Kelsey arrived just as Nix was coating Jesse's wrist with the blood mixture. Dayle had done the same to Kruise's throat wound a few minutes before, and Kruise was now laid out on the sofa, her head in Dayle's lap, her eyes closed.
"Glad to see someone listens to me. Nix, have you fed?"
Nix blushed and glanced around the room, not meeting anyone's eyes. "Um, no. Not yet."
"Why not? I left you enough blood."
"I'll have some before I go to bed. Drop it, Kelsey, please?"
Kelsey snorted. "Humans listen better than you guys. Don't know why I bother playing medic for the vampire community."
Tess rolled a chair out of the computer room and patted the back of it. "Have a seat, Kelsey. We have a few things we wanted to bring to your attention."
Sitting down, Kelsey sighed. "Tess, I really can't be a part of this. The council decision was final. And today they outlined that anyone assisting in this feud would be banished from New York."
"Anyone?" I wanted to be sure on this point. "Absolutely anyone?"
"Yeah, I got that, Kelsey, but any vampires? Like -- even other council members?"
She shook her head. "There aren't any council members that would help you guys. I'd love to, but even my hands are tied -- I told you that last night."
"Uh-huh." Cam nodded, smiling absently as Tess sat down next to her. "But what about council members helping the other side?"
The head of the council raised an eyebrow. "Nobody likes Star enough to do that. The woman's insane. Secretly, there are several who would have loved to help you, but for the most part, no one wants to be involved."
"Well, what do you consider being involved?" Jace asked. We'd switched positions, and this time it was her head in my lap. "I mean, like, does being involved mean you have to ride along with a person? Or participate in killing someone? Or -- is it as simple as lending a car, and maybe a place to stay?"
Folding her arms, Kelsey let her gaze move from person to person. "Okay, what are you trying to tell me?"
Cam leaned forward with a paper and handed it to her. "This is the address of the warehouse that Star took Nix to. The place she beat her so severely."
"Okay." Kelsey frowned. "So?"
"So, look at who owns the building."
We all waited. I raised an eyebrow as I watched the blood drain out of her face.
"Wow. Didn't know a vampire could get that white."
She glared at me, but a few muffled laughs from around the room told me I'd scored.
"You're telling me that she's using a building Rita owns?"
"More than a building. Rita is listed as owner of the car that Star was driving. We checked it out with the DMV."
"Are you sure, Nix?"
Nix nodded. "Positive."
We were all quiet for a few minutes. Kelsey just kept staring at the page in her hand. She shook her head and then ran a hand over her face.
"All right. What do you want me to do?"
By the time Kelsey left, it was nearly eleven. Kruise was yawning, and Jace was practically asleep. Tess and Jesse were in a discussion out on the balcony, and Cam smiled at me as she slid the glass door closed behind her and went to sit next to Tess.
Dayle was taking a shower, and Nix was in the guest bedroom. We were keeping the same sleeping arrangements as the night before, and the bed had already been pulled out from the sofa. The airmattresses that Jace and I slept on had been filled, and I was lying on my back, just watching the ceiling.
The plan was set, so far as we could set it, and if everything went as planned, tomorrow would be the last sunrise that Star saw.
It was strange to think about a vampire seeing the sunrise. Every once in a while, the old legends would pop into my mind, and I'd have to remind myself that this was reality -- that vampires existed and, while they did indeed drink blood, they weren't the killers we expected. They were highly susceptible to sunburn, but didn't burst into flame at its touch. They didn't fear crosses, or wooden stakes, and they liked garlic -- except for Cam, who said it made her sick. Much of what we feared about vampires wasn't true at all.
But some of it was.
Nix came out of the bedroom, and with thoughts of good and evil in mind, I followed her into the kitchen.
She hadn't been using her crutches since she got home, and her limp was pronounced. I found her standing on one foot while closing the refrigerator door.
"Yes?" She turned quickly, trying to hide something behind her back and keep her balance.
"Can I ask you something?"
She smiled. "The curious writer peaking out, Trey?"
I nodded and shrugged, grinning at her. "Can we talk?"
Hesitating, Nix looked nervously around the kitchen for a moment. Then she sighed and brought her hand back around to the front of her body.
There was a packet in it, filled with blood. She shrugged. "Do you mind? I've been putting it off all day, cause I didn't want to gross anyone out."
"You mean, you didn't want to gross Jesse out."
Her face flushed a bright red and I chuckled.
"Busted. No, I don't mind. Do you drink it like that or warm it?"
"Like this. You're sure you won't be sick from it?"
I shook my head. "No. Tess stabbing dead bodies made me sick. Seeing what those bodies looked like before she did it had already made me queasy. This?" I waved a hand at her. "Please."
Limping over, she pulled a chair out and sat at the table. I noticed she held the blood packet below the table level while she opened it.
"I take it that's what Kelsey left?"
She nodded, leaning down to take a sip.
"Hey, I said it was okay. Stop the contortionist act, would you?"
Nix straightened. "Sorry." She took a longer drink, but still kept the container below the table when she finished. "Yes, Kelsey left it. We don't like to use them often, because it's basically the same stuff used for blood transfusions. Our blood bank is separate, and run only by vampires. It's only opened for humans during emergencies, and then we transfer whatever's needed, where ever it needs to go. I normally wouldn't be using stored blood, but, there's no way I'm going out to feed, and --"
"And you're not even thinking of asking one of us."
She shook her head. "After what I did to Jesse? No way."
"But -- you wouldn't do that again, right? Cause, you're not starving now."
"No, but -- it scared me, Trey."
Her free hand fidgeted with the salt shaker on the table, then moved over to the napkin holder. "Trey, you know how I feel about Jesse -- we talked that night about it. Remember?"
"I know you like her, a great deal, and she likes you. So?"
"So . . . I nearly killed her. If she hadn't been able to stop me, I would have. And I'd never want to hurt her."
"Yeah, I got that. But if you don't starve yourself, you won't have to worry about doing that again. Right?"
"True, but --"
"No buts. It's true. I know you wouldn't hurt her on purpose. And she knows that as well."
Nix didn't look certain of it, but she did seem a little more comfortable, and even held the plastic bag filled with blood above the table. Either she'd decided I wasn't going to vomit at the sight of it, or she'd forgotten she was holding it.
"Okay, so. Ask your question, Trey."
"How did Star become like this? Or was she always such a bitch?"
For a few moments she was very still, just looking at me. I began to think she wouldn't answer at all.
Then she shifted position to lean against the wall. "You never start with easy questions, do you?"
She looked up and flashed a grin at me.
"No, she wasn't always like this. When she was younger, she was a part of our group. We, as in Tess, Star, and myself, were living with several others, including Tess's mom and Star's mother. Even though I was so much older than them, I found myself hanging out with Tess and Star quite a bit."
"You're fifteen hundred, right?" Nix nodded. "How old are the others?"
"Well, Cam's a couple of hundred. She and Tess still celebrate her birthday every couple of years. Since she's not a full blood vampire, we're not sure how long she'll live. Not nearly as long as Tess, though, and I worry what will happen when she finally dies."
"How old is Tess?"
"About -- damn, let's see, she was born in Britain in the early fifteen hundreds, I think, so about five hundred, give or take a few. Star was born in eastern Russia, or what would become eastern Russia, about sixteen ten."
I got up to get drink, glancing back as I opened the cabinet to grab a glass. "So, when was this that you were all living together?"
"Well, it was before Cam was born. About seventeen fifty, I think. We were living in some rural area in Spain, not too far from Barcelona. The people were great, and there were a few people who had come with us from Portugal, humans. They were people who enjoyed the bite, and it was easier to feed from them than to find new sources."
"Were they your only source?"
"No. We also would keep an eye on the surrounding areas; there was always a band of highwaymen around, and --" She looked away. "Well, that's not important."
I nodded, understanding what she didn't want to say.
"Anyway -- where was I? Oh, yeah. Anyway, we were all living there, and Tess's mother, Nora, along with myself and another friend, were on the council that sat in Barcelona. It was a long ride on horseback, and even longer, about four days on foot. The council would meet once every other month, but occasionally there was an emergency meeting that took place in a nearby village or something. Full council meetings required the full council, while emergency meetings required only two-thirds of the entire council of nine."
"What were emergency meetings for?"
"Oh, mainly dealing with Nosferatu. Occasionally a vampire would get in trouble -- accidently kill someone, or do something else as foolish. We'd call for the council if we thought it was serious enough. It didn't happen often, though."
Sipping my juice, I sat back down, noticing that she'd almost finished her blood packet. "You need another of those, or are you okay?"
She sighed. "I should have another. Kelsey said I should have two per day and this is the only one I've had."
"So, get yourself another. You haven't even started your story, so you've got time."
Nix grinned at me as she stood carefully and limped toward the fridge. "You know, you'd probably make one hell of a good investigative reporter, Trey."
"Nah." I waved a hand at her. "You have to stick to reality. Where's the fun in that?"
She laughed, pulling a new packet out. "What, you're not having fun yet?"
"With you guys? Oh, I always have fun with you. But, this isn't reality, or at least, not a reality that everyone is priviledged to know about. Even if I put it on paper, word for word, as everything happens, no one would think it was real."
"Got a point, there." Sitting down, she leaned back in her chair, looking a little more relaxed. "Now -- what did you want to know?"
"Oh, yeah." Nix settled herself more comfortably and sighed. "Well, we were all friends, Star and Tess and I. Dayle hadn't been born yet, she's just a few years older then Cam is. Julie was a teenager, maybe in her twenties -- which for us is the same as being an adolescent. We don't really begin adulthood until our thirties and forties."
"And Star was -- a hundred years old?"
"About a hundred and forty or so, maybe a little less. Now, you have to understand, Star and her mother were very close. Glennis had been very young when she had Star. Most vampires don't have children until they're about a hundred, but Glennis was only about fifty or so. Being fairly close in age to her child, it made Glennis more of a sister than a mother, and their relationship reflected that."
"So, when Glennis died, it was even worse because it was both mother and sister dying."
"How did it happen?"
Nix sighed and slunk down in her chair. "You have to remember that this was during the time of the Spanish Inquisition."
"I thought that was earlier, like the fifteen hundreds."
"It actually lasted much longer, over three hundred years, I think. By the seventeen hundreds it was only in isolated pockets, but there was the occasional trial and execution."
"Anyway, Star's mother, Glennis, had assisted the midwife in a couple of births. When the midwife died, the villagers asked Glennis to take over. She did."
"How was she able to move about in the day time? I mean, Dayle stayed mainly in the car, and she's showing a nice burn tonight."
She shrugged. "Wasn't that hard. We all had fair skin, not the naturally dark tones of the natives in the area. So, we told them that we had to be very careful because people with lighter skin couldn't handle sunlight as well. Modesty was the dress of the day, so with that, we would cover our bodies, and put hats on -- we were fine."
I nodded. "Makes sense. Go on."
"Well, Glennis enjoyed being the midwife. She loved kids, and she was always helping people. I admired her; she had so much more patience than I did, even though I was older." Nix grinned. "Occasionally, humans can get on my nerves."
"Understandable; they can get on mine too." I chuckled. "So, Glennis was the midwife, and the rest of you were -- what?"
"My mother became a teacher, instructing the boys in the reading and writing of Latin. Tess and I worked at a winery. We did all kinds of things."
"She worked as a maid in the kitchens of the one lone noble in the area. It wasn't great, but he treated his servants well."
"So, what happened? How did Glennis die?"
Nix took a long drink from her blood pack and then set it on the table, staring at it. "There was no healer or doctor of any kind in this village. So, Glennis became the healer. She used herbs and such, and could sew wounds easily. The people loved her, they always wanted her to look after them when they were sick, even if it was just a cold."
She sighed. "Until . . . there was an accident. This cart overturned, a wheel had broken, and there were several people injured, including one little girl. It was someone Glennis had helped the old midwife to deliver, and she just couldn't stand to watch the girl die. So, she -- stopped it."
"You know the salve that Kelsey
left for Kruise and Jess?"
"We've known for a long time that vampire blood can heal human injury. It's really quite comical in a way. We need humans to live, and we have the power to keep them alive. Unfortunately, we can't reveal the second without revealing the first. And if we reveal the first . . . "
"You'll all be in a lot of danger."
I nodded, sliding my juice glass back and forth between my hands. "So, Glennis used her own blood to save the girl?"
"And she got caught."
"Uh-huh. The girl's mother came in just as Glennis was finished spreading the blood. She screamed, and several people came running. Glennis told them she was trying to help, but all they saw was her spreading blood over the girl, which was thought to be a curse of some kind. They threatened to stone her, and she ran."
"She got away?"
"Then? Yeah. But, it wasn't long before the noble, Lord Rogelio, heard about it. He decided to make inquiries. At first, there was no one there who would say anything bad about Glennis. She'd healed a lot of people, saved lives when it seemed hopeless. The little girl was making a complete recovery."
"But, what none of us knew was that the wife of Lord Rogelio, Isabelle, was a lesbian, and had been blackmailing women into sleeping with her. She'd tried to get Star into her bed, but Star was straight, all the way. She had nothing against lesbians, just didn't feel the same way. So, when Isabelle tried to seduce her, she refused. And Isabelle was furious. No one had ever said no to her. When Glennis came under suspicion, Isabelle thought she had leverage. She told Star that if she didn't sleep with her, she'd make sure that remnants of the Inquisition heard of what was happening. Star refused. Isabelle carried out her threat."
"Her husband hadn't found anything, though."
Nix gave a sad smile. "Trey, the Inquisition didn't care about that. Once they were on the scent, it was over. Glennis knew it. So did most of the village. Going against the Inquisition got most people tortured. And after that torture, you'd more than likely be burned at the stake."
"They were going to burn Glennis?"
"We all told Glennis that she needed to get out of town. We had a meeting, all of our group, Star included, and it was agreed that, to save ourselves, we would need to repudiate Glennis, and tell them she had left town. She agreed to do so, and her and Star packed their stuff. Star went to get two horses and while she was gone, a neighbor, someone who either hadn't heard or didn't care about what was going on, came by to get Glennis. His wife was in labor, and it was going badly. Glennis, being who she was, couldn't do anything but go with the man. We pleaded with her not to go, but she got into his wagon and told us to have Star wait for her, she'd deliver the child and come back to the house."
"Uh-huh. The soldiers attached to the Inquisition judge were searching the village for her. They appeared at the homestead just as she was getting back into the wagon to come home. She didn't fight them, just handed her satchel to the farmer and asked him to take it to her daughter. They put chains on her and took her to the nearby monastery for trial."
"I take it Star didn't exactly like this idea?"
"Star immediately demanded we stage a breakout. Nora called for an emergency board meeting. The trial had been set for four days from then, and we were able to get eight of the nine board members there."
She sighed. "The problem was, if we attacked, we'd be hunted. If we didn't, Glennis would probably die. It was a choice between attempting to save one person, or letting her be killed and keeping all of us out of Inquisition hands."
"You didn't think she had any chance of being acquitted?"
"No, Isabelle had seen to that. By the time the trial started, there were close to twenty people willing to swear that they had seen Glennis dancing naked in the fields, or that she'd told them she was a witch, or some other crazy accusation."
"Wow." I stood up and put the glass in the sink, then turned and looked back at her, folding my arms. "What did Star say?"
"Star went down to the jail to talk to her mother, and Glennis told her she was going to plead guilty and ask for leniency. Since it was her first offense, there was a small chance that she wouldn't be killed. That was two nights before the start of the trial, and the same night the council met."
"What did the council say?"
Nix sighed. "The council said there would be no rescue attempt. Tess, Nora, and myself all voted with the majority, and it was seven to one. Glennis had made a mistake. She was willing to pay the consequences, and we would not start a war to save her when we didn't even know that she would die."
"But they didn't show leniency?"
"They couldn't. They didn't have a chance. A couple of people from our Portugal group came forward to say that Glennis drank blood. We were told of this the night before the trial. The men had been taken into Glennis's cell and identified her as the one that approached them and drank their blood during sexual acts. They were to testify the next day at the trial. Glennis, certain that they would reveal the rest of us, broke through the ropes binding her and managed to kill both men. The guards beat her mercilessly, much like Star beat me. At first, they were convinced she wouldn't last to see trial in the morning. She did, though."
"What happened when word of this got to the council?"
"They made the decision that we should flee, in case any of the others from our group decided to turn us in, or were brought before the Inquisition. Star demanded we break Glennis out of prison and take her with. Again, the council voted no; this time it was unanimous. And Star was furious."
"You all just left her there?"
"There was nothing else we could do. For all we knew the Inquisitor had troops ready to arrest us too. Besides, the warning had come from Glennis herself, sent through a friend. She told us to go, that she wasn't going to plead guilty, she was going to stand silent. This meant they would have to torture her to get her to enter a plea. It would also give us time to get the hell out of there."
"But Star was still furious about it."
"She was beyond rage. We tried to get her to come with us, but she took off that night. I don't know where she went, but the next time we saw her was two years later in a pub in London. She was drunk, had been getting drunk and travelling aimlessly for months, if not the full two years. How she survived, I don't know. I think it was then she started killing people."
"You tried talking to her?"
"Tess and I both did, and Nora as well. Star told us what happened to Glennis -- she'd dressed in a long skirt and a robe to watch the trial. They tortured her for hours, and it was about mid morning when someone noticed that her skin seemed to be burning. The Inquisitor took it as a sign, and had her condemned. They burned her an hour later. Star watched it all. I think that's when her sanity began to leave. She killed for the first time that night -- she found the Inquisitor in his bed and killed him."
I shook my head. "Damn. I don't know what I'd do if I had to watch something like that."
"Me neither. Glennis was my friend. I had lost people before, hundreds of friends along with my mother and most of my family, but not like that."
We were silent for several minutes. I kept trying to picture what had happened to Glennis, but found my mind shying away from it. Torture like that I couldn't understand. Jace and I played with BDSM, had even gone with Jesse to a private sex club downtown. But torture for the sake of torture? That I couldn't deal with.
I watched as Nix drank the last of her blood. She was't paying any attention to it, or to me. Her eyes were glassy and her trance-like gaze was focused on the table top.
"So, this really is vengeance for her."
She nodded absently.
"And for you. You're wanting to kill her for what she did to Chris."
Nix looked up. "I suppose so, yes. Does that make me as bad as her?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Do you think it does?"
She smiled. "Take many psych courses in college, Trey?"
"Nope. Only one." I grinned. "Got an A, though."
"Of course you did." She shook her head and stood up. "Come on. I'm tired, and my stomach's full and I just want to go to bed."
I stood up and stretched. "Gonna be a long day tomorrow, huh?"
"Yeah, it really is. Hope I can sleep tonight."
"What, didn't Jesse let you get enough sleep last night?"
She glanced sharply at me. "Trey, nothing happened."
I grinned. "I was talking about Jesse's snoring, Nix. What were you thinking about?"
Her face turned red. I laughed
and put a hand on her shoulder. She chuckled and hugged me. We left the kitchen
with my arm around her and her still limping on her healing leg.
End Part Ten
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