Disclaimers: see Chapter 1
Cerys rolled over onto her back as the after effects of jumping through the portal subsided. The warrior drank in the bright light of the three full moons, relishing the feeling of being alive again.
One thing she definitely hated about being a Warder warrior was turning into a vampire whenever she crossed through a portal into the realm of Humans. At least on this side of the portals, thing were normal for the warrior. Two suns, three moons and the fact she was hungry.
Cerys groaned, she checked her bandaged ribs. The Warder was pleased that the bleeding had stopped and the wound was light. The sword wound through her shoulder hurt though, and her entire body was going to be one massive bruise, she reflected.
The Warder didn't even bother moving at the sound of horses approaching her position in front of the portal. Cerys expected it and didn't really care which side it was, the Master's Shock troops or her own Resistance sisters. Her life was now on the other side of that portal; only duty to family had brought her back, even the thought of becoming a vampire for eternity paled in comparison to the sense of loss she felt when thinking of not seeing Annie again.
Cerys closed her eyes as male voices became loud and insistent. Her sharp warrior ears could distinguish five horses and four foot soldiers heading her way and she knew that it was a typical Shock Troop unit. Bandits who were barely disguised as soldiers under the service of The Master of Lochavar, her father.
Hands roughly grabbed the sword from her hand and she could feel the torch near her body as they examined her.
"It's a female! Warder!" one of them announced.
"She just crossed, look at the outer Realm clothes," another offered.
"Does she live?" an officer demanded.
"Yes, she's wounded but alive," the first voice commented.
"Then throw her on a horse and bring her before those damned Resistance fighters show up," the voice of authority ordered. "I want to know what happened to the Master."
"By the looks of this one, she gave him a good fight, maybe even killed him," the second voice commented.
"I'll have your tongue for that!" snapped an authoritative voice. "You know the Master can't be killed on that side of the portals. Now bring her!"
Cerys let herself slip into unconsciousness as rough and unkind hands grabbed her and threw her over a horse; tying her hands and feet together.
Annie went back to the cabin she had been supplied with by her editor. She knew that she looked a mess, needed a shower, some sleep and some food before she went into town to pick up Travis.
It was very unlikely that the owner of the boarding house in town would let her pick Travis up in the middle of the night, especially looking like she had been through a major battle. Definitely one she wouldn't be able to explain.
Annie smiled as she thought about her brave little kid. Watching his Mom fighting vampires, seeing someone sleeping like the dead on the sofa for a day and hearing the sounds of battle the next night had really emphasized to the young mother how special Travis really was. At only age seven, he had shown remarkable insight and courage over the last few days. He had only grumbled a little bit about missing out on trick-or-treat on Halloween night.
Annie reflected once again that she owed him big time for that one, as she let the hot water hit her skin. A hot shower had been the first priority when she hit the cabin. Next was a debate between food and sleep.
The writer knew she was going to be covered in bruises, especially from the vampire wounds on her neck. Cerys had been gentle when the Warder vampire had needed blood. Cerys' power hungry bitch of a ex-partner hadn't been so gentle.
Annie didn't even bother with clothes before crawling in between the flannel sheets of her bed and turning on the electric blanket. With a muttered curse, she remembered to get up and set the alarm clock so she could pick up Travis.
"Thank God I started the generator before showering, else I'd be freezing!" she muttered to herself as she pulled the blanket and quilt up over her ears. "Cerys, you'd better come back to me, damnit!"
Cerys growled as her head snapped back from a blow across the right side of her jaw. The Warder was more than bored after an hour of this and let the contempt show on her face.
"Damn you!" Squire Maleka shouted. "What happened with the Master?"
"He went out with a bang," Cerys grinned around the blood filling her mouth and expected the next blow before he even connected.
"He crossed into that damned realm to gain power through the blood of humans," Maleka snapped. "How did you know which portal he would use and when? Who is feeding you damned traitors the information?"
"You talk in your sleep, your goat talked," Cerys taunted and snapped back into the darkness as his hand took her consciousness.
Annie moaned in her sleep as images of Cerys' wounded and bleeding body filled her dreams.
"Thanks for watching him last night, Mrs. Polcovich," Annie said again as she loaded Travis onto the ATV she had ridden into town that morning. She arranged for a tow truck to come and replace her slashed tires and battery. She hoped to be able to get out of the small northern California town by the next morning.
"You sure you're okay, dear?" Mrs. Polcovich asked once again. "You look afright."
"Yes, ma'am," Annie responded. "It was stupid, getting thrown from the ATV like that."
"Good thing that branch only nicked your throat and didn't go through it," Mrs. Polcovich commented. "We get a lot of deaths from throat wounds around here, you know."
"Yes, ma'am," Annie nodded. She did indeed realize some of the secrets of the small town of Havenwood. Probably more than Mrs. Polcovich did by this time.
Cerys had explained that the inhabitants of any small town near a Portal tended to have a major blind side when it came to mysterious disappearances, gruesome deaths, and overall weird happenings. Having a demon chase a young girl down the middle of the main street was forgotten within moments. Annie figured this was part of the magic from the other realm, a form of protection.
Annie shook her head and hugged Travis again.
"Where's your friend?" he asked as she crawled onto the ATV in front of him.
"She had to go home for awhile but she might be back around Christmas, would you like that?" Annie asked her small son, putting on his mittens for him.
"Yeah, she was nice and helped you with the bad guys," Travis said in front of her.
"Did you tell Mrs. Polcovich about the bad guys?" Annie asked, starting the ATV.
"Nah, grownups don't believe you when you talk about stuff like that," he answered reasonably and Annie shook her head again at his common sense and intelligence.
Annie and Travis stopped in at the local coffee shop and had a big breakfast. His mother letting Travis have blueberry syrup for his pancakes while she chomped on a Denver omelet.
After breakfast was cleared, she handed Travis one of his favorite story books.
"I need to use the phone for a few minutes, you promise to stay here and read your book?" she asked.
"Can I have a coke with lunch, later?" he bargained.
"Sure," she agreed and he nodded eagerly.
The writer moved to the pay phone in the small hallway leading to the bathrooms and punched in the number for her editor, Jeannie Carson. The person responsible for getting her into this mess of vampires, warders and two nights of hell.
"Jeannie Carson's office," a business like voice answered.
"This is Annie Cooper, please put me through," Annie said.
"I'm sorry, Annie," the secretary, Maria Sanchez, said with regret. "She's in a meeting and won't be out for another hour."
"Buzz her and tell her the following:the portal opened on Halloween. Got that?"
"Excuse me?" Maria questioned.
"Just do it, Maria," Annie urged. "She'll want to talk to me."
Annie heard a click and then the most annoying Muzak music in her ear. The writer was very fond of 80s hard rock and metal and so despised Muzak. She wondered vaguely if anyone ever used endless Muzak as an excuse for a shooting rampage.
"Annie!" Jeannie's voice suddenly filled her ear. "Are you okay? Oh God, tell me you're okay!"
"I'm alright," Annie laughed ruefully. "A little bruised, a lot wiser, and totally pissed off."
"I know, I know," Jeannine said softly. "We never expected your portal to be the one; it was just supposed to be an educational thing."
"Excuse me?" Annie demanded. "You sent a vam…a Warder to my place with tales of magic and Masters and you didn't expect anything to happen except a history lesson?"
"Well, yeah," Jeannie admitted with a chagrined look. "We had three Warders waiting at the portal he was supposed to use. The Watchers didn't want Cerys at the portal he was going to use because they weren't sure she could face her own father. That's why we sent her to you."
"Well, you can explain all of that when we get back to town," Annie growled. "My cell phone was stolen and my car damaged. We'll be coming back tomorrow. Clear your calendar," Annie warned.
"You got it!" Jeannie said quickly.
"You owe me big time for dragging me into this while I had Travis with me," Annie complained.
"Is he okay?"
"Yeah, not a scratch but they scared the hell out of him!" Annie snapped.
"I am so sorry, Annie!"
"Save it until I get there," Annie growled and hung up the phone.
Annie glanced over at her son while he continued reading. She reached for the phone again.
"Its times like these I wish your father wasn't such a jerk, Trav," she muttered. "I could use someone lending a hand with you that I didn't have to pay."
Annie once again felt the isolation of her life crowding her. David Sanders, Travis' bisexual father, had wanted nothing to do with Annie and Travis when he learned about her pregnancy and the fact she was going to keep the child. He made token payments every month to keep the legal system from getting involved in his affairs but he wouldn't return Annie's calls and nor reach out to get to know his son. After two years of trying to get David to at least spend a little time with his son, she had given up. Now she merely cashed his checks and spent the money on Travis' clothes and necessities.
Her own parents weren't any help either. It had been okay for Annie to be a tomboy growing up and her father had been very proud of her. A strict military man, he had taught her how to survive in all kinds of environments and weather and had taught her how to handle guns before she could actually raise them. That had all changed when she had been caught making out with a girlfriend her senior year in high school. Her parents had thrown her into the street and locked her out.
Annie had broken into her old room one night, she had grabbed a few clothes and personal items. A note explaining where she was staying and she had left, never to return. They never called and Annie moved on with her life.
Despite moving from one friend's house to another, Annie graduated high school as an honor student but with no relatives there to cheer her on. The young woman had been determined to succeed, however, and went straight to college.
For the first two years, Annie was an outstanding student. The third year she had gotten a steady girlfriend and they had moved off campus. Annie continued her studies and obtained a job part time as a substitute teacher while she studied to pass her final exams.
Alcohol and casual sex became her bandage for the wounded heart, caused by the relationship when it had ended. This downward spiral had ended in the back seat of David Sanders' car.
After that disaster, Annie gave up drinking except on rare occasions. Learning she was pregnant had cinched her decision to end her self-destructive streak. Travis, a healthy wonderful boy had been born to a single lesbian mother. Annie had discovered she had fallen in love, with her child and the wonder of this new life she was responsible for. Not only did she have to take care of him, but she had to take care of herself as well to be able to do her best for him.
David didn't want Travis in his life, her parents didn't even acknowledge any notices or letters she sent them telling them about Travis and her success as a writer. Now she had opened her heart to someone again and had gotten hurt again.
How the hell was she supposed to work something out with a vampire?
If Cerys stayed longer than a year in this realm, then the Warder would become a vampire, permanently and so be trapped on Earth. In her own realm, Cerys said she had a normal life. Sunlight, food, healthy relationships, etc. Well, the last relationship hadn't turned out so well, Annie grinned. For either Annie or Cerys.
Annie apparently couldn't cross into Cerys' realm either without becoming some horrible zombie that lived on dead bodies. The writer was not amused with that choice for her and Travis.
Annie growled and slammed the receiver down when her manager didn't answer.
She turned and smiled at Travis as he watched her. He grinned back and waved.
The warrior raised her head slowly. Being chained in a dark dungeon cell was as expected as the endless interrogations. Very little food, very little water and no contact with anyone except the torture master and Maleka.
It took Cerys a moment to recognize the male with Maleka and then another full minute before it registered that he wasn't a prisoner.
"Hello, Cer," he said easily.
"Hello, Jalek," she responded. "Where's mother?"
"You'll never know," he taunted.
"I came back to find you," Cerys said wearily.
"You were willing to stay over there, permanently?" he asked, his dark eyebrows rose in question.
"You'll never know," Cerys growled back.
"What happened to father?" he demanded.
"Cross over and find his bones yourself," she snapped.
"Encourage her," he ordered, turning away from the cell.
Annie looked around at the cabin as she stopped the ATV. Spikes sticking out of the porch railing and shutters nailed shut made the cabin look like a war zone. She decided she had better at least attempt to make it look as normal as before.
"Come on, Trav," she said with a smile. "You can help hold the ladder while I take out those boards over the shutters."
"Okay, can I play with my cars on the boards after you're done?"
"As long I check them out first for nails and splinters. Deal?" she smiled as she lifted him off the ATV.
"Sure!" he agreed and Annie reflected once again what a good kid he was. She very seldom had problems out of him besides the fact he wanted to live in a junkyard he called a room and it was an endless battle to get him to clean it. Other than that, he was quick to obey most every thing else Annie asked of him. It was almost as if he sensed he was a partner in this parenting thing since she had no real help in raising him other than daycare and school.
Fortunately, being a substitute teacher meant her schedule often matched his or was close enough so he wasn't left at daycare or babysitters for too long.
Annie put on a flannel shirt and grabbed the hammer and set about to working while she waited for the truck from the garage to come to fix her car.
She was anxious to get back to the small apartment in Berkeley. She wanted to write down everything she could about her Halloween in the woods, especially about Cerys. Annie was tempted to laugh aloud. Her editor Jeannie wanted a new angle on vampires and a full length novel. Annie figured she had more than a good start on a plot after this Halloween, complete with a love interest.
Annie fought back tears as she thought of Cerys, the vampire warrior now gone to her home realm, possibly never to return. The writer sighed and bit back her sorrow, getting back to work.
Annie reached for the can of Coke Classic with a smirk.
"You're getting to know me, Jeannie," she growled.
"That's why the others trusted my judgment in selecting you for our author," Jeannie said calmly.
Annie had been waiting at the editor's office before anyone had even opened the door to the main building. Jeannie Carson had arrived early, expecting that from her author.
Once inside the office building the elevator ride had been long and uncomfortably quiet. Jeannie could tell that Annie was angrier than she had ever seen the young blonde. She had seen Annie angry at chauvinistic editors and publishers, at inane interviewers, critics and at her own parents but not this quiet and brooding anger.
Inside her office, Jeannie went to the small refrigerator in the lunch area and pulled out two Cokes. One thing she prided herself on was knowing her authors and making them feel like she was a partner and friend, not just someone who barked orders at them about their writing. She was smart enough to know that all authors were sensitive, especially about their work and had to be dealt with in different ways. Some needed a firm hand to finish projects; others needed total freedom and had to be coaxed into doing things. Annie was a worker, who, given edit suggestions, would dive right in. Most of the time both of them agreed on changes but every once in awhile Jeannie would hit a stubborn wall called Annie and the author wouldn't budge.
Jeannie often wondered which side kept the feud going between Annie and her parents. She had a suspicion that both sides were very guilty of extreme stubborn behavior.
"You picked me to be your author," Annie reminded her. "Without asking me?"
"How the hell was I supposed to ask?" Jeannie countered easily. "By the way, Annie, I want you to write a new vampire novel, a real life one. You see vampires do exist and I'd like to introduce you to a few of them. Don't mind the fangs, the good ones only pick on consensual adults. The bad guys are mean though and might kill you when they find out you know about them?"
"Damnit!" Annie growled, refusing to let go of her anger. "My son was with me!"
"That vampire wasn't supposed to come through that gate," Jeannie repeated. "I thought you and Cerys would hit it off since she prefers dealing with females."
"Just because I'm gay, you think I'm going to fall for the first good looking, tall, dark and dangerous female vampire you throw at me?" Annie demanded.
"She is incredibly beautiful with that black hair and blue eyes, isn't she?" Jeannie asked.
"Don't side track me," Annie growled, feeling her heart do a double take at the thought of Cerys and that fantastic body next to hers as well those fangs at her neck.
"Okay, okay," Jeannie said softly. "I apologize and I've got a lot of explaining to do to the Council as well because you and Travis were so involved. I never dreamed Travis would be in danger, or you."
"He was grabbed by a vampire, Jeannie!" Annie snapped, jumping up out of her chair and beginning to pace.
"What?" Jeannie went very pale and clutched the conference table in front of her. She reached up and casually brushed a lock of dark hair from her brown eyes as she watched Annie stalk around the room.
"A vampire grabbed him the first night," Annie said again. "He was about to kill my son when Cerys gave herself up to save him."
"Tell me everything, Annie," Jeannie urged, grabbing a tape recorder from the desk behind her. "From the beginning."
"Well, my editor set me up in this cabin in the middle of the Twilight Zone or some Stephen King novel," Annie began, sitting down again and going through the story.
It was two hours, several tapes, and several cokes later when the writer finished her tale.
Jeannie shut off the tape recorder and hung her head.
"Annie, I truly didn't think you and Travis would be in that kind of danger," she said softly.
"You've said that," Annie snapped. "Now it's your turn to explain some things. Who the hell are the Watchers Cerys mentioned, Warder vampires, all of it."
"I don't know how much I can explain without permission," Jeannie frowned.
"You almost got my son killed and me turned into a midnight snack for a very ugly Master. You owe me an explanation."
"Alright. How much did Cerys explain?"
"The thing about the different realms, being trained as a warrior, coming over here and turning into a vampire to fight other vampires from her side," Annie said, giving the short version.
"The Watchers are a group of humans that know about Warder Vampires and help them in killing the evil vampires, demons, werewolves and other evil things that go bump in the night," Jeannie explained. "They thought that with a book, even if the book was sold as fiction, that some would see the truth and join the fight. It's so hard to find good people."
"So you want me to be your recruiter?" Annie asked with a smirk. "Even if they believe it, won't it turn out to be like the kids who are hooked on that Masquerade game, they'll just want to be vampires for the power and not understand the differences between the realms?"
"That's a risk, a very real risk," Jeannie agreed. "We're hoping that you emphasize the bit about any human crossing realms becomes a ghoul and lives on the flesh of corpses. That tends to discourage humans from crossing."
"It did me," Annie muttered.
"Is there something you left out of your narrative?" Jeannie asked with raised eyebrows.
"Like falling for a certain female dark knight vampire and wanting to go with her?"
"Don't be silly, we were only together two nights," Annie growled but Jeannie caught the writer's eyes shifting away.
"Long enough to fall in love or lust in an intense situation," Jeannie commented but decided to drop the conversation. That was the least of their worries. "The Council has left it to me to decide what to do with you."
Jeannie instantly regretted her words as Annie's jaw took on a familiar set and her green eyes flashed.
"Poor choice of words," the editor/Watcher admitted. "I meant, how you should work with us from this point on."
"What are the choices? What if I want to walk away?"
"That's one choice, everything returns to normal. Just like nothing happened," Jeannie said firmly. "Except do you think you won't see a human vampire every time you go out at night? You'll be looking for them under your bed before the week is out. We can train you to spot them and protect yourself."
"Humans turned vampires, stuck in this realm to raise hell and serve the masters when they cross over, right?" Annie asked, remembering what Cerys had told her.
"Yes, and they even have humans who work with them as well," Jeannie added.
"And go by the name Renfield, right?" Annie smirked.
"Well, actually," Jeannie stammered. "That's what the Watchers call them."
"Terrific, I already know the lingo. What are the other choices?"
"You write the book, just like any of your other pieces. While writing your book, you'll train to be a Watcher. There are several different types of Watchers, by the way."
"And those are?" Annie asked.
"Some are into research," Jeannie clarified. "You see, it's not just vampires and werewolves that we deal with but also demons, daemons, half-demons, ghosts, witches into negative magic, and anything else within the entire occult range. That requires Internet research, going through dusty old books in Old Latin or Old High German, stuff like that."
"Hmmmm," Annie said thoughtfully, the research idea appealed to her teaching side.
"Other Watchers help train fighters, men and women who help Warders when they cross over to adapt to our Realm and fight the evil vampires and other bad guys. Your survival skills would help with that if you wanted," Jeannie continued.
"My father would be proud, I could be a Drill Sergeant for vampire killers," Annie smirked.
"Some Watchers are organizers, like me," Jeannie shook her head at Annie's warped sense of humor. "We keep track of who is where, what gate is active, go through reports, things like that."
"So, you want me to write a book about Cerys' Realm and the Masters crossing over," Annie asked and Jeannie nodded. "The problem is we didn't get a lot of time to talk. We were mostly fighting or waiting to fight. I don't know anything about her realm other than maybe three sentences."
"I have other Warders you can talk to if you'll write the book," Jeannie assured her writer.
"From what I gather it'll sound like a fantasy Realm, no one will buy that it exists!" Annie complained.
"We'll make sure the book gets into the right hands with the right encouragement," Jeannie said firmly.
"You'll protect me and Travis? Some of those vampires got away and might know who I am," Annie asked with a frown.
"Yes, we try and protect our own," Jeannie said softly.
"Alright, I'll write the book," Annie growled. "We'll figure out the other stuff later."
"Great! I already have a new apartment for you under a different name and private school for Travis. He'll be picked up and brought back every day."
"You were pretty sure of yourselves," Annie glared.
"With the offer to protect Travis, I thought you'd agree," Jeannie shrugged. "Then there's the challenge of the writing."
"You bitch," Annie laughed. "Did you major in recruiting or car sales in college?"
"Media, we're all bastards, didn't you know that?" Jeannie grinned.
Cerys didn't even raise her head when the door to her cell grated open. She wasn't even aware of how long she had been in the dungeon. All she knew now was pain. It hurt less when she didn't move or try to think. So the warrior curled up on the filthy straw covered floor and refused to move, even when the Interrogator would taunt her from the door.
Instead of rough hands and angry male voices, the hands were gentle and the voices soft.
"Quick, unlock those shackles!" someone demanded.
"I'm trying," a second voice snapped and Cerys realized the voices were female but she was hurting too much to care to open her eyes. "She's hurt bad."
"They've had her for days, I'm not surprised," the first voice commented. "Come on, the fire is spreading fast, from the sounds of it."
"Got them, roll her onto the stretcher, carefully," the second voice instructed someone.
Cerys moaned when she was moved but kept her eyes closed.
"Be calm, Warder," someone said softly. "You'll be safe soon."
"If the damned roof doesn't come down on top of us," the first voice complained.
Cerys could smell the smoke filling the lower levels of the castle and could make out the crack of timbers snapping from fire. The heat became more intense and her rescuers began to cough steadily.
"Not much more, keep low!" the first voice ordered.
It seemed like forever before Cerys was hauled roughly out into fresh air as the sounds of the fire and the smoke made breathing difficult. Her stretcher bearers kept running, trying to keep the wounded warrior on the thin material and poles.
The two carriers sat the stretcher down and Cerys finally opened her eyes enough to see them collapsed on the grass, coughing violently. A third figure was also bent over coughing.
There were lots of figures running around, both male and female, all silhouetted in the light of flames that were slowly destroying her father's castle.
Cerys closed her eyes again.
Annie held her head and reached for her Coke, trying to fight off a headache. She sat the soda down and shuffled through some of her notes.
"Okay," she muttered. "Again, if that other Realm knows about us, why don't they take our technology back to their world? Why are they stuck in the Middle Ages?"
"Because its something like James Cameron showed in Terminator, complex mechanisms can't cross through a portal," the Watcher Gregor Weist explained.
"What about taking plans back and building things there?" Annie asked, taking notes on her laptop.
"There seems to be a trade off in the worlds. In this one we have very little magick and those who do have it pay a high price for it or work very hard to achieve it," he said. "In their Realm, which they call Altercauff, they have magick but technology seems to be more difficult to obtain."
"Okay, I can work with that," Annie muttered. She had been interviewing several Watchers over the last five days in preparation for writing the novel she, Jeannie and the Watcher Elders wanted. Annie wasn't sure they'd like the plot line or her developments but she was actually beginning to believe she could pull it off.
One Watcher was only seventeen but had been with the group for two years after making the mistake of camping almost on top of a portal. When vampires had crossed over right in the middle of the group camp, Harib Ali-Bey had been the only survivor. Grabbing a broken tree branch that had been meant for the fire, Harib had discovered one of the sure ways to kill the strangers attacking him and his friends. He had somehow managed to kill all three vampires but had been blamed for the deaths of his friends.
The Watcher Elders, aware too late of the portal opening, had come to his aid. A series of bribes, disappearing evidence, and a case that was built on only the most circumstantial evidence led to the charges against him being dismissed. At the age of 15, Harib had joined the Watchers, training to fight alongside the Warder vampires.
Harib told Annie about his training with three different Warders over the years and how that had affected his young life. Having to keep a large portion of his life a secret from his friends, family and school mates had been difficult for him and had led to a sense of isolation.
The Council set him up with several young trainees and Harib had snapped out of his depression by training teenagers.
Another Watcher Annie had interviewed had been an elderly Russian woman who had gone totally blind but could recite almost every known Slavic folk tale known to man and many that weren't. Annie had been fascinated with the woman's knowledge and wished they didn't have to go through an interpreter to communicate.
Now she was interviewing Gregor Weist, a witness to portals and bloody carnage from a very young age. Weist told a fascinating tale of a portal opening just outside the factory he was being forced to work in. Weist was taken from his home city of Prague and shipped to Poland along with thousands of other Jews from across Europe. Weist, only 12 years old, had convinced the guards that he was strong and could work. That had saved him a trip to one of the concentration camps and had landed him in the Warsaw ghetto.
A section of the city walled off from the world where the Nazi tossed in more Jews than the area could hold, sent in very little food, employed forced labor. Always were the trains leaving the ghetto, cattle cars filled with human beings that were bound for the concentration camps.
Weist was working in a uniform factory during a night shift when something strange happened in the warehouse. Annie recognized the description of a portal opening and vampires crossing over.
Apparently it had been a major move from Altercauff's sorcerer group because Weist counted twenty vampires crossing that night. The vampires, driven mad with their first blood hunger, attacked the factory and began killing all the guards and workers they could find. Not just for the blood but for the sheer pleasure of spilling the blood everywhere.
Weist had been lucky and had climbed into the rafters and hid while he watched both German and Jews dying under fang and claw. In the morning he had stayed hidden in the shadows as the Germans discovered the horrors inside the factory. There had been a few survivors and those that had been left were hysterical or in shock.
The Germans blamed the Jewish Resistance, telling the officials higher up that the Resistance had killed the guards because they were German and had killed the workers because they didn't resist.
German reaction had been swift, rounding up all suspected Resistance members, families, friends and known associates but something happened that day and someone shot back at the Germans. The ghetto exploded into a mass resistance.
Annie, a student of history, remembered something about the Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Germans during WWII. She knew that the fighting had gone on for weeks before the Resistance was broken by tanks, gas and fire. Only a small number had been captured, most had died fighting back.
Gregor Weist had been one of the few that had made it through the gas and barbed wire filled sewers through the city to the Resistance movement outside the ghetto walls.
Weist had become a Watcher when he saw another portal open and a Warder came through one night when he was thirty years old. She led him to the Watcher Council and the survivor had wept openly when he discovered he wasn't insane since what he had seen had been real.
Now Annie was learning a lot from the old man, he was a fount of information as Gregor had spent most of his adult life studying the realm of Altercauff and the Warders.
"So Warders can only stay a year," Annie commented, opening a new line of thought with the old man. "Why? Why does the change become permanent after a year?"
"Who knows?" he shrugged. "Why does their world even exist? Who makes up these rules? God? Which God? Which God of which realm? Are there other realms that we don't know about?"
Annie shook her head against the questions. They were some of the same ones she had been asking herself and anyone else in the Watcher program she could talk to about it.
"Could that be what Hell is, another realm?" she pondered.
"Maybe," he agreed. "Was Lovecraft onto something when he wrote about the Old Gods ruling this land before man and that they want to come back and rule over humans? Could those hideous creatures really be in another realm and looking for a way to cross over?"
"Oh, scary thoughts!" she protested and Weist laughed a hearty chuckle.
"Okay, so the Warders know our realm, they come to know our politics, our development, stuff like that, right?" Annie questioned.
"Yes, they tend to learn more about our world than the male vampires do who plan on returning to their realm."
"Why haven't they learned some of our history and changed their world? They can see political systems that work better than their Dark Age Feudal system," Annie asked.
"Because most of those revolutions began with a gunshot," Weist pointed out.
"What?" Annie frowned.
"A gunshot, 'the shot heard around the world' type thing," he grinned. "Mankind didn't move out of the dark ages until he had a pistol in his hands."
"That's not a very scientific look at history," Annie grumbled.
"Nor a politically correct one, either," he agreed. "But true. Even the Roman Empire collapsed because it grew too large and couldn't control the inhabitants without letting them into the Roman system. Eventually, this led to the destruction of the system because it was too large to hold together, units became localized and unity was lost. Without mass communication and evolved weapons, mankind will huddle in groups and fight over which group is the strongest. Countries and lands fall as power shifts."
"So, there is hope that a better system could be developed on that side," Annie frowned.
"Of course," he agreed as he lit a pipe of sweet smelling tobacco. "The problem is that the main battle almost comes down to gender lines."
"How so?" Annie questioned.
"Men in that realm seem drawn to the dark sorcery magick, more than the females. I know it sounds sexist as hell but they seem drawn to the healing magicks more. Part of it is the emotional make-up, I believe. The men are taught early on to be strong, in control and in charge and to seek power. The women are taught to be intelligent but second to man."
"Remind me to go back in time and send them Susan B. Antony," Annie growled.
"I quite agree," he smiled. "The dark powers they work with chips away at whatever morals and ethics they might have had to begin with. Eventually, they crave power and more power, this leads to conquering."
"While the women sit home and knit?" Annie asked bitterly.
"Spinning wool," Weist laughed. "Some have a rebellious nature and are graced with fighting skills. They become Warders."
"How do the Warders fight on their side?"
"It's like the Amazons of ancient legends," Weist explained. "They help form Resistance groups throughout the land to oppose the dark overlords. They lead battles and train other men and women who stand against the sorcerers. Unfortunately, it seems easier to organize evil into a major army to hold control than to form an army to fight for justice."
"That doesn't make sense," Annie complained. "Our history is eventually one of standing against oppression."
"You're an American with a different and shorter history," Weist smirked. "Throughout the ages, entire cultures have rolled over and exposed their bellies for conquerors. Most disappeared because of it too. My own race almost died because we spent centuries scattered to the winds and wouldn't fight back when we were persecuted. It wasn't just the Nazis, they were just the latest in a long line of attackers. They were just better at it than most."
"So, the Warders and Resistance try to organize villages and regions into fighting the sorcerers. Are they winning?"
"Sometimes," he shrugged.
"And the battles spill into our world when the sorcerers cross over to gain more magickal power through human blood and fear. How does that work?"
"You might need to talk to the spiritually inclined Watchers," Weist suggested. "Personally, I think each life has an energy and that blood is a major carrier of that energy. Even the Torah says that 'the blood is the life.' I believe when a vampire takes the blood he is capturing the energy. The same with werewolves, they feed on the energy and terror, not on the flesh. Most of the time they just rip their victims apart and not eat any of the body."
"Terrific. Psychic energy junkies?"
"An adequate label," he agreed.
"But the Warders don't feed on pain and terror, just the blood," Annie said thoughtfully, remembering her time with Cerys and how it had felt when the Warder vampire had fed from her.
"No, they rely on the blood, the energy in the blood and the sexual arousal," Weist said.
"What?" Annie snapped, knowing that she was probably now blushing. She hadn't admitted to anyone that she had let Cerys feed from her. Annie had admitted that Cerys' ex had bitten her but somehow she didn't want to talk about Cerys like that.
Annie had gone through a lot of soul searching over that reluctance and the best she could figure was that she didn't want her relationship with Cerys dissected any more than it had been already.
"Yes, even with people they have no emotional feelings for, there is sexual arousal that occurs on both sides," Weist continued, he was either ignoring or not noticing Annie's discomfort and blushing face. "Like your friend Cerys, she only hooks up with gay male donors. Both of them enjoy the encounter and after it's over, there's no emotional attachment other than what friendship might form between them."
"She mentioned that but I didn't think the arousal ran both ways," Annie muttered.
"Oh yes, that's why the Warders won't take blood from anyone they're attracted to in this realm," Weist explained. "It gets too complicated, very quickly. Vampires, both male and female, feel emotions much stronger than we do. It would be like dating an adrenaline junkie, I believe is the term."
"What happens if a Warder does fall for someone in this realm?" Annie asked.
"Well, you know that the human can't cross over into that realm without becoming something very horrible, right?"
"Well, that would mean that the Warder, to continue the relationship, would have to choose to stay in this realm as a full vampire for the rest of their lives," Weist said seriously. "Once they spend nearly a year here as a vampire, they can only cross back for very short periods of time without risking the change becoming permanent."
"If Cerys crossed back over then she couldn't stay long?" Annie demanded.
"No, she was almost here a full year," he agreed, and quickly noted Annie's frown.
"The Warder would have to be willing to give up their life in their own realm," he continued. "Family, friends, the Resistance, and a normal life. Never to see the sun again, needing to live on mammal blood to survive, which would be their existence here."
"Has any Warder chosen to stay?"
"No, none," Weist said gently. "Most find the price would be too high. The relationship could only last a couple of decades before age would start catching up with them. Then what? Does the Warder change their lover into a vampire with them? Do they let them die of age or disease and lose their reason for choosing this realm?"
"Oh God," Annie said softly, taking in the grim facts. "That would be worse than Romeo and Juliet."
"Yes," Weist laughed. "They only had feuding families to contend with. Here you have the choice of being human or being a vampire."
"I think I've got enough for today," Annie said, her mind still distracted by their conversation.
"Of course, Annie," Weist said agreeably, his sharp black eyes watching the flustered young woman gather her things and stuff them in her book bag.
"I'll drop in and see you tomorrow, Mr. Weist," she promised and headed for the door. "Thank you, very much."
"I'll be here," he said easily and waited as he listened for her footsteps to walk away from his door. He pulled his cordless phone out from the pocket of his robe and shifted his wheelchair to look out the window after he dialed a number.
"Yes, Weist here," he said. "Yes, the session went quite well. I think she's very intelligent, quick, and has something rare in a writer and artist: common sense."
Weist laughed at something said on the other end.
"Yes, she also is naturally curious. There is something you might not be aware of from what you've told me," he continued. "I think Annie and Cerys were even closer than suspected. She was asking about Warders choosing to stay in this realm. If Cerys feels the same about your writer, you might have a problem."
The voice on the other end responded for several moments.
"No, I don't think it's romantic," Weist snapped. "The goal is to rid the world of vampires, not encourage them to stay here and immigrate."
Weist listened for several moments, shaking his head.
"I don't care if they are Warders, they are still basically vampires and have the potential of turning evil and spreading their disease to humans," he protested. "One Warder choosing to stay out of love could encourage others."
Weist started to say more but was interrupted.
"No, damnit! You know the policy of the Council," he growled. "If Cerys comes back and they are romantically involved then they'll need to be dealt with."
"Yes, I like her. Yes, I like Cerys," he said wearily, the fight going out of him. "That doesn't mean I won't abide by Council wishes."
"Yes, even if it means killing both of them."
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