every day to fetch supplies and dump trash back on earth via gate they could live on the moon just fine. Five years after that, there were 100,000 people on the moon at any given time, and only a third of them were tourists. Low gravity and sterile vaccum are apparently ideal conditions for certain kinds of industry. I was the cornerstone of humanity's rapid explosion in the second space age!
Mars contained thousands of miles of new wilderness for Himiko and I to explore. The first thing we did, of course, was race to the top of Olympus Mons, and bounce down the other side, leaping miles up into the thin air and low gravity. With a thousand gates bringing in construction equipment and terraforming machines (and tourists) twenty four and two-thirds hours per day, the Red Planet was becoming greener by the year. The landscapes were gradually changed with the addition of blue water and green/purple foliage, becoming almost unrecognizable sometimes. The red dust mixed with every other color from Earth created a fantastic rainbow like something out of a fantasy world. Most of the animals adapted strangely (and tasted even worse than those disposable NuBlood bottles), making the 'fantasy world' vibe all the stronger. Himiko and I loved every minute of it.
It's not every day you get to see a world being born.
There was no problem sending locally made gateships out to the stars, but I was now trying to making a new gate on the first habitable, easily terraformable planet we had found. The gateship was not designed for re-entry, and it would be much better all around to have gates actually on the ground. Re-entry is dangerous. But making a gate that spanned interstellar distances was hard. It gave me a headache, which was the strangest thing I had ever felt, because as far as I knew vampires did not get headaches. I hesitated to go through the gate, vaguely remembering being squeezed and shoved around the not-quite-here space as a human, scrabbling about in the unexplainable extra-dimensional place where the gates were.
I took a deep breath, a left-over human habit of mentally bracing myself. And then I was back on Earth. Instantly, I was once more on the too-cold-for-hybrids world of Nova. And lo, the first true Stargate was made.
With my gates we didn't need to build a ten-million-ton generation ship, just a moderately large pile of engines and scanners with enough computers to keep them on track and space for a Gate and an optional pilot (no extra fuel or spare parts, we could deliver those if they were needed). Earth's vast industry, supported by the resources of an asteroid belt, hundreds of tiny moons, and countless tons of Martian steel, could build almost twenty starships every week at full swing.
Deimos Shipyard was a sight to behold at its peak, making not only gateships but mining droids and luxury cruise liners and the like (each with a small, one-person-at-a-time emergency evacuation gate, just in case). But despite the massive undertaking, the cranes, welder bots, quarters and storerooms, and hundreds of half-built vessels still massed less than a percent as much as the rock itself.
Way back during the Mars project someone had worked out a way to send a flash drive-transmitter thingy back and forth through a gate every few dozen microseconds. The bandwidth was much lower than fiber optics, but you couldn't beat the latency anywhere past the moon. We installed that in every ship now, and there were giant versions of the same thing filling huge data hubs, moving petabytes of data every second between Earth and Mars and the Moon and all the asteroids and everywhere in between. Though I was perfectly happy to let whoever Bella appointed to run the Gate Network handle all the headaches any big company naturally runs into, I was still called upon to make new Gates everywhere in the solar system.
Some of my Gateships were sponsored by this or that government or company, but more than half were funded by my nearly endless Gate System royalties. For a long time I had more money than I knew what to do with, but now I could pour it into spreading humanity (vampires, hybrids, wolves, humans and all) across the stars. Most of the two hundred and fifty million dollar Gateships wouldn't arrive for centuries, and most of the proposed planetfall sites would take more centuries of terraforming to be even remotely comfortable. But that was fine, because with plenty of patience and a little clever application of science and magic, I could watch a thousand worlds bloom.
China, by Lurp Crawn
We were in the Indian capital, I forget its exact location, when he came.
"Empress." a guard said as he entered and bowed.
The Empress took several moments, enough for a human to notice, before looking up.
"A vampire is here to see you." the guard said, "I told him you were very busy, that you did not often come to this palace. I told him he could make an appointment with one of the Imperial Ambassitors. He said that he already had an appointment, which God made for him."
The Empress did not react. She had spent hours learning not to react. An Empress was never surprised or amused, she told me.
After another long pause, long enough to convince most that she was considering her various options, she said: "Let him in."
I was uninterested in these affairs. I was there to witness them, but I did not look up as he entered, nor did I bother listening intently as he spoke. Being a vampire, however, I did not need to be paying attention to hear and remember.
"I am Kamal."
The Empress waited, as if thinking that he had more to say when he was obviously finished, before replying: "What, Kamal, is so important that you must tell us personally?"
"I have been the protector of China for many centuries now, since before your time, since before the time of the Greeks." he said, "I have known all these years that you would come, and at last I would be allowed to rest."
The Empress consisdered this.
"They are very few vampires in China." The Empress said, "What have you been protecting China from?"
I raised an eyebrow. I was allowed to be surprised, and for the Empress that was a surprisingly astute question.
"You are wrong." Kamal said, to the surprise and anger of the court, "There is only one vampire in China, and it is I."
The Empress was not amused by his backtalk. Her reaction was to turn away from him, which would usually lead to the guards taking him away. But the Emperor said something, quiet enough that I could not hear, and the Empress looked back up before the guards could react.
It was at this moment that I looked at Kamal, for the first time. He was not Chinese, in fact, he looked more Arab than anything. He stood firmly, as if he had no intentions of ever leaving that spot for a thousand years. He stared directly at the Empress, with a fire in his eyes that I had only seen on the deeply religious.
The Empress stared back.
"I protect China" Kamal said, eyes never wavering, "from vampires."
Again the Emperor said something. The Empress' eyes never left Kamal.
"Tell us, Kamal," the Empress said, each syllable dripping with queenly elegance, "how you came to be the protector of China."
Kamal began his story.
Long ago, when vampires were not myths, but real terrors, when I still retained my soul, I devoted my life to the teaching of the Word of God. I was happy in Persia, but I was even happier when I was called of God through his Patriarch Enosh to go to China, where the Word of God was just beginning to florish. The task was hard, the Chinese Emperor had declared the True Church banned. This did not stop me. I knew the stories of the early Saints, who had lived in a time when the Romans rounded up Christians to tortue them and feed them to lions. I did not know if I were to be so blessed as to suffer a similar fate, but I was willing to do all that God asked of me.
I was put in charge of a small church in a small village far from the Chinese Emperor and his profane decrees. I worked and preached for thirty long years before God smote the blasphamous Emperor and all his house. Never again would he or his children rule China. God had judged him unworthy. I was happy, for a time.
For five, ten, fifteen years the battle between the different rulers raged on. Many barbaric kings tried to gain control of all China, and God would smite them down. Yet the worse of these were the legions of Hell.
Hundreds of vampire legions, led by various demons who exalted themselves as gods, destined to rule humans as humans rule the animals. These demonic lords fought over all of China, both against each other and against the human lords. Whereever they went, destruction was left in their wake. I was not going to let that happen to my little village, when the demon called Ling Fu came.
Ling Fi's legion was small, only a few hundred, but enough that one or two going missing was not noticed. As he approached my village, I sent young men in large groups to capture the weaker ones. I kept them in my church, feeding them on animal blood mixed with opium, attempting to find a way to exorcise the demon within them. It was weeks before I determined that the living soul was gone, only a shell with a demon inside was left. It was then that I learned that fire was the only way to destroy them. I worked day and night to ready myself for the coming of Ling Fu.
When Ling Fu entered my village, he was told that everyone would surrender, if he could defeat the monk. He was warned that the monk had the power of God on his side, which would always defeat demons like him. He laughed, but he came. Him and his legion came to the church doors, and removed them with the swipe of his hand. I waited. He came into the church, and God did not smite him, for in his mercy he allows all, even demons, the chance of redemption. I waited. He found me at the altar, burning incense, and he grabbed me, bringing my neck to his mouth, just as God had shown me it would happen. But before he could take a bite, I stabbed a wooden cross deep into his dead heart.
He dropped me. He laughed, and his legion laughed with him. But I was smiling.
As Ling Fu began to burn, I turned again to the altar to pray.
His legion reacted first with shock, and then with outrage at the demise of their leader, their blasphamous god. They began to seize me. I killed many of them with my wooden crosses, coated in an herb which burst into flames at the touch of vampire flesh. Many, struck by God with confusion, lept into the flames of their comrades, and burned also. I soon ran out of crosses, and still they came. As I finally fell to the devil's bite, and began to feel the fire and brimstone of Hell upon me, I tipped over the altar, igniting the tapastries soaked in oil, the wooden church frame heating and lighting. I had decided that if I were to die, I would take as many of the demons with me as I could, and be sure that my body would never be home to one either.
The demons ran in flame-filled fear as I fell to the floor. Through my pains, I saw a man, a man without fear. He placed me in a wheelbarrow, and placed a thick blanket over me. He took me out of that burning building and placed me in a grave. Mercifully, he did not bury me.
For three days and three nights I lay in that grave, experiencing the sufferings of Hell as a demon took over my body.
On the fourth day, I awoke. I awoke to find that through the mercies of God I was yet alive, and though a demon had taken my body, I was also there, and through the strength of God I could fight it.
I climbed out of my grave, into a new life. One where I could fight those demons with their own strength. I determined that I would protect my village from the likes of Ling Fu forever.
But it was not to be. My village was no more. The church had burned, and all the demons in it, but a few had escaped and no one in my village had survived their thirst. I burned every house to the ground.
I hunted down every vampire that had escaped. Each did not live past that first week of my new life. They crumbled like dust in my hands. They burned like tinder, and used each fire to light the next. Once I was done, there was not a vampire for three days journey from my little village.
It was then I realized that Ling Fu was but one problem. There were many vampire lords destroying many Christian villages across the whole of China. And so I searched, and I hunted, and fought and won against every demonic lord there was, and then I burned their legions. But I was too late. There was no more Christians alive. I was the only one. It had been eighty years since I began my new life.
I sent a report back to the Holy Patriarch: "Christianity is extinct in China; the native Christians have perished in one way or another; the church has been destroyed and there is only one Christian left in the land."
Thinking that my work was finished, (who was there left to teach?) I went to the top of the highest mountain in China. Higher, I thought, than any human could ever go, with a torch in my hand. As I was about to stab it into my breast, and old man shouted: "Stop!"
I looked up to find that same man that had rescued me from the flames years before. He had aged eighty years, but I had not.
"Stop, I say, for you have not finished what God requires of you." he said.
"I am the only demon in all of China," I said, "and the only Christian too. I cannot earn my rest unless I remove this demon from me."
"You will find your rest." he said, "But your work is not yet finished."
"What more am I required to do?" I said, "I have rid all China of this demonic plague, am I required to rid of the world of it too?"
"You have rid China of this demonic plague," he said, "but is the the Devil done? Are the legions of Hell destroyed?"
I shook my head no.
"Then your work is not finished." he said, "For the vampires will return, and you will fight them. You are the Protector of China."
"But when," I said, "when will I find rest?"
"You will find your rest." he said, "When an Empress rises who will hold the demons accountable for their sins. Who will teach all to fight the demon and listen to the light of Christ within them telling them not to kill. She will protect China, and then you will find your rest."
I dropped the torch.
"From that day I have fought every vampire that dares enter China." Kamal said, "And I have always won."
At the conclusion of his story, the entire court was stunned to attention. No one had ever heard of this Kamal, it was just common knowledge that there weren't many vampires in China.
The Empress, after decades of silence, spoke first.
"Is he telling the truth?" the Empress said.
It was unclear to me who this question was directed at, but it was the Emperor who spoke, so quiet that I had to strain to hear it. If the room had not been silent, I would not have heard it at all.
"I cannot tell. His mind is hidden from me."
Now that was interesting to me. I had sensed no power from this man, this Kamal, and yet it seemed he did have one. One which, like the Empress', shileded his mind from the Emperor. Yet I had sensed the Empress' power, I was just unable to reach it. This Kamal seemed to have no power, no taste at all.
The Empress fell into quiet contemplation of what this could mean. Quiet contemplation that was broken by Razi.
"Empress!" Razi said. Being always in a hurry, always on edge, Razi was the only one allowed to not wait for the Empress' reply.
"Empress! A vampire in Uganda has taken to eating humans." he said, "Five are dead, one of which was the mother of the child which he hides himself with."
Razi completed his report and made to disappear again. But he didn't. The strain was visible on his face.
The Emperor spoke again, with alarm in his voice, "I cannot find Razi's mind either."
I turned to the Empress.
"Empress." I said.
She looked to me.
"Yes, Imperial Factotum?"
"It appears that Razi is caught in Kamal's influence." I said.
"Explain." she said.
"Though I cannot sense it, Kamal appears to have an ability to cancel out other abilities." I said.
"Well spoken, Imperial Factotum." she said.
The Empress turned to Kamal.
"Is our conclusion correct, Kamal?"
Kamal smiled before responding.
"The powers of the devil do not work on a man of God."
Then Razi disappeared.
All this time I was focusing my senses on Kamal. I began to taste something off of him. It was.... It was the taste of a glass of chocolate milk put high up out of the reach of a small child. It was the taste of water six inches away from a man dying of thirst. It was the most interesting and alluring taste that I had ever experienced, and yet it was still not within my reach.
I had to have it.
Yet when I began to approach Kamal, I could no longer taste it. I could no longer taste anyone.
It was while I was walking towards him that he took his eyes off the Empress for the first time since he had entered the room.
His deep, carmel eyes bored into mine, the fire of God in them, ready to smite me down. But then, they softened, and he whispered.
"I have found my rest."
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