Monday, 30 November 2009

Kettle Genies

Eunice arranged herself primly on the decaying sofa in Vlad's drawing room, and watched dispassionately as Roland threw himself into the armchair opposite, wincing slightly as he knocked his injured arm.

She looked at his handsome face, complete with romantically stormy expression, and wondered why he did not move her at all? After all, he was tall, good looking, rich and an alpha? Eunice knew that she would have trouble explaining herself to the Council of Witches and her family, when it came out that she was expecting a child by a werewolf and wished to marry him. But in the snooty, hierarchichal world of the Old Kingdomers, they would almost be as shocked that she had fallen for a mere Beta!

Eunice allowed herself a little smile at the memory of looking down at her mere Beta as he slept this morning. His curly dark hair had been tousled, his long limbs flung over the side of the bed and he had been snoring like a trooper! Still she would have him no other way, and would entertain no notion of another whatever the Witches Council, her family and Roland de Cazalrenoux had to say in the matter!

Roland viewed Eunice's little smile warily. As far as he was concerned, Eunice was the most thoroughly unpredictable female he had ever encountered, and although she totally exasperated him, he could not help becoming more and more attracted to her. She was like a breath of fresh air after all the beautiful, well-groomed women who pursued him. He was a vain werewolf who knew his own worth, but even Roland had enough insight to realise that most of them were after his money and the status he could give them.

What would most of them do if they knew he was a werewolf, a creature of the night?

'So Roland, are you ready to begin' asked Eunice tartly, breaking into his musings.

'Any time you like, Ms Batchworth' he replied urbanely.

'Well as you know, Sue Fisher has been casting spells on your behalf. However, these have not proceeded as smoothly as we would have liked. There seemed to have been a lot of background interference and it was very difficult to get them on the right vibration. It would seem that someone or something, doesn't want you to have any of this information, Roland?'

Roland looked annoyed.

'But wouldn't that someone have to be immensly powerful to block Sue Fisher's spells? I thought that she was the best in the business?' he asked.

'Oh she is' reassured Eunice 'We can only think of four someones or somethings that could possibly be doing it. The big question then is why would they be interested in your missing Clan member or what have you done to upset one of them?'

'I haven't upset anyone' said Roland a trifle haughtily 'I go out of my way to maintain good relations with all Old Kingdomers and even humans!'

'Hmm, like the way you have been getting on with the Count and Lord Kingsteignton?' asked Eunice shrewdly.

'They are vampires who have had the temerity to involve themselves in my business!' bit back Roland savagely 'Anyway, I do not believe that there is a vampire alive, if you can call it that, today who is powerful enough to intefere with Sue Fisher. If you tell me that Vladimerescu is on the list, I will have to laugh!

'Well' started Eunice diplomatically 'Three of them are definitely not vampires. There is old Tog ol Mallich, the renegade witch who lives on the mountain in Wales. We believe that she still has the power, but she is supposed to be totally crazy, is a recluse and why would she be interested in werewolf doings? There is Old Father Tom the Head of the Centaurs in Georgia, but he's a benign old fellow, and only interested in the welfare of his centaurs. None of the packs have taken to hunting centaurs have they?'

'Don't be ridiculous' snapped back Roland 'We have only the utmost respect for our centaur brothers, besides which we wouldn't stand a chance of catching them, even with a full pack!'

Roland grinned, and Eunice could see why this charming, self-deprecating side of Roland could be lethally attractive to women.

She smiled back at him, which broke some of the tension in the room, and continued.

'That only leaves Einneoach Lal Korami the Trollmaster in the Himalayas, but the one we are truly afraid of could sort of be classed as a vampire.'

Roland raised his eyebrows.

'Whatever do you mean' he asked.

'Well, really it's a thought that should not be thought. But we are worried that it is the one who has not stirred for 10,000 years and who shall not be called by name.

An icy chill ran up Roland's spine.

'But that's impossible! They are only stories told to frighten Old Kingdom children on long winter nights! Surely the great Father of Vampires cannot rise again, surely it's not true!'

Eunice sighed. 'Often the job of the witches is to think the unthinkable on behalf of the rest of the Old Kingdom. Don't forget that the Old Kingdom has been flourishing for many millenia longer than human civilisation. 10,000 years really isn't that long? There are many Old Kingdomers still alive who have heard tales of that time from relatives who were alive then.'

'But, why would the nameless Vampire Overlord, be interested in my internal Clan concerns? What is so special about our missing Kea? asked Roland with a frown creasing his forehead.

'This is what we have to find out' said Eunice briskly. 'Sue Fisher is working on some more powerful spells, but we did have the good luck to have a kettle genie pop up on your behalf!'

'A kettle genie?' echoed Roland increduously 'What on earth is a kettle genie?'

'Oh, they are genies who are attracted to living in and around witch's cauldrons. They like the warmth of the steam and the vibrations of the spells. Most cauldrons have one or two, but we are lucky enough to four resident genies!'

Roland was starting to think that the worst thing that he had ever done in his long life was take that call from Kingsteignton. It had only been yesterday morning, but it seemed that he had stepped into a surreal nightmare that never seemed to end.

'Er, why was it luck that the kettle genie popped up' enquired Roland, not really sure if he actually wanted to know.

'Because he had some important information for you' replied Eunice as though she was talking to a small child 'They don't just pop for everyone you know! The genie said to tell you that some of the answers you seek lie on your sofa at home, look for the lavender.'

'Sounds like utter nonsense to me, but I suppose I had better go and check it out' said Roland beginning to unfold himself from the armchair.

'Where do you think you are going?' asked Eunice crisply.

'To check my sofa? God knows what for, as it definitely isn't lavender! At least I can shower and get some decent clothes'.

'No you can't' said Eunice 'The genie also said that you must first help the vampire find the human, Mike Costello. If you don't all will go awry!'

'What a load of rubbish' ground out Roland 'Of what possible use could that human be to anyone. All he has caused so far is trouble! The best thing that could happen is that Kingsteignton bleeds him dry!!!!'

A little gasp behind him made him whirl round to see a pale-faced Vlad standing in the doorway holding a tatty green sweatshirt in his hands.

'No' moaned Vlad 'You do not mean it. Mike is my friend. What has he ever done to you?'

Eunice went over to Vlad and put her arm around his shaking shoulders.

'Of course he doesn't mean it. If he knows what is good for him, he will go out with you this morning and help you to find Mike. Did you bring that sweatshirt for him? That was very kind of you, though he doesn't deserve it!'

Eunice took the sweatshirt from Vlad's limp grasp and flung it at Roland.

'Change your clothes and go with the vampires, de Cazalrenoux. You have hurt Vlad's feelings for no good reason. I think that it is time that you all realised that we are caught up in something a lot bigger than your petty concerns!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Would You Like Ice On That?

'Hold still, Roland, or I will never get this bandage on!' chided Eunice frostily as she attempted to roll a bandage over Roland's badly bitten arm 'You could really do with some stitches you know, why don't you let us take you to A&E'.

Vlad, who was trying to restrain Antonescu in the corner, just gulped as he saw Roland's flat, angry eyes as he tried to jerk his arm away from Eunice's dainty, but firm, grip. This morning was definitely not going as planned! And they needed to rescue poor, old Mike!

'If it wasn't for you, Miss Batchworth, the Count wouldn't have about two inches of my flesh dangling from his fangs!' exploded Roland.

'Yes, I can see what you mean' replied Eunice turning to survey the Count's bloodied face 'Can't be very nice for you to have to look at. Mr Vladimirescu, could you please get the Count to wipe his face clean?'

Vlad who was losing his battle to contain Antonescu was not impressed by this suggestion.

'But...but... How on earth am I meant to do that' he spluttered at Eunice's back, as she had already returned to her task of binding Roland's arm.

'It was supposed to be your throat, witch' growled the Count menacingly.

'Oh I have just about had enough of you three' ground out Eunice sharply whirling back round, and managing to painfully knock Roland's still gaping wound in the process whilst still retaining her grip.

'Let's get a few things straight! I have information that I need to impart to Mr de Cazalrenoux, I will not tell anyone else. If he wishes to share that information with you two, that is his concern! Also, I do not need any protection from a vampire, however big and scary that vampire thinks he is! The only reason that you got bitten, Roland, is that you got in the way of my freezing spell. I was in no danger from the Count!'

Roland flushed once more.

'It is in my nature and breeding to protect the fairer sex, Miss Batchworth, and you could have been killed!' retorted Roland.

'Nonsense! You were just on some macho trip to make yourself look and feel good! That's why I didn't unfreeze you both for a couple of minutes, to give you both time to cool down! You should both be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. As for you, Mr Vladimirescu, if you really want to be the vampire leader, you really need to start growing a back bone!'

The three male Old Kingdomers subsided, quashed by this outburst. Roland grimly remembering those minutes, that seemed to stretch for eternity, where he had been frozen in mid-air with Antonescu's fangs dug into his arm. He was almost certain that Eunice has timed the spell to the second so that Antonescu would bite him, and she had just confirmed that she deliberately dragged the spell on longer than she needed to!

Tying the last knot on the bandage firmly, she picked up the bowl of bloodied ice that she had used (with unnecessary vigour and enthusiasm in Roland's opinion) to stop the bleeding and tipped it down the sink.

'And I don't want to catch either of you sucking the ice cubes or licking the sink' she stated firmly, looking both vampires squarely in the eye 'From now on, we will have a bit of decorum! Roland, if you want that information, please follow me now into the drawing room.'

With that she swept out of the room, still looking band-box neat without a hair out of place.

Roland, patted the bandage on his arm gingerly and grimaced. He was not worried about infection from the vampire's fangs, his werewolf heritage shielded him from that and promoted fast healing, but the wound was throbbing painfully and you couldn't have said that Eunice's ministrations had been tender! He eased himself up from the kitchen table and ambled out of the door, shooting the Count a malevolent look as he went, painfully aware that the usually suave and elegant Roland de Cazalrenoux was clad in a pair of humans black jeans that were too big in the waist and too short in the leg, an old white UCL sweatshirt that was now ripped down one arm and splattered with blood, and that he still had tufts of tawny wolf fur sprouting from his ears!

'The witch will pay!' grumbled the Count low in his throat, after Roland had left the room.

'No Antonescu, YOU will leave it!' cried Vlad decisively pushing the Count hard back into the corner 'I, too have had more than enough! You still have questions to answer yourself! Why did you try to get information out of Miss Batchworth so aggressively, AND you still have not cleared your name with regards me being warned not to trust you!

The Count looked abashed; Vladimirescu squaring up to him was like a sparrow scaling the Rock of Gibraltar, but he had a new note of command in his voice, and Antonescu had been trained to obey.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Just a Little Misunderstanding Between Friends!

By the time that Roland and Vlad had burst into the kitchen, having first been delayed by a brief scuffle as to who was going to get through the door first which Roland's superior height helped him win, the Count was leaning back against the sink with a supercilious sneer on his face and Eunice was rubbing her sore wrist with a decidedly stormy look on her face.

Roland flung himself over to Eunice, grabbed her to him and asked in a hoarse voice

'Are you OK, what has that brute done to you? Where has he hurt you?'

Eunice, who didn't appreciate being mauled by Roland any more than she did being man-handled by the Count, dug the stiletto heel of her dainty black pump into his sock-clad right foot, and dug her elbow sharply into his middle.

'Ow, that hurt' squealed Roland, jumping back with an indignant look on his face. 'What the hell have I done, I'm only trying to help you'.

The Count just rolled his eyes and said dryly 'I don't think that the young lady is in a very appreciative mood this morning, De Cazalrenoux, and she is definitely not in a co-operative one!'

Roland looked for a moment as though he was going to go at the Count and throttle him, but then thought better of it and pulled himself back with a visible effort. His ears had sprouted tufts of tawny fur, his canines had dropped down in his jaw and his eyes had widened and narrowed into glassily cold green stare.

'What were you doing to Eunice?' he snarled 'You must have really hurt her for her to have cried out like that.'

'I did nothing, De Cazalrenoux' replied the Count contemptuously 'I was merely trying to elicit some information from her; these young people nowadays have no mettle and no staying power'.

Roland growled low in his throat and Vlad grabbed his arm to restrain him.

'Why are you pumping her for information, Antonescu?' spat Roland 'What can she possibly know that would be of interest to you vampires!'

'Well, she obviously came her to impart some information to you, so I just thought that I would speed up the process' said the Count reasonably.

'Anything that she has to say was for my ears only, Antonescu' was Roland's hot reply 'Why on earth do you think that she would tell you confidential client information?'

'Unfortunately for her, that was her response as well. So I had to grease the wheels a little to get her to talk. Regrettable but necessary!' replied the Count silkily.

Vlad, who by now was holding onto Roland's arm with both hands to restrain him, glared angrily at the Count.

'How dare you take advantage of a guest in this house! And how dare you assault a lady under my roof!' spluttered Vlad.

'You don't honestly believe that the werewolf would share any of that information with us do you?' asked Antonescu tauntingly 'And that's no lady, she's a witch and you know what they are like!'

'No I don't know what 'they' are like' answered Vlad repressively 'And I will reiterate that I do not like guests in this house being harassed and assaulted in any way!'

Eunice looked up from rubbing her wrist and said in a matter of fact tone 'His sire ran away with a renegade witch, that's why he doesn't like us. They tried to hush it all up, but his family have never gotten over it. The Count now thinks that all witches are cheap tarts on the make.'

Vlad's jaw dropped and the Count looked furious.

'But I never knew this? Why wasn't I told? I thought that old Igor was staked in the Resistance? His name is on the 'Wall of Distinction'. Is he still alive? Where did he run away to?' wailed Vlad.

'Oh yes he is still very much alive. He ran away to the Bahamas. He's a property developer now, I believe'.

'Shut your mouth witch!' growled the Count 'You don't know what you are talking about!'

'Oh I thought you wanted to get information out of me, Count?' sniped back Euncie sweetly 'Do you want me to tell them how he stripped the rings off the fingers of your aunts in their coffins before he left as well?'

Antonescu had stiffened against the sink and a dangerous rictus had overtaken his face.

'Or how he sold your younger sister onto the slave markets in Tangiers to get enough money for the plane fares?' she continued 'Or that the name of this dangerous siren is Doris, and that she is 40 pounds overweight and used to run a whelk stall in Southend?'

The Count snarled and leapt at Eunice, going for her throat this time....

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Roland the Red

Eunice laughed so loud that she doubled over and clutched her middle, but still she couldn't stop.

Roland, who was thoroughly unaccustomed to women bursting out laughing at the sight of his nearly naked body, flushed a dark brick red. This annoyed him further as he knew that a red face did not suit his tawny, red hair, and that usually he could control his blushing. But something about Eunice brought his defences down and made him feel like a naughty little cub of ten again.

Eunice finally ran out of steam and managed to pull herself up straight again, still puffing from her exertions.

'Oh I wish I had a camera' she started, blithely unaware of the stony reception she was receiving from the three male old kingdomers 'You three look so funny just standing here in the kitchen with a bag of blood!'

She almost started to laugh again, but managed to collect herself when she looked into Roland's face and saw that he was not at all amused. She didn't know him well enough to know that, while he was usually an affable and fairly laid back character for a werewolf, his Achilles heel was his vanity and his feeling of invincibility where the opposite sex was concerned. He was not one to laugh at himself and his wounded pride.

The Count glowering and Vlad looking fussily appalled did not concern her; they were vampires and vampires always were a bit weird as far as she was concerned.

'For god's sake, Vladimirescu, do you not have some clothes that I could borrow from you, or are you happy for me to go on standing here feeling humiliated!' barked Roland suddenly.

Vlad, who was never too good in the morning until after he had had his first warm bag of blood, jumped. His nerves were already on edge this morning, what with Antonescu dragging him out of his coffin at an unreasonably early hour of the morning after a poor night spent worrying about poor Mike Costello, Roland strolling casually into the kitchen barely clothed demanding coffee and then this beautiful woman turning up out of nowhere. Were they really safe in this house if all and sundry seemed to be able to turn up out of the blue, knowing exactly who was in the house?

'Yes of course, Roland, just follow me. Do you think that we are actually enjoying the vision of your half-naked body draped over the kitchen dresser?' he asked pointedly as he took Roland out of the kitchen door into the hall.

As the sound of their footsteps faded as they climbed the stairs, the Count turned to Eunice, who was by now regaining some of her composure, took her hand, bowed deeply over it and said suavely 'Enchanted to meet you; it is always such a pleasure to meet such a charming young lady. My name is Count Antonescu, lately arrived from Romania'

The smile that accompanied this gesture was no more pleasant thought Eunice than the glower that he had initially greeted her with.

She snatched back her hand a bit to hastily and drew herself up to her full height.

'Thank you kindly, Sir' she replied 'I am Miss Batchworth - Eunice Batchworth - and I am chief witch's assistant to Sue Fisher'.

'Sue Fisher' said the Count knowledgeably 'you fly high in witch's circles for one so young, my child'.

'Sue Fisher is my aunt, sir. Witching is in my blood, I come from a long line of high fliers'.

'Hmm, I believe that your aunt is assisting the werewolf in the matter of his missing clan member, how is this coming along? Do you have any information for us?

Eunice was appalled at the Counts blunt enquiry. 'As you should know, Sir, I am not at liberty to discuss our clients with you. Any information that I have is for Mr De Cazalrenoux's ears alone; if he wishes to discuss it with you that is his decision and his concern'.

The Count smiled at her answer, but did not seem pleased with it. He looked intently into Eunice's eyes and said 'But I am not interested in De Cazalrenoux's concerns, I need you tell me exactly what it is that Sue Fisher has entrusted to you and I need you to tell me now!'

Eunice, who was not in the least intimidated by this display, broke the Counts stare.

'Count Antonescu, I don't appreciate you asking me for information, when I have already informed you that it is confidential and for the ears of our client only! It is not the act of a gentleman. And please don't try and entrance me with your stare again! I am not a human and could stare down a vampire from the age of five!'

'You make a great mistake, young lady, crossing me. There are things afoot that you could not possibly know the significance of, things that are bigger than your stupid confidentiality clauses! You will tell me now what you know, or you will regret it!'

With this speech the Count leaned over, grabbed one of Eunice's wrists and started twisting it.

'Let me go' she screamed at him and kicked him heftily on the leg 'I will tell you nothing. I do not know you. I do not trust you. And our client's confidentiality will not be broken'.

The Count just smiled some more. Eunice was a tall girl, but she was willowy and slight. The Count was a very tall, very stocky, preternaturally strong vampire from an old blood line, and her kicking him had little or no effect.

'You will tell me' he said sweetly 'And you you will tell me now, before the werewolf and my so called leader return'.

'No!' said Eunice promptly, sinking her teeth into his arm in an attempt to make him let her go.

'I like your spirit, but unless you really want me to hurt you, you will tell me what I wish to know!'

At this the Count increased the pressure on Eunice's slender wrist, causing her to scream out loud. The Count grabbed her to him and roughly put his hand over her mouth to stop her cries.

It was too late however, as the sound of pounding footsteps were heard on the stairs, and both Roland and Vlad burst into the kitchen.