Godric sat crouched on the ledge of the Bank of America Plaza building. The wind was still hot, even at these heights, and it whipped angrily around him. He watched the clamoring city below, its little toy cars and little ant people scuttling in sensible lines and 90 degree turns, obeying the rules of the concrete jungle in jagged stop-go motions. He winced. This was supposedly his town. His “domain.” Looking out from his perch, he could not muster even a flicker of sentiment for it.
It was not Dallas in particular that he found offensive. It was the total, mind-numbing practicality of it. This was simply a space whose boundaries proved convenient. Eric had been the pioneer, taking a little chunk of territory just out of the sightline of New Orleans. Clever, scheming child. One day the supernatural mecca of the Americas would inevitably be swallowed up by rising seas. They would all come running to his door. Godric’s own decision to move to the States had been delayed and avoided and delayed a little more until neither he nor his progeny could bear it any longer. The powers that be offered him all of Texas, which he refused outright. Only a sadist would agree to take on that much paperwork and the dangers of a high-profile position. Austin was already claimed and the area to the north of his child was also unacceptable. It was too close to another ancient like himself. So here he was, the unwilling lord over an unwanted land.
Godric had never been overly attached to the cosmopolitan, though he could not say exactly why. Perhaps it was because he was an untamed wanderer at heart. The whispering thwack of his bare feet racing along damp forest soil and fallen leaves had been his only companion for a millennium. Once he had Eric at his side, however, all that changed. Bit by bit, he indulged his child’s curiosity and allowed himself to be dragged to those lively centers of yesteryear. Carthage and Kiev Rus. Prague and Paris. Londinium and Lisboa, and of course, every so often, his unhappiest of homes, Rome. They had hunted and fed and fought, picking off peasants and princes with indifference, amusing themselves with petty intrigues and diversions before moving on. Along the way, Godric mastered more tongues than anyone could possibly have use for and saw more of the world than anyone need see.
For centuries he had been perfectly content with this routine. He had his projects, of course. He was always been a bit of a tinkerer – a ‘mad scientist’, as his child liked to say. His involvement in the Great Reveal was only the latest experiment. It was fascinating to give the world a nudge every so often and watch how it reverberated.
Only recently had his routine started to niggle at him and feel unsatisfactory. Three months ago, to be precise. Only now did it seem like…not enough. The humans fought the same wars, over and over again with only minor fugues to differentiate each iteration. The supernatural creatures were no better, squabbling and destroying each other for inane ends. Upheavals and downfalls – it all averaged out into a flat line of births and deaths, comings and goings. The same revolutions gave rise to the same old abuses. ‘But the inventions!’ some might protest. Even the latest trinkets and ideas had become incurably impatient. Everything was a click away. Nothing had finesse. It was an untenable pace, he was certain, this ravenous scramble for the next and the new. No one could race toward the infinite forever. One needed to savor things before moving along. It was a philosophy that had served him well for over two millennia. Yet somehow this restlessness had found its way inside.
Godric leapt headlong over the tower’s edge. He let gravity grab at his body, unrelenting, pulling him in for a deadly embrace. It gave him a tiny thrill, the idea of Earth’s possessiveness. She wanted her objects smashed against her uncaring bosom. At well over 900 feet, it might have even put a dent in him. But not today. He tucked his knees and rolled several turns before spreading his arms and landing, neatly, knees slightly bent. His sudden appearance terrified an elderly woman. She was walking a ridiculous dog with furry bat ears. The dog yaped at him furiously in surprise. Godric hissed at it and it jumped into the dame’s arms. She hurled an insult at him that made others turn and he shrugged and crossed the street, leaving them staring.
On the ground, Godric stalked through throngs of people. He preferred to do security patrols himself at regular intervals, though he had plenty of underlings who were more than capable. It struck him as sloppy to not know the terrain he commanded. But that was not why he was hitting the pavement tonight. He knew his irritability was making everyone in his nest miserable. Isabelle did her best to defuse the tension in her gentle, unobtrusive way. Only Eric was daring enough to pester him with constant questions. But Godric did not yet have any answers to give.
He paused outside a vampire owned bar before going into a drugstore on a whim. The rushing whoosh of the automated doors greeted him with a blast of refrigerated air. Inside, the harsh lighting flared almost painfully in his vision and the buzz of the filaments whined in his ears. He wandered down an aisle, fingering boxes and bottles. Some time ago he had trained as a medical doctor, but the sheer array of supplements and devices and medicaments for human bodies had quadrupled since then. He was examining the latest colloidal silver products available (always good to stay up to date on this front) when an assistant manager sidled up to him.
“Can I help you find anything?”
“No,” he said.
“I’m certain you’ll find this section more pleasurable.” She walked down to the prophylactics. She waggled a container of personal lubricant at him. “Have you tried this?” A quick glance at the packaging revealed that the product was supposed to create a sensation of heat for those bothered by the coolness of their vampire lovers’ skin.
“No.” Godric snorted. Apparently the product was for those with a naïve understanding of the basic principles of friction and heat diffusion.
“Do you want to try it?” She gestured to the bathroom in the corner of the store.
His nose flared at her obvious arousal. He could tell that this was not the first time she had done this. “The only thing you’re going to get inside that bathroom is killed.” He turned on his heel and made for the exit, thoroughly galled, but not before two teenagers in the checkout line pointed at him and giggled.
Once he had finished working through the downtown area, Godric moved on to a residential neighborhood where V dealing had been on the rise. The apartment complexes were stacked like dilapidated boxes, piling human lives on top of one another in a jumble. At least the breathers left a few pathetic trees here. They cleaved to the cramped plots of soil allotted to them in regular breaks of the sidewalk. In sympathy, he touched the brown, curling leaves of an especially spindly one.
He decided to pass through a nearby park and made a left turn. It took him out of the alley and back onto a main road. It was then that a faint but persistent thump drew his attention. The sash of a window was pulled up by a tiny human clad in white jammies printed with red fire trucks.
“Are you a tooth fairy?” the little human said in a loud whisper. There was no one else on the street save for a few animals scavenging garbage. Godric looked down at his clothes and wondered if perhaps they had caused the confusion. He was wearing a rather exotic looking tunic made of very fine linen. Isabelle often sewed him things like this; she liked knowing that each stitch was placed with purpose and care. He hoped it did not make him look like a cursed sprite. It must be the streetlamps, he decided. They always made him look especially ethereal to mortals. “I’m no fairy,” Godric said with a laugh.
“Oh,” the lad said, crestfallen.
“Are you expecting one?”
“Yeah, see.” He pointed to a gummy gap in his smile. Godric stepped cautiously towards the window. “I’ve been waiting all night, but she hasn’t come. I think there’s a monster under my bed.”
“That’s highly unusual.” Monsters did not hide under beds. He would know.
“Can you check? Mommy won’t wake up.”
“Why don’t you look yourself?”
The boy shook his head vigorously in fear. “Pleassse,” he begged, the offending gap giving him a slight lisp.
Godric cocked an ear and focused on the heavy snoring from the room beyond. The heart rate sounded slightly depressed. Doped with pharmaceuticals, he suspected, leaving the poor little bean to fend for himself. Tonight was not looking promising for a show of humanity’s finest.
He sighed and climbed in without a proper invitation, dropping easily to the carpeted floor. The recent discovery that a few of the constraints binding his kind were starting to peel away for him was disturbing, to say the least. Everyone needed limits.
Godric made a show of checking first under the bed and then inside the closet. “All clear. I think your Fae tooth thief won’t come until you fall sleep,” he said.
The boy nodded and watched as Godric picked up a Lego man and inspected it, then set it down. He glamoured the boy to think that the tooth fairy did indeed make an appearance, warning the child to never allow strangers into his home again. As he took his leave, he slipped a small bill under the pillow in accordance with the funny human custom.
In the park, Godric flung the handsome little incisor into the bushes. The only tooth he cared to have in his possession – one of Eric’s original fangs – was safely tucked in a vault in Switzerland.
Godric crossed the soccer field. The vegetation there had been sprayed with a fine mist of toxic chemicals to kill the weeds and force the grass to suck up whatever nutrition the ground could yield. It was acrid and stung his nose. Thankfully, no one was out trying to peddle blood, so he laid down on a merry-go-round in the playground. It spun creakily and made the stars circle overhead. A car pulled up and he heard the telltale scratching crackle of a mobile radio unit. The officer approached. Godric did not bother to get up.
“Son? You ain’t s’posed to be here. Park closes at 9pm.”
“I’ll be on my way,” he said impassively.
“Boy, you best get up an’ git. Now.” Godric raised his head and rolled to a sit. “Jesus and Mary!” the cop cried and reached for his gun. He drew it shakily. “Now you listen here you fanger, I got this loaded with wood bullets. Git the hell outta here.”
“Seriously?” Godric stood and the officer cocked the weapon. “You’d shoot a person for sitting quietly in a public space?”
“Fff..fffuckin’ go on! Disperse!”
In a flash so fast the man was nearly knocked down, Godric had the gun in his hand, the magazine on the ground, and the slide pulled back, popping the remaining bullet in the chamber through the air. He caught it in an outstretched hand and took a single, menacing step forward.
So terrifying was the diminutive, pale angel of death that the policeman’s bladder let loose. Godric looked down at the stinking hot stream of urine leaking onto the man’s shiny shoes. “This bullet? It is made of an oak that was three times your age. You would use it to gun down something many, many times older than that. Why? Simply because you are afraid of it? Because I am different?” He pulverized the pellet to dust between two fingers, giving a clear visual of exactly what he might do to the soft-tissued human before him.
“Ah, ah, um…” The man blubbered, holding his hands in front of him in a feeble plea for pardon.
“Humans cut down ancient trees as old as me just to make toilet paper to wipe the filth from their bodies. Is that the value of life to you? Is that the value of my life?” Godric was seething and not entirely sure whom he was asking. “Get out of my sight. If you ever draw a weapon on a vampire again and I hear of it -” He glanced at his badge. “I will make sure that it is for the last time, Officer R. Smith, Number 9063.”
He took to the sky, dismayed that the patrol had only worsened his fractious mood. When he stormed through the front door of his residence, the few vampires in the nest scrambled to get out of his way. Godric stripped, leaving a trail of his clothing down the hallway, and dove into the far end of the pool, letting himself sink to the bottom. He screamed in a furious column of bubbles.
Surrounded in this watery cocoon, the pleasant, low hum of the pump drowned out the better part of the constant buzz and drone of the house’s electronics. It was here that he had to confront what he already knew. He was frighteningly on edge and barely in control and it had nothing to do with urban life or noisy technology or even the zombie humans. It was him.
And it was her.
He began swimming laps, his body a slick muscled torpedo of streaking limbs and azure ink. Godric swam for hours, well past dawn. It was yet another useless perk of his age – the sunrise no longer predictably lulled him into a peaceful sleep. Sometimes it did, other times he was left up to his own devices. It would have been convenient if his insomnia had been granted alongside immunity to the sun’s rays, but alas, he had tested it, with spectacularly failed results. So a Gollum he would have to remain, lurking in the dark even at the height of day. What a bummer.
He had fervently hoped that his experimentation with various fasts would help dampen his powers and help with the insomnia, but it had not really done much in the end. He barely needed blood these days and he could not explain his actions to Eric. His child would never understand why he would purposefully want to weaken himself. Eric certainly did not need to be given another reason to very wrongly treat him like a living god. More importantly, Godric did not wish to burden him further with more of his dangerous secrets. Eric already tended a boneyard of these on his behalf.
Around noon, it suddenly dawned on him that he was obsessively pacing the pool like a manic animal. It was getting him nowhere. He stilled, then slipped out of the water in a single motion and swaddled himself in an oversized towel.
In his study, his hands knew where the book waited without looking. It fell open to the page without searching. A brittle orange flower, preserved at the height of its bloom, lay there flat and undying. It was not the largest text he owned, nor was it even rare, but the tome of E.E. Cummings’ collected works was filled with elegant and unexpected words that reminded him of the woman he met in the desert.
Godric very gently pushed the poppy aside and reread the poem he chose to keep it company.
plant Magic dust
expect hope doubt
where soulless our
(with all their minds)
eyes blindly stare
life herSelf stands
He sat on the floor spread eagle in his dark blue terrycloth, book between his legs, and let his mind revisit that night. The fearless, passionate woman he had encountered had insisted he was somehow cosmically connected to all creation. To the delicate blossom under his fingertips. To the rock and the valley and the soaring, infinite skies. To her. She had said it so easily and with such conviction and…wonder. He had almost forgotten that particular feeling existed.
He thought of the way his desert beauty stared unflinching into his eyes and how her gaze reflected the most improbable of things – awe. Of him! He remembered her touch, their music, each moan. How her erotic kiss made him weak in the knees and stole the breath that he did not need from his chest. He thought of the rumble of her laugh against his teeth in her throat and the pulsing pleasure she gave – and he took.
It was this thought that always proved fatal to his reveries. It was where the symmetry ended – indeed, where it died on his very lips. He was vampire. He took and did not give. He dealt only in death. She radiated life. The woman had accused him of sharing something with her, but he still could not fathom what he had to offer. The question gnawed at him. He wanted answers but he increasingly suspected he would not find them in himself.
He needed her.
Since their paths crossed, the memory of her had slowly drained the color from everything else. It had made his life feel unbearably dull in comparison. He had never seen someone so enamored of the world. The simple rarity of seeing something unanticipated was only part of his fascination. It was also how her joy had been so pure and unrestrained. He wanted it and yet he feared for how easily he would destroy it. He wanted to see the world anew through her eyes. He wanted to what? Connect? Yes, he reasoned. That must be it. But a vampire could not cling to the impermanent. Time would ravage him. Nostalgia was an anchor cast of anguish for his kind. He could easily drown in the swift undertow of the past. A sense of foreboding settled over him.
Godric slipped the book back in its place on the shelf. He walked the room, not feeling the slightest bit tired. He was pacing again, poor caged beast that he was. The postcards in his desk remained firmly under lock and key and he studiously avoided them. They were untraceable notes all written in the same hand. They taunted him with wondrous, seductive visions. Their very existence felt like a dare. He was being provoked, but who would be so bold?
His mind supplied the haunting answer. He wanted this provocation to be from Her. Something sour curdled in his throat. It had an off flavor and tasted suspiciously like fear. What if they were not from her?
Doubt and desire circled in his head in a vicious parade. In the past, he had played with others’ lives like a child spinning tops. He wound them up and set them loose, happy to see how things would careen out of control and topple. But he had never been connected to whatever catastrophic results he had generated. He never toyed with his own life. He did not know this game. It was new and thrilling, but the rules were unknown and the objective still unclear. His head told him to savor this sense of novelty, but he found he did not like it. Not at all.
Several hours later, Godric’s body finally decided to start the bleeds, but by then it was dusk. He was on the floor again, flat on his back. “What the hell is wrong with me!” he said aloud, slamming his head against the parquet. He felt completely and utterly ridiculous. He had let himself become unnerved by a silly human woman.
He made a split-second decision. ‘Fuck patience,’ as his Eric would say. He called out for Isabelle. His second in command instantly materialized in the doorway. “I need to speak with Amleth.”
“Right away, Sheriff.”
Minutes later she handed him the phone. “Lord Godric,” a familiar voice responded.
“You sound like you’re talking through a tin can. I trust you are well?”
“I am. What can I do for you?”
“You can still trace Eric’s accounts, yes?”
Amleth was the only creature alive that Godric trusted with such delicate family business. Though he had been turned by another, Amleth looked to him as a second maker of sorts and had always treated Eric with the amused tolerance of an older brother.
“Of course,” Amleth said. The raven-haired vampire was sitting at his desk in the London financial district.
“I need you to find someone. A mortal woman about 30 years old. She would have popped up on his radar three months ago. He won’t have her on any regular payroll; look for large transfers or any pattern of unexplained expenditures. It’s probably buried pretty well.”
“Who’s he trying to woo now?”
“Believe it or not, no one.”
“Get out. Well, color me intrigued.”
“Call me if you find anything.”
“I’m already on it.”
In the living room of the Dallas mansion, Isabelle could not help but overhear the conversation. She looked over at the settee where their grisly cowboy assassin sat reading an old copy of America’s Civil War Magazine.
“Thank God!” she said silently, shaking her fists in victory. Stan glanced up from his article and shrugged in disinterest.
Not twenty minutes later, Isabelle’s awful little cellular device started screeching and buzzing. Godric answered with a grunt.
“Got her. You were right. It wasn’t exactly easy.”
Godric sighed in relief. In some matters, his child was blessedly predictable. After catching Eric speaking with the woman at the festival, he knew what Eric’s next three moves would be before the Viking himself did. But still. Some little part of him had been terrified he had miscalculated. “Go on,” he said.
“He liquidated some of his holdings in that shipping concern you all started in the ’60s then moved it all around in about a hundred different directions. But you’ll love this…”
“Eric has been throwing cash at her consistently for months.”
“She’s sent it all back.”
Godric erupted in laughter and quickly covered his mouth, realizing everyone in the house would have heard. Still, it was too delightful. He could only imagine how bedeviled his child must be. “Did she now?” he said, steadying his composure.
“Yep. What do you want on her? I’ve got everything that was immediately available – family, background check, credit history -“
“No!” he barked. “Sorry. I mean…I just wanted to confirm that you could track her down.”
Amleth was silent for a long moment, trying to gauge Godric’s peculiar behavior. “Shall I keep tabs on her then?”
“No. No, that won’t be necessary.”
“Okay. Everything alright? I can be on the next flight out of here if you need me.”
“No, all is well, child. Keep this between us.”
“Suit yourself. Call if you require anything else.” Amleth went to hang up.
“Wait!” Godric said.
“What…what is her name? Just her first name.”
Amleth was stunned again by his elder. “Her name is Rosalyn. Her friends call her Ros.”
“Rosalyn,” he breathed. A fine shiver of goosebumps settled over his skin.
A/N: Oh gosh, readers! What do you think? It seems like everyone is scheming now. I struggled a bit with this chapter. The first draft went down the rabbit hole of darkness and depression (obvs. I was a little bummed about TB ending…[no further comment on that mess]). Second pass had me still unsure how to write a Godric that is unsure of himself. Let me know if it works. Things are REALLY going to move fast next chapter.
P.S. Requests for better Godric garb were taken into consideration. There were a number of suit suggestions, so I decided on a birthday suit for all of you. He’ll be in a real suit next chapter. And also maybe a birthday suit again, if you’re very very good (or very bad…suppose it depends). ;F