Who are the Real Monsters?
A red Volkswagen beetle flew through the early morning streets of Skogshaven. Early morning rush hour didn’t worry too many people. It was nonexistent. Some store owners were early risers, opening their shops and catering to those who did commute to the larger cities, but for the most part the town was still asleep. One place however was just closing.
Sile pulled in front of ‘The Necropolis’ and adjusted her sun hat. It was still a habit of hers to wear one usually, although the amulet that Morgan gave her offered her protection from the sun. Nina still had to remain indoors most of the time, that hadn’t changed. The Scottish Vampire looked up at the rising sun; how far the two of them had come since they first met in 1801.
Cold March winds blew over the Spanish hills buffeting the jacket of a grey clad rider. A young man with raven black hair scanned the hills with professional care. His horse gingerly walked up a small slope as last night’s rain had soaked the ground making the side of the hills treacherous. Coming on top of the small rise the young man grunted as if what he saw was expected.
A small battle had taken place among the hills. A dozen red and white clad bodies littered the area. All had been victims of violence. Huge slash marks covered most of the men’s bodies, as if some wild animal had attacked them. Horses too were caught up in the battle, a number of them showing injuries at first glance which looked as though they had been slain by artillery; however, the man knew that magic was involved.
Sliding off the large brown horse, the rider pulled a short carbine from the saddle. “So the nuns were correct, Galahad” The man spoke to his horse in a heavy Irish accent. Kneeling by one of the slain, he turned the head revealing a small Fleur-de-lis tattooed at the base of the neck. “So my dead friend, who were you hunting?”
Prudently, the man did not let the opportunity for good looting go to waste while searching for the remains of their quarry. While rounding up several mounts that were no longer needed by their owners, he spotted a womanly shape amongst the rocks. “What do we have here?” With his musket pointed in front of him, he walked slowly towards the body. To say she was beautiful was an understatement, but her white hair and alabaster skin were covered in blood. Upon closer inspection, he discovered that she was still alive but the sight of her legs gave him pause. “So my cailín álainn, you are as far away from home as I am.”
Turning towards his mount, the grey-cloaked man made a face. “What should I do about this beauty?” The young man stood up and walked over to one of the slain taking his cloak off the body. With care, he covered the white haired girl’s body then picked her off the ground.
The room was dark, the only light creeping through heavy shutters high up on the wall. As the white haired woman rolled under the covers, her eye opened wide. Sensing something, she threw them back, leaping onto the wall behind her. Sharp needle like claws allowed her to hold on to a wooden support post as she scanned the room.
“My you’re a spry one for almost being dead last night.” A shadowy figure giggled.
“Who are you?”
A burst of flame appeared from a small woman standing towards the back of the room. She wore a nun’s habit, but what she was doing no one but the Unseen could do. In her hand was a ball of flame, lighting up most of the room.
“You’re not a real nun.” The white haired woman said.
“My you’re also very astute.” She let the flame die down a bit then it faded from her hand.” My name is Nina and you’re in currently in, well, my home.” Nina found it interesting that the woman spoke into her mind, although with a very heavy accent.
Leaping from the ground, the white haired girl retracted her claws. “My name is Sile. Are you the one who saved me?”
“No that deed was accomplished by an associate of mine.” Nina slowly approached. “He said you are far from home.”
“I am.” Sile nodded then slowly began to fall. Nina’s quick reflexes saved her before she collapsed on the ground. Carefully she picked her up and placed her back into bed. Nina smiled at the unconscious girl. “I can see why he found you intriguing”
Sile sat with her knees up staring at the last of the embers in the large stone fireplace. Already several months had passed since her encounter with the hunters. Her strength had returned quickly but she remained the guest of the strange Vampire Nun.
“You seem pensive.” Nina entered the chamber setting down a plate of raw meat for her guest and a wineskin, that wasn’t full of wine. Sile was amazed that they were able to remain in one location for so long until Nina explained that even here they respected the Paris Pax. Above all no lives would be taken unless in self-defense. The few villagers around the old Abbey in which they resided gave no notice of them, if bodies had been stacked up like cord wood that would not have been the case.
“Do you think that Phillip will discover anything about Eoghan?”
“If anyone can, he will. He didn’t leave the Coimirceoiri because of incompetency.”
“Do you know why he left?”
“No, not really”
Sile took a taste of what was in the wineskin and made a face.
“It’s pig’s blood.” Nina gave her an apologetic smile.
Sile nodded. “I went down to St. Sebastian last night and danced with the unmarried girls during one of the Saint’s feasts. I’m fine actually.” Even dancing was no longer lethal. Before she would choose one or more victims and dance until they dropped feeding on their life force and then their blood.
“Phillip should be back soon then we’ll move on. Spain is lovely but if rumors are true, I think it’s time to go home.” Six years ago, Nina fled Paris. Even to the Unseen the horrors of the Reign of Terror was too much for most. The Peace of Paris broke down and the capitol became a very dangerous place for everyone.
Nina sat by the simmering fire; with a look it relit, quickly warming the room. The Vampire kept half an eye on Sile and was amused to see the smile on her face. What a strange combination, the Coimirceoiri, Fae Guardian and the Scottish Vampire. Although the Coimirceoiri’s job was to protect the portals into the Fae Realm and help those of the Summer Court, a relationship between the two seemed unnatural. However maybe because they were so far from home and they were familiar with one another, that’s where the attraction began.
A beautiful golden haired girl entered the room by a side door, like Nina she was dressed as a nun but without the veil. “Mother, Phillip has returned.”
Sile was the first to move, passing the golden haired girl and crossing into the courtyard. The sun was just setting over the mountains stretching long shadows among the old monastery. A grey-cloaked rider passed under the old wooden gated. Sile admitted, Phillip looked handsome in his French officer’s uniform, finding out that he was actually a physician came as another surprise.
Sile smiled as he reached down and cupped her face. “Mo Shearc” Most horses tended to shy away from her but Galahad never seemed to mind her presence. Slipping out of the saddle, the two embraced.
“Your sorcerer friend is long gone. It appears you were right in that he used you and Adnet as a diversion.” The hunters had ambushed Sile and one of her sisters in the Spanish hills. Unfortunately the other Baobhan Sith didn’t survive but then again neither did any of the hunters.
“Damn him, I’ll get him back one day.” Sile placed her head on Phillips chest. She was now alone, the last of four sisters’ that came out of the Scottish Hills centuries ago.
From behind her, Phillip watches Nina approach. “Nina, the rumors were true the damned lobster backs made peace with First Consul Bonaparte.” The British and the French Republic had signed the Peace of Amiens. “Won’t last though, the British won’t tolerate a strong France.”
“The peace just needs to last long enough so we can find a ship back to France.” Turning to her daughters, Nina smiled, “Girls, it’s time to pack; let’s go home.”
“Sile.” A voice coming from the front door of the ‘Necropolis’ brings Sile forward 200 years. Looking up she watched a golden haired beauty open the door and look out. She was dressed in a very conservative business suit, a vast difference from the nun’s habit she wore in 1801.
“Lorelei, when did you get here?” Sile was surprised at the sight of one of Nina’s daughters. The last time the two of them was together was 30 years ago in Paris. Nina had several children but Lorelei and Medea usually never left her side. Medea ran the lights and sound inside the bar, Lorelei ran the office and Nina, she was the great hostess. The set up in Skogshaven remaindered Sile of the brothel Nina ran in Paris.
“Are you planning on staying?”
“It’s up to mother. She and Pavel are waiting for you in the office.”
Closing the door to keep the sunlight out, the two women headed towards the bar. “Sile.” A small Greek woman wearing overalls dropped from the light fixtures above.
Sile gave the woman an amused smile. Not every Unseen was able to move forward with the changing of times. Technology could be especially difficult. Medea however embraced each change like a long lost lover.
“You’re coming over this weekend?”
“Yes, I’m bringing Kimme and some of her friends.”
“Awesome, fresh meat.” Coming from any other Vampire that statement might have been taken for something very different,
“Sorry Medea, they have been here before.”
The Greek girl didn’t lose her smile. “Excellent.” Sounding like an old man, she gleefully rubbed her hands together. “They can compare the old show to this new one. I have a completely new set up. You might even enjoy it for once.”
“Medea, please leave our guest alone and help Marcos clean up the cabling. I swear it looks like a rat’s nest up there.”
Medea ginned. “Sure thing Mom, I’ll go clean my room.” Giggling she waved passing through a door that said employees only.
“You have something for me, Nina?”
“Of course, please enter my lair.” Nina chuckled opening another door for the Scottish Vampire.
An hour later Sile sat in front of a large mahogany desk. She had been reading pages of documents but she was still confused. “I don’t understand.” In front of here were a number of folders labeled Umeki.
Pavel nodded, reaching over he flipped a few more pages forward and handed them back to Sile. “Well for one thing your girlfriend’s family is stupidly rich.”
“I gathered that already.”
Lorelei put another document in front of her. “They own shares in numerous companies, a pretty diverse portfolio. They also own quite a bit of land in Japan and the United States.”
“OK, I get it, they are rich...good for them. What else?”
“Nothing.” Nina smiled.
Sile looked even more confused then tossed the paperwork on the desk frustrated.
“You don’t understand, Sile. It’s too clean. A family that rich and that old...”
“I can find records dating back seven hundred or so years.”
“OK so they are old and rich.”
Pavel laughed. “My-ah lyou-bemayah, you can’t be that old and that rich and not have some skeletons in the closet.”
Nina moved over and put her arms around her husband. “Trust him Sile; he is as capable as your Phillip in learning secrets. The Soviets didn’t waste their training on my husband, did they, dear?”
Pavel kissed his wife on the cheek. “I talked to a friend of mine in Hawaii and the family is big in the community there as well. They are known for their festivals and blessings. ”
“They come to you home and bless it. Ward off evil spirits.” Nina laughed.
“Blessing? I’m sure they are Witches. That Aya has Warden written all over her.”
Nina nodded. “I think so too, however there is little else we can find.”
“So what does that mean?”
“They are hiding something. The Umeki records are too clean...very professional. “Nina pulled out a smaller folder from her desk. “Unfortunately that’s going to take a little more work.”
Sile nodded. “So our slate will be cleaned.”
Pavel shook his head then grinned. “No Sile, I got this one covered. They intrigue me. Let’s call it professional curiosity.”
Aya had been in a strange mood lately. This was to say a lot since for the most part she can be a rather strange person. There was always a side of her that was rather callous and uncaring. Well, maybe that’s too strong. Since I grew a little older, I have known exactly what position she held inside the family. When I was younger, I just assumed she was my Onee-chan, older sister. My mother was notoriously absent but there was always Aya. Even when I was burdened with a new Nanny, besides Katie, she had always been there to keep an eye on me. When I was hurt, she would be there to comfort me. When I had night terrors as a child, she would be in my room and sing me to sleep. Now the callous part really comes from her job. Sure, she taught me to surf but if necessary, she would have happily killed everyone around me to keep me safe; scary, really, but also comforting. Since I grew older, that uncaring and callous side became more apparent. It was as if she was distancing herself from me. As I was supposed to be the head of the Umeki family eventually that relationship wouldn’t be appropriate. I never would have thought that way but Aya was if anything else, a real stickler to protocol and appearances.
“You’re going to run into a stop sign if you don’t pay attention Aya.” I good naturally said as she almost clipped a parked car. Aya running around in a daze was something unexpected.
“Forgive me, Kimme-sama.”
Frowning I watched her as we continued our run. She was definitely out there and not paying any attention to the world around her. A dozen kidnappers could be following us, highly unlikely, but she wouldn’t have noticed.
“Aya are you OK, you have seemed to be out of it the last few days?” Her weirdness had definitely increased since our dinner with the St. Hills.
“Yes Kimme-sama.” She paused for a moment as if hesitating. “Can you show me where you entered the woods?”
Thunderstruck I almost ran into a parked car myself. “Why in the world would you want to do that?” I didn’t really expect the Woods to change me again. I trusted Sile’s knowledge and judgment in such matters.
Aya nodded hear head as if having a conversation with herself. “Perhaps we can get some clues as to why your changes took place.”
“I see.” I hadn’t told anyone but Agwe what Sile discovered. Maybe Sile’s concerns were true, I didn’t know. My mother did seem overly excited that I was now Kimme, but who would do that to her own child? No, I might not trust my mother but I trusted my grandmother. She wouldn’t be involved with something like that. If I could just speak with her, I was sure that this would all work itself out but she seemed to always be unavailable. My father as usual was clueless; he took my gender change as something not out of the ordinary. I know...my family was really odd.
Our run took us near the woods, so I pointed to the nearest section. “That area should work as well as any other.” Up a small slope, I entered the woods with Aya right on my heels.
As before, we ran straight through. When it was explained to me that most people went in and came right out I didn’t understand. That obviously hadn’t happened to me. Of course what concerned most people was the issue with some people entering and never returned. That hadn’t been an issue yet and I was hoping that Aya knew more than she was letting on.
“It’s lovely, Kimme-sama.”
She was correct; it was like entering a different world. My travels had taken me across the globe through many forests but this place was different, almost magical. As expected we had to slow down, taking a tumble in the underbrush would have been painful.
A familiar growl brought me back to reality. “Run.” Aya needed no prompting and in moments, we both ended up in a tree.
Standing on a branch of a wide Oak tree, I yelled. “Stupid dog.” Sure enough, there was a pony sized green and brown dog circling our tree. A slight movement to my right caught my attention. Aya now kneeled on the small branch with a katana in her hand.
“Aya, what are you doing?”
“It’s dangerous and must be dealt with.” She said firmly.
Without a though I threw myself off the tree and landed near the big dog. Standing in front of it with my arms out stretched, I yelled. “Leave him alone.” Now that might not have been the wisest of things, especially if Fido was actually dangerous. Well I’m sure he was dangerous but I knew he wasn’t a threat to me. Looking up I noted Aya hadn’t actually moved. I was more than a little confused. Normally she wouldn’t have hesitated even with my outburst.
I felt a nose gently touch my back. Turning, I looked into the eyes of the big green dog and swore. Stupid dog found the whole thing amusing. With a light push, I turned him around and pushed him back into the woods. I swear I could hear it laughing the whole time.
“So what’s the deal, Aya?”
Somehow, the sword disappeared neat trick that. Standing up, she gracefully leaped to the ground. She stood silently for a few seconds watching Fido.
“Towards the end of the Kamakura Period, Emperor Fushimi summoned a number of powerful magical families into his presence. Their households from that day forth were responsible for protecting the people from dangerous yo-kai.”
“Yo-kai like spirits?” Pointing to the woods, I said. “I assume also creatures like Fido.”
She gave me an amused looked before answering. “Hai Kimme-sama.”
I gave Aya the eye, she had turned on the old family retainer routine; normally something she only did with my mother.
“So what does that have to do…?” Turning I took a good look at Aya. “Oh, I see so the Umeki family is one of those households responsible.”
Aya said nothing; however, I knew what she was saying. So our family had protected the citizens of Japan from dangerous yo-kai since the 14th century. The thought of witches and their samurai retainers running around butchering innocent yo-kai didn’t sit well with me. In the last few weeks between Agwe and Sile, I had leaned quite a bit about the Unseen. I was more than a little annoyed my relatives hadn’t brought it up. At this point, I wasn’t going to do it. Grandma and I were going to have a long talk once this was all done. What bothered my was the thought of my grandmother dragging me all around the big island hunting down yo-kai on the command of the long dead emperor?
“Explain protection? Does this have anything to do with the baby seal thing?”
Aya looked at me funny then gave me the first genuine smile I have seen on her face in a while. “The magical families traditionally kept the peace between the Seen and the Unseen. They would only use violence in the most extreme cases. Most yo-kai, like humans, wish to live in this world in peace.”
“Sounds good to me.” Realizing that Sile probably came underneath the title yo-kai chilled me. There was no way that I was going to allow anyone to hurt my girlfriend, family or not. “Why wasn’t I told this before?” Waving my hand, I didn’t really need an explanation. Who would believe it? Giving Aya a half smile, a sudden thought occurred to me. “You weren’t supposed to tell me any of this, were you?”
“I was given explicit instructions of what I could say or not say; you are correct. I have told you nothing more than a very dedicated scholar might be able to learn on his or her own. ”
Shaking my head in amazement, I giggled. Aya was such an odd person sometimes. “Well, thank you for the history lesson, it was most educational.” What bothered me was Aya had to resort to subterfuge to give me a little more information on my family history. If we hadn’t gone into the forest this conversation wouldn’t have happened. Sile was right; I knew nothing of my family. If they were hiding this, what else were they hiding?
Authors Notes: A special thanks to djkauf for a little elvish editing. If you like the story please leave a Kudos, if you have the time I would love to hear from you. Thanks to all for reading! - Elsbeth
© Copyright - Elsbeth2011/2012
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