“What new paperwork and forms have been inflicted on us today?” I flicked my sweat soaked bangs out of my face as I felt the heat from my wizard mark die out as the magic-sensitive tattoo faded back into my skin.
“There’s a new applicant looking to join House Medeis.”
“Yep.” Great Aunt Marraine tapped the paper. “It seems like she’s serious about it, too.”
Once word got out that House Medeis’s rank had exploded, we had a bunch of applications from other wizards to join. That had mostly died off since everyone found out that joining House Medeis meant you had to listen when the crazy Adept demanded you get up before 6 am every morning to fit in a workout with the specially hired martial artist and weapons trainer, and attend a mandatory magic practice session in the evening.
Strangely, though, we’d gotten a steady trickle of serious applicants among the fad chasers. So far we’d welcomed five new wizards into our ranks, and all of them had one thing in common…
“She comes from Michigan. She’s obviously willing to relocate, but we’ll have some extra paperwork for her since she’s a sixteen-year-old.”
“She’s sixteen?” I yelped. “Doesn’t she have a guardian?”
“Her aunt, yes.” Great Aunt Marraine peered down at the paper. “She has the necessary guardian permission form, where the aunt says they’ll relocate here together, if that’s acceptable. The aunt is a regular human.”
Wizards, you see, were regular humans, except we could use magic, which came with some benefits.
I scrunched my eyes shut, already afraid I could predict what brought the youngest applicant we’d received yet to our doorstep. “Her parents are…?”
“Dead,” Great Aunt Marraine confirmed. “In her essay explaining why she wants to join us, she said they died in an ‘accidental’ magical skirmish. She wants to join House Medeis because she also wants to be able to protect and learn more about magic beyond the…I believe she called it the ‘party tricks’ most wizards perform today.”
Yep. That was the gut check. Everyone who genuinely wanted to join House Medeis had all suffered in some way, or lost someone they loved because of a fight among supernaturals.
As if she could sense my thoughts, Great Aunt Marraine slightly shook her head, making her plump cheeks shake. “This is all your doing, Adept. Word spread when you vowed that House Medeis would no longer be passive, and that we would train and study so we could protect with great ferocity.” She paused. “And I think it’s the applicants like this one who prove that your vision for House Medeis—your desire for a wizard House that can stand up not only to other wizards, but the other supernaturals as well—is needed.”
Wizards are considered bottom feeders among magical society. Since we’re humans, we’re really weak compared to races like werewolves, and we are ridiculously fragile and slow compared to vampires. But I wasn’t content with the excuse of our humanity anymore. When I’d stayed with Killian and the Drake Family, the vampires had shown me just how strong I could be even though I was a human. (And then they’d dropped me, but that wasn’t a memory I needed to revisit.)
“Schedule a meeting with her,” I said. “I can do a phone conversation first, and then she and her aunt can come visit House Medeis if that works out.”
“There’s no need for a phone conversation,” Great Aunt Marraine said. “She’s already here in Magiford. She and her aunt requested an in-person interview first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Oh.” I blinked, surprised at the enthusiasm.
Great Aunt Marraine patted my back. “She already looks up to you, dear. It seems to me she’s going to do everything she can to join us.”
“Okay. That’s…great,” I said slowly.
“I received a report that two Drake vampires were attacked today in Chicago.” Great Aunt Marraine spoke so quickly I couldn’t get a word in. “It was the work of fae, given that a magic item went off in their faces. Thankfully, there were no fatalities—although the vampires were pretty badly injured. I couldn’t get their names, sorry.”
“Great Aunt Marraine.” I yanked my hair free from my ponytail as I tried to cover up my frustration. “You don’t have to give me these reports on the Drake Family. In fact, I have emphatically told you I don’t want any news about them!”
Great Aunt Marraine laughed with the sly, carefree chortle of a senior citizen who knows how to manipulate her grandchildren. “You say you don’t want to hear about it, but you can’t hide your heart from me, Adept. I helped change your diapers!”
She playfully swatted at me with the clipboard.
I held in a groan. Avoiding a topic seemed to be my favorite way to avoid something that pained me, and that applied to the Drake Family.
I wracked my brain for a subject that would make my crafty great aunt drop the vampires, then paused. “Today is Tuesday…so tomorrow is Wednesday…” I let a slow but enormous smile creep across my lips. “Is everything ready for tomorrow?”
Great Aunt Marraine’s smile turned devious. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Everything is ready, as per usual.”
“Fantastic.” I took in a deep breath, almost purring in my joy. “I do look forward to our weekly trip to the Curia Cloisters. It’s so important to visit the wizards responsible for governing us, and to voice our concerns as citizens.”
“So very important.” Great Aunt Marraine agreed.
We smirked at each other for a few moments before erupting into cackles. Wednesdays were such fun, because it brought retribution to those who backed Mason in the most painful of ways—legal ones.
For the second time in recent weeks, I strode through the halls of a building so overwhelmingly luxurious, it was almost obnoxious.
I sneered as I passed a chandelier studded with real diamonds. This place reminded me of Versailles in its peak—bloated in its own wealth and self-importance.
I wouldn’t make the drive to Chicago and visit this luxurious abode if it didn’t have something I wanted badly: a library.
Specifically, a library filled with some of the oldest and most well-recorded vampiric texts.
The yappy vampire who accompanied me as guide almost frog hopped to keep up with me. “Is there anything I could help you find, Your Eminence?” He had to be on the young side—for a vampire. He was dressed in a suit and clutched a bowler hat, but the vampires who had greeted me wore clothing that was popular during the European Renaissance.
The building was owned by an ancient Elder who rarely surfaced from his room, and hadn’t left the building in decades. His Family was one of the oldest in the Midwest, and well respected, even if they were practically leader-less these days.
While the Elder’s absence politically irked me—it was a problem I’d been battling since before I became the top vampire political figure in the region—I was somewhat relieved it meant I only had to deal with his toadying Family and servants and not be plagued by wistful grumbles of centuries long past and years that were remembered with more fondness than they deserved.
It seemed to me that all too often vampire Elders forgot how recently indoor plumbing had been developed.
“Are you searching for a specific record or text?” the twitchy vampire asked as I barged into the private library.
“No.” I studied the shelves. “Leave me.”
“Y-yes, Your Eminence.” He scurried out, seemingly relieved to be dismissed.
I turned in a slow circle, letting the graveyard-like silence of the room envelop me.
It was a dark, dreary room. There was one window, but a heavy, velvet curtain was drawn across it—needlessly so since it was close to midnight.
The lights were so dimmed it almost felt like candlelight—it even flickered annoyingly like flames—but the rest of the library was decked out with all the decoration that I’d come to expect of the place.
There were books studded with jewels, a few original art pieces painted by some of the greatest artists the world had seen, ancient, alchemical instruments, a unicorn horn, and more.
But I wasn’t interested in the useless collection; I was here for the books on vampire lore.
I had my own library at Drake Hall, but it wasn’t nearly so specialized on vampire history and records. I possessed a great deal of books about wizards, fae, werewolves, and other supernaturals that I frequently went up against on the Regional Committee of Magic.
I put my back to the shelf of leather-bound, hand written books that I’d studied on my previous trip, and this time chose a bookcase that had several empty golden flasks and vials decorating its shelves.
I emptied two shelves, carefully placing the ancient manuscripts on a large table, and dug in.
I skimmed through book after book, espying all kinds of legends and details about my race, but hardly anything on the topic I was searching for—how we vampires could protect humans.
Most of our power only extended to working for ourselves. We healed fast, were among the fastest supernaturals alive, and were immortal.
But there had to be records of vampire Elders taking humans under their protection. Before the 1900s vampires had occasionally intermarried with other supernaturals and humans—that was how the supernaturally gifted vampire hunters came to be born.
The only problem was it seemed not many manuscripts about our relationships with other races—specifically humans—survived.
Probably because vampires were a race not prone to caring for other supernaturals, or even humans beyond using them as blood donors.
I set a book aside—concluding it was going to be useless—and barely refrained from growling.
This is stupid. I selected another manuscript from the pile. I should assign Rupert or Julianne to research this instead of wasting my time.
But I read on, skimming the manuscripts as I searched for any information. The thing that drove me to come here, drove me to read.