Tag Archives: Vampire

The Opening Lines of Our WIP, Faerie Rising

Our friend over at https://writingouttakes.wordpress.com/ showed up their fantastic first lines today, and after totally geeking out about them we thought that looked like a lot of fun.  So we have the first few (current) paragraphs of Faerie Rising.

The little bell above the shop door preceded the desperate cry of, “Winter, we need you!”  The urgency in her friend’s voice tore the wizard’s attention from her task.  She dropped the open box of sterile surgical instruments on the long counter and rushed across the back room clinic, passing the city map of Seahaven that took up one entire wall.  On the map were neat red dots and a note for every violent incident this year.  It was the end of October and the map was so covered in red that it looked like it was inflicted with a virulent rash.  Winter pushed her way through the thickly beaded curtain into the still-darkened storefront.

It was hours before the rest of the shops in the Historical District would open, the sun was just trembling on the mountain’s lips and the deep shadows cast by the century-old buildings left the streetlights still lit.  Through the doorway walked Giovanni and Katherine, though “walk” might have been too casual a description.  He leaned heavily on her smaller frame, but she bore his weight easily with her right arm about his slender waist, holding both his and her jackets in place against his back.  Katherine kicked the door closed behind her and showed Winter her face, pale beneath the thick spray of blood that glittered on her skin and hair.

Winter swallowed down the rising bile of panic as the meat smell of heavy bleeding reached her.  In her experience, that was the smell of a loved one’s violent death.

She had seen a great deal of death.

“What happened?” she asked even as she quelled her trembling belly with a wash of icy professionalism and shoved a half-empty box aside with her foot to make a clear path.  The shop was a disaster, thick with dust, boxes everywhere and the shelves half empty.  And there was precious little she could do about it anytime soon.

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Jessie St. James

When Jessie St. James was twelve years-old she stumbled into Olde Curiosity’s Gift Shoppe, a little family-owned store full of herbal products. After taking a light-fingered look around she attempted to leave with some of the smaller merchandize and came face to face with one of the proprietors, the wizard Winter Mulcahy.  Winter had noticed that the girl was using magic to aid her shoplifting – but put a broom in her hand and had her do chores in the shop rather than calling the police.  At the end of the afternoon Winter rewarded Jessie’s good work with the items she had tried to steal.  Jessie has been Winter’s shadow ever since.

Jessie began training her magic with Winter’s twin cousins, Kelley and Martina, whose offensive abilities were more in keeping with Jessie’s flamboyant style than Winter’s tamer potion making. But that came to an end six months ago, when the twins were killed – the latest in the long line of Mulcahy wizards to die.  Winter has been forced to continue Jessie’s magical education as best she can, but with the crushing weight of her responsibilities Jessie is often left training on her own.  Most days she can be found at Curiosity’s after or, much to Winter’s eternal consternation, during school hours.

Sixteen year-old Jessie’s home life is a mess. Her parents, Joanie and Darryl St. James, are career alcoholics, controlling and verbally abusive towards their daughter and each other, and resent Jessie’s involvement with the Mulcahy family.  Not possessing any magic themselves, they are unaware of the preternatural world their daughter has whole heartedly joined and see Winter as a busybody.  Jessie in return does everything in her power to avoid her parents, taking advantage of their drunken forgetfulness to spend nights sleeping anywhere but at home.

Quick of wit, artistic, and unabashedly outspoken, Jessie has quickly made friends throughout the preternatural community, especially among the vampires of Seahaven. Many nights she can be found couch surfing at their Theatre in the Historical District when she isn’t hiding from her parents in the tiny apartment above Curiosity’s.

Winter is sick, falling apart from the strain of holding Seahaven together alone. Everyone in the preternatural community can see it, and they all talk to Jessie about it.  Jessie is desperate to help her friend and mentor, but Winter won’t let her.

But being told “no” won’t deter a young wizard like Jessie…

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Winter Mulcahy

This is not the life that Winter Mulcahy ordered.

There was once a time in her home city of Seahaven, WA, when people said you couldn’t swing your arm without smacking a Mulcahy wizard.  The huge Mulcahy family was the backbone of law and order in this city, famous for having the largest per-capita preternatural population of any city in the world.  They alone stood between the various groups of vampires, shape-shifting therian, and other magical beings and the chaos that factional fighting would bring.

But those days are long past.

Throughout her young life, Winter’s extensive family was killed off in ones and twos, sometimes in whole family groups, until the other wizards of the world began whispering of curses and left the survivors to face their fate in isolation.  Eccentric and fiercely independent, these defenders of the innocent hoped the door hit the other wizard Houses on the butt on their way out, and determined to discover the source of their curse even as they held their city together.

They never did.

Finally all that are left are Winter and her father, Colin, who holds the position of the Mulcahy, the head of the family and neutral arbiter of Seahaven.  Colin, though, has not left Mulcahy House in twenty years, and is crippled by depression following first the abandonment by his Faerie wife and then the repeated hammer blows of the deaths of his loved ones.

And so Winter stands alone.  The vampires and the therian lions are her friends, and help her when she allows it, but as wizard of the city she cannot afford to show any group too much favor, to lean too hard on anyone’s support.  She must stand strong; a lone, slender pillar supporting the crushing weight of a city full of responsibility.  She is a physician, a Potions Master, a teacher… but not a fighter.  Not a combat wizard.  Her strength lies in her compassion and intelligence, not in her martial skills, but she lives in a world where viciousness and cunning are often more highly valued than honor or valor and kindness is a weakness.  She holds power over this fractious population by force of habit, on the memory of the threat a House full of wizards once wielded.

And habits are made to be broken.

Winter is cracking under the pressure.  To cope, she has taken to self-medicating, as many physicians do – she relies more and more on magical stimulants to force her exhausted body through endless days of medical emergencies, political crises and magical calamities, then doses herself to sleep when she comes dragging in late at night to both counter-act the stimulants and the nightmares a lifetime of violent death and funerals has left behind.  The stimulants are burning her away from the inside out, even as they give her the ability to meet each day’s challenges.  She can see the symptoms in her own body, and the people around her are beginning to notice something is wrong, but she cannot stop.  A new word has wormed its way into her mind – “addiction.”  She is no fool, she knows the dangerous road she travels, but she sees few choices.  It’s either rise to the challenge and feed this addiction, feed it with her health and sanity, or fall and let the city burn.

And then, one day, two lords of Faerie come into her clinic, seeking her help…

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The Denizens of The Books of Binding (Part 3) The Therian

the·ri·an·throp·ic

adjective

1. being partly bestial and partly human in form.

“Karen breathed her in, and Winter knew she felt hunger.  She saw herself, wounded and bleeding on the grass, and knew Karen smelled her weakness and found it good.  A human might have actually felt the concern Karen mimicked well, but the predator knew only eat, and being eaten.  Concern was for cubs and kin.  Karen was therian.  She had either never been human, or was human no longer.”

~ Faerie Rising

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

~ The Wizard of Oz

The step of a wolf falls even more silently on the asphalt of an alleyway than on the forest floor.

Eye shine reflects in the darkness, much too high to be a feral housecat.

A shape rises, the night itself taking form from the city’s shadows, rising impossibly tall, and steps forward just to the edge of the safety the streetlight promises.  Its body is covered with gleaming fur from the protruding muzzle and broad shoulders to the powerful curved legs and feet tipped with lethal claws.  Its eyes glitter with intelligence as it regards you taking refuge in the light, and it bears canines longer than your fingers as it says, “Lost?”  And then it is on you, teeth buried in your flesh as it shakes you effortlessly as rag doll.

The streetlight lied.

Our shape shifters, the therian of The Books of Binding, range the land, the air, and the seas.  Though many keep to the dwindling wilderness, as humans have spread more and more have been forced to settle down beside them in cities, and those who are predators find that humans living on the fringes of society are easy prey – or potential brethren.

Though they may come in many varieties, the one trait that binds all therian together is that they are all essentially animals that turn into people.  Make no mistake, born or made, it is with an animal’s instincts guided by a human intellect that they interact with the world around them.  They can cry and laugh, be your friend or lover, but they are not human and do not understand many human niceties and social cues, and can react with explosive aggression if they feel challenged.  The common therian lives very much in the now; only their leaders, those who are alphas or the most powerful, the kings and queens, are capable of thinking ahead, of strategizing.   It is for this reason that the majority of therian live on the fringes of society themselves, an underclass of criminals and dropouts who band together with others of their own kind for survival.

Several strains of therianthropy can only be passed down through family lines, the avian therian and the prey species in particular.  All others are either born or made via magical infection.  The disease is carried within a therian’s body fluids.  No tiny claw scratches will make anyone furry.  Only a wound severe enough to mingle the attacking therian’s body fluids with their victim’s blood stream will initiate the change – if the victim survives the initial shock.  Most made therian are attack survivors, and there are more horrible ways to become a therian than by being bitten.  Once begun the change is swift, happening over the course of several agonizing hours.  If they’re lucky the one who attacked them stays nearby, waiting until they are ready to be taken back to the group and their new life.  But if they are not, and many are not, they wake with healing wounds that should have killed them, in pain and alone in a world they never knew existed.

Once in this life, the new therian finds their body capable of incredible things.  They can change forms without pain, feeling more like a truly epic stretch, and if they are strong enough they have not only their human and animal forms, but the half form, the massive “wolf-man” made famous by movies.  They are much faster than a human, sight and scent are enhanced, they are capable of jumping well above their own height (higher if they are one of the great cats), and stronger than even a vampire, strong enough to crush a car door in their bare hands.  Wounds heal before their eyes, their bodies burn feverishly hot with the energy of their amazing metabolisms, and despite what folklore would say they are not slaves of the moon’s cycle.  These gifts come at cost, however.  To fuel their powerful bodies they must eat, and the metabolism that can heal like theirs requires massive amounts of food every day, much more than a human needs.  There is also a hidden cost, one that most therian are not capable of thinking too hard about, with their minds eternally in the now.  Their amped up metabolisms burn them out, shortening their lifespans.  Most therian, if they live to see old age, do not live past their sixties.  A therian who sees seventy is ancient, indeed.

However, an early death by accelerated old age is the least of a therian’s worries.  Life within the preternatural community is brutal and often short, especially for them.  Outside the various groups, therian prey on each other, predators hunting prey species for food and predators hunting other predators in competition for territory.  The prey species have few resources to protect them, and often turn to stronger groups, such as the vampires, for protection against predation.  Vampires will still feed on them, but a little bloodletting is far preferable to being eaten.  Within the groups violence determines the rule of law.  The predator groups are ruled by the strongest, the most dominant, and usually the males.  Males fight amongst themselves for dominance and the right to mate with females, and can move up and down the ladder of hierarchy depending on the outcome of the fights.  The higher up the ladder they get, the higher the stakes of the fights get.  At the top most levels, fights are to the death.  Females don’t dominance fight as often, preferring to sort themselves out in a more social fashion, but when they do it is almost always lethal.  The strongest female will then pair with the strongest male, and they will jointly rule the group.  It is she who decides who, if anyone, will bear children in the group.

A therian female, born or made, will go into heat every 6 months for the majority of her life.  The usual practice is for other females to isolate her, well away from the rest of the group, to prevent fighting among the males in their attempts to get to her.  The stronger the female, the more intense the fighting can be.  The most common forms of birth control are to either endure the seven day heat alone, which can be intensely frustrating for the female in question, or to enlist the company of a male of another species, as therian cannot crossbreed.  When a female does choose, or is selected by her alpha female to have cubs, she will carry one or two (twins being very common) for five and a half months to term.  This gives her the ability to have two litters a year, if the pressure to reproduce is high, though most therian females don’t.  In an ideal setting, the group will assist in raising the cubs, protecting and nurturing them until they are old enough to begin climbing the dominance ladder themselves.

If only all groups were ideal and stable.

Hours later you’re breathing in the metallic meat scent of your own blood where it soaks your clothes, the broken asphalt of the dark recess of the alley digging into your side.  The vicious wounds where the monster ripped into you with its teeth have long since healed, leaving you dressed in shredded, bloody rags, and the sunlight on the bricks above you head highlights colors you’ve never seen.

He watches you with those same cunning eyes, now a man dressed in jeans and an unbuttoned shirt as he ties his other boot.  Finally he nods as if convinced of something, and grabs you by your arm, dragging you to your unsteady feet.  “Come on,” he says in the same gruff voice, and pulls you out of the alleyway towards your new life.

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The Denizens of The Books of Binding (Part 2) The Vampires

“Katherine let her eyes close as Giovanni drew one of her bloody fingers into his mouth and began to suck it clean.  Her lips parted, upper and lower fangs extending much like a snake to show startling white against the natural crimson of her mouth.”

~ Faerie Rising

Immortal sensualists and ardent politicians, vampires are the power brokers of the preternatural world and the true inventors of the long game.  For centuries they have played, using both preternaturals and humans as living game pieces – first the election of a Pope, then a senator’s scandalous fall – with one ultimate goal in mind.

Survival.

For though some younger eyes may see the humans as placid sheep, mindlessly waiting to be culled, those vampires who have lived through darker centuries know that if the sheep see the wolves in their midst, the nature of the flock can change dangerously, and not all the sheep are blind.  So they play the game to ensure they live in a world where a human who claims his neighbor is a shape-shifter will be mocked, rather than rescued.  To ensure their kind can continue to hide in plain sight.

Our vampires are immortal in the sense that they will live indefinitely until they are killed, and yes, they are alive, not undead.  They are very difficult to kill – a wooden stake through the heart will only result in an angry vampire and a dead amateur Van Helsing.  They are not vulnerable to holy objects, or silver, or garlic, or any of the other superstitions and fictions that have been spread around over the centuries, often by vampires themselves, to help them hide.  They are nocturnal hunters but do not fear the sun, though they are admittedly not at their best in full sunlight.  Sunglasses are truly the vampire’s friend, and they only glitter under trance music and a club’s strobe lights while wearing the correct body products.

Indeed, the greatest threat to a vampire is another vampire.  Total destruction or removal of the head or the heart is the only way to ensure death.  So while vampires have not been slow to adopt firearms, they still adhere to the old ways of killing.  Within their Courts they gave the original meaning to “cutthroat” politics, as a single misstep can result in death.  At the top of these constantly shifting towers of factions and alliances rule the Vampire Kings.  Any vampire, regardless of gender, with enough power, cunning and ambition may rise to become a King and rule over a Court composed of not only vampires but also those shape-shifting “therian” and humans who serve them.  But at this level the only path to power is through the death of a sitting King – the vampire who would walk it does so at their dire peril, for the King they would murder has walked it before them, knows its twists and bends, and lays in wait for all who would so much as set a foot upon it.  There is no law among vampires against preemptive retaliation.

But, individually, the most powerful of the vampires are not the Kings at all.  They are the queens.  Of the many, many female vampires made in the world, only a tiny percentage rise as a powerful breeding queen – at the time of Faerie Rising they only number thirty-one.  Male vampires may on rare occasion father half-breed children on human women, but these Dhampyr are weak creatures to be pitied in the Courts, who share their fathers’ need for blood and their mothers’ mortalities.  A common female vampire is utterly sterile.  Queens, on the other hand, are not only extremely powerful vampires, they will also go into heat every few centuries during their lifetimes, attracting male vampires for miles around and only accepting the most powerful to mate.  These choices are political ones, made decades, sometimes centuries in advance.  Queens maintain their own small Courts autonomous from the Kings’ Courts, though they usually choose a King to support and maintain them on the understanding that when her heat comes on her the King of her choice will be the one to sire her prince, a huge mark of prestige for any vampire.  Attracting and keeping a queen is a great show of power among the Kings, as queens have full autonomy and can choose to leave for any reason, at any time.  Queens always bear sons.  No one knows why this is, though it is a common subject of debate among the queens themselves.  A prince is always powerful, and will eventually grow to become a King in his own right, should he survive long enough.  Again, Kings see nothing wrong with preemptive retaliation, and princes who are not their own sons are threats on the horizon.  So a queen will choose her prince’s father most carefully, with her son’s future survival in mind.

In a life of politics and pain, where death may find them around any corner if they chose the wrong friends, for vampires their basic survival is the ultimate pleasure.  A vampire must feed on living blood.  Since they can eat regular food, “dead” blood such as one might find in a fictional blood donation bag is not only of no more nutritional value than any bloody rare meat, the anti-coagulants that are added taste foul.  No vampire would drink blood from a plastic bag.  They are predators, as well as sensualists.  Their very nature desires warm flesh between their teeth, a writhing body trapped in the steel coils of their powerful arms.  They want the hunt.

But not the kill.

Vampires kill for politics, for survival, sometimes for pleasure, but generally they do not kill to eat.  While it is possible to kill by other means during a feed, a single, regular vampire cannot drink enough blood to drain a human body to the point of death.  The stomach is only so big.  A powerful vampire can get close – this is part of how vampires are made – but does not need to do so.  Vampires are above all things stealth hunters.  When they feed among the flock, they erase their tracks.  So the vampire who leaves a trail of bodies will soon be hunted themselves.

Vampires hunt the most dangerous of prey, but they have three powerful weapons at their disposal.  The first are their pheromones, designed to attract both potential mates and potential prey, for to vampires feeding and sex are intimately intertwined.  When they are attracted to someone, they will “scent,” and the more powerful the attraction, the more powerful the vampire, the more powerful the pheromones will become.  When vampires do this with each other it can cycle back and forth.  When it involves prey the pheromones are difficult to resist, and nearly impossible if they prey is not aware of them.  The second weapon is the nature of the adult vampire’s bite.  Nearly painless and highly erotic, an unsuspecting victim is usually unaware they have been bitten at all, lost in the waves of pleasure as the vampire feeds from them.  Again, the more powerful the vampire, the greater the effect they have.  For the vampire, the bite is a two-way street, and they receive just as much pleasure from biting as does their victim.  It is for this reason that even though vampires cannot gain from feeding on each other, they still bite during sex.  But, for the survival of the vampire’s secret, the third weapon is the most important.  Their tongues secrete a healing enzyme, so that when they stroke and lick a bite mark after feeding the small holes made by their fangs heal closed, leaving behind only a large hickey.  They only take a pint or less of blood from a victim, leaving them slightly light-headed perhaps, but no more so than would the sexual encounter they just had.  And the vampire leaves, fed and with a potential future meal left alive behind.

The vampire is truly the most urban of the preternaturals, the ultimate wolves among the sheep, needing to hide within a large prey population – and also a large population of potential recruits.  Those who they would choose to join their ranks are selected most carefully, for eternity is a very long time to regret.  They stalk their potentials, getting into their lives, their circles of friends, before making a final decision.  That choice is always the vampire’s – they will never open their world, part the veil for anyone not already among their ranks.  Most new vampires discover this hidden existence on the day they awaken to it, desperate for their first blood feed.

On that first morning of forever, what would you do?

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