LM stopped on the border between the dead and the living side of town.
Behind him were empty-hearted, shattered-windowed buildings where only the worst sorts lived and crept and hid and ran deals and performed foul deeds.
Before him were busy cars and strong buildings and bustling crowds.
He shivered as he thought about walking amidst all of those people. People who’d stare at him and whisper behind his back. People who’d scowl and yell, “Freak!” People who’d grab him by his malformed wings and try to beat him up. People who’d throw mud and garbage and rocks at him while shouting, “Get out of here, filthy fey!”
His feathers rustled as he shivered again.
It’s been so long since I’ve been among people. Could they have changed that much over the years?
He rubbed his arms.
I wish Capernaum were here. He’d advise me. He’d help me. He’d protect me.
I am not that helpless.
I do know one way I can protect myself.
LM closed his eyes and thought about his heart’s desire.
I wish you were here.
His body rippled as it changed height, weight, skin tone, hair. His wings disappeared.
He opened his eyes.
Sunglasses darkened his vision.
He took them off with a smile.
He walked straight ahead to the living side of town.
No one paid him any heed.
Why would they?
He was just an ordinary man in a furry gray suit.
Nothing too extraordinary.
Nothing at all.
Antioch cried out in panic as Raven grabbed him.
He tried to escape.
Raven ordered him to stand still.
Raven unfastened Antioch’s shirt.
His filthy hands smeared blood all over Antioch’s skin.
Antioch looked at his lord and told him that he would break his hold.
Raven bared his fangs and bit his neck.
Antioch cried out in pain.
Raven released him and ordered him to be silent.
Antioch had no choice. He had to obey.
There was no escaping it.
There was no escaping from Raven.
Antioch couldn’t escape.
And he slept on through the night.
Hildreth looked up at the sky. “It’s almost dawn.”
Elsie didn’t reply.
Hildreth looked back at her. “Els.”
“We should be heading home.”
“Els. Look at me. Elsie baby, look at me. Please.”
She obeyed, but her expression didn’t reveal anything.
“I will not break my promise to you and Master Shinowa.”
“I will not chase after that rotted vampire.”
“I know.” Her voice was calm and her expression was calm, which confused Hildreth.
“Are you…are you mad at me?”
“No. I was just thinking about what I need to get from the store.”
“Well, that’s surprising. Do you want me to come—”
He laughed. “You said that very fast. Should I be offended?”
She entwined her fingers with his. “No. I just need to buy some clothes.”
“Hmm.” He grinned. “You going to buy something skimpy and scandalous?”
“You wish! I’m going to buy dress shirts.”
“Dress shirts.” He frowned. “Dress shirts? Huh? Since when does Elsie Vansing wear dress shirts?”
She smiled and pulled him to a stop. “I didn’t say anything about wearing them, did I?”
His brain exploded with confusion. “Well. What else would you do with a dress shirt?”
She kissed him – a light, teasing kiss. “You’d be surprised. Actually, now that I think about it, you would be very surprised.”
Hildreth scratched the back of his head as he considered the possibilities.
The possibilities just made him feel even more confused.
She playfully smacked his bottom, startling him. “Let’s head to the mausoleum. I’m sure we’ll find some vamps over there.”