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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 22: Hastings 8
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 21, Slade 7
Work, sleep, work, and payday's Friday; but Lauren met Raiden at the park before the banks were open, so she cashed her check late in the morning after another session on form and balance. By noon she had the rest of the day free. She decided to visit Father James, and see what more she could learn.
She told him of Gavin's interest in The Book of Journeys, but he was already aware of this. He once held two pages of that legendary tome in his hands, and found his life in grave danger for it. He and Jake had locked them in a strongbox and buried it in New York just before coming here. It was likely that Gavin followed them trying to retrieve those pages.
The Book of Journeys was certainly ancient. Vampire legends maintained that it was written by Cain, the first son of Adam and the first vampire. On this they base their belief that the world belonged to them by right, as children of the first born. It was said that the words of the book contain secrets but also power, and that a vampire who owned the entire volume would rule his own kind and, by extension, the world. Gavin wasn't the only vampire who believed or at least considered the legend; the book was sought by many.
Gavin was actually a very young vampire. He had been a writer of pulp fiction, doing detective stories in the late 1940's, when he had been killed. "Gavin" was the name of his favorite detective, and he liked the character so much he took the name for himself after his death. In many ways he went against the traditions of vampires. He didn't want to maintain a low profile and skim the weak from humanity; he wanted vampires to rule the world, and for himself to be one of the key rulers. Thus he did things other vampires would consider drastic and dangerous, trying to build a diverse following of those willing to take chances to get power.
As for Jackson, less was known about him. He was probably about eight hundred years dead, and was very powerful. Although he was from England, the language had changed so much since his birth that he didn't speak it well. He wasn't very bright, and although he was the tougher of the two in a fight, he wasn't nearly as dangerous otherwise.
Lauren had much on her mind as she left Father James. At first she didn't realize that someone was talking to her. A gruff voice with an Australian accent was calling. "Miss? Miss? Did you need a cab?" Breaking her thoughts, she realized that a yellow cab was next to her. "Shouldn't be walking in this neighborhood, miss." Only half attentive, she climbed into the cab.
"So, you're Lauren Hastings," the cabby said as he pulled away from the curb. Startled, she looked at the cabby, and then at the license. The picture was the same, a solidly-built man with lots of dark hair on his head and face. The name said, "Raoul Wolfe", but he did not look or sound like a Raoul. She'd been careless, and she'd been caught; but by whom, and why?
"And you're Raoul?" she ventured.
"Well, my friends pronounce it more like 'Raal'." The name was more like a child's imitation of a lion's growl than anything else.
"So, Raal, what do you want?"
"I wanted to meet you. In fact, we wanted to know a little more about you. The vams sent Arnie the Ghoul to kill you, and anyone who rates that kind of attention must have scared someone. So we wanted to know who you are."
The pain in her shoulder was enough to tell her who Arnie the Ghoul was. "So, who do you think sent him? Gavin?"
"No, not Gavin. First, Arnie wouldn't work for him; second, it's not his style. It's more likely to be someone who doesn't like what Gavin is doing, and sees you as a threat. But the question is, what are you really up to?"
"You'll forgive me if I don't open up and share all my secrets with you on our first meeting, I'm sure. Besides, I think it would be courteous for you to introduce yourself first."
There was a long silence. Clearly Raal didn't want to reveal more about himself without knowing where Lauren stood; and she was always careful not to tip her hand. Then Raal apparently decided to make a guess.
"The way I figure it," he said, "you're obviously a wizard. But since nobody knows anything about you or any wizard like you, you must be new. But you wouldn't be much threat to Arnie if you weren't pretty sharp. So you must have come from another world. And that means you want something. Since Gavin doesn't have anything a wizard would want, I can't figure out what it is.
His perspicacity was unnerving.
"All right," she finally said. "I am a visitor from another world. I'm immortal; but if I am killed in one world, I return to life somewhere else. That's how I got here. I have been learning what I can about this world and about Gavin and his plans and intentions, but have not yet decided what I shall do about them. I should not be counted among his friends. Your turn."
Raal smiled. "All right, we'll share incredible stories. I'm a werewolf. I moved here from Australia after my pack was destroyed by vampires, and joined a pack here in Philadelphia pieced together of others like me whose families were butchered. Our pack mother is named Annuda. She sent me to find out whether you're an enemy of vampires altogether, or just another player in their internal power struggles. Oh--and the name's just Raal. I needed a name for the cab license, and that's the only one that came to mind."
Internal power struggles--she hadn't realized it before, but that was in some ways the key weakness of the vampires. If she could think of a way to exploit that--but not today.
"So, what do I tell her?"
Lauren thought another moment before responding. "Tell her that I come in the name of God as a defender of humanity against all enemies; that anyone who is not for me is against me, and any who is not against me is for me. Tell her that."
Raal smiled. His bared teeth looked sharp and powerful. "I think she would like to hear that. In fact, perhaps you would like to come tell her yourself. The two of you probably have a lot in common."
Lauren couldn't think of a good reason not to meet Annuda--that is, apart from the fact that she would be walking into a den of werewolves unprotected. If in fact the wolves were enemies of the vams and not inherently foes of humanity, an alliance between the few humans aware of the evil around them and those wolves fighting it could only strengthen both sides.
"Drive on, Raal," she said, and settled back into the seat.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #25: Novel Changes. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: