parts 42 and 43
The first vampire that Kendra fought had been meandering though a park, his posture and clothing suggesting poor, unfortunate and mostly harmless, just out on his luck. The appearance would be an effective way to lure in the careless and soft-hearted, both of which could be easy prey.
Kendra found herself quite pleased that she didn’t have a Watcher to report this fight to afterwards. The only good version would be ‘I fought the vampire, and eventually defeated him. I was able to pull my stake from the body before it became ashes.’ This would give a completely different impression than the truth – she had approached the figure that felt like a vampire, still cautious. While she didn’t believe Charles’ guess or perhaps hope that not all vampires were the innately evil fiends that Mr. Zabuto had called them, she didn’t want to make too many assumptions about this other world. So far, the vampires had been most obliging about attacking first, with the exception of the child-vampire that had run away, expressing a reluctance to be staked.
This one had tried to hit her in the head, a move that would be fast enough and disorienting enough to leave a human helpless but alive. Being a Slayer, she had dodged.
The vampire had growled, “You aren’t supposed to dodge, you bitch! Stand still and take it like you deserve!”
Kendra would be most reluctant to confess to anyone that she’d had a very emotional reaction to the vampire’s words. She’d become very angry, and rather than seeking to quickly stake the vampire and continue her patrol, she’d beaten him down like a dirty rug, feeling the bones in his arms snap, as well as the crunch of his ribs. As she’d lunged with the stake, she’d growled her own words – “I am not a bitch.”
She wouldn’t want to admit to the way that she’d kicked the ashes from the neat little heap into a scattered mess to anyone either.
“A Slayer is not supposed to give in to her emotions. A Slayer is supposed to control and contain her emotions at all times,” Kendra repeated the words of Mr. Zabuto as she walked away from the scattered ashes. Anger like that could easily make her reckless, blind to other threats.
Another vampire lurked among the trees. This one jumped at her, a wordless growl emerging from its lips. Rather than a carefully created and maintained look of harmless poverty, this one wore filthy, tattered rags, with long nails encrusted with dirt and blood, both of which also streaked over the body of the vampire. She couldn’t tell if it was male or female, only that it had pale skin beneath the dirt, a shaggy mop of shoulder length dark hair, jagged teeth, and mad, feral yellow eyes, and looked to about her own height and maybe a little broader through the shoulders.
Kendra killed it with much less anger, though the feral vampire had a keen ability to dodge. She thought that she’d sensed another vampire watching that fight, but if there had been another, they did not attack, did not taunt or make mocking statements about how they would soon accomplish their grand and terrible plan and she would be helpless to stop them. If there had been another, they retreated while she was busy.
How sensible of them. Sensible vampires could be quite dangerous – their plans had a much higher chance of success.
She’d much rather it had been another feral vampire that had retreated while something dangerous killed its rival. Feral vampires were simple to deal with – not always easy, but simple. They also weren’t much known for talking. Or planning.
As she was leaving the park, she spotted a suspicious man walking along the street. She followed, hoping to figure out if the man was a danger – vampire, demon or blood-mage – or just a hunched figure in a baggy coat. Perhaps a human criminal.
She lost track of the coat-wearing figure when he crossed a busy street and vanished into a crowd. Resisting the urge to mutter curses, Kendra kept moving. There would be other figures, and certainly other monsters. She felt far too restless to go back to the school yet.
There was another vampire, this one feeding from one of the street-folk in an alley. A quick stab with her stake and the vampire fell to dust. Kendra bandaged the man’s shoulder as best she could, and hoped that the scent of blood wouldn’t attract any more predators. Though she wasn’t certain if the homeless man would notice, or care if he did.
With a swift hope that the man would be safe, and the hope that he wouldn’t be suffering from her actions, Kendra kept moving. Her steps found a cemetery, one with a tall fence and substantial looking gates, currently ajar with a chain and lock tangled in one half of the gate.
Her instincts were telling her that there was something wrong inside the cemetery.
Kendra slipped between the gates, not wanting to bump the metal and possibly cause the chain to rattle and announce her. If there were problems inside, then it would be best if they didn’t know she was there until she could act.
Towards the back a pair of vampires were chanting over a grave, with something burning between them, and a circle marked in blood. It had an unremarkable headstone, though the vampires blocked her view of the name or dates. She identified the chanting as not Latin, though there seemed to be a few familiar sounds to the words. With no further hesitation, Kendra attacked.
The first vampire fell quickly, though the second fought viciously. She could feel blood trickling down her temple and her eyes stung by the time he was also ash. The headstone was revealed to belong to Edmund Drake, beloved husband and father. The dates revealed that he’d been fifty four when he’d died, and it took Kendra a few moments to remember that with the change in time from the portal, the man had only been dead about fifteen years.
The whole thing said ‘disrupted ritual’, and it made her wish that she could contact that sorcerer to ask what she’d stumbled upon. The circle of blood couldn’t be a good sign.
“I t’ink it is time to go home,” Kendra sighed. Dorothy would not be pleased, despite the injuries being fairly minor.
End part 42.
When Kendra made her way to collect food during what most of the students were considering ‘lunch’, she discovered that Mr. Kruchten had taken the day off for ‘an unexpected matter’ and simply posted assignments on the door. There were quite a few rumors about what this matter might be, and if it involved his family, or a girlfriend, or another job offer away from them.
Misty had walked towards her, a small frown on her face as she toyed with an apple.
“Is somet’ing troubling you, Misty?” Kendra asked.
Misty nodded, and then with a glance towards the others, she asked, “Can we talk about it elsewhere?”
“Of course,” Kendra nodded, and motioned for Misty to follow her.
Once they were in a small sitting room near the library, Kendra settle onto one of the spindly, not quite comfortable chairs and asked, “What is wrong?”
For a few moments, Misty was silent, looking as if she was searching for the words. Then she admitted, “I’ve been having weird dreams. They feel like memories, except… the me in these maybe dreams is older. All grown up. She can shift in ways… not just deliberately into someone, but in ways that… Amazing and almost terrifying ways.”
“None of the shape-changers that I’ve encountered before were quite like you,” Kendra began. “Some of them could change their apparent ages, but that did not affect their memories, or their control.”
“What would it take to alter someone’s memories or control?” Misty’s voice was barely a whisper.
“Perhaps a strong telepath could do so. I know that there are magical spells and rituals that can do the same, though I can not use them meself. I have also heard that sometimes an injury to the head can make a person forget things,” Kendra sighed. “There is a minor ritual that I can do that was used to get an idea of an age for a vampire or demon. Many kinds become more dangerous with age. I do not know if this would work on a mutant.”
“What does this ritual take?” Misty’s hands were shaking.
“Most of de… the time, a bit of hair or skin, sometimes blood. A bit of sea salt, some chanting an’ a candle. It is very simple, and very weak,” Kendra offered. “It is not precise, but it gives a little information.”
“Where would we get sea salt?” Misty frowned.
Kendra grinned, “Many rituals require sea salt, and there are some sorts of demons that are vulnerable to it. I gathered some sea water, and have let the water evaporate away. This gives me some sea salt.”
“I can meet you with a candle… does this need to be anywhere specific?” Misty asked.
“Somewhere that we will not be interrupted,” Kendra shrugged. “It is not very complicated.”
Five minutes later and they were kneeling on the floor of the little sitting room. Kendra had a small plate with a pinch of her evaporated sea salt, and the candle. Misty plucked a couple hairs and handed them over, whispering, “What will this look like?”
“I will chant a few t’ings, let de hairs catch fire and drop them onto the salt. Then it will form wisps of smoke that will get darker the older you are,” Kendra shrugged. “If you are only as old as you look, there are a few other options that might explain your dreams.”
Kendra’s words were a simple request for the spirits beyond to share a sliver of their wisdom and reveal the age of this individual. At that point, she lit the hairs on fire and dropped them onto the salt. Wisps of smoke rose, becoming a dark grey.
“That looks dark…” Misty frowned. “So… I’m a lot older than twelve?”
“Much older than twelve,” Kendra agreed. That was darker than the smoke had turned for a four hundred year old sea demon. “We will need to figure out why you do not remember… why you do remember some of the t’ings you do, when they do not match what this suggests.”
“If I’m much older than twelve, then my mom can’t be my mom. She’s only thirty two. And I have memories that back up the idea that I’m twelve… so we need to sort those out.” Misty sighed, “I’m afraid that I won’t like what’s under those memories.”
“Truth can be ugly at times,” Kendra put one hand on Misty’s shoulder. “From what I have seen, you have been a good girl. I am here for you, for as long as I can be. Your memories, whatever they are, will not change that.”
“Thanks, Miss Kendra.” The blue girl smiled.
Kendra pinched out the candlewick, and sighed, wondering just how many strange things would pile on top of each other. Wondering if having a Watcher would make this simpler. If it was strangeness after puzzle that killed Slayers as much as the claws and fangs of demons. There were her strange dreams involving sea salt, Fyarl horns, and a sword – she was certain that they meant something, but she didn’t know what that might be. She was still troubled by the child-vampire that Charles and Erik had insisted she let go. Whatever ritual those vampires had been up to with their Great Lord of the Dead, a ritual that might or might not have had a connection to the Drake grave last night. The magic user Doctor Strange. Her displacement to this other world and earlier time. Now Misty was experiencing dreams that might be memories that suggested unusual events that might mean her entire presumed life was a lie, and her tiny spell suggested that Misty was closer to five hundred than twelve. And she was still struggling with these feelings for Charles, who was seeing Victoria Grey.
“Miss Kendra?” Misty looked at her. “Is something… something else wrong?”
“Your situation is clearly complicated. I do not have all the answers, I do not even know for certain where to look. I have some ideas that might help. I know that we want to be careful, because any time you mess with the mind or memories it is very easy to make things worse, an’ I do not want to make your life worse.” Kendra paused, sorting through words and fragments.
“Does that mean you don’t want to try to fix this?” Misty whispered.
“I want to help you find answers. But I do not want to make things worse by making a mistake or by rushing, even if it is rushing in the correct direction. I think we should be very careful wit’ this, an’ I only say that because I do not want to do things that might further complicate, or damage your memories,” Kendra tried to explain.
Misty sat quietly for a few moments, frowning and biting at her lip. Her shoulders finally slumped, and she nodded, “I suppose meddling with minds and memories could go wrong in all kinds of bad ways. Especially if you rush in, and I don’t want people rushing into my head. I don’t like having to go slowly to get this fixed, but I can understand why you’re saying we need to.”
“Life often has t’ings we do not like. Sometimes they are t’ings we can change, an’ other times they are t’ings we must accept or work around. Some t’ings… things we can overcome. There is another small spell I know that can tell me if you are under the influence of any spell or potion. I can’t break that influence if you are, but it would help us know how to proceed.” Kendra shook her head muttering, “Me life has been full of t’ings I did not like, an’ there are still many t’ings I do not like.”
“How much magic can you do, Miss Kendra?” Misty asked.
“De spell we just used to test your age. One to test for effects of spells or potions, though it will not tell me what de effect is. One to break a weak illusion. A five minute ritual to rescind a vampire’s invitation to a building. A half hour ritual to banish a ghost or spirit. A fifteen minute ritual that will destroy some enchanted objects. That is it,” Kendra paused. “Most Slayers have Watchers who know a little more magic than that. Most often, de magic used is the proper application of a weapon and de knowledge of where to apply it.”
“You think I won’t like all of the truth, once we find it,” Misty didn’t so much ask a question as make a statement.
“For some reason, it was decided to turn a grown person into a young girl. I do not know if this was something the you of before planned, or if this was done to you. But something unpleasant must have happened to cause this,” Kendra’s voice was calm, just a little flat as she fought to keep the anger contained. Someone was playing with Misty’s life, making choices and leaving her alone and vulnerable. Even if the reason was to give Misty a second or better chance, what disaster in the life of Misty from Before could have prompted such a decision?
“It is pretty drastic, isn’t it?” Misty agreed.
“Very much, especially since arrangements must have been made to your… to the woman you remember as your mother to make this possible, perhaps even to the whole town where you were a child.”
Misty winced, “How many people got mind-woogied to accomplish this?”
“I do not know a number, but I know it was too many,” Kendra sighed, feeling frustrated and wanting to do something with that anger. Like hit a vampire. Or whoever had started playing with people’s memories.
“And depending on who, and if they’re watching, they might do it again to keep things like they had them,” Misty finished.
“I know I said I understand why I need to be patient, but this bites,” Misty scowled.
Kendra chuckled at that, unable to disagree.
End part 43.