The Secret History of Vampires –Part 3

Alexei walked down the spiraling staircase the night after falling asleep with Katiya; again, it was dark, and smelled of wet earth and musty water.  Dug deep into the ground solid stone foundation hid several cells that the rest of the house sat innocently upon. She saw fine in the dark and had left the torch up at the top of the stairs.   The air was still and heavy with the weight of silence, on occasion that silence was broken by the skittering of a multi-legged beastie, slithering of scales across the stones, or of tiny claws scampering.

She stepped down off the last step on to a cool packed dirt floor, a single hallway led into the dark; five heavy iron doors rusted set in stone archways.  Only three of the doors held anything.  In quick silent steps she was at the end of the hallway standing before a door with no lock, only a small pattern engraved on the iron.  She ran her fingers over it cleaning out the rust and then just held her hand on the door.  Beyond it chained in a casket of stone was her maker.  She had pondered on several occasions with just killing him, but fear of the unknown had stilled her hand.

Rumor had it to kill a first made would kill the entire line.  Before she had no desire to die, but now, now she was well over a thousand years old and continuing to exist was losing its appeal.  Things might change weapons and clothes but the pettiness of human emotion and desire never did.  The cruelty and savagery of her kind never did either.  But it didn't matter now; the signet ring that was needed to open this door was gone, stolen by four mean spirited boys.  There was no way else into the room.

She turned and paused at another door, holding a hand to it she could hear the screams vibrate against the iron.  Fiona was on the other side, fighting off 900 years of addiction to her blood.  To do this she must truly love Warren, the vampire fought down a wave of rage at the man.  She had loved Fiona first and they had shared so much over the years, and yet Fiona had chosen him over her. A century ago she would have probably killed them both out of spite.

A door closest to the stairs was silent, frowning Alexei opened it.  The iron door was just as thick and heavy as it looked, but her vampiric strength made it easy.  Chained to the far wall, Molly's pale body seemed to glow in the dark.  She shivered leaning against the stonewall.  The dark matted head shook and she looked up.  "Come to gloat."  She spat out.

Stepan had stripped her, whipped her and left her chained to the wall.

"No, my pretty Molly, I've come to see if you've learned your lesson."  She walked closer standing before the beaten woman.

"I hate you."

"I know."  Alexei said crouching down, she reached out a hand stroking Molly's face.

Molly nuzzled into the cool hand.

"It doesn't always have to be like this."  Alexei whispered.

"Yes it does.  You killed him, and I came all this way, stalked you across Europe to kill you."  The woman murmured out.

"Instead you needed my blood more.  He had to die Molly.  He tortured and raped dozens of women; he left a trail leading clues of our existence.  The vampire council couldn't have that."

"He never did that to me, he loved me.  I was his pet, he promised me forever.  You took that away."

Alexei nodded.  "I did, and if I could go back, I wouldn't change anything.  He was a dangerous rabid dog that needed to be put down.  I found you chained in a closet in his basement hideaway.  If I hadn't heard you moan you would have died there.  Chains and abuse aren't love Molly."

"They are to me."

"I know that’s why we have to do all this every decade or so.  So you know I love you."

"Except you don't.  You aren't capable of it; you don't love any of us.  Cause if you loved anything, I would kill it so you could comprehend how I feel."  She spat out.

"I loved Fiona."  She croaked out.

"No, you needed Fiona, but you never loved her."

The words were like physical slaps to her, and Alexei growled grabbing Molly by her hair and lifted her up to stare angrily into her blue eyes.

The British woman smiled.  "There's my beautiful beast, I've missed you."  Her chained hands gripped Alexei's shoulders and she leaned in kissing Alexei's cool, stony face.  Leaning back she studied the pale gray eyes that almost seemed to glow in the darkness.  "There's a look in your eyes I haven't seen in a while, is your new pet working you up and not putting out.  Didn't choose a sapphist?  Just picked her up, because she reminded you of Fiona?  Or do you secretly just have a thing for redheads?"

Alexei didn't say anything but let go of the woman's dark hair.

Molly dropped to her knees in front of the powerful woman, and nuzzled her face into the crotch of the woolen pants.  The chains clinked softly as she lifted her hands and undid the buttons there.  "I can smell your desire.  That little slip of a girl really has gotten under your skin in a few days."  Molly kept poking, prodding not wanting the mask of humanity Alexei had taken up. She wanted the monster that lurked so close under the skin.

"But instead of taking her, which is your right, you allow her more illusion of freedom which she doesn't have.  How long until you shatter and she sees you for what you really are and she breaks like those before?"

Strong hands grabbed pale shoulders and picked her up slamming her against the rough stone growling she bared her fangs.  Molly just laughed as they came together, her legs wrapped around the cool body.  Sharp teeth pierced her skin at her throat and upper chest.  Thrusting against each other, it was rough primal, and quick.

Harsh breathing filled the small room. Alexei leaned against Molly smashing her between her and the wall.  Disgusted with herself Alexei stepped back refastening her pants.  "It doesn't have to be like this."

Molly laughed.  "This is all we are.  Human or vampire; we are primal beasts only wanting food or a fuck."

She ran a pale hand through her blonde hair.  "That's him speaking Molly not me.  I'll send Stepan with the key to let you out.  Don't forget your place."

"Don’t forget yours."  Molly mumbled as the door shut.


It was late afternoon the day after the messenger had visited them that Katiya left the manor for the first time. She waved a goodbye to Warren, who as usual was preparing something delicious smelling in the kitchen, some of which she’d sampled for lunch. Dressed in clothes that had been waiting for her in Alexei’s room, since she still hadn’t picked out her own bedroom, she made her way to the front door. The clothes were interesting, they didn’t look high class, but the fabric was good quality and to her surprise she found it easy to move in compared to normal dresses.

Lyov met her at the door, opening it for her without a word and closing it behind her as she left. She’d expected some sort of questioning, but he’d simply given her a gruff nod in response to her good day and that was that. Alexei had probably warned him that she’d be going out soon she figured.

Glad that the rather simple looking dress she’d found wasn’t what would be considered high classed she rode the carriage back into the heart of the city. These were the streets she knew well, with their throngs of factory workers and penniless beggars mixed with a liberal sprinkling of shopkeepers and managers.

“This is perfect!” She called up the trap in the roof to the driver, waiting until the door was opened before stepping out of the carriage. “Thank you.” She smiled to the woman who was the head of Alexei’s stables.

“Be careful.” Was the reply as the woman, dressed in livery no less, hopped back up onto the back of the carriage and with a tsk, got the perfectly matched horses moving again.

They were, Katiya had to admit, beautiful horses. She’d have to go see the stables soon, as Warren had suggested. For now though, she had a job to do. Bundling the dark colored peasants coat closer about her shoulders she merged into the crowds of people with practiced ease.

It took a couple of hours of walking and meeting with old friends of her fathers, along with the use of almost half the money that Alexei had given her, but she finally had an address, along with some rather interesting rumors. Rumors that she was pretty sure Alexei would be interested to hear, if she hadn’t already left for St. Petersburg by the time Katiya got back.

The address turned out to be a rather nondescript building tucked into the back yard of a warehouse complex that had seen better days. The sun was starting to slip behind the horizon when she made her approach.

Sticking to the shadows, Katiya paused long enough to tie back her red hair in a dark bandana she’d bought in the market place. The red hair, from her mother’s side her father had always told her, wasn’t a great thing to have when trying to hide from sight.

Ignoring the front door she slipped around behind the house, smiling as she spotted the back door she’d been told would be there. The lock picks tucked away in her waistband were put to good use on the simple lock.

“I told you it was a bad idea!”

A male voice yelled from inside and Katiya knew she was at the right place.

“No you didn’t! You thought it was a great idea, you stupid idiot.”

“Hey, don’t call me an idiot. You know I hate that!”

The voices were getting angrier by the moment and she sighed. Why couldn’t everyone be nice and calm when she arrived? No that would be too simple.

Gently closing the door behind her, but leaving it unlocked in case she needed a quick escape, the redhead moved deeper into the house.

Two men were arguing in the living room, there was a strong family resemblance between them. Both had the same hooked nose, broad shoulders, and dark shaggy hair. One was clean-shaven while the other; younger looking brother, had a decent moustache started.

“We should never have taken the job!” That was the older one, slamming a mug full of what Katiya figured was ale, back onto the rickety table that, along with four wooden chairs, was the only furniture in the small kitchen.

“What choice did we have?” The younger brother snorted, feet up on the table, nursing his own mug.

Katiya stayed in the doorway, considering her options. Finally she simply decided to join the conversation. “You could have walked away.”

The younger brother slammed his chair down, hand going to what she had no doubt was a blade of some sort in his pocket. The older brother finished his drink, and then set it back down on the tabletop, dark intelligent eyes watching her intently.

“Who are you?”

She smiled, ignoring the question. “I might be able to help you.”

“We don’t need help.” That was the younger one.

“That’s not what I heard.” She shifted, keeping a good distance between her and them. “I heard there used to be four brothers, not two and you both are wanted men. A blood price on your heads.”

“How did you…”

The young one started, to be cut off in mid sentence by the older brother when he held up a hand.

“You seem to know a lot. How could you help us?”

“I can talk to the person who has the blood price out on you.”

The men glanced at one another, reading each other’s expression.

The older one nodded slightly and looked back at Katiya. “You can get her to back off?”

Katiya had to be careful here; she didn’t know what she could promise before talking directly to Alexei. “I can talk to her.”

That wasn’t the answer he’d been hoping for, but he nodded grimly. “That could help, but even so we won’t be able to work in this city ever again.”

A purse full of what was left of the money that Alexei had given her landed on the tabletop. “That will get you out of the city and a long way towards wherever you want to go, away from here.”

The younger one reached for the bag, stopping when the other brother held up a hand.

“And for all of this generosity what would you expect of us?”

“There were items you stole from her, I want them.”

He made a grimace at that. “I’m afraid we can’t help you there. We already passed those items on before she came after us.”

“Fine, tell me where you sold them, who was your contact?”

She’d work her way up the chain if she had to, it wasn’t going to be as fast but she could do it.

“We give you a name and you do what you can to get the blood price off us right?”

“That’s the deal.”

The younger brother grabbed the sack of coins, letting out a little whistle as he looked inside. He looked up and answered this time. “Our contact was a man named Fenix. He’s…”

“A fence that lives on the outskirts of the city, not far from the Cathedral.” She finished, sighing. She knew whom they were talking about; he’d been the fence that her father had used on more than one occasion.

“You know him?”


“He’s the one who should have the blood price on his head. He didn’t even pay us for all the stuff we managed to steal.”

Katiya opened her mouth to say that she couldn’t promise that the price would be dropped from their heads when something heavy hit the roof above them. All three shifted towards the walls, eyes staring up at the sound. Her hand found the handle of the small dagger she’d brought along, not drawing it quite yet though.

“What is that?” The younger one asked.

“Shhh…” The older one whispered, crouching as what sounded like footsteps started to walk across the roof above them.

“You!” The younger one hissed, eyes blazing as he glared at Katiya. “You brought them here!”

“Why would I do that?” She hissed back.

“Probably because you’re working for them!”

“Just shut up, both of you.” The older brother growled, still watching the ceiling. The footsteps had stopped, somewhere above their heads. All three of them were tense, staring up at the peeling kitchen ceiling.

The younger man shifted, looking over at his brother. “Do you think it’s gone?”

Ever so quietly, Katiya took a step backwards, then another, slowly moving closer to the back door she’d entered through.

“Maybe.” The way he said it, that sounded like a no.

“We should look.”

In the shadows of the hallway Katiya shook her head back and forth. That sounded like a terrible idea.

Apparently the older brother agreed. “Are you insane?”

“We should…”

Whatever else he was going to say was overwhelmed by the explosion of boards and plaster that erupted from the ceiling above him.

One second the man was standing there, the next second his legs were kicking frantically from a hole in the ceiling and his screaming went on and on.

“Nooooo!” His brother yelled, lunging at the legs and wrapping his arms around them, trying to pull his brother down. There was a terrible cracking sound and the legs stopped kicking.

That was enough for Katiya. She turned and sprinted for the door, ignoring the enraged screaming of the sole remaining brother behind her. “Come and get it you son of a bitch! I’ll gut you!”

Since she doubted that was how it was going to work, Katiya hit the door at a run, busting through it and going right on.

Behind her the yelling died in a gurgling scream.

All of a sudden the night was dead quiet around her, only the sound of her harsh breathing and her feet hitting the ground as she ran as fast as she could towards the warehouses.

From the corner of her eye she saw something make an impossible leap from the top of the house behind her onto the nearest warehouse roof. The shadowy figure lopped along the roof, following her path with deceptive ease on the steep angled roof.

She didn’t have time to curse, or to breathe, simply kept running praying that she could make the street. Although why it would be safer out there then in here she wasn’t too sure.

The redhead did have time to scream as the figure leapt off the top of the warehouse, hurtling through the darkness towards her. There was a flash of bared fangs, pale skin and long blonde hair before the vampire hit her.

They went tumbling sideways. She managed to curl into a ball, absorbing as much force as she could without breaking anything and bound to her feet. As quick as she was, the vampire was faster. With the unnatural grace she’d come to associate with their kind, he flowed to his feet and grabbed her by her neck, slamming her up against the warehouse wall hard enough that she saw stars.

“Well look at this.” The accent was strange, his voice had a pleasant kind of drawl to it, she thought while vainly struggling to get free of his grip. Ignoring her flailing like one would ignore an infant’s squirming, he pulled down the high neck of her dress to see the mark on her neck.

Laughing he let go of the fabric. “You’re her property aren’t you?” The fangs came closer and she kicked, doing more damage to her feet then him she thought.

“Feisty one aren’t you? Imagine the message this will send when I drain you dry and everyone finds out that the all powerful Alexei Petrova can’t protect her own.”

“Go to hell.” She managed to wheeze out, trying to pry at the iron like grip on her throat.

He laughed, rearing his head back, and laughed. “How charming. Go to hell. I’ve been there my sweet, and let me tell you, it’s a fun place.” His smile got closer and so did those fangs. “Goodbye.”

The vampire opened his mouth wider, shoving her head back and to the side to expose the jugular.

Gunpowder roared so close by that Katiya was blinded for a moment by the bright flash in the darkness. A heavy weight slammed into the body holding hers and sent the vampire tumbling sideways.

“Move!” A female voice said, as a hand grabbed her shoulder and helped her back to her feet. Staggering blindly, the redhead followed in the direction the hand was pulling her. Blinking against the after images she blearily made out the person herding her along.


“Yes.” Came the terse response. Seeing that Katiya could move alone she let go and still moving started to reload the impressive looking rifle she was carrying, sliding what looked like an iron bar into it.

“How did you…”

“Run. It’s not dead. Contrary to what you think, a wooden stake doesn’t kill them, just slows them down. Bullets do nothing.”

If she had any doubts that Tereza was telling the truth, that doubt was gone when a scream of pure hatred came from behind them.

They made it as far as the street beyond the warehouse before Katiya glanced over her shoulder and saw the vampire quickly closing towards them. She let loose a yell of warning and Tereza turned and started to raise her rifle to fire.

The vampire was impossibly fast though, slamming into her and swatting the rifle from her hand with pathetic ease. He tried to rip out her throat, but a strong metal collar, hidden by her leather coat, stopped him.

“Get off me you piece of shit!” Tereza yelled, grabbing the hilt of a long silvered blade at her side and swung it at him. He laughed, grabbing her arm and bending it backwards until she screamed in pain and dropped the blade.

“Human.” He growled. “Pathetic. Do you seriously think you could hunt me?”

He’d either assumed Katiya was harmless or incapable of harming him.

Usually her response to someone trying to hurt her was to hide, slide into the shadows, and go as far away as possible. Instead she picked up the rifle and pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger.

The foot and a half long black iron bar punched through the back of his skull and partway out the front with a spray of blood. The vampire toppled sideways off of Tereza, laying still in a pool of expanding dark blood.

Katiya stood where she was, breathing hard, hands shaking, still clutching the rifle she’d just used. The dark skinned woman stared up at her, obviously surprised. With a grunt of pain, and cradling her right arm, she got to her feet.

Automatically Katiya offered her the rifle when she held out a hand for it.

“Is he dead?”

“No, it isn’t.” Tereza growled, emphasizing it, she was hurt and when she got hurt she got angry. Grunting in pain she slung the rifle over her shoulder. “Come help me.”

“Why?” Katiya followed though.

“Because I can’t use my right arm.” The dark skinned woman fumbled around and picked up the sword she’d dropped. “Here.”

Not really sure what she was supposed to do with it, Katiya took the offered blade. Watching curiously as Tereza awkwardly got down on her knees and jerked the blonde haired head backwards, exposing his throat.

“Do it.”

“Do what?”

The other woman sighed. “What do you think? You have to take off the head to kill a vampire, don’t you know anything?”

Katiya stared at her in horror. “Wait, you want me to cut off his head?”

“Were you not just listening to me? Yes of course I want you to cut off its head!”

“I don’t know how… I mean… I’ve never….”

“He tried to kill you. He killed the two men in that house, he definitely was going to kill you if he caught you and I think he was going to do away with me too. This” she tugged at the bolt of metal sticking out of the vampire’s skull “won’t stop him. He will regenerate it. Then he’s going to find you and kill you. Probably slowly and painfully before he goes after all of the people around you.”

It was the last little bit that decided Katiya. The mental image of this beast going after gentle Shiro, maybe Warren the cook, or causing problems for Alexei.

The blade got stuck on the first swing, cutting only halfway through the vampire’s throat. She had to tug it free, planting a foot on the man’s chest to help. Then the second swing, two handed this time, severed the head. Immediately she looked away, trying to swallow down the bile that rose in her throat.

Gentle hands took the sword from her. “It gets easier. Trust me, I know.” She gasped in pain as she struggled up to her feet.

“You’re hurt.” The redhead moved to her side, taking her uninjured arm and slinging it over her shoulders to help her stand.

“It’s nothing.” Was the accented response, but the vampire hunter leaned against her.

“Umm hmm.” Was the dubious answer. “Where are we going?”


“You want me to leave you here?”

Tereza struggled with the answer to that. She was the one who rescued people, not the other way around. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all. She was the vampire hunter, damnit!



Katiya sighed and started walking back towards the slums. She knew Ravenshelm well; most decent people avoided that region of the city for good reason.

“You live in the slums?”

“Rent.” Tereza grunted in pain as she tried to use her right arm and gave up. “That’s where the attacks happened, so that’s where I set up shop.”

It wasn’t as bad as Katiya had feared it would be. They saw only a few people moving about, shadows within shadows among the mostly dark streets. The vampire hunter had taken up residence in what had, in better times, been a bank.

“Nice.” Was Katiya’s only comment, as she helped the lagging woman up the stairs to the heavy doors. “Didn’t the Treylord’s live here?” The local band had owned this part of town.

“I evicted them.” Tereza said heavily, her side and shoulder hurting more than she was trying to show.

That must have been a scene that Katiya would have been interested to watch, considering there’d been five of them to Tereza’s one. “Careful, here’s the stairs.” She started to move them both up the stairs, guiding the faltering vampire hunter.

“You sure you’re all right?”

The dark skinned woman slipped, hissing out a curse in a language that Katiya didn’t know. “Just fine.” She said, through gritted teeth.

“Sure you are.” The heavy door banged shut behind them and Katiya took a moment to look around. The interior was empty, draped with dust and cobwebs. “Where to?”

“Second floor.”

Now that she knew what to look for she could see the path through the dust up the stairs. “Why the second floor? Wouldn’t the basement be safer?”

Tereza laughed, then gasped, as that put pressure on what she was beginning to suspect was a broken rib. “No other way out of the basement.”

The redhead nodded. That made sense; it was always good to have a second way to flee in case things went bad. She’d known thieves who’d made mistakes like that, bad things usually happened to them.

Through a door that said bank manager’s office she helped Tereza to the single thick sleeping pad in the corner.

“There’s a lamp.” Tereza pointed to the oil lantern set up on the dust-covered desk. It took a few tries but the woman managed to light the oil wick, casting light throughout the dark wood covered room.

“You travel light.” Katiya nodded to the few possessions that lay around the bed pad.

“I travel a lot.” A flash of white teeth against darker skin that Katiya found herself responding to in kind, she could relate to that.

After the second attempt by the vampire hunter to remove her shirt, Katiya rolled her eyes and kneeled down. “Let me do that.” She batted away hands and pulled the shirt up, setting it aside.

“That looks like it hurts.” A mottled angry looking bruise was forming across the dark skinned woman’s side.

Tereza poked at it, hissing in pain. No question about it, at least one broken rib. “There’s a wrap in my bag, help me wrap my ribs?”

Gingerly, since there were many sharp pointy things with long blades or sharp pointy things that were attached to stakes, the redhead rummaged around until she found a long length of linen wrap. “I’m sorry, but this is going to probably hurt.” She started to wrap around the other woman’s chest, keeping it tight enough to do some good, but aware of every twitch of pain by the other woman.

“Thank you.” Tereza touched Katiya’s hands, stilling them as she finished tying off the linen.

Nervous, and not sure why she should be, Katiya smiled. “I still owe you for helping with Boris.”

“A bully, that one. I fear he is probably still intent on you.”

Katiya shrugged, so be it, she’d just make sure to stay far away.

Dark eyes narrowed suddenly and Tereza’s grip on her hands tightened.


“What is that?” Keeping Katiya’s hands held in one of hers, she tugged aside the neckline of her shirt.

Revealing the red looking bite mark that was still healing.


Alexei paced worried and annoyed. Katiya was still not back, everyone was ready to go, Stepan, Sergei, Shiro, and Molly would come with her leaving Matvey and the twins Niki and Nada in charge. Sergei was particularly grumpy at being pulled away from the factories.

Molly had an overly satisfied look on her face that just annoyed her more.

"We're going to be cutting it close." Stepan hinted at carefully.

"I believe a carriage is arriving, Mistress." Lyov announced from the doorway.

"Ahhh, has you pet shaken her leash?" Molly sniped.

Normally Alexei wouldn't have let that go, but considering what had happened earlier between them, she said nothing.

"Here she is Mistress." Lyov announced, pulling open the door before Katiya had a chance to even raise her hand to knock. The redhead blinked in surprise as she saw the gathered people in the entryway, standing for a moment outside. Then she saw Lyov's not so subtle jerk of his head and she moved inside so that he could close the door behind her.

"Where have you...” Her tirade stopped before it even got started, as she smelled the scents coming off of Katiya. "What happened?" She snarled. "Who attacked you?"

The human woman winced; she really shouldn't have been so surprised that Alexei had known so quickly. "I don't know. He didn't say his name." She stayed where she was, near the door, uncomfortable with all eyes upon her.

"Interesting she won't sleep with you, but she'll come home smelling of strange vampires." Molly said grinning nastily from the foot of the stairs.

Katiya flushed red, glaring across the entry hall at the elegant looking woman. "He tried to kill me."

Alexei said nothing but grabbed Katiya and in a blur of motion ran them up to her game room.

"I'm sorry." Katiya whispered into the shirt she was pressed up against, shuddering a little. She hadn't had a chance to feel afraid while it was happening, but now, she felt cold and tired. "I tried to be careful."

Alexei snarled feeling her fangs extend and retract. "Not just the vampire you smell of another woman, strongly." She hissed out. Part of her realized she was over-reacting. First Molly's game and now this, the smell of a vampire and someone else's scent and blood on Katiya.

“Tereza, she saved me.” Hesitating to give away anything more

Alexei let go and began pacing. "A human saved you from a vampire?" She didn't know what was more troubling an unknown vampire in her city or a human who could kill her kind.

"Well..." Katiya hesitated. "I guess I helped. I shot him in the head with her gun."

She stopped pacing and roared out. "What?"

Shaken, Katiya took a step back, shivering at the intensity of the look on Alexei's face. Now she did feel like a mouse, in the presence of a large and dangerous feline. "He was going to kill her and then me. He knew who you were. He'd already killed the Brothers that I'd managed to find."

Alexei started pacing again. Her mind was racing this wasn't good she was leaving her territory with a new pet, a vampire that looked like a teenage boy, and a pair of nearly feral vamp twins. This wasn't good.

"I umm… found out something’s that are interesting. The fence they sold your things to is the one that Ivan uses. His name is Fenix and I heard earlier, while I was looking for the Brothers, that he's the one who brokered the deal with Ivan to get the deed for your factory also."

"Fenix?" She mulled the name over in her head. "I don't think I know him, but you know of him?" She absently began to play with stuff in the room.

"My father used him on occasion to fence things he'd, we'd, stolen."

"So you've met him?"

"Once." She shivered. "He turned us away the night my dad died."

“I’m sorry.” Alexei stepped closer sensing Katiya’s sadness.

Katiya let a breath pressing on with her thoughts. “I was thinking I could go check into Fenix…”

"No! I forbid it. It will have to wait until I'm back." She had no way of knowing if there were more vampires un-invited in her city.

Katiya knew she looked stubborn but she knew she could find out more without getting in trouble. "I'll go during the daylight and only stay out during the day; I’ll come back here at night."

Alexei blinked at Katiya dumbstruck, the human had just told her no.

"Then," Katiya continued, oblivious to the look she was getting as she planned it out in her mind "when you get back I'll have all the information for you, maybe I can even get your things back from Fenix if he hasn't sold them already." That last part wasn't very likely, but anything was possible.

Alexei started laughing. "Oh, mouse, do you realize how many people have ever told me no?" She left off the 'and lived'.

"I didn't tell you..." the human trailed off as she realized she had just indeed done that.”I mean... that's not what I mean." She looked chagrined. "Sorry?"

The laughter trailed off and Alexei sighed. "You're determined to do this aren't you? No matter what I say?" She walked over to the tapestry of her fighting Herne the Huntsman and picked up the twisted piece of metal that rested on a shelf under it.

"I can help you." Katiya said, a touch of stubbornness returning to her voice. "I'll be more careful, I’ll only go out during the daylight. That should keep me from running into anymore problems." It would make finding Felix more difficult, but she was up for the challenge.

Alexei gripped the metal hard in her hand; despite her vampiric strength it didn't bend. "I don't have the time to teach you what you'll need to survive. You’re too new." The timing of this and Karl's summons, she had to wonder if they were related.

"I've survived in the streets before I met you that night in the warehouse." Katiya reminded her, proud, she thought justifiably so, of her abilities. "I made a mistake staying out too late, this time I won't do that."

The blonde smiled a sardonic smile, Katiya didn't understand, for her to have a pet taken from her or killed under her nose was a loss of face, it would promote others to come and chip away at her power.

Mistaking that smile, Katiya smiled in response. "Then when you get back from your trip I'll have more information for you."

"I won't be here to stop you, let Lyov know where you're going when you go out. He'll let the twins and Matvey know so they can look for you.”

The redhead nodded, agreeing, and stepped closer to the vampire, studying the lines of tension that showed on her sculpted face. "You're leaving now?"

She turned looking at Katiya. "Yes, as soon as we’re done."

"I'm sorry I was late." Katiya had the feeling that she'd held her up, but that was insane, there was no reason for this powerful vampire to wait for her.

Her face showed she still wasn't happy. "Don't be sorry, just be careful." She moved slowly, like a statue coming to life. Her own paranoia blossoming, a great need to reaffirm the bond between Master and Pet. A pale hand reached out grabbing the back of Katiya's neck and pulled her into her body. She leaned her head down, as the scent of the other vampire hit her nose instinctively her lips pulled back in snarl.

There was no point in fighting that incredible strength, so the human let herself be pulled close, wincing as her head was pushed back, exposing her neck.

She rubbed her cheek against the warm flesh feeling the pulse of blood underneath. Gently she kissed the skin. "You're mine." She whispered and then opened her mouth letting her fangs cut the skin, she didn't need blood not after her and Molly earlier, but she needed to make sure the connection was understood.

The body underneath those fangs shuddered, tensing for an instant and then relaxing as blood welled up under Alexei's lips. "Yes." Katiya whispered, her hands sliding up to clutch at the taller woman's back through the fabric of her elegant clothes.

A little bit of blood was taken and then she licked the wounds closed. She kissed up the pale column of neck up to red lips; she spent some time there before she ran her own tongue against one of her fangs slicing it open and forced the bleeding muscle into redhead's mouth. Sending the human off balance, with alternating gentleness and force.

The kiss was so intoxicating that Katiya swayed, eyes closed she moaned in pleasure barely conscious of the copper tang of blood. When the kiss ended she had to stay clinging to Alexei for a little while or fall over. That had been different. "Ummm..." She managed eyes unfocused as she opened them.

One hand was fisted in Katiya's shirt the other still held the piece of metal, and Alexei fought the urge to claim and conquer any more than she already had. The coolness of the metal got her attention and she frowned weighing the pros and cons of it. To use it would mean a favor owed. She untangled her hand from the shirt. She sniffed at Kat happy that she no longer smelled of other things.

Still looking a little dazed, the human woman licked lips that were still tingling. "You..." she blinked, trying to recover from that assault that had ended so nicely.

A discreet knock at the doorway was followed by Lyov's voice. "Mistress, your carriage is ready, whenever you wish to leave." Then he retreated, without opening the door.

"Me?" Alexei supplied feeling better happily she noted, she no longer smelled of Molly. "15 minutes, have everyone in the carriage waiting for me."

"Yes Mistress." The voice trailed back as he continued hobbling down the hall away, as if he'd expected that response.

Taking a breath, Katiya cleared her mind enough to focus again. "Definitely yours." There, she was happy she'd managed a full sentence again as her brain started working again.

Alexei beamed in pride, she straightened up, grasping the metal in her hand harder. "I have to leave soon, but come with me. If I cannot protect you..." and she did not really trust her children to take the care with her pet that she would like, Katiya would be just a human to them, they were young yet. "I will summon a guardian for you." Her free hand grasped one of Katiya's and led her to the door.

"What kind of Guardian?" Katiya followed along, interested in what this guardian thing could be. "Will it have claws? What about see in the dark?" She thought seeing in the dark and having claws would be a great thing for a guardian to have.

"Yes." Alexei said cryptically as she led the woman down the stairs and out through the green house and into the wilderness behind it.

"I don't think I told you yet, but that is the most amazing thing I've seen." She looked behind her at the green house, still impressed with the warmth and greenery inside it. The redhead shivered in the cold air, she'd rather spend time in there then outside during the winter.

Alexei nodded.

"The industrialized world doesn't allow for humans to spend their time hunting and gathering, so they can horde food for the winter. Now the factories worldwide make you work: morning, noon, and night. So once winter comes and daylight is a brief three-hour time frame, nothing grows. You grow weak and sick, and some die, when most of that can be prevented with a good diet. That insures the humans that work for me stay healthy."

She held her hand out in front of her and slowly opened her fingers revealing the piece of metal resting there.

The human moved a bit closer, trying to see what the piece of metal was. "Everyone should have a greenhouse." She agreed.

"Yes, they should, but people aren't so wise. Did you know humans are the only animal on the face of this planet that sleep where they shit, they live in the filth of their own creation?"

Katiya blinked, looking up at Alexei's face. "We are?" She knew people could be disgusting.

She closed her eyes and focused on the object in her hand. It had been decades since she's used it, and she wasn't certain that he was still dining on her lands. "Yes you are. Although all vampires were once human so they're not much better."

"That's a depressing thought." She said quietly, recognizing the intent expression on the other woman's face.

She found it, the thread that still connected the metal to the person she was looking for. "Vidar, get your ass over here!" She shouted.

The metal grew warm in her palm.

Something shifted in the darkness of the trees and Katiya instinctively moved closer to Alexei's side, staying close to her.

It was hard to see at first its coat was as white as the snow, the air seemed to grow colder, and after a few seconds a large white hound was seen running towards them. Its coat was as white as a fresh snowfall, except for its ears which both looked as if they had been dipped in blood.

"What is he?" Katiya's eyes were wide as she watched the hound easily lope towards them.

It came to a stop in front of them sitting down on its haunches his breath didn't fog or steam in the cold. Black eyes watched and waited.

"He is Vidar the first hound created by Hel for the hunt, made it is rumored from the first snow fall. When I broke the horn it broke into six pieces. One piece for each hound, each piece holding its freewill and soul. They could not be trusted with freewill just yet so each piece was given to a keeper until such a time they were deemed ready. Three hounds of ice and three of fire and always the pack must remain at six if one dies another will be born to replace it. I keep Vidar's because he is the first and one created from the essence of the wilderness."

"What happened to the other five?" Cautiously she moved closer to the hound, seeing if it was going to growl.

She was still, her own gray eyes’ never leaving his black ones. His hackles raised and his lips pulled back in a snarl and she echoed in kind not backing down. "She's mine Vidar, and she is a friend." She said calmly. The hound's fur lay back down and the white teeth covered by lips.

“The other five were given to five of the wisest people I know to guide them into the world of freewill." She replied finally to Katiya's question.

"Oh." Katiya watched the dog warily, having gripped Alexei's arm when his hackles had risen. "He doesn't look very friendly." Maybe she'd be safer with the tigers.

The vampire squared her shoulders. "I have a task for you Vidar." She reached out taking Katiya's hand placing the piece of metal in it and closed her fingers around it.

"Are you really sure..." Katiya started to say, really starting to think that the tigers were a really great idea.

The dog's form shimmered and kneeling in the snow was a great mass of a man: pale as snow, hair whiter than Alexei's except at each temple where blood red strains were braided together framing each side of his face. He was a Norse God made flesh; down each arm were pale markings. "What do you want?" He snarled at the vampire with a thick Norse accent.

Besides these two Katiya felt even more insignificant than before, and she shrunk back tightly against Alexei's side as she stared wide eyed at the man. "Oh." She whispered.

Alexei gave Katiya a comforting squeeze before letting go. "I wish you to protect what is mine. You will be her shadow, her protector, and never forget her life is more important than yours."

The man cocked his head to the side, sizing Katiya up. "She's that important to you? A human. A girl."

Oh yes, Katiya could tell that he was going to be a joy to be around. "He'll be like a dog most of the time right?" she whispered.

The vampire nodded and then eyed the man.

"Stop quibbling, I'm giving you an opportunity to do something perhaps even a hunt or at least the chance to kill something. Or have you grown weak from years of hibernating that this is beyond you?"

The hound scowled. "I'll do as you ask. The girl will be safe." There was a quickening in his blood at the thought of prey.

In the blink of an eye the man was gone and in its place was the hound.

"He'll listen to you right?" Katiya whispered, keeping an eye on the man who was a hound or maybe it was the other way around.

Alexei smiled softly happy Katiya would have a supernatural bodyguard while she was gone. She turned to Katiya. "No he'll listen to you. You have his soul."

"Oh." She kept the little piece of metal in her hand. She'd have to be careful to avoid loosing that. "Is there anything else I should know before you leave?"

"Just remember not to be a timid mouse with him, and most men can be won over by a good meal." She looked behind them back at the house, she needed to go, but was reluctant to do so. "Be careful."

"I will." Katiya hesitated, but then decided not to be timid and stood up on tip toes to give the vampire a kiss. "Be careful." She said, solemnly.

Alexei's eyebrows rose in surprise, but she returned the kiss. "I will try. Now I really need to go.” She disengaged herself from the young woman and turned walking quickly towards the house.

"Bye." Katiya watched her go. A whine at her side made her look down at the white haired dog with red ears. "I know, she'll be safe."

The hound snorted but nudged his head into her empty hand.

"Right, you want to hunt or something right?" She looked up at the sky. There was no way she would be going into the city during the nighttime. "We won't be leaving the manor until the morning."

He huffed in annoyance but nodded. Sitting the large dog looked at her expectantly waiting to shadow her.

"Guess you're coming inside with me." Katiya was comforted with the idea of him near her, especially if any other vampires showed up. She started to walk towards the manor. "Hope you don't mind tigers."

The hound followed silently at her heels moving easily over the snow.


The large steam engine locomotive eased its way into the private train station on the edge of St. Petersburg. The dark engine was in perfect condition, as were the four opulently appointed train cars that it had pulled across the night time countryside. A small group of people waited for it at the station.

A man dressed in a simple black great coat that had the air of being decades out of fashion and with shoulder length blonde hair watched the train arrive without expression. It was his duty to greet the arriving vampire lords; a duty he fulfilled as directed by his own lord, but that didn't make it a pleasant one.

While his underlings got to work unloading the baggage he stepped forward, waiting for Alexei to emerge.

Alexei stood staring out the window into the black of night. She couldn't help but think she might have made a mistake leaving Katiya, but nothing to do about it now. She was aware of Stepan waiting supernaturally still behind her. "Everyone is waiting on me I suppose?" She asked not turning around.

"Karl has sent Timur to greet you." Was his answer, standing perfectly still as if he was content to do so until the train rusted apart around them if he had to.

"Sergei is out bootlicking, Molly is flirting, Shiro waits patiently secure I will rescue her from any harm, and you wait in my shadow. How will we survive trapped in this place among those that only consider living in taking blood?" She turned finally. "They make me want to curl up in the womb of mother earth and sleep until they are dust."

Stepan held out his arm and she took it. "You still burn as brightly as the day I took your mortality away. Why is that?" She mused as he escorted her to the exit. "Is it because you're an actor and studied the human condition so you can mimic on and off the stage?"

He gave a very human shrug, with a wry grin. "Because I take joy in the world as it is, both good and bad." He escorted her towards the door at the head of the carriage, choosing his words carefully. "You seem more aware of the world around you these days."

She thought about not answering for a moment, but finally said something. "Yes, for too long I've been content to sit and watch the fire burn. Allowing others to do my work for me, in my name. Your tip on the blood house was the wake up call I needed I guess."

Maybe, but he didn't say that out loud of course, instead held the door open for her as she descended to the train platform.

The vampire in the great coat watched impassively as she stepped down, and then gave her a slow bow from the waist. "Alexei." The voice rumbled from somewhere in his chest, low and filled with gravel. Timur was Karl's enforcer in St. Petersburg, responsible for seeing that his lords will was obeyed.

"Timur." Responded with only a nod of her head, which was more respect than she showed any of her kind. Timur was vicious and loyal, a born killer, she could see it in his eyes. She imagined he could have become nothing else than a vampire; he was in harmony with the savage he had become. She had been there when Karl found him, toyed with taking him but while Karl liked monsters she was only drawn to those with a spark of something utterly human in there marrow.

"Any hints for me as too why Karl, desires to hold court?"

He turned, walking alongside her as they moved towards the dark coach that he had brought to carry her back to Karl's manor. Others were pulled up from her children and pets, the first of which he glanced over to see if any could prove a challenge to him, the last he ignored as pieces of meat.

"Trouble in the America's apparently." He didn't particularly care of course, unless there was something that needed killing in front of him, he seldom did care.

"The Americas are always troubling. They love their notions of democracy and freedom, and they spawn loathsome, lazy, cruel vampires who always shake up the status quo endangering everybody. Although it doesn't help that we exiled our undesirables there."

She paused at the coach waiting for him to open the door.

He did so, holding it for her and ignoring the slight smirk on Stepan's face behind her.

"We should have killed them, then they wouldn't be causing problems." He'd been against the exiling of those vampire lords or children who caused problems, but apparently that hadn't been a politically acceptable alternative. "The shape changers are involved somehow." His eyes glowed a little as he said that. He did so enjoy fighting shape changers.

"Really, that's an interesting twist. But history has shown that eventually the barbarians will rise up when the noble class is drunk on its own debauchery and self-worth." She slid into the carriage.

That got a bit of a blank look from the large man as he sat down across from her along with Stepan. A rap of his fist on the ceiling got the carriage moving through the streets. "Rumor has it you have a blood bar problem." He smiled an expression devoid of any warmth. "I'm sure my lord would allow me to help wipe them out if you wish?"

"I've taken care of it and Karl has already shown me his displeasure of even allowing such a thing to spring up in my town." She looked at him neutrally before saying. "My, my out of the loop with your master. Has he found a new monster in training?"

He scowled a little, which was as much expression as he showed when casually twisting someone's head off and bathing in the blood that spurted from the severed neck. "I have been busy. There have been outcasts in the city." Outcasts were lordless vampire children, scum, to be eradicated on sight.

"Of course, busy." She did it to tweak him, something she must have picked up from Katiya. Of course Timur wasn't going to hurt her, because then he would find out what kind of monster she was.

If it was anyone but one of the vampire lords, he would have ripped out her throat, or at least tried. Instead he sat where he was, as if carved in granite until the urge to wrap his fingers around something faded. By that time they were pulling up in front of the huge mansion and he stepped out, holding open the door for her and her youngster, otherwise ignoring Stepan.

"My lord asked that I escort you to him immediately."

She didn't like that, not at all. Her fingers ached from the last audience she'd had with Karl. She showed nothing though. "Of course."

"Your child isn't invited." He said, turning and leading the way towards the manor.

Stepan raised an eyebrow, lowering his voice to a stage whisper. "I think he doesn't like me."

"He doesn't like anybody he doesn't perceive to be stronger than him. With Timur might make right." She patted Stepan comforting. "You and Shiro wait for me in my rooms I may need more than just human blood after this."

"As you say." The vampire left her side, heading to the other carriage in which her pets rode.

At the top of the steps Timur stopped, holding the door once again, face as blank as ever.

Forcing a smile she followed along behind. "Right behind you Timur."

The inside smelled dusty and dry, as if it was seldom aired out. In comparison Alexei's manor had the sense of being actually lived in. This place did not, it was a house of the dead and even Karl's pets did not stay long here. Timur lead the way towards the back of the house and the Russian master vampires study room. The house was quiet around them as they walked, silent with an almost oppressive sense of age about it.

Knocking once on the wooden door, the killer opened the door for her, staying outside and closing it behind her as she entered.

Some worshipped themselves like the undead creatures they perceived themselves to be out of human myth. Alexei was well aware that her heart still beat in her chest if only at a modified pace, barely detectable.

Karl reveled in the undead arts. Although to her knowledge he wasn't a master of any necromancy or blood magic. He was short squat man, with slicked back hair and large curling mustache, although in her opinion he would have been better off with a beard, his lack of a strong chin made her want to laugh when he got on a tear of shouting and demanding. However what really annoyed her was he wasn't even Russian, he was German. But she could have opposed the council when they appointed him, and she had done nothing.

His voice still had a hint of that German accent when he talked, although it became much more pronounced when he became upset or passionate about something. "Alexei." He smiled, an expression that bared his teeth in a rather unfriendly looking gesture. "Good, good, you came. Of course you had no choice did you?" He chuckled at his own joke.

“There are always choices Karl." She said in a neutral voice as she made her way to a chair.

"Yes, but some are more painful than others." He looked pointedly at her hand; his joviality fading away as shrewd dark eyes watched her. Karl might not have been as old as she was, but he was a master vampire and his exterior hid a deadly intelligence that many underestimated. "I trust that no more blood bars have appeared?"

"Now that we are aware the problem. We are keeping an eye out." She kept the attack on Katiya to herself for now.

"At least that's one thing taken care of." He leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers as he regarded her. "I've summoned all of the city lords here. You're the closest, but the others should be here soon enough." He tilted his head, almost like a bird would when spotting something curious. "Did Timur tell you why I summoned a full council?"

"It’s Timur; he only stops at licking your boots because you won't let him go any higher." She joked, why she didn't admit he'd told her anything she didn't know.

A flicker of something crossed his face, but he was too much a politician to let it show. "Have you heard the rumors coming out of the America's?" Karl asked in what would have been a non-sequitor if Timur hadn't told her something about it in the carriage.

"Not really I've become a bit of an isolationist in the last couple of decades. I would have gone and explored but the council decided to make the new world a dumping ground for our unwanted, and well I'd never want to be lumped in with those."

"Of course not." He waved a dismissive hand as if her going to the Americas was the farthest thing from his mind. "The council may have wanted to reconsider its actions a bit more carefully when it chose to send outcasts there. At the very least we should have seen to it that there was a lord in charge of it." He looked dour, conveniently forgetting he'd voted in favor of the strategy at the time. "They've always caused trouble of course, but now they've gone insane. They have decided to go to war with the humans for control."

"We’re fucked. To start a war there, will bring one here."

"Perhaps, possibly, not. There are options available to us. The European council will be meeting soon as well, as will our Asian friends. That may not be the most troubling rumor though. A friend has sent me word that the shape changers may side with the humans."

"I'm not surprised, I'm sure they would find it the lesser of two evils in their mind. They'd be wrong. Humans don't like to feel inferior, any species that does that, well we know how it goes. Remember Troy, Carthage, and others."

"Yes. There is no doubt that the humans would turn on the shape changers once the war ended, if they won of course." He considered her. "Have you had any contact with shape changers recently?"

"We fought over territory...” She paused it seemed like only yesterday but really it had been decades since her factories had wiped out most of the nearby forests. "No not for awhile."

"Tell me immediately if you do. We have an understanding and I don't want them getting any stupid ideas that they can use this situation to their advantage." His accent thickened.

She wanted to say 'No, Karl, you have an agreement, not the shifters. Instead she held her tongue and nodded.

"I'm glad we understand each other. You may go. I expect we will have a full council by tomorrow evening then we shall plan what to do about this vampire war."

"Of course. Tomorrow." She stood and bowed, happy to be leaving with her fingers intact.

"Timur will escort you to your rooms." He raised his voice, just enough that Timur could hear and open the door from the outside.

She only nodded and followed the other man. Happy, for the moment, she wasn't in trouble.

"This way." Timur even made it almost seem like an invitation as he stood aside, near the doorway, waiting for her to pass before closing the door behind her.

She nodded at him and passed through the doorway. It was odd to leave Karl's inner sanctum without some sort of damage to her body.

The killer in the body of a vampire walked alongside her, silent as they moved deeper into the manor. Finally, after they had put a floor or two between themselves and the Russian Master vampire he spoke. "He's worried the shape changers will decide to cause problems here, break the truce." That would be fine as far as Timur would be concerned, more killing.

"Its in both our natures to kill, the fact peace has lasted this long is surprising. But the world is getting smaller and shape shifters need a lot of territory, and man and his machines don't help that problem." She didn't know why she bothered saying anything. Nobody cared or listened.

The blonde man stopped, eyes watching her intently. "Perhaps the vampires in the America's have it right."

She blinked, but made no other sign of her surprise. That was a bit of a traitorous comment. "In which way would violators of our most basic laws have it right?" She asked curious to his reasoning.

"Maybe the humans are getting too powerful." He started moving again though, leading the way towards the rooms that she would be occupying during her stay at the manor.

"I don't know about powerful, but there numbers are increasing, they breed like rabbits." She joked. Always careful to analyze everything she said knowing full well anything she said would get back to Karl.

"There's a rumor that you found a new pet." Unlike others, Alexei was not known to get new pets often and therefore it was news worthy. He personally didn't see the use of pets, but he supposed others liked having humans around.

This wasn't surprising Karl's pet would have blabbed everything he had seen and heard. "Yes, I do have a new pet. You can safely report those rumors as fact."

A momentary slip in the normally impassive face let her see that he had indeed been ordered to ask her questions. "Here are the rooms." He shoved open the door.

She paused looking at him with cold gray eyes, no hint of warmth in them. "Anything else you need to know so you can report back to your master?"

There was fury in his eyes, carefully contained, but fury nonetheless as he ground out. "No."

She bent down and whispered in his ear. "Don't be so mad. Someday you're master will send you to kill me, and we'll finally know who the bigger monster is." She stepped back through the door into her rooms shutting the doors.

"Someday." He agreed, fists clenched so very tightly, staring at the closed doors before turning and leaving.

There was a thrill at the prospect. There was a challenge in Timur, a slight chance of death a failure that made her feel flush with purpose. The rooms were dark and tomb like, and she sighed missing her bright marble and airy home. When had she become so different from the rest of her kind seeking out those things that reminded her of life?

She unbuttoned her coat. "Shiro? Stepan?" She called out. Daylight was coming soon and she preferred those she trusted near her.

Perhaps they were busy, she knew Shiro actually preferred men, and Stepan didn't care as long as they were pretty.

"We're in here." Stepan called from the inner room, where he had been quietly reading. Shiro was curled up on the bed that had obviously not seen use in a great many years.

Again she wished she had brought Katiya, but the young woman was an international incident waiting to happen. She didn't know nearly enough about the new world she had been thrust into. Plus she would not be ready, if ever, for the attention Alexei wanted too and needed too give her here.

She hung the coat up and walked to the archway that revealed the other room. Her face showed her displeasure. "Windowless and stuffy. A reflection of our host I think."

He closed the book, setting it aside next to the oil lamp he'd been reading by. "Shall I wake Shiro?"

"No. Let her sleep. Daylight is coming soon." She didn't need blood herself, quiet full from Katiya and her tryst with Molly. "Is Molly with Sergei?"

"Next door." He agreed, not really having to spell out what it was that the two of them were doing. Rising, he nodded towards the other of the two connecting doors. "My chambers are over there apparently. They are not an improvement over yours."

"Remind be to beat Sergei when we get home. I didn't give him permission to play with any of my pets." She knew he was unhappy about making him come with her, he had wanted to stay to oversee the factories. But with him gone, Matvey was supposed to go in and double-check the ledgers. To take her pet without permission was a powerplay, and she couldn't risk making her household look weak, not here.

Molly apparently wasn't over her need for punishment, and needed Alexei to prove again her love for the pet through pain.

"I think I can remember to do that." He bowed to her. "I'll leave you to your rest."

Beautiful Shiro shifted on the bed, letting out a little sigh as she dreamed.

She laughed, a rare sound. "Stay here with me, and Shiro. Too long have I ignored my children, what kind of Master have I become these last couple of years, a decade of moping in front of the fire."

"You did seem to prefer it to us." He gave a flashing smile and was glad to avoid spending the night in the disaster of a bed next door.

She rolled her eyes, "You pup. You’re barely over a 100 years old. When you reach 1000 you can tell me if time still weighs the same on you." She wasn't mad though, a smile gracing her lips. She shed the still formal traveling clothes and slid into the bed automatically attracted to the mute woman's warmth.

He got in on the other side, stretching out on his back and giving a quiet chuckle. "So you're claiming old age as a defense then?" It was good to have her laughing again; it had been a long time, too long, since he'd heard her laugh. Perhaps the new pet had provided her with the diversion she'd needed.

"I suppose I am, my puckish man." She smiled as Shiro curled into her body, and as always she felt protective, rather than lustful thoughts about the girl. She was quiet for a moment. Then breaking the silence she said. "If something happens to me, help them find a place in the world." The ‘them’ was her pets, but they knew that.

He was quiet for a moment after she said that, frowning a little. "I'll try." He said finally. Shiro he could, but he wasn't so sure he could help Molly, there was something off in that one and he didn't know the new one yet. "Nothings going to happen to you though."

"You're right but being here makes me think the worse."

"It is a depressing place." He agreed, eyes closing as his body reacted to the rising sun. Being younger than Alexei he couldn't stay conscious as long as she could, or wake up while the sun was up.

Alexei felt him slip into the deep protective sleep, but lay there, awake until well after the sun had rose.


It was well after sunrise before Katiya was awake enough to make her way down to the kitchen and Warren's lunches. Her sleeping schedule had never been normal, but the longer she spent in the manor with Alexei, the more she found herself sleeping later through the day.

The manor felt even quieter than normal with so many of its residents gone with Alexei. "Morning Warren." She greeted the chef; amused to see the tiger in the garden ignore the white dog that was trailing along behind her with a superior air.

"" He blinked in surprise at the dog. "Found yourself a pet of your own then?" He asked.

The hound growled in annoyance at the words, but did not leave Katiya's side.

"He's my guardian. Alexei thinks I'll get into trouble without him." She slid into what was becoming her normal spot at the table and watched him. "Is Fiona doing better?"

The great man's face fell at the name. "I do not know, with the mistress gone... I made her food, but I couldn't find Matvey or the twins to take food to her."

"Oh." Katiya blinked, not sure why that would be a problem. "I could take it to her if you wanted?" She offered.

He patted her shoulder before turning back to his pots and pans. "That's sweet of you girl, but without a key nobody's taking anything anywhere."

She smiled, this sounded like something she could definitely help with. "I'm good with getting locks to open if somebody's misplaced the key." The redhead smiled, an innocent expression that had gotten her out of trouble in the past.

The hound whined and bumped his head into Katiya's leg as if trying to stop this bad idea before it could become reality.

Shhh." She whispered, "I'm just trying to help him. Fiona needs food right?" It had nothing at all to do with her curiosity to find out what was going on.

Warren quickly made up a tray, which seemed to be mostly broth and smashed apples. "This way, follow me." He whispered to the redhead.

The hound and the tiger made a great show of ignoring each other.

Happy to be able to be of use, Katiya bounded up, patting the lock picks she'd packed away in a small leather pouch in her pocket. "Don't worry, we'll do this and then go find Fenix." She said, quietly to the hound.

The great white hound just sighed, but followed along behind.

Warren led them to a hidden door off the kitchen; he lit a torch handing it to Katiya. "Careful the steps are kind of steep."

"Is she still recovering from not taking Alexei's blood?" She followed along behind him, careful of the steps and holding the torch aloft.

"I do not know, normally I make up the food and Alexei takes it down to her." That made him jealous, unable to see the woman who would be his wife, because his wife's ex-lover forbade it.

"How long has she been down here?" It seemed like a rather dark and cold place to keep someone who was recovering from being in withdrawals. The redhead stepped off the steps onto the smooth stone of the hallway floor; the only light the torches they carried. She could almost feel the disapproval from the hound following her.

"To long it feels like, but she went down here four nights before the mistress brought you here." Finally he stepped down on the hard packed earth. A short hallway with five depressing doors spread out before them.

Two of the doors were closed, one at the end of the hallway and one of the ones on the side. The end of the hallway didn’t have a lock that she could see; it was just a solid sheet of dark gray metal. The other door had a lock so she hoped that was the one that Fiona was behind.

The heavy metal door looked impressive enough but the lock didn't seem that complicated, as she got closer. "See, here are my keys." She pulled out the little packet and the slim metal tools inside it. “What’s behind that one?” The redhead nodded to the end of the hallway, starting to study the lock on the one in front of her.

"I don't know. Nobody does. Fiona told me before Molly there was another pet; she tried to sneak in there positive there was gold and gems. The mistress found out and had each limb tied to a different horse and then the horses were all sent off in different directions." He swallowed nervously afraid to even look at the door.

Katiya paused, lock picks in hand, poised in front of the door. "She had her quartered?" The redhead looked pale in the torchlight as she looked up at Warren. Well that was one way to send a message.

"That's the story I was told, I was only a babe running around the heather when it would have happened."

"Got it, no trying to go in through the metal door in the scary looking hallway." That sounded reasonable to her and she focused on the lock in front of her. It took a gentle touch to get the tumblers to shift inside but she was a deft hand at it and within a few seconds the lock clicked. "See, my keys are always good." She stood up and grabbed the doorknob.

The hound gave a worried bark that seemed loud in the shadowy light of the hallway.

As the door opened the smell of over ripe humanity snuck out the smell of piss and shit. Warren's face looked green for a moment and then angry. "How can she do this to her?" He growled out shoving the door open.

Chained in the dark corner of the small room, a shape rocked back and forth.

"Fiona? Fiona?" Warren said over and over as he rushed to her side. "This is no place for a beast let alone a woman." He muttered darkly. He set the tray down and tried to grasp Fiona's face. "Honey look at me. Are you okay?"

"Ummm... Warren." Katiya frowned, that didn't look like a good idea. She was pretty sure they should just leave the food and then close the door behind them. There was probably a really good reason that Alexei let Fiona stay here behind that stout heavy door.

A raspy voice began to mumble something.

"What's that love? Speak up I can't hear you."

"Hungry." The word rattled out.

Carefully stepping around a dark smear on the floor, Katiya stepped inside so that she could reach Warren. They should leave; even she could see that this wasn’t going to end well. “Warren, let go, we have to leave her.”

"Leave her. No!" He shouted. "Look at her. I can't leave her like this." There were tears in his eyes. "I have food for you love. Right here." He turned reaching for the tray scooping up some broth on a spoon.

He reached for her chin holding it still while he lifted the spoon to her lips. For a moment everything was fine, then the woman seemed to come to life spitting out the liquid.

"Hungry!" She howled out and lunged at Warren.

"Shit!" Katiya yelped. She could only imagine the trouble she'd be in with Alexei if the chef got hurt because she'd opened a door for him. So she slapped Fiona, hard, on the side of the face as she lunged at him.

The big man was taking completely off guard and sat back stunned at the woman he was now seeing.

"A little help here?" Katiya yelled, trying to avoid the snarling, spitting, scratching thing that vaguely resembled a woman, that was trying to get to her throat or Warren, she doubted it mattered which.

"What are you? Some little bit of girl." The mad woman paused sniffing. "You smell like Alexei."

The hound just sat there watching with interest, not doing anything.

Holding, desperately, onto two wrists with claw like fingers that had been scratching for her throat, Katiya swallowed. Throwing a dark glare at the hound who was doing nothing she said "She bit me." She wasn't quite up to saying she was a pet.

"Bit you. Bit you." The woman mumbled, the fight going out of her.

"Bit me." Katiya nodded, gentling the hold on the other woman's wrists.

The big man got his wits back and came up behind his love gently grabbing her arms. "Aye love, Katiya's the Mistress's new pet."

"No, I'm the Mistress's pet." Warren's words spurred the woman's anger, and she tried to claw at Katiya again.

The redhead was shoved down against the floor, using all of her strength to hold off the furious woman who was shrieking something again about being a pet. "Thanks a lot for the help." She yelled at the uninterested hound.

The hurt was visible on Warren's face but he didn't let go of Fiona holding tight to her wrists. He struggled though, Fiona was stronger than he'd realized.

The hound gave a doggie grin very much amused by the three humans wrestling around on the floor.

A wild swing by Fiona drew a thin line of blood on Katiya's arm, at that moment the hound stood up growling.

The temperature seemed to drop in the small cell and exhaled breaths streamed out like white fog. The hound bound over knocking Fiona off of the human he was supposed to protect and stood as a barrier between her and Katiya.

Getting up off the floor Katiya watched the snarling woman warily as she grabbed Warren's arm and pulled him up, not stopping to wonder how she'd gotten strong enough to do that. Giving him a shove towards the door. "Out." She demanded, this wasn't open to negotiation.

The hound backed away slowly until Fiona couldn't follow brought up short by her chains. He scrambled out of the cell and pushed against the door trying to shut it.

"Don't go… so hungry. Please don't go." The woman howled.

Katiya joined him, since Warren was still staring at her, worried. "We'll be back Fiona, as soon as you're better." She hoped that would be soon.

Warren just stared at the door, his face pale and his eyes wide. For a long while he said nothing. Finally he croaked out. "I'm sorry Katiya. I had no idea. None. Nobody does. To my knowledge no vampire has ever just let a pet go. I'm so sorry."

Vidar the hound just sighed and marched past them up the stairs. His body language clearly saying, 'I told you so'.

She leaned against the door, watching the hound leave while she caught her breath. "She should probably stay in there until she's better." Katiya said finally, standing upright.

Warren just nodded not saying anything else. It hurt to see her like that. She hadn't even known him, had just wanted Alexei, to be her pet.

Slowly he started up the stairs.

Following behind him, Katiya did her best.

"She'll get better. Don't worry. It's like those people who smoke opium and get sick when they haven't for a while. She doesn't know what she's saying."

"My head knows that, but they've been together for so long. Alexei's I don't know how old really, over a 1000 if the rumors are correct and Fiona was her first pet. I'm not sure I can compete with that." He entered the doorway that the hound had left open.

"But she's trying right? Just to be with you. That means she's giving up all that time with Alexei to be with you." There was a bitter taste at the back of her throat, which she didn't really want to think about right now. She closed the door behind her.

He nodded and sat down at the table in his kitchen and buried his head in his hands. "I'm sorry again Katiya, for asking you to do that."

"I wanted to go, to see this famous Fiona that Alexei treasures." She sat down next to him.

The hound looked up and yawned.

"She's not like that. She's beautiful and kind. She takes care of all of us. I think you'll like each other once she's better." He said softly.

"I know." She wasn't sure about that, but that would have to wait. "I have to go Warren." There was only so much daylight left and she had to go see Fenix before dark if she was going to hold onto the promise she made to Alexei.

He just nodded. "Do what you need to do."

The hound got up and looked at Katiya expectantly.

"I'll be back before nightfall." Then she'd have to figure out if she should tell Alexei about going to visit Fiona. "Yes, we're going." She said to the dog, getting up and taking a moment to wrap a cloth around the shallow cut along her arm.

He pranced around her happy to be doing something other than watch silly humans ignore common sense.


"Did you have to spook the horses like that?" Katiya demanded the hound that was trotting along at her side down the cobblestone street. The ride in the carriage from the manor to the edge of the city had been easy enough, but then he'd barked at the horses and spooked them.

For a moment he thought about stopping in the middle of the street to lick his balls. That would probably annoy her some more, all she seemed to be was annoyed. He'd tried to warn her about going down the stairs but she hadn't listened.

She stopped in the middle of the street, ignoring the people passing on either side of them. That mocking look in his eyes had been there ever since the manor.

"Yes! Fine! I admit it! You were right. Is that what you want to hear? I shouldn't have gone into the basement!" Ignoring the very odd looks she was getting for yelling things at a dog, she turned and kept moving, muttering to herself.

Tail wagging he ran and caught up to her shoving his head under her hand. Maybe she was train-able.

It really was hard to stay mad at a dog, no matter how annoying and superior he sometimes acted, when she was scratching behind his ears. Rolling her eyes at how easily she'd just been manipulated, she petted as they walked. She stayed to the side streets, away from the main thoroughfares that ringed the great cathedral. This wasn't her favorite part of the city priests scared her.

"That thing freaks me out a little." She whispered, conspiratorially to the hound, glancing up at the tall cathedral spires that loomed over everything in this part of the city.

He yipped in agreement. No good could come from a religion that forbade its messengers from the pleasures of the flesh. Men got weird when sex was denied. No god could be that cruel.

"Why do I think that you and I don't think the same way about things?" She asked, rhetorically as they kept moving. The redhead relaxed a little when they got further from the cathedral. She felt like something bad was going to happen whenever she was near that place.

"There it is." Ahead of them, tucked away in a narrow side street, was a nondescript looking little place with a used books sign hanging outside.

The hound sighed. That looked like a very unexciting place.

A simple sign was posted up in the doorway that said the shop was closed. Judging by the amount of dust on it, the sign was permanently displaying closed. Ignoring it, Katiya knocked on the door.

When no one appeared to open the door, she knocked again, harder. "I know you’re in there Fenix! Open up or I'll just keep knocking until I get an answer, even if I have to use a stone through one of your windows to do it with!"

The hound walked up to the door and cocked his head listening. There was someone inside he could hear their heartbeat, a scared little rabbit beat.

The human woman knocked again, harder. "I'm going to get a rock!" She warned, starting to look around for something hard to throw at a window.

Dark eyes focused on the doorknob and the great dog opened his mouth breathing on the metal lock. Slowly ice began to form in the keyhole, expanding out until the lock shattered.

He turned looking at the human, and barked to get her attention.

"Oh." She dropped the rock she'd found and shook her head. "Nice trick." A shove on the door and it swung open. "I never get neat tricks." she mumbled.

He sighed and moped behind her, he should have at least gotten a biscuit and a good boy out of that.

"Go away!" A man's voice yelled from the back of the dusty book filled shop. "We're closed!"

"You're never closed." Katiya answered, heading towards that voice, navigating her way through the stacks of books that covered the floor.

"I am today." The voice called back. Katiya snorted, rounding a corner and finding the old man that was known as Fenix trying to open a back door to escape through.

The hound growled and tensed ready for the man to bolt. Prey ran. If the man ran that meant he could hunt.

The stooped over little man looked over at that growl and froze. "Oh, Katiya, how nice to see you again." He didn't sound happy, not at all. "And your dog."

"I think he prefers being called a hound." She patted the white head next to her and smiled pleasantly. "You owe me."

"Now Katiya..."

"No, don’t you dare now Katiya me. You owe me for my father. You turned us away when we needed your help."

"There was no way I could have..." She kept right on going, overriding his words. "How do you think your contacts would feel if they knew you'd turned someone over to the police?"

He paled. "I did no such thing!"

"No. But I'd tell them you did."

The hound's ears perked up; perhaps he would still get to hunt that man. Revenge was a fun thing.

He stared at her, the hard set of her jaw, the angry blue eyes and felt his shoulders sag. "You're getting as good as your brother at blackmailing people."

That hurt, and Katiya's fingers twitched into a fist around Vidar's fur. "You hired Ivan and four brothers to steal from Alexei Petrov. I need to know who used you to hire them and get back the stuff they stole."

Vidar growled at him. So this was the man who stole Alexei's memories. The room seemed to grow colder as the hound’s fangs were exposed.

"Ah...." He stammered a little, wiping beads of perspiration off his forehead. "I don't know who it was. They wanted complete privacy in the deal. You understand?"

She eyed him coldly, remembering how her father had banged and pleaded to be let in on his door that dark night. "I understand that you aren't very useful to me. Right Vidar?"

The old man's eyes grew in terror. "Wait! I can help!"

She watched from behind the stalking hound, crossing her arms over her chest. "How?"

The hound didn't stop; if the man didn't speak quickly enough he could still kill something.

Watching the hound approach with growing terror he spoke quickly. "They didn't take all of the items with him. You can have the ones I still have!" She pretended to consider that, leaning against the doorframe. "Not good enough."

"What?" He asked, desperate.

"I need everything." She smiled, sweetly. "Everything they stole from Alexei."

Vidar circled the old man.

Shuffling as he tried to keep the hound in front of him, Fenix tried to think past the fear of death. "Wait, I know, wait. I have an idea. They left me a drop location, to give them a message, incase I managed to get a hold of the other item they wanted."

"What other item?"

"A cup." He said quickly, stumbling over his words he was speaking so fast. "A cup that she keeps somewhere. I told them that we'd never get another chance to get someone inside the manor!"

"Why do they want it?" She asked, frowning. So far she could almost understand them wanting the deed to the factory, but the signet ring and a cup?

"I don't know! I swear! They just wanted it badly. Were willing to pay top dollar for it, a lot of money."

Vidar's ruff slowly went down and he looked at Katiya hopefully, maybe she'd still let him kill the old man.

"You’re a coward Fenix. I want you to send everything you still have back to the manor and tell me where the drop was supposed to be. Then, you're going out of business. For your health's sake."

At his hurried agreement and statement of where the drop was supposed to take place, she turned and started walking towards the front doors. "Come on Vidar. Let's go."

Vidar whined, but sulked after Katiya.

Once outside of the shop the redhead stopped for a moment to feel the sunshine on her face. Finally she let out a breath and started walking, glad to be away from Fenix and the memories that surrounded him. "We still have a lot of time, we could go see this message drop place. What do you think?" She asked the hound.

The hound perked up a little bit and pranced around her. Anything would be more exciting than going back to the house.

"Good." She changed direction, making sure to skirt around the Cathedral, and headed back towards the center of the city.


Katiya sat on the edge of the stone bench, legs swinging back and forth and she stared across the small park at the small little office on the ground floor of an unremarkable office building nestled among the factories. They'd spent hours now watching the comings and goings along the street, but no one had gone into the small office that was the address that Fenix had given them.

"You as bored as I am with this?"

Blood red ears perked up from where his snout rested on his paws. He yawned a long pink tongue snaking out from his mouth.

"Yeah me too." It was getting towards dark; she wouldn't be able to stay much longer if she was going to honor her promise to Alexei. "Come on." She stood up and decided to go see what she could find out.

He quickly got to his feet and shook himself, waking up.

"No telling Alexei that I’m impulsive." She started walking towards the front door of the office. A good thing she was wearing some of the new clothes that kept appearing for her in the mornings at the Manor. She had no doubt that if she were dressed as a factory worker she would be shown the door quickly.

Vidar was almost positive this was going to end badly. Happily he quickly followed her.

A small copper bell dinged once as she opened the door. The sign above the door said it was a contraries' office although the inside was so bare that it could have been anything. A nondescript desk filled most of the back wall, behind which a young man looked up from papers he had been penning. A sidedoor besides the desk led into the back of the building.

"Can I help you?" He asked, a little suspiciously.

She had an answer for that of course, smiling as she stepped closer. "Fenix sent me with a message?"

Vidar quickly got bored. More talking.

"Oh." He sat back in his chair, regarding her evenly. "What message?"

She'd hoped for a bit more of a response than that. "He sent me to negotiate with your employer." There was no way that this man was anything other than a middleman, a doorkeeper to the true power.

He snorted. "Fenix should know better. Messages go through me, you don't see anybody else."

This definitely wasn't going as well as she'd hoped. "Then the message is that I may have a way to get the key that your employer was searching for. But I want a face to face meeting first."

He watched her just as evenly as he had been before. "I will pass it on." His tone made it clear he didn't think highly of her chances. "Is that all?" He looked pointedly at the door.

"Yes. Good day." The ding of the bell saw her out. "Well that didn't go as well as I'd hoped." The redhead grumbled.

No kidding, the human hadn't learned anything by hanging around vampires. The hound pouted and followed, maybe he should have bitten the clerk.

"I wish I could just come back during the night and break in there. I bet I'd find out all sorts of things that way."

But no, she'd promised Alexei that she'd be back to the Manor before nightfall and stay out of trouble.

A block behind them a pair of men stepped out of the office that they had just left and started to walk along, casually, behind the woman and dog.

Vidar stopped and tried to scratch at his ear. He noticed the two men who gave off an aura of danger. Getting up he trotted after Katiya.

He would pause every once in a while pretending to sniff something to check if they were indeed following them.

She was still frowning, trying to figure out how she was going to find out who it was that had hired Fenix. Behind them the two men stayed about a half block back, matching the pace that Katiya set. Even when she turned a handful of corners, they followed.

The hound barked, 'by Hel' was the girl that clueless, trying to get her attention.

"What is it?" She looked down at the dog.

He sat down and barked again but his gaze went to the glass of a storefront looking at the two men following them.

"Who? Them?" She eyed the two who were studiously studying a window display with amusement. "Not the best are they?" Judging by their hefty build they were probably hired muscle sent out to follow her.

The hound rolled his eyes.

"Probably making sure I check out." She kept moving, thinking as they walked. "We can't go back to the manor if they're watching me." This complicated things.

He whined but got up and followed.


It took a little while longer than it would have to get a carriage back to the Manor, she found herself outside the old bank that Tereza was staying in. "I really hope she's here." She said to the hound, using the heavy wrought iron doorknocker to bang on the door.

Vidar, sniffed around the door and the ruff stood up on his spine.

She didn't have to look over her shoulder to know that their shadows were watching them intently. "Really hope she's here." She banged again, harder.

The door opened a crack revealing the shadow outline of a body and single dark eye. "What?" Came barked out.

The eye blinked. "Oh. Katiya. Come in."

"Evening." Katiya smiled, slipping inside along with the hound. "Are you feeling better?"

Tereza blinked but stepped back; after Katiya and the dog were inside she peaked outside and then shut and locked the door. She set the crossbow down, she was dressed in thin undershirt and underwear and her hair was tangled and messy.

"I was asleep."

"Sorry." She hadn't thought about that. "We were being followed and I didn't want to lead them back to the Manor."

The hunter face became stony. "Let me get this straight, you're in trouble and you don't want to lead them back to a house full of dangerous blood sucking fiends. So instead you bring them here." She snorted. "I'm not certain I should feel flattered or annoyed. You think I'm tougher than your bitch owner. Maybe I feel a little flattered."

"I'm not in trouble." Katiya ignored the hound; certain he had that laughing expression on his face again. "And I don't think you're tougher than Alexei." She frowned.

Vidar growled a slightly and his ruff went back up. Alexei had freed him, he may not show it but he owed her.

"I came here because I can't have them know that I live at the Manor. Besides." She crossed her arms over her chest. "You owe me." There.

Tereza scratched her stomach absently. "Nice dog and how exactly do I owe you."

Katiya blinked. "For saving you from that vampire?" She also realized what exactly the dark skinned woman was wearing and wasn't. "Aren't you cold?"

Tereza shrugged, "No, its warmer in the bed room. And you didn't save me, I let you help."

"What?" The Russian stared at her in confusion. "Were you at a different fight than I was? I clearly remember me using your gun to stop the vampire from ripping your head off."

"Hmmphh." Tereza said running a hand through her hair trying to get it under control. "Fine, maybe you saved me. But that makes us equal since I stopped Mr. Creepy."

"Boris." Katiya shivered a little just saying the name. "Fine. We're even. But can we stay here tonight?" She looked hopeful. "Or at least until the guys who followed us go home?" Then maybe they could go back to the manor. She knew Alexei wouldn't be happy with her staying here, she was also a little uncomfortably aware of how thin the other woman’s clothing was right now and how well muscled her body was.

"I don't think that's a good idea." Tereza said wandering off to her bedroom. She rifled through a canvas war bag pulling out a long sleeved shirt and heavy, thick, black pants.

"You're just making trouble for yourself. You're master is going to follow you and kill either me, or you, or both. Or on the upside I'll kill it."

"Her." Katiya narrowed her eyes. "Alexei is a she, not an it." Had she somehow missed earlier how annoying this woman was? "And Alexei isn't here right now."

Dark brown eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Did you miss the part where I kill vampires? They're all its, bloodsucking fiends from hell. They shun the day, live off of blood from humans that they treat like cattle. They're sadistic killers." Disdain dripped from her voice.

The redhead and dog shared a look of understanding. "Fine, they're sadistic killers." She knew she wasn't going to dissuade Tereza. "But we still need to hide out here for a little while."

Finished dressing she stepped back out into the main room. "Like I said before I don't think it’s a good idea, but fine, if a pack of vampires show up here, I'm going to get upset."

Finding a comfortable chair to sit down and relax in, Katiya smiled. "I thought you'd be happy if they did. Then you wouldn't have to hunt them, they'd come to you."

Tereza blinked and then smiled. "True, that would make my job easier."

Vidar lay down at Katiya's feet and rolled over exposing his belly.

Doing as requested, she leaned over to scratch the hound’s belly. "Are you going out hunting tonight?"

The other woman nodded from where she leaned against the wall. "Interesting dog. Is it a vampire dog, a pet, like you?"

Hurt, Katiya patted the dog's stomach, focusing on him. "No. He's special. He also isn't bitchy about things he doesn't understand."

Vidar rolled over and growled at the hunter not liking her tone.

"And he's good at protecting me." She would have to remember to thank Alexei for sending him with her. "By the way, I don't suppose you have any idea where that vampire that attacked us came from?"

Maybe the vampire hunter would know more than she did.

"That vampire, I had been following him. Spotted him as soon as it was dusk, an early riser, the old ones can rise near dark. Its easiest if you can kill them when they’re still asleep."

She came into the room and sat down on a dubious looking chair.

"I'm glad you were following him." It probably would have ended badly otherwise. She watched the chair, half expecting it to collapse under the hunter.

"Do you know who he was the child of?" She was getting used to the terminology she thought.

The hound, never took his eyes off of her, he didn't like her kind. People so full of hate, self-righteousness, and killing anything that’s different.

She pretended to ignore the dog. "No, I don't. He dressed as a foreigner, I'm seeing more and more of them. He was a blur in the shadows but he was looking for something, and not food. He passed up some easy marks for food."

"He knew where the brothers were somehow then."

"Something here is drawing them. I followed a pack here from Germany. At first I thought your master was calling them, planning a coup or a war. Its rumored there is a very old vampire here." She was fishing trying to judge Katiya's reaction. "Maybe one of the first vampires. It is said if you can kill one of the five that created the vampire lines you kill them and all of their blood."

Katiya blinked, staring at her Tereza in confusion. "First vampires?" That wasn't something that Alexei had talked about. "Who were they?"

"All I know is rumors. It is said that after Christ that a few of his followers took the cup with his blood and studied many horrible and arcane arts to create for themselves never-ending life. They did a ritual of blood and opened doorways to immortality that no human should open, and for this God cursed them. They would never be able to enjoy his gaze and attention so they were cursed to hide from the sun. They were cursed between life and death, welcome in neither. In order to live they must steal the life from the living."

That somewhat made sense. "How many of these first vampires are there supposed to be?"

"Seven. Seven is a magical number I guess you need for most rituals." She shrugged, really not knowing.

That really did sound like a guess to Katiya. She shrugged, not sure how that fit in with everything that had been happening. "So you think there's one of these elders in the city?" Maybe Alexei would know more.

"That's the rumor. The rumor is a very old vampire rules this city. And if its true that to kill the first you kill all that come after, well, you can see my interest, in killing that vampire. Think of how many people would be free."

That was certainly something that Katiya was going to ask Alexei about. "Yes, free to go back to the street and die of starvation or forced to work in one of the factories until you die or get maimed by the machines. Sounds good."

"And who's responsible for the factories. The ones that make humans ghosts up and out during the night. The factories that spew smoke and crap into the air making the night last longer. The vampires. You can blame them for the crappy way we live." She took a breath trying to calm herself.

"Really." Katiya crossed her arms. "I'm pretty sure humans are just as good at making each other miserable and being monsters to one another." She'd seen enough of that to last her for a long time.

"Look obviously you're a vampire lover and I'm not. We're not going to agree on this." Tereza said with a sigh.

"Truce then?"

The hunter scowled, "Fine truce."

"Good." One last scratch at the dog’s stomach and Katiya leaned back. "Do you have any food for dinner?" She asked hopefully.

"First you crash my place, now you want food." She rolled her eyes and got up going into the kitchen.


A heavy knock on the door gave just a few seconds of warning before Timur opened the door and stepped inside. "Alexei. Karl wished for me to escort you to the meeting." He didn't sound happy about that, but he rarely did sound happy after all.

Alexei looked over at him from where she sat reading, she was bored, very bored. She had been awake well before sunset, but had stayed put not wanting to cause more of a ruckus if Karl knew how conscious she was capable of being well before the sun was gone.

"Of course. I'll just be a moment, if you wouldn't mind waiting a second." She stood and raised an eyebrow in annoyance when he just stood there.

He glanced towards the other room where Shiro was playing for an attentive Stepan, disliking music on principle. "Fine." He stepped back outside, closing the door behind him.

She made her way to the closet noting that someone had already unpacked her clothes. She chose a dark shirt and pants, as well as a long coat; hopefully this would some how make her less of a target for Karl's frustrations. "Stepan, if Shiro is willing for the company you may drink from her. I'm not certain I would trust the cattle they would offer you here. And keep an eye on Molly and Sergei, make sure they stay out of trouble."

He raised a laconic eyebrow at that. "I will do my best, but you know how well Sergei listens to me." Molly could be made to listen, but Sergei was a different story. "We'll await your return."

She looked at him. "Make him listen."

"As you command." He smiled, not too opposed to that.

She smiled, "I do." Walking over she kissed Shiro's cheek. Then she brought her index finger to her mouth and nipped the finger creating a shallow cut. With the blood pooling on the pad of her finger she reached out and painted Stepan's lips. "When's the last time we've solidified the bond between Sire and child?"

He frowned, trying to think even as he licked his lips. "It's been years." Easily years, as far as, he could remember.

"Well let that give you strength then." She chuckled. "Keep an eye on all of them Shiro."

The mute woman smiled and kissed Alexei back, signing quickly with her hands.

Alexei laughed and headed to the door. "Alright Timur, lead the way."

"Hey!" Stepan sounded mock affronted to a silently laughing Shiro. "I am not!"

"You have too many pets." Timur growled, shutting the door firmly behind Alexei and starting down the hall.

"Hmm, that may be, but I never have to explain all the dead bodies that leave my estate now do I." She rebutted.

"Who would care?" He answered back, then taking a deep breath. "All of the others are here. Karl mentioned you knew some of them." Which was Timur's way of trying to be subtle.

"Human's get touchy when a lot of their own die. Remember Jack the Ripper, or you still pissy I got sent to take care of him before he gave the human's proof of our existence." She kept her expression neutral. "As to the others I know some of them."

"I still say he should have been made into a vampire. It was a waste to kill someone so talented." He moved to open the door to the room that would be used for the meeting.

"True talent is not getting caught; not leaving butchered carcasses everywhere with clues. The police were going to get him, he was sloppy. You were never caught, so he was no where near your caliber." Jack had been a pet to the same vampire that had owned Molly, but he had been an apprentice waiting to be fully made. Sometimes she wondered if the killing spree had been on purpose to get her attention.

Timur nodded, agreeing that Jack hadn't been in his class, but he could still appreciate true amorality when he saw it. Shoving the door open he stepped aside, he was not invited into what lay beyond. The meeting room was as silent as the rest of the house, but this wasn't the silence of emptiness.

It was a strained quiet, filled with a poisonous tension by the elder vampires staring uneasily at one another. Territorial by nature, bringing them together was always a risky business. Karl had yet to appear, timing it no doubt so that he would enter late, reinforcing his control over them all.

"Have a pleasant evening, Timur." She said quietly and entered the room.

Two of the nearest vampires moved away from her, watching her thoroughly distrustfully as they did so. "I always love these little meetings, don't you Alexei?" The only remaining vampire asked.

He was dressed in an outlandish looking outfit for the north, bright orange and purple cloth wrapped around him in a stylish Indian garb. His head topped by a turban, while a long well kept mustache and beard hid the rest of his face. Giving all the more power to the dark eyes that pierced out of that dark skinned face to study all around him.

Alexei turned and smiled, a slight upturning of her lips.

"Lady Alexei. It is good to see you again. Although I do wish we could stop meeting in the coldness of the north." He bowed to her with the unnatural grace of a vampire.

"Caliph Dilip how are you, and that horrid piece of sunny baked land you call home." She bowed in return.

"Ah but the warmth there is enough to bring heat to even our cold lives." He smiled, always enjoying a verbal exchange with this one.

Vampires of the east and sunny lands held a sort of magical or mythical awe. They existed in a world that would seem to reject their kind. They were few but powerful, having studied and created arts of blood magic that very few western vampires understood. "As long as that warmth isn't the smell of your burning skin." She chuckled and sat down ignoring the glares and furtive glances their way.

He followed her example, sitting down nearby her and glancing at the others. "We are not popular here I fear." He didn't sound too upset about that.

"Well vampires from the desert countries are rare and sort of have this awe factor. The Asian vampires have it too, because no one has ever met one, if they exist in the Far East they care very little about our council and us. As for me they just don't like me."

"I believe you have a touch of awe about you as well." He arranged the blade that hung at his side in its ornate sheath. "There are few who can claim to be a child of the Elders."

Her eyes narrowed. "I claim nothing. They can assume whatever they want." Her voice was clipped.

He chuckled, ignoring the clipped tone as he looked around the gathering. "It has been centuries since I have been here. I do not mind telling you that I would not have been upset if it were a few more before I had."

"Why are you here? I didn't think Karl had sway over you're clans." Curious indeed.

"He does not." The Caliph's eyes narrowed before he forced himself to relax. "I would not stand for someone such as he to rule over us. No offense meant my friend. I am here because these events in the Americas will affect my people as well. You know how the British get when things seem to threaten them."

"Yes, they call in favors from me and the balance of the world stage shifts." She chuckled.

"Perhaps you could convince them to leave India then." He said wryly.

"Dear man, have you had English food they conquered half the world just to find some decent cooks."

Just as the Caliph was about to say something in response, Timur shoved open both doors with a dramatic flare. Karl walked through them a step behind, ever the confident leader of the pack. "Ladies and Gentleman, let's get started."

Through vast willpower she stopped herself from rolling her eyes.

The Caliph muttered something in an Indian dialect and stayed right where he was, watching with veiled amusement as the others in the room quickly found chairs. They formed a rough circle around the edges of the room, facing the center where Karl stood.

"So why have you summoned us here?" Alexei shouted out, wanting to be done and home, and short-circuited Karl’s big entrance.

Karl had opened his mouth to say something, but glared at the woman who'd interrupted him, stealing his grand speech he had memorized that night. Instead he fell back on answering the question.

"The American outcasts have decided to go to war with humanity. Rumors have reached us that the shape shifters will side with the humans. We must decide what to do about it. Do we go to war, do we ignore it?"

She gave no outward sign to the glare she received, her face remained neutral and her eyes shuttered.

"Are the American's aware of us?" She asked, as the others stayed silent.

Reluctantly, Karl turned to face her. This wasn't going as he had planned. "No. Not yet. They are focused on their own problems. Thankfully this isolationist tendency of theirs is holding. The European council is meeting now as well. Caliph here" he gestured to the Indian "Represents our more southern kindred." There was no mention of the African tribes they weren't really vampires.

The Caliph made a motion with his hand, drawing attention to himself. "We will not be bound by your decision of course, but we will listen to the arguments made here."

She was concerned that the humans in America now aware of them would start developing new and interesting ways to kill them.

"What have the American vampires done to break the veil?"

"They haven't done much yet." Karl said, "They've begun targeting the human leaders, but it is still only starting. We believe that they mean to strike hard soon." How soon that would be up to debate of course.

Another vampire, a man with a long thin face and nervous hands that never stopped moving.

"The local politicians will do whatever we say."

Of that there was no doubt, all of them were paid and bought by the powers that ruled in this room. "It is not the politicians you must fear, it is the common folk." The Caliph responded.

"True. The mass culture will only swallow the crap from the top for so long."

She sorely hated the time he wasted on grandstanding, and how the others stayed silent warily watching only a few brave enough to speak up.  Karl was King and they were really nothing more than lowly knights to his dark round table.

She trudged on wading through the crap of dominance and politics using her words like a sword to cut through the crap.  “I think the real question is:  How much danger are we in, if the Outcasts declare war on the humans in America?  Humans have vague notions of us, most of them wrong. Thanks to that whining author and his over-romantized notions of immortality we are viewed as angst ridden sex-gods or by others believe us to be more like our undead cousins the Flesh-eaters, monstrous, unthinking things driven by our need to feed on blood.  If the outcasts go to war, will this veil be torn away? And if that happens. There is a very real chance the humans will hunt us with the full-knowledge of what we are.  Especially if our cousins, the Skinwalkers join them. Many secrets of the unknown could be revealed to the humans.”

Alexei sat back observing Karl.  She had too wondered what he really wanted.  Did he want war?  Perhaps war was inevitable; some theorized that ecosystems often hit points of entropy when predators and prey were out of balance.  Young vampires needed a lot of blood, she was old and barely needed any, but very few were as old as her.  How many of these masters sitting here had children who numbered into the 10’s or 20’s?  That was too many to exist in one city.  They would start to branch out looking for new food sources, putting them into conflict with other cities and other vampires.  This made war and conflict the likely outcome, and that wasn’t including the other supernatural creatures that fought with them for territory.

Much like her illegal blood bar.  Someone, probably one of her children had more than likely started it to make a pretty penny off of those looking for food away from home.  That was a distressing thought.  She blinked realizing Karl was staring at her.  With a sinking feeling in her gut she realized he was waiting for an answer.

“I’m sorry can you repeat that.”  But she was well aware of the simmering rage lurking in his eyes and resigned herself to the fact that she would be leaving here in a great amount of pain.

She knew she could kill Karl, knew she was stronger and more powerful than he could ever hope to be, but every time she let him hurt her and every time she was forced to submit others forgot the rumors of how old and powerful she must be.  The very last thing she wanted was to be in charge of a nation of vampires.

Then he was upon her, driven to show how he was the one in charge here, the one who ruled over all of them.

Part 4

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