First Chronicle: The Stolen
He clicked his tongue against his teeth as he studied the black car, looking like it just rolled off the factory line in ’67. What a fucking idiot, leaving a cherry car like this where anyone with sticky fingers like mine can get it, he thought with a smile. Scuffed running shoes made virtually no sound as he circled the car like an erstwhile shark. Chuckling, he pulled the Slim Jim from his jacket pocket and slid into the window seal.
Derrick pressed his tongue into his cheek as he jiggled the piece of spring steel to grab the lock and open the door. A car this fine didn’t need to have its windows shattered to get inside. A car like this was like a fine lady; one had to treat it with care to get what they wanted. Derrick was already imaging himself driving the muscle car, showing it off to his buddies and them congratulating him for his fine find.
Right as the hook of the piece of steel caught the door lock, a loud click right behind his head made all of his muscles lock.
Blood roared in his head as his heartbeat thundered like a drum, his breathing quickened as he felt something hard poke the center of his back. Silence stretched on for a long moment, just the thought of that click made Derrick want to evacuate his bladder as the pressure from his back subsided for a moment before prodding him again. His hands rose. The Slim Jim clattered noisily to the ground.
“What the sodding hell do you think you’re doing?”
The voice was low, female, and thick with an accident that was from somewhere from the United Kingdom, but probably far away from Manchester United. He saw his reflection in the car window, but the person poking him with something potentially very dangerous was nowhere to be seen. There was another poke, harder and with more force this time.
“I asked you a rutting question, wanker. What the hell do you think you’re doing? Not to mention, Manchester United is a bloody team, not a place in England,” the feminine voice with its oddly lyrical accent demanded, going even lower in tone.
He swallowed and his voice caught as he answered, “A-admiring the car.”
“With the Slim Jim you so cavalierly dropped at your feet,” she, he thought the speaker was a she with that voice, said.
He felt his body begin to shiver as coldness filled his veins. His throat suddenly went dry and he stammered, “I . . . well . . . I was . . .”
“Going to lift my car, you arrogant pillock!” the voice yelled right before a small hand clamped on his shoulder. The grip holding him was akin to iron or something even stronger as he was easily spun around like a child’s toy to face the barrel of a very large gun and a woman his height.
In the wane lighting created by a flickering streetlight, Derrick could see that the woman pointing the very large gun at him looked even younger than him, late teens or very early twenties at best. Her eyes were narrowed at him, and locks of blond hair had escaped a long braid that was resting on her shoulder. Her fine boned features would have been pretty if he hadn’t realized that they were splattered with blood. Not completely covered, but there was a dark spray on one cheek, across her chin, and forehead.
His stomach churned as she lifted the gun to his face. Limbs trembled at the sight of the large barrel leveled right between his eyes. She pressed closer to him, and he felt something thick and heavy hit his leg. A cry tore from his lips until he realized that the duster she was wearing brushed against his leg. She sighed, rolled her eyes, and the gun was slid into a holster on her side.
His knees almost gave away, but she grabbed his shirt with the same hand that had spun him around. Suddenly he was higher than her, his shirt pulling at his neck and back with his feet dangling from the ground. “I should smite you, I really should,” the blond said as she took a step back, her arm still extended as she held him easily in the air.
“Oh God, please don’t kill me,” he whimpered as his bladder decided now was a good time to empty itself. The sound of pissing filled the air and the sharp, ammonia filled scent his nostrils as hot tears rolled down his face. Warmth slid down his legs and soaked the front of his jeans as she tilted her head to watch him soil himself.
She blinked twice, an almost birdlike gesture, and said, “Now this is really the epitome of sadness.”
Derrick was now sobbing, almost choking on his own snot and tears. Babbling poured fourth from his lips, pleas of, “Oh God, please don’t kill me! Jesus save me, oh shit, oh God, oh fuck please Jesus . . .” filled the air.
“Jesus was a zombie,” the blond said with a sigh before turning, moving his body away from the long forgotten Camaro. Derrick was still crying and he screamed as he felt himself moved. His hand locked on the blond’s wrist as she raised one graceful eyebrow at him. “Do let me go before you soil yourself further.”
He wailed incoherently, shaking his head and flailing his legs back and forth. The blond sighed, and then moved her arm. Within moments he felt air rushing around him and his scream echoed around him as he felt the ground coming to meet him. Pain radiated from his rear, back, arms and legs as he landed on something rather soft for the most part. A pungent aroma made him cough as a wad of phlegm spilled forth from his lips. The movement brought something heavy crashing down to his head and stars went supernova in his vision.
Nausea churned his stomach as he struggled for breath as he felt slick, wet bags under his hand. His clearing vision saw the metal trashcan lid that had just bludgeoned his head and a pair of heavy boots attached to long legs with a duster flaring dramatically behind them as they approached. Derrick struggled against the trash, but he ended up slipping and landing in the mass of bags as the blond crouched before him, and for a moment he swore that the eyes that narrowed at him were glowing bright red.
A long index finger with the nail painted a rich plum poked the center of his forehead. He frowned at hit before meeting eyes that were now a deep, violet-blue. Eyes that he couldn’t not stare into, like some compulsion. He felt the world slip away, that his fear was gone, and he had done something rather unforgivable.
“Now, what do you say?” the blond asked with a sing-song lilt in her voice.
He stared up at her in a sense of awe and wonder, even the fact that his wet jeans were cooling and chafing him was completely slipping away. He swallowed and answered, “I’m sorry.”
“Now why are you sorry?”
Because he had done something. Something rather unforgivable. That’s why he was sorry.
He slowly blinked and answered, “Because I did something wrong. Unforgivable.”
“Yes, you did,” the blond said with a smile that lit up her face and a cheerful nod, “So what are you going to do about it?”
A frown etched into his features as he tilted his head and answered, “Earn forgiveness.”
“How so?” she asked with that same beatific smile.
Derrick found himself smiling back and answered, “Turn myself in. To the cops.”
“Good show. Now then, and me?” she asked with her hands on her hips as she was still crouched before him.
He realized that there was no pretty blond girl before him. There never was. He was about to jack that magnificent car when he realized he was doing something wrong. Unforgivable even. He couldn’t keep doing this, just the thought of lifting some car with his Slim Jim made his bits shrivel into his stomach. Or that could be because my jeans are wet and cold too, he thought dimly, wondering how the hell that hadhappened. If he didn’t know better, he would have sworn he pissed himself.
In a moment, he needed to pick up his Slim Jim and walk himself to the nearest police station. He’d turn himself in. He’d get a lawyer, but submit to whatever punishment they wanted to give him.
Right now though, he stood up out of the pile of garbage only to feel a small fist knock him ass over head as stars bloomed behind his eye lids. The world swam around him and started to blur and fade into darkness. Before he lost consciousness, he heard some woman’s voice with an odd accent proclaim, “Wanker!"
Bare, glowing white feet left patches of frost with each step they took. Her breath was loud and she could hear her heart thundering in her ear as she ran. A branch grabbed the edges of the once fashionable dress she had been wearing, and Eirwin tugged at it.
Silk the color of midnight skies tore, ice spread across the branch, and she pulled free. Tiny, freezing puffs of air spilling forth from her lips caused the air around it to steam. She kept running, her keen ears picking up the sound of foot falls behind her. Trees and heated air became a blur around her as she forced power from the Earth into her limbs to move swiftly and to keep from tiring.
The side effect of that was that her feet left patches of hard frost with each step, giving her pursuers a clear path of where she had been and where she was going. Her glowing hands trembled as she looked around, aware of an owl watching her flight in a tree above. She paused for a moment, and looked around. Frost rippled into pure ice, enveloping blades of summer grass in a fine coating of ice as the temperature dropped even further in the forest.
A loud rush passed through the canopy over head, and she spun around. Licking her chilled lips, Eirwin darted to the side, pouring more power into her limbs. She darted swiftly through the forest, barely aware of brambles and thorns scraping her feet, legs, and arms while branches tugged at her long, silvery hair.
The rustling above stilled and she peered into the trees to find glittering crimson eyes watching her. Her eyes narrowed as her blood roared in her veins as she could see a long tongue marred by a barb of metal run over pale lips. She could see the fangs bared in the grimace of the leather clad hunter above. Their eyes met and he blew her a kiss before wagging his pierced tongue at her.
“It’ll go easier for everyone if you give yourself up, Snowflake!” he called out to her from his perch.
Eirwin gathered the moisture from the air around her, and felt the ice from within her. With a scream, she pointed her hand at him, calling forth the power within her to drop the temperature more and more. Tendrils of ice spread in the ground around her and plants began to shrivel at the cold. She focused the chill around the hunter, both creating and wrapping layer upon layer of ice upon him.
Soon he was literally frozen solid in place, and unable to hold himself steady on his perch.
She had bought herself a moment or two as she heard the block of ice tumble loudly to the ground. Eirwin began to run again, tiny droplets of ice clinging to her form and eyelashes with each movement. She was dimly aware that she was running blindly, her logic frozen within her and unattainable. Her thoughts were a jumble, memories of a sharp betrayal before the hunt began.
More rushing in the brush around her thundered in her ears. Before she could react, hot, fiery pain ripped through her left leg. A shrill cry escaped her lips as all the magic within her suddenly turned off as a chill so cold it burned rippled through her. The ice that had formed on her skin began to melt as the heat of her blood trickled from her leg. She looked down to see a thin, metal rod sticking up from her leg.
Shaking hands grabbed the rod and Eirwin screamed as that chilled burning passed through her palms. Her weight collapsed onto her good leg as she began to pull the iron rod out of her leg. Each tug brought forth a fresh wave of agony that made her head spin, her vision blacken, and bile raise in her throat.
Footsteps closed in around her and she looked up with tear filled eyes at armored men with sharp, pale features despite their respective races, and a hulking beast that was hewn from both wolf and man approach. She screamed as she tugged harder and harder at the rod in her leg. Hot blood spilled onto her hands as the group approached.
“I would have appreciated if you would not have harmed her,” a droll male voice said from behind the gathering of predators now surrounding Eirwin.
A lanky man with skin the color of coffee halfway mixed with cream shouldered a giant, black crossbow. White fangs flashed against his tawny skin as his glowing red eyes stared longingly at the blood pouring down her leg. Her vision was starting to darken as the iron rod within her started to pull back once the way it came, each tug bringing a fresh trickle with it. He quickly looked away and said, “Snowflake’s Faerie. She’ll heal.”
“You injured her with iron,” that male voice replied and Eirwin’s chest tightened at the sound of it. She looked around and felt her heart sank as a tall, slim figure with hair the color of spun gold and eyes like spring grass approached. His eyes met hers and she reached out to him.
She whispered, “Uriah.”
The crossbow wielding hunter replied, “She froze Rufus.”
“Rufus will recover, it will take her longer to heal from an iron inflicted wound. We will have to lower her asking price,” Uriah said as he ignored her out stretched hand. As she watched, his features shifted. His blond hair bled to a deep brown and as she watched his eyes shifted from green, to blue, to brown, and to gold.
The hunter growled slightly and said, “She’s a virgin Unseelie Faerie. We can ask whatever fucking price we want for her, flesh wound or not.”
“Grey, I have a reputation to maintain. We’ll have to let her heal before we take her to auction,” Uriah said with a shrug before snapping his fingers, “Gather her up and do try not to injure her again.”
Public places that weren’t Walmarts were ideal meeting places for immortals that couldn’t go out in daylight. Due to the presence of blissfully ignorant humans, violence generally didn’t break out. However finding places that were open twenty four hours that more dignified immortals would consign themselves to visiting was something else.
Forest herself didn’t mind having a meeting at a diner, but someone who had been born to nobility in the Victorian area might turn their nose in disgust before scoffing at the very insult. So the trick was finding a place that wouldn’t wound delicate sensibilities, had enough witnesses to err on the side of caution, and that was open at least well past dark. Being open twenty four hours a day was ideal, but being open until midnight was workable as well.
Which was why the Camaro was nimbly parked in the small and cozy parking lot of the Apollo’s. As soon as Forest stepped out of the car she could catch the subtle hints of muffins baking in the back and fresh coffee being roasted and brewing. This was a place popular with the locals due to its fair trade coffee that was freshly roasted on sight, late hours, and free Wi-Fi. It was sported with paintings that were both gorgeous and horrific, overstuffed chairs made out of plush material that threatened to swallow people whole when they sat on them, and soothing New Age music that floated dreamily along in the background.
Drying blood had the consistency of old Jell-O in its stage before it completely dried to a flaky crust. It was itchy and tended to make the skin around it unpleasantly taut for some reason. The once sweet coppery smell had become stale and almost rancid as it dried upon pale skin. Unfortunately, the glossy black finish of the classic Camaro wouldn’t offer a reflection to show exactly where the blood had splattered to clean it off.
Luckily, Forest kept a cash of wet wipes in the boot of her car for blood splattered occasions. The lavender and chamomile scent helped sooth her nerves as she scrubbed the caked blood from her face. It left a little bit of a residue behind, but at least she didn’t look like the Final Girl from a slasher movie. She crumpled the wipe in her hand before moving to inspect her precious Camaro more closely for any damage from the Not So Artful Dodger.
Sighing, she brushed a loose lock of hair away before kneeling in front of the car.
Older cars as a rule were generally easier to lift than their more modern counter parts due to their lack of things like air bags and safety features. While the Camaro sported the latest sound system complete with a jack to hook up her MP3 player of choice into it, it wasn’t completely modernized. Some things did not need improvement, and most of the parts of the Pony Car were as they had been when it rolled off the Detroit line back in 1967. That jumped up little tosser would have gotten off easy if he actually hurt it, she thought with a scowl.
There were no blemishes at the first cursory glance, but she narrowed her eyes and looked harder. A spike of heat that had nothing to do with the rush of warmth of blood she’d just ingested filled her as she saw a tiny scratch as long as her pinky nail. She took the wet wipe in her hand and began to rub at the offending mark.
The black paint gleamed wetly from her attentions, but the mark would not fade away. Sighing, she stood up and walked to the coffee shop. Luckily, the blood staining the wet wipe wasn’t hers so she didn’t have to worry about burning it to keep an eager spell caster from trying to curse her or what not. So it was unceremoniously dumped into the trash can and she looked up at the coffee shop to get a feel for it before entering.
A group of college somethings were sitting on the patio, lit up by their cigarettes. Steam from cups made from recycled material and smoke rose up in fanciful eddies as inane prattle reached her ears. Light glinted on facial pricings and haloed hair in colors that really didn’t occur in nature. Forest shook her head at them with a tiny smile before pushing in the door.
She’s probably late due to her meeting up with something that required stopping with an excessive amount of violence. The thought rang out clear as crystal in Forest’s mind, the sound of it filled with the abject irritated disapproval that only an English scholar could drum up. Her lips curved up at the sound of the thought as she started scanning the few people who were enjoying hot caffeinated beverages inside.
From the back of the room, at a table housing a full tea caddy set, a pair of ice blue eyes met hers from across the room. Her smile grew and she sent her reply mentally to him, I would say only a moderate amount of violence. Nothing caught on fire.
Not even the smell of those ridiculous wipes can mask the stench of werewolf, the male and extremely English voice replied.
Forest walked up to the counter and was greeted by a Barista sporting a full sleeve of tattoos in vivid green Celtic knots and a halo of curly black hair. I still have the taste of werewolf in my mouth, she replied before saying aloud, “One . . . okay, what is a bloody large around here?”
The Barista’s pierced lip curved up in a smile and she replied, “Nanos is ‘Small’, Angeion is ‘Medium’, Bathus is ‘Large’, and Anax is ‘Extra Large’.”
I have a pot of freshly brewed Organic Earl Grey here. I have to admit, it isn’t bad, the Englishman replied as he could hear her whole conversation from where he was sitting.
For someone who was upper caste and English to say that a tea that wasn’t brewed in Great Brittan, “It isn’t bad,” was outright calling it incredible. As teas went, Forest wouldn’t turn her nose up at a cup of Earl Grey, but she didn’t seek it out either. So she was looking at the menu, particularly the fresh fruit smoothies listed in the non coffee and tea section.
The Barista’s smile widened as she leaned forward on the counter, tilted her head back, and looked at the menu as well. She said, “If you have any questions, feel free to ask.”
“I want something absurdly fruity with copious amounts of juice and pulp,” Forest replied as she cocked her head at the menu.
“God, is there some event or convention in town?” the Barista asked.
Forest blinked, frowned and asked, “Not to my knowledge. If Bruce Campbell was in town, I’d know.”
Throaty, infectious laughter bubbled up from the Barista before she shook her head and replied, “No, yours is like the second freaking amazing accent I’ve heard all night.”
“Oh, thank you,” Forest said as she felt stolen warmth fill her cheeks. Absently she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear before pursing her lips together.
The Barista pointed up to the menu and said, “Well, if you’re in the mood for something hot, the Citrus Melody herbal tea is one of my favorites. If you’re wanting something more smoothie like, there’s the Passion Cooler. It’s got orange, pineapple, passion fruit, and mango juice in it with a banana.”
Good heavens, that sounds absurd, the Englishman said with a snort in Forest’s mind.
Forest grinned at that and said, “I’ll take an Anax Passion Cooler then.”
Somehow, I am not surprised. The thought was punctuated by the mental equivalent of a snort. The Barista walked away and started to brew said absurd concoction. Forest flinched as her sensitive ears caught the whirl of a blender as she walked over to collect her drink. Within moments she was passed a large clear cup filled with a bright, yellow-orange froth. It was soon impaled with a straw as Forest meandered to the table in the back.
Sitting there was a lean man who appeared in his mid twenties with slightly mussed short black hair, sharp features with high cheekbones, piercing ice blue eyes, and a hint of stubble on his chin. He was dressed in a button up dark grey shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and blue jeans. Long fingered hands cradled a heavy mug on a saucer as those blue eyes watched her as she sat down. He gave the aura of a scholar who had gone rogue, which wasn’t off the mark.
William Irons of the Vampire Council said in his cultured English accent, “You are late, Forest.”
“There were werewolves and someone was trying to lift my car,” Forest said as she took a drink. A bright, tropical medley danced upon her tongue leaving the sweet smack of bananas and the sharp tang of citrus and mangos behind. Her eyes widened as she took another drink, her toes curling at the taste.
William raised his eyebrows, sighed, and said, “There are always werewolves.”
“They were going to eat a poor co-ed, after they had their bit of fun with her,” Forest replied with a frown.
William shook his head and asked, “How did you stumble upon this?”
“I heard the girl’s anguish,” Forest said before fiddling with the straw.
The Englishman reached to a messenger bag that was resting beside his chair. He said, “You were listening for such things.”
“I have power. If I can save someone who needs saving, I should,” Forest said before taking another pull from the straw.
He lowered his head as he started to open the messenger bag. He said, “The Council condemns such actions. The Council highly suggests that you err on the sides of discretion and caution in your actions.”
“I’m sodding Law Unto Herself. If the Council can make me, I will,” Forest said with a snort.
White teeth dazzled in William’s face as he smiled at her. “Should I tell the Council that?”
“Add a cheeky, off color hand gesture,” she answered with a nod before looking into his eyes. There was a pause as he drank his tea and her fruit mixture. She toyed with the lid of her cup with her fingers and said, “And what does William Irons want?”
“I want Law Unto Herself’s assistance on a matter that the Council ended up dismissing,” William answered before putting a thumb drive onto the table.
She raised one eyebrow and asked, “Really, and not Ash’s, considering your history with each other?”
Those icy blue eyes looked down and his long fingered hands absently toyed with the half full mug. He asked, “How is Ashlynn, by the way?”
“Still preying after rapists and the like. She’s currently in Milan,” Forest said with a shrug.
William nodded and said, “Thank you for keeping track of your students like you do.”
“I’m a Mother Hen who cannot leave well enough alone,” Forest said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “So, what is this job you have for me?”
The Englishman lifted his mug up to his lips again and he replied, “I believe I stumbled upon slave traffickers.”
“Lord and Lady,” Forest proclaimed as she looked at the thumb drive. “Let me guess, of the supernatural type.”
William nodded and said, “I believe so. This goes far deeper than simple forced prostitution in exchange for leaving their country.”
“Ash would have your guts for garters if she heard you say something as dismissive as ‘simple forced prostitution’,” Forest said with a sigh and a shake of her head.
“That is a human concern,” William replied with a frown, “This looks like a supernatural element selling people, human, vampire, or otherwise, to the highest bidder.”
She rubbed the thumb drive between her fingers and mused, “Then why hasn’t anyone picked up on them before, or are they a new player?”
“I think technology has advanced enough that they cannot simply keep as hidden as before. The drive has all the information I have gathered,” William answered as he stood up, leaving the tea pot and mug behind.
Forest eyed him and asked, “And how did you find out about it?”
“One of the Enforcers’ get vanished. The fledgling was young enough that the Sire bond was still in full effect, and they could sense what was happening to them. We think he managed to track them down, but neither the fledgling or the Enforcer was seen again,” William answered in a low voice.
“And the Enforcer had enough sense to have a failsafe message at the ready,” Forest said before brushing a lock of her hair back.
Bloody hell, a Council Enforcer isn’t anyone to sneeze at. I’m even leery around them, but if they didn’t manage to save their progeny then I’m going to be dealing with something quite nasty, Forest thought as she looked at the thumb drive. The memory device was slid into one of her leather duster’s inner pockets before she idly took another sip of the smoothie. It was cold and bland on her tongue, as if the taste had been washed away by the levity of the situation. She rubbed her hands back and forth on the sides of the cup, leather half gloves offering some protection against the chill.
William nodded and answered, “Yes. The Council believes that he was targeted because he ruffled some feathers.”
“Considering what the Enforcers do, that’s not too hard of a stretch,” Forest said with a shake her head. Forest tilted her head back to rest it on the edge of the chair. White light from the fixtures above nearly blinded her. She shielded her eyes from it, sighed, and said, “I’m surprised you guys didn’t look into it more.”
“It was looked into, but I didn’t lead the investigation,” William said with a bit of a snort as he took another sip of tea.
Forest lifted her head back up and replied, “So you of course went digging, weren’t happy with your findings, and called me to bust some heads. Lovely."
“I know, and if you decide that you do not wish to take this assignment after reading the information stored, then let me know,” William said with a smile.
She raised an eyebrow and asked, “Is this pro bono or am I getting paid my usual rates?”
A vampire paling was a neat trick, especially since they were losing color in an already mostly colorless face. He cleared his throat, adjusted his bag, and replied, “I would need some time to arrange that sort of capital.”
“I know you’re good for it, Will,” Forest said as she sat back up straight.
He nodded and replied, “I know.”
She watched his back as he started to leave the coffee shop. She sent to him, Thanks for letting me know, Will. Most of the other members would have simply kept silent about it.
If Ashlynn knew I let such a thing go past me without doing nothing . . . William replied.
Forest felt her lips curve up and she replied, She’d be the last thing you’d see. Why didn’t you send for her then? She wouldn’t have asked for anything in return?
William turned from the door and met her eyes one last time. An Enforcer was killed by these brigands. I am not putting Ashlynn in that sort of danger.
Ah, of course, Forest thought as she watched the Englishman leave the coffee shop, leaving her alone with her absurd smoothie and the thumb drive.
"The Law Unto Herself Chronicles" is my first love, I've been with Forest since my early teens and it is my dream to share it with readers like you. This story wouldn't exist without your support, unfortunately it doesn't pay the bills.
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Thank you for your time and support, and remember without you this wouldn't be here.
Jennifer L. Barnes