Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

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Strigoi Grey
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Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

David Silva was used to failure. Supernatural fiction writers haven't exactly been successful since the forties, since the world's old dreams and nightmares were brought into being and new ones were spawned. Why would anyone want to read about the things that go bump in the night, when they can just go out and talk to them?

Still, David didn't expect to even fail at dying.

AN: I posted this story a while ago on Spacebattles, so you can go there and read ahead, if you wish, but it's in progress. My plan is to post a chapter a day until I catch up to the current story, but I'll post more if readers demand.

As you can tell by my avatar, I'm fascinated by the idea of strigoi. In Romanian folklore, they are the spirits or reanimated bodies of the unquiet dead, rising again because of unfinished business, or curses, or just a refusal to stay down.

If you want to read about a snarky strigoi coming to terms with his unlife in a world where the supernatural has existed in the open for decades, this is for you. Come along and join our hero as he tries to reconcile his faith with his nature, while facing the myths of his country and others.

Seriously. Romanian folklore is vast. I fully expect to get things wrong or miss them, and I'm Romanian! But, if the Witcher can do it for Poland, so can this for my country.

Enjoy, but as a warning: this story deals with subjects like depression, suicide, addiction and so on. Also, gore.


I've heard some people call death the unknown country, but, in my experience, it's more like a public bus. Except it's crammed, dark, smelly, and you can never stop where you want.

Actually, scratch that. It's just like a bus.

My name's David Silva, though only my few friends call me that. Everyone else calls me strigoi, moroi, Satan's spawn or coward.

Especially myself.

A few months ago, I hanged myself. In a cemetery, so they wouldn't have to move the body too far. I've always been considerate like that.

It didn't take.

After I finished college, what feels like an eternity ago, I hoped I could just work a few odd jobs, just to keep afloat, while I devoted myself to my true passion: writing. Unfortunately, people who live with the supernatural don't really care about books on the subject, and I was, bluntly, shit when it came to other genres.


Over the years, I worked as a gardener, a delivery man, a teacher and so much more. But my books rarely sold, and the few times they did, people often sent them back to me.

I still remember being paid to take back one of my first novels.

I wouldn't say I sank into despair. It was more like a rollercoaster, really. Ups and downs, moments of passion and detachment...but, in the end, I got sick of it. And took the coward's way out.

I should have known God wouldn't take me.

Why had I ever believed people had anything left to learn about the supernatural? Ever since Hitler's occultist toadies performed a last, desperate ritual as Berlin fell around their ears, concepts such as 'mundane' dissapeared.

Thanks, you goose-stepping fucktard. Just like you to ruin everything for everyone, even after you're dead.

What? No, I'm not talking to myself. At the moment.

The Shattering, as it was called, stopped World War 2 right in its tracks, as mythologies came alive. Weak, at first, since few people saw them as anything more than whimsical tales-at the time. But that changed. Everything did.

Today, even internet memes can briefly come alive, if famous enough, and sufficient faith can shape reality. It's just as fun as you imagine.

But I'm rambling.

After they found my body, it was taken to the morgue. After God knows how long, I was buried. Only my friends and father attended.

They were there when I ripped my way from the dirt, too.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

I was the first to arrive.

Dead on time, as Lucian would say while snorting. Thing was, I just had little to distract myself with these days. No hunger, no thirst, no pain. No need to breathe, never a moment when I felt tired.

Or human. But then, that was the point.

Ghencea Cemetery had become something of a meeting place for us in recent months. Bianca had asked why we couldn't switch to somewhere cheerier one day.

"Because I used to hang around here." I'd said, grinning my death's head grin. She'd rolled her eyes.

Ghencea is located in sector six of Bucharest, and it's usually a quaint, quiet place. A few famous names buried here, but nothing that would make you visit unless you had someone here.

Like I did.

Alex Horia was the second to come, much to my annoyance. This was his home, couldn't he get up faster? It's a bad sign when you're outpaced by your guests.

Alex rose through the ground, tall and translucent, with a face that was somehow gaunt and round at the same time. He'd died years before me, though not of his own choice.

As far as Alex could tell, he'd died when his asthma had finally done him in. He'd been born like that, and people had always warned him not to strain himself, but he'd never listened. Always darting about, looking to learn things and help people. He'd always participated in marksmanship contests, from throwing darts to archery. It was before such a contest that he kicked it.

"Hey, David." He rasped, floating over to join me. I was standing under the old oak where I'd thought I'd leave the world behind. He looked at the tree and sighed. "Nostalgic?" He asked with a mixture of affection and exasperation.

"You know I'm not." I replied. "This is the only place in Ghencea where I can feel like myself. I think I get vertigo if I stand anywhere else."

"You feel like you're falling?"

"Is that what it means? Shit."

He sighed, again. He often did that around me. "And you used to be a teacher..."

"That was years ago! And it's not like I taught languages."

"No one would have let you do that." A new, amused voice said. We turned, and there was Mihai Codrea. Former tennis player, now coach, he had excelled at everything in high school, where we'd first met. He'd never held it above me or anyone else, but I've always felt quietly frustrated around him.

Mihai wore sporty clothes, as always, which were covered in arcane wards. As a mage, he never felt safe outside his own home-or even there. So, he took precautions. The wards, meant for everything from reflecting energy attacks to deflecting weapons and burning projectiles, hung around his body like a mantle of chains. They would have been invisible to mundanes, but my dead eyes were sharper than any man's.

Bianca followed after a few minutes. She was in her usual form, the one she wore when away from her iele sisters. Short and stocky, with blonde hair and blue eyes behind thick glasses, she was cute enough, in a nerdy sort of way. In her true form, she was ravishing-or so I've been told. My blood doesn't flow, my flesh is cold and my mind proof against most outside influences.

Lucian dropped from the sky with a whoop, hovering above a grave like a giant, scaly hummingbird. As a zmeu, Luci was beholden to wild, fierce passions. But most of his kind have learned, by now, that you can't kidnap maidens and hold them for ransom. It just doesn't work. Luci was tall and broad, a tailed, winged, green-scaled man with knees that bent backwards and muscles that could crush tanks like cardboard. His face was dominated by a long, fluttering moustache, which did nothing to make him look human.

Andrei Dravich entered the cemetery grunting and grumbling, as was his wont. He was in his lean, dark-skinned human form. Born of rape during World War 2, Andrei's father had been a bastard of a Soviet captain and his mother an unfortunate gypsy. Andrei was older than us all by several decades, though, thanks to his nature, he'd never age past his prime. When he embraced what he was, he could become a bear, or something between one and a man.

My father, Constantin Silva, was the last to arrive. You'd have never guessed the old priest was sixty if you saw him on the street. His hair was still mostly dark brown, as mine had been before it had become grey, and he was dressed casually. Still, I could hear the crosses and icons he always bore on his person shifting and tinkling, under the rustling of his clothes.

Pops saw me, gasped, and pulled a mirror from a pocket I couldn't spot if you paid me. Faithcraft-channeling his belief to shape reality. Not magic, as pops' mana was dormant, like most people's, but just as impressive.

He thrust the mirror into my hand, and I quickly understood his reaction.

I looked like I have for the last few months: grey-skinned and grey-haired, with ink-black eyes and a mouth like a shark. My neck still bore the marks of my death, so the world could never forget it, perhaps. Despite my regeneration, which meant I couldn't even be erased from existence unless you were channeling holy power. It's why I always wore a scarf.

But something had changed. My flesh, which was usually strong and taut, had started sagging, and I saw a chunk drop from my cheek and fall to the ground. My friends looked at me with wide eyes. Luci swore under his breath.

Usually, not feeling pain is a boon. But it also means you can't tell what's wrong with you unless you look.

"Oh, my boy... what's happening to you?" Pops asked, shaking his head, hands clasped as if ready to start praying.

"It's why I called you here." I said carefully and, despite everything, I somehow felt like I was choking. "It's like... I'm being rejected. I've started falling down, unable to move, and now..." I looked at my disfigured face in the mirror, and grinned bitterly. "And now, I'm falling apart, as well."
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Strigoi Grey
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

AN: Since the first chapters were unnamed(used to threadmarks, so I forgot when I didn't see any), I'll name them in the posts from now on. Those were Shallow Grave, Prologue and Chapter 1.

Shallow Grave, Chapter 2

My friends looked at each other, their faces saying 'boy, we should have chosen a spokeperson before this'. Eventually, most eyes settled for Bianca, who scoffed.

"What, I should be the soft touch because I'm the team girl? Alex, tell him."

My ghost friend-from certain points of view, he would have been a strigoi too-looked at me with what he probably though was a reassuring smile.

"You look like you're about to tell me I'm pregnant with mutants or something." I told him drily. We both laughed, despite ourselves. Because, in lives-so to speak-like ours, you take your laughs when you can.

"Do you feel any...different?" Alex asked hesitantly.

"You know I hardly feel anything these days. No. If not for pops' mirror, I probably would have missed my face starting to turn into a jigsaw."

"This can't be a curse." Pops said heatedly. "Or a poison, or sickness. Strigoi laugh those off, even if they happen at the same time. No, this..."

Usually, when it came to my nature, I deferred to pops. He'd been putting down freaks like me before I'd been born, while I'd only been undead for a few months.

I'm harmless, mostly. Usually, if you piss me off, the most you'll get are a few creative insults and a shove, if I'm feeling bold. Most strigoi aren't like me. Every story told about us-harried relatives, unnatural weather, animals drained of their life-is true, because people, or some of them, at least, believe them to be true.

Pops was born in the sixties, in the middle of the Long Watch. The decades when mankind spent every waking moment, and most sleeping ones, keeping an eye on their incarnate imaginations. They still reached out to the kinder, more reasonable creatures, and so it was that, in the nineties, the supernatural was accepted, if not embraced. Thanks, in part, to the efforts of people like pops.

Constantin Silva entered a church in his town in his teens, and, by the time he was eighteen, he was accompanying the old priest on patrols around the town and nearby forests and roads, looking for enchanted animals, iele, strigoi and other creatures that bothered the people and stirred up trouble. It was then that he'd learned to faithcraft, something he tried to pass on to me, and never managed to.

Neither of us knew why. I liked to consider myself fairly faithful, even now, abomination in the eyes of God that I was. I hope He does not take my prayers as mockery, because they are not. I pray every evening, and thank Him whenever something good happens, to me or those close to me. Or when something bad does not.

Pops was fairly tolerant, as far as Orthodox priests went. He even accepted other faiths, and had once regaled me for hours with his theory on how God, Brahman, the Tao and other supreme entities are actually the same thing viewed from different angles.

"The same god wearing different hats, if you will." He'd told me with a smile. Because he was a Discworld fan, too.

"Could a priest have done this?" Luci asked, interrupting my train of thought. He was worrying his lip with his fangs, as he did when frustrated.

Pops shook his head. "God would never grant someone the power to do this. However sinful they believed my son to be."

Because suicide was a sin, indeed, and not just because the scriptures and traditions said so. The risk of suicides coming back as undead monsters with a grudge was a significant threat, which meant high buildings, cliffs, railroads and other such places were carefully watched by the government.

It's the reason the Japanese cut Aokigahara down and burned the lumber. Too much symbolic weight, too many suffering ghosts drawing malevolent yokai and oni. Metaphysical echoes of the forest still popped up around Japan, occassionally, and even other countries, rarely.

On the bright side, it meant therapy and psychology were taken very seriously, which helped mankind as a whole. Even if suicide hotlines ended up having to answer questions like 'how do I end myself without becoming a monster?'

I swear, some people want to have their noose and hang in it too.

"Strigoi can't be truly harmed by anything other than a priest channeling holy power." Mihai said thoughtfully. "Maybe it's not someone local. Maybe it's some self-righteous Catholic, or a jihadist, or..."

"Do not generalise." Pops told him with a stern look. "Just because someone does not share your faith, it does not mean they wish you harm. And you share no one's faith, Mihai. Do not cast stones."

"Hey, only a moron would say gods aren't real. I know..."

"There's a difference between knowing and believing. And our unknown enemy clearly believes, to harm David like this." Pops shook his head. "I still don't want to believe a fellow man of the cloth would do this, whatever they believed in. Perhaps there is something else that could have harmed David..."

"Unearthing and beheading?" Andrei suggested, crossing his arms. "The meat of a pig slaughtered on Saint Ignatius' Day?"

"No." Bianca said before Pops could answer. "You'd need blessed tools for the first, and the users would have to believe they are holy too. Same thing for the pig flesh."

"Besides." Luci said, perching on a mausoleum like a living grotesque. "David's walking and talking to us, not back in the ground, headless. He's falling apart slowly. It's why I suggested a curse earlier. Or something like one, backed by holy power. God cursed Cain to walk the Earth, so..."

"That was different." Pops said firmly. "It was a decree of God, not a curse."

"Look." I said, giving pops back the mirror with a nod of thanks. "While I appreciate the brainstorming, it's getting kind of late. Maybe we should move to somewhere more...reputable."

The sun was setting when I arrived, and, after the others came and we talked, it was gone. And I didn't want to spend evening in Ghencea. So many supernatural beings talking in a cemetery under the cover of darkness could give the wrong impression.

Pops nodded. "I drove here, and the truck's outside. Come on. We can go home..." And he turned, walking away. I frowned.

"Pops!" I called after him. "Seriously? You drove to Bucharest just because I called you? I though you were already in town, or I wouldn't have asked. We could have talked on the phone!"

"Yes." Pops replied, neither turning nor stopping. "But it wouldn't have been the same."

And so, we left Ghencea, and headed to pops' truck. And then, it was back Urziceni, the town where pops and I grew up. The town where I was left as an infant, for pops to find me on his doorstep after returning from church.

As a priest, pops took chastity seriously, even though, with the laws passed in recent years, he could have married. He had certainly never expected to have children, but he could not turn a newborn away, or place him in foster care. He wasn't that kind of man.

And so, he adopted me. Constantin Silva was the first person I saw after being brought into the world.

For his sake, I hoped he would not be the last as well.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 3

Urziceni was located sixty kilometers northeast of Bucharest. At full speed, I could run fast enough to catch on fire, and cover that distance in just half a minute-but that would have drawn the wrong kind of attention. The truck was safer, even if it was standing still from my perspective. I had to constantly glance at the road, both to make sure we were moving and to avoid losing myself in my thoughts.

Because, when you're a strigoi, your mind is the last place you want to get lost in. Made you remember everything you should have never done, as well as everything you should have.

All in all, I'm surprised I lasted until forty. Most people who become like me end themselves in their twenties, at that age of passion and recklessness, when you're outraged life isn't going your way. I suppose I was unusually restrained. Maybe they'll start using me as an example in the Strigoi Society...

Damn it. Haven't I just told myself not to drift off? And the trip is still taking forever. I should have just zipped over to Urziceni, and damn the consequences. Yes, I'd have torn up the roads and probably terrified whoever I passed by, but still...

No. Stupid stunts like that would have just drawn the police to me, so they could stop me from threatening infrastructure. Or, even worse, ARC would have come.

Abnormal Research and Combat is the world's foremost supernatural authority, acting as both the bridge and the shield between the mundane and the unnatural-though who they defended from who depended on the people you asked. Unsure which division is responsible for dealing with supernatural speeders. Probably Camelot. They deal with the integration of superhumans into society.

"You'll get an unibrow if you keep frowning like that." Mihai said from the backseat, sounding amused.

"Seriously? You're using a spell just to see my expression? Ever heard about treating your powers with respect?"

"I'm using a spell to make sure your face is in one piece. Your father can't do that and watch the road-please focus on driving, Mr. Silva."

Mihai wasn't usually this... sentimental. Or, rather, this open with his feelings. Of my friends, he was usually the most cool and collected, much to my envy. Whenever I try to seem detached, I come across as sarcastic and uninterested. It's a gift, appearing nonchalant without making people think you're an arsehole. I've never had it.

Pops briefly glanced at me, looking slightly guilty. "Sorry, buddy. I'd do something to keep your body stable, but I doubt it would work. If it didn't harm you, that is."

"It's alright." I lied. God will understand. "Let's keep going as we are and not accidentally speed things up. Everyone for it?"

There was a general murmur of agreement. From above, pacing himself not to outspeed the truck, Luci spat a gout of flame that looked vaguely like a thumbs up. I snorted despite myself.

But then, a thought came to me.

"Pops?" I started. "Why exactly do we need to go back home? Is there something you need to do there and can't do in Bucharest?"

Pops clicked his tongue as he weaved through traffic. Every time someone flipped him off or cussed him out-usually involving his mother's orifices and dead relatives- I felt my gorge rise. I wanted to rip the truck apart, followed by their cars and bodies. I wanted to drain them of life. I wanted to shapeshift into a flea, jump down their throats, then turn into a great beast, ripping them apart from the inside. I...

My face must have showed something, or I must have started grinding my teeth, because pops shot me a disapproving glance. "It seems you're not completely unfeeling, son. Road rage is hardly uncommon, but please, don't contemplate murder for my sake. It wouldn't hold up in court."

I must have been in a really bad state if I couldn't tell whether pops was being sarcastic or not. I also couldn't help but notice he hadn't answered my question. But then, if pops had decided to put me out of everyone's misery, he would have had no reason to invite my friends along, too.

Unless he wanted them to help. But he had no reason to concern himself with that. I would never fight back or hurt him.

I wouldn't.

We reached Urziceni in just over an hour. It hadn't changed much. Once numbering fourteen thousand people, it had been destroyed and rebuilt decades ago. Now, it counted about thirty two thousand. People who wanted to be close to the capital, if needed, but not live in the bustling mess itself. I understood the feeling.

The town wasn't great in size. Dominated by a church, with chapels scattered throughout it for the townspeople's protection, it had been named for the nettle that grew in and round the place. The plant grew in carefully-controlled gardens, but sometimes sprouted from concrete, or even the sides of buildings. The legend of the town, dipping into reality with no care for the laws of nature.

Pops' house was at the edge of town-a holdover from his youth, when he patrolled Urziceni's surroundings alongside the police. Nowadays, the police was larger, with better equipment and funding, which meant pops' could concern himself with peaceful duties alone.

He'd never killed. Never killed people, that is. He tried to follow the Commandments in both letter and spirit, but, in my opinion, no being he'd ever banished, sealed or destroyed could have been considered a person.

Pops had tried to tell me that all thinking, feeling beings were children of God, and that his killing of the worse ones was nothing more than murder, but I've never shared that view. And, even if it was, his other deeds more than made up for it, in my opinion.

"Two wrongs don't make a right, David." He'd told me. "And good deeds don't erase your sins. Many people are victims of their nature. Most of them want to better themselves, but can't. Remember that."

Pops parked in front of the courtyard gate. After we left the car, he made no move to open it. Strange. He usually parked inside. No one would try to break into Father Silva's car, but you never knew.

"To answer your question, David, there is someone here I believe can help you. If not...your friends and I have our methods. We'll find something." Pops said, looking around, hands on his hips.

"I believe that's our cue, Constantin." A smooth voice said from behind me.

I turned, shocked. I hadn't sensed anyone approach.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 4

I shouldn't have been surprised at being sneaked up on, I suppose. I can hear heartbeats, smell blood in people's veins and feel the emotions of those around me, but none of that matters against the stealth available to an ARC Agent.

She was of average heigh, average weight, in the archetypal black suit and tie. No sunglasses, but her features were so common she would hardly need to hide them. Brown eyes, black hair bound in a ponytail.

But I knew what she was. And, more importantly, what she was not.

It seemed ARC had decided to stick their head into my unlife, after all. But this agent was not from Camelot, come to discuss my relationship with humanity-both the species and the shriveled, shriveling remains inside me.

No. She was from the Goetia division.

Goetia dealt with demons, oni and the like: binding them, banishing them, and, sometimes, destroying them. Their headquarters was in Israel, built around the temple where Solomon had bound his seventy-two demons. But this agent was not a hellhunter, as they were coloquially known. She was a hellbound, someone who bound demons to themselves in order to channel their powers, or because the fiends could only be imprisoned inside a person.

More specifically, she was the Fourfold. She had three mighty hellspawn inside her, and kept them from fighting for dominion through sheer force of will. Her legend more than made up for her bland appearance.

But...why was she here? Pops' words implied he had called or arranged for her to be here, but why? He'd said it was to help me, but it wasn't like I needed to be exorcised.

Or perhaps there was a demon in my hometown, moving unseen and planning ruin for all.

If it was so, it made sense pops would call for the Fourfold. We'd all help if needed, of course, but she had both the expertise and the power needed to deal with any hellish incursion.

"You were right, old man." The Fourfold said, walking towards pops while smiling. "He does frown a lot when thinking."

"He does it all the time, actually." Pops said lightly, smiling at me to show he didn't meant anything by it.

He walked forward, extending a hand for her to shake. Her hands could pulverize tungsten, but pops showed no fear or hesitation. He trusted her, for some reason.

"Ah." The agent said, glancing between us. "Must get it from you." Then, she turned to me, her smile changing into a blank expression. "You know who we are."

"I know of you." I said carefully. "Though not the names or natures of those bound to you."

"We would be concerned if you did." She said. "Half of us, that is. The other two are too smug and brutish to concern themselves with fear."

"Can I ask why you are here?"

"Yes, you can." She replied, then looked at me, saying nothing.

Can't believe I fell for that one. "May I ask why you are here?"

A corner of her mouth twitched. "Constantin isn't sure what your problem is, exactly. He asked a favour of us, because we have access to a vast range of knowledge and options."

"My problem isn't demonic." God, I hoped she wasn't one of those people who believed strigoi drew their powers from Satan or whoever else.

Actually, was she? With her experience, she was unlikely to, but...

"One of us can see the weak points of anyone or anything." The agent said. "And your greatest weakness is yourself."

"Thank you, Sun Tzu." I couldn't help myself from snarking. "But if I could help myself, I would have done it by now."

The Fourfold nodded again. "Yes, you would have."

I looked at my friends in exasperation. Most of them shrugged, while Luci shook his head. We were getting nowhere with the Fourfold and her cryptic bullshit. I needed solutions, before I started looking like John Carpenter's Thing.

God, I hope it hasn't manifested again. Some fans are way too passionate.

"The agent," Pops said, jerking his head towards her. "Is here as a...last resort. Something to keep away gawkers while we try to help you, and try to heal you herself, if we fail."

And to help put me down if I went feral during the process. He didn't need to say it.

Mihai snapped his fingers-pure theatrics, really- and they all disappeared, leaving me alone with the Fourfold.

I looked at her dubiously. Esoteric powers, such as teleportation, slipped off strigoi like water off a duck's back. What about her?Was-

"One of us is untouchable by anything save brute force." She said. And one of them was probably a telepath, too. Or I was just shit at hiding what I was thinking?

"Shall we?" She said, gesturing at the horizon. A forest had been planted here after Urziceni's reconstruction, grown supernaturally fast and vast by the iele that had taken it as a home. I nodded, and ran to the woods, breaking the sound barrier and continuing to accelerate. Far from my fastest, but there was no need for that.

The Fourfold was already there when I stopped running, digging my boots into the earth in surprise. We were in a clearing in the middle of the woods, Mihai standing in the center of it. He had replaced his sporty clothes with the classic hooded solomonar robes, and he was grinning broadly at me, all but rubbing his hands in anticipation.

"I'll leave you to it." The Fourfold said, then somehow disappeared from my sight. Either she could become imperceivable, even to a strigoi, or she could somehow move faster than I could sense while at the same time not disrupting the environment.

Probably both.

Mihai cleared his throat, drawing my attention back to him.

"Where are the others?" I asked, to hide my unease at the agent's disappearance.

Mihai shrugged, still smiling. "Oh, you know... here and there... and there. There's no need to distract yourself thinking about them, David. It's just the two of us now."

"You're filling me with confidence." I deadpanned. Then, just to heckle him. "I'd knew you'd want to catch me in the woods one day, alone..."

"Oh, piss off. What, are you in middle school? We're alone because I need some space to use my spells."

"What? What for?"

His grin widened. "If I hurt you enough, your healing should kick into overdrive."
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Strigoi Grey
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 5

"Wait!" I said, holding my hands up, palms out.

Mihai grinned cockily. "Scared?"

"Screw that. Where the hell did the Fourfold come from? When did pops talk to her and, for that matter, why were none of you surprised?" I asked, narrowing my eyes.

Mihai shrugged. "I froze up when I saw her. Agent like her turns up, you know something big's about to go down."

"When did pops talk with her?" I repeated. "He didn't leave my sight when since we talked in Ghencea!"

"I. Don't. Know."

I froze, realizing I was pressing my friend for answers he didn't have. Damn it.

"Sorry." I said. "It's just that..."

"You're scared. Like a sick man who feels death approaching." He took in my expression and tried to grin encouragingly. "Hey, relax! Doctor Codrea's in the building. Look alive!"

"Oh, that was awful!"

But I was grinning. We hadn't bantered like this since my return from the grave, and it was...refreshing. Good for the soul.

A transparent, spherical forcefield snapped into existence around us. Fifteen metres in diameter, it encompassed the clearing, both above and beneath the ground. So that Mihai could go all out, for my sake.

He started with cold. His wards protected him, but the ground beneath me and the air around me turned into solid ice, covering me, pressing into my skin and clothes. I didn't feel anything. I shrugged, and the ice shattered like glass.

He switched to heat. Fire blazed inside the forcefield, vaporizing the ice and the ground beneath me for metres. My clothes turned to smoke in an instant, but I stood there, not feeling any difference in temperature. My skin wasn't singed. How could this strain my healing?

The fire consumed the air inside the shield. I didn't need to breathe, and Mihai was protected, but this wouldn't do. With a gesture, time rewound. The ground was untouched and the air was clean and sweet.

Mihai curled one hand, and a spear of lightning appeared in it. Fifteen thousand degrees celsius, one gigajoule of energy, it came straight for my right eye, crackling in the air.

And was stopped cold.

Mihai frowned, pushing the lighting with his mind, maintaining its shape, but it couldn't pierce my eye, not even burn my eyelashes by proximity.

He gave that up, too.

Mihai hit me with all the elements of nature. He tried transmuting me into gas and liquid and metal, forced plasma hot as the Sun's core down my throat, bent space around me and tried to rewind me back into infancy. None of his magics overcame my undead nature and impossible toughness.

So, he switched tactics.

Enhancing his body with mana, Mihai blurred towards me, striking me in the chest with an open palm. The blow sent me flying, first past the clouds, then into space.

I was hurtling towards the Moon.

I landed with a silent crash, pulverizing a new crater into the surface of our satellite. It could have swallowed Bucharest with space for more cities, and was so deep I couldn't even see...

I couldn't see. My head was pulped. So, this was what it took to overcome my body...

It took a few moments for my shattered head to heal itself. My eyes were the last to heal. The crater was, indeed, deep. Like someone had pulverised a mountain range to make space for something new. I'd landed on my head, but now that I could see, my gaze pierced through the dust raised by my fall, yet couldn't see the edge.

Mihai teleported next to me, shaking his head.

"I'm sorry, David. I don't know what else to try..." He somehow said into the airless vacuum.

I waved him off and clapped him on one shoulder. "You did your best." I mouthed.

Mihai sighed, took my hand, and flew us back to Earth.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 6

It didn't take us long to get back to Earth. By the time we reached the exosphere, I figured it was the time to ask.

"Do I..." But the air was too thin for talking. Mihai looked at me, confused, then made an 'ah' face. He snapped his fingers, and a glowing, translucent web appeared in the air around us.

"Think of it as a...telephone line." He said. "The spell catches sound and transmits it clearly. I'd use a spell directly on you, but we've just seen how useful that is..."

He looked away from me, honey-blond hair fluttering as we descended. His tanned face was scrunched up in frustration or concern, and, for once, he looked his age.

"Hey." I awkwardly tried to pat his arm. "I told you, you did everything you could. You were just...the wrong tool for the job."

He turned to me, brow furrowed. "Did you just call me a tool!?"

It was like that all the way down.

We were now above the magical forcefield, which we dropped through without resistance. A thought came to me, and I shot Mihai a questioning glance.

"How could you send me to the moon with a strike and not...level the forest as a side effect?" I asked.

He looked at me with a mix of patience and exasperation. "My shield took care of that."

"Maybe. But how come I didn't hit anything when flying? Or mess up the weather with how fast I was going? Or-"

"You think too much." He said firmly. "Go. Bianca wanted to be the second, if my idea didn't work. I'm gonna do some research, in the meantime..." And, with a clap of his hands, a pair of thick, leatherbound books, each as wide as my chest, appeared in the air before him. One was a deep, earthy brown, and the other a dusty grey. Mihai made them spin around him, like planets around a star, as he flicked pages and muttered to himself. I left him to his devices.

I quickly left my mage friend behind and out of sight, hidden by the gnarled, ancient-looking trees. I knew they could only be a few decades old at most, but you wouldn't have guessed it at first sight.

You know how a few centuries ago rich people liked raising buildings that looked ancient and ruined from the start? It's kind of like that. The iele share some things with mankind, however alien they are in other aspects.

It occurred to me that I didn't know where any of my friends were, and the woods weren't exactly small. Oh, sure, I could find them with my strigoi senses, eventually, but that would take time if I moved at human speed. And if I moved at full speed, I'd level the forest and set everything on fire, too.
I would also attract the wrong sort of attention.

But. somehow, I just felt that they would find their way to me, and vice-versa. This story was more than a place: it was an idea made fact, the old, vast woods where travelers got lost, and wonders and horrors awaited behind every tree and bush.

The forest is mankind's oldest nightmare.

After a while, I realized I couldn't keep track of time. Since I didn't breathe or blink, and my heart didn't beat, I didn't have much of an internal clock. I couldn't have said how long I'd been in the woods...and then, a bit of flesh on my chin quivered and sagged, then fell off.

I looked at it fall with a kind of fascinated horror. I didn't try to catch it, and why would I? What could I have even done, jam it into place and pray it would stay there?

An idea came to me. Since Bianca didn't seem to be in a hurry to find me, and I didn't have anything better to do...

Strigoi are associated with both solomonari, mages, and pricolici, or werewolves. None of us are bound to a single shape, and it was us Stoker drew inspiration from when he came up with the idea of shapeshifting vampires.

I became a flea, then a bat, then a snake. A frog, a wolf, a bear, a cold mist. Each form brought new sensations...and a piece of me was still missing.
Even when I became mist, I could somehow tell there was less of me than there should have been. It was...sickening.

After a few more shapes, I switched back to my default form. It was then that Bianca found me.

She had ditched her modern clothes for a sheer white dress, covered in vivid splashes of colour, and a crown of flowers. It took me a moment to realize she was showing her true face.

I could, on a vague level, tell what other people might find attractive. But like this, Bianca looked...strange, other, to me. Like a brightly-coloured insect.

"Are we all going back to our roots today?" I asked by way of greeting. "Mihai put on the robes, and you..."

"Why are you naked?" She asked, an amused smile on her face.

Looking down, I realized that she was right. I hadn't even...damn it, Mihai. Would it have killed you to create some clothes to me before we parted? Just because I missed it, it doesn't mean you should, too.

"I..." I began awkwardly. "That is, we...screw your mother's ancestors, Mihai."

"Oh?" Bianca raised an elegant eyebrow. "And what did you two do, exactly?" Her smile widened. "Alone, in the forest?"

I made a strangled sound, and she laughed musically. "He went all out on you, didn't he? Hit you with every spell he could think of?"

I nodded, and she shook her head. "Honestly...percussive maintenance? You'd think you were a faulty TV or something. I'm surprised he didn't smash your head open looking for an antenna..." She trailed off, running her eyes up and down my body..."Hmm...".


"Oh, relax, would you. I'm not into...dead meat." Still smiling, she approached me, taking my hand. "We're going to meet my sisters. But before that, I'm going to make you some clothes. Wouldn't want to give them the wrong idea."

"Of course not."
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 7

Bianca wove me clothes out of light and shadows, flower and fern, wood and stone.

You can tell how good I feel if I'm using words like those.

"Couldn't you just make a shirt and jeans?" I asked her. She had her back to me, and was bent over as she worked her magic.

Do you have any idea how lame it feels to look at a beautiful woman and feel nothing, nothing at all? It's like looking at food while full, or finding an empty bathroom while constipated. Both things have happened to me.

I better stop before my mind comes up with weirder comparisons.


"Yes, I heard you the first time." She said without turning to face me. "And yes, I could. But my sisters could take it the wrong way. They have little love for the modern world and its works."

"Damn hippies." I said lightly. When she replied, I could hear the smile in her voice.

"Closer to the Amish, actually... you should be happy you're dealing with iele, and not, say, the Fae. Sociopathic little..."

She started cursing under her breath. Well, this explained why she'd been in such a bad mood after returning from that trip to Britain. Probably.

"Done!" She said brightly, then straightened up and spun around. I looked at her blankly.

"Ie and ițari? I don't think it's a national holiday..."

She huffed. "It's not, smartarse. I told you, they have no love for the modern world. They yearn for simpler, older times."

"Times they've never know." I felt the need to point out. "None of them should be able to remember anything before the Shattering."

"Oh, you truly think the Shattering only touched the present and shaped the future? How do you think the stories were born in the first place?"

I didn't answer. I had nothing to say, partly because my mind was racing, thinking of the possibilities, of a past that had never existed, but had, and-

"David!" Bianca snapped, bringing me back to reality. "This is not the time or place to contemplate such things. Now, come on. Put these on, and let's go to my sisters before you turn into the world's first undead eunuch."

"Actually, there's this jiangshi in China..."

"Don't you 'actually' me, David Silva. Why are you so damn reluctant, anyway?"

"The iele..."

"Yes? It's not like you can be affected by our songs, or cursed."

"That wasn't quite what I was thinking of."

"Then what..." She broke off, laughing. "David, be serious! We don't waste barley on geese, Jesus..."

She handed me the clothes, which fit surprisingly well. I asked her if she had known my measurements beforehand, or had just guessed.

"Woman's intuition." Bianca said airily.

And we set off. As we walked, the dark, twisted woods gave way to a brighter, airier, more open forest. It was so damn pretty, I half-expected Snow White to burst out of a bush, singing, with little animals around her. I told Bianca this, and she didn't appreciate my opinion.

"Heartless! This is all wasted on you, I swear..."

Eventually, we reached a clearing, quite unlike the one where Mihai had done his best to help me. The woods here were taller, closer together, but light still streamed through them like through an open sky, falling in all the colours of the rainbow.

Very pastel. Someone put this on a puzzle box.

Still, I couldn't help but notice something: ever since we'd entered the forest, I hadn't seen or heard any critters, or birds, or even any insects. It was unnatural, and it's never a good sign when a strigoi starts describing things like that.

I turned to ask Bianca if she knew what was going on, but she wasn't there anymore. How even...I swear she'd been at my side until I'd turned, talking about this or that, humming some nonsensical song.

I looked down and saw that I was clutching a slip of paper in my left hand. The sinister hand, some would say.

Fuck sinister. I was just sick of so much slipping past my senses recently. My dead flesh couldn't feel, so if I, say, closed my eyes, I could only tell I was holding something by its weight. The paper was too light for that.

I opened it, revealing Bianca's spidery handwriting. She was saying that, while she had made the iele agree to help me, that was all she could do. She didn't feel comfortable participating in what was going to happen.

And, if my instincts were even halfway correct, I fully agreed with her choice. No need to muddle our friendship

I closed my eyes, shook my head and, when I opened them again, I was standing inside a circle of iele.

Bianca's sisters looked like she had before her disappearance, in the sense that none of them even bothered pretending to look human. Or, rather, they did not look like anything. Their appearance was constantly shifting, like light moving through a prism, but always beautiful.

I remembered a quote about water changing shape to fit its vessel, and wondered whether they would look different if I were, say, a zmeu, or werebeast, or something further from humanity.

They smiled and sang and spun around me, dancing on air. I knew what they were trying to do...and it wasn't working. Iele could induce feelings with their voices, but their songs were just empty sound in a strigoi's ears. Maybe they hoped that, if I felt joyful, my body would just heal itself. Stupid.

They stopped singing and frowned, in unison. Less like a coordinated group of people, and more like creatures that shared a hive mind. After this was over, Bianca and I would have a long discussion on her nature. Just to make things clear.

I took in their expressions, and stretched my arms above my head. "If you ladies need a moment to rest your throats, feel free to sign so. Sadly, I didn't bring any water or mint drops."

They were only trying to help me, and it wasn't their fault for failing, but I wasn't in a reasonable mood. I was dying, again, or something like it. And a treacherous voice in the back of my mind whispered that this time, it wouldn't be quick.

One of the iele, with long hair like dancing flames, floated forward, hands moving in a series of arcane gestures. I felt polymorphic magic lapping at the sides of my being... and finding no hold. Finally, the spell retreated, sullenly.

It had been harmless, but had she known it would be? And anyway, what damn purpose would a shapeshifting spell serve.

I wouldn't take this lying down.

I strode out of the circle, the iele reluctantly moving aside to let me pass. Good. I would have walked right through them otherwise.

I walked to one of the trees they loved so much. A knotted old thing, as thick as my arms were long, covered in bark you couldn't scratch with an axe.

I chopped through it like it was made of air.

The tree split with an almost pained groan, and fell forward, parted neatly in two. I sat down on it, trying to ignore the way it was squirming beneath me.

The iele gasped, one of them dropping onto the ground and striding purposefully towards me. I prepared myself for another spell...and then she slapped me.

I didn't feel anything, of course, but I was shocked.

While I stared at her like a moron, the iela glared down, tears in her eyes. "Monster!" She hissed. "Why would you-"

"Why did your sister try to turn me into something else?" Before she could answer, I continued. "You think I don't know the stories? Like that poor boy who was too shy to respond to your advances, so you turned him into an animal?"

She tried to slap me again, but I caugh her arm in a vicelike grip. "Careful." I said coldly. She tried to meet my eyes, and quickly changed her mind. She was squirming, though I couldn't tell whether in disgust, because of my cold flesh, or just in a need to get away from me.

I let her go.

"Your heart is dead. Why would it soar at the sound of our music? We should have thought of that earlier, but we were too proud." She laughed briefly, humourlessly. "My sister hoped she could turn you," She said sardonically." Into a happy man. She should have known that would be pointless, too. We wasted barley on geese."

I though of Bianca saying that earlier, and something closed around my heart. "She tried to...but how? A happy man isn't a type of being. It..."

The iela scoffed, rubbing at her arm, as if to scrub off the taint of touching me. "Magic is shaped by intention, not logic. But no magic can help one such as you." Her eyes turned cold.

"Go." The iele spoke in unison. "Leave the forest. We should have never allowed you in. And tell the one you call Bianca...that we'll have words."

I rose from the severed trunk. "I acted foolishly, but Bianca has no place in our quarrel. She just arranged for us to meet. If you want revenge, take it out on me."

"We will, strigoi." And they were gone. Still, despite everything...thank God Bianca hadn't been here for this. I don't think I could have forgiven her for trying to alter my mind, or for that matter, that she could have forgiven herself.

And, just like that, I made some new enemies, chopped a probably sentient tree in half, and manhandled a woman because I was too damn impatient to have things explained to me.

God, I'm such a fucking arsehole.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 8

With the iele gone, the multicolured light and fairytale clearing seemed pale and lesser, like circus artists deprived of their makeup and costumes. And perhaps it was so. It would not be the first time the Daughters of the Woods had changed a place to suit them, and it would not be the last.

I turned and walked out. The damn place was unbearable now. Like looking at the insides of my soul.

I walked and walked, but not forty days and forty nights. I wasn't a hero. I doubted there would be a happy ending for me.

I found Bianca sitting on a log, back in her human disguise. Quickly, I focused my senses on the log, to make sure it was not alive, not writhing and squirming, like the tree I'd murdered.

God, what has my unlife come to that I'm using sentences like that?

But, no. It was just dead wood. Long dead. Bianca made a point of never using or exploiting living plants, but the log was long gone, and she didn't care about it anymore.

Wonder if I'd share its fate, and how soon.

She nodded as I approached, then saw my flesh was even worse than when we'd parted. Sighing quietly, she stood up and walked to me. She held her hands before her, and I reluctantly took them.

"I'm sorry they failed you, David. I thought...or, rather, hoped..."

"It's alright." I lied. "I'm the one who failed them."

And I told her about my stupid tantrum, about the tree I'd felled and her sisters' twin promises.

"If you weren't already dying," She told me with a dry look. "I'd say you were trying to get yourself killed. What were you even thinking?"

"I wasn't, much. At the moment." I admitted. "But it's like you just said. What more can they do? I'm already-"

"Already getting on my nerves." She snapped. "You need to stop thinking you're hopeless-when it comes to surviving, I mean. Not even your god could help you with the other things you're hopeless in."

I managed a small smile, for her sake. It didn't fool her.

"After we heal you," She sounded so sure it would happen, too. "My sisters will be sure to make good on their promise. They keep their word."

"How do you know they won't intervene before that?"

"Because us iele are patient when it comes to revenge...and your ilk are annoyingly hard to truly harm."

She moved away from me and sat back down on the log, suddenly looking exhausted. "Go. Alex and Andrei are next."

"So, Alex first, then Andrei?"

"No. Are you deaf? Both of them. Now leave. I'll try to get us out of the mess you got us into. Maybe I can claim you were delirious, or... "

I left her to her planning and dim view on my mental sanity.

I could feel where my friends were. Andrei's strong, fast breathing, characteristic of most weres, and the pale, ragged thread in the tapestry of the world that was Alex.

I followed my senses and, after what felt like a few minutes, I was on a battlefield.

Romania after the Second World War. After unreality broke into reality, and the world's powers scrambled to put down enemies they had never seen before, except in story books and childhood nightmares. All grudges forgotten, at least while mankind and the world as they knew it were under siege.

The Soviets had swept through Romania like a red tide, like blood pumped into a corpse. Someone had to keep order in Eastern Europe, and, after our neighbouring countries were dealt with, it was our turn.

The Soviets brought order, I won't deny that. They brought along their psychics and occultists, their mystics and the results of their esoteric experiments. And our myths-the cruel, dangerous ones-were forced back into the shadows.

And to the heroes, the spoils. Who cared if some farm or two were looted, or if some women were deflowered, if the country as a whole was safe again? And why would you even pin the blame on the heroic liberators, and not a cruel strigoi or ogre? How could you tell who was responsible? You could not. Thinking like that would not help anyone. In fact, you would help much more if you joined the rebuilding efforts.

These were Andrei's memories. The world of his childhood.

Andrei stepped out of a cloud of dust, clad in shredded, bloody Soviet fatigues. I didn't tell him how well they fit him, how natural he looked in the uniform. I knew his opinion on his father.

Alex rose from the ground, floating next to Andrei, and wasted no time in explaining their idea. "You see, David, we believe the cause of your decay, for want of a better term, is internal, rather than external. That is, we believe it's a mental problem. Say, are you at peace with yourself?"

The question came out of nowhere. I could only look blankly at him. "What?"

"Do you feel at peace with yourself? Are you happy being a strigoi?"

A low growl rose in my throat. "Are you mocking me?"

"Yes, David. I'm making sure my friend is going to fall apart while in a shitty mood. Of course not, genius!"

"What Alex is trying to say," Andrei said, and we were clearly in a bad spot if he was trying to be diplomatic. "Is that, as long as you hate yourself, you are going to wither. How many strigoi do you know, or have you heard of, who do not embrace themselves?"

I looked at the ground.

"None, yes? And none of them share your problem, either."

"So, what are you saying? That I should just give up? Say 'fuck everything' and start acting like a fucking animal? Forget that. I'd rather shove a sharpened cross through my brain. I still have enough faith that it would work."

"Maybe." Andrei replied. "But what is the worst thing you have done since the beginning of your unlife? Have you hurt, truly hurt, anyone?"

"I've become more...temperamental. Started swearing a lot more. I've started insulting people and shoving them around in public, just because they got in my way. I never did that before."

"You were a spineless worm before." Andrei said bluntly. "But the past is the past. Alex believes that, if you were to become happy and content, your body would stabilize. And I agree. I think that clearing up a mystery that has tormented your nights would be a good first step. Would you like to learn about your parents?"

It seemed things could not stop but fly at me out of left field. I didn't reply, and Andrei likely took my bemusement as approval, because he continued.

"I chose this background because... because we're going to talk about memories." Andrei seemed unusually hesitant, and I didn't like that. How bad could my parents have been, to unsettle the old werebear?

"Your mother was a little slut." Very diplomatic start. At least Andrei was back in character. "She was underage, but sneaked her way into places she had no right or business being in. Getting drunk, getting groped, sleeping with men and women twice or thrice her age. Most of them knew they were exploiting a stupid child. Both sides found it exciting. Your father was her last partner."

I didn't ask how he knew this. Alex talked with all sorts of beings in the afterlife, and Andrei knew everyone who knew anyone.

"Your father left her pregnant, something neither of them had ever experienced. The teenage mother screamed and wailed her way through the pregnancy, while the stupid bastard wrung his hands and ran around like a headless chicken. She died giving birth to you, but he was not prepared to be a father. Hell, he hadn't even been prepared to be a husband. So, he took his newborn son, and went to the house of Constantin Silva while the priest was away, and left you there. He knew Silva was a good, responsible man. A better father than he could ever be, guilty and terrified as he was."

I waited for him to continue, but that was it. So... so...

So fucking, mindlessly stupid. This was the secret story of my birth? No wonder I'm such a damn failure. Must be genetic.

I understood Andrei's outrage, too. He'd never been able to stand people like his father.

Eventually, I forced a choked laugh out of my throat. Stretching my arms above my head, I walked over to Andrei. "Thanks for the effort, man, but...that sure as shit didn't cheer me up. Some mysteries are supposed to remain veiled, I guess. Still." I said with a strained smile. "Thanks for telling me about my father. Put it in and ran away after, did he? Just there for the fun, not the consequences. Fucking..." I chuckled harshly. "And you called me spineless.
If I survive this, I'm going to find that bastard, and tell him a thing or two."

"Alright." Andrei said, walking closer, a strange look in his eyes. "Tell me."
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 9


No, I must have misheard.

I must have gone mad, crazed with fear at my

My what? My death? I was beyond such natural things now, by my own foolish choice.

I was clearly hallucinating, hearing things.

Though, for a hallucination, Andrei still looked annoyingly real.

"Tell you what, Andrei? Look, I understand if you know him and want to protect him or whatever-I'd want to be protected to, if I were in his place. But I don't want you to pass my words on to him. I said-"

"Stop playing the fool, boy." Andrei said curtly. "You heard what I said, and you understood. You know-"

"Yes, yes! I searched my heart and know it to be true!" I snickered at the absurdity. "And, now that we're being honest, tati..."

My fist crushed his nose, faster than a tank shell, harder than a mountain. The werebear was sent flying, skin smoking and blood turned to steam from the sheer speed of my strike. He landed on the far edge of the battlefield, on the horizon, and I ran after him. I was there before him, and his body hit mine with a sonic boom. I headbutted him, the ground shattering around us, so that we were standing in a crater the size of a house, then grabbed him by the tongue with a clawed hand. Foul thing. He didn't need it anymore.

I noticed he wasn't fighting back. Good. Smart. Only smart thing he'd ever done in his life.

I grinned, and popped the twitching, bleeding tongue in my mouth. I chewed until it turned to pulp, then turned my head and spat.

"Filthy. Guess it's to be expected." He was on the ground, but his tongue had already grown back. Damn were healing.

I stamped on his head, grinding one heel into his left eye. Squelch. My grin widened.

"It's alright, tati." I told him in a cheerful voice. "I'm only hurting you because I know you'll bounce back. Unlike you, I think before I act. You should try it."

And the bastard sighed.

He fucking sighed, like I was boring him. Like I was wasting his time!

I hissed, and the sky churned at my rage. Huge, lead-grey clouds gathered in moments, and hailstones the size of fists began falling, until it sounded like we were in a gunfight. Lightning, white and blue and red, red as blood, red as rage, lashed through the ashen sky, and the thunder that followed almost drowned out the sound of the hail.

"First time." I grabbed him by the throat, claws digging through flesh until my hands were cupping his spine. "First time in your fucking life you're honest with me, first time you're here for me, and this is it?"

"Do not lie." He gurgled, eyes still cool, voice still calm. How hare he look so fucking stolid!? "I was there for many times. Who carried your coffin? I was there when you-"

I swiped at his face, cutting his eyes out. "When I rose through the earth like a fucking maggot? Yes, I remember. A beautiful moment. And, somehow, still more dignified than my first birth. I've got to thank you for that." I swiped at his face again, cutting his nose off. It grew back instantly. "And don't you tell me not to fucking lie! You've been lying to me for decades-why the fuck did you even become my friend? Was it your fucking guilt again? Or were you just playing a prank on me? Laughing at your stupid son while he was none the wiser?" I laughed again. It sounded more hollow each time. "Fucking hell, is that story you told us even real? Were you really born of rape? If it is, you're almost as bad as that sack of shit you called father. Oh, wait!" I widened my eyes, as if I'd just realized something. "At least he fucking died when you were still shitting your diapers, so you never had to deal with him! Why couldn't you do me the same favour!?"

"David, enough!" A voice cried from somewhere above me. I looked up, growling, and saw Alex looking down at me, scowling, arms crossed. Who the fuck did he think he was?

"Are you fucking serious? Defending him? Seriously!?"

"Is hurting him going to change your past?" The ghost asked patiently. I barked a harsh laugh at him.

"I though you were just asthmatic, not retarded. But it seems you're deaf as well. Did you hear any of what he said?"

"I did, yes-"

"I did, yes." I parroted. "Better stay up there, friend. The way you're defending him, I'd bet you knew about this, too. Did you?"

He didn't answer.

"Did you?" I repeated. "Did you fucking know!?"

"I met your mother in the afterlife." He said eventually. "She-"

"So, you did. "I said with a deceptively calm smile. "Good to know. Don't come close, Horia. As I am now, I'd eat you and shit the scraps into Hell."

I turned away from the ghost and back to my father. "Do the others know?" I asked dangerously. "Does Constantin?"

Andrei barely managed to shake his head, so tightly I was holding him. "I don't think so. Or, if they do, they never said."

I scoffed, tossing him away from me. He landed on all fours, and sprang to his feet with ease, showing no sign he'd been mutilated several times.

"Luci is next." Alex said from above me. "He originally wanted to help Mihai, but changed his mind."

"I didn't ask." I replied, then looked up at Alex. "Better pray I die during this, or you do. Because, if not..."

He dissipated into ectoplasmic mist, and disappeared. Then, I looked at Andrei, who was studying me intently, carefully, as if expecting me to pounce on him again.

"The next time we meet," I told him as I turned to leave. "I'll bring silver."

And I left the past behind.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 10

The battlefield faded behind me, and I was walking through the forest again. Now that I'd calmed down-so to speak-, I wondered what that had really been. Andrei had implied he had created it, but how? He couldn't warp reality, or even create illusions. And I didn't think Alex could, either. He wasn't that kind or ghost, as far as I knew.

But then, what did I know, really? Jackshit, as far as recent events had show.

In order to finally start keeping track of time, I began snapping my fingers. Each finger-snap lasted a second, as far as my senses and instincts could tell.

It took about three and a half million seconds before the scenery changed. Thank God I don't get tired.

I was getting sick of this damn place. This forest, with its eldritch laws and flow of time. If I didn't get cured, I'd level the place, just to spite it.

No. Fucking damn it. What's wrong with me? I've already stepped into it with the iele. No need to keep digging my-

I fucking hate my mind sometimes.

My body continued to degrade. Wither, as Andrei had said. My arms and legs became thinner, and my face stuck to my skull, feeling paper-thin.

It was all my perception, I knew. I wasn't getting physically weaker, or slower, less durable. There was just...less of me.

The forest was replaced by an endless plain. The grass was tall and made of gold, beneath a purple sky with green clouds. On the horizon, I could see a golden palace, tall as a mountain, clouds not even reaching its middle floors.

I was in the country of zmei.

In many stories, the hero- Făt-Frumos, Prâslea or whoever-has to leave the mundane, human world behind, and walk into the realm of his enemies to confront them. The zmei are often not of the Earth, so the hero has no choice but to go to their country.

The gates of the palace opened, shaking the ground and air for as far as I could see, and a giant mace came flying at me.

Its round, spiked head was the size of my torso, its spikes the size of daggers and far sharper. It was coming at me so fast fire was dancing around it, and it was glowing white-hot from the friction with the air. The sound of its passing would only reach me long after the mace itself. But I didn't need to hear it to react.

I raised a hand and backhanded the mace away. It shot away from me like a Rod from God, and the grass turned to smoke from the force of the clash, for as far as I could see.

The mace flew, then hit the ground, carving a trench through the barren ground deep and wide enough for the Danube to pass through.

Lucian's laughter shook the plain, seeming to come from everywhere, even from beneath.

It made sense. This was his realm. His domain.

The zmeu dropped from the sky like a meteor, hitting the ground far harder than his mace had. I had to brace and repeatedly stomp through the ground not to get sent flying away by the shockwave. I'm inhumanly strong, but I still only weigh as much a human. Superhumanly strong people often forget this and get ragdolled by the cars, trucks or trains they try to stop.

Lucian hovered above me, wings beating slowly. He was dressed as fine as any voivode, in black threaded with gold, and boots shaped for his clawed feet. If he were standing on the ground, I knew the top of my head would only reach the base of his chest. His arms were as thick as my torso.

"Mihai had the right idea!" He bellowed in a voice like the horn of a warship. "But he never packed enough punch. But don't worry-it all ends now."

I didn't like they way he'd phrased it. "What the hell do you mean? Are you going to beat me up, or what? Mihai pulped my head, and I healed, but I'm still withering. What purpose would it serve?"

"He only pulped your head. I can, and will, do far more." He chuckled throatily at my expression. "Oh, yes. I know of the new crater. I'd bet everyone with a telescope does, and the rest of the world can't be far behind."

He dropped to the ground-in a three-point landing, because of course he did-, then raised to his feet. He opened his right hand, and his mace reappeared in it. No cloud of smoke, no flash of light. Just a weapon, heeding its master's will.

"You've been a gloomy bastard ever since you dug your way out of the earth." He said, mace casually slung over one shoulder. It was made of solid gold, enchanted to make it far heavier and tougher than any earthly material. I'd felt its weight when I'd backhanded it. It had felt like a locomotive.

"And that's the problem. I've yet to meet a strigoi who shares your problem, but none I know shares your winning personality, either. They're all at peace with themselves, even if they're all vile shits."

This was basically what Andrei and Alex had said, almost word for word. Had they talked? Or had Lucian come to this conclusion himself? Did he know about-

No. No. I couldn't start thinking like that. It would only distract me, and besides, maybe they were right. If my body was tied to my mindset, paranoia wouldn't help it one jot.

So, I just walked to Lucian, crossing my arms and looking up at him. "So, what shall we do, zmeu? Cut ourselves with swords, break ourselves with maces, or wrestle in a brawl?"

He snickered at the(probably mangled) quote, drool and flame alike slipping through clenched fangs. "You can fight as you want. If you think it will help."

And we leapt at each other.
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Strigoi Grey
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Chapter 11

At first, we grappled. Lucian tossed his mace far away, and gripped me so hard he clutched at my bones. I returned his favour, but I couldn't even crack his scales, for all my strength.

I couldn't feel anything, and if he did, he showed no sign of it.

Eventually, we gave up on trying to overpower the each other. With a grunt, Lucian lifted me over his head, then threw slammed me into the ground, up to my knees. I dug my way out, then grabbed him and slammed him down, up to his waist. He laughed, ripped his way out, and this time, he buried me up to my neck.

We kept at it until a strange sun rose in the sky, and set again. Lucian wasn't even breathing hard, though by now, we'd slammed our way down to where the centre of the Earth would have been, in the mundane world.

Singing, shrieking lava bubbled and thickened around us. My clothes were long gone, and Lucian's were in tatters, but the fact they still existed at all was a testament to the toughness of whatever they were made of.

Lucian leapt away from me, wings held close to his body, like a mantle, and summoned his mace. Shaped by his will, the terrain changed. The steaming, lava-filled pit was replaced with rocky, uneven ground. We were now surrounded by mountains.

I grinned. I hadn't fought-really fought-since the beginning of my unlife. To hell with Andrei, and Alex, and their bullshit. I felt alive, and, if my last moment was coming, I wanted to remember this.

It was only later that I realized my flesh had stopped withering.

Lucian whooped, then threw his mace even faster and harder than earlier, and this time, I didn't try to stop it. It crushed my ribs, dragging me through mountains that were turned to gravel by the impact of my body. I was laughing. Lucian heard that, and laughed joyfully in response. Then, he leapt after me.

We fought for what felt like days, until fatigue, for all of Lucian's strength, caught up with him. His muscles began twitching, his reflexes slowed, his eyes grew dull. His breathing sounded like a furnace.

Eventually, he lifted a clawed, scaled hand, and his mace returned to it. He put it on the ground, leaning on it like a cane, and grinned at me, flames shining behind his fangs.


I laughed breathlessly, saying nothing.

"I figured." He rumbled, then pointed a long finger at my face. I lifted a hand to in bemusement, and, to my amazement, my flesh felt strong and taut again. Oh, the missing pieces, the gaps that had appeared earlier, had not healed, but the degradation had stopped.

It had stopped.

"Like I said. Mihai had the right idea, but he could never fight with you. He could never get your blood boiling. This..." He breathed out a cloud of smoke. "Is what you needed."

I snorted. "What, are you a therapist now, too?"

"You should see my van. It has 'therapist' on it."

"With a gap after the third letter, or what?"

We laughed, truly laughed, for probably the first time since I'd become a strigoi. I hadn't been able to muster some genuine joy in months, and Lucian, for all his bluster, tried to take people's feelings into consideration.

"What now?" I asked him. "We spar every now and then, and hope something new and worse doesn't pop up?"

He shook his great head, moustache still frayed after I'd grabbed on it and tried to rip it out, to his outrage. "Go to your father, and tell him I was right. Constantin should be pleased he won't have to put his plan into practice." I didn't ask what it was. I just felt It would be better if I didn't. "And tell him to prepare the money, so I can rub the others' faces in it."

I gave him a dry look. "Seriously? You bet on...what? Whether I'd survive or not? Who would save me? And pops bet, too? He isn't like that."

"Of course not. But that doesn't stop him from overseeing it."

And he flew away, as the country of zmei disappeared, and I was back in the forest. In fact, back in the clearing where Mihai had tried his percussive maintenance, as Bianca had called it. The others were gathered in a circle around me. Mihai was still reading the two books orbiting around him, though he'd found time to change to his sporty clothes. Bianca was in her human form, but her eyes were darkened by something I didn't like. I wouldn't ask if she had gone to meet her sisters. Not now.

Alex and Andrei stood together, looking at me with a mix of curiosity and...relief, upon seeing I did not look any worse than when we'd parted. I scoffed inwardly. A bit too late to care.

Lucian was there too, though he'd left his clothes and mace back in his palace, and was now wearing only a pair of oversized trousers, with a hole cut for his tail. He nodded at me.

And, finally, pops stood next to the Fourfold, reminding me of someone standing next to a nuke and hoping it won't explode. He smiled widely upon seeing my face, and came to embrace me. I hugged him back, hesitantly. Had he known? And if he had, did I have any right to think less of him due to that? He'd still raised me, still taught me to be a man. Still...accepted me, after I sinned, and came back as a monster in the eyes of God.

Other priests...other people would have...they would have...

I had not known, until then, that strigoi can weep. Nowadays, I like to think it is something God allows us to keep, in order to remember our former selves. And, above all, it is proof that we are still human.

Because true monsters do not, cannot, weep.

I clung to my father like a lost child, perhaps holding him tighter than I should have.

He did not say anything, did not push me away. He never had, and he never would.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Shallow Grave, Epilogue

We walked back to Urziceni, and this time, the forest did not seem so dark and forbidding. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, but...

But, you know what? No. For once in my life, I chose to believe things were as good as they seemed. Because despair would serve no purpose. If the worst were to come, it would come. I could not change that.

We walked back to pops' house, and he unlocked the gate for my friends to enter.

"Go." He said. "We won't be long. Just prepare things, as we agreed." My friends nodded, and moved to walk through, but not before Bianca chastised me for losing my clothes, again. She quickly spun me a new change of clothes, and this time, I didn't look like I was going to perform on the 1st of December.

They walked through, Luci having to crouch and turn sideways, and Alex trying to float through the gate, only to bounce off the protections. I smirked at that, and pops looked at me with concern.

It was then I noticed that the Fourfold had neither walked through, nor returned to wherever her superiors needed her. She was still with us.

"Pops?" I said softly. "I think there's something-rather, a couple of things, that we need to talk about."

He nodded. "Of course, David. Just follow me, please."

It was about halfway through the trip that I realized we were walking to the church. The Fourfold was walking behind us, not because she couldn't keep up, but because, it seemed to me, she wanted to keep a respectful distance. Not spoil the moment between pops and I.

Someone tell the Goetia guys their hellbound are starting to grasp nuance. They're evolving, I tells ya!

We reached the church, and pops took out another key. There were no services being performed at the moment, past midnight as it was, but pops always had access to the church. You never knew when the local priest needed a little bit more bang for his buck.

Pops pulled the heavy doors open, shoulders cracking with the strain, but he didn't ask for help. He knew I'd only burn my hands by trying. This church was believed in by enough people that just being inside would make me writhe in pain.

I knew. It happened the last time I came here, to pray and ask forgiveness for what I'd done to myself, and what I'd become.

I followed pops into the church, which, to my surprise, was not dark. A golden gentle light filled the chamber, coming from no lightbulb or candle. I tried to find its source, even as my eyes twitched and blinked rapidly in pain.

I looked at him questioningly, and he just shrugged, smiling. "Perhaps He is trying to enlighten us."

The Fourfold entered the church too, to my slight surprise. I had no experience with hellbound, but what I'd heard and read about them painted them as being as vulnerable to holy power as me, if not more so.

And the Fourfold housed not one, but three demons inside her flesh.

I looked at her dubiously, but, if being in the House of God pained her, or even made her uncomfortable, she showed no sign of it. Her face was as blank as when we first met.

Pops took out another key-I always tell him to just get a keychain, but he's worried that way, somebody can steal all his keys at once- and started heading to the chancel. At my questioning look, he just said he wanted to do this properly.

And that was how a strigoi was left alone in a church with a woman and three demons, in the middle of the night.

You could make good money writing bad smut about this.

The Fourfold just stared forward blankly, an almost bored look on her face. If you saw her on the street, you couldn't tell she had more demons than the average teenager.

"So." I said, after the silence became awkward. "Ca-Will tell me about yourself? Yourselves?"

Caught myself this time, you Exorcist extra.

One corner of her mouth briefly quirked upwards, seemingly the closest she ever came to smiling. "Do you want to learn about us, or our work?"

I know a trap question when I hear one. Sometimes. "Both?" I asked hopefully.

And this time, she actually smiled. It was freaking ghastly. No wonder she did it so rarely. "It's good to want things. But, information about us is classified."

"You told me one of...your selves is immune to all but brute force. In the forest." I pointed out.

"We said untouchable, not immune." She was still smiling, and I was contemplating whether to tell her to stop it or not. It would probably be a nice change of pace from what she heard from her colleagues. "And there are many demons who could be described like that. If you do not know the Name, the nature is useless."

"When did you and Constantin talk?" I said, changing the subject, because we were clearly going nowhere. "When we met, he implied you two had already arranged things, but I never heard or saw him talking with you."

"We have worked with Constantin in what you would call the past, though we were lesser then. We have fought together many times, for we shared enemies, and still do. After you hanged yourself, Constantin contacted us through the usual channels, because he values our expertise. If your companions had failed, we would have thrown ourselves into the task of saving you."

"Because you owe Constantin a favour?" I was shooting in the dark, but I couldn't see any other reason.

Any other plausible reason.

"No." The Fourfold said. "Because we do not."

I hoped pops would return soon, so we could stop torturing this conversation.

Fortunately, he did, and this time, he was in his priestly habit. I raised an eyebrow at that, and he sat down on a chair, gesturing for me to come to him.

I hadn't done confession since becoming a strigoi. I dared not to, lest God perceive it as mockery, but...but, if He wanted to strike me down, He could do it now.

He did not.

I kneeled, and Constantin and I spoke softly. I told him of my friends' attempts at saving me, and the eventual success, but he already knew that.

So, I told him about Andrei, and Alex, and how I had ended up on his doorstep. He had not known, but he warned me not to bear Andrei ill will. If a man foolishly commits a sin, he should not compound it by attempting to fix his mistake when he does not know how.

I gritted my teeth, and nodded.

I told him of my descent into despair, of my failures in my human life. He knew, of course, and had known even before I'd first told him, over a decade ago, but I...I felt the need to unburden my soul.

And I had one. I had one. Not in the sense that I was a spirit bound to my own corpse, but in the sense that I though and felt like a human.

And as I spoke, my flesh healed.

"In the end..." I said with a smile. "I think I didn't escape the grave-not truly-until tonight. Because I did not believe I could, so I could not rise from it."

"Then let us thank God, my son," Pops said. "That it was a shallow grave."
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Cold Blood, Prologue

After my brush with death, pops and my friends decided we needed to celebrate. This might surprise you, but I'm not a party animal. You know that awkward guy who always sits stiffly in corners and doesn't say anything? That's me. Except, now that I'm undead, I sit absolutely still unless I actively move.

People who suffer near-death experiences often change. Some become less hesitant than before, willing to do things they would have previously balked at, because who knows if they'll ever get another chance?

I suppose actual death would change you on a greater scale, but even the reaper can't remove the stick from my arse. Though, if you prod me enough, I may start making working stiff jokes.

Such an interesting saying, a brush with death. I wonder what they'd call my case.

Pops' property is laid out in a fairly straightforward manner. You enter the concrete courtyard, with the barn on the right and the vine-covered fence on the left. No grapes at the moment. I helped pops harvest them a few weeks back.

Behind the fence is his flower garden, from which a narrow path, between the fence and the wall of the house, leads to 'the front of the house'. It's an open area, with a table, chairs and couch, situated between the entrances to the gues rooms and the family rooms.

We're not going inside tonight, though. Pops is probably thinking that I don't want to feel trapped somewhere, after everything, which is nice of him. A table and two benches are brought down from the attic.

Pops hasn't prepared anything-he didn't have time, because he didn't know my situation until this evening. Luckily, Mihai was just itching to try and convert mana into food, so we could eat and talk, rather than fast and talk.

It was Saturday, anyway. Fasting wasn't expected.

"No, no!" Lucian grumbled, waving a clawed hand at at a conjured chicken.

"What, you a vegan now?" Mihai grumbled, brow furrowed in concentration.

"Like hell. Make a raw one, I want to try a trick."

Those words would send most sane people running to somewhere they thought was a safe place. No one left.

"A trick." Mihai deadpanned. Though he conjured a raw chicken, too. Morbid curiosity, maybe.

"Oh, yes..." Lucian said, then pursed his lips and breathed a thin curtain of flame over it.

I don't know what he expected. Judging from the scowl, probably not carbonized meat on a flaming table.

"Oh, for God's sake..." Pops muttered. Mihai prepared to extinguish the flames, but pops waved him off. Moving his hands over the table, he faithcrafted the flames into harmless smoke. Then, he turned to the zmeu. "Lucian, enthusiasm is not a substitute for skill."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"That you're awful at cooking. But, don't worry. I'm sure you're great at making charcoal."

The zmeu grumbled, but gave up on playing chef. With an easy leap, he was on the barn's roof. The roof creaked in a way that made me wince, but held. Considering the two hundred and forty kilos that had just dropped onto it, that was something.

"I'll stand guard here!" Lucian declared proudly, hands on his hips. "Look out for hidden enemies."

"They'll definitely hide once they see his face." Bianca whispered, busying herself with arranging the drinks.

"Look on the bright side." Andrei said, apparently feeling entitled to participating in the conversation. "At least he didn't summon his mace."

"Yeah." Alex said, because everyone was feeling talkative tonight. "Damn thing's a thousand times heavier than him. He'd crash right through the roof. And the floor."

"It's nice he thought about what a headache that would be for everyone, then decided not to do it." I said lightly.

"I have a feeling you're being catty." Bianca said, giving me a thoughtful look.

"It's good to be open about your feelings." I replied.

She glanced between me and the others. Alex mouthed that he'd explain later.

It was then that the Fourfold arrived. I didn't notice until the dogs started barking, and they only noticed because they were looking straight in her direction.

Pops names his dogs after Biblical figures. Maria is a big Carpathian shepherd. She and Iosif stay in the courtyard. Petru is next to the pig pens, and Pavel sits at the edge of the vegetable patches.

I only know Maria's race. The other three are mutts of some sort or another. Iosif and stocky, black-furred and has a long tail. Petru and Pavel are brothers, both brown-furred, though the former is long-furred, with a short tail, and the latter looks almost shaved, with a tail like a snake.

"Did you forget something?" I asked, turning and standing up to face the agent.

She smiled thinly. I think. "We are on leave. It is the reason we were able to come here at all. May we stay?"

That sounded uncomfortably close to the way vampires ask to enter homes. "You may stay in the courtyard for tonight." I said carefully. She nodded, and came to sit at the table. She looked so human, for a moment, that I almost laughed.

We ate and talked the night away, though the Fourfold didn't eat and mostly listened. We reminisced about how we'd met: Mihai, Alex and I had met in high school. We went to one of Bianca's concerts, back when she was touring the country, with Andrei and Lucian as bodyguards. We bumped into each other after it was done, in the parking lot, and something clicked.

Bianca spoke about her recent trip to the Fae realm. To nobody's surprise, it started out nice and turned into a horror movie at the end. Mihai talked about his wife and twin daughters, and how grateful he was for meetings like this, where he wasn't outnumbered by the other sex. Luci came down from the barn, to complain about his stupid older brothers, with their Navy career and tattoo salon, who always chastised him for acting childish and 'perpetuating stereotypes about our kind.'

He did the air quotes and everything.

Pops was about to start regaling us with stories about his youth as a monster-hunter, when Andrei cleared his throat.

"I would like to...clear the air." He said with a constipated look. "David knows what I'm talking about, so he can leave, if he wants."

I stood up, and started towards the garden. Was I petty enough to throw out a biting remark as I left?

"Thank you for considering my opinion."

Apparently, yes.

At the edge of the courtyard proper is another fence, with a door. Past that is a patch of concrete. On the left is the structure that contains the attic and the cellar, and on the right are the pig pens. Beyond that, there's grass and a few trees, the small kitchen building, and the outhouse. And beyond them, the vegetable patches.

I didn't want to walk the garden, though. So, I entered the pens. I've always found the pigs oddly cute. Almost all the pigs, some brown, some pink-white, were sleeping. Almost all, except for one.

Hogge has been in the pens for as long as I can remember, which makes him far older than the average pig can get. He's black and his teeth have never been filled, instead growing into tusks. His beady eyes seem to glint with amusement, and his snout is permanently curled into something that could be called a smirk.

Hogge has never shared his pen with another pig. I think they're scared of him.

I remember when I was five, and pops took me around our home, so I could familiarize myself with the animals. I didn't like Hogge, even when I first met him.

"Hogge doesn't sound like a Romanian name." I had told pops.

"Because it's not." He had replied.

Even now, watching Hogge set me on edge. And he was sitting with his back to me.

The Fourfold joined me shortly after I entered the pens. She took one look at the black pig, and her lip curled.

"What a loathsome creature..." She muttered.

"I think he feels the same way about us." I said, only half-joking.

"We know it does." The Fourfold replied.

That killed our conversation for a bit. But, like me, it came back.

"Why are you here? Really?" I asked the agent after we went back outside.

"What did you major in, David?" She asked.

I frowned. I doubted ARC didn't have a file on me. Maybe she hadn't read it? "I majored in parabiology, with a minor in pseudothanatology."

The study of supernatural beings, and undead in particular. So I could know what I was writing about in my books.

"And how long has it been since you've taught?"

"Five, six years...why?"

"We cannot make any official offer now, since we are not an agent, at the moment." A corner of her mouth twitched upwards, and I wondered if she was joking. "But we would advise you to think about becoming an ARC consultant. Supernatural perspectives are always welcome. With your experience, you could even become a psychologist, if you study a few years."

"Thanks for the offer." I said. "But I don't think I'd be comfortable talking to...people like me. For a while. I've worked a few oddjobs since I've returned from the grave, mostly manual labour. They paid well. I think I'll get my papers in order, maybe get back to teaching."

She nodded. "We understand."

"Besides," I smirked. "You know how girls get around undead..."

"You are not a vampire, Mr. Silva."

"Oh, it's Mr. Silva now, is it?"

Before we returned to the table, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hogge turn in his pen. For just a moment, his eyes flashed yellow.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Cold Blood, Chapter 1

The night grew colder as we talked, until pops suggested to head inside the house. None of us would be bothered by the cold, but I knew pops' real reason for going inside. No one would be keen to lose their temper inside pops' house, and not just out of respect for him.

The Fourfold remained outside.

Pops' bedroom was fairly small: a stove, a chair, a table with a TV and the bed. Between them, you hardly had space to move around.

"I think we should have a game night." Pops said bluntly after everyone had sat down. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I raised an eyebrow at him.

"To clear the air." He answered my unasked question. Or do you want to fight it our, right here? He asked me silently.

"Sure." I said. "Got anything prepared?"

Apparently, he did. Soon enough, we had formed pairs. Pops and I attempted to dissect a mythology crossword, with the clue for each word written in another language, while Andrei played chess with Alex, who sat crosslegged across him. In midair. Luci beat a rhythm on his knees as he sat on the floor between the bed and the stove, waiting for Bianca with the game they had agreed on.

The iela entered gracefully. That was the only graceful thing she did.

The floor of pops' bedroom is bare earth. It used to have floorboards, then a zmeu smashed through his window while he was asleep and tried to strangle him. This way, it absorbed blood easier. It was also covered in bumps, over one of which Bianca stumbled.

"Dammit." She said. "I dropped the Scrabble box."

"That could spell disaster." I muttered, leaning over the crossword. She obviously still heard, given the box that flew at my head.

"Now, Bianca." Pops said, after catching it. "This is quite a wordy complaint for a pun."

The iela threw her hands up. "They're multiplying..." She took one look at Lucian's broad grin, and pointed a warning finger at him. "Don't you start as well."

Somehow, he didn't.

It was Sunday tomorrow, so pops went to sleep early, to make sure he was rested. Keys in my hand, I guided the others to their rooms. Lucian was the last.

"Sorry, man." I told him. "We don't really have beds your size...or shaped for your wings."

"It's aright." He said, speech a little slurred from dinner earlier. None of the drinks Mihai had conjured had so much as made him tipsy. Instead, the zmeu had taken out a huge metal keg-don't ask me from where- filled with a bubbling, steaming, dark green liquid. He'd called it 'the homebrew', and I hadn't been eager to sample.

"Aaaalriiiight." He dragged the word out. "I'll just...sleep on my gut. Stomach. You..." He let out a jaw-cracking yawn. "You know what I mean."

And he did sleep on his stomach. On the barn's roof. I found him in the morning.

I had no damn idea how my lumbering friend evaded my senses, or how he avoided wrecking the roof in his sleep. I guess booze turns him into a ninja surgeon, or something.

But don't tell him I said that. He'd start drinking more, and the world doesn't deserve that.

After seeing pops to the gate, I walked the courtyard for a bit, played with the dogs. They still don't know quite how they should react to my presence. I'm still David, but I smell like old meat and move like nothing human. As such, they regard me with a kind of fond confusion.

I was sure it would get better in time. If I had managed to overcome my self-loathing, why wouldn't other things improve?

Eventually, the others woke up, or simply came outside, if they didn't sleep. Mihai was the first, followed by Bianca, whom he offered to teleport back home.

"Thank you, but I think I'd rather meet my sisters alone. There are some things that can only be said between us. Besides," Her eyes glinted with amusement at the solomonar. "What would your wife say if she saw you alone with so many women?"

"I dunno." He said. "Ask to join in?"

Leaving them to their rich imaginations, I saw Alex sink into the ground, nodding good-bye at me. Andrei left without a word, which I was glad for. Neither of us had ever been good with words. At least now, I knew who I got it from.

Standing up on the barn's roof, arms and wings stretching and cracking, Luci yawned. With a jaunty wave at me, he leapt into the sky, and was gone.

Bianca and Mihai had left as well, so I was alone when the Fourfold appeared out of somewhere.

"Remember the offer, Mr. Silva." She said, walking to the gate. On some level, it vaguely annoyed me that she could somehow evade my senses when appearing, but chose to leave openly.

No matter. I'd find out how she was doing it, sooner or later.

"What offer?" I called after her when she was a dozen paces away, on the road. "I though you weren't an agent at the time?"

I both heard and felt her smile. Then, she was gone from my sight.

I blinked, slowly, to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. No. She hadn't moved faster than I could see, or the ground would have been turned to dust as a side effect of the speed. This was something else.

I shrugged. Women had to have their secrets, and all that. It wasn't like we were close, either. I doubted anyone was, to her.

What a miserable existence. I knew all about being an unnatural abomination, but at least I wasn't alone, with three monsters from hell inside me, wary colleagues and paranoid superiors.

I had my friends, and my father-my real father, no matter the fact that we didn't share blood.

And I knew I would never lose them.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Cold Blood, Chapter 2

Five years later

After I returned from the dead, I had to go through my papers. Both update the old ones, and get new ones. Which resulted in a series of annoying questions.

Are you truly undead, Mr. Silva? Why, of course not. All dead bodies get up for a stroll every now and then.

Are you a strigoi? We must check if you can be harmed by such and such. To make sure you're classified properly.

Have you ever felt the desire to murder/and or rape people who wronged or annoyed you? Or just happened to be around you?

How much lifeforce have you consumed up to this point, and how much do you feel the need to consume daily? None, and none.

Until five years ago.

So, lifeforce is sometimes confused with the soul itself, but that's like saying steel is iron. Lifeforce-or mana, or chi, or what have you-is created by the synergy of the body, mind and soul. There are some exceptions, since trees have lifeforce but not minds, and golems rarely have all three, but generally, you have to be a living being to have it.

To strigoi, consuming lifeforce is completely unnecessary, but also almost irresistible-especially if you do it once. It's like only eating one chip.

But I'm rambling.

The point is, pops eventually convinced me to start doing it, in small doses. That tree is rotten, or that neighbour's cow is dying. They're going to die, anyway, so why not take advantage?

And, I admit, it has a relaxing effect on me. Kind of like those flavoured cigarettes that totally don't mess up your lungs.

The greater power is nice, too.

I imagine feeding on dying beings empowers me because of the symbolism, not the energy involved itself. After all, a dying cow-or a healthy one, or a herd-wouldn't even register when talking about strigoi-scale strength. And yet, I've gone from being ripped open by Lucian during sparring to matching him. My reflexes have sharpened, to the point bullets now appear frozen in midair rather than merely slow. And my shapeshifting had grown more refined.

Before, I could only perform what the supernatural community calls 'broad' shapeshifting, changing my whole body at once. Now, I can change individual limbs into mist, become a chimeric creature, or change my appearance without makeup.

I was clean-shaven when I died, which made me look younger than I was, if not better. Pops has worn a chest-length beard for as long as I remember, but I've always shaved because it was easier than constant grooming.

I'd have shaved my head, too, but I didn't want to look like a featherless goose.

Since I've started teaching again, I've worn a moustache. Personally, I think it makes me look more friendly(for which I need every edge I can get) but several of my students have told me I look like an undead porn actor.

Which I guess is a compliment?

As I walked down the high school hallway to my next class, I saw one of the janitors, Gheorghe Jianu. He was older than me, but younger than pops, though he also had more grey hair than my father. Work environment, probably.

I waved in greeting as we approached each other. "Keeping clean, man?"

I heard as much as felt his sigh. "Yeah, Silva. Though I might puke if you keep talking."

"Aw, no need to be nervous around me." I was only half-joking. These days, I was doing my best to be as non-threatening as I could. You know that saying about there being no atheists in a foxhole? Well, the post-Shattering world is a trench network. People can get really pious when threatened.

Gheorghe snorted as he passed me, dragging his trolley of cleaning supplies behind him. "Because you're so cuddly, right?"

The door to the classroom was locked. Like every door in the school, you had to stand in front of it for several seconds before you were confirmed as a student, teacher or other staff member. Too many things that could go wrong with shapeshifting outsiders. Though it got on the shifter students' nerves, because they had to keep to one appearance.

Supernatural world struggles.

After a few seconds, the door opened, and a recorded voice announced that David Silva, parabiology teacher, had arrived to begin his class.

Sounded like a really important guy, with the way the voice said it. I'd be nervous to meet him.

"Good day, class." I said as I walked inside and placed my bag on the desk. The class was already on their feet by the time the recording started.

"Good day, Mr. Silva." Thirty more-or-less sleepy voices chorused in reply. I had the dubious honour of teaching the first two periods on Monday, which meant the children came from their weekend to be greeted my by grey mug. They were usually as enthused as they sounded. I understood how they felt.

When I was their age-yes, yes, I'm old enough to talk like that- I got really nervous each time I was called to the board, or the front of the class. Looking back, I've got no idea why. The worst thing that could have happened would be messing up, then getting sent back to your seat with a bad grade after being laughed at. When you were the teacher, you were always at the front of the class, always the center of atten-pfft. Sorry. Can't finish that sentence with a straight face.

I could be the Devil incarnate, but I doubt I could keep some of these brats away from their phones.

Twenty of the thirty students were human, seven of them mages. Their powers were weak enough they hadn't been sent to a specialized school. Urziceni Central School was for general education, but so far, it was enough for them.

Unless something happened to mark their psyches, and give them a burst of power. But the chances for that were slim to none.

The other ten were split between different species(or maybe I should call them races, given most can breed with each other and with normal humans, but rarely with other species). We three werewolves, a werebear, a set of iela triplets, two vamps and a zmeoaică-a female zmeu. She was the oldest in class, nineteen, and always flirted with me.

I think. I'm not really good at picking up on things like that.

Well, she flirted with basically anything that could respond, and a few things that couldn't. Imagine Lucian with more hormones and no experience in reeling them in. She had gotten used to her advances being rejected by my libido-less arse, but still kept at it.

"Today," I started, taking my laptop out of the bag. "We are taking a break from the usual subjects, as we are going to watch a special documentary. The Mars Colonization Effort has begun, and they're transmitting live. You might see a few relatives or friends on screen..."
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Cold Blood, Chapter 3

After I turned my laptop on, I stepped back from it, leaning against a wall, so I could watch alongside my students. I was between the wall and the desk the vamps share. Call me biased, and yes, I am, but, out of all the classes I teach, I relate the most to them. Partly because we don't have strigoi students-and I don't think I could bear the thought of a child ending up like me-partly because we have few undead students, in general.

Ghouls appear due to a variety of causes, but young people rarely become ghouls, and most of them are more interested in flesh than education. The proliferation of lab-grown meat has reduced their cannibalistic tendencies, but not the stigma against them. Ghosts are rarely coherent enough to participate in society. So, vampires.

Eric and Bogdan weren't brothers, but they might as well have been. Vampires remain the age they are turned at until they are destroyed, so being turned in your teens might not sound so bad, at first. But then, you think about it. You realise that your mind and body, while far more powerful and efficient, are never going to truly mature. That can be sobering, which is why most 'young' vamps have mental issues. They're also the most likely to form groups, if only so they have a shoulder to lean on.

Their souls are gone, too. At least I've still got mine, though it's bound tighter to my corpse than any human's to their body, and so twisted most soul-eaters would rather starve than try to consume it.

Eric and Bogdan have been friends since the fifties. After the Soviets stamped down on the supernatural threats in Eastern Europe, they established military bases in neighbouring countries, so they could watch over potential threats and put them down before they could escalate. And if that resulted in increased scrutiny in civilian life, well, no one ever said freedom is free.

Romania was never part of the USSR, but our country was still filled with their watchmen. We had used 'their' money to rebuild it, after all(the money had first come from the Americans, but they didn't like talking about that)so it was only natural that we would allow them to patrol our lands, just in case something we couldn't deal with appeared.

The two got sick of that. They were both city boys, in a time when the term was synonymous with 'rebellious intellectual', with no desire to enter the Party or the Security. So, they sought a way to escape the lives they saw as cages. They went to Castle Bran, where vampires from across the world are drawn by Dracula's legend, and asked to be turned. They were spurned several times-vampires are weary of turning anything other than adult humans, especially since that Australian madman turned a blue whale that drowned Oceania in blood-so they tried something else.

They cut their wrists, and throats, and laid down on the ground to bleed out. They knew a vamp would pass through, and, even if they didn't turn them, and were merely tempted by the blood, they'd still die. Win-win, in their perspective.

A vampire did pass through, eventually, and, after a moment of exasperation once it realised what they were trying to do, turned them to prevent them from bleeding out.

Then, once they healed, she beat them to a pulp while screaming their ears off. What did they think the Communists would do if they learned people were turning to undeath to escape them?

They were sent to the Canal-the Danube-Black Sea Canal, to be precise, but everyone called it the Canal-where superhuman, tireless workers were always sought and appreciated. In the eighties, when Eastern Europe began chafing under the Soviets' 'helping hand' they were among the first to jump in with the Revolutionaries.

But they never finished their education. They were fifteen when turned, then spent several decades doing everything short of learning. When the supernatural was accepted, if not embraced, in the nineties, they tried being normal again. Or, well, as normal as they could be.

Mind, I only spent time thinking about all that because it took a few moments for the signal from Mars to reach us.

The screen showed a ridged, volcanic area, with steam raising from glowing pits in the ground. I recognized Olympus Mons in the background.

"Greetings from Mars!" The speaker-announcer? host?- was a cheerful black woman, with a wide, white smile and cornrows visible through her transparent helmet. From the accent, she seemed to be from the southern US. Georgian, maybe.

"We are happy to announce the Mars Colonization Effort has begun. The Restoration Process ended years ago, but we are still watchful for any signs of Red Weed or Black Smoke." Typical for announcements nowadays. Start on a happy note, then remind everyone that they should still watch for dangers, even if-especially if-there appear to be none. There was no need to scare people, though, which was probably why the speaker was affable.

"Lame." Eric muttered. "I wanted to see 'em fight a Tripod."

"Didn't you have your fill of those when we ran from one?" Bogdan replied.

"Bet I could take one now..."

"Yeah, yeah..."

"Hush." I whispered. "They're getting to the good part."

The boys, both of them almost twice my age, nodded and stopped discussing. Two more figures, both naked, both sexless, appeared on the screen, next to the announcer. One was short and thin, its bulbous grey head barely reaching past her waist. Its big, black eyes didn't blink, because they were lidless. The other figure was so tall the woman didn't even come up to its elbow. Broad and scaled, I knew it was wearing this form to show it had nothing to hide. No reason to give the conspiracy theorists ammo.

"Our alien allies are just as eager to explore our solar system as we are!" The woman continued. "We hope their experience in blazing trails across the stars will make this endeavor merely difficult, rather than daunting."

The reptilian didn't say anything, just nodded at the camera. The grey raised its three-fingered hand, trying to make a peace sign.

"Yes, Terrans." Its lipless mouth didn't move, but there was no need. Its telepathy crossed the void between worlds at a significant fraction of lightspeed, and I knew everyone who was watching this was hearing the same worlds. "You sheltered me in a moment of weakness. I would return the favor."

Grey One's flying saucer had crashed to Earth in 1947, and it was the only crewmember to survive. After the Americans dug it out of Roswell, they quarantined it for several years, to make sure it brough no alien diseases to our world. Grey One went along with it, because it was fascinated by our species and technology. It healed fast enough to be apt for fighting when the Martians came, and destroyed several of their warmachines in a manoeuvre that also ruined its ship. Since then, it has remained on Earth, learning all it can until its fellows find it.

The reptilian, I didn't recognize. It didn't introduce itself, either. Maybe it was uncomfortable? Going from the Earth's core to Mars' surface meant some serious temperature shift, and it was a testament to its toughness that it wore no environmental suit.

Speaking of...

"This is a joint effort, made by the world's governments and corporations alike." The announcer said, as thousands of more people, in suits similar to hers, filled the background in the camera, setting up prefabricated shelters and research stations. Terraforming vehicles, wheeled and flying alike, came after, racing across and over the volcanic landscape, seeds dropping from them like rain.

"Ordinarily, volcanic soil would be perfect from planting. However, the Martian environment means most plants cannot take root here. The potatoes and bamboo in the vehicles you see have been modified in labs, to thrive on the red planet."

"Bamboo? Did you bring some pandas too?" The werebear, Alin, wondered out loud. His classmates snickered. I smirked.

"We are as safe as our crops-though for different reasons, obviously." The woman joked. "As we speak, the atmosphere is being modified across Mars, and forests will be grown to accelerate the process. Our mages assure us that, in a few years, we will be able to walk this world as if it were home. Until then, the suits provided by Yamada Incorporated will have to suffice."

"Ah, and now a word for our sponsors." I said. "See, children? Nothing is free in this world, or out of it, apparently."

"At least there weren't ads before the transmission, teach." One of the werewolves said.

"If there were, I bet they'd have been unskippable, too." One of the iele chimed in.

"The Safesuit is environmentally-sealed, and has its own air supply." The woman said, gesturing at her torso. I bet the watchers were real interested in her air supply. I certainly was. "Made from yamadium, it can withstand almost anything the wearer can expect."

The image shifted to a testing montage. A yamadium string-because old Kenji just can't resist naming things after his family-,thinner than a strand of hair, was stretched between two pillars. I doubted it was visible to normal people, for all that it was clear as day to me. A speeding freight train, dozens of cars, thousands of tons, came at the string, the rails shaking under it.

And was stopped cold. The locomotive bent in half, and the train crumpled into a mess of cars, but the string barely bent.

The image shifted again, the string stopping other things: a cargo plane trying to take off, a cargo ship, a naval artillery shell. It hardly bent, no matter what was thrown at it.

I nodded approvingly, for all the glorified advertisement. I'd seen yamadium in action, because I'd been asked to test my strength against it, and was one of the few beings that could rip through it. Not that they didn't have stronger stuff for use against strigoi or worse. Talk was that, in a few months, Safesuits would be distributed to firemen, cops and soldiers worldwide, which would even the gap between humans and hostile supernaturals.

"Well." The woman smiled after the montage ended. "I think we've showed enough, yes? Time to get started."

"Yes." The reptilian spoke for the first time, and its voice was raspy, like scales slithering on leather. "It is."

And, without any warning, it ripped the woman in half.

On the screen, Grey One stumbled away, shocked. In the classroom, everyone rose to their feet, screaming in outrage or horror.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Cold Blood, Chapter 4

Most of my students were apalled, some were scared, but none were panicking.

Good. That was good.

Well, it wasn't good at all, but not at bad as it could have been, either. They were regularly drilled and expected to deal with anything from a blood-starved vamp to a were during a full moon.

"Everyone calm down!" I barked over the clamour. "I know this is shocking, but we are safe-"

A low, tortured moan cut me off, because when is anyone ever safe after saying such things? Out loud, too.

As I'd said, none of my mage students had really come into their powers yet. Currently, they peaked at making small objects fly or turn invisible. Carnival tricks, basically.

Fate chose a wonderful moment to accelerate their growth. Of course.

People can't really be trained to deal with mages, because it's almost impossible to know what you're training against. There's an old military joke about how the enemy can't guess your plan if you don't have any. Mages are like that.

Because their power is only limited by their imagination and the amount of mana they have, a mage can do almost anything, like Mihai did while trying to help me deal with my withering body.

And new mages? They didn't know what they were going to do.

Dammit. I had to stop them, before they harmed their classmates or themselves. But quickly, or things would only escalate.

I drew on the power strigoi use to manipulate weather, tapping into a sliver of it. God willing, it was all I'd need.

With an apologetic look at the human children, I drew most of the oxygen in the classroom towards and around me. The air thinned, like we were on a mountaintop. The humans fell to their knees, or against walls, trying to breathe normally. The mages, between the stress and the sudden change in the air, fainted, their eyes closing, the aetheric strands around them fading away into nothing.

The rest of the students were fine. Weres and iele didn't need air, and I had yet to hear of a zmeu choking. The vamps were looking expectantly at the fallen mages, ready to mesmerize them back to sleep if things looked like they were about to get hairy again.

For a moment, we all just stood, getting our breath back-literally, in some cases. I quickly thought of checking the other classrooms, to see if there had been other incidents, but it seemed like I had one more problem to deal with first.

Mia was slim and petite-by zmeu standards. Which meant I barely came up to the base of her neck, and was thinner than her. She usually looked so carefree and confident, especially when making her advances.

Now, she was practically squatting, muscles twitching, almost curled into a ball. I speeded over to her, gesturing for everyone else to stand back, and listened.

Her heartbeat was...normal. Steady and lizard-slow. Her breathing wasn't strained. Her lifeforce didn't feel out of the ordinary, why did I have such a bad feeling about her?

"You alright?" I asked quietly, going down on one knee beside her, putting one arm around her shoulders. Her tucked wings rubbed and scratched at my arm, ripping through my jacket sleeve like sandpaper. "Do you feel fine?"

She raised her head to give me a strained smile, fangs clenched, eyes rimmed with tears. " fine as you, teach."

I clicked my tongue in annoyance. "Cut the crap. It's really not the moment to screw around-"

"You think I'm fucking joking?" She hissed. "It's every goddamn urge I've ever had is hitting me at once..."

"Don't blaspheme." I told her, almost absent-mindedly. "What do you mean? What brought this on?"

It took her a few minutes to get herself under control, so she could speak clearly. She was shivering now, though, but not like she was cold. More like...she was having a seizure.

"You ever stood at the edge of a building and though about jumping?" Mia asked, looking down at her desk, rather than me. The other students stood close by, ready to help, if needed, but watching the byplay, for now. Eric and Bogdan had rushed the unconscious mages to the infirmary, so they could be placed in the secure ward.

"A few times." I replied. Before I actually killed myself. "It's known as 'the call of the void' to some people." I said, watching her carefully. "Was that...what you felt?"

She nodded, finally looking at me. "That, and much more. Look, Davi-sir. I talk shit all the time and mess around with people, alright? But I'm not dumb or impulsive enough to do everything I say, or think."

"And what did you feel, exactly?" I asked, wishing for this to be over, so I could check my phone, see if similar incidents had happened in other parts of the country and world. I'd gotten several texts from my colleagues, describing similar situations they had, thank God, gotten under control.

Even if a were teacher had needed to punch so many kindred students his silver knuckledusters had broken, driving shards into his fists.

Strangely, all the students had been some kind of werereptile.

Mia grinned at my question, but it was a dry smile. "I thought how great it would be to jump you right here, teach. Rip your clothes off and take you." Her eyes were half-lidded, but not with the earlier madness. Her usual humour seemed to have returned. "Did  you feel anything similar?"

"Oh, definitely." I deadpanned. "I feel such things all the time. You should see the holes in my ceiling at home."

Mia snorted, and the rest of the class cracked smiles, some of the tension and apprehension left.

In truth, I suppose she was attractive:fierce, spontaneous, friendly. Tall, athletic. Some guys were turned off by girls like her because they were completely flat, but to each their own.

However, I, personally, had never felt attracted to her. Leaving aside the age difference, and the fact that I was her teacher, I could only appreciate people on a platonic, aesthetic level, nowadays.

Ugh. Can't believe I've gone full creep mode...damn this freak occurence, whatever it had been.

"Did anyone else feel anything weird? The desire to do something they usually wouldn't do?"

I got a bunch of shaking heads and a chorus of 'nos'. I hadn't felt anything, either.

"Alright." I said. "Form a line. We're going in the courtyard."

The evacuation went smoothly, thanks to the drills. In a few minutes, buses and parents arrived to take the students home. The school would be searched, exorcised and blessed, just in case.

When I returned home that night, after the first of many inspections the school would go through, I turned on the TV immediately. Every channel was showing news-breaking news;aren't they always?- even the music and cartoon channels. I changed channels every few minutes, to see if what I was seeing was some hoax or attention-grab by a few isolated channels.

It wasn't. All of them, even the foreign ones, were showing the same thing. I even turned on the subtitles, to make sure I wouldn't misunderstand anything.

"Zmei gone mad? Bucharest under attack!"

"Return of Fafnir, Munchen cut off-"

"Taj Mahal toppled by naga! ARC response is-"

"Sui-ryu levels Kyushu. JSDF attempts counterassault."

Destruction, red in tooth and claw, and cold, cold-blooded.
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Cold Blood, Chapter 5

It was like every supernatural reptile had woken up and decided to confirm every nasty rumour and stereotype about them.

Lowering the volume on the TV, I took out my phone and called Lucian. He took longer to answer than usual. The way he answered was unusual, too.


I blinked. "Why what?"

I heard him grinding his fangs before he spoke again. "Why did you call?"

"Did you see the news?" There was no need or time to beat around the bush.

"The ones about almost every country getting fucked up? Good riddance."

It took me several moments to find my words. Any that weren't curses, I mean. "What did you say?"

"I said, good riddance to whoever did that." He sighed. "Why did you call, David?"

"Bucharest was or is being attacked by zmei. The only reason I haven't gone to help yet is that I wanted to make sure my friend isn't involved with that."

A growl. "You think I'd be stupid enough to admit that? No, what am I saying? Of course you do. Stupid Lucian, with his drinking and his whores and his jokes...but I'm not the moron who wondered about his parents for years while his real father was right under his nose."

I blinked again at that, too shocked to even be angry. "Where did that shit come from?"

"I..." He had the confused tone of someone who had said something they didn't mean to.

"Where did that shit come from?" I repeated. "Since when do you go for the past like that? You've never been so vicious."

No answer.

"Where are you now?" I asked eventually. I needed to know if he was playing bouncer or bodyguard at the moment, or participating in a fight.

When he answered, his voice had a kind of sarcastic amusement, nothing like his characteristic boisterous cheer. "On the phone. With you."

Despite myself, when he said 'with you', I glanced around the living room, almost expecting to see Lucian in a corner, grinning madly, golden mace raised to smash me to a pulp.

Not that it would have done anything permanent, with my healing. Still, I found myself laughing at the absurd thought. The zmeu was two and a half metres tall, wider than my fridge. No way he was hiding under the table or something. Bullshit like that only happened in bad horror movies, the kind that were getting made less and less often as the years went by. No one wanted another Springwood Slaughter.

"What's so funny?" The zmeu asked, drawing my attention back to the phone.

"Your joke. But seriously, where are you?"

A sigh. "At Lucas' place. The wimp doesn't know his arse from his elbow, so I thought to come and have a look."

There was a sound like heavy glass breaking, then Lucian grumbling. "Luci, what did you just do?"

"That was me." Said a new, haughty voice. "My hand slipped, along with the vase in it. So clumsy."

"Hey, Luc." I said. "You alright there? Felt anything unusual recently?"

"Oh, I couldn't say. I don't know my arse from my elbow, as you just heard." Lucian's older brother sniffed. "A zmeu came here earlier, before Lucian. Someone I didn't know, bleating about how we had to join forces, overthrow the world order and take our rightful place at the top of the food chain."

I heard Lucas roll his eyes, all six. They sounded like marbles on stone.

"Wait." I said. "Let me just-"

After a few adjustments, I was looking at the inside of Lucas' tattoo parlour. The zmeu in question was front and centre. Lucian was in the background, trying to clean up bloody, scaled clumps of...something.

"Damn, man. What did you do?"

Lucas, like his younger brother, wore his whiskers long. The silver moustache on each face was carefully-trimmed and waxed, arranged into curls towards the ends. He was smoking, a sure sign he was stressed. The left and right heads each had a cigar thicker than my thumb in their mouth. The middle head had two. Lucas made his own smokes, and I knew the stuff he was inhaling now would have killed a blue whale.

"Aggressive negotiation." The zmeu replied gruffly. "I convinced him to die."

Hah. Good for him...although, looking closer, he didn't appear to have blood anywhere. Not on the deep blue scales covering most of his body, or the silver ones on his torso. His wings and the spiked crests on his heads were clean, too.

"I used the morningstar." He said, seeing the question in my eyes. With a nod of one head, he indicated the wall behind him, where a silver morningstar, with three chains and spiked heads, laid on a rack. "No need to get my claws dirty. Damn bastard...hadn't used that thing in decades. It will start asking for blood again."

"So, is everything alright there now?" I asked, trying to ignore the implications. "Are both of you feeling normal?"

"All the gods together couldn't make the brat normal." Lucas said, jabbing a thumb at Lucian, who flipped him off with one hand while using the other one to mop. "But, yes. We'll keep an eye on each other. I've sealed off the joint. No one coming or going until whatever the hell is going on ends."

I nodded approvingly. "Any sign of Aaron?"

At the mention of his older brother, Lucas grimaced. "He took a dump over the Palace of Parliament, if that's what you're asking. It was stopped by the forcefield, of course." He said.

Lucian snickered. "Funniest shit I've ever seen."

"Less jokes, more work!" Lucas barked. "Disappeared after, though. Probably came to his senses, dug under a mountain and is waiting for this mess to pass."

"That's good." I said. "A shame that you've already sealed yourselves off, though. Maybe you could have helped me with something..."

After I described my idea, Lucas pursed his lipless mouths. "I wouldn't try that, Silva. Even if I deactivated the wards and locks, I wouldn't trust myself around a female right now." He smiled mirthlessly. "The only reason I trust myself around my brother is because I only want to kill him. But I've wanted to do that several times over the years. I'm used to controlling myself, in that aspect."

"Alright." I said with a frown. "Thanks anyway. Take care."

After the call ended, I made another one. It yielded as many results as the first.

"What do you mean you're in Banat?"

"All combat-ready priests have been called to crisis areas." Pops said, sounding as frustrated as I felt. "Hell sees the world besieged and seizes its chance. Several demon have appeared on Earth, taking the form of lizards and snakes so as to avoid drawing attention, but I know their tricks. I'm sorry, my son. I can't watch over her for you. But you have access to my house..."

"No, no need." I said running a hand through my hair. "Mine is just as protected. Thanks. Watch yourself, pops."

"God does, always. Goodbye, David."

I looked down at the phone, annoyed. I had one more idea, but before that...


"Teach, I'm real flattered that you're so worried about me, but it's fine, really. I can defend myself." Mia said, looking down at me as we walked from her home in the forest-far away from the iele, thank God- to my house. Well, I walked. She flew.

"I'm less worried about you and more worried about your surroundings. You're the strongest student at school, and there's no way of knowing what you could do if you lost control."

Mia snorted a puff of flame, but didn't let the praise distract her. "There's loads of other strong people at school. Some of 'em were affected, the same as me."

"But unlike you, they can't slap mountains in half. They can be contained, if need be, but I need to keep an eye on you for a bit, until I find something sturdier than my house."

I whispered the activation words as soon as we arrived, the wards Mihai crafted snapping into existence in and around the house. It was closer to the town's centre than pops', but that didn't meant I was in less danger in case of a disaster.

"Pretty bare place." Mia muttered, looking around my living room. Besides the couch, table, TV and bookshelves, the room was empty. No china, no decorations, no posters.

"It's so guests can have space for their stuff." I told her, dialing a number I'd honestly never expected to.

The zmeu girl shrugged. "I've only got what I'm wearing. You kinda rushed me, teach." Her baggy trousers and vest had holes for her tail and wings, but no pockets.

Someone finally answered. It wasn't what I expected.

"Hi, you are calling Faith Ranch! What service can we perform for you today?"

I blinked at the peppy voice. "Uh...excuse me. I think I might have the wrong number." Or... "Are you the Fourfold's...secretary? I need to talk to her."

"You  are talking to us." The peppiness disappeared, replaced by a clipped, bland tone. "How did you expect us to answer the phone?"

"Definitely not like that." I admitted. "Good cover though, the farmgirl impression. Bet it throws lots of people off."

I wasn't sure how to compliment an agent.

"It is not a cover." The Fourfold replied. "Or a facade. Why did you call, Silva?"

"I need your help. I've got someone with me who might lose control, and I'm not sure I'd be able to stop her." Without killing her, I thought. "Where is the nearest ARC facility?"

"ARC has operators for answering questions like that. The number is public."

"ARC also has its plate full, and is running around the world, putting out fires. I thought things might work faster if I called you."

"Using acquaintances, are you? You remind us of ourselves."

I got the feeling that wasn't a compliment.

She gave me the coordinates for a meeting point, and told me to be ready in half an hour. "The Fixer will come to escort you."

And she hanged up. I'd never heard of this Fixer, but considering the way she'd said the nickname, she probably expected me to know them. Most ARC agents with nicknames were infamous.

So, half an hour. We had nothing to pack, and could reach the meeting point in a skip and a hop, by our standards. I chose to use the time we had to check the news once more, see if anything had changed.

Mostly, it hadn't. Some attacks had been stopped, or at least contained. Siegfried had manifested in Germany, wielding Balmung and battling his old nemesis once more. Talking heads presented blurry pictures as evidence that Jormungandr had appeared around Norway, and that Apophis was rising in Egypt.

Nonsense, of course. The various pantheons almost never allowed each other to manifest on Earth, and that extended to their enemies. If the old monsters really appeared, Thor and Ra would follow soon. It was debatable if that would be better, of course.

I switched channels, Mia watching the TV with one eye and the window with the other, as if expecting the Fixer to appear and knock on it any moment.

A Japanese news channel drew my attention. They usually broadcast nothing but trash-tabloids in visual form, basically-but what they were showing now was different.

On the wall behind the host was a screen, showing Kenji Yamada, CEO of the corporation that bore his name. Over a hundred years old, Kenji looked in his late sixties, and was calm and composed as he fended off a crowd of angry reporters.

The screen changed to show the Martian landscape, where Yamada secirity forces-the corp was one of the main sponsors of the mission, after all-were battling reptilians over the remains of terraforming vehicles and their crews.

"Yamada-san, this reporter has never thought you would be so shameless!"

The old man sighed, the scar tissue where his right eye had been crinkling. "I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about, Takada-san."

"Do not try to deflect." This was another reporter. "The whole country knows you staged the reptilian 'attack' on Mars so that you security thugs could swoop in and show their ability."

"That sounds farfetched, Umeda-san. Why would I do that, if I could?"

"To show the world how safe everyone is under your 'protection'. We know you hire out your bullyboys as mercenaries all the time. We have proof! What better ways to gain new clients?"

Things deteriorated from there.


"Jumped-up Yakuza!"

"Usurper! Bring the Emperor back!"

The last didn't even make sense, but such things rarely do.

"Huh." Mia said, glancing at the TV. "Aren't people from Japan supposed to be polite as hell or something?"

"Things rarely are as they're supposed to be, these days." I said, weary in mind, if not in body.
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Strigoi Grey
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Re: Strigoi Soul(Original Urban Fantasy)

Post by Strigoi Grey »

Interlude: Fourfold

Faith Ranch, Arkansas

3rd of April, 1966

A girl is born. Her father had desired a son, though that desire shames him now. He hoped for a strong child who could help him around the ranch, for he is growing weaker as the years pass and the aches pile on.

His daughter will never learn of that fact.

3rd of April, 1970

Christine is celebrating her fourth birthday today. This is the first time she celebrates it alone. It will not be the last. Her parents are out in the fields, having reckoned she's old enough to handle herself.

It is on this day that Christine asks God to never be alone again. In the decades to come, that will be the only prayer she will regret.

15th of September, 1973

Christine has only been going to school for a few days, and she is not sure she likes it. Everyone speaks so loudly, all the time. The teachers, the other kids, and they can't be shut out. At home, she is used to going to her room and stuffing her fingers in her ears when her parents start arguing. Elijah has never hit Helen, nor has her mother ever done anything more than nag him until he started yelling.

It is not difficult to anger Elijah Faith. He is not violent, not with his family, not physically, though his words often hurt more than his fists would, Christine thinks.

Elijah is not a drunkard. When he drinks, it does not dull his senses. That suits him, for, whenever he is not working, he is searching around the house. Looking for 'trinkets', which he calls things that either take up space or just annoy him. Sometimes, it seems everything Christine and her mother own are trinkets.

Other times, he looks for money, taken from his wallet or pocket by his wife. She sometimes does that, when she thinks her or her daughter deserves something her husband is unwilling to pay for. Elijah does not hoard money-the family has never wanted for anything-but he balks at the thought of anyone in his house buying anything 'too expensive', even if it's out of their own money. The house gets very loud, on such occasions.


"Now, I've nothin' against them queers. You must get that through your skull, Chris." Elijah says, continuing to milk the cow. Christine must stand nearby on such occasions, in case her father needs to give or be given something. He curses so vilely, if she's not...

"They could do whatever they wanted, if this was a safe world. But it ain't. Every story your mom tells you? Bet your hide she leaves the worst details out. We're at war, Chris. We must all have as many children as we can, or else they're gonna drown us in numbers."

Chris-he calls her that, as if she were a boy, she muses- isn't sure who 'they' are at the moment. The Reds, the aliens, the supernaturals? Whoever, they must be formidable, given her pa's insistence on the subject.

"Now I get that not every lad likes girls or that every chick likes men, but really, it ain't the time to for frills like that. I mean, I don't like fish, but I eat if it's served, y'know? We must do what we must do."

"Is that why you keep trying to give me a sibling?" Chris asks, in some burst of boldness. Elijah is on his feet in a flash, stool knocked over, cow startled. He begins cursing.

"Fucking dammit, girl." He finishes, after several minutes. "You got your moron of a mom's mouth, you know that? I should've never showed you that fuckin' room."

Chris knows her parents tried to have children before her. Her birth only encouraged them.

She is the first of them to live. The rest are in a room that can only be accessed from the attic, in jars. She's seen the things floating in clear liquid, of various shapes and sizes. Some of them are-would have been-boys. None of them really look human, in her opinion.

As her father gets back to milking, still cursing in his beard, Chris muses that, in a way, it's good that she was born a girl. If she were a boy, she'd have been named Christian Faith.

The thought makes her laugh.


The hanged man seems so small, so withered, swinging in the wind. Almost doesn't look real, Chris thinks. More like those mannequins she's seen in shop windows in the big cities.

Hanging is not necessary anymore, not really. Other things-chemicals and injections and spells-could kill a man dead, just the same. But a man must be hanged, for the thing that follows.

The man in black looks bored and serious, like he cuts off the hands of dead men every day. And perhaps he does, for all Chris knows.

The hand will me reshaped and enchanted, until it will become able to open any door. Chris isn't sure if that is glorious, despite the name it will receive.

"Remember this, little me." Helen tells her as the gawkers start to leave the square. The portly woman is shorten than her gangly daughter now-muscles under fat, next to knobby knees and elbows. "Anyone who departs the world in such a way almost always deserves it, as well as what comes after. His soul will burn, forever."

Chris doesn't feel that is fair. How can an eternity of pain be the proper punishment for a life of crime, however heinous? Human lives are not infinite. There are only so many sins one can commit.

She resolves to do something about that.


The Reds are running around like headless chickens, and the world at large is going through a time of confusion. In the years to come, she will laugh to herself about finding Xelkhe on such an occasion.

The demon-though it does not look like one, or she would not approach it- is lurching in the middle of the road, as if drunk. In Hell, it used to amuse its betters with its tricks and illusions, until it made the mistake to become boring.

Before it was thrown out, it was subjected to such things that fear will never leave it now. It wants to hide itself, as much as possible, but it is too broken for that.

It still disguises itself, so that when the mortal girl, so full of certainty and altruism, approaches it, she reaches out. It grasps her hand, and dives deep into her being, glad to be hidden in this small way, at least.


The Twofold joined ARC six years ago, out of necessity. The local priest failed to exorcise the hellspawn inside her, only driving it deeper, so she turned to the world's shield against the unnatural.

ARC was founded twelve years before her birth, funded and staffed by people from almost every country. The organization that would become the Global Gathering laid the foundation, though it never watched the growth.

Not carefully enough, at least. Such a powerful organization, unbound by ties to any country and with so many deeds to its name-both heroic and horrific-would not be allowed to exist otherwise.

The Twofold's current mission has her braving the plains and woods of southern Romania, looking for a demon that cannot be exorcised.

Ylvhem forced its way out of Hell like a bull through a rotten stable door, and cannot be harmed by esoteric means. Spells, prayers and exorcisms patter harmlessly against its knotted hide.

The demon, rhino-sized and with no skin over monstrous muscles, six-legged and eyeless-its head is all mouth, full of fist-sized fangs- can only be hurt by brute force. The Twofold doesn't not have enough of that, which is why her guide-and liaison to the Ronanian Orthodox Church-is along for the ride.

"Ready for another go?" She asks, breathless from the exertion.

Constantin Silva nods, blood dripping off his knuckles. "Of course."


The Threefold has not thought about their-her-country in years. She knows it exists, and has been on many mission in many of its States, but her patriotism-if it has ever existed-is dead.

Still, the attempt to destroy the Three Towers is enough to dredge up a sliver of shock from her heart. She contemplates that, as she waits for her sometimes-partners, sometimes-watchdogs to arrive in the briefing room. None of them are from her division, though she is closer to them than to any of her colleagues. Like calls to like, and they were all broken things, in their own ways.

The Handyman-and she expects him to burst new appendages the moment she looks at him- does not enter the room. He is suddenly in a chair, as if someone has taken off a sheet to reveal him. His form shifts, though that is a lie-its form is as eternal as the things it shares a realm with, and it is only its extension into mundane reality that changes, fractions of the true entity coming and going. He looks at her, and raises three hands to wave.

She sighs. There it is.

Hex and Nacht come next, indistinct as a shadow at midnight-whose power is in effect is debatable. Hex's white longcoat and wide-brimmed slouch hat almost manage to hide his old Thule tattoos and the stitches at his joints and lips. He moves his face-eyeless, white as chalk-in her direction, and nods.

The mundane agencies-there are few of those, nowadays-were not alone in snapping up Nazi thinkers after the Shattering. A supernatural Operation Paperclip started in 1945, and never truly stopped.

Nacht is wound around Hex like a living shroud, a black shape showing hunting wolves and murders in the shadows and bodies dumped into ditches. Every horror of the night it's named after. People have good reason to fear the dark.

"Aaaahhhh." Nacht says, twisting in her direction, form briefly lit up by an inner lightning strike. A grin shaped out of a storm crosses its false face. "All three. Good, good. I was worried we wouldn't have enough...fodder."

The thing chuckles to itself, then turns its attention to the man(so to speak) it is bound to-or, perhaps, it is the other way around. It speaks, and he answers in ways that have nothing to do with language.

"We can begin the briefing now. We will be team leaders for the duration of-"

"We?" Typical of the Handyman to cut them off, and so soon after the start, too. "So, it's...joint command? Or what?"

The Threefold blinks, then frowns. "We...I mean, forgive me. I was talking about myself. I will command."

Nacht starts laughing.


Zhannar has been with them for two years now, and it is finally starting to feel normal. The demon can see the weak points of anyone or anything, and it used that to great effect in its realm of origin. Until it angered something it shouldn't have, and barely escaped whole.

It came to America in a moment of weakness, for demons are enamored with such symbolism. Whenever it is not focusing its attention on a given task, it tries to escape the bindings that tie it to the other three, or mocks them. Xelkhe weeps at the cruelty. Ylvhem rages. Chris takes in stride.

You still haven't told me your purpose, hellbound. Zhannar refuses to call her 'human'. It is fine by her. In a way, it's even correct.

The other two know, have known, for years. She supposes it is its turn.

She tells it of her opinion on Hell, explains how no sinner deserves endless torment, for no one can do enough to warrant that. She confesses that she hopes to gather more demons, bolster her strength and, one day, take the Pit by storm, and rip the Devil off his throne. Make it a fairer place.

Zhannar cannot hold back its laughter.


Constantin lacking faith is not something they ever expected. And yet, the priest seems only halfway sure the bear's son will make it through.

They knew the moment he asked for help, his thoughts reaching them through an old bond. Luckily, they were free at the time.

The four stand still as the priest paces, detailing his plan to save the strigoi if the other attempts fail.

They know what they will have to do, if such a thing happens. Christine hopes it won't be necessary.


The world is drowning in blood-hot and cold alike. Christine would have never expected something so random-why only beings similar to reptiles, or their kin?

Xelkhe is sure that this is a plot by the Serpent, to prove his endless cruelty. But most things are, according to the lie-weaver.

David contacts them, telling them about their pupil. Their human side confused him, much to her disappointment. Let him speak to them all, then.

He describes his plight, the mad pupil he has chosen to watch over, and asks for their help-and protection, by implication. But they are far away, prowling America and putting down old, cold monsters. They will send someone else.

It will have to be enough.
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