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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 73: Hastings 117
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Previous chapter: Chapter 72: Brown 76
This was a lot to absorb. Lauren realized that she had come back, in some what she would call far flung future, to the world of the vampires. In the time for which she had been absent, the antediluvian Tubrok had increased his power, and was now openly ruler of the world in all but name. Faith had faded from the world, having few believers and perhaps no open practice. Vampires walked abroad by day, somehow, and declared themselves masters of humanity; and no one remained who could oppose them.
To this she returned. She had failed to kill Tubrok perhaps a thousand years before, and although she had eliminated some of his minions she had never stopped him. Now she had to stop him.
There was so much she did not know. Jackson was dead. Horta was dead (or she was fairly certain of that). Gavin she had killed with her own hands. Who was on the inside circle now? How could she establish contacts, get the information she needed? Ana was perhaps a gifted prophetess; but there was much Ana would not know. How did these creatures of darkness walk in the day? Had faith truly failed in the earth? Who was still here, opposing evil in all its forms? Where could she get the answers? Destroying Tubrok would not bring down the vampires any more than the death of Stalin had ended Communism in Russia. It was necessary to do that, but it was also necessary to find the weaknesses in the support structure and destroy this Superiority Party, or whatever it was called.
Her host and hostess had remained silent while she thought; perhaps they were awaiting some word from her. She did need to say something.
"Thank you," she said. "That is important to know. Might I impose on you for a day? I will need a place to rest and study before I continue my quest."
"Now, ain't that something?" Ana said. "I never knowed angels needed to rest or study. Always thought you all knew what you knew and were always ready."
Lauren did not want to lie to Ana; at the same time, the truth was not easy to explain. "Ana," she said, "God has more kinds of creatures in heaven than he ever had on earth. The unbounded God is unbounded in His creativity. His servants are more varied than you can imagine, for His imagination is so much greater than yours, and whatever good He imagines He can bring to pass."
"Ah. Listen to what she says, Dimitri. You'll not hear tell of heaven so true again, until you see it for yourself."
It seemed best suddenly not to speak of heaven; Ana took her words far too seriously. "Is there a room I could use for a night?"
"She could have my room, Gran. I can sleep on the couch."
"No, I don't think we should do that. Already they'll be looking for you; and they can find you, because they can find magic. They already know I'm here; God's given me sight, you know, to see the truth. But they don't bother me because I'm blind and so I'm no danger to them. But they'll know that an angel is here, and they'll come for us all. He can use your room, but he should leave soon and not stay the night here. It will only be a couple hours when they arrive, and we want to be able to say honestly that we saw someone but don't know where he is."
"Oh, Gran, I can lie to them."
"I'm sure you can, Dimitri. But we won't be lying to them. First, they'll know. They know lying so well they sense it; it strengthens them. But even more than that, we can't defeat them by becoming like them. I've always told them the truth; we're not going to change that now."
"An hour should be fine," Lauren said. "If you could show me the room?" She took a drink from the glass. It had a strange taste, of artificial sweeteners and flavors. She wondered if even the water in it was natural. It did help her thirst, though, and the flavor was not unpalatable.
"Of course," Dimitri said. "This way."
Her cart was not going to move through the doors and halls easily. She left it in the front hall and followed her guide. "Thank you," she said, as he brought her to a small bedroom. There was a desk within, and she sat in its chair.
What could she do in this world to fight vampires? Where could she find allies? She had once known powerful vampire hunters in this world. Father Matthew James had taught her how to harness her faith to oppose evil. Raiden had given her her first lessons in martial arts. Jake Williams provided her with the bullets for her guns. Raal, her werewolf cab driver, had taught her to use the between. These men were all certainly dead, perhaps centuries dead. Everyone she had ever known in this world would have died.
Not everyone would have died. Tubrok was still alive. Some lived long ages, lives of many men. A thousand years ago she had taught someone the secret of living thousands of years. Perhaps now that person was still alive, and perhaps she could find her. It was time to look for Bethany.
All that time ago, she and Bethany had used telepathy almost as casually as most people chat. It had been over a hundred years since Lauren had contacted Bethany; it had been longer for Bethany, but perhaps not as long as a millennium--Lauren remembered that Bethany knew her only a few hundred years ago, when she faced Horta. It was just a matter of finding the girl's mind, like tuning in a radio station, or remembering a phone number. Bethany was out there, Lauren thought, and would have answers to a lot of these questions. She would also be a formidable ally against evil, as she had been in the past. She just had to find her. Bethany, she thought, sending her thoughts out beyond herself as she had done so long ago. Bethany of Wandborough, I need your help.
It was quiet. Perhaps this was not that world; perhaps it was, but Bethany was no longer in it. Lauren's hope faded. Of course, Bethany could be asleep. Lauren had never attempted to reach someone who was asleep before, and didn't know what that would be like. Bethany might be out there, even though Lauren couldn't find her.
Then, if the vampires had found ways to track wizards, Bethany may have gone into hiding, using powerful magics to prevent anyone from finding her. Again, she might have been found, and killed. It really came to the same thing; if Bethany was not here, or if she was here but could not be found, Lauren was alone. With lowered spirits, she tried again. Bethany of Wandborough?
Laurelyn? Laurelyn of Wandborough, Mystic of the Western Woods? The answer came. Could that be you?
Bethany! I'm so glad I found you. I've just arrived, and it looks like I'm going to need a safe place to stay.
Where are you? the answer came.
Laurelyn looked around. I have no idea. That's not quite true. I think I'm inside something called the eastern city, which includes The United Nations and The White House, but I'm not even certain what that means.
There was an urgency in the reply. You've got to get out of there. The vampires will find you in there.
I'm all for leaving; what do you suggest?
There was a pause; Lauren wondered for a moment whether she had lost contact, but the voice returned.
Not knowing where you are, all I can say is head west, and maybe a bit south. If you're in what use to be Boston, south is going to be bad, but west would get you out into the mountains eventually. Once you get as far south as Hartford, you can go west beyond Chicago without seeing daylight. South of Washington it starts to thin out; you can still find daylight within a hundred miles of the ocean below that.
Lauren was confused. What do you mean, see daylight? It's daylight here.
Bethany answered. Laurelyn, you've been away a long time. There is no daylight inside the megalopolis. The domed cities we saw in silly science fiction stories are the model of the age; the cities are entirely enclosed.
Lauren realized what that meant. Vampires didn't walk around in the daylight. They had managed to banish daylight from the cities, and now walked with impunity in the halls of these buildings, shielded from the manifest light of God that was the sun by walls and ceilings.
How do I find you? Lauren asked.
Get out of the city, and call me again. We will have to figure out where you are; then I can get to you.
That made sense. Bethany knew the world better. Lauren could travel the between, but had to be able to picture the place she was going. She didn't know what any place looked like now, so she couldn't travel that way. She wasn't certain how she could travel, but it was time to begin. I'm on my way, she said.
She would allow herself a little longer before she started. After all, she'd asked for an hour, and had been given so long. There was something else she could do with that time. She had two things in her pocket which warranted examination. She drew them out and set them on the desk. The card-like rectangle had writing on it; she would need help with the Greek for that. The cross was just what it was, simple, small, beautiful. Perhaps Peter had intended for her to use this as a symbol of her faith, holding it up against vampires as Father James had used a crucifix. It couldn't be so simple as that; the fact that she didn't put faith in symbols had become the basis for one of her greatest strengths, the ability to declare scripture and expect God to act. A cross was a nice piece of jewelry which testified of your faith, but it had no significant value in her understanding. There must be more to this.
Long ago Bethany had given her a bag containing five objects, and she had learned from these to sense magic. Perhaps she could do it again. She focused into the cross before her. Indeed she did sense something, but not what she expected. The cross did have a sort of magic, but not the magical energies of the things the bag contained. Rather, it was more like the bag itself--a sort of negative of magic. She knew that the bag prevented anyone from sensing the magic objects within it. Could the cross have a similar power? If she wore it, would it prevent the vampires from finding her?
Whether that was so or not, it had been given to her by someone she implicitly trusted, and it was clearly intended that it should be worn. It was time to wear it. Pulling off her coif and mail shirt, she passed the thin chain over her head and around her neck, dropping the cross under her shirt next to her skin. It made her feel safer. Whether that was part of its magic or merely her feeling that God was protecting her didn't matter.
As she restored her armor, she also focused her mind on the other item. This had the sort of energy she expected, the positive magic that made her marble, paperclip, die, and acorn do what they did--whatever it was that they did; she had never worked out the power of the acorn. This was also magical; she fit it in the pouch with the other objects to shield its power from detection, and put the pouch away. The secret to the rectangle was in the writing; she would have to decipher that to know what she had. The same was true of the strange bowl and screw gadget which waited in her cart. Once she reached Bethany, she would look for a book on Greek. She thought it unlikely that any stores would carry such a thing here in the vampire-controlled city.
Ready for the road, she went back to the living room. Anastasia was still seated there.
"Ana," she said, "I have a friend to meet. How do I get out of the city?"
"I'll ask the Lord," she said. "He'll know what you should do."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #186: Worlds Change. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: