Before Kaleb woke up, Lance came toward me.
“You’ll be getting home now. I’ll get you out. But what Natalie said stands, We’ve had to give an IOU to the Abendroth, because he was hanging with you. But I do apologize for Natalie’s attitude she is rather protective and… vindictive.” He seemed relatively nice, even though he approved of Queen Bitch’s actions. “Be at Land’s end by six in the afternoon, if you aren’t we’ll inform Coil that a dhampir is in his city.”
He offered his hand and I reluctantly pinched it.
Everything went black for a time and then the lights came back again.
While the condemned subway station wasn’t the paragon of cleanliness, the alley I’d materialized in was worse, smelling like days old meat left in the heat and pee. I quickly stepped out of it and looked for a familiar landmark. Some people gave me a worried look, seeing as I was caked in dried blood and my clothes were torn to shreds, but nobody stepped in to help.
I quickly found out that I was on Redwood Ave, which wasn’t that far from home in the east/west direction, but I wasn’t sure which way to go in the north/south direction. Coil’s stupid phone wasn’t the kind that came with an internet connection, so I couldn’t look it up. In retrospect I could have just called a cab, but that option never came to mind. Eventually I picked a direction randomly and just started walking.
I’d guessed correctly and after half an hour, I was at my home. Rather than go through the front door and risk confronting my mother, I climbed the fire exit. Although it was too far to reach for someone normal, it wasn’t out of my jumping distance. I came up the four stories and opened my window from the outside, which couldn’t even lock anymore. It was an obvious security risk but we didn’t have anything worth stealing anyway…
I could have showered, cleaned up, and all that jazz, but I was simply too tired. Instead I removed my clothes, stashing them in a bag and kicking them under the dark abyss under my bed. I’d have to dispose of them the next day. Instead I slipped on some long PJs and went to bed.
Even with all the hurting, It didn’t take long to fall asleep.
When I woke up, it felt as if I hadn’t slept nearly enough, every muscle in my body were stiff and sore, a new sensation for me as I’d never really been the kind to get overworked physically. Thankfully, it was a Sunday morning so I got to sleep in. It was eleven when I slipped out of bed despite my body’s complaints. My left arm, where Lisa had sunk her claws wouldn’t move more than an inch or two.
“Good morning, Lauren.” My mom said. On Sundays, she only started working at one in the afternoon.
“Morning....” I mumbled still half asleep.
I didn’t extend the conversation any longer as I barricaded myself in the bathroom. I got undressed, hopped inside the bath/shower combination and took an abominably long scalding shower, washing away the grime and slowly moving each muscle until it agreed to more or less cooperate.
When I got out, I wiped the steam away from the mirror and examined the wounds. They weren’t as bad as I thought they would, perhaps drinking blood had helped me, it did help vampires, but it was still pretty nasty. Large part of my shoulders were covered in scabs and the same went for my torso where shallow slices had broken the skin. I opened the drawer under the sink and took out the first aid kit my mother had brought.
I didn’t know anything about medicine, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to disinfect the wounds and apply patches. I knew it was a bad idea, but it was something I had problem resisting, I picked away the scabs, justifying myself that I needed to see if something had been left in here. When I was all patched up, I put my PJs back on and left the room.
Once again, I skipped from room to room, going back to my bedroom. I closed the door and locked the door behind me. I switched clothes, going for yoga pants and a skirt, two items I was apprehensive about wearing alone, a tee shirt a long sleeved hoodie over it, mostly to cover any visible wounds. The worst of all was that I’d been stuck to stuff my bra with tissues, I could have gone without, but that option would have only made me feel worse.
I left my room with the bag from last night and went straight for the door.
“You’re not going to eat something before going?” My mother asked, shooting me with motherly-guilt rays.
“It’s alright, I still have some money.” I said, it was true, I still had a quarter million dollar. “Beside, I have to meet Seb soon.”
“Okay…” She seemed almost hurt that I was ditching her and now spending some time with her, and it made me feel like shit. I however didn’t have much time to do stuff. “Have a good day.”
I climbed down the stairs super quickly, as soon as I hit the streets, I took out my phone and called Coil.
“What is it Lauren?” He said, without saying hi, hello or anything.
“I’m in trouble, I need help.”
Rather than go to his mansion, we met at a Starbucks not too far from my house. Coil was the most casually dressed that I’d ever seen him, which would still be described as ‘chic casual’. He wore a white dress shirt loosely buttoned under a cream colored unbuttoned coat with handkerchief along with designer jeans and aviator glasses. I had the feeling he knew how to rock any outfit.
We probably looked odd, the well dressed man in his thirties along with a goth teenager having tea at lunch time. Maybe people thought we were related. I hoped they didn’t think we were together… He wasn’t bad looking, but he was old, very old, he’d even let a comment about the Roman empire slip while teaching me about magicians…
I waited for him to say something, Coil wasn’t the kind who liked when others took control of a conversation. Instead I nibbled on my almond Danish and endured the stare behind the mirrored lense of his glasses. He calmly sipped tea and all I could think of was that he was close to mastering the parental art of guilt tripping you with nothing but a stare…
“So, what is the problem bothering you.” He asked after his seventh sip of tea.
“I need to know who the darksiders are.” He arched a brow. I’d caught his attention. “I’ve had a run-in with them.” I explained.
“I see.” He spent the next few seconds doing the eye thing before adding; “They’re a third rate faction in the city, the four of them. How did you run into them?”
“I met Kaleb by accident and we got chased by shifters, the other Darksiders made the save, but they blame me for him getting hurt, they want me to make up for it… Or they’ll turn me in to your custody.”
He frowned. “Does this mean that they are unaware of your allegiance?”
“Seems like it, the animal-thing smelled I was a dhampir though.”
“That would be the Abomination.” He remarked.
“They’re fairly rare, it’s what happen when fully blessed shifters mate together. My informants tell me the abomination is still a juvenile, maybe six or seven years old. It shouldn’t be able to shapeshift yet.”
I shuddered to think that monster who had taken Lisa down was nothing but a child.
“What do they want from you?” He then asked.
“To clear the debt they incurred to the Abendroth, who are they? You mentioned them too.”
“Yet another faction in this city of ours, they’ve been around as long as I have. Unlike the darksiders, they are major players… Or they would be if the had not taken a consistently apolitical stance in the Covenant’s affair. They’re a nuclear family composed of three alchemists, the parents Agatha and Victor as well as their son Simon. Don’t underestimate them.”
“And what could they want from the undersiders?”
“That I don’t know. But we have an opportunity. I want you to help them get whatever they need, get close to them, learn their secrets and judge if they are a threat or a potential ally to my cause.” He didn’t find the fact I had no idea what his cause was as being relevant. “I’ll give you what I know; All of them are runaways; Kaleb Phelp is an adept, a skinner to be exact. The black boy, I don’t know his name, is a talent with powers related to darkness, he seems able to move between patches and he is quite dangerous within them. Then there’s Natalie Stacks, the oldest of the group, her parents were part of the Circle of the Red Oath before they were kicked out. Info on her seems to paint her as another talent; a pyrokinetic. Last is her little pet, the Abomination, I’d be careful around it, abominations are smarter than they look and just as dangerous.”
“Alright… Oh and the boy is named Lance. Could Natalia be a diabolist like her parents?”
“Possible, but she hasn’t showed any sign of it.”
Which was comforting news. Diabolists were dangerous, anyone who bargained with demons was a hallmark of recklessness and desire for power.
“Since you know what to do, I’ll leave you to it. Remain in minimal contact until then. Your lessons are cancelled until this is resolved.” He said getting up and leaving me there.
Which was to say I was alone and without support. This weekend was just turning up to be so great...
There was still a lot of time left before I had to get to Land’s end. I wasn’t sure if telling Coil had been the right move, all the Darksiders could have done was tell on me to Coil who was already aware of my existence. But now I couldn’t afford to fail Coil, I was bound to help the darksiders…
I spent the next few hours setting things up; first a PO ox at the post office so I could receive package without having them sent to my house. Then I went to a net café and ordered several sets of falsies, I had a feeling I’d lose more than the one pair… Then I bought a pocket first aid kit and stuffed it into my bag, stopped at an army surplus store and bought a combat knife, the clerk giving me an odd look, but I didn’t care. Finally I gorged down on hyper-caloric fast food, while it wasn’t exactly healthy, I’d need all the energy that I could get if the night was going as bad as the prior night.
I made it to Alessa’ beach at five-thirty and waited. The bonfire had been washed away by the high-tide but Alessa’ chair remained, empty. I noticed the cliff’s edge had been painted in bright vivid paint, something that I hadn’t seen in the penumbra. I sat down on the stairs where the whole mess had began, rubbing the brand new ear studs gently between my fingers.
“You’re here, good.” Lance spoke.
I turned around and saw everyone was there, looking strong and tall. I almost wondered if they’d rehearsed that pose.