Deprivation, Part 4.

The next morning, Devin was in no hurry to climb out of bed.  He was still in a somewhat disgruntled mood from the night before, and besides, it wasn’t as if he had anywhere to go.  Eventually, however, someone else decided that it was time for the mage to be up and about.

“Devin, honestly.  Are you going to loll in bed feeling sulky all day?”  Luciel’s bright voice cut through Devin’s groggy half-doze.

“What’re you gonna do if I say yes?” the mage mumbled, turning over and somewhat childishly pulling the sheets over his head.

“I could talk at length about what I think about your behavior last night,” the angel said archly, knowing exactly what Devin didn’t want to hear.

Devin bit off a curse and threw the sheets back, sitting up with a lurch.  “I really hope that means now that I’m up, you won’t talk about it at all,” he growled as he rubbed his eyes.

“Hmm.  I think you know the wrong you’ve done without me restating it,” Luciel observed.

“’Wrong I’ve done’?” Devin said incredulously, looking up sharply at his guardian.

“I know you have your reasons, Devin, but I think you were unnecessarily harsh.  You may think you’re quite justified, but Allistair doesn’t know or understand why you act the way you do.”

“I don’t owe him – or anyone else – any explanations,” the mage snapped, quickly losing patience with the topic.  “And since when were you on his side?  He wants to feed on me, for god’s sake.”

“I want you to be happy,” Luciel said quietly, his solemnity quenching Devin’s anger for a moment.  “Perhaps I see a chance for that.”

“You presume too much,” Devin all but snarled.  “Whatever charms he may have, he’s still a monster.”

“And what if you cure him, Devin?” Luciel prodded, his tone still gentle in the face of his protégé’s anger.

“No use dwelling on long shots,” the mage muttered, not able to admit that he had entertained thoughts along the same lines.

“Hmm...I take it that you’re still dubious about your blood as a cure because some of Allistair’s powers have not changed.”

“Yes...the blood certainly has an effect, but I’m not really sure it’s the ultimately desired one.”  Devin looked towards the notebook laying on his desk.

“You might want to look closely at which of his powers are being affected, and how, and try to find a pattern,” Luciel mused.  He smiled at Devin’s scowl.  “I’m not just dropping hints; I honestly don’t know what such a pattern might mean.  Try it, though.”

The mage’s expression still held a hint of suspicion; Luciel was annoying like that sometimes.  The time was long past for the angel to try and coax his pupil into deducing answers.  They were supposed to be partners on a more or less even footing.  Still, every once in a while Luce would slip back into the role of pedagogue, much to Devin’s annoyance.

“I’ll do that,” he managed to say without too much rancor.  “Right after breakfast and a shower, in no particular order but not at the same time.”  After a final groaning stretch, he pulled himself out of bed and went about his morning business, trying not to think about the night before.


It was afternoon when Devin finally sat down at his desk to begin his review of the notes from his interview with Allistair.  Hopefully, focusing on the academic details would help him ignore the confusing welter of feelings building in the back of his mind.

“Luce, do you want to go over this with me, or do you have other plans?” he asked, turning to the angel, who leaned in the doorway.

“Well, I was planning to go look for some acquaintances of mine today – and perhaps speak with some of the older mages around the Isles, but if you want me to help you with this –”

“No, no.”  Devin waved for Luciel to go.  “Keep an eye out for some useful info for this job?”

“Of course; that’s why I’m going!” the angel replied with a grin.  “I’m sure some of Levalier’s fellows around here would be happy to lend you some books – though I think they’d like to meet you in person, and not just through me!”

“Perhaps after I’m done with this case,” Devin agreed with a nod.

“I’ll tell them that, then.”  With a trademark sun-bright smile, Luciel waved and disappeared, stepping off the Physical Plane to travel faster than thought.

Heaving a sigh, Devin flipped his notebook open to the first page of the evening’s notes, then pulled out some loose paper so that he could organize his thoughts more clearly than the hurried scribbles he had written during the interrogation.

He certainly didn’t want to admit it to Luciel, but he was somewhat glad that the angel had gone out for the day.  He was afraid that if he described some of the previous night’s conversation to Luce, he might slip and let out some tiny emotional nuance that the angel would immediately latch on to.  Now that Luce had professed an interest in setting his protégé up with that wretched vampire, Devin was doubly wary of letting his feelings show.  Perhaps he tolerated Luciel’s meddling more than he would anyone else’s because he knew that the angel truly had his best interests in mind; but interference in Devin’s (admittedly nonexistent) love life was too much for the mage to take.

With an annoyed shake of his head, he drove these idle thoughts from his mind and picked up his pencil, determined not to dwell on pointless trivialities when he had serious work to do.

As Devin had surmised, Allistair had only been a vampire for a few months.  He had been “Turned”, as he called it, around midwinter.  That was all that Allistair had wanted to say about the incident; as curious as Devin was, he respected the other man’s privacy and did not question him further about what must have been a painful experience.

The first of the suite of vampiric powers that Allistair had learned to use were his newly enhanced senses.  He could hardly describe his new perception of the world to Devin, but he had tried his best.  As the mage reread his notes, he could hear Allistair’s voice thoughtfully explaining his powers.

“Everything takes on a special sort of glow,” the vampire had said in a dreamy sort of voice.  “Like an aura, although I don’t think that’s really what I’m seeing.  It’s kind of like...the haze of looking through teary eyes, but without the loss of focus.”  He had shrugged, unable to clarify further.  “I can smell scents much more clearly than any human,” he had continued, “and the same goes for my hearing.  And for some strange reason, sounds can seem more...musical, I guess.  Even a sound like rocks tumbling together rings like a melody...”

Fascinated, Devin had asked about the other two senses.  Allistair had described how every time he touched something, he felt a strange, pleasant tingle, like the shuddery feel of being touched in a ticklish spot.  Of all of the changes to his senses, that had taken the longest to become accustomed to.  “You have no idea what a kiss feels like to me,” the vampire had noted teasingly, but his smile faded after seeing the scowl on Devin’s face.

When questioned about his sense of taste, Allistair had closed his eyes and shook his head.  “The only thing I ever taste is blood,” he had said very softly.  Devin wasn’t sure whether the man meant that blood was the only thing he ingested, or that everything tasted like blood.  Either way, it obviously made him unhappy, so Devin had changed the topic to something less depressing.

Related to a vampire’s enhanced senses was the strange invulnerability to certain phenomena that would generally cause pain or discomfort in humans.  As Allistair had explained previously, he used to be immune to extreme temperatures, but with the bizarre magic of Devin’s blood, he had lost that power.  “I don’t mind in the slightest, however,” the vampire had said solemnly.  “It means that I’m becoming more human again.”  Devin had said nothing to that, still unsure if he agreed with that assessment of the situation.  At least it made Allistair happy.

One of the most basic vampiric abilities was superhuman strength, paired with incredible agility.  It had taken Allistair a little while to find the limits of his powers, but he could, with a little effort, lift a car, and perform acrobatic feats with an ease that would make a gymnast jealous.  The vampire had offered the somewhat cynical theory that his kind had such powers so that their prey could not escape them; Devin had never thought of it that way, but it seemed logical.  From what he now knew about the blood-drinkers, it appeared that they were designed to be frighteningly efficient predators.

The power of fascination was a good example.  Once a vampire had actually caught his victim, he could mesmerize the frightened human into a calm, even eager, state.  This was a technique that could be learned by most mages, and many demons used it as well, Sikhander ul-Naga among them, Devin remembered with distaste.  However, a vampire gained the ability “for free”, so to speak, without having really learned how it worked, and Allistair had explained that it really took very little conscious effort to use.  “I’ve actually done it to people unintentionally,” he had admitted with a sheepish smile.  “It’s a little disconcerting at times, how easy it is.”

By now, Devin had to admit to himself that he trusted Allistair enough to know that the man would never intentionally mesmerize him...but it was just as well that after the incident with Sikhander, he had taught himself how to shrug off those potentially devastating fascination attacks.  There was no telling what the reluctant vampire might do if he “accidentally” melted Devin’s willpower away.

The mage shivered as he remembered how Sikhander had overwhelmed him.   Certainly Allistair would do nothing the ul-Naga had done, but there was no reason to take the risk.  He would continue to keep his guard up around Allistair, as always.

With an aggravated sigh, Devin returned his attention to his notes.  He could brood over his personal safety later. 

The last of what he considered the “major” vampiric powers was the ability to take an animal form.  Allistair had explained that, as far as he knew, most vampires chose one specific form and mastered that form alone.  Theoretically, an older vampire who had learned the ins and outs of his first form could learn another, but Allistair had not known of any vampires who had done so.  One’s animal form was like an alter-ego, and having more than one would be slightly strange.

From what Allistair’s maker had told him, a vampire could choose whatever form he wished, but it seemed that most chose “dark” creatures that reflected their self-image of nocturnal predators.  Allistair’s own form was, as he demonstrated for a surprised Devin, a large black wolf with disconcerting pale blue eyes that shone with obvious intelligence.

There was something about the cold gaze of that wolf that, to Devin at least, had been more subtly frightening than superhuman strength or sharp little fangs.  Perhaps it was the thought of one of the most formidable predators in the animal kingdom guided by a literally bloodthirsty human mind.  It seemed that Allistair had perceived his sudden fear, because the black wolf lowered his head and butted lightly against Devin’s leg before backing away and returning to human shape in a dense cloud of dark mist.  Devin supposed that the gesture had been to reassure him that Allistair had full control of himself, and was not at the mercy of wolfish instinct.  That was the impression he had been left with, at any rate.

Besides these more powerful abilities, vampirism had a few other blood-related “perks”, as Allistair sarcastically called them.  One of these was the power to track a recent victim by the blood the vampire had just taken.  “I think that the ability increases with age,” Allistair had mused.  “I can only track someone for about a day after I’ve fed.  After that, the blood-to-blood call dies out.”

“Huh.  How often is that power really used, though?  Don’t most vampires drain their victims to death?” Devin had asked curiously.

Allistair had closed his eyes, a distinct impression of pain on his face.  “There are some who consider killing on the first drink much too quick,” he had murmured.  “They will let the victim escape, in a half-hypnotized, dizzy state, and chase them down at their leisure.”

The mage had heard of such things, thought this was the first time the tales had been confirmed by someone in a position to tell truth from fiction.  It reminded him all too well of Sikhander, but as much as he hated to remember what the demon had done to him, his hunger for knowledge demanded that he ask: “And...are there vampires who keep a victim over a long period of time as a kind of...toy?”

The light in Allistair’s violet eyes as he had looked up at Devin could only be described as hate.  “Yes,” he had said tightly, “that does occur.”

Devin could only assume that Allistair himself had been used that way before he had been Turned.  He had impassively held the vampire’s heated gaze for a long moment until the fire faded, perhaps for the first time feeling real sympathy for the man’s plight.

Without another word, Allistair had continued his explanation of powers, as if his little outburst had never happened.  “Perhaps it’s not so dangerous for humans,” he began, “but against young spawn like myself, our makers have one rather devastating power.  They can control us, by the blood they gave us at the Turning.”

“Control?  How so?” Devin had asked, his interest piqued.  This was not something documented in his books.

“It’s...more or less like mind control,” Allistair had elaborated with a little shudder.  “Depending on how strongly you resist the action they want, it may just be a gentle nudge in the desired direction, or it could be an all-out struggle of wills.  And for a young vampire, winning against the commands of your maker is...nearly impossible.”

The mage had realized that this was yet another ability that Allistair had had used against him.  “How long does the younger vampire’s vulnerability last?”

Allistair had described the wide range of factors that affected the maker’s ability to control a spawn: the willpower of either vampire, the frequency with which the younger vampire fought against the old one (this gradually increased the strength of the spawn’s will), and the relative strength of the two vampires (since the maker could choose, to some degree, how strong to make his spawn) all influenced the degree to which the older vampire could dominate the younger.

“And...what about yourself?” Devin had asked cautiously.  “How have you fared in such battles?”

“I’ve escaped,” was the quiet reply, accompanied by an equally quiet smile.

After that, Devin had gone back through his notes and asked for more detailed information on some points, which Allistair had provided to the best of his knowledge.  And then the mage had made his stupid blunder...

No, it hadn’t been stupid, he told himself, just...rude.  And in self-defense...  And...

Angrily, he shut down that train of thought.  Today, damn it all, he would concentrate on his work, and he wasn’t going to let either reminiscence or self-recrimination distract him.


The rest of that day, and the next, were filled with research.  Luciel had returned from his foray bearing greetings and borrowed books from some of Levalier’s fellow sorcerers.  Devin was mildly irritated that Luciel had promised on his behalf that he would visit several of the men, but it was only the polite thing to do – especially after they had lent him their valuable tomes.

Meanwhile, Devin’s unwanted guest made no further appearances.  While part of the mage was relieved that he didn’t have to deal with Allistair’s gently persistent courting, he reluctantly admitted to himself that he missed having someone he could really talk to besides Luciel.  He felt an unusual sort of understanding from Allistair, perhaps because the vampire had also been ill-used by evil creatures.  He also felt increasingly pressed to offer the man an apology for his abruptness – but he was not going to seek Allistair out to do so.  He wasn’t willing to bend his pride to that least, not yet, although he had a niggling feeling that if the vampire was absent for much longer, he’d give in and go looking.

Allistair’s absence gave Devin the chance to concentrate on his studies, however, so he took full advantage of the quiet time and delved into his borrowed books, looking for anything about curing vampirism or Faerie blood.  Unfortunately, it seemed that neither topic was well-understood.  He did find a rather disheartening account of some poor wretch trying to find a remedy for his vampirism and failing completely.  He had tried many odd things, such as trying to purge the vampiric blood by bleeding himself out, preying on other vampires, and drinking various strange concoctions, none of which were effective.  Eventually, as recorded by the volume’s author, the thwarted blood-drinker went out to meet the sunrise, ending his sad existence.

Devin wondered if Allistair would make the same choice if denied a cure.  The mage had seen sun-struck vampire remains before, and the mental image of Allistair reduced to such a state shook him more deeply than he was willing to admit.

There was even less data on Faerie blood than on vampire cures.  One passage in an alchemical encyclopedia summed up the lack of information:

“While the authors have all, at one time or another, heard tantalizing tales of the miraculous properties of the blood of the Undying Ones, these have never been substantiated.  The problem is twofold: first, the Faerie folk are notoriously elusive; second, having cornered a Faerie, how would one go about obtaining a sample of its blood?  They are extremely protective of their unique powers, and we find it unimaginable that they would willingly provide such a potent elixir to humans – if, indeed, the blood of the Faerie truly has any special alchemical value."

It seemed, then, that Devin was on his own here, and while he was a bit pleased at the idea of pioneering a new area of study, he would have liked to have had more information to work with.  Experimenting with blood was always dangerous; even normal human blood held powerful energy that could attract some of the less intelligent demonkind if the proper precautions were not taken.  Fortunately for Devin, Luciel handled that for him.

And if working with blood was risky, messing around with a vampire’s physiology was even worse.  So far, the changes in Allistair’s nature seemed benign, but what might more Faerie blood do to him?  There was no precedent for this kind of research; it seemed that the only way to find out would be to try it.

Even though Devin had failed to find the information he most needed, he did find something relevant to his current problems – a detailed description of how to prepare a vampire-slaying stake.  Luciel agreed that the method appeared to be effective, so Devin procured a small piece of seasoned ash wood and began to engrave the intricate runes of his spells into the block.  After setting the spells into the wood, he would carve it into a proper stake that would be imbued with magic without any further spellcasting.  The real advantage in this was that the stake itself had no obvious magic about it at first glance; the runes would all be carved away, and the spells would remain dormant until activated by the user.  It was the kind of subtlety that Devin appreciated in offensive magic.

Etching runes into the hardwood was somewhat more time-consuming than he expected, however, and he was barely halfway done on the third night since Allistair’s visit when his concentration was suddenly broken by a long, deep baying from the forest beyond the town’s pastures.

No one in the town had a hound big enough to have such a powerful cry; Devin immediately suspected trouble.  “Luciel,” he called as he grabbed several spell tags, “are you picking up anything?”

Luciel appeared in physical form, shaking his head.  “It’s not a demon,” he said solemnly, “but it’s definitely not a normal dog.”

Before Devin could reply, there was a scrabbling sound at the door, accompanied by a distinctly canine whining.  Shooting a warning glance to Luciel, the mage cautiously opened the door to find a seriously injured black pale-eyed wolf on his doorstep.  The animal darted into the house like a chased rabbit and collapsed onto the kitchen floor, panting in a distressed manner.

“Allistair?!” Devin exclaimed, openly shocked at the state the vampire was in.  He was bleeding from several wounds on his legs and around his neck, and had a few bare patches where tufts of fur had been torn out.

“I’m warding the house,” Luciel said grimly, disappearing from sight as he concentrated his power on setting up a barrier around the cottage.  There was no point in waiting for whatever had attacked Allistair to follow him there.

“Allistair, can you change back?  Luciel’s guarding the place, so you’re safe for now.”  Devin knelt next to the stricken wolf, who shuddered before dissolving into mist and reforming into a human shape.  The injuries, Devin noted with concern, carried over with the change of form.  “What the hell happened to you?” he asked, his worried tone in contrast with his typically brusque language.  “Was it that dog we heard out there?"

Allistair nodded, his eyes showing a hint of fear as he stared at the mage.  “It’s my maker,” he rasped painfully, gripping Devin’s arm in desperation.  “He’s found me!”


Part 3 Back to the Office Part 5

Hmm, one of my few cliffhanger-ish endings. Enjoy. ;) 

Things are starting to get more interesting (at least for me) now.  This chapter was a bit of a chore to finish up, but here it be.  It's pretty much my classification of vampires for the purposes of this story's universe (though Allistair's maker may provide a little more information, eh?).

I'm having a bit of trouble writing Devin's change-of-heart thing here... hope I'm not muddling it too much. ;)