If Eva had been regretting the ritual before, she was now thinking that it just might be the death of her.
Sawyer was still dissecting corpses around the ritual ring. By the looks of things, he would be at it for a while.
Which gave Eva plenty of time to focus on the events around her, despite the queasy feeling it gave her.
As they moved, first to a van and then from the van to a small smoke-filled bar, Eva held on to Nel. Both for support and because she had decided to wear her blindfold. While she could have clouded the area with blood as she had back while lacking eyes, such a thing didn’t seem all that wise when heading into a den of vampires.
Using Nel for support helped lessen the nausea from her shared senses. Slightly. The less she had to think about her own surroundings and movements, the better.
Her blindfold also helped with that as well, though the nausea wasn’t the reason she had worn it. With her eyes as distinctive as they were, they would draw more attention to her than gloves and a blindfold. That was the last thing that she wanted while barely able to move on her own.
The bar that they had been brought to was only about fifteen minutes away from the motel. So long as their meeting with this ‘Lord Kuvon’ lasted less than an hour, they should have plenty of time to get back before things became dangerous for Serena.
Unfortunately, Eva wasn’t sure how likely that would be. Two vampires moved to block the door behind them the moment they entered the bar. One stood behind the counter, cleaning out glasses—or so she assumed by the motions. Another three were scattered around the room at various tables.
Apart from the vampires, the room was filled with humans. At least, they looked like humans from their blood. Thralls was the more likely answer.
Her blood sight, being the only sense that didn’t aggravate her nausea, got abused to its fullest potential. She scanned and memorized every single person present, just in case they met them outside. It could be vitally important to keep track of who were the slaves of these vampires.
Eva considered telling Serena just how many vampires were around. However, they probably had super hearing or some other way to detect her words. Besides that, Serena should know. She was a vampire herself. Surely she had a way to detect her fellow undead.
At Eva’s side, Nel was shaking worse than a leaf on a particularly blustery day. It was almost enough to make her want to throw the girl off and just walk on her own. Even with the nausea, it couldn’t be much worse.
The thrall led them up to a table in the back of the room. A short distance away, Serena waved at them to stop moving while she continued up to the table.
“Lord Kuvon, I presume,” Serena greeted with a slight bow. “Serena, at your service.”
Four sat at the table, only one being a vampire. The rest hung off him like slaves. Of all the vampires in the room, this one wasn’t the largest or strongest looking. Neither was he the weakest. By comparing his body type with regular humans, Eva doubted that he appeared as anything more than an average person.
There was no illusion about who was in command. The bartender and the vampires at the other tables all had their eyes glued on him. Only the two guards at the door kept their heads facing forwards.
The vampire did not respond right away. He brought one hand to his mouth and proceeded to take a deep breath. He let it out, filling the air with fresh cigarette smoke.
“So you’re the Blacksky that thought she could make a feast out of one of my servants.”
“With all due respect, you failed to properly mark him. It is almost as if you wished for passers-by to fall into your little trap.”
One of the vampires, the one at the table farthest from them, narrowed his eyes ever so slightly. Someone that fell to the same trap? Or someone who didn’t like his leader being called a failure.
Potentially dangerous either way.
Kuvon’s eyes drifted away from Serena to search over both Eva and Nel. He looked back to her with a slight chuckle.
“I would call you a hypocrite, but I can see why you wouldn’t want your pathetic attendants associated with you. It’s a miracle that they can stand up on their own.”
Eva ignored the scattered chuckles around the room. None of them mattered. Her focus was on the vampires and their reactions. Any sign of threat from them and Eva would act.
She had several vials of demon and her own blood hidden beneath her jacket. Enough to target everyone in the room. She didn’t want to use it. It was supposed to be for Sawyer. But if they stepped up their hostility, she could find a different method for dealing with Sawyer.
Nel didn’t seem to ignore their chuckles quite as well as Eva. Her shakes doubled over while her grip on Eva’s arm tightened. She looked around the room, trying to find out where attacks might come from while avoiding eye contact with anyone.
“Then again,” he sniffed the air. “The delectable scent. I can almost taste it. No wonder she cannot stand on her own.”
“I prefer my servants able to think for themselves,” Serena said with a slight sneer towards his thralls. “Slaves to my blood might be loyal without question, but they make for such poor company.”
The good humor at Eva’s less than ideal condition vanished. Cold glares were directed at Serena from all corners of the room.
Which made sense. Most of the patrons in the bar were likely thralls.
But again, they really didn’t matter. Barely better than regular humans—and probably not mages at that—the only thing they had going for them was numbers.
The vampires had varying reactions. The one farthest away cracked a smile, but the bartender looked about ready to shatter the glass that he was cleaning.
Kuvon, however, burst out into a laugh. “I’ve thought the same on many occasions.” His laughter pattered off as he narrowed his eyes. “Worthless though they are, I cannot allow your actions against my watcher to go unanswered. It would make me look weak in front of my friends here.” He put on a smile once again. “I’m sure that you understand.”
“Of course,” Serena said. Her voice came out somewhat strained, but Eva couldn’t detect a hint of it through her blood sight. Possibly because the unmoving blood within her body was playing tricks on Eva’s mind. “I am perfectly willing to pay an equivalence of what I took.”
Kuvon leaned forward, completely ignoring the thrall hanging off his shoulder being knocked away. Clasping his hands together, he looked over Serena. “Just what did you have in mind?”
Turning slightly, Serena nodded at Eva.
Eva brushed Nel’s hand off her arm so that she could reach inside her jacket. She withdrew a single vial. Her own blackish blood.
Using her blood magic to help carry it through the air to her target, Eva flung it at the vampire leader.
She was somewhat nervous to leave her own blood away from herself. Doubly so given what she had done with Sawyer’s blood. Unfortunately, they really didn’t want to fight off a whole den of vampires. Not with Nel present and not with Eva ill.
Placations must be made. For now at least. If her and Serena’s plan worked out, the vampires might be working for them in the near future. A den of vampires at their side couldn’t hurt their chances against Sawyer.
Kuvon caught the vial out of the air. He opened his hand and looked over the vial.
“Blood,” Serena offered. “The coloration–”
“What is this insult? Do you wish for death or are you merely an idiot?”
The vampires around the room, including the guards at the door, all readied themselves. The ones seated swung their legs over to one side, preparing to stand. The bartender ceased his obsessive cleaning of his glass.
Nel’s head whipped around to stare at all of them as she shrunk in closer to Eva. Eva didn’t move. She didn’t need to in order to see. And she wasn’t worried.
They had expected that.
“I’m sorry?” Serena said. “You’re going to have to elaborate on your meaning.”
“Cold blood? You stole directly from my watcher’s veins. This–”
“Perhaps, my Lord Kuvon, you might unseal the vial before making your decision. This blood is far from ordinary and its source is not readily available.”
Kuvon gave her the evil eye before turning his gaze to the vial in his hands once again. With slow yet deliberate movements, he flicked the top off with his thumb.
The reaction was almost instant. Every vampire in the room took a deep breath at the same time. They all leaned forwards, trying to get closer to the source.
Eva had to fight to keep her smile off her face. Instead, she continued to face forward with the same neutral expression that she had worn for the entire meeting.
Kuvon’s tongue traced across his lips. His eye contact with the vial remained unbroken. “I thought that I had smelled something sweet.” His eyes flicked up to meet with Eva’s blindfold before they dropped back to the vial. “So it was this.”
That was something of a relief. They had been hoping that the vampire wouldn’t assume the blood to be her blood. If they did make the connection, Serena had been worried that they might fight in an attempt to capture her as some kind of blood doll.
So long as they didn’t believe her to be the source, Serena had a cover story ready. Any scent of the blood on Eva would just be assumed to be from contact with the vials.
Without even asking if it was poisoned, he put the edge of the vial to his lips and tilted the entire thing back. Eva used her control over the blood to ensure that every last drop made it into his mouth. Anything left over could potentially be used against her. Something that Eva was not willing to allow.
He pulled the vial away from his lips with a long sigh. “Where did you come across such a treat?”
“I’m originally from Michigan. We have a dragon preserve near my home.”
“This is not dragon blood.”
“No. It is the blood of a crossbreed. Difficult and dangerous to get. Normally. Thankfully, I struck up something of a friendship with one particular crossbreed. Whenever I’m in the area, I pick up a few vials.”
“You have more?” he asked as he flipped the vial over between his fingers. His eyes were switching between Serena, Eva, and the vial with every flip.
Serena turned back towards Eva. Eva gave her a curt nod.
“Enough for you to have another and a single vial to all of your vampires. Your permission willing, of course.”
All the vampires perked up at being included in the deal. All except for Lord Kuvon, of course. He likely wanted the vials all to himself. With the offer made to his den, he couldn’t deny it without breeding resentment among the vampires.
His narrowed eyes flicked to the bartender before sweeping across the room.
After a moment, he smiled. He spread his arms wide and let out a few quick laughs. “A most generous offer,” he said. “I believe it will serve as a suitable restitution for your offense.”
Again, Serena turned and nodded in Eva’s direction.
Eva pulled six vials out of her jacket. Technically, they had enough for nine vampires. Plus all the demon blood she had, though none of them would want that according to Serena. Eva tossed the vials around the room, hitting each vampire with perfect accuracy.
Some uncapped it the moment it was in their hands and immediately downed it. Others were more wary. The bartender examined it. Holding the vial in his hands, sniffing it, tasting just a drop at first. The man farthest from Kuvon seemed to savor it, swishing a small portion around in his mouth before finally swallowing it.
Kuvon himself placed the vial inside a pocket of his jacket. “I think I’ll savor this one on my own at a later time,” he said, patting the pocket.
Eva wanted to protest. The longer he went without drinking it, the higher chance it would fall into someone’s hands that she did not want to have it.
Not that she wanted him to have it.
Of course, maybe that wouldn’t even stop anyone. She could still see the blood resting in the vampires’ stomachs. It was plain to see, separate and distinct from the unmoving, nonliving blood that made up the rest of the vampires’ bodies.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t say a word. Not without making herself suspicious.
Besides, the ball was in her court now. Even if the vampires didn’t realize it.
“I’d recommend drinking it soon, Lord Kuvon,” Serena said, coming to Eva’s rescue without even realizing it. “My servant’s body heat won’t keep it warm for long once away from her body.”
“A good point,” he said, removing it from his pocket.
For a moment, Eva thought that he might actually drink it.
Instead, he wrapped one hand around the waist of one of his thralls. She gave a light squawk of surprise as he tugged at her shirt line and dropped the vial inside.
“Lose it or break it,” he said to her, “and I’ll tear your throat out.”
With a rough shove for someone who didn’t want the vial broken, he knocked her back behind his chair.
“Though,” he said as his attention returned to Serena, “you bring up an interesting topic. Your servant with the blindfold, she isn’t blind.”
Serena looked back for just a moment before shrugging. “A necromancer tore out her eyes. She has since developed other methods of interacting with the world around her.”
At Serena’s words, one of the vampires shifted. The one farthest from Kuvon. Eva narrowed her eyes behind her blindfold, wondering just what had caused that reaction.
“Necromancers. Bad business getting involved with them.” Kuvon leaned back in his chair, holding out his hands as if grasping a basketball. “They never seem to understand subtlety. Always drawing undead hunters to wherever they go. The cursed Elysium Order and bounty hunters. So many bounty hunters.”
Once again, Nel moved closer to Eva and grabbed hold of her arm. She held on tight, as if letting go would lead to the vampires finding out about her Elysium origins.
Eva paid her no mind. All of her attentions were focused on the vampire on the other side of the room.
“I am glad we agree on that matter,” Serena said. She waved a hand towards Eva. “Unfortunately, our business here involves necromancers. One in particular is only a few miles away from your town. We are currently hunting the one who took my attendant’s eyes.”
“A necromancer?” Kuvon leaned forward again, slamming his fist to the table. “Here? Preposterous. I would know of such things.”
While Serena tried to placate the self-styled lord with opinions that perhaps Sawyer just hadn’t come to town yet, Eva tuned them out.
The vampire she was keeping an eye on had stood up and moved towards the bathroom.
Did vampires even use the bathroom? Eva thought as she watched.
He didn’t appear to be heading towards a stall. Rather, he removed something from his pocket. A phone, based on the size, shape, and him tapping at it.
Sawyer had his hands arm-deep inside the chest cavity of a corpse. The third body of the evening, to be specific. He paused slightly as something vibrated within his pocket.
Eva wasted no time. She clapped her hands together.
The blood contained within the vampire’s stomach detonated, obliterating a good portion of his torso with it. Her blood was weaker than demon blood, but an entire vialful set inside the vampire was more than enough to split him in two.
It wasn’t a stake to the heart, nor was it chopping off his head. As Eva watched everything half-way up his lungs fall to the ground, she was fairly certain that it wouldn’t matter. At least, he wouldn’t be getting up anytime soon.
Sawyer didn’t answer the phone call. His arms were still deep in the chest, pushing some organs around and removing others. Soon enough, the vibration in his pocket ceased.
He would likely call back once he had finished, but it was too late. His minion wouldn’t be around to tell him a thing. That might set off a few suspicious flags, but it was preferable to him being told that Eva was hunting him.
Eva’s clap did not go unnoticed. Nel jumped a few feet in the air while both she and Serena started looking around the room, wondering just who had exploded. Before they had left the motel, Eva had told them just what her clapping would mean.
“What is this interruption?” An angry gaze turned towards Serena. “Can you not control your own servants?”
He was about to say something more, but a wave of shock rolled through every vampire still in the room. They all jumped to their feet, alert and wary.
It must be the smell of his freshly spilled blood, Eva thought. Unliving though the blood was, it was still blood to her sixth sense. It probably still counted as blood to their sixth sense as well.
Dropping pretense, Eva stepped towards Kuvon. Nel still hung off her arm–if she were pressed any closer, she would fuse with Eva’s skin.
She ignored it and tried to look as dignified as she could with a grown woman pressed into her.
“Are you aware that one of your vampires just attempted to contact our target?”
“What are you talking about, servant?” His eyes narrowed in a glare. “Have you no respect for your betters?” His head snapped to one of the door guards behind Eva. “Wedge,” he said with a snap of his fingers, “find out what that smell is.”
“No need,” Eva said. “It is the smell of one of your vampires, dead in the bathroom.”
Serena moved next to Eva, placing a hand on her shoulder. “There may be more vampires in this coven,” she whispered, her cold lips so close that they brushed against Eva’s ear, “ones not present that are lacking your blood. Be careful, we do not need more enemies.”
“Treachery,” Kuvon snarled, looking around the room. “Lucas? Where is Lucas–”
He kicked the table in front of him.
Serena had to grab hold of both Eva and Nel to jerk them out of the way.
It was a good thing she had done so. With how nauseous Eva felt, there was no way she would have done anything on her own. The heavy wooden table would have crashed straight into her.
The bartender pulled something out from beneath the counter. Judging by the clicking sound and how he was holding it, it was a shotgun. The guard who had not been ordered to search around walked up behind the group while the other seated vampire moved up as well.
Some of the thralls joined their masters in encircling Eva, Serena, and Nel. The rest fell back to give them more room to fight.
“Lucas is dead, boss!” the absent guard said. “Torn in two!”
Kuvon gnashed his teeth. “What did you shits do?” he growled out.
“We met you out of courtesy, Lord Kuvon,” Serena said, keeping her voice neutral. “If you are allied with our enemy, you are our enemy.”
“No one here would dare–”
“Your deceased vampire,” Eva cut in. “He dared. He slipped away to call his real master and inform him of our presence. Sawyer did not answer, but I imagine it won’t be long before he tries to call back.
“Why else would a vampire be in the bathroom, alone and with a cellphone lying near his corpse?”
She hoped that she was right in that vampires did not use bathrooms. It would help cast more suspicion on the dead vampire.
Not that she really cared. All the posturing and hidden politics during their meeting tonight was tedious. If they wound up helping out against Sawyer, that would be excellent. Yet, she would not shed a tear if she clapped her hands together and obliterated the lot of them.
Serena was alright on her own, but if she never had to interact with a group of vampires again, it would be too soon.
“You killed him. How? You didn’t–” His eyes widened mid sentence. “The blood. You’ve done something to the blood.”
Eva shook her head. “The blood is perfectly normal. For its source, anyway. It will not harm you… so long as you do not betray us.”
“Betray you?” he shouted. “You are the ones who have betrayed us! Violating the sanctity of the dwelling you were invited into?”
Serena winced. Perhaps some sort of unwritten rules for vampires. It was probably a big deal, but then, Eva wasn’t a vampire.
Maybe it was time to reveal that fact.
Pulling off her gloves, Eva stretched her fingers out before removing her blindfold.
Lord Kuvon was a great deal less impressive now that she could see him with her actual eyes. Between his wrinkled face, a scraggly beard that Devon would be jealous of, a denim jacket with torn off sleeves, and jeans underneath a set of motorcycle chaps, he really wasn’t deserving of his title. She had been expecting something along the lines of a suit and tie.
With a slight sigh, Eva just shook her head. Seeing with her own eyes had started the double-vision up again. She tried to keep the nausea from showing on her face as she spoke.
“I am no vampire. Your rules are beneath me. My only concern is the necromancer.”
“You’re a demon.”
Eva smiled, licking her lips with her tongue. It was another inhuman part of her. She might as well show it off for the intimidation factor.
Kuvon glowered, but his fists were no longer clenched in fury. The vampires around him didn’t look quite so sure of how to act. The bartender still held his shotgun, pointing it at them. Both guards glanced at each other after the second walked up. The extra vampire just shifted, one foot moving backwards but still looking ready to fight at a single word from Kuvon.
“Here is my question to you, the one that will determine who leaves here alive. Were you lying earlier, when you said that necromancers were ‘bad business’?”
“I was not,” he said in a slow, calm voice.
“Excellent. We can all be friends.”
“You killed Lucas,” he said, fists clenched again.
“I did. And I will kill anyone else who attempts to warn my mark of our presence. This necromancer is slippery enough without extra help.” Eva narrowed her eyes, glancing between Kuvon, the bartender, and the other vampire. She didn’t bother turning around for the guards. “Believe me, I will know the moment he is warned.
“That said,” Eva smiled again, “if anyone wants to help attack the necromancer, we do have more stores of that blood as payment.”