Chapter time! I feel like I had to bend over backwards to get this to where I wanted to end it, but it got there, eventually. And sorry, had to split this into to parts.
Chapter 5 - Strange Visitors
The nearest airport that was worth a damn and not a long field of grass was still a two hour drive away from Kraftsbury, Vermont. The long ride gave Christopher time to think, and time to grow to hate the state he was driving through. It was so...empty. He passed through places that he found it difficult to describe as cities, but the people seemed to think that was what they were.
After what seemed like endless stretches of fields, Christopher at last arrived in the small town. It didn't take him long to find who he was looking for. He could sense them the moment he entered the town. The call was faint, but that was to be expected. They had just awoken to the calling, and would not be ready and bright for a long time to come. For now, they were just wild, untapped potential.
Still, the trail was clear. It lead him straight to an unexpected sight. Most of the people that awakened into their powers were beginning adulthood. College age, in modern terms. But what he found was a girl that could not even be in her teens yet. She was still wearing tiny pink dresses picked out by her parents, still playing with dolls. Her brown hair was even tied back in pigtails.
Christopher grumbled his familiar displeasure and left the girl in her yard, trundling around the sandbox on her half-formed limbs that made her movements still awkward and childlike.
With a little poking around and limited questioning so as to not raise suspicions, he learned that the girl was named Kelly Scott. He found a hotel room on the main road, the only real road in the town, and called Joseph.
"Oh, you are going to love this, old friend." Christopher's voice was half annoyed, and half mirthful.
"Did you find them?"
"Oh yes, yes I did. I found her."
"Did you make the offer? Is she ready to begin her training?"
"I don't think she would understand the offer if I made it to her." Christopher was almost on the verge of laughing.
"What, why not? What is wrong with you, Christopher??"
"She's nine, Joseph."
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone line. A full minute passed, and when he spoke once again, all of Joseph's calmness was drained from his voice. All emotion had disappeared. "What."
"Nine, Joseph. Nine years old."
"That - That's not possible, Christopher."
"Believe me, I know that. But it gets better."
"Dare I ask?"
Christopher cleared his mind, and focused. The mirth faded away. "She's more powerful than I am, already. More powerful than I will ever be."
"Impossible, I know. But this girl has done more impossible things before breakfast than I've done in my lifetime."
"What are we going to do? This is you're decision. You're the leader, you're the man in the field. You know that much power can't be allowed to run free. So much so young, will only consume her. It would be better to end it now, before she takes the town with her."
Christopher absently rubbed his chin. "I'll give it some thought and take care of it. I've done worse than this in my lifetime."
"Worse than killing a child? I think not. I do not envy your decision, Christopher. Call me when you're done." The regret in Joseph's voice was crystal clear.
The line went dead. Christopher dropped the phone onto the night stand, missing the cradle by a wide margin. He fell back onto the bed when his limbs lost all feeling, and he came to rest in a sitting position. He slumped forward, his head coming to a rest between his knees. How could he bring himself to kill the girl, a child? How could he kill their saviour?
"Alyson," grumbled Darien without taking an eye off the stranger on his porch. "You have ten seconds to talk or I drop this guy dead.
The stake in Darien's hand shook from the tight grip the boy had around it. His nerves shining through in the wavering tip.
With a flick of ash off to the side of the porch, the new arrival just scoffed. "Boy, I could 'drop you dead' 12 times over before you got to second three. Besides that, you do know that thing won't kill me, you git."
Darien flicked his wrist with almost as much calm and casualness as the vampire had cleared his cigarette. It was such a normal act, almost a throwaway motion, that none of them had realised what he had done at first.
Not until the second vampire moved did either of them put it together. All of a sudden, he was gripping Darien's wooden stake no more than an inch from his eye. Any further and the shaft of wood may well have gone all the way into his brain.
In the time it had taken the stake to fly through the air and be caught in the nick of time, Darien had produced another one from inside his trenchcoat of wonders.
"The wooden stakes may be a myth, but I bet one driven into your skull would give me enough time to find a way that would work. That cigarette of yours, you should really quite. Those things can kill ya."
"But I caught your stake," and with that, he tossed it aside. The stake clattered across the wooden boards and rolled under the railing, forgotten in the shrubs surrounding the porch.
"I can keep throwing all night long. At some point, you run out of hands, or I get lucky. Want to see which happens first?" The new stake in Darien's hands twirled around his fingers, like a trained magician with a coin dancing along his knuckles.
Alyson stood in between the two, but her short stature made her almost nothing of a barrier to any sort of retaliation. "Boys! Enough with the pissing match. Back in your pants and zip it up! You are both very good at killing, and you can show each other some other time."
The girl stared at her brother, her face returning to normal. Her gaze urged Darien to put the weapons away, or at least down by his side.
Darien didn't trust their visitor, but he did trust his sister. That had never changed, and he knew it never would. So with great reluctance, and not very fast, the stake lowered itself to his hip like a gunslinger ready to draw. And that is what Darien was; the fastest stake in the northeast.
Their visitor smiled again, flashing his fangs. Darien felt his grip tighten around the wooden weapon, but he made no other motion.
Alyson didn't turn from her brother, keeping her eyes right on him. She trusted Darien as much as he trusted her. She also knew that if she didn't hold his attention, there was a good shot he'd attack for the good of everyone. Or at least what he saw as the greater good.
"Kevin, what are you doing here?" she said with her back to the vampire.
"I was in the neighbourhood, and thought I would say hello to my favourite vamp. Can't a guy just stop over for a spot of tea?"
"NO," shouted the twins in unison.
Kevin muttered around his cigarette, "Bloody hell, I see why there's no such thing as northern hospitality."
Darien didn't take his eyes off the vampire, staring at him through his sunglasses that he had still yet to remove. He didn't even blink. The things a vampire could do while you blinked where too numerous to count.
There was only so long the standoff could last, and only so many ways it could end. "Alyson, I'm still waiting for an explanation."
"Fine, but promise me no killing."
At last, Alyson turned towards the other vampire, taking her eyes off her brother for the first time since the stake was thrown. "Kevin?"
"Fine, fine." He sniffed at the air. "He's not my type anyways."
"Darien, I'd like you to meet Kevin Ferguson. He's a vampire."
"Gee, really? The fangs were throwing me a bit. I thought he might be a werewolf."
"Boy, if you ever meet a werewolf, you are ill prepared." Kevin smiled as he thought about how that encounter could turn out.
"He's the first vampire I met," continued Alyson, ignoring the verbal fighting. It was better than what the boys wanted to do, she was sure of that much. "Besides Beadle, obvs," she continued, sensing her brother's question.
"How did he find us?"
Kevin walked up right behind Alyson. Darien had the odd sensation of being outnumbered, which was not a feeling he liked, and not when he was thinking of his sister in that way. For a moment, he was unsure just where her loyalties would lay should something happen.
"Well, that's easy enough to do for the person who told you two blighters about this place."
Darien arched his eyebrows over the edges of his sunglasses, and at last took them off his face. He fumbled with them before shoving them without care into the first pocket his hand came to. They stuck out like they didn't fit in the pocket, one wing not even in at all. He regarded his sister with his steel grey eyes, a look of confusion washing over their frozen resolve.
"Excuse me? I thought you learned about this place from a book." Darien narrowed his eyes, looking for any sign of obfuscation or trickery.
Alyson fidgeted, entangling her fingers together, then seperating them. It was easy in those moments to forget that Alyson had the potential to be a bloodthirsty killer, like the thing standing at her side.
"Well," she spoke with slow, deliberate words, treading light around her brother. "That much was true. As far as it went."
"Again with the witholding information not being a lie," Darien accused.
His sister just nodded, with nothing else to say.
For all her care and tip toeing, Kevin just blurted out what he had to say. "She got the book from me."
"And how does that not sound like a trap?"
"What?" asked a surprised Alyson.
Darien stared at his sister. "You get a book from a vampire, and end up right on the doorstep of the thing that killed you the first time, kidnapped and tortured by him. What part of this sounds good?
"I trust him, Darien."
"Yeah, she trusts me, big boy," Kevin mocked.
The stake at Darien's side raised up again, "Alyson..."
"Darien! Down boy!"
"Listen to your betters, kid," said Kevin with a grin.
"Kevin, NOT helping." Alyson stepped closer to her brother, and away from the vampire. "It's true, he gave me the book, and I found out about the circle of stones. That's why we're here. But that's not all."
"Oh good, there's more. Well, this just gets better and better." Darien did his best to not shout.
"Like I said, he was the first vampire I met, after...everything." Even to this day, Alyson avoided the subject of her death. Easy enough to do when one is somehow still alive.
Kevin took over, sensing the girl's hesitation. He had no care for Darien's feelings, or Alyson's, or indeed anyone's. "I told her there was another way, a better way."
"Better than what?" inquired Darien.
"Better than what most vamps do. She was fresh, a newborn. There was still time. Good and evil, it is as much a choice for vampires as it is for humans, as I'm sure you've been told."
Darien nodded, but remained silent, and his eyes stayed locked on their visitor.
"But when you have all this power, and that craving, it is so very easy to give in, to make that first kill. And every kill afterwards becomes easier. The longer you live, the more you kill...the blood washes away the humanity inside us. It's like the human we once were is nothing but a sand castle waiting for the tide of blood to roll in."
The vampire took a pause and inhaled more smoke. "It's like when a soldier kills someone in battle. They're still a good person, but they get a taste of death, of blood. Something in them changes. Not all of them, but many. Taking a human life changes a man. Changes a vampire, too."
"So you found my sister and told her all this. That she could make a choice, and be a better vampire, with less killing."
"I believe my exact words were, she could hold onto her humanity."
"Why? Why help out another vampire like that? Don't you bloodsuckers want to increase your army or something?"
Kevin blew air out of his mouth, almost laughing at Darien. "Please. I could care less about the overall politics and machinations of my kind. I just want to live out my unlife as quietly as I can. Truth be told, I helped your sister because, well..."
For the first time, the vampire's face softened, something changed in his look, and Darien thought of him as a man. "She reminded me of my daughter. I was never any good to her. I was a right bastard, truth be told. Seeing Alyson go through what I did, what others have, knowing she didn't have to? So I stepped in."
Darien grunted, and put the stake away, although Alyson could tell it was with such great reluctance that he would have probably given up his left leg first.
"And what about you? Are you on the straight and narrow path of goodness and light?"
Kevin shook his head, with a nervous smile. "Me? Not so much, no. I try, but I'm old. I've tasted a lot of blood in my day, and I don't deny I enjoy it. But, I do try. I'd rather have my daily struggle and hold onto what little sliver of humanity might remain buried in my black haystack of a soul. I'm better than most, but worse than others. Like you're little sister here."
Kevin went to put his hand on Alyson's shoulder, but Darien stopped him short. "Touch her, and what little truce we have ends. Right here, right now, and it ends bloody."
The vampire held up both hands in surrender, and he even bowed his head. "As you wish. I came here to help, not hurt."
Darien still regarded Kevin with suspicion, but if he helped Alyson, and brought them here, that bought him a little bit of trust. Or at least time to earn more. He would be sleeping with his sword nearby though, that much was clear.
"Just what did you come here to help with?" questioned Darien, still on edge.
"He didn't just tell me about the stones. He helped me out with other things."
Darien sighed. "Do I really want to know?"
"He knows the magics we came here to perform. He knows them better than anyone."
"So," began Darien, piecing things together. "Kevin told you about that magic in the first place, right?"
"The plonker gets it in one," smiled Kevin and tapped the tip of his nose.
"Oh I am just getting started. And you're here now, knowing what we have to do, because you can do it better than Alyson can."
The vampire nodded, and the rumpled coat somehow rumpled even more from his movements. "Indeed. She is very untrained in the black arts. If something went wrong, well." He made a fffft! noise and waved his hands in the air. "If I bollocks the spell, well then who cares, right?"
At last, a smile broke on Darien's face. "Now this is the best part of the plan I've heard all year."
"I thought the idea of a dead vamp might bring a smile to your face. Still, it shouldn't be any trouble at all. When do you kids want to get this over with? Time is running short, and I do have places to be, people to kill."
Darien's smile faded away in an instant.
"He's not one for jokes, is he?" asked Kevin, looking towards Alyson.
"Actually, he tends to be the funny one. Just at the worst times."
Darien moved closer, hiding any fear he might have of the vampire before him. "Before this happy reunion goes any further, I do have one tiny little question; Alyson smelled blood. That's how we knew you were here. If you're so good and proper, pip pip cheerio and all that rot, wot? Then where did the blood come from?"
Kevin rolled his eyes. "That? That's easy enough to explain..."
Before he had the chance though, their conversation was interupted by a melody eminating from within Darien's coat. He reached into the murky depths and produced a cellphone. The sudden light cast an eerie blue hue over everyone nearby.
"You've got to be joking. He's taking a call in the middle of all this?"
Darien glared as he moved the phone towards his ear. "Bros before bloodsuckers. Now shut it."
Kevin muttered to himself, "Christ, he's an uppity git. Someone ought to teach the human his place."
The only human in the area turned his back to take the call, ignoring the insults.
"Brendan? Is that you? You sound terrible? What? Speak up!"
The boy talking stopped dead, and only the static filled other side of the conversation could be heard. The interference and volume was even too low and too garbled for even the vampires to hear.
After several long, silent moments, Darien turned back around. His cold, grey eyes bore into Kevin.
When he spoke, his voice was as cold and empty as his eyes. "You say you found a body? And there were two punctures in the neck? You think we might have another vampire in town, huh? You don't say."
The two vampires remained silent, and Kevin looked just as shocked as Alyson did. But Darien knew how good these creatures were at lying. Even his own sister had developed a knack for it, even to her own brother.
"You called the cops? Good. Yeah, we can talk about it in the morning. Or you could come over tonight. This could be interesting."
With his eyes unblinking and unmoving from Kevin, Darien ended the call and clapped his cellphone shut.
Somehow, the stake was once again in Darien's hand. He advanced upon the vampire. "Someone has some 'splaining to do."