chapters 46 to 48
The rest of the afternoon passed without anything remarkable. One of the Beaumont boys ran into a wall and gave himself a knot on his head. A basketball had managed to stick between the hoop and the backboard, remaining stubbornly out of reach of the students. Kendra wondered if anyone had thought to ask if Jean could remove it, or if Jean had tried and found the ball too firmly wedged for her current ability to displace. Charles and Erik had been tinkering in the basement and managed to short out the power for the entire mansion for about half an hour, later refusing to give any details beyond having made a miscalculation.
Close enough to nothing out of the ordinary for the way this school, which hadn’t yet finalized a name, was shaping up to be. Just enough that the day didn’t drag in boredom.
What Kendra was really waiting for was patrol. She would be hunting for vampires and demons, accompanied by Mr. Kruchten and his friend Quentin Travers, Watcher. The name sounded vaguely familiar to Kendra, enough that she assumed that she’d heard of a Watcher named Travers somewhere along the line before the portal. Not familiar enough for her to be sure if the Travers she’d heard mention of was a then-current Watcher, or a historical personage, or if the name had been Quentin or someone else entirely. Considering that this was a different world, she wasn’t sure it made a difference.
As the sun began to sink beneath the horizon, resembling a luridly colored broken egg yolk, Kendra met with the others by the garage. A brief discussion resulted in the decision that Mr. Kruchten would drive, as Kendra was unused to it and Quentin feared he’d wind up on the wrong side of the road from habit. It made little difference to Kendra. All three of them were well armed, and Kendra knew that both men had several stakes as well as a few knives, and Quentin had a crossbow poorly concealed under his coat.
During the drive, Kendra spoke to them. “I have slain a number of vampires here, and dey show some differences from the vampires I am familiar with from me home. Different color of eyes, a slight difference in how dey fall to ashes, de teeth a little different. I am still trying to sort out if all the vampires here are different or if they are simply another bloodline.”
“Yes, there is that Greek line that tends towards horns and hooves… a possible source of the Minotaur legend. Some of the eastern bloodlines are also quite strange,” Quentin shuddered.
“I was never in dis area in me home world, I can only guess,” Kendra mused. She was trying to reduce her accent, but it was more difficult than she’d expected. If she thought carefully about what she was saying and didn’t get distracted or emotional, she could manage for a few things, though not enough to eliminate her accent entirely. But as soon as she got distracted, or emotional, it was back to full strength.
“Kendra? What are you expecting tonight?” Mr. Kruchten asked.
“A few vampires. Perhaps a ghoul, there seem to be some lurking in de… the sewer system and connected tunnels. A map of those would be useful, but is unlikely. I fought an ogre a little bit ago, I do not know if dere… there might be more.” Kendra paused, and then sighed, “Twice I have found vampires attempting some sort of ritual in graveyards. I do not know if de two attempts were connected, but it makes me suspicious.”
“Quite alarming,” Quentin agreed. “We shall have to be vigilant both for rituals and ogres.”
“How close to the old legends are these ogres?” asked Mr. Kruchten.
“Ogres are generally very big, from eight feet on taller. Some much taller. Most retain a similar shape, but more muscles, bigger teeth, perhaps claws. They might hunch over, or have dere… their proportions change,” Kendra spoke carefully, trying to remember the information and fight back her accent.
“I believe the tallest on record among the Watchers Journals was just over fifteen feet,” Quentin spoke, his hands curling on his lap.
“So the ogres are probably a lot more noticeable than magic rituals then,” Mr. Kruchten commented.
“Not if the ritual goes horribly wrong,” Quentin gave a shudder as he spoke. “Those can be… nightmares beyond words.”
“Do I want you to try?” Mr. Kruchten asked.
“Have you ever read some of the books written by an American named H.P. Lovecraft? There’s a Watcher’s Journal that said he was almost sacrificed in a nasty ritual when he was a child. Poor boy was never the same. Some of the things he saw… They show up in his work.” Quentin slowly uncurled his fists. “As I said, nasty, nasty stuff. Magic can be a very powerful tool, much like high explosives.”
Kendra decided right then that it was very important to prevent the vampires from completing their attempted resurrection rituals. However many rituals it took, however many times they needed thwarted. Magic didn’t have to go horribly wrong to do horrible things, after all.
Sometimes it depended on what it was supposed to do in the first place.
End part 46.
It didn’t take long before they reached part of the city. Kendra wasn’t really familiar with the area, but she hadn’t become really familiar with much of the city at all. Granted, a bit of road work closing one section of road had caused a detour that took them into town at a different point, but… Yes, that was one of the noisy bars that she wound up passing regularly, where she’d staked a vampire into a truck. And a few blocks further back and to the left would be a small library that stayed open until ten at night, well past dark. Down the road, turn right, and a few more blocks and there was a dingy pawn shop that had graffiti reminding her of a few demon languages scrawled on the walls.
“There is a library a little further down and to the left. Perhaps that would be a good place to park?” Kendra suggested.
“Is the library any good?” Quentin asked.
“mmmm,” Kendra hesitated. “It is much larger than any I encountered in Jamaica, but I have little experience with American libraries. All I can be sure of is that it is unlikely to have many factual books on demons, enchanted artifacts, and prophecies.”
“I’ll just have to come back and take a look myself,” Quentin mused. “During the daytime, of course.”
“Where do we start looking for vampires? How do you even start looking for vampires?” asked Mr. Kruchten.
Kendra closed her eyes, trying to feel for any vampires in the area. Sometimes she could get an idea, other times it took walking around and waiting to have the vampires find her.
“Perhaps we should start near the bar? Vampires often lurk near such places hoping to prey on intoxicated individuals,” Quentin offered.
“Yes, drunks make easy prey,” Kendra murmured.
“So, many vampires like the easiest way possible?” Mr. Kruchten looked from Kendra to Quentin.
“Oh yes, most vampires take the easiest path. Even those who are minions to more cunning fiends… often other vampires, sometimes demons. Most take the easiest way to everything. They find unwary or weakened prey, like drunks, the homeless, or wandering foolish teenagers. They go to the closest place to find prey, or specific items, and tend to break in and steal clothing or weapons. Most vampires are rather stupid,” Quentin sighed. “I suppose most humans are rather foolish as well, so that makes sense. In addition, the fact that vampires are stronger and faster than humans, that they will never get sick or old and no poisons seem to affect them… they get over confident.”
“I’ve seen movies, but you never really gave me a straight answer, Quentin. Wood through the heart, beheading, fire and sunlight… what else will kill a vampire?” Mr. Kruchten made the question sound more like a demand.
“Blessed water works much like acid on them, enough of it will kill them, but that almost takes a full immersion, unless you use precision targeting. Basic dismemberment will work, though you must either destroy the heart or the spine above the heart for it to be immediately fatal. A still present mangled torso would be unable to escape the sunrise. Apparently a lightning strike is also fatal to vampires, but we can hardly just call lightning from the sky at will, can we?” Quentin chuckled.
“Charles and Erik are starting a school for people with special abilities. Perhaps someone will be able to do just that,” Kendra suggested.
For several moments, Quentin only gaped. After several highly amusing false starts where his mouth moved without sound, he managed a faint “I suppose someone just might be able to do that.”
“It should help you regain your composure when I confess to being entirely incapable of such a feat,” Mr. Kruchten smiled.
“Rather,” Quentin managed a smile. “Shall we park the vehicle and begin our search for danger?”
With that, a parking place outside the darkened library was found. Stepping out of the car, they made sure their assorted weapons were in place, easily accessible, and hopefully not to obvious.
Kendra looked at them, Quentin who looked perhaps a decade older than herself, and short old Mr. Kruchten who looked more than old enough to be Quentin’s father. “I am curious how the two of you met, how you became friends.”
“He was one of the more recent faculty additions when I attended college. He taught medieval history, this particular class on early Germanic nations, and another on… what was it, dark ages France? King Charlemagne and his empire, wasn’t it? He wound up my faculty advisor while I attended college. Watchers have a tradition of college degrees, have for the last few centuries, but I didn’t go to one of the normal choices,” Quentin confessed. “There was this fellow at the college my father recommended that… he gave me a rather dreadful feeling and I had no desire to be anywhere near him, so I attended a different university entirely.”
“Quentin was far more levelheaded than most students, and became a friend in addition to a student,” Mr. Kruchten added.
“I must say, the last decade doesn’t seem to have changed you at all,” Quentin added.
Mr. Kruchten shrugged, “I hold my age well. So did my father, though I tend to dismiss his claims of how old he was before his death as exaggerating. Then again, if these mutations are genetic, and it’s something I got from him, it could be possible… Young Charles does insist that I’m a mutant.”
“He told me that he used to be a private tutor before changing social trends pushed him for joining the academic circles and becoming part of a university,” Quentin added, his thumb pointed at Mr. Kruchten. “Though he wouldn’t tell me just when he’d started teaching at universities instead of privately among families.”
“My last employer for private tutoring was a very busy politician named George, and some of the political mess that he had to deal with quite soured me on a few things. I felt that universities would give me a greater distance and therefore greater peace of mind over the whole thing,” the words were delivered with a shrug, as if to dismiss the matter entirely.
“A British politician?” Quentin asked, one brow raised.
“British with perhaps a bit of Scottish to him. Aberdeen, like his father before him.” Mr. Kruchten glanced around, and then looked at Kendra. “Lead on, Miss Kendra.”
They meandered for a while before encountering a pair of vampires lurking in an alley. The vampires thought that two young humans and a little old man would be easy prey. While Kendra wasn’t quite sure how Mr. Kruchten had hidden one of his axes under his coat, and the vampires had been too close for Quentin to use his crossbow, they had defeated the vampires rather quickly.
As Kendra and Quentin studied the ashes falling to the ground, Mr. Kruchten leaned forward, hands on his knees and the ax dripping blood beside his shoe. “Oh, I feel about a century too old to be doing this sort of thing every night. I should have met a Slayer when I was younger, this would have been great fun when I was a reckless young man.”
“And how long ago was that, Richard?” Quentin teased.
“Too long ago. Now, don’t we have better things to be doing here than poking into just how old one old man might be?” He grumbled.
“True enough, my apologies,” Quentin smiled, before asking, “So was the Queen pretty in her youth?”
“If you mean her Royal Majesty Elizabeth the Second, yes, she was rather pretty in her youth. She took rather strongly after her mother. Another striking woman, I must admit,” he sighed, and only Kendra caught his soft “Not that she was a patch on Victoria. Now she was a beautiful young queen…”
Kendra stumbled at that, wondering just how old Mr. Kruchten really was, and if Richard Kruchten was his actual name or simply a current convenience. Perhaps it didn’t really matter. Though if he was old enough to know what Queen Victoria looked like in her youth… unless he was simply making a joke about his age? Would he make a joke about such a thing? Could he be that old? Though if his mutation was a prolonged lifespan… Was that any stranger than running on wall, seeing auras, or having blue skin?
“We have a patrol to continue,” Kendra tried to push all thoughts of Mr. Richard Kruchten’s true age or identity from her mind. He was quite right; now wasn’t the time for such things.
End part 47.
They had spent another four hours patrolling the city. While they hadn’t found any other ogres, they had found several more vampires, some ghouls, a rat the size of a Doberman with glowing yellow eyes and two tails, and a strange very bony woman with milky white eyes who had watched them and vanished right before their eyes. They hadn’t been sure if she had been a mutant or a currently non-hostile demon, as Quentin had put it.
They had returned to the car beside the library, all of them sporting a few bruises and scrapes, though nothing serious. By that point they had been quite ready to return to the mansion and Quentin no longer doubted Kendra’s claim of being the… or at least a Slayer. The way several of the vampires had snarled, calling her ‘Slayer’ and howling graphic death threats seemed rather compelling evidence to the Watcher. Besides if the vampires counted Kendra as a Slayer, why should he argue the point?
Kendra had been quite willing to concede that there might well be a Slayer in Prague. She’d also willingly admitted that the whole chain of events was rather beyond easy description, and full of abnormalities. Any means of gaining a better understanding that didn’t involve causing her greater problems or potentially unleashing dangerous magical forces would be welcome.
And Richard Kruchten wanted to go patrolling with her again next week. He didn’t think he’d be up for it every patrol, but once or twice a week, in his words, ‘might be good for me and keep me from getting old before my time.’
Quentin had laughed at that, mumbling that it seemed well past time for Richard to be old.
With some laughing, they all separated to their various rooms. Kendra stayed up a while longer, cleaning her weapons and wondering if Quentin would stay, if she would have a Watcher now. Reflecting on the benefits of knowledgeable assistance on a patrol. Wondering if such assistance had helped Buffy to survive.
Deciding to think about it all later, Kendra took a quick shower and went to bed.
Once again, she dreamed of the ocean, where a pair of Fyarl demons dueled with swords at the water’s edge, waves lapping at their ankles. Further from the water, a thin man holding a platter of cheese watched, his expression suggesting polite boredom. Accepting a piece of cheese sent her to a cemetery, where a group of vampires were chanting, a large display of red candles and circles made of blood and herbs surrounding a grave while other vampires dragged a screaming teenager and an equally screaming vampire closer. A vampire in a blood red robe waited with a bronze knife. And then there was a marketplace, with old buildings built of stone and bricks, interspersed with tents and people in long robes. Children and perhaps pickpockets dodged about, and the language was not one that Kendra recognized. One man looked up, and his light brown face flickered, momentarily overset with a dark shadow in which there was a wide, sharp-toothed smile and glowing yellow eyes.
Kendra awoke with a gasp. After a few moments to regain her bearings, she opened her dream journal and immediately started scribbling down her dream or perhaps vision. The vampires in the cemetery might connect with the plot to revive the Great Lord of the Dead. She had no idea what the overshadowing menacing face might mean, but doubted it was anything good. And Fyarls with swords… Fyarls were often violent and impulsive, though they generally didn’t eat humans. Not that killing the humans and not eating them was any better for the human’s health, but still…
Her thoughts were wandering as she made her way down to the kitchen. She wasn’t sure if there would still be food out, though she suspected that it was too late for breakfast and a bit early for lunch. She gathered a few portable things for a light breakfast and made her way to the gardens to sit and think while eating. The fresh air, even if it was cooler and carried completely different scents than home, would help.
She was a Slayer. She could no more deny her Calling than a fish could breathe the air. She would be a Slayer until she died, perhaps, considering Buffy, even afterwards. She had responsibilities.
The responsibilities of a Slayer would make having any sort of normal life, which Buffy had so passionately craved, difficult at best. Dating would be more difficult, and a relationship with someone who didn’t understand her need to continue her duties would be doomed.
Even if Charles wasn’t dating the charming Victoria Grey, he didn’t accept what being a Slayer meant. There was also the undeniable fact that their backgrounds were completely different, as evidenced by this family mansion.
There would be no happy future with sweet kisses between herself and Charles Xavier, no matter how tempting a few dreams had made the idea seem. She needed to let that infatuation die. She might need to help it along; as a Slayer, she knew dozens of ways to kill things. Shouldn’t that include inappropriate feelings?
She felt a little better that she had found some help, even if Quentin and Richard Kruchten wouldn’t be patrolling with her every night. She would have help in sorting out what needed to be done.
Equally comforting, this place was making a strong case for her also being Miss Kendra as well as Kendra the Vampire Slayer. She could have friends, have interests outside of Slaying. Perhaps, someday, she might find a boyfriend. Might have the chance to consider marriage, perhaps even… perhaps even a family. Though she was quite getting ahead of herself with such thoughts.
Kendra finished her food, and considered her dreams. Fyarls sword fighting in the surf. She’d need to vary her patrol routes to see how far the beach was from here, and see if she could identify the section of beach from her dream, which might not be possible. The vampires and their circle… disturbing. Perhaps she should copy out that section and see about contacting that sorcerer, Doctor Strange. Assuming she could find the card he’d given her. The marketplace and the overshadowed man… she was at a loss for anything that she could do about that.
With a sigh, Kendra returned the dishes to the kitchen. She had a card to find, and a sorcerer to contact. Hopefully she could trust him, at least enough that he’d oppose any vampires plotting resurrections.
It took a while to find the card. Gold letters proclaimed Dr. Strange – Sorcerer. Golden curlicues that reminded her of the patterning around his cape filled the corners. There was also a telephone number. Slowly, Kendra dialed the number, hoping that he wouldn’t laugh or be annoyed at her mention of ‘I had a dream…’
End part 48.