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Realistic or Modern Moonlit Retreats [Closed]

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  1. Supernatural


My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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Cassidy would spare Inga the arguments, only because it was pointless on both sides. Cassidy wasn’t doing it, and Inga couldn’t make her do it, either. Inga probably could turn Lilian herself, but that would be a Thing, and she didn’t think Inga was going to do that. At least, not right now, while they had a chance, and Inga was…apparently all on board with going to see the demented Sun God. ‘Are we really doing this?’ this seemed somehow like a worse idea than seeing the hunter’s god, but Cassidy was moving and getting Lilian into the car that had been too far away.

And not Antonia’s.

Antonia’s was further away, but no one needed to know they were in Felix’s nameless tragedy, as she took the keys from him before setting him in the back with Cassidy and Lilian, because of course Inga had shotgun.

Antonia took the driver’s seat and got things started, plugging her phone into the radio and disregarding Inga’s comment and looks about her place not being ready. Maybe Antonia should feel guilty, but she didn’t. Really, the only change was that now Antonia wanted to kill Inga herself and not let the hunters do it.



She sped off after turning her phone on to take voice commands, disregarding the speed limits entirely, but before she could call Amon, Inga began ranting again, this time about visions she saw while a god was eating her. “Unless the God decided to hallucinate what was going to kill it, odds are we shouldn’t trust any of those visions to be useful, Inga.” Antonia said, before Lilian growled, “And you can chill all the fuck out.” She snapped back at the huntress, as if that would do anything.

Cassidy just wrapped her arms around Lilian in both a comforting manner (she hoped), and a protective manner (for everyone else). “No, she’s not,” Cassidy denied, rationalizing it away in her head. Lilian was hurt. That made people act strangely, sometimes. Irrationally, sometimes. At least Lilian wasn’t passed out like Felix! That was…something…even if his severed hand in his lap was not at all pleasant.

“We’ll be there soon—Christ!” Cassidy winced at her own curse, not wanting to use that word, as she heard the sirens of cops. “Antonia, what the hell are you doing?” why were they getting the attention of cops? It didn’t cross her mind to consider how fast Antonia was driving, because she felt Antonia’s urgency – they couldn’t go fast enough – so it had to be something else.

Antonia just sighed and spoke to her phone: “Mercury, call Amon.”

“Calling Amon.” A robotic voice returned, more masculine than feminine, and the sound came through the radio. A few moments later, the voice was no longer robotic.

“Already done visiting that false idol?”

“Yes,” Antonia said, “Heading your way, some injured, and a cop. Can you deal with the cop?”

“How is he going—”

“Yes,” he answered, “and hello ye of little faith! See you soon!” with that, he hung up.

Only a minute or two later, the cop’s lights turned off, and the pursuit ended. “How….”

“So, Amon pretends to be the Egyptian Ambassador, so named Anwar El Wagdi. He has…more than a little influence with the police.” As in he’d bribed every single one of them to look the other way, and also, diplomatic immunity. So he just had to say the car was one of his, and no harm, no foul.

Small things like speeding weren’t going to get him booted back to Egypt. Not when he made sure he thanked the police so generously later.

It would explain the embassy look of Amon’s home as they pulled into the open gates, the large manse spreading in a way that it could have easily been a small museum, or campus building, rather than a house. Of course, it was a house, and Amon was already outside, waiting, looking a bit bemused as the car came to a stop right in front of the stairs leading into the building.

Questions buzzed in Cassidy’s mind, hundreds of them, mostly how she’d never connected the dots that the house with the Egyptian flag outside it belonged to Amon, but most all of them about how Amon could pretend to be an International Ambassador. Did Tristan really have that kind of influence with his fake IDs? Was Amon that good of an actor?

Was he a real ambassador?

Cassidy heard of vampire politics stretching far, but…this seemed insane.


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“Unless the god decided to hallucinate what was going to kill it…”

And, oh, wasn’t that a thought?

Half a wish, half a delusion, and one hundred percent nonsense, except that no, it didn’t have to be. Not necessarily. “An interesting theory,” Inga said, lifting the corners of her mouth in a smile. Sure, Antonia was clearly being sarcastic here, but— “Could be! Who said it was voluntary? When you light a match next to a barrel of gasoline, it’s going to go kaboom. When you hit someone below the kneecap, you’re going to get kicked. There’s no… ah, will in that. No conscious decision.” Because, no, not even the resident nutjob thought the god would be like ‘hmm, let’s even out the odds’ and hand them a deicide manual. Did she think the manual had fallen out of his metaphorical pocket, though?

Maybe! Fuck ups were always a thing.

“But it definitely means something. Either it wants us to see that – and there’s a reason – or it doesn’t want us to see that, and there’s also a reason.” It being the divine equivalent of a screensaver admittedly occurred to Inga as well, but she disregarded the idea soon after. No such thing as a coincidence, y’know?

Well, no. Life was a series of coincidences, some beautiful and some terrible. Meeting Antonia had definitely been a coincidence; killing her sire had been one, as well. That Inga was still alive at all was more of a cosmic joke, but it probably did qualify. Still, that was the macro-level of things! When it came to the micro-level, though? The action-consequence bond held tight, and that they didn’t know how to look for it didn’t mean it wasn’t there. Not like atoms had sprung into existence after getting the memo that someone had invented them!

“…I’m fucking trying,” Lilian woke up from her coma. That, too, was like falling asleep; the main difference was that she wasn’t quite sure whether she’d wake up, or wake up as herself. Why was her head spinning so much? “I’m… ah, shit.” But Cassidy was there, and she was warm, and Lilian used that sensation to anchor herself in the correct version of reality. I fucking can’t… give up now. Or ever. ‘Now’ was a more manageable goal, though, and so she focused on bridging that, much like she had once forced herself to do just one more push up, just one more squat, just one more lap.

Just one more… what, minute? Was that feasible?

Perhaps. It was also feasible to balance on the edge of a fucking cliff, which still didn’t make it a viable survival strategy.

(Did such a thing exist for her? Somehow, optimism was getting hard to maintain. Fuck, and she hadn’t even gotten Cassidy anything yet, anything at all, and—)

Probably due to all the adrenaline, Inga had almost forgotten that the world didn’t actually revolve around weird vampiric deities and findings ways to off them. “Oh, geez. They still haven’t cancelled cops?” she asked, annoyance dripping from her tone. “I’m telling ya, I can’t wait till humanity recognizes law enforcement as the failed project it is. Truly embarrassing.” They might as well call it off, considering how easy it was to dodge them! But no, that would be too straightforward, and so they’d invented strange rituals instead, mainly consisting of bribery and hiring people who couldn’t investigate their way out of a paper bag. In Inga’s book, that was almost as good as cops being disbanded.


“Hi, Amon!” she shouted, because it was only polite to greet your… um, almost-murderers? No, Inga hadn’t forgotten how eagerly he’d offered to end her, nor how quickly he’d backed off once Antonia had voiced her disapproval. What the two had was the real deal, and she was genuinely glad the other woman could rely on someone like that. So, really, nothing personal!

Inga also kind of wanted to kill herself, so she understood the sentiment.

“An… ambassador…” Lilian groaned, “But what if… people need an actual ambassador?” Like, hello? Did it seem strange to nobody that this Egyptian guy only ever worked in the middle of the fucking night?

“Lilian, dear, nobody ever needs an ambassador,” Inga snorted. “Embassies are like, fancy storages for useless people. Not true for our lovely Antonia, of course! But she’s a special case. Most ambassadors are just politicians who are too dumb to do any actual work, but also too important to be fired.” Indeed, she did have a terminal case of Having an Opinion on Everything! Why do you ask?

Amon’s manse was as luxurious as Inga expected it to be, but Lilian still sort of gawked. “What the… what the fuck…”

“I know, I know, it’s not as impressive as my first home,” Inga smirked, “But you’ll have to deal. Does anyone need help?”

If Antonia admitted to wanting it when it came to moving Felix around, then she would assist her, but if not, she would simply put Lilian’s arm around her neck and help Cassidy instead.

“Glad to see ya, Amon! Looking good tonight!” Inga smiled. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said about them; Felix was his hand-less self, Lilian might as well have crawled out of her own grave, and Inga… well, Inga’s wound was rapidly closing, but that it hadn’t healed completely yet sure was saying something. “We have a bit of a situation here, in that we’re somewhat more fucked than usual. Know anything about stopping mutations or re-attaching limbs?”

“Hello,” Lilian muttered awkwardly, feeling way too disoriented for anything else. But then: "So, you are the sun god? You don't seem very... sunny." Yeeeah, perhaps she should have kept her fucking mouth shut!

Instinctively, the huntress gripped Cassidy’s hand tighter.
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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Inga’s theories about she had, or hadn’t, seen would no doubt be saved for later, because Inga wouldn’t stop theorizing about them. Especially not when she put all the pieces of the literal pictures together. She’d find a way to make this sulfur thing work – and maybe it would. ‘Because that thing is….’ Vampiric. Antonia couldn’t deny that Inga had been right. Her own reaction was evidence enough of that. Origin, or some really fucked up experiment, was the question.

Older vampires did become…eccentric.

Antonia was excluding herself, of course. Not Amon, who managed a theatrical sigh as everyone began exiting the car, Antonia going to help Felix once again. At least he’d stirred a bit and was willing enough to follow her pull and hold his own hand, no doubt not yet understanding that he was holding his own hand as he stood on wobbly feet and looked prepared to pass out again.

“I could use some…maybe,” Cassidy was the one to ask, and so the one who got help, before she had to bring Lilian out to see Amon. Who…did not look like a sun god. Of course, when Cassidy thought of sun gods, she assumed golds, yellows, and reds. Amon was probably as black as a vampire was allowed to be with the weird melanin decrease vampirism did. He had plenty of gold stitched into his robe, and around his wrist and neck, but otherwise, he wasn’t what she expected at all.

‘Well, I guess he might really be ancient Egyptian.’ Cassidy couldn’t keep being shocked by age, but here she was, shocked again by the realization this was a vampire not only older than Jesus, but possibly older than Moses.

And Lilian had to go and say it. She gave Lilian a panicked look, “She’s—ah, she’s—”

“More fucked than usual,” Amon chuckled, “I’m not blind to the western idea of sunshine,” thankfully he was amused? “I can explain it all at some point if she is interested when she’s better. Come along – Felix, you apparently did good, I don’t see a scratch on Antonia.”

“Mmm….” Felix really wasn’t with it, but trudged along.

“Inga, as well,” Antonia sighed.

“Oh, hm? I suppose the pet deserves some praise then.”

“Are you ever going to stop calling her that?” Antonia grumbled.

“Probably not.” Amon shrugged, “I thought pet names were ‘hip’?”

Well, Amon was not what Cassidy expected. At all. He didn’t even seem phased by how they showed up, nor was he asking ‘what do you expect me to do’ about it, which meant he…could do something? Either way, they stepped into an entryway, and followed Amon through the halls of onyx and gold, to a nearby sun room that seemed overflowing with plants of all sorts, and cats.

“Mrrrrrow!” One immediately went over to Inga and brushed against her legs, more interested in the blood she was dripping than Inga herself, but did that really matter with the adorable look it had in its eyes.

Lilian was also on the receiving end of a few looks, but they all backed far away from Felix. Felix and cats rarely got along, to his immense sorrow. “Felix, to the chair, strange human to the couch.”


“Pretty name,” Amon noted, as Cassidy and Inga helped Lilian to the couch, where they’d have to disturb a lounging cat. Felix took his seat and Amon went to him first, because he played favorites and a missing hand was a strange thing. He knelt down in front of Felix and bit his own wrist.

The blood flowed. Not down to the ground, but into the air, and into Felix’s open wound. Amon pressed the severed hand to the wound as Felix suddenly startled awake with a growl, and almost looked like he’d lunge – only to freeze. Completely. Unwillingly, by the panic in his eyes. “That’s normal,” Antonia told him, because it was.

Amon never needed much blood in someone, to control them. Once his blood was in, it was as if he made the rest of the blood in a person’s body, also, his. The terror of it hadn’t quite worn off, but Antonia had seen it enough times not to worry.

So she wasn’t surprised when a scab formed all the way around Felix’s wrist where it had been severed, although Amon was murmuring curses in Ancient Egyptian about werewolf blood and cursing Anubis in particular. Antonia understood it, even if it took her a second to recognize it – she still caught the gist that Felix’s blood was not as diluted with humanity as Amon had hoped, which would have made this easier.

But, in the end, werewolf blood was still blood, and Amon could still bend it.

When he released Felix, it was obvious enough – a nosebleed as Amon drew his own blood back, and Felix went slack – then pressed his uninjured hand to his nose to wipe at the blood. “It’s not perfect, you’re actually quite a bit more pure than I expected, Felix,” Amon noted, rising, “give it a few days rest, your body will do the rest now.”

Mutely, Felix nodded, a bit shaken by the whole experience, as Amon turned towards the others and clapped his hands, not seeming tired or worn out in spite of what was apparently a project worth cursing over. “Now! What’s wrong with her that needs my precise attention?” She seemed to just have a few wounds on her arms, really, although her blood…did smell different. Strange. Maybe it was a new drug on the streets, or maybe it was something he needed to hear about before he started working.


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What? What had she said? It was true! But, judging by the terror in Cassidy's eyes, Lilian could glean that she'd fucked up. The recent developments also suggested that fucking up was her entire modus operandi, so she had zero issues believing it. Shit! How do I... make him not kill me? The correct social script, called 'Appeasing Ancient Vampires,' wasn't coming to mind, likely because it didn't fucking exist. So, the huntress resorted to her default settings: "Um, sorry?" There, nothing wrong with an apology! "I am fucked, though. I mean, I usually am, but this is a lot even for my standards. We should... hold a tournament in being fucked. I'd definitely win that one."

Not even close, kid, Inga thought. No, there was no hope of Amon ever letting the pet thing go, and, embarrassingly enough, all she could think in response was: I fucking wish. Did he have to pour salt in her wounds like that? Did he, really?

A stupid question, of course. He was Amon, and so he did what Amon had to do, which amounted to fucking people up for no reason. As a fellow troll, Inga could recognize the tactics from a mile away!

That didn't make it hurt less. What it did do, though, was provide some insider knowledge on how to deal with it all, if she didn't want to listen to 'pet' comments for the remainder of her tragically long unlife.

It also told her how not to proceed, which was give him even more ammo. And, before you ask: yes, showing genuine emotions would 100% have done exactly that.

So, what was the best approach when you were hurt? You played along. You took the concept, ran with it, and made it fucking yours, so that nobody wanted to touch it anymore. When they threatened to take your toys away, you just... pissed on them. Therefore: "That I do!" Inga gave him a bright smile. "Who knows? Maybe Antonia will even buy me a collar one of these days. I've always kinda wanted one myself, but," an even wider grin, "I guess I was waiting for the right person to shackle me. My heart is a tender thing." And no, Inga definitely wasn't brave enough to meet Antonia's stare after that spiel but, hey! Not like their relationship hadn't already been sabotaged to hell and back.

As per usual, losing everything gave you freedom. Something about the universe balancing itself out, in the end? A nice enough consolation prize, if you happened to believe in that kind of bullshit.

(Which she didn't. The cold, hard truth was that the universe didn't care, much like nobody cared about Inga. The symmetry did have a certain poetic angle to it.)

Lilian would have rolled her eyes had she had even a hint of strength to do so, which she definitely didn't. Saved by circumstances, once again! Lucky fucking blondie. With Cassidy's and Inga's help, she all but collapsed on the couch, before muttering something about 'Amon's name being nice as well.' What? It deserved some kind of response! Most likely!

(Yeah, Lilian was done pretending she understood literally anything at all about those strangely helpful vampires, but she was also finding out that she didn't mind. Maybe not grasping shit... wasn't that bad. Not in the same way closing your mind to new things was.)

"Oh, wow!" Inga giggled, delighted. "Who loves me? You love me, you divine, divine creature!" Not at all bothered by the cat's not-so-pure motivations, she lifted it from the ground and pressed a small kiss on its adorable little nose, before wrapping it in a surprisingly gentle hug.

(Already, the poor cat seemed to be regretting every single choice that had led to this very moment. Oh well! At least it could lick some of the delicious blood now? The vampire... didn't seem to mind?)

As fun as petting random cats was, Inga hadn't forgotten about her curiosity, and so she watched Felix's treatment with great interest. Needless to say, she was not disappointed. Oh. OH. Blood manipulation? That honestly approached cheating levels, as far as Inga was concerned. Could I take him down in a fight?

Probably not, and that little 'probably' only made her want to try.

Not now, though.

Always willing to respect literally any and all eccentricities in anyone, Inga just waved her hand, "She's an ex-Servant of Apep."

"A what?" Lilian frowned, not liking the label at all.

"Different terminology, Lils-Lils. Just deal with it. Anyway," Inga once again turned to Amon, all business-like, "I gave her a transfusion to reverse the mutation process a few days ago, and it worked until it didn't. I guess it was sped up by Apep himself? Since we kind of met him tonight." It was said so casually, so matter-of-factly, that you might think she was speaking of an old friend, not a literal fucking god, but that was how Inga Singedottir worked. "My research suggests that he's a... proto-vampire? A Cain? Not sure, aside from him being real bad news."

"Yeah, all that," Lilian said, uncertain what else she should add. Inga... did technically know more about this, as much as it hurt to admit, and the summary was solid. The brain fog also wasn't making it easy for her to come up with stuff, aside from maybe: "My blood's fucked. I'm... growing thorns and shit."

"Many thanks for the analysis," Inga snorted, "Are we forgetting something, Antonia? Cassidy?"
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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Cassidy also couldn’t help but notice what it was Amon could do, although it took her mind some time to truly latch onto it, given she was looking between everything – the cats, Amon, Felix, Inga – and Lilian. Worrying about Lilian, and looking over her again and again to make sure she was still…well, herself. ‘That’s…that’s dangerous.’ The understatement of the night, but it made her wonder why all the lies about his powers.

Was being a pyromancer that much more impressive than that?

Or maybe it was intentionally misleading.

Whatever the case, he was at least humoring the idea of helping Lilian. “Aaah, Flower Power,” Amon said when Inga noted what she was, along with the nickname, nodding as if it all made sense. Cassidy was torn between wincing on Lilian’s behalf, and chuckling. There was also, then, the realization that Amon just might, probably be in Tristan’s Shitposting group, which was also terrifying.

“Still, no pictures of Apep, Antonia?” Amon glanced back to her. She had taken a seat on the floor near Felix, which Cassidy just registered as odd, because when did someone like Antonia ever sit on a floor?

Not that she acted as if it were beneath her dignity, and her answer was as dry as expected, “I did not consider it worth the risk. You have others. If you want to imagine Apep, just think of Lovecraft.”

Amon’s nose wrinkled in distaste, before he looked back at Lilian, “Is there a reason we aren’t just turning her?”

“She doesn’t want to be turned.” Yet almost slipped out of Cassidy’s mouth, but she didn’t say that.

“Oh, can she not say that herself?” Amon countered, but chuckled and shook his head, “What do you want me to do, exactly?”

“Help…her?” Amon’s brows lifted, but before Cassidy could say anything else, he sighed and waved it off, stepping forward and kneeling in front of Lilian. He understood he was being asked to make whatever she was going through lessen its presence. Possibly remove it, although he doubted that was possible. He couldn’t remove vampirism. He also couldn’t remove the werewolf blessing from humans that were turned.

“I will see what I can do, but I make no promises,” he said, adding, “I cannot change vampires back to humans, or werewolves, for that matter. It is likely that I cannot remove this in a meaningful way,” nonetheless, he let his own blood move into the open wounds that Lilian had, and he would hasten the healing up to start scabbing over things, and closing it up, while also trying to feel in that strange way he could, just what was going on, and he supposed – try to knock it into submission, at least for a time.

And oh – it was familiar.

His eyes narrowed in concentration as he felt that resistance, not unlike the blood in a vampire’s heart. Always, the heart. He knew the blood moved, but he also knew there was something stagnant in the heart. “Heart’s Blood” had more truth to it than others realized, whatever stayed in the heart, was also what made the heart vulnerable to stakes. Once the heart was destroyed, the vessel holding that power broke, spilled – and lost that power.

Amon knew how to manage that, of course. He’d shattered more than one heart internally before, but he wasn’t trying to shatter Lilian so that meant some…finessing.

And making sure she couldn’t move, as he’d done with Felix, while working to coax those resistant parts into some sort of slumber.

And, of course, cursing in Egyptian, because that’s what you did when people didn’t take the easy way and didn’t just turn the hunter to a follower of Ra. Even if the vast majority of vampires didn’t realize they were. Humanity rarely realized their purpose, he couldn’t blame vampires for similar stupidity; they were basically human, after all.

Antonia wouldn’t interrupt. She would coax a cat over and then lift it towards Felix, though the cat squirmed when it realized what was being done. Felix still reached out to pet it, since it was a nice distraction from all of the ‘what the fuck’ screaming in his head. He knew Amon was powerful, but not…like this.

The cat’s thoughts were probably also screaming ‘what the fuck’ when the thing that smelled like a wolf finally took her from Antonia’s hands when the cat calmed down. It was still tense, but it just curled itself into a tight loaf on Felix’s lap and let him pet her. Beginning to accept it. Maybe even like the chin scritches. But still quite willing to bolt at a moment’s notice.


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Damn you, Tristan! Damn you to seven hells! The strategic thing to do would have been not to react, but Lilian Perry also wasn’t famous for her strategic decisions. If anything, this tendency of hers had only grown worse. “Remind me to deck Tristan next time I see him,” she rolled her eyes. “Seems like nobody has done that for a long fucking time.” Who said she was going to see anyone, though? Or anything at all, aside from the lid of her own coffin? Not that you could see that sort of thing, on account of being fucking dead, but, yeah! The end result was the same.

Except there was a way to avoid that fate.

Turning her.

Well. Well, that… hadn’t crossed her mind? It should have, given the whole ‘vampiric corruption’ narrative hunters peddled, but somehow, it hadn’t. Maybe because they hadn’t discussed it; maybe because she trusted Cassidy not to cross any boundaries, sans weird little accidents. And no, ‘whoopsie, you’re a vampire now!’ did not fall into that category.

Didn’t it also make sense, though? If the poison was in her blood, then a hard reset likely would purge it.

A hard reset, such as dying.

That it sort of seemed like a tempting offer said a lot about her current situation. Or shit-uation? Ha, ha, ha!

Yeah, her resorting to puns was another bad fucking sign.

“I don’t,” Lilian confirmed, “I just… I don’t know. Too much.” ‘Impulsive’ may have been her second name, though she also wasn’t too keen on throwing her humanity away because of… what, a girl’s pretty eyes? And those eyes were pretty, and attached to someone who seemed to be a legitimately great person, but, well, there were still a lot of buts.

It wasn’t just that, of course. It was about 5% of the reason, with the remaining 95% being the very real chance of her turning into something infinitely fucking worse. Still, it didn’t feel right to ignore the many, many implications that went with the act. Even with her limited understanding of how vampires worked, she did grasp by now that turning someone was a… well, a responsibility. What was it that Felix had said? Something about a vamp only being a real ‘adult’ after like, two centuries? Cassidy wasn’t even that old yet! And they’d just fucking agreed to date.

There was a world of difference between ‘hey, wanna see if we can work together?’ and ‘let me take care of you for 100+ years.’ Making that jump wasn’t fair to either her or Cass, dammit!

But she could also acknowledge how things weren’t always fair, and if jumping was the only way not to fall… then, yeah. Yeah, maybe. Not before trying everything else, though! And not before talking about this shit, because Lilian was way too old for your run-of-the-mill miscommunication drama.

That nonsense was for teenagers. Cassidy did kind of make her feel like one, but that didn’t mean she also had to revert to teenage bullshit!

Inga, meanwhile, plopped down on the floor, for no other reason that Antonia had done it. What? Not everything needed to be deep! “You like cats, Felix?” she smiled. “I get that, they’re great.” Cats never did anything they didn’t want to do, which suited Inga just fine. With them, you didn't have to question if they were pretending; they either liked you or didn’t, and when they didn’t, they made sure you knew.

Sometimes, she wished it was that easy with people.

Then again, why? Not like it was difficult to figure out where she stood with most of them.

“I could try and make something for your scent? To mask it. I mean, I haven’t worked with werewolves much, but it can’t be that hard.” ‘It can’t be that hard’ had been her attitude for most of her scientific endeavors, and arrogant as it was, it also worked. Way too many people focused on why shit couldn’t be done, meaning that, yeah, it fucking stayed that way. It was why they couldn’t have nice things!

“When in doubt, add pheromones,” Inga grinned. “Or explosives, always a good choice. Maybe not here,” it did seem like a distinctly non-explosive situation, “But really, they haven’t failed me often. Once, I used tiny ones for vivisection? Let me tell you, it’s hard to do that shit with vampires. We regenerate too quickly,” as if it was fucking normal to all but admit to having dissected a vamp alive, “So I needed that extra oomph. Anyway, he deserved it. And I did find out some cool things from that!”

Lilian wanted to grit her teeth, but found out that she… couldn’t? Mainly because she couldn’t fucking move? There was a sense of terror as all she could do was stare; stare at Amon, at Cassidy, but really at nothing at all, because not even her eyes registered much. What the fuck?

It also didn't take long for something sharp to cut through the brain fog, though, and she knew then that her wounds were closing in real fucking time, despite not looking in that direction. Incredible! “Thank you,” the huntress said, once she was able to. “I… fuck, I had no idea you could do these things.”

“Makes two of us,” Inga said, “Vampiric powers are mysterious like that. I don’t think there’s an encyclopedia for them,” if only because many were secretive. And rightfully so! Sometimes, the moment of surprise was everything.

Then there were powers like hers, where knowing what they did essentially helped you fuck all. It was part of why she’d never treated it like some big secret.

“But, Amon?” Inga continued. “Is there a reason you think that thing is Apep?” No, she wasn’t on-board, but she also wasn’t not on-board, if it made sense. Even the craziest hypothesis ought to be given a fair chance!

“Yeah, that… is a good question,” Lilian added. “I know hunters don’t think it’s Apep,” whatever the fuck Apep was, “To them, it’s more of a Jesus.” A wince, “Sorry, Cass.”

“It’s not even close to Jesus,” Inga rolled her eyes. “For one, it actually looked badass. Pretty sure it wouldn’t lose to a bunch of wood, either.” Maybe it would to some sulfur, though? “Antonia, let us see the pictures!” Because they should all look at them, to compare their notes and the like.
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‘I’m pretty sure the last person to deck Tristan lost their arm.’ Antonia wouldn’t say that, contemplating when the last time she heard of anyone even fucking with Tristan was. Not since his war crimes. It was almost funny how he survived that mess, but then, those were the early days of vampire society becoming a society and deciding shit like what Tristan was pulling was Very Illegal. More illegal than some of the things she used to do, but somehow not quite as illegal as what the Veturia did, because it wasn’t personal.

Vampire society truly was built on grudges.

That didn’t mean Tristan didn’t deserve to get decked, so Antonia would just let it happen. Odds were Lilian wouldn’t lose her arm while Cassidy was on good terms with Tristan. Humans got away with quite a lot when they weren’t hunters.

Which, it seemed Lilian would survive to do that if she wanted to, as Amon released control and the scent of fresh blood diminished.

As that was settled, Felix was shaking his head to Inga’s query, “I like cats, but…I’m only really around them here.” Amon was the Crazy Cat Man. He was the crazy everything man. “Not sure how worth it that would be.” But maybe. Right now, he was denying it, mostly because he wasn’t sure how Antonia would take it, and also because he was still a bit in shock. A lot in shock.

Amon nodded and stood back up, as Cassidy immediately moved to join Lilian on the couch, looking her over rapidly, “You feel okay? Better?” she must have, to thank Amon – beyond just having the wound closed. Still, she had to check as her hands moved to let her fingertips ghost over the nearest arm which had sprouted thorns as if ghosting over a thorny rose stem, hoping to find it without that puncturing threat, even though it was obvious visibly.

Antonia groaned as Inga asked about Apep, which caused Amon to chuckle, “Do you want to tell them, Antony?” he teased, and she just rolled her eyes.

“I’m going to send pictures,” that was a good enough distraction to not listen to Amon’s Theory of Vampires for the millionth time. Possibly more than that, with how long she’d known Amon, and how many people asked him, uncertain exactly how insane he was, and how much he was trolling he was doing.

So, she got on, gathering up the pictures and sending them in bundles to everyone in the room. She made a group text out of it, because apparently this was going to be a thing now that they all had to deal with.

Cassidy just sighed at the Jesus reference, “It’s okay,” at least no one believed it was Jesus anymore, and she could start looking at the pictures she missed.

“Apep, Hellenized as Apophis, for those of you unaware,” which he thought was relevant because he’d also noticed the Apotheosis thing and recognized it for what it was from the pictures he got earlier. No, not the same, but Primordial Chaos was a relative constant across many faiths, and out of Chaos came Gods – Order. “is Chaos Incarnate. It opposes all things light, truth, order – in a word, the Sun. The difference from so many other faiths, is that Apep came after Ra, not before.” Usually it was that darkness that was first, not the light. To him, that was how it should be. Light, Good, Order – if these were the things they should strive to maintain, then these were the First.

“Shouldn’t you be…a follower of Apep, then?”

“What part of me being a sun god did you not hear from thousands of other vampires mocking me?” Amon asked in a pleasantly teasing voice. Cassidy flushed and glanced down, realizing she really was good at shoving her foot in her mouth, even if she could recognize it when others did. She couldn’t seem to recognize it before she did it. Just a second afterwards. “Now, we depicted Apep as a serpent, but who really knows? The Serpent was an easy thing to understand as an enemy,” he waved it off, apparently fine with some things being mere symbology. “Apep is the reason vampires exist.”

Antonia managed not to groan again or even palm her face. She’d heard this a thousand times.

“When Ra goes on his journey through the underworld, Apep attempts to leave the Underworld and come to the mortal plain. We are charged with making sure that never happens, or else the sun will never rise again. Apep has his followers, too. Your hunters, Flower Power,” he dropped it so easily, disregarding her completely dislike of it as if she’d never expressed it, “and others before, and throughout all of time. Apep has always tried, and Apep has always failed, but it seems Apep must have a strong avatar of sorts now present in this realm that needs to be dealt with.”

“How do you explain it being vampiric, Amon?” Antonia challenged.

“Apep is a God like Ra. Of course it has the same substance,” and his smile was coy as he added, “Ambrosia is Ambrosia, isn’t it, Antony?”

She chose not to answer that, and went back to her phone, and the pictures.

“So…wait, you talk about Ra as if he’s someone else. Ra is the Sun God, right?”

“Yes,” Amon said, “but Ra is every Pharaoh, and Amon-Ra was the Ra that was hidden, intangible – in a sense, the Ra that could exist here, the Ra that entered the Pharaoh, the way your Jesus is also God and the Holy Spirit,” Amon waved it away, “Gods don’t follow mortal rules, if they want to be in a thousand places, or five, they can be.” He shrugged, as if it were simple to accept when mortal logic went out the window. Which, likely, wasn’t that hard of a stretch since mortal logic was almost everything they knew. Without it, anything was possible! “I took the name after I was embraced into this life and understood my duty to Ra, but I also know I am a creature of the underworld now, and so I cannot coexist under Ra’s glorious sunlight any longer, but I know I am the reason it continues to shine, so long as I keep Apep at bay. Which, it seems, I have a grand opportunity to do, once we can figure out how to break its avatar and send it back to the true underworld.”

‘He actually believes it.’ Cassidy realized, but had a second realization. ‘It’s not insane.’ It was insane, but not to the depths she’d believed it before. True, he still believed he was a God. A Literal God. Yet, he had sound logic for why he could be tied to the Sun. His original religion had facilitated and time, rather than beat it out of him, had given him evidence for it – in other Apeps.

“Amon have you…have you ever dealt with an avatar of any god before?” he was old, wasn’t it possible?

By the twitch of his lips, she suspected she had an answer, “I can’t say for sure. I was very young, but…I do believe so.”

Cassidy gasped, which Amon initially took to mean surprise at what he said, until, “I know this!” came out of her mouth and she held up her phone, realized how small it was, “Um, the picture of the crown – not the crown above the hand, but off to the side of it,” the one that seemed to be an explanation if she had any understanding of things, which she wasn’t sure she did, “In the background, that’s…okay, I don’t know what it is, but I know I’ve seen that symbol because my sire was bragging about finding something no pawn shop could date or price.” Which meant he’d likely continued to try and figure it out, “It was inside a gem. Not…carved on it, inside it.”

What the gem was, Cassidy didn’t remember if her sire had even said. “I can check in with him about this, if no one else knows the symbol?” She didn’t really understand the other things around it, if she was honest. The blooming-and-wilting flowers, the symbol of Venus/Copper serving as a sort of stem.

“It’s not exact,” Antonia noted, “but it looks a bit like the symbols used to direct women to abortive medicines in my time.” She’d never used them, but she recognized them. She’d directed women to them, no questions asked. There were…many bad situations in Rome for women. “Doesn’t mean it won’t be useful.”

“Aborting that thing from this dimension sounds ideal,” Felix muttered, starting to come out of his shock a bit more. Enough to tenderly pull out his phone and look at pictures again, to see if anything made sense outside of the chaos and adrenaline.

Really, little of it made sense to him.

Some more of it made sense to Amon, who knew enough about weird symbols and cults to understand quite a few references, but he knew it couldn’t be as easy, because there were symbols he’d never seen before, although they were close to ones he knew. Of course, they had to be – this was designed by human hands, even if it came from a god. “There are plenty of planetary symbols in the background of those items of the Hand of Mystery,” he said, “Of course, they stand in for many things, but I can’t help but notice they’re all planetary.” A theme, even if they tied to other things, as well. “Venus with the Abortive seems fitting, if that turns out to be the case.”

“Why the flower?”

Amon shrugged, “I could be crass – but I’ll refrain, as I doubt that’s right.”

It took Cassidy a second to get the reference. Oh yes, she knew what some people considered to be a delicate flower with petals. “If I were to hazard a guess, I would say these were instructions to making the items that represent the aspects on the hand. Now, whether that’s a good idea to go through the process, I can’t say, but,” Amon glanced up, “knowledge leads to insight. The only way we’ll figure that out, is to begin.”

“It sounds expensive.” Antonia complained.

“What else are you using your money for, Antony?”

“Your cats.”

Amon laughed. “You have enough to support my cats for several centuries. Besides which, do you have a better idea?”

“Do we know any mind readers? I’d be willing to kidnap Michael and subject him to torture and mind reading.” No ‘or’ needed. She imagined he’d need to be…softened up. A bit. “Oh fuck, he’s going to—fuck.” Antonia rose suddenly, realizing they hadn’t killed the God, and the God was going to tell Michael who had been there. Could it see? Did it know? Would Michael know? She made a step to leave, realized there was nothing she could do, and pushed her fingers through her hair in helpless frustration.

Amon just chuckled at the situation, “Sometimes, you really are as rash as your family,” Amon noted, “But I shall look into mind readers, there must be someone who could use a favor from me. Until then, I believe you need to go forward with this,” he looked back at Cassidy, “Who is your sire?”

“Silvon Loy.”

“Aaaah, him. Vegas gangster, yes, I know him. Not surprising, he stumbles upon fascinating things.”

“You…you know him.”

“Why do you think there’s a pyramid in Vegas?”

That was a very fair question. Vegas was so eccentric, she never bothered to wonder about it.


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"Much better, yeah," Lilian confirmed. It really was like pressing a button, in that the effect was both instant and immediately noticeable. All of it... could have easily been a bad dream? If not for Cassidy looking at her Like That, of course. If not for the memories, with edges too raw for them not to be real.

Nightmares could cut deep; especially those with a capital fucking N, that you didn't even want to remember but, naturally, did. Nothing the brain came up could compare to this, though. To this... sense of not belonging to yourself. To hearing the bomb quietly going 'tick, tock' in the background, and not even seeing the timer.

Fun fucking times!

"Sorry for making you worry so much," she smiled, regardless. "I will try not to have another breakdown for at least two weeks, eh? Should be manageable enough." As if it was up to her. As if joking about it made it any fucking better! She'd kind of thought it would, but it turned out that laughing at the noose tied around your neck didn't, in fact, make it feel like a necklace.

It didn't do much at all, aside from pointing out it was fucking there. That it wouldn't go away, and nothing Inga or Amon could do would make it better. The seed had sprouted, the flower had bloomed, and there would be fruit, whether she liked it or not.

So far, the cough medicine worked - but for how long? How long until the bacteria developed a resistance, in that typical 'fuck you in particular' fashion?

Lilian didn't need such thoughts, and she knew that. Why pick at your scabs? Oh, right! Because it was fucking impossible not to.

Something close to exhaustion, though not quite, was pressing against her temples, and the huntress would give just about anything for her bed right now, but, alas! No such luck. Instead, she had to deal with this meeting devolving into an impromptu brainstorming session. Do vamps ever get tired? Probably not. Can I get an energy drink? Also not, unless she wanted to risk being handed a cup of blood. Something told her Amon wasn't really into Redbull.

Hmm, Inga thought. Alright, he does get points for internal consistency. Yeah, she could have laughed, but that would have been hypocritical from the local would-be Valkyrie, and so she just nodded, as if it was natural or even expected to just kind of... assume the role of the Sun God because you wanted to. And, hey, why not? It wasn't like she'd seen any adverts for the job! Clearly, Ra was satisfied with... whatever Amon was doing.

And no, Inga didn't want to think of her own gods, and how their obvious existence meshed with Amon's beliefs. If anything, it made sense to her that different pantheons presided over different parts of the world? For... reasons? Very valid reasons, such as Baldr not speaking ancient Egyptian. Odin probably did, the insufferable know-it-all that he was, but she could see how most of them not being able to would be bad PR.

Shitposting, or her genuine thoughts? Sometimes, the line was perilously thin.

"That's... a lot," Inga said, looking into her phone. "I could publish a dissertation about this. It's like, you look right, and ooo, an important symbol! And you look left, and there's also one there! And then you connect them, and, wow, material for another chapter!" What caught her attention for now, though, was the curious positioning of some of those pictographs; mainly the apotheosis, transposed against the... gem that Cassidy recognized. The gem that Antonia thought to be familiar, as well.

"As above, so below," she recited, the words coming to her tongue easily. "More of a hermeticism thing than alchemy per se, but you can't mention one without the other, y'know? The two are like blood, and the beating heart. One drives the other. So, what I'm getting from this is that the two are... somehow being equated? Becoming god is that thing, or could be."

"How do you know all that shit?" Lilian, who was feeling stupider and stupider by the second, piped up.

Inga only rolled her eyes, "Not everyone is allergic to learning, Flower Power. Besides, what is a girl to do without the internet? It was either that, or spending the eternity twiddling my thumbs. Or throwing rotten tomatoes at random prisoners. Peasant entertainment gets real old real quick." The choice hadn't been that binary, of course; they rarely were. Pursuing knowledge was both solitary and intense, though, which meant a) no bothersome company, b) always having stuff to think about. Ideal, if you needed to replace your default thoughts! The brain only had so much storage space.

The opportunities to feel guilty had been few. What she hadn't known was that guilt thrived in darkness, and grew without attention. A reverse flower, of sorts. By the time she was brave enough to face it, it was almost bigger than her, and-- yeah, it may have been one of the reasons she was so eager to make it up to Antonia.

The all-but-guaranteed death was another. Yay for random bonuses!

"The sky as a theme," Inga nodded, "Reaching the sky is reaching greatness, in all senses of that word. Breaking your own limitations. Becoming the Icarus, and hopefully not fucking up. But I suppose it can also be less metaphorical than that? Gods do dwell in the sky, or close to the sky, often."

"So what," Lilian interjected, "Should we nuke the fucking sky? Find the god's first home and threaten to burn down his childhood pictures?"

"Ooo, vicious!" Inga laughed. "Let's make it our Plan B, Flower Power. But here, look at this. See the snake eating its tail? That's the Ouroboros, a stand-in for infinity and continuity. Snakes kind of... were seen that way, because of the skin they shedded. Real life phoenixes! Since they emerged from themselves. To me, this is communicating some kind of cycle." A good one, or a bad one? One they were meant to perpetuate, or break?

"And, of course, more sulfur, because you can't have alchemy without that. But also, phosphorus standing in its direct opposition. Lucifer? Lucifer is the bringer of light, and phosphorus carries light within. The same light we'd been banished from!" This wasn't even connecting the dots, and Inga knew that. More than anything, it was her pointing out that the dots were, indeed, A Thing, and then scribbling furiously across the paper to try and make them fit, by sheer force of will.

They didn't. Not yet, anyway.

"So, sulfur good, phosphorus bad? Light is evil?" Lilian understood fuck all about any of this, but nobody could say her attempts to keep up with the conversation weren't valiant.

"Not that simple," Inga shook her head. "Sulfur is fire, and that is also light, unless..." Unless, indeed, "...Unless we are supposed to burn shit. Phosphorus burns, but it also wastes away when it does, and then the light is no more." Was it so foolish to assume the god could be vulnerable to fire? To the essence of it, if not to the ordinary thing? Children took after their parents, for better or worse. The weakness to the sunshine may have been a curse, but fire was the sun on steroids! Its purest expression!

And that was when she noticed another symbol, hiding on a separate picture but clearly related.

A symbol referring to, um, obscurity? A closed eye, unable and unwanting to see. And in conjunction with everything else before it--

"See, there is a concept of secret fire in alchemy," Inga shot a glance at Amon, then at Antonia. "Fire as something divine; fire as something holy. That's why you need it to kickstart so many reactions! And why you burn your sacrifices. It's... about the impetus? The life-giving spark?" Which, if Amon was right and these really were instructions to making something, then they would need a reaction to end all reactions.

Something grand.

Almost as grand as the piece of knowledge she was about to drop.

"A funny coincidence, Antonia! When I still cared about this branch of alchemy, all the contemporary scholars claimed that secret fire was what Vesta had. Thoughts?"

Lilian sure as fuck didn't have any, and, as Antonia proposed torturing Michael for information - ha, ha - she looked at Cassidy instead. "A trip to Vegas does sound like fun. A nice change of pace from all the hunter bullshit, if you ask me."

A Vegas gangster, though? Alright, maybe Lilian had a... question or two about Cassidy's sire.
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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‘You could not be a peasant.’ Antonia considered suggesting that to Inga, but those times were long gone. It wasn’t that Antonia hadn’t learned in that time, but she hadn’t wasted her time learning alchemy. She’d continued to grow her monetary empire and figured out what things humans were working on that were actually showing results. Oh sure – alchemy had some results, but those were mostly unintended and often considered a disappointment. They were no philosopher’s stone.

Antonia also liked Lilian’s idea of fucking up the god’s home, but that was likely impossible, the way it was impossible to fuck up Antonia’s home. Both things were gone by time, even if not physically.

Inga, of course, had another idea.

It sounded like a lot of nonsense. Cycles and light. Lilian really should have stopped humoring her. The least Inga could do was say why these things were relevant, but the truth was she probably didn’t know. Yet. So she was brainstorming aloud with every thought that came into her head, every meaning she could identify, until something clicked. Which, unfortunately, tied to her.

Or to Rome, but it was much the same in the current context. “My thought is there never was a sacred flame, and if there was, it hasn’t been in Rome for centuries. I’d also remind you that Vesta is just Hestia, so you may want to consider Greece before you consider Rome your source – but Rome lost it if it ever had it.”

“Likely to Russia,” Amon couldn’t help but add with a chuckle, “the Czars were just a continuation of the Caesars – although hard to say where it would have gone after they fell. Presuming it went there, of course. You’d have to investigate that, too.” He just liked annoying Antonia with that reminder, because of course she denied Imperial Rome continuing anywhere but Rome.

Wouldn’t it be terribly funny if he was right with this guess?

Of course, Vegas was the more immediate and pressing location to visit, though Cassidy wondered about the Rome situation. Or Russia. Or wherever. ‘How are we even going to afford all this, I can barely afford a trip to Vegas.’ She still owed Tristan money, too. Or she owed him something, he’d yet to name his price for Lilian’s paperwork. “Er. Yeah, I can call my sire and see when would be good, but I need to figure out the money thing….” This was not a conversation to have over the phone, even if that would be substantially cheaper.

Antonia sighed, “Just let me know when. I can get the tickets.”

Cassidy couldn’t help the sidelong look, “What’s the catch?”

Antonia rolled her eyes, “Your soul,” of course she wasn’t being serious. “We have to do this until we find the way to get rid of this monstrosity. It’s harder for me to leave than it is for you. Just consider it a job and the travel fees are covered.”

Technically speaking, it wasn’t all that hard for her to leave while Amon was around, but she’d rather not test her luck. Although, if murders continued while she was gone, that might help to suggest it wasn’t her doing. Or they might just consider it an elaborate alibi because everyone knew she didn’t commit her own murders. She had people for this.

“Okay…I’ll let you know,” Cassidy said, “should be soon, then,” once she and Lilian had plans in place, Lilian for her job. Shame all of that might come crashing down now, but this was a bit more important. Maybe they could convince Antonia to pay for the monetary damages of a job loss when all this was done!

Probably not, but it’d be worth a shot.

“If it’s all settled, I think Inga needs a bit of time alone with the pictures,” Amon said, “and the rest of you need to get home before the sun. Not you, Antony,” of course not her, she had a room if she wanted to use it, and she would, because tonight was a clusterfuck. “I’ll call some drivers for the rest of you.”

“I do need my car picked up, Amon.” Antonia noted. “I don’t want it—”

“I’ll have it picked up, just give me the keys,” which were promptly tossed to him. Someone would pick it up in daylight, no doubt. If there was one fucking scratch on it, she’d have their head.

Amon would make any arrangement with the others, as well, before getting them on their way home.


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Of course there was disagreement. Disagreeing, particularly with her, seemed to be Antonia's biggest hobby nowadays, and Inga would be lying if she said she didn't understand why. Still, could she not overlook Giannis' murder for about two seconds? For a greater purpose?

No. No, obviously not.

And besides, Antonia hadn't been a fan of hers even before the reveal, so perhaps Inga should be glad that one of the skeletons in her giant-ass closet turned out to be Giannis.

Wasn't it oh so convenient?

With the massacre in the picture, there was a legitimate reason. A larger-than-life one! Something else than just... Inga being Inga. Murder was bad, according to most, and Antonia hated her because of this super normal thing, not because she was annoying, or too weird to be around, or just not good enough for someone like her.

You didn't even have to squint for it to look plausible. Shit totally made sense!

Much like all lies. In Inga's experience, that was almost universally true; liars cared about being coherent way more than reality itself ever did, mostly because reality didn't expect scrutiny. It just was. There were no excuses, and no explanations. You didn't understand something? Tough shit, enjoy not understanding along with everyone else!

When a story seemed too good, it was usually... well, just that. A story.

Then again, what was the problem with lying to yourself? Life was already bitter enough, with all its small disappointments, and you couldn't reasonably expect her to deal with the big ones without a generous dose of placebo. What do you mean, 'healthy coping mechanisms?' No, she didn't know her!

"Everyone and their granny called themselves 'the successor of Rome," Inga rolled her eyes. "The Czars, the Holy Roman Empire, then Nazi Germany. Following that logic, why don't we investigate every would-be dictatorship under the sun?" Because fuck that, that was why. Not even a vampire had so much time! Or the attention span. Mainly the attention span, if she was honest with herself. "All I'm saying is, my sources mentioned Rome. Not Greece, not Russia, not anything else. Funny that you say that, though, because I do remember reading something about... ah, it originally being Greek. Seems a local Prometheus brought it over?"

Lilian couldn't say she cared much about the Rome debate, though she did wonder why Antonia seemed to be against the idea so much. "Lost it?" she raised her eyebrow. "How do you even know?" She seemed pretty fucking sure, but thinking you were right and actually being right could be two very different things. Just ask the resident ex-cultist! "Have you seen it go out? I'm thinking not, if this is the first time you're hearing of it."

"Thank you, Flower Power!" Inga beamed. There was a momentary impulse to hug her, but since she usually did that to fuck with people, Lilian was spared in the end. "Just what I wanted to point out."

Amon was right, though. Ideas, no matter how good, needed to ripen, and so far, hers were admittedly pretty shit. Too... disorganized? And don't get her wrong, because Inga did thrive in chaos! But she really, really had to sit down and think some more, and maybe do some other things in the meantime. Possibly a lot of them. The brain was an asshole; an asshole that went 'ooh, shiny' the second you overworked it, and it was generally better to just... give in. To let it have the shiny thing, before it drowned you in nonsense. A responsible scientist knew when to take a break, and, unfortunately for poor little Lenore, Inga knew exactly how she was going to relax.

"Alright then, ladies and gentlemen!" she bowed dramatically, "Shame about the deicide, but I'm sure second time will be the charm. See you around. Can someone take me to my bike?" Technically, she supposed she could just make them drive her home, but dammit, that was her bike! The one Antonia had once sat on!

That, and maybe she also didn't want anyone to learn where she lived. Not now, anyway. It wasn't that she expected Antonia to change her mind, but what if it somehow happened? Inga wasn't going to, which meant she needed her peace to work. Murderous plans didn't hatch themselves. Hunters could be fun, sure - but in moderation, as a little side project. The combo of 'incompetent but insistent' wasn't all that thrilling in the long run.

And so she excused herself, and it was time for Cassidy and Lilian to be driven home as well. "I still can't believe half the things that happened today," she admitted, once the door closed after them. "What a clusterfuck." An understatement of the goddamn year! Lilian was also half-convinced that humanity hadn't collectively come up with a strong enough word yet, though, and so she had to settle with that one. "At least we're getting a free vacation out of this? Not that it won't go to shit," everything always did, somehow, "But I'd rather be fucked in Vegas than here." Or nowhere at all! But since that didn't seem to be on the table, Lilian had adjusted her expectations.

Someone had once told her that doing so was the key to a happy life, and that was probably true. Some expectations really did hurt you! Stuff like thinking you'd become the next self-made billionaire, or that you'd get that letter from Hogwarts eventually, or that humanity wasn't overwhelmingly, heartbreakingly shit. Even so, Lilian didn't think it was unreasonable to expect to not turn into a fucking monster. Or to not die before turning thirty? That had always been part of her mental landscape, but that didn't fucking mean it wasn't bullshit. Given her upbringing, the bullshittery was actually all but guaranteed!

Time to... talk about that mess, I suppose. "Cass," Lilian turned to her, before putting her hand in hers for that comfort she'd learned to expect. Also to comfort her, in a way; the topic would no doubt be less than pleasant for both parties. The least she could do was make it clear the question... um, wasn't asked in anger? Or some sappy shit like that. "I was out of it but not enough not to hear what you guys were talking about. Turn her this, turn her that - you'd do it? If it got really bad?"
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A clusterfuck was indeed an understatement, as Cassidy’s chuckle and sympathetic nod indicated. To think they might have just…met what created vampires! Or what cursed them. One, the other, or both – it offered more questions than it did answers, but the only way to get answers was to go forward…and in this case, that meant Vegas. She still had to call Silvon, which she planned to do soon…but first, there were pressing matters.

“A lot of people would agree with you,” plenty of people went to Vegas to get fucked, in several different kinds of ways. Mostly, financially. “Don’t worry, it won’t be that bad, Silvon’s…good.” Mostly. He wouldn’t let her and Lilian get fucked in Vegas in any way they didn’t want to be fucked, at any rate.

She went to take a seat, and Lilian seemed to follow her, and took her hands as she spoke her name. It was obvious, the turn this was taking towards the serious, so she didn’t turn on the television for useless background noise. She fixed her entire attention on Lilian. The question wasn’t entirely unexpected.

It was something they ought to talk about.

“No, I wouldn’t,” Cassidy answered, because that was the first answer. As it was right now, she wouldn’t turn Lilian. Sure, Inga made points, valid ones – and sure, Cassidy preferred living to dying, even in this state. Yet, she knew plenty who did not want this. And she knew of those who really had taken their life, when they couldn’t endure unlife anymore.

“Not unless I knew it was what you wanted, and even then,” she hesitated, “it’s something you really should think about, Lilian. I wasn’t…most of us weren’t given a choice. And there are vampires who have committed suicide over it.” Which fucked up their sires – if their sires were the caring sort. Which, in this situation, Cassidy would be.

“I also wouldn’t…want you to think you’d owe me the rest of your life for it.” She was aware of the vastness of time and she’d barely scratched the surface. She and Lilian had only just begun their relationship, she wouldn’t want Lilian to suddenly feel that if she was turned, now she really had to stay with Cassidy. If they didn’t work…they should part! On as good of terms as possible, but all the same, she wasn’t…delusional.

But some used it that way.

She heard enough horror stories. “And you’ve seen what old age does to vampires now,” besides Inga and Antonia, she’d now met Amon. All great, shining examples of sanity! It was also said with a bit of playfulness in her tone, to take the edge off the very serious topic, without turning away from it. Such a long life was something to consider in all of this.

Still, she hoped she made it clear – she wouldn’t do this without consent. She had to be strong enough to lose her loved ones, and honor their wishes. It was going to happen.


‘Because if the flame never left Rome, Rome never would have fallen.’ It was pointless to express that to either Inga or Lilian, but the thought remained with Antonia as she knew she’d have to deal with this nonsense sooner or later, because it was unlikely Inga was going to give up the idea. Of course, she had been back to Rome – or what people called Rome, anyways – since the fall. There was a painful nostalgia that she didn’t, actually, enjoy in going back, in still knowing, despite how the land had changed, where her house had been.

Where she had died.

Where she had punched Valerius in the fucking face because he wouldn’t shut up – that Valerius still lived in Rome surprised no one. Why he couldn’t have died in the Optimate purge was an eternal mystery, except no, it wasn’t – he didn’t leave Rome. He acted like a cursed vampire, unable to leave his home soil.

It was no surprise to Antonia that her home was up in flames that next day. She had expected it would happen in time. This was apparently Michael’s break-up note. At least she already had packed the things she cared about – the rest was just filling space. She already had a new place. Michael was too late – but she suspected he knew that, because a message came through that night.

You lied to me. You know where Lilian is. I’ll disregard your actions if you tell me where she is.

Antonia didn’t bother to respond. Besides, it might be what she needed to get out of a bad situation. She wasn’t going to cave to a threat over the phone. Michael could do better than that. She deserved better than that.

So, Antonia simply went through the hassle of getting a new phone, changing her number, and keeping all of her contacts. Even Michael’s name, so she’d know when he messaged – and she sent mass messages out to those who needed it with no explanation. Even Inga. Inga could probably guess; the fire wasn’t a subtle affair, even if it had cleared by nightfall.

She did send Lilian an aside message, at least:

Michael knows what we did, and he’s aware I’m working with you now.

Little else really needed to be said. Lilian just needed the information, as the odds were, the hunting was going to pick up its pace. Thankfully, so was the presence of other hunters, and werewolves, and even other vampires not usually in the area, because war had been declared, and that meant the troops had to gather, and Antonia had to deal with greeting most of them.

She’d fund the trip when the day was set by Lilian and Cassidy, making sure Cassidy would be safe from the sun on the journey. More Veturia, as well as more Optimates. ‘Hopefully, you won’t last long.’ Word finally reached the general populace that Lenore had taken up the enviable position of acting Head of the Veturia.

‘The only thing left is another thrice damned council meeting to go over what we found.’ Which, she’d been negotiating the details with Amon, because this wasn’t going to be a large meeting. No, no, it was one of those reserved for the higher ups in society, because spreading details that an Apep was actually found and not far from here, meant keeping it to those who could supposedly be trusted with that kind of information.

That, and she would need to actually talk with Inga, now that she’d had time to consider what she saw, and determine what should, and shouldn’t, be said. Some things would likely be too dangerous to say for several reasons.

Obviously, the location of the Apep would be hidden. They couldn’t risk some stupid vampire charging in like they had done – not until they understood it better. ‘Shame I can’t just turn this into a slaughter.’ She’d lost Michael. ‘Or that Amon can’t just leave Isolde out.’ He had to at least extend the invitation. With any luck, she’d refuse.

She refused everything.

And there ought to be more dead heirs for her to take care of, anyways. Clearly she’d have too much to do than come learn about Amon’s delusions of Apep.


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It went both ways, the seriousness with which they took this, meaning that Cassidy also had Lilian's full attention. She watched, and waited, and prayed for... something? But whether that something was 'yes' or 'no,' the huntress couldn't quite tell. Sure, her opinions on vampires had done a 180; she didn't think they were demons from hell anymore, for what it was worth. Cassidy's existence alone had pretty much debunked all the popular myths at once. Her, and evil? Yeah, right! Might as well claim the Easter Bunny was a spawn of Satan, or that the Hello Kitty cat had secretly been a supervillain all along.

Even so, becoming a vampire was quite the leap. A leap that Lilian sure as fuck wasn't ready to take, even if it may have led to her only escape road. Was she ready to lose the sun? Not like she got to see much of it, with her sleep schedule being as fucked as it was, but it was about the possibility. About being able to wake up one day, be like 'hmm, not feeling this anymore' and just straight up quit.

You didn't l get to quit being a vampire. Admittedly, you also didn't get to quit being a hunter; not in the civilized way, with a fourteen days notice, some awkward pleasantries and maybe an occasional 'hey, you sure you don't wanna reconsider?' email. Either you died for real, or you faked your death and prayed to every known and unknown god that you'd never bump into Michael fucking Serafis in the grocery store.

So, what did she want?

Lilian wasn't sure. She really wasn't, but she needed some kind of response, and finally, it turned out to be--


The word cracked like a whip, and Lilian did feel some kind of relief, on top of all the things that decidedly weren't relief. Did that mean it had never been on the table? That the emergency exit was barricaded? Sure, she still didn't know how to proceed herself, but - options! Being able to choose!

It wasn't at all about that, though. More than anything else, it was about Cassidy being her usual thoughtful self, and when that became apparent, some of the tension left her shoulders. She's got me. She really does. And maybe that realization shouldn't have been a thing, because there hadn't been a moment in their relationship when Cassidy hadn't had her back. Still, Lilian... wasn't really used to that? To so much unconditional support.

It made something in her chest tighten, but nope, not fucking crying now, and so she beat the feeling into submission.

Lilian shifted a little bit, a small smile spreading over her lips, "You know what? Fair. If developing a god complex is a common side effect, then I'm fucking out. I can't even afford a single pyramid!" But, in the end, the elephant in the room had to be addressed, and so her smile waned somewhat. "Trust me, I'm not taking this lightly." It was a concern so heavy that Lilian would have preferred not to tackle it at all, but that was exactly why it had to be done. Why it kind of had to be done now. You also didn't argue with the doctors in the middle of fucking surgery, did you? You did it when you were coherent, and as distant from the situation as you could be. With a clear head.

"I don't know. I mean, I don't want to die, though I'm also not keen on... you feeling like you have some responsibility towards me. Isn't it a two-way street?" Cassidy had likened a sire to a parent, after all. Which, speaking of: "And, okay, I'm gonna have to ask you something real quick. Wouldn't it be weird, if... you did it?" Lilian made a face, as if that was supposed to explain the supposed weirdness, which it fucking didn't. Sigh.

Fortunately, the one thing that she had always excelled at was cutting straight to the point. With a sledgehammer!

"Look, I don't know if I'm reading too much into it, but," and yeah, her cheeks were burning by that point, "Would there be no incestuous vibes? Pretty sure the 'step on me, mommy' thing isn't supposed to be that literal." What. The. Fuck. Had she... actually said that aloud? That comment was supposed to stay in her fucking head. In her fucking head, where nobody could hear it!

Not saying it with her mouth would have helped, but hindsight was 10/10. "Ugh," Lilian groaned, and looked away, "Priorities, right? I should be asking about the important shit, such as... dunno, what it's like to be a new vamp."

And that was a good question.


What do you need so many enemies for, Antonia? Do you collect those instead of Pokémon cards? Yes, the news of her mansion burning to a crisp had reached Inga, and the only thing that had prevented her from dying of heart attack was knowing she had moved.

That, and also heart attacks not really happening to vampires. Unlike the human hearts, theirs made no excuses not to work.


Should I add this Serafis on my list? Maybe, as a bonus round! If the Veturia somehow proved to be too incompetent to off her, and if Antonia didn't want to take care of him herself. Not like she won't make ten new nemeses in the meantime, though. Probably stronger and more important ones, too! Such an overachiever. Briefly, Inga imagined a reality in which Antonia didn't readily fuck her enemies over, and... yeah, not that appealing.

With power, there came danger. With danger, there was power. Inga could at least see that, and also be honest enough with herself to know just what she was attracted to. That it happened to be the very opposite of herself was... probably quite telling.

Anyway! The next few days Inga dedicated to studying, both the symbols and... some things she needed for her Lenore project. She also called Maya, who was as insufferable about it as anyone might expect.

"Really, Inga? Again? This is like, peak social interaction for you. You sure you aren't feeling feverish?"

Inga gave a long-suffering sigh, "I can just hang up, if you'd prefer that."

"Geeze, someone is being a lil' sensitive! So, what do you need?"

Inga said, not at all bothered by the implication that Maya was making. Yes, she was calling because she wanted something; that was how they worked. That was why they worked. "Ammonia, formaldehyde, lots of nitric acid." Ingredients that were common enough, in other words, that they wouldn't really raise many brows. They had many uses, and were purchased every day. Nobody would ever dream of suspecting any--

"What," Maya snorted, "You making a bomb?"


"Oh my god, you ARE making a bomb."

Inga continued to lie, very poorly, until she decided there was no point, "I'm actually making several of them. Can't have enough of those exploding little fuckers!"

There was a silence on the other end of the call, though only a short-lived one. "How much of each?" And this, this shit right there was why Maya was the best! She knew it was a bad idea, but also knew that Inga was Inga, and would just get her shit elsewhere if needed. The only result would be her losing out on a deal.

So, when the delivery boy came? Inga all but barricaded herself in her lab, feeling no small amount of nostalgia over getting to work with these things again. Ah, to be young and obsessed with explosives! Those who said they hadn't had a phase like that were just filthy fucking liars. They went boom; they made fire; they got things gone. What was not to like?

And, yeah, she could off Lenore in a more honest way, but honest ways were for suckers. There were many reasons behind the deviation from her usual modus operandi, but Veturia themselves were the main one. Why, you ask? Because they were married to the past, as much as Inga had divorced it. To them, she would always be just a nutjob with a sword. Which, surprise, surprise! She was a nutjob with a significantly more varied arsenal, now.

Oh sure, they would connect the dots in time. As things stood, though? Given the human weapons, and the distinct lack of Inga's handwriting, they likely wouldn't even consider her as a suspect. Knowing them, they'd think that hunters had grown a brain! Because, to be honest, they did collectively lack it. Swords were cool, but terribly archaic; at least when you fought someone that much stronger than yourself. Why not go for literally anything else? You know, for things that didn't require close combat? Oh, right! Idiocy. Idiocy and traditions, but those were somewhat synonymous in Inga's book.

Science triumphed in the end, and Inga emerged from her lab with a few perfectly fine C4s. Her favorite bomb, really; stronger even than the TNT, but less volatile. Ideal for demolishing buildings and killing people! Or vampires, as long as the positioning was right.

Which it would be, because the Veturia had this... funny habit of new leaders giving a public speech at one of Isolde's places. With a cute little lectern and everything! You get her point about traditions being idiotic now? Yeah, exactly.

Sneaking into the building the day before wasn't hard, mainly because the security... hadn't been briefed on how to deal with intruders who could turn into shadows. Suckers! That was like asking for someone like her to take advantage. So, Inga did install the bombs, and, being her usual dramatic self, also several cameras. She only really needed one to know when to detonate shit, but what was the point to a grandiose revenge if you couldn't sip on blood while enjoying the best footage possible? Vengeance 101, ladies and gentlemen!

Even if Inga was admittedly still a little bit of a noob.

Finally, the fateful night came. Something human in her almost yearned for popcorn to go with the show, but she also knew that that would be one way to ruin it for herself. Inga turned the cameras on, and watched the hall; the orchestra playing in the background, the blood fountains, all the suckers stuffed in suits. Lenore, a tall, raven-haired woman that might as well have jumped out of a Bram Stoker novel, was just heading towards the lectern.

The Veturia couldn't catch a break, could they? Something always seemed to ruin their precious events.

Wait. Why not share this with Antonia? And, oh, what a delightful gift that would be! Grinning from ear to ear, Inga reached for her phone.

"Hello, hello, Antonia! Lovely night for some murder, don't you think?" she asked, with her usual cheer. Of course, it was a rhetorical question; all nights were great for massacring the Veturia. Probably days, as well. "Sorry to disappoint, but there will be no head for this one. Too messy. However! Sharing is caring, so I thought to include you. Would you like to decide when she dies? I can make that happen, just say the word. Sending you the live stream now!'

And if Antonia did open the link, she would manage it just in time for the beginning of Lenore's grand speech.

"Brothers and sisters," she gave everyone a charming smile, with that barely noticeable undercurrent of 'I know I own you now, bitches' to it, "Dearest family. It has been many, many centuries since I have seen most of you, but my heart has never forgotten a thing. I still remember you, Aurelia, and the way we used to hunt together when..."
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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Lilian wasn’t upset with the answer. Or the humor, it seemed, which was some relief. She had wondered if Lilian might take offense at not being changed in the heat of a moment – passion had its place, but not here, damn it! So, Cassidy chuckled at Lilian vetoing the change when it came to a god complex. ‘I’m not sure how common it was.’ She really only knew about Amon. If the others had god complexes, they didn’t show it.

Cassidy nodded, “It is a two-way street, though I’ve known sires to abandon their childes, I…wouldn’t.” That wasn’t her nature, which was no doubt quite obvious by now. And yeah – the incest was another thing. Cassidy very much felt like Silvon was more a father, or even a brother when he was being particularly weird – but family, and not like a husband. So, all she could do was shrug at that. “It…varies. Some vampires do turn their lovers…it’s not uncommon, but there is a general…yeah, vibe that the childe/sire relationship should be like a child and a parent, because there’s…a major power imbalance.”

To say the least.

“So I’d…probably feel weird about it.” Sure, Lilian tried to retract – but it was brought up, so she may as well answer! “Not saying it’d be insurmountable just…stating facts as I know them. I’ve never had a childe so I don’t really know how it would be to be on that side of things.”

She could imagine it’d be weird.

“But as for being a new vamp, that I can explain with a bit more certainty,” she chuckled, smiling to wave off that awkwardness. “It’s…difficult. There isn’t a good human comparison, except maybe a baby. When a baby’s hungry, it cries. When a vampire’s hungry, it feeds. If you have a good sire, they’ll recognize it before it reaches that ‘crying’ phase…or in this case, reckless feeding.”

Which no one could afford anymore, not with how humanity had advanced. “And that lasts for just about a year or two. You don’t lose your reasoning, so you can kind of start to fighting, but once it’s there…well, you already saw me lose it,” she sighed, “It’s hard. But babies learn. And so do vampires. Then there’s just the struggle of getting used to the night schedule. Losing the sun. Losing what…people do in the sun. You take for granted even the stupidest things, like going to the market, until it’s gone. Like, even though you don’t need to, it was a strange, nice, community thing. It’s better now, with so many places open much later than they were back in my day, and having a community of vampires, but that…longing is still there.”

Her gaze dropped, “The longing is the hardest thing. Longing for blood. Longing for the sun. Longing for the simple pleasures – the not-quite forgotten taste of a good steak, or a sweet apple pie,” she sighed, smiled, looked back up, “I think that’s the greatest trouble with this. You want so much that you used to have, but you can’t have it again. Ever. Time displaces it, or it doesn’t taste how it did when you were human…and you vomit it up,” she lifted one shoulder in a shrug, “Immortality is weird. You can have so many new things, but you still want the things you used to have.”

Even her.

Even as young as she was.

“I still want the sun. Every day.”


Antonia was just finishing up the call with the car rental people in Vegas to make sure Cassidy and Lilian were set up, when another rang through. She checked the name, sighed, but still answered it because there was the chance the woman on the other end had good news. If she was keeping her promises, there should be very good news.

It seemed there was.

No head, but something just as entertaining: a livestream of murder. “Hm?” It piqued her interest, and so she did indeed click on the livestream as it was pushed through, Inga still on the line as Lenore’s voice came through crystal clear, greeting her brethren, reminiscing, and Antonia couldn’t help but let that feline, vicious smile curl onto her lips at the power of deciding when Lenore would die.

“Yes, Inga. I think I’d like to decide that.” Because she knew speechcraft, and she knew when the least opportune moment to die would be. There would be more than one. Somewhere between promising to restore the Veturia, or praising Isolde’s judgment, or a threat towards their foes…these would all be notes in the speech, because they were necessary.

So did she blow her head off in the midst of talking about the greatness of the Veturia?

In admiring Isolde’s foresight to promote her?

Or a breath away from naming their greatest foe?

Decisions, decisions. “You should have given me forewarning, though. I could have had a glass of blood ready,” as it was, she’d just enjoy Lenore’s little speech without it. Just a hyperfocus to every detail, every nuance.

“And of course you, Thomas,” Lenore had moved on from Aurelia with a wide, welcoming gesture towards Thomas, “and our time defending the Veturia from all sides in the Germanic kingdoms together. Your courage in the face of fire’s light was admirable, and your steadfast nature towards our ends which have brought us to where are now.” Lenore lifted her head from them, “to Veturia being the most well-known clan among vampires, for all others knowing we will do whatever we must. It is not a bond of blood that holds us, as it holds those of the Valencia clan.”

Her mockery was open, even if there was no sniggering, just a little side-smirk on her lips that she talked through, “or the wretchedly small Optimates who claim to bring in only the best, but we know that people simply do not wish to stay with them. They, too, prefer blood, but we have always welcomed with open arms the adoptees, those cast out, who’s worth could only be seen and refined by us. For was it not us, Unye, that found you, adopted you, and molded you into the great woman you have become.”

And of course, Unye beamed in the crowd as Lenore’s fingers unfurled towards her.

“We have been guided by many lights over the years, and we remain guided by the steadfast Isolde.”

Antonia tried not to choke on her own breath at ‘steadfast’.

“Though I rise where Matteo fell, he is not forgotten, nor his grip, his ways, or his own legacy. I will soon pour over his works, and use them to steer us forward – though I will certainly adapt to our changing situation better than he did.” He was dead, after all.

“It is an honor now to be one of the many lighthouses that will guide us into the future,” Lenore said, “Though I do not forget it is also a duty, and my duty is to all of you, to guide you to safe harbors, and towards the betterment of our clan. Isolde has seen that I am capable of this, and I—”

“Quoth the raven,” Antonia said softly.

“—will make sure that you all will see, going forward—”

“Nevermore.” Antonia was sure that Inga would get the hint. Lenore, Lenore! What an ill-fated name for Antonia’s humor.

“—how capable I—”


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A major power imbalance.

Well, that... didn't sound great? Lilian was far from a relationship expert, but you didn't really have to be one to spot a situation that screamed trouble. Sure, Cassidy wouldn't abuse it - she was Cassidy, for starters. Her crimes likely included shit like cutting in lines, feeling stupidly guilty about it, and volunteering in homeless shelters to make up for it afterwards. Okay, fine, also some murder! But who was she to talk? Realistically speaking, her own hands were probably stained with more innocent blood, given the whole... uh, 'kill them all' philosophy.

Hunters killed because they could. Not because they were hungry or because they snapped, but because they'd decided genocide was awesome, actually. With a CV like that, should Lilian really be clutching her fucking pearls?

In conclusion, Cassidy was a great person and if there had to be someone to be this reliant on, she wasn't a bad choice. It didn't seem too unhealthy, except... except it fucking was.

Remember the golden rule? When you had to ask yourself if something was a bad idea, it usually was. Those were the last desperate smoke signals common sense was sending out, hoping against hope that your brain hadn't jumped the ship yet. And, yes! Lilian did recognize them so well mainly because she happened to be a world-class common sense denier. 'Know your enemy' wasn't a bullshit saying.

She really doesn't want to do it, the huntress realized. That alone should have been reason enough to drop the talk entirely, and it would have been, if not for the countdown in the background. You know, the countdown to her fucking death? Because that still was a thing! Much like Cassidy's hesitation was. Much like her worries were, and all of her concerns. "Yeah, no, it does sound weird," Lilian agreed. "Not 'I-am-deleting-your-number-right-now' weird, but definitely fucking weird. Finding out just how bad it would be... doesn't sound like fun." Maybe someone else could turn her? If it ever came down to that. Probably not Antonia, but Inga did seem like the type that would go 'sure, mate' and just... do it, solely because she could, without really asking a lot of questions. Uh, hello? Am I really considering having INGA as a parental figure?

Clearly, the prospect of dying was taking its fucking toll.

But Cassidy continued to talk, and Lilian owed it to her to listen. "I... have never considered a lot of that," she admitted. She had wondered, though not very deeply, likely because you didn't tend to think about the inner lives of those you murdered in cold fucking blood too much. Sympathy for the Devil only led to... well, situations like hers.

And there was a lot of sympathy, as Lilian considered for the first time just how fucking lonely Cass must have been. Her old world, her human family, the sun itself; all gone, with not even her favorite food to comfort her. Just... the coldness of the night. Oh, and in addition to that? Wondering if you were a fucking monster! Also dealing with all the people who now want to off you, thinking that they do have an answer to that.

That she had been one of them was fucking nauseating.

"This is such bullshit!" she exclaimed, in the typical Lilian fashion, before realizing, in that very same fashion, just how wrong it must have sounded. Oh, fuck. Would she ever find a way to not be a complete goddamn doofus? The thrilling saga continued! "Not you missing things," Lilian rushed to add, "Just that this is happening at all. I'm... sorry, Cass." She shifted a bit, putting her hands on her shoulders. Beneath, she was warm; not at all different from anyone else she'd touched.

But, well, also very different. In that cheesy 'feelings make things special' way.

"It's not fair. If you ask me, the sun's pretty stupid for being such a bitch about vampires. Who does it think it's impressing? Elitism is not fucking it. It's not even that great, with... all the skin cancer... and the retina assaults. Super uncalled for!" Yeah, that probably wasn't making it better. Then again, what would? Nothing Lilian could say, probably.

"Look, Cass," she sighed, moving a little closer, "I... can't say I understand all of this but I'm glad you're here with me. And not, you know, dead."


Oh. Yeah, the blood would have improved everything, and Inga felt a little silly for not thinking of it sooner. A massacre without warm blood? A seven out of ten experience, at best! Better than average, but not stellar. And, no, 'better than average' was not enough for a woman of her caliber. Still: "There's always next time, Antonia! This was a spur of the moment thing. I just... figured you'd like it." Which she did. Inga could hear the smile, even if she couldn't see it, and she regretted not being with her, because those instances were few and far between. This was like flushing the Philosopher's Stone down the toilet, dammit! It's fine, she tried to swallow the disappointment, I'll just... make her smile some more.

Easier said than done.

Even so, Inga did love her impossible challenges.

Lenore talked, talked, and talked, and while Inga could sort of acknowledge that it was her job in this context, she also felt annoyed by every single word. Blah blah blah, you're the best, blah blah blah, good old times. We fucking get it. Don't you have anything more original? Like, you sure you want this cheesy drivel to be your last words? No, Inga wasn't being salty because of the whole 'we accept the outsiders' bit. Finding out she was too much even for the Veturia, the Lovers of the Weird, hadn't deformed her self-esteem at all!

Mostly because she'd barely had any by then. Couldn't destroy what wasn't there, y'know?

In theory.

Phantom pain was still a thing, and didn't necessarily apply only to limbs.

Lazily, Inga's finger hovered above the button. Well? Which moment will you choose, sváss mínn?

A good one, predictably enough. You really could learn about dramatic timing from Antonia! "Coming right up," Inga smiled before she did, indeed, press the thing.


The sound was deafening, as well as the silence that followed. Everything seemed frozen in time. When Unye realized that the sticky substance all over her dress was likely Lenore's brain, though? Oh, that was when the screaming started. The running, too. "Lovely fireworks for the lovely Antonia," Inga added.

(Not her sweet, not her dear, not her anything, because she very much wasn't hers. Wasn't, and would never be. But, yes, oh so lovely! The word had spilled past her lips without her permission, though perhaps that... wasn't so bad. After all, Antonia knew she loved her. She did, and hadn't really said anything cruel about that, which was more than Inga could reasonably hope for.)

(She did hope for more still.)

"Planning to fuck off so soon? Rude. And after all that effort, too!" Not on her watch, that was for sure. Without waiting for Antonia's reaction, she pressed a different button, and then another one, and watched as the first would-be escapees got caught up in the next two blasts. Sure, Lenore had been the main target; that didn't mean she couldn't use the event to improve her statistics a bit, though. A clan didn't massacre itself!

Especially since Inga had a long, long, long list to take care of.

Meanwhile, the hall devolved into total chaos, with people climbing over the dead bodies and what was left of them. Some jumped out of windows; some went through the burning door, in their frenzied madness. Which, a certified Not Good Idea. "Oh my," Inga giggled, the sound of it almost coy, "This has to be the most memorable transfer of power ever. Lenore gets to be such a legend!"
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Lilian’s exclamation was both startling, but not unexpected. Lilian had that way about her, crying out for answers, crying out in frustration, that was so honestly endearing. Although Cassidy jolted and straightened a bit, she still relaxed easily once more and was able to smile a little at Lilian’s attempts to make it better.

To curse out the sun for causing cancer.

What could she do but laugh? Not at Lilian, but at the attempt to help. In a way, it did alleviate some of that terrible longing she’d dropped herself into just by talking about it, and when Lilian came in closer, she reached her hands out and looped them around the back of Lilian’s neck as she pressed her forehead to her Lilian’s own.

“I’m glad I’m alive, too. That’s the part you start liking later on. Not the immediate part of being a vampire,” she said. “For all the longing, there’s still all that…curiosity about the future, almost like being a child again and thinking one day there will be dinosaur parks, or hovercars.” There was something to be said for that part.

Some vampires did become jaded, but not all.

Tristan was one of the ones that still held that curiosity and interest in spades. He went heavy into video games and computers, though. “Besides, you all experience that longing, too. Companies stop making things…you just have the memories. That’s…normal, even for humans.”

It was just excessive because in a vampire lifetime, they could build up that many more things to miss.

Her grip loosened, hands sliding over Lilian’s shoulders, her arms, in an exhale. “And besides, it’s let me meet many wonderful people,” the implication was obvious, but was that going to stop her from leaving it at obvious and not blunt as hell?

Absolutely not.

“Like you.” She would shift her head a little, nudge Lilian’s nose with her own, before going on to place a light kiss if Lilian didn’t move too far away after that terrible cheesiness. So far, that seemed to be a staple. Cheesiness.

But it didn’t feel like cheap cheddar cheese at least.

This was the good cheese you ate daintily with wine, or something. Maybe. Cassidy wasn’t going to start making cheese metaphors anytime soon, she didn’t know what good cheese actually was.



Did Antonia have some issues for finding the deafening sound, the flash of light, the silence, and the blood, beautiful? Oh, unquestionably. She was not going to think on that, because the existence of the Veturia was far more problematic, and she canted her head with that wicked little smile, pleased with her murderous little…well, Inga wasn’t little, was she? The fact her thought went to ‘murderous little pet’ was no doubt Amon’s influence, and she’d consider revenge later.

Right now, she just let the thought happen after the stumble over ‘little’ and not ‘pet’.

The screaming was almost better than the silence, save for the fact it meant people lived, which was a shame. The fireworks were lovely. And so was she, wasn’t she? Yes, something she knew poor Inga was caught up in, but she wouldn’t snap about that. That wasn’t…as bad as the possessives she’d used before, even in another tongue. It was a descriptor. Not nearly so bad.

She did begin to chuckle was more booms occurred, after their rude attempts to depart, a low sound in her throat that didn’t quite pass her lips. Inga’s giggle was a pleasant addition, to know Inga enjoyed the slaughter just as much. “I am almost sad I’m not in Tristan’s group to see the memes this creates. Do not add me to it.” The last was a warning. She didn’t miss it that much, and wasn’t willing to subject herself to that anonymous anarchy again. Even as a mere observer.

But Inga could send her the good ones.

“It’s going to be hard for anyone to top this legendary transfer, but I’m sure you’ll be up to the task,” perhaps not the next one…but it was a challenge, all the same. There would be ways to top it. Quickness – to go after someone as soon as it was known. Lenore had been known for a bit. The amount of others who died during the transfer of power, besides the one at the head of it. The event.

The Veturia were all about tradition, of course, but traditions adapted to the era. This, too, would change as more and more died, to try and keep them safe. It would fail dramatically. ‘Would.’ Not even a doubt. Not even a whispered hope for Inga’s failure and death, her mind unknowingly verging into territory of not wanting to let this go so quickly, even if she’d say otherwise, that of course Inga dying would be fine, it was a win-win no matter what, right?

She was too easily won over with murder.

Probably why she’d had more than one interlude with a hunter.

“I really do appreciate the thought you’ve put into both deaths so far,” she could call it murder, but was it murder when it was justice? Probably in the courts. Maybe not the courts of Rome, though. “I am looking forward to the next, Inga, if they are all going to be so well thought out. Perhaps I’ll even start to hope you really do live up to your promise and don’t pass beforehand.” A terrible little tease of affection. She knew it, but said it anyways, ignoring the truth in it – because there was no need to acknowledge it.

Inga knew it was hopeless.

But that’s why hope existed. Small little things, like that.


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Well. There wasn't really much else to do but laugh, was there? A nervous breakdown was always an option, as well as cutting her own tongue out, though Lilian had to say she didn't feel like going quite so far.

After all, why waste a perfectly good tongue? There were better things to do with it.

Things that didn't necessarily involve talking. Also things you'll never get to do if you keep screwing up like that, dammit! Skin cancer? Fucking... skin cancer? If there was a Hall of Fame for ridiculously stupid comments, this one was taking the first spot!

Except that Cassidy didn't seem to mind. By now, she also probably knew what she had signed up for, in agreeing to date the biggest disaster around.

And so Lilian joined her, both out of the sense of awkwardness and because her laughter was contagious, in the absolute best way. "Mm," she agreed, very much enjoying the closeness, "I suppose it really is... normal. You do miss shit all the time. Not even things, but the feelings? I remember loving this obscure brand of soda. It was like, heaven in my mouth! They used to buy it for us when we were little," us, as in hunter kids, "when we really kicked ass. You nailed that math test? Soda of Awesomeness it was! I could never find it in any store afterwards, but when I did stumble upon it once..." she shrugged, "...it wasn't that good. Too fucking sweet, my teeth really were going to rot. I guess I enjoyed succeeding, more than anything else."

That was still kind of true. Lilian had almost forgotten what not fucking up felt like, and she did miss it, just like she missed the aspects that weren't terrible. Her friends, for example. Knowing what to do with her fucking life. The... sense of purpose? But this really wasn't any time to be reminiscing! Not when Cass was being so... um, distracting.

"Yeah?" She did the opposite of moving away, and leaned into her touch, "Funny, I've also met someone pretty great recently. I might... have a thing for her. It's getting sort of bad," Another kiss, "I can't get her out of my head. Not sure if I want to, either."

Nope, Lilian Perry wasn't going to be outdone. Not in anything, but especially not in cheesiness! It wasn't even a matter of experience, as much as it was about... well, feeling safe enough to be this cheesy.

Not a small thing. Not at all.

"And longing can also be good, I think," she all but whispered, still oh so close, "Anything you're longing for now?"


Liar. What, did Antonia think she was stupid? Many had made the same mistake, assuming that 'nutjob' and 'dumbass' were at least a little synonymous, but that couldn't be further from the truth. That Inga's mind ran in weird circles sometimes didn't mean she couldn't see connections between things, or hear the words behind the words, or really just... tell when someone was bullshitting. Which, it was all too obvious here!

When you wanted your car to work, you filled it with gas. When you wanted to turn your computer on, you made sure it was plugged in. And when you wanted to make sure her attention didn't waver, you... offered encouragement. Scraps from your table. After all, Inga Singedottir was both starving and a sucker, and would likely thank you for kicking her because at least that would mean you'd noticed she was fucking there. Why not throw her a bone? It wasn't like it cost Antonia something, aside from maybe some self-respect.

Still, Inga didn't call her out. She could have, but she didn't, mainly because she wanted to hear more sweet lies from Antonia's sweet lips, crafted for her and because of her. The effort behind those was real, even if the sentiments weren't. The general idea, too.

It meant that Antonia saw her worth. That Inga wasn't a burden, but someone she liked to keep around, in the same way you enjoyed having a nice, sharp pair of scissors or a printer that magically didn't break every five fucking seconds. Useful, that was what she was.

Useful, and eager to be used.

Alright, fine, maybe she was stupid. Stupider than stupid, because what did you call someone like her? Someone so... hopelessly gone? Someone who knew she was walking towards a trap, with a big smile all over her face? A failure. A defect, strictly speaking, since survival was the one fucking job of literally every organism, living or undead.

It was fine. As long as it killed her before Antonia got bored, Inga would be happy, and it would be a victory, because she wasn't at all playing the same game everyone else was.

(Her sire had made her stay, sure. Them, or the gods, or some cynical force that had been at play back then, beyond anyone's comprehension. It didn't matter, because the end result was the same. The one thing that nobody could do, though? Force her to follow their rules. Inga carved her own path, and that it led to hell was just a... small, convenient bonus.)

"Oh, hm? You're going to give me stage fright," she half-joked, grinning from ear to ear, "Expectations are a heavy thing, Antonia. Not something I'm used to! But," the smile widened, "I have to admit, it's nice. Hurts in a good way." There were more things she wished to say, but they were also things that shouldn't be said, because crossing some sort of boundary would have been all too easy. Stuff like 'hurt me more' or 'don't, please' which both struck her as... equally true, somehow, and equally inappropriate. Too intimate, maybe?

Too intimate, and also too much. The underlying theme of her life, if you looked closely enough. Most people instinctively knew when to stop, but she didn't, and instead of mellowing her out, the years had only made her worse. Maybe the speed was addictive? Either that, or the prospect of her skull being cracked open. Both. Both are good.

"Enjoy the rest of your night, Antonia," Inga said, before she managed to embarrass herself, "And sweet dreams."

Inga's dreams, for the most part, were sweet, though waking up to a flurry of fresh Lenore memes was even better. Truly, Edgar Allan Poe was a gift! Would he have approved? Somehow, she thought the answer was 'yes'; edgy poetry and edgy dead vampires seemed like a good enough combination.

"Can we all agree there's no way hunters are doing this?" someone in the group chat asked. "I'll eat my fucking shoes if it's them. Like, this is NOT their style."

Inga frowned, before hashing out a message of her own: "I hope you like the taste, then? Pretty fucking sure it's them, lol."

Several people began typing, which was never a good sign.

"Sounds like something the real culprit would say!"

"Yeah. Are YOU doing it, Braidy Bunch?"

At that, Inga's thoughts could only be summarized as 'oh, for FUCK'S sake.' Why did they have to be so obnoxiously good at playing the Sherlock Holmes? She just wanted to murder in peace, to maybe earn a lady's heart!

But since playing it cool was the best tactic: "Sure, you got me. I'm the mystery murderer! Wanna interview me? I'm doing it because," quick, an absurd enough excuse, "Isolde ate my hamster."

"My condolences, Braidy Bunch. I hope the Grannynator pays for her crimes!"

"Okay, but for real. Who is behind this? Antonia?"

"No fucking shit? It's 100% Antonia, lmao."

"The bitch should calm the fuck down. Who the hell cares about her 1000 year old vendetta?"

"A Veturia apologist, in OUR chat? Go join Lenore, lmfao."

"Never, never, never moooore!~"

Inga breathed a sigh of relief, until--

"Antonia? Ever seen ANTONIA go off like that? My money's on Inga, lol."


And there it was again, an absolute storm of typing signs.


"This... does check out, ngl. Like, you know she would."

"Is this her redemption arc?"

"More like her enemies-to-lovers arc, lol. Have you SEEN the way she looks at Princess?"

Which was the last straw, and Inga closed the chat. If there was one thing she didn't fucking need, it was seeing people discuss her non-existent love life!

So far. Non-existent, so far.

A stupid addition, of course. 'So far' implied developments that she shouldn't even be considering, let alone unironically hoping for. Still, maybe...? It wasn't impossible, the same way that corpses coming back to life was. She could think of several scenarios more unlikely than Antonia coming to like her, including alien invasion, and--

You're hopeless, Inga.

True. True, but that was also the one thing that she... sort of liked about herself? The ability to hope against hope. To keep going, even if there was nothing to go for. Which, yes, it had mostly been a waste of time! But then she'd met Antonia, and certain things started making a little more sense.

Things such as fate. Her people had always believed in it, claiming that not even the gods escaped That Which Had To Be, but Inga herself had had her doubts. After all, what was the fucking point? So many years, so many disappointments, and nothing to show for it!

Except it wasn't nothing. What was it if not fate that tied her to Antonia? Through her sin, and her repentance, they were now tied. Forever.

Antonia's challenge still rang in her ears, which was part of why the next two weeks were so fruitful. To hear her say what she hoped for so explicitly? Yeah, that was all she needed to go into overdrive, and it was exactly what she did, mainly because 'restraint' continued to be a foreign concept for Inga.

Christian, Lenore's next successor, met his fate during the naming ceremony itself. Sure, the security was better this time around; not even Inga dared to install anything complicated, for fear of being discovered. Not in the obvious places, anyway. The less obvious places, though? You know, such as the old cape that all the Veturia leaders put on, to symbolize their new responsibilities? An old, filthy rag, but an important one.

Also one full of... unexpected surprises, this time around. Inga guessed she could thank their Cain for the inspiration? Because he had reminded her of phosphorus, and just how deliciously it burned. Ordinarily, it burned in contact with oxygen, but there were ways to stabilize it slightly, so that it reacted to heat. To heat, and friction, and all the things that happened with movement!

Such as when someone tried to wear it. Well, not the phosphorus itself, but maybe a cape that happened to have a lot of it in its pockets?

Long story short, he made for a great candle. The house did as well, mostly because you couldn't fucking contain phosphorus once it went off. Final death count: A Whole Fucking Lot! Inga hadn't really counted.

As long as a single Veturia remained, her job wasn't done.

The next two didn't even get to enjoy their ceremony, mostly because Inga wasn't feeling too suicidal. Rumors said that Isolde was furious, and she did quite believe it, and wasn't planning to find herself on the receiving end of that fury. Although, perhaps she was? Which was why she'd kidnapped Leonard, the next unlucky guy, from one of the brothels he liked to frequent, and cut him into small, but recognizable pieces. Pieces that she proceeded to mail to where the ceremony took place, because duh, failing to show up would have been rude!

(Not before sending a smiley selfie to Antonia, though. In it, Inga was... covered in blood, decidedly not her own, and showing a victory sign at the camera, while severing the poor man's head. 'For your blackmail folder < 3' she'd entitled it. Supposedly, there was one? A lack of it would honestly be offensive to Inga at this point.)

Nerissa's death may have been her favorite so far, though. The woman also got nabbed, courtesy of her predictable schedule, and Inga made a trip to the countryside, to one of her... less savory friends.

You know all those country songs about murdering unfaithful husbands and the like? Well, there was a reason they were country songs, and not city ones. Farmers had a lot more possibilities on the table, some more gruesome than the others.

Inga, naturally, was going for the most gruesome one. Moderation? In her murderous schemes? As fucking if!

Not wanting to deprive Antonia of the spectacle, Inga turned the camera on, "Hello, hello," she grinned, "Welcome to Inga's science fair! Today, we are going to find out if hungry pigs can eat a vampire alive. What's faster: our regeneration, or these adorable pink little guys? The answer will shock you!"

"Hmpf," Nerissa protested in the background, as if she very much knew the outcome. A gold star for effort! For extra fun, Inga also streamed the video publicly, though, of course, only after getting out of sight. No need for the Veturia to focus on her when Nerissa was supposed to be the star, right?

Ha, ha, ha.

Oh, what fun that had been! But maybe she'd top it tonight? Because there was going to be another murder, and Inga always, always aimed for the stars.
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Cassidy could empathize only too well with Lilian’s soda story. Things she enjoyed didn’t taste as good now, although even as a human, she had noticed differences in how things tasted as she moved around. Tomatoes – of all the things, she remembered tomatoes had been the biggest disappointment for a while when she was in such dry land. Where were her fruitful, plump, tomatoes?!

She’d never have them again.

But, she would have many other things, and learn to miss a thousand more, until she began to forget some of them. That’s what time did, right? What memory did? You could only recall so much.

Although she didn’t want to forget Lilian, or the brief sensation of her lips as she offered her own, quite agreeable, kiss – and quite agreeable words that did have a way of making Cassidy feel more special. How could she not? She was the vampire who won over the heart of a hunter, without even…well, without the intent, initially.

Now, well – she had a few longings that kisses weren’t going to wholly satisfy. She unwound one arm and let her hand fall to Lilian’s thigh as she let her body move in closer, closing up more space that had no business being there, but continued to exist because they hadn’t just sat on top of each other. Yet.

“A few things,” her hand squeezed Lilian’s thigh, “there’s a few other tastes I’ve longed to experience, beyond your lips,” and her blood, but she wasn’t bringing that into the moment right then, although she’d definitely be very careful with her teeth in pursuit of these other tastes, however far the night let them go in sharing in these mutual longings, both familiar and unfamiliar in that intoxicating mix of knowledgeable explorations.

It was a good way to end such a night, where death and fear had held them enthralled for too long. Questions of vampirism would wait – Lilian had time to think on it, and Cassidy, too, had time to consider what it could mean for them.

Sadly, such pleasant moments couldn’t stretch on endlessly. Silvon and Las Vegas would only wait so long, but they did wait, and it did not feel hurried when Cassidy found herself calling Silvon to ask when a good time would be to visit him with her frie—lov—girlfriend?—Lilian. He got a kick out of her stumbling over the word to use, and indicated any time ought to be fine. She wouldn’t tell him why.

Not over the phone.

It was likely paranoia more than anything, but she couldn’t risk the odd chance of it being recorded. Somehow.

It was better to do this in person, anyways.

So she’d get packed up, and with Lilian, head to the airport.

“You know,” she said, “this is the first time I’ve ever flown,” she admitted once they had their tickets in hand and were able to head towards their waiting area, “I’ve always walked, or driven, or…rode horses anywhere.” The fact she also wasn’t among the richest vampires informed her choices. Buses and trains were cheap. “Have you ever flown before?”

She doubted Lilian had, but why not ask while there was a bit of time to kill, right? Maybe hunters did travel!






Not to mention the various unfortunate souls at Lenore and Christian’s events. Antonia couldn’t help it if she seemed a bit happier – she was. This went beyond her expectations not only with the speed, but the spectacle. Tristan, too, was having a goddamn field day. Antonia caught wind of the memes.

She caught wind of the accusations, but those were nothing new. Her usual denials were always at hand, but so was that growing fondness for Inga, again. How easily it had risen before she knew about Giannis, with that bit of sparring, and even some of Inga’s mad ramblings.

Ramblings which Antonia endured again, hating that it made sense. ‘Alien.’ She liked that more than God. She even said that seemed likely. Why not have an alien be the creator of vampires? It was more believable than a God, which was a term Inga seemed to accept she was using loosely, because what else did they have for something like this?

The alchemy still seemed like bullshit, but Antonia was a part of a world of strange happenings, so she’d have to report it.

At least she was able to talk that out with Amon first, and he seemed excited, although perhaps he was most excited about luring Isolde out of her Ivory Tower. Antonia found she didn’t actually believe it. Not even on the day of the meeting, when Inga told her she wouldn’t be coming. Business.

The best kind of business.

At least Antonia would have that to look forward to when this shitshow was over with, and she was finished being the youngest—second youngest.


Tristan shrugged, lounging one of the couches with his legs thrown over an arm. “I’m still the unofficial-official speaker for the clanless, so here I am, to hear all about the fuckery you got into with the hunters.” Tristan gestured out with a hand, which immediately fell back over the side of the couch. His hair, today, was black. Normal. He looked surprisingly normal, in an oversized hoodie and tripp pants.

Amon was there, as well as Valencia herself, ever dignified in her businesswoman apparel, and other faces Antonia recognized arrived, each older, but none able to challenge Amon’s claim, so far as Antonia knew.

Save, perhaps, Isolde.

That was the benefit of mystery. No one knew.

“Are we quite ready to get started?” Valencia was as clipped and easily annoyed as the childe who ran the hotel in town.

“There’s still no Veturia representative,” Tristan pointed out lazily. He hadn’t sat up. Amon was sitting on the other arm of the couch as if this was perfectly acceptable behavior. At least that meant Antonia got a couch to herself. “I mean, they could at least send Joseph.”

“I did tell everyone Isolde was coming.”

“We believe that about as much as we believe that Eve ever came.” It was said so perfectly deadpan from Haru that one might have missed the humor. Or attempt at it. Antonia managed not to sigh.

“As loathed as I am to agree with Lord Haru, Amon, night does end, and we cannot wait for the Veturia to get their affairs in order. We can record the discussion.”

“Wonder why their affairs are so fucked,” Tristan muttered, playing on his phone, before adjusting and pointing it at the group, “Kay, whatever, I can record this for Isolde or Joseph or whoever the fuck’s going to live long enough. Care to give me a clue, Princess?”

Antonia wouldn’t dignify that with a response.


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It was a good way to end such a night, though Lilian suspected that would have been true for... well, most nights. Also most days. Most periods of time that people bothered to measure, really. And, while they were at it, why stop at ending things? Beginnings deserved to be celebrated, as well, and maybe even the often forgotten intermezzos, or those awkward middle parts that nobody knew how to refer to. People left those out of everything, and it was time someone finally--

Oh, do shut up, Lilian tried to steer her mind to a more acceptable course, You can't fucking spend your entire life in bed.

Not that they needed a bed.

Not that that was the fucking point!

Yeah, the teenager mode had definitely been activated. Lilian woke up still... riding that high, no doubt due to yesterday's events being played on repeat in her head, and no, that didn't do much for her motivation to do literally anything else. Could I convince Cass to...? Probably. Something even told her it wouldn't take that much convincing, but, contrary to popular opinion, Lilian Perry did have some sense of responsibility left. It was maimed, sure - not quite a corpse, though almost one, bleeding out in a dark back alley.

Which, of course, didn't stop it from reminding her what her duty was. Sigh.

Complaining about a trip to fucking Vegas had to be peak spoiled brat, but Lilian also felt it wasn't her fault that she'd just discovered better things to do. Leave it up to timing to ruin everything, dammit!

But, alright, now that she'd gotten the unfairness of it all out of her system--

"Nope," she smiled at Cass, "Not once. We... didn't use to leave the house much. Some hunters did travel, but mostly the high-ranking ones? To get all buddy-buddy with all the other big honchos." Lilian didn't really understand the political side of the whole hunter business, aside from knowing that it was, indeed, a thing. She could only assume it involved a lot of shady deals? Shit you ought to keep under the wraps, unless you wanted to deal with an angry mob. Shit like... well, working with vampires. Also shit like their precious god being a Lovecraftian monstrosity, because that would make a lot of people very mad.

For one organization, hunters seemed to be having a lot of fucked-up secrets.

"Are you scared?" she changed the topic, "Some people are." People that weren't Lilian Perry, that was for sure, because that would have been fucking stupid. She'd killed vampires! Faced fucked-up vampire gods! Pushed herself to her limits! A method of transportation was not going to scare her, even if it could easily kill her. Even if she couldn't fucking kill it back, which was... more terrifying than it had any right to be.

What did you even do, when fight or flight wasn't an option?

Ran your mouth, apparently.

"I mean, I think it's going to be fine. There are only about 1000 plane crashes per year?" No, it wasn't suspicious she'd looked up the actual fucking statistics, "What are the chances of us ending up in--?" The wrong question to ask, given their track record, and Lilian's eyes widened. "Oh god, it's totally fucking going to crash!"


A nuisance.

All of this was, but the meeting was the most pressing one, with the least room for error.

Isolde didn't feel like going. She never did, and usually had many people willing to take over, eager for their chance to prove their worth. Matteo, the fool that he'd been; the sweet Lenore; the boisterous Leonard. Even Nerissa, her little protege. Ah, why had they taken Nerissa? Her talent had been so interesting, with those little glimpses into the future, and she'd been so looking forward to tasting her flesh!

Then again, Nerissa hadn't seen the pigs coming. Perhaps she, too, had been worthless. Stupid girl! Couldn't you have at least been more considerate with the timing?

No, apparently.

The Veturia all seemed to be competing in who the greatest disappointment was, and Isolde wasn't all that thrilled to see the results being updated constantly. But, fine. Fine, she was going! Nobody else was going to step up, and so she would have to. The prospect of having to deal with Amon's smugness was almost enough to make her reconsider, though... hmm.

Antonia would be there, wouldn't she?

Antonia, the shining star.

Antonia, the one behind all of this.

Sure, she had given her grief - more grief than all of her enemies combined, in this century as well as many centuries before it. Didn't the best relationships start this way, though? And Isolde wasn't without mercy, nor was she without common sense. Hating a woman with a vision just struck her as silly. Foolish, indeed, when instead, she could--

Have her. See what makes her great, and take it.

Why not go say hello, then? Not doing so would have been so, so, so rude!

The chauffer looked at her as if she'd sprouted a second head, and seemed rather shaken when she gave him the directions, but he did drive there safely. Maybe I should make him the next leader? Not a bad idea, since he seemed to be the only Veturia not to fuck up his goddamn job. What's his name, again? Isolde had appointed someone, though she didn't think she'd last, and it was always good to have back-up candidates.

As she entered, looking rather elegant with her short, silver hair and hand-tailored suit, Isolde couldn't help but imagine the shocked gasps. Yes, she thought, Look at me and wonder. Shake with fear. She also couldn't help but fantasize about massacring them all, because how dared they meet her gaze, but - all due time. All due time, indeed.

"Pardon me for the delay?" Her voice sounded rough, as if she hadn't used it for a while, and yeah, she hadn't. Still, there was a tinge of amusement to it. "I have been rather busy burying all of my dear officers, and lost a track of time. Are you certain you wish for me to be here, though?" A small giggle, "You never know these days, with all the accidents that seem to follow us everywhere."

And, ah, there she was! Antonia. Without missing a beat, Isolde headed for... well, for her, but had to mask it via just sitting down near her. "What do you think, Lady Lenart?" she asked, her tone light and conversational. "Have you been enjoying the show?"
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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No, Cassidy wasn’t surprised by Lilian having never traveled by plane as they settled into the waiting area with their carry-on luggage. Little hunters like Lilian didn’t get to travel, but Cassidy was surprised to hear that others did. Big name hunters. ‘I always had the impression that hunters were local problems, not…global.’ She didn’t think they networked like that.

Then again, the internet had made the world a much smaller place.

Cassidy was afraid, though. She nodded as Lilian asked, even though she was doing her best to remain calm and not panic. She understood the odds of dying on a plane were pretty slim. Far slimmer than wrecking a car. Probably slimmer than being killed by a horse. The difference in those situations was there was usually an idea of control.

One that didn’t exist with planes.

As Lilian was boasting about not being scared, in a way even Cassidy recognized as false from the second she mentioned plane crashes, Cassidy recognized she was probably going to have to hold it together once again. ‘Aaaand, there it is.’ The freak-out. The ‘we are the exception’ rule, which…fair.

They were a human and a vampire. An ex-hunter and a vampire, dating, trying to save the world from an Eldritch Horror. If any plane was going to crash, odds were, it was going to be theirs. “It’s not going to crash,” Cassidy said, “The weather’s perfect all the way to Vegas, and all the pilots on this airline fly the same kind of craft.” Unlike some others, which mixed and matched, “it has a very low crash rate.”

And she didn’t think they had to worry about any terrorists at this hour, on a trip to Vegas. They’d wait until it was daylight, and people would be awake to react in real-time to any hijacking or terroristic actions.

“Boarding, First Class to Vegas on flight….”

“That’s us,” no time to set with the feeling. Antonia had actually hooked them up with 1st class tickets. “If we die, at least you can have some good champagne first?” Or something else to drink, but champagne always sounded fancy, and why not? It wasn’t their money. Shame that she wasn’t going to get enjoy it in the same way, but her seat was probably comfier than those in coach.

Although thinking about it, being in First Class for their first flight, on a mission to save the world…yeah, Cassidy was starting to think turning back would be great, but she’d already had her ticket reviewed, and she was walking through the narrow hall that connected to the plane. ‘It was a good life, right?’


Tristan’s phone turned and tilted up to catch the woman as she entered the room, and he seemed to choke on his breath, not actually expecting Isolde to show up. He coughed, turned the camera off, and actually sat up properly on the couch, letting Amon slide off the arm of the chair and onto the cushion – though his legs remained over the arm for a moment before he turned his body, and rose.

“Lady Isolde,” he greeted as warmly as if she were a long-time friend, because how could he not, after all this time, greet his own worst enemy any other way? “I told them to wait, but you know all about the impatience of youth,” as if anyone in the room could be called a youth.

He only briefly met Antonia’s gaze as Isolde chose her seat, and knew there’d be no easy exchange. Antonia was never the sort to flinch away from such a thing, nor even Isolde’s pointed question. Antonia continued to wear that wearied look so well, with each time she was questioned about the murders she was absolutely overseeing.

Even under Isolde’s light and airy tone, she kept her weight and solemnity about it. “Not in the least, Lady Isolde. It grieves me to see the hunters bearing down on so many vampires, most of all your own.” They weren’t all Inga’s kills. Michael had a list, too, one Antonia had given him at the end. And in the end – a vampire was a vampire, and Michael didn’t really care if the information came from someone he likely detested now. “I am sorry I could not reign them in.”

“Well, since they’re working with Apep, that’d be hard to do,” Amon shrugged it off, “Lady Isolde, you are always welcome. My good luck rubs off on everyone, even you,” he said, “and as much as I’d love to waste the nights away in catching up with you, and introducing you to all my newest cats, there are unfortunately serious matters to deal with. Tristan!”

“I’m not your fucking boy, Amon.”

That didn’t stop Tristan from standing up as Amon went back to the couch, and setting things up with the projector to bring up the more notable images from the catacomb dive. “As you should all, already know,” Amon began, “Antony, Inga, Cassidy, some wolf, and some human,” Antonia managed not to roll her eyes, “took some information from the hunters, found their so-called god which is a Lovecraftian horror, and also lots of curious details on the walls. Some of these are probably familiar to all of you.” Amon noted.

At least in passing.

Antonia still spoke up, “The major symbol is the Hand of Mystery, which is tied to apotheosis – becoming god, loosely. The reigning theory,” loathed as she was to admit it, “is that the hunter’s god has made some use of this, and we need to unravel the meaning of the symbols to figure out if we can turn it against the god.”

“We can’t just, ah, destroy it without this petty nonsense? We have nuclear weapons nowadays,” Valencia noted, as if it were an easy thing. Antonia wouldn’t actually be surprised if it was an easy thing for Valencia.

“We’re trying not to start World War III, World War II was bad enough,” Amon noted. “So nuking it from orbit is, in fact, out of the question. Or from one of your submarines. At least, for now.” Amon conceded. “We have a lead on one of these,” he gestured towards the thumb, “the rest is a matter of analyzing the known symbols, determining how literal or metaphorical they are, and wracking our brains to see if any of us know any of the uncommon symbols, because in all likelihood, this thing is tied to us, in one way or another.”

“Some believe it created us,” Antonia noted.

“I do not, but I don’t deny it’s a reason for our existence,” of course Amon couldn’t believe it created him, that didn’t fit his worldview.

“It smells like heart’s blood. All heart’s blood,” Antonia wasn’t playing with Amon’s worldview today.

“And you’re so certain of that? It was so long ago,” Haru mused.

“You’d know,” Valencia was inclined to consider the logic sound enough. “One never forgets.”

“Felix would also vouch, if you trust the opinion of a wolf more,” Antonia offered dryly, knowing, of course, they didn’t.

“Felix?” Haru asked.

“Her newest pet,” Valencia rolled her eyes, and Amon laughed at a joke Valencia wasn’t privy to. “What?”

“Nothing, nothing,” he waved it off.


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The arguments did help, a little, as did the prospect of getting to taste some of that likely obscenely expensive champagne. Having some fun on Antonia's dime? Sign her the fuck up! Also sign Antonia up, apparently, because she hadn't had to go off like that. Given some of the comments Lilian had made, it... actually surprised her she hadn't shipped them to Vegas along with the mail? But maybe the woman wasn't that petty.

Or she was just planning a more sophisticated revenge. Always an option, with someone like her.

"Yeah," Lilian grinned, "And I guess dying like that wouldn't even be the worst. I mean, if everything shatters all at once... Doesn't it mean the pain receptors also get disabled? Not gonna lie, sounds kind of comfy." Because it wasn't the death that scared her, per se. Ceasing to exist would suck, sure, but she also couldn't find it in her heart to be truly, genuinely afraid of that, the way less damaged people could. After all, she had spent years preparing herself to die. For existing, and then just... not. Not that it really required much preparation, given the easy, convenient nature of death, and how even the biggest idiots managed to kick the bucket, but you kind of... had to be okay with the idea, as a hunter. Fear was poison; apathy, the antidote.

That you just poisoned yourself in a different way was well besides the point.

But now wasn't the time for such thoughts as they made themselves comfortable in their seats, with the pilot's voice ringing through the reproductors:

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard. I am Mike Listner, your pilot, and I will be the one to..."

Blah blah blah, the expected time of flight, blah blah blah, the current temperature. Lilian tuned the information out, because of course she did, and focused on, well, things other than all those plane crash documentaries she'd watched with Eugene, a million years ago. Damn you, Air Disasters! Why the fuck did you have to be so entertaining? Already, she was saying goodbye to her entire existence, which did turn out to be something of an overreaction. Yeah, it was scary when the engines roared to life, but then... they were flying? As in, not falling?

Underwhelming, though not in a bad way, and Lilian did feel kind of stupid for the earlier drama. Fortunately, the TV they had at their disposal was a good way to distract herself from all that: "Wanna check out if they have any shitty vampire movies?"

Which, it turned out that they did have those. Lilian chose what had to be the cheesiest rendition of Dracula ever, and spent most of the flight a) laughing at the scantily clad brides, b) wondering where most of the common vampire myths had even come from. "Not visible in mirrors? Fucking really? Did you guys spread that one, as some kinda false flag operation?"

That did make sense to Lilian, in this weirdly roundabout way. If people could see your reflection, then you weren't a vampire - supposedly. And then you could be a vampire in peace!

It didn't occur to her until after they landed that she was actually going to meet her girflriend's fucking father, approximately five seconds after they'd started dating. Awesome. Just when she was running out of things to be anxious about! No, really, Lilian loved that about her life. "Okay, anything... I should know about Silvon? Any topics to avoid? If I don't want to come across as a psycho hunter."

And if he could like her - well, that would be a welcome bonus.


Amon's continued existence was honestly one of the biggest injustices in her long life, but Isolde had already accepted it. Many people lived, when they should have died; and those that had died, she had generally had to off herself. It likely wouldn't be different, here. "Yes, good day to you as well, Lord Amon," her disinterest couldn't have been clearer, "We can catch up later, if you like." Translation: 'Not fucking happening, because I'm not leaving my home for the next 100 years.' Instead of paying him the attention he was owed, as the leader of the Optimates, Isolde smiled at Antonia's theatrics:

"Oh, don't be, Lady Lenart. It's rather... fascinating, I think. All those deaths, in such a short time!" Not the reaction you'd expect from someone whose people were being slaughtered, "Memento mori, was it? A good reminder. Almost a kindness, I say," Isolde looked almost clear-eyed in that moment, and maybe she was, in her own way. "We shall see what fruit really grows from this tree, and, to be frank - I am dying to taste it."

To taste what she had. Oh, wouldn't it be fun to take her from Amon? The man hadn't lost nearly enough, if he hadn't learned not to go against her.

The only good Optimate was a dead one. Every day, Isolde had only become more and more convinced that the massacre had been just.

The Apep talk Isolde admittedly wasn't all that interested in, but she did listen, with that bored kind of detachment you usually reserved for your kids telling you about their silly little hobbies. Inga, though? That... sounded familiar? Why it was so, Isolde couldn't quite tell, but she did make a mental note to research the woman. And, to make it look as if she cared about this nonsense: "Why not go for World War III?" she pursed her lips. "There are so many humans these days, the planet really is getting quite crowded. Perhaps this is a sign."

That was when Antonia's phone rang.


The next leader, as per her information, was supposed to be someone called Kirana. A complete wild card; Inga hadn't heard of her, and Maya also hadn't, which could only mean that the Veturia were running out of candidates. Pfft! Who would have thought? This was going to be stupidly, embarrassingly easy.

Of course, that this thought had occurred to her at all should have triggered some warning bells.

The werewolf bodyguards were not a welcome surprise, in part because the whole shadow thing didn't work half so well with them. Couldn't lie quite as effectively to the nose, you know? And so they did recognize she was there, and it turned into a whole event, with some good, old-fashioned... hm, what did you even call fighting against three wolves at once? 'Advanced suicide?' But Inga was Inga, and not even death wanted to keep her company. Some wounds were all she'd gotten from that, which... not a big deal.

If they wanted to end her, they sure as fuck had to try harder.

Try things such as--

"Whoa!" Okay, fine, the blade that scraped against her heart was not fun. It hadn't pierced it, courtesy of Inga catching it before it had the chance to do so, but man, wasn't that uncomfortably close? Kudos to Kirana, because she was more prepared than the others! But also fuck Kirana, since that had ruined her entire set-up. The sneak attack pushed the buttons Inga didn't even know she had, which... yeah, she'd cut her head off. Sigh.

Antonia was used to a different standard! What was she even supposed to do with the corpse now? Arrange it in some fun way? Not the most thrilling feat, but it was still something, and maybe she could at least offend Cassidy via nailing it to a cross. Oh, yeah! Antonia would love some Catholic bullying, for sure. That ought to score her some extra points.

Mindlessly, she took the dagger out and let it drop on the floor.

Drip, drip, drip.

Hm, blood. Of course. Wounds bled.

Drip, drip, drip.

Some wounds... bled a lot?

Drip, drip, drip!

But the stream only got more vicious when it should have grown weaker, and Inga was beginning to feel... strangely light-headed. Out of it. As if she was about to fucking faint, even if vampires fainting wasn't really a thing, unless--

That was when it occurred to her to actually look at the dagger. Far more quickly than she would have liked, her eyes were becoming more and more unfocused, but... hm, yes. No doubt! One of those blessed daggers.

And it had been in her heart. You know, the organ all the blood went through? She finally looked down at her chest, as well, and saw a veritable sea of red, only growing redder with each passing second.


Well, there it was, ladies and gentlemen! Valhalla was waiting! Inga chuckled, feeling... all kinds of different things at once, ranging from relief to happiness, to this strange kind of disappointment, that a random, nameless pawn was all it had taken, again. Like, not even getting to Isolde? Fucking really?

Though there was some sorrow, as well, at not seeing Antonia's smile ever again. At not having talked to her much, recently. But wasn't that what she wanted? It was... better for it to end like that, when she was still willing to lie, and perhaps even lie to herself, that Inga mattered at all to her.

All fairy tales had to end one day, but she didn't have stick around for the sad finale of hers. No, people like her didn't get happy endings.

Standing became too much of a hassle, so Inga sat on the floor and leaned against the wall. The cicadas sang outside; the stars were bright. Not a... bad night to go, eh? Calmly, peacefully.

Except she was a glutton for punishment, right to the bitter end, and so she dialed Antonia's number for the last time. "Hey," Inga greeted, sounding somewhat weaker than usual. More distant. "Tonight's a... special night, Antonia! You get two heads at once, but you'll have to... pick them up, since one of those is mine." Always theatrical, no matter what. Why couldn't she say it straight? 'I'm dying.' Two words. Should have been easy enough!

Somehow, it wasn't. That she was disappointing Antonia with her early departure made it more bitter than sweet, and, all of a sudden, Inga wasn't sure whether calling had been a good idea.

And how could it be?

She wanted her death to be nice. Soft. For someone to kiss her forehead, say that she'd done well, and maybe hold her hand through it, if they felt like it.

Antonia Lenart wasn't going to do any of that. More than likely, she was already rolling her eyes, and asking herself how she'd been stupid enough to trust her in the first place, and, hey, wasn't there some way to take it back?

To address the unfinished business, though: "There's no timed release, don't worry. Never was, I... I lied. And deleted it all ages ago, anyway." Now, for the sappy bullshit: "I love you," Inga had always wanted to say that, without hiding behind her mother tongue, "and I'm sorry," for everything, "and... bye." Click.

Yeah, no way was she giving Antonia a platform to berate her. This moment was about her and her only, and loving her... really had nothing to do with that. Antonia could dance on her grave later, but she was going on her own terms.

Determined not to touch her phone ever again, Inga closed her eyes.
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It took all too long, in a way, to get in the air. The plane seemed to speed up endlessly on the track before it was there. ‘I guess this is why long runways really are necessary.’ Cassidy never really considered how fast planes must move to get up in the air and sustain that kind of height and speed to travel. Of course – the engines and jets helped.

But they were there!

The weather was fine, the flight smooth, and the movie atrociously bad. Which, of course, made it more entertaining in the right company, which Lilian was. “I’m not sure,” she chuckled. “I think it could also be some vampires maybe had a sort of…talent of not showing up on anything? Which is probably great in today’s world.” Not showing up on recordings, where everyone else did. Wouldn’t that be nice, sometimes?

Of course, they couldn’t know what a blessing it was back then, unless a lack of shadow and lack of reflection really did help them with hunting somehow. She could imagine ways it could. It still didn’t seem that useful. Then again, not everyone got useful talents.

The world came into bursting light as they moved above Vegas to get to the landing strip. Cassidy had seen it recently, in the 90s, but it was still a sight to behold. It was beautiful, in its way. In its promises of anonymity. Knowing that Silvon had been a part of building it was also such a strange thing to her. Which – right, she hadn’t said much about him, had she.

“He’s really not a gangster,” Cassidy chuckled. “I mean…he has a lot of…questionable ventures,” she took Lilian’s luggage down, and then grabbed her own to walk off the plane. There’d be the checked luggage to get, next. “really he…well, he would be the king of all tourists traps. He likes entertainment and he likes money. Mostly entertainment.” Which was Vegas, and the fact he hadn’t yet gotten bored of Vegas was fairly impressive.

He got bored of most of his ventures a lot quicker than this.

“I’m honestly surprised he’s not responsible for more of them, but Vegas seems to keep him amused. He was behind Salt Lake City back in the day,” her day, of course.

“Oh! And he’ll just…randomly become a cat.” That was probably somewhat important to know, before Lilian started thinking the cat was just a cat, like all of Amon’s cats. “Don’t trust cats here in Vegas. They all talk to him.” All animals did, but he had an affinity. “Not sure what it is about vampires and cats.”

Speak of the devil.

Silvon was literally sitting near the luggage check area, as a cat, with people pausing and cooing over him while he licked his paw and paid them no attention. He did notice Cassidy. And he perked up immediately, walking by all the people to come over to her and brush against her legs. “Damnit, Silvon.”

“Miss,” security, of course, “You have to have your pets on a leash here, or in a cage.”

‘Is this really what I’m getting in trouble for? In Vegas?’

“Right, sorry, Lilian can you get our checked luggage? I’ll go…get out of the airport.” Get to a place Silvon could safely take form again. At least she could grab him by the scruff of his neck.


Antonia tended to forget exactly how…off Isolde was. Somehow, she didn’t think it had been this off the last time she saw Isolde, but that could be the…not-grief? Definitely the not-grief. And the commentary about fruits. Antonia wasn’t entirely oblivious and the rumors of Isolde likely had grains of truth, but in all honesty, Antonia also didn’t think that highly of someone who spent their entire lives in isolation to be so clever. Still, the warning light turned on in her head.

Not that it mattered.

There was naught Isolde could do here without Amon bisecting her. There was naught Antonia could do, either – not that Amon would stop her, simply that she didn’t want to exist on the run. And he might kill her…when Isolde was dead.

But of course, the conversation had to unwind and distract her from these thoughts. Isolde was for WW III. Tristan muttered a suicidal comment of, “One other person on the world is too many for you,” and people politely ignored Tristan because no one wanted to be quite as dead as Tristan ought to be.

Antonia’s phone ringing was possibly a godsend.

“Why don’t you have that thing silenced?” Valencia hissed, as Antonia casually took it out of her purse.

“Some of us have actual important business that goes on,” Antonia answered dryly, although the name didn’t suggest important business that couldn’t fucking wait. “One moment,” she rose and just walked into another room to answer, starting, “I’m in the mid—” Inga interrupted her, claiming it a special night. Two head’s for the price of one! She was about to say that wasn’t special, considering Lenore, but—well, it was.

It was Inga’s.

Antonia went still, though of course, Inga couldn’t see. No one could see, though admittedly, Antonia couldn’t say that for certain. Every other sound and sight ceased to exist in the rush. Was it disappointment? No. Anger? Yes. Anger at Inga, for daring to die, and she knew what the rest of that translated to as the rush flooded through her veins, as if she had any hope of stopping it.

She was always too fucking late.

Inga was saying stupid things about her own reputation and the blackmail that – she supposed – was still technically important, but Antonia wasn’t hearing it. “Ing—” click. Why did she have to hang up? Sure, Antonia could call her right back and demand she listen, but that was stupid. Dying people didn’t stay alive just because they were on a phone.

They also didn’t die just because they were off of it. ‘Hells.’

Antonia marched right back into the room, because she’d left her purse, which had the keys to her car, “Amon, I’m sorry, I have to leave. You can take it from here, right?”

“Of course,” Amon said, not bothering to question it.

That didn’t mean others wouldn’t. “What business can be so important?” Valencia, of course, was the annoyed one.

“One of my pets attacked the wrong hunter and I have a mess to deal with,” that could mean so many things. A hunter they were against? One of the hunters in town to help them? Plenty of reasons and none of them would ever need to know what it was. Or that it was none of these things.

But Amon knew.

“So?” Valencia sounded annoyed, “We need you here, you were actually there, and besides, pets can be rep—”

“There’s a reason, Valencia,” Antonia rounded on her, purse over her shoulder, “no one except your own family likes you.” There was enough question in that, to make it clear, even that was in doubt.

Antonia intended to leave on that wonderfully high note as Valencia colored in helpless rage


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"Oh. So the regular kind of shady?" The regular kind of shady was good, at least when the alternative was... well, 'disemboweling people in dark alleys' kind of shady. Or 'worse than Inga' kind of shady. Or possibly some other, esoteric kind of shady that wasn't even coming to mind, because Lilian was still innocent and the night was full of terrors. "I can live with that," the huntress smiled. "Besides, some people are totally asking to be scammed. Who even goes to Vegas to not get fucked over? Suckers, that's who." Lilian, for the most part, was planning not to fall into the usual trap, and sort of knew she would succeed.

It was hard to lose the money that you didn't fucking have.

But it was apparently... also hard not to get spied on by the cat mafia? Say fucking what?

A week ago, Lilian might have questioned this. The Lilian from a week ago had been a decidedly different person, though, and so her current version just took it in stride, nodding as she grabbed her luggage. "Sure, sure. Something else I should know about? 'Don't buy suspicious candy from frogs' or somesuch nonsense?" It was only half a joke. Maybe a three quarters joke, if you wanted to get pedantic about it, but the point was that Lilian was indeed ready to avoid any and all frogs, at a moment's notice.

They all seemed suspicious, anyway. Who the fuck produced poison from their skin?

Frog conspiracy theories had to wait, though, because Silvon showed up, although not in the... most convenient form. "Right," Lilian nodded, "See you soon." And she did, in front of the airport, where cats were no longer bound by the laws of men. Well, most of them.

What the fuck do I say? 'How do I not blow it' would have been the better question, because Lilian did have a... way with first impressions that wasn't necessarily considered good. Once, Maria had called her an 'acquired taste,' and as much as she hated to agree with her, it wasn't that far from the truth. "Um, hi?" There, a greeting had never hurt anyone! Most likely! "I'm Lilian, Cassidy's..." A quick glance at said Cassidy, as if she wasn't quite sure what label to use, "Girlfriend. Sir."

Sir? Who was she, a southern fucking belle? Nope, definitely not.

"Mister? Whatever you'd liked to be called, I guess."

Siiigh! This was already turning out to be a major fucking embarrassment.


It wasn't a bad death, all things considered. Blood loss was almost nice, in that almost freeing way, and although Inga knew it was just a physiological reaction to so much liquid leaving her body all at once, she was still able to almost enjoy the light-headedness, as well as the... odd sense of peace.

Not like all feelings weren't just physiological reactions, anyway. Yeah, some were slightly more complex than that - an interplay of not just basic bodily functions, but stuff like hormones, and regulatory ensymes, and far too many other factors to list. Quite honestly, Inga did resent being trapped in her body with all of that; with the emotions and memories and thoughts, as if she really needed any of those. As is there was enough room left for her, whatever the hell that even was.

And wasn't that the nice thing about dying?

Dying fixed that.

Dying fixed most things.

Drip, drip, drip.

How long did she have to wait, though? The concept of time had dissolved into hazy nothingness, with an hour being as long as a minute, but Inga was also certain it took entirely too long if she still had so many opportunities for these stupid fucking thoughts.

For thoughts such as... well, maybe not wanting to die. Not like this. A goddamn joke, wasn't it? She'd waited an eternity! For most of her life, Inga had wanted nothing quite as much as to pull the curtain on the entire disaster, and yet she was getting cold feet now, because duh, of course. Of fucking course!

Once, she'd asked Antonia to kill her. Antonia, who had agreed. Antonia, for whom the promise meant nothing, judging by the hunters she'd sent the last time she wanted her dead. Why was her brain supplying all those useless memories, anyway?

Inga didn't know.

Didn't know, and maybe also didn't want to know, because it wasn't like she could call any of that off, the same way you could call off a party your parents hadn't fucking approved.

Typical, she thought, the one thing I'm looking forward to, and I ruin it for myself anyway.

What kind of fucked up compulsion was that?

But then, then the door opened, and-- yeah, likely someone who'd finish her off. Who else, if not some friend of Kirana's? Or another bodyguard?

Wanting to face this new foe, Inga gathered what remained of her strength to turn her head. Anything else was quite impossible as she half-sat, half-lay, a broken mess of her own blood and blonde hair, except-- well, what she saw may have just broken her a little bit more. "An...tonia?"

Okay, that had to be a hallucination. A lovely hallucination, but a hallucination all the same, which... probably made her somewhat pathetic for trying to talk to it. Then again, wasn't that par for the course? And hey, at least hallucinations couldn't judge you!

"Hi," Inga smiled.


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‘I wouldn’t trust any animal offering food.’ Cassidy wondered why frogs came up first, but that was a question for later. For now, she carried Silvon out of the airport, and around a corner where she not-so-nicely dropped him into a bush.

A moment later, he manifested. “You knew where I left my clothes,” he laughed, and had enough time to dress in the shelter of the bush – and Cassidy, scowling forward – so that when Lilian came out he didn’t have so much as a leaf in his strikingly blond hair, and his too-green eyes were fixed upon the woman in curiosity.

One could too easily imagine a tail swishing back and forth behind him as he listened, and grinned, at her giving him titles. “Silvon, love.” He offered, “Who do I look like? Amon?” He knew they’d spent time with Amon, so it was easy to mention him. Amon and Antonia both! No surprise, somehow, those two remained thick as thieves, and deadlier than, well, pick a villainous group.

“Cassidy’s told me, there’s no need to worry about all that. It’s nice to have you visit,” he gave a look to Cassidy, “You don’t visit enough.”

“Neither do you.”

“I make it a point to avoid war zones, Cass. I thought I taught you as much,” he twisted his wrist in a gesture for them to follow to his waiting car, a lovely, sleek, black thing. There was a driver, of course, because why would Silvon drive when he didn’t need to? The door was held open for all of them by the driver, of course.

“I made sure there’s a room prepared at the Luxor.”

“The pyramid?”

Silvon couldn’t help but smirk, shrug, “I thought it was amusing given what little you’ve let me know, Cass.” Which, it was, “and what better place to talk about whatever it is then where all secrets go to rest, hm?” He leaned back in his own seat, crossing one leg over the other.

Cassidy just sighed. No use arguing. A free room was a free room. At least it wasn’t a shitty Holiday Inn suite. “Fine, fine, it’ll work,” his sense of humor hadn’t become less atrocious, but at least he wasn’t doing any dad jokes. Yet. “So how have things been, anyways?”

“Good, good, but that’s all boring profit margins and nonsense,” he said, “why don’t you two tell me how you met? You didn’t tell me much over the phone,” he noted, and turned his wicked grin on Lilian, “Besides that you’re ravishing, of course, and made her wonder about her own sensibilities since she’s never gone for someone so dangerous before,” he couldn’t help but tease. That was his job, and by Cassidy’s groan, he guessed he was doing it right. “She tells me so little of her personal life.”

“I don’t have much going on….”

“Just going from place to place, leaving behind acquaintances everywhere but no friends, until little Lilian comes along and – well! Magic! So! Tell me. However did you settle her heart, Lilian?”


The police knew the burgundy August as it blazed down the streets, and none gave pursuit. She knew where Inga had gone, and didn’t even need the chirp of her phone to tell her – though it did, of course. She couldn’t risk screwing that up, even knowing she might walk in to find a corpse. That was her luck.

She was always too late.

The smell of blood was thick in Kirana’s home. Werewolves – not Felix’s pack, of course. ‘I’ll eradicate you next.’ Why not? They had chosen the wrong side, and now they had upset her. The fact they were dead showed how bad a decision they had made, and wouldn’t Felix like to have full run of the area? Possibly not. He wasn’t that ambitious.

He was safe.

He cared for his clan.

He didn’t want petty wars.

He wasn’t Antonia who held a grudge for century after century after century.

He wasn’t Antonia, who walked into the room where the one who killed her most beloved leaned, bleeding out, and wasn’t sure how to feel. Just that dull thud of anger. There were things beneath it, but anger was easiest to focus on, and anger was what drove her to act in so many circumstances where she would have frozen up otherwise. So, she never froze – she entered the room, and she walked to where Inga was, alive, speaking, being pitiful and dramatic in her dying.

Never mind that Antonia could smell her death, the heart’s blood nearly spilt out of her body.

She didn’t respond to the greeting as she knelt down in the blood, as if it weren’t messing up her dress. She dug her fangs into her wrist and tore a nice gash through her veins before she pressed it against Inga’s lips, smearing blood, “Drink.” A temporary solution, but one she felt was necessary before she went to raid the stocks that Kirana had. She didn’t know where Kirana kept her blood, and Inga didn’t have enough to spare for Antonia to go looking.

Then, she’d force Inga into her car, and called Amon to fix this. By then, the meeting should be over.

By then, people would only know he came to visit her, at her house, and not here at Kirana’s, which would have to burn now. Completely. “You do not get to die until I release you, Inga Singedottir.” And she was not releasing her yet, it seemed.


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Not Sir, but Silvon. Lilian kind of wanted to mention she didn't actually call Amon by any titles, but that would only be digging the hole deeper, wouldn't it? Because he'd ask why, no doubt, and then, little by little, it would become more and more obvious just how nervous she was about meeting her girlfriend's fucking father. Which would only fuel those feelings! Because nervousness was an attention whore like that, demanding more the more you acknowledged it.

(It wasn't her fault that this was all so new. Most hunters didn't really have parents to be introduced to, and... okay, fine, maybe her past flings wouldn't have introduced her, anyway. She hadn't exactly been the parents-friendly sort, with her sharp attitude. And, uh, also with her tendency to not really get 'getting-to-know-parents' kind of close to her dates.)

"Okay, Silvon," Lilian conceded, before getting into the car, "That is... um, convenient. Since it's your name." A great first impression right there! Silvon definitely needed to be informed that his name was, in fact, Silvon, because people always loved helpful little reminders like that. What was the next brilliant observation? That he was a fucking vampire? I should have drowned myself that champagne. At least that would have been a luxurious death; much better than choking on her own embarrassment.

The desire for champagne became that much stronger when Silvon asked just how she had won Cassidy's heart, and for a moment or two, Lilian considered spontaneous combustion. She looked that way, too; the redness in her cheeks was unmistakable, as well as the way she sort of glanced out of the window in an obvious attempt not to meet anyone's gaze.

How did she even begin to explain that? Besides it being fucking embarrassing, it also just wasn't that deep. Sure, Lilian was a hunter; Cassidy was a vampire. There could have been a story, and likely should have been one, given the current state of affairs. Enemies-to-lovers, right? Twilight-tier drama? Except that, no. Mostly, she just thought they got along as people. That they'd... clicked, with this shocking kind of ease. What they were, and weren't, was almost coincidental, and Lilian, who had spent her entire life being defined by labels, fucking liked that it way.

Of course, she also understood by now that a lot of vampires solely existed to troll the fuck out of people, and Silvon seemed to be exactly the sort. That also meant he would die before letting this go, "Aren't you asking the wrong person here? Not like I know which of my numerous flirting tactics worked," yeah, flirting tactics, as if any of that had been remotely intentional, "If it was the way I sucked at my job, or how I got myself in such deep shit that Cass couldn't help but rush to my rescue. Really, the possibilities are endless."

Could she have been more specific? Absolutely, except that Cassidy not telling Silvon much probably also meant she didn't want him to know that much. There likely wasn't... any dark history or anything like that, though the need for privacy didn't rise from such things. So, yes! Keep it friendly, but also light. Diet version of everything. "Obviously, I am here because she's great," the huntress shrugged, "But you know that already, don't you?"

I wonder if she... really was so lonely before me, though. It didn't sound like a Cassidy thing, with the easy way she made friends, but Lilian's interest was piqued nonetheless. She gave Cass a wide smile, "I'm not embarrassing you, am I? Feel free to kick me, I can take it."


The hallucination of Antonia may not have been a hallucination, and Inga's foggy mind was forced to confront the fact when she knelt in front of her and... offered her blood? Which did sound like something a hallucination would have done! Also like something Inga would have written as her fanfiction entry, had she been quite desperate enough to write fanfiction about her shitty love life. So, why was she suddenly convinced this was real?

Because the blood smelled real. It looked real, too, as it glistened on her soft skin, each drop a ruby shining in the moonlight. Beautiful, Inga thought, if you could call the confused swarm or butterflies in her stomach thoughts, and... yeah, Antonia didn't have to ask her twice.

Normally, she would have exploded over the mere idea of touching her like that, but survival instincts took over. So, Inga pressed her lips against the wound and drank, with one arm draped over her waist, supposedly to keep herself upright. To anchor herself. Which, yes! Not an excuse! But she also didn't have to hold her so gently, or not-caress her back while assuming that position, or look at her like that before finally drinking.

The blood was delicious. Sweet, much like Antonia herself, and getting to taste it like this, with her offering, almost beat dying.

She came for me, Inga realized the obvious, once her thoughts became... well, actual thoughts, instead of the tangled, unrecognizable mess. She really did.

Why, though?

Inga thought she'd had this figured out, but apparently not! Because the Antonia that existed in her head... would not have done that, let alone said what she'd said next.

"You do not get to die until I release you, Inga Singedottir."

She was wrong about Antonia. She was wrong, and delighted to be wrong, even if she didn't quite know what the right answer was - if only because it ought to be better than the picture she'd painted for herself. Right?

Being far more proficient at self-control than most people suspected, Inga actually stopped drinking on her own, "I... really don't, do I?" she gave a fond smile, her lips still bright red. And it was so obvious! Her life really wasn't hers to lose, given her vow. Given the debt she had barely made a dent into, with those five heads and some pawns. Regardless, Inga felt drunk; drunk on the adrenaline, drunk on the realizations, drunk on Antonia's blood, willingly given and willingly taken. All of that... probably loosened her lips a little more than it should have? So, of course she had to talk on their way to the car: "There you go again, ruining my plans like... like it's your job. I didn't want any of this, you know? But what was I supposed to do, when you were there and... and you just had to be yourself."
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My Power Will Grow Like Grapes On The Vine~
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Cassidy could feel the embarrassment rising with the way Lilian stumbled. Not because Lilian was embarrassing, but because Silvon was going to find a way to be embarrassing after all was said and done, and annoy her with some comment about Lilian – or herself. As it was, she just had to bear it and wait to see what it would be, as Lilian tried to explain how she won Cassidy over.

Silvon chuckled, “No, no, I see what it is now,” he said, looking at Cassidy then, “It’s the honesty, isn’t it?” to which Cassidy could only sigh, because that was a part of it. “Quite endearing,” he commented to Lilian, “likely why you sucked at your job, too, but that’s all for the best, as you see now. The honest ones are really what the world needs more of.”

“Says the man who runs the most dishonest city in the entire world.”

“Now, now…that goes to Dubai.” Silvon corrected. “But that’s how I know you like honesty. You were pretty upset with me for a while because of a few little white lies here and there,” he made a sprinkling gesture with his fingers, before waving his hand back, relaxing once again, “It is good to meet you, Lilian. Honestly.”

And Cassidy gave her a smile, “No, you’re fine. He’s embarrassing me.”

“Part of the job description, love,” Silvon said, “what sort of sire would I be if I didn’t embarrass you now and then, hm?” He turned to look out the window himself as the city flew by, lights and sounds everywhere. “How long are you two planning to stay?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Mmm.” Disappointment tainted his expression, “Well, I suppose I should have known that, what with all the secrecy. But, ah, we’re here!” and indeed, the Luxor came into sight, a gloriously large pyramid-casino. Silvon opened the door and would gesture them both out, “We’ll go on up to the suites first, there’s refreshments of all sorts,” some Cassidy would like, some others that would be more appealing to Lilian, “then we can get this mess all sorted out, hm?”

“I do want to spend time with you, you know.” Cassidy said, already sensing the hurt.

“Oh, sure,” he agreed, “but there’s business first, I reckon, and the sooner that’s handled, the sooner you won’t be so distracted,” and the sooner she could leave, as well, but that didn’t need to be said. “Besides, I’m very curious what you’ve gotten wrapped up in if you’re dealing with Amon personally. I try to avoid those things. Him, Antonia, Valencia – cut-throats, all of them.”

“Didn’t Amon help with…this?”

“For a profit. Always a profit.” As if that wasn’t exactly what he was doing, too. “You know, most of us your age have started figured out savings and fundings for our lives.”

“I’m doing fine.”

The interior of the luxor exacerbated its height. Little shops and diners dotted the floor, the chimes of slot machines rang out, sphinxes and palm trees decorated the area – all it really needed were staff dressed as pharaohs! There was a display for something related to the Titanic – terribly out of place in the environment, but people were lining up to see the exhibit anyways. Families, for the most part, seemed to roam the floor, not debauched businessmen or lonely housewives.

At least, not in as great a number as kids excitedly running – despite the hour – to some new and shiny thing on the floor.

“Tristan tells me you’re in debt to him.”

“Goddamnit Tristan….”

“So it’s true?”

“It’s a small thing!”

“Don’t put him off too long now, love,” they reached an elevator at the back which required a key, that Silvon naturally had and slipped easily into place. “Tristan’s on par with those cut-throats. There’s a reason they bow and scrape to him.”

“Passports,” Cassidy said bluntly.

Silvon snorted. “I have IDs falsified all the time. It’s not hard – not here,” he chuckled, “speaking of here, since you’re both here, was there anything either of you wanted to make sure to see? Just say the word.”


Antonia wasn’t taking back her thought of dramatic, given how much energy Inga showed in trying to wrap an arm around Antonia to lift herself up to drink. If she had this much energy, she could have gone looking for blood herself, rather than succumb, damnit. Then again, despite being the fighting sort, Antonia wasn’t entirely blind to the suicidal tendencies. All the more reason she shouldn’t be wasting her time getting attached, when Inga was bound to find a quicker way to die.

What sort of person asked Antonia to kill them, after all?

The heady rush of pleasure when Inga drank, was something Antonia fought to ignore. She knew to expect it, but it had also been a very long time since she’d experienced it, so it still surprised her a bit. Not enough to moan out or start calling names, but certainly enough to gasp, and grit her teeth. Close her eyes, because the way Inga was looking at her was…not useful to ignoring said pleasure.

She knew she’d have to push Inga away.

Or, she thought she knew.

Inga managed it on her own, as Antonia’s mental clock was ticking, and she gave a relieved sigh, only because she could relax the tension she’d built up as a trick against the pleasure. She rose without a word, even though Inga had several, and went to find the blood before she’d return to helping Inga up, and escorting her back to August, in the back, where she could lay out if she needed to.

“Forgive me for being who I am,” the comment was dry, disregarding the love behind it, and all that Inga likely meant for that to say and imply, as she stuffed the blood in the back with Inga. As she went back into the house, briefly, to start the fire.

Then it was back in the driver’s seat, and she explained, “We’re going back to my house, Amon will figure out what’s wrong with you from there,” Antonia hadn’t bothered to check for any fancy daggers. Waste of time, really.

Whatever it was, certainly Amon could overcome it.

Which, of course, meant calling him before she took off from the place, though that was done right before. With the phone on speaker, it wasn’t a difficult task to talk. “You know, your little departure broke up the whole meeting. Isolde almost seemed sad.”

Antonia scoffed, “She was only upset she didn’t find a way to accidentally kill me,” or eat her. Either way. “I assume you know I’ve called you for help. At my place.”

“I figured as much. What’s wrong with your pet?”

Why? Why? Why? ‘You fed into it.’ Of course she did. “She’s bleeding and it isn’t stopping.”

“Aaah, very well. I’ll be there shortly.”




Now just to get home, and hope Inga actually drank the blood to keep herself alive until then.

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