The sky was painted with pink as the day drew to a close. It was raining. A soft drizzle, that dripped off Caleb's hair and trickled down the back of his neck. His old leather jacket didn't do much to keep it off. Wearily, Caleb tucked his hair behind his ears again, grateful that at least his backpack was water-proof. Hunching his shoulders, Caleb continued up the pavement, dodging people with umbrellas. He ducked under a shop roof, and pulled out a scrap of paper to check it again. Yes, he had the right street. London was a new experience for him, not having ever been out of the U.S. before. International travel was not a common experience for a foster kid.
“I can't believe how much has happened in a few years” thought Caleb, smiling wryly.
He had his first girlfriend, had been shot, and had discovered the world of ghosts and the supernatural. Having friends was also a new experience. Even though he and Hanna were no longer together, he always thought fondly of her. If it wasn't for her, he would have still been living on the streets. And he would have never experienced the feeling of having friends when there was no mutual benefit. Moving away to Ravenswood had been hard. It also had plunged him into the bizarre world of the supernatural. Having a ghost as a friend was certainly a new experience, as was living in a house with a clairvoyant. He had learned enough that when they told him he was needed in London, he didn't hesitate.
“Something evil is rising” Miranda told him fearfully, looking so solid and real Caleb had to remind himself that she was dead. “I don't know why, but you are needed there.”
Carla filled in a bit more detail. “A seer has been in contact with me” she said, her old blue eyes looking worried. “Here is an address you must go to.”
“But why? What use am I there?” Caleb asked. “Can't you tell me anything else?”
Carla shook her head. “All I know is that you are needed. If you don't go, the world will be doomed.”
One look at her unsettling eyes, and there was no room for any mocking on his part. Those spooky eyes gave him the creeps, even knowing she was on his side. Caleb had learnt the hard way that her predictions were never wrong. He still marvelled at her ability to give gravity and importance to lines that belonged in a B-grade movie. Carla organised a flight, and now here he was in London, getting rained on, and looking for an address.
“Number seven” he muttered, dark eyebrows drawn together in a frown.
He looked around and saw that he needed to go further up the street. Caleb continued up the street, gradually leaving the shops and the people behind. Shops turned into flats and old terraced town-houses, looking progressively more neglected as he walked on. He passed a scrubby park, filled with tired looking trees and straggly bushes. A swing set was there, the swings themselves vanished long ago. Rusty chains still hung where they had been. Next to the park was number seven. It was a tall building, three stories high, made of old faded stone. Ivy crept up the walls, like the park was trying to assimilate the building into itself. There appeared to be only one door. It was probably painted a bright blue colour once upon a time, but the paint was now faded, and peeling in places. A tarnished brass knocker was set into the wood. Gingerly, Caleb grasped it to knock, but as soon as he touched it, the door slowly swung open, revealing a drab, well-lit hallway. Creepy houses were not unknown to Caleb, since he currently lived in one back home. He walked inside, shutting the door behind him.
“Hello?” he called.
He could see another light further up the hallway and he moved towards it, his wet trainers leaving marks on the polished wood. There didn't appear to be any doors opening into the hallway, which Caleb thought was strange. As he reached the light he could see that the hallway was opening into a large room. He left the hallway and stepped into what appeared to be a library. Directly in front of him was an arrangement of couches and armchairs, and a girl was sitting in one, watching Caleb. She was blonde, her hair caught up into a careless plait. Wispy strands had fallen out and were touching her brown cheeks. She looked up at him and smiled, and Caleb realised that her pale blue eyes were just as unsettling as Carla's ones back home. She looked to be around 19, a similar age to Caleb, but her eyes looked older. He glanced around quickly as he moved towards her, his street instincts automatically checking for exits, and scoping out the room. Every wall he could see was covered with books, the shelves going up to the ceiling. He saw a ladder attached to the shelves on one of the walls. There were stairs to his left, spiralling up to another floor. The girl stood as he approached, holding out her hand in greeting.
“Welcome Caleb. I am Cassie” she said softly.
She was dressed simply in a blue tunic dress and stockings. Caleb dropped his backpack on the floor, and reached forward to shake.
“Hi. Um, are you the one who wanted me here?”
Cassie motioned to the armchair opposite her, and they both sat, Caleb hoping he wouldn't drip on it too much. He noticed that the air in here seemed warm and dry. His hair wasn't dripping quite as much now.
“Yes. I contacted your friends and bid them send you. Thankfully they pay the proper attention to visions.”
“Are you the seer?” Caleb asked.
Cassie nodded. “There are more of us, but I am the one tasked with this. We have been around a long time.” She gestured around. “This is our library. We collect and store what knowledge we can, and have been doing so for hundreds of years.”
“So why do you need me?” Caleb said. “My friend said something evil was stirring?”
Cassie nodded. “Yes. I am waiting for the others before I explain.”
Cassie waved at the stairs. “Why don't you go upstairs, get some dry clothes on. There's food and drink upstairs too, and spare bedrooms if you want to rest. The others will be arriving here at midnight, and I will explain everything then.”
Caleb sighed. He didn't imagine arguing would get him anywhere, so he firmly quashed his impatience, picked up his backpack, and headed upstairs. He could do with some coffee and dry clothes.
As the last ray of sunlight faded from the sky, Henry's eyes snapped open and he sat up in his large bed, pulling back the red satin covers. Running a hand through his long tousled curls, he padded naked over to his apartment window and stared out at the night. His penthouse apartment had a great view of London, though it was somewhat marred by the constant drizzling rain. He hadn't missed London's weather. It still felt strange, coming back to the London after a century away. His time in Canada had been very enjoyable, mostly due to a certain stubborn private investigator called Vicki. Enjoyable and frustrating, he reminded himself. Despite her undeniable attraction to him, in the end she had chosen Mike, the boring human policeman.
Henry, the immortal Duke of Richmond, was not used to being someone's second choice, and it had hurt. He arranged a move to London, wanting to be both far away from Vicki, and feeling a desire to reconnect with his old homeland. It had taken a while, but he was finally settling into a pleasant routine here. He especially enjoyed the theatre scene, and had formed some friendships with the theatre students that attended the local Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. No one whom he trusted with his secret yet, but he was enjoying following the careers of two particular students, Benedict and Thomas. Henry sensed that they would make quite an impact on the world when they graduated. For now, he was enjoying being their unofficial patron.
Checking his watch, he walked to his built-in to choose some clothes. He had time before meeting the seer, but he wasn't in the mood to work on his latest graphic novel. He'd go see a play tonight and pick up a snack on the way. He was meeting the seer reluctantly, at 11.30pm. Now that Vicki wasn't around, he preferred to stay out of supernatural battles and keep a low profile. His generous lips quirked as he recalled the strange normality of the seer calling him on his phone. Difficult to give a vampire visions he suspected, as he didn't dream.
“I need your help” she had said, then whispered a name.
Henry hadn't heard that name for almost a century, and his heart sank. He thought last time had been the end of it, but he should have known better. Henry and demons had a long history, none of it good. But he couldn't walk away from this. He dressed in a wine-red button-up shirt and black pants. He slipped his rosary into his pocket, and slung his long black trench-coat across his shoulders. Black boots completed his ensemble, and he checked his hair in the mirror, smiling at the handsome image he made.
His blue eyes bled to black and he could feel his fangs trying to come down. Henry needed that snack sooner than later. Heading for the lift, he decided to spend his remaining time at a club and skip the theatre. It was child's play to charm someone and take a sip from their neck while dancing in the darkness, and he felt like taking his time with his food tonight.
Tom and Ben
Ben and Tom stood on the stage, wearing casual attire- sweat pants and tight fitting t-shirts. They made a pretty picture, Tom's tight blonde curls next to Ben's dark hair, which would be curly if it wasn't cut short. Both men were tall and lean, though Ben showed just a little more muscle. Behind them, stage hands crouched while painting a backdrop. A scattering of people lounged in the audience seating, reading their scripts, mouthing words silently to themselves. An older man dressed simply in jeans and a t-shirt watched the stage, occasionally glancing at the sheaf of papers in his hand and making a note.
Tom ran a quick hand through his hair, green eyes looking haunted, and continued speaking to Ben. “To quit him with his arm? And is't not to be damn'd to let this canker of our nature come in further evil?”
Ben's face, which had been showing shock, now looked thoughtful. “It must be shortly known to him from England what is the issue of the business there.”
“It will be short: the interim is mine; and a man's life's no more than to say 'one'. But I am very sorry, good Horatio, that to Laertes I forgot myself; for, by the image of my cause, I see the portraiture of his: I'll court his favours: but, sure, the bravery of his grief did put me into a towering passion.”
“Alright, we'll leave it there guys!” said the older man authoritatively from the seats. “Great work everyone, keep learning your lines over the weekend and we'll take this up again next week.” He looked up at Tom and Ben. “Going great up there, I'm really liking the way you've paced this scene. Tom, next week I want to hear your thoughts on Hamlet's motivations in the first acts. Ben, I want you to think about Horatio's relationship with Hamlet, and how it affects his relationships with the other characters.”
He collected his bag, and left the theatre. Tom and Ben nodded, lightly jumping off the stage and collecting their coats. Ben headed for the loose group of other actors as they collected up their pages and coats, slinging his scarf around his neck.
“How's it going?” he grinned, helping Mark pick up the pages he dropped. Mark mock-groaned.
“I'm never going to learn these lines Ben! Why on earth did I audition for Laertes?”.
“Because you're a glutton for punishment. Don't worry, I'll make you look good!” Ben retorted cheekily.
Mark smacked Ben gently on the nose with his papers. “Whatever pretty boy. We're all going out for a late drink, want to join? We might hit a club after.”
Ben opened his mouth to agree, then stopped. Well that was weird. Usually he was all for a night clubbing, he and Tom were none too shabby on the dance floor. He was blessed with Tom for a flatmate, they liked similar activities, and there was always someone at hand to run through lines with. Being in Hamlet together was going to help enormously. Mark was waiting on an answer, but strangely enough, Ben wanted to say no. He suddenly had the urge to go walk around London for a bit. He took an internal check. Was he just tired out from being social? Nope. Huh.
“Um, rain-check?” Ben replied, still feeling weird. “Not quite in the mood.”
Mark shrugged. “Sure. See you on Monday then.”
He joined the group and they left the theatre along with the stage hands, chattering and laughing.
Tom quickly scribbled down the director's “homework” for the weekend on his script, along with a few notes and questions that had come up. He was feeling quite excited about getting his acting teeth stuck into Hamlet, it was a favourite play of his. Well, anything by Shakespeare was on his favourite list, but the troubled Prince of Denmark was a fascinating character, one that Tom was looking forward to exploring further. This was his second year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and he was enjoying his time immensely. His parents were still unconvinced about his career choice, they would have preferred he'd pursue a more lucrative line of work. That was something he and Ben had in common. But he knew that this was where he needed to be. Acting was his passion, and he was never going to give that up. Exploring human frailties and portraying their stories was endlessly fascinating.
Tom checked his watch. 11.00, rehearsals had gone late tonight. Not that he minded. He glanced over to the group of actors, Laci met his eye and made her way over.
“You up for some dancing tonight Tom?” she asked.
“Um...” Tom was going to say yes (of course, he loved to dance) but suddenly he felt reluctant. “Thanks for the invitation darling, but I'm not feeling in the mood tonight.”
Laci shrugged. “That's fine. You know where we'll be if you change your mind.”
She shot him a grin and moved to join the group of actors heading out of the theatre. Ben glanced over at Tom, saw him engaging with Laci, and smiled to himself. He could never decide whether Tom was innocently unaware of his charisma or whether he did know, and had fun playing the innocent. So far Tom seemed content to be friends with everyone, nothing more. Ben could understand that, he did a similar thing. Though he did enjoy flirting. He walked over to Tom.
“Not in the mood for dancing either?” he commented.
Tom shook his head. “No. This will sound strange, but I feel like taking a long walk around London.”
“I feel the same way, I can't explain it either.”
Tom smiled, and struck a dramatic pose. “Let's do it then. Explore her streets in the cover of darkness, and discover the quality of her soul.”
“No one will ever guess you're an actor!” Ben laughed, rolling his eyes.
Tom chuckled back and finished buttoning up his long coat. He glanced at the stage and saw there was one guy left, painting the set.
“You'll lock up then, Harry?” he asked.
Harry nodded, and the two men left the theatre. It was was still drizzling outside, Tom and Ben were glad they had their coats. They started walking, neither of them making a decision on where to go, but they felt somehow, that their walking had a purpose.
Amy and Sophie
The club was full tonight. Amy guessed that it was the guest DJ, he seemed to have quite a following. As the night went on, his set changed to heavy industrial. Amy liked it, but shooting a glance at her friend and flatmate Sophie, she decided to call it a night. Sophie's face was a tense mask, and had become so ever since the club became more and more crowded. Amy grabbed her hand, caught her eyes, and tilted her head towards the exit. Sophie nodded, her hazel eyes looking relieved, and they both pushed their way out, grabbing their coats from the coat check girl as they passed. Once outside in the cool air they leant against the wall under the shop awning, protected from the rain.
“Thanks” said Sophie quietly. “I was having a good time, it was just getting late and it was so crowded...”
“No worries!” Amy replied cheerfully. “I was getting ready to call it a night anyhow.”
She actually meant that. She suddenly felt a need to get away from all the people and go for a walk. Weird. Amy looked over at Sophie and silently gave thanks to the gods of share houses. When she put up the notice in the history department offices for someone to share her flat, she never thought she would get so lucky. Sophie was also from Australia, and they both worked in the history department at University College London. It was great having another Aussie to share experiences with. After all, that was why they had both taken the job- to experience living in another country. Amy could still remember her mother's shock over the telephone at the news.
“But, but you'll be in a foreign country, all alone- how will you cope?”
“I'll cope just fine Mum” Amy had replied, exasperated. “Besides, we originally came from England, right? I'm just exploring my roots.”
Sophie's mother had a similar reaction Amy recalled, smiling to herself. Just because her new friend was a little shy and reserved, did not mean she couldn't take care of herself. Though Amy suspected that Sophie's family hadn't ever given her much of a chance to do that. Which was a shame, as Sophie was a gifted researcher, and frequently in demand from the tenured professors. Amy liked research, but enjoyed teaching and lecturing more. It was fun encouraging students, and showing them how interesting history was. Medieval Europe was Amy's particular field of interest, and she had fun thinking up reasons to show clips from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in her lectures. It had been an intense week of reading and marking assignments, and she had been ready to let loose and relax at the club tonight.
Sophie looked down at the tight red dress she was wearing, highlighting her curves, and hurried to put on her black coat. “How on earth did you talk me into this dress?” she muttered.
Amy grinned. “Well as I recall, it took a couple of glasses of wine, and you remarking that you wanted to try something a little different. You look great, you know. I'm glad you left your curls out instead of straightening them like you do at work.”
Sophie sighed. “I guess. I'm just glad I took a long coat.”
She finished doing up the buttons, and felt relieved as she went back to being nondescript. Well, except for her dark curls. There was a reason she usually straightened them.
“Sadly, Ben wasn't there to see you in that tonight” Amy teased gently.
Sophie stuck out her tongue. “And Tom wasn't there to notice you, either.”
Amy shrugged and said self-deprecatingly. “He'll only end up as a friend, they all do. Be friends with me, go out with the skinnier girls half my size.” She smiled mischievously, and added “They don't know what they're missing!”
The girl's choice of club was no accident, they knew it was a frequent hang out of the drama student crowd. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) shared a street with UCL, and as part of the university staff, the girls were able to access discounted tickets for all of the RADA performances. They enjoyed seeing the plays, and particularly liked watching a couple of students called Ben and Tom. The boys were fantastic actors, and were well-liked off stage too. Sophie and Amy hadn't progressed past basic introductions and small talk yet, but they hoped they would.
Well Amy hoped, Sophie was just happy that Ben knew her name. She didn't expect it to progress any further. There were much prettier girls in his drama classes. Sophie studied her friend, who was absorbed in pinning her sweaty bright blue hair with purple streaks out of her round face. Her blue/green eyes were narrowed and staring into space as she concentrated. She wore a short black layered chiffon skirt, which stuck out like a little tutu. Her top was the same colour purple as her hair, and had a glittery sheen. On her feet she wore black converse, decorated with blue and purple swirls of glitter paint. Sophie smiled to herself. She thought Amy looked like a punk pre-school teacher, in a good way. She liked how Amy dealt with her differences by showing them off. She wondered how long it had taken her to get to that point growing up.
She had taken a while to pluck up her courage and answer Amy's ad for a flatmate, but she was so glad she did. For all Amy's cheerfulness and energy, she was a remarkably considerate person to live with. She seemed to understand that Sophie needed time to herself, and often nights were spent reading next to each other on the couch, without saying a word. Amy had finished with her hair, and was now doing up the buttons on her wine-red long coat. She had never met a colour she didn't like.
She turned to Sophie. “This sounds weird, but I feel like walking for a bit.”
Sophie looked interested. “Huh, me too. At least we have the shoes for it.”
Amy shuddered. “You'll never get me into a pair of heels, ever.”
The girls proceeded up the street, meandering up side lanes and across roads with no particular destination in mind.
Henry left the club, feeling satisfied. He'd spread out his meal over a couple of humans, a girl and a boy, using his mind powers as usual to make sure that all they remembered was a sultry dance with an attractive man. Now to business. Once he passed the main crowd of humans, he sped up, keeping to the shadows, and stopped outside the address the seer gave him in record time.
He put his hand to the door knocker, and the door creaked open. Henry raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow. Looks like this seer had other powers apart from her visions. A spell keyed to him? Or one keyed to a certain type of person? Interesting. He walked carefully over the threshold, and glided quietly down the hallway. Soon he entered a living room area, surrounded by walls of books. Henry perked up at the sight of all the books, but kept his attention focused on the two humans currently occupying the armchairs.
There was a boy here, face turned to the laptop he balanced on his knees. He was pretty, with warm brown eyes under strong eyebrows, and chocolate brown hair that fell untidily around his face in a jaw-length bob. Henry wondered what part the boy had in all this. He looked to the other human, whom he suspected was the seer he came to meet. She stood up at his approach, blonde hair caught up in a loose side plait, and watched him with her unsettling blue eyes.
“I am here, as you requested” said Henry cautiously, inclining his head to her.
The boy jumped and nearly dropped his laptop. Henry met his gaze and smiled seductively. The boy's face changed quickly from shock to wariness, warm brown eyes growing cold. Ah. Not an innocent, Henry thought. That face had seen hard times, and harder people.
“Thank you for coming” the girl said softly. “I am Cassandra.” Henry looked inquiringly at the boy.
Henry smiled at him. “And I am Henry Fitzroy.”
Caleb looked unimpressed. Henry used his gaze to catch Caleb's eyes, and showed in his eyes his sincere appreciation of the boy's beauty. Caleb looked down, shifting uneasily. Henry smiled to himself, and turned his attention to Cassandra. It was a little petty, teasing the boy so, but Henry was feeling uncomfortable around the seer, and teasing always made him feel better.
“Are you sure about what you saw?” Henry asked.
Cassandra nodded. “Yes. Akuzaal will try to rise again.”
Henry suppressed a shiver. He did not like demons. He did not like being mixed up in demon business. It had a low survival rate, and Henry was all about survival.
“Who is Akuzaal? Are you finally going to explain what's going on, why you need me here?” Caleb burst out impatiently.
Cassandra nodded, and checked her watch. “In five minutes, the others will arrive, and I will explain everything” she said softly.
Caleb groaned, and leant back in the armchair. “You keep teasing, and you don't deliver.”
Henry chuckled, and Caleb pointed a finger. “Don't even start.” His lips quirked into a reluctant grin. “So who are you exactly, Henry? Can I at least know that?”
Henry was impressed. Caleb said who, but his tone said what. An observant young man. An American, so Henry's name didn't seem to be ringing a historical bell. If Cassandra was including him in the demon problem, he should probably come clean to Caleb about what he was. If Caleb reacted badly he could just alter his memory later. Given his reaction to Henry's gaze, Henry was confident that Caleb's mind would be susceptible. Thankfully there weren't many humans like Vicki. Henry decided to come right to the point. It would prove entertaining, since he hadn't done that for a long time.
“Certainly” Henry purred. “I am a vampire.”
Caleb's face was a study in astonishment. Comically so. He jumped up from his seat, laptop falling to the floor rug. He ran a distracted hand through his hair, staring at Henry. He started to grin, then as he noticed that Cassandra showed no signs of surprise, his face turned thoughtful.
“Prove it then!” he challenged.
Henry laughed delightedly. In a heartbeat, he was suddenly in front of Caleb, grasping the boy's upper arms and lifting him gently into the air. His eyes bled to black, and he smiled, showing his fangs.
“Is that sufficient?” Henry inquired.
Caleb gulped, and Henry could smell his fear. It was intoxicating, but Henry had learned to control himself many decades ago. He lowered the boy to the floor, and carefully took a step back. He picked up Caleb's laptop and placed it on the seat. He let his eyes bleed back to blue, and retracted his fangs. Caleb lifted the laptop with shaking hands, and sat down. Henry seated himself in a chair opposite.
“Ok. Well, I guess I did ask you to prove it. So, are you um, good?”
Henry smiled, impressed again at Caleb's acceptance. Most humans would have twisted themselves in knots trying to explain away what they just saw.
“How would you classify good, Caleb? I'm very good at some things.” He let the heat rise in his gaze so Caleb was made quite aware of what sort of thing he was good at. “If you mean do I kill humans, not as a rule. I'm perfectly capable of taking what I need without harming anyone. In fact, they tend to enjoy it.”
Amy and Sophie
The girls' coats were slowly getting soaked through as they continued to walk. They were starting to feel as though they were headed somewhere in particular, strangely. The road was getting dark, dimly lit by street lights that had seen better days.
“Hey, can you hear voices?” Amy suddenly said.
The girls had been walking up a deserted street for a little while, and could see an old park. Two tall figures walked out of the park talking, and then they heard a very familiar laugh.
“That sounds like Tom” Amy said. “I'd know that laugh anywhere.” She cupped her hands and yelled “Hey! Tom?”
The two figures stopped and looked behind them. There was a startled exclamation, and they turned and headed for the two girls. As they got closer, stepping under the street light, the girls recognised them.
“You're right, and oh that's Ben!” Sophie said breathlessly. She wished her hair wasn't such a mess. The boys walked back to join them, looking surprised.
“Hi Amy and Sophie, right?” Tom said.
He thought he remembered Henry introducing them after their performance in Othello last week. Amy and her hair were hard to forget. They seemed to be regular attendees at the RADA theatre.
“Yeah!” Amy smiled. “Fancy seeing you guys here.” She looked around. “Though I'm not quite sure where 'here' is.”
“Yeah, me neither.” Ben agreed.
He noticed Sophie shivering, whipped off his scarf and slung it gently around her neck.
“Here. You look cold.”
Startled, Sophie met his eyes, colour blooming in her cheeks. Ben looked into her eyes, blushed and was suddenly lost for words. Why hadn't he noticed Sophie's eyes before? They were amazing. A colour the rich brown of well-steeped tea wrapped around her pupil. It radiated out like a starburst, bleeding into flecks of yellow and green, which in their turn were circled by a ring of smoky brown. He could get lost in those eyes. Being speechless around a girl was a new experience for him. Usually it was easy for him to put on his charming persona. Sophie made him feel nervous.
Tom smirked at Ben. It looked like Ben had finally met a girl that made him tongue-tied. He snuck a glance at Amy. She was watching Sophie with a smirk of her own. He wondered if he'd get a chance to know Amy better. He still remembered her from their brief meeting last week, not just because of her hair, but of the way she carried herself. She had an innate confidence in her interactions with him that he found very attractive.
“So, what brings you lovely ladies to this place?” Tom asked.
They all started walking again without really thinking about it. Amy hesitated.
“This is going to sound weird. But I just felt like walking all of a sudden. So did Sophie. So we did, and eventually we ended up here.”
They passed the park and stopped in front of a tall three storey building with ivy growing up its stone walls. Tom and Ben looked at each other in surprise.
“Er, so did we” said Ben. “After rehearsals. We just wandered around and ended up here. And I feel quite strongly that I need to go inside this building.”
They all looked nervously at the front door, faded blue paint peeling, the brass of the door-knocker old and tarnished.
“I think we all feel that way, don't we?” Amy looked at Tom and Sophie inquiringly. They nodded.
Ben shrugged. “Let's do it then, and find out what is going on.”