Dante looked around the assembled horde that he had before him. The group was an eclectic mix; there were scruffy Weres, tough-looking vamps and a few other unidentifiables – mostly orcs and ghouls down on their luck and looking to make a few bucks. He didn’t care, so long as they were willing to fight.
Dante paced back and forth in front of the group, looking each of them in the eye. A few fidgeted under his regard – even an Otherworlder isn’t totally immune to a vamp’s gaze, and Dante had had a few hundred years to perfect his. He wasn’t too concerned about trying to entice anyone in the group to his side. That he saved for women, when he felt the urge for a quick roll, a girlfriend, or a snack; sometimes in that order.
Male Otherworlders are like animals, some of them more so than others. They have to work to establish dominance right from the start. Dante did so by holding his meetings in dank, abandoned warehouses (and there are always an abundance of those when the plot requires them), or mouldy cellars. For this meeting, he chose a mouldy warehouse; he wanted to try to mix up his M.O. a little bit.
“Listen up, women,” he hollered, watching as they jumped a little from the sudden bark of noise. He’d been silent for so long, just glaring at them, that they weren’t sure how to react now that he finally had spoken. “I’ve gathered you here for a little bit of fun. I’m tired of being exiled from the city. It’s time that we got to run through the streets, the way we used to, before the vamps and Weres started going all soft on us.” He said this last part with a great deal of sarcasm. It had really bothered him that Louisa had dumped him because of his attachment to the old ways.
“We want to bring back the old ways of doing things. We want vamps to once again feed off the upright cows that walk amongst us. We want the Weres to run through the streets during the full moons without fear of silver bullets flying back and forth. We want the ghouls to haunt whatever closets or darkened corners they wish. We want the orcs to play basketball with human skulls once more!” At this he stopped, because the cheers were growing louder after every sentence, and he could no longer hear himself over their shouts. What had started out as a pretty apathetic group of mongrels had quickly heated into a pack of angry Otherworlders, eager to take back their streets, bring back their nights, and run things the way they wanted it run.
The Otherworlders were busy thumping each other on the backs and raising their various weapons of choice to the sky. Dante stood looking at each of them in turn, smiling coldly to himself. They would do,
he thought. Maybe not a perfect group, but it’s a start.
One lone figure hung to the back of the group, not cheering, not celebrating. He was a slender vamp, and he wasn’t there for the fighting. He preferred instead to spend his days locked in his basement, checking the news on the Web, or playing role-playing games with his buddies; the lack of daylight exposure made his pasty complexion a little easier to explain to his non-Otherworld friends. What he was doing there wasn’t entirely clear, but as he looked at Dante in the front of the group, he felt a pull somewhere deep in his abdomen, and knew he was going to stay around to watch what unfurled.
The alcove where the payphones was located was right next to the washrooms, so Steve stood by, looking he was waiting for someone to come out. He had the bored, impatient boyfriend look down pat -- the aggrieved expression, periodic checking of the watch, and those surreptitious girl-watching eyes. You know the look - “I’m looking at the ladies, but very carefully, so my girlfriend won’t catch me.” I swear sometimes that he practices it, ‘cause goodness knows I’ve never seen him with a girlfriend.
I wandered into the alcove, which was fortunately (for the plot), empty. I could smell pot filtering down from the washrooms, and based on the quality and amount, I figured we’d be left aone for quite some time -- both by people coming and going.
Chip flew from my hand on to one of the phones, then started increasing in size. Most wee folk are fairly self-conscious about this process and will hide themselves somewhere when they change in either direction, but I’ve known Chip since he was a ... well, a wee ;little thing, so we’re pretty comfortable together. I’ll feed in front of him, and he’ll change in front of me, so to speak.
Once he’d grown to his full size, Chip sat up straight on the phone so he could look me in the eye. Full-grown, he was about seven inches tall (oh yeah, never
ask a wee folk this size – height of rudeness, no pun intended), and, seated on the phone, came to just under my nose.
“Okay, first of all, remember I’m just the messenger in all of this, okay? You know I’m on your side, I’ve got nothing to do with this, I just heard the rumour and thought I’d pass it along.” The way he started out, and the fact that he was holding his hands up, palms out, in a defensive manner, led to a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The reminder he gave me was somewhat justified; it’s well-known that I have somewhat of a temper, and I don’t tend to react well to bad news of any sort... and my reactions tend to be of the violent variety. And focused on he or she who displeases me.
I’d never raised a finger to Chip, though, for a number of reasons: he’s my good friend, I’ve known his family for centuries (side effect to being a vampire with a sense of self-preservation), and friendships and trust are very important in the proper vamp families, and finally, he and his kin could fuck me up if they really wanted. But more on that later.
“No problem, Chip, you know you’re safe. What’s up?” I asked.
“Well...” and here he dropped his eyes to look over my shoulder, before taking a deep breath and expelling in a big rush, “Danteisbackintown.” His wings fluttered convulsively as he finished and took another deep breath before meeting my eyes with trepidation.
I felt like he’d punch me in the stomach, to be honest – and a wee folk can give you quite the punch. That, and I felt scared – and I usually react to fear by beating on someone, but I’d already sworn years ago to leave Chip alone. Not to mention it wasn’t his fault; Dante was one of the old-school vamps, the ones who like to drink human blood, sleep in coffins, and basically encompass all those old stereotypes the rest of us laugh at.
The thing is... on some vamps, the old ways make them look ridiculous and stupid. But with Dante and his group, it just makes them look more intimidating. Dante himself is a big guy, with a foreboding scowl etched permanently into his forehead (and with a vamp, you can take that phrase literally). He totally fits the tall, dark and fearsome ideal, if you go for that kind of thing... and unfortunately, for awhile, I did.
When I was younger and stupid, I went for the old-ways vamps; I found the danger sexy. But there’s a lot of peer pressure, posturing, danger and other stupidity that gets mixed up in that crowd, and I felt that there was nothing wrong with my ways. I liked not feeding off of people, and I liked my choices, but Dante and his crew couldn’t deal with that.
Needless to say, just like human breakups, vamp breakups are pretty messy... only in vamp breakups, more often than not one party gets dusted, instead of just dumped. I was pretty lucky to get away with my fangs, and that’s another one I mean literally – Dante and his gang like to “neuter” vamps by removing their fangs. It’s a pretty cruel way to die, especially to an old-ways vamp.
Fortunately they knew it wouldn’t have much effect on me, seeing as how I got my meals from packages or bottles anyhow. I do have a lot of scars from our parting though, and they’re not all emotional.
Realizing that I’d been staring at poor Chip for awhile while running down Memory Lane, I shook my head and focused on him once more. Even through my sunglasses, I could see that my directed gaze had an effect on him; because I was wishing he’d relax, he did. Vamp wills are good sometimes, I have to admit.
“What’s he in town for, any idea?” I asked, trying to keep my voice as calm and neutral as possible. I didn’t want to scare Chip, since I needed him on my side for this. Chip didn’t know all of the details of our breakup, but he knew that things didn’t end nicely between Dante and I. Fortunately for me, he was on my side throughout it, and saw me through more than one rough night.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “All I know is that he’s in town and not too thrilled about something. Didn’t hear if it was to do with you or not.”
I bit my lip and stared at him for a minute. I really wasn’t sure how best to respond to what he was saying; I didn’t know if I should be scared, or what.
“Well, thanks Chip. I appreciate the warning. If nothing else, it’ll give me a chance to get prepared, whatever that might involve.”
“No problem, Louisa. You know I’m on your side.” With those words, Chip shrunk back down to his travelling side, brushed my face with his wings, and flew off.
I walked back out of the alcove to join Steve. Of course, he’d heard everything, so I didn’t have to repeat it for him. He slung an arm about my shoulders and gave me a squeeze as we walked out of the mall. Neither of us particularly felt like shopping tonight.