Oh, I remember back when I signed up for this tour. It was one of the first book tours I ever saw, so I was really nervous at the time. I was too scared to do more than a promo post because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
I kinda regret that now. All three of the books look just as interesting now as they did a few months ago, but maybe I'll figure out a way to read them eventually. Anybody that's been over to The LIST lately knows how many books I have to read. I'm pretty sure that I still have books over there that a friend recommended to me four years ago. Oops!
READING THE SERIES IN ORDER HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My Familiar Stranger (Order of the Black Swan #1)
For When Words Aren't Enough....
The Witch's Dream (Order of the Black Swan #2)
For When Words Aren't Enough....
The Summoner's Tale (Order of the Black Swan #3)
For When Words Aren't Enough
Chapter One of The Summoner's Tale
"BLACK SWAN FIELD TRAINING MANUAL Section I: Chapter 1, #1
The plural of vampire is vampire.
When the rush of activity subsided, he found himself alone with his own thoughts; a condition that was more than familiar since he had spent hundreds of years that way. Without the distraction of his friends' banter, since his proposed staff had left Edinburgh, he had begun to see his task not just as a job, but as a mission, one immersed in the duality of joy and gravity.
He had never considered himself to be impatient. Quite the contrary. Everything he had ever pursued in earnest, from painting to music to writing, had depended upon patience. But, his awareness of the enormity of the burden he had accepted had grown over the past months and he had turned to brooding about the time that was passing.
Every day that nothing was accomplished was a day when more people had their humanity taken from them, another day when vampire remained imprisoned in bodies infected with the foulest disease imaginable, and, also, another day when people died.
The project was moving painfully slowly. Everyone who had originally been assigned to work with Baka was gone: married, retired, whatever. Everyone except Heaven - who had turned out to be anything but.
The large work space, intended for several people, seemed deserted with him alone most of the time. He worked from early in the morning till late at night, challenging both the hours in the day and the fact that he was one excruciatingly short-handed task, force leader.
When Heaven was present, her moods ran the range of a shallow bell curve from disagreeable to surly to sullen. He admitted that he had provoked her on their first meeting, for reasons that were a mystery to him. Something about her instantly put him on edge and made him feel anxious.
Even though that feeling persisted, he had attempted to make amends so that they could work together amicably, but his attempts at accord had failed miserably. She was prickly to her luscious core, spurning every effort on his part to develop a rudimentary standard of civility. No matter how many times he tried.
He not only had to work with a person who detested his very presence, but, adding insult to injury, it seemed he couldn't shake an inexplicably strong attraction to her. He found himself staring at the curve of her cheek when her head was bowed over work. Or the shine of her chestnut hair when she walked through a ray of morning light. Or the way her lips pursed in protest and disdain whenever he gave her something to do.
It was damned aggravating and, to make matters worse, he seemed to have lost interest in pursuing other women which really wasn't like him at all.
She behaved as if simple courtesy was more than she could manage. That meant that "nice" was a goal way too distant. He knew it wasn't her nature in general because he had often watched her from across the dining hall as she laughed and interacted with other associates and employees of The Order in a manner that was open and unguarded. He found himself wondering how it might feel to have her turn the sunshine of that smile his way or, even better, to angle that smile up at him while she pressed her beautifully packed curves against his body.
He was staring at the clock on the wall, waiting for the separation ritual to begin. At exactly fifteen after five, Heaven checked her wristwatch, closed an open folder, pushed her chair back, stood up, shoved her arms into her sweater jacket, put her purse on her shoulder and, like every other day, started to walk out of the office without so much as a passing glance angled his way, much less a wish for goodnight. But, that night his voice stopped her when she put her hand on the door pull.
"Yes?" she asked over her shoulder.
"Why do you hate me so much?"
She didn't hesitate for an instant before answering, "I don't hate you. Whatever gave you such an idea?", in her crisp British accent that hinted of a touch of posh.
Before he could frame an answer to that question, she was gone. He heaved a big sigh. Fuck me.
Life had become a conflict with no prospect of resolution. He perpetually struggled to concentrate when she was there because the space seemed to vibrate with a low level, but annoying irritation. When she wasn't there, he hated it even more.
Baka had been a person with a well-developed sense of morality and a well-functioning conscience before he became a vampire. During the last hundred years of life as a vampire, having survived long enough to blessedly recover his understanding of right and wrong, he had voluntarily allowed himself to be taken into custody by The Order hoping that they would put an end to him. But they devised a far worse punishment. They decided to keep him alive on artificial sustenance so that, on occasion, he could serve as "consultant". Of course that also entailed imprisonment and many decades of a solitary life.
No. He had never been short on conscience. And that conscience was rubbing a hole in his brain telling him that it would be wrong to simply sit at a desk and plan a strategy on paper while, at the same time, doing nothing. So, keeping his own counsel, for better or worse, he determined that he would continue to work as a bureaucrat during the day, but would spend his nights - at least part of them - looking for others he might help back to the light.
He had worked with Monq at Jefferson Unit labs to develop a delivery solution. Taking a page from the methodology of the late Gautier Nibelung, they had decided that the safest and most effective approach would be dart gun. Each dart was outfitted with a tiny canister that would puncture on impact releasing a formula that was part stun and part cure. The proper dose of stun solution had been determined by tests on Baka himself. So he knew it worked. First hand.
Obviously vampire must be incapacitated while the viral antidote works. As medicinal remedies go, it is fast working, but not instant. There is a delay of two to four hours between introduction to the system and complete reversal of the disease, depending upon the age and constitution of the individual.
His plan wasn't perfect. It depended on encountering one vampire at a time and extracting him, while paralyzed, without engaging other vampire. Tricky, but the alternative was waiting for a task force to be vetted, assembled, and trained. And waiting was the one thing he couldn't manage. Maybe it wasn't the smartest thing he'd ever done, but, hell, he'd had a long life.
To his advantage, he still had certain attributes that were extra human. Not like comic book heroes. More like human plus. No one knew if these benefits would fade away over time, but, for now, he was a little stronger, a little faster, and could see in the dark a little better than most people. All traits very useful for vampire hunting.
It just so happened that he found his assigned base of operations in prime territory that qualified as a vampire magnet on all counts. In Edinburgh's Old Town there was a large pedestrian population that came out at night and it was built on top of an underground system that was not utilized to any extent that would interfere with the needs of vampire. All this was literally in sight of his office - five minutes' walk away.
In a darkly poetic way, it was fitting that vampire would thrive in Edinburgh's underground city which consisted of a system of tunnels, caverns, and cells cut into the much softer sandstone under the rock that the above-ground Old Town is built upon. It's a place with grisly history where thousands of hapless poor lived in darkness, packed together without sanitation and with the vilest of criminals. Plague victims were not removed and buried or burned, but just sealed in their cells.
Modern day Ghost Tours offer a shallow excursion - shallow because individuals don't want to stay in the underground very long. Words like "creepy" are frequently used even by hard-core insensitives. That leaves miles of maze for a vampire haven.
Baka had been a vampire long enough to know all about how they think which was why he had been so valuable to The Order as "consultant". He knew that the days of the Beltane festival would be a gorge fest for vampire. The Royal Mile, just over the heads of vampire living in the Underground, would be crowded with visitors to the city, visitors intent on celebration and revelry, danger being the last thing on their minds. It would be a blessing to vampire in the original sense of the word which was bloodletting; when, as a rite of passage, young pagans would stand in a pit under a grate where a bull was sacrificed and bathe in the blood that fell.
So Baka finished his day, went to dinner alone, and slowly savored every bite of his of actual food. Afterward, driven by a heartfelt desire to do some good in the world, he pulled on a pair of cargo pants and equipped the dozen pockets with as many canisters as they would hold. He opened his backpack and stuffed it with two not-for-sale-on-any-market, rapid fire dart guns that each held five revolving canisters, a thinsulate, a lighted helmet guaranteed to give fourteen hours of use in exchange for three AAA batteries, and six pair of handcuffs.
When he put the handcuffs in side zipper pockets he wondered if he was being ambitious, prideful, or just plain stupid. It gave him pause, but, when weighed against the burden on his heart, his second thoughts didn't carry enough weight to stop him. So he ignored the foreboding of his own intuition and proceeded with the plan.
He descended the stairs to the main foyer wondering if, even partial redemption for a long life of misdeeds, is possible. The fact that he was not accountable for his infamous history should have given him some peace of absolution. But didn't. He said good evening to the doorman, threaded his arms into the backpack straps, and headed out into the night."
About the AuthorFor the past fourteen years, Victoria has illustrated and authored Seasons of the Witch calendars and planners for 7th-House.com.
Though works of fiction are a departure for me, I have had this series simmering on the back burner of her mind for years. In addition to authoring and illustrating Seasons of the Witch, I play rock music and manage one of Houston's premier R&B/Variety/Pop bands.
This series will include some of my actual experience in the paranormal with fictionalized anecdotes from my journals during the years when I was a practicing "metaphysician", but most of the material is fantasy.