179Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡuoH3xDe9Rk
The mansion’s hallways were dark and quiet, the tapestries hanging on the walls fluttering slightly as he passed by and the faint light of the dim candle held aloft in his hand reflected off the polished suits of armor standing at parade rest and positioned at even intervals down the length of the hallway, the shadows beyond their empty visors following his progress passed the gathered legion of tightly closed doors.
Midir’s eyes-as grey as the placid surface of an arctic sea-scanned the gloom ahead of him before finally alighting on the pale glow stretching from beneath the furthest door at the end of the hallway which drew him forwards at an even faster pace. The door to the herpetarium swung open with a low groan, the floor creaking beneath his feet as he stepped inside.
The room beyond was closed in by three walls and a ceiling made entirely from glass so that, by day, it would be flooded with the light of the blazing sun. Rows of shelves filled the room, all stacked with hundreds of cages filled with a variety of different species of exotic snakes. Veles was standing in the middle of the room with a Taipan coiled around his arm, it's black and yellow scales standing out starkly against his pale skin.
“Veles,” his twin turned at the sound of his voice, yellow eyes focusing in on his brother almost immediately.
“Midir,” a mirror image of each other aside from the color or their eyes, the middle sons of Lilith were the only known twins amongst the ranks of the Dhampir and though neither got along well with the rest of their siblings the bond between the two of them was such that they were rarely seen apart outside the confines of the manor. “Let me guess, it’s Kora.”
“It’s always Kora.” He replied with a snort. “Kharon is busy with the beginnings of a new plot to deal with our little upstart problem, Erebus sequestered himself back to his laboratory the moment that he got back from London and, as usual, Than is nowhere to be found. We’ve received a request from Tanni to make sure that he is out by last call.”
Hissing softly under his breath, Veles turned back to the open cage and lowered the snake inside before replacing the lid. “well, we should head over there then. I’d like a drink as well, and you can tell me more about this latest ‘plan’ of our older brother’s.”
“It isn’t one that you’ll be found of, I can guarantee that much. I don’t like it much myself.” Midir said as his slightly older twin turned off the light and followed him back out into the hallway. “There’s too much that could go wrong with allowing this. All in the hope that malcontent amidst the ranks of the Hunters will lure that coward out from whatever hole he’s been hiding in for centuries, as Erebus’ attempts to find traces of him in the United Kingdom amounted to nothing.”
“Even if I have begun to question a number of his decisions in recent decades Kharon is not a fool.” Veles replied in a low rasp, stepping out ahead of his twin into the courtyard and spreading his wings. “This gambit is not without reason, of that much I am sure. Especially if it has our mother’s approval.”
“I’m not sure that it does. The risks-!”
“Outweigh the rewards?” he interjected, yellow eyes zeroing in on him again. “I disagree, Midir. What are the risks? That the expendables who aren’t already eating out of our hands will discover our charade and have to be put down? There are more than enough humans in this world to replace them.”
“And what are the rewards?”
“The final, total defeat of our most hated enemy; the Angel’s own, even if he is fallen now. And, if Kauno can contain Thaurisaz, perhaps we can take his mind from him as we did his soul. Make him obedient. If not,” he blinked slowly, much the same way as a serpent would while sunning itself on a rock, “you’ll get to torture him as you please until the end of time. I see no downside to this, and neither should you.”
“Have you forgotten his strength? AshHand was the greatest warrior to ever live. He killed our eldest brother when he was still only a human!”
“Aser’s defeat, Midir, was blind luck on the part of the AshHand and idiocy on the part of our dear brother. Now, I believe we have a job to do.” With a single downstroke of his massive wings, Veles rose into the cold night air. “Are you coming, brother?”
Midir followed suit after a moment longer and the pair rose above the tops of even the tallest buildings before making their way to the nightclub in Queens. Drifting down into the alleyway flanking the left side of the club, they folded their wings tight against their bodies before turning to observe their destination.
“So, this is Tanni’s new place?” he remarked as he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the violet glare of the neon letters adorning the front. “Black Dahlia? Wasn’t the old one called something else?”
“That’s hardly important, considering it burned to the ground because of his idiot pet!” Veles retorted as he dragged his twin inside, hissing in displeasure as the crowd closed in around them. “I will never understand why he does this! There are far too many humans here; this place is worse than the Guild’s main building!”
“Not to mention the smell drives you mad; so much blood.” Midir only tore his eyes away from the pulsepoint of one of the revelers when he tripped over a pair of feet. “Stop dragging me, Veles!”
“I’ll stop ‘dragging’ you once I’m sure you’re not going to decide that you want dessert!” He only had to flash his serpent-eyes at the bouncer standing guard outside the door marked VIP to be allowed through. Once inside, he released the tight hold he’d been maintaining on his twin’s wrist and began making his way down the stone staircase. “Come on, let’s find Kora before he gets too drunk and does something stupid.”
Their footsteps echoed against the stone walls of the hidden stairs, the bottom opening onwards into a cavernous loft space with a slate tile floor and a number of leather couches and chairs placed at intervals to provide plenty of seating while still preserving a spacious feeling to the room. A roulette table stood in one corner of the room alongside a couple of dart boards and a place to play pool. On the opposite side of the room was a small bar, the polished wooden top kept meticulously clean with a carefully organized rack of liquor hanging on the wall behind it and two perfectly stacked piles of shot glasses positioned on either side of the handles depicting the brand names of the various beers kept on tap.
Standing behind the bar with a rag in one hand and an empty glass in another, golden eyes fixed on the sole other occupant of the room with a look of marked distaste, was Tanni.
“Never thought I’d see you in anything that didn’t make you look like you’d just gotten home from the catwalk.”
The metallic gaze swiveled over to him in a cutting glare. “I didn’t ask Kharon to send the two of you here, Tracker, Breaker, to comment on my attire; my usual bartender called in last minute so I was left to fill in.” He jerked his pointed chin in the direction of their brother, who was seated semi-hunched over the bar. “Last call is still an hour away but I cannot deal with him for that long! Remove him, if you’d please!”
“We’ll see what we can do.” The pair closed in on the bar.
Kora, the pale skin of his face flushed as red as his eyes and hair, lifted his head slightly to sneer at them with an unfocused gaze. “What are the two of you doing here? Go away!” Turning his back on them again, he picked up his glass and proceeded to attempt to take a drink before realizing that it was empty. “Hit me; I want another.”
“Oh, I’ll hit you alright!” The club owner snarled. “Get out, or I’ll refill your glass with holy water!”
“Empty threat; you’re too damn afraid of what Mother and Kharon would do to you.” But the threat seemed to be enough to get him moving, the extremely drunk Kora attempting to stand up only to stumble immediately into his brother’s arm.
“I doubt anyone would care much if you were to be reduced to a puddle of goo on the floor!” Veles growled, nose curling at the powerful stench of alcohol rolling off his younger brother’s person. “As a matter of fact, once we’ve captured the AshHand I may well lock you in a cage with him myself!”
“Enough,” Midir intervened, pulling the mostly limp form from his twin’s grip. “Fine. But he finds his own way home; I still want my drink!” Each taking one of their brother’s arms, they dragged him back up the steps and through the crowd on the upper level before unceremoniously throwing him onto the streets outside. “And don’t even think about crawling off to some hole in the wall, Kora. If you don’t return home now Kharon will have your hide!”
Without even bothering to make sure their sibling found his footing, or for that matter even attempted to get up, the pair closed the door on him and returned down the stairs to the hidden room below the club. They found Tanni still behind the bar, struggling at rearranging the perfect stacks of glasses so that their numbers remained exactly symmetrical despite the addition of the newest clean glass.
“Thank you, both of you, for getting rid of your brother.” He said on catching sight of them. “Even by Vampire standards, Kora is a parasite!”
“If only the AshHand had killed him instead of Aser.” Pulling one of the stools out from underneath the bar, Midir lowered himself down onto it. “Then we wouldn’t still be dealing with either of them.”
“The Thyone Lord’s rampage was before my time. I am, after all, only 358.” Tanni said with a small chuckle. “What can I get for the two of you?”
“I don’t make a habit of drinking; give me whatever you give my brother.”
“Dark N Stormy.” Veles answered after a moment’s thought. “But lay off of the rum in my brother’s; like he said, he doesn’t drink much and I’d prefer he didn’t crash on the flight home.”
“You may not be old but you’re no child, Tanni. Though, with the way you speak, some might think that you think that you are.”
The other man shrugged as he poured in the ginger beer to top off their drinks before handing them over. “I suppose that that is true.” Wiping down his work space before anything could dry, he tossed down the rang and ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair. “Tell me honestly, please. Is war coming? Has the AshHand shown himself? Raised the sign of the eye?”
“The Thyone are extinct, now, but for their Lord. Even if he were to decide to show himself, there are no forces left for him to raise.” Picking up his drink, he stirred the contents with his straw before dropping in the lime wedge and taking a sip. Midir cautiously sampled his own only to pull back with a grimace. “Why would you ask if war is on the horizon?”
“Because talk like that makes me nervous, and there have been rumors lately. Of a Hunter who knows.”
“Lane is dead. She and all three of the other Hunters who knew too much; Erebus took care of them a few days ago.” Midir informed him sharply setting his drink aside with a frown. “There may well be a few small conflicts soon in accordance to Kharon’s latest scheme, but I assure you that they will be contained. Put your fears at ease.”
The other Dhampir nodded and moved to the other side of the bar. Once he was gone, Veles lowered his glass again to glance at his twin.
“Now, I know that you have concerns about his plan but I don’t know why. Tell me the details.”
“You were there the night when Lane first stumbled into the truth?”
He nodded. “I was.”
“She didn’t keep quiet; when she realized that we planned to shut her up she told everything that she knew to her two best friends; her fellow team members. It would have been a smart move, if it weren’t so stupid. So obvious.”
“So they know?”
“We weren’t sure at first,” Midir replied, “but then Kharon had me sneak into his apartment while he was away earlier today and I found them. Documents: authentic and undoctored! The same ones that that bastard Macanbairn-whose two troublesome whelps are now also dead, mind you-stole from us, one of which was written by Eros in his final desperate hours as a human when our forces came for him. I’d thought that he would have the pair of them redlined immediately, but he went looking for the man instead.”
“You mean to tell me that Kharon dirtied his hands by dealing with a Human himself? I hope the bastard felt honored in his final moments.”
“He didn’t deal with him and he doesn’t plan to! He’s leaving the situation to metastasis in the hopes that AshHand will be drawn in like a vulture to a rotting corpse, and then he’ll flip a switch and blow it all to hell!”
Midir nodded. “Yes. He intends to use the Blood Rune to collar the man, then he can allow them to sniff around as much as they wish to without us having to be concerned.”
Draining the remainder of the glass, Veles reclined back slightly in his stool. “Only the man? It seems fairly odd to only apply it to one of them, though I do suppose that one of them is all that we would need; once the switch for control is thrown, it’ll be a simple thing to have him kill her and then himself. And all with our hands remaining completely free of blood.”
“I wish that I could see things, and be content with them, as easily as you seem to brother.”
The grandfather clock standing against the wall tolled the top of the hour with a hollow sounding chime and Tanni approached them again.
“Last call, guys, unless you’d like to move it upstairs?”
“And associate with mortal filth? Unlike you, Tanni, we prefer to keep their company only while we dine.” Midir sneered as he and Veles got to their feet.
“Thank you for the drinks. You can just add them both to Kora’s tab.”
Leaving the club, the pair stepped back out into the alleyway and looked around to make sure that their younger brother had indeed managed to pick himself up into an at least somewhat upright position and walk, or more than likely stumble, away.
“You think he made it back to the manor?”
“Does it matter?”
“Not particularly, though Kharon did charge us with keeping a watch on him. He might lock us out of the Herpetarium and torture chamber again if he gets into trouble because we didn’t stick around.”
Veles’ chartreuse eyes flared dangerously. “Futu-ti cristosii mă-tii de câcat rânit cu lupata! That nenorocitule wouldn’t dare!”
“You should go and look for him, though it may be wise to check at home first to save yourself all of the effort in case he is there.”
“And what, might I ask, will you be doing during this time Midir?”
“Hunting. Being in the upper level of Tanni’s club has made me decide I want dessert.”
“Very well, but don’t stay out too long. Sunrise is in a few hours, and even in this city you won’t escape notice flying around during the day.”
“I’ll be back before dawn, brother.” Midir assured him. “I may be a few seconds younger than you are, but I’m no child.”
“There are times where you still act like one; of the two of us, you always were the most impulsive.” Not that humans were any sort of threat to either of them as things stood.
Spreading their wings again and lifting off into the air the twins parted ways to glide off towards opposite sides of the city.ns 126.96.36.199da2