|Zofia Trickenbod is about to save her planet from the dark ex-wizard, Vesselvod |
Blood, whether she wants to or not!
I thought I would share with you a portion of chapter 4 of Spell of the Black Unicorn, today. Enjoy. Then buy!
Zofia charged up the steps. “It’s probably your father,” Zofia informed her, as she passed Blanche in the stairway. Who else could it be?
“But—he’s in the bath tub!”
Zofia opened the door to find Dorian lounging back in the tub, fully clothed and propped up by many pillows, looking very comfortable. Zofia also noticed with irritation some of those pillows had come off her own bed.
“Sorry about that,” he said, glancing up from the book he was reading, tossing her a nonchalant smile. “Didn’t mean to frighten her. I didn’t have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to put out. Whoever she is, make my apologies, please.”
“Whoever she is?” Zofia said. She stepped into the room, one fist claiming a spot at the curve of her waist. “That was your daughter, Blanche.”
“Blanche?” He looked startled. “No. Can’t be. Last time I saw her she was this tall.” Palm facing the floor, he indicated how tall his daughter had been when last he’d seen her.
“She was eleven—then—and that was five years ago. She’s going to be sixteen this summer. You’ve missed a few birthdays around here.”
“I’ve missed a few of my own,” he said with a sarcastic sniff.
Tillie’s form appeared in the open doorway and eyed Dorian with a look of disdain. “Not all of us can claim we’ve missed a few birthdays.” She snorted for good measure.
Dorian squinted as though he didn’t recognize her at first. Then, the spark of recognition came with a hesitant smile. “Ottillie?”
“Why is he in the tub with a bunch of pillows?” Tillie asked Zofia, ignoring Dorian.
“Good question.” Zofia turned back to Dorian. “Why are you in here? I thought you were up in the attic taking a nap.”
“I woke up smoldering. Not a pleasant thing, that,” Dorian said scowling. “There’s a small window in the ceiling, apparently.” He now scanned his surroundings. “This is the only windowless room on the second floor. This should suffice me.”
“But, this is the bathroom!” Zofia cried, her face squeezing into a tight frown. “You can’t just claim it like a-a dog.”
He frowned at her metaphor, then said, “You’ve no other to use?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“Then I can take this one for shelter during the day. I won’t require it at night.”
“How typical of a Knight of the Witenagemont,” Tillie said, sneering.
His expression went from mild annoyance to one of discombobulation.
“I’m not certain what that means, but for your information I haven’t been a Knight in five First World years, Ottillie. I’d hold my tongue were I you.”
“Or what? You’ll turn me into a toad?” she said, looking unimpressed. “Fat chance!”
“No,” he said. “But maybe I could give you a pair of wings, you old bat.”
“Okay, stop it, you two.” Zofia had to break it up before it went on and on. She'd nearly forgotten how terribly they'd gotten along. She gave them both looks of annoyance. “Just because there’s bad blood between your families—”
“Bad blood?” Dorian’s brow raised beneath an untamed wisp of jet-black hair.
“You don’t remember?” Zofia said, dismissing the suggestive tone he’d used. She didn’t know if he could go into relapse at the mention of blood, or if he’d be fine. She watched him warily.
“No, I can’t say that I do,” he said as he straightened up in the tub.
“Good. Maybe your memory lapse will ease the tension for the time being.”
Tillie’s gaze begged an explanation.
“It seems that somehow Blood took his memory as well as his soul,” Zofia said.
“Flying lizards!” Tillie said, returning her gaze to Dorian. “Blood can’t have done all this to you. He has no powers!”
“However he did it, it doesn’t really matter, does it now? I am what I am.”
“The Heathweian Council of Wizards and Immortals took away his powers ages ago,” Tillie continued. “He must’ve had help in this.”
“Must we go over something that’s been pummeled to death all ready?” Dorian said wearily.
“But, I mean, how could he turn you into a vampire? He’s not one himself... not that it would hardly make any difference at all, as he's so into evil and darkness,” Tillie said, sliding her eyes back to Zofia.
“Couldn’t he have used The Key of Dr. Faustus? Or some other dark Grimoire?” Zofia wondered aloud.
“Might have,” Tillie said looking thoughtful. “Ever since he escaped Hamparzum’s there’s no telling what he’s been up to or who he’s been hanging with. Once he escaped, he went totally off the grid.”
“Unless he used the Lesser Key of Dr. Faustus,” Dorian said offhandedly. “What does it matter how he’s done it? I only know I’m doomed to remain as I am—a blood-drinking, night-vision vampire.” He gazed up at Tillie. “Unless, of course, you know of a spell that might reverse this curse, Ottillie?”
Tillie eyed Dorian. They stared at one another for a long moment. Zofia wasn’t sure if they were putting hexes on one another, or just trying to win a staring match.
Just when Zofia thought she should intervene, Tillie spoke up. “I, on the other hand, have in my possession two Grimoires,” she said, her snowy eyebrows dancing high.
Zofia took in a sharp breath and stared at her. To have even one Grimoire in one’s possession on Euphoria was against The Code of Ethics, big time. Zofia and Dorian both stared at her dumbfounded.
“You do?” Dorian broke the stunned silence. There was a dark, conspiratorial glint in his eyes to go with his crooked grin. “I would never have guessed you, of all people, to possess such a thing.” His sarcasm wasn’t lost on Zofia.
“Where on Ugwump World would you come across two Grimoires, Aunt Tillie?” Zofia asked, astonishment washing through her.
“I’ve my sources,” she said, one hand flicked in the air dismissively.
The look of superiority deflated on Tillie’s face. “Yes,” she hissed.
“I don’t suppose you could look through them to find some sort of counter curse, or spell, could you?” Dorian asked.
Knobby finger tapping her chin, she hummed in thought. “I might.”
“Please, Ottillie? I’d be forever in your gratitude.”
Tillie smiled with a sinister gleam in her eyes. “A Grandier showing me gratitude—and pleading to boot! I’ll be a Troll’s aunt! I think I like that. I like it a lot. But you’ll owe me, Grandier. And much more than mere words of gratitude, I’m thinking. After all, besides Zofia with the Stone, I’m the only one on First World who can perform any complex spell which might return your soul, and change you back into a wizard again.”
“I-I can’t use the Stone to—” Zofia started, but Dorian interrupted.
“Anything, Ottillie. Name it. If it’s within my powers, I promise I’ll grant it,” he said, rising a little bit out of the tub.
“Seal of Katowice?” Tillie held up her left hand, palm out to him, index and middle fingers crossed as were the third and pinky in the sacred pledge.
Dorian held up his hand in the same way. “Seal of Katowice.”
Clapping her hands, Tillie jumped up and down, her braids became lively white ropes. “So mote it be!” She stopped jumping. “Tonight I’ll look through my Grimoires.” She pointed at Dorian with her crooked finger. “Mark my words, Dorian, you’ll not regret this, and neither will I.” She turned and left them.
Youthful voices filled the hall.
“Blanche said Dad’s in the bath... tub.” Elton appeared in the doorway, his mouth falling open as he took in the sight of his father in the tub. “Dragon buggers! It is Dad!”
“Not certain I like being mentioned in the same breath as ‘dragon buggers’,” Dorian said, squeezing his eyes.
“Mom?” Blanche’s voice made Zofia turn to find her peering into the room from the hallway. Wearing a deep scowl, arms crossed, she was in one of those mutinous teenager stances. After all she thought this was her bathroom.
“It’s all right,” Zofia said, unable to come up with any other soothing words to offer. “It’s just your father.” She turned back to the room, not quite ready to handle the next storm over the Grandier bath.
“Come in! Come in!” Dorian said, stepping out of his comfortable lounge, pillows plopping to the tiled floor as he did. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite.” He chuckled lightly. “Really I don’t.” Zofia noticed his fangs were retracted, thank wizards for small favors.
“These can’t be my children!” he said, stepping slowly toward them.
“This is Elton, and Blanche.”
Dorian's eyes narrowed at Zofia. “I thought we named him Eltony.”
“We did. But, we had to change it when we came here because he got a lot of teasing his first year in school,” she explained.
“It’s a sissy name,” Elton said with contempt.
“Sissy!” Dorian was aghast. “I’ll have you know that my great-great-great- grandfather’s name is Eltony, and he isn’t one bit embarrassed by it.” Dorian’s eyes lifted to engage Zofia’s. “He just turned two hundred.”
“Really?” Zofia said, not sure how to react to that. She’d never cared for the old sourpuss.
“I know he’ll go on to live at least another two-hundred-and-fifty more, easy!”
“Wow!” Elton gasped, impressed.
“He can exorcise demons, evanesce in a snap, and—”
“Evanesce? What's that?” Elton asked.
“Evanesce,” Dorian said. “You know, eh, vaporize. Disappear.”
“Also, he can transmute any metal into gold with the Philosopher’s Stone. He’s also an expert necromancer, and is the Administrate on the Heathweian Council, and has been for the last one hundred years, now. Not everyone is chosen for that, you know.”
“Cool!” Elton said, looking impressed.
“I’m to take that as a colloquial for something good?” Dorian asked, eying Zofia.
“Yes. Cool is good,” she assured.
“Are you really a vampire?” Elton asked, still goggling Dorian as though he were an exotic snake.
“Again with the vulgar slang.”
“Why is it so good that your father’s a vampire?” Zofia wondered.
Elton shrugged and said, “How many other kid’s fathers are vampires?”
“Not something we’re allowed to speak about to anyone. Understood?”
Elton made a disappointed whine, “Aww--I never get to tell anyone anything!” Dorian cuffed Elton on the back. “It’s for the best, son. Here, the Ugwumps rule. But, on our planet, we rule. Sorcery is a way of life on Euphoria, not something to be ashamed of.”
“We aren’t ashamed of it!” Zofia blurted.
“It’s as though you are,” Dorian argued, hands going to his slim waist. “The boy should be proud of who he is. How much have you told him about our world, exactly?”
“I know that it’s the first planet in our solar system,” Elton said quickly. “Antares is our sun, it’s orange-red—I remember that. We’ve twenty-five months, three moons, plus an asteroid that only we can see, called Achamoth. That means wisdom—”
“That’s marvelous, son,” Dorian said, patting him on the head.
“I can name all the months. You wanna hear?”
“Not just now—”
“Amber, Bethany, Cyrillus, Durazo—”
“Yes, yes. That’s very good—”
“That’s fine, Elton,” Zofia intervened, grasping his shoulders, turning him toward the door. “You and your father will have a chance to chat later. Meanwhile, I need a moment alone with him first.”
Elton gave her an indignant expression, looking as though she’d just told him to gargle with vinegar.
“We’ll talk later, son, and you can tell me everything you know about Euphoria,” Dorian attempted to ease that sour expression on his son’s face.
“Yeah, yeah,” Elton pulled away from both of them. “You always send me out of the room when you want to talk about something interesting,” he grumbled, trudging out the door.
Dorian chuckled lightly. “At least he’s curious.”
“A little too curious,” Zofia said with a half-smile.
Dorian regarded her silently, and then gazed past her to take in Blanche. “And she’s got her mother’s features, this one has,” he said, grinning. “Sixteen? You must be able to transvect by now and do some easy spell casting?” Transvecting was being able to levitate and fly without aid of a broom—as was often misinterpreted here on First World.
“I’ll turn sixteen next week, and yes, I can transvect,” she informed in monotone. Turning to Zofia she said, “Is he really going to be staying in here? All my things are in here. My make-up, hair dryer, shampoo—just everything!” Her hands went out with exasperation.
Noticing the deflated look on Dorian’s face, Zofia said, “I know. We’ll get your things later, but for now go back down stairs. Please?”
“I know, I know,” she said, shunting the girl back out into the hall. “I’ll get your things later, and put them in my bathroom. Okay?” she said through a three-inch crack, before shutting the door.
“Sorry about that.” Turning, Zofia gave Dorian an apologetic look. “She’s a teenager. They tend to be territorial.”
“So I see,” he said. “Alone, at last, my darling,” he took a step toward her. She brought up her hand and stiff-armed him.
He stopped and gave her a wounded look. “I’m not going to bite you, if that’s what you think.”
“That’s not what I was afraid of.”
Folding his arms, he stared at her. “And snogging is definitely out of the question, apparently,” he said with a disappointed expression.
Was he kidding? Kiss her, where would that lead? Bite her? That was the last thing she was afraid of. Well, maybe not the last thing. She rolled her eyes at him.
“Nice tan,” he said, thrusting his milky white arm up next to hers.
“Thanks. From gardening.”
“Are you like that all over?”
“Can I see your tan lines?”
“NO!” she said, giving him an exasperated look. His fangs were fully extended. They looked as sharp as ice picks. She cringed, her insides going cold. The thought of kissing him made her heart thump and stomach flip-flop. She also noticed that he’d fixed her with his sapphire gaze. A picture of him kissing her, him touching her in intimate places, them doing it right there on the bathroom tiled floor, filled her mind.
She shook her head and broke eye contact. She realized these were his thoughts, not hers, and he had been broadcasting them to her in order to bend her will.
“Stop it!” she barked. But it was too late to cover her sudden hot flash. The warmth spread all the way down to her collar bone, and points south.
“Can’t blame me for trying,” he said, giving her a sheepish grin.
She tried to achieve an angry glare, but couldn’t quite pull it off. Somehow he looked too guileless, as though he was joking around with her, like always.
“I must say, though, you’re still as lovely as ever, my goddess.”
“Please,” she said, her face still warm under his smirk. “Are you joking? It’s been five First World years.” She turned to the mirror and raked her fingers through her bountiful mane. “We age faster down here. Heart beats faster. I must look at least ten years older!”
“I wouldn’t know about the heart beating faster,” he said glumly.
“Not to mention how different things are here, on First World,” she continued with her thoughts. “The technology—the cars, planes, TVs, phones—things are done at the push of a button.”
“Exactly,” he agreed. “They’ve almost caught up with us,” he chuckled.
“Yeah, right,” they both said in unison.
“Well, you definitely look the same,” she said, taking him in. She had the sudden urge to run her fingers through his thick, black hair. Oh, yeah. Touching him would be the worst thing she could do at the moment. She could see it in his eyes. He was waiting for her to make the wrong move—right for him, wrong for her.
He stood beside Zofia and turned toward the bathroom mirror to gaze at his own reflection. Zofia looked in the mirror at him. Funny how the vampire lore had it that vampires had no reflection. They certainly did.