For those of you new to my blog, Two hunters is my longest running B.O.S.S. (Blogging Original Short Story). There are fifteen parts to date and it makes up a decent chunk of the 60 stories I’ve posted thus far. You can check out the rest of the chapters here. While the story of Nell and Culvir isn’t as fleshed out as my novel, it is a solid piece. Also make sure to check out the other stories in my public folder.
Anyway, here is part 15 of Two Hunters.
Two Hunters, Part 15
The light surrounding Nell faded into the decor of the Gilded Peanut’s gaudy interior. Five sets of eyes stared down at her, some talking excitedly but she could not hear them. Instead a dull ringing filled her ears and the familiar throb of sleepiness. She sat up slowly, taking in the heavily perfumed air covering the smell of sweat and medicine.
A strong pair of hands held one of hers , shaking off her grogginess, she realized they belonged to Sonnie. She couldn’t remember the last time he had looked at her with genuine concern. Before their reunion she had fresh memories of cold glares filled with mistrust. Now he seemed relieved to an unnatural level for him. Likely because his ‘treasure’ was intact.
Nell pushed away his hand gently, offering the best smile of strength she could show, and gave his hand an endearing pat. By all purposes she should have been dead. Losing control of her body for several hours meant slipping away to oblivion for Ambrosia. She usually off set this by taking small naps not much longer than an hour. From the look on their faces, and Sonnie’s bad habit of not shaving during times of duress, she worked out that she had been out for a couple of days.
“Let’s get out of here Jamgled. We have work to do.” Culvir said, turning away. She only caught a glimpse, but he wore a new pair of glasses and looked worse for wear. His already pale skin a few shades lighter and his movements stiff and somewhat awkward.
Jamgled followed close on his heels, taking a moment to glance back at Nell, before she vanished through the doorway.
Nikidas frowned back at Culvir as he left, and Nell’s eyes widened at the last person hovering over her bed. Her own eyes stared down at her, along with the same silver hair that framed her face. A doppelganger down to every detail and not a trick that Culvir could pull with his masks. Her light robes were easy enough to emulate, every detail of her slim build less so,
“That’s the association’s Succubus.” Sonnie noted her surprise. “We’ve had her posing as you while you were down and out. We needed to keep the vampires guessing. And we need to continue our work as soon as you feel better.”
“I’m better now.” Nell pushed aside her covers, bringing herself to the edge of the bed. “I shouldn’t be alive, but I haven’t felt this rested in years. ”
“Yes, about that.” Sonnie rubbed the stubble at his chin, noticing it for the first time. “You have Culvir to thank on that. Anytime you began to lapse into deep sleep, all it took was his touch to pull you back. That sod forfeited sleep for your well being. Make sure to thank him.”
“How very like him to run off.” Nell clicked her tongue. “But I will.”
“He won’t get far.” Sonnie wagged a finger. “He has slept a collective seven hours during your sleep.”
“Seven days.” Sonnie said sternly.
“That explains why I feel so refreshed… and stiff.” She muttered. “Wait, only seven hours of sleep over seven days? He’ll die!”
“Like I said, he won’t get far.” Sonnie smirked. “That Jamgled woman, as brash as she is, keeps him on a short leash.”
“You don’t worry about Culvir.” Nikidas leaned closer. “How do you feel?”
“Good. All things considered. No wounds. I feel a bit sluggish and…” She raised a hand to her neck, feeling the fresh bite knitting at her neck. “Oh right.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that one. I’ve kept an eye on it,” Sonnie said, “Even if you can’t turn you can still get infections. I saw to it that wouldn’t happen.”
“Mr. Daie is actually pretty good at mending wounds.” Nikidas halved his eyes. “I think he did a much better job with Nell than when he fixed Culvir.”
“Are you complaining?” Sonnie hissed at him.
“No.” Nikidas raised his hands defensively. “Just an observation.”
“Well I appreciate it.” She turned her eyes to her other self. “So what should I call you? Mrs. Tusche I suppose?”
“That would be fine. Or you could call me Gabrielle” The other Nell smiled her own guarded smile. One she knew as false and filled with sorrow. “I would like that.”
“Of course, Gabrielle. You’ve done so much for us… and yet–
“Do not worry on it Nell. This is fun for me.” The shape-shifter brought a hand to Nell’s. “It also brings me great joy to imitate wonderful people. They told me everything you’ve done, and I approve. I simply hope I am being a reasonable facsimile.”
“By everything, who is this ‘they’ that informed you?”
“Why the members of the association. I have been very busy and very entertained over the last few days.” A wicked smile crept onto Gabrielle’s face.
Nell’s stomach lurched. That would likely bite her once she started ‘being herself’ again. She read Nikidas’ expression who seemed to remain blissfully oblivious to the meaning of that.
“Once Culvir is at full steam, we will likely be leaving the city.” Sonnie stood from the bed. “I have a bead on where Helos is now, where he actually is. If you wanted a good shot at ridding the world of that Lich, this is it. ”
“That would be best. It’s a shame it took this long for me to bounce back, that means the scar we left on him is probably patched up by now.” Nell pushed herself to a stand with little difficulty.
“On the contrary. It has deepened.” Sonnie smirked. “And worse, the news of his defeat has made it to the worlds less aggressive Lich Lords, those content to hole up in the corners of the world and enjoy their immortality in peace. They may see this as a glove of challenge.”
“What? But Helos started this.” Nikidas protested.
“Not exactly.” Gabrielle shook her head. “In its youth the Association made many enemies, and focused wholly on the eradication of the unnatural. A hundred years ago, they would have never recruited me, only killed me as an abomination. Those old Lich Lords will see selective cooperation as a ruse, a means to lure out and pick off all the Lich Lords.”
Nikidas tensed. “But that’s–”
“Absolutely true,” Nell said, “Lich Lords are too dangerous to leave ‘alive’. Once we find out how to kill Helos, the others will need to be handled in a similar manner. This is different than lesser demons such as the succubus. We learned through Gabrielle that they can thrive without harming their partners. In that way it is no different than human’s capacity to kill.”
Nikidas looked away, biting his lip.
The door swung open, and Jamgled stormed in carrying Culvir’s limp body over her shoulder.
“You still using that?” She pointed a finger at the bed.
Nell shook her head ‘no.’
Jamgled tossed Culvir onto the bed roughly, crawled over his still body, and plucked his glasses from his face. She offered them to Nell, and slipped the thieves closet from his shoulder. “His ass shouldn’t be waking up for a bit, but just in case, you know?”
“Did he just pass out?”
“Yeah. He passed out alright. Just took a few blows of motivation to push him along.” Jamgled stretched, pushing her hands against her lower back. “I’ll play watchdog for a bit. You kids do whatever you need to.”
“Thank you. I’m sure it’s for the best.” Nell wanted to scold Jam. Though she was in no place to do so, lest she face hypocrisy.
Nikidas offered a weary glanced between the two women.
“So, Gabrielle, you can be ‘yourself’ for a while. We could use your help picking up on strange happenings from the venerable Lady Tusche.”