…Back to the Beginning…
…Last time in Inheritance…
“We’ll need a new car. The police will be looking for us,” Ronan said from the back seat.
“Everyone okay?” Sebastian asked.
Ronan and Sundance both muttered an okay. Genesis reloaded both her guns without answering. Each breath tore into her side. Blood glued her shirt and jacket to her skin. She swallowed the pain, and told herself to suck it up. The curses. Now, that had been painful. A shot of pain swirled and stirred with the air her body needed to live. She realized she probably cracked a few ribs crashing into the dash.
“I’ll live, just drive.” Genesis gave him a smile. “Just drive.”
They drove for an hour, on edge, and pushing their luck. Sebastian picked a busy IHOP and stole a car parked on the back of the lot. He hunted for the nicest car with some speed to it which he put to good use right away. The car softly jerked as he shifted gears pulling back on the freeway. Nausea rolled over Genesis. Sleep shut her eyes until a jostle forced her to find a more comfortable way to sit. She groaned as she rolled over onto her side in the front seat.
“Take your jacket off,” Sundance ordered her.
“You’re hurt and you know it.”
Sebastian glanced down at her and then put his eyes back on the road.
She ignored him, and Sundance, only wanting to sleep. Sleep.
“Genesis?” Sebastian reached up to her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. Genesis came up off the seat with a yelp. Unable to pretend any longer, Genesis slipped out of her jacket.
“Oh, damnit,” Sebastian whispered examining her back.
“Genesis?” Sundance gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me you were hurt this bad?”
“Didn’t seem important at the time,” Genesis groaned.
“Seeing as you’re the only one who can really shoot right now, it is pretty damn important you’re not hurt,” Ronan said. Genesis heard bitterness in his voice. As an ex-cop, and the SoulDefender, his blindness had to grate on him. Ronan could not fight, only cast shield spells.
“Sorry,” she said, biting back the retort she had been about to voice. “Sorry.”
“I’m out of my best healing powders, but I’ll see what I can do,” Sundance said.
“Here,” Ronan said, pulling out the bag stuffed in his coat pocket. “What do you need?”
Sundance made Genesis put her seat back as far as it would go and take off her blouse. A passing semi honked at them and Sebastian gave him the finger out the window. Genesis could see the tightness of his jaw, and the muscle working as he controlled his anger. Sundance sprinkled something yellow and orange over her back and Genesis hissed as it burned into her skin. Sebastian took Genesis’ hand.
“Just like old times, huh?” Genesis gasped.
“Yeah, and you’re just as stubborn now as then,” he growled.
Genesis smiled and then clamped her mouth shut as Sundance guided Ronan into casting a healing spell. The lack of space in the back seat of the car made it difficult for the Dancer to cast a spell, but it did not inhibit the pain of the healing as it passed through Genesis. She squeezed Sebastian’s hand and pounded her face in the seat of the car until the pain subsided. Sleep came over her as soon as she got her stiff and bloody shirt back on. Sebastian tucked her jacket around her and drove south.
Night came and Genesis woke with a shiver. Since Mara twisted her powers to injure others, the night took on an evil edge. There must have been other evil witches in control of darkness to explain the bad reputation night-time had. She could understand the human fear of night, now. Her night-vision left with her magic and now she never knew what the blackness held. Vampires walked the earth and demons could be in every deep shadow. Night held evil in its hands, and let it walk the earth unchecked by light. She feared what she knew the darkness held, and she no longer controlled.
“How are we doing?”
Sebastian took her hand and kissed it. “We’ve made good time, but I’m gonna need some sleep.”
“Do you want me to drive for a while?”
“Sure, I’ll pull off at the next gas station. We can fill up and swap.”
They pulled off the road a few exits down. Genesis unbuckled her gun belts, buttoned her coat and untucked her pants from her boots. Looking as normal as her clothing would let her, she hurried into the store for a quick bathroom break and bought a large, hot coffee. Sundance led Ronan in and Genesis went back out to the car.
“This quiet is making me nervous,” Genesis said looking up at the stars over head. The cold air amplified their light. They were bright and glittering in the sky, far far from city lights. Sebastian came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close.
“We’ll be fine. We’ll keep moving and make things hard on Janie.”
Genesis turned around in his arms and kissed him until Ronan cleared his throat behind them. Maybe him being blind and the darkness was not all bad.
“Let’s get going,” Sebastian said. He tossed Genesis the keys and they all piled back in the car.
Genesis took a sip of coffee, pulled out of the gas station, and drove back up on the highway.
“I would give anything right now to know what was going on with everyone,” Ronan said from the back seat. Genesis could tell by the wistful sound in his voice he thought about his daughter first and foremost. Who could blame him?
“We will reach the Door by tomorrow evening. I can feel it more strongly now,” Sundance said.
Jack pulled on the long black jacket Mara gave him. The mandarin collar stood up high around his face, framing it dramatically. It hung from his shoulders to his knees. Mara gathered servants, Ash and Monk, and all the remaining mercenaries. Each wore black body armor with the image of a window into the night sky and a wolf on their left breast. They were Mara’s entourage. She would take all of them into LeVidal. Some she took to manage the house, cook the food, and press the clothing. Others she took to keep an eye on things.
Stepping into a large SUV, Jack glanced back at Mara’s house. Mixed emotions filled him. The best and worse things in his life seemed to have happened there. Mara took his hand.
“Come, let’s be going. I wish to show you LeVidal tonight, in its glory.”
Jack shut the door of the SUV without another glance back. He could feel the city of night, the city of the vampires, The Life, calling him. It sang in his blood, it raced through his veins, it wanted him to come, and he happily obliged. He kissed Mara. He pulled her close as their caravan left the gates of the castle of the witch of Darkness. She giggled in his ear, and whispered to him of the glory of the city where witches of power walk the streets and vampires rule. She remained ignorant of just how clearly Jack could communicate with his people. LeVidal’s twisted streets and mismatched buildings stood out as clear in his mind as if he walked them himself.
Deep in a subterranean pit, a crazed Fortunatus waited. Jack swore to get him out, and Fortunatus still trusted him. He still trusted Jack. Still trusted him. As the SUV’s pulled out and headed to the Enduring Gate, the pit opened. The magic trapping the vampire faded. Over his head, a small light floated. Fortunatus leapt from the pit and the light settled on his shoulder.
“They just left, Fortunatus,” Zephyr said. “We’ll catch up if we hurry.”
“I am not going after Jack,” Fortunatus said. He shifted out of the dank room to the floors above. As promised by his god-son, Fortunatus found a goblet of blood waiting for him on a table in the kitchen. The image of some poor child giving their blood at Jack’s command surfaced in Fortunatus’ mind. He desired all the blood in the girl’s body. He desired to drain her dry. Jack should have left her here for him. No! No! He did not eat the Innocent anymore. Ah, but Genesis…her blood was sweet and warm. And Jack? Jack’s blood raged with power, anger, and the racing heat of a wolf’s heart. Fortunatus licked the last drop from deep within the goblet. He shifted out into the night. With a quick scenting, he headed south.
“I am going after Genesis,” Fortunatus said.
Zephyr watched Fortunatus shift away as the starlight played over her spotted skin. Her white moth wings glistened in the distant light finding its way into the world. Those six did not need her, Crow and Olive did not need her, only one person, right now, needed her. Time to work some wiznit magic. Time to help Jack.
Genesis drove down the dark road, her headlights the only two spots of light in the night. Once in a while, with a glanced off to her left, she saw the lights of some small town or a factory, but most of the world she traveled slept. A small headache built in the back of her head. She kept trying to turn the blackness of night into something she could see. She forced herself to look only ahead at the light her headlights provided, and drank more coffee.
The car filled with soft regular breathing and Genesis glanced over at Sebastian. He had taken his jacket off, and used it as a pillow for his head against the window. He had fallen asleep in just a few minutes. Genesis admired the way he took charge when they all floundered around. It explained why his father owned such a big company, and he was runner up to inherit it. She smiled to herself as she remembered how much she had hated him when they first met. Most of the hatred she had thrown at him. She made assumptions about him, and him about her. If only she could go back and re-live that whole day and start out respecting him as much as she did now. In the darkness she admitted to herself she had felt attracted to him even when she wanted to beat his face in to take him down a few notches. Even the Mercs had hated him.
She should not have thought of them. Tears filled Genesis eyes as the realization that she would never work with Tell and his men again flooded her with a sudden reality check. She sniffled and took a deep, broken breath.
“You okay?” Ronan said from the back.
Genesis started. She wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. Wait. He could not see her cry, only hear her.
“I thought you were asleep?”
“I think I’ve changed my schedule to a sleep during the day, have visions at night. I’ve been doing it for so long now, I am having a hard time falling asleep. Besides, it’s a good time to think. Things have been happening so fast I feel like I can’t process anymore.”
“I know, right?” Genesis said as she checked her mirrors for swirling storms of demons. The night slept around her with gentle dreams and not a nightmare to be seen.
Time to think. The only thing to think about on Genesis mind…
“Are you feeling more settled in your powers?” Genesis asked, pushing the thoughts away.
Ronan laughed, “I guess you can say that. It just seems like such a big job for one man to do. I mean, thank the King no other witch is on an Innocent killing rampage right now, and no serial killers are active at this moment.”
“Or, they are, but none of them is threatening the magical world like Mara is, so your magic is focused right now.”
“Pleasant thought, think I’ll have dreams about all I missed later?”
“Don’t know, not a SoulDefender. I’m not even a witch anymore.”
Ronan said nothing for a moment.
“You know, I almost killed myself when I got my powers, and my world started to fall apart. Now…now I can’t imagine being without them, even when they’re horrible.”
The coffee turned sour in her stomach. She knew where he went with this line of reasoning, and she did not want to go there.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is, how are you holding up?”
Right there, that was where he was going. Genesis knew it! Just as she opened her mouth to retort something else came out.
“I…I don’t really know. I feel empty inside on the one hand.” She glanced over at the sleeping Sebastian. “And on the other, I feel happier than I have in a long time.”
She knew Ronan could not see her glance, but he could guess the source of her joy. He said, “Love is a powerful healer. I would never have embraced my powers if it hadn’t been for Sundance’s loyalty and love. I was enchanted. I saw the good side of what had happened to me for the first time. And I was so lonely, so tired of being alone.”
“That I can understand. Though, Dora.” Genesis paused and found it hard to swallow. “Dora taught me that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was, that I had it better than a lot of witches. Most of them don’t get to talk with the ones they have power over and are responsible for. Most of them never get to talk to the people whose lives they affect. I do. Or did. I got to be with my people. All the time.”
The tears came back. How she missed them. How she missed the connection, the voices in her head. Even the constant, never ending tug between good and evil in her heart as she walked a fine line between the lust and need of her people.
Ronan leaned up and reached out with his strangely bent fingers. He tapped along the chair until he came to her shoulder. His squeezed offered human contact for comfort.
“And then there’s Sebastian.” Genesis continued. “I’ve never loved a man as an equal. I’ve loved Vash as a friend and father, and I have loved my people, but I have never loved someone like I love Sebastian. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
“The witch of Love must have a big job,” Ronan said, leaning back in his seat.
Genesis smiled through her tears. “That’s one power I am quite happy not to have.”
“No shit,” Ronan said. “Can you imagine the battles Love and Lust must have?”
“I’ve seen a few of them. Though Love does not work with Lust as much as many assume. She is a very capable witch on her own.”
“I would imagine.”
“I just don’t know what I would have done if Sebastian hadn’t been there when my powers were stolen.”
“Don’t waste time agonizing over it. He was there. You didn’t do anything stupid. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how well you have shoulder all this. You adjusted much faster than I did to getting my powers.”
“Things happened so fast; they keep happening so fast. It is like you said. I haven’t really had time to process it all.”
“What do you think is gonna happen next?”
“I think Nickolaus will spring his trap and things will get really ugly.”
“Because life is like that; nothing is ever as easy as it seems. And Jack had been playing the double agent for a few days now. How long can a young man pretend to be in love with a woman like Mara and not become in love with her? It’s going to get really ugly. The ball will be filled with vampires, servants, and body guards. Nickolaus will have only invited vampires loyal to him and to what is going on, but that doesn’t mean some of them won’t change their minds on the spot, and others won’t show up. Taking on a witch is a dangerous proposition on a good day. This is the witch of Darkness. She is the next most important witch in vampire society other than me. She’ll have allies and things will get messy. People are going to die, along with vampires and witches. And then what? If the trap works, we still have Jack with his powers, Mara with hers, and me without mine. I don’t think that Mara being captured and executed by the vampires will change that.”
“They’ll execute her?”
“I don’t know what Nickolaus has in mind. They may try to force her to give me my powers back; they may try to force her to renounce what she has done.”
“Well, I’m there to confront her, but I am mainly there to rescue Ash. I have to get my daughter.”
“I know.” Genesis looked out at the night, feeling for the girl. “Mara has to be held accountable for what she’s done. She can’t be left to feel like her actions have no repercussions. or that this is allowable behavior.”
“I’ve a feeling that’ll be my job for some reason.”
“We all have a responsibility to protect the weak. Mara has proven her disregard for the weak on every level, including the servant witches she was directly responsible for. No, she will be tried and condemned for what she has done.”
“You’re right. We can’t lose sight of all the horrible things she has done, and the people she’s killed,” Ronan said rubbing the tattoo on his shoulder.
“Yep,” Genesis said.
“Look, Genesis. I would’ve thought you were evil if I had met you outside the circumstances of our lives these last few weeks. But, after listening to Vertune and the others talk, I’m amazed at the fortitude and the control you’ve shown in your powers. If every witch worked as hard as you did at doing the right thing there would be no need for me.”
Genesis glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the sincerity on Ronan’s bandaged face.
“Thanks, that means a lot to me,” she said. Genesis turned her focus back on the road. It had become hard to talk. With everyone she ran into telling her she did a great job she started to feel a little like a pouting teen who realized their parents were right in the first place. How long had she nursed a hatred of other witches, assumed herself unloved, disrespected, and misunderstood? How long had she told herself she no one cared? And now, she had had two witches tell her in less than two days how much they respected her and envied her line of magic. It made her feel like a stupid, shallow girl. She sighed. When had she become so shortsighted and selfish? Why had it taken the stealing of her powers, and the love of a human to show her all this?
She checked her mirrors again and watched Ronan turn his bandaged head towards the sleeping Sundance, her head in his lap. He stroked her hair with his twisted fingers. Genesis shook her head. He had been through so much and proven the King knew how to pick the right humans for the job. Not many people would have gone through what Ronan had, and still been able to love the people around them.
Genesis drove into the dark and watched the road. Something told her the demons bided their time. It gave her the creeps.
The night flowed by like a river of black energy. The witch of Darkness reveled in her time as she showed the young man on her arm all the beauty of the night. Genesis drove towards the Enduring Door as the stars passed through the heavens, white sparkling worlds watching theirs.
“What time is it?” Sebastian asked, sitting up suddenly.
“A few hours before dawn,” Genesis said.
“How are you doing, getting tired?” He reached over and massaged her neck and shoulder.
“Getting there. I’m hungry.” Genesis leaned forward in the driver’s seat, and let Sebastian rub the tired muscles.
“Well, do we wanna stop, eat, and switch?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Any sign of our little friends?”
“Not yet. which has me more worried than if a large cloud of them sat just behind us.”
“Oh! Don’t say that,” Sundance said from the back seat. She sat up and stretched in the small space of the car. Ronan stirred in his sleep, but did not wake up.
“What are you hungry for?” Sebastian asked.
“Breakfast!” Sundance said before anyone else could respond.
Genesis laughed. “I think you have mistaken my man for yours.”
“Nope, just peppy when I wake up. Sorry.”
“You’re a morning person, aren’t you?” Genesis said.
“Of course! Morning is one of the best times to dance. But, I guess it would make sense for you not to be a morning person.”
“I usually watch the sun rise and then go to bed,” Genesis said, “but I forgive you just this once.”
“Okay, okay, do we have to be so noisy,” Ronan groaned, waking up.
Genesis glanced at Sebastian and he rolled his eyes. A Cracker Barrel showed up down the road and Genesis pulled off the highway. A gas station stood next to it, so they filled up first. Everyone got out to stretch as Sebastian pumped the gas. Genesis looked back north the way they had come, but heard and saw nothing. Surely the explosion had not deterred them that much. Unless…
Sebastian came and put his arms around her. His warmth felt good in the cold morning air.
“You don’t ever stop being on alert, do you?”
“It tends to be a little deadly when I do.”
“They aren’t here?”
“No, I haven’t seen them since the gas station.”
“What do you think happened?”
Genesis did not want to say what she had thought might have happened. The truth sickened her, and she was not sure how Sebastian would take it.
She sighed and looked out at the fading stars.
Sebastian let go of her and came around in front of her. He cupped her face in his hands and looked her in the eye.
“Tell me what you think.”
“The imps serve a purpose. When the purpose or the force commanding them is removed, they sink back into the earth, and return to the Spirit Plane. They have no driving force of their own.”
Sebastian considered her words. Genesis watched the dawning in his eyes.
“You think Janie could be dead. That the explosion might have killed her?”
“It might have; it could be one explanation.”
Sebastian released her and stepped away. He rubbed his face and hesitated, stepped further away, and then turned back.
“Sebastian?” Genesis started.
He held up his hand, and stood there looking first at the ground and then up at the stars. Genesis watched him, worried. As he turned his back on her, she caught a glint of tears in his eyes from the light of the gas station. That did it. She walked up and put her arms around him. She hugged him, holding him close to her body. He stiffened for a moment, and then dropped his head onto her shoulder. He put his arms up around her and just held her close.
Genesis examined him as he raised his head. She brushed his hair back from his face.
“If I understand what you just told me, we can only get rid of the imps by killing Janie. And she will not look like that twisted monster anymore. She will look like Janie. Janie.” Sebastian stopped for a moment. “Damnit, this is all my fault. I dated her; I didn’t leave her when she came to the lab and now it is going to cost Janie her life. We’re gonna have to kill her or let them kill us. But we can’t do that. We have to save those kids. We have to stop Mara. We have to get Jack and Fortunatus back.”
Sebastian shook his head. Genesis reached up, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissed him. She kissed him because she had no words to say to comfort him. Janie had been annoying, but no one wanted to kill her. No one wanted another Innocent dead. Genesis kissed him and felt the tears on his face. She let them become her tears. She opened her heart to feel what he felt. She opened herself with a kiss to his pain.
…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…