My name is Seena Lancaster. I am a Mal, a vampire assassin. Technically. My current duties are…complicated. Still, I was personally recruited by Abigor the Bellows. He entrusted me with restoring some small bit of glory to the subculture, and I felt honored by the privilege.
My friends, however, felt otherwise.
“I still can’t believe you joined a subculture without telling me,” Delphie muttered, as she set her drink down. She was a skinny little slip of a girl with a long braid of brown hair. “Didn’t you say you were thinking about going with your brother?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know…thinking about flesh crafting makes me nauseous. No offense, Jelena.”
The Glasyan just grinned and brushed her black and white streaked hair out of her face. “None taken. I’m just glad you joined a vampire culture. Weren’t the angels trying to recruit you for a little while?”
I blinked. If so, that was news to me.
Pam, my roommate, finally spoke up. “Aren’t any of you freaks the least bit worried that she joined assassins?”
Pam was baseline—completely so, as far as I could tell. We had only met on Sunday, so I had only known her for about five days now, but she was a bit…critical of others. She wasn’t very pretty, which might be part of the problem. She wasn’t exactly ugly, but average was something of the exception in a city where you could buy a prettier face for a couple week’s allowance.
Jelena grinned even more broadly. “C’mon, baseline. It’s the Mals. They just kill racists and angels.”
Pam glared back. “Yeah right. Because assassins are so well-known for their honor and dignity.”
Before I could retort, Delphie spoke up. “She’s got a point, actually…” When she noticed my glare she winced. “I mean, I’m sure they’re as upright as they’ve always claimed to be. But without Baal leading them, maybe that will change.”
It was surprising to hear her have an opinion on the matter. Normally, she ignored politics. I guess she really was trying to turn over a new leaf.
“Okay, see, that’s a good point,” Jelena nodded. “Give the mouse some cheese.”
Delphie glared daggers at the Glasyan, but didn’t retort. Wise move.
I rubbed my forehead in consternation. “Yes, the subculture is going through some tough times right now. But I think Abigor and the others know what they’re doing.”
Pam tried to steer the subject onto slightly safer grounds. “You have a brother, right? What’s he have to say about it?”
Ugh. Simon. I waved my hand. “He’s overprotective. As usual.”
“He’s just worried,” Delphie reminded me. She slurped some of her fruity drink through the straw before speaking again. “You’re all he has, really. Besides, he’s usually right. Remember when you were dating Nikoli?”
I groaned. “Don’t bring him up again, please…”
“But Simon was right about him, wasn’t he?”
Pam spoke up. “You going to let the rest of us know who this guy is?”
“Yeah,” Jelena added, frowning. “I don’t remember this either.”
“It was when you were on vacation a couple years back.” I rubbed my forehead. “You’ve probably heard of him, actually. These days, he’s better known as Amduscias.”
Jelena nearly choked.
I winced. “It’s not that bad…”
Pam raised an eyebrow. “The name’s not familiar to me.”
The Glasyan got her breathing under control. “He’s…the Traitor Hawk. He betrayed Soaring Eagle and joined Tiamat.” She tweaked one of her horns with her fingers. “White night Seena, you dated the Reconciler of Foes?”
I threw up my hands. “No! I dated an ave named Nikoli! He seemed nice enough—he’s always had a silver tongue.” I shook my head. “Besides, he was an ave. I felt sorry for him.”
“Yeah, well, he’s a lace now,” Delphie said a little bitterly. She hadn’t been enamored of him in the first place, and after he joined the lizards it just got worse. “And one of the worst of the lot.”
“How’d you even get out of that relationship alive?” Jelena asked, tapping the table with her claws. Well, they were more like long fingernails. “Amduscias has a reputation for being patient, but he does not let go once he’s got his talons in you.”
“Oh. Yeah. He…decided I wasn’t worth the trouble.”
Jelena’s eyes narrowed. “Seena. What did you do?”
I shifted uncomfortably. “Nothing! Much…”
Delphie looked at me sideways. “Wait, I seem to remember you telling me you shot him in the leg. But—”
“Wouldn’t have worked,” Jelena noted. “If she was lucky, that would have just pissed him off. More likely, he’d like her spirit and start trying to recruit her for real.”
Thankfully, Lily chose that moment to walk up to the table. “Anything else I can get for you guys?”
“Yes!” I said immediately. “Uh…I want…”
My friends wouldn’t let me go that easily. Delphie leaned forward angrily. “Don’t try and change the subject. What did you do? What’s so bad you had to lie to me about it?”
Unfortunately, Lily quickly took the hint and scooted away. Unless Lizzy decided to show up after all (I had invited her, but she had said she was busy), I was out of distractions.
I sighed. “Fine. I made a deal with the Queen-Mother of Dayborn Light.”
Pam looked like I had just shot her. “You WHAT?”
I winced. “Look, its really not that bad…”
“Not that bad??” she shrieked. “You made a deal with a fey, and you think its not that bad??” She started pulling at her hair. “Lord, I need a new roommate. Is there any way I can request a minimum IQ on a roommate form?”
“The fey aren’t…” Jelena started, then stopped herself. “No, actually, I think the baseline’s got the right idea. You’re a fig-witted idiot, Seena.”
I scoffed. “Oh, come on. The Glasyans make deals with the fey all the time.”
“Yeah, as a group. Everyone working together, making sure the deal is as fair as possible, checking for loopholes and making sure we don’t innocently give them the last piece for a nuke or whatever. But one on one?” She shook her head. “You got cheated, bad. I don’t care if all you gave her was a goddamned bottle cap—it wasn’t worth what you got in return.”
There was a long pause. The only sound was Pam slowly getting her breathing under control through what looked like some sort of meditation exercise. I expected her to say something, but it was actually Delphie who first broke the silence.
“So what did you give her?” she asked as she finished off her drink. “I’m assuming it was a bit bigger than a bottle cap.”
I looked away. “…it’s not important.”
Jelena chuckled. “It’s like you don’t know us at all. Obviously that’s not going to stop us from asking.”
“Just tell us now,” Delphie recommended tiredly. “Save us all some time.”
I shrugged awkwardly. “I gave her an egg.”
Pam raised an eyebrow. “An egg? Like a chicken egg? No, it was probably some rare monster egg.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” I lied, nodding.
I might have convinced Delphie and Pam, but Jelena saw right through me. “What kind of egg, Seena?”
I winced. “Look, you need to understand, I was in a very tight spot with Nikoli. He was already joining up with Tiamat, and it was clear he wasn’t going to let me go—”
“Get on with it,” Pam ordered. “What kind of egg?”
I twiddled my fingers. “Ah…mine.”
Pam was the one who managed to get the words out. “As in…under the proper conditions, it could grow into your child.”
Delphie opened her mouth, but no sound came out, and soon closed it again.
Pam’s stare could have melted steel. “You gave a fey your unborn child.”
I winced. “Not…really. I mean…most eggs don’t ever grow, right?”
Jelena held out her hand to my roommate, palm up. “Pam, give me your gun. I’m going to do her a favor and shoot her in the head.”
Pam placed her head in her hands. Although it was slightly muffled, I clearly heard her say “Don’t tempt me.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 21)
“Lace” is derived from lacertilia, the name for the reptilian suborder that lizards belong to. The subculture (technically it’s a culture, because the kemos are a superculture, but don’t worry about that), however, includes any scaled kemo, such as snakes, lizards, alligators/crocodiles, and dragons.