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Fantasy St. George's School for Young Hunters (closed)


(@Reynarda @jones573 I'll just repost my last post and then we can see where we go from here, I suppose.)

May could definitely agree that the meeting with the dragons was not what he expected, and he was a bit embarrassed by Starless' clear mother-hen habit, but he also found that he didn't mind it nearly as much as he thought he would.

"Ooooh, so I'm your... Got it. That name definitely sounds more... Uh..." He flushed a little. It sounded intimate and permanent, which was a big step considering they had just started seeing each other a few weeks ago. He didn't want to say that out loud, though, and awkwardly cleared his throat. "Flamboyant. Haha, get it, because fire.

He had half a mind to ask what mate was, but knowing Scarlet it was something food related that he'd never tried before, so there didn't seem much point. Instead he listened to the vocabulary lesson with interest, nodding his head along. It was pretty easy to understand, which was better than he had been expecting since so far a lot of the dragons' wording seemed a bit convoluted.

He did look up at Rue's question though, turning towards the mouth of the cave and peering out as far as he could see.

"She was just stepping out for a second to cam down, right? She shouldn't be too far away."


“I don’t smell like beets either,” Alex tried to protest, but he /looked/ like beets, so he was really fighting a losing battle when it came to arguing with Scarlet.

Instead he busied himself with his piece of venison and tried not to embarrass himself further, which was easier said than done. He was eating meat with his bare hands, and let out a particularly forced chuckle at May’s attempt at humor- At least they both seemed to be on the same page, even if it was an uncomfortable one. ‘Approval from ancient and mystical creatures’ seemed like it was at least several steps further in the relationship progression than they were really at.

“Hmm,” he agreed, considering Winona’s absence and fishing out his phone to send her a text about the food being done in the hopes of enticing her back. “Oh,” he said, when he realized he actually had a text from /her/.

‘Tired. Going back to house,’ it read.

“I guess she decided to head back,” he told the others, typing out his own message: ‘ok let me know when you get there’.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized to their hosts. “She can be a bit… Skittish. And with the new people and new environment and everything that’s happened, she gets overwhelmed pretty easily. This is really good, by the way,” he added of the meat, feeling the need to make up for Winona’s rudeness. Though he was a bit proud of her for recognizing that she needed a break and taking it.

His phone lit up, with a photo of the ceiling of Winona’s bedroom, her middle finger in the foreground. The caption was ‘sure mom,’ and he chuckled. “Well she’s at least feeling well enough for sarcasm,” he reported.

“So, what was Vlad really like when he was younger,” he asked Starless. “He and Bram give /very/ conflicting reports, as I’m sure you can imagine.”


Nerdy Vampire
Scarlet grinned back at Alex, but the turned to Starless. “Come on, Grandmum, you know no-wings mating habits are different.”

Rue nearly spit her water out.

Starless gave Scarlet a look but turned to May and chuckled. “Yes, well, that is the English equivalent of our concept.” She swished her tail. “We had to learn English once my little fire and Bram moved to England.”

Starless looked down at the little flashy device in Alex’s hands and nodded. Bram had mentally explained the concept, but she was still not sure it was not magic. “Of course. Whatever is best for her. We can be overwhelming. Scarlet ran off when she first met us.”

“Grandmum,” Scarlet groaned.

Starless smiled at Alex’s politeness and nodded to Rue. “My hatchlings just hunted—yonder little one set it in fire.”

“Cooked it!” Rue protested.

“Burned it,” Red Star teased.

They would have continued, but Devon shushed them, wanting to hear Starless’ answer.

The dragon laughed. “I’m sure. How young? He changed after meeting Bram, believe it or not.”

“For the better,” Fire Sun put in.

Starless nodded. “Before his parents died, he was a very happy, very curious hatchling. He followed me around for days asking questions nonstop. He was opening books and reading before he could walk. He used to bring a stack of books to this very cave and curl up under my wing and read. I had to set out jewels to reflect the fire so he could see. He and his parents were very close, and they were always exploring the mountains. He and his mother would get lost, and his father would have to enlist our aid to find them.”

Devon was trying to picture a little Vlad reading books next to the dragon and was failing. Vlad had always looked like he was in his twenties. There were portraits somewhere, but they were in a locked room that Vlad hadn’t allowed them in. Though, Bram had said Vlad didn’t go in there, either. Too many painful memories.


May very pointedly did not say that he himself had been absolutely terrified of meeting them, for fear that they might set him on fire. Somehow he doubted that it would be good for promoting a healthy relationship, and also he wasn't scared /anymore/.

"You are a little... big," he admitted, though, because the adult dragons were huge and that was still a little nervewracking, even if he now knew that they were nice and didn't hate him. He was also working on stuffing his face with meat now that it was cool enough to not burn him, and simply nodded along with Alex's assessment. It was impolite to talk with his mouth full, after all.

The description of Vlad as a kid almost made him choke, though. Somehow it was... both exactly and not at all what he would have pictured. Mostly it was just difficult to imagine Vlad as a child of any kind; he had just sort of been under the impression that he had willed himself into adult existence fully formed one day and that was the end of it.

He had to pound a fist against his chest to keep from actually choking on the meat, but after a moment he managed to swallow it fine enough, taking a deep relieved breath as he did so.

"Woops, shouldn't eat so fast," he said sheepishly.


“No, I’d say it’s cooked,” Alex told Rue positively. “Not burned at all!”

It was really very good, and Alex was trying to decide if Rue had sneakily seasoned it. He nodded with May’s assessment.

“Yeah, I’ve seen actual giants that are smaller than you,” he agreed, pleased that May was relaxing a bit. Though it made his fear of dragons that much more concerning, because what kind of dragons lived on May’s island if he had such a reaction and- That was a worry for another day. And also not his worry, he reminded himself. May would tell him if he wanted Alex to worry about it, but otherwise he should assume it wasn’t his business at this point. Despite what Starless thought about their… mating habits.

“And he was the one harping on us about getting lost,” Alex commented with a chuckle. “It was his dad’s family who lived in the castle previously, right?”

He knew Vlad was Romani through one of his parents, but it seemed logical it wasn’t his father if he’d been familiar enough with the land to be in the position to have to go find his lost wife and son.

“Did you meet Bram when the two of them were still…. Not getting along?”

He wasn’t sure the polite term for ‘actively trying to get the other killed’ and even if Vlad and Bram had both alluded to such a phase, he had difficulty believing it could really have been so… Extreme, considering how co-dependent they were these days.

“Or I guess maybe Vlad kept you all a secret, until he trusted Bram more,” he supposed. Vlad was charged with protecting these dragons, and it seemed likely that his family had sworn him to secrecy the same way Alex’s had to him.


Nerdy Vampire
Rue smiled, appreciating Alex’s assurances—though, part of her wondered if she should be taking assurances about meat from a Nosferatu any more than she should from a dragon.

“Size is relative,” Starless told May with a smile. “But, yes, we are. We grow this large as the matriarch and patriarch. Better to protect our clan.”

“And hopefully, the slayers will come after us—not our little ones,” Fire Sun added.

“Or be scared enough not to go after our clan,” Red Star said.

Starless turned her eyes on May as he coughed, concerned. But he soon was breathing, and so she relaxed. She turned back to Alex and chuckled. “He speaks from experience. He and his mother got lost many times. Swift Wind was always saying that she was a Zimmarin and Zimmarins did not get lost because they listened to the story of the earth, but she was always getting lost. I think she enjoyed it. But yes, Vlad's father was a Drakonii."

“I remember then,” Red Star told Alex at his question.

Devon frowned. “I thought you were a youngish dragon.”

“She is,” Starless said. “Our history… We share all our memories so that we all ‘remember’ things that happened when we weren’t there—or even hatched. I ‘remember’ things from my great-grandparents. Of course, the memories become warped and confused and mixed, so the earlier memories are foggy and more akin to lore. But yes, as a member of this clan, Vlad shares his memories with us. We can keep things from one another—just like you can with your speech—but we are often fairly truthful. It is interesting though, to have to separate accounts of when Bram and Vlad ‘didn’t get along’.” She smiled. “I’m assuming you mean when they were daily trying to murder one another, and not the period I would consider ‘not getting along’. No, I was not there, thought Vlad and Bram shared their memories. They spent that period of their lives in Amsterdam. After those five years were over, they visited, and we met Bram for the first time. They still didn’t get along, but they trusted one another, and Vlad was smiling again.”

“Bram’s family were well aware of our existence,” Fire Sun said. “The Little Dragon wards just kept them from finding this land.”

Vlad was feeling good. The perimeter had been fine—he had run all the way around just in case while Bram lazily followed, taking shortcuts and smelling the flowers. Jurriaan Leeuwen was not pacing outside his front door, and the kids were off terrorizing his extended family. If Scarlet and Devon thought they were being sneaky about visiting the dragons, they were wrong.

Vlad cheeks were flushed from the sun and the cold as he carried two warm cups of coffee through the passages to Bram’s room. He would have knocked politely, but he had just left the slayer minutes before and doubted Bram had made himself indecent in such a short amount of time—but perhaps he was underestimating Bram.

“Coffee?” he asked cheerfully as he stepped out from behind a tapestry.

Bram was standing in the middle of a large Turkish rug, staring wide-eyed at several pieces of paper in his hand.

Vlad frowned, setting the coffee on coasters on the mantle. “What is wrong?”

Bram quickly folded the papers. “Nothing.”

Vlad narrowed his eyes. He was not blind. He had seen the large, uncertain print. “Let me see it.”

Bram immediately held it above his head. “I’ll just tell you what it says.”

“Give it to me.”


Bram should have been ready for Vlad’s speed, but he was still too shocked from the letter. Vlad leapt and snatched it from him, quickly retreating behind Bram’s bed to read it. He read it very quickly, then read it again, making sure he was not missing something. And then again, sinking to sit on Bram’s bed.

Bram pried the letter from him, almost whispering. “I told you to let me read it.”

Vlad just stared off into the distance.

“We’ll go find her.”

“No.” Vlad pushed up from the bed. “She wants to go, let her go.”

“Vlad,” Bram said softly.

“It doesn’t matter—she’s right. I can’t keep people around me from dying.”


“Everyone I love dies, and she’s right. I don’t know why I pretend otherwise.”

Bram moved to put his hands on his shoulders, but the vampire ducked and made for the door that connected their rooms. “Vlad, don’t go close yourself—”

The door slammed in Bram’s face, and the slayer groaned and leaned against it. “Please open.”

The castle ignored him.

“Vlad, you should not be alone right now with your thoughts.”

No answer.

“It’s not mentally healthy.”

Bram wondered if Vlad would hate him for commanding him to open the door. The more likely scenario was that Vlad would ignore it and end up unconscious on his floor in the locked room.

“Please open,” he begged the castle. “Come on, you stupid castle. This is going to be Amya all over again. Please let me in. Don’t make me go get that chainsaw.”

Had Vlad actually been lying on his floor, staring hollowly at the fire in his hearth, the door might have opened for Bram. It occasionally went against the wishes of its vampire for the sake of its vampire. It had once trapped its fighting lord and lady in a room until they made up.

But Vlad was not lying on his floor, staring hollowly at the fire in his hearth. He had had every intention of doing so until Bram made good on his threat to uses his new chainsaw on all the old wood doors that locked him out. But as soon as he slammed his door, the castle pushed Winona’s latent energy to the surface.

She had been in his room? Why? He had not banned people from his bedroom, but she had had no reason to enter it if she was leaving. Vlad hunted around the room, looking for the strongest point of the energy. He found it in the form of another letter.

He stared at the envelope, wondering if he should open it. Would it just tear him up more? But Vlad hated not knowing things, so he carefully opened the envelope and stared at the contents.

Was that his shirt? He had told Bram to burn it if he was not going to let him wash it and stitch it up. For this very reason—so that no one could use his blood for magic. Bram knew what magic could be wrought with a vampire’s blood.

Sitting on his bed, he read the note. He ran his finger along torn edge before eyeing the bracelet. This went against so many of his rules and so many of his fears. But Winona should not be on her murder mission alone.

Groaning, Vlad picked up the bracelet and the note and moved to sit in front of his fire. Crossing his legs, he closed his eyes. He found the shaky bond he had to Winona, then slid the bracelet over his left wrist. Instantly the connection grew stronger, and Vlad brushed her mind with his.

Winona, what the bloody silver are you doing?


May hummed a little bit, nodding his head. The dragons’ explanation made sense.

.”I mean, the ideal outcome is no hunters come at all,” he pointed out, because he couldn’t see why anyone would want to try and hurt these dragons. They were nice, and very hospitable, even if they were large.

The explanation about sharing memories intrigued him, and he sat up a little bit straighter, listening with interest. He supposed that these dragons were more telepathically inclined than the one he was used to, but still.

.”Hmm... you can just do stuff like that? Share memories and stuff without a catalyst? That’s pretty cool. Convenient. I guess as long as there’s no invasion of privacy,” he mused. He knew that Agni was born with a known sense of his duty and what was expected of him as a guardian, but he was pretty sure that he couldn’t actually remember things from his grandfather’s time. But then, it was already clear that a guardian spirit taking the form of a dragon and these actual dragons were very different beings. It put him at ease, but also made him even more curious.

“Huh. It’s hard to imagine them wanting to hurt each other now,” he mused, because Vlad and Bram were some of the closest friends he knew. “I mean, I know it happened and everything, but it’s just... difficult to fathom, things happening so long ago and everything. My lifespan isn’t nearly as impressive as you guys’.”

He didn’t mention that he suspected he had about five years left at the most. It wasn’t that it was something he necessarily wanted to hide, but he had a feeling that it would upset Alex and make dinner rather uncomfortable.


Alex very much agreed with May on that point- The dragons weren’t causing problems (well… the cow’s farmer might disagree) so there shouldn’t be any need for them to protect themselves. He was pretty quickly distracted, though.

“What? Sh*t that’s so cool,” Alex blurted without thinking, floored to realize the implications of intergenerational psychic communication.

“Umm. Sorry,” he said, embarrassed, and nodded with May’s concern about privacy. Very valid. Obviously. Privacy was important. But… He still couldn’t get over how cool this was.

“It always bothers me that humans- Er, no-wings- Species that aren’t naturally telepathic,” he decided on. “Never seem to learn /from/ our history, because we can’t be bothered to even learn about it in the first place, but- You can learn from your elders so easily, just as they experienced it!” Not a perfect replication, obviously, if time deteriorated the memories, but still. His parents occasionally told him about their past, but that was different- He had to rely on how they wanted to tell the story, and what they wanted him to take from it.

He frowned a little at May’s weird phrasing, but he supposed he understood- Even added together, the age of the no-wings present wasn’t equal to that of Bram or Vlad’s. Certainly not Starless’s- Her concept of time had to be so massively different from his own, he was still trying to wrap his head around it. Like, was this ability common in other telepathic species? Were other families as consistent with the practice? Were there individuals out there, who remembered their species /first/ memories? Alex reigned himself in from imagining the research potential. He was a guest, and he was engaging in conversation.

“Yeah, they threaten each other a lot when they get competitive,” he agreed with May. “But mostly just with stupid stuff. Like reorganizing the bookshelf or hiding all the batteries for the remote.” It was really hard to imagine them as anything less than a unified team. Though he supposed he had also thought that about his parents up until recently, so. What did he know?

“They trusted each other after only five years?” He had sort of figured it was either five weeks or fifty years (the more likely, if he had to bet), and nothing in between. “What made them finally trust each other?”

Winona had been a bit worried about when- if- Vlad might contact her. Mostly that she would be unable to hide any potential swell of relief from him, even though Maria had assured her that her mind was healing rapidly and couldn’t be intruded on and interpreted from a distance so easily. She had asked for Vlad’s help because it was practical to do so and not because she had any intention of maintaining a long term connection with him or the others, and she couldn’t afford to let him think otherwise.

But she shouldn’t have worried that he might be aware of her relief, because her principal emotion was annoyance, and she had no concerns about letting it color her tone. It said in the note. Which you’ve obviously read, trying to imagine her brain as a phone sending a text message to just one number like Maria had described.

Jeez, were they really monitoring her that closely? She’d been gone for like, two hours /at most/, probably less, and she’d been hoping to get more done before they discovered she was gone, if only because the longer it took for Vlad to know she was gone, the longer it would take for Jurriaan to know. Well, maybe. Hopefully.

She sort of doubted the old tricks she’d develop to escape her prior captors were really advanced enough to trick Vlad’s family magic, or to fool whatever tricks Jurriaan had set to alert him to any movement on or off the land. But she’d also explained things to the lights that had been trying to steer her back around, which had felt like the height of silliness.

Signing at a bunch of sparkles that yes, she understood she would no longer be protected, that was necessary, but if it was at all possible for her to still appear to be protected or at least, not suddenly be categorized as ‘unprotected’ by crossing the border, she would /really/ appreciate it and also it would greatly assist her in the aim of ‘keeping Vlad and his family safe’…. Maybe it was natural for the lights to fade away if you just stood there for awhile, but she had felt maybe they were giving her the go-ahead?

And one the lights had stayed floating there patiently, until she had opened the small canister she was using to keep her paper money dry and scooped it up inside. She didn’t know if it was still there, glowing in the jar between the twenty dollar bills- fifties were too suspicious, especially for a young girl- in the bottom of her backpack.

It wasn’t that she was scared to check, it was just…. Irrelevant. She had crossed the wards, and that was that- If Vlad knew she had left or Jurriaan knew she had left, or if the second was hinged on the first, there was nothing she could do about it now. Besides, she was being careful, not invisible.

Spying on Jurriaan Leeuwen through a window with a pair of binoculars while perched in a tree across the block ran risks, most of which she had decided were acceptable. Though the risk would be far /more/ acceptable if it was paying off- It had taken her a bit to track him down so she hadn’t been watching that long, but so far he had yet to do anything remotely interesting in the few times he’d crossed in front of the only window she could actually watch. The tree had not been an easy climb.

He was obviously wary of his environment, since he wasn’t gallivanting about town and he’d chosen to hide in a place that she approved of, had she been in his perspective.

I think he’s alone, Winona told Vlad. Or at least, he seems to be.

It was also entirely possible he knew exactly where she was and was just playing with her, though she liked to think he would be a little more creative with such an opportunity. And if he was anything like other people she’d had to kill, he probably had protections against high-tech or magical surveillance to reassure him, and expected any potential enemies to think so highly of him that they wouldn’t stoop to binoculars.

His constitution is like Bram’s? I could poison him, to weaken him first, she suggested. She wasn’t going to ask anything else about Bram. But.

Don’t tell the others about this, she decided after a moment. She was glad she had had the foresight to use the Yates printer when it was available, but doing so had severely limited her editing abilities.

... Don’t want them to get the wrong idea.


Nerdy Vampire
Starless blinked lazily at May. “No, hatchling, of course not. We share what we choose to share—just like in your speech. It’s very rude to go into places you are not invited. If you do not want to share your memories, you do not have to.”

Starless smiled at everyone's disbelief. It was difficult to believe now, but she had felt Vlad’s pure, unadulterated loathing and Bram’s hatred. But she also knew them now. She chuckled at their threats.

“Yes, they are brothers, now,” she agreed. At Alex’s next question, she pricked her ears and then frowned. “They haven’t told you?”

She shook her head. Bram and Vlad were essentially these hatchling’s parents, and they hadn’t even told them their history. For shame.

“Bram’s trust was hard won. He trusted that the bond would protect him, of course, but Vlad is a vampire, and he had attempted murder multiple times. Bram was the first to tire of fighting, so he gradually started treating him like a person. Vlad still hated him, still wanted him dead. One day, on the fifth anniversary of the day Bram attempted to slay Vlad, Vlad was lying on their couch, resting. He had been wounded the night before in saving Bram’s life. A sound woke him, and he assumed it was Bram getting back from the market—but it wasn’t.”

Starless could see Vlad’s memory of opening his eyes to glare at Bram. She wished she could convey the story the way her kind generally did—with Vlad’s own memory.

“It was Bram’s father. Vlad tried to jump up, but he was too weak from the wounds.”

Starless shook her head. There was no way to convey the calm, cold expression on Jurriaan Leeuwen’s face, no way to explain the raw fear that had quickened Vlad’s breath.

“He would have killed Vlad—he was tired of waiting for Bram to do it—but just then, Bram came home. Vlad’s own relief surprised him. Why should it? Bram owed him nothing. No bond of friendship connected them. Only a curse.”

But Starless had seen Bram’s memories, as well. She had felt the ice that flooded his veins when he saw his father standing over Vlad, a knife in his hand.

“But Bram was terrified. He hated Vlad, to be sure, but Vlad was the only one who treated him like he wasn’t all brawn and no brain. He liked having someone to talk to who didn’t judge him for his thoughts or mock his questions.”

Starless smiled, remembering Bram’s own memory of making a comment degrading his own intelligence after Vlad said something snide, and Vlad getting offended that Bram would think so little of himself.

“They might have hated each other, but they treated each other like equals—something that neither had experienced in a long time,” Starless explained. “And so, Bram girded on his courage and verbally took on his father. When Jurriaan Leeuwen tried to kill Vlad anyway, Bram caught his wrist and broke it.”

Starless left out the verbal and then physical abuse that Jurrian Leeuwen had thrown at his son. There was no reason to repeat it.

“Jurriaan Leeuwen disowned his son that day—as if he had ever treated him like a son. Vlad was in shock. Bram had taken on his father to protect a vampire—Vlad couldn’t understand it.”

She shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“And yet, he continued with his plan to burn down Bram’s apartment. I love him, but he’s an idiot. Fortunately, he realized what he was doing, and ran back into the burning building. He pulled Bram out and helped him to get the smoke from his lungs.”

The dragon smiled. “From that day, they were grudging allies, then ‘sorta-friends’, and now… well, you’ve said it yourself.”

“Vlad actually burned Bram’s apartment down?” Devon asked. “I thought that was a joke.”

“He did,” Scarlet confirmed as if she had been there. Though, Starless had shared some of Vlad’s and Bram’s memories with her.

Relief washed over Vlad as Winona answered him. Upon putting on the bracelet, he had decided he would not be hiding anything from her. No information, no emotion, no memory. If she was going to survive this, she needed total and complete honesty. So he didn’t hide the relief or worry in his mental voice.

It is an expression of shock and horror, love. That man—

Vlad cut himself off, shaking his head—even though she couldn’t see it.

I fear no one more, and for good reason.

Vlad considered borrowing her eyes, but he decided that was far too invasive. He could tell just as much—if not more—with his magic, anyway.

I am using this link to sense the energies around you, he informed her. You may feel a strange, almost cold sensation. I am told it is not unpleasant, merely strange.

He concentrated, but with their blood mixed and the stones on the bracelet, it was easy. Not as easy as through Bram—which Vlad did almost without thinking—but easier than it had been through anyone else.

He has warded the location, Vlad said after several seconds. I can get you through it, but he will know something has tampered with them.

Good heavens, child. I am horrified I am doing this—why on earth would I confess it to anyone else? I will not tell a soul.

Vlad paused, and then decided to say what he was thinking. The last time I attempted to kill Jurriaan Leeuwen, I was younger than you are now. Partly because he terrifies me, and partly because he is Bram’s father. Bram’s feelings towards him are… complicated. I am helping you because I care about you, not because I agree with what you are doing.

That said, yes, he is like Bram with regards to biology. However, to poison him, you must get close to him. I am begging you not to get close to him. He can destroy more with words than an army can with missiles. You do not need that mental trauma, Winona. What he can do to you mentally is far worse than what he can do to you physically—take it from someone who knows.


May nodded his head quickly, hoping he hadn't said something offensive or anything.

"Ah, yeah, that makes sense! I mean, I just thought, well you know. Sometimes when I share prana with somebody they get my thoughts and memories along with it, and stuff like that, but I've never been able to actually control it, you know," he spoke quickly, like he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to say or meant by what he was saying. "But the fact that you, like, choose to share your memories and stuff with each other is cool."

It didn't quite appeal to him, telepathy and sharing thoughts and the like, though. When you were used to not having any mental barriers, the process seemed more invasive than anything.

He listened with interest to Starless' story, a piece of meat held half-way to his mouth absentmindedly. The more he listened, though, the more annoyed he got, and finally he set the meat down, crossing his arms over his chest.

"You know, the more I hear about him, the more Bram's dad sounds like a real prick," he said. He could not imagine a father disowning his only child over something so ultimately trivial, but then, his father had /chosen/ him, and most parents did not decide who would be their child. He thought briefly of Henri and Olivia, who, while not so physically violent in their disagreements, had had a similar falling out. Of course, theirs had involved less vampires and more him. May scooted over closer to Alex, pressing up lightly against his side. Stories like this always upset him, even if they were hundreds of years old.

There was one thing, though, that did catch on his attention.

"He burned down his apartment?" He repeated Devon's question in astonishment. "So, he totally has no right to give me the disappointed dad lecture when I blow places up. He did it /first/."


“No, they don’t really talk about that stuff,” Alex confirmed. “We generally avoid discussing things that could reinforce Winona’s ideas about acceptable uses of violence,” he explained, but he did suspect Vlad and Bram avoided a lot topics because they were painful and not just because it was hypothetically better for Winona. Starless’s story confirmed that hunch, and Alex felt a bit uncomfortable for prying into what was obviously a personal matter.

But May’s comment brought a small smile to his face, and he leaned into the other boy’s space in return, containing a laugh.

“Yeah, I think that’s an understatement- I’m glad Bram turned out all right, all things considered.”

He was a bit concerned, because the elder Leeuwen was more than a real prick, and he was interested in the twins and May, or the very least in hurting Bram- But the adults were working on that, he reminded himself. He was here for emotional support and technical help when asked. He was sure things were under control.

“I mean, I figured it was at least partially true- But maybe that Vlad had just accidentally started a kitchen fire or something,” Alex admitted. He could definitely imagine an attempt at making popcorn on the stove evolving into a story about Vlad’s history of arson, just based on how Bram generally told stories- With a lot of exaggeration and more than a few partial truths.

“Just because he’s a hypocrite doesn’t mean he’s not right,” Alex told May, but he couldn’t conceal his grin. “Maybe if you just went for fire, and not explosions he’d lay off the lectures?,” he hypothesized.

Winona nodded at Vlad’s announcement of a ‘cold sensation’, and didn’t shiver when it passed through her. Was he not using her eyes or ears? Stupid.

She had no idea how to ‘turn on’ that from her own end- It had just always been part of having someone else in her head. She focused very hard on the rustle of the wind through the leaves and the feel of her eyelashes pressed against the lens of the binoculars and strained her eyes and hoped that somehow worked.

He is a threat- He has to die- He has to be killed, Winona pointed out, her logic sound as far as she was concerned. People were in danger as long as Jurriaan breathed, and he didn’t seem likely to stop doing that of his own accord any time soon. Might as well be me.

It shouldn’t be Bram. Winona still had her nightmares, standing among the bodies of the people who had raised her and realizing what she had done- Bram didn’t need that too.

Winona disagreed that she had to get close to him to poison him- Unless he was paranoid enough to have brought his own bottled water, he was probably using the tap. And he had to get food eventually she reasoned, thinking over the few places in the town she’d seen that might do delivery and wondering how secure their kitchens were. That would require knowing what and where he ordered though (which she’d need Alex, or technology of some sort at least) or waiting long enough to observe a routine (which increased the chance of her getting caught). Plus she’d still have to get close enough to make sure the job was really done. Probably more effort than it was worth.

I already /have/ mental trauma, she couldn’t help herself from snapping. Vlad was really not getting the point here- She was the best person for the job not just because of her skills, but because she considered herself to have not quite so far to fall if there were to be any fallout.

He was probably on the shortlist of buyers for my services anyways, Winona thought off handedly. Obviously she wasn’t the complete product they’d been hoping for, but Winona like to think that at the very least her old family had built up her resistance to common tortures so that she couldn’t be broken beyond the point of usefulness. Probably.

But Vlad seemed genuinely terrified, and not in the way she was expecting… She had figured he would be worried over her, concerned that she was trying something he didn’t have faith in her ability to accomplish, that sort of thing.

Fine, she conceded. Let’s say I don’t try to kill him- How exactly were /you/ planning to deal with him?

She didn't like the idea of leaving them alone when he was still out there, but she recognized that allowing harm to befall herself could put everyone in more danger- If it was really her and Devon's blood he'd been after, it wasn't the best idea to give him easier access.


Nerdy Vampire
Starless nodded, understanding May’s reservations with mental communication. To beings who were no used to it, it doubtless seemed invasive.

“What’s ‘prana’?” Devon asked.

The dragon nodded. She had not heard this word before, either.

“He is a prick,” Scarlet agreed, smiling at May’s scowl.

“He is certainly the worst we have seen in a long time,” Starless confirmed. “And I know Bram was already better than his father, but I think his relationship with Vlad solidified that. Vlad gave him an outlet to be himself that he would not have otherwise had. I worry that he would not be the man he is today had Vlad not survived.”

The great dragon shrugged her shoulders. “The what-ifs are not a place one should dwell.”

Scarlet snorted at the thought of a kitchen fire. “Yeah, I can see Bram telling it like it was an attempt at arson.”

Devon glanced at May when he mentioned Vlad’s many ‘disappointed dad lectures’. “Did they do a lot of crazy things? I kinda get the feeling that all Vlad’s lectures are because he did the same crazy thing.”

Starless considered, wondering what Devon considered “crazy”. “Yes, but you should ask them. I don’t have all their memories, just the important ones.”

I know that, Vlad groaned in response to Winona’s logic. Trust me, I know that. But not you.

Vlad knew that if Jurriaan was pointing a gun or a knife at one of his family, Vlad would kill him dead on the spot. But this was at the nebulous end of his code of killing. To say Jurriaan was not actively trying to hurt his family would be ridiculous. Jurriaan was never passive about anything. The only reason he could be here was to hurt his family.

I am well aware of your present mental state, Vlad sighed. Which would make you more susceptible to his tricks. Why do you think he gets into my head so easily, Winona?

He could sense her trying to push her physical senses on him, so he gave up and accepted the extra aid. Just as he did, Jurriaan Leeuwen strode past the window, and Vlad nearly screamed.

You’re too close! Vlad gasped as if she was not in a tree many yards away.

He looked around at the edges of her vision, trying to guess her exact location. Oh, he knew that tree. He was impressed that she had climbed it.

He probably was, Vlad agreed. But that does not make it better.

At her question, Vlad fell silent. He didn’t know. He had thought that maybe Jurriaan would be satisfied with torturing him to death and would leave the others alone. But he also remembered what that slayer had told him when he had asked why he hated him so much.

“Oh, little dragon,” he had said. “It isn’t about you.”

Which meant this was about the chink in his armor—this was about Bram. This was about power and control. Revenge, Vlad had no doubt, but that was only a small part. Like catching the mouse that had been getting into his pantry. He was either going to try to assert control over Bram by manipulating him into joining or torturing him to death.

I don’t know, Vlad admitted. You’re right. He has to die.

Vlad did shriek when a hand settled gently on his shoulder. Changing from mentally seeing with Winona’s eyes to physically seeing his room was jarring.

“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” Bram said gently. “The door opened, and I wanted to check on you.”

“I’m fine. I’m just thinking,” Vlad said, stuffing the letter into his hoodie pocket.

Bram knew he was lying, knew he was using magic to find Winona, but he just shrugged and settled next to Vlad on the rug. He wrapped one arm around the vampire, and Vlad gave up pretending he was fine and sank into his friend’s side.

I am still here, Vlad informed Winona.

Bram watched him out of the corner of his eye. He had seen the piece of paper disappear, and he knew Vlad well enough to know he was doing magic of some sort. But he didn’t say anything. He trusted that Vlad was doing something good to help Winona.


May tilted his head to the side at Devon's question, humming as he tried to figure out a way to explain it without going too in-depth.

"It's magic, I guess," he explained rather poorly, before shaking his head and starting over. "Or I guess it's like the source of magic. Like the energy that flows into me that becomes my magic. It comes into me from, well." He made a noncommittal hand gesture that could have meant many things. "You know, and then I can channel it through stones to do stuff, or other people can take it and use it from me, if they know how. Like with the bogeyman and everything." He said it all very lightly, as though it had happened years ago instead of less than a few months. "Anyway, prana is just what the guardians called it back home. Other people have different words for it, probably."

He rested his head contentedly against Alex's shoulder.

"Yeah, everything has really turned out for the best. Even with recent stuff, it's hard to imagine if anything in the past year had gone differently. You know, life-changing danger and people constantly trying to kill us aside and everything. I could have done without some of that." He wrinkled his nose a bit, then shrugged his shoulders. Starless was right; there was no point in thinking about what-ifs.

Well, mostly.

He pursed his lips, his cell-phone practically burning a hole in his pocket as he remembered the text he received in the morning.

"Hopefully this stuff with Bram's dad will be taken care of soon, though," he mumbled.


Alex looked ecstatic to hear May’s explanation of how he used magic, and also a little like he wanted to take notes and start asking questions, so it was probably a good thing he could not see his own face and be self conscious about it. Especially when May leaned against him and his expression went from ‘fascinated and charmed’ to ‘stupidly delighted’.

He made a firm ‘hmm’ of agreement with May’s conclusion- The danger thing was bad, and the flurry of outlook-shattering realizations had been stressful, but he was ultimately pretty pleased. His family had even said they were /proud/ of him for doing almost all of the stuff he was sure they would disagree with- Not they hadn’t disagreed with it (quite strongly), but they were still proud of him anyways. He leaned back a little so that his hand ended up against their log-turned-bench on May’s other side, so his shoulder was turned out and hopefully a bit more comfortable.

“Yeah, it’s a bit worrying- I mean, he’s been around for ages,” Alex pointed out, comfortable enough that he was somehow oblivious to the fact that most of the individuals present would probably not like to be reminded that the problem of Bram’s father had not been solved in the last hundred years and therefore seemed unlikely to be solved in just a few days.

“But they’ve got more help now, and more motivation, so.” Alex did have a high opinion of his aunt and the help she might be able to offer, but in this case he actually thought the motivation might be the bigger aide- Bram and Vlad were content enough to live in danger themselves, but he had kidnapped Scarlet, and threatened the twins. Alex suspected the basement in the townhouse may have stayed permanently half-drywalled had they not all moved in, but Vlad and Bram moved pretty quickly once other people were involved.


Because he is familiar with your head, Winona pointed out. He wasn’t familiar with hers. /She/ wasn’t even that familiar with it. And because he can’t kill you. Or won’t. Yet. This was the very unusual part to her- Vlad was a pain in the ass, even when he was your ally. But Jurriaan wasted time on him anyways, even at expense to himself and his own resources.

Good, we agree then, Winona concluded. And I don’t think he will torture me too much, she reassured Vlad in a way that was probably not all that reassuring. I have a plan for when I get captured.

If she was aware of Vlad’s distraction, she did not note it. She had told him she didn’t expect his help after all, so he was free to leave as he wished, she thought to herself, tamping down any strange sad feeling she might have about it.

I’m concerned about what he may be planning, she admitted. And how much relies on him- Like I’d rather just kill him and deal with whatever later, she clarified. But do you think that’s too risky? I can try to figure out his plans first.

That would definitely involve getting closer. And getting captured, probably. And getting out of this tree that she had had to crawl up a different tree and then cross two roofs to get into, all while making sure she wasn't noticed.


Nerdy Vampire
Starless flicked her ears, a bit disturbed that people could take prana from May. Vlad had explained to his mother where all his hatchlings had come from, and Starless had loved them like she had loved all her egg-babies. Vlad had explained May was more created than born, but Starless didn’t care anymore than Vlad and Bram did. It wasn’t like a dragon would judge what had brought her no-wings hatchlings into the world. It wasn’t like they were actually hatched in the first place, so what did it matter if they were made in a ritual or birthed fully-formed and screaming? And if people would take this prana—which sounded like what they called earth-fire—that was worrying.

But Starless knew better than to voice her worry. She would get groaned at. Regardless of the species, hatchlings were all the same.

“Well, you didn’t think moving in with two troublemakers would be easy, did you?” Starless asked lightly. “But yes, I agree. They will deal with Jurriaan Leeuwen. Too much is at stake for them not to.”

That was true enough. Jurriaan was familiar with his mind. But Vlad was too exhausted emotionally and physically to argue that trauma gave Jurriaan something to pick away at.

Won’t, yet, Vlad confirmed. Not until he had died in every way but physically. Vlad intuitively knew that Jurriaan blamed him for Bram’s actions. Blamed him for Bram “betrayal”. As if Vlad had somehow poisoned Bram’s mind instead of Bram making his own decisions based on Jurriaan’s actions.

I hope he will not torture you at all, Vlad said, sounding more tired than horrified. He was fairly used to Winona saying things that were not encouraging in the slightest as if she had just pointed out a silver lining.

I would rather deal with “whatever” later, too. However, it took Bram and I nearly thirty years to deal with the last “whatever”. And even then, Jurriaan was not dead, so maybe it would not take so long this time.

Logically, he should ask her to get what information she could. As much as he hated it, she was trained for this. She didn’t need his protection. And Jurriaan would not kill her. And, he was there with her. He could guide her and protect her with his magic.

But Vlad’s logic broke down around people he loved.

Vlad hated this. He hated Winona putting herself in danger. He hated not being there.

I will let you decide, Vlad decided. We can deal with it either way. You do what is best for you.


May made a pleased little noise as he cuddled up to Alex.

"Ages and ages," he repeated, because it was true. He couldn't really fathom it, but obviously Jurriaan was Bram's father so he was older than Bram was, and Bram was already, as May very eloquently put it on many occasions, 'hella old'. But he did also trust that Vlad and Bram had a handle on the situation, and while he did wish that he was more help, he still didn't know exactly what Jurriaan had wanted his blood for, so rushing in in a full frontal assault would not be a very smart move. Unfortunately rushing in in a full frontal assault was one of May's only moves, aside from support, so he figured that for this fight at least he was being relegated to the sidelines.

He had mixed feelings about that, honestly.

"I trust them," he said lightly, because it was true. "In the meantime, though, this is kind of nice. I'm gonna be honest, I was kind of scared to meet you guys, because the dragons I know kinda hate me a little bit, but this is nice."


Vlad was being annoyingly cagey about the whole thing. Fine, she would just take her own initiative…. Which had been going pretty well, all things considered. He had laid out a vampire trap in the front hallway which she probably would have walked through had she not been very keenly looking for it. She’d gone through some papers on his desk that didn’t mean much to her, and found his laptop- It was password protected, but she unplugged it from the charger and left it cracked open so the battery would die.

Well, she was here and he was just laying in bed in the other room, and she had knives, so. Might as well make the first attempt. Moments after she crossed the threshold it took effect- What ‘it’ was, Winona didn’t know and it was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate on trying to figure it out because her head was very heavy and her body felt all weird and noodley like she had been drugged or something and…. Oh. She crumpled to the floor, fighting it off just long enough to get her arms up to cushion her head.

When she woke up, she did so easily- Induced or not, she had actually slept pretty well even with the awkward position she’d ended up in. Her pack was still on her back and the handle of her preferred knife was pressing up against her side. She turned her wrist just slightly enough to confirm she was still wearing the bracelet she had made- She was. Presumably Maria’s feather was also still in it’s plastic tubing around her ankle then, too.

He’d likely not disturbed her or her things out of concern that doing so might trigger some sort of alert, but now that she was awake he would likely have her remove her weapons and any defenses. But she’d planned for that, and the bracelet she’d made for Vlad was really only to establish the connection, especially since she’d initially anticipated she might need to travel some distance. And Maria had given her some very helpful tips for how to deal with anyone rooting around in her mind she didn’t want there, so Winona was fairly confident that even if he could get into her mind and access it the way Vlad was, he wouldn’t actually be able to know if Vlad was there too, much less sever that connection.

Vlad. I'm awake. Sorry about that. He had probably been worried and she'd hoped he hadn't just stayed up all night fretting- Even if he didn't 'need' sleep in the traditional sense, he definitely functioned better with it.

There was no way Jurriaan didn’t know she had broken in at this point, so she should probably just sit up and get on with it. She stretched slightly as she righted herself, trying to assess if she had been bound with a cuff or a trap on anything else.

“Well,” she announced, putting her back towards the wall as she peered around to look for him. It would probably be easier if she could see over the tall bed, but she wasn’t ready to stand yet- She wanted to appear non-aggressive, and also she might just fall over again. Which would be embarrassing.

“I'm going for my bag now,” she said, but it was also a question, since she didn't make any movement quite yet. "For water and a protein bar." Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, supposedly.


Nerdy Vampire
Jurriaan didn’t really sleep much these days. He couldn’t decide if it was old age—he had literally no evidence to base any guess on as he was the oldest Leeuwen ever—or if it was just because of the magic. Regardless, he could go into a state where he appeared asleep and his vitals would lower to conserve energy, and he could think. Or, if he consumed enough alcohol, that seemed to put him to sleep. Alcohol was a bad idea since he was in the dragon’s den, so he had contented himself with his comatose-thinking state.

Something brushed his magic, and Jurriaan sat bolt upright. A thump occurred a second after, and he found one of the twins on his floor. How the hell had she gotten past his traps? He crouched next to her, inspecting her without touching her. He was right in his guess that someone who go rogue and try to kill him. Though, to be perfectly honest, he had expected Vlad.

Jurriaan drew out a quick half-vampire trap before righting himself to go look at his other traps. He found them in a state of having their magic diverted so that he hadn’t sensed their destruction. There was only one vampire who knew enough slayer magic to do that. Jurriaan opened the door and stepped out, looking around. There was nothing, so he closed the door, fixed the trap and returned to his bedroom. Eying Winona, he shrugged and shot off a text. Then, he sat in the chair, staring at Winona and waiting for someone to come for her.

No one did, so when the sun came up, he went to find breakfast.

Vlad had been in a state of sheer panic since Winona went unconscious. He had mentally screamed her name, tried every trick he knew to wake her, and had finally given up. He had felt the heavy magic around her mind and had even had to fight drowsiness that had come across their mental link. He stayed with her, stayed with her mind. Every nerve in his body screamed at him to go save her, but only the knowledge that that would result in them both being captured kept him in his castle.

Bram had gone to bed long before, but Vlad had heard him stirring about an hour ago, and then his footsteps as he made his way to the kitchen. Vlad remained in his room, staring at the top of his four-poster bed and begging Winona to be okay.

When she woke, and he heard her voice, Vlad didn’t bother hiding the relief that washed through him.

Winona! Where are you? What happened?! Never mind, I know the answers to those questions. Oh my stars, I am so glad you are alright. Are you injured?

Even as he asked, he tested her own senses just ask if he was looking her over in person.

You are in a half-vampire trap. I should be able to unravel it. He seems to have just half-assed it, which is odd. Bram half-asses things, but his father never does.

In fact, it had “trap” written all over it. Oh, Jurriaan thought he was close by. Vlad was getting a sinking feeling in his stomach.

“Of course,” said a voice behind her. “I’m sure you worked up an appetite spying last night.”

Jurriaan strode in from the other room with a knife in one hand and a whetstone in the other. He cocked his head at her like she was a puppy he had caught stealing his shoes. He had gotten his hands on Council reports, but knowing Vlad, those were all false.

He settled himself into the chair and casually began sharpening the knife.

He’s so dramatic, Vlad mumbled to keep his panic at bay.

“There is no way you acted alone, but my men combed this town. The Lupu family could have conceivably hidden him, but not from magic. So the vampire half of your ‘dads’ knows you’re here and doesn’t care? Did he use you like your previous handlers?”

Bastard, Vlad snarled. Don’t listen to him, Winona. He’s trying to find your mental weaknesses. I’m going to try to break you out of the trap.

As Bram made waffles, he wondered how they were going to tell the kids. The whole “Win is tired and wants to be alone” thing had worked last night when they had come home from visiting the dragons, but he knew that wouldn’t work much longer. Win generally turned up for food—even if it was just to retreat with it to her room—and they would start to wonder. But part of Bram hoped that Vlad would have her back soon, and if he could hold onto the illusion for a while longer, they might be spared the stress.

Devon was the first to wander downstairs to the kitchen. He grabbed a waffle and dumped syrup on it.

Bram hoped that Alex was jetlagged enough to go back to sleep and sleep until ten. He would be the one who would get persistent when Bram was dodgy again. Though, May, might, too. But, in Bram’s experience, May was a little more gullible and tended to assume the best. Bless his heart.


May wandered down the stairs to the kitchen with his phone in hand, feeling even more sluggish and chilly than he usually did in the mornings. He was wrapped in three sweaters and had a tattered throw blanket tucked around his shoulders like a cape, something he had brought with him from the townhouse and the island before that. He wandered into the kitchen blearily, sitting down at the table with a thump before realizing that food was ready, and getting up to grab a waffle for himself.

Bringing his plate back to the table, he read over the text that he had gotten a few hours ago and sighed.

‘Little Guardian still wants to know where you are. I didn’t tell him.’

It was risky of Henri to put her neck out on the line for him like that, but he did appreciate it. The last thing he wanted was for Agni to try and break through Vlad’s magical wards when who knew what other trouble was out there brewing.

Digging into his waffle plain, he stared at the piece on his fork for a moment as though he wasn’t sure whether it was really there before bringing it to his mouth and eating it. He had never been a morning person.

“Win and Alex are still sleeping?” He asked as he took another bite, this time with more confidence. It made sense, really; Win had been rather overwhelmed by the dragons yesterday, and May figured that she would want some space to herself to rest and get over it. She would come down and get food when she was ready, surely.


Winona had no sassy retort to that, but removed her bag from her shoulder and pulled out her water bottle and one of the peanut butter protein bars she favored.

Don’t bother, leave it as is, Winona told Vlad. If Jurriaan wanted her to sit in a half-assed half-vampire trap, that was what she would do. Presumably he wanted Vlad to interfere with it, so there was no sense in giving him the satisfaction.

Also, sorry. Nothing she was going to say was untrue, but she realized Vlad would probably prefer not to hear it.

“Rude. I am actually good at things /sometimes/,” she told her host, her eyes narrowed in annoyance. Admittedly she /had/ had help, but did he really think so highly of himself that it was utterly impossible for her to have broken in on her own? She’d already displayed a penchant for creative problem solving when it came to the obstacles, and she had access to Vlad’s research and notes. He’d almost certainly made that guide to slayer magic with the hopes that Bram would take an interest if it was made more understandable, but it was written simply enough that Winona could use it as an aide. Plus she had stolen it and it was in her backpack, so.

“No, he is too much of a coward,” she sneered in response to his baiting question. “They both are. They treat me like a child.”

It was clear she found this distasteful, if not outright disgusting, though the protein bar was clearly to her liking. She’d finished it quickly, and neatly folded up the wrapper and tucked it into a side pocket of her pack.

“Probably they know I am gone by now,” she admitted, taking another drink from her water bottle. “But I think I was mean enough they won’t follow. I made sure they can’t track me at least.”

Alex offered May a small wave as he came into the kitchen to indicate that actually, no, he was awake.

“I told Dad, he said it was fine,” he protested to whoever was on the other end of his phone. “Mom, you are being /so/ dramatic about this- I did not ‘run away from my problems’! If anything, I ran /towards/ them. Vlad’s research materials are here, so here is where I should be if I’m going to be the most help.”

He plated a waffle, pulling a face at the others to give them a gist of how the conversation was going. In case they couldn’t already guess.

“Okay, fine- You’re right! I needed a break from you. Which I would have told you directly, except you weren’t /available/, remember? And I have every intention of returning, so no, this is nothing like when I ‘ran away’. When I was five. And literally didn’t even make it into town. Mmmhmm.”

He sat down next to May, smiling at his grumpy expression and sleep-rumpled hair. “No, thanks- I do appreciate you staying up to call me, really. Yeah, I’ll tell everyone you said hi.” He frowned. “Noted. Okay, I’m hanging up now."

Annabelle had clarified that she only wanted to send her love and well-wishes to May, Winona, Devon and Scarlet, but Alex figured he didn't really need to repeat that.


Nerdy Vampire
Are you certain? Vlad asked, withdrawing his magic from the trap. He wanted to argue that he could break it and she could run, but he knew the trap was probably really for meddlers like himself or to test what Winona could do.

Vlad didn’t add that he didn’t want to sit there and listen to Jurriaan, either.

Sorry for what? Oh.

The older slayer continued to sharpen his knife as he studied Winona. His lips quirked up at her insistence that she could do things.

“Oh, I don’t doubt you are. I’m just having trouble believing you acted alone.”

‘Coward’ is a little harsh, Vlad mumbled mentally.

“You see, you just said they treat you like a child—which is insulting. You are not a child, and, if I’m not mistaken, you are specially trained. So, why are you here? Why not just leave?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “And if you’re gone, here is the first place they’ll check. I’ve known them for centuries, and they haven’t changed.”

Bram hated lying. There was a time and a place for lying, but to your family members there was never really a time and a place. He had hoped May would be too sleepy to ask. But he did after eating a waffle, which meant it was his own fault. Bram made damn-good waffles.

“I haven’t seen—oh, there’s Alex,” he corrected.

They wouldn’t see Scarlet until eleven if Vlad didn’t drag her out of bed to help him. Which Bram doubted he would. He hoped the elder vampire was asleep, but he knew that was a pipe dream.

“Mom troubles?” Bram asked Alex when he hung up. It was fairly obvious that was the case, Bram just felt the need to fill the Winona-less silence. Not that she normally filled it, of course. He just felt her absence was more obvious.
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May looked up as Alex entered the room, wincing a bit at the bits and pieces of the conversation that they could hear. ‘Mom troubles’ seemed to sum it up pretty well. It seemed that all of them were having some kind of issues with overbearing family members.

“She’s mad because you didn’t tell her you were leaving, isn’t she,” he piped in, His concerns about Winona’s wearabouts forgotten in favour of Alex and his issues. Not that he blamed Alex for not telling his mom that he was flying across the world to a vampire castle in the middle of the mountains - May’s dad had had a similarly upset reaction, especially since he had left telling him up to Henri.

Taking another bite of his waffle, May made a humming noise in the back of his throat, quickly tucking his own phone away where nobody could see it.

“I don’t think you did anything wrong, though. You’re practically all grown up, and this is practically like... a vacation with friends, if there weren’t a madman who may be trying to kill us. Wow, on second thought that does sound really bad doesn’t it.” He muttered the last part, stuffing his face with more waffle in the hopes to keep from saying anything else stupid.


“Leaving’s no good if I’m just going to be followed,” Winona countered. “And… If I don’t know where I want to go. Or do,” she added hesitantly, but seemed less sure on that.

“I want to… Well.” She frowned, and apparently decided to move on.

“I wanted to know your plans,” she admitted. “About me. Are you going to come after me? For more blood, or whatever,” she demanded.

“Because so long as you aren’t doing anything terrible with it, you can just have it. If that means you’ll leave me alone.” (The bottle of blood in her bag should probably have been refrigerated, but whatever.)

She rolled her eyes at his observance on Bram and Vlad’s persistent nature. “Yeah, well- The timing was always bad, for leaving. Figured I should do it now, before it got even worse.” In her own defense, when she had begun thinking of her plan she had not anticipated he would be so close.

“And I thought- You could stop them from taking me back. And even if they did, I could just, you know- Blame you. Say you made me run away or something.” She pulled a face that conveyed she knew she ought to feel sorry about her willingness to make him take the fall for her own flightiness, but wasn’t really all that apologetic. “Otherwise they’d watch me and I’d never get another chance.”

“Okay, I /told/ her,” Alex protested. “Or I texted her at least, telling her I was planning on going. And she’s off in New York so it wasn’t like I could tell her in person.” He laughed at May’s observation.

“Yeah, when you put it /that/ way- But honestly, Vlad’s castle is inherently safer than Mom’s house. It’s a historic site with a website and seasonal visiting hours, it’s not exactly hard to find.” He took a bit of his own waffle.

“And besides, Dad and Maria knew, and I emailed them all my flight details and whatnot, all the regular stuff I’m supposed to do when I travel alone.” Honestly, Alex was a bit surprised at Annabelle’s reaction, and a little hurt- She had said she was /proud/ he had been disobeying some of the assumed rules and taking initiatives on his own goals and interests. Apparently that only applied when his decision was far enough in the past that she could know (and be satisfied with) the results. He supposed he shouldn't really be that shocked.

“But I’m here now and I intend to help, so- How’s Vlad’s research going?”


Nerdy Vampire
Vlad was dearly hoping all of this was a lie and Winona didn’t mean any of it. He hadn’t asked if she planned to come back once she was finished—mostly because he was too afriad of the answer.

Jurriaan considered this strange girl and her words. He wasn’t sure if this was that same idea as tying up all ones things and “running away” or if this was Winona actually leaving. There was frustratingly so little on the townhome’s newest inhabitants that he had taken to having his acolytes watch the place, but that still gave him very little information. Winona was an unknown, and he hated unknowns.

“My plans?” he echoed curiously. “Well, there is quite a lot I can do with blood, and I can promise none of it is fun for you.”

Jurriaan tucked the stone and knife into his pocket and rose to his feet.

“Now that you are actually outside of the little dragon’s protection, the magic will actually work.” Jurriaan crouched in front of the half-vampire trap and its occupant. “Would you like to know what I’m doing?”

Not good, Vlad thought. He never reveals his plans.

“There are a host of things I could do, but I’m really interested in syphoning off energy. I’ve been doing it for quite some time, and it works rather well. Just recently I figured it how to do it without the subject present. Handy, right?”

“I’m with May on this one,” Bram put in, squirting whipped cream on top of his tower of waffles. “It’s like a vacation with your uncles or something.”

Bram moved to the table with his own stack of waffles. He had piled it high with fruit and whipped cream. He dug into it eagerly but nearly choked when Alex asked him about Vlad’s research.

“I’m not sure to be honest. I helped for a little bit, but I got thrown out of his library for building a book fort.”

Devon grinned. “That fort was awesome.”

“Vlad obviously didn’t think so.” Something about ancient tomes not being building material. Bram ate some of his waffles. “Anyway, I haven’t seen Vlad today. He’s in his room. I’m hoping he’s asleep, so I’m not bothering him.”
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