Author’s note: there is brief mentioning of lynching and ODing in this chapter, if you don’t wanna read about it skip to the end of the Max part.
The sun beat down on him as he sat poking at his food. His appetite barely existed anymore. He had lost weight since coming to Egypt, but he didn’t care. He didn’t really care much about anything anymore.
Max blinked, squinting up at the sky. He had been traveling for three years now. Almost three years. He had spent time in Europe, which brought back bad memories of his first human years, then through Russia but the cold drove him south to Africa. He spent almost a full year in the jungles–sulking and pouting when he had found out that Zaid and that elf had a kid together. After getting sick and having to go to a healing wizard in one of the cities, he made his way north over the next few months until he landed in Egypt.
Max looked back down at his food and pushed it away. He felt tired of traveling, tired of being alone, tired of everything. I want to go home, he thought miserably. But he didn’t have a home anymore. Not really. Oh, he knew Gretchen would take him back but he didn’t want to go to here. He wanted to go to Zaid. He wanted Zaid.
Sniffling he folded his arms on the table and buried his head in them. Giving Zaid up had been the hardest thing he ever did. He wasn’t used to giving things he liked up. It had been such a difficult, miserable, painful ordeal. He still hated himself for doing it even if he had been right to do it. Zaid loved that elf, and that elf loved him. They had a kid together and were probably married.
I wanted that to be me, Max thought, lifting his head and then getting out of the chair, not finding any need to stay at the food area anymore. He had been fine with Zaid going out with so many girls. And then–then Zaid realized he liked guys too. Max had been soooo happy when Zaid had said it. But then he had gone on to announce his love for that elf. Max still felt sick every time he thought of that devastating moment. Of watching the two of them get closer and closer until Max realized he needed to leave.
I did the right thing, he told himself as he walked along the road. Doesn’t make it any easier. He sometimes wondered if this had been a cruel trick of fate. He had lost Elizabeth, he had lost Charles, and he had lost John.
Max jerked, the memories coming sharply to him now. Elizabeth had been his first true love and the only woman he ever loved. He had fallen head over heels for her in the early 1840s. He had become a proper gentlemen during this time. He pretended to be a normal human, never shifting once. They had gotten married and she had gotten pregnant. Max had been both happy and nervous, as he grew extremely worried since he wouldn’t grow any older. But it turned out he didn’t need to worry about it. The cholera outbreak at the end of the 1840s claimed her life and the life of the baby within her.
Then came Charles. The 1880s wild frontier. They lived together on a farm. A ranch. Max stopped shifting then too, loving Charles so much. Their relationship had been very passionate and rough–and very hidden, of course. Not hidden enough. After four years one of the ranch hands discovered them and the townspeople rounded Charles and Max up, lynching Charles first in front of Max. Max escaped, not caring who saw him shift into a cat. He fled, and their shock of seeing a human turn into a black cat gave him plenty enough time to hide. Eventually they decided Charles had been tricked by a demon and he got a proper burial, at least.
Finally came John. The roaring twenties. They drank, smoke, danced, laughed, and loved. Like Charles and Elizabeth before him, he stopped shifting during this time. Pretending to be a normal human. They lived in a penthouse in Roaring Heights, a town built in the 20s for the 20s. Those years were a bit of a haze from all the drinking and opium. He and John didn’t care, they did what they wanted. Only three years together but they had been intense and incredible. Until one morning Max woke up feeling awful and realizing in his fogged mind he and John had taken too much opium. The magic in Max that stopped his aging also helped fixed illness and a few other problems. He could die from, say, a stab wound into the heart but not a drug overdose. Unfortunately John could, and did.
After that Max swore off love. He went from relationship to relationship, not caring or letting himself get too much in love. Then came the 90s and the really strange time problem. After that–when magic intensified–he became a familiar again, since he felt he had nothing else really to do. Eventually he met Gretchen, and then… Zaid.
He always had a strong fondness for Zaid as the brat grew up. He liked Zaid and Glados out of the lot. When assigned to protect Zaid, he thought nothing of the fondness since he felt the same towards Glados… but then Zaid matured, grew, became an adult and incredibly attractive to Max. After almost three hundred years of avoiding love, love struck him hard.
And Cupid, in all his sickness, played another trick on Max. He took Zaid away. Not like Elizabeth or Charles or John, but by striking Zaid with an arrow meant for someone else.
“It’s not fair,” he said out loud but of course it wasn’t fair, life wasn’t fair. His entire life had been one unfairness after another. Even with good times between. Sometimes he wondered how vampires did it. How they could stand the immortality, because Max couldn’t. He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to live another day and deal with the heartache of losing someone else he loved.
Squaring his shoulders, Max decided to find something to take his mind off Zaid. He shouldn’t have ever even fallen for Zaid. It was a mistake, a mistake he shouldn’t have let happen. Love was worthless. Pointless. Especially for an immortal. No. Once he got over this… lovesickness for Zaid then he’d be all right.
Of course, he couldn’t know that in a year he would receive a letter that changed everything. No, he had no idea what was coming.
*Back to Zaid*
“Reeny said a new word today!” Pa said as I got home from work. I raised my eyebrows, smiling, feeling excited to know what my 22 month old said now. “She said ‘Cebu’!” Pa beamed and I now frowned. “You know, like in the song? With water buffalo? Have you been playing that song a lot?”
“Not really.” I tossed my keys on the end table and began shrugging off my coat. “Did she say ‘cebu’ or ‘zagoo’?”
Now I chuckled. “For her it is. Sometimes she strings my name with Goose’s name. ‘Zagoo’ or ‘Gooza’. Did she say ‘da-ee’ before?”
“Well. Y-yeah I guess she did.”
I went over and kissed my pa’s forehead. “There you go.”
“No. No.” She shook her head. “Ablbh eeehm nnnoinb adlphphph.” Then she patted her belly. “Hunny.”
“You just had lunch, didn’t you?”
Reeny stuck her lips out in the pout she got from her other father. “No?” she asked then began babbling rapidly again, patting her stomach and then patting my chin.
“We had mac and cheese and carrots,” Pa told me.
“Yep, she wanted an orange lunch,” Pa laughed. “Again.”
My daughter’s obsession with orange foods sometimes meant we had to beg or trick her into eating other foods besides ‘owo’ foods. Pa and I chatted a bit then he gave us both kisses before leaving. I put Reeny down to finish her nap then collapsed down at the computer, needing to check things. An annoying, nagging feeling ate at me as I worked though I couldn’t figure out the problem.
That is until a voice said, “Those barriers are rather annoying.”
I jumped about fifty feet in the air and spun around, foot going out to kick whoever it was. A hand grabbed my foot easily and gently lowered it.
“I am not,” Akua said rather darkly. “He is very fast for a human. Kick him,” she told me.
“Um. That’s all right,” I said, wondering how they got past the barriers. “No offense but you’re not… supposed to really… I mean, those barriers you mentioned…”
“The barriers are there to prevent those who wish you ill from entering your property,” Akua said, finger in the air. “Emilian and I are here to chat amiably with you. We do not wish you ill at all.”
“They just caused mildly unpleasant feelings in us,” Emilian said.
“There is potion in the form of lotion for vampires to deal with sunlight,” Emilian explained. “It doesn’t stop the sunlight’s effects however it does slow down and ease it to the point of being able to travel.”
Since they remained standing, so did I. “Is there a reason you came to see me? I mean, I don’t mind at all. It’s good to see you.”
They looked at one another as if I had said something funny. “You have a child,” Akua said and I stiffened. “I can sense her. May I see her?”
“Akua loves children,” Emilian explained. At the look on my face he added, “Not to drink from. Don’t worry. We both prefer our food to be aged. Though typically we drink from animals or that… synthesized, false blood.”
I led them into Reeny’s room where she slept soundly. Akua’s face softened and she bent over the crib, smiling. She reached down and touched Reeny’s cheek so softly that Reeny didn’t even stir. “She is beautiful,” Akua whispered. “Her other parent is an elf?”
“Um. Y-yeah,” I replied, not liking to reveal that Goose wasn’t human but they could sense it so there wasn’t any point in pretending or hiding. “Her name is Eirene.”
“Ah. Greek goddess of peace,” Akua said with a nod. “An optimistic name?”
“I guess so,” I said. “We call her Reeny for short.”
“She is indeed a goddess,” Akua murmured.
“I watched from a distance,” Akua said, glancing up. “I watched my daughters age. Grow old. Wither and perish. And their children, and their children. Children are precious gifts. You are lucky. You and your partner.”
“Thank you, we feel very blessed to have her,” I said, feeling bad for Akua. I couldn’t imagine doing that. I couldn’t begin to imagine staying this age while Reeny grew old and passed away.
Akua straightened up, obviously realizing what was going on in my mind. “We best discuss what we came to discuss. Away from the little one, so we do not disturb her sleep.”
We returned to the living room and this time they did sit down. I pulled the loveseat over since it felt a bit odd to join them on the couch. Akua crossed her arms, Emilian crossed his arms, and neither spoke for quite some time. Finally Emilian said, “We ventured to where we felt the storm in the forest.” It took me several seconds to figure out what he meant then I remembered the conversation we had last time we met. “Someone placed an object there that would collect magic. Collect… mm, power. It is dangerous and we have come to tell you to never go there.”
I blinked. “That’s–it?”
“What else would there be?” Akua inquired curiously. “It is dangerous. Do not go there. Simple. Ah, perhaps too simple? Humans do like to complicate things. What else do you wish for us to talk about?”
“An object of power?” I asked. “What object? Why is it there? Why did you feel the need to warn me about it?”
A cold chill went down my spine then into my stomach, making me feel queasy. “Wh…at?” I asked, somehow managing to speak the syllables despite my throat clenching. “Destroy? But how? That’s not–what?”
Emilian bent forward, eyes a bit large. “Anyone who tried to harness that magic would not only be able to destroy magic, but also die. It is too much magic, too much power.”
“Yes, but someone might try to make you,” Akua said, gesturing intensely with one hand. “We thought you might prefer to know this possibility. That this power is out there and it will kill you, or anyone else.”
“We hope that someone put it there and forgot about it,” Emilian added. “It is old compared to you. Not to us. It seems it has been there for a hundred, maybe two hundred years? However Akua sensed–well, she can tell you.”
“I sense another object of power though this one very new, very young,” Akua stated, looking at nothing in particular. “We felt it nearby last night. Not before. It is just come into existence.”
I shook my head, not liking this. An object that could provide someone with such a power. My mind jumped to the government. Would they do this? Not the old one, but the new one? “The new one does the same as the one that’s been there for a while?”
They both shook their heads. “The new one would barely you give you anything,” Emilian said. “You take its power you couldn’t even make a book float at this point. It’s just like the other. It needs time to grow.”
“Wait how can you sense all this?” I asked, feeling slightly suspicious now that they knew so much.
“We can sense much,” Akua said, not seeming at all offended. “For instance we sense power in you. You are psychic. We sense power in your daughter. Elf magic. We sense power from that lion shapeshifter who is lazing around in the woods. We sense all points of power in a large area. It is partially due to our vampiric nature but also because we are very old vampires. Our abilities have grown and became stronger than others. So if there is a focal point of power, we sense it. For instance Moonlight Falls and Midnight Hollow are both built over great collections of power. Sort of like… hmmm…”
“A basin, or a pond,” Emilian said.
“So we know this focal point in the woods, and know this new one,” Akua finished.
I took all this in, feeling sickened by the news. It felt like no answers were ever really found. Just more theories on how I would… do what the damn prophesy claimed I would do. Which I wouldn’t do. “Where’s the new one?” I inquired, feeling as though I might as well do my best to avoid it too.
She shrugged. “An old building. It used to be a warehouse but was turned into a research facility. No trespassing. The guards carry strong arms against all kinds of trespassers, including supernaturals. It is located two miles north from Midnight Falls.”
I wondered if this warehouse/research facility was where my unknown enemy had settled. “Are the guards supernaturals?”
“No,” Emilian answered though that didn’t really say much. My enemy could have easily gotten human guards.
“Is there any sort of magical protection around it?”
“No.” Same answer, but still without really telling me much. Though why they didn’t have magical protection or barrier did seem a bit confusing. Maybe they weren’t the people after me. Still…
I shook my head and the correct question came to me. I didn’t think they were intentionally hiding anything but for some reason they didn’t seem to want to answer more than the answer to what I asked. So I asked, “Are there many supernaturals there?”
“Oh!” Akua smiled. “Yes. Many, many. Mostly faeries, a few shapeshifters, a couple witches and wizards, and two… mmm… humans, besides the guards who never go inside.”
“We do not know what it is like, as we do not go there,” Emilian added.
I felt a clenchy feeling in my belly. This had to be the place. I stood up, trying to keep calm. “You said you’d keep eyes and ears out to find out who might be attacking me–that might be the place.” I felt a bit bitter that they were only just now telling me about this place. That I had to ask them the right questions just to get the answer. Why were they being so stubborn?!
Both the vampires shrugged. “We assumed the place was merely a research facility. There is a greater concentration of supernaturals where your father works,” Emilian said.
“Just because there is a group of supernaturals does not mean it is automatically those who are after you,” put in Akua. “We apologize for not mentioning it before.”
“It’s–fine,” I mumbled as I sank back down onto the loveseat. “Yeah… you’re right, I shouldn’t just assume it would be the–the place where my enemies are. I–I’m being paranoid I guess. I didn’t mean to snap.”
Emilian stood up and asked if I had a computer. I took them into my bedroom and he got on the laptop, loading up SimMaps. He showed me the research facility’s location as well as the location of a small building several miles south where a bunch of faeries lived. I suspected my enemies would be in the research facility instead. I also suspected that this ‘focal point’ of magic they built had to do with using me. Though… if they did then why had they been trying to get to me all these years if the ‘focal point’ wasn’t even built till last night and still needed time to grow?
“You are not going to check it out,” Goose said in a dark tone. His eyes were narrowed and his chin stuck out. “I know you want answers but running right into the arms of the enemy is not the brightest thing to do.”
“I’m not going to just run into danger,” I whined. “I’m not Harry Potter. I just thought maybe Simba and I could… scout the area.”
“No!” Goose snapped. “It’s an incredibly stupid thing to do if that’s where whoever is doing this is located which it sounds like they are. I’m not going to let you do that. I don’t want you being so dang reckless. For not only your sake and my sake, but Reeny’s sake.”
I deflated, knowing he spoke the truth. It would be a totally stupid and reckless thing to do. “Even if we stayed out of–“
“No, Zaid,” he said sharply and I bowed my head. “You’d say the same thing to me if it were me. At least, I hope you would.”
“You and Simba against a whole slew of supernaturals wanting you?” He raised his eyebrows and I scowled. “If anything were to happen it’d be the end of it. Grams would agree with me.”
It had taken him a while to call my parents and my grams ‘Pa’, ‘Dad’, and ‘Grams’ but now he had no problem with it and it made me feel fuzzy that he did. “Yeah. Okay, yeah. I know. It’s wrong. I’m sorry. But I can’t help it, you know?”
“I know.” He put his arms around me, giving me a gentle and romantic look now–a nice change from the angry one a moment ago. “And if you had a lot of backup I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But you don’t. And I want you safe.” He nuzzled against my chest. “And Reeny needs you safe too.”
So I didn’t go check out the facility though I really wanted to, especially every time a golem came to attack me. I kept thinking how close I might be to finding out who was doing this. I printed out a map and circled the facility, keeping it in my desk. Goose didn’t complain about that at least, though Pa did.
Lumie, surprisingly, was on my side. >Not completely on your side, sort of half on yours and half on Goose’s side because–< “I really think it would be smart to check the place out,” she said one day while we talked about it. >But Goose is right about it being way too dangerous for you and Simba and me to go.<
>You wouldn’t go anyway,< I thought firmly and she rolled her eyes. “Sorry but you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t let you.”
“Oh shut the hell up about that, Zaid.” >I am still good with blunt weapons,< she snapped. “I practice all the time. If this were a video game, I’d be an expert on blunt weapons. Like you with archery and the knives and Simba with melee… >And Max with swords,< she finished, saying Max’s name in her head because she knew I didn’t like hearing his name though hearing it in my head wasn’t much better. >Sorry…<
“It’s fine,” I said. “I’m getting over it. I’m pretty over it now, really. I mean, I’ve thought about it a lot. I miss him but him living here would have been difficult.” >I did have really strong feelings for him, I should have realized it a lot sooner but it never crossed my mind he liked me.<
Lumie shook her head and thought, >It was so obvious he did.<
“Maybe to others,” I grumbled. “But it worked out this way. Maybe I did lose him… but I have Goose, and he’s my–my soul mate. I don’t like the fact I lost my best friend but…”
Lumie reached over, arms pulling me against her in a tight hug. “Goose is a great guy, I’m so happy for you.” >I mean you and Max woulda been cute together too but.. oh Watcher oops didn’t mean to think that!<
I just smiled. “It’s fine,” I promised. It didn’t really bother me too much because even though she said that, only a teensy part of me wondered what could have been but it faded back into my love for Goose.
Soon Lumie and I celebrated our 26th birthday, Adan coming in to visit Lumie. They began dating though broke up when he left again. Lumie didn’t seem too heartbroken but she did seem rather wistful after he left and her mind wandered to him often. The feelings she got whenever she visited my family didn’t help the fact she had really gotten maternal desires and wanting to settle down.
Though our other two sisters weren’t interested in settling down. Presea worked hard with her charity work and Gladdy started her own vet practice. They seemed happy and content in their single lives–well, Presea did date and had a partner she dated on and off though we didn’t know much about them. Gladdy, though, definitely relished in being single.
Then on the morning on February 20th, things got really strange. On the 19th a lot of people seemed to complain about being tired and indeed the air felt rather oppressing. Not hot… but heavy. Reeny cried all night but even if she hadn’t, Goose and I wouldn’t have gotten much sleep. In the morning we were both exhausted, cranky, and trying to deal with an exhausted and cranky almost two-year-old.
At seven-oh-nine AM something happened. The air around me squeezed, causing me to lose my breath for one and a half seconds. Then a great whoooosh as I could breath normally, and the heaviness that had permeated the air for eighteen hours had gone away. Goose panted, looking wide-eyed and nodding when I asked if he felt it too. Reeny screamed in protest, begging us in incomprehensible babble to do something, I assumed, about the weird feeling she had.
“Zaid…” Goose whispered.
I realized it too. Everything looked… red. Everything. Well no, not exactly red but it seemed like someone had put a red filter on a light or something. I picked Reeny up (she had stopped crying but continued to give whimpering sniffles) and went to the window. The red came from outside. Cautiously we both went outside, not wanting to leave Reeny in the house though feeling a bit nervous about bringing her with us. All around us people were leaving their houses too. Cars in the road stopped and people got out to gape.
Everything had that redness to it–including the sky. I shaded my eyes and looked at the sky, trying to figure out what did this. What made everything look… red. Goose tugged at my sleeve, pointing. I looked in the direction he indicated and gulped.
A thin beam of light pierced the air. Going from either the sky down, or the ground up. Now everyone looked at it too, none of us knowing–or understanding–what it was. Like… a laser beam or something. I heard someone down the street screaming something about an alien invasion but I knew different. Because I had memorized the map to the facility, and even though the beam of light was very, very, very far away I knew it was in the same area as the facility. At least the same direction. And since the facility sat a good fifteen miles away I marveled at the fact we could see it so clearly (but couldn’t you see lightning fifteen miles away?)
Then without warning a rush of air whipped past us, quick enough to rustle hair and paper and clothes but not enough to knock anyone over, or knock branches off the trees. The beam had disappeared, the sky looked normal, the red was gone.
Goose and I stared at one another then hurried back inside to call Grams while most the people outside began panicking.