6 First Blood

Consul Chang scurried to his private office aboard a private jet bound for the United States. He could have used magick to travel to New England, but he didn’t want Consul van der Meer to know he was coming. As he opened the door, he jumped as his chair turned, revealing its occupant. The shadowy figure put his hands together in front of his face, almost as if praying.

“What’s going on here?” Chang demanded angrily, reaching for the button to summon security.

The shadowy figure said, “Please, don’t do that! You’d be dead before you could press it,” he added, leaning in.

Chang gasped and froze before falling to his knee. “My Lord!”

“Enough! Sit….” Chang slid into a seat, his knees wobbly. “It has begun!”

“Salazar is back,” Chang announced. “They are sending him to the Oracle!”

The man just laughed. “Too late! Far too late!”

“Don’t underestimate them! Consul van der Meer and his allies are very powerful!” Chang warned.

The man looked at him, eyebrows raised, amused. “Sebastian is far older than you, but he is nothing to me! Not anymore!”

“I don’t follow,” Chang replied.

“You aren’t supposed to, Chang,” the man chuckled, sitting back and chuckling to himself. “Leave me! And send a human in….”

“What do you require?”

“Oh, surprise me!” the man smiled. Then he thought better of it, adding, “Make it a boy, 14 to 17, if you’ve got one.” He turned away as Chang retreated hastily. “This is going to be fun,” the man laughed when he was alone. He relished the fight that was about to come into the open, as well as the day he could kill Chang, the weasel.

***

James took Sebastian by the hand. “Richard,” he called with a smile, “we’ll be upstairs if anybody needs us! And we’re having guests for dinner!”

Sebastian smiled and squeezed his hand. “You’re getting into this ‘mistress of the house’ thing, aren’t you?”

James raised his eyebrows at Sebastian, quipping, “I’ll show you who’s the mistress, and who’s the master!”

With that, Sebastian broke free and James chased him, leaving Richard to roll his eyes.  Richard grabbed his coat to go to the market, and he could already hear giggles and moans from the top of the stairs. He called “Avery’s trying to sleep,” with laugh in his voice.

“Mind your own business,” Avery called from his bedroom at the other end of the hall. “It’s almost as good as porn!” They both heard the two boys laughing but neither of them responded as they kept going at it.

Richard’s laugh faded into thought as Peter drifted into his mind. The boy challenged every ounce of Richard’s self-control. He drove the BMW down to the farmer’s market, using the early-morning shopping trip to clear his mind. But the handsome face wouldn’t depart from his thoughts. Between what Sebastian had gone through with James, and his own feelings of loneliness, Peter was never far from his thoughts.

When Richard arrived back at the house, he loaded the groceries into the refrigerator before heading upstairs. Casting a quick glance into the master bedroom, he found Sebastian and James comfortably intertwined in one another’s arms. They looked asleep, and James probably was since he was healing.

He knocked gently on Avery’s door. “Come in! Richard?”

Avery rolled on to his side, letting the silky sheets slide off his sleekly muscled, delicious upper body. “Can I get you anything for lunch?” Richard asked.

Avery gave him a big smile and said, “You could crawl into bed with me?” Seeing the look on Richard’s face, he laughed. “What? You’re handsome, I’m bi, and I’ve been away for a long time!” Avery reached out and put a hand on Richard’s leg, teasing him with his fingers.

Richard shook his head and smiled. “Believe me, I would if I could!”

Avery raised his eyebrows curiously. “You too? Is there an epidemic of vampires in love with humans?”

“How do you know he’s a human?” Richard asked.

“Oooh, and it’s a he? Well, if he wasn’t human, he’d be here … with you, of course!”

“Maybe he’s just away,” Richard suggested, blushing.

“No, I can tell! He’s a very lucky boy!” Richard blushed. “Now, about lunch,” Avery said, hopping up, revealing his naked body without embarrassment, “lead the way!” His thick, soft cock swayed as he walked, and Richard couldn’t help but examine every inch of the man, who cleaned up nicely, despite the scars.

“How are you feeling?” Richard said, allowing his hand to trace one long scar on the man’s shoulder as they walked.

Avery shivered and said, “Free! Wonderful! They do ache. Perhaps you and your boy would like to give me a massage sometime?”

Again, Richard blushed as he stepped into the kitchen and said, almost embarrassed, “I don’t know if I could share.”

“My, my,” Avery laughed, winking. “Quite alright! I promise to keep my hands to myself when I meet him!”

Richard laughed and made him a sandwich. “What would you like to drink?”

“Milk would be fine,” Avery said. “So how did you meet … what’s his name?”

“Peter…. He’s friend of James’s,” Richard said, again blushing.

“Oh, my!” Avery teased.

“Yeah, he’s also on the football team,” Richard smiled.

Avery grinned appreciatively, and said, “Given that I’m off tonight, I would love to have a chance to … unwind, but I think that it’s highly unlikely!”

“One never knows…. Maybe one of our dinner guests?” Richard suggested.

“Who are they?” Avery asked, laughing.

“A Council enforcer and a strega,” Richard said with a grin. Avery burst out laughing, and Richard joined him at the thought. They were still talking, and Richard was preparing dinner, when the phone rang.

Richard, we’re at the gate,” Peter announced.

“See you in a minute,” Richard beamed.

Given the smile on his face, Avery asked, “Peter?”

Richard nodded. “Get some fucking clothes on, Avery! Peter has no idea about any of this, by the way!” Avery’s eyes sparkled as he ran upstairs and pulled on a pair of black pajama bottoms and returned shirtless, just as Peter, followed by Chris and Steve, walked through the door.

Chris looked at him, then over at Steve and said, “Wow!”

“Yeah,” Steve responded with a laugh.

Walking right up to the gape-mouthed boys, Avery held out a hand to each. “Hello! I’m Avery Salazar,” he said, eyeing Chris and Steve, who meekly introduced themselves. “You two are a couple,” he said, smiling wickedly at a blushing Richard, “so you … must be the Peter I’ve heard so much about!”

Peter shook his hand with a smile and walked over to Richard, wrapping an arm around him and kissing him deeply in front of everybody. This time, Avery looked at Chris and Steve, and said, “Wow!” Everybody laughed, and they followed him to the living room.

“Sebastian and I are old friends,” he explained. Catching the boys trying to examine his scars unnoticed, he added, “Ah, those! I was a … prisoner of war.”

Richard got the food in for dinner and came out to join them. “Avery’s just gotten home recently, in fact….”

“What was it like?” Chris asked, surprising everyone.

“What was what like, Chris?” Avery asked.

“Being there?” Chris asked, assuming Afghanistan or Iraq.

Avery nodded, thinking he understood. “Very scary! I was tortured, but I suppose that goes without saying? Sometimes they’d come and I’d think it was an old friend, but really they were just messing with my mind trying to get information….”

“How did you get home?” Steve asked.

“Sebastian,” he said and the boys looked at each other, confused. Seeing this, he added, “Sebastian is actually pretty influential, so he … pulled some strings to make a trade.”

“So, where are James and Sebastian?” Peter asked, but seeing Richard’s and Avery’s faces, he just blushed. “Oh!”

“Actually, now, they’re just sleeping,” Richard said.

Avery wagged his eyebrows and whispered, “Let’s go see them!” Richard shot him a glance, but Avery just winked, leading the boy’s quietly upstairs, shushing them if they made too much noise. They stood in the doorway and saw the two entangled and now fully uncovered, James’s long, muscled naked body curled into the smaller, more delicate body of his lover. All together, they sort of gasped at the beauty of them, and said, “Wow!”

Sebastian raised his head and looked over at them as they started giggling. “Avery!” Pulling the sheet up to their waists, he said, “You might as well come in! James, we have company!”

From a deep blackness, James emerged and rubbed his eyes, smiling at his friends. “Hey, guys!” he said yawning and stretching.

The five sat on the edge of the bed, and James rolled to face them, Sebastian stroking his shoulder. “We just wanted to come by and see how it’s going,” Steve said.

“Feeling much better, all things considered! Why don’t you guys spend Saturday night here and we can have a slumber party! Still no practice on Sundays, right?”

The boys talked for a while, and Richard excused himself to go check on the food. Sebastian suggested, “Why don’t you guys let us get dressed?”

“Alright,” they all said, laughing and faking disappointment. Before they got downstairs, Avery pulled Peter aside and out of view.

“I just wanted to tell you you’re very lucky! I tried to talk Richard into bed this morning, and he absolutely shut me down because of you!” Avery said, making Peter smile.

“He said that?” Peter asked, his eyes sparkling.

“He did,” Avery said. Laughing, he added, “He even turned me down for a ménage-a-tois, because he said he doesn’t want to share you!”

Giving Avery a look over, Peter laughed. “You’re my type … but I feel the same way! I don’t know where these feelings are coming from, but….”

“Follow your heart, young man,” Avery said, clapping him on the shoulder. Downstairs, Avery said, loudly, “That was the best blowjob I’ve ever had!” They all laughed as Richard came running out of the kitchen looking furious. He could tell by the feelings flowing from Peter, though, that he’d been the butt of a mean joke and just blushed. “I think, Richard, that that blush is full body. Care to drop your drawers to settle that?”

Richard dropped his pants and mooned Avery, making everyone laugh. “So I was right,” Avery tossed back. “Mmm mmm, too bad you turned me down, Richard! That’s fine!” Richard quickly returned to the kitchen, hearing everyone, Peter included, laughing. Shortly, he felt strong arms around his waist, a big hand slipping into his front pocket and squeezing.

“Avery told me about this morning,” Peter whispered into his ear. Feeling Richard tense up, he added, “I think I’m falling in love with you.” Richard’s felt like he was going to collapse, so Peter grabbed him tightly.

When he could, Richard turned, driving his hands into Peter’s back pockets, squeezing. He whispered in Peter’s ear, “You mean it?”

“Absolutely,” Peter replied without hesitation.

“I … do love you,” Richard croaked out. “Almost at first sight, actually….”

Peter grinned, running his hand through the man’s soft hair and pulling him into a kiss. “Mmmm, I could fuck you silly,” he said, as they broke apart.

“Dinner first,” Richard gasped, light headed.

“Alright, you can take me to dinner first,” Peter joked.

Richard swatted his arm. “I have to finish dinner, now get! But I would like to take you to dinner, just the two of us….”

“How’s tomorrow night?” Peter asked, slipping his thigh between Richard’s.

“Perfect,” Richard whispered, his breath tickling Peter’s lips. They kissed again, before Richard righted himself and said, “Now get!” Peter laughed and walked out to join his friends, who were about to leave. Richard saw that Avery he had seen everything from his seat.

As Sebastian and James showed the boys out, Avery came into the kitchen and said, “Sorry for spying, but that tied for hottest thing I’ve ever seen!”

“Tied with?” Richard asked, laughing.

“Seeing Sebastian give a blow job,” Avery said, teasing.

Richard raised his eyebrow and giggled. “By the way, thanks!”

“Anything for an old friend,” Avery said, nodding and joining the others.

Some time later, their guests arrived and stood waiting at the door waiting nervously. They were surprised when neither the consul nor Richard but a tall, broad-shouldered, beautiful young man answered the door. “May I help you?”

“Consul van der Meer invited us for dinner,” Horatio said.

James waved them in with a pleasant smile and led them to the living room, where Sebastian sat. He did not stand.

Horatio stood at attention. “Thank you for the kind invitation, consul!”

“Thank you for taking the time to join me. Please be seated! You’ve met my partner, then,” he added as James sat relaxed at his side.

Both men looked surprised as they knew Sebastian to be single. The strega, Roman stood and stepped in, holding out a hand to James. “You are the vampire that was being guarded at the hospital? I’m Roman Sylvano….”

James knew instantly that he was sincere, and stood to shake his hand. “James … van der Meer.” James beamed over his shoulder at Sebastian, who has suggested the name change mentally. Again, Sylvano did not miss the exchange.

“Horatio Vickers,” the vampire said, standing to introduce himself. “Congratulations, then! Vampires rarely find mates!”

“Thank you,” Sebastian said, wrapped an arm around James.

A moment later, Avery entered the room. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you’ll excuse me! I’ve been preparing for a journey! Avery….”

Everyone was introduced, Avery’s last name being withheld. “So,” Sebastian asked, “any developments?”

“These things … take time,” Vickers said, cutting Sylvano off.

“Hmmm,” Sebastian said, thoughtfully, looking at the two men, sizing them up. “Would you like something to drink? Wine, beer, soda, or something stronger perhaps?”

Both men took wine, and they chatted for a while. Soon after dinner was ready and Richard sat down with them, however, the two guests could feel the scrutiny. Sebastian caught James looking at Sylvano strangely a few times, and nearly asked him about it, but James gave him a signal.

“Mr. Salazar, could you pass the wine?” James said, causing Avery to raise his eyebrows.

“Avery … Salazar,” the young vampire said, pushing back from the table in a rush. “What is the meaning of this?”

Sebastian quickly rose to his feet and stared Vickers down. “Sit! Avery, bind them!” Soon, neither man could move.

“Who are you two?” Sebastian asked, returning to his seat. Vickers looked at him angrily but said nothing.

“We are … not from the council,” Sylvano said haltingly, looking at James. “How did you know? Vampires can’t read my mind.”

“I’m recently human, and I haven’t gotten lazy. I know the face of a person keeping a secret. I could tell you were keeping something from us. You mean no harm, but we cannot take any risks,” James said, taking his hand. “What are you keeping from us?”

Sylvano let his head fall to his chest and shook it back and forth. “We should have told them, Horatio!”

“We can’t trust them! They’re with the Council!” Horatio answered.

“Horatio used to work for Consul Chang,” Sylvano began, and Horatio’s eyes narrowed at them. “We fell in love, so when Horatio found out about Chang’s secret dealings with dark forces, Chang came after ME. We’ve been running for months! I tried to contact my people, but so far, the two people I’ve been in contact with have disappeared, so I can’t risk any more lives!” Sylvano raised his eyes, and looked at James. “Will you help us?”

Sebastian looked at Avery, who shrugged. “He’s telling the truth,” James said, finally.

“You’re sure?” Sebastian asked.

“Positive,” James replied.

Sebastian nodded to Avery, who released them. “I opposed Chang in the council a day and a half ago. It’s not safe for you to be coming and going, so for the time being I’m going to ask you to stay here.” The men looked at each other having a silent conversation. When they nodded, he continued, “I’ve convinced the Council to recall Avery to seek the Oracle—in doing so I had to threaten to challenge Chang to a death match!”

Horatio looked at Sebastian with new appreciation. “How old are you?”

Sebastian looked like he was trying to find an out, so James leaned in and said, “A gentleman never asks a lady her age,” and they all laughed.

“I will say that Chang is a whimpering pup by comparison, but he’s mad with power! Tell me, did you discover who his allies are?” Sebastian asked.

“His allies in the upper echelons of the council are few, but they are well-placed. He seems to think he has a trump though, that’s what no one knows about. He’s been working serious dark magick, but he seems not to have anything to show for it!” Horatio explained.

“Chang,” Sebastian muttered under his breath.

Avery looked concerned, but at last he rose. “Well, as fun as it’s been, I suppose I’ll run along and meet with the Oracle!”

Sebastian looked up. “Do you need help with the spell?”

“No, it’ll be fine. See if they can give us more information while I’m gone, though,” Avery said.

“Hurry back, my friend,” Sebastian nodded. Avery nodded back and headed to the basement.

After a few more hours, there was little more to learn from his two visitors, and Sebastian stood and led them from the dining room. He called the men he had assigned to them and had them come back to his house and stand guard at the perimeter. To be on the safe side, he called four more guards to wait inside the walls.

At nearly ten, Sebastian received a phone call from Steve. “Hey, I’m just calling to see if Peter came back there?”

“Peter? No,” Sebastian said.

“Well, he never made it home tonight after he went out. He told his mom he was on his way to your place,” Steve said, worried.

“He never showed. Hold on a second, Steve.” Sebastian sent a message to his guards to check for Peter’s car, and within a few moments, they found it parked just down the street. The door was open and the keys were a few feet away. “Steve, let me call you back!”

Richard approached him with a knowing look. “Peter?”

“Richard, calm down! Peter … has been taken,” Sebastian said, trying to sooth him.

“Taken?” Richard gasped.

“His car was found abandoned near here…. No one has heard from him,” Sebastian explained.

“No!” Richard let out an extended sob, collapsing at Sebastian’s feet.

At that moment, the door to the basement burst open explosively and Avery collapsed through it, a fresh cut on his face and a deep claw mark on his back.

Before he passed out, he managed to say, “The bitch is dead! They’ve killed the Oracle!”

“Horatio, Roman, grab Avery! James, help me with Richard! To the safe room!” The four men helped the two men down the stairs, and were almost knocked off their feet by a rumbling in the ground. “Explosion, close by,” Sebastian yelled as he dragged his friend to the door of the safe-room and led the men inside. He sealed off the room and then activated the house’s magical defenses.

“Two of my men are dead. The rest have withdrawn into the house and will defend it from the inside. But they’ll never penetrate the walls,” he said.

Entering his code, he activated his access point to the Council subnet and typed in a quick message: “CODE BLACK … Private residence of Sebastian van der Meer under attack … CODE BLACK … Human associate of Sebastian van der Meer, Peter Lively, abducted outside residence … CODE BLACK … Avery Salazar wounded …”

A moment later the phone in his pocket began to buzz as his highest alert went out to consuls the world over. Within ten minutes, most of the consuls were online.

“Are you alright, Sebastian?” Americ asked as soon as he was connected.

“We’re safe for now, my friend. But the attack is ongoing. Avery is unconscious. Richard is,” Sebastian paused to look over at his friend, who was staring off into space “inconsolable. The boy they’ve taken was … his.”

Americ looked away and nodded. “What can we do?”

“Not much, I fear! If they don’t break the walls, help will have time to arrive. IF they do, well, they’ll never get in here, but they’ll destroy everything!” Christen Wheeler came online, and Sebastian called, “Christen?”

“Sebastian! What’s going on?” Christen asked.

“A hit squad is at my home! Could you contact the Queen and ask her to deploy battle wizards?” The woman thought a moment, then nodded and her screen went black. A moment later she returned. “The Queen thanks you for your friendship and is instructing the nearest squad to engage with extreme prejudice. Help is on the way,” she said, hopefully.

“Thank you Christen! Brothers and sisters,” he said, somberly addressing the assembled group, “the Council has been betrayed! Avery Salazar was not wounded in this attack. He was able to return to me from the Oracle just before the attack began. And Peter Lively was taken at least thirty minutes before the attack! There is a well-ordered plan afoot!”

Musa interjected, “The Oracle wounded Salazar?”

“No, my friends! The Council has been betrayed! The Oracle is dead, and Avery barely escaped with his life! Someone silenced the Oracle before we arrived….”

Ivan Breslov, consul of Western Russia, a shapeshifter of the rarest sort, a dragon, leaned in—“The Oracle cannot be killed! This is a lie….”

“No, Ivan, I’m sorry. She is dead, and this could only be because of our resolution to seek her guidance. Where is Chang?”

Americ interjected, “Now wait…. I know he opposed your plan, but….”

“I am presently harboring two men who have been on the run from Chang for months…. One of them has brought me information that indicates that Chang is behind the attack on my home, and I have no doubt that if that is so, he is willing to do anything!”

Silence fell. Pedro Salazar picked up a landline and called a number. “The phone at Chang’s compound has been disconnected, and they are currently off the subnet. They have cut communication with the Council….”

Ivan smashed his fist into his desk and spat, “That bastard! I’ll tear him apart….”

“I agree, Ivan,” Sebastian said grimly as he felt another explosion through the ground. “But Chang isn’t powerful enough to challenge the Council on his own. And his plan can’t be ready or he wouldn’t have needed to eliminate the Oracle. Horatio, his former agent, tells me he’s been practicing a lot of ritual magick, and with all the strange occurrences….”

Horatio stepped forward. “Based on what I know, Chang has agents in most of the consuls’ staffs at various levels. I believe he has struck here first, not only because of our arrival but also because Consul van der Meer is the most ancient active vampire in power, the person most likely to challenge him. I believe he always intended to come here first! He’s always hated the consul that much.”

“Thank you, Horatio. I don’t yet know what’s going on, but, with the tremors in the valley of Kings, the zombie cruise, and theft of the Etruscan funerary jar,” Sebastian began.

“The theft of what?” Roman said, interrupting.

Americ answered, “An Etruscan funerary jar was stolen from a museum in Rome.”

“No…. No…. No…,” Roman shouted as he punched the wall. “Was the jar Grigore no. 141?” Americ sat back and nodded. “That’s why they were taken!”

“Why who were taken?” Americ asked.

“The two strega,” Sebastian said, breathing heavily.

Roman nodded, “They were no ordinary strega, but priests of the death-cult…. They specialize in resurrecting the dead!”

Pedro gasped. “The zombies….”

“If only it was just that,” Roman said, as all eyes focused on him. “There’s something in that jar … that was never meant to see the light of day!”

***

The room was dark, damp and smelled of rot. Peter opened his eyes and felt the back of his head, wincing at a painful bump. He was shackled to the wall, and his feet were cold. They had taken his shoes. There was almost no light in the room. He felt something furry move at his foot, but he dared not look. “Fuck,” he yelled, kicking as it nibbled at his toe and announcing his awakening.

The door swung open and a woman turned the light on. Her eyes were like those of the rat at his foot and she sneered. “Don’t like your pet? You should make friends with him! He’s the last you’ll ever have….” She was tall and blond and looked a little anorexic, and her face was as cold as ice. “You’re pretty! What’s your name, little boy?” the woman asked.

“Blow me!” Peter exclaimed.

She smiled a crisp smile, and he gasped as he saw her fangs and her terrible eyes. “I could! You’d really enjoy it too! Name!?”

“Peter Lively,” he stuttered.

“Good! Now we’re getting somewhere! What is your relation to the consul?” she asked.

“The what!?” Peter exclaimed.

She saw he had no idea. “Sebastian van der Meer!”

“He’s my friend! My friend James is his boyfriend!” Peter cried out.

“What else?” she asked.

“Richard, Richard is my boyfriend,” Peter revealed.

She shook her head, standing to leave. “Faggots,” she spat over her shoulder, leaving Peter in the dark. He dropped his head to his chest and cried. “Richard,” his mind called out. But he got no answer.

Outside, the woman explained, “He’s nothing! Just a human! The consul is his friend, and he’s the plaything of the consul’s man, Richard.”

“Can we use him?” her comrade asked.

“We could, perhaps…. But how much sway does Richard have? It’s more trouble than it’s worth,” the woman answered.

“We’ll see. Let’s hold on to him for a while. If nothing else, he’ll make a nice meal! He’s a big boy,” the man in the shadows said, laughing.

The woman nodded, laughing. “I get the cock.”

“Don’t you always?” the man asked.

“Just because you are a rapist pig, Martin,” she laughed, shaking her head and walking off. Inside, Peter heard every word.

***

Roman stood in front of Sebastian’s computer and addressed the council, shaking his head. “What is in the jar?” Ivan demanded.

“An arm,” Roman responded

“Excuse me…. This can’t be over an arm!” Ivan declared.

“It can be if you ask the right question,” Roman demanded. “‘Whose arm?’ It’s resurrection magick after all—the darkest and most draining of all magick….”

“Whose arm?” Ivan asked the question impatiently.

Roman closed his eyes. “A vampire was dismembered, his body scattered over the world! One piece ended up in the hands of the descendants of the Etruscans, who placed it in an ancient funerary jar, hidden in plain sight….”

“A vampire?” Ivan asked.

Sebastian leaned in. “They are trying to resurrect one of the old ones….”

“That’s right! And this one’s name was,” Roman began. But Sebastian cut him off with a wave of the hand and rested his head on his fist.

“Which one?” Ivan demanded, and before Roman could answer, Sebastian pounded his fist.

“God damn it! Resheph!” Sebastian yelled.

“That’s a myth,” Pedro said, confused.

“No, damn it all, it isn’t! Resheph was a vampire worshipped as a god! His story is mythic, but he was no myth!”

“What are you saying?” Pedro asked.

“He was real, and they’re trying to bring him back, and God help us all if they do!” Sebastian declared.

Richard’s sobbing interrupted the general murmuring. “Richard?” Sebastian hurried to his side. “What’s the matter?”

“Peter,” he whispered. “I can feel him! He’s so … afraid!”

“Can you tell where he is?” Sebastian asked.

“No, they’re cloaking the location with powerful magick!”

Sebastian nodded and returned to the monitor. “My friends, I need a favor! The boy Peter Lively is a very important person to me! I ask you each to charge two of your most powerful seers to try to pinpoint his location.  I believe he’s still in the city….”

“Of course,” and “Immediately,” was the general response. “Please also announce that the ones responsible for finding him and returning him to me safely will be rewarded with a gift of,” Sebastian paused and looked over at Richard, tearing up at the thought of James being missing, “$50,000,000 and a personal favor from me….” The consuls immediately began sending orders to their agents and seers.

“I’m sorry,” Ivan said, “but can we return momentarily to the campaign currently underway…. I’m still trying to get my mind around the idea that Resheph is not a figment of the humans’ imagination!”

“So many of the ancient gods were merely … us! Imagine it—a world without technology, relatively simple people, and our kind roaming, deathless, powerful, bloodthirsty! The people made gods out of them, sacrificed to them to control the destruction. And it worked! Why wreak havoc when the humans are providing for your every need? We have a new way, a better way…. But apparently not everyone sees it that way. Some among us would see themselves worshipped again.”

Musa smiled and sat forward. “I understand that you are wise and old, my friend, but how do you know so much? How did you know, for instance, that the tremors near the Valley of Kings were coming from a temple complex unseen for … who knows how long?” James put his hand on Sebastian’s shoulder and squeezed. “How do you know so much about the old ones and their lives?”

“You all know I am older than every one of you. But only one person, my partner, James, knows exactly how old. Resheph, the Canaanite ‘god’ of plague, was my sire, my lover. And it was I who, some time later, bore the sword that cut him limb from limb! It was I who ordered his body parts be sent to the corners of the world.” Silence reigned for seconds before the session collapsed into chaos.

“Ladies, gentlemen,” Musa yelled into his microphone. “Please!”

Pedro finally asked, “Why have you kept this from us?”

Sebastian looked away and began, “My friends, I wanted this Council to spread power between individuals, to be a more democratic way of making rules for our world! If you had known, you would have feared me, deferred to me, and yes … targeted me! I did it for myself, and I did it for us all! I didn’t mean to deceive you….”

“I understand, my friend,” Musa said. “But now, we need a strong leader! Will you step forward?”

Americ and Pedro both seconded that motion. Christen Wheeler took a call and then raised her voice. “I suggest that we enact the emergency office of High Consul, appointed for one year at a time in a state of emergency, the holder of which may exercise extraordinary authority during that emergency and steps down at the end of the year unless his tenure is renewed….”

Ivan laughed, “You want us to appoint a dictator!”

Christen nodded, “A classical dictator, yes—temporary, powerful, bold….”

Sebastian shook his head. “This is unnecessary, friends! Please! Let’s continue our democratic….”

“We need the ability to make decisions, Sebastian, even when we can’t meet. What happens if the network is disrupted? What happens if some of us are abducted? We need a leader!” Musa pleaded.

“Very well,” Sebastian sighed, and listened to the other’s outline his new authorities and privileges and install him as High Consul.

“Your Excellence,” Christen finally announced, with a twinkle in her eye, laughing when Sebastian pointed his finger at her. “Sebastian, I have word from Wizard General Vlaclav that the attackers outside your home have been subdued.”

“Do any remain alive?” Sebastian asked.

“Two,” Christen answered.

“Have them brought inside for questioning. Will the Queen allow these wizards to remain at my disposal?” Sebastian asked.

“All wizards are now at your disposal, Sebastian,” she said with a silly salute, logging off.

“Alright! Please forward any pertinent information to my staff, and I’ll relay any information to consuls directly…. Thank you,” Sebastian said ending the meeting.

Only Pedro Salazar remained. “How is Avery?”

Sebastian looked over at him. “Beaten up, but nowhere near as bad as he was by the prison staff. He does have a terrible wound in his back though. He’ll be fine! We’ll look after him ‘til he’s well. He’s free now!”

“Free? He’ll remain at your side until the end,” Pedro laughed. “Let me know when he’s up.”

“Will do! I love you, my friend,” Sebastian said with a smile, causing Pedro to do a double take.

“And I you, little Sebastian!” He laughed and disappeared from the screen.

***

Martin put the phone down and looked at Veronica. “The attack on the compound was crushed. No one’s coming. What’s worse, there’s a huge bounty out for the boy! We’ve got to kill him and go!”

The woman shrugged and the man followed her down the hall to the dungeon. “How much was the bounty?” the woman asked.

“$50,000,000, alive and safe,” Martin answered.

“No shit? We should turn him and leave him to be found! It’s not like he can tell them anything, and it would really piss them off! You know how Sebastian feels about turning humans, and this one is a friend,” Veronica suggested.

The man laughed. “The boss, he’ll like that! You or me?”

“I’ll do it! You never finish ‘til they’re dead,” she laughed.

They walked into the room and the woman roughly undid Peter’s chains. He started to struggle, and the woman slapped him so hard he almost went black again. Then she looked deep into his eyes. “Don’t resist!” He went limp, and she ripped his clothes off with her claws, dragging them across his bare chest, drawing thin bloody lines which she licked. Getting on her knees in front of him, she took him in her mouth and he began to harden.

But, however addled his mind, he whimpered, “Don’t!”

“This one’s strong minded,” the man said as he unzipped his pants, stepping in behind Peter. “That always makes it more fun!”

With a little spit, he lubricated himself. Though Peter tried to resist, the man’s vampiric strength made resistance meaningless and painful. Peter cried out in pain and hatred and tried to struggle, but he couldn’t control his body. The man raping him grabbed his muscular hips and began pounding him mercilessly. With one hand, he dragged Peter’s upper body up enough to tear into the back of his shoulder with his fangs. At the same time, Veronica drove her fangs deep. With blood being sucked vigorously from both ends, he wouldn’t last long.

Soon, Veronica stood and slit her wrist, putting the bloody arm to his mouth and laughing as the blood dribbled in. Peter, being an anal virgin and so resistant, drove Martin to finish inside him before he slipped away, and Martin stood watching Veronica feed the boy more and more blood. When Peter collapsed, they laughed. Veronica grabbed his feet and Martin took his shoulders and they tossed him in a van. They’d dump the body in front of the hospital before they fled the country.

***

Richard’s bloodcurdling scream shocked them all. Sebastian fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around the man. “Shhh, shhh! We’ll find him!”

“No,” Richard sobbed. “No … he’s gone! Peter’s dead! I can’t feel him anymore!”

They were so focused on Richard that they only heard the thump, as James’s head hit the floor. “Shit, he passed out,” Roman said, cradling James’s head while Sebastian kept dealing with Richard. Horatio stood by helplessly as the battle wizards outside waited for the doors to open.

Sebastian was cradling Richard when he heard the knocking at the door. “High Consul, are you alright?”

He slipped away from Richard and put his hand on the pad that opened the door. A tall man of about 40, a seasoned battle wizard stood at attention and saluted. “Colonel Robert Fisher, at your service, consul! May we see to your wounded?”

Sebastian nodded and men rushed into the room with gurneys. “Take James,” he said, pointing to his lover, “to the master bedroom on the second floor, and take Avery to the bedroom just beyond it. You have medics with you?”

“Healers, yes sir! The best in the business,” Fisher nodded.

“Very good, colonel. Bring the prisoners down to the basement please?” The man saluted and barked the order into a walkie-talkie, remaining outside.

Looking at Roman and Horatio, Sebastian said, “Please … look after Richard for me? I’ll be right outside.” The men nodded and flanked Richard, each wrapping an arm around him.

Sebastian was standing by the door when two men were led into the basement. He positioned two chairs in the middle of the dirt floor and instructed the wizards to tie them down. While he invoked a magick circle around one of the men, the wizards saw to the other one, then stood at attention.

“Thank you,” Sebastian smiled at the wizards assisting him, “For this and for earlier….” The men saluted and stood at attention, the younger of the four smiling back at him, earning a hard stare from the colonel, who was watching carefully.

“So,” Sebastian began, standing in front of the men, “the first thing I want to know is where were you going to rendezvous with the rest of your team?” They both smirked at him, so he nodded. “We’re beginning here,” he said calmly, “because this information is time-sensitive! But the rest, I can take as long as I like! And I like!” Walking to his shelves he continued. “Colonel, do you know how to kill a vampire?”

“Yes, sir!” The man looked decidedly uncomfortable answering that question, asked by the most powerful vampire he’d ever met.

“You know the humans think that a stake through the heart will do it!” Sebastian said.

“A minor inconvenience, sir! But painful, I understand,” Fisher replied.

“Oh, yes,” Sebastian laughed, “especially when, like this one, it has been soaked in salts of silver!” He picked up the stake that had minerals caked to it, and a mallet. He walked to the tougher looking vampire and placed the stake to his chest. “One last chance….” The vampire spit in his face, so he took the time to wipe it off and, with one strike of the mallet, drove the stake in until it struck the chair. The sweet smile he gave the younger vampire was chilling. “Another thing that’s very irritating to vampires is the venom of the Emperor scorpion,” he addressed the younger vampire as he walked to the large aquarium teeming with the fat black devils. With a small net, he scooped five into a small jar and poured them into the screaming vampire’s open mouth. “If one of you gents wouldn’t mind taping his mouth shut,” he added, tossing a roll of tape to the young one who had smiled at him.

The young man saluted and did as he was instructed. Sebastian walked to the younger vampire and sat in his lap seductively, running a finger along his jaw line. “How old are you, cutie?”

The younger vampire swallowed and stuttered, “Around ssseventy-five….”

“What’s your name?” Sebastian asked.

“Jean-Philippe….”

“Do you know who I am, Jean-Philippe?” Sebastian asked.

“Nnnnno, sir….”

Sebastian asked him, “What do you think you’re doing here tonight?”

“Apprehending a fugitive,” he said in fear.

“I am Consul van der Meer, and you have just attacked the headquarters of US East.” Sebastian said, and Jean-Philippe closed his eyes as if it was a nightmare and he’d wake up any moment. “Consul Chang has betrayed the Council and has been declared an enemy, and I have been elevated to High Consul!” The boy, a vampire pup who looked to be perhaps twenty-four, actually began to cry. Sebastian stroked his cheek softly and kissed his forehead. “Now, now! Enough of that!” Sebastian stood and untied him from the chair, and led the boy into his office and logged onto the subnet, proving his identity to the boy, who broke down again. “If I remove the chains from your wrists, you won’t do anything stupid, will you?”

“No, sir,” the boy said through his tears.

“Good boy!” Sebastian loosed his restraints and put hands on his shoulders. “Now, where was the rendezvous point?”

The boy wrote the address on a pad and handed it to Sebastian. “I only meant to do my part for the Council, sir, I swear!”

Sebastian nodded, leading him out and handing the paper to the Colonel. “This was the rendezvous point. See what your men can find! Use a werewolf to track them. If we can identify any of the participants, put out a world-wide alert. And ground all planes which are flying under Council authority or under the authority of any group which might ally against us….”

“Yes, sir!” The man rushed off to put Sebastian’s plans into effect. Turning to Jean-Philippe, he asked, “Your friend, will he talk?”

“He’s a true believer, sir. He is Chang’s man on the ground for this operation,” Jean-Philippe answered.

“What is his name?” Sebastian asked.

“Daniel Richards,” Jean-Philippe answered.

“Thank you,” Sebastian said, patting the boy on the arm. Standing before Richards impatiently, he ordered the wizards to make the second ring of salt. “I summon you, guardian wind of the north, come and stand in your place, opening this magical circle! I summon you, guardian wind of the east, come and stand in your place, opening this magical circle! I summon you, guardian wind of the south, come and stand in your place, opening this magical circle! I summon you, guardian wind of the west, come and stand in your place, opening this magical circle! Guardian winds protect this circle that none may enter and none may exit, that what is in this world remains here, that what is in that world remains there!” The two circles glowed as before, and he continued. “Across the vast expanse of space and time I banish thee, Daniel Richards, to your place in the ancient prison of Ashaer, where you will be interrogated until no more can be learned! Your sentence is … eternity! Be gone, be gone, be gone from before me!”

An orange flash filled the room and Sebastian brushed his hands together, before dismissing the gatekeepers. Then he sat down again, this time inviting Jean-Philippe to sit for a conversation. “Now, Jean-Philippe, what can you tell me about the kidnappers?”

“Kidnappers, sir?” Jean-Philippe asked.

“The team who took Peter Lively! That is one of the groups your team was going to rendezvous with!”

“I’m sorry, I was only aware of one target, sir — Horatio Vickers and Roman Sylvano,” Jean-Philippe answered.

“You’ll pardon me if I can’t take your word for it,” Sebastian said sadly.

“Please, sir! Look into my mind…. You’ll see!” Jean-Philippe begged.

“This,” Sebastian warned, raising his eyebrows, “is going to hurt!”

“Please, do it!” the young vampire pleaded.

Placing his hand on Jean-Philippe’s temples, he could see it all—the team being instructed on a standard extraction, no mention of any other teams, Chang instructing Richards privately…. Chang! Where did this meeting take place? On the plane. Chang was here?

Sebastian broke the connection and Jean-Philippe doubled over in pain. Sebastian whispered, “I’m sorry,” in his ear before running upstairs to find the colonel. “Colonel Fisher! Chang’s here! He flew in on the plane with the teams! He could be anywhere now….”

“I’ll get the seekers on it, sir! Wizards the world over will scour this place for the bastard!” Again the man was off. Sebastian smiled—he liked the man’s dedication.

One of the wizards came downstairs and Sebastian asked, “How are the patients?”

“Both are being worked on by the healers. They’ll sleep for a while, sir.”

“Thank you,” Sebastian said, heading back downstairs, where Jean-Phillipe sat with his head in his hands surrounded by four guards.

“What’s going to happen to me, sir?” Jean-Phillipe

“Strictly speaking, the punishment for your crime would be an endless sentence in Ashaer, like your colleague. Given your lack of knowledge and your willingness to help … I can offer you a punishment of … servitude.”

“Really? You’d allow me to serve you?” Jean-Philippe asked.

“You understand that this would be endless? At least as long as I live, and if you ever attempt to betray me, it would mean your instant death at the hands of the magical bond?” Sebastian clarified.

Jean-Philippe fell to his knees in front of Sebastian and grasped at his hand. “Please!” Sebastian thought he saw a little more than relief in the man’s eyes. The wizards joined their power to Sebastian’s and made the unbreakable bond between Sebastian and the man. Then, Sebastian dismissed the wizard guards to return to their posts in the yard. “Jean-Philippe,” he said, lifting the man to his feet. “I’m going to see to my friend. Please take a seat in the library, and feel free to read.”

***

Across town, a speeding van dumped a body in front of the hospital. Nurses rushed outside, but the boy was dead and his body was already cooling. The police were summoned, but one nurse slipped away, calling a number not used that often.

“Hello?” a voice answered.

“I’m calling from the hospital. A body was just dumped, puncture wounds to the shoulder and the … penis. The police are on the way….” The other line simply clicked and the nurse hung up. “Manners,” she thought to herself.

Council agents, Sebastian’s agents, arrived before the police and dealt with all the witnesses and the cops, basically erasing the incident. An operative would destroy the recordings at police headquarters and the 911 call center overnight.

As they were wheeling the body out of the morgue, one of the men looked at the body. “Oh, fuck,” the man exclaimed, causing his partner to raise eyebrows. Then he took a look.

“Shit!”

“You’re making the call,” the first man declared.

“Like hell I am…. You’re the boss!” his partner answered.

***

Sebastian grabbed the phone as he walked into his office and he grimaced at the news. “Take him to the facility. Observe the body.”

“Three days?” the man asked.

“Keep this one for ten. And then, no cremation, but burial,” Sebastian ordered, hanging up abruptly. “Richard,” he said, kneeling down before the man. “Richard, look at me! We … have Peter’s body. It was dumped at the hospital.”

“He’s dead?” Richard mumbled.

“Yes, Richard, he’s dead.” Sebastian looked away, his eyes tearing up. “Richard, I don’t know how to say this, but … they drained him. He … there were traces of blood on his lips….”

Richard shot to his feet. “Take me to him!”

“Richard, we don’t know when, or if,” Sebastian began.

“Sebastian, please! Send me to him! I won’t leave until it’s over,” Richard said. “I’ll be no good to you anyway.”

Sebastian grabbed Richard and looked into his eyes. “Alright! But Richard … when he wakes up, if he wakes up…. Richard, they didn’t just turn him!”

Pain etched Richard’s face as he closed his eyes and asked, “What else?”

“Richard,” Sebastian hugged the man and whispered into his ear, “he was sexually violated by at least two.”

Sebastian felt the man squeeze him tight and sob. “Send me to him,” Richard whispered.

“I’ll have them bring him here, my friend,” Sebastian replied and picked up the phone.

“Yes, sir,” a voice answered.

“Have them bring Peter Lively’s body to my home,” Sebastian ordered

“But sir,” the voice responded.

“The decision is made,” Sebastian reiterated.

“Yes sir!”

***

Martin and Vanessa hopped out of the van in the hangar. “You made it,” a man said from the shadows. “The rest are all dead or captured. What did you do with the boy?”

“We were going to kill him,” Martin laughed, “but we decided to rub it in Sebastian’s face, so we turned him and dumped the body at the hospital!”

“So you didn’t kill him?” the man asked.

“No,” Martin replied, now hesitating.

The man in the shadows shook his head. “Sebastian will be furious!”

“That was the point,” Martin answered.

“Except, he made it through the assault and came out stronger than before! Do you realize they’ve made him High Consul! Sebastian is dictator now!” The pair became pale, suddenly. “What’s more, he’s revealed himself! Do you know who he is? He’s almost four thousand years old! You two are on your own! I’m washing my hands of you….”

Martin was about to object when a second man spoke from the shadows. “Chang, I’m holding you responsible for this … debacle!” He stepped in behind Chang and twisted his head off before the man could even speak. The man dropped Chang’s head onto his body and waved his hand over the pile, igniting a huge and unnatural fire between him and the two vampires. The flames obscured his face as surely as the shadows had. But his laughter chilled their wicked hearts.

“Martin, Vanessa, when you see Sebastian, tell him that Sammael says hello,” he said, laughing, then he simply disappeared before their eyes.

A moment later, twenty wizards and two werewolves charged the hangars and subdued the vampires. “Where’s Chang?” a young major called, and Vanessa pointed to the smoldering pile of remains. They collected those and put their prisoners in an armored truck before heading back to Sebastian’s compound, where their comrades were dealing with police and fire officials who were investigating the explosions on the street.                     

***

“Richard, Peter’s here,” Sebastian said, putting the phone down. “I’m having him put in your room.”

“Have they … cleaned him?” Richard asked.

“Yes,” Sebastian answered. The man stood numbly, and Sebastian kissed him softly on the cheek, sending him on his way. When he was gone, Sebastian turned to Colonel Fisher, who nodded. From storage, two large wooden tables were moved into the basement. The table tops were solid butcher’s block and anyone who paid attention could see that the tables had been used.

“There are no restraints,” Colonel Fisher observed.

“No,” Sebastian said, sending chills down the man’s spine. “Could you have your men send Jean-Phillipe down?”

When the young man arrived, Sebastian sent the colonel away. “Jean, my closest advisor is paralyzed by grief, the love of my life is unconscious, and my dearest friend was nearly killed, so it falls to you to assist me….”

“What do you need?” Jean-Philippe asked.

Sebastian looked at him grimly, handing the young vampire a handful of silver spikes. He winced from contact with the irritant, but did not complain. Good sign, Sebastian thought to himself.

Martin and Vanessa were marched to the basement, and Sebastian looked up at them. “Do you have anything to say to me?”

They both looked at him blankly, so he nodded to the guards, who forced them onto the tables and laid them down. “Stop me at any time,” he said, as he held out his hand for a silver spike. It was a short one so he took Martin’s right hand and placed it about 12 inches from his thigh. Holding his arm down, he drove the spike through his wrist into the table, hammering the spike so that the top bent at a ninety degree angle. The man kept screaming until Sebastian walked around to the other side and did the same. The screams stopped as he passed out.

“Vanessa, right? Tell me, do you have anything to say?” Sebastian asked.

“Chang is dead! Kill us and get it over with,” she growled.

“That’s a great place to start, Vanessa! Who killed Chang?” Sebastian wondered.

She sneered at him and said, “He told us to tell you he said hello, just after he killed Chang with his bare hands!”

“What was his NAME?” Sebastian demanded.

“Sammael,” she answered.

“Hmmm,” Sebastian pondered, sounding mildly curious but almost bored, unmoved by the sound of her screams as he drove the spikes through her wrists. With ice in his eyes, he told Jean-Philippe, “Call me when they wake up!” Jean-Philippe shuddered as he looked down and saw that there were about ten spikes remaining. Sebastian called over his shoulder, “If you think that was bad, wait ‘til we’ve got them restrained. Wait ‘til Richard knows they’re here!” In the living room, he waved for the colonel to join him. After instructing the man to retrieve Steve and Chris and fabricate covers for them, he walked up to his room and laid next to James, ignoring the two healers still at work. “Please, pay me no attention,” he told the nervous wizards. Instead of cuddling him James and getting in the way, he took James’s left hand in his own and closed his eyes, imagining they were a thousand miles away. His heart eased a little when he felt an unconscious squeeze, and he drifted off for a little while.