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Realistic or Modern Moonlit Retreats [Closed]

Sub Genres
  1. Supernatural


Baba Yaga
You know how people said you jinxed yourself when you asked shit like: 'What could possibly go wrong?'

In her case, that wasn't even true. It was becoming increasingly more obvious that all you had to do was to be named Lilian Perry for catastrophes to just flock to you. What were the chances of Michael just straight up forgetting something in his office? 100%, if it also meant fucking her over!

It wasn't that she wasn't scared. She'd never been so scared in her entire life; not when they'd kidnapped her, and not when she'd taken the plunge with Cassidy. Somehow, staring into those cold, blue eyes was infinitely worse. They were soulless depths, and Lilian wondered how nobody had noticed before. Still, wanna know what was the one thing that her career as a hunter had taught her? That moments like these, you couldn't show fear. You just fucking couldn't, or you were done for.

(Maybe she was done regardless.)

"Hi," Lilian said, somewhat anti-climatically. And then, because she might not get another chance to pull shit like that off: "Mike." Hahaha! At least she could claim it was worth it now? The huntress didn't know a lot of people who called Michael Mike and lived to tell the tale, and something told her she also wouldn't join their ranks.

Despite the sudden sense of doom, Lilian still reached for her sword. Once a hunter, always a hunter, eh? They had taught her to die before giving up, so that hunters' precious honor wouldn't be tarnished. So that she wouldn't turn into a vampire. Who knew that that wasn't the worst thing in the world? That the worst thing in the world was something they kept in their fucking closet? And now he asked her to kill Cassidy, as if she believed his word. As if... as if she even could.

Oh god, Cassidy. Cassidy, who had known this was a bad idea, and had still decided to go because she was Cassidy. First it had been the Maria incident, then this. Why the fuck did she have to keep paying for her stupidity? How was this fair?

(The world wasn't fair, and she knew that. Maybe she wanted it to be, though. At least a little bit.)

"Shut up," Lilian challenged. "I don't fucking want any of your bullshit." She didn't really want to be there, either, but suspected Michael wouldn't take that into account. People like him only understood the language of the sword. And so she raised it, hoping to somehow cheat the fate, when--

"Aargh!" Lilian dropped the blade, but hardly because she wanted to. The pain pulsing in her head was bad enough; the pain in her good arm, worse. The floor was spinning, even if it distinctly shouldn't be. She managed to grasp the edge of the desk before she could collapse on the ground, but... well, that didn't stop the thorns from piercing her arm. Or rather, bursting from her arm.


Yeeeah, somehow Inga didn't think this was going where Matteo thought it was going. He was an idiot, for one; that always made you the unreliable narrator of your own life. Besides, asking Antonia to give a speech? Those were her thing. You didn't let your enemies do their thing! Sun Tzu may not have written it, though only because he hadn't been nearly as good at warfare as her.

Alright, that might have been an exaggeration.

"I'll be looking forward to it, sváss mínn," she smiled at Antonia, caring fuck all that Matteo could actually understand her. Didn't he think she had Antonia wrapped around her finger, or something like that? Small signs of affection were just part of the performance, then. Something she offered to gain access to her.

(And wasn't it actually kind of hilarious? Just how backwards he had it. Yeah, yeah, Inga pretty much could see that Antonia had her wrapped around her pretty little finger, though at least she was self-aware about it. That, and it also felt nice. To... dunno, also think of someone who wasn't her.)

"Was that a good idea, my liege?" Inga asked, the mockery clear in her voice, as she watched Antonia's back disappear in the crowd. "Seemed a bit like signing your own death warrant, to me."

"Inga, I swear to fuck, what the hell have you been doing the entire night?" Joseph finally exploded. He couldn't have done it in front of Antonia, but she was a safe target, and he knew it. "If you're planning something weird--"

"Hmm," Inga inspected her own nails in the candlelight, finding them to be satisfyingly spotless, "almost as if I could hear something. Like a little bitch whining in the distance. Know something about it, Joseph?"

Joseph might have lunged at her then, but Matteo, being his usual bright self, put an arm between them. "Joseph, please. And Inga, I do realize how hard this is for you, but try to behave yourself for once? Our friend here has had a rough week. To return to your previous point, though - no, not my death warrant. In fact, this is your chance to shine. To show where your loyalties lie, and what happens to those who cross us."

Oh? This is how you want to do it, you dramatic fuck? Inga grinned, and despite it all, it looked entirely sincere. Perhaps for the first time in centuries, there was something close to sunshine in her smile.

"I'd love to show you all of that, Matteo. All of that, and more. I believe you trust me with the timing?"



My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Lilian responded exactly as Michael figured she would – save the Mike thing. That was annoying, and really uncalled for. He didn’t take that shit from Gabby, he wasn’t about to take it from Lilian Perry, a traitor hunter. He didn’t respond with words, just that cold stare as she raised her blade.

He could feel the pulse within his own body match hers.

He felt the link as if he’d grabbed her wrist, and there the blood moved at his command, shooting pain through her – and then bursting out through her pitifully thin skin. His gaze never warmed, he never showed anything than contempt and disappointment as he watched Lilian visibly recoil and furl under the pain of his control. “You will never be able to harm me, Perry. You should have known that.”

Cassidy, for her part, was definitely surprised by what happened, and though she had a mind to yell at Michael about what he was doing to Lilian, she understood that would squander precious time. Time he wasn’t paying any attention to her, but watching Lilian, and she wouldn’t waste anymore of it.

A partial shift transformed her arms into something monstrous and she bent swiftly, tore the computer monitor from the wall as Michael’s attention shifted, and threw it at his head.

It didn’t hit his head.

He batted it away with his own arm, but it covered her following lunge. She grabbed his shoulder and hair, felt the knife pierce somewhere in her chest, and bashed his head into his desk with enough strength to make him see stars and splatter blood across the room. Blood, she realized, that didn’t smell quite like the other hunters.

‘Inga wants—’

There was hardly time to properly mop up his blood as he slid to the ground, surprisingly not unconscious but definitely dazed. Yeah – whatever he’d done to himself, it was stronger than the others. Or it had reacted very, very well to him. Cassidy mopped one arm over the bloodstain on the desk before reaching out to Lilian with her other hand, knife still in her gut. A problem for later, and not as much of a problem as getting Lilian far the fuck away from Michael.

“Come on!”

They had to get out of there. And Cassidy planned to break the card reader on the other side as soon as they were out in the, likely stupid, hope it would lock Michael in there. Perhaps she should have tried to kill him, but seeing him start to shake that off told her this was not the time.


The feast passed without Antonia touching a drop of blood, not from a Doll (some of which, she realized, were hunters that had gotten in – kudos to them), not from a cup, and certainly not from any other vampire. She simply didn’t trust it, and there was something ingrained in her because of that last feast about sharing blood. It meant safety.

It was supposed to mean safety.

Not that anyone caught on that she hadn’t drank a drop.

Not that anyone would recognize what it meant. Sure, old traditions clung to old vampires worse than moss clung to trees, but a family that forgot to honor guest rites wasn’t going to notice when a guest denied participation the rite.

Although, she assumed most of the Veturia were ignorant of Matteo’s plans. His plan would have ended with turning Inga over, the way Michael turned over hunters to her after a fuck-up that involved her getting attacked. That was how these things worked. Plausible deniably and repentance. ‘Although, Amon would kill you.’ Probably something Matteo also didn’t consider, given Amon’s major activities of late were just…bizarre.

When weren’t they?

So, when it was time for her speech, she easily stepped up to the place, haloed in moonlight from the windows. A perfect atmosphere – but of course it was. Antonia could appreciate the theatrics, given she was going to turn it all on its head.

“Fellow kindred of the night.”

The power oozed from her fingertips, not like a gust of wind, but like waves lapping at the shore. Calm and slow, washing over each individual bit by bit. She had their attention, of course – now she wanted to make sure she had their minds, their hearts, their everything, to the last second.

“Let me begin by saying it is an honor to be invited here by Lord Ariotti. We have had our differences in the past, and we will have our differences in the future, but Lord Ariotti was gracious enough to admit when he was wrong and invite me to this feast which has allowed me to reacquaint myself with so many of you.”

Her eyes took in each person who met her gaze, like a friend.



“This is my first Veturia feast, you know,” there was a wryness to her tone, the comment that should not be said heavily implied, “I was in India the last time such an event occurred, and one never occurred again after that, so this truly feels like it is bringing things full circle, to be able to reconcile at an event such as this – I am sure you understand the trust I have had to place in you, and Lord Ariotti,” she gestured out to him, “to come here, especially under the circumstances of the accusations laid against me.”

She let her hand move out to encompass the room, “You have all grown into such different people from that time. We have all changed from the lawless times of centuries ago. Nowadays, a thousand years is an age to sniff at, although then, it was quite the event, wasn’t it?”



“Now we have people like Amon who claim to be well over 5,000 years, and others like Chimika who claim to be over 10,000 – how true that is, likely, we will never know, but we know there are few over 3,000 years, thanks to those lawless times.”

A pause.

“We were not alone in our petty feuds back then. Many vampires and their clans waged such wars on each other,” although few had done it in the way the Veturia did. Few had dared to be so underhanded. They had instead remained open in their hostility, and that had worked out better. That secrecy was what condemned the Veturia. The betrayal of it all. “We were growing into what we were, and what our place in the world was, growing alongside humanity in understanding how vast the world truly was. Like humans, we waged wars – the difference is we live, and we remember, the personal hurts. Humans forget generations ago – already they joke of holocausts and cold wars, forgetting the true terror that we do not.”

Her smile softened, “So I do understand why so many of you blamed me. Why so many of you feared I would come after you in any way. You understand what happened, what was done, and you know how hard it would be to forgive.” The eyes she met lowered. Shame? Guilt? “So it is hard to hear these words: I forgive you. I, too, have grown and changed, and I know times and understandings were different. We were in that terrible, volatile, teenage period of vampirism. The growing pains were hard, but we have made it through, and if you will work with me, I will work with you.”

And there her eyes alighted on Matteo, “Even you, Lord Ariotti, although you have given me this wonderful opportunity to speak in order to have Inga slaughter me like a lamb, and then offer her up as a sacrifice to Amon for your crime. I forgive you. I know you’re afraid, and I know it’s hard for a little hayseed like yourself to sprout without bloodshed washing over your roots, but I believe in you, and I am willing to help you grow.”


The shift in the room was violent. That no one else knew was, indeed, a lovely treat.

“I would like us both to reach 5,000 – perhaps then we can enjoy the delusions of Amon and pick some deity to be favored by.” An easy chuckle at the expense of her leader, “I think I’d rather like Mars as my patron.”

She filled that name, that title, with power in her words, in that feeling, into the already upset room – a room that wasn’t sure if she was lying, or if Matteo had really planned something like that. Into the bated breaths of every hunter, who took the word Mars – the name War – as if it were a cue.

Fire filled the room.
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Baba Yaga
The world hurt.

Everything fucking did, and while sliding into the sweet oblivion would have been a mercy, Lilian still clung to consciousness with all her desperate might. What else was there to do? She knew that letting go would be it. The end. Maybe not her physical end, per se, but definitely the end of everything that she was. Relinquishing control now would mean that someone else would grab the steering wheel; something else, if you wanted to be pedantic about it. The same thing that had taken all those before her. And, dammit, she wasn’t about to let the fucker use her as a weapon! Not when he’d been doing just that for her entire life. Not against Cassidy.

Oh, yeah. Cassidy was also fucked.

Don’t be a hero? I’m fucking begging you here.

She was a vampire. Yeah, yeah, jumping out of a window this high couldn’t be pleasant for just about anyone, but the height likely wouldn’t kill her, and then she could, uh, go find her other vampire friends and get at the root of this mystery. Not all was lost, just her. What did that matter in the grand scheme of things?

But, of course, ‘being a hero’ seemed to be Cassidy’s default reaction to most things. It would have been annoying, in the same way reading about a protagonist who was too fucking nice for their own good could be, if it also wasn’t so damn admirable. And, well, if it wasn’t her skin that was being saved.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lilian noticed a computer fly at Michael, and—yeah, she chuckled. It was the absolute worst moment to do that, especially since it only made everything hurt more, but she also couldn’t help herself. There was one other thing, though. The headache… subsided? She could see a bit more clearly, with the world regaining some of its usual sharp edges. The thorns sprouting from her arm – fuck, thorns – were glistening with blood, though the growth also seemed to have halted. So it was something Michael was doing consciously? Something to do with proximity, too? Because Lilian couldn’t imagine he wouldn’t have detonated that bomb already, if he even slightly could.

‘Stay away from Michael,’ the advice traditionally given to all new hunters, suddenly gained a whole another meaning.

“Y-yeah,” Lilian stuttered, still beyond dazed. “Fuck, that was badass.” Collecting herself off the floor seemed like the very definition of impossible, but her muscles remembered what to do more than her head did, and so she somehow pulled it off. Should we just leave all of this here? ‘This,’ of course, referred to the files scattered across the desk. The possible evidence. It wasn’t like she had enough time to judge what would and would not be useful, though maybe that didn’t matter. Fuck Michael, right? So in the end, Lilian grabbed as much as she could and just fucking ran.

“Cassidy, I…” What was there to say? Thank you? Too fucking inadequate for the shit she’d just pulled, but also about the only thing she could manage with her shortness of breath now. Later, the huntress thought. Later, when we get home.

(Home. It was strange, how easily she’d started associating the word with the place where Cassidy was. At the same time, though? It also felt normal. Mundane, but in that warm, pleasant way, like a cup of coffee in the morning.)

Lilian’s god may have forsaken her, but some other gods probably did extend their protection over them. How else to explain that the lock held Michael inside, and that they didn’t run into anyone else?

Well, at least initially.

The cold night air gave her goosebumps, yes; they couldn’t compete with the ones the sight of Maria and Eugene heading towards them gave her, though.

Recognition flashed in Eugene’s eyes, because of fucking course. “Lilian?!”

Maria just kind of stared, as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing. Lilian, also, didn’t want to believe what she was seeing, but she was ready to accept just about anything at this point.

“I’m not in the fucking mood, alright?” she shouted. “Listen, I’ve already tried to stab Michael tonight—"


“—and I’m at my fucking limit. Just don’t make this harder for us, okay?”

It was the poorest appeal in the history of poor appeals, and Lilian knew that. She also noticed the way Maria’s gaze landed on Cassidy, as well as how her shock morphed into hatred.

They all stood there in silence for a few seconds, as if waiting for divine intervention.

Then Maria made a small ‘tch’ sound and tossed something at Lilian. Always expecting the unexpected, she caught it, and… uh, it was a key? To Maria’s bike.

“Take your vampire friend and get the fuck out, Perry,” she snarled. “Also, don’t you dare not to pick up my calls. I will want to know what this means!”

“Yeah, Lils, just… talk to us, please,” Eugene finally found his voice. “And you too, I guess,” he said, studying Cassidy’s face. “Cassidy, right?”


He shouldn’t have left the timing up to her. Then again, Matteo should have left her out of this entirely, so Inga supposed this wasn’t his worst fuck-up. Ultimately, she couldn’t decide what was; if it had been reaching out to her in the first place, back when she’d been desperate for a family, or fucking her over. Depended on the angle, really.

(Most things did.)

Every aspiring assassin knew to get close to their target, so Inga made her way to the stage. She looked up at Antonia, taking in the way she glowed in the moonlight, and opted to close her eyes. Too much, y’know? But that was also a wrong choice. Perhaps the worst possible one, because it only made her voice resonate more.

Inga had never really noticed just how pleasant Antonia sounded, in part because the other woman was usually annoyed with her. Now she could hear, though; the rich color, the perfect control, the melody that both was and wasn’t, somehow. How was it fair? How was she still unhappy, with so many gifts?

And then, of course, there was the speech itself.

Now, don’t get her wrong; Inga knew that Antonia was good at this. Aspiring nutjob or not, she knew damn well you didn’t climb this high up the ladder without being good at capturing crowds. It went with the territory, and it was one of the many, many reasons she would rather swallow glass before trying to become a politician herself. What she hadn’t known, though, was that you could even do something like this.

See, Antonia wasn’t just speaking. She was telling a story; painting a scenery with each detail, each masterful stroke of her brush. More than that, she was altering reality with every word.

That was roughly the moment Inga realized it had always been inevitable. Her, what, falling in love? She still wasn’t sure if she had quite gotten there yet, but she would, and, quite frankly, also wanted to embrace it. Not so much because she thought she stood a chance, but because it just felt right. Like the kind of thing you should die for. What was even the point of romance if you didn’t lose yourself in it completely? Inga had viewed all those stories from her homeland with healthy skepticism; you know, things like Freyr even giving up his precious sword for the beautiful Gerd, because she was just that much more important. It had killed him, but that was fine.

She hadn’t understood. Now she kind of did.

For that to be worth it, you just needed someone like Antonia Lenart.

And it didn’t really matter that she didn’t have her, because the tiny, miniscule chance that she didn’t hate her was more than enough.

Of course, the same thing couldn’t be said about Matteo. That guy was pretty much choking on his hatred, and hey, served him right! That was what you got for fucking with Inga Singedottir.

“Sváss mínn?” she gave a bright smile, before handing her the sword. (A hapless hunter tried to climb the stage, though Inga ran him through before he could even think of touching Antonia. Oh well! Hopefully blood stains looked fine on pink.) “Come, let’s make Mars proud.” That wasn’t much of a choice on her part, because Matteo was already heading their way. And if she remembered right, then—

Ah, fuck.

Through the quickly spreading fire, Matteo flung an entire fucking column at them. Inga had to hand it to him; when it came to the abilities, he had lucked out. There was a reason why he had been feared as a warrior, even if he had never been that good with a sword. Didn’t matter much when you could just throw stuff with your mind, eh? As long as some daring motherfucker didn’t get too close.

Inga shoved Antonia away, and since it was too late to do the same for herself, she instead dissolved into a shadow. The mass of stone flew past them, taking down both some hunters and a few vampires in the process. The entire floor had devolved into chaos; blood-drunk hunters, vampires trying to fight, vampires trying to leave. A lot of them weren’t all that eager to get it on the violence, judging by the panicked reactions, but the hunters who had barricaded the main entrance hadn’t exactly asked.

“You’ve gone too far this time, Inga,” Matteo shouted, sounding nothing short of deranged. (Inga personally thought it rather suited him.) “And you too, Lenart. I’ll show you an Italian hayseed, you stuck up--!”

“I’ll occupy him for you,” Inga said matter-of-factly, once she re-materialized. There were beads of sweat on her forehead, because yeah, she didn’t tend to use her own ability that much. It was useful, but also draining. “Try one of the windows?”


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Cassidy didn’t quite believe anything she had just done was badass. Who threw a computer? But it was heat of the moment, and it got them out of there. Of course, as soon as they were out the door, Cassidy wrenched it closed and kicked the card reader besides the door to break it. The plastic part shattered into several pieces, and she saw the light die as electronics also seemed to break, bend, and otherwise come apart. ‘Hold, please.’ She didn’t get a word out in her own anxiety as they made it back to the elevator, somehow trusting that over stairs, and got to the bottom floor.


Lilian tried to find words, but Cassidy could only smile and shake her head, not even sure what she was shaking her head about, given Lilian didn’t finish her thought. She had an idea of what it was. The words weren’t really necessary right then. “Later.” Later was the obvious answer to everything going on, as Lilian clutched paperwork and Cassidy…still had a knife in her.

‘Oh, right.’

Michael Serafis’s fucking knife.

She really hoped it wasn’t poisoned as she stepped out of the elevator, and pulled it out as they exited the building, only to run right into Maria and…someone.

Cassidy dropped the knife to the ground so she wouldn’t seem like as much of a threat, even if she could pick that knife up again with ridiculous speed. It was the thought that counted? Maybe. She’d find out soon enough as Lilian literally confessed to trying to fight Michael, causing Cassidy to wince as she expected Maria and the other man to come at them on principal. She didn’t prepare for it. She didn’t pick the knife back up.

These were Lilian’s friends. She wouldn’t threaten them or get too defensive.

It worked out.

Maria threw a set of keys at Lilian.

Cassidy bit her cheek against saying anything and reminding Maria of her presence. The look of absolute hatred told her it was better to just smile and nod – and run far the fuck away. “Cassidy,” she agreed with the man, “Thank you,” it was for Maria, as well, but she kept her gaze on the man instead to lessen that…direct appeal.

‘We’ll explain everything. I want to save you two, too.’ They were dear to Lilian and so in that way, dear to her. She stepped to Lilian’s side, “Let me have the paperwork. I can’t drive a bike well.” She could drive a car, if she ever bought one, but she didn’t have much practice with a bike so it was probably best that Lilian drive it. Not to mention, it was Maria’s bike, and that should also forbid her from driving it since Maria might just blow a gasket if she knew that Cassidy was driving it. “That’s, um…Michael’s knife. He might…want it back.”

That felt awkward.

How were they supposed to return it without questions anyways?

Problems for later. Maybe it was best to just leave it where it was.


Antonia shared in Inga’s smile as she took her sword, humming a pleasant sound as it returned to her grip. Agreeable. Why not make Mars proud this once? Sure, it wasn’t technically her bloodline patron, but then, who remembered such things nowadays? Perhaps it was more intimidating to say Iupitor, in some ways, but then again, Iupitor was fairly boring in comparison.

Antonia didn’t know Matteo’s talent. That he could fight, she knew, and so assumed his talent fell in line with that somehow. She wasn’t entirely wrong, either, when the column came towards them. She was not able to react, although that was likely for the best; she was shoved out of the way, and as she hit the ground, she was able to see Inga vanish and watch the column move overhead not far away.

Matteo was in an absolute rage.

Not at all surprising.

It would likely be difficult to close the gap. Matteo knew his talents by now, and knew closeness was too dangerous a game to play. Still, Antonia humored the idea as she got to her feet, before Inga reappeared. ‘Ah, right.’ She had promised to leave Matteo to Inga. Besides which, the fire was spreading dangerously, and Antonia still had reasons to live.

“Bring me his head, if you would,” she couldn’t help the sweetness of tone, catching herself drunk on the scents of blood herself, stepping with a sway away and smiling to Matteo, You are not worth my time, verbero.” Likely a word he hadn’t heard in a while, but no doubt one he’d remember – whipping boy. That was all he was. All he ever could be.

And then Antonia would draw all that influence back. It wasn’t at all the same as Inga’s vanishing act, but it was always helpful, and Inga would take Matteo’s attention to make it all the more effective – like a plain white car driving down the street, Antonia would suddenly seem to just blend, to exist as if she belonged, but no longer in the demanding way of her earlier explosion of power.

Not that she’d count on it – that would be stupid, and so she did sprint away to make sure targeting her while having Inga on his ass would be a difficult task. ‘Out.’ Right, she could see how well that was working for others. She heard the screams from the main entrance, saw vampires jumping through already broken windows – through fire – and heard their regret when they got outside.

The hunters were good. Her talent didn’t make her invisible, either. Just unnoticeable for those not looking – if she jumped out a window into an area surrounded by hunters, they’d notice. ‘Ah.’ She saw it then, a veranda that went outside. Naturally, it wasn’t unblocked, but the hunters and vampires were fairly distracted by each other.

She didn’t walk, nor did she run. She lengthened her strides and made sure to hurry, since walking was far too casual to not be noticed, as well, and kept on target, moving around the fires and fights to the exit. She was almost there, too! Almost, before a vampire ended up shoved into her at the doorway, breaking that fragile illusion.

“Antonia? Please—”

‘Help’ likely would have been the last word of Lady Ashwyn, had she not found Antonia’s arm around her waist, and Antonia’s fangs in her neck. It wasn’t a simple love bite, either. Antonia did taste the blood, did drink, but not much. She tore Ashwyn’s throat out and followed it up by plunging the sword through her heart, putting a quick end to the vampiress and revealing Antonia’s intentions for what they truly were.

There was a beat of surprise from vampires and hunters alike.

The body slumped, and Antonia let the corpse fall, before chaos broke out around her – vampires deciding she was more important than the hunters, and hunters reaching for their slim openings, as Antonia chose to stand and fight rather than continue her exit, cutting down Veturia so near her own escape.

The majority were without weapons. This had not been that kind of party – just as it hadn’t been, so many years ago, for the Optimates. They weren’t difficult to cut down, and the hunters were willing enough to accept her assistance, until, of course, the other vampires were dead.

They had the advantage of numbers, and whatever it was that blessing gave them. Speed enough to keep up with her, and weapons, unlike her vampire foes. “Vae!” Another curse easily escaped, shifting to Latin as one hunter blocked the passage out she’d planned to use with a Molotov cocktail, erupting fire on the bodies in the area, making it difficult for Antonia to consider passing – unless she wanted to test her luck on running through the fire.

She sought another exit while trying to keep ahead of the hunter’s, fending off and killing a few, before she ended up stepping back into one she hadn’t realized was behind her – back into a stake.

The aim was off, but no one really likes a stake through their back, and no one likes it when a hunter follows it up by trying to cut you in two from the front. She blocked that and kicked out with her heeled foot, even if that meant putting weight on the stake still in the hunter’s grip and pushing it in deeper. The forward hunter was knocked back, and the one behind her tried to pull that stake upwards.

An elbow to his head was enough to at least make him let go of the stake, and she ripped it out of her back after that, hurling it down at him and impaling him through his neck with it, but she was hurt and it showed when the strike from the kicked hunter came dangerously close to severing her wrist. ‘Another exit….’ Everything was on fire. Smoke covered passages that may or may not have existed, but she saw one all the same, and fought for a way to get to it, desperation painting her maneuvers in the way anger blinded some fighters – it was too obvious what she was trying to do.


Baba Yaga
“I… yeah. Thanks,” Lilian said, quietly. It was a strange moment, really; one that should have been intimate, like all reconciliations between friends, but Eugene was there, as well as Cassidy. Not to mention Michael, who could be on his way. What would he do if he saw them like this? If he saw Maria helping out? The range of possible reactions was vast, though not one of them included giving her a fucking medal. (A knife between the ribs seemed way more likely.) “Listen, we really gotta go. I will, uh, stop ignoring you, if you leave Cassidy alone.”

The glare Maria gave her was positively chilling. “Do I look like I want to touch that precious leech of yours?” And, alright, the weirdness factor of this entire exchange just rose to the fucking sky, because Lilian could swear she heard a hint of… what, even? Jealousy? Either way, calling Cassidy that was the opposite of cool.

“She’s not a--”

“Not the time,” Eugene grabbed her by the elbow. “Just go, okay? Go, and let us know when you make it home.” Then, to Cassidy: “I’m Eugene, by the way.” The ‘glad to meet you’ was conspicuously missing, but considering that the traditional greeting between vampires and hunters was a stake to the heart, Lilian figured it still went relatively well. Shit, why does this feel like introducing my girlfriend to my parents?

A weird fucking thought. Away with it! And quickly, before her brain somehow ran with it and turned it into an entire Situation. No, Lilian didn’t know what that would entail, but she also wasn’t too interested in finding out.

Fortunately, Cassidy’s quip about the knife provided a much-needed distraction. “Want to call a fucking ambulance for him as well?” the huntress asked, without missing a beat. Really, Cassidy was just so bad at this whole ‘hurting people’ thing that she wondered how she’d ever considered her a threat. Of course, that had been several realizations ago. “Forget it. Actually, I’m thinking it’s mine now.” Finders keepers, right? Even if it was technically Cassidy who had found it in her guts. (Lilian wasn’t too keen on collecting trophies, but she would make an exception for the great Serafis himself. She’d heard some interesting rumors about his weapons; apparently, they were ‘blessed,’ and whatever that meant, she intended to find out. Sure, it could be nothing! Though, given his track record, it also wouldn’t shock her if it wasn’t total bullshit. What else was he hiding from them? The skeletons in the closet would not be allowed to just rot there, she vowed. Both to herself, and to all the others he’d backstabbed.)

With that, Lilian hid the knife and handed the paperwork over. There was no time left to waste, so she spared one last look at her friends, nodded, and then hopped on the bike. Within seconds, they were heading back to safety; back home, for all intents and purposes.

(No matter how corny it was. Or maybe because of it? It seemed that the truth just had that quality to it. Honesty was vulnerable, and thus also embarrassing. Hence, corny.)

(Somehow, it wasn’t that bad with Cassidy.)

“The hell,” she finally giggled, as the HQ got further and further away. “Do you realize what we just did? In the whole fucking history, this hasn’t happened once. Michael is going to pop a vein.” It wasn’t the kind of thing that could be covered up easily, either. Sure, everyone was lowkey afraid of Mike, but to make them stop speaking about that, he would have to have nothing short of mind control over them. “I still can’t believe any of this. You rock people’s worlds habitually, or do you just do that with me?”



Inga made no attempt to hide her grin. “Aye, aye, my lady.” It didn’t sound like mockery, mostly because it wasn’t. Wrapping her words in sarcasm would have been safer; you know, plausible deniability and everything. No blurring of the lines, no shifting of the balance. It would also have been the coward’s choice, though, and while a lot of things could be said of Inga Singedottir, that accusation wouldn’t stick. “Say the word if you ever need me.”

Not that Inga thought she would. But, hey, shit happened, right? And she wanted to be there to make sure it wouldn’t happen to Antonia, of all people.

The same couldn’t be said about others, though. Others, such as her dear old leader.

“MA-TTE-O!” Inga called out, almost playful, as she strolled across the room. In the chaos that had engulfed the hall, she stood out like a sore thumb, and that was exactly the point. Did that make her an easy target? Well, absolutely. Or it would have, had she also not been casually stabbing people on the side. Vampires understood not to stand in her way rather quickly, and most hunters, too, had a sudden epiphany that they preferred unarmed targets. Funny how that worked out! A great basis for mutual understanding, right there. Why nobody had thought to employ her in interspecies relations yet was honestly beyond Inga.

“Come out and fight, you little bitch. For old time’s sake, eh? Too late to regret that you didn’t take my fencing lessons now!” He could have, because she had offered. It would have been ‘bad optics,’ though. The glorious Lord Ariotti wouldn’t be caught dead being bossed around by someone as lowly as her. By a nutjob.

A statue was flung at her, as well as another column, and Inga had to wonder if the fool wanted to raze the mansion himself. A part of it did collapse, trapping a few hapless hunters under the rubble. Would the fire get to them first, or their friends? A question she didn’t really have time for, considering that she did spot where Matteo was. There, standing perilously close! Almost within stabbing distance.

“Hi,” she waved.

“You will rue the day you chose to betray me, bitch!“

Their blades clashed, and sparks flew into all the directions. Oh, he was strong, alright! Most vampires were. The thing was, most vampires had also grown complacent. Humanity had become softer, to their own detriment; much like with most things, Inga’s own kind had followed. Was it not pleasant, to get used to sharp words instead of steel? To implications, instead of hard lines? Matteo had certainly discovered the appeal! That, and also what it was like to stand against someone who hadn’t gotten used to those things.

(Oh, it was true she didn’t kill as often anymore. That wasn’t because she’d forgotten who she was, though. Rather, she’d maybe realized it? Inga could now admit to herself that she’d mostly been killing because she had known nothing else, and that was its own brand of weakness. A blindfold placed over her eyes. Without it, the world was much richer.)

They exchanged a few blows, and, yeah, he got a hit in. Hers was better, though! Close to the heart. Matteo winced, and Inga pressed him against the wall with all her weight, determined to force the right angle. The room was quickly filling with smoke, but she could make it. The fear in his eyes was too delicious for her to just up and leave, anyway. A few more centimeters to the right, and—

Why she glanced sideways, Inga would never know. Some half-forgotten instinct? But she was glad that she did, because Antonia found herself in a predicament.

It should have been a hard decision. Matteo, and her never-quite-solved past; Antonia, and her uncertain future. Either one or the other, because Inga knew damn well what she had to do wouldn’t leave her with enough time for both.

A Shakespearean dilemma, eh?

Well, no.

Matteo wasn’t important.

In one swift motion, Inga pulled the sword from his chest. The man looked perhaps the most surprised she’d ever seen him, though he still managed to repay the kindness with a stab in her back, and throw a few more things.

That wasn’t important, either.

Antonia was.

“Alright, sváss mínn,” Inga gave her a bright smile, despite all the fresh wounds, “I think Mars has had enough.” And then: “Bear with me.” She would have to, because there just weren’t that many options. All the entrances were on fire, so what else was she supposed to do? Other than take her through one of them.

(Yes, Inga’s shadow form did allow her to transport things other than herself. Clothes, for one, and weapons. Also bodies, potentially, even if the weight of it threatened to squeeze her brain out her nose. Provided she was touching them, of course!)

And so Inga grabbed Antonia by the waist, as firmly as she could. Ignoring it was, in fact, Antonia, and not a sack of potatoes, was a vital part of success here, so she tried her hardest to do just that. Gotta focus, y’know? With a prayer on her lips, Inga reached for her power, and—

—blinked, somewhat dazed, when they both found themselves standing outside, with the burning ruin of the Veturia manor in the background. Immediately, Inga let go. Immediately, also, there was a proverbial recoil that hit her like a ton of bricks. “Fuck,” she cursed, grabbing her head in her palms. “I really ought to practice this more often.” Dealing with all the hunters that were still swarming the premises was definitely out of question, though. And if Matteo, the cowardly fuck, decided to strike now? Yeeeah, not the epic ending that Inga wanted.

“Let’s scram.” Because her bike was in sight, while Felix wasn’t. Most likely, he was looking for Antonia? Which was commendable, but they had to get out, like, yesterday.

“You coming, sváss mínn? I’m taking you home.”


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Cassidy nodded silently at Eugene, taking his name into memory along with his face. She wasn’t so upset with Maria calling her a leech right then. It was hardly the worst insult. Leeches and vampires both drank blood, though leeches had once been used positively, or so she’d been told. She hadn’t lived that long ago, or if she did, it wasn’t happening in her part of the world. Still, she was a little glad for Lilian trying to stand up for her, but she agreed with Eugene – it wasn’t the time.

They could figure this out later.

Once they had time to go over the paperwork.

Once they knew what to tell others.

‘Try not to get too much blood on it all.’ She shifted it a bit higher and held it against her upper chest as she felt some embarrassment rise at the commentary about the knife. She hadn’t wanted to keep it! Definitely not in her guts, but she didn’t stop Lilian from removing the evidence, and so possibility of Maria and Eugene being tied into all of this.

She did get on the bike behind Lilian, and was glad there were some bike bags to stick the paperwork in as she got on behind. One arm wrapped around Lilian, the other found a passenger handle and clung onto it, a bit uncertain which way would be better for the ride. The wind was soon rushing by, and Cassidy was feeling better about this escape, and the information they had.


So, too, was Lilian, as made obvious by the giggling. It was a pleasant enough sound, and her own happiness felt infectious. “It was your idea,” Cassidy reminded with her own bit of laughter trilling out into the wind. “I do not do this habitually, or agree to such things habitually. It must just be you.” It was said so easily, so lightly, that for a moment Cassidy didn’t even think on what she said, and certainly didn’t realize the easy way she lightly squeezed Lilian’s side.

The wind was cool.

The adrenaline shaking off was pleasant.

Lilian’s smell was nice, and they were going home….

‘Ah. Fuck.’

Home. They. Not merely her home. It had transitioned so quickly to a shared space, and Cassidy was suddenly quite grateful she was behind Lilian and couldn’t easily be seen. Not that she expected some really noticeable blush with the blood that was…still…flowing.

Well, a blood bag would fix that right up, right? Of course. Besides which, she had to slow down her heart by not stumbling over the thoughts of Lilian that just struck her – and also by not panicking over anything else. “I’m glad you’ve trusted me, Lilian.”


Paired with Matteo’s destruction of the manor and the hunter’s fire, it was inevitable that even Antonia’s planned exit would be taken from her. It didn’t help, of course, that she’d made the line obvious and there were still enough hunters around to notice missed spots. ‘Vae!’ Where the hell was Felix? The thought popped into her mind as she considered exactly how fucked she was, wrist aching from the blows it had given, and blocked – mostly blocked. The hunters were too strong.

And then there was Inga. Sans Matteo’s head. Probably not the first thing worth noticing, but it was the first thing Antonia noticed all the same before Inga declared they were done for the night. No protestation came, although she was about to ask what Inga had in mind before Inga grabbed her.


She remembered the talent, of course. She resisted the urge to shut her eyes, in case anything was thrown at them before they vanished. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. One second, they were in the burning Veturia manor, the next, they were outside the burning Veturia manor. ‘Huh.’ And then nausea and pain hit harder, as Inga let go to deal with the sudden pain herself, and exhaustion.

It was a bit different for Antonia, given she hadn’t used the power. Like her body catching up with movement, and the only answer was to fall forward. She caught herself on her hands, though lifted one quickly to cover her lips as she shut her eyes and tried to regain herself before utterly embarrassing herself on the Veturia lawn. Not breathing helped. So did the darkness.

“Don’t practice…with me,” Antonia drew her hand away and managed to get shakily back to her feet. Sure, there was some blood on her hand that hadn’t been there before. The sword in the other hand, she slid back into the sheathe Inga carried, and then carelessly brushed the blood off on her dress. Not that it really helped.

There was enough blood, her own and that of others, on her. Most of the blood on her lips wasn’t her own. She noted where Inga was heading – a bike – and took her phone out quickly from a hidden pocket and sent a quick text to Felix to go get Amon and bring him her to her own villa. She would…definitely need to talk about this with him before it spread too far. “Coming,” she said after the text was sent, and followed Inga to the bike, mind still brimming with what was ahead.

It would never hold that she planned this, even if Matteo had to know in his heart of hearts. For one, the hunters attacked her. Two, she’d outed him for his own plan against her, and had enough evidence. Sure, he could deny it. Just as she could deny the hunters.

But they would know, even if they kept it out of the public spaces. There were no more lies between them, at least.

But those were problems for tomorrow. As was Michael. Now the problem was getting on the back of the bike in this dress, and not falling off of the bike.

Her experience with bikes wasn’t nil, but it had been a decade or two. She liked bikes, she disliked their lack of protection. She disliked riding behind someone, but the thought didn’t even bubble up in her head – just that lack of protection as she slipped behind Inga, and wrapped her arms around Inga’s waist. She probably wouldn’t mind any extra blood getting on her bike, or her clothes.

And for the moment, Antonia let herself be oblivious to the fact she wasn’t actually bothered about letting her escape, and therefore life, hinge on Inga’s ability to drive a motorcycle.


Baba Yaga
"It wasn't my idea to bash Michael's head in and lock him in his fucking office," Lilian laughed. "That's all on you, babe." Babe. Babe?! Alright, there were some lines she was crossing, and things that she probably shouldn't be thinking about, but, to be honest, Cassidy did kind of ask for it. Not like she had hallucinated... well, the entirety of her reaction.

Was this flirting?

Could be, though not necessarily. It was one of those blurry, hard-to-define things, where you were just being friendly until you weren't. Of course, in Lilian's case, she was definitely being friendly. Nothing more! That they didn't really know each other all that well was the smallest of their issues, and that one was already big enough. Besides, Cassidy wasn't even the type she'd usually go for. Not in the slightest.

('Yeah,' she heard in her head, and for some reason, the critical voice belonged to Eugene, 'but that's because your taste is chronically shit. Why else choose chicks who always break your heart?' Stupid Eugene. Even in her mind, the guy just wouldn't give her a break!)

All in all, everything was 100% normal and there was, in fact, nothing to see there.


Lilian licked her lips, "Yeah, me too. I mean, at least my instincts are good, so I have that going for me." Deana had said that as well, an eternity ago. Something about her sensing whichever way the wind blew, even before it really did? Whatever, it had been a metaphor and Lilian wasn't all too interested in metaphors, fitting as they might have been. But--

"Shit, I gotta text Deana." She had planned to meet her, make no mistake, but the whole fiasco with Michael kind of made her want to do the opposite of going out. You know, just in case. Lilian would actually much rather live in the sewers for the next three weeks at least, but she also that Cassidy wouldn't like that, and definitely wouldn't want to tag along.

Why was that an argument, again? Safety in numbers, logic supplied, though the huntress herself wasn't entirely convinced.

Moreover, the thorns were... still protruding from her arm? Of fucking course. They weren't all that noticeable, in part thanks to the darkness, and Lilian also knew that people would probably default to thinking her to be some corny-ass cosplayer rather than a mutant, but that still didn't mean she was too happy about the situation. Fuck! Would they just stay there forever? Would they grow? No amount of reading comics could have prepared her for her superpowers being this shitty.

"You think trying to remove those is a bad idea?" she asked Cassidy, gesturing vaguely to her arm. "Doesn't seem like the kind of thing you'd wanna try at home, but it's not like I want to end locked up in some secret governmental facility, either." No, not an exaggeration! That was the one thing she could 100% imagine happening, in the universe where literally everything wanted to fuck her over.

It wasn't too far to their home, even if Lilian maybe did regret that a bit, with just how nice Cassidy's arms felt around her waist. (That, too, was a very normal, very friendly thought to have. Again, nothing to see here.)

"Wait," she frowned when they stopped in front of the apartment, and the sound of the engine died down. "Are you still bleeding?" That shouldn't have been a thing! Lilian hadn't really paid a lot of attention to the wound, all too aware of just how hard to kill vampires were, but, what?


And Antonia didn't have to be worried about that. For all her incessant bragging, Inga was a legitimately good driver; moreover, she'd also spent most of her traveling time with various bikes, pretty much always preferring them to cars. Not that there was anything wrong with those, but... well, the remaining three spots, always empty, only served to remind her of the things she wouldn't have. Of the companions that didn't exist.

The irony was that she did have one now, hugging her from behind.

And it was Antonia fucking Lenart.

Well, at least she couldn't see her face? Inga wasn't sure what it was that even could be seen there, on account of not seeing it herself, but she was willing to bet the grin looked pretty stupid.

Then again, that was usually the case. It was either looking stupid or dead, and between the two, Inga would always choose the former. (A smile could be as good of a shield as anything.)

"What a night, eh?" she said, more to herself than to Antonia. Some sappy part of her noted just how brightly the stars shone above their heads; how nice the wind felt in her hair; how fresh the air tasted, as if it had just rained. The night was ordinary, except that nothing about it was. For tonight, and tonight only, Inga could pretend that they were something more than they really were. A team, not just a lady and a scoundrel with blackmail. Better to use the chance to the fullest! Before the dawn came, and the illusion shattered. Something, something, Cinderella's dress? She guessed.

(Her dress was also probably ruined.)

"A shame about Matteo, though," she sighed. "I did almost get him, too. Wasn't even that hard, considering he probably spent the last few centuries writing those ridiculous letters. Truly tragic, but," Inga glanced back at Antonia, a small smile forming on her lips, "it wouldn't have been worth it." Not when the cost would have been leaving her there, anyway.

"But now I owe you a favor and a head," she chuckled. "A despicable thing, not to pay one's debts. Whatever shall you do with me, sváss mínn?" Yeah, alright, Inga definitely was overplaying her hand here, but maybe she also needed reality to punch her in the face.
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Although Cassidy felt the embarrassment as Lilian reminded her of what she had done, she still laughed in spite of herself. Yes, she supposed, she had done that without being told, but what was she supposed to do? Let Michael torture Lilian? That was out of the question! Completely unthinkable. Bashing his head in seemed like a far better idea, it was just a shame it hadn’t killed him.

‘Well, maybe not, that might have gotten me into trouble.’ From the other side of things.

They were probably all in major trouble anyways, though.

Like with Deana. Cassidy’s laughter and amusement tapered off at that reminder. There was no way Lilian was going to be able to visit Deana. Not with the thorns coming out of her arm. Cassidy was quietly relieved. “It’ll be better to go through the information first, anyways.” She suggested, eyes looking over to where the thorns still were.

She didn’t have an answer about removing them, “I don’t know,” perhaps it was something worth calling Inga over. She could mention that when they were off the bike, and when she had a moment to think without the sensation of pain and blood loss herself, “They’re not causing much pain, right?” Maybe Lilian’s situation needed more immediate attention.

But they made it back, and Lilian noticed she was still bleeding as Cassidy got off the bike. She touched the wound, nodded, “Mm…I may just need to drink some blood. That can…hasten the process. Maybe he got me deeper than I realized.” Not that internal organs outside of the heart and brain really mattered. One would think the stomach should, but apparently it didn’t.

Cassidy didn’t really understand her anatomy anymore, if she was honest. What she generally understood was her stomach was pretty useless except for vomiting up human food. Her intestines? Absolutely worthless. Apparently the blood she drank was just kind of…absorbed into the system before it ever hit her stomach and went about its strange, magical work.

Someone really needed to study them more.

Or someone who had studied it, needed to explain it to her. There definitely needed to be a Biology 101 class for new vampires – and also have it explain the sleep nonsense, too, so she could get a grip on her schedule.

In either case, she didn’t act worried as she unlocked the apartment door and let Lilian in, before going to the fridge, “Vampirism is weird. Everything is fixed with sleep or blood,” she said, finding a cup, and finding a blood bag, to at least give the illusion of it being something like, well, fruit punch. She didn’t know if that was weirder for Lilian, but she hoped less. “As for you…I was thinking…maybe we could contact Inga about those before doing anything? She might have seen something like it, or have a better understanding from those she’s…studied.”

Cassidy gulped down a significant portion of the blood, but even when she’d finish the glass, the wound wouldn’t stop bleeding.


‘What a night.’ One where Antonia might have wished to indulge in something she absolutely shouldn’t, and of course, that she wouldn’t. If nothing else, Antonia was good at controlling herself, and others, when she wanted to. Mostly herself. Tonight showed she had some control of others, given how perfectly that hunter situation went off, but there were several parts that showed she didn’t have as much as she’d like.

She could only sigh at Inga’s commentary and try not to lean forward. Try not to press her head to Inga’s back as if she was some immobile and unsentient object. Unfortunately, Inga was very sentient, and showing that kind of weakness was unacceptable, even if it wouldn’t last long after she got into her home. The exhaustion of her own power was starting to roll over her. It wasn’t bad – it never was, she used it often, but even daily runners got tired.

Sleep would beckon that morning, all too sweetly. And it would likely be denied because of fucking Michael, and probably, fucking Matteo, who was still very much alive. ‘It wouldn’t have been.’ She understood without asking that Inga had made a choice when she swooped in and saved Antonia from further hunter assaults. A ‘thank you’ would have been appropriate, but her lips were momentarily tight against it – the ever-lingering survivor’s guilt that considered it may have been worth it.


There were more. Too many more, before she could consider the value of her life.

“I suppose I could ignore you until you bring the head to me,” a dry comment. Naturally, the blackmail prevented any real negotiation here. “I’ll have to think about fitting punishments until your debts are paid,” still dry, still rather unserious. She hadn’t even asked for anything from that debt of the dress, but to be owed a head? That was a grave offense.

Not that she considered she was really owed it.

She had given the opportunity to Inga. ‘Well, I could give it to someone else.’

Michael wouldn’t take it. Michael might not even talk to her after this. Had the fuck up been worth it? ‘I’ll know in the morning.’ When the names were released. When she knew the numbers, on both sides. When she could start crossing more names off of her list.

They reached her manor without incident, and without Felix being there – but she didn’t expect that. Convincing Amon wouldn’t be hard, but sometimes Amon was…extra. And Felix was absolutely not Extra, and had difficulties reading Amon. Then again, who didn’t have that difficulty? When the bike came to a stop, Antonia drew her arms away, but still balanced herself by holding Inga’s shoulder as she got off the bike, “You should know Amon will be here, sometime,” she said, “I am likely going to tell him what is going on, though I have not fully decided. That will include your role.”

Whether she chose to stay, or ran, Antonia didn’t know. “But come in. You should at least get a drink, and be able to speak your opinion on that, before I consider offering him my throat.” Would he take her throat? Or would he join the conspiracy?

Her gut said he’d join the conspiracy, but even she had trouble reading Amon at times.

The door opened before she reached it, a rather scandalized werewolf in the doorway, “What in the hells happened to you?”

Antonia shrugged, “Veturia.” As if that was just another Tuesday, “She needs cold blood,” she gestured back to Inga, “and we need the atrium cleared, Cassandra.”

Cassandra nodded, “Of course, Domina,” she went to hastily attend to such things.


Baba Yaga
“They aren’t,” Lilian agreed. It had hurt when they’d burst through her skin, and she could still kind of feel that, but the thorns themselves were just… kind of there. As if that was supposed to happen? A milk teeth analogy was coming to mind, though that was so outrageously wrong that she didn’t even mention it. She wasn’t meant to have thorns, dammit! (She thought.) Before she managed to forget about it, Lilian whipped out her phone and typed a quick message to Deana.

‘Had to knock Michael out, lmao,’ the lmao, she felt, was extremely important, not only because it really had been funny but also to calm Deana’s nerves somewhat. Abbreviations were normal. They were also something you wouldn’t include if you were too busy dying, though Lilian supposed she wouldn’t have written anything at all in that case. Oh well! It was still staying. ‘Gotta heal & lay low. Sorry! Meet you… sometime, just not tonight. Have good alibi. xoxo, L.’ That she and Deana were close wasn’t exactly a secret, and Michael might have looked down from his ivory tower for long enough to notice. Of fucking course that he’d suspect her! So Lilian hoped against all hope that Deana managed to stay out of trouble, because… yeah, that was the last thing she wanted. To drag her into this, without even knowing what this actually was.

It wouldn’t even be for the first time, too. Misfortune appeared to be contagious, and Lilian Perry, for the most part, the equivalent of Typhoid Mary.

And it looked like vampires may have been susceptible as well? Fuck, hopefully not.

“Sounds like a dream,” Lilian said, when Cassidy explained whatever it was that was going on with vampiric physiology. “Discounting the, uh, not so dreamy parts. Which kind of makes it not-dreamy, now that I think of it.” Nobody could really accuse her of being a smooth talker, but at least you could count on the transparency! Right? That was what Lilian said to herself when she wondered why she still had friends, anyway.

(Friends. Friends like Eugene and even Maria, who had given them their convenient escape route. Maybe things weren’t so bad? Maybe she just needed more time to get used to it all, and hey, fair enough. Had she come to her with a vampire sidekick, Lilian… honestly wasn’t sure how she would have reacted, not knowing what she did now. The fuck up was a fuck up, but in the end, what mattered was what you did to un-fuck it. Or something. Look, maybe she wanted to forgive her.)

Shit, it totally is contagious. Big fucking surprise! Really, maybe Lilian could start predicting the future via running a constant ‘worst case scenario’ compilation in her mind. “You’re still bleeding,” she pointed an accusatory finger, as if it somehow was Cassidy’s fault. “Fucking piece of shit knife, I bet the bastard really did something to it!” But, okay. Okay! Inhale, exhale, things would be fine. Lilian did know how to treat small injuries, after all; it wasn’t often that hunters escaped completely unscathed, and when the inevitable happened, a comrade often had to step in. She was no Ms. Frankenstein, but she could do something.

“Sit down, I’ll be right back.”

And she was, with some bandages and other medical supplies. (Mindful both of her fragility and her penchant for getting into trouble, Lilian had initially bought them for herself. Not like she really wanted to have to resort to cauterization every time shit went sideways, you know? That they’d be used on Cassidy really was a fucking plot twist.)

“Do you even need it disinfected, or…?” Probably not, but it also wouldn’t hurt. Hell, it could maybe dilute whatever the knife was covered (?) in, and that was worth a try. So Lilian did splash the wound with the liquid, and then proceeded to dress it with sure, firm hands. She worked quickly, kneeling in front of Cassidy, her exposed throat just a few centimeters from her face. “This ever happened to you before? What do we do if it doesn’t stop?” And, finally: “How do you feel?”


Hey! Not the kind of punishment I was thinking about. That would actually suck, and let’s just say that things had been way different in Inga’s fantasy land.

(Of course, it being a fantasy land also meant that it wouldn’t translate into reality. That was fine, though. Some people didn’t even have that, and Inga was grateful for her mind’s ability to conjure up pictures.)

“You really should,” she nodded resolutely. “Otherwise nobody will ever respect you, sváss mínn. What will happen when people find out they can just owe you like that, without any repercussions? Before you know it, you’ll be missing heads left and right! I’m thinking you should make an example of me, myself.” The joking around, if that was what it was, however died when Antonia brought up the whole meeting with Amon. Amon, her boss. But also Amon, her oldest friend. Was that dangerous? Inga, who hadn’t even wiped the blood of her own family members off her hands yet, wasn’t sure.

Relationships between vampires were complicated like that, she’d learned. Time changed much, and time was also what they had too much of. Perhaps she and Matteo wouldn’t have even parted their ways had they not gotten so many opportunities to start resenting one another.

Not that that wasn’t a good thing. And Matteo wasn’t even the only problem; really, just one symptom among many. A single fly on the rotting corpse, annoying but not that important.

Still, Antonia presumably knew what she was doing… right? So far, she appeared to have things firmly in her hands.

“I’ll go,” Inga agreed. “How could I refuse such a heartfelt invitation?” Easily, and maybe it would have been the smart choice. Blackmail could only protect you so much, and she’d just seen Antonia turn the tables on, well, literally everyone. Who said she was safe? Who said that handing her over as a sacrifice still wasn’t in the cards?

But she did believe her, ultimately. And, more damningly, also wanted to spend time with her. So what if it killed her? It would eventually anyway, and Inga had always known. No buyer’s remorse, here.

“Thank you, thank you!” she gave the werewolf a charming smile, and took a sip from her glass. The new strength in her veins felt great, despite the taste itself being somewhat bleugh. “I’ve always preferred warm blood myself,” Inga confessed. “But whatever, I’ll drink what I have to drink.” The exhaustion, as well as the headache, had pretty much reached its peak, and so she was thankful for the opportunity to sit down. Still, she couldn’t truly rest just yet.

“So, what’s your take on the Amon situation?” Inga raised her eyebrow, before making herself comfortable. “You know him, not I. Might be a good idea to tell him, but also might not be. Do you need me to lie? If so, how much?” For once, her blue eyes were serious, and she watched Antonia with something that suspiciously resembled concern. No, she didn’t want her to offer her throat. It was perhaps the thing she wanted the least, out of the long, long list of things she didn’t want to happen.

And yes, fighting Amon was an option. That would definitely be a suicide, but a glorious one, if half the rumors were true. Maybe Inga would just… get more out of this night than she’d expected. To die fighting a legend, while protecting the lady of her heart? C’mon, that shit was too good. Worthy of songs.
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Vampire physiology was absolutely not a dream to Cassidy, though she couldn’t deny some of the perks. Most things didn’t kill her. Sure, the sun did, but Cassidy could avoid that on most days. And watch the sun on the TV, or in pictures. Paintings. Other ways. It wasn’t the same, but it was probably…better than what vampires had ages ago, right? ‘They probably don’t even miss it anymore.’ That was a sad thought.

She didn’t dwell there.

Wasn’t allowed to dwell there as Lilian pointed out she was still bleeding, and blamed the knife. ‘Well you thought it might be poisoned.’ Some sort of anti-coagulant? Cassidy didn’t know. This absolutely was not her area, but it was frustrating to think that she could die by bleeding out, the thing that vampires didn’t do. Well, they did – but that was such a laughable death when she had access to blood in her fridge! It would be pathetic.

“Not sure what you’re planning….” Cassidy noted, but took a seat all the same, frowning a bit when Lilian came out with a first aid kit to try and treat her. ‘I don’t think that’s going to stop the bleeding, either.’ Though, pressure and coverage was probably nothing to argue with, and so Cassidy lived the uniform gray shirt over her head and tossed it aside to offer Lilian easy access to the wound.

It wasn’t as if she wanted to wear that shirt anymore, anyways.

“No, pretty sure I don’t need it disinfected,” Cassidy answered, though wasn’t surprised when Lilian tried to do so anyways. “Maybe it’ll remove…whatever got into my wound from the knife,” she gave it an uneasy glance, but sighed and let Lilian tend to her, “Never thought I’d need stitching up again in my life.”

Nor did she think there’d be many threats to losing her composure again – but rapid blood loss, and Lilian’s neck there, pulsing delicious blood, did tempt her. She stopped breathing, and averted her gaze upwards. Ignored the sensation of Lilian’s hands and the reminder of her presence.

She didn’t answer the questions, not wanting to risk the breath, until Lilian was done. She rose abruptly, and walked back to the fridge first, opening up yet another bag and dumping it in her cup. She took one drink quickly, let out a shaky breath, “Sorry. Needed that first, ah…well. I guess I feel a bit weak. A bit tired. And no, this has never happened before. I’ve never heard of it happening, but I guess it’s not…impossible.” Obviously, “I don’t…really know what to do if it doesn’t stop. Stitch it up, I guess. I’m sure there’s a vampire who can do it. Tristan would know if Inga can’t do it.”

He had enough connections, “But let’s give it a night. It’s wrapped. I probably…won’t bleed out in the day now.” In theory. “Tomorrow we’ll probably have to explore medical options anyways considering your arm. I guess you’ve…never seen anything like that before, either?”

So far as Cassidy knew, that wasn’t a normal human illness symptom.


Antonia, of course, was brought a mug of warm blood as Inga complained of her cold blood. She couldn’t help the sidelong glance, “I’ll make sure your blood has ice in it next time.” Deadpan. Serious. But also a bit of a joke. Not that she wouldn’t do it – oh no, she would. But… ‘She’s blackmailing you.’

Right. Now wasn’t the time to think of toying around with Inga, even if she’d been suggesting playing with the punishment thing. It was the position that Inga was able to occupy. She still held all the cards. All the power. ‘Well. Maybe.’ Amon might decide to just behead them both, then neither of them had any power left. Inga didn’t seem opposed to her laying things out for Amon.

Antonia took her seat, not bothering to change out of her dress. Why bother? Things would be far more interesting if Amon saw the bloodshed. She took a sip of her own blood and considered Inga’s question. Her strange concern, “That worried to lose your help in this hunter business?” Antonia noted, but waved her hand to dismiss it as rhetorical.

Not important.

“I’ve kept Amon out of this for centuries. As head of the Optimates, if he were aware, he’d have to kill me for treason.” Technically speaking, “I always suspected he knew all the same, and turned a blind eye because he had no proof…and because he agreed with my campaign of murder.” Which would be no surprise to her at all, but she still took another sip of blood as she considered it, “He hasn’t lived as long as he has without killing his own, though. He killed our former leader, an act I approved of. I’d say that’s a secret, but it’s a fairly open secret.”

Amon didn’t exactly hide his atrocities. That was why he had a reputation, and why Antonia shut her eyes, “But he knows what Matteo tried to do this time,” in revenge, “so I suspect he may be a bit…lenient.” She sighed, opened her eyes, “I’ve known him for a while, and I know he hates the Veturia more than I do, but I do not think it is to the point of risking open warfare with them, although it might. He has complained of missing those days,” she chuckled as she shook her head, “You should only follow my lead. If I am not lying, do not lie yourself – but I cannot guarantee your safety. If he decides I have overstepped, I’ll be dead.”



Antonia wouldn’t even try to fight him, though of course, she would go willingly. She was going to offer information willingly.


Baba Yaga
"Never thought I’d be doing that with a vampire either,” Lilian quipped, “but you’ve been taking a lot of my vampire firsts.” And, to be frank? She just hoped that ‘my first vampire friend to die’ wouldn’t be on the list. If something were to happen to Cassidy because of a stupid idea that she had had, then… Lilian didn’t know what she’d have to do, and also didn’t want to find out. Bloodshed would probably be involved, however. “Stupid, blonde piece of shit,” she cursed. Bitching was good; bitching was her safe space. If she managed to complain about Michael loud enough, then perhaps the anxiety tightening in her chest would just… go away? Yeah, right.

(It was worth a try, anyway.)

“Have you ever seen a face that punchable? ‘Ooo, I’m Michael Serafis and I’m too good for you lowly peasants. Now kill your friend or taste the god’s wrath!’” Lilian mocked, in a voice much too high even for her, let alone Michael. Authenticity wasn’t the goddamn point, though! “Fuck, I can’t believe there hasn’t been a mutiny yet. The guy’s insufferable.” That wasn’t entirely true, because she could easily see how some hunters might adore him. He did have that… weird kind of authority to him? The sort you probably had to be born with, rather than earn. Lilian herself had not been immune to it, as she did remember wanting to be smaller whenever he passed by. She did kind of want that, still. But she was also a hunter, at the end of the day, and hunters were trained to face their fears. When confronted with something that could tear your throat out within seconds, you just kind of… had to reach for that stake automatically, without missing a beat. There was no time for pep talks, no time for dread, no time for existential crises. It was just you, and whatever audacity you managed to scrounge up in the moment.

Hence her calling him Mike.

“You think we could instigate it? Like, hand out anti-Michael flyers in front of the HQ?” Absolutely fucking not, and if it was up to her, Lilian would never so much as look at the building again. Something told her she wouldn’t be that lucky, though.

“I don’t like the sound of probably,” the huntress frowned. “Maybe don’t go back to your room? I wanna watch it for a while, see how often the bandage needs to be changed and the like.” And, of course, if the bandage even managed to stop the bleeding in the first place. Or at least slow it down, god dammit. If not, then she was taking Cassidy, despite any protests, and driving her all the way back to Inga. Although, maybe not Inga? She hadn’t had any supplies for humans the last time, and what Cassidy needed would ironically fall on the human side of the spectrum again.

“Uh…” Lilian glanced at her arm, having almost forgotten it for all the Cassidy-related drama, “no, no I haven’t.” To put it mildly. “I don’t know what the bastard did to me.” She touched the thorns, attempting to break one off, and winced, when they hurt. Not the skin around them, but the thorns themselves. “…I can feel them, though. As if they were part of me.”

A weird thought.

“Wanna go over the documents we stole? Or watch a movie if you’re tired, whatever.” They should probably do something if they were going to wait to see if the wound would behave itself, though.


Inga laughed, the sound of it rich and clear. “Over the line. I didn’t think you to be that cruel, sváss mínn.” Could she get any more perfect? Probably not, and that was both terrible and beautiful. What a joke, that she’d find someone like her in the way that she had, in the time that she had, and, most importantly, after she’d already squandered her chances. Of course, it was also entirely in character for whatever god it was that had decided to fuck with her life, so Inga wasn’t too shocked.

(Maybe it was also for the best, though. There was a strange sort of freedom in it; a freedom that went with knowing you didn’t have to try, because there was no point in doing so anyway. It was the only freedom Inga had ever truly known. But, hey! She did get to be herself, which was more than most people could say.)

“That worried to lose your help in this hunter business?”

Somehow, the question pierced right through her armor, and Inga flinched. “O-oh, yeah. Totally. Hard to find people to blackmail in this economy, you know?” A lie, and an obvious one at that. It sounded like a lie, even to Inga’s own ears, so she could only imagine just how transparent it had to be to someone who read people for a living. But, damn it, it wasn’t like she could tell the truth here! Because then Antonia really might not want her around, and that was the one problem that she didn’t at all want to deal with. Blackmail or not, there were… certain things that wouldn’t be tolerated. Certain boundaries you didn’t overstep. Their relationship would change, doubtlessly for the worse.

Why should it? What they had now was fine.

But then Antonia shared more about her relationship with Amon, and Inga re-directed her attention to that. So you mean to say it’s a gamble. A gamble that Antonia probably had to take, because even she could see this had grown way too big for it to be contained. Perhaps it would be better to tell him, as a show of trust. Trust was everything, in the strange game that all of them were playing.

Trust could also snap your neck, though. Antonia’s neck, which was the bigger issue.

Inga raised her gaze to meet hers, “Deyr fé, deyja frændur, deyr sjálfur ið sama,” she recited, her words quick and crisp. They still sounded a touch more natural than her English, even after all those years. “Your cattle shall die, your kindred shall die, and you, yourself, shall also die,” was the impromptu translation. “Hávamál,” she added for some context, as if she expected Antonia to know what it was. Odin’s precious wisdom, often spoken about but not often followed. “A lot of it is bullshit, sváss mínn, but I have always liked that one. Yes, you really cannot guarantee anything but that we will all die one day. Even the gods.” And you and I. Hopefully not you any time soon, though.

“But,” she smiled, entirely sincere, “I also cannot guarantee that I won’t fight if it comes down to it. I mean, have you seen a nutjob with self-control? It’s like, poof! Gotta kill. Sorry, I don't make the rules.” Which probably would have been more believable without the whole Matteo situation happening mere minutes ago, but… yeah. There were no buts.


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Cassidy wouldn’t interrupt Lilian’s work, nor even her complaints. She doubted Lilian had always believed everything she said about Michael right then, but she was certainly okay agreeing with it all. “Maybe one more punchable face,” she said, “but he’s dead now so it doesn’t matter. Michael has the most punchable living face,” Cassidy agreed with that much, although suspected her bias was too obvious to make a decent judgment on that.

Because Michael really did look like an angel, and calling an angel’s face punchable, probably wasn’t the norm. Then again, maybe God did make them look punchable so that “be not afraid” thing stuck. Even though people were still afraid. ‘And people are still afraid of this Michael, aren’t they?’ Yeah, that was…that seemed right based on Maria and Eugene.

And somewhere, Lilian’s phone dinged with a message from Deana. No comment on Michael, of course. It had taken Deana time to digest that and the stupid little ‘lmao’. No, just a simple: Meet me soon. I’m worried about you. I love you.

No stupid little abbreviations to lighten it.

But Cassidy didn’t know that then, and could only sigh as Lilian insisted she not go back to her room. “Yes, mother,” she joked a little. It wasn’t as if anything would stop Lilian from entering her rom if she wanted to go there and check on her. However, she did wince when Cassidy checked about ripping a thorn off of her, and flinched as if feeling the pain when she saw Lilian react to it.

‘Well, I thought it might tie to the blood.’ Lilian seemed surprised, though. As if that didn’t occur to her. “I think they might be…whatever the God’s Blessing is. That thing that makes your blood smell different,” Cassidy suggested, getting up, “Although Michael smelled…different than all the others.”

Probably not a good sign. “I’ll go get the documents from the motorcycle,” she hadn’t grabbed them, “maybe there will be something in there about the thorns,” one could only hope, though that meant changing into non-bloody clothes before walking back outside. She did so quickly, knowing at least clean clothes would help to show if the blood seeped far out of the bandages, and how quickly.

Thankfully, there were no bloodstains by the time she returned with the documents, which did have bloodstains on them, which would no doubt obscure some information. Thankfully, that was mostly just on the top and bottom pages, and Cassidy divided the pile for them to start going through, keeping her cup of blood near her so she could drink as she peered through the documents.

Cassidy seemed to get a useful set. It was about the Church, but more than that – about where the God was, which was not just front and center, of course. “There’s a whole labyrinth under this city,” she muttered. Not just the sewers, it seemed. No, their God was under there, somewhere. “They really believe they’ve found a God and it’s willingly staying there with them. Helping them.”

Was it trapped? Were they just taking from it? Did it need help, whatever it was?


Inga flinched.

More than that, Inga lied. It was too obvious for even Antonia’s doubt and suspicions to cast aside as a truth. Why should that be a lie, though? Perhaps the only lie was that it was hard to blackmail someone. The rest could be true, but it didn’t sound that way in the least. Antonia took a mental note, just as she did the phrase that Inga offered – with a translation.

Well, that could help narrow down a few things, like that incessant nickname that Inga used, if she found that phrase and got the gist of the sounds from there. Not that she didn’t know the sound of that nickname by now, but alphabets and how letters sounded in various languages seemed to change between languages, the ‘J’ and ‘LL’ in Spanish just two examples of hundreds.

“That depends on your god,” Antonia said, “although I suspect they’re all quite dead already.” If they had ever existed in the first place. She knew for a fact Amon wasn’t the first vampire to play at being a God. She’d met a Kali, before.

Amon was just the only one to survive this long.

‘But I have seen a nutjob with self-control.’ When Inga chose her over Matteo. Perhaps there was an argument against it, but pieces were already beginning to click into place in her head, the resounding alert that this was not, in fact, all about the blackmail. Perhaps the reasons remained murky and skewed in her head because the blackmail still blocked most other reasons, and because Antonia sought logic where there was none (well, none of her form of logic), but her mind was beginning to work to unwind it. “Have you met Amon?” a joke, “that nutjob has more self-control than anyone I’ve met. More than me.”

“You wound me, Antonia.” She’d heard his steps when she said it, of course, and could only grin at him from her seat. “Though it seems plenty of others have wounded you, so I’ll let it lie today. And your pet,” he noted, absolutely no filter as he looked Inga over, “This has much to do with that feast tonight, I suspect.”

“Mm,” Antonia agreed.

“So is Matteo dead? I hope Joseph isn’t, I wanted to play with him longer. If he’s alive, perhaps I’ll spare you.”

Amon really had a way of getting right to the point in the strangest ways. Antonia didn’t even stiffen or flinch at the trajectory he forced, “I don’t know if Joseph is dead. I had hunters do most of the work. We’re fairly certain Matteo lived.” A beat, “How did you guess?”

“Guess? Oh, no, no, no,” he chuckled, “I know how you Romans work, and I know you’ve been doing this since at least the 1800s, if not longer.” He strode to take a seat, “I was wondering how long it would be before little Antony needed Cleopatra.”

If looks could have killed, Antonia’s would have, though it didn’t disparage Amon in the least. “What I don’t know, is what role your little pet plays. She’s adorable, really, the blood really brings out her pallor, but she looks like she bites,” he glanced over to Inga, “So, little Veturia, how are you involved in this delicious scheme to eradicate your family from the roots up?”


Baba Yaga
The... God's Blessing? It did make sense, Lilian supposed, but in that 'oh shit' way that she very much did not want to acknowledge. Not like closing her eyes before it would make it go away, though. Surprise, surprise! Maybe imbibing unknown substances was, in fact, a shitty idea. Even if everyone else was also doing it. "Fuck," she said, because there were few other things left to say. "Yeah, I should have figured. So like, what, do I have to get used to being the shittiest superhero in the world now? The Thorn-woman?" The cringe of that was exceeding all the safety limits, to the point Lilian must have single-handedly created some kind of space-time anomaly. Oh well! Nobody said going against hunters would be easy.

Fortunately, she still had her documents. Yeah, yeah, not the phrase Lilian Perry had ever expected to say, considering her burning hatred for paperwork, but here, the circumstances were... special. Especially fucked, too. It wouldn't hurt to learn more, provided they bothered to record anything even remotely interesting.

And, in the end? They didn't disappoint.

"A labyrinth?" Lilian raised her eyebrow. "Well, fuck me sideways, this is starting to get pretty wild." Not that it hadn't been wild from the beginning, with the mutants and betrayals and whatever Serafis' bullshit was, but she had kind of thought it would start to make more sense in time, not less.

Then again, maybe it all made perfect sense. Lilian not being attuned to the exact level of bullshittery versus shit just not checking out could be two very different things, after all.

"I mean, I did kind of expect that," she shrugged. "They obviously have something, and that something produces results." Results that went beyond any parlor tricks. Was it a God? What could be called a God, really? Somehow, Lilian didn't think they'd be greeted by Jesus' friendly face. "We... fuck, we need to take a look. I know, I know, it's what every doomed horror protagonist would say, but we've gotten this far." It wasn't just that, either. The thorns sprouting from her arm were a tangible reminder of what would happen if they didn't pursue the lead, and Lilian wasn't too happy about the next installment.

At least I'm still here. As in, me. Not something else wearing my fucking skin.

For how long, though?

To distract herself from those thoughts, Lilian grabbed some documents as well. Mostly, they were statistics; statistics outlining that the experiments had gone on for quite a while, even if they hadn't started giving the blessings out until recently. A wonder, really, that they'd thought to run any tests at all! The numbers did turn her stomach, though, and so she turned her attention to something else.

"Hmm," she rubbed her chin, "seems like they found the God in some catacombs? They thought it to be a vampire nest, but there was more than they bargained for. Something grand." The report was dry, thanks to it being written in the much-reviled officialese, but Lilian had learned how to digest that kind of information years ago. Her eyes darted between the lines, when--

"Oliver and... Aurora Perry?" And, yeah, there was disbelief in her voice. For a good reason. "Those were my parents' names. I never knew they went to such missions..." Although, to be fair, what Lilian did know about her parents could be summarized in two brief sentences. They'd been hunters; now they were dead. Upon turning 18, she'd received a crumpled picture from their wedding, and that told her she looked mostly like her mother. It had been weird more than anything else, in part because they'd been such non-entities. The older hunters had never spoken much of them. To spare her the pain, maybe? Even if Lilian didn't miss them. Not truly, anyway. You couldn't miss what you had never known, even if you sure as fuck could wonder.

"They died during a vampire attack," she explained, "when I was, what, maybe two? I don't remember them, obviously." Sometimes, Lilian asked herself whether they'd be proud of her, and the answer had usually been 'yes'. Nowadays, she wasn't so sure. "I don't even know if--" Wait, what? She blinked, once then twice, but the words on the page did not disappear. "Eliminated, code 1212," Lilian read aloud. "That's... fuck, that's insubordination."


"Are you seeing any signs of Ragnarok happening right now, Antonia?" Inga rolled her eyes, surprisingly annoyed. "No? Then they're fine. They would have called, trust me." And, no, Inga herself wasn't sure how much she believed in any of that, and to what extent it was the placebo that kept her going. What she did know, though, was that she needed it; this quiet, gentle assurance that it all hadn't been for nothing. That she would be needed somewhere, one day, even if that wasn't true now. Small lies, right? Considering how often her kind gorged on the big ones, Inga believed she was entitled to this one thing.

"Hmm," she licked her lips, "that's what nutjobs want you to think. And then, bam! Expectations subverted. Don't say I didn't warn you, sváss mínn."

(After all, it was true. Playing around with what was expected, and what wasn't, was the best part of this by far. Yeah, you did kind of disqualify yourself from everything else, but 'everything else' had never been worth much to her, anyway.)

Amon's arrival was about as theatrical as one could expect, and Inga did her best to act... well, like herself. Like herself, and not a nervous fucking wreck.

Needless to say, Amon was working very hard on preventing her from doing just that. Pet?! Inga did regret choosing that particular moment to drink from her glass, because she was admittedly kind of choking on her cold blood now. Am I being this transparent? Then, even more dangerously: Does it look like she wants me in that way?

And, alright, now she was being transparent, with the obvious attempts to collect herself and stop the damn smile from spreading all over her lips. Eh, better not fight it. "H-hi!" she waved in Amon's general direction, feeling stupider and stupider with each passing second. Was she fucking up? Was that what Amon wanted, or...? "Antonia has told me much about you." Most of it sounded good, too. The murder thing some may have frowned upon, but Inga wasn't at all about that hypocrite life.

"My name is Inga, in case you wanted to know," she pointed out, though not unkindly. "And thank you!" Because, really, Inga had no idea what else to say besides that. Her role in all of this, however...

"As a knight in shining armor," Inga answered, without missing a beat. "Or a cheerleader, whichever you prefer." A cheerleader with a sword, though that probably didn't need to be emphasized. "A bystander, until recently. Really, I'm just kind of passing through." That could be said about her life in general, depending on how depressing you wanted it to get. "Would it be too hard to believe if I said I have no horse in this race? I mean, there are some scores to settle but I don't care that much overall. I'm helping out because," she gave Amon a thumbs-up, "I can!"

And then, because that probably did sound too unhinged even for her usual standards, "I don't even see myself as a Veturia anymore, to be honest. That was... a long time ago. Some disappointments ago."
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
A fucking labyrinth indeed. Cassidy tried to commit as much of it as possible to memory – and she took pictures with her phone because she did agree on one thing: they would need to investigate this. ‘Maybe then Inga and Antonia will let us in on what they know.’ And maybe they should pass this along in case they already knew about this? Either way, a check-up was definitely in the near….

Cassidy paused on the information, the name ‘Antonia’ there, and began to skim the new information. There were bloodstains on some of these sheets, but the information was fairly obvious – Antonia was using the hunters to kill vampires. ‘Oh fuck.’ She could just…off them, then, right?


Did she tell Tristan this? Did she tell Antonia? ‘Definitely not that.’ Might be better to pretend she never saw it, but then what security would she have against Antonia just…killing her and Lilian? Or against Antonia turning them in to Michael if she needed more information from him? ‘Fuck.’ This, she didn’t say aloud, and it seemed Lilian was engrossed enough in what she was looking over not to notice some of the expressions that Cassidy made while looking it over.

The reason for that became obvious as Cassidy tuned in when she mentioned names – and their relationship. Cassidy looked up from the bloody paper, sympathy entering her gaze as she learned about Lilian’s orphaned status. Not that it surprised her – perhaps the age did, a little, but otherwise, no, death by vampires wasn’t surprising in her line of work, and what her parent’s had done.

Until it wasn’t death by vampires.

“What?” Cassidy set her papers aside and moved closer to Lilian, as if seeing the words and the code would make it make more sense to her. Of course, it didn’t. These weren’t terms she was familiar with, and the information was all in legalese. “Does it say what they did?” Although Cassidy already had her suspicions.

“Was it…did it have to do with the God?”

It probably didn’t outline what they did, and when Cassidy leaned forward to try and see words that weren’t there, things between the lines, she was reminded that was a bad idea and leaned away, stepped back, and walked back around to be in front of Lilian, rather than alongside her and looking over a shoulder. The glass of blood was near enough at hand.

“It would explain why….”

Why no one said anything.

“Although I guess any insubordination would….” She trailed off, figuring it was obvious that any insubordination would explain why Lilian knew so little. No one would dare talk about traitor parents to a child they were hoping to convert to their way of thinking.


‘Ah dear, you actually believe in it.’ Antonia couldn’t help the pitying thought as Inga mentioned her version of the apocalypse, but naturally, Amon’s interruption had allowed no comment. Not that she would have made one immediately; she was used to the nutcases believing in their old gods, old religions. Antonia was too pragmatic for that.

If there were gods, they had died. Of that, she was certain.

But Amon always made himself seem a bit like a God. It was in the way he caused Inga to choke on her blood, and stutter out a greeting that reminded Antonia of how easily he maneuvered through a room, and twisted people to the reactions he wanted, even the most stoic. He was a natural at fucking people up. He even listened to Inga rattle off her relationship to it all with a smile, before cutting his gaze over to Antonia, smile still as sweet and feline, “Why is she really here, Antonia?”

“She’s blackmailing me.”

It was said so deadpan, so bored, one would think they’d met at a grocery store, and Amon laughed as if delighted, but there was a new edge to it, “Over the hunter thing?” Antonia nodded, “Well! In case it has not occurred to you, meum mel, you are free. She is now a conspirator and actor, as well.”

It had not occurred to Antonia. The realization was obvious on her face. “Shall I go ahead and get rid of her?” Amon inquired.

Antonia, despite herself, shook her head. The rationale was simple, “I don’t know if she has something set up to release after her death or not,” but she knew that wasn’t it in full. “She’s also assisting me in dealing with the mutants.”

“Followers of Apep,” Amon corrected, as if he’d done it a hundred times. He’d do it a hundred more. Antonia only called them that around everyone except Amon. “Well, I suppose if you find Inga useful, I shaln’t stand in the way. At least now you can say you are working with her of your own free well. Mostly.” Technology was such a fascinating thing as it grew, and he’d seen so much of it. Tristan told him of so much more. He definitely understood the possibility of released information on a timer. “And now I suppose we’ll all work to get rid of the Veturia.”

“Even Joseph?”

Amon waved a hand, “He doesn’t seem to be repenting like your dear pet,” Antonia was annoyed with the term already but knew saying anything would make it worse, “but I do hope to play with him more before you get to him.”

“Why are you obsessed with him?”

“His temper amuses me. It is a wonder he is still with them, with such a temper as his. They are not known to tolerate such long.” Amon was a simple man at times. “But you – Inga? Tell me, how long were you with the Veturia?” Sharp grin, sharp eyes, “How many of my childes did you kill?” Not exactly the question anyone would want to be asked by Amon. Certainly not coming off a request to kill said person not even a minute earlier.


Baba Yaga
“Uh… no, no it doesn’t.” That was almost the worst aspect of this entire fiasco. After all the years of silence, handwaving and ‘you know how vampires are’ types of excuses, what Lilian got was a fucking code. 1212. The one thing that you really didn’t want on your record, if only because it suggested it was nearing its end. Hunters were rarely forgiving when it came to… well, most things. Forgiveness was the domain of god, and they were so very human. (And also lying, treacherous fucks. Good to know!) “But I do think it has to do with the God,” Lilian said. “It kind of has to. I mean, why else would it be in this file?” Certainly not because whoever had written it had been feeling nostalgic about the execution. No, there just had to be some link. “It seems there were special teams assigned to these missions? Look, there were more of them.” And, indeed; after the initial discovery, there had been more visits to the catacombs, with the intervals shortening in between. Her parents had been there for the first expedition, as well as for most of the subsequent ones. The infamous 1212 code was, of course, only included in the very last report. So, what did this mean? That something had gone quite awry. Murderously awry.

“I can’t fucking believe this,” she slammed the papers against the desk. “They lied to my fucking face for years, this… this…” Actually checked out, now that she thought about it. They’d lied about vampires, too. About the god’s blessings. Why not about her parents, then? Just where was this disparity her mind was still clinging to? Helloooo! She should wake the fuck up already, because this had been their modus operandi for years. “Yeah, I guess it’s not that much of a surprise anymore, but still. Jesus fucking Christ.”

Once the anger subsided a bit, Lilian grabbed the papers again.

“I wish I understood more,” she sighed. “But a lot of it is just gibberish to me.” Yes, because an alarming amount was written in abbreviations and slang that she didn’t really recognize. Had the terminology changed so much over the years? Was this secret enough to warrant additional security measures? Both could be true, and ultimately, it didn’t fucking matter. Quickly, Lilian returned to the index and searched for familiar names; for expedition members that had survived, and could therefore know more. C’mon, I gotta know some of those fuckers!

And maybe she did, but most of the page was covered by blood.

“Alright,” Lilian snorted in frustration, “I fucking give up. This is my sign from the heavens that I should let this sleep.” Hmm. Unless, of course, there was someone she could ask. Someone like Deana. Did she know? Had she known, all along? No, no, no, Lilian wasn’t remotely fucking ready to have another life certainty shattered. There was only so much bullshit one person could deal with, and she was getting dangerously close to the limit.

Deana wouldn’t, she told herself, in the end. Just, no.

But what if she did?

“You know,” she glanced up at Cassidy, her lips twisted into a small, painful smile, “I have always wondered how similar to them I was. Turns out that maybe a whole fucking lot. If betraying the organization is a family tradition, then yeah, I’m a Perry, alright. Except I’m better at surviving.” Which was a connection that she shouldn’t have made – if only because her eyes suddenly felt very wet.

Oh, fuck.


Cool, cool, everything was fine!

Nothing really was, but that was such a normal thing for Inga Singedottir that it didn’t even raise any alarm bells. When everything was on fire literally all the time, you sort of learned to live within the flames. And, if you were twisted enough? The burning flesh could even start smelling sort of delicious.

Antonia ratted her out, because of course she did. Given her situation, Inga didn’t really bother blaming her.

“To be fair,” she raised her hands, “you asked me what I was doing with the Veturia. The blackmail is a whole another thing,” not that it would matter to someone like Amon, but Inga still felt the need to clarify. It was the proper course of action, to clear up misunderstandings like that. And if she was going to die, then hey! Might as well do it with a clean shield, as they said.

And she probably was going to die here. Inga would be lying if she said she’d foreseen the butterfly effect this would trigger, though she also didn’t regret it. Not really. Her presence at the feast had served its purpose. Wasn’t it nice, to get to feel like your actions actually mattered? Perhaps that was all that she could hope for, in the end. Perhaps that was why all tension left her body, and why she listened to the conversation with something closer to mild curiosity than actual dread.

So I’m gonna see what he can do? The Pyromancer is going to kill me?

A good trade-off, she guessed.

But then—

“No.” Alright, that was a surprise. Not so much the first reason, because that was just Antonia’s brand of pragmatism, but the second one? Inga couldn’t help shooting her a confused glance, as if she meant to ask ‘really, sváss mínn?’ I had no idea you were actually interested in that. The last time she’d checked, it had been Inga who had dragged her into the entire hunter affair, and Antonia had seemed about as pleased with it as she would have been with having to eat her own shoes. Oh well! Not like she was that good at reading people.

(The fact remained that Antonia had saved her, though. Inga didn’t really know what to think about that. And that she was working with her willingly now? That was something she was going to have to, uh, digest.)

Then the conversation took an unpleasant turn again.

‘All of them,’ some part of her wanted to say, if only to see how Amon would react. After all, it was in her nature to toy with her own life. What stopped her, ultimately, was that Antonia had spoken for her, and that she didn’t know just how fickle Amon was. Would this somehow reflect poorly on her, as well?

Can’t go wrong with honesty, I suppose. “Hmm,” Inga licked her lips, “about three hundred years? No, can’t be that; by that time, I was already in Germany. So, two hundred, give or take. By the way, sváss mínn,” she turned to Antonia, unable to contain herself, “I have been wondering for a while. What did you think of the Holy Roman Empire? Seemed neither Holy nor too Roman to me, and I was there. Oh, and the empire part also struck me as questionable.“

But no, she wasn’t going to dodge the other half of Amon’s question. “As for your childes,” Inga’s smile wavered somewhat, “I don’t know. They didn’t invite me to their planning sessions. I had my orders, so what else was there to do? I didn’t ask.” Eventually she’d started asking, and that had led to her cutting the ties. “I was just a nutjob with a sword, Amon.”

And then: “Any ideas what to do about the Council? I mean, there’s gotta be one, right?”


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Cassidy didn’t go closer to look at what Lilian offered, but watched Lilian’s expression as she indicated there had been more missions her parents went on. That it all related to this God, and so their insubordination had to also relate to this God. ‘Perhaps they found out about the mutations and decided this wasn’t the way to go.’ Whatever the case, they’d apparently decided this wasn’t right.

And died for it, leaving Lilian to be taken in, raised, and brainwashed by the hunters.

“It’s possible most the hunters didn’t know they were lying,” Cassidy said quietly, to remind Lilian that others were being lied to, as well. “Maybe most of them were told just that…your parents died to a vampire.” Insubordination couldn’t spread, especially when it was about a God. Although, God himself was pretty open about insubordination.

Everyone knew what happened to Lucifer.

Still, Lilian sought more information desperately, only to end up with a bloody page. Of course. Cassidy felt that sting of agony for Lilian’s situation when she finally set it down, deciding to call it a night. Cass nodded agreement, seeing the tears begin to show in Lilian’s eyes. ‘Oh. Oh no.’ She knew she couldn’t just go hug Lilian right then, as much as she wanted to. Sure, she thought she had enough control if she stepped into it consciously, but her situation was teetering and she was aware that distance was her friend right now.

Lilian’s friend, though she wouldn’t know it.

“Lilian…this is the shittiest way to find out about what happened,” she stated the obvious, “I’ll be here with you through it. Including making sure you have support they didn’t have, to survive.” Perhaps her parents were great at survival, but they had no support. Being amidst hunters, and with a child, that had to be hard to find. They probably hadn’t made it out in time, but if they had…they probably would have been great. “We’ll follow this trail where it leads. We’ll find out what they did…and why.”

She probably didn’t have much of a connection to her parents, being separated so young…but now, she might want answers because it was the Hunters that did it. The Hunters who brought her in, and raised her. “But I think you’re right. We both need to sleep on everything we’ve found, and everything that’s happened, and then…I think we have some people to follow up with soon.”

Lilian might need to follow up with Deana, and Cassidy…it looked like she was following up with Inga and Antonia, though that was a mess she was hesitating to step into even more now. She wasn’t sure if she could get away with talking to them without Lilian, but she might try, given Lilian understood audiences and reactions.


Antonia had tried to convince herself Inga wasn’t present, the way Antonia wasn’t present. Amon’s question cut to the heart of it, as he always did, and she knew from the hum her delusions had been wrong. Even the consideration that perhaps Inga had cut ties by then, had been there. She hadn’t known she cut ties at all, was it not feasible?

Of course it wasn’t.

Her networks weren’t that terrible.

Still, she had thought Inga might be absent. She didn’t have a list of every Veturia there. Just a list of every Veturia old enough, and she’d been watching them die piece by piece, guilty or not, over the years. It hadn’t mattered if innocent blood was shed, and now she had told Amon to spare the life of one with hands that were very bloody. ‘A nutjob with a sword. Not the one who ordered it.’

She knew where blame went, of course. That was one she’d yet to even graze with the sharp edge of a sword, except in perhaps some losses of childes. Yet, there was still personal accountability. Just as there was personal honor, there was personal shame, and Antonia regretted not letting Amon end Inga.

Not that she could say it and contradict herself, or she’d reveal she’d been busying lying to herself.

Amon hummed at the answer, seeming to assess it for himself, before he chuckled at the matter of the council and leaned back, “That’s a non-issue. Matteo, you, and Antonia, will all claim that the hunters surprised everyone, that the feast was going swimmingly, and then was attacked. Hunters plan big things occasionally. Matteo would not dare to say anything else, for if he does, we can claim self-defense. Sure, the better defense would have been not to go at all, given our pre-knowledge, but at most you two would get a slap on the wrist, and Matteo would get executed for planning an assassination. Antonia was in her rights to defend herself against what she could only believe was a group effort, isn’t that right, Antonia?”

Antonia had fallen silent, even ignoring the comment on the Holy Empire. Rome didn’t belong in that. She lifted her gaze from…nothing, she realized she’d let it drift to space, and rewound what Amon had been saying. Council, denials, Matteo playing along – yeah, that sounded right, and she managed an agreeable hum.

“But yes, there will be one, and you two will play the nonsense game and feign ignorance, so long as Matteo does. I’ll make sure he has to explain himself first, so he can decide if he wants to hang himself. Everyone will toe the party line, and we’ll keep our war out of public eyes.” He sighed, “I do hope he proves me wrong, and brings this war into public, though.” Yes, Amon was bored. “But he’s a politician.” He said it with contempt, despite the cheer.

Antonia rolled her eyes and rose, “While I appreciate your certainty, I think I need to head to bed. Tonight has been a lot, you two can see yourselves out at your leisure, just be out before sunset or I’ll have Felix throw you out.” Antonia said dismissively.

“You never answered about the Holy Roman Empire,” Amon noted.

‘You know my answer.’ He heard enough of it. She didn’t rant endlessly this time, of course. “The Empire died with the Tetrarchy.” Before the Holy Roman Empire began, but close enough to the Christianization of Rome that it counted in her mind.


Baba Yaga
"Yeah. Yeah, that's... fair." Maybe Lilian wasn't interested in being fair, though. As fucking if! What she wanted was to cry and make sweeping judgments and send them all to hell, aside from maybe Maria and Eugene, and all the people who were obviously too young to be guilty. And Deana, of course. Always Deana.

Did she know it wouldn't bring them back? Yeah, but it was the next best thing!

What it also was, first and foremost, was a fantasy. On some level, Lilian knew that she didn't really want it; that it was an easy, ready-made solution, like the press of a button. Click! And, miraculously, all of it would go away. The heroes would be avenged, the bad guys dead. The credits would roll, the soundtrack would swell, and she could pat herself on the back for... what, even? Accomplishing absolutely fuck all?

It just didn't work that way. It really fucking didn't, and there were no such buttons. Easy solutions? The last time Lilian Perry had believed in those, she'd maybe murdered a bunch of innocent almost-people. So, not fucking great.

Cassidy kept her distance, and there was a twinge of disappointment. Did I do anything? Of course, Cassidy also wasn't her emotional support machine, so it wasn't like she could say anything. Besides that, she... fuck, she did try. The reception was a little colder than usual, but still Sahara-tier in comparison to everything else she'd known. "Thanks," Lilian smiled, before wiping the tears. "Fuck, I'm being pathetic. I didn't even know them." No, and it admittedly wasn't them she was crying for. More than that, it was for herself; for herself and the childhood that she could have had, without the night terrors and all the dead friends. For that glimpse of possibility, taken by her own.

Why did people have to be such assholes?

"Sleep sounds like a good idea, yeah," Lilian nodded. "It's... been a long night." To put it mildly. "Can't hurt to get some rest and, dunno, think about stuff." Not that thinking would help, but perhaps she'd at least feel a little less devastated over the whole thing. (Ugh, feelings. Always there to fuck you up when you least expected it.) "Goodnight, Cassidy."

The next day, the full extent of her naivety was revealed. Not only the thorns hadn't gone away, but they'd sort of hardened; Lilian could no longer bend them, nor could she touch them without cutting her own fingers. That... probably wasn't good.

Then again, what was? Recently, Lilian couldn't think of a whole lot of things that weren't Cassidy.

"If you're not bleeding anymore," she said to Cassidy the next day, "I'm gonna meet Deana." Thorns or not, it just had to be done. Well, she could probably hide them under a jacket? They weren't that huge, and it was cold enough that she could justify wearing one outside.

So Lilian did put a jacket on, and also grabbed her phone to text Deana - which, a good plan, if not for the fact that the world started spinning.

"Fuck, what... what is this shit?"


It had gone well, all things considered. She was alive, for one; that could be both a good or bad thing, but, according to the mainstream interpretation, definitely the former. Let's be generous and go with that one, then. Antonia was alive as well, which was an unambiguous win. Matteo, while also alive, was likely in the process of being fucked over, by Isolde first and then by the Council later. Wasn't that even better? Inga could imagine all the stupid excuses already, and had to admit in the privacy of her mind that death would have been kinder. Way more dignified. Amon, for his part, also didn't seem to have a problem with her continued existence.

So, not a single issue to be seen!

Except that Inga couldn't not notice the shift in the room, and the way Antonia sort of retreated into herself. Yes, Antonia was Antonia, and sometimes talked less than she would have liked her to, but the Antonia she knew also never would have passed up the opportunity to stress just how much better than literally everything else her homeland was. Not when she still had her tongue, anyway.

Was it something she'd said?

None of that should have been new information. Inga hadn't told her explicitly, but she'd assumed her history with the Veturia wasn't a secret, because it just objectively wasn't. What, had she thought she'd been their cook? Surprise, surprise! Vampire clans didn't really need those.

What they did need, on the other hand, were killers. Killers like her, who acted instead of asking uncomfortable questions. You know, hired swords? Inga had never once been dishonest about who she was, and what she was, and what it was that she'd done, an eternity ago. Then why...?

Eh, maybe she was reading too deeply into it. After all, it had been a long night; they'd made Mars proud and everything, but that shit cost energy, and Inga herself couldn't wait to finally close her eyes. Especially with the Council bullshit on the horizon! Gods, was she not looking forward to seeing Matteo's stupid, much-too-alive face any time soon. All the goody-two-shoes preaching about 'murder being bad' she also could have done without, buuut yeah, kind of the point.

"Yeah, yeah," Inga waved. "Goodnight, sváss mínn. See you around, Amon."

From then, it only took her a few minutes to reach her bike and head home, if you wanted to call it that way.

Something told her tomorrow would be a long, long day.
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
“Good night, Lils,” Cassidy said, barely registering the nickname use before she opted to go lay on her couch rather than her room. Sure, Lilian was going to sleep, but she had asked Cassidy to stay in the open, so she would do so. The couch wasn’t that comfortable, but she figured it would work.

It really didn’t.

Attempts at sleep continued to fail, not only because of the couch’s discomfort, but also because of her injury. It didn’t actively hurt, but she felt a jolt of panic whenever she started to drift off to sleep, and she recognized the plummet of her blood. She drank more. She re-wrapped the wound a few times. The bandages slowed it, but it was still an open wound that didn’t stop leaking blood. ‘This isn’t…this really isn’t good.’ She was going to need to see someone.

That was when the group chat went off.

Cassidy had forgotten the event of the night, but the group chat cleared that up with memes, discussions, and accusations flying all around, roasting everyone from Antonia to Matteo, on up to Isolde and Amon, and for some reason some vampire name Joseph? Cassidy was lost on that one, though Tristan seemed aware enough about that one. It was a mess, and was giving her a headache because of the paperwork she’d seen from Michael’s office.

‘It was Antonia. She did this.’ No, that wasn’t in Michael’s paperwork at all, but everything suggested it was something she’d do, and something Michael would support. At least, Cassidy assumed he was the sort to support that, if it was a massacre, which everyone was joking about. Joking about a massacre.

The realization they all probably did this during WWII made her stomach churn and she put the phone away, shut her eyes, and fought for sleep that wouldn’t come no matter how exhausted she was. When she heard Lilian begin to move, it was some relief, and she feigned being awake already to greet her when she stepped out. Feigned that everything was okay, because she was holding it together, after all.

She did purse her lips together when Lilian spoke of meeting Deana, “Okay, let me just get ready – I’m still not letting you go—” and then Lilian seemed to sway, and Cassidy rushed forward immediately, setting a hand on Lilian’s back and upper arm to steady her, before recognizing that was bad by the heavy smell of Lilian’s blood. Is it from the thorns? Is that why it’s so much more—’

Lilian jolted back as if she was shocked, wrapping an arm around her abdomen and cringing, but she shook that off. “I…don’t think you’re in any position to meet Deana first,” she said, “We should get you looked at first. If you collapse in front of Deana….” Well, that was bad. Deana could take Lilian and drive her back to HQ, for one. Lilian might not be able to save her with her blood loss as it was.

Not to mention the fact she’d have to restrain herself to not kill or harm Deana too much, when Lilian clearly liked Deana.

“Let me call Inga and see if she might have any ideas, okay? Besides she – she might know more about what we’re going to walk into. She really might,” and Cassidy would selfishly admit she needed to see Inga. Inga didn’t treat humans. Maybe she had seen a vampire with something like Cassidy’s situation before.

She could only hope as she called, and on hearing an answer, said, “Hey, Inga, this is Cass. We, uh, had an incident – Lilian and I – last night. Lilian has thorns growing out of her arm and um…I have a wound not closing after this Michael – I guess like the leader of the hunters? – stabbed me? Do you have time to look at us? I can make it worth your time, we got a lot of paperwork from his office.”

She shot a look at Lilian, apologetic, for offering it up without asking, but they needed something to leverage, right? And it was probably useful to tie these two in. They had wanted to do something big to get let in on the secrets anyways, right?


Antonia managed to bathe and dress down for the day. She slept the day all the way through, despite her phone blowing up with texts and calls not only from Michael, but Tristan (who also appealed with shitty memes), other Optimates miles and continents away, and a few outsiders who knew the Optimate-Veturia situation and had chosen the Optimate side. Sadly, she could not call it dreamless. Nor could she claim it made any sense upon waking to dusk, and staring at her wall for several long minutes.

The emptiness was familiar. So was the guilt, and the ache in the vacuum that nothing ever seemed to turn away. It was more inward now. An arrow she’d plunged into her own heart willingly by the name of Inga, an uncertainty, a regret, a frustration – and one that had visibly, obviously….

Antonia rolled to her phone. She ignored the messages, going to her search engine, and searching the translated mortality saying to get the romanized (it was always romanized) spelling of the words in Norse. Of course it was Norse – Ragnarök. So, she spoke the nickname Inga called her into a translator, and the answer came up. It was nothing needlessly cruel.

‘My sweet.’

Yes, it all fell in line then, and Antonia set her phone aside to stare at the ceiling. ‘Idiot.’ But she knew that about Inga already, and try as she might to convince herself it was nothing at all like that, Antonia had lived long enough. Inga would hardly be the first to develop a crush on her. The first Veturia, probably (actually, no, probably not, forbidden romance was a popular thing even among vampires – Antonia was just no forgiving antiheroine). ‘You could stay in. Sleep.’ And have Michael burn her house down.

She didn’t want to address the day.

She didn’t want to address the realization of Inga’s stupid little crush. ‘It’ll die on the vine soon enough. You’re not warm.’ She could be colder, but to what end? She had found a certain…trust in Inga. She trusted her with her blade. Trusted Inga not to run back to the Veturia, and she didn’t want Inga running back to the Veturia. She wanted Inga to know they were terrible. She wanted Inga to hate them.

To hate herself, when she saw how much better it could have been. When she saw all that she helped to destroy.

She wanted Inga to love her and suffer.

‘Cruel.’ As cruel as iced blood, and Antonia forced herself to sit up and start going through her messages, starting with Tristan’s shitty memes because they were the only thing that was going to snap her out of pointless thoughts that didn’t need to exist at all.

She had spared Inga.

And Inga would prove herself worthy of every bit of that mercy, even if it killed Inga. Never mind that Inga might like that idea.

‘I don’t understand these fucking references.’ Something about a Red Wedding. Something about ‘The Optimates Send Their Regards’, and there were people in faux Medieval clothing in the memes, no doubt from something popular. Or not. Tristan had weird interests.

At least she understood ‘Surprised Pikachu’, and got a small chuckle out of that one, before sending Tristan a quick message of I’m alive, stop sending me this shit and moving on to check the other messages.

The other Optimates were worried about her, and she quickly informed them of much the same – in a nicer tone. She was alive, they didn’t need to worry, she was well, she didn’t need to leave town, she and Amon had it handled, and yes, Amon was enjoying the karma too much. The last one she checked on was, of course, Michael.

That was too much business, and she ended up calling him.

“Where have you been?”

“Hardly the way to speak to me, Michael,” Antonia noted.

“You got several of my hunters killed—”

“—And got several vampires killed, I have the exact numbers.” Amon had forwarded those to her, how he got them, she didn’t know. She guessed Tristan was somehow involved, surprised the Veturia would release those that quickly. But she had names, and numbers. Joseph was apparently still alive. Amon was pleased. “I know I went behind your back, I am not denying that. I hope we will find the trade to be even, but if not, I am willing to work with you to even it out.” She wasn’t, really, but he didn’t need to know that. There were shady things she was still figuring out with him, so staying on good terms was still crucial. “Let’s meet. Public. Neutral.”

“Fine,” Michael snapped, “Signs of Life,” he said immediately as the location, a bookstore café that Antonia knew as the local Christian spot. She managed not to roll her eyes, and she agreed, before hanging up, understanding the implicit immediately, before she got out of bed and began to dress for that kind of location – all whites and blues, all cottons and other soft fabrics that didn’t have her typical sheen of wealth.


Baba Yaga
"C'mon," Lilian winced, "don't be so dramatic about this. I'm not planning to collapse here." Of course, that was hardly something you planned for, and if not for Cassidy's support, her legs would have buckled under her weight. What the fuck? Legs aren't supposed to work that way. They'd been designed to carry her, for god's sake! And they'd been pretty stellar at that, at least until... Until I drank what they gave me. 'Sealed her fate' might have been a more accurate way to refer to it, and it did feel that way, given the black specks dancing before her eyes, but Lilian couldn't bring herself to even think that. Certainly not after she'd accused Cassidy of being too dramatic!

And not after she'd finally tasted what life could be like, too.

Lilian always been okay with dying, more or less. People did that, and hunters moreso than everyone else. The average life expectation was, what, thirty-something? And while she hadn't quite reached that milestone yet, she was also close enough to it for her to sort of wonder when a lifetime of killing would catch up with her. In that, statistics were merciless. The one who lived by the sword died by the sword, they said; by that logic, the one who killed vampires got killed by vampires. That was life.

Except it fucking wasn't, and she'd gotten the first glimpse of that with a vampire that had... well, no, not barged into her life, because she'd admittedly invited her. But the barging energy was somehow still there, with how whirlwind everything felt? With how quickly Cassidy had embraced her, and how fucking easy it had been to accept that, as if she hadn't spent half her life building walls. Don't get attached; don't get hurt. Can't miss those you'd never loved in the first place. A simple enough rule, eh? Although also one that was easily circumvented, easily ignored, easily cast aside, for... for what, Lilian didn't know.

Something also told her that she didn't want to know, given there might not be enough time to do anything with the knowledge.

There was another twinge of pain, this time in her arm, and the thorns burst forward, ruining yet another jacket. Probably not the thing she ought to worry about, eh? Though she did worry about it still, in lieu of worrying about things that actually fucking mattered. You know, like her own survival? Ha, ha, ha!

Whiter than freshly fallen snow, Lilian nodded. "Y-yeah, might be a good idea." The prospect of meeting up with Ms. Frankenstein filled her with the opposite of warm, fuzzy feelings, but she couldn't deny the treatment had been effective, for all of her eccentricities. Weirdly enough, this might actually go more smoothly than the last time. Wasn't Inga interested in like, crazy stuff? And this was way, way, way crazier than having a stake stuck in your guts.

One aspect of this could no longer be ignored, though. "But, Cassidy? If it gets out of control, I... I want you to kill me. Whatever happens, I can't turn into one of those things." And hurt you. Or anyone that I care about. "You understand me?"

Hopefully she did. Hopefully it wouldn't matter, though, because Lilian could hear, despite not trying to listen, Inga tell them to 'get their asses to her lab.'

Well, how could they leave her hanging?


There wasn't that much to do, aside from waiting for the inevitable Council invitation, and so Inga slept. Sleep was good; sleep was a gift. It didn't come nearly as often as it should have, y'know? And so she treasured every second she could spend outside of her own head, with her consciousness drifting... somewhere. In the plane of dreams.

As always, the experience was disappointingly short, so Inga turned to her experiments again. Yes, her phone was blowing up; no, she didn't really care. While she normally would have jumped at the chance to contribute to the meme warfare herself, there were things she... didn't really want to think about right now. Things like that odd, cold goodbye, or the looming sense of doom somewhere in her stomach. Things like Antonia seeming so distant, all of a sudden.

Then, unexpectedly, a distraction came. "Who?" Inga raised her eyebrow after she'd picked up the call, wondering whether a) there were any Cassandras in her friend list, b) any of them knew her well enough to introduce themselves as 'Cass.' The analysis, however brief it might have been, revealed no matches. It couldn't, because she wasn't really using the right parameters for her search. "Oh, yeah!" Inga laughed. "A Cassidy, not a Cassandra. You're the one with the hunter fetish. How is your not-girlfriend doing? The wound is healing just fine, yeah?" And it seemed it was, but that wasn't the issue. Not even remotely. Thorns growing from her arm? Well, well, well, seems like someone is about to bloom into something interesting, here.

'Interesting' rarely ever translated to 'good,' though. Or rather, it was good for Inga and her curiosity, but somewhat bad for literally everyone else.

"Everyone was busy fucking shit up last night, eh? Mars definitely must have been in Venus." There were limits to that nutjob thing, and Inga didn't even bother pretending that she unironically believed in astrology, but she'd always kind of wanted to say that, and so she did. "Get your asses in here and I'll see what I can do. No promises, though! Oh, and do let me take a look at those documents. I'd love that."

After a moment of hesitation, Inga found 'Antonia' in her contacts list, and typed out a quick message:

'You got time tonight, Antonia? I'm gonna get some sweet, sweet intel from our favorite hunter/vampire duo < 3 The two stole something big.'

Inga debated the inclusion of the heart emoji, but since it was especially stupid, she, of course, had to go for it. Nobody could accuse her of not being faithful to her brand!

When the two arrived, Inga could tell with a single glance that, no, Lilian's state wasn't good. Once again, she was paler than any human should be; the shakiness of her step didn't inspire any confidence, either. And then, then there were the thorns. "Welcome to my kingdom!" she ushered them in, "Just a quick question, hunter girl. Are there any times in your life when you aren't, like, two steps away from death?"

Somehow, Lilian still managed to give her a rather impressive death glare. "I'm not... not gonna take this from someone who already is dead."


The lab was ready and waiting, as always, with all the intruments shiny clean. "Alright, I'm gonna have to... choose who to prioritize here, and the lucky winner is you, Lilian!" A quick, sideways glance at Cassidy: "Not because I like her more but because she's the bigger mess. You understand, yeah?" Cassidy's situation also wasn't awesome, but comparatively, it was a small thing. Really, the equivalent of getting a flat tire! Lilian's metaphorical vehicle, on the other hand, was about to go up in fucking flames.

"What happened to her?" she asked, before sitting Lilian down. The machine that was lying on the table before her was metallic and sleek-looking, with many, many tubes leading from and to it. Swiftly, Inga hooked her up. "I mean, I can imagine, given the God's Blessings thing, but anything triggered this? Seems to be happening awfully fast." And, no, Inga didn't actually know how to treat this. There were hardly any peer-reviewed articles on how to un-mutate mutated hunters, and believe it or not, she only liked trustworthy sources. Probably couldn't go wrong with some blood-letting, though? Again, a medieval technique, but when the source of the corruption literally was in her blood, it struck her as the right thing to do.

"She's gonna need better blood," Inga remarked. "Blood that isn't poisoned. I thiiink I should have some 0- in my fridge." The unexpected advantage of being a vampire in the 21st century! Even you could be a fucking doctor. "Ever considered turning her, though?" Inga gave Cassidy a thoughtful look. "If you want to keep her in the long-term, I mean. This is a stop-gap measure. The body keeps producing its own blood, obviously. Now, I don't know what would happen if we tried that but the odds look good to me! In all my tests, vampirism cancelled out... whatever this is."


Darkness, almost as complete as could be. The only source of light was the moon shining through the painted windows, gently, as if it meant to caress his face. Of course, Matteo knew better than to expect a fucking caress. By the end of this, he'd be lucky if he even had a face.

He was kneeling before her throne, because duh. Isolde had always insisted on old ways, despite the world having moved on, and he supposed that was her right. How could it not be? Few had lived for as long as she had, besides maybe someone like Amon.

Few had also killed for as long as she had, without any of the consequences slapping her in the face. And now-- now there would be some, thanks to his... mishap. Thanks to his miscalculation.

"Matteo. My dear, sweet Matteo," he didn't look up, for that would have been a mistake. Trying to meet Isolde's gaze unprompted wasn't a great idea on a good day, and this was not a good say. Calm, steady - and he might live. "I let you call the shots, thinking you've grown beyond your own shadow, and this is what I get for my kindness? For my willingness to trust new blood?" He wasn't new blood, though to Isolde, it probably seemed that way. Or maybe not? She could have been just fucking with him.

After all, Isolde was an expert on these things.

"I know what you people call me behind my back, Matteo. No, no, don't make that face! I've heard the stories. To you, I'm old. Senile. A woman who has lost her touch. And maybe I have, indeed, because I cannot imagine a single benefit to letting so many of my sweet children be slaughtered. Can you perhaps explain? Just so that I can understand this age better!" She sounded playful, almost generous, and that was the worst trap of them all.

Fuck. What am I even supposed to say to that?

"My Lady," he mumbled, because you didn't leave Isolde hanging. "I... I thought I acted in the best interests of our clan. There is no excuse."

"No," Isolde agreed dryly, "there isn't. But I was wondering about your rationale? What were you thinking you were doing, boy?"

"Disposing of Lady Lenart would have been a great feat. She is--"

"Murdering us, yes. Weeding out the weak and the foolish. Tyr was weak, and most definitely foolish as well. I shall deal with her, when the time comes."

You would drag us into an open war? A pointless question, of course. It was also a question he didn't bother to ask, mostly because he preferred to keep his tongue.

"But I don't fault her for wanting the Roman's head, Matteo. You're such a dreamer, aren't you? Just like she is. Our dear little Antonia." The chains rattled behind her, and it was then that he knew to be afraid. Very afraid. "You want to know the difference between her and yourself?"

Not really, though he also knew the question was rhetorical.

"She, dear Matteo, knows how to choose her pawns. But worry not! You'll learn as well... with the right motivation."

The chain cracked behind him, and Matteo screamed.
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
Getting Lilian to Inga was a bit of a struggle, but thankfully, the pair made it without any significant issues, although Lilian’s color didn’t return. And Cassidy was now away from her stash of blood, which she wasn’t enthused about. She was going to need to buy quite a bit more after all of this, but even with that considered, she knew Lilian was the one in the worst situation and so wasn’t at all upset by the way Inga prioritized her.

The documents, she brought in under an arm, and she set them tentatively aside outside the lab and followed Inga into the lab, glancing around, still somewhat surprised it really was this pristine. “No worries,” Cassidy said, lifting her hands as she took a seat, “she needs it more than me,” Cassidy could admit that, and she let Inga start her investigation.

Which, of course, meant more questions.

“I’m…not fully versed in this,” Cassidy said, though Inga likely knew that, “but Michael did something. It wasn’t anything really visible, but I think he manipulated her blood? He has some mutant power to do that?” Or so it seemed, at any rate. “I didn’t really ask him what he was doing when I threw a computer at him, but she got better when I broke his focus, and it makes sense that this would be related to what they’re drinking.” Which was unfortunate for Lilian and every other hunter out there.

“I was hoping you might know more since you’re looking into this…maybe saw someone else with thorns.” It wasn’t sounding like it, though, and she scowled as Inga mentioned turning Lilian. They’d never even discussed it, and it absolutely wasn’t something Cassidy would bring up with her. “No.”

This had been a curse to Cassidy.

Besides which, Lilian was a recovering hunter. She likely didn’t want this. Definitely not now, if ever. Cassidy admittedly didn’t know what she’d do if Lilian was dying, even with Lilian’s request ringing in her head to kill her. Might it be kinder to kill her? Or to give her a life as a vampire – a real life, for once? Sure, without the sun, but…wasn’t it better to live?

No, they hadn’t had this conversation.

She supposed she might want to clear that up with Lilian at some point, given she…might do something like that if Lilian were dying. She got the feeling that’s how a lot of vampires ended up this way. Someone cared about them, and turned them when they were dying far too young. It was…common, this strange empathy vampires had, and this lack of getting consent. “Let’s try the blood transfusion or whatever, first.”

Maybe that would be enough.

Maybe not.

“Oh, and—”

But Inga was already heading away before Cassidy could ask for blood for herself. She buried her face in her hands and tried to stop breathing again. She could wait this out, even though the scent of blood still tingled at her nose, especially with whatever work Inga was doing. There were sounds all around.

One, some sort of clatter, caused Cassidy to jolt up, pulling at the wound, sending a rush of blood onto the bandages as she twisted in a way that definitely didn’t feel good, only to relax as she realized it was nothing around.



Nauseous pain and a lurching need shuddered through Cassidy. For all her restraint, she was still new in some ways, and the only real ways she knew not to give in to bloodlust were to stay not-hungry, and to not breath. When those failed, she still descended into the terrible primal phase that some vampires never broke out of – and in a flash she moved to the nearest source of nutrients, poor Lilian.

Perhaps the only benefit was that she didn’t go for the neck, which could have been easily fatal without the usual restraint of a conscientious vampire. She went for the arm with the thorns, because the delicious smell was emanating from there, more than anywhere else, and she dug her fangs into a spot near those thorns.


Felix went with Antonia, of course, though the Full Moon was nigh. Tomorrow, in fact, when the Council would be. A message buzzed in from Amon about that. She could bring Felix with her – he was a born wolf, and though the Full Moon forced transformation, he retained his mind…unlike the vast majority of others turned, and some even born, who just never grasped it. Antonia had rooms for them in the basement of her villa to keep them out of trouble.

That was part of their exchange in working together.

Still, no one wanted a transformed werewolf at a vampire Council, so Antonia knew she’d have to leave Felix behind to roam her grounds instead. But for now, testy as he was, he came along in the red Sulla car, one of her older models, once Antonia’s favorite, but August had replaced it in her heart. Still, Sulla had its uses – it wasn’t time to put him out t pasture just yet.

Antonia found a decent spot near the bookstore, as her phone lit up with another message, this one from Inga. She gave it a cursory glance, feeling that strange vacuum ache at the sight of the heart, but knowing she wanted to see that information.

She didn’t respond, though.

In fact, she deleted the message history on her side on the off chance Michael might get a hold of her phone for a second. Better he not have any chance of knowing she was working with Cassidy and Lilian. Somewhat.

Michael was already there, reading some book. Felix left Antonia’s side to fake browsing, and she took one of those comfy seats near Michael, noting the book he was reading – Spiritual Formation As If The Church Matters. She couldn’t help but snort, recalling too many comments from Gia about the long-lost Temple. “You really ought to read Elie Wiesel,” she noted, though knew quite well this kind of store wouldn’t have anything by Elie Wiesel.

Not only because it was Jewish – because it held the same sentiment she held: if there was a god, they were dead. ‘Here He is – He is hanging here on this gallows.’

Michael looked up, “Who?”

“Someone too old for you to know,” Antonia waved it off, even if that was also a lie. “Here,” she flipped a page towards him that she’d packed, the list of names of the dead vampires. She’d taken the time to write it out, “Is that not enough for your sacrifice?” He opened the letter, of course, skimmed it down to the total which was nothing to snort at.

And he didn’t.

“I lost more.”

‘Boo fucking hoo.’

“However, I do see some notable names here,” he folded the paper back up to serve as a bookmark, and shut his book on it. “I do not appreciate you going behind my back, Antonia. This could have been far better organized and prepared for.”

“You never would have agreed.”

“Nor will I be inclined to help you again. Tell me why this should continue?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure if it can. Tomorrow, I have to go to a Council and explain why I shouldn’t lose my job, and why we shouldn’t move to all out war,” Antonia noted, “I’m willing to fight for that not to happen, but it’s not going to be as easy as turning over a few hunters this time, Michael.”

“What will it take?”

‘I don’t know.’ That was the honest answer. This was touchy ground that threatened to give out under her at any time. Not to mention, the way Michael was looking at her…it was somewhat unnerving.

And then it broke with a huff. “You haven’t been taking the Blessing that has been so generously offered to you,” he sounded angry, and Antonia had an idea then what that look had been. Some sort of…sense. That thing vampires had with each other, but something told her it could have been…far worse than just a sense. That it had been meant to be, even in the confines of a bookstore. “You are not doing this to repent.”

“No. Does that need to change things?”


Antonia had always known Michael was a monster. His further words, “Even the Council turning this to open war need not change things. It simply means we hide it better, doesn’t it? Because you need something from me, and I need something from you.”

Need was a strong word. Antonia wouldn’t correct Michael, though. He was still willing to kill for her, because that was his bottom line. Vampires had to die. Antonia would have to die, and she was lucky not to be on the list already after this incident, but there had been results. Plenty of results. “No. Nothing has to change,” Antonia confirmed, “Except, I suppose, that I never do anything behind your back again, or you’ll offer the usual empty threat I’ve heard for centuries.” She would be the next target.

“If you like to believe it is empty, that is your choice.” Michael said simply, “But yes. With a caveat. The next time, you take our blessing. If you are serious about working with me, I will need to see it.”

“You know that makes us stronger, too, right?”

“How would I know that?” He countered, “but it is good to know you have seen to its use. I trust that should be no problem to you, then.”

‘No, it may very much be a problem.’ Because Antonia could already feel the attempt to collar her like some mad dog, and she knew better than most what that felt like. Generally, she and Amon were on the same side, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t upset him. That didn’t mean in a spar he hadn’t cheated.

Michael wanted to see if whatever he could sense, could be used against her to keep her in line. He didn’t know if it would, but he had an idea.

Antonia didn’t like that in the least – but she wasn’t exactly willing to lose her vampire-murdering hunters, either. They were very good at their jobs. “I’ll think about it, Michael.”

“I thought you might,” he rose, “I’ll speak with you later. Oh – and you really ought to read this, while you’re recommending heathen works.” He tossed her a book he’d apparently had near, the Case for Christ.

It took all of Antonia’s willpower not to laugh aloud at it – but she did buy it, anyways. Why not? Giannis would have found it amusing. He could have countered every point in the book, no doubt.

“Did you ever see Jesus, Antoni? Ach. These fools. They never saw Jesus. They invent it with their mouths, but never saw. Good arguments, sure, but what are arguments without facts, ah?”

“Well, if they work, I’d call them useful.”

“You say this because you are a politician, but you know it is not right.”

“Depends on how you define right.”

“Ach, Antoni! Did I give you no morality? No direction? Oh, where is your heart?”

And they would laugh, back in the days, when she had a heart.

‘Now it lies in the grave with you, Gia.’

But this book might give her a moment of solace, strange as it was to consider as she left the bookstore, and considered texting Inga that she’d be there, but decided against it. She’d just show up, with poor Felix in tow.


Baba Yaga
"No, not with thorns," Inga shook her head, deep in thought. In moments like these, she looked dangerously lucid; lucid enough for it to threaten her nutjob reputation, at least, which was why she tended to research shit on her own. And, oh! Also because nobody liked her. That was another good reason for her solitude.

"But, you know, it is interesting. The way they mutate, I mean. It's not at all like the zombie thing some are trying to peddle. Yeah, yeah, it's a passable comparison, given the whole loss of identity and everything," a handwave, as if that wasn't at all important, "but for that, there are just too many variations. Too many irregularities." Zombies were living corpses; hunters were... something else. Something more similar to them. Inga couldn't help but recall the old thought about the vampiric blood, and once again, she had to give credit where it was due. She was a genius!

(Well, in some things. In this area, Inga did believe in herself, as much as it was possible to do so without descending into the hubris territory. And, to be honest, she did also wander in there from time to time, because she was just that good. So fucking what? When nobody praised you, you either did it yourself, or... sort of withered away. Withering away wasn't good, both for her and anyone else.)

"Understandable," Inga nodded, "computer throwing does require that kind of focus. I'm thinking I would like to meet that Michael guy, though." Something told her he wouldn't like to meet her, and that was just as well. It kind of went hand in hand with, you know, sensing you were about to be fucked up? And Inga did intend to provide that kind of experience, alright. Most hunters got it free of charge, so it only made sense for their little leader to follow the example.

"Ah," Inga gave Cassidy a lop-sided smile, "to be young and idealistic. I wonder if she'll thank you when she goes mad and we have to put her down? Oh, I know! She won't. The fuckers can't even verbalize. Sad, given that she could just as easily be herself... only with a new penchant for blood." It wasn't even that Inga didn't understand Cassidy's reservations, because they weren't that deep. Blah blah blah, autonomy; blah blah blah, the loss of humanity. The first thing Inga could sort of get behind, but given what she'd witnessed in her lifetime, she had never quite understood the second. Like, hello? Was anyone proud of being human? The worst people in the world were human. Even vampires were former humans, and she was pretty sure the wickedness had been there from the beginning. It made more sense than it being magically awakened by the turning, y'know? A convenient excuse, yes, but nothing more than that. Inga hadn't noticed her personality changing that much since her days as a would-be conqueror, and she doubted it was different for the rest of them. Proteins weren't mind-control.

Of course, the best people in the world were also human. The duality only made everything all the more interesting, in the end.

But, where was she? Ah, yeah! She was just fucking with Cassidy a little bit, and maybe providing some alternative viewpoints. Playing the devil's advocate, as the cool kids would say. Different thoughts deserved to be explored, uncomfortable as they might have been. Odin had also hung from Yggdrasil for nine days, and what had he gotten in return?

Some shitty runes.

Okay, a bad example.

"I'll see what I can do, though. The transfusions will most likely work for now."

Lilian, for the most part, was both listening and not. She was trying to, and genuinely at that, but a lot of it went over her head, on account of her own thoughts being so hard to grasp. How could she grasp anyone else's thoughts, feeling as fucked as she did? Everything was hazy; everything was soft. It shouldn't have been, but it was, despite her knowing that probably wasn't a good sign. Briefly, Lilian recalled the tidbit about freezing to death supposedly being pleasant, and maybe this was also sort of like that?

Except that, instead of passing peacefully, she'd rise as a nightmare. As a thing. Gulp.

"Cass... Cassidy, do you think that-- ah." 'Ah' probably wasn't a good way to describe what was going on, though it came to her mind nonetheless when Cassidy's fangs pierced her fucking skin.

Her heart didn't stop, though it might as well have.

She wanted to free herself from her grasp, to swat her away, to do something that would result in Cassidy backing the fuck away, but it also felt good, and she was too weak for anything but... uh, moaning her name? Yeah. Yeah, that was apparently a thing, now.

It was also the moment that Inga chose to return, carrying a few plastic bags with blood. To the blonde's credit, it only took her one confused 'eh?' to understand what, exactly, had gone wrong. Fucking new bloods. This is why you have no friends! (Perhaps Inga shouldn't be the one lecturing literally anyone on having friends, though.) "Alright," she said, before straight up grabbing Cassidy by the collar and pulling her away from Lilian, "Thanks for the assistance but that's not a sanitary way of removing infected blood. Have you calmed down, or do I have to slap you around for a bit?" Because she would do it. Both for the sake of the hunter girl and Cassidy herself, since there was shit you just didn't come back from. Or... well, at least not easily. They probably didn't have any agreement on that sort of thing, given the earlier drama about Lilian getting turned?

Yeah, they definitely didn't. At least judging by Lilian's very betrayed gaze. "Cassidy, what the fuck?"


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
The blood was good.

Okay, better than good, it was the best damn blood that Cassidy had ever had in her life, minus some vague memory of the blood on her lips when she woke to unlife for the first time, but that was probably always going to be the best. It was the life-giving blood, after all. Still, this was a very close second, and Cassidy barely acknowledged any sounds, or actions – until, of course, she was forcefully pulled away from said blood, and lucidity flooded her in a second of immediate guilt and remorse.

No, she did not need to be slapped. Inga’s face brought to light just what the fuck she had been doing, even before Lilian’s words and betrayed expression.


‘Abort.’ Okay, not really, she wasn’t as hungry as before. Her words came out shaky all the same, “Shit—Lil—sorry, I’m—I’m not good. I’ll step out. Blood loss—sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want…didn’t mean…sorry!” she was a blubbering mess, not quite crying but on the verge of it all the same.

Sure, Lilian had offered once, but she hadn’t offered right there, and that was absolutely not fucking okay for Cassidy to do that, and she knew it. Never mind the whole moaning her fucking name thing, which would haunt Cassidy’s dreams (definitely dreams, dreams she could never think about again after this epic fuck-up). Cassidy knew that was as involuntary on Lilian’s part; taking blood felt good.

That was why it worked, why their victims could get away alive because they weren’t struggling.

“I’m—yeah, I’ll go.” That was more said to Inga, and she turned hastily to exit the room and enter any other room in the house that put distance between herself and Lilian so that another incident wouldn’t happen. She didn’t like leaving Lilian alone with Inga, but she figured Inga really wouldn’t hurt her. Well, more than necessary to help her, anyways. It might hurt to do that. It had hurt last time.

Still, she couldn’t trust herself not to act again, and this was better until she was fixed up.

It seemed her timing was impeccable, although she was startled by the door opening, not expecting it to open. The thought of fight-or-flight was tempered when she saw Antonia step in, with Felix just behind her, looking more agitated than the last time Cassidy had seen him. Then again, she just saw him in a car, and he just seemed tired. “What are you doing here?” Cassidy asked immediately, anxious guilt in her tone.

Antonia took note of the blood around Cassidy’s mouth, and the blood starting to stain her clothing. Fairly easy to deduce Cassidy was there for reasons beyond just delivering information. “I was told there was information to look over.”

“Oh—right.” Cassidy went for the pile, but Antonia waved her off as soon as her movement gave away where it was, taking up the pile.

“You’re a Christian?” The odd blurt caused Antonia to pause, “You just…don’t seem very…Christian….” Antonia stared a bit longer to see if Cassidy would say more, as Felix moved along to find Inga and let her know they had intruded on her space, wanting out of the awkward moment before it became worse and he got dragged into it. “Sorry….”

“I’m not,” Antonia said, aware of the book she was holding and why it might have confused Cassidy. “Quite the opposite,” she took the pile and looked for a chair to start digging into the words. Not like she actually needed to talk to Inga until she’d read everything. She might even just take it home before Inga had a chance to talk to her. “Why are you still bleeding?”

“Hoping to figure that out myself. Um. You…you know Michael pretty well, yeah?”


“Does his weapons…does he do something with them?”

“Oh yes,” Antonia didn’t even sound phased as she connected the dots immediately in her head that Cassidy had been attacked by Michael. That must be where all these documents came fro—oh fucking hell. She paused on a document about herself.

“Do you know what—”

“How much of this have you read?”

Cassidy winced, “Enough?”

‘Please don’t kill me.’ Or maybe do. She was still feeling pretty shitty about biting Lilian.

And Felix, for his part, was mostly unaware of this. Not entirely. His hearing was better than even Antonia's. He had found Inga easily enough, and gave a small wave of greeting to her, and Lilian, “We’re, uh, here.” Obviously.


Baba Yaga
She'd bitten her. She'd fucking bitten her, and then had the audacity to act like the victim! With those eyes and almost-tears, and apologies that sounded so sincere that Lilian could almost believe them for a second. (Of course, that she wanted to believe them was another factor. Quite desperately, too. The desperation wasn't nearly deep enough for her to disregard reality, though, and so she didn't do that.)

"Okay," Lilian said, trying to grab some of the tubes, "I'm out. I'm fucking out, you hear me? Let go of me, Inga, or I swear I'm going to--"

"What, die on my front porch?" Inga rolled her eyes. She looked bored more than anything else, and that alone would have been more than enough to make Lilian punch her... had she, you know, had any strength left. Fucking Inga and her ridiculously well-timed insults! "Spare me the theatrics, hunter girl. You're staying right where you are, and we both know that." But then, as if she managed to scrounge up some mercy from her dead, shrivelled heart: "She really didn't mean it, you know."

"Didn't mean to fucking bite me? Well, could have fooled me! Do I get a medal for never biting anyone in my life? 'Cause that's my highscore."

Inga's contempt was almost tangible, and absurdly enough, Lilian did feel a twinge of guilt at that. "You also wanna compete in the paralympics?"


"I don't know if you're the least observant hunter in the world, frændi, but have you even noticed she's a vampire? Like, hello? Obviously that's gonna be more difficult for her."

"I know, but--"

"She's a vampire," Inga continued, apparently determined to get her message across, "and young. And hurt. She's been bleeding since yesterday, and if this is the first time she's touched you, then I'd say that's a grand fucking accomplishment. She's driven you all the way here, hasn't she? Without biting you once? The girl's a trooper."

Something in her eyes must have betrayed just how much she didn't get it, and Inga shrugged. "No idea how to make it relatable to a human, but... I don't know, imagine having to shit real bad, except the urge only goes away if you do it in someone's throat."

Lilian made a face, "Gross!"

"Yeah," she nodded, "It does feel gross when you can't even trust yourself. And it is really hard when those survival instincts kick into high gear, and you haven't been here for long enough to figure out how to deal with that yet." After all, Inga... did have some experience with control, and a lack of it, and knew how such stories ended. Needless to say, the endings usually weren't happy.


"Give it a thought, eh?" she patted Lilian's shoulder nonchalantly, and then poured the fresh, non-spoiled blood to one of the compartments in the machine. From then, the process would be fully automatized. "Be right back! Gotta make sure she's not currently committing ritual suicide on my new carpet." And that was only a half-joke, with the funny part being that she didn't actually have a new carpet. So what if it probably wasn't suicide-tier? Inga couldn't deny the guilt in Cassidy's eyes, nor how easy it was to make a bunch of bad decisions when you felt like you were The WorstTM and everyone in the world hated you. I'm too old for this new vamp drama.

Was that why vampires her age mostly ignored the young'uns? Had to be!

"Hi, Felix," she waved at the werewolf, "great to see you, my man. And sváss mínn, of course!" Maybe, if Inga acted the way she always did, the strange feeling would go away and everything would return to normal. That this had never worked, not once in her life, couldn't really stop her, much like having common sense couldn't stop her from acting against it. Free will, bitches!

"Anyway," because she had heard, and had Opinions, "Christianity is objectively the worst religion. You cry in the confessional for a bit and your sins are forgiven? What even is that weak shit? I'm telling ya, my gods wouldn't stand for this travesty." Inga's gods stood for very little in general, and that was what she liked about them.

"Also," her gaze fell on the documents, "what is-- oh." Is literally everyone blackmailing Antonia now? I thought I was special. "I hope you know," Inga gave Cassidy a sweet smile, "that I will have to kill you with my own hands if any of that ever gets out? This is my blackmail material, Cassidy. I worked very hard to get it." Not really, since that had mostly been a fluke, and it wasn't like she even wanted to continue blackmailing her in the first place. But, hey! Blackmail wasn't really the kind of thing where you could say 'oops, my bad' and go on your merry way.

Not how that shit worked.

That, of course, didn't mean that she couldn't try and protect Antonia from it in her own ways.


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
The look on Cassidy’s face at the interruption, which was only to roast Christianity, was almost worth dealing with Inga. “Apparently, you’re Christian.” Antonia noted, moving the paperwork a bit so it was easier for Inga to see.


“Oh, so Diet Christian.”

Cassidy did not appreciate that, and looked like she was about to sputter out her offense, when Inga interjected again about the blackmailing. ‘What.’ Although thinking about it, that did sort of make sense why Antonia would even be working with someone like Inga. She had thought it was a bit weird.

It got weirder after that. “Technically speaking, you can’t blackmail me anymore without going down yourself. Your hands are just as dirty.” Antonia pointed out to Inga, as Cassidy looked on, “This was all Michael’s things. Not surprising, he’s not the first hunter who thought they might manage it when things went south. I should have seen it coming with him, though.” And yet she hadn’t.

Why are you killing vampires? I thought we were against these hunters?”

“We are,” Antonia answered, “but the vampires I’m targeting don’t deserve to live. You’re fine, so long as you forget this entirely, and quite honestly, I’ll know if you don’t. You can’t get to someone high enough in the chain without me finding out first what you’re trying to do.” Youngblood. She might have Tristan as a connection…but Tristan was a friend of Amon.

Odds were good she might get a tip.

It was more likely Tristan would do fuck-all with it, because Tristan didn’t want to get involved in any of that drama. There was a reason Tristan wasn’t an Optimate, and that reason was “fuck you and your drama” – also profit margins. Tristan was a greedy bastard when it came to making money and he wasn’t about to give discounts because of clan things. Or lose customers because of rivalries.

Not to mention he didn’t want his memes policed.

“Okay, okay – say I believe you. What exactly did this many vampires—hold on,” Cassidy frowned, “Tristan said something about an Optimate and Veturia issue,” these names meant little to Cassidy, that was obvious even to Antonia, “There were some memes…this is some petty rivalry?”

Deadpan, Antonia answered, “Yes. A petty rivalry where the Optimates were tricked into a massacre that killed 24,211 of them.” The number was exact, and Cassidy stiffened at that. “Leaving 8,552 alive, and current numbers are now 12,773. Petty.” Antonia wasn’t the only one who hadn’t bothered to make more childes after that. Sure, they needed numbers – who didn’t? but that sort of thing stuck with you. Amon preferred adopting, nowadays, but he had his childes. Not all had perished, either. And of course, some of the original Optimates had died since that time. The normal ways…but suicide hadn’t been uncommon in those first couple of centuries, either.

Antonia was sure at least a thousand had perished that way, by now.

“That’s…pretty exact.”

“I know.”

“Okay, I’m just…gonna forget I ever saw any of that, you have fun murdering people, I guess.” Cassidy wasn’t exactly sure what to say from that point, and figured this was definitely something to get a better explanation from Tristan about, rather than someone who knew it too well.

“That’s for the best,” Antonia smiled, then looked to Inga, “I’m going to take these documents home to review, if it’s all the same to you,” she didn’t need to stay around, and she would probably make things worse for poor Cassidy.

“W-wait – we want to know more about what’s going on, before we let you just walk away with those. With the hunters.”

“Inga can tell you what her research with the Blessing has shown her.”

“You know about what Michael’s doing with his weapons! I’m still bleeding out here!”

Antonia sighed. “I don’t know how to help you with that, honestly. I know what it does – it stops our rapid healing, which can cause us to bleed to death in the right circumstances, or go feral and lead to our own deaths that way. It’s not a poison, not something that can be wiped off the blade, but I haven’t proven it’s the blade itself. Michael says it’s a blessing,” Antonia called bullshit, it had to be something in the metal of his weapons.

“It could be…there’s…they have a God they visit. It’s in the paperwork.” Antonia immediately began to shuffle through that, not believing it was a god – but maybe it was something they didn’t know of. She didn’t know werewolves were real for a few years. Not very many – they were actually quite popular in Rome for, well, obvious reasons.

Felix did not go back to rejoin the others. When Inga left, he felt he had some strange duty to make sure Lilian didn’t suddenly faint or pull tubes out or anything like that. Just in case. He offered up a pithy excuse to Lilian, “They were talking about religion. I didn’t want to be involved in that.”

He let his back hit the wall, folding his arms over his chest, and still somewhat eavesdropping on the way the conversation changed. Antonia really wasn’t doing well in this era with avoiding blackmail. “They’re not really wrong about the biting thing, either. I’ve never had that problem with Antonia – but I’ve had to pull a newblood off someone before. It’s an urge. Werewolves have it, too. We tend to use dog metaphors. Wave a steak in front of an untrained dog, and every time the dog will take it. You have to train them out of it. It’s a process.”

Not just a couple of months, either. From what he understood, newblood status lasted until they were about 200 – something about needing to live an additional full human lifespan to really settle things down. And even then, they were still dumb, young adults, in the vampire community. "But there's hope."


Baba Yaga
"Catholic?" The expression on Inga's face could only be described as, quote unquote, 'are you fucking kidding me.' The kinder alternative, which would be 'who hurt you, child' was currently beyond her emotional capacity. "Ah yeah, those tried to burn me at a stake once. Because I dared to know things! Not even because I was a vampire. Never figured that one out, even if it was pretty obvious. Needless to say, that led to... some drama." Which had lasted for a few centuries, give or take. If nothing else, Inga had to admit that had been kind of fun. "The worst people I have ever known. No offense, though!" It wasn't Cassidy's fault, bless her little heart, that her beliefs were this shit. Didn't most people stick with the religion they'd grown up with, anyway?

Inga was kind of the same, but her convictions didn't count. She just Knew. Besides, a religion that allowed you to keep your weapons after you died was a thousand times better than the one that... didn't. So, she was pretty sure she was on the right side of the history here.

"Without going down myself is a pretty fun condition to bet on with me, wouldn't you say?" Inga gave her a bright smile. "I mean, not like that isn't the point or anything." Why am I even trying to convince her that I... want to keep doing this? When I don't? Ah, yeah! Because otherwise Antonia would find out about her true motivations, and that would inevitably lead to everything going up in flames. Nah, better to set it on fire herself!

Or something. Look, Inga didn't know what it was that she was doing here.

Wait, this is... still about the first feast? Inga had, of course, known about it; given her personal participation, it was kind of hard not to. But that had been ages ago! She'd assumed there had been other issues, mostly because those always tended to crop up with like, any vampire activity. Or any human activity. Strife seemed to accompany existence in general, so this really could have been about anything...? Although, fuck, hearing her lay out the numbers like that did make it sound bad. Inga herself hadn't counted, nor had she been too interested in finding out afterwards. She'd kind of... checked out? Yes, checked out, after everything had imploded under its own weight.

After the realization that she didn't actually want to be someone's sword. Or at least not just that.

Um, yeah. A fun epiphany to have!

An epiphany that didn't really erase the fact that she had been very involved in the event that had made Antonia go on her little murderous rampage, starting in the 1800's.

Ha ha ha, right? That was the thing about fun realizations: they never ended!

(Although she kind of wished they did. Fuck.)

"Uh, I can probably take care of that," Inga said, because focusing on that other thing was... too much right now. Or ever, most likely. "If it just blocks the healing factor, then what you need is more healing. Obviously!" Which was easier said than done, or would have been, had you been someone who hadn't dedicated years of research to figuring out how vampire physiology worked.

"Back when I was trying to find a cure for vampirism," as if that was a normal thing to do, "I was hoping I could somehow... weaken the enzyme with itself? You know, using the old 'like dissolves like' principle." Alchemy and later chemistry had truly been an inspiration, even if Inga hadn't discovered much in the end. "Long story short, I made it stronger," she sighed, as she searched for something in her fridge, "The biggest disappointment of my career. It was so pointless, too, because we heal easily anyway. Good thing I keep the interesting samples, though! Try it out?"

With that, she tossed a small bottle at Cassidy.

Then, finally, Inga found the courage to look at Antonia. "What does it say? Don't tell me they've got Jesus in there?"

Lilian, meanwhile, sat in silence and watched the blood travel through the plastic tubes. She had a lot to think about, even if she didn't necessarily want to. Was Inga right? Presumably, the vampire had no reason to lie, and Cassidy... Cassidy had been good to her, aside from that one incident. More than good. And the way she'd looked at her afterwards, fuck, that had almost broken her--

"Oh?" Lilian looked up, just in time to meet Felix's gaze. "Sounds like a riot. No idea why you wouldn't want to be there for that." That the man was apparently a werewolf probably should have shocked her, but it did not, and she was also tired of clutching her pearls when she herself may have been a zombie. At some point, you simply had to look into the fucking mirror.

"Awesome," Lilian sighed. "It's just all so new and nobody fucking told me. I don't know that much about vampires, aside from... how to kill them, I guess." Yeah, because telling her anything else would have been inconvenient. Next question! "How come you're serving her, anyway?" 'Her,' obviously, being Antonia. "All the movies I've ever seen played up the whole vampire vs. werewolf conflict. Is that not an actual thing?"

Lilian herself hadn't really noticed, but some color did return to her face, and while the thorns didn't disappear, they did retract slightly.

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