Worlds & Time

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lex and Lia: Three Factions

They held the memorial on the third day, appropriate for someone that had risen to the rank of Matron in such a powerful Coven.

Bliss, as usual, refused to oversee the ceremony, which meant it was up to the Maiden, Belle Aldecott, to run things.

Belle was relatively new to the coven though, just having moved from Boston, and her training was mostly theoretical. She had to read the memorial and the spirit convocation from a book, and didn't add a personalized epigraph to it. Several of the other coven members looked uncomfortable with the formality of the ceremony when this was a woman that they'd known for years.

Bliss smiled as she stood just outside of the glade. It wasn't any personal resentment against Bybreak for dying, Bliss always smiled.

Mistress Greenwood approached her glaring fiercely, but not doing a very good job. Bliss was substantially more threatening than the thin, bitter looking Greenwood could ever hope to be, and she would smile the entire time.

"There was nothing that you could have done?" Greenwood hissed. She wasn't the first to ask, but she would likely be the last. There were few others in the Coven that could stand up to Bliss, even if she wasn't actively trying to be threatening.

Bliss shook her head.

"Say it."

"There was nothing more I could have done to save Bybreak from herself," Bliss said happily.

Greenwood tilted her head, tasting the words, trying to find a lie but there was nothing there to find.

"And the boy."

Bliss turned her attention full onto Greenwood, who shrank back suddenly, as though Bliss' big white teeth in her toothy smile sent forth a chill.

"What about the boy?" Bliss inquired.

Greenwood opened her mouth, closed it, and finally asked, "Are we going to search for him?"

There was a long pause.

"No," Bliss said. "We're going to use him for bait."

-*-*-*-*-

Mr. Lo sat quietly in the shadows of the hotel lobby. In Las Vegas so many people lived in artificially lit Casinos nearly all of the time that it was easy to forget that there was daylight just beyond the thick walls. Inside, day and night meant close to nothing.

It was so easy for vampires to blend in, to sit and gamble with their heightened senses in the false twilight. To enjoy a floor show and then vanish into the tunnels that connected the various hotel properties to each other and several of the vampire's holdings.

Lo liked to sit and watch the people come and go. A few were happy, having just won money or attended a wedding, and some were saddened by losses at the tables or waking up to find that they'd enjoyed too many free drinks the night before.

He wore a suit but people's vision slid right over him. If he was important, he wouldn't be sitting in the lobby of a hotel by himself and he certainly wouldn't be relaxing and reading a paper. The few people that could recognize him would not disturb him unless it was vitally important.

So when his secretary Miriam appeared, he put down his paper at once.

Miriam was tall and blond and wearing a silvery evening gown even though it was just past eleven a.m. She looked remarkably beautiful, even compared to the usual Las Vegas girls, and men's heads turned as she walked along. She was young though, only about fifty years dead, and she still had something of the predator to her. The men looked, but discreetly, and no one dared to approach her.

"Sir," she said softly as she approached, and then sat delicately on the chair beside him. "I got a report from . . ." She looked around. "From our friend with the Ladies."

"About the death of their Matron?"

She nodded. "A name came up. One that I think you might recognize." She took a slip of paper from her slim valise, and held it out.

Lo looked at it and frowned. That was deeply disturbing.

"The wolves haven't reported seeing him in the area that they're patrolling for us," he said.

"It happened to the West, in the Executive Airport annex. He's on the move, obviously, but he seems to be out of our area for the time being."

"Sue said that he was last seen in the presence of One of the Five."

"Ah," said Miriam. "I have more on that as well. Our same friend says that the incident that happened at the Coven house on the 26th involved both that one and also him," she said as she gestured with the slip of paper.

Lo tried not to let his surprise show. "I thought that one of the two attackers died in that incident. And if the boy killed their Matron he must have been the one that survived the attack."

Miriam nodded slowly as Lo's undead mind churned.

"Soraperion was not the weakest of the five," he said at last, softly. "And so far the boy has survived encounters with two full vampires and Mistress Bliss twice. And he killed the Matron of the Coven during one of those encounters."

"Do you think that the boy is a trap?" Miriam asked.

"For whom? Me? Bliss? The Ladies in general? The only faction left unaffected is the Wolves, who seem to have had remarkable luck avoiding such a problematic person so far. If you'll remember what happened at our last meeting, it would seem that William is already trying to bait the Ladies on one front. Why not another?"

"Should we let this take its course then?"

Lo shook his head. "Not necessarily. The Ladies have uncommon influence in this dark city. If we have judged the game correctly we may be able to turn these machinations to our advantage in the long run." He thought for a moment. "Cancel the Wolves' patrol of our area, but double the lookout of our own thralls around the Southwest section. Call for a Family conference, in the usual place, for the day after tomorrow."

He picked up his paper again and Miriam, always so good at reading people, took her clue to leave, followed by the adoring stares of several men.

-*-*-*-*-

Mohan woke late, rolled out of his elaborate bed, and slipped on his calf skin slippers.

Michael was outside the door, waiting for him. He'd slept through his alarm: he knew that, but he hadn't expected Michael to be here already.

There were no clocks, mechanical or electric, inside of his bedroom. The buzzing of electric devices sometimes bothered his sensitive hearing.

He dressed quickly, stepped outside, and took the proffered watch, wallet and cell phone from Michael. He checked the time and found that he was indeed quite late.

"Breakfast with the Marcandos?"

"I delayed it until tomorrow."

"The business reports?"

"I have them."

They made their way downstairs. Miss Chi-Wong was waiting patiently in the limo. As always, she looked absolutely flawless and completely unflustered by Mohan's late appearance. Sometimes Mohan suspected that she wore her makeup and a suit to bed.

"There has been a delay in the most recent cocaine shipment, of course," she said. "And the witches are already looking for a replacement for Bybreak."

"Wonderful," Mr. Mohan responded. "Have we heard anything else?"

Chi-Wong shook her head.

"That is interesting," Mr. Mohan said. "Bybreak was definitely a calming influence on the Coven, especially with Bliss running roughshod over the rest of them."

"They'll come, eventually." Michael mumbled.

"But when?" Mr. Mohan said. "That's the question. We have a deadline, after all."

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