Balancing

Virga: Act 3B

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3b: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

Tapping the handle of the push broom, Melissa continued her trajectory right out into the middle of the empty outdoor pool. This meant she was hovering where the water level might have been, were there any water present. She then spun around in the air to face the lycan, who for his part was forced to stop short at the poolside, and again reconsider his options.

“Clever,” the wolfman yielded. “But remaining like that requires concentration, which will falter eventually.”

“Yes, well, gives us time to talk about why you’re so against restoring supernatural balance. Along with why you’re targeting me when there’s plenty more witches doing this on a grander scale,” Melissa said. “Am I an appetizer before them?”

“Surely you’re aware of the Prophecy. You’re the Chosen One, Melissssa Viiiirga,” it countered with a hiss.

Melissa stared. “Prophecy. How special. Okay, I’m listening.”

“I’m done talking.”

The lycan moved to grab a rather hefty concrete vase, no doubt used to provide some décor to the area, which he then threw at the brunette.

Melissa was forced to do a quick dodge, as she not only attempted to avoid the object but the splinters of the vase after it shattered against the far side of the pool. The wolf used this opportunity to jump at her.

Melissa saw no alternative.

She hopped off the broom, hefting it by the handle as she fell towards the pool bottom. She then angled up the hard wooden end holding the bristles, mentally calculating her drop in relation to the way the lycan was twisting in the air to try and land on her, then with as much force as she could muster, she jabbed it up between the lycan’s legs, hitting at the crotch of his jeans. (Sometimes, Melissa conceded, you can’t avoid the cheap shots.)

Her opponent let out a bit of a whine and his trajectory shifted, as Melissa released her grip on the push broom, calling out “Salio!” once again.

She landed on the pool bottom with both feet together, grimacing as her weight followed, bending her knees to try reduce the shock, as the spell helped her spring back up.

Know that repeated use of the same spell does tend to reduce its effectiveness, at least in the short term. (Magick tends to reward the more creative individual, rather than penalize across the board regardless of what gets cast.)

As such, Melissa didn’t spring up as high as before, this time only just managing to catch the middle rung of the ladder for the deep end of the pool, once at the height of her arc.

She looked down, noting that the wolf was apparently trying to block out whatever pain he was feeling, and was already standing up. He again jumped for her. After doing another quick mental calculation, she pulled back her leg and delivered a kick to his face before he could grab hold of either her, or the pool ladder.

He did manage to leave a bit of a scratch on her leg for his efforts, owing to his outstretched arms.

“Having fun?”

Melissa declined to answer Trixie’s remark, but did accept the redhead’s extended arm, helping her to get up out of the pool that much faster.

“Time for Plan B, containment,” Melissa said tersely. “Go to the opposite side.”

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

“What was Plan A?” Trixie mused, even as she quickly moved to comply, hopping nimbly over the low diving board at the head of the pool on the way.

The wolf, for his part, had apparently decided that it would be easier to get out by heading down to the shallow end, as he was now doing so. However, the couple of falls and hits meant he wasn’t moving at top speed.

Melissa began a quick chant here, and I won’t transcribe all of the latin, but the gist of it was a containment grid that the lycan would not be able to pass while in wolf form. Not without having to endure a lot of pain.

As Melissa finished, she looked up to link eyes with Trixie, who was by now crouching directly opposite her. “Initimus!” the two witches chorused, slapping their hands down onto the pool tiles in tandem.

The tiles lit up sequentially around the poolside, like a glowing rectangle. In less than a second, the whole perimeter had been covered, and then beams shot out laterally to cover the area as well. They passed right through the torso of the wolf as he was emerging.

The lycan howled, even as his transformation suddenly reversed, leaving what looked to be a forty-something bearded male yelling out in its wake. Said male then fell back beneath the surface of the glow, leaving him sitting in the shallow end, glaring up at the witches.

The glow itself faded after a moment, but the barrier remained.

Melissa tucked some hair back behind her ear. “Okay, we’ll question him later,” she concluded, expelling a long breath. “For now, back to James and the vampyre.”

“Worried about your James, hmmm?” Trixie inquired, standing back up and tugging on her short skirt, one hopes to make sure she was staying decent.

“No. Maybe. He’s not my James. Shut up.”

The younger witch smirked as she followed Melissa back out of the pool area. “Guessing you’re going into Amy’s dream,” Trixie reasoned. “Can I come too? I haven’t seen James’ bizarre form of incompetence against an adversary yet. And after your complaints about how I’m doing things different, I’m curious.”

“I wasn’t complaining. And I said shut up.”

“Uh huh. You know, it’s possible he likes redheads more. Not worried about a little witch competition, are you?”

Melissa whirled. “Trix, for the last time, I said… ohhhhh, hell-o!” Where the ‘o’ was very much tacked on, so that she could pretend she hadn’t come close to swearing.

“No, you said…” But then Trixie’s voice trailed off too, noting the expression on Melissa’s face.

She spun as well, looking back towards the motel’s pool. Where the man who had been a wolf was climbing out amid a silent crackling of energy, which lit up his face and revealed the way his teeth were clenched and his eyes were practically bulging out of their sockets as he braved whatever their barrier was doing to him.

“Sooo, you know how to fight a lycan, huh?” Trixie said. Humour was something of a defence mechanism for her.

“That should have worked,” was all Melissa could say.

Trixie hesitated. “It really should have,” she yielded, as the lycan (in human form) finally completely surfaced, collapsing back onto the deck by the side of the pool.

“He’s insane,” Melissa diagnosed. “You don’t have any new tricks hidden in your so-called hammerspace for insane lycans, do you?”

“Not so much, no.”

Melissa’s jaw tightened as the shock value wore off, and her instincts started to take over. “Fine then. Another plan forms. It involves using the mirror I brought back with me. Which means I’ll need you to tell me the moment James awakens from his spell-induced slumber, because I can’t invoke the mirror safely until I know he’s handled the vampyre spirit.”

Trixie blinked. “James and the vampyre? You think he can manage that on his own?”

“He handled a poltergeist three months ago with only minimal assistance from me.”

The redhead rolled her eyes. “Oh, right, right, the poltergeist story again. Fine, I’ll let you know when he’s conscious,” she finished, hurrying back towards the car.

Once there, Trixie later said she took the opportunity to peek in through the curtains at the slumbering Amy as well, to verify that the dream world was still both active and stable.

Melissa looked around for something new that she might be able to use as a weapon. She didn’t see anything, but then resigned herself to the fact that if the lycan could withstand all the punishment she’d thrown at him so far, brandishing a club wasn’t liable to dissuade him either.

With a few quick murmurs and gestures, she began to work on what she determined to be her best possible defence, a moveable shield. These actually work better than simply enclosing yourself in a six-sided box, as their smaller size requires much less energy to activate and maintain. Though their use does require the caster to have a sense of where the next attack is coming from.

Once completed, Melissa extended her non-dominant hand, the magick circle appearing at her palm to her eyes alone. She then looked back up at the lycan. He had managed to at least partially transform back into wolf form, and was now about ten paces away, moving slowly but steadily, still sizing her up.

“You know,” she began. “Maybe we can still talk about –”

It lunged, slamming against her invisible shield with such force that she had to take a step back.

“Or not,” Melissa sighed in defeat.

What followed was a series of clawings, poundings, and attempted bitings. No finesse at all, Melissa later noted, and no imagination either. The lycan apparently didn’t even consider capturing the nearby Trixie to use as bait, not that such a ruse would have panned out any better.

Melissa did have to expand the diameter of her shield a couple of times though, and she suspected that, had the lycan been at full strength, it wouldn’t have held out. Soon she began to grow concerned that maybe I’d decided to wait in Amy’s dream for her to get there.

“Trixie,” she called out after maybe two minutes of the lycan’s mauling attack. “Maybe we’ll get you to go into that dream after all.”

Trixie brightened. “Seriously?”

“Well, something needs to break up this stalemate, before we end up with a much bigger problem,” she shouted.

“He’s awake,” Trixie called out at that moment.

“Arcesso!” Melissa stated, Charlie’s mirror in her mind’s eye.

She extended her non-shield hand in the direction of the car as his mirror flew out through the broken rear window. The wolf’s momentary distraction at the sight of the object flying in towards Melissa even gave her the reprieve she needed to catch it.

“Honestly,” she continued. “If there’s one thing more annoying than unexpected vampyres, it’s when they’re accompanied by lycans.”

Apparently deciding that the mirror wasn’t a new threat, the wolf jumped at Melissa again.

Big mistake.

The witch dispelled her shield and brandished the mirror in both hands, calling out something rapid fire. Whatever she said meant the lycan’s jump took him right inside the mirror, and out of our plane of existence.

Melissa immediately smashed said mirror onto the ground, breaking the glass, and then she moved to stand on it, jerking the frame out of alignment. There was a long sighing sound, not unlike the air being let out of a tire, and for a moment a white haired image appeared, hovering over the debris.

This, I believe, was the Somnalibus. His image then vanished (I may have imagined a smile), and all was silence. Except for the sound of Melissa’s heavy breathing.

I waited a beat before exiting the car, looking first to Trixie. “I’ve missed something.”

“No kidding,” Trixie chirped back. “Man, you just can’t stop yourself from saying idiotic things, can you. It’s actually fascinating.”

Melissa trudged back to the car, looking tired, rumpled and sweaty, which I found simultaneously worrisome, given how she’s usually more proper, as well as bizarrely erotic, for precisely the same reason.

“Tell me you and Amy handled the vampyre spirit,” she said, more a statement of what she wanted to be true than an actual question.

“Yeah. Well, the Somnalibus did,” I amended.

“Good,” Melissa said with a sigh.

I then glanced towards the shattered mirror on the pavement of the parking lot. “Your, um, lycan dealt with?”

She shrugged. “If that went right, he’s trapped in the Culicinae realm with the vampyres. If not, well, at least he’s not here any more.”

“Ah. Well, good.”

The two of us linked eyes. Melissa’s cheeks were already flushed, and I suspect mine got darker too, at the intensity of her gaze. I cleared my throat, searching for the right words. “This is probably going to sound weird. But I’ve missed this.”

The corners of her mouth twitched. “Only the cases then?”

I slowly shook my head. It’s possible my gaze wandered over her form.

“So you’re coming back.” Again, almost a question, but more a statement of hopeful truth.

I paused for a moment to make sure I meant it. “Yeah. If you’ll have me.”

“Oh, heck yeah,” Melissa repeated, sighing again. “I’d much rather bring you to dinner with my parents tomorrow, instead of Trixie.”

“Right. I can underst– wait, what?”

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Virga: Act 3A

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3a: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

Melissa’s drive back to the motel had been pretty uneventful. Once she had arrived back in the parking lot, she turned off the car, pulled her cell phone back out of her jeans pocket, switched it on, and called Trixie’s number.

“Hi Missy,” the redhead said in delight as soon as she picked up. “James get to you in time with the garlic?”

“So it was you who sent him.”

“No, he psychically knew you were in trouble. You two have that special bond.”

Melissa sighed. “Trixie…”

“Well, what did you expect me to say? Anyway, how is it that in all our conversations you failed to mention that James is somehow a competent idiot? That’s a real interesting mix. For the record, I’ve told him he can do better than you.”

“Trixie, he’s not your type.”

“Oh, sure, immediately leap to thinking that I hit on him.”

“I bet you at least did your stupid ‘look at my chest’ pose.”

“Stupid, hmm? What if I said James looked, meaning he’s a typical guy? B-t-w, green’s not a good colour on you, Missy.”

Melissa leaned in against the steering wheel. “Let’s table this. I need you to bring some items over to his and Amy’s room, ASAP.”

“I’m already here. How about you simply bring this stuff to me?”

The brunette witch blinked. “What are you doing in James’ room?”

“He wanted me to protect Amy while he was gone. Little thing called chivalry. Remind me to fill you in on the concept.”

I’d once suggested to Melissa that if someone was being deliberately annoying around her, she should simply count down from five in her head to avoid saying a rather blunt remark, thus causing the situation to escalate further. I suspect that’s why she remained silent for a moment at this point.

 

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

Come to think, Melissa pauses like that a lot when Trixie is around.

“Fine, well, I’m parked in front of that room with James asleep in the passenger seat,” Melissa said at last. “So we might as well be talking in person.”

“YOU called ME,” Trixie reminded.

Melissa simply hung up. She then dropped the phone onto the floor of the car and reached for the door handle – which is when the rear window shattered from the large rock that had been thrown at it.

The witch quickly spun, and she admitted to me that her heart briefly leapt into her throat, over concern that the mirror had been destroyed prior to our agreed upon time. It had fallen over, but still seemed intact.

Unfortunately, with her attention being on the mirror, she was unable to defend against the long, hairy arm that reached in through the shattered glass and grabbed for her throat from behind. “Melissssssssa,” a voice hissed.

“Urk!” was all Melissa could manage to vocalize.

Her mind immediately went to work sizing up the situation. She didn’t have enough force to break the grip. Her better spells required a focusing phrase, which was currently impossible. I was obviously not in a position to help, her phone was on the floor, and she wasn’t in the best position to strike back at her aggressor. Moreover, while slamming her hand down on the horn might attract the attention of someone – like Trixie – who could help, it might also wake up Amy, which was also not in Melissa’s best interests.

At this point, I will mention that there is a spell, unique to every witch, known as ‘ultima ratio’ (or ‘last resort’). They can invoke it in times of dire emergency.

I say it’s unique, because it might involve vanishing, or explosions, or growing a third arm, or whatever said witch has previously decided should happen if the situation is really as bad as all that. It also effectively renders the witch incapable of casting spells for quite some time afterwards, hence why it’s a last resort spell.

Of course, Melissa’s situation here was, in fact, not as bad as all that – I mostly bring it up at this point so that it’s not a surprise later, and to give you a sense of how bad things may yet become.

What Melissa did do at this point was reach up and rake her fingernails over the hairy hand that had her by the throat.

When the hand flinched, she was able to subvocalize a particular thought.

When the car then caught fire, the hand flinched even more, to the point where she could rasp out, “Fulgur.”

Melissa tapping her fingers against the hand now sent a sharp electric shock through it. By the time her opponent had processed the fact that the fire had no heat, he was jerking back and twitching from her electrical attack anyway. (Illusion, Melissa has said, can be a very powerful tool. At the very least, it can provide one with the second or two that’s needed to think up something better.)

Melissa wasted no time in kicking her car door open and getting out, in order to put herself in a more defensible position.

Her opponent – a lycan, as mentioned earlier, so essentially a wolfman in jeans – was able to backhand her before she was fully prepared.

Melissa’s body flew back onto the hood of the car, but she rolled with it, landing in front of the vehicle on one knee. Trixie poked her head around the motel room curtains at about this point, having heard something. Her eyes went wide, and keeping the drapes pulled back at least slightly, in order to still be able to see Amy, she hurried outside.

“Do you two mind?” Trixie quipped at Melissa as she opened the door, and then tried to close it as quietly as possible. “People at this motel are trying to sleep.”

“Not now, Trixie,” was Melissa’s only response, slowly getting to her feet, eyes fixated on her attacker.

The lycan, for his part, had also paused to size up the situation, seeing as he’d now lost the advantage of surprise.

“Lycan,” Trixie said, a mite reduntantly, to fill the ensuing silence. “Different from a werewolf, silver doesn’t apply. You’ll have to –”

“I know how to fight a lycan, Trix,” Melissa said, her tone clipped.

Trixie hushed. Whenever Melissa started getting terse, you knew she was serious. (Conversely, Trixie tends to use full names when she gets serious, as she likes using nicknames as a matter of course. Go figure.)

For your sake though, assuming you are unaware, I’ll mention that the main difference between a werewolf and a lycan is that the former requires a full moon to transform, while the latter has more control. There are other differences, but, well, the internet is actually not as wholly inaccurate on this particular distinction as it is on others, so you can check into them yourself if you like.

Melissa and the lycan continued their staring contest for a few moments more.

“So,” Melissa ventured. “I’m willing to go our separate ways here. Though I’d recommend some silver sulfadiazine, should help you balance out your control issues, you’re liable to get in trouble looking like that.”

“I won’t be in trouble once I keep you from restoring the balance, Melisssssa Viiiirga,” the lycan retorted at last. “Very arrogant of you to put your real name on the motel ledger.”

“I’ve been told I can be arrogant,” Melissa admitted.

“Yeah, I’ve told her that,” Trixie chimed in.

“Is this not directly connected to the whole vampyre thing with Amy then?” Melissa continued.

“Doesn’t seem like it,” Trixie lamented, when the lycan simply stared. “The movies have lied to us again, not everything interconnects.” She shook her head sadly, her twintails knocking against her shoulders.

The lycan’s eyes narrowed. “You two must think you’re pretty smart.”

“IQ of 151,” the redhead said proudly.

“Must you always bring that up?” Melissa said in annoyance.

“Oh, right, cuz as you’ve told me, James never flaunted his intelligence. His apparent complete absence of such, you seem to have become love numbed towards.”

“Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”

“Shut up,” the lycan said in disbelief.

“Make me,” Trixie shot back.

The wolf form lunged at them. Or more specifically, at Melissa, though he took a side swipe at Trixie too.

The redhead was able to simply step back; Melissa’s dodge had to be a bit more artistic, but seeing as she’d anticipated the lycan’s move, she was even able to reach out and grab one of the motel’s exterior deck chairs to use as a shield afterwards.

“MAKE me?” she said to Trixie in disbelief.

“Sorry, hadn’t parsed it was him saying that,” the younger witch mumbled.

“I’ll lead him on a chase, meet you at the pool,” Melissa concluded, as the lycan managed to rip the chair from her hands. The pool was one of the outdoor types that these motels sometimes have.

“But…” Trixie began, gesturing at the motel room, before blinking and nodding in realization. She pulled out her computing device again, punching something in quickly with her thumbs. “Rixi, protective scrolls,” she said.

“All right,” her own voice replied agreeably. “Accessing.”

One light show later, and Trixie was quickly thumbing some self-adhesive papers to the motel room’s door jamb and window.

At the same time, Melissa had made a run for her own motel room. It wasn’t, in fact, her destination, but she had hoped the lycan would believe that to be the case. She had already concluded that she wouldn’t be able to outpace him on foot – wolves are damn fast – and that running any sort of confusing zigzag pattern would only serve to slow herself down.

As expected, he did jump in front of her, so as her own foot touched the ground, she intoned, “Salio!”

As her foot came up, she shot at least ten feet into the air. With her momentum still carrying her forwards, she easily overshot her opponent, and was able to continue running.

With a snarl, the lycan turned to catch up again, this time passing her and blocking passage to the room she had booked. Which was pretty much what she’d hoped.

She turned to the side before reaching the lycan, grabbing the long push broom that someone had left next to a small pile of debris, outside an unoccupied room. After giving it a quick enchantment, she grabbed the handle, hopped up onto it, and rode it off in the other direction, like a segway. (I believe I mentioned this is how she uses brooms to travel.)

With an exclamation of annoyance, the wolf followed, but now at least they were moving at roughly the same speed.

“Hurry it up, Trix,” Melissa remarked as she came within earshot of my hotel room again.

“I’m keeping James’ current girlfriend safe,” Trixie retorted as she stepped back to activate her scrolls. “You’d be blamed if Amy came to harm.”

“That girl’s not his girlfriend yet,” Melissa was heard to mumble as she continued to ride her push broom through the parking lot.

I hesitate to point out here that no effort was made to actually protect my slumbering form in the front seat of the car. I’m not sure what that says about my witch associates, or about me, but I choose to believe they felt I was in no danger, or could handle myself. Somehow.

The lycan continued his pursuit of Melissa, obviously his primary target. She continued to glide on her broom in the dim light being cast from both the moon and the neon sign for the motel, until she reached the access to the pool.

The gate was locked, but public property has never stopped a witch before. Once inside, she was confronted with the fact that it had not yet been opened for the season, and remained totally drained.

This did not bode well for her initial idea of getting the wolf wet, and possibly altering the chlorine content to be something rather more aggravating to her adversary.

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Virga: Act 2E

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 2e: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES

In fact, Amy had taken the opportunity while the rest of us were talking to edge back away towards the wall, presumably hoping that things would be cleared up without her intervention. Yet as the vampyre jumped at her now, she didn’t freeze up. Rather, she raised her index and middle fingers in front of her body, and the vamp seemed to bounce off an invisible forcefield.

Amy let out a little sigh of relief. The vamp quickly recovered, landing back on his feet.

“Can’t attack a genie that way,” Amy admonished, apparently starting to assert herself a bit more, seeing as we were out of the detective scenario and into something a little more familiar to her.

“You gave yourself powers,” the vampyre realized. He shot a look at the Somnalibus. “Little help here?” he demanded.

The white haired Somnalibus demon sized up the situation. The vampyre was, for the moment, keeping his distance away from Amy by the wall, as well as from me, in the light coming in from a front window.

“You can handle it,” the demon concluded, crossing his arms and leaning back against the open doorway. In other words, the outcome here was uncertain, and the Somnalibus didn’t want to be on the losing side.

“You useless piece of–” The vampyre didn’t even bother to finish the sentence, instead reaching for the vase on a nearby table, heaving it at Amy instead.

Again, she raised her fingers, the object bouncing off an invisible wall. Regrettably, the vampyre had probably counted on that, as he used Amy’s momentary distraction to jump at ME.

I was at least able to reason out his angle of attack, namely parallel to the window, since he was having to pull the curtain as he moved. To block out the sun.

This let me evade his initial strike, and vault over the couch, though without thinking I put some weight on my wrist as I did so. I cried out in pain before falling onto the floor.

“James?” Amy called out in concern.

“Capture the vampyre in a cage or something,” I suggested, my arm throbbing.

“I cannot grant you that wish unless you have my lamp,” Amy protested.

“Think of a better idea yourself then?” I ventured.

“I cannot use magic on the world around me, unless it’s in self-defense.”

Okay, her dream world, her rules. You’d think she could have bent them, but then, certain beliefs can be pretty fundamental to an individual’s personality. Also, in a way it means supernatural balance was playing a role even here.

I became very busy fending off the vampyre’s next attack, wishing that I’d had the presence of mind to throw on a turtleneck sweater at some earlier point in the evening.

With the curtain closed, grabbing one of the couch cushions became my plan for blocking an attack to my face or neck. It was successful, but the vampyre then went for my injured wrist.

Well, that wasn’t good.

I kicked at him, but he avoided it. His grip locked around my arm, and just as I felt like there was no way to prevent him from biting down on my skin somehow, there was a smashing sound, and he collapsed on top of me.

I quickly hefted him off and crawled to safety, seeing that Amy the Genie was now standing above the both of us with her hands on her hips.

“I can still attack without using magic,” she asserted. Pieces of the other vase in the room were now scattered about the floor, following its impact on the vampyre’s skull. Unfortunately, he remained conscious, and seemed to be shaking it off.

There seemed to be only one way out of this.

“Amy, give me your lamp?” I requested.

She immediately tossed it in my direction. I caught it with my good hand, then rubbed it with my opposing elbow. “We good for magick on my behalf now?” I asked.

“Mmm hmm! Three wishes, Master,” she affirmed, seemingly smothering a giggle as she tacked on that last term. Under different circumstances, it would have been very cute.

“I wish that the vampyre here be trapped in a cage that he cannot escape from, which has us on the outside, yet is such that we can still see and converse with him,” I blurted out.

The thing with genies, even friendly ones, is trying to account for some of those little loopholes that wishing always seems to generate.

“Granted,” Amy said, clapping her palms together.

With a clanging sound, a cage of iron bars dropped from the ceiling, narrowly missing my foot as it enclosed the vampire. Along with the couch and a quarter of the room.

Well, it didn’t really matter to me that it was roomy inside. I got to my feet again, moving to stand next to Amy as the vampyre also rose. He immediately lunged, reaching through the bars, but fortunately his reach wasn’t enough to touch us.

Sensing that he was temporarily out of options, he stepped back, crossed his arms and glared. “What now then, associates of Melissa?” he demanded. “Are you going to kill me?”

It was a rather good question, actually. I looked to Amy. “I don’t suppose I can wish for him to be banished back to his realm.”

“Uh, since his realm isn’t within this dream, I’d have no idea how to do that,” Amy apologized.

I rubbed my chin. “How about wishing for him to spill everything he knows about the prophecy he mentioned? Could be a clue there.”

Amy shook her head. “James – that is, Master – this vampire is not actually a character in my dream, so I can’t interfere with his free will.” She frowned. “Come on, can’t you think of some way that my magic would be of use?”

I refrained from bringing up her pronunciation issues.

“Fine, we can certainly make things uncomfortable here, such that he’d want to cooperate of his own accord,” I concluded. “Amy — uh, Genie – I wish for garlic to be in every house and environment in this world. Along with a basket of garlic bread for the both of us.”

My Asian/Arabian friend grinned once again. “Granted,” she declared, again clapping her hands.

The vampyre’s eyes went wide. “No,” he said rather hoarsely, as cloves and sprigs of garlic suddenly popped into the room. A gift basket of bread also appeared on a nearby table.

The vamp threw his arm over his face, to try and screen his breathing. Or perhaps to remind himself that he didn’t need to breathe, I don’t know.

“Fine, torture me if you like,” he shot back. “It’s still nothing compared to what my fate would otherwise be, either within your realm, or my own.”

I handed some garlic bread over to Amy as I pondered that. “What, are you a wanted felon or something back in Culicinae?” I asked, now hoping I was pronouncing it right.

He didn’t respond, simply glaring with his red eyes. I sighed, taking a bite of bread myself, before shrugging and looking back at my companion.

“Maybe we’ll have to wait until Melissa shows,” I concluded.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

Amy’s eyes went wide. “What? She’s coming into this dream as well?”

“That had been the plan, I think. She was returning to the motel first.”

“But I can’t let her see me like this,” Amy protested, tossing her garlic bread aside. “It’s bad enough that YOU are seeing one of my most secret desires. Dammit James…!”

Amy pressed two fingers to her forehead, and it felt like the room blurred a bit around the edges.

“I-I’m sorry,” I apologized, suddenly worried that she was going to wake up. “Could we simply get you a disguise?”

Amy shook her head. “Give me the knife back, I guess I need its help to reverse this whole setting.”

I frowned. “The knife?”

“Yes, I turned Melissa’s nasty knife into that lamp when I switched us over into this fantasy.”

My fingers tightened on the object.

How long had I been holding the knife/lamp now? At least a minute. And when Melissa said two minutes, she meant it. And once I exited, the mirror would be smashed, and Amy would wake up.

“Okay, big problem. Hypothetically, what would happen to the vampyre if this dream abruptly ended?” I asked, not really expecting Amy to be able to answer.

“He’d probably make me jump to another one,” answered the Somnalibus in her place.

I’d almost forgotten about him.

I turned to the white haired demon, still watching us from the entranceway to the room. “What if you were released though?” I asked, trying to speak quickly without slurring my words. “If the item in my world that the vampyre had used to trap you here with him were to be simultaneously destroyed along with the end of this dream.”

An eyebrow went up. “He’d merely be a free floating spirit then. Albeit one liable to trap another of my kind and then find more victims.”

“Could you act to prevent that, within the next thirty seconds? With my personal guarantee that you will be freed from his influence thereafter?”

The demon half smiled, straightening his posture and cracking his knuckles. “Indeed I could. Because I’ve always wanted to see precisely why my associate decreed the absence of all garlic within the dreams of your companion.”

“Now hold on,” the vampyre said, finally sounding a bit worried. “I was going to release you too. Right? Once I’d become corporeal? You’ve known this James guy for all of half an hour. How can you trust him over me?!”

“From what I have seen of her dreams, this Amy is honourable,” the Somnalibus responded. “I extrapolate the same to her friend. Moreover…” The demon smiled a rather unpleasant looking smile. “In the more lengthy time I’ve known you, I’ve decided I quite DISLIKE you, Culicinae. You think you know better than me? You may have another think coming.”

I held up the lamp. “Third wish. That the Somnalibus here have access to the vampyre’s cage, along with whatever else he might need to defeat the vampyre before I depart.”

“Granted,” Amy said, clapping her hands.

“I don’t need anything else,” the Somnalibus rumbled, grabbing Amy’s discarded garlic bread before marching through the iron bars as if they weren’t there.

The vampyre backpedaled frantically. “Buddy. Friend! Let’s talk about this,” the vampyre began, only to shriek as he put his palm down onto one of the garlic cloves that Amy had summoned up earlier.

“We may not want to watch this,” I realized.

“Yeeeah,” Amy said, briefly tugging on my sleeve before heading out into the hallway.

I followed, though was still in time to hear the vampyre scream again like it had when Melissa had blown the garlic vapours at him.

“In fact,” Amy continued, moving to sit on the stairs. “Leaving the vampyre at his mercy, even this doesn’t feel right, somehow.”

“No element of poetic justice?” I suggested.

“Maybe,” Amy granted.

The screams cut out. She shuddered.

“My wonderful genie fantasy’s been tainted,” Amy murmured. “I wonder how much of this I’ll actually remember when I wake up.”

“At least your dreams will be yours own from now on,” I offered.

“Oh! There’s that.” She looked up at me. “Thanks, James. You’ve helped me to realize that magic is–”

“–a much bigger problem,” Melissa shouted.

I sat up, realizing that I was back to being in the passenger seat of the car. We seemed to be parked at the motel.

“He’s awake,” Trixie called out, staring at me through the front windshield.

“Arcesso!” Melissa stated.

I turned in time to see Charlie’s bathroom mirror fly out of the back seat, through the previously shattered rear window, towards Melissa’s outstretched hand.

“Honestly,” Melissa continued, and in the dim lighting of the parking lot, all I could see was that she was talking to some sort of beast, looming over her. “If there’s one thing more annoying than unexpected vampyres, it’s when they’re accompanied by lycans.”

I’d better back up.

END ACT 2

Previous INDEX Next Act

Virga: Act 2D

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 2d: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES

“Phone the airport,” Sham Spayed insisted to Amy. “Have them book you on a flight out of town first thing tomorrow morning. If this stalker is monitoring you to the extent that I think he is, he’ll know. This forces his hand, creates a countdown.”

“Oh good, another countdown,” Amy murmured.

Sham droned on regardless. “Next step, you leave the theatre here, take a newspaper, and walk by the park. Keep all your electronic devices on, in case that’s what he’s using to track you. Sit on a bench to read. As you do, I’ll keep an eye on things, from the shadows, and nab the guy if and when he turns up.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there on the bench with you,” I assured Amy, as she again looked dubious.

Sham shook his head. “No good. A perp like this is too smart to approach if you’re with her,” he said to me. “You can hang back with me, as long as you can keep quiet, but it’s got to look like Ms. Lampana’s alone. It’s fine, I gather he’s more likely to propose to her than stab her.”

I frowned, deciding to just come out with an accusation. “Sounds like you want to split us up, to knock me out before attacking her.”

“Whoa! Hey! SHE hired ME,” the PI countered indignantly. “And let me add that as the boyfriend, you ARE a prime suspect – if you even are who you claim to be?”

“Oh, stop,” Amy moaned. “Let’s just get this over with already. Catching this guy, that’s… that’s what ends this, right?”

The question was pretty much directed at me, as Amy had somehow sensed or decided that this would be the fix for the complications I’d mentioned to her before.

“I hope so,” was the best response I could give her.

“I’ll get the guy, don’t worry,” Sham asserted, giving me a look.

Amy could only sigh in response.

We went ahead with the plan. Amy booked the airline flight, grabbed a movie magazine, and headed out. I waited a couple beats along with Sham before following. The two of us were constantly exchanging uncertain glances – neither of us seemed to trust the other.

Consider, the original private investigator had most likely been Charlie, pulled back into reality by Melissa’s arrival. But, I wondered, did that necessarily mean that the vampyre spirt had again assumed the role?

Could the vampyre have instead had the Somnalibus pull a reset, the PI becoming a puppet, while it took on the guise of the stalker instead? It could now be biding it’s time until it felt recovered enough to attack.

I didn’t know, meaning I now had to keep an eye on both Sham (who might attack me) and Amy (who might be attacked).

It seemed to be nighttime in the dream world too, which didn’t help. I belatedly wished I was close enough to Amy to tell her to make it brighter, using her lucid dream abilities.

Instead, I could only watch as Amy chose a park bench relatively close to a lamppost, so that she could see her magazine. It was a type of lamp, I suppose that was fitting. I took up a position in the bushes nearby, slightly removed from Sham so that he couldn’t suddenly clock me in the back of the head.

We waited. A good five minutes passed.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

I started to wonder about Melissa, whether she had reached the motel, and whether she might suddenly appear here too. How close was the passage of time in this dream a match to the real world? I’ve never had a conclusive answer to that question.

A businessman in a suit and tie passed by without incident. Then some woman in a track outfit ambled by, walking their dog. Next, a brunette girl with long hair appeared on the path, facing away from me. I leaned in a bit, twisting my head to see if that was actually Melissa.

Which let me see something else out of the corner of my eye, something approaching fast from above.

I rolled left. A figure landed exactly where I’d been crouching. It wasn’t Sham, I’d been keeping tabs on him too. No, this person had somehow been in the tree above me.

The shape turned to look at me, his eyes red, his forehead ridged. “You’re not supposed to be here with her,” the vampyre hissed.

I blew my cover. All I could think about was getting away, so I scrambled out of the bushes, heart racing, barely aware of the person in the overcoat sidling up to Amy as I ran towards her.

At the time, I was thinking that she was the one with the knife, and the power over what was her own dream, so she could save me. (Again, Trixie hit me for that when I was telling this story, because from Amy’s perspective, she was now being accosted on both sides, one side by Overcoat, the other by me and a vampyre.) To perhaps no one’s surprise, Amy froze up.

“Idiots,” I heard Sham say, somewhere off to my left. It sounded like he was now hurrying in as well.

Apparently, Sham the PI was on the level, whereas Amy now had both a stalker and a vampyre to deal with.

That’s when I got knocked to the ground from behind.

It’s only a dream, I told myself as I fell, attempting to defy physics by missing the ground, or at the least springing back up like an acrobat. Instead, I wrenched something, ending up flat on my face, my wrist hurting like hell.

I quickly rolled over while bringing my knee up, which ended up knocking the vampyre aside as it tried to jump on me (or over me?), buying us a few extra seconds.

“Amy,” I called out, tilting my head back. The upside down image I saw involved Amy looking shocked on the park bench, as Sham Spayed got Overcoat into an arm lock. “Do something?”

“What?” she protested.

I was tempted to say ‘anything’ but recognizing that she needed specific directions here, I opted for, “Exert your power and change the setting!”

It was too dark to see the vampyre properly, plus with any luck, a good dose of sunlight would do him in.

“To what?” she still questioned.

My attention was back on the vampyre, as I threw an arm over my lower face and neck. It loomed above me, about to jump again. I think I said something like, “Your favourite dream. Please, Amy, now!”

Have any of you wondered what it’s like to be an animated character, where suddenly a new cel background is dropped in behind you without warning? I’m guessing no, but know that this is the point when I felt about the same way that character would feel.

The park was gone.

So were the muted colours, everything was suddenly rather bright, and I was indoors, near a window. As such, before even taking stock of everything else, I rolled in that direction, into the sunbeam. Only when it didn’t seem like the vampyre was about to reach in after me, did I sit up to take stock of the situation.

This was a residential house. I think we were in the living room, by the hallway for the front door.

The vampyre was on the floor by the couch, also looking around. Sham Spayed seemed to be accosting the coat rack near the entryway, having an empty coat in an armlock. And Amy… well, her hair was no longer purple. But that was the only thing I immediately recognized about her.

She was standing in the middle of the room, holding an older looking lamp in her hands, while dressed head to toe in Arabic looking silks and translucent fabrics. Like a djinn, or genie, basically.

Looking back, the “Aladdin” story may have been where her fascination with lamps started. It was definitely the reason she hadn’t tried to exert control on the dream before, as she’d known this was where her desires would lead, and she hadn’t been certain it would be of any help.

(I can say that definitively because Amy admitted as much to me later. For the record, she didn’t want to talk much about what happened, but as far as this setting goes, she was willing to confirm what I already suspected. Being a genie was a fantasy of hers, and she’d held out some hope of trying this by herself… until I started popping in and out of the dreamworld, speaking about complications.)

“Boss?” Sham said, dropping the overcoat.

He was speaking to the vampyre, who was now rising off the floor. The private investigator’s features morphed then, changing him into a much older looking male with white hair, his height increasing by a few inches as well.

This was the Somnalibus.

The vampyre snarled in his direction. “I thought you still held a measure of control.”

The demon shrugged. “I do. So does she. I couldn’t get the knife away from her.”

“Why were you even helping her out?” the vamp continued. “I was planning on taking over the stalker persona once I’d dealt with Melissa’s interloper here.”

“Earning her trust. A concept I know you have difficulty with.”

Something in the demon’s tone made me look closer at him. He looked back at me, and for a split second, his expression verged on apologetic.

Had his attitude towards me been out of a belief that the vampyre held a measure of control over me? Or that I was some sort of test?

Either way, I judged here that the Somnalibus wasn’t an additional adversary. Not yet. It helped that I had a couple weeks of research to back up Melissa’s initial assessment back after my graduation, namely that these demons were non-confrontational by nature.

The vamp grumbled something under his breath before concluding, “No matter. As long as I feed on these two, I’ll gain enough strength to affect their reality. You just wait for my signal, demon. Since Charlie’s been marked, there will be an unavoidable time lag before I can locate and jump to another willing patsy.”

I struggled to my feet – doing so carefully, to avoid putting any weight on my sore wrist. “But Amy has control of this scene now,” I declared. “You’re at a disadvantage. Surrender, vampyre, and maybe we’ll go easy on you!”

The vampyre turned a look of disbelief on me. “Ha! One of Virga’s associates, showing mercy to an intruder from another realm? Are you stupid, or do you merely have absolutely no idea who you’re working for?”

I was reminded of how this guy knew about Melissa prior to their meeting. Somehow. “Melissa’s fair minded,” I countered. “If you were to agree to a memory wipe prior to a return to your realm, I hardly think…”

He laughed. “No, you hardly do. I can’t believe I didn’t detect her arrival even sooner. Unless, in your realm, we only just entered the window for fulfillment of prophecy…?” His voice trailed off, as he seemed to muse on that.

I risked intruding on his thinking. “Prophecy?”

The vampyre shot me a look. “Never mind. Three months of your time should be more than adequate for reestablishing myself. But first of all…” And he lunged for Amy, who was not in a sunbeam.

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 2C

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 2c: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES

Melissa responded to Charlie’s leap by reaching up towards me, and grabbing Trixie’s cloves of garlic out of my hand.

I had pulled them out as I reached the bedroom doorway. I’d had no real plan, other than throwing them at the vampyre, but Melissa must have seen them out of the corner of her eye, and she had a better idea.

She pressed the cloves between her palms, saying, “Sublimare.”

When she next opened her palms, the solid garlic had become completely gaseous. A gas which the vampyre inhaled as he again attempted to go for Melissa’s neck.

The vampyre (and Charlie?) screamed.

He screamed like he had just inhaled acid or something, loud enough for me to think that we’d finally alerted the neighbours to something happening here. The vampyre then clawed briefly at its neck, and collapsed. Or rather, Charlie’s body collapsed, as Melissa was about to clarify.

“The Culicinae spirit’s fled,” Melissa said, visibly shaken as she attempted to get back onto her feet.

I gave her a hand in rising, and she shot me a look of thanks. It was surprising how much that made this feel like old times.

“It’ll have retreated back to safety, with the Somnalibus,” Melissa added. “Thus inside Amy’s dream. We’ll need to retrieve the demonic control object, then return to the hotel so that I can perform another invocation, allowing us inside your friend’s dream world. To deal with that vampyre spirit for good.”

“I’ve already been inside Amy’s dream,” I offered. “And I likely will be again. If that’s helpful.”

In fact, it had happened to me once more on my trip over here. Fortunately, not for long, and as I was driving away from an intersection, so not at high speed. Otherwise, there could have been an accident.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

Melissa shot me a look of mild surprise. I don’t often manage to elicit that sort of response from her, and felt perversely pleased.

“You were holding the knife too,” she deduced immediately. “Okay, I can work with that. First, to the washroom.”

By which she meant the last room in the apartment that she hadn’t investigated. Immediately upon opening the door, she saw that the oddly ornate mirror, which was hung overtop of the medicine cabinet, was emitting the glow she was looking for. It’s… probably best not to dwell on the fact that the bathroom had been selected as the location for spying on Amy’s dreams.

Melissa waved her palm over the glass.

“Okay, it’s all the vampyre’s doing,” she decided. “It trapped the Somnalibus here as a way of corrupting Halko, in order to eventually get itself a body.”

“Then Charlie’s innocent in all this?” I wondered.

Melissa shook her head. “Not really, he knew what he was doing. Okay James, first you kill or banish the vampyre that’s in Amy’s dream. Otherwise it might get strong enough to escape back into its realm.”

I frowned. “But don’t you want it to go back in its realm? Rather than running loose in ours?”

“He seemed more the type to return here with friends. I think we have to nip this one in the bud. Now, once you’ve dealt with him, I’ll shatter the mirror to release the Somnalibus – which will also eliminate the peculiar crack that this object seems to have generated between us and the Culicinae. Understood?”

I did, actually. Which didn’t mean there weren’t problems. “Thing is, I have no more garlic to attack the vampyre with.”

“Irrelevant, you’ll have to use dream world garlic anyway. Don’t worry, so long as our vampyre is in there, he’s vulnerable to that reality.”

“Amy’s dreams also have no garlic though,” I added.

“Makes sense, because the vampyre was controlling Amy’s dreams through Charlie. However, the Somnalibus should be able to exert more control now, if Amy allows him. Which she can do, seeing as she’s now lucid dreaming. Besides, there’s always the knife, decapitation kills most anything.”

“Um, and how exactly are we supposed to identify this demon – or the vampyre, for that matter?”

“It’s Amy’s dream, not mine,” Melissa said, starting to sound irritated. “Check inside lamps, maybe? You know her better than I do, James, you’ve just spent several weeks with the girl.”

“But I don’t–”

And with the momentary ringing in my ears, I was back inside Amy’s dream.

We seemed to be in a movie theatre now, in the main lobby. There were a handful of others present, but I was able to spot Amy once more, by virtue of her purple hair. I even managed to walk towards her this time, reality not reasserting itself quite as fast as before.

It seemed Amy was talking to a guy in a trench coat and hat. That was a new development.

“It could be an ex-boyfriend after me,” Amy was saying to TrenchCoat, before spotting my approach. “Oh, hello again James.”

I picked up on a bit of resentment there. I imagine she wasn’t thrilled with how I kept coming and going.

“And who’s this then?” TrenchCoat demanded.

“This is James. My current boyfriend,” Amy answered with a little sigh, before fully turning to me. “I was just explaining to Sham Spayed here about my stalker problem.”

The ‘boyfriend’ thing worried me, but then, this was her dream. I decided to take the comment in stride. “This is the private investigator you were going to see earlier,” I deduced. “The one who vanished.”

“Mmm,” Sham said, noncommittally. “Yeah, sorry about being called away suddenly, but I’m on the case now. So, Ms. Lampana, you said you had only a knife with which to defend yourself? Let me have a look at it.”

I immediately realized that the reappearance of the private investigator, and disappearance of the vampyre in reality, couldn’t be complete coincidence. Also, that it might be a bad idea, letting the PI have the knife that was acting as a focus for Amy’s lucid dreaming.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t voice any of that, because I again found myself back in Charlie Halko’s bathroom.

Melissa had apparently used the intervening time to pull the mirror down off the wall. (She later told me that she’d also checked that Charlie’s pulse was normal. In the end, once he came to, Charlie was pretty shaken by the incident. He swore off internet videos, which meant that Amy didn’t have to take out a restraining order against him.)

“We’re going back to the hotel,” the brunette declared, upon seeing me alert once more. She then half led, half dragged me back towards the apartment door, in passing switching off the lamp that she’d illuminated.

“Wait,” I protested, still parsing what I’d seen in Amy’s dream. “From what I just saw, I think I’d better return to the dreamworld, sooner rather than later.” Another thought occurred. “And is there some way to prevent me from being pulled back and forth at these really inconvenient times??”

“Let’s get to your car,” Melissa said succinctly. “Once there, I’ll put a conditional on you, allowing you to be in the dream permanently from that entry time up until, let’s say two minutes after you next touch the talisman knife. If you return to reality before I can enter as well, I’ll know it’s time to destroy the mirror. Sound good?”

“Two minutes? What if I need more time?”

“Don’t. I want to smash the mirror as soon after the vampyre’s defeat as possible, to prevent other incursions. But breaking it will free the demon, and subsequently cause Amy to wake up. You’ll really need to be out before then.”

“Oh, good…” I think that was Melissa’s way of telling me I might become trapped in the dream.

By this point we were in the hall, having closed Charlie’s apartment up. That seemed to be the cue for one of the adjacent apartment doors to open a crack.

“Hey, uh, did you hear screams?” a guy said tentatively from behind a chain lock.

“Tenant here REALLY didn’t like the mirror we brought him,” I offered up, thinking fast and gesturing at the object Melissa was holding.

“Ah.” A pause. “Right.” The guy’s door closed again.

People believe what they want to believe.

We hurried out to my car, this time with Melissa in the driver’s seat, the mirror tossed into the back. She turned to look at me.

“Incidentally, if you get the chance, ask the vampyre how it knew my name. If I’m becoming known outside of our realm, I’d like to know why. Now, are you ready?”

I took a deep breath. “I think I –”

“Dormis,” Melissa stated, tapping her index finger on my forehead.

***

I was back in the movie theatre.

The first thing I noticed was Amy and the PI both holding onto the knife from before, with him seemingly examining it. Now, I know that in theory once you start lucid dreaming, you don’t suddenly forget you’re in a dream, but we were bending the rules as it was – plus one can spontaneously wake up from a lucid dream, and I’m not sure where that would put me.

I quickly strode the two paces back over, saying, “Amy, don’t lose your grip on the knife.”

I almost reached out for it myself, before remembering that doing so would start the countdown for my own exit from the dreamworld. There was a lot to keep track of here.

Amy turned back to me. Her grip on the weapon remained firm, which was good as it seemed to me like Sham attempted to use her momentary distraction to jerk it away… but then maybe I was reading too much into him shifting his weight back and forth.

“James, can you stop running off already?” she said, trying not to sound exasperated (and failing).

“Yup,” I affirmed. “This time, I’m here until the conclusion.”

I shared a glance with Sham, the PI. His eyes narrowed a bit, but otherwise he remained pretty inscrutable.

“Fine, well, keep the knife then,” he concluded, releasing his own hold on the object.

Amy slipped it back into the pocket of the jacket she was wearing, still mostly looking at me. Possibly wondering if I was actually me, or if my declaration meant she’d manifested me as part of her dream. Hopefully my knowing about the knife’s significance was proof enough for her.

“Now, Ms. Lampana,” Sham droned on. “I know you said you preferred to keep somewhere public, but that won’t be possible all the time. Best we set up a situation now, where we can coax this stalker of yours out of hiding. We’ll confront him before he becomes violent.”

“Really?” Amy said, dubiously. She looked at me.

“Actually, yeah, the sooner the better,” I agreed.

My reasoning was, with too many people around, it would be really hard to get a read on where the vampyre was hiding. Moreover, if Sham’s setup seemed sketchy, I’d know he was the vampyre. Plus, in the back of my head, I was worried that the longer this went on, the more likely Amy would wake up of her own accord, possibly trapping me.

“Oh,” Amy concluded, rather nonplussed.

In retrospect, I completely understand her reaction. Sham and I were effectively telling Amy to put herself in harm’s way of a stalker. If it makes you feel any better about my insensitivity, Trixie gave me what for about this later, smacking my head as she pointed out that I was an idiot for not considering what kind of suggestion that was for a female.

“Don’t forget, ultimately you have control over what happens,” was all I said at the time.

She smiled uncertainly at that. After all, this was only a dream. A lucid dream that, by now, Amy should have had some control over.

Which was when it struck me how pedestrian things had remained. No magical beings or flying cars to be seen… Amy was either keeping things low key, or had not yet bothered to exert her will on the situation.

Had it been me lucid dreaming, I suspect by that point I’d have tried flying, or casting spells the way Melissa could. It made me even more aware of how incompatible Amy and I might be, long term.

“Good, then here’s what I’m proposing,” Sham went on, oblivious to the situation between us.

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 2B

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 2b: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES

“Declino,” Melissa called out, thrusting her palm out in front of her. Her spell deflected the flung frying pan off to the left. This knocked it into one of the nearby upright lamps, nearly making it topple over.

“Watch out for my lights,” Charlie shouted at her, baring his teeth in anger. Which was Melissa’s first real clue as to his nature, what with two of his teeth being pointed fangs.

“Oh, perfect,” Melissa said sarcastically. (For the record, I seem to have taught Melissa sarcasm to the point where she now does it without me there. Is that good?)

Opting for avoidance, my former roommate faked left, then moved right, throwing open the doors of one of the other closed rooms. It was the bedroom, and again, pretty much what you’d expect to see there, albeit in this case including the existence of more lamps. Also, a couple of printouts of Amy in different wigs tacked up on the wall.

Nothing seemed to be glowing. So either the item controlling the Somnalibus in Amy’s dreams was in the last room, or it had been quickly hidden away somewhere.

Charlie was fast, though. Melissa has since remarked that it’s the fast reflexes and healing properties of his breed of vampyres that make them formidable opponents, rather than their physical strength. She barely had time to turn before she was being forced to back up, right into that bedroom.

While there existed the option to flee through the window (it was only the second story, plus there was a chance of grabbing at the nearby balcony – albeit equally a chance of getting tangled in the large black curtain), Melissa didn’t like her odds of getting back into the residence afterwards.

She grabbed a lamp instead, brandishing it in the a dim light entering from the main living area.

“I’ll smash this into the dresser,” she warned.

“I’ll stop you in time,” Charlie countered, poised to spring. “And then you’ll regret it.”

“You can’t be a hundred percent sure, or you would have jumped by now,” Melissa countered. “Perhaps we could talk about this.”

“You broke into my place, there’s nothing to discuss,” he shot back.

“How about the fact that you’re being possessed by a vampyre spirit of the Culicinae realm, who’s been gaining power over you by having a Somnalibus demon respond to your commands.”

Charlie stared. “How did you work THAT out?” he said, rather taken aback.

I was rather impressed myself (after the fact), given how Trixie had needed a few minutes of web searching to come to the same conclusion.

(“It was a bit of a reach,” Melissa told me later. “But along with his fast reactions and pointed teeth, there was the comfort of blackness in his place, the playing up of an obsession implying a compulsive personality, and finally a faint buzzing noise when he spoke. Trixie can research all she likes, it’s no substitute for being out in the field, James.”)

“Irrelevant,” is how Melissa responded at the time. “The point is, unless you actually WANT to become a being that requires blood for sustenance, Charlie, you need my help.”

A few emotions ran over Charlie’s face at that point. Melissa wasn’t able to describe them to me, at the time she simply held her ground, figuring any sudden moves would only help the vampyre spirit reassert itself.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

After what the brunette estimated to be about five minutes, but which no doubt felt even longer, Charlie spoke again. “I… I just want it to be over,” he said.

Melissa almost relaxed.

Charlie bared his fangs. “And if were to drink the blood of a true spell caster, like yourself, my transformation would finally be complete.”

Melissa pursed her lips. “Right, well, that’s not going to happen,” she sighed. “So, better decision, we excise the vampyre, so that it can be destroyed, freeing you to make more sensible choices.”

The dark haired man stared, and then bared his teeth again. “You are no match for us. For ME. Surrender now, and I promise not to drain you completely dry, witch.”

“Several minutes to think, and yet you still make the wrong decision,” Melissa said with another sigh. She raised her free hand into the air to snap her fingers, whilst muttering under her breath, “Illusio, Culincinae!”

Immediately, her form changed. Bumps appeared on her forehead, as two of her teeth lengthened into fangs. She drew herself to her full height, and then a bit more, before glaring, her green eyes momentarily flickering red.

“What about now?” Melissa challenged. “Same strength and speed as you, plus magical control. I suggest YOU surrender.”

Charlie took a half step back – only to reassert his pose and look smug. “I’m not stupid,” he declared. “A transformation like that is impossible to maintain. And your type cannot weild magick with the intent to cause harm, even against – I’d even say particularly against – your own self. So you cannot change your body chemistry to be vampyric on a whim, any more than I could change into a bat at any time of my choosing.”

Melissa stared. “No?”

“No. Otherwise, your human body would rebel, the same way humans need compatible blood when receiving donations. No, young witch, I have seen through you. You are out of your league here.”

Melissa’s eyes narrowed. “You seem to know an awful lot, considering you’re from another realm, Culicinae.”

Charlie – or really the vampyre, as Charlie had almost completely given up control by now – shrugged. “The more the balance on your Earth is thrown off, the more the barriers are breaking down. Faster and faster, of late. Perhaps it would be a mercy for you to die now, before it gets really bad? I can help you there.”

Melissa snapped her fingers in the air again, dispelling the illusion she’d crafted about herself. It had obviously not had the desired effect, and took at least marginal effort for her to maintain, effort she preferred to put elsewhere. Though she remained standing as tall as she could.

“Thing is, I’m going to keep it from getting really bad,” she stated coldly. “Starting with you.”

That brought the vampyre up short even more than Melissa’s vampire image had. There’s a certain tone she brings out on occasion, one that brooks no argument, and when accompanied by a look, Mel can have people obeying her almost before they know it.

Then, as if sensing he was on the verge of losing the advantage (or possibly losing control back to Charlie), the vampyre sprang.

Melissa threw the lamp at Charlie’s head.

With the reflexes of a cat, he caught it in midair with one hand, as his other moved to deliver an uppercut.

But Melissa wasn’t there any more.

She had edged to the side, then jumped over onto the bed. After one jump to turn her body back around – as well as test the springs – she coiled her body up, then sprang for the ceiling.

Accomplishing a flip around in midair, Melissa landed back in the bedroom doorway, and then strode quickly out of harm’s way. Or that had been the plan, at least.

The vampyre was a little bit faster than her.

Charlie had swiftly set the lamp aside, then headed back for the door, rather than aiming another blow for Melissa in the air. As such, he managed to grab a handful of my witch friend’s long hair as she fled through the doorframe, then used his hold to yank her back inside.

This had the added bonus of pulling her off balance.

He then twisted the hair around his hand, pulling Melissa’s head off to the side and baring his fangs. She could feel his breath on her skin as he moved to sink his teeth into the unobstructed view of her neck.

“Saeta!” Melissa gasped out.

With that, Melissa’s hair came alive. At least, it did so in that it attempted to twist away from Charlie’s grasp, while at the same time frizzing up and getting in his face, blocking the easy path to her skin.

“Pffth!” the vampyre said, now having to try and spit out a mouthful of her elegantly shampooed hair in order to again go for the jugular. Facing away from him, her next move involved lifting her foot and kicking back towards his legs.

Melissa was successful with one blow, which was immediately followed by the vampyre shoving her into the wall. Hard, and headfirst.

Melissa was unable to brace herself, or prevent her body from collapsing onto the floor, but she at least managed to turn so that the two of them were facing each another once again. She then raised one hand, preparing to deflect the next attack, her hair still attempting to defy gravity as it waved in the air.

In Melissa’s later account, she told me that it was only at this point that she really considered going on the offensive. However, I will say that she has some difficulty with that sort of mindset, plus she wanted to avoid too much collateral damage to the apartment complex. In particular, fire, her best bet against a vampyre, was liable to spread, particularly given the abundance of curtains and other flammable material.

Even as she considered her options, the vampyre grabbed the bedspread and threw it at where she sat on the floor, following it up by leaping at her himself. He was probably reasoning that she’d be preoccupied with removing the sheet, leaving herself exposed to attack.

Except Melissa simply let the spread fall upon her, which made it even more difficult for the vampire to find an opening. Granted, it also served to restrict Melissa’s movements even more.

Ultimately, the vampyre found itself trying to yank the sheet away again.

Which is where he got a bit of a break, in that one of Melissa’s arms had become tangled in the folds. So, by tossing the sheet back behind himself, she was pulled back towards him, and the fabric fell away, giving him another clear chance at a bite.

Her palm went to his chin, to keep him from biting. But at this point, there was no way she could keep him off her indefinitely, not without causing collateral damage.

This is when I arrived.

Trixie’s skeleton key having been successful at granting me access to the building, I burst through the still unlocked apartment door, quickly taking stock of the situation.

Namely, nothing happening, a flickering lamp providing the only light. But it sounded like there was a scuffle in the bedroom.

“Melissa?” I called out, risking drawing attention to myself as I hurried towards the doorway.

The vampyre froze. “Melissa… not Melissa Virga?” the possessed Charlie said, his eyes growing larger as he looked down at the brunette witch.

“Behind you,” Melissa said, throwing her voice to a position near his right ear. (Have I mentioned Melissa picked up ventriloquism in her youth?)

The vampyre jerked his head that way, allowing Melissa to smack his face, spinning him off balance for a change, the diminutive brunette then scurrying out of his clutches and off towards me, though never taking her gaze away from him.

“How can you know me?” she demanded.

Because he had, in fact, used her full, true name, not the pseudonyms I’m using as I publish Melissa’s cases here.

He simply stared at her again. Then the grin came back, and it made my blood run cold.

“I can be the one to ensure that you never restore the balance,” the Culicinae vampyre declared, his eyes taking on a hint of the crazy. As if it no longer mattered what happened to him. “I can be a hero to my realm.”

And with that, the vampyre launched himself at her once more.

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