Family Secrets III
By H. M. Garber
After the incident at the club, Viktor and Brent went outside as little as possible. Brent tipped the blood bag, and chased the rest of the stale drops with his tongue.
“Brent, I put this meeting off until you were more trained and ready to stand on your own, but they want to meet you now. Remember, you never deny a Zarka. Any Zarka.” Viktor tossed an embossed letter and envelope in front of Brent.
“But, Viktor, who are they?” Brent asked. He licked his lips and eyed the letter, expecting it to bite.
“The Zarka Family is much older than even I am. They run the city by having contacts and interests in all businesses and civic centers of the city. They follow old world values in their relationship and partnership dealings. Their highest concern is family honor. They are also insane.” Viktor sat across from Brent and used a cloth to wipe the blood from Brent cheeks.
“That doesn’t tell me much. How does any of this affect me?” Brent pressed.
“They make the rules that all Vampyr must follow in Prague. The penalty for breaking the rules is death. I am the Enforcer for the family. When I discover the rules are broken, I deliver that death.” Viktor sighed and threw the cloth down.
“What rule was broken at the club? When you killed that punk vampire?” Brent shivered and touched his still bruised neck. It was nearly healed because of the vampire he was, but the other young vamp was not so lucky.
“They tried to take my childe. They wanted to harm my family. I think the Zarkas will want to discuss that incident with us, but you never know. They are insane.”
“How do I know when I’ve broken any rules? You never told me what they are.” Brent eyed Viktor. Would he kill his own family?
“I tutor you, Brent. The rules are common sense. Don’t hurt any Vampyr, don’t expose yourself to humans and always ask permission when you want to make a childe of your own.” Finally Viktor smiled warmly, “You never broke any rule, and you did not even know what they were. You are the perfect childe.”
Viktor and Brent traveled at top speed to the Zarka mansion. Brent practiced running with celerity. He discovered joy in the wind stinging his face while the rest of the scenery blurred. When they arrived at the gate of the Gothic mansion Viktor rung an old fashioned gong. Brent studied his new surroundings.
He noticed the red eyes first. The massive black Doberman Pincers that guarded looked intimidating but their red eyes gave away their true nature. Unnaturally still, they watched Brent and Viktor walk through the imposing wrought iron gates. Brent kept Viktor between him and the animals. His maker proved himself time and again to be the only thing standing between Brent and the cruel reality he now lived in. Viktor stared ahead, impassive and stoic.
Walking down the brick and stone corridor Brent noticed the eerie lighting. Shadows bounced off the walls and flickered around the halls and antechamber. Torches lined the walls and reminded Brent of halls leading to medieval torture chambers. He glanced nervously at Viktor.
‘Torches?’ Brent thought.
‘The Zarkas use primitive technology whenever possible’ Viktor sent back but was interrupted by a light voice.
“Viktor. I knew you couldn’t resist me. And you brought your child. Let me look at him.” Piercing violet eyes examined him like a predator watched its prey. Her pale skin contrasted glossy dark hair. She would be stunning in any other instance, but Brent knew the evaluation started and if he failed, well he didn’t want to think about that.
“Lida, I had Isabelle’s permission to procreate. I did not need yours.” Viktor’s voice was carefully polite even if his words were less than friendly.
“Of course you did. You make certain others uphold the rules. You would never take advantage of your position with my family. You wouldn’t take advantage of me. Even when I wanted you too.” Lida smiled at Brent like she was sharing a joke with him.
“We ended a long time ago. Before your family came to power, Lida.” Viktor’s words remained polite, but Brent sensed an underlying tension.
Brent looked forward when Lida circled around him. He felt her hand brush his shoulder and slide down the middle of his back.
“We can start again, Viktor. I have a new ghoul. They can play together while we are preoccupied.” She rounded in front of Brent and her next smile showed a bit of fang.
“Lida, I’m not interested in renewing…” Viktor began than petered off when he heard the soft voice.
“Lida, you called me?” The same dark eyeliner and the familiar dark clothing, were Brent’s first thoughts. The second thought was ‘I’m taller than she is.’ “Brent?”
“Robyn? How? Why?” He stepped forward and touched her cheek, expecting her to disappear.
“I knew you weren’t dead. I knew it.” She kept repeating as she threw herself into his arms.
“Lida, what have you done?” Viktor growled.
“She’s sweet, isn’t she? Like your childe. I found her while Roland was feeding from her. He’s so unhappy with you and your new boy. He kept thinking that killing this girl would be good revenge because you cared about her. What did you do, Viktor?”
“Roland’s mate, Christoff threatened Brent physically. I asked him to stop but he did not so I ended him. That is my job.” Viktor only covered the pertinent points.
“How do you know my ghoul?”
“I do not. Brent knows her.” Viktor glanced at the embracing couple.
“I ghouled her because she is important to you. Now she has my protection. No one will touch her. I did this to prove that I am still the woman you fell in love with before I became Vampyr.” Lida stepped close to Viktor and ran her hand up his arm.
“Your embrace changed everything, Lida. You did not do Robyn any favors by bringing her into your family.”
“I saved her for you.” Desperation tinged her voice. “I still love you.”
“Lida. Can I take a walk with Brent?” Robyn softly asked.
“Of course. Keep to the hallways” Lida simply stared at Viktor as Robyn dragged Brent down the hall.
Portraits of stern looking men and women seemed to follow Brent with their eyes. The torch light made the rich colors and peeling paint and wall hangings appear old and creepy. Flickering light shadowed the recessed doorways they passed. All the doors were closed. The effect was like a haunted house, but for real. They walked in silence until Robyn stopped by a bench and forced Brent to sit.
“I’m not used to looking up at you, yet.” She smiled then sat next to him.
“How are you here? How did you find me? I’m dead to everyone in the states.”
“I just knew that you weren’t dead. I remember watching you get bit. Many of my friends were into vampires and witches, but I didn’t believe any of it until I saw what happened to you.” Robyn began.
“It’s not safe here for you. Yes I’m a vampire now, but that means that I can protect myself. Sorta. You already met Roland. He scares the hell out of me. Wait how did you meet Roland again?” Brent looked worried. For Robyn to be here, in the house of the Vampires that run the city, her situation must be dangerous and desperate.
“I didn’t believe Aunt Agnes when she said you were dead, so I sold all my belongings and bought a ticket to the Czech Republic. I remember Aunt Agnes telling me a distant relative lived in Prague, but never came to visit. Then at the very last minute, he shows up and takes you away. I had to follow.” Robyn kept squeezing his bicep and resting her head on his shoulder.
“But I never even met the Zarkas before today. How did this Lida know you were important to me? Did she bite you?”
“She didn’t, but someone did.” Robyn just squeezed Brent’s arm again.
“Who bit you, Robyn? What happened?”
“I spend most of my time casing clubs and underground raves looking for you. I only know a little Czech but this man piped English into my head. He read my mind and found out that I was looking for you. He thought something quick like ‘She wants him, I’ll punish him by killing her, like he killed my Christoff.’ Then he grabbed me and bit my neck so fast I couldn’t do anything until he was pulled off me. Lida saved me.” Robyn shuddered.
“What did he look like?”
“He wasn’t tall and hair was blond and spiky.”
“Roland. That bastard!”
“Who is Roland?”
“He can’t have you.” Brent hugged her closer.
“Lida made me drink her blood. She said I lost a lot and should replenish it. She also said I was under her protection so I didn’t have to worry about that guy anymore.”
Brent put his hand on Robyn’s chest and felt movement.
“Moving a little fast, Brent.” Robyn moved his hand away, but Brent was satisfied she was still human. Her heart beat stronger and faster the longer he kept his hand on her.
“How long ago was the attack? Did Lida say why she helped you?”
“The attack was a few days ago. She said she knew you and helped me out because of you. Is she your friend? You said you didn’t know her.”
“Viktor knows her. They used to date or something. I guess she’s sweet on him and I’m his family.” Brent only knew the Zarka’s place in running the city. He didn’t know any personal information about them. For instance how large the family was or how Viktor gained his position as enforcer. Was he a Zarka? Did they embrace him? Was Brent related to them?
Crunch, crack, slurp, Crunch
“What is that?” Brent asked. He knew vampires fed, but only blood. And the liquid was not crunchy. The noise came from a closed door off to their right across the hall from them.
“I don’t know. I normally keep to our rooms. This place is huge.” Robyn looked at the door and shivered. “They do have dogs, you know.”
“I saw them when we walked in. Maybe it’s feeding time for them.” Brent suggested them heard the distinct moan of a woman.
“There not…” Robyn began.
“Let’s find out.” Brent crept closer and listened. He leaned against the door and it moved inward. Brent stumbled and what he saw burned his retinas.
A woman who looked like Lida was sucking, biting and crunching on the wrist bone of a woman who looked like she was having an intense orgasm. Lida threw a finger to a waiting red eyes dog who wagged his tail and leaped at it.
“Lida!” Robyn screamed. “Stop, stop hurting her!”
Lida looked up and snarled at the two interlopers.
Brent put Robyn behind him but he knew he was out of his depth.
‘Viktor. I think we are in trouble.’ Brent thought to his cousin.
“Back out of the room, Brent. Slowly.” Lida’s voice commanded.
Confused. Brent did as he was told.
“Sorry for the interruption, Lena. Please continue.” Lida shut the door.
“Brent.” Viktor ran his hands all over Brent assuring himself that he was unharmed. “Lida, I apologize for my childe. He is curious and caused no harm.”
“He is yours Viktor. I know you raise him right. I also know that his visit to us is premature. He does not yet understand everything he sees.” Lida smiled at him.
“That woman…” Brent started.
“Is Lena’s ghoul.” Lida finished.
“Her hand.” Brent whispered.
“Will grow back. She’s a ghoul, Brent. Usually we feed off of death row inmates, but Lena was traveling and we didn’t have one set up for her.”
“Her hand was gone. Eaten off. Will I have to do that?” Brent’s felt sick just thinking about it.
“No Brent.” Viktor answered. “Eating the flesh is a trait inherited through the Zarka family line. We are not part of that line so we just drink blood.”
“That woman looked like she was enjoying getting eaten. Bizarre.” Brent said.
“She was in a trance. Caro adores Lena.” Lida answered.
Brent looked at Robyn. “Has Lida ever…” He glanced at her hands. “Are you going to embrace Robyn?” Brent shifted his uneasy gaze to Lida.
“Lida, I must apologize again…” Viktor began.
“It’s fine, Viktor. He loves her. I will forgive it this time.” Lida said. “I helped her for Viktor. I knew she wanted to find you. I now know you share deep feelings. I don’t have any plans to embrace her today.” Both fangs peeked out of her smile.
“But…” Brent stepped closer to Robyn.
“I think it’s time to go.” Viktor put his hand on Brent’s shoulder.
“Can Robyn come with us?” Brent finally remembered he was supposed to ask.
“She must stay here, Brent. She’s Lida’s ghoul.” Viktor said.
“How gallant he is, Viktor. We should get our ghouls together again. How about we go feeding together. Like old times. I will eat in, of course.” Lida suggested.
“We can meet at Raven’s in two days.” Viktor said.