Remembered Kisses: Chapter 13: Dreams Redux
Audrey poured Sam’s tea into his mug. “So. Your ex-girlfriend’s a vampire.”
“Yes.” Sam sighed. “That’s the case.”
“And you’re using her as a go between for you and the Dead Court.”
“The Lorenzos, specifically, but close enough.”
“Well,” Audrey said. “That’s nice.”
She poured her own tea and set down the antique pot down before warming her hands on her cup. “Can you trust her?”
“I don’t know.” Sam didn’t look at her, either. He stared into the old chipped mug that had been with him for the better part of decade. The handle had broken off… somewhere, but he didn’t care. It was his and he loved it. “It’s hard to be sure. I want to, but she’s not who she used to be.”
“Well,” Audrey said again, carefully adding some sugar to her tea before lifting it halfway to her lips and taking a long waft. “Are you?”
Sam fell silent.
Audrey took a sip of her tea and put the porcelain cup down before putting a small pale hand on his. “It’s okay. You can have feelings. It’s all right. But you have to know. The undead are… well, they’re different than they were. They’re still people! But not the people they were.”
Sam didn’t say anything. He still didn’t look at her, his eyes instead studying on the things in the cramped living room. His current-reading book case was a mess; he couldn't remember the last time he'd touched it.
“Sam, say something. Answer me. These are things you have to know.”
“I know, Audrey. Do you think I don't?” He shook his head. “But when I saw her. I couldn’t help but remember. That old thrill ran right through me like a shock of electricity, like stepping into the otherworld. It was incredible.”
Audrey watched him with sympathetic eyes. “Sam…”
Sam took a deep breath. “I know. I’ll be careful. What can you tell me about my question? Do you know what could have killed Kendra?”
“Well,” Audrey said, leaning back, putting her business face on. “Sapping someone’s life like that. It’s not easy, unless you’re made for it, like the vampires. For a mortal it’s quite the piece of necromancy. And it can lead to icky results. Other than the fading death, of course.”
“You know. Spooks. Restless spirits. Ghosts. Undead horrors that sap the warmth from the air and turn your blood to ice, that sort of thing. Not really that last one, I’m having a go. Did you like?”
“Absolutely,” Sam said, dully. “And you learned all of this…?”
“I am a Blackthorne. My parents might not have approved of our talent, but there are libraries in the manor.” She looked smug. “I’ve read things. Perhaps things you haven’t.” Her smug look faded away. “Sam, I really don’t like this. This is dangerous stuff.” She swallowed. “This is the sort of thing my Great Grandfather was looking into before he was killed. Tapping into the essence of life.”
Sam turned to look at her at last, studying her face. “Your Great Grandfather? Cornelius Blackthorne? The one who held sway over half of England’s ghosts?”
“That’s the one. He generally preferred the incorporeal. More skill with them than with flesh. But commanding spirits requires power, Sam… and he was afraid of death, if I read his memoirs correctly.”
“You have his memoirs?”
“Well of course I do. Who else would? Really. You are the smartest man I know but sometimes you’re really quite dense.”
Sam stared. “How long have you had them?”
“Ever since I was a little girl. The first time They realized I had the power, They became mine.”
“Who gave them to you, your parents? I thought they were terrified of your gift.”
“Oh, they are. It was the servants. Some of them date back to the time of Cornelius, you know, and were rather quite taken with him. They say he was always a dashing gentleman, and good to his people.” She smiled wistfully. "Come to think of it, I'm kind of surprised Vincent didn't get them. But then again he was born in America."
“Audrey, focus. Cornelius was a powerful necromancer, bent on plunging the world into his own darkness,” Sam said. “And you want to know what he was like?”
“Well, he is family. And blood is thicker than water, you know. Haven’t you ever wondered about your family’s past? About where your own gifts came from?”
“Not… in those exact words, no,” Sam said, but he couldn’t shake the memory of his father, dead on the floor, the room painted in his blood… What came for you, father? Was it something you were into? Was it random? What was it? “It’s just that a lot of people wouldn’t want you to have something like that. It would make them worry.”
“You’re not a lot of people, Sam,” she said, her voice sincere, trusting. “I trust you. I know you’ll protect me.” Her voice grew quiet. “Even from your friends, right, Sam?”
He nodded. “I’ll have to, dear heart. Audrey?”
She looked up. “Sam?”
“You don’t have any family in town, do you?”
“No,” she said. “My brothers are in england, as are my mum and dad.” She looked down. “Vincent’s dead.”
“Right. No, it couldn’t be him. Unless…”
“Unless what, Sam?”
“Unless he’s managed to escape death.”
“Not even a Blackthorne can do that, Sam. Believe me, if they could, we would still be dealing with my great grandfather.” She yawned. “I’m sleepy,” she said. “I’m going to bed.”
Sam smiled. “You do that,” he said. She gave him a peck on the cheek and went to bed. He sat at the table for a while, finishing his tea, and eventually made his way back to his room. It still smelled like Kennedy’s perfume.
He sat on his bed for a moment, glancing around his room, the relics of his life. A bookcase, of course. The old jacket from his police uniform. He should have given that back, but somehow he never brought himself to. There was a picture of his mother on the wall, and on his bedside table there was a journal. He picked it up, fingering the soft leather of its cover, and put it on its lap. He opened it, eyes trailing over his own spidery handwriting. It was a journal entry from a few years ago. From the week Angelique died. Of course I turned to that page. “The subconscious makes decisions for most people,” he murmured. “But it’s more powerful in mages. I wonder if it’s different for wizards.”
He closed the journal and put it aside. He looked at his bed. He knew what he was going to dream, where he was going to go. Which failure would haunt his sleep tonight. “It’s as the proverb says,” he said. “The greater the wisdom, the greater the grief.” He laid down and took the path before him.
It was different dream then the path his usual nightmare, but not unfamiliar. He tossed and turned, trying to fight it off like he had been taught, but it didn’t work.
Maybe he didn’t want it to.
His first years studying the ways of power, he’d met Sofia. A beautiful, vivacious woman whose sister just happened to be a witch. Her sister had had power, but not enough. Not enough to stop the troll that had been under New Tamsbridge’s titular bridge from tearing her apart.
They had found Angelique’s body on the shore near where the river met the ocean, broken like a rag doll. Sam had tracked her down with a spell. A lock of her hair and a drop of her sister’s blood and he had been able to smell her out like a bloodhound, walking the still-unfamiliar city streets till he found her at the dockside, body bloated by the river. There had only been one creature in town that could do that to a person. Only one that was powerful enough to do to a witch of Angelique’s talents.
Now Sam stood again with Sofia at the funeral again, his arms around her shoulders- her shoulders which were huddled against him instead of into him, the lean, taut muscles of her back boxing him off.
“Trolls,” he murmured. “A hell of a thing.”
“A hell of a thing? Is that all you can say?” She wasn’t looking at him, and he could hear the strain and hurt in her voice. He didn’t need to see her face to know there were tears running down it. “A hell of a thing? She was my big sister. We did everything together. We had tea parties. Talked about boys. And now she’s gone. And all you've got is 'a hell of a thing?'” She ripped herself free of him and wheeled around, banging her small fists against his chest. “Fuck you. You could have stopped this. You and her and all of you had this whole secret world that you didn’t tell me about, playing with fire and never fucking letting me know just what was out there.”
“It’s what she wanted. We agreed. She didn’t want you to look at her differently. She didn’t want you to worry.”
“Well now she’s dead, and what the hell good is any of it?” She hit him again, then turned away, sobbing. “I’m going to get my own back, Sam. That thing’s going to pay for what it did to my family.” Her hands balled into fists. “I’ll kill it myself.”
“Sofia, you can’t.”
“Don’t. You. Dare. Don’t you dare tell me what I can and can’t do. I can make up my own mind.”
“I can help.”
“It’s too late for that. You had her chance and now she’s gone. Goodbye, Sam.” she said, and started to walk away. She turned half towards him, about to say more: then she thought better of it, shook her head, and simply stalked away.
He had not seen her since.
Sam turned in his sleep. It’s not like he hadn’t known about the troll. Everyone in the supernatural community knew about the troll. It had been there since this was still a British colony, if not before, when it had haunted a bridge further up the water. A strange Scandinavian creature; far from home, but present and powerful nonetheless. But it had always played by the rules. What had happened to make it… not? Had Angelique attempting a crossing without paying the toll? Had she challenged it? There had been many questions, but no answers.
The questions had driven Sam mad until he went to the beast itself, but even as his dreaming mind started down that road, thunder crashed and the dream was gone.
He rolled over, putting his pillow over his head, trying to block out the thunder, trying to remember, but it persisted.
He opened his eyes. It wasn't thunder. It was knocking.
“Sam? Sam are you there?” Audrey’s voice was like the ringing of a bell, waking him out of his dream, shaking off the haze.
Sam rolled over and cracked one eye open, looking at the door. He was shaken. His body was covered in a cool sheen of sweat. Sofia’s retreating shape was still fresh in his mind, as was the sweet smell of spring flowers blooming in the cemetery’s trees. He stared at the door, focusing, ripping himself out of the past and into the now. “Audrey? What’s wrong?”
“It… Sam, can I come in?”
Sam hurried to cover himself, tugging his patchwork quilt up and over his chest. “Come on.”
She slowly opened the door, peeking in nervously, and then came in and shut it behind her. “It’s so dark in here. Don’t you have any light?”
He shook his head. “I don’t… usually use my lamp, no. And there was moonlight.” He turned his head and looked at the window, now fogged over. “Though I suppose not now.” He looked back at her. “You look worried.”
“I am.” Audrey gave him a big, sad look, her purple eyes huge and watery at the corners. “Sam, I’ve had a nightmare.”
He patted the bed beside him as he sat up. “So have I. Want to talk about it?”
“I dreamed of my great grandfather.” She plopped down next to him and looked down into her lap.
“He was talking to me. Thanking me. Said I was growing up to be just like him, and how proud he was.” She looked up at him, her voice pleading, and now the tears were streaming down her face. “I don’t want to be evil!”
“You don’t have to be. Darkness isn’t in the blood.”
“But what if it is, Sam? What if I am like him? What if part of me wants to be?”
“How can you be so sure?”
He put his arms around her and pulled her close to him. “Because Audrey. My dear, dear Audrey. I have seen into your heart. I see it every day. You want to help.”
“I do. I just want to make the world better. Like you do.”
Sam tried to hide his smile at that, but his beam broke through. She grinned back at them, but then she tilted her head and frowned. “Sam,” she said.
“Do mages’ shadows always have top hats?”
A confused expression crossed his face, and he turned to look behind him. The dark silhouette did appear to be wearing a top hat, and carrying a cane. It was only for moment, and the clouds parted, letting some moonlight into the room, and the shadow returned to normal.
“So,” Sam said carefully, keeping his voice neutral. The hair on the back of his neck was standing up and has blood felt ice-cold. “You saw that too, then?”
“Yes” Audrey sighed in relief. “Oh thank god, I thought I was going mad.”
Sam snorted. “Don’t give up yet. You still might be.”
She took a deep breath, and then she took several more. “It was just a nightmare, wasn’t it?”
“It was. He’s dead. The Circle of Alba took him out. They were… well, you know first-hand how skilled they are. They were once even more so. They would have gotten it done right or not at all. Hell, they even had a wizard in on it.” He looked back at her, giving her a comforting a smile. “I’ll tell you the story some day. It was more than eighty years ago, right in this town. A fantastic struggle of magic power. In the end, most of the circle were dead, including their wizard, but Cornelius had been destroyed before his army of zombies could spread out into the world. Or whatever he was after. It was a near thing.”
“It was here? Really? I knew he’d been beaten, but that wasn’t in his memoirs. Obviously. That’s fascinating.” Her brows furrowed. “But doesn’t that make bringing me here be a little dangerous? I mean. A great necromancer must have contingencies in place in case of his death.”
“You would think so, but they couldn’t find any. It seems to have been a confirmed kill.”
She fell silent for a moment. “Sam?”
He took her hand and squeezed it. “Yes, Audrey?”
“You won’t let the circle get me, will you? Like they got Cornelius? And Vincent? That horrid woman, Sam. She was here, right here in the Covers.”
“I know, dear heart. But no. I won’t let them take you. And I won’t let the nightmares get you, either. No matter if they’re your own or from the otherworld.”
Audrey seemed to take some comfort in that. She hugged him again. “Thank you, Sam. I’m going to try to go back to bed. School tomorrow.”
“Right,” he said, and she left. Sam sat there for a few minutes, thinking, and then slowly got dressed and went downstairs. There would be no more sleep tonight for him. He might as well work on some spells.