It has happened to the best of us, some of us fifty times over. We start a story with the best of intentions, determined to see it through to completion until something – be it life or another project – derails us. I do not know how many fellow authors have an orphans folder, but I do, filled with stories I hope to get to amid the growing list of new projects my muse continues to dream up. Recently, I was able to revive one of those orphans as the character description for sorceress Monica Alexander, tearing it out of a longer, more-spoiler riddled story.

I stumbled upon another orphan, though, while looking for that one.

Now, only Jess Fortunato knows this, but to let you guys in on a small bit of news, I am picking away at a novella centered around Julian, the seer from Rebirth of the SeerI hope to have that as a release to buffer the space between RotS and Fate of the Seer, should life and the universe permit. The basic idea being… what are the stories behind these men who get called to hunt vampires?

Well, two years ago I started a piece titled A Tale of Two Seers, which takes place twenty years from now, approximately in the year 2032. The piece centers on seer Scott Andrews as he faces the growing pains which comes from being a thirty year veteran to the “Order”, especially in light of changes which have been taking place in recent years. While the first section of this piece starts in 2032, I edited out all of the spoilers so you do not need to worry about being ruined for future highlights in Flynn’s books. And unfortunately, Scott and Peter cross paths at some point, so I would have to finish Peter’s end of that encounter before I could finish this piece.

So, why share it? For two reasons:

  1. To whet your appetite a little. This piece cuts off before Scott is assigned his first mission, but this is a look into what typically happens to the seers. They start their lives as ordinary men and suddenly wake in a whole other world. This is what Peter would have faced if he realized his talents prior to being turned vampire.
  2. To nudge my fellow authors. Post an orphaned piece from your folder. It does not have to be finished, and we will forgive you if you it drops off mid-action, but if you have ever secretly coveted an opinion from your blog followers (should I continue writing this?) this is a good excuse to share.

So, here is my contribution. Be warned, it is 6880 words long. But I have a soft spot for Mr. Andrews and wanted to share the entire piece. Without further ado, here we go: (And if you post one of your orphans up, let me know. I will attach links for your pieces to this blog post.)

My apologies to England, Scotland, and the British. I have never crossed the pond to actually visit London. 😉

 

September 13, 2032

Fall was making its presence known a little too soon for Scott’s taste. Seated outside the guest house, on the grounds of the estate, his eyes drifted heavenward while he huddled deep into his leather jacket. The glow of a cigarette poised between his fingers contrasted against the ghastly pallor his skin had taken on in recent years. ‘Spend too much fucking time awake at night,’ he thought with a sigh, raising the cigarette to his mouth. ‘These new powers – they’re great for the longevity, not so great for the complexion.’

If he had to be perfectly honest, they weren’t great for his love life, either.

How long had it been? Five months? Six, maybe? Scott couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a romantic prospect and it’d been eating away at him more and more as time went by. When he and Travis first teamed up, he still had his watcher and although she earned the nickname he’d given her – The Iceberg – she at least presented a challenge he would use to whittle away the time between lovers. The more he and Travis teamed up (and especially after what happened in London), the more distant she became until she decided she had better things to do with her time. He couldn’t remember any longer when Travis’s watcher deserted. That all seemed like ancient history now.

Twenty years ago. Bloody hell.

Scott exhaled a puff of smoke and frowned. Something’d been building in the last few years. He and Travis’s lives had become so intertwined and with that came the litany of war stories they could tell. Both becoming part of the new regime. Traveling all over the map, seeing shit that made Scott’s hair stand on end even remembering it. Dark magicians, old cohorts with the Order who had become desperate. When the Fates gave them their new bag of tricks, Scott and Travis became even more tethered. They trained together, traveled to Vegas together when the rest of their team couldn’t return to headquarters. They’d even purchased a flat together – two bedrooms in the Queen Anne section of Seattle.

Quite frankly, Scott had given up trying to find the perfect woman. She didn’t exist. Who would understand him now, and for that matter, who would want to be with a man living the kind of life that he did? How could he show her all the talents he possessed or give her the politically-correct rundown of what he did for a living? ‘I hunt vampires, luv. Only the rogue ones – the ones who cause trouble. Oh, and sometimes I stop humans or other creatures who try to upset the natural order. Ever had to hold back the magic of an insane sorcerer with only your telekinesis stopping them from frying you into charred embers? Well, I have.

Even that memory made him think of Travis.

The ghost of a smile curled the corner of his mouth as he saw himself downed, a psychic shield protecting him with his sword just out of reach. Sweat pouring from his face, hands raised and voice crying out while an invisible blast of energy threatened to crack through his defenses. He opened his eyes after clenching them shut to see his partner-in-crime fell one enemy to race over and end the one threatening Scott. They’d never said the words to each other, but that was the moment Scott knew he and Travis would die for each other.

Of course, they bought each other a pint later and picked up two women who provided them with a suitable one-night stand. Scott could find that just fine for himself right now, if that’s what he actually desired. But he didn’t. Scott flicked away the remainder of his cigarette and exhaled smoke through his nostrils. He sighed, coming to a stand and brushing off his hands on his pants. He zipped his jacket shut on instinct. For a moment, the rest of the world seemed quiet, the hush reminding Scott of the calm before a storm approaching. ‘And here I am bemoaning the state of my sex life.’ He knew why, though. He wanted something more and the only person he trusted – the only person he knew better than he knew himself – was Travis. His gaze fell to the ground. ‘Is it wrong to love somebody you’ve spent 20 years of your life with?’ He knew the answer to that question immediately. Travis didn’t look at him that way and probably never would.

Not that Scott had any experience with another man. He’d only felt this way one other time and that was after he and Travis had nearly died. He dismissed it then the same way he felt apt to dismiss it now, only this time the idea made him hollow inside. So what had changed?

Damned if I know,’ Scott thought, but he had an idea when it started just the same. His steps heavy, he wandered off, shuffling through the estate grounds while the wind blew the past onto his doorstep again.

***

Distantly, he heard the strains of Robert Plant singing. Jimmy Page playing his guitar. Memories flooded through his consciousness, leaking like a sieve. He saw a cute girl with brown hair and blue-grey eyes and reflexively, he sighed.

The University of Edinburgh. The year was 2002. Her name was Beth and she had come back to his apartment under the pretense of studying for a test with him. She laughed at him and blushed when he sang along with Robert Plant, using a hi-lighter as an impromptu microphone while serenading her. She thought he was ridiculous, but extremely cute while doing it.

She thought. Scott paused. He furrowed his brow, facial expression falling; his hand lowering while the singing abruptly stopped. The light went out in Beth’s eyes. “What is it?” she asked.

He blinked. Why did he hear her speaking in his mind just a few moments ago? ‘I swear she said it. That was her voice. That’s impossible, though.’ Scott ignored the creature gnawing at the pit of his stomach, attempting to warn him that thought slipped into his mind; that it didn’t find its genesis inside him. Instead, he smiled in a disarming way and shook his head. “Nah, I just…” He tapped his temples. “Remembered something I forgot to do earlier. It’s nothing major.”

Beth nodded slowly. Her eyes lit up again. Scott winked and continued singing again, forgetting all too quickly what had happened, especially after they got to kissing, and the kisses led them into his bedroom. She slipped away for dinner and a social meeting with a few of her friends. Scott showered and walked to the university library for a book. Something about a class on International Law was circling in his mind the next time it happened. This time, it was his buddy Rick.

“Hey! Mukker!” The enthusiastic voice caused Scott to pause his steps. He turned and waved to the tall, lanky man who jogged to catch up. Rick chuckled and continued speaking when he was in earshot. “Haven’t seen you in a spell. Have the slave-drivers been grinding your knuckles into the stone?”

Scott shook his head. They turned to point in the direction of the library and continued walking, Scott slipping his hands into his pockets. “No, actually, I have a lass.” He glanced at Rick with a roguish grin on his face. “Beth MacNeil. She’s a literature major.”

“Aye, literature.” Which came out sounding more like ‘lit’rashur’. “You know she’s just looking to secure her future, wooing a future barrister.”

“Have you seen her?” The roguish grin only broadened, turning more devilish. “Her legs are worth the price of harboring, mate, I can promise you that. Even then, her family’s well off enough. How do you know I’m not securing my future?”

“Lucky bastard.” Rick laughed. “You red-haired demons, always finding the sirens while the rest of us mere mortals scrape for the peasant lasses.” He shook his head, and Scott could have sworn he heard Rick add, “If she has nice legs, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s spreading them all around campus behind your back.

Immediately, Scott stopped walking. His brow creased in a scowl. “Excuse me? What the bloody hell was that, there?”

Rick’s feet stopped moving, confusion registering in his eyes. “Beg your pardon, mate?”

His denial only infuriated Scott more. “Don’t shoot me this load of bollocks, pretending you didn’t just say what you did about Beth.” He paced one step closer to Rick. “I heard you talk about her spreading her legs around campus.”

Scott expected another denial. Perhaps an apology. He got neither. Rick’s eyes widened and he looked at Scott, shock painting his facial expression a grim color of paranoia. He stepped back and shook his head, regarding Scott as though he had just sprouted a third eye. “How did… How could you have…?” He blinked. “Mate, you… Holy shit.”

Rick continued walking backward. Finally, he turned and started sprinting away. Scott watched him leave, a hand reaching up to thread fingers into his ginger locks. “But you said it. I swear, I heard you say…” Memories of earlier that day crowded inside his mind and suddenly, Scott felt the overwhelming urge to be sick. He turned for the grass, trudging through it, deviating from his previous course. Moving like a man in a dream, he made his way to the pub and got shit-faced, stumbling home in the wee small hours to pass out in bed.

Beth attempted to call the next day. He didn’t answer the phone. He sat alone in his room, afraid to go out, not bothering to shower or shave and barely eating. As evening rolled around, he finally tidied himself and walked out of his room. He meandered to the library again, but such proved to be his undoing. The head librarian thought Scott looked haunted, but his lips never moved. Scott finally made good on racing to the bathroom and throwing up. He left in a rush, his eyes wild with the book he needed clutched firmly in the palm of his hand. He didn’t even remember if he’d checked it out or not. He settled in his room and ignored another phone call from Beth in favor of lying in the dark, staring into outer space.

Scott put on some coffee the next day and immersed himself in his paper for International Law, in some effort to convince himself he wasn’t losing his mind. Each time his roommate passed by, he clenched his eyes shut and sang loudly in his mind to prevent himself from hearing any of his roommate’s thoughts. The door shut and Scott felt blessed relief wash through him at being left alone again. By dusk, the insanity seemed to have subsided and he finished his paper by midnight. Scott settled into sleep, not sure how he’d weather class the next day, already forming a playlist of music he’d mentally stream to avoid another episode.

He didn’t make it past his first class.

He survived long enough to hand in his paper, but as he sat, the girl next to him fantasized about the blow job she’d given somebody last night. Scott’s stomach turned. He muttered the lyrics to a Doors song while his professor taught, but the eyes of every other student seemed to flick toward him as though they knew the 20 year old student was unraveling. Scott’s hands shook and he stood abruptly, excusing himself. The stares only got worse. His professor called after him, something about these notes being imperative for the exam, but Scott slammed the door shut and trudged past everybody with his head bent, his gaze fixed on the ground. A young woman diverted from her course, attempting to catch up with Scott.

“Scott! Where have you been?”

Scott clenched his eyes shut. Of all the moments for his girlfriend to spot him, now was not the time for him to make explanations for himself. He shook his head. “I can’t, Beth,” he said. “Kashmir” played inside his mind and he hummed along.

Beth was not so easily deterred, though. “Damn it, what’s wrong with you?”

Go away and leave me alone!” Scott winced at the way he shouted at her, but he didn’t stop to apologize. He raced out of the building and ran, full speed, for his flat on the other side of campus.

His body shook. Sweat ran down the back of his neck despite the chill of early November. Scott slammed the door shut and pressed his back against the solid wood, his body rocking back and forth despite himself. He threw off his coat and dropped his satchel onto the ground, hearing his laptop hit the floor with a sickening crack, but not bothering to check whether he’d broken it. Instead, he stumbled into his room and lay down, curling into a cocoon for what seemed like days.

One message: “Scott, it’s Beth. I didn’t appreciate your tone of voice with me earlier. Call me back or else I’m going to become very upset with you.”

Two messages. “Scott. What in God’s name is wrong with you? If this is the way you’re going to be, then fine.”

A knock at the door. Scott stared into the shadows of his room but didn’t budge. His phone rang again and the caller left another message. “You’re acting bizarre and I’m not going to accept you being so rude to me. Goodbye, Scott. You broke my heart; I hope you’re happy.”

Scott threw his phone across the room and watched it break into a dozen pieces. He sat on the edge of his bed and rocked back and forth. After an internal debate lasting no less than an hour, he finally stood and didn’t bother changing his dirty, wrinkled clothing; didn’t shower or shave before slipping on his shoes and racing to the common area where Beth enjoyed spending time. He threw open the door and dashed into the middle of the room, searching for the brown-haired beauty.

The cacophonous racket of two dozen voices screamed back at him when he entered.

It nearly drove Scott to his knees. In scanning the room, he seemed to open his mind to every person seated there and the resulting eruption gave Scott a splitting headache. Everybody – every thought in the room – raced for him and he couldn’t make out one voice from the next while paralyzed. The taste of bile rushed up in his throat. He turned and tripped for the bathrooms, spilling out onto the floor once and sliding against the wall the rest of the way to what he hoped was the men’s room. He barreled into one of the stalls, shutting the door before dropping to his knees and emptying the contents of his stomach. Scott reached up to flush and continued clutching onto the handle even after the whirlpool disappeared down the drain.

What the hell is happening to me?’ Scott shook and swallowed hard. The foul taste in his mouth at least inspired him to his feet, his steps uncertain and the room spinning while he floundered for the sinks. Taking in one mouthful of water to swish it around, he spat it out and then gathered enough water in his hands to splash it on his face. His eyes finally rose to the mirror in front of him, providing him with a sight alarming enough to send more bile rushing through his esophagus.

His eyes had turned green – bright green – something reminiscent of an emerald.

Scott couldn’t take any more. He collapsed onto the ground and crawled for the wall, sitting up enough to lean against the hard tile, his mind spinning so much it forced his eyes to shut. The turmoil inspired Scott to do something he had only done a handful of times in his entire life.

Sitting on the floor of the men’s bathroom, next to the sinks, Scott Andrews broke down and cried.

***

A knock at the door. Scott failed to move. He laid on the couch where he’d collapsed in an effort to move from his bedroom to the kitchen.

“Mr. Andrews? Could you please come to the door?”

Scott’s vacant stare snapped. He shut his eyes, not recognizing the male voice and not giving a shit about it one way or another. Time seemed discordant around him. He couldn’t tell if the episode on campus had happened three days ago or three years ago. The two seemed one in the same.

Another knock. The voice again. English accent. ‘Damn English bastards, they are persistent.’

“Mr. Andrews, I know you’re in there, open up. I’d hate to create more of a scene than this needs to be.”

Scott shook his head and rolled over, facing the back of the couch. He curled into a ball, wrapping his arms around his torso while a chill ran up and down his spine. He swallowed hard and clenched his eyes shut hard, attempting not to scan the visitor, afraid his thoughts would crowd into his mind. ‘Maybe if I ignore him, he’ll go away.’

I’m not going away, Mr. Andrews. Now, open up and let’s talk like civilized men.’

Scott’s eyes shot open. He rolled onto his back, staring at the closed door. ‘How the bloody hell…’

You’re not the only special person in this world, Scott. I could tell you more if you open up the door.’ Scott continued staring even after the man finished speaking. Once again, the world tipped on its axis, but somehow Scott found the wherewithal to sit up, his legs shaky as they began to support his weight. The room spun once while Scott stood and settled into place along the journey to the entryway. Scott opened the door and stared at the man on the other side.

He grinned, revealing crooked teeth, and nodded his head. While Scott made the distant observation the man looked old enough to be his father, what caught his attention more were his bright green eyes. ‘Like mine.’ Scott furrowed his brow and for the first time in a week, he felt lucidity start creeping its way back from the corner where it hid. “Good evening, Scott,” the man said. “The name’s Nigel. How would you like to come to London with me?”

Scott blinked. “London. What in God’s name is in London?” He moved to the side as Nigel motioned forward, allowing the stranger inside without any argument. The moment Nigel looked away, Scott broke from his transfixed observation of Nigel’s eyes long enough to look him over. Rumpled suit. Wool trenchcoat concealing a portly man who reeked of pipe smoke. He looked fresh from the train, without even stopping for tea before venturing over. Nigel looked back and Scott’s gaze snapped back up to his ethereal emerald irises.

Nigel smirked. “Plenty of things, sir. Piccadilly Circus. Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. You never fancied a holiday?”

Scott raised an eyebrow. “You came all this way to invite me out for a holiday?”

“Now, that would be amusing.” Nigel chuckled and shifted his attention around to the modest flat Scott occupied. “Actually, think of this as an informational holiday. A few of those answers I promised you.” He shuffled around the living room. His fingertips touched a bookshelf, smearing a small coating of dust away. He brushed his hand on his coat. “You might want to shower and gather a few things, first. You smell like the arse end of a horse.”

Scott shut the front door. Instinctively, he turned his head to catch a whiff of himself and wrinkled his nose in revulsion. He didn’t even want to think of when the last time he showered was. Still, he didn’t motion for the bathroom. “Why the fuck should I go with you to London?”

“I think you know why.” Nigel turned his head, lining Scott in his periphery. “Unless you want to sit in the dark thinking you’re going crazy. I think our little telepathic chat at least confirmed you can read people’s thoughts. Want to be left alone for when the other things start creeping in?”

“What… other things?”

“The visions. The little shivers that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. How about the first time you touch a weapon and hear the whisper of destiny tickling at your ear? Wouldn’t you rather know why before that all happens?”

Scott stared at Nigel. They remained locked in a stalemate for interminable moments. Finally, he scowled. “I don’t believe you.”

Nigel shrugged. “Believe me or not. It isn’t going to stop it.” He lifted his hand, shifting the sleeve of his coat up enough to reveal a watch. His eyes drifted to his wrist. “There’s a train leaving in an hour and a half. Would put us in London in time for evening tea. Admit it, Mr. Andrews, you’ve been wondering why you’re going through this and you’d much rather learn you’re not as crazy as you’re beginning to suspect.”

The older man looked back at Scott. Scott studied him, then sighed and ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll shower and go to London with you.” As he turned for the bathroom, he trudged away and muttered, “This better be bloody good.”

“Oh, you’ll thank me later,” Nigel called in after him, but Scott refused to answer. He took his time showering, too, and shaved before dressing and packing a few things into a duffel bag.

The train station boasted of a crowd when they arrived and Scott braced himself when they stepped out of the taxi and started walking for the terminal. Adjusting the shoulder strap of his bag, Scott bowed his head again and didn’t make eye contact with anyone for fear of having another episode like the one in the common area on the university campus. He felt Nigel’s gaze shift to him every now and then, but the world remained blissfully silent as though something was protecting his mind behind a series of walls. Scott didn’t think to question it until he sat beside Nigel inside the train.

Finally, he looked over at the older man and realized the silence had continued. He furrowed his brow while Nigel grinned. “Don’t worry, lad, I’m only giving you a temporary buffer. Your instructors will be able to teach you how to block out those thoughts on your own.”

Scott blinked. So much about that statement begged for elaboration, but he settled on, “Instructors?”

Nigel’s smile took on a mysterious quality. “You’ll see when we arrive. I don’t like to spoil too much along the way. Gives you the full effect when you enter.”

“The full effect.” Scott turned the words around in his mouth, tasting them and realizing they left him wanting. He groaned and settled back against his seat. His stomach rumbled as if on cue and suddenly, Scott realized he’d done more than fail to shower in several days. He inhaled a deep breath reflexively.

“I’ll phone and make sure they have food waiting for you. We take care of our people, Scott.”

“We?” Scott had to laugh. “You make it sound as though you’re some bloody covert section of Interpol.”

“Interpol doesn’t know we exist.”

Scott turned his head and raised an eyebrow. Nigel grinned. His focus remained straight ahead. “Settle in. Take a nap, if you want to. I’m not saying anything other than ‘You’ll see when we get there.’”

Scott frowned, but nodded and kept his eyes focused frontward as well. The train shifted once, then started pulling forward, and out the window, Scott could see Edinburgh begin to move past them as the train gained speed. Something solemn weighed heavy on his shoulders, a truth he couldn’t verify, but knew was fact just the same. It would be the last time in a long while he’d lay eyes on the place he called home.

A half-hour into the trip, Scott pulled out his iPod and inserted the earbuds in his ears. For the remaining four hours, the music drowned out the noise of people talking. Nigel placed a phone call, but Scott didn’t so much as lower the volume so he could eavesdrop. Finding out more information took a back seat to the knots forming in his stomach. Nigel fetched two cups of coffee two hours in and offered Scott a scone in some effort to quell the hunger gnawing at him. The two men barely spoke and as the lights of London became visible through the window, Scott failed to respond even when prodded. Finally, the train pulled into King’s Cross railway station. Scott removed his earbuds and winced as thoughts began drifting into his mind.

They ceased all at once. Nigel flashed an apologetic smile as the train came to a stop. “Sorry about that. I lowered the buffer and forgot to raise it again,” he said, standing. His round face took on a look of amusement. “We’ll keep that up for you, then, until you get to where people know how to block their thoughts.”

Scott sighed, already becoming fatigued with all this cloak and dagger bullshit. He stood without answering and slipped his iPod back into his bag before throwing the shoulder strap around his arm again. Following Nigel to the train’s exit, he walked beside the older man once the flow of people abated and opened up to the city streets. Scott paused as a brisk wind blew past, taking a deep breath and surveying the city around him. London. He’d never been here before in his life.

“This way, sir.”

His attention snapped back to Nigel as an unfamiliar voice joined them. The man speaking wore a plain black suit with a white shirt and black tie, and looked not much older than Scott. The lanky, dark-haired man flashed a quick glance at Scott as though he couldn’t stop himself and looked back at Nigel the moment Scott met his gaze. Nigel grinned. “Very good, Ian. I trust the others have everything prepared?”

“Yes, they do, sir,” Ian said, nodding once. Nigel started walking, but Ian remained in place, allowing his eyes to drift back to Scott. “This way, if you please.”

Scott nodded and followed Ian. They walked briskly past the current of Londoners ebbing and flowing like water on the banks of the River Thames. Scott’s gaze meandered all around until settling on a black sedan left idling by the curb.

Another man clad similarly to Ian held the door open for Nigel. He slipped into the back seat while permitting Scott wide enough berth to sit. Ian’s counterpart – who reminded Scott of a bodyguard with his stocky, intimidating frame – eyed Scott with a look of impatience which read ‘whenever you’re ready to fucking enter the car, mate.’ Obediently, Scott slid into the passenger side. The door shut and Ian climbed behind the wheel, the bodyguard settling on the other side. Once everyone was settled, Nigel spoke. “Well, off with us, then. I fed ‘im a scone, but I imagine that’s a pittance compared to what he could eat right now. And you know how these seers get when they’re hungry.”

“Seers?” Scott asked as Ian nodded and slid the transmission into first gear. He looked at Nigel and raised an eyebrow.

Nigel laughed. “Yes, Scott. I was talking about you.”

“What the bloody hell is a seer?”

Stocky bodyguard issued a snicker. Scott scowled in his direction, but then glanced back at Nigel. Nigel grinned. “In short, you are. The longer answer’s a bit more involved.”

“Well, I’m sure we have enough time for the abridged version.” The car lurched forward, before threading itself into the busy thoroughfare, weaving between two cars, one of which blared a horn at them. Scott glanced at Ian. ‘Cutting it a little close there, mate? I don’t know much right now, but I imagine you blokes want me in one piece wherever we’re headed.’ Ian seemed unfazed and nobody so much as blinked while they pulled away from the train station.

Nigel chuckled, directing Scott’s attention back to him. “Abridged versions don’t work for this sort of thing. That’s like summarizing the Bible in five words or less.”

“I could bloody well do it,” Ian chimed in. “Load full of bollocks. There you are – four.”

“Your eloquence is astonishing, Ian.” Nigel shook his head, looking back at Scott. “Don’t mind ‘im. He grew up in Liverpool and they don’t teach much manners there. At least John knows when to keep his mouth shut.”

Stocky bodyguard grunted in acknowledgment. Scott shook his head and settled back against his seat. The mental fatigue nipping at him made its presence known again, so he sighed without pressing further, resigning himself to receiving his answers when he arrived at their destination. ‘Wherever the fuck that is.’ Some place Interpol didn’t know existed. Some place where people who could not only read minds, but block thoughts, lived. Some place where something called a seer would be welcome with a hot meal waiting for him inside. It surprised Scott when they ventured further into the city and as they pulled up to a three-story building, a gate swung open and a narrow path led back to a parking area where Scott could see a network of adjoining monoliths crammed in a tight location.

Scott looked at Nigel as the elder man sported a Cheshire Cat-like grin.

“Welcome to the Supernatural Order.”

***

The name sounded straight out of a poorly-written science fiction novel. Scott had to laugh. “The Supernatural what?”

“Order.” Nigel stated the word matter-of-factly. He reached for the door handle and opened the door. “Don’t worry, we’ll explain more inside. Come on, come on. There’s a lot for us to go over and a short time to do it.”

John and Ian both exited the car. Scott lingered an additional moment, then opened his door and climbed out the back. As he stood beside the vehicle, his eyes traced over the grounds again, surveying what little he could see with the last remaining embers of dusk. While the buildings appeared common – a combination of concrete and brick – they emanated an aura Scott couldn’t quite place. Something hummed in the backdrop, just out of sight and just beyond hearing. It instantly piqued his interest.

The car door shut. Scott couldn’t remember if he’d pushed it closed or not. Instead, he cinched the strap of his bag further up his shoulder and dug his hands into his pockets. Ian and John led the way, with Nigel following close behind and murmuring something to the two which caused them to follow a path winding behind the main building. Nigel continued on the walkway twisting toward the front. “This way, Scott,” he said, waving his hand.

Scott nodded and jogged to catch up.

The two men walked side-by-side the remainder of the way, passing a woman on the front stairs as they began to ascend. Scott felt the weight of the woman’s gaze upon him and glanced at her just in time to see her attention snap away and her head bow like she’d been caught doing something inappropriate. The gesture caused Scott to raise an eyebrow, but Nigel diverted his attention a few seconds later. “You go on in ahead of me. Like I said, the full experience.”

“The full experience.” Scott quickened his pace and made it to the swinging glass doors first. The interior resembled an office building from what little he could see of it and as he opened the front door, the vestibule looked tailored to convince anybody this was a government ministry of some sort. Only instead of any national seals or flags being displayed prominently on the walls and fixtures, Scott saw an ornamental crest with a Latin phrase scrawled underneath. Vide et credere. ‘See and believe.

Scott paused a few paces inward. Nigel entered behind him and remained standing by the door while Scott strolled forward a few tentative steps further. A blonde-haired woman stepped out from inside an office and looked Scott in the eyes. He took a sharp breath the moment he noticed the color of her eyes.

Bright emerald green. Just like his.

She nodded in a reverent manner, and then looked down the long corridor which stretched down the entire length of the building. “Our new recruit has arrived,” she said. Her gaze returned to Scott and she smiled. He didn’t have the chance to even question what she meant before three doors swung open and a collection of people streamed out of the offices, lining the corridor and turning their heads to peer at Scott.

All of them. Green eyes. Several men and a few women scattered in-between. All of them studying him – scrutinizing him – with unreadable expressions painted on their faces. Scott blinked and swallowed hard, taking one step forward as though compelled by an outside force.

Keep walking, Scott. They’re here for you.’

He was only faintly aware of Nigel’s voice chiming in his thoughts. He took another step forward and followed it with a few more afterward. A middle-aged man stood on the end closest to Scott. He nodded the moment their eyes met. ‘Good evening, Mr. Andrews,’ he said, although his mouth never moved.

Scott paused, taken aback. He drew a deep breath and nodded. ‘Good evening, sir,’ he said. The man smirked with approval and Scott’s focus shifted to the next person down. A short, brown-haired woman said good evening in the same manner. The man standing beside her did the same. Each person waited their turn to present Scott with their psychic greeting, but none broke the chain until the last two men Scott encountered.

The corridor opened up into a hub area and a set of stairs leading to a second floor came into view. Scott offered the stairs an appraising look before turning his attention back to the final two individuals. They both grinned disarmingly. “Good evening, Mr. Andrews, and welcome to the Supernatural Order,” said the one standing on the left – a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair and a three-piece suit hanging from his lanky frame.

Scott raised an eyebrow. The man on the right held Scott heavy in his sights, which forced Scott to glance in his direction. He looked no older than his early thirties, and while the others were all dressed professionally, he wore a casual shirt and pants, both dark-colored, with a long, leather jacket over top. Scott furrowed his brow the moment he noticed a sword poised by his side, which snapped his gaze back up to the man’s eyes. He smirked and extended a hand. “Evening, rookie,” the man said. “The name’s Damien.”

“And I am William McCarthy,” the man on the left added, clapping Scott’s shoulder while Scott shook Damien’s hand. “Damien and I are going to talk to you for a brief while, if that’s alright with you, so Nigel can retire for the evening. We sent him out your way early this morning to make up for our oversight these past few days.”

Scott relinquished his hold on Damien’s hand and glanced at William. “Oversight?” he asked.

“Yes.” William sighed. “Our… personnel… first learned of your existence two days ago, but we had a bit of a row we had to clear up before we could free the necessary people for your arrival.” He chuckled. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another in this bloody place at times, but nevermind that. Come into my office and we’ll see that you’re made more comfortable, Scott.” The hand on Scott’s shoulder tightened and turned Scott in the direction of an open door. Scott stole a look down the corridor for where Nigel stood. He felt a sudden flurry of anxiety the moment he lost sight of the man who’d taken him this far.

Why do I feel like I’m being abducted?

Damien burst into laughter. William raised an eyebrow in his direction. Damien shook his head, moving to the side enough to allow Scott and William to walk ahead, then pausing to shut the door behind the three of them. He looked Scott in the eyes. ‘You’ll get used to it. Nobody’s abducting you, but this is the part where everything becomes confusing for a while.

Scott nodded in tentative agreement and let William lead him to a plush couch flanked by two end tables. Two matching chairs were positioned in front of the couch and on the far side of the room rested a desk and bookcases with volumes arranged in anal fashion on each shelf. The whole office looked meticulous, complementing the well-dressed man who sat across from Scott, and the furnishings bearing a Victorian feel. Scott’s posture remained rigid, his eyes searching, as he sat and examined the pictures hanging from the walls.

Vibrant landscapes filled each scene, but one portrait in particular captured Scott’s attention. The man in the painting looked intense, his eyes a piercing blue color and his expression intimidating to say the least. He looked straight out of the Middle Ages and was surrounded by a series of markings Scott faintly remembered seeing somewhere else. ‘Runes. I think that’s what they’re called.

“You are correct.” William’s voice drew Scott’s focus back to the other two men in the room. The elder man smirked and settled back into his chair. “Those are runes, arranged in a specific pattern, actually, which makes that more than a pretty wall decoration. It protects this room from eavesdropping, so nobody on the outside can listen to whatever is discussed within.”

The skeptical gaze Scott directed toward William caused both he and Damien to burst into laughter. William crossed his legs and rested his hands on his lap. “You must forgive me, for how many times I have a new seer in my office, I keep forgetting you all are born into this world skeptics. You have to see first to believe.”

The Latin phrase scribed beneath the crest inside the vestibule resonated in Scott’s thoughts again. “Vide et credere,” Scott said.

“Impressive.” William’s grin broadened. “I heard we fetched you from the University of Edinburgh. Medical student or law student?”

“Law. Pre-law, actually. I just started my third year.”

“Ah, that explains the Latin. What explains the runes, though?” William furrowed his brow. “Have you known anybody involved in witchcraft?”

Scott snickered, unable to stop the reflex. He shook his head. “No, I remember it from a class I took. I don’t pick up the local witches at the pub when I go out for a pint.”

“Your loss,” Damien said, adding a cheeky grin.

William smirked. “Just as well he avoids them for now, Damien, so he can learn the difference between the sorceresses and the dark magicians.” The grin faded ever so slightly. William’s gaze turned serious. “I would think by now you’d be open-minded enough to accept this world’s larger than you might have known before. How long ago did the telepathy start and has anything else unusual happened to you?”

Scott sighed. “A week ago. I think.” His hand lifted, fingers threading through his hair. “The last few days have been a blur.”

“It happens. You gave a sorcerer a headache from the amount of psychic energy you expelled. We would have been there the next day if not for a bloody interloper who showed up on our doorstep with a few of his friends.” The last few words were spoken with no small hint of revulsion present in them.

Scott raised an eyebrow, but focused on the question left unanswered instead of issuing one of his own. “I’ve only heard the thoughts, though. Nothing else. Just can’t get them to stop.” He glanced between the two other men. “I’m surprised I haven’t gotten my own headache coming in here.”

The corner of William’s mouth curled upward. “We were prepared. I told your welcoming committee to guard their thoughts and not bombard you until you got your telepathy under control.”

“Nigel said something about instructors helping me with that.”

“Yes, you might be getting to know Damien quite well the next few weeks. That’ll certainly be high on the list of priorities for you. Can’t begin combat training when you can’t control the screaming happening inside your head.”

Scott’s eyes returned to Damien who saluted him. When Scott looked to William again, he frowned, finally relaxing in his seat. “What happened to me? Why am I hearing thoughts? You keep throwing around a lot of terms I’ve never heard of before like I’m supposed to know what they mean. Seers. Sorcerers. Psychic energy. Talking about instructors and combat training. I don’t have the foggiest idea what any of that is.”

“I know, lad, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. Trust me when I say, though, you’ll learn soon enough what I mean. Before I go more into any of that, though, first I have an important question to ask.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And what is that?”

William’s grin broadened, taking on an undertone of macabre delight. “Have you ever encountered a vampire before?”

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