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Bitter Blood

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“You bloody turkey!” An Etruscan amphora shattered against the Chamber of Judgement’s far wall, narrowly to the left of Nandor’s head.

“Nadja!” He blurted, less in shock than in offence. “Is that how you treat your co-supreme-leader?”


“This is how I treat a pissing ponce!” Grasping the gilded paperweight to her left, Nadja catapulted it towards him, firmly lodging it in the marble column.


“Now, now, my love,” Laslow began, rising from the chaise longue.


“Now nothing! Stupid men! As supreme leader, I command that you shut the fuck up.”


“Duly noted, my dear.” With a curt bow, Laslow lowered himself back into his seat next to Collin Robinson. “Between you and I,” he said, leaning towards the energy vampire, “I’m downright horned up right now.” To which, Collin shifted further away.


Nandor cleared his throat. “Are we finished here? We have very much work to be doing,” he said, clasping his hands, “besides throwing things at one another.”


“No,” Nadja snapped, “we are not done here! I refuse to do the shit works. I am the supreme-fucking-leader, damn it!”


“We are the supreme-fucking-leader,” Nandor corrected before flinching as Nadja hissed, pawing the desk for another projectile.


“We,” she gritted from between clenched fangs, “will not stoop to playing fetch like a little doggy.”


Nandor sighed, rolling his eyes. “Fine. Guillermo! Go to the library and fetch the treatise of 1986!”


Guillermo, who had up to that point been enjoying their bickering, was summoned back to reality. “Huh?” He blinked. “I’m your bodyguard. How am I supposed to bodyguard you guys from the library?”


Again, Nandor rolled his eyes. “Well, I don’t know, Guillermo. Hurry along now, please. We do not have the whole day!”


“No, no,” Nadja interjected, “why should your little minion be tasked with this duty? No way babes. Guide!”


Guillermo’s mouth thinned. “Minion?”


Ignoring him, Nadja clapped her hands, summoning a swirling maelstrom of smoke from the upper vent. As it pooled before her, the smoke materialised into the Guide, her black robes manifesting from the smog.


Curtsying, the Guide looked up through her eyelashes to Nadja. “Yes, my most unholy supreme leader?”


“Go and fetch the treatise of 1986 from the library, if you’d please darling,” Nadja said, gesturing flippantly to the door.


The Guide’s terse smile thinned. “Of course,” she gritted out, “supreme-leader.” As she stood to her full height, she nodded in acknowledgement to Nandor before turning to Guillermo, giving him a coy wink. He spluttered, eyes wide in a sort of panicked embarrassment.


Nandor held up his hand. “No! Guillermo shall be the one to collect the treatise, won’t you Guillermo? Shoo, shoo, off with you,” he said, hurrying Guillermo to the door.


“Master, I–”


“Nonsense,” Nandor tutted fondly, “I’m not your master.” He smiled. “Also don’t disobey me. Off you go!”


Nadja’s eyes widened in anger and her nostrils flared. “Guide!” She commanded, “hurry! Get it before him! Go!”


With one last perfunctory curtsey, the Guide drifted seamlessly toward the library door. Casting a frantic look to Nandor, who in turn gestured for him to follow, Guillermo huffed and hurriedly jogged after the Guide, still exasperated at being assigned Nadja’s ‘shitworks.’


***


“Wait up!” Guillermo called out ahead down the door corridor, almost out of breath. “Wait a sec!”


“Hmm?” The Guide hummed, feigning not having heard him. Raising her eyebrows, she eyed Guillermo deliberately, making him shift under her gaze.


“Uh,” he began, trying to avoid meeting her gaze, “Just – maybe it would be quicker if we both looked for it together, you know? Save some time?” He smiled, shrugging his shoulders amicably.


Her smile widened into a toothy grin. “But of course.” Her eyes flashed, with what Guillermo wasn’t sure. “What vampire in her right mind could overlook such a tempting offer?”


Guillermo gulped, his gaze flitted around nervously, as if looking for an exit strategy.
Again, she smiled. “Follow me.” She held out her hand. Guillermo regarded it, recoiling unconsciously, to which she laughed. “If you dare, that is,” she said, her voice lowering into a deep cackle.


That she knew, and delighted in, his discomfort did nothing to cushion to his unease. Pawing the stake riveted to his hip, Guillermo took a calming breath, hoping to at least give the illusion of composure, and cursorily followed her into the depths of the library.
Inside, as the labyrinth of emerald bookshelves unfurled before them, the magnitude of their task of locating a single manuscript amid the centuries-old collection grew ever more daunting.


Guillermo paled, despite himself, and his breathing became shallow. “Oh, God.”


The Guide cleared her throat. “Do not fret yourself, mortal,” she cooed, “there is nothing to fear, if I am at your side,” again, she winked, “and your service.”


Guillermo’s patience was thinning. “No!” He took a step back, laughing nervously to diffuse any tension. “No, uh, I think we should split up. Pull the Ol’ Scooby-Doo, huh?” He smiled good-naturedly, if only to show that he was not intimidated.


“Oh, no.” The Guide shook her head, undeterred. “What’s the fun in that, hm?” Gesturing come hither with her index finger, the Guide floated backwards between a narrow gap in the stacks.


Guillermo bit his lip, steadying himself, torn at once between the quasi-inane reflex to obey his master and the impulse to run headlong from a woman who wanted to devour him, be that literally or otherwise.


Swallowing his fear, Guillermo tightened his fist and marched resolutely forward after the Guide, who smiled knowingly in response.


Volumes upon volumes of burgundy, leather-bounded records lined the mahogany shelves, stretching onwards endlessly, each framed by a waning candle, dripping clear wax upon the tiled floor. Guillermo clung to the warmth and safety of these intermittent, and ephemeral, lights which punctuated the darkness which engulfed him. The welcomed refuge afforded by the flickering flame was a small comfort amid the all-encompassing black which swallowed both him and the Guide.


Vampires, he knew, cared little about light or dark; if anything, they preferred the dark, if only because they rejoiced in seeing their prey squirm, tacitly, and painfully, aware of their impending demise. He refused to give the Guide the satisfaction; he stiffened his jaw and clutched his stake.


Steadily, the two proceeded through the labyrinthine stacks. Every so often, the Guide cast a slow look over her shoulder which lingered, just long enough to be deliberate. Guillermo suppressed an involuntary shudder.


“Uh,” he began, tentatively, “do we know where this ‘treatise’ is? Or are we just winging it here?”


“Oh.” A knowing grin spread across her features. “I know where the treatise is.”


Guillermo’s eyes lit up. “Oh! That’s great, uh,” he whipped his head around, “where is it?”


The Guide cackled. “Three stacks back,” she said, pointing back from where they’d came. “So,” she began, “how’s our favourite slayer, hm?” Her lips curled into a wide smile.