October 1, 2010

The Search Continues

The mood was tense as we headed to the Library. There was minimal discussion. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts. I didn't know about the others, but I knew Ori and I were on the same wave length. He was staring out the window, nervously fingering the gold scarf he constantly wore. I had to make a conscious effort to stop drumming on the steering wheel in my own version of nerves.

In a way, the knowledge that Stepping Feather was in danger was more bothersome than the nights leading up to the battle with Ophios. That was an outside threat, a danger that would end in one of three ways.. victory, death, or both. It was a straight forward situation.

But this? Stepping Feather had been a friend. A comrade that we had already lost once before. Now, he was back.. hope dangling just out of reach.. and on the other end of that string of hope, was a fire that was slowly eating its way down to our outstretched fingertips.

It would burn us if we didn't grab hold in time to snuff it out.

A friend becoming an enemy, not out of betrayal, but because of an odd and unforeseen twist of fate.. that was worse than facing certain death.

I wouldn't let it happen again. There wouldn't be another Driscoll, not if I could help it.

I pushed the dark thoughts to the back of my mind where they could fester and leave me in relative peace for the time being as we pulled into the Library parking lot. We were waved inside by the guards, despite the late hour, and found Volkas in his usual place, coffee pot smelling of scorched caffeine. Giovanni grabbed a filter and went to work making a new pot.

"Thank you." The polish man said. He stood to greet us as we entered. His demeanor was calm, but there was an undercurrent of worry, and excited anticipation, like a kid about to open Christmas gifts.

"You say he stepped over, while he was in the grips of death rage? How do you know this?" Volkas asked, not sparing any time for pleasantries.

"We could tell that he'd stepped over, me and Nadi both.." He jerked his thumb at the demure death mage standing behind him.

"And I could feel his rage." I said, simply.

Volkas shook his head in disbelief. He stood and filled a white syrofoam cup with coffee and gulped it down like it wasn't fresh off the burner. It reminded me of how other people drink alcohol when faced with something they don't know exactly how to handle.

"This shouldn't be possible." He held up a hand to forestall our objections. "It must be studied.. looked into. If this is true.. it is an amazing and important discovery." His eyes were serious, and a touch excited.

"Well, my talk with Vitorrio is sure going to be interesting now.." Giovanni muttered to himself.

"I'll take care of that." A familiar voice rang from the open doorway. Sansome stood behind us. God knows how long he'd been there. I managed not to stiffen on reflex.. he still made me nervous. I wasn't yet 100% sure that he wasn't looking for a reason to use my spine as a tug-o-war rope.

"Oh.. good! one less thing on my plate." Gio said. He leaned on his cane, mostly out of habit.

"Oh, he'll still want to talk to you. Just leave this business about side stepping to me." Sansome said.

Gio shrugged. "Fair enough."

"Volkas, we need to find him. He doesn't remember who he is. We have to find him before the Pure do." For once, I let the emotions show. I generally hide what I'm feeling behind a mask of anger. Its just easier that way. People don't know what to expect. It also helps that there are a lot of things that we deal with that piss me off.. but this time, I let the worry show on my face, and color my voice. My words held just a hint of the desperation that was crawling around inside my chest, wrapping itself around my still heart. I needed to find Stepping Feather before the Pure did.

Volkas didn't know me well, but I was hoping he knew me well enough to understand. 

If the darkness could take someone like Stepping Feather, whats to stop it from taking any of us? We all danced so close to the edge. Finding Stepping Feather was about more than saving a friend.

His eyes widened, and he searched my face for just a moment. I also caught Ori's look from the corner of my eye, but I didn't turn to look at him. I think he was surprised. I suddenly felt distinctly uncomfortable, and more than a little exposed. I crossed my arms tightly over my stomach.

Volkas reached out and took Ori's hand while pulling out a large knife. He put the tip to Ori's palm, asking permission with his eyes. Ori gave a slight nod and Volkas drew the knife down his hand, splitting the skin and causing blood to well up to the surface. He let go of Ori's hand, and licked the bloody knife blade. He then took the same blade, still bloody, and cut his own hand. The blood mingled on the glinting steel, bright scarlet in the low lights of the library.

An involuntary shudder went through me as blood was spilled. I could practically taste the coppery substance in the back of my throat.

"Have any of you ever tasted his blood?" Volkas asked, serious eyes staying on my face.

I nodded, more vigorously than I meant to, trying to clear my head. "Once or twice, yeah."

He handed me the bloody knife. I hesitated, but only briefly, and also tasted the blood on the knife. The sensation shot through my body like a current of electricity. It took more self control than I was happy with to keep myself from licking the knife clean.

I looked at Volkas expectantly, knife held a little too tightly in my hand. The mask was back now. I didn't want anyone to see into my head right now. No one else would understand.

"I will need your blood." He said, nodding to the knife.

I used the blade to cut into my own palm, willing the vitae to the surface as I did, leaving a small amount on the blade as it passed through my skin. The cut was closed before the blade even left my palm. Volkas gestured to Ori with an incline of his head, and I handed the werewolf the knife.

His face was a mirror of what I felt my own looked like right about now. Grim and determined. We locked eyes, only briefly, as I handed him the hilt of the bloody weapon. A silent understanding passed between the two of us, right then. He would do anything to find his uncle. He'd crawl his way into hell itself, to save his family from the Pure.

And I'd do anything to help him.

Ori ran his tongue along the blade, eyes on mine.

Volkas took the knife back from him. "Through her memory of his blood, you will find him. Now go."

We all turned to the door and made our way out without another word. Sansome with us.

Nobody called right before we stepped out of the Library.

"Whats up Nobody?" I sadi into my cell.

"I have updates. Can you put me on speaker? Its important." His voice had an agitated edge to it that I wasn't used to hearing. I pulled everyone into a side study room, put the phone on speaker, and set it in the middle of the table.

"Go for it. Everyone is here." I said.

"Okay.. I just left the freehold. We still need to find someone to take that damn sword, but I've got no idea where to start. If any of you guys get any bright ideas, let me know." He paused, hoping for some sort of solution. But no one said a word. He sighed before continuing."I talked to Dana about the Strix.." He suddenly had much more of our collective attention. "She said that they usually follow the Julii.. but she also said that the dragons would know if the Julii were awake. They would sense it.. or something. And she says that they're still sleeping. Which means the strix should still be sleeping too. Apparently the Julii were the embodiment of Rome.. all its glory, brains, power.. and the madness near the end. Also? If all that is true.. Gaius isn't Julii. To be fair, I was thinking back on it, and he never actually said he was Julii. He just claimed the city in their name."

Holy shit.. the faery was right. Shows what I get for assuming.

"That and.. I made a promise to deal with the Strix." he paused, waiting for someone to challenge that decision.. but I just shrugged. "Fair enough. We don't want them here any more than you do.. but how exactly are we supposed to kill them?" I asked.

"We have to figure out whats bringing them here.. and kill it." Nobody said. "I talked to Donkulzon.." He was interupted by a chorus of "what the fucks?" from a couple of us around the phone.

"The dragon guy who's trying to wreck the freehold?" Gio said, incredulously.

"Yup. I didn't know it, but he's been stopping by the freehold once a week and scaring the living shit out of everyone. He's threatening to destroy it if I don't find someone to take the sword. He's also threatening to bring the Faceless King out to take it.. and I'm not really cool with that.. so we need to find someone to take this fucking sword."

The Faceless King, from what I'd been able to glean, was the fae that kidnapped Nobody as a kid.. the guy who made him into a changeling. Apparently, they didn't get along.

"But he also gave me a little bit of insight into the strix problem. He said to find an old one who could change his blood... and we'd find what was bringing the Strix."

Giovanni gave me a significant look, which I dutifully ignored. A short list of people popped into my head.. and I didn't like the conclusions I was coming too.

"The question is, did the person change their blood into that of the Julii, or was he Julii, and changed it into something else?" Giovanni asked. No one spoke up, everyone held pensive frowns. Gio tapped his cane on the wood floor. "Okay.. we need to get our priorities straight. There is the issue of Stepping Feather, the sword, and the Strix."

"The strix haven't shown themselves yet, so I don't think that should be top priority." I said.

"Agreed. We need to find Stepping Feather, first and foremost." Gio said, Ori exhaled, not needing to fight the battle he'd been ready to wage to find his uncle first.

"Awesome.. maybe I'll get to kill more werewolves!" nNobody said, voice excited.

Sansome leaned over the phone. "Have we ever told you how much we love you?"
"Hey! I've never killed a Forsaken.. and don't plan to unless you try to kill me first." Nobody said, defensively.
"There is a great thing about plans..." Sansome said in a droll tone.

There was a pause.."Gio, we need to talk, I'll meet you back at the shop." Nobody said, and disconnected the call.

I slipped the phone back in my pocket and turned to the impatiently fidgeting werewolf. "Ready to go?"

Ori just nodded once and pushed himself off the wall he'd been leaning against.

"I'm coming too." Nadi said, quietly.

We didn't argue. We'd need the help. We let Giovanni have the car, and Ori, Nadi, Becca, and myself set out to try and track down Stepping Feather


I could smell.. practically taste, his blood. Ori scented the air, melting down into his wolf form when we were free from observers, and we went to work, following a scent trail that we shouldn't have been able to follow.

After some searching, we found ourselves on the shore of the lake, in Hyde Park. I looked out over that placid water and shivered, the memory of the fear and determination of that night, and the memory of tasting the blood of a god ran through my head. The shore looked mostly undisturbed, like the battle had never even happened.

"This is where we fought Ophios. And that.." I pointed to a small pier, my nose telling me that Stepping Feather had moved in that direction. "Is where he died."

Our shoes made quiet noises on the boards of the wooden pier. Ori's paws were silent. He sniffed around the area, pausing on one of the wooden posts used to anchor small boats to the dock. It was clawed and cracked, like someones hed had been slammed into it, rather violently.

Looks like a scuffle. Ori pawed at a dark stain on the wood. It's blood, but not his. Can you see what happened? He raised his eyes, still a startling shade of blue, and looked at me expectantly. I didn't know wolves could have expectant faces.. but then, wolves couldn't usually talk straight into your head either.

I laid a hand on the broken pylon and focused.

I saw Stepping Feather, in his own wolf-shape. He stood on the pier, looking lost and confused. A noise behind him caused him to whirl, hackles raised, and a low growl trickling from his muzzle. he lunged.. but I couldn't see who the attacker was from the angle. The vision ended.

"Someone snuck up on him.. he attacked.. that's about all I got."

"Someone died here." Nadi said, looking out over the water. "But I don't think it was Stepping Feather."

I ran my hand down the drying blood on the pylon. "Yeah.. not his blood.."

Maybe he threw his body into the lake? Maybe we could find it. You uh.. don't need to breath right? He waggled wolfy- eyebrows at me.

I scowled at him. "I'm always the one who has to go dig dead people out of the fucking lake..." I might not need to breath, but that lake was fucking cold. I took off my suit jacket, my knifes, and my gun, handing the coat, sheaths, and holster to Becca. I took two steps towards the water, and paused.

Fuck it. There was no way in hell I was ruining my good suit for this bullshit. That, and I'm sure it would be a great way to make Ori feel distinctly uncomfortable.

I started unbuttoning the green silk shirt to reveal the simple black bra underneath. Ori blinked, surprised. I tossed the shirt to Becca, then stripped off the slacks too. I stood on the pier in nothing but a black bra and panties, hands on my hips. The lack of clothing really put emphasis on how deathly pale I really was. The moonlight washed out my skin even more, leaving my body to closely resemble pure white alabaster. I let my pupils expand until they filled my eyes. It probably looked more than a little unsettling.

I turned and dove into the frigid water without another word.

Have you ever swam in Lake Michigan in January? It's fucking cold. Its really fucking cold. Thankfully, I didn't have to search long. I found the body only a few yards out, the tides not yet having the time to drag him further. He was stuck in the branches of an old submerged tree, which was the only reason he hadn't been floating on the surface. I yanked him free, and drug him back up onto the shore.

Any idea who this guy is? Ori asked.

"Fuck if I know.. but.." I retrieved my cell from Becca and snapped the dead man's photo. I sent it with a message reading "recognize this asshole?" To Giovanni, and to Volkas.

Nadi was glancing between the dead body, and Ori with a pensive look on her face. "Where did you get those tattoos?" She asked him.

Sansome gave them to me after the defeat of CitySmith. Why?

I frowned at them both. "What tattoos?"

"He has silvery markings when I look at the spirit side of things.. this guy doesn't." She explained. "Do all werewolves have those?"

For one reason or another, usually.. yeah. If he doesn't, it either means he's really new.. or that he's Pure. Ori's inner voice sounded disgusted.

Just about then,  my cell buzzed.


From: Volkas

Nabil Luoma. New member of the Lex Talionis.


Gio responded with something similar a few moments later, courtesy of Sansome.

"Well, we know he was Pure.. and we also know that Stepping Feather has now run into the Lex.. I don't think thats good news." I said, thoughtfully.

But he killed one of them.. thats good.

"Yes and no.. they'll be gunning for him now, if they figure out who did it..we need to keep looking."

The other nodded silently. Nadi and Becca pushed the body out into the water again and Nadi held up a hand. The body began to quickly rot away, and after a moment, nothing was left but sludge that mingled with the gentle waves.

I grabbed my clothes from Becca, slipped my shirt back on and started buttoning.

Wait! Stop! Can you do me a favor and run down the beach for me?

I smacked him upside his furry head and was rewarded with a startled yelp. I put the clothes back on while Ori hummed the theme to Baywatch in my head.


We left the  Lake behind us and continued to follow the trail. It brought us to the meat packing district. Despite the fact that Pain of Animals was now in check.. the place still felt eerie.

We also couldn't follow the trail into the area. The scent of blood was heavy on the air, too much blood to be able to differentiate one from the other. 

Ori shifted back into his human form and glowered. "What do we do now?"

I ran a hand through my damp hair, frustrated. "I don't know."

"This way." Nadi said, and started walking.

Ori and I exchanged a look and a shrug, and followed.

"I can see the trail..a little. Its difficult, because there are a lot of different traces of spiritual energy.. but his goes this way.." She picked up the pace, and we did likewise.

She stopped about two thirds of the way from the building where we had contained the heart. "He stopped here.. circled around..."

I looked around.. frowned.. why here?.. I stared down at a puddle that had formed on the street.. and suddenly it came to me. "This was where we fought that woman made of blood.. when Roxanne showed up and helped us.."

There was no pool of blood now, not here in the real world, and according to Nadi, not in the spirit either. We moved on, relying on Nadi to guide us through the maze of worn down buildings. She paused in a narrow alleyway and looked up at a high window. "He went up there.. jumped up the walls it looks like."

I walked around the front and tried the door. It was locked. Ori was right behind me. He put a hand on my shoulder to move me out of the way, then kicked the door twice, combat boots rattling it, then splintering the lock and slamming the door against the wall.

"All better." He said with a grin, and jogged quickly up the stairs. We followed at his heels.

The room we ended up in wasn't impressive by any means. It had trash piled in the corners, a couple over turned chairs...

And a view of the entire district. It had windows on all sides, and was high enough to get a great view of the majority of the area.

"Why would he come here? Its just an empty room." Ori said, kicking a soda can across the floor.

"Sniper nest. This must have been where Davareaux was positioned during the fight." I muttered as I turned in a slow circle to take in the room. I stopped facing Nadi. "Where too next?"

She shook her head. "I can't tell. The trail ends."

Ori looked dejected. "Just.. ends?"

She nodded. I inhaled deeply, on the off chance I could catch the scent of his blood again..

But couldn't. There was too many competing smells. Too much death here. Too much blood.

But there was something else familiar..

"Hey.. do you.. do you smell that?" Ori said, sniffing the air. "Smells like... ozone? That's kinda weird."

Ozone? He was right.. That was it..

"Nadi, do you remember how to get to Marv's place?" I asked with a smirk.
She gave me a confused look. "Yes. Why would you want to go there?"
"Because we smell ozone. We always smell ozone around the Prometheans. He.. or one of them.. was here." I said.
She remained unconvinced. "How do you know it was him, though?"
My smirk faded into a frown. " I don't.. but at the moment, its all we have to go on, so I'm going to take a chance."
She stared at me for a couple heartbeats, then nodded. She led the way back down the stairs and towards the Hair of the Dog.

I texted Giovanni.

To: Gio

Going to see Marv.. he may have seen SF


From: Gio

Tell him I said thanks again.


Ori pulled up the rear. "So.. whats a Promethean?"


We stood in front of Marv's shack, in the middle of the junk yard. The yard wasn't far from the Hair of the Dog, and it continued to amaze me that he could live here, in the city, and not effect it with his disquiet. Wonders never cease.

The others looked at me expectantly. I stepped forward and knocked on the door. It opened almost immediately, but only enough for the large man to look at us, and it was not a friendly look.

"What do you want." Marv said, his voice gruff.

I decided to go with honesty. "We're friends of Giovanni Santore.. and he asked us to convey his thanks again for your help...We're looking for our friend.. Stepping Feather. We tracked him to the meat packing district.. to places his pack had been.. and lost the trail there. He doesn't know who he is..We picked up your.. or someone like you's.. scent, though. We didn't know where else to look. Have you seen him? Native American.. kinda looks like that guy.." I jerked my thumb at Ori who gave a sheepish smile and waved.

"And why should I help you?" Marv growled.

I inhaled and let out a large sigh. "I would owe you a favor.. a huge favor..other than that, I can't give you a good reason. We just want to find our friend."

He looked over my shoulder at Ori. "He visists places he recognizes.. places people he knew have been?"

Ori nodded, but said nothing.

"Then you do not need to look for him. He will seek out his blood." And Marv slammed the door in my face. I scowled at the worn wood, then turned back to the others.

"We need to go to other places he'd recognize, and places you frequent, Ori." I said as I took out my cell.

To: Gio

If you're at the shop, stay there. We think SF is going places he recognizes, and places Ori has been. Keep an eye out.


From: Gio

I'll keep my eyes open.


"Giovanni will keep an eye on the shop.. we should go to Mac's.. he was with us down in that bomb shelter before the battle with Ophios." I said.

"I think we should go to the Hair of the Dog. I frequent there a lot.. and its right down the street.." Ori suggested.

I was considering our options when my phone buzzed again.


From: Gio

He was here.. but only for an instant.. used the roof as a spring board and kept going. All I know, is that he headed East..


The only problem was that both Mac's bar and the Hair of the Dog were East of the shop.

"He was at the shop.. and he's headed in this direction. At this point, we can't afford to miss him again. Ori, you and Nadi go to the Hair of the Dog, and Becca and I will go check out Mac's. Hopefully one of us will be able to find.. and help him." I said, trying to keep a level head, trying to maintain the hope that he'd actually pause long enough for us to give him back his memories.

We parted ways, and Becca and I took off towards the Crowbar at a run. It wasn't far, but I didn't want to risk losing him again. I scented the wind and hoped that I'd be able to smell him coming...

And get to him in time to save him.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments or questions are welcomed