knelt over the coolin' body of Christian, ignorin' the mastication of
his neck. Gently touchin' his face, she kissed his brow.
And then her expression changed. Comin' up to her feet, she went
to the closet and from a panel in the floor, extracted her two duffles.
Weapons and ammunition clattered. She tossed the bags near the
door. Another bag emerged from the pit in the closet. This
one with personal belongin's and supplies. Her emergency kit.
That, too, was flung to the door.
She might have been only mortal, but she wasnt without resources.
Christian had betrayed her for the last time. His death would no more be
forgiven than the murder of himself. One more Christian was coming
down ... or, at the least, she'd be killed in the tryin' of it.
She'd no intention of waitin' around for the outcome of this war.
She'd not be a victim again. After tendin' the horses, she
prepared her departure. She'd be tradin' her car in the
city. Before followin' the trickle of energy that even she could
feel, she'd have an armed motercycle, and her body would be rigged to
kill or die.
She had friends in the city ... friends who'd know thing that should be
She didnt look back as she set the nose of the car towards Nox Noctis.
The man in the ragged trench stood at the opening to the shallow alley.
Not really an alley at all, but a cul-de-sac amidst low-housing
apartments. Sheer walls rose up on three sides and staring
empty-eyed windows glittered blackly. Residents routinely hurled
their refuse from windows that werent painted or nailed shut. The stench
kept the casual away, but lured those
of the lowest life. Like the rats of the sewers, the scavengers
came here to buy and deal, whether drugs, money, or death.
The motercycle gleamed dully, as out of place here as the woman had
been. But she belonged here now. Long, jean-clad legs
splayed suggestively open, and the blood-saturated shirt clung wetly to
her chest, outlining her breasts. Chesnut hair housed rotting
debris from the pile of garbage that cradled her. Breath still
whistled thinly in and out of her throat.
Even as he stood watching her life seep from her, he could hear her
breath becoming slower, more labored.
He felt no regret. Times had changed him from the dedicated
vigilante against evil. Now he was part of the evil. His
practical nature and analytical mind had convinced him that odds were on
the enemys side. He intended to survive.
Keli hadnt been his first kill, but she'd been the most exciting.
He'd discovered a fascination to seeing the dawning realization that
death was swooping in. He'd only wished she'd experienced fear.
That had been denied him. For that he made her suffer more.
His jagged edged knife had plunged so easily through her ribs, sawing
bone and flesh alike.
He swung his leg over the bike and its roar echoed harshly against the
building. He had other business. The tires clung to the
pavement like a lover as it accelerated away.
Keli didnt hear the theft of her motorcycle. She could only hear
the painful and slowing beat of her heart. The darkness was warm.
Warmer than she had thought death would be.
The single lamp across the road sputtered before it extinguished itself.
Dawn had arrived.
windshield wipers beat the rain away. Tires hissed and spit water
aside. At the mouth of the alley, the six-doored sedan halted.
The driver, holding an oversized umbrella came around to open the rear
right door. Silk-kissed legs emerged first. The incongruous
heels cradled the well-shaped feet. Rain spattered unnoticed
against the suede.
Jeni Von Richter emerged into the unpleasant weather as though she were
attending a garden party. Gold hair was sleeked back into a regal
twist. A sharp shouldered jacket covered her silk blouse, both
opened to a discreet v-cut.
Charles watched her, and only her. Nothing else existed.
Others fanned out, both guarding and blocking the alley. Charles held
the umbrella over them both as Jeni breached the boundaries of the
A drenched, leather-clad girl pushed from the wall and scowled at them.
A nod from Jeni, and one of her ghouls met the girl and a handful of
money exchanged hands. Jeni continued foreword to look down at the
discarded Keli. "Call the van .. " Jeni spoke in that
level tone that masked cold rage. Without turning her body, her
chin led her head around to view the girl. "Why did you wait
shrugged. She knew what Jeni was but in this place, her powers
were nullified. If one discounted her small army that lurked
openly. "I thought she was dead. "
A splash as a tire bumped through a puddle and spun around to the back
end faced the alley. The van had arrived. The back doors
burst open and anyone standing with a view inside would see a converted,
mobile medical center.
Jeni knelt beside Keli. Charles tried to keep the umbrella above
her, and became distressed when he failed. Jeni didnt notice.
Gently, so gently, she slid her arm beneath the frail shoulders of Keli.
Rain had bathed her face free of blood, but had left streaks like tears.
Jeni pressed her lips against Keli's ear. "You will be safe.
Sleep, child. Sleep and let it heal you." Her powers
may have been neutralized here, but it couldnt diminish a talent so old
as hers. The pitch and timbre of her voice was a tool, to be used
as a weapon, or otherwise.
Within moments, her team had loaded the near-dead woman into the van.
Keli would sleep, and healing would come in the form that would hide
behind the spectre of sleep. The doors slammed shut and the
nondescript van, one of a dozen that prowled the streets hunting for
victims, blazed off. It would leave the city and take its
passenger to the shelter of Jeni's domain.
Unable to join the war with any effectiveness, she chose another path.
A team, created by her utterly loyal ghouls, scoured the city, using
bribery and contacts to find the helpless and the wounded. A
steady stream of people were brought to her castle which had been turned
into a massive shelter.
This one was different though.
Why had the lover of Christian Von Richter been so brutally assaulted
and left for dead? Had Christian himself been responsible?
"Its time to go home, Charles .." She settled into the
car and turned those icy-warm eyes towards the window, not seeing the
slew of rain that opaqued the glass. It was her own reflection she
saw, and beyond that, Roberts wavery image.
"She'll be ok, Jeni. You got to her in time." His hand
lightly cupped the back of her neck.
Jeni didnt answer, but she did partially turn towards him. He was
encouraged to drape his arm over her shoulders and it was in that way
they sped from the dangerous city of
watched as Rani tended the terrible injuries of Christian's lover.
The girl had a quiet, unassuming way about her that could fool one into
underestimating her. In silence, Jeni observed and noted.
Time didnt seem to concern her.
Gentle hands stroked along the pain-ridged brow of the unconscious Keli.
Rani called upon her talents and with compassionate slowness, she
addressed the wounds from inside out. Healing a body too fast
would leave it with scar-memory. The slower method allowed for
deeper healing, and less chance of the innate nature of the body to
latch onto remembered pain. Through it all, the white Dove nestled
in Keli's hair, her soft cooing both soothing and hypnotic.
"How is she?" Jeni broke the silence only when Rani
stood back from the bed, raven-black hair shielding her expression.
Jeni didnt know if Rani would answer her. While she might be the
dominant in hierarchy, she would never impose that upon this particular
girl. Fragile, yet with a thread of deep strength. Jeni had
no desire to test either condition. She'd been, quite frankly,
surprised when Rani had answered the silent summons for assistance.
A flap of wings heralded the arrival of the Raven. She perched
herself on the open window sill, intelligent eyes taking in the scene.
In her soft voice, Rani answered, "Her body heals .. the rest will
come with time."
Studying the girls bowed head, Jeni stepped forward and with a light
hand, used her curled finger to lift Rani's chin. Storm-ridden
eyes were stilled in wariness. "You never have to fear of me,
Rani. Nor are you beholdened. Do you wish to return to
"I wish to return to the earth ...."
Jeni didnt betray the stab of sadness the words provoked. Sired
Ventrue, it still could not erase the elemental Tzimisce trait of her
nature. "I understand." Her hand dropped back to
Rani slid a glance to the unconscious Keli. "Do you .... feel
... it?" She spoke with hesitation.
"Yes." Jeni's lips tightened fractionally.
"I could ... take her. She might be safer ..."
Jeni nodded thoughtfully. "Agreed. And,
Later into the night, Robert watched as his mistress brooded, those eyes
he loved so much were deeply preoccupied as she watched the flames
devour the rotting logs. He remained in silence, knowing she would
speak when she was ready. It was Charles that interrupted their
thoughts. "Mistress, there is .." He staggered, as
they all staggered, Jeni just managing to catch herself against the
mantle a second before Robert was there, hauling her back from the
"What the hell was that?" Robert choked out.
Jeni didnt answer, but her eyes turned in the direction of Nox Noctis.
Rani carried her burden with easy strength, and within moments, she
stood with bared feet to the earth. So many receptors on the feet,
and each welcomed the energy that pulsed so eagerly. It was with a
soft smile that Rani surrendered herself and the earth swallowed them
into its embrace. The sensation of flying, or being carried along
by a strong current of water ... or of free falling with complete trust
that the journey would end with yet another strand of pain healed.
She passed through Sari's realm to leave a glowing blue stone ... a
Moments later the rich soil of Darby parted and she emerged with Keli
lying at her feet. It was Sassy who met the sight with
astonishment that quickly ebbed into acceptance.
"Who is that?" She demanded, not unkindly. She'd been taking
an early evening walk, though the sun hadnt yet fully set. Sunsets
were spectacular, but it was the arrival of the butterflies above the
maze that drew her out. There was still plenty of time ... she
Rani just ducked her head before crouching to pick up the unconscious
woman. It should have been an awkward burden, but it didnt appear
to be so. Sassy wasnt surprised at Rani's silence. She was
well used to the oddities of this bizarre group. Cradling the
infant Lacy close, she walked with Rani towards the estate. Mystie
was there at the door and just stepped back to allow them entrance.
"Put her in the room next to Sassy," Mystie instructed
tersely. She pivoted sharply and went to send word another guest
had arrived. It wouldnt add much to the work load, considering how
many hands were available. The estate was teeming with life.
Evening chores brought laughter in the kitchen as the massive amounts of
food was prepared for the working crews. The fields had several
outdoor kitchens setup for those who preferred a less formal setting.
Sassy followed Rani up the stairs and rounded the corner to the assigned
room. "Does she have a name?" Sassy wasnt shy about
anything, and even Rani's silences didnt disturb her.
"Keli .... " Came the soft response