A   D A N T E   K I N D   O F   H E L L
            B Y   K A T Y              
Chapter One: New Sufferings, New Sufferers

"Legacy, n. A gift from one who is legging it out in this vale of tears."
-Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary."

"O you, who reach this house of suffering, be careful how you enter, whom you trust, the gate is wide, but do not be deceived."
Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

Aster dropped the precept's body to the ground and smiled like she had been crowned the homecoming queen of the undead. The ancient creature in the darkness rolled her eyes in disgust. The Sacramento House had been easily taken. Aster was immensely pleased, yet there was a blonde haired shadow in the corner that remained cold and silent.

"You've been quiet over there, Delphina," Aster observed. She would have to watch her back around this one.

The woman replied to Aster in a voice that was repulsively sweet. "I don't believe in premature celebrations."

Aster grumbled at her. "You're too paranoid. You saw how easily we brought this house down."

Delphina frowned through the darkness of the corner she lingered in. She didn't raise her voice and kept herself cooler than an artic winter. "Of course it was easy. Most of them were asleep in their beds. We have a truce with them, which you have just broken. I hope you know what the hell you're doing. I hope you know how furious Benadir will be."

Aster turned away from Delphina and began barking orders at the other preternatural beings that occupied the house. "Put your back into it! Give them something to remember us by!" she squealed with delight. Aster was not going to let Delphina frighten her with threats of Benadir's rage.

Delphina was beginning to wonder why she had bothered to come at all. Aster's bloodline was large, but they were young and stupid. Aster herself was only a thousand years old. Delphina was insanely curious to see how Aster thought she would accomplish such a horrific feat and escape Benadir's wrath, and the wrath of the Legacy.

The truce between vampires and the Legacy was only two years old. Two years may as well be two minutes to someone as old as Delphina. They were restricted to feeding off the lowest of humans. Murderers, rapists and pedophiles. She frowned at the thought of it. Her kind should have destroyed them centuries ago, when they were just a few castles and as weak as saplings. They let it go, and now they were crying in their proverbial beer. Delphina thought the individual human to be the weakest of creatures. Banded together, they were dangerous. She warned them all back then and was scoffed at. The general consensus being, "They'll never amount to anything." This Legacy had amounted to quite a bit and Delphina was ever so ready to holler her I-told-you-so's.

So Delphina sat in the corner watching her curiosity turn into a small spark of anxiety. It wasn't the humans she had regret for. It was more that she hadn't taken the job on herself years ago. She should have, but Delphina had no bloodline. She had never created any vampires. She would have had to recruit help and that would have meant trusting others. Maybe she should have started her own bloodline and had a family of vampires whose only desire was loyalty to her. She had burned with loyalty for Seskhenet. Delphina quickly shook off the memories that were starting to stir. She had to keep emotions out of it. She stared at the body on the floor. She didn't care that they had all been human once. It was just too long ago for Delphina to remember.

Now there is Drayab. He came from out of nowhere, filling the younger vampires with ideas of blood and power. She did not know him. She had never heard of him yet he claimed to be older than Delphina, even as old as Benadir and Khepri. He couldn't hide his presence from her as Benadir or Khepri could, but he was strong, she could feel his power from miles away. She could hear it humming like an electrical tower. Delphina knew all of the ancients, so she wondered where in hell Drayab had come from. She wanted to go to Benadir and tell him, but she restrained herself. She would not appear weak. Not to Benadir. Delphina gave Aster a dark scowl and left the room. It was one thing to make a kill, it was quite another to smear what was left of your dinner all over the walls. Delphina had no patience for vampires that played with their food.

Chapter Two: The Hunted and The Hunters

"Oh who can say, and who can tell? I'll take those keys and shut down hell." -Taja Sevelle, "Sub-Concious Me"

"Hatred, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's superiority." -Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

Jane Pardee brushed aside the hair from her face and jumped into her car quickly. She was saturated in blood, making it almost impossible to secure her grip on the steering wheel. She snickered at the thought of what she might say if she were pulled over by a cop. Covered in gore. Axes and hacksaws in the trunk. That would go over well. When she finally did reach home, her colleagues were restless.

"Where have you been?" Dudley asked breathlessly. He had probably been pacing around the place since she left early that morning. The image amused her.

"Sacramento. I killed him," Jane confessed. Her heart beat faster with the memory of the slaughter fresh in her mind.

"Killed WHO?" Dudley asked, horrified.

"I did it. I killed Gierrod, I broke the truce. Killed him, Lidoine, and the rest of his family," Jane said. Her eyes were gleaming over. "And before that, I killed Argi, and Drefan and their havens here in Monterey. It was a lot of work. You should have seen it, Dudley! I was so terrified that somewhere on the road between Sacramento and Monterey I'd get pulled over! 'Sorry officer, I've been hacking vampires to pieces all morning, but don't worry, they deserved it!'"

"Oh God," Dudley said. He began to rub the sides of his temples. "Do you know what you've done?" He tried to control his breathing. She had done it. She had finally gone mad. "How, how did you know where to find them?"

"A Legacy member by the name of Victor Drayab contacted me. He told me where to find them," Jane said. Her eyes were sparkling like diamonds. She was intoxicating herself with her own madness. "He went to other houses and they ignored him, turned him away! Can you believe that? I've never heard of so many weak and pathetic fools. He feels the same way we do, Dudley. A truce cannot last between the Legacy and the undead. We have to kill them all now, when they don't expect it. If we can get the whole Legacy to band together, I bet we could wipe then all out within a day or so! Victor seems to think we could pull it off and I agree with him."

"Victor Drayab? I've never heard of him," Dudley said. "What house is he from? Why didn't you tell the rest of us about him?"

"What difference does it make now?" Jane asked. "It's done. I'm <precept> of this house. I don't answer to you or to anybody." Jane replied.

"You answer to the London House," Dudley contradidcted. "You answer to Caroline. When she finds out about this, you're through. You'll be out of the Legacy!"

Jane sighed loudly with irritation. "That bitch. Sloan's replacement is even more avaricious than he was. She may have been hot shit in Canada, but she's in London now. How do you think Sloan's people felt being replaced by her team? She's a baby for crying out loud! Twenty-seven years old and ruling precept?"

"Sloan obviously had a lot of faith in her for naming her his replacement," Dudley said.

"She's nothing. She gets in my way and I'll cut her to pieces," Jane threatened.

Dudley thought better of arguing with her. Jane was his precept, he would follow her, however blindly, and so would the others. She had saved his life many times. He had worked under her for almost twenty years. He had to stand by her. "What's going to happen next?"

"I want to go to the Marin headlands. Benadir has a nice haven out there by the coast," Jane said.

"Benadir? You can't kill Benadir! He's the oldest vampire there is! Eight thousand years old, Jane. The rest of his kind look to him as an unofficial king. Kill him and forget the Legacy, they'll kill every human alive!" Dudley cried.

"No they won't you idiot, we're their food," Jane spat out. "If you're going to get squeamish then stay here, but after everything you've gone through in this house, it's a little late to start being a coward."

"Don't," Dudley pleaded. "You know we'll follow you."

Jane glared at him and went upstairs to wash the blood from her body. The rest of the Legacy would have to see how important this was. She would make them see if she had to ram it down their throats. Even if they didn't, it was too late to worry about it now. She had set thigns in motion already. Jane wanted those bastard creatures know their number had been called.

Chapter Three: Verses Of New Punishment

"I must make verses of new punishment."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"But under heavy loads of trampled clay
Lie bodies of the vampires full of blood.
Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet."

-W.B. Yeats, "Oil and Blood"

They drove through the dried, yellowed fields, passing a car every few miles or so. Philip spotted the outline of the Sacramento House on the horizon. His stomach began to turn.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," he said.

"Me too," said Nick. "Look at it, the place is gigantic." The mansion was surrounded by a ring of palm trees and hundreds of acres of farmland. It was well hidden in the open expanse of the Sacramento Valley.

"It looks abandoned," Derek stressed.

Philip had been so engrossed in the external, he didn't notice the internal. "Ugh," he groaned.

"I don't like it either," Derek said. They pulled up outside the drive. Two Legacy cars were parked under a driveway hidden beneath the massive palms. They could see the chopper blades through the window of the garage off the east side of the house. Derek stopped the car and turned off the motor. He sighed. He knew what he would find.

Philip remained silent from the moment they got out of the car. They walked slowly up the front pathway to the house. Nick began to make his way around to the back. Philip walked carefully over to the cars parked in the drive and looked in the windows.

Derek put his hand out towards his colleague and waved him over. "The front door is wide open," he said.

They moved back to the house and through the front door cautiously. Derek winced and exhaled sharply when they spotted the body at the foot of the stairs. The two stood still for a moment and listened before entering the house. Derek turned the woman over carefully.

"It's Greta Bursy," Derek said. "Precept."

"The Sacramento House has six members in all?" Philip asked. Derek nodded. Nick crept in through the back door.

"Did you see anything on your way in?" Derek asked. Nick shook his head.

Philip stood up and looked at everyone. "She's completely drained of blood."

"Vampires," Nick offered.

"Don't jump to conclusions," Derek said.

"Do you want to split up?" Philip asked.

"Absolutely not," Derek answered. He looked behind him. "Let's start over there."

Jack Rabadan had just moved into the Sacramento House two weeks ago. He had worked with Rachel on a number of occasions through CSU Sacramento and she had been ecstatic when he had joined the Legacy. Derek and Philip found what was left of him in the corner of the dining hall. "He's been killed with...," Philip's voice drifted. He found himself losing his vocabulary with each passing second.

"...somebody's bare hands," Derek finished.

"Yuck," Nick muttered. The room after the dining hall was spattered in blood, but there were no bodies. Philip ran a hand through his hair as the group moved through first floor room by room. "There isn't really any signs of a sruggle," Nick commented.

"Upstairs," Derek said. On the second floor he pointed towards the bodies in the hallway. "Toby Dengler and CeeCee Brower." He winced and put his hand over his eyes. He had just spoken with CeeCee three weeks ago. She and Toby were set to marry next month.

Philip said crossing himself, "They've been gutted."

Fragments of visions hit Derek suddenly like they usually did. Screams of surprise. There were flashes of the Sacramento House being dragged from their beds. Derek's stomach began to clench and burn.

"We're missing two others," Philip said quietly.

"Emma Galvez and Jaime Lomelino," Derek said.

Something hit Philip in the shoulder. He jerked back and wiped his hand over his arm. "Blood," he said.

The men climbed the stairs to the third floor. There was no face on the body, but it was distinctively male. "Jaime," Philip said.

"Emma," Derek whispered, looking over Philip's shoulder. At the end of the hall bloody handmarks stained the walls.

"Jesus," Philip swore under his breath, "no more."

Derek walked towards the end of the hall and stood over her crumpled body. "Her throat," he said.

Philip turned. As he walked away from them he said, "I'm going to start last rites."

"Light defensive wounds on her arms," Nick pointed out. "I'd say she was the last to go." Derek's cell phone rang and the two men came within inches of hitting the ceiling.

"Hello?" Derek snapped into the phone.

"It's me," Rachel's voice called over the wire. "Everything okay over there?"

"No," Derek replied.

"What happened?" Rachel asked.

"Everybody here has been killed," Derek told her.

"Son of a bitch," Nick agreed angrily.

"Put Caroline on the phone," Derek ordered. The ruling precept of the London House, Caroline Metcalfe, had flown to San Francisco the night before to oversee the transfer of an ancient book of Aramaic text to the London house for further study. Derek and the rest of his colleagues developed an instant bond with the woman. She tried to phone the Sacramento House that morning to check on their investigation of some local poltergeist disturbances in the are and had gotten no response after several attempts. It was enough to send Derek Rayne and two of his team to the valley.

"All right," Rachel said, "hold on."

Derek heard muffled noises on the other end of the phone, followed by a few moments of silence until a soft and gentle female voice called into the phone. "What is it?" she asked.

"It looks like vampires," Derek answered solemnly.

"What does it feel like?" Caroline probed him.

"I'm almost positive the killers were vampires. The bodies are cold. Probably happened the night before last," Derek said. Nick was starting to pace in the hall.

"I'll call for someone to take care of the bodies," Caroline said. "In the meantime, it's getting dark out and if this is what it looks like, I want you guys to get back here as soon as possible."

"We're on our way," Derek said.

Chapter Four: A Call Of Burning

"...but that I've yet to see, and do not believe that it can be."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"Al poco giorno, ed al gran cerchio d'ombra. (To a short day, and a great ring of shadow)" -Dante Alighieri

Khepri walked slowly towards the front door of the old apartment building. From the outside it looked like many of Sacramento's run down tenements. Inside, it was a protective haven. Gierrod had bought the entire building some time in the 20s and had turned it into a safety net for himself and for his family and friends. She hadn't seen him since the French Revolution and had missed him and his family a lot the last few days.

Khepri put her hand on the front door and bowed her head down. The familiar, attractive smell of blood hit her violently. She listened but heard nothing. She waited and felt nothing. She called to Gierrod telepathically but he did not answer. She called Lidoine, Gierrod's wife, and heard nothing. Khepri pushed away the worry from her mind. Gierrod had many havens around the world. He could be anywhere. But he would have answered your call, Khepri told herself, And when you thought of him this place appeared in your head. She wasn't sure how long she stood outside the door. I can't go in there, she told herself. Khepri sighed heavily, collected herself and put her hand on the doorknob.

She pushed the front door open and walked inside. She cried silently when she found Gierrod's withered, shriveled body staked to the floor. She went through the rest of the house slowly, knowing what she would find. Lidoine had been hacked to pieces. Aedre, Hope and Boden. Victor and Cerise. Vampire bodies littered the building. Khepri shook her head vehemently. This had to be a nightmare. This couldn't be happening. She put her hands to the sides of her head and tried not to panic. With great difficulty Khepri managed to turn her fear into rage.

HUMANS, she growled. They had found him. They had come in the daylight when Gierrod and his family laid like infants in a crib and they had slaughtered them. The Legacy never had any intention of keeping the truce. She backed up against the wall and focused her thoughts on Benadir. Without opening her mouth, she screamed his name.

Chapter Five: Lover's Leap

"Now, with furies surrounded. Despairing, confounded. He trembles, he glows. See, wild as the wind over the desert he flies...Ah, see, he dies! Yet even in death Eurydice he sung. Eurydice still trembled on his tongue: Eurydice the woods. Eurydice the floods. Eurydice the rocks and hollow mountains rung." -Alexander Pope, "Ode For St. Cecilia's Day"

"Kill, n. To create a vacancy without nominating a successor."
-Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

Aster didn't take the time to study her prey like some of her kind did. Like Delphina did. That lunatic, Aster thought. That was one vampire that wouldn't last long. Aster would have to find some way of getting rid of her. She might be able to get Drayab to do it. From what she had seen, they wasn't any hope of the two of them becoming friends anytime soon.

She watched with a severe impatience as the two mortals left the building that housed a hall of antiquities. They actually believed they were safe parking their car in a darkened alley. They thought they were safe anywhere. Stupid humans, Aster smiled to herself. She waited. She wasn't alone. Others like her breathed in the shadows of the city's darkened alleys.

She wondered where Delphina was. The elder vampire was concealed completely. Only the ancients like Delphina, Benadir, and Khepri were able to make themselves truly invisible, even to their own kind. It was the one thing Aster couldn't do. There was no way for her to be truly invincible if there were vampires like Delphina that could hide from her. That didn't matter. She had Drayab and he could take them all.

When Aster finally did decide to move in for the kill, the hairs on the back of her neck bristled alerting her to the presence of a nightwalker that was <not> welcome. The creature jumped her from behind and flung her to the ground. He shoved his boot down on her chest, pinning her to the ground. She flailed underneath the pressure.

"What the HELL do you think you're doing?" the creature growled. Aster recognized him immediately. From the shadows, Delphina's eyes widened.

"Lorcan," Aster barked. "Do not interfere!"

"Stay away from them!" he ordered. "They are Legacy. They are off limits."

"You obviously didn't get the memo. The truce has ended," Aster told him.

Lorcan was bathed in confusion, and cursed himself for realizing too late that Aster had brought company. He was blindsided from behind.

"Lorcan! Nice to see you again," Drayab snarled visciously. Lorcan kicked him aside and tried to get up. He was knocked down to the ground, kicked violently and then dragged back up to his feet.

"Who are you?" Lorcan growled and struggled to break free. "I don't know you!"

"No, but I know you," Drayab said. Delphina stayed in the darkness, completely concealed. Rebecca, Lorcan's creator, had been one of the few vampires she had bothered to get to know. She had died because of Lorcan and Baethan and Delphina had always hated him for that.

Lorcan was held in place by several of his kind that had poured out of the shadows like insects. He stole a glance at the two humans getting into their car several hundred yards away, unaware of how close the danger was. He fixed his sight on one of the women. He was vaguely aware of being torn to pieces. He knew he was howling and screaming, yet he did not take his sight off the headlights of the car as it moved into the street and faded from view. Lorcan managed to roar a name before Drayab tore out his throat.

"Alexandra?" Drayab asked. "Who the hell is that?"

"Bastards!" Delphina roared. She flew out of the shadows at them.

"What is your problem?" Drayab asked her. He flung what was left of Lorcan down to the ground where the younger vampires tore him to pieces.

"You've gone to far," Delphina said, lowering her voice.

"What do you care whether he lives or dies? Lorcan was no friend of yours," Aster said.

"I don't care," Delphina told her. "In any other time or place I might have killed him myself."

"Then what is the problem?" asked Drayab.

"Benadir," Delphina replied. "It's one thing to break the truce, it's another to kill one of our own kind, and a kinsman of Khepri!"

"Why? You said yourself you would have killed him," Drayab sneered at her. "What makes that any different?"

"Benadir knows me," Delphina said evenly. "The context would have been entirely different. He would have been furious, but he would have been lenient with me." Delphina moved back into the darkness leaving only her voice behind. "You two, on the other hand, are as good as dead. When Benadir finds out I was involved with the Sacramento House, and with Lorcan, he won't give a damn how far back we go, he'll kill me....and he'll wash the ground with your blood. That you can count on."

Chapter Six: From One Bridge To Another

"Master, what is it that I hear? Who are those people so defeated by their pain?" -Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"I should never have believed that death could have unmade so many souls." -Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

It had gotten dark fast and Derek silently cursed the time that had passed since they arrived at the Sacramento House. The sounds of a helicopter captured his attention. They weren't two feet out the door when the sleek, black craft landed a few yards from the house. "Legacy chopper," Nick commented.

Two men and two women emerged from the craft and approached Derek and his team. One of the men pulled a gun. A breath behind, Nick had drawn his weapon in response. Derek whipped his arm out towards Nick. "We're Legacy," Derek said, showing his ring. The man put his gun away.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm Stuart Bayard, precept of the Los Angeles House. Greta Bursy is a friend of mine. I was talking to her last night on the phone and we were cut off. We've been trying to reach her all morning, so we decided to fly up to see if she's alright."

"I'm Derek Rayne, precept of the San Francisco House," Derek said. He hesitated. He hated breaking news like this. "And I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Greta and every member of this house...has been murdered."

"What?" Stuart breathed. The man turned white and crossed his arms over his stomach. His team were visibly shaken. Nick turned away from the sight of their grief. Stuart's breathing turned shallow. "Do you you know who killed them?"

"Possibly vampires," Philip spoke up.

"But we have a truce with them," one of the women blurted out through her tears. Stuart Bayard turned around and put his hand on her shoulder.

"This is the rest of my team," he said. He cleared his throat and wiped back a tear with the back of his hand. "This is Carleen Bohus, Tara Kardel, and Antonio Nacerba."

"Nick Boyle and Father Philip Callaghan," Derek introduced. "The rest of my team is still in San Francisco."

Stuart sighed and looked at the house. Derek could see his knees shaking. "They're really dead?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm sorry," Derek answered.

"Caroline, we need to let her know," Stuart said. Derek felt sorry for the man and wondered if Stuart and Greta had been more than just friends.

"She already knows," Philip told him. "She's at our house right now."

"Caroline is here in California?" Carleen asked.

"She is," Derek said. "Why don't you come back with us. I'll call ahead and let my house know you'll be flying in. We'll meet you there in a couple of hours."

Chapter Seven: To Start Bleeding...

"And if he tells you, he's lonely now and then. Won't you just say I love him, and want him back again." -Nina Simone, "Just Say I Love Him"

"Misfortune, n. The kind of fortune that never misses."
-Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

"Weil ich niemals dich anhielt, halt ich dich fest. (Because I never hold you, I hold you fast.)" -Rainer Maria Rilke

Alex repeatedly looked into the rearview mirror. "Is something wrong?" Galina asked her from the passenger seat. It had been a long day at the museum and all Galina wanted to do was get back to the island and relax.

"No," she managed to say. "I'm fine, I just wanted to make sure that idiot in the mercedes wasn't going to cut me off." Alex gripped the steering wheel tightly enough to cut off the circulation in her fingers.

She had known ever since they left Ireland last year that Lorcan was alive. She knew Derek and Lorcan had talked to each other. She knew that Lorcan had made Derek promise not to tell her he had survived the fire. She never said anything to Derek. Alex knew it hadn't been up to him. The only other person she had talked to about it was Nick. Strangely enough, he had been a tremendous source of comfort to her. She had expected him to get angry and confront Derek like he always did when he felt like they were being left out in the dark. Instead, he promised to keep silent, and always be there when she needed to talk. Alex just didn't feel she had the emotional strength to get into the argument that would follow if she confronted both Derek and Lorcan.

Now she had the worst feelings of dread. Alex felt as if something had left her. She had never felt Lorcan's presence but knew he was there by the way she felt about everything else. She hadn't had one nightmare in the two years since they left Ireland. She hadn't been scared, or lonely or felt vulnerable. In every situation she had found herself in since then she had neither fear nor dread. She handled everything with such strength. All of her emotions, and all of her thoughts had been joyful and fulfilling. All of that was because Loran had made it so. He was the one who made sure she never had a frightening thought or a bad dream. Now she felt scared. She felt loss. He wasn't there. Lorcan was gone.

"What is it?" Galina asked again.

"Nothing," Alex said. Galina glared at her as a friend would do when lied to.

"Are you sure?" Galina asked her.

"Yes," she answered. "I just have this feeling that something is horribly wrong."

"The Sacramento House?" Galina asked.

"Yeah," Alex said. She had actually forgotten about that. Alex wondered if Lorcan's absence and the Sacramento House were connected. When they finally made it back to the island and learned what had happened, she was knew that something had happened to Lorcan as well.

Chapter Eight: The Sea Beneath The Tempest

"So many ways spent hiding in so many undone plans. Forgetting what it's like to fight when no one understands." -Sarah McLachlan, "Out Of The Shadows"

"If you draw a bow, draw the strongest. If you use and arrow, use the longest. Although I don't spook easily, it has occurred to me transformation's in the air. Are the Heaven's conspiring to show me this new thing, or has it always been there?" -Squirrel Nut Zippers, "Soon"

"Caroline," Derek smiled warmly. Derek caught the scent of gardenias. That was one of the things he had liked about her when he had first met her a few months back. She had always smelled so nice. She reminded him of Megan. He shook his head lightly. He hadn't thought of Megan in a while.

"This is very serious," Caroline told him. Her face was stern.

"I know," Derek said. "Where are my people?"

"Miss Moreau and Miss Perovskaya just got back a few minutes ago. I've already told them about the Sacramento House," Caroline said. "The Los Angeles team has been here for an hour. We've set up in the control room, I hope you don't mind me taking the liberty-"

Derek cut her off. "You're ruling precept of the Legacy. My house is yours."

Caroline was caught by surprise. "You know," she said. "You're really the only house besides my own that's accepted me. Everyone else is still waiting for me to screw up."

"Sloan named you his replacement. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by that, but he had his reasons. Sloan and I may not have always gotten along, but I respected him and he respected me. He's saved my life and I've saved his. There is a reason why you are where you are now," Derek said sternly. "Now, we have a grave situation on our hands. If there was ever a time for you to prove yourself, it's now."

The control room of the San Francisco Legacy House was beginning to look like Allied Command in the middle of the D-Day invasion. Nick went with Rachel into the city to see Kat safely to a relative's house for a few days. The Los Angeles House was catching their shift of sleep upstairs. Caroline and Galina were moving around the room in a whirlwind. Caroline hung up the phone she had been cradling for the past twenty minutes.

"I sent my people to a safehouse," Caroline said. Derek's eyes widened in alarm.

"So things have escalated?" he asked her.

"Well," Caroline said. "Sources have it that Gierrod and his family were killed yesterday morning."

"Gierrod," Derek breathed. "He was decent...always helpful, even to humans. Always has been."

"That's not all, Argi and Drefan too," Caroline said. "And a few of the younger ones."

The phone rang again. Galina snatched it up. After a few moments and a few words in Russian, she hung up. "That was Nicola," she said.

"You two speak to each other in Russian?" Caroline asked curiously. Galina grinned and nodded.

"Nicola and Rachel had to drive past your museum, Derek, on the way to the wharf. You know Nick, always going for the shortcut, so he went through the alley...and he found the remains of a vampire," she said. Derek and Caroline blinked at her.

"Found the remains?" Derek asked.

"Yes." As an afterthought she said, "You know, Alex and I parked in that alley while we were there this morning." Derek rubbed his forehead.

"Something is definitely rotting in Denmark," he quipped.

It was a slow hour until Nick and Rachel arrived back on the island. Derek pounced on them the minute they walked into the room. No one had noticed the grim look on Nick's face. Rachel had chosen to keep her distance from the body they had found in the alley. Nick was thankful for that. It had been almost impossible for him to compose himself when he recognized who it was. Nick wasn't about to open up about anything until he had the chance to talk to Alex first.

"This vampire, he was killed by his own kind," Nick offered. "Torn to pieces the way some of the Sacramento team were."

"How do you know the body was a vampire?" Caroline asked. "It could have been human."

Nick glared at her. "I know." Caroline put her hands in the air in an apologetic manner.

"I didn't mean to offend you," she said softly. "I just meant, if the body was torn to pieces-"

"It was a vampire," Nick said harshly. Derek shot a warning look at him.

Galina said, "It must have happened right after we left."

"What in the hell is going on?" Rachel asked aloud.

"I don't know," Nick said. "Where's Alex?"

"In the library with Philip," Derek said. Nick turned and left abruptly.

"Whoever this vampire was," Caroline said. "Do you think he was trying to protect Alex and Galina? Maybe San Francisco was the next target. Maybe this vampire didn't want the truce broken, maybe he saw what was happening and tried to stop it...he probably gave Alex and Galina time to get away."

Derek went white. "Lorcan," he whispered to himself. He ran a hand through his hair. His throat felt dry.

"I'm sorry," Caroline said. "What did you say?"

"Nothing," Derek replied.

Chapter Nine: Broken

"I should be crying but I just can't let it show. I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking. Of all the things I should have said, that I never said. Of all things we should have done, that we never did. All of the things I should have given, but I didn't. Oh darling, make it go. Just make it go away." -Kate Bush, "This Woman's Work"

"S'io fossi foco, arderei lo mondo. (If I were fire, I'd burn the world away.)"
-Cecco Angiolieri

Anxiety started tumbling around in Alex's stomach. She snuck a look at Nick when he walked into the library and the look on his face was more than she thought she could take. The look had sealed Lorcan's fate. She wanted to scream with every step he took toward her. The past few hours, all she had done was chant one prayer over and over. Let him live, let him live, let him live, let him....

"Alex," he said softly. She turned away from him. She fumbled with the books in her arms and tried to pretend she was busy reshelving them. Nick didn't move. He would stand there until she looked at him.

"Lorcan is dead," she said finally.

"Yes," Nick told her quietly.

"Look, we have a lot of work to do, and I really don't want to talk about this right now," Alex said.

"Okay," Nick said. "But, you know I"m here."

Philip walked up behind them. He didn't like the way the two were huddled. Nick looked sick and Alex looked...dead. "Everything okay?"

"Fine," Alex said. "Everything is fine."

Chapter Ten: Asking For It

"Those who are here can place no hope in death, and their blind life is so abject that they are envious of every other fate."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"Each flame must make it's way. No flame displays it's prey. Though every flame has carried off a sinner." -Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

A voice from the shadows called out. "Delphina, you look so lovely this fine, foggy evening."

Delphina wrinkled her brow but she wasn't in the least surprised at Drayab's appearance. She had sensed him and three others sitting in the shadows for hours. "Drayab, go play with yourself."

"I like it when you sass me," he said. Delphina snorted in disgust. Drayab walked out into the open. "Where's your fearless leader, Aster?"

"She's not my leader," Delphina replied sweetly. "Aster couldn't lead a horse to water. She just happens to be useful at the moment."

"And when she's no longer useful?" Drayab asked. Delphina flashed him thoughts of Aster's headless body. He smiled. "That's what I like about you Delphina, you think only about yourself and your own needs. You're a solitary creature. One of the few vampires I know that doesn't have a blood line to speak of. No family. How many centuries ago was Seskhenet staked by those Druid fanatics? And you still remain alone. It's almost touching."

Delphina's smile died when Drayab mentioned Seskhenet. It enraged her to hear Seskhenet's name spoken from Drayab's lips. Benadir had once commented on Seskhenet and it took Khepri and three other ancients to pull her off of him. Delphina leaned forward and with a low, feminine voice that dripped with scorching hatred, she said, "Don't you <ever> speak of Seskhenet again."

Aster entered the room with the rest of her entourage. "Drayab, when did you get here?"

"I've been here for hours," he said, turning his attention towards the raven haired youngster. Aster frowned.

"Really," Aster said evenly.

"Yes," Delphina answered. "And while you're here Drayab, you can tell your little friends to pop out of the shadows as well. They're really starting to annoy me."

Aster's evil eyes widened. "What others?"

"Drayab's disfunctional family," Delphina said. "Abrecan...and the other two, Punch and Judy."

"That's Ledrak, and Suhob," Drayab corrected.

"Yeah, whatever," Delphina said with mock indignation.

Aster looked at the four men and felt a slight twinge of apprehension. Delphina smiled. She could smell Aster's fear. "Why are they here?" Aster questioned loudly.

"They're here to help," Drayab said. "You know, the more the merrier, and that sort of thing."

Abrecan spoke up. "There is a Legacy safehouse in the Marin headlands. They're the ones that killed Gierrod and his bloodline. Found them sleeping in their little haven in Sacramento. Hacked them to pieces. Have to admit I like their style."

"They'll die," Aster snarled. "And after that, we can take the San Francisco House. Move all the way down the California coastline."

"Gee, Aster," Delphina cooed sarcastically. "I think that's the very best thing you've come up with so far."

I'm going to enjoy killing you, Aster said to herself. Delphina grinned at her. Didn't the little witch know she could read her mind?

Delphina, Drayab said to her telepathically, forget the brat for now. We've got a lot of work to do and we need every vampire we can get our hands on.

Delphina snarled back silently. You still have to deal with Benadir.

Chapter Eleven: Accents Of Anger

"When blood sees blood of it's own it sings to see itself again. It sings to hear the voice it's known. It sings to recognize the face. One body split and passed along the line from the shoulder to the hip. I know these bones as being mine, and the curving of the lip."
-Suzanne Vega, "Blood Sings"

"All for one and one for all then we sing the common call. Let it be me (this is not a fighting song) Let it be me (not a wrong for a wrong) Let it be me. If the world is night shine my life like a light."
-Indigo Girls, "Let It Be Me"

Khepri was standing in a bottle-green field in the Marin countryside on the grounds of Benadir's haven. A light mist began to fall with the swirling fog. She bent her head up to the evening sky and let it fall soft upon her face. It was a night like the one when she had met Gierrod in Italy so many centuries ago. When she had been in Geirrod's apartment calling for Benadir, the soothing sound of his voice had filled her head while she stood among the bodies of her friends. She fled to him in the headlands, but when she awoke that evening, he was gone and she had begun to panic.

"Khepri?" he called to her. She closed her eyes. His voice was such a beautiful sound. It was like the sound of a heartbeat. A beloved heartbeat. She kept her face towards the moon and thanked whatever gods may be that he was there.

"Here," she answered. "Don't go away like that." She turned around and they embraced tightly. Benadir, her creator and her husband for eternity. "I can't believe Geirrod is dead. Those Legacy bastards killed him and Lidoine, and the rest of his family."

"He's not the only one," Benadir said sorrowfully. "Drefan and his family...Argi. And last night, Lorcan." Khepri jerked her head off his shoulder and looked at him with tears welling. He continued to speak. "Delphina let me know. She's not careless. She let her guard down and let me pick up her thoughts in her sleep. I think she wants to tell me, but doesn't want it to appear as if she was running to me for help. She's with a vampire named Drayab, I think she's afraid of him. I don't like it. I've never heard of him and at the same time his name sounds awfully familiar. She also has Aster with her. With all that's going on, I have a horrible feeling that Delphina is somehow involved. I know she never got over Seskhenet, but I have a hard time believing she would deliberately go behind my back to destroy this truce."

"What is happening?" Khepri asked unbelieving. "<How> are they finding us?"

"One of their Legacy houses has been hit as well," Benadir told her. His tone was of a curious nature. "How did <we> find <them>?"

"Who cares!" Khepri yelled, grabbing the front of his coat. "As long as we find them and make them pay, Ben, I don't care how."

"Khepri," he said softly. Benadir's voice was the only thing in the world that could calm her down and soothe her heart, especially when it was her name that he breathed from his lips. "You're not listening to me. <Think>."

Khepri let go of his coat and wrapped her arms around his waist. "A third party," she said.

Benadir agreed with a nod. "Someone who would benefit from a war between us and the Legacy."

"Who would that be?" Khepri asked.

"I have no idea," Benadir said. "I think we should try to talk to the Legacy. There is a house on Angel Island. The Legacy has a new ruling precept, a little less narrow-minded than that Sloan fellow and she's there right now."

"I'm going with you," Khepri said.

"Not necessary," Benadir told her.

"Ben, I'm going with you," she said sternly. She quickly changed the subject, denying him the chance to argue. "Have you called anyone?"

"Yes," Benadir said. "Terry was already here. Charmador and Niut are on their way. I had the rest move themselves to new havens, and wait for me to call."

"Terry is too young," Khepri complained. "We'll leave him behind when we go to the Island."

"Khepri-" Benadir began.

"He's only a hundred years old," Khepri said. "What if something happens? He's too young and too inexperienced. Leave him here."

Benadir smiled. He really loved her. His wife. His best friend. Even her stubborn, mule-headed manner was a welcome relief. "All right," he said. "I'll leave him here."


Chapter Twelve: A Pound OF Flesh

"Gaita ben, gaiteta del chastel. (Watchman on the tower, watch with care.)"
-Raimbaut de Vacqueiras

"Water, water I desire. Here's a house of flesh on fire."
-Robert Herrick, "The Scare Fire"

"In the hospitality of war, we left them their dead to remember us by."

"We'll never pull this off," Dudley said impatiently. His cousin and fellow Monterey house member was pacing in front of him and dangerously close to making apprehension an Olympic sport. The rest of the house kept to themselves and stayed away from each other.

"Jesus," Harry Kerksen swore. "Benadir is too powerful. Too many of his kind love and respect him."

"I know," Jane breathed happily. "And I want him dead." This will be the creme de la creme. It was Benadir she had wanted all along. She saw through his kind and gentle facade. All the years he's helped humans, cared for them. Jane knew it was a ruse. He was dangerous. He was the worst of them all in her book.

"And when are we going to strike?" Harry asked from the window. He winced at the sound of the pounding rain on the glass. The gentle fog and falling mist had turned into a severe rainstorm. He hated it. The last thing they needed was a bad omen.

"Just as soon as morning falls," Jane said. "He'll fall as easily as Gierrod and his family fell. As easily as Drefan and Argi fell."

"Gierrod and his family were mere children compared to Benadir," Harry pointed out.

"What was that?" Jane cried.

"What was what?" Dudley asked, jumping from his spot on the floor.

"I heard something," Jane said. "Did you?"

The three of them listened carefully. They held their breath. There was nothing but the sound of the rain violently smashing into the windowpanes. Jane relaxed and leaned back into Delphina's waiting arms. Dudley watched as his precept's legs flopped like a fish out of water. Dudley, Harry and the rest of the Monterey House were on their way for the door when the shadows came to life and turned the safehouse into a scene from Dante's Inferno.

Harry's head rolled to a stop by Dudley's feet. He screamed and picked up a chair and broke it into the wall, grabbing the wooden leg to use as a stake. It was ripped from his hands and shoved through his throat. He started to choke through the frothing blood that foamed out of his mouth. As he fell to the floor he heard the rest of his house screaming.

Drayab stood outside the old building and listened as the screaming pitched to a fever and then died down to silence. "What a way to go," he smiled.


Chapter Thirteen: The Way That Waits

"We fell asleep and began to dream when something broke the night. Memories stirred inside of us. The struggle and the fight. And we could feel the heat of a thousand voices telling us which way to go. And we cried out, ‘Is there no escape from the words that plague us so?'"
-Sarah McLachlan, "Drawn To The Rhythm"

"All those feelings, pain and anger, flood back one by one. They must be just round the bend. They always come. The night is done. The bright lights glare and now the time is come. Held back in my pitied world where everything's undone."
-Sarah McLachlan, "Out Of The Shadows"

Alex stood alone in the hall. Nick came up behind her. He asked, "Are you okay?" The lights had been flickering on and off all night. It was beginning to unnerve her.

"Yeah," she said. "I'm all right."

"Really?" he asked.

"I've been keeping myself busy," she told him.

"I know," Nick said softly. "But this will be over soon enough, and if we're still standing...Alex, you're going to have to face it sooner or later."

"I haven't seen him in two years, Nick. I've had two years to get over him," Alex said. Nick rubbed her shoulders. Rachel came out of the study.

"Hey, Nick, Derek wants to talk to you." she said.

"The boss man calls," he said, and left the two women alone.

"Alex," Rachel said. "Are you okay?"

"Sure," she said. "You know, Stuart told me the Los Angeles house had been contacted by a man named Victor Drayab who said he was in the Legacy and that he had information on the location of several vampire havens. The LA house of course did a check on him and found he wasn't a member of any house in the database."

"And?" Rachel prodded.

"Well, they haven't been able to find him, and I'm not sure, but the name sounds familiar," she said.

"It sounds familiar to me too," Philip said, walking up behind them. "I can't for the life of me figure out why. I just know I've heard it before."

The door to the study opened and Derek breezed out. He waited for the Los Angeles House to join them. Caroline stood at the foot of the stairs as they all turned their attention to her.

"Nick, Alex, Galina, Antonio, and Carleen. I want the five of you on your way to Monterey," Caroline said. "We've lost contact with them. Hopefully they're okay and it's just the storm that's interfering. It has knocked out a lot of phone lines in the area."

"Do you really need to send the five of us for that?" Antonio asked.

"I want everyone to stay in large numbers. For my own peace of mind," Caroline said. "Stuart, Rachel and Philip, I want you guys to get everything together and move to the safehouse in the headlands, wait for us there."

"Wait for you?" Nick said. "You and Derek aren't going?"

"We'll be there shortly," Caroline said. "We'll start with the calls to the rest of the Legacy, let them know what is happening...hopefully we can keep everyone from jumping the gun."

"It would be better for us to be in bigger groups," Alex said. "Safety in numbers."

"You've been given a job to do," Derek ordered. "All of you get moving." The Los Angeles team hurried upstairs to get their things. Derek looked at his friends. "Everything will be fine. Caroline and I will get out of here as soon as we can."


Chapter Fourteen: Things Possessed Of Power

"Can those who lie within the sepulchres be seen? The lids, in fact, have all been lifted. No guardian is watching over them."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"Now people come with whom I should not be..."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"Look at that mighty one who comes and does not seem to shed a tear of pain. How he still keeps the image of a king!"
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"Caroline," Derek said. "We're taking too much time, we need to go."

"All right," she said. "Let's go."

"You're not going anywhere," a female voice called out. Derek and Caroline jumped. A tall, blonde haired woman with aquamarine eyes stepped out of the shadows. Although Derek couldn't see them, he knew there were others in the darkness behind her. From behind them another voice spoke to them. Derek and Caroline whipped around.

An even taller, dark-haired man with emerald eyes appeared. He was striking. Caroline found it hard to take her eyes off him. He asked, "Why have you broken the truce?"

"Us? You're the ones who broke the truce!" Caroline accused. Derek heard snarling in the shadows. "You attacked us first, we defended ourselves."

"I think it's the other way around!" the woman yelled.

"Easy Khepri," the man called to her.

"Why are you here?" Derek asked.

"Who the hell are you?" Khepri turned on him.

"I'm Derek Rayne, of the San Francisco House," Derek answered backing up.

"I am Benadir," the man said. Derek caught hold of his breath. The oldest vampire alive. He had always wondered what Benadir looked like and now the being was standing in front of him. "This is Khepri." Benadir looked at the shadows and said, "Those two are Charmador, and Niut." Two women appeared in front of them. Derek's heart began to race painfully. Although the four nightwalkers didn't appear extremely threatening, he knew from experience that it could go either way. The vampire Benadir seemed to exude an authority that not even Derek or Caroline had as precepts.

Caroline was the one who braved the question, "Are you here to kill us?"

"No," Benadir said, almost impatiently. "What I want to know is if either of you ever considered that there might be a third party involved? Someone who would benefit?"

An overabundance of lightbulbs went off in Derek's head. "Victor Drayab," he told Caroline.

"Drayab?" Khepri blurted out. "How do you know Drayab?"

"Do you know him?" Derek asked.

"He's one of us," Benadir said.

Derek shook his head at them. He said, "A man named Victor Drayab contacted the Legacy, a mortal man."

"Drayab is a vampire," Benadir reassured. "He came to you?"

"He contacted another house and said he was a Legacy member and knew the locations of several of your havens. The house promptly checked him out and discovered he was not a Legacy member. Then we lost contact with one of our houses in Sacramento, when we got there, everyone had been slaughtered." Benadir stole a quick glance at Khepri.

"Drayab is playing both sides," Khepri growled. "How many other houses did he contact? All of the Legacy could know where we seek refuge. We could all be slaughtered in our sleep!"

"He has as much to lose as to gain," Derek said. "Why would he turn on his own kind?"


Chapter Fifteen: Aster's Point of Departure

"I might be out like a light. Extinguished in the throw. But I'll hit my mark and you'll know. Because I'm really well acquainted with the span of your brow. And if you didn't know me then. You'll know me now."
-Suzanne Vega, "Rock In This Pocket: Song Of David"

"Tempo vene che sale a chi discende. (Time comes for those ascending to descend.)" -Enzo Re

Delphina was flushed with fresh blood. It had been another easy victory, yet she hadn't felt compelled to treat it as one. With Aster running around like a psychopathic barbie doll, Delphina was more than disgusted. She stayed around out of boredom and curiosity. Now she was bored again, and afraid of Drayab. Delphina turned her head away in revulsion when Aster breezed in like a Miss America contestant.

"What's next mighty Caesar?" she sneered at Aster.

"The San Francisco House, I already told you that," Aster said.

"Oh, right," Delphina yawned. "Your great strategic plan."

"We have plenty of time to hit them tonight," said Aster.

Delphina sighed. "I'm not hungry," she said.

"You'll do as you're told!" Aster yelled at her.

"I'll do as I'm told?" Delphina echoed with a growl. She started to laugh. Aster snapped and flew at her. Delphina stepped aside as Aster hit the wall and wobbled back in a daze. "All right you little snot, I've had just about enough of you!" It was a blur of blood and flesh that was over as quickly as it had begun. Aster's body crumpled to the ground. Delphina licked the blood from her fingers.

"Delphina!" Drayab yelled. Delphina grinned and kicked Aster's head aside like a soccor ball. Drayab smiled hungrily at her. "You couldn't have waited for me? I hate to miss a good execution."

Delphina glared malevolently at him. "I can always do an instant replay," she threatened.

"Don't try me," warned Drayab. His face darkened with something Delphina could only recognize as being true evil. It surprised her and she almost faltered. "I would win," he said evenly. Delphina's eyes widened. "Well?" he said. "Are we going to hit the San Francisco House or what?"

"Yeah," Delphina said absently. "Sure. Let's go."

"No," he said. "You go, take Aster's bloodline with you. Tell them she's...indisposed at the moment." Delphina hesitated. "I'm more than confident in your abilities, Delphina. So don't let me down. I expect a full report when I get back."

Delphina realized why Drayab scared her so much.

Drayab was not a vampire.


Chapter Sixteen: Down To Lower Ground

"And then a she-wolf showed herself. She seemed to carry every craving in her leaness. She had already brought despair to many."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"They had their faces twisted and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see what was ahead of them."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"How long have you known Drayab?" Caroline asked.

"I have to say I've never met him," Benadir said. "I only know of him through Delphina."

"Delphina?" Derek asked.

"She's an elder like us," Khepri said with a tone of irritation.

"I take it she's no friend of yours?" Caroline asked.

"She's a loner. Her creator died a long time ago. She has no bloodline, no family," Khepri said. "Vampires are like a lion's pride. The creator the dominant one, the rest are a large family unit. We live together, we rely on one another to survive. We need one another to get by."

"Delphina is different," Benadir offered. "She's lost in her coldness, it isn't her fault." He suddenly stood up. Khepri and the other vampires in the room followed suit. "And she's here."

Rough hands seized Derek from behind. As he was about to try and struggle, he was suddenly released when Khepri lashed out at the creature that had gotten ahold of him. The young vampire looked at her in confusion. Out of the shadows emerged a group of vampires. Benadir and Khepri sandwiched Caroline and Derek between them.

"Delphina," Benadir called. Delphina emerged from the shadows.

"Just walk away, Ben," she said.

"Delphina, how could you be a part of this?" Benadir demanded.

"Get out of my way, please. There are more of us than there are of you...and if you're siding with these humans, then we're through. You hear me? I will kill you...."

Khepri snarled. Benadir stepped forward."That you would even threaten me at all....Delphina," he said. His voice was almost hypnotic.

Delphina's usually rough exterior softened for a few seconds. "I don't have a choice. Drayab isn't what you think he is...he isn't one of us, he isn't one of them. It's a game. It's all just a get out of the way."

Benadir's face grew solemn and threatening at the same time. "You're the only one here of any strength, Delphina. Aster's bloodline are nothing but newborns. Four ancients against one....the odds are not in your favor."

Two of Aster's vampires lunged forward. Khepri flung them away without making a sound. Delphina roared in angry defiance, but instead of attacking as Derek feared she would, she turned and escaped into the night. She abandoned the young, inexperienced vampires who stood around in confusion.

"Leave," Benadir commanded harshly. "There will be no more fighting, the truce still holds. Break it and I will find each and every one of you."

They fled as quickly as they had appeared. Derek let out a shaky breath. He looked at Benadir. "What did she mean, 'not us, not them'?"

Benadir stared at him. "Not vampire, not human." He looked at Khepri and let out a shaky laugh. Damn it, he said to her silently. I know who he is! I know where I've heard Drayab's name before.

"It's a game," Derek echoed. He grabbed at the sides of his head as visions of chaos reverberated through his mind like they had when he stood at the Sacramento House. Benadir watched him curiously. "The Monterey House killed Gierrod...then Delphina and another woman killed them."

Caroline moaned at the lump that formed in her throat. "My God," she breathed, "I sent two houses out there!"

"What are you talking about?" Khepri asked.

"The San Francisco and Los Angeles Houses, I sent them to Monterey," Caroline wailed. "And I sent them to the safehouse!"

"We'll go," Benadir said. "We can get there faster than you can. In this storm you'd never get there in time."

"You won't hurt them?" Derek demanded.

"You don't trust us?" Khepri asked. "We just saved your lives."

"No," Derek said. "I don't trust my friend's lives with anyone or anything."

"You have my word," Benadir said.


Chapter Seventeen: Walking Backwards

"We were alone, and we suspected nothing."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"Tomb, n. The House of Indifference."
-Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

The bodies of the Monterey House had redecorated the safehouse. Philip swallowed the lump of bile in his throat. Stuart stood up. He said, "It looks like they were planning an attack. There's a map to Benadir's haven."

"Looks like Victor Drayab tried another house after he couldn't interest you guys in what he had to say," Rachel said.

"I'm going to check the rest of the house," Stuart said.

Philip and Rachel were left alone among the blood and gore. Rachel pulled a book from her purse. "What's that?" Philip asked.

"I'm going over my notes," she said. "I've started to make a sort of field journal for myself. Keep everything down in front of me. It helps alot." She looked over her notes and asked, "Have you remembered where you heard Drayab's name before?"

"No," he moaned. "But it's gnawing at me."

Rachel smiled at him. She walked over and tossed her notebook on the table and looked in the mirror that hung above it. "God, I look hideous on only two hours of sleep and no coffee."

"I've got it!" Phillip whooped. "Drayab was one of the fallen angels. Some of the older priests remembered the story, not many people know about it. I always thought it was a myth. There were three others angels, some believe they're the model for the four horseman of the apocalypse....what were their names? For the love of God, I can't remember the names of the other three."

Rachel's voice was stangled. "It wouldn't be Ledrak, Abrecan, and Suhob....would it?"

"Yes! That's it! How did you know?" he asked. He walked up behind her.

"I wrote their names down in my notebook," she said. In the mirror's reflection, Phillip read the names of the four demons off of Rachel's notes.


Chapter Eighteen: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

"And at their ears the sound of the war. They are not listening, they are not listening."
-Denise Levertov, "Tenebrae"

"Restless the mind is so strongly shaken. In the grip of the senses. Truly I think the wind is no wilder."
-Bhagavad Gita, VI:34

"Nobody here" Nick said.

"It's better than finding any bodies," Galina said.

"Let's give this place a once-over," Antonio said. "Maybe we can get a clue as to where they might have gone."

"That sounds like a good idea," Nick said.

"I'll start in the study," Antonio said.

"I'll go with you," Galina said.

"Carleen and I will try the control room," Tara said.

Alex laughed out loud after a few moments. Nick looked over at her. "What in the world is so funny?" he asked.

"I just remembered the story Sister Magdalena told me when I was a child," Alex said through her laughter. Nick realized that laughter was threaded with fear.

"What story?" he asked.

Her face fell. "It was a frightening one. About four fallen angels. The worst of the lot. The Devil's right hand. Always playing sickening games with mankind. Putting them through torture for their own amusement. Four fallen angels, Abrecan the Destroyer, Ledrak the Ruthless, Suhob the Bloody and Drayab the Beast. The nuns would tell these stories to scare us to do our homework and our chores."

"Victor Drayab is a fallen angel?" Nick gasped.

"It makes sense," Alex said. "Pitting humans against vampires, for amusement. It's just sick enough for them."

"Jesus, we gotta call Derek," Nick said.


Chapter Nineteen: The Looking Glass

"I heard them ringing the bells in Heaven and Hell. They got a secret they're getting ready to tell. It's falling from the skies it's calling from the graves. Open your eyes boy. I think we are saved."
-Patty Griffin, "Forgiveness"

"He thought he was gonna die but he didn't. She thought she just couldn't cope but she did. We thought it would be so hard but it wasn't."
-Kate Bush, "Walk Straight Down The Middle"

"God in Heaven," Phillip whispered with a heavy breath. Drayab...Bayard. The other members of the Los Angeles House, Antonio Nacerba, Carleen Bohus and Tara Kardel were Abrecan, Suhob and Ledrak.

The two of them listened to the sounds of the footsteps coming down the hall. Rachel and Phillip watched as Drayab walked into the library. Rachel was a second away from hitting the floor in a dead faint. To make matters worse, a vampire stormed into the room with two other nightwalkers behind her. Philip wasn't sure what to do when the woman flung herself in front of the fallen angel, pushing him and Rachel back protectively. She exchanged harsh words with the fiend and in a moment he was gone. Several moments of silence followed.

"What the hell?" Rachel said suddenly. All they could do was stand and blink at each other.

"Who are you?" Phillip asked the woman.

"Khepri," she answered.

"You're Khepri?" he asked. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Excuse me," Rachel interrupted, "introductions are nice, but right now I'm a bit concerned about the thing that just vanished into the night."

"He won't be back," Khepri said. "At least not any time soon."

"Our friends," Phillip said.

"They're safe," she told him.

"How do you know he won't come back?" Rachel asked.

"The truce is still intact, the fighting has stopped. The game stopped. Once the game is over, they move on to something else," Khepri said. "Hopefully they won't move back your way for a while."

Rachel and Philip looked at each other. "That's all?" Philip commented. "That's it?"

"For now," Khepri said.


Chapter Twenty: The Fury and the Angels

"I knew the names of all those demons. I'd paid attention when the fiends were chosen."
-Dante Alighieri, "The Divine Comedy"

"It's time to realize what hides deep inside your holy eyes."
-Sarah McLachlan, "Steaming"

"It is good to have friends...even in hell."
-Spanish Proverb

"I can't believe this," Nick said, punching in the numbers on his cell phone. "All that time the Los Angeles House was talking to Drayab, they didn't even know the guy was a demon." Alex looked at him with a sickened countenance. Nick went pale. It was his turn to swallow down the bile rising in his throat. "Shit," he swore viciously. "Bayard, Drayab..."

Alex's breathing quickened. She was snapping her fingers. "Ledrak, Ledrak backwards is-" She stopped.

"Kardel," Nick said. "Tara Kardel."

"Abrecan, Nacerba..." Nick lowered his voice.

"They must of had a kick out of that, didn't they?" Alex said. "Shit," she exclaimed. "Galina."

As the named passed Alex's lips, the young Russian woman walked into the room. She saw Nick and Alex's face and the look they passed her caught her off guard, but she recovered quickly. There was no need to speak. They communicated on a level above speech that had saved their lives on more than one occasion. The three of them bolted for the front door. The three fallen angels appeared in front of them.

"Where are you three off to?" Abrecan called out. His smiled faded as he realized company had arrived. Nick felt a presence behind him and turned around to see a tall man in a long black coat before him.

"Game's over," Benadir yelled. "We know who you are, and so do they. You're no longer welcome. Now leave."

"You don't give me orders," Abrecan bellowed.

"You know the rules," Benadir said. "They know your name, and they won't play with you anymore. You're powerless now. You're nothing." He looked at Nick. "The truce still stands, no more killing."

"No more killing," Nick repeated.

Abrecan smiled at them and said, "Perhaps another time then. I've got many more games to play." He vanished in front of them. Ledrak and Suhob followed close behind him. Nick stared at Benadir.

"What in the hell just happened?" Nick asked. "And who the hell are you?"


Chapter Twenty-one: The Proud Made Humble

"But still there's so much left unanswered for so many innocent lives. They are closing the doors and letting nobody in. Only the strong will survive."
-Sarah McLachlan, "Shelter"

"Reconciliation, n. An armed truce for the purpose of digging up the dead."
-Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

"Truce, n. Friendship."
-Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"

"Nick called from Los Angeles," Derek said. Caroline looked up at him with knowing eyes. "He and Galina found the bodies of the real Los Angeles House stuffed in the basement."

"Smart," Caroline said.

"I beg your pardon?" Derek asked.

"Right during the changing of the guard, so-to-speak," Caroline said. "Sloan's out, I'm in. Everyone's too busy resenting me to notice anything."

"I've never had any dealings with Los Angeles and neither has anyone else in this house," Derek said. "Or I might have known."

"Someone would have noticed sooner or later," Rachel said. "The Los Angeles House had friends somewhere in the Legacy."

"Yes," Caroline said. "But it wouldn't have mattered by that time. It would have been chaos. Too many Legacy houses and too many vampire havens would have been destroyed. There would have been open war, and nothing would have been salvageable."

"At least we know for now, that we have an ally," Derek said.

"An ally?" Caroline asked.

"Benadir and Khepri. They were hurt too. Both sides lost. I think this truce has better chance of surviving now than it ever did before," Derek said.


Chapter Twenty-two: Lamenta

"Cast your eyes on the ocean. Cast your soul to the sea. When the dark night seems endless. Please remember me."
-Loreena McKennitt, "Dante's Prayer"

"To the beloved, the beautiful being who fills my heart with light. To the angel, the immortal idol."
-Charles Baudelaire

Alex slipped into her bathrobe and sat down on her bed. She was cold. No matter how much she turned up the heat she was still freezing. She felt someone behind her and whipped around.

"Don't be alarmed," Khepri said.

"What do you want from me?" Alex asked softly.

"I'm just curious," Khepri said.

"About what?" Alex asked her.

"About the woman that Lorcan left us for," Khepri told her. Alex didn't respond. "His creator was a woman named Rebecca."

"He told me about her, she died long ago," Alex said.

"I was Rebecca's creator," Khepri said. "Lorcan was special. I cared for him. Rebecca gave her life to save him. When he met you, he all but dropped off the face of the earth. He wouldn't answer my summons, or Ben's. I came here one night, looking for him. He was standing on your balcony. I couldn't see anything extraordinary about you, and I sure couldn't see what it was that kept him here with you instead of with his family." Khepri turned and walked to the open window. "What I did see, was the way he looked at you when you slept."

"Really?" Alex managed to strangle out.

"I knew the look," Khepri told her. "I woke up one evening, centuries ago, and Ben was looking at me the same way. The same way I know I look at him. And that is a look that is priceless. A look that is a very rare thing to find, even among my kind who live so long." Khepri turned back and looked at Alex. "Don't blame yourself. You can't stop someone from dying for love. You can't keep them from doing something you would have done yourself."

Alex blinked and she was alone again in her room. From the other side of the wall, Nick listened as she cried herself to sleep.

Last times of begging
Last times of loving
If you do not love me I shall not be loved
If I do not love you I shall not love
Terrified again
Of not loving
Of loving and not you
Of being loved and not by you
I and all the others that will love you
If they love you
Unless they love you.

-Samuel Beckett, "Cascando"