2019 turned out to be the year my eight-year old really got into reading. She's voracious. And she's gotten pretty darn good at writing and spelling, too. So, I came up with a fun little thing we can do together that'll keep her busy little mind occupied, help her learn and maybe give me (aberrant) ideas for my main writing. The idea is that on Saturday mornings we're to take an event that happened to us during the previous week and turn it into a fiction story. It has to be at least one page long and done by bedtime Friday night, but other than that there's no rules on what we can write. Then on Saturday, we'll share what we came up with each other. Most of it will be silly or pointless, but I do hope to share some of those stories here. Here's to a creative 2020!
1: Into the Void
THE DARK was watching him. It had weight, substance. It surrounded him, held him tight, made his skin crawl and his lungs ache for air.
Tristan took in a gasping breath and realized he could breathe just fine. That deep breath not only filled his lungs with air, but coated his sinuses in something rank. He smelled earth and rot, tasted it.
There were dead things hidden in the pitch.
The wind picked up and whipped his hair into his face, stinging his skin and eyes. Instead of the wind taking the scent away, it carried it heavier with each new gust. He lifted a hand to cover his mouth when the stench made him gag and he ended up poking himself in the cheek.
“Ow!” he yelped a little too loudly, too carelessly.
Dry sounds rustled and scurried around him, like crabs on rocks.
“Hello?” he called out.
More shuffling and scraping.
“Who’s there? What is this place?”
A voice answered, carried on the wind. It was soft, feminine and definitely not human if the way it made him feel was any indication. Her words were lost to the gust and Tristan opened his mouth to ask her to say again but shrieks of fright echoed all around him.
The woman laughed.
More shrieks, more desperate this time, and the scraping and scampering faded away as the things in the dark retreated.
Tristan spun, gasping for air, his pulse choking him. Did someone just touch him? His arm felt… tingly.
Something rustled really fucking close to him, the flutter of fabric and he spun again, making a full circle.
“Who’s there?” He took a step back before he could stop himself, unsure if he’d step in a hole or off a cliff. The dark, it was too disorientating. He didn’t know where his own hands were, never mind the topography around him. He might as well have been floating in space.
“My space,” the woman said just loud enough for him to hear and Tristan gasped, stumbling away from the voice that seemed to be right in his ear.
“Who are you!” Despite the volume of his demand, his voice seemed to stop just past his lips, caught and trapped by the wind. Blocked by the wall of darkness.
That’s when the chanting started. Maybe it had been going on all along, but Tristan only noticed just then. All the hair on his body stood on end, his breath caught in his chest. There was malice and fear, anger and strife in the voices. Hundreds of harsh intonations, all crying over each other, making the words jumble together. The voices grew louder and louder, digging a knife into his brain.
Tristan grabbed his head, gritted his teeth. The pain would have blinded him had he not already been in a void. He sucked down a gasp of rank air to yell when everything came to a startling climax. The wind ceased, the smell was swept away and the voices settled into a low, raspy mantra, “It’s the death.”
Tristan stumbled as the words slithered over his body.
“It’s the death,” they chanted again, the cacophony of voices joined as one.
A shutter tore through Tristan, his skin cold but his core on fire. Sweat ran down his back, goose bumps raised across his bare arms.
“It’s the death. It’s the death!”
“Oh god,” he whispered to himself because he knew. It was him. He was The Death. He had to get away from here, wherever here was.
Without thinking, he backed up, trying desperately to get away from the noise, the pain and anger that beat against him like the heat of fire. His heart was going to give out, or he was going to asphyxiate on terror.
The woman laughed again and the chanting faltered.
Something definitely brushed his arm this time and he spun. “Shit!”
That fucking laugh again, full of satisfaction and dark needs. So close.
A hand grabbed ahold of Tristan’s wrist and he cried out, scared out of his fucking mind.
“You’re mine,” the woman said.
The world burst into light. Sickly yellow, harsh light and Tristan hissed through his teeth, throwing his free arm over his eyes. A moment later his eyes had adjusted and he lowered his arm, seeing that was standing alone in the middle of nowhere. The sky was dark, the ground was black and there was no light further than a few yards around him, like he was the light source.
The sky felt heavy… looming, as if there were a low ceiling but all around him, the terrain felt open and endless. The ground was hard, slightly gritty and fractured, like the Nevada desert.
He stiffened when he felt the presence of another person. He couldn’t say what the person was, only that he felt… something.
There was a small, condescending laugh and he spun around, coming to a stop when he saw the woman standing behind him. She was small, wrapped in layers of flowing red silks, all different shades that made her porcelain skin seem to glow. Her shiny black hair, cut like Cleopatra, reached down to the back of her knees. She might have been cute, or at least attractive, but Tristan couldn’t get past her unsettling eyes. Like the rest of her features, her eyes were of Asian descent in shape but the irises were red and her pupils were gold and slit like a snake.
“It’s about time we’ve met.”
Tristan jumped so violently at the sudden words that he almost fell over. “Who are you?”
She lifted her chin, considering him. “You know.”
Tristan’s stomach turned into knots. Oh god, he really didn’t but had a pretty good fucking idea. “Mother…”
She only smiled with half her mouth, looking cynical and pleased all at once. Tristan wasn’t sure if he could take that for a yes or no.
“What do you want from me?”
The other side of her mouth lifted to make a full smile. “You know.”
He started to take a step towards her, but stopped when she laughed. The creatures of the dark answered with wails. Tristan slapped his hands over his ears as her laughter and their cries of pain reached a crescendo of intolerable noise.
“Stop!” he screamed as he dropped to his knees and tucked into himself with his hands over his ears, desperate for the clamor to stop.
There was on final howl of laughter and then the woman burst into a mass of writhing bugs and tiny crawling creatures. Tristan gasped, throwing himself backwards, away from the mess and fell onto his ass. The bugs gathered and converged on him in a large scurrying, dark mass.
Tristan let out a yell and gasped, freezing mid-motion when he saw he was no longer in that dissolute place where the dark had eyes. He was home, in his bed, gasping and shaking, and covered in sweat.
Then the sound of retching had him scrambling out of bed, tangled with the sheets and rushing towards the ensuite.
She looked up from where she sat on the floor, her legs under her at an awkward angle as if she threw herself at the toilet, desperate to reach it. Her complexion was a bit on the grey side and her bright blues eyes were dulled and heavy with exhaustion.
“Jesus,” Tristan whispered and went to one knee next to her. He reached out and pushed a few stray strands of damp hair from her face. “It’s time Ash. We can’t pretend anymore. We need to know for sure.”
Ash met his eyes, her own full of wonderment and fear.
“We need to confirm if you’re pregnant, one-hundred percent. Ignoring what I felt—what we felt doesn’t make it go away.”
Ash frowned and swallowed hard. “You’re one to talk.”
He’d only been back home in Maryland for less than two weeks, but already a ton of shit had gone down. He reunited with his old friends, people he considered family and had pushed away when things got too hard. He met and befriended a real live lycanthrope—the very same one that caused the car accident that killed his parents and should have killed him. That same lycan was now their live-in, helping to take on the bulk of care for the muddled barn girl Desmond nearly killed.
Then Tristan learned that not only did Ash have a biological daughter but that the girl was also Ash’s only scion. The girl hated Ash and had abused her under Malik’s tutelage—She was a big part of why Ash had trouble agreeing to bite Tristan, to be the one to change him so irrevocably. Oh right, and he had that angry, estranged daughter’s eye now in place of the one she carved out of his face in a fit of revenge rage.
Well, Ash bit him anyway, and it was the night that they finally completed their bond and he drank Ash’s blood that they discovered something peculiar—two extra heart beats. At first he thought maybe it was an echo of his and Ash’s, but the new beats were faster and quickly fell out of sync.
If it was true, Ash, a fucking vampire, was carrying his babies. They’d carefully avoided the subject since the night they’d discovered the abnormality, but it was becoming apparent that ignoring it wasn’t going to work anymore.
Tristan sighed, trying not to take her anger personally. She was scared. They both were. “I’ll try to reach Eric again.”
He’d been trying since he pushed Gillian away—just to make sure the couple was okay. Tristan’s guess, Gillian told Eric… God knew what since she refused to believe the truth of what happened to her at an angry vampire’s hand, and now they were both pissed at Tristan.
Which was really okay with him. He’d rather them be angry and avoiding him than caught up in his mess again. Because of him poor Gillian was abducted and abused. She may never have children after what Pollux did her and that was on Tristan. He’d never be able to atone for that. But the sad truth was, he needed Eric now. He needed Eric’s professional skills. He didn’t trust anyone else. Not with this.
Ash nodded, looking thoughtful for about five seconds before she turned away to puke again. Everything that came out of her was tinted pink. If she fed earlier, well, there wasn’t much left for her to expel.
“Jesus Christ,” he hissed. “Is there anything I can do?” He winced at her scowl. “Have you tried eating crackers?”
Ash’s complexion shifted a shade of horrified he’d never seen on her and she balked. “You cannot be serious.”
He shrugged. “You’re not supposed to be pregnant—you’re a vampire. But what if that spell back in Greece, what if it messed something up in you? Maybe you are different and just don’t know it, despite what Netty said.”
Netty had bitten her, tasted her soul. He said she was just a vampire. Tristan wasn’t so sure. Not with all the pythia bullshit going around lately. Seemed like every time he turned around there was some rare spell being tossed at him and those he cared about.
“The idea of putting food into my mouth—” She turned away to heave again.
Tristan sighed, rubbing circles over her back. “Yeah, I know, babe. I know.”
He kissed her on the head and stood, blocking the view into the bathroom when he felt the vampire with the aura tinged by green come into their room. Desmond knew better than enter without knocking but Tristan stopped himself from bitching the man out when he saw the bleak look on his face.
“Phone,” Desmond grunted, holding out the house cordless between two fingers like it burned.
“What? I didn’t hear it ring—Who is it?”
Desmond stared at him a moment before finally muttering, “Yukihime.” That he didn’t call her Master was really fucking telling. There was trouble in paradise. Not his problem. Not right now.
“Awwwwww, fuck,” he moaned and Ash chuckled at him. Desmond still looked morose as fuck—maybe because Ash was on the floor vomiting and the big vampire knew it but not why.
Tristan didn’t want this to be a serious phone call. He’d had about all the serious he could handle for a lifetime.
From downstairs, there was a bark that the house’s open plan managed to amplify. It was a deep bark, the kind that a very big dog with very big lungs made. Or a lycanthrope in wolf form.
There was a crash followed by a squeal. Tristan sighed, wondering what broke this time. Without bothering to even hear out Yuki, Tristan hung up on her before passing the phone back to Desmond.
“Will you tell those two to knock it off already? God, how many times…”
Desmond took the phone from him, looking horrified and nodding but didn’t say anything as he left. Tristan turned back to Ash, trying hard not to frown himself.
“Are you okay?”
Nodding, she moved to get up and tumbled back down. Tristan helped her stand on unsteady legs and pulled her tightly to him. He took in a breath, opened his mouth and shut it again with a groan when there was another crash followed by a louder squeal.
“What the fuck,” he grumbled. Ash released her hold on him and Tristan went into the bedroom, saying over his shoulder, “Barely two weeks in our new place and shit’s already needing replacing.” Like a whole damn barn that Castor burned down.
Ash followed him into the room and slumped on the end of the bed, watching Tristan as he retrieved his cell. “Are you calling Yukihime?”
He laughed. If he didn’t know she wasn’t feeling well before, that did it for him. “No. Eric.”
“Oh,” she said, slumping.
There was no answer and Tristan groused under his breath. He made a face and shrugged as he ended the unanswered call without leaving a message. On whim, he tried Netty again too—they had shit to talk about. He didn’t even get voicemail this time. He wasn’t sure if he was worried or not. Like so many older vampires, Netty didn’t seem too keen on tech, so it was very possible the man hadn’t even charged the phone. Or even knew how to use it.
“Try again later,” she said softly.
“Yeah,” he sighed and pocketed his phone. “Yeah. I just—” He shook his head. He did this. He pushed Eric and Gillian away, again. For good fucking reason, yeah, still it hurt that he was being refuted by one of his best friends. “Maybe we should make an appointment with… whoever.”
“Yeah, I can look up local doctors—midwives? Or whatever, and make an appointment.” He really didn’t want to but what other options did he have?
Ash frowned at him. “I doubt you will find one that works late hours… after dark. I can be awake during the day but they would have to come to me, equipment and all.”
Tristan deflated. “Oh, right.” He sat next to Ash and she leaned against him, dropped her head onto his arm. “What do we do?”
Their bedroom door was thicker than the normal mass production door you’d pick up from any home improvement store. The doors, a dense slab of African Blackwood, according to Ash, were antiques from a time when the now endangered wood was far more abundant and infinitely harder to work.
Apparently, they first belonged to a revered author of horror, but she only smirked knowingly when Tristan asked who. Anyway, the doors were heavy as shit and equally as dense. Their main job was to be hearty and noise proof. But even those massive doors couldn’t keep out the manic giggles and deep barks of a not-so-right-in-the-head girl and lycan playing fucking tag in the house.
Ash turned her face into him, forcing him to lift his arm. She snuggled against his side, pressed her face to his chest and sighed, slumping. “You’re right. We need to know for sure. I will…” She sighed again. “I will ask Lance to help.”
Tristan cringed. “That’s good in theory n’ all, but we can’t trust him to not tell Yuki. I mean, I get he’s not a snitch, and he can block out most of his thoughts but he’s so fucking loyal that he can’t lie to his Master.”
Ash agreed with a soft hum and a nod. “True. But Yukihime will know, not matter what. She might already. Desmond… suspects.”
Tristan harrumphed and hugged her tightly. As much as he hated the idea of everyone knowing their business, he knew she was right. That manipulative little shit always knew. She was more a part of the clusterfuck that the First Pythia, Iason, was causing than she’d let on. Tristan was eager to get to the bottom of the vampire’s role in Iason’s grand tragedy.
Smiling, Tristan drew her in for a kiss. Ash happily went, deepening the kiss, giving the soft tissue of his mouth a tiny nick. He should have known the minute he kissed her they’d end up naked and breathless—they just couldn’t seem to help themselves anymore. Ash tugged at his shirt and he moved back, letting her lift it over his head and toss away.
“Tristan, your arm!”
“What the fuck,” he bit out, staring at it.
“They look like fingers--Tristan. What happened?”
He shook his head. “Not sure. I mean, I just had this really fucked up dream. Some woman grabbed my wrist.”
“Woman? What did she look like?”
He thought about it, hard, but couldn’t recall her face. Shaking his head, he said, “I don’t know.” He sighed and reached for his shirt. “Maybe we—”
There was a soft knock on the door. Tristan scowled, knowing who it was.
Yanking open the door, he flinched at the noise from downstairs, taking a step back. “What?”
Desmond furrowed his brow at him and held out an envelope.
“Were in the mail…”
“You got my mail?”
Desmond slapped the envelope against Tristan’s chest. “It’s Lilith’s handwriting.”
“What?” Ash asked, coming up behind him.
The envelope was midnight blue with Tristan’s name written in silver cursive. Ash reached out to touch it but pulled her hand back.
He balked. “What?”
“It’s spelled so that only you may open it.”
“Explains why it sodding burned,” Desmond muttered.
Frowning, he turned the envelope over in his hand. He felt… something, but nothing like that ward on the onsen where Malik had taken up residence. In fact, it felt a little bit the way Ash’s spell book felt under his hands. Tingly.
“Open it,” she urged. “With your blood.”
Glancing at Desmond, Tristan slipped his finger under the flap. Tried to. It didn’t give but he managed the papercut he was aiming for. The moment his blood seeped out, the flap released, cleanly opening as if it had never been sealed. There was a single sheet of very thin, delicate paper inside with four lines written in careful, deliberate cursive.
“Oh,” he said, after he’d read it twice.
“Oh?” Ash asked.
After a hard look from Tristan, Desmond left them to it. When it was just Ash and Tristan standing on the landing, Tristan read the note aloud.
“The Raven is a murder; The Mother is a pact; The Father is a slumber; The Rest live with that.”
“Oh,” Ash said, mirroring his earlier dismayed tone.
“What does it mean?”
Ash shook her head. Tristan shut his eyes and ran a hand through his hair, frustrated with Lilith’s cryptic message. And all the fucking noise. There were happy growls, yips and breathless laughter. And another crash.
“Hey!” Tristan shouted as he leaned over the railing above the atrium and couldn’t help but laugh a little when Ellie got caught up in a long, snorted laugh that took her breath away. She was annoying him but, dammit, she was adorable. “What’d I say about Were-tag in the house?”
A blur of tawny fur shot out of the TV room below them and through the atrium, brushing the plants and tree leaves in passing. Kiba came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, looking up them with bright amber eyes. His row of earrings clanked a few times before settling and he plopped his ass down, smiling all toothy with his doggy smile.
Trevor the human was average in height and weight but those same attributes translated to his wolf size, making Kiba the animal the biggest damn wolf Tristan had ever seen. And, despite what Kiba had done to Tristan in the past—been ordered to do—they were good friends. Tristan trusted the man, the werewolf, not to hurt him or anyone he loved. Still, he needed things to be crystal clear between them.
“Kiba, goddammit. You know Elinore’s not right in the head. I don’t want you playing tag as a wolf. What if you accidently bite her like that, huh? She doesn’t know when to stop. You’ve got to be the adult here.”
The wolf lowered his head and whimpered. Sorry, you know it’s a compulsion for my wolf. Something runs, I have to chase.
Tristan still flinched every other time he heard one of the other shinwa’s thoughts so clearly. Nearly two weeks of being a fully awoken Uruwashi with his Master’s blood fueling his transformation and he still couldn’t believe the things he was capable of. He spoke telepathically pretty damn well, if he said so himself, but it wasn’t something he was sure he’d ever get used to. Twenty-three years of being--believing you’re a certain way… well, some habits were hard to break. Tristan’s worst habit? Carrying on like he’s human.
Ash squeezed Tristan’s arm before turning away and descending the steps. She sat on the bottom step and motioned to the huge wolf. Head still lowered Kiba shuffled forward to accept her affection. It was strange, everyone knew this dog was really a man, but the compulsion to pet and cuddle him like a beloved family pet couldn’t be denied. Tristan was the one that ended up cuddling the man-beast the most.
Tristan smiled at the wolf, unable to help it. “Yeah, I know. Just be careful, is all. That’s all I ask, you know?”
You know I’d never hurt her.
“Yeah, dude. I do know. But I still worry.”
Ash nodded and whispered to him, “Of course we know you love her too.” She looked at him lovingly, deep admiration in her eyes. Everyone loved Kiba, but for Tristan it was a compulsion. From day one he put far more trust into the man than he needed to. Kiba, being completely humble, said it was something to do with the bond between lycanthrope and pythia. They were like PB and jelly—Kiba’s analogy, not Tristan’s. He almost seemed guilty about it, like he was sorry Tristan couldn’t help but like the man who killed his parents.
Eli came tromping into the room laughing and gasping like Kiba was still chasing her. She was thin and lanky with thick brown hair, big brown eyes and a mess of freckles. She was cute and delicate the way Liv Tyler was cute and delicate, only not quite as pretty. Or smart. But that was Desmond’s fault—one the vampire undoubtedly felt shame for.
Tristan came up behind Ash in time to watch Ellie trip on her own feet and face-plant hard on the tiled floor. He cringed, sympathizing with her.
“Banana!” she exclaimed and then giggled, rolling onto her back.
“Don’t you mean, “ouch”, sweetheart?” he asked.
Kiba left Ash’s embrace to loom over Ellie. He nuzzled at her torso, making the girl laugh even as she cradled her knee to her chest.
She was giggling and gasping for air but still managed to get out, “Ouch--ouchies!” and continue carrying on with her hysteria. Then she farted and managed to laugh even harder, eliciting Kiba to bark at her.
“I think she’s getting dumber,” Tristan mumbled.
Ash turned on her seat on the step and smirked half-heartedly at him as Ellie rocked back and forth on the ground with her kneed pulled her chest and Kiba jabbing his nose into her belly, making her laugh harder. If they weren’t careful, the poor thing would do a lot worse than fart laughing that hard.
“She is,” Ash agreed, completely deadpan. Maybe even seriously.
Okay, it wasn’t so funny anymore and when Desmond came into the room again, looking grim as fuck… Yeah. It was an accident, Elinore’s mutilation was happenstance of circumstance. Another life ruined in the orbit of Tristan’s fucked-up world, even if it wasn’t by his own hand for once.
Ash huffed and stood, moving up the two steps to stand just below Tristan. She reached up for his face and he leaned down to accommodate her. He knew what she was going to say but let her do it anyway. “Stop that.” Elinore’s happy and healthy. It’s the best we can hope for considering what happened to her.
He nodded, not in the mood to argue, not with so much else on his mind.
Ash gave him a tight smile and a kiss.
He was just considering taking her back to bed to thoroughly worship her when his cell rang in his pocket. He was startled by the ID and showed it to Ash. She nodded and motioned for him to answer.
He went back into the bedroom and answered the call. They spoke a few moments and when he was done, he hung up with a sigh, returning to Ash. They needed to do this—find out what was up with Ash, but he wasn’t as ready as he thought for the truth and now there was no way out of it.
“Let’s go,” he said softly.
“Yeah, just… We need to go.”
Whether she understood intuitively or by picking up his thoughts, she nodded. She went downstairs and to the fridge and pulled out a sandwich and bottle of water. When Tristan joined her a moment later, she shoved them into his hands.
He sighed at her, but took them, promising to actually consume them. Since he’d been bitten, he’d had trouble with food. He used to love food and eating, now it was just way to stay alive. Though, he wasn’t convinced he needed to eat anymore to live. Still, Ash insisted he eat a little something in the solids category every day since he did seem to feel a bit more enlivened after he ate something tangible.
“Going to Master’s?” Desmond asked. There was no emotion in his tone and Tristan couldn’t read him. The vampire was blocking hard.
Ash turned to look at him where he leaned against the side of the fridge. She couldn’t read him either if the look on her face meant anything. “No. We have other things to tend to.”
Desmond scowled at her, obviously picking up on the fact they were keeping a secret.
“Can I go!” Elinore chirped as she tromped into the room, limping a little with Kiba plastered to her side, ready to catch her.
“No, sweetheart,” Tristan answered. “Not tonight.”
Ellie let out a long moan, slumped and lip pouted out.
In hopes to placate her, he added, “My car wouldn’t start yesterday, remember? And Ash’s car only has two seats. But Desmond will see if Sacha or Simon want to come over and play.” He glanced at the man and Desmond nodded. Ellie would stay with the vampire but he made her super nervous. The poor girl just didn’t know why.
“Yay, Simon!” the girl cried, throwing her hands up in the air and turned tail, running off. The wolf was hot on her heels.
“Hey, no running in the house!” Tristan called after her.
Kiba yipped and Elinore shouted back, “’Kay!” followed by more laughter and doggy noises.
“I’ll erm…” The others turned to look at Desmond as the man faltered. “I’ll watch the wee girlie.” His jaw tightened a moment. “And the wolf. I’ll see if Wren will come by too, he’s a micht better with the lass.”
The vampire had his mind locked up tight but Tristan could feel his unease and wondered what the man was so worried about. And when Desmond’s eyes flicked to Ash and back to Tristan again all so fast he wasn’t sure it’d even happened, Tristan felt keenly sick. He did suspect. Maybe he even knew… Jesus, they didn’t even know.
They had no idea and had walked around the past two weeks with their minds locked up tight and their mouths shut. In fact, aside from the several-times-a-night sex, he and Ash had interacted very little. He was scared, she was in denial and they didn’t even know for sure that she was pregnant. Never mind, how.
“I’m sure Wren can use some company of the vampire variety.” Tristan grinned. “And lucky for you, Wren loves dicks.”
Not even a snicker. Wow.
Desmond stared off at nothing for a moment before he seemed to remember himself and flinched. He frowned at the others and left the room.
“Shit,” Tristan hissed under his breath as he watched the vampire walk away. “Never thought I’d say it, but I’m kind of worried about Desmond.”
Ash heaved a tired sigh. “He—” She shook her head, seeming to change her mind. “Come, we have more important matters to worry about tonight.”
Yeah, like making history by confirming a vampire pregnant.
As an introvert, and suffering from a high-moderate sensory disorder (which I'd love to write an essay on some day), socialization is super difficult for me. Even with people I love. I know I should interact more as an author, market myself, help my (tiny) audience grow, but it's so much harder than I can handle most days.
The last few years have not been easy. The joy of having a first child with the love of my life was overshadowed by the terminal illness of that love of my life. Years of illness, his passing and then years of grieving... I find I'm still trapped in a cycle of "just leave me the fuck alone" with pretty much everything in my life. I'm deeply depressed, yet high functioning. And through all the rough times over the last six years, I've always found solstice in writing.
Too many changes, however, this year had me so out of sorts that I stopped writing all together. Stopped doing most things I enjoyed. I can oscillate between, "hell yes, I'm so finishing this series ASAP! there's so much to do!" and "fuck this. fuck everything." within days. It's frustrating and just adds more to the anxiety I already suffer.
I'm on one of those up moods this week, apparently.
I think I've gotten myself back into mostly writing state these days. Book six is looking better than I remember, however I have the last few chapters to hash out yet. Things are getting rather complicated, maybe needlessly, and I need to work it out. After the release of book five, Primal Burdens, I'd planned on having six out within a year of that, possibly sooner. So, like... last month? Ish? Yeah. Obviously not happening. Optimistically, I'd like to aim for Christmas. But maybe I should be realistic and say early Spring.
Point is, I DO plan on finishing. I'm dying to, actually (this week, anyway). But as Tristan would agree, all well laid plans usually get fucked. And not in the fun way.
1: Dropping Anchor
I THOUGHT we’d have more time!
The words shattered something deep in Tristan’s soul, jolting him out a fitful slumber. He was sweating and his forearms ached as if he’d been clenching his fists in his sleep. He always thought that that whole jerking awake, gasping and crying from a bad dream thing was bullshit. But after more than a year of doing just that, he knew it was completely real. He’d even woken talking, muttering to people long gone. He’d awoken shouting and crying too.
This was the first time he’d had this particular dream though. And despite his panic and fog, he recognized it as the night on Crete when he almost died. It was Ash’s pain he felt and he ached for her in that moment. He was falling apart and needed her to hold him together. The past week had been a little more fucked than usual.
He sighed when he got just what he wanted and a cool hand smoothed over his cheek. He opened his eyes. Ash was smiling at him, such a gentle, sweat smile that he couldn’t breathe for a moment past the emotions it ignited in him. God, he loved this woman.
The plane banked slightly and Tristan yawned to pop his ears.
“No, it’s nothing.” He scrubbed his hands over his face, feeling five days’ worth of stubble. Jesus, he probably looked worse than he felt and he felt pretty fucking crummy. His knee, which he’d sprained during his time with Xuejiao, wasn’t bad enough to slow him down. But his broken finger still hurt enough to wince when he tried to use it. At least it was on his left hand. He’d ignore the pain until he couldn’t anymore.
“I’m fine,” he answered in a low voice, reaching out for Ash, letting himself relish a small moment with the woman he loved.
She sighed, collapsing onto his lap and kissed him, gentle and slow, her cool hands holding his face in place, caressing. “Mmm,” she muttered against his lips. “You need to shave.”
“Do I have time for that?” He really didn’t think he had it in him to do something so mundane as shave but what would his old friend think if he greeted him after all this time looking like a mountain man? Not that his half-Asian genes let him grow much of a beard.
“Just,” she answered tartly with a bit of a concealed smile.
Obviously she didn’t care for the new facial accessory. Tristan lifted Ash off him and stood, a little unsteady in his not-quite-awake state. He grabbed ahold of the chair he’d been sleeping in and leaned down to look out the small port window and saw only darkness spotted in the tiny lights of civilization below.
“We should be on the road in the next thirty minutes.”
Tristan took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, eyes scanning the dark outside, not really looking for anything in particular. He grunted and pushed off the chair to go in the back and shave, hoping he finished before they touched down.
Eight minutes later he emerged from the back, looking less like a cretin. Rubbing his hand over his chin, he stopped, unsure what to do. There was so much on his mind, more than he even knew how to deal with. So much had happened in such a short time and suddenly he was home again. Sure, he planned on returning to Maryland, and soon, but there was a greater purpose than just getting away from Yukihime now.
Tristan pulled the letter from his pocket and sat down with it as he felt the altitude drop for landing. He read it again, the short message from his second best friend, Eric, asking him to come home.
“Gillian’s been taken by… something. It was a monster.”
If there was one person in this whole world Tristan would drop everything for, aside from Ash, it was Gillian. They grew up next to each other, best friends from the first day they’d met. A few times they’d crossed the friend line, though not by much, but they agreed they weren’t meant to go together like that.
Tristan met Eric in college and Gillian and Eric hit off. They’d been together since. Then Spike and Julia Blum died and Tristan felt like Gillian and Eric both let him down, didn’t help him when he so obviously needed it. Gave up on him. But that didn’t make his love for either one of them any less fierce. Gillian was family, always would be. Eric too. Hence, his coming to her rescue now even though he was sure his presence near them would only hurt more than help, in the long run.
“Tristan?” Ash said gently as she moved to the seat next to his. Despite the obvious awkwardness of sitting with her beloved katana, Murasaki Kaeru, it was nonetheless close at hand.
He shook his head, staring blankly at the paper in his hands, the words blurring out of focus. “Who would have thought that halfway across the world I could still manage to hurt those I love.” He’d hurt plenty that he didn’t love, too. That knowledge, the sin was a weight on his soul as of late and not getting any lighter.
“We do not know yet if it was a vampire who took her. Might not have even of been a shinwa or heikō, just a symbolic monster. A simple man.”
Tristan rolled his eyes. “Please. If it was anything, it was a vampire. I mean, I’m a fucking Uruwashi. I just thought they’d have a go at me first before they started dragging my loved ones into it… Maybe we should stay in Japan after all.” Or hide out in the Canadian wilderness, in the middle of nowhere.
Ash pursed her lips together for a moment and then sighed. “We can talk about it after we tend to Gillian. In fact, we have much to talk about.”
He glanced at her, feeling the coldness in his gaze. It wasn’t Ash he was mad at, just the opposite. But he was having a hard time dealing with all that’d happened in the last few days. And while he hadn’t even seen her for five days, he didn’t doubt that Ash was all caught up on current events.
A job Tristan had been reluctant to accept from the kitsune turned out to be a farce and before he knew it Tristan was protecting a vanilla vampire from a violent death at the hands of his angry Master, who happened to be Tristan’s favorite Scot, while the real danger was from a kodaijin. The super ancient vampire, Xuejiao, was all of seven when she’d been turned and a frightening foe with two seikonō and claiming the originator of the vampire kind as her Master. It took an army, and a ton of stupid luck, for the child vampire’s defeat. But the cost of her defeat, Tristan was afraid, was his soul.
And in the middle of it all, who comes out of the darkness but the very pythia who’d harkened his coming and set Malik against him. Lilith laid on him then in a strange metaphysical space where he was a part of Ash’s conscious, the scariest truth he’d heard since this whole Uruwashi fiasco started. Mother was awakening and it was all his fault.
That’s right, the mother of all shinwa was coming out of her multi-millennia hibernation in the pits of yomi—or hell—for him and him alone. There wasn’t much time left now to stop her. Only, stopping her might be too big of a burden for Tristan to shoulder, the task required for her awakening into the vessel of her choosing. Such a task would utterly destroy him.
Tristan shivered at his own dark thoughts. He believed in Mother and that belief scared him more than anything he had to face to date.
Then, the cherry to top it all off, Xuejiao’s Master, Apos, had to go and add his own helping of grief, claiming that he’d made the Uruwashi alongside the First Pythia, Jason—who happened to be Lilith’s biological father. Everything was so fucked, leaving Tristan overwhelmed and confused and angry.
“Fine, we’ll talk later.” He shoved the letter into his back pocket and plopped back into the seat, buckling up seconds before the first impact on the tarmac made the little plane bounce. “If anyone’s hurt Gillian… I’ll fucking kill them.”
Ash watched him reservedly, a worried frown curling her lips the only indications of what she might be feeling.
Tristan barely waited for Lance to give them the all clear before he barreled off the plane and to the private shuttle that would take them to their rental car. Leaving Lance behind with his fellow fae brethren, Simon, the couple moved luggage free, yet burden laden, towards the one car in the whole place that that could only be theirs.
He snorted under his breath as he got in behind the wheel of the Aston Martin. “Jesus, Ash, really?”
She smiled brightly climbing in next to him. “What? I like convertibles.”
“Ah-huh,” he said with a bit of a smile. At least it was warmer here than in Japan. Might not even been too bad with the top down with the heater on full blast.
Still smiling to herself, she shrugged. “I liked the look of one Lucien drove, thought I’d try it out before I bought one.”
Frowning at the thought of the dead, fire-wielding vampire, Tristan pulled out of their parking space and onto the highway. He didn’t care anymore to ask why she let him drive, not after mentioning Lucien’s name.
“How long?” Ash asked as she gathered up her thick brown hair into a quick but tidy bun using a pen from the glove box to fix it into place. He’d gotten used to her new, dark coloring and loved the glow of life it gave her.
“Uh, after we hit 97, ‘bout half hour, give or take.”
They stopped for a red light; the sign for state highway 97 was just beyond. Ash glanced at the time. The flight was delayed enough that they were already late for the meeting time designated in the note. “Pretend you’re me and drive.”
He shot her a concealed look. She was being her old stoic self again and he couldn’t read her mood. “I’m not going to risk getting pulled over. Granted, I’m no granny…”
She laughed a little. “If you do happen to catch unwanted attention, it won’t slow us down a but a moment. Don’t be reckless, but move with purpose, the rest is inconsequential.”
As he stared at her, contemplating what she really meant, the car behind them honked. The light had changed to green. Suddenly he smiled, making Ash smile in return, and stomped down on the gas, shifting hard enough to chirp the tires and almost took the left turn, even as wide as it was, onto the exit too hot.
“Remember, you asked for this!” he called over of the roar of the wind and the motor as he accelerated way past the posted speed limit. By the time he hit 95 mph, they were both laughing as if they hadn’t a care in the world.
Their laughter faded away long before they reached their destination. Tristan managed to find a spot at Ego Alley, but only because Ash got out of the car and “persuaded” a couple that had just parked to give up their space.
For March, it was a surprisingly nice night. Being right on the water made it cooler, but it was still far warmer than the high 20’s they’d left behind in Akita and definitely above average for this time of year. And no snow, that was always a plus in Tristan’s book. Nice to look at, a bitch to drive in.
“It’s going to rain,” Ash mused softly as Tristan got out of the car. “Very soon.”
Tristan huffed and got back in to put up the top. When he was done, he stood beside the car and tugged on his jacket wishing he could take it off but with the gun and knife he had on him, it was impossible. And there was no way he was leaving either behind.
The abnormally warm evening made downtown Annapolis busier than usual and Tristan took a moment to scan the crowd, unable to shake the feeling that they were being watched. Which, in reality, they were, seeing as they pulled up in a brand new Aston Martin. And Ash, she was fucking gorgeous.
“Do you see him?” she asked softly.
Eyes still going over everyone as he slowly moved towards the boardwalk, he shook his head. The note had only said to meet Eric downtown near the docks. The area was small, but it would require walking to cover it all visually since Ash had no idea what Eric looked like, but it wouldn’t take much time at all.
“What does he look like?” Ash asked suddenly as if she could read Tristan’s mind.
Without poking at his mental defenses, he knew his block was solidly in place. He’d had a steel grip on it since they left Apos behind in Alaska and he wasn’t ready to let anyone, not even Ash, in just yet.
“Uh, well he’s half Chinese, but looks more European. He’s a straw taller than you, thick dark hair, dark eyes, strong jaw.”
Just as Tristan finished describing his friend, he felt Ash’s attention fix on someone in the crowd. A moment later, before Tristan even had a chance to take a step, the man looked up as if he felt Tristan staring and waved frantically, smiling big.
Ash and Tristan both started at the man’s exuberant reaction. “Tristan…,” she warned in a low voice, looking around. She reached inside her own jacket and Tristan wondered if she had a gun on her since she’d reluctantly left her sword behind in the car.
“Just keep an eye out,” he said as he started to rush through the throng.
“Eric,” Tristan breathed, utterly surprised as his estranged friend walked boldly up to him and took him into a big hug.
“Oh, man, it’s so good to see you!”
Tristan took a step back and grabbed Eric’s face between his hands, staring at him like he didn’t believe he was really there. “It’s been so long.”
Eric laughed, taking another step back and dislodging Tristan’s hold. “It has. To be honest,” he said, smile slowly slipping away, “I was surprised when I heard from you. But I’m glad, we can’t go on not seeing each other, man.”
“Wait.” Tristan flinched when Ash touched his back. He’d been so focused on Eric that he didn’t even feel her sneaking up on him. But the touch was a comforting one, not a warning. “What do you mean?”
“Um…” Eric looked away, over his shoulder and back but didn’t meet Tristan’s eyes. “I missed you, you know. You left so suddenly and—”
“No no, you heard from me?”
“Er, yeah.” Eric met his eyes finally. “You sent me a letter by courier last night…” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a folded bit of paper. “It looked like your handwriting, so I thought—What’s going on?”
Tristan reached out. “Can I see?” When Eric nodded, he gave a thankful little smile and took it. He was grateful his hands didn’t shake as he opened it, but he couldn’t hide his surprise when he saw his handwriting inside.
Ash, who’d been quietly taking it all in, standing just out of Eric’s sight, came around from behind Tristan. The other man gave a little start and smiled as he realized she was with Tristan.
“Hello,” she said and Tristan flinched, shooting her a look when he heard the Greek accent in her ashy voice. “I’ve heard so much about you, it’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Asta Moriakos, but, please, call me Ash.”
Now Tristan was plain outright staring, looking dumbfounded. Ash gave him the tiniest of looks, a warning to play along with her persona.
“Eric Freeman, nice to meet you too.” His grin broadened. “I’m guessing this lovely lady is your girlfriend?”
Tristan nodded, still in a daze. “Ahuh.”
Eric’s grin got bigger yet. “So, where’d you two kids meet?”
“Japan,” Tristan answered as Ash said over him, “Greece.”
The couple looked at each and Ash said, “We met in Greece.”
Eric, seeming curious about the obvious discrepancy, gave Tristan a look.
“Er, yeah. We met in Greece, but we live in Japan right now.”
“Man, Japan? Is that where you ended up after—” Eric pursed his lips and then huffed softly. “Look, man. We really need to talk, about a lot of stuff. I got us a table at Buddy’s.” The cell phone in his hand made a noise and he glanced at it, coming back with a big smile. “But there’s someone here who wants to see you first.”
When Eric turned his back on him, Tristan felt the tingle of goose bumps all across his body. He looked around but didn’t find anyone watching him. And he trusted Ash to warn him if there was.
“Over here!” Eric called out and Tristan whispered under his breath, “Gillian.”
Ash flinched. “You’re sure?”
“Of course I am.”
She scoffed and maybe had more to say but then there was an excited redhead throwing herself at him.
“Oh my god, it’s really you!”
Tristan laughed when Gillian tumbled right into him. He scooped her right up and spun in her a little circle, lifting her off the ground. And then they both were crying as she covered his face in wet kisses.
“I can’t believe you’re really here. I’ve missed you so much.”
“Oh god,” he whispered, shutting his eyes and hiding his face in her hair. “I’ve missed you too. I’m so sorry.”
“No,” she said as she motioned for him to put her down. “I’m sorry.” She wiped her tears away before reaching out and grabbing Eric, pulling him in close to her and Tristan. “We’re sorry. We didn’t mean for you to think we hate you. We just, we wanted to help and didn’t know how and—”
“No, Gillian.” He shook his head, smiling sadly. The few tears that had escaped were already gone but he felt like crying all over again. “I was the asshole. Look, there’s a lot I have to say but I just need to know, right now, are you okay?”
“Eh? Well, um, yeah. I mean, I’m feeling a little emotional but that’s nothing out of the norm. Am I right?” She gave Tristan a little punch on the arm as Eric snickered.
“Perfectly normal. But I mean, has anyone been bothering you lately? Anything… strange happen?”
She frowned, bunching up the freckles on her nose. “No. Not in particular. Unless you call seeing you again like this after so long, strange. What’s going on?” She looked to Eric and he shook his head.
“I just—” Tristan started and then stopped when he felt it, eyes widening.
“Sore wa wana da!” Ash hissed, her fingers tightening on his arm.
It’s a trap, indeed. He was starting to wonder as much and now, well, now he knew for sure.
Tristan cursed more than a little, causing the other couple to take two big steps away from him.
“Fuck me,” he said finally through gritted teeth, darting a look around. He could feel the fucker but damned if he could pinpoint where.
“Tristan, what’s going on?” Gillian almost looked panic, like she might lose him again.
“I, I don’t have time right now--fuck. We’ve got to go.”
“Go? But you just got here. I thought we’d have dinner and talk.”
Tristan sighed, glancing over his shoulder. Nothing but water and boats. “Dammit, I know, but I just, this is important.”
Gillian frowned. “So are we.”
He darted forward, almost too fast, and startled her but held on to her arms despite the fear in her eye making him want to flee in shame. “I promise, we’ll talk and really soon. Tomorrow, maybe, but right now I’ve got something super important to do. I’ve—it’s hard to explain.”
She considered him a moment and then swallowed hard, nodding. She glanced at Eric and then let her attention fall on Ash, considering her for a long moment before going to Tristan again. “Okay.”
“Okay,” he repeated and gave her a tender kiss on the cheek.
“Tristan,” Ash warned even as he felt the real warning closing in. God, they’d been so careless.
“I promise,” he said softly as if meant only for Gillian. “I’ll see you again.”
He heard her confused noises and whispered words to Eric as he and Ash put their backs to them and walked away. It broke his inhuman heart.
“I can’t believe how fucking stupid I’ve been.”
“We were both careless,” Ash said.
He shot her a furrowed look. “Not sure if I should be insulted or not.”
She sighed. “I should have known it was a trap.”
Tristan squinted up at the sky when he felt the first few drops of rain. “At least the rain will help clear out the area.”
Ash jerked to her left. “And none too soon.”
“Jesus,” Tristan whispered as he sensed the sudden presence of the vampires. It felt almost as if they were dancing in glee like a bunch of wood nymphs in the rain. “What the hell are they doing?”
Ash squinted at him. “You can feel that?”
“Yeah,” he answered, feeling a bit itchy all over. That he could tell they were several streets over bothered him too. He’d never been able to feel a vampire so far away. Worry tickled his nerves as he wondered if Apos had done something to him in those moments between being knocked out and Ash coming to his rescue. He didn’t care what Ash and Netty said, he wasn’t convinced that creature he met was anything but the First Vampire. “What is that? What the fuck are they doing?”
Ash glanced back as the night crowd gave a collective gasp when the sky opened up and pour down on them. Distantly, almost past the row of buildings where the museum and Mangia’s was located, were Eric and Gillian as they rushed for to their car. The complete opposite direction of the three vampires he felt.
Pushing a few stray strands of hair from her face, Ash sighed. “They are killing someone right now.”
Tristan’s eyes widened. “Then we have to hur—”
Ash shook her head. “It’s already too late.”
“But they’re not dead,” he hissed through his teeth. How he knew that, he wasn’t sure.
“He’s lost too much blood. It’s too late to save him, with modern medicine or vampire wiles.”
Tristan roared an angry noise, right there in the middle of downtown. He felt the presences pause, take notice of his frustration and then laugh at him.
“They’re mocking us!”
Ash put a hand on his arm, making him stop to look at her.
“How the fuck can you be so calm? They’re killing someone right now, right here in the middle of a busy downtown and you’re fucking calm like it means nothing to you!”
Ash knew his attitude wasn’t directed at her. He was a man, undoubtedly, led more by his actions than words. She didn’t even look fazed in the face of his rage.
“Human death means many things to me. Sorrow, for one, just as you feel. I just chose to keep it to myself, rather than scream and yell about it.”
Tristan sighed at her and shook his head. “Sorry. I know, okay? It’s just, I don’t understand what’s going on here and I’m frustrated and I’m… I don’t know.”
“Then let us un-frustrate together.”
Oh boy, did that sound like something completely opposite of what they were about to do. Shame too. He could use some vigorous frustration relief right about then.
“They’re over here,” he said, pointing to the east.
Ash nodded. “Yes, but there’s something not right about this. I just, I cannot put my finger on it.”
“Great,” Tristan grumbled.
“Is that the Naval Academy?” she asked when they came up against a brick fence.
“Uh, yeah,” he answered looking around, fighting desperately with the rain in his eyes. “I’m sure I felt them right here though. Ballsy fuckers to break the law right on top of the Academy. There’s MP’s n’ shit.”
“Master at Arms.”
“What?” he snapped.
“They are called—never mind.” Ash bit into her lip, tilting her head. “I never felt our foe move. One is completely gone now.”
“And the other two have split up. Should we?”
Ash frowned hard. Obviously she didn’t want to any more than he did but it was their best bet at catching the two left behind.
“It’s not like I can’t handle one alone. Not after—” He stopped short, frowning hard as the image of the child vampire burning alive in the sunlight bubbled to the surface. His eyes stung as phantom shrieks filled his ears. His stomach dropped into his belly when he realized he was hearing real shrieks of terror.
Ash eyes widened and she pointed the direction towards the docks. “You go after that one.” She pointed towards the water and the shrieks. “I will take care of this one. But be careful. That they can move without me sensing them…” she shook her head in dismay. “These two are dangerous.”
Tristan harrumphed. “Aren’t they all?” he muttered.
He started to turn to leave, thought second on it and spun back towards Ash. Almost as if she could read his mind, she turned into him in that same moment and they kissed hard and fast. He just hoped it wasn’t a farewell kiss. Then again, a good luck kiss didn’t seem right either, not with a dead body on the ground and three vampires in the wind.
Primal Burdens coming July 2017
Today I announced the final official title for book five. The original working title had been "Eternal Burden", but then something happened in the mmo I play. My character's name is "Asta Murasaki" (Gee, wonder where I got that from?) and I was playing the job summoner. In order to get new spells/traits, I have to do a job quest, and this particular job quest was called "Primal Burdens" and had me fighting "Tristan". So, yeah, how could I not use the name? Funny how things work out like that, huh? Ash would call it fate.
Yes, I've been rewatching BSG lately. But it's a relevant title! Right. So, just wanted to give a quick update on happenings. Had a free book day last week that I totally forgot to promote due to be super ridiculously sick the past... erm, three fricking weeks. Yeah. It's been hell. Anyway, to make up for that I think I'll have another free book day soon. Maybe on the release date for book 4, White Lies. We'll see.
In other news, I am about 2/3 the way through the first draft of book five. Book five does have a title, but that's a secret for now. Hell, it has a cover too. In fact, I have titles for the next 6 books. O.o I know. Well, one of those is a short spin off featuring a lesser character with a lot of relativity to the main story line and another is a "clip show" a book of shorts and other stories that don't fit into the canon but I find entertaining. And one of those books is... well, I guess it's too soon to talk about, but it's not really canon but certainly important and relevant. ^^
I know, such a tease. There's so much exciting stuff coming! Overall though, the entire Uruwashi series at this point is looking like it's going to be about 12 or 13 books long, including novellas, etc.
1: Swimming Home
MOTHER fucker!” Tristan shouted as he got a good look at the man on his sofa. A man that should have been dead.
And he should have fucking known it was going to be one of those days after the dream Tristan had and then waking up to fresh snow as if to rub it in his face that Yuki was pining for him. But, determined to move at his own pace and needing solid food, Tristan slogged out to the store on foot. He was tired and soaked through to the skin by the time he trudged back home with his groceries.
Being after dark, Ash would naturally be awake, so he was expecting to find her sitting in the living room, reading as she often did when they didn’t have plans to go out. Only, it wasn’t his lovely vampire companion on the sofa when he walked in. Instead, it was a man Tristan watched die more than three months ago under Ash’s fangs.
The moment the harsh curse left Tristan, he dropped the bags in his arms and dove for the kitchen. After having his apartment violated by Malik’s minions, he got smart and planted a few key weapons around the place. Besides the normal kitchen knives and such, there was also a finely honed Japanese steel tantō tucked between a cabinet and the fridge. He was more of a gun person, but the foot-long blade worked to keep neighbors from being too nosy. He had the weapon within seconds and was on his feet again, moving towards the frightened man. No, not a man, a teen—he was just a kid, this Sebastian look-alike.
“Who the fuck are you?” Tristan demanded of the boy, now pinned under him on the floor with the knife to his neck and a knee in his back.
“Uh, uh…I’m, uh…” At least the kid’s voice didn’t crack even if he did squeak a little.
“Who are you? Tristan demanded again. “Why are you here?”
“I, I don’t—I’m Simon!”
There was no shuffling of clothing or feet on the worn tatami to announce her arrival to the room, so when Ash’s voice cut in it was like thunder. “What in the Goddess—Tristan!”
He flinched but refused to take his eyes off the boy. “Some vampire you are,” he said with a dark smile and finally glanced at her, his smile going more crooked at her obvious and barely concealed amusement. She wore only a light robe and he let it distract him for more than a few seconds. “You know there’s a fucking faerie in the apartment, right?”
Ash scowled but her eyes shone with laughter. “What sort of vampire do you take me for?” She tilted her head, frowning at the men. “Simon is a guest.”
“You know this kid?”
The boy looked less frightened and scowled. “I’m not a kid.”
Tristan sneered at him.
“Tristan,” Ash chided in a tone he was fully familiar with and he cringed. “This is Simon. Simon, Tristan. Now, will you please let him up?”
Tristan grumbled but let the Sebastian clone get up. Didn’t mean he had to put his weapon away. Simon stood, looking stiff and on guard as he smoothed out his clothes—his really bad 80’s clothes. To be honest, all 80’s clothes were bad, but this was like the culmination of every bad part of eighties-wear one could possibly find. He was bright and shiny and oh so deco. It was fucking disgusting.
Aside from the loud clothes, the kid really did look a younger Sebastian. Simon’s hair was the same black dyed over natural crayon red, though Sebastian’s was longer and less spikey. Same spring grass green eyes, same soft features and small build. Even the pointy fae ears which stood out starkly without the hair to hide them.
Ash sighed and went to shut the front door, ignoring the food exploded all over the floor that Tristan’d dropped on his way in. “Yukihime sent Simon for us.”
Tristan took a moment to process that and then smiled cynically, making the young fae step back in surprise. “Fucking took her long enough.”
Ash’s smile was soft and tired as she shrugged. “I think she was actually waiting for us to come to her.”
Tristan snorted, shaking his head. He was just about to, actually. Today was his last self-imposed lazy day and then tomorrow he was going to go see Yuki one last time. He needed to build up a mental tolerance to the old vampire. It was nice not having her around the past few months. It was great having no one around. Just him and Ash. No shinwa, no heikō, no bullshit.
A look crossed the fae’s face like he’d made a decision and then he was launching off into this fast paced monologue. “Yeah so Master Yukihime sent me, said she wants to send you on a hunt and that I should come get you and um, bring you to her so she can tell you about it and you’d go out and get the shinwa but I don’t actually know which one since she never tells me anything because no one tells me anything.”
The others just stared at Simon, Tristan in wide-eyed surprise, Ash in tired acceptance like she’d been through it already and learned to just deal.
“Okay...,” Tristan drawled, eyeing the fae. Hyper. Way too hyper.
Simon smiled brightly. “Master said you were a hunter, an Uruwashi but I don’t know if I believe in the Uruwashi, I mean they aren’t really even shinwa like me and the vampire n’ all or even heikō but big sis and brother said they existed once and did you know my sister died last year and um—”
“Okay. Stop.” Holy-fucking-hell. Tristan didn’t think the kid even took a breath in there. “Yuki told you specifically to come for me?”
“Ah-huh, she said—”
He put his hand up. “No, I know. She said for you to get us.” Tristan got that. He also understood why she sent Simon of all the “people” in her service. She was fucking with them.
Tristan glanced at Ash and then at her tiny nod, sighed. “We’ll go but I need to clean this shit up first—”
“I’ll help!” the fae chirped way too cheerily.
Ash smirked at Tristan over her shoulder as she retreated back into the bedroom to finish getting dressed.
“No, I got it,” Tristan grumbled.
“No, no, it’s okay really, I don’t mind!”
“Okay, first off… Slow. Down.” Tristan made eye contact with the kid. That seemed to make Simon uneasy and made the kid’s mouth clamp shut. “And two, volume. I’m not deaf, okay? Inside voices.”
The fae blinked at him a moment before putting on a big, cheesy smile. “’Kay!”
Tristan wondered if the need to be useful was a fae thing. Even though Sebastian was really a bad guy, a spy, the man did more work than he needed to. Sure, it was his job to blend in and not be suspected, but Tristan always got the impression that the man actually enjoyed being useful like that. Like that first night in Paris when the fae ordered a whole goddamn buffet of food when Tristan mentioned he was hungry.
A few minutes later Ash was dressed in a skirt outfit with knee-high boots and a suede jacket lined in shearling. Murasaki Kaeru, her favorite katana, finally recovered from its long trip of being lost in shipping from France, was resting happily in a new over-the-shoulder sheath that put the draw directly over her left shoulder. Tristan swore she almost cried when she’d heard word that her blade might be lost forever. He’d only just found out that it’d been an heirloom in Haruka’s family, a treasure Ash claimed the night she saved Haruka. It meant a lot to her before Haruka died and now that the girl was gone, the sword was beyond priceless. It was a precious memory and probably the only material item Ash gave a damn about. Tristan’s eyes fell to her chest and the locket there that he’d given her in France. Okay, make that two things she gave a damn about.
“Ready?” she asked, looking eager. Tristan related; he’d been waiting a long time to tell ole-crazy-pants off. A little earlier than planned, but he’d go with it. Winging it was totally his thing anyway.
He smiled and took the knives she held out. Guns were illegal in Japan, but that didn’t keep him from carrying one in a concealed shoulder holster. He wouldn’t have it any other way. Especially now that he knew about all the frightening things there were out in the world, the shinwa and heikō. And the vampire were only one of thirteen.
He frowned as he thought of the other apex predator, his own kind, the Uruwashi. He’d always been led to believe he was the last alive, but found that wasn’t true when he met an honest-to-bitten Uruwashi in Greece. Mamoru was his friend, and would have become his mentor if that fucking elf, Silas, hadn’t accidentally killed him.
While Simon blathered on about something or another to Ash, Tristan dipped into the bedroom to put on dry pants and add a spare clip to his person. One could never be too prepared when it came to Yuki… or Desmond for that matter. Both were just as liable to kiss him as draw a weapon on him. Or rub dirt in his hair—it was always so hard to judge their moods.
When he came out of the room, Simon was still yammering away. Tristan rolled his eyes, eliciting a soft chuckle from Ash as she put an arm around his waist for a quick hug. “Ready?”
He nodded and went to the kitchen for his car keys. Fifteen fucking minutes later Ash found them in the corner between the desk and patio slider. The look she gave Tristan as she handed him the keys was full of apprehension. They all saw him put the keys on the kitchen counter before he changed and their displacement could only be a few, highly inconvenient, things.
Tristan held the door for the others, which his landlady had fixed in the time they were gone. Maybe he’d force Desmond to pay for it out of principal. It wasn’t like he was hurting for money, not with Ash’s deep pockets. She had single handedly paid for their new home. Tristan was weary to ask how.
The young fae smiled brightly and went outside, practically skipping like it was the happiest day of his life. Who knew, maybe it was.
“Where does Yuki find them?” Tristan mumbled as he followed the kid out.
“Sometimes I wonder,” Ash said softly.
Ash slowed her pace to fall in next to Tristan and whispered, “He is the younger sibling to Sybille and Sebastian.”
He nodded, watching the fae prance off ahead of them through the snow on the upper landing. “Yeah, figured as much. He looks just like Sebastian.” Not to mention the whole fae naming convention: faerie given names started with the last letter in the mother’s given name. It wasn’t hard-fast, but usually a good guess if you met more than one faerie with an “S” name in the same region that they were all siblings and there could be a shitton of them too with the way faerie reproduced.
“Do you... do you think he’s like Sebastian?”
“Yeah,” he answered in a whisper. The memory of being betrayed by the man was still very fresh. His death even more so. Ash kept Sebastian alive for nearly a week before draining him and dumping him overboard the cruise ship just before reaching Greece. If it weren’t so justified, Tristan would have had to dispense Uruwashi justice on Ash. Not that he ever could.
“No. His mind is fully open, he has nothing to hide. He thinks only of serving Yukihime… and making new friends.”
Tristan had to chuckle.
“He is not a deceitful person.”
“Do you think he knows, you know, about what we did to his brother?” He looked down and met Ash’s gaze.
She shook her head. “He does not look at you as a man who has killed someone he cares for.”
That was true enough.
“Besides, no one knows what happened to Sebastian.”
Well, that was true too.
Ash seemed tense all the sudden and Tristan frowned, meaning to ask but then he was distracted. Down the stairs and halfway across the car park already, Simon suddenly stopped and turned to face them with his arms behind his head, looking carefree and full of vibrant youth. “Hey, are you really an Uruwashi?”
Ash smirked, nudging Tristan in the side when he groaned.
“It’s supposed to be a secret,” he grumbled to her before saying louder to Simon, “Yes. Yes, I am.”
“No way! That’s so awesome,” Simon practically shouted. “What can you do? Do you have powers? I read they have powers and stuff, like um…”
“Thought you didn’t believe in the Uruwashi?” Tristan said as he frowned at his snow covered car. He wasn’t looking forward to cleaning it off. There was already half a foot or so and more falling. It was a good day to stay in.
“Well, not entirely, they’re like, um only fairytales to us now…”
“Says the faerie,” Tristan mumbled to Ash as Simon kept on talking.
The couple had caught up to Simon who’d stopped to gaze up at Tristan in awe.
“What?” he snapped feeling self-conscious all the sudden.
Simon blinked those spring grass eyes up at him, so big and full of childlike wonder. “Tall... you’re so tall.” Simon was even shorter than Sebastian, topping a small four-ten, max. The fae grinned suddenly. “You’re so awesome!”
Ash laughed and Tristan gave her a little shove away from him. “Yes, Tristan is awesome. But he has a bit of an ill temper, dear faerie. Mind yourself.”
He scowled down at her. Temper? Aw hell, guess it was true enough. He wasn’t always like this. He used to be pretty damn cheery and nice, but could still rip your fucking head off if you deserved it. Nowadays though, it seemed like all he did was frown and mouth off.
Simon started to walk backwards again, having no trouble navigating the snow. “Oh! What vampire bit you, was it earth? Wind? Oh, oh water? Can’t be fire, they’re all dead n’ all—oh my god, do you have fangs? Can I see?”
Tristan sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Christ, it’s like twenty questions…”
The fae gave him a big grin, shrugged and turned to face forward only to prance off towards the line of parked cars buried under snow.
Simon was a constant buzz in Tristan’s ear as they cleaned off his car enough for him and Ash to get in. Tristan rolled his eyes at Ash, making her chuckle and went around to open the door for her. His girlfriend before last would have called him sexist for it—there was a reason they didn’t last—but Ash only smiled warmly and gave him a soft pat on the chest. In the background the fae was still talking. Tristan couldn’t believe anyone had so much to say. Not that he was really saying anything at all.
When Tristan turned to go around to his side of the car he stopped with a surprised noise. The fae was right behind, like all up in his shit right behind him.
“I know, I know! It was the were-house. The were-house, like warehouse. You know the lycanthropes? Get it? Get it?”
“I don’t have a clue what the fuck you’re talking about, kid.”
Simon looked crushed as he muttered, “It was a joke—”
“Listen,” Tristan interrupted before the kid could get lost in another monologue. “You seem nice, but you’re hard to follow, okay? Just… relax.”
Simon nodded but still had the kicked puppy look. “Okay.”
The two stood there, staring at each other.
“So… you drove here…?”
Simon stared up at him for a long time. The kid looked like he was really thinking. And it was an effort on his part. “Oh yeah! I drove here.” He slumped, letting his arms hang lifeless at his sides. “Can’t I ride with you? I get lonely when I drive alone there’s no one to talk to and Master wouldn’t let me bring Jennifer or Sacha along and I don’t care about my car. Can I?”
“All right,” he answered and it was the first real frown of the night he’d put on.
Hell, the expression looked so wrong on him that Tristan felt bad for the kid. But then he remembered the constant chatter they’d have to endure for the long ride to Yuki’s place. Tristan was sure is brain would leak out of his ears if he had to spend that much time in a confined space with the kid. Then again, that might still happen, they were off to see Yukihime, Master of Water and all things crazy, after all.
Ash startled him when she took his hand, still standing in the open car door. She offered him a half smile and then, when she seemed to notice his little frown, went on her toes to kiss his cheek. Without a word she teased the keys from Tristan’s hand and went around to the other side. He sighed, knowing that look on her face and got in the car, accidentally dropping snow into his lap when his hair brushed the side of the roof.
Ash maneuvered the car through the snow, not bothering to wait on the exuberant fae. The silence was cold, but not uncomfortable despite Tristan’s focused awareness on Ash and her unspoken thoughts. He could just tell there was something on her mind but knew better than to push. She was as hardheaded as him and would hold onto her musings until she was ready.
“I have something to tell you.”
Tristan stiffened at her sudden words. For Ash, of all people, to come out and say I have something to tell you… well, it couldn’t be good.
“You…” She glanced at him with an apprehensive look. “You are not going to like it.”
He turned in his seat and fixed his attention on her face, ready to pick up the tiniest of clues as to what this was about. “Okay…?”
“It’s about Sebastian.”
His hands tightened into fists where they rested on his lap. “Ahuh.”
She let out a sigh as if preparing herself. “There is a chance he isn’t dead.”
“Um… what?” He was there. He had forced himself to watch Ash take the fae’s last blood before helping her dump him over the side of the cruise ship.
Ash sighed again, slumping down in her seat. “I have killed a great many people in my life. But the only kind I have ever killed on purpose, of my own will has been vampires, wrong vampires… and a few dozen lycanthrope, out of pity. Sebastian, he—He deserved to die for what he did to you--us. But even knowing that, I just, I could not.”
“I drained him near death. When he went over the side, he was not conscious but he was alive.” She stopped and the silence pecked at Tristan’s mind. He was looking out the window again, unable to meet her eyes.
When he said nothing, she added, “He had a fifteen percent chance of surviving, actually.”
His attention snapped around to her again. “And that qualifies as you not killing him?”
She pouted a little. “For me, yes.”
Tristan took in a deep breath and let it out, forcing the tension away. “Yeah… okay. I guess I accept that. But, Jesus, what if he did make it? I already have to sleep with one eye open for the vampires, I don’t want to have to worry about all the others too.”
“I know,” she said sadly. “Which is why I thought you should know.”
“I am sorry.”
He looked at her, confused.
“For not killing him.” She glanced away from the road long enough to see his frown. “I know you wanted me to.”
He groaned and took her hand off the steering wheel, giving it a soft squeeze. “No, actually, I’m a little relieved.”
Ash squeezed his hand in return. “It was weighing on your conscious.”
“Yeah.” Along with Audric’s fledglings. He wanted to believe there was no other way, but he just couldn’t. He wasn’t a good enough liar to tell himself otherwise.
When he glanced at her, Ash was looking at him with a sort of “do you want to talk about it” kind of look. But it was not something she’d normally say aloud. Tristan either. They both tended to bottle shit up until it exploded—more frequently for Tristan. In fact, he was sure he was due for his next epic meltdown soon. He just hoped Ash had it in her to pick his broken self up when he inevitably failed to help himself.
Shit, for all he knew, he had one in France and just didn’t remember it. Dammit, he was going to cave and ask her to tell him what happened after all. He just knew it. And knowing himself, he’d do it at the worst possible moment too. Fuck, he was a detriment to himself and everyone around him.
“I will be sure to find a moment to tell Simon.”
She glanced at him with a confused frown.
“Just like that, you’re going to tell him the truth?”
Her attention went back to the road. “He knows the world he lives in. He understands the nature of his fellow shinwa. Don’t you think he deserves to know my sin against him?”
“Yeah but… I mean, Sebastian was a traitor. And a monster. Do you really want to be the one to tell that boy that? Simon seems like a good kid.”
Ash slumped. “Simon will understand.”
Tristan wasn’t so sure about that but he let it slide for the moment. He had to get his head on right before walking into Yuki’s home. Too bad it was impossible to do in the next thirty minutes what he’d been struggling to do for the past year and half.
Here it is, ladies and gents, the cover for Book 4 of the Uruwashi Series, White Lies.
I'm working on the edits now, and not to be too precise or too vague, but maybe we're looking at a winter release... We'll see how it goes. ^^
I had debated on whether this was something I wanted to share publicly or not and I think that it's important to share, as hard as it is to say. For the past three years my darling husband had been fighting cancer. Our daughter has only ever known daddy as sick. He fought against this aggressive disease over and over again as it kept coming back. But it had gotten to the point where it was stronger than any method of treatment. He lost the battle days ago. We all lost with his passing.
I know I don't have many readers, hell, no one may even see this, but in the chance that someone does and wants to know the why for my sudden silence I wanted my intentions known. I'm not walking away from the Uruwashi project, simply delaying it while I take time to grieve. The first draft of book four, White Lies, is nearly finished and I will get back to that last chapter and editing once I can focus again. But it may not see publication in 2015. Then again, it might as I try to break away from the chaos. Writing for me has always been therapeutic and I foresee it helping me again through these terrible times.