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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 44: Hastings 16
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 43: Slade 14
Lauren awoke with a start, daylight streaming in her eastern windows. She had dozed off on the sofa, half dressed and bandaged, more exhausted from the battle than she had realized. Throwing on her gi and grabbing her weapon, she called for Raal. He arrived in minutes, ready to take her to Chinatown.
They traded news on the way. Raal had delivered the injured persons to the hospital in plenty of time; Father James' magic had done wonders for them, and they would be fine. The good father seemed unaware that his driver was anything other than what would be expected, an immigrant taxi driver. They had found their own way home. She told him of the encounter with Gavin. Some plans would have to be revised, but she had some ideas already.
She similarly shared news with Raiden during her lesson. He had not participated this time, because Father James had felt it better there be no chance of Gavin connecting them if something went wrong. He was pleased to hear it went well.
The lesson took a new turn. Her injuries were painful, and Raiden worked with her on ways to work around and through the pain. Sometimes in battle, he explained, you do get hurt; you can't let that stop you or even slow you, or you will be killed. These new movements were defensive, protective on several levels, while at the same time they were fluid, never jarring, causing little stress on her aching joints, limbs, or muscles.
After that, she had Raal take her home and wait for her. She changed, putting part of the armor back on and covering it with the parka. She grabbed her money and, almost as an afterthought, took the bag Bethany had given her. Then she hopped back in the cab and gave Raal directions to the little shop where she had purchased the now shredded robe.
Lauren invited Raal to come inside with her, and he parked the cab across the street. She led the way to the garment racks, and soon found a robe identical to the one destroyed. It was the last of that design in the shop.
Taking it to the counter, she asked if it might be possible to get more robes of that design. The clerk checked the tag, and said yes, he could easily order another. "Three more," Lauren said. "I'll leave a deposit for them." She wanted them to last.
The clerk was pleased to place the order for her. "Will there be anything else?" he asked.
"No--wait, yes. You sell a lot of these little magic things. Do you know what they are supposed to do?"
"Ma'am, I own this shop," came the response. "I know what I'm selling."
"I didn't mean to offend. It's just that I was given a few small objects, and I'm trying to figure out what they are. If you took a look at them, would you be able to help?"
"Oh--perhaps. Let me see them."
Lauren produced the bag, and carefully poured out the five objects onto a pad of paper on the counter. The proprietor looked at them for a moment--paper clip, coin, acorn, die, and marble. "Really, these could be almost anything. But the coin--that's got something written on it. May I?"
"Please. But I haven't touched them yet myself."
The man picked up the solid gold coin, and turned it over in his hands. "It's certainly old," he said. "But I recognize this inscription. Yes. I would say that this is an ancient attractor medal. It's supposed to send out an imperceptible call that brings the target creature to it. This appears to be a Tezcatta attractor, but I have no idea what a Tezcatta is."
"Oh, I know that," Raal suddenly said, and the others looked at him. "A Tezcatta is a type of insane vampire."
"Oh," said the clerk, and gingerly placed it back on the table. "Well, that's all I can tell you."
"Thanks," said Lauren. "That's really a big help. How long before the robes are here?"
"Oh, give it two weeks."
She next stopped to see Father James, and told him of Gavin's attack.
"I should have realized it," he said. "I had heard that some vampires had a blood link, a sort of shared consciousness, but I never thought about it. I suppose our efforts with the fake Book of Journeys will be wasted."
"No, maybe not. No one knows what I've done; I think I can still use this to set the vampires against each other. Do you know anything about Gavin's church?"
"Gavin's scheme was to replace faith in God with some self-aggrandizing humanist philosophy, so that people wouldn't have the spiritual weapons to fight his vampire takeover. It really was an ingenious long-term plan, and could still do a lot of damage even now that he's gone. What else do you want to know?"
"Well, right now only where I can find one. I'd like to visit it sometime and see what I can upset. But I think first I'll mail the pages to one of them locally, and get the church involved in the disruption."
"That works. I think that the home church is actually over in New Jersey, in Cherry Hill. You can take the High Speed line to get there."
"Or I can get Raal to drive me. Actually, I should tell you something about Raal."
"He's not human. He's a werewolf."
The priest stared at her for a moment.
"He's part of a pack of werewolves living here in the city who are very much against the vampires, and he heard about Arnie the Ghoul trying to kill me and figured we were on the same side."
"You're riding around the city in a taxi driven by a werewolf?"
"He's an excellent driver."
"In a taxi driven by a werewolf?"
"He's been very helpful."
"He knows where everything is."
"By a werewolf?"
"Look, He who is not against us is for us. The wolves are on our side. They know about the vampires, they want the vampires stopped. I don't agree with them completely; I don't agree with you completely. But the vampires are very powerful. They must be killing hundreds of people every year just to feed. An alliance between humans and wolves is exactly what the vampires don't want."
Father James stared a moment, speechless. "You're right," he finally said, "we can't afford to reject help, wherever it comes from."
"Good. I think if we work together we can drive the vampires from Philadelphia entirely."
"We could certainly break their organization."
They then talked about the injured fighters. Everyone was going to make a full recovery, although one of them would have his arm in a cast for a while. Having finished all she set out to do, Lauren then returned home and put some time into her Bible study, her mind tricks, and supper. She also did her laundry, and began a list of things she wanted to buy to pack for the future. She'd come close to versing out last night, and it might be a while before she hit another world with a mall.
But basically she knocked around until a few hours before dawn, and then went to bed so she could get enough sleep before work.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #35: Quiet on the Novel Front. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: