CHAPTER TWO - FLEDGLING WISDOM
Professor Xavier Fall, real name lost to the tides of time, but truest name the Nomad, strode close to the wall of the colonnaded walkway that surrounded the main quad of Miskatonic University. It allowed him to avoid as much of the brilliant sunlight that spilled onto the vast green lawn as possible. Even though he was a Grand Master Vampire and was largely immune to the dangers of the sun it didn’t mean he liked sunshine. The Nomad adjusted his purple tinted glasses. His eyes always watered and smarted when he looked even at reflected sunlight. The whole quad glowed and he wanted to get inside as soon as possible.
Nomad? Alexander Bryant’s sleepy voice echoed in his head through their bond.
Alex was his newest fledgling. He had just been turned into a vampire less than twenty-four hours before, which meant that Alex should have been deeply asleep, but evidently, like in all things, Alex was exceeding expectations. The Nomad felt his fledgling stretch out a hand on the bed where the Grand Master Vampire had been a few hours before, but no longer was. There was a momentary panic when Alex didn’t find the Nomad’s naked body against his own.
I’m not there, Alex. I had to go, remember? The Nomad reminded him gently even as he felt a trickle of guilt at not being physically with his fledgling at the beginning of his Second Life.
Oh, right, of course. Alex quickly hid the panic and unease he felt that the Nomad was absent, which made the Nomad’s guilt prick him even more.
The Nomad had slept his allotted time with Alex and Demetrius Black, his first fledgling and Alex’s lover, in the club known as Sanctuary. He had left them to return to his role as Xavier Fall and to head the expedition to Hamilton, Wisconsin. His fledglings were not a part of this life at Miskatonic. It was to keep them safe. For the Nomad had a very special role in vampire world, he was the judge, jury and executioner of those vampires that broke the Law. He was both hated and feared.
When he was in his life as the Nomad, he actually wore all black armor and a hood to hide his identity. No one but his two fledglings had ever seen his face when playing that role. When he was in his life as Professor Xavier Fall no one knew he was a vampire. The two lives had to be kept secret and separate. But Alex and he had developed the rarest of gifts: a mental connection that allowed each of them to communicate telepathically and see through the other’s eyes. Keeping Alex away from the danger of his other life was going to be likely impossible. Point in case was this current moment.
Alex stretched luxuriantly on the bed. His short blond hair becoming more mussed as he unconsciously shifted to lay on the spot where the Nomad had slept. Though Alex would never complain about the Nomad’s absence, in fact, he would assume the Nomad had a good reason for it, Alex missed him. And like most children that had raised themselves, Alex’s father having died when he was young and his mother when she had been alive being neglectful at best, Alex put up a good front, but not good enough. The Nomad’s guilt increased.
You’re on some mission or something in your other life, aren’t you, Nomad? Alex asked, trying to keep his tone light.
A mission? You make it sound like I’m James Bond, the Nomad chuckled.
I can tell that you’re intent on something. Alex was sleepily amused. So what is it? You’ve got me all interested.
You want me to tell you a bedtime story so all good little fledgling vampires fall asleep? The Nomad asked indulgently.
Yes, I … It was at that moment that Alex must have seen through the Nomad’s eyes. That’s sunlight!
Brilliant observation, Alex. Next you’ll be telling me the sky is blue and the grass is green. I’m so very proud, the Nomad answered his fledgling with a quirked smile. He could almost hear the next question before Alex asked it. He wasn’t disappointed.
But how are you out in the sunlight? The young vampire sounded slightly outraged, which caused the Nomad to roll his violet eyes. The sunlight is touching you! Alex cried as he saw again through the Nomad’s eyes the sunlight that spilled onto his right hand. How is this possible? You’re a vampire!
The Nomad jerked his out of the sun. He truly didn’t like the feel of the hot orb’s rays on his skin. I’m a Grand Master Vampire, Alex.
There were various levels of vampires. Vampire, Master Vampire and Grand Master Vampire. They referred to how long a vampire had been alive. The Nomad was one of the oldest. So old that he didn’t really remember his beginnings and some part of him believed that he had lived even longer than that.
But … okay, so it’s because you’ve lived a long time that you can be out in the sun without it burning you to a crisp? You’ve developed an immunity? Alex guessed.
Now I am proud of you. Yes, you are right. My age has made me immune to the blasted sun, the Nomad said.
So eventually I’ll be able to be in the sun again, the young man’s voice held a note of wistfulness.
The Nomad knew he had to shut this thought process of his very new fledgling down. He didn’t want Alex to fixate on the one thing that he could not have. The night is your life now, Alex. Not the day.
But eventually I’ll be able to --
Give it 5000 years and then we’ll talk, the Nomad said firmly.
Five -- why aren’t vampires researching sunscreens or --
Who says they are not? The Nomad interrupted. You were just turned, Alex. It’s natural that you are wistful for the past, but … think about what you’ve gained, not what you lost.
I really didn’t lose anything though, did I? If you hadn’t turned me I would be dead, Alex said simply. So no sunshine either way.
That is true, the Nomad responded mildly.
Vampires were allowed to only try and turn humans upon their deaths. That was one of the Laws. Most humans did not make it through the transition. Alex had.
I’m more than grateful for what I have. It’s just when there’s something forbidden to me … Alex paused.
It obsesses you. Is that why you aren’t sleeping?Missing the sun? Isn’t Demetrius’ beautiful naked body against yours not reason enough to remain in your own head instead of in mine? The Nomad asked.
He saw through Alex’s half-opened eyes the long, graceful lines of the Russian vampire’s muscular shoulder. Demetrius was lying on his side, facing Alex. His long, auburn hair curled becomingly on the pillow between them. His eyes were fully closed, his expressive, lush mouth only partially open. He was deeply asleep as Alex should have been with the sun so high in the sky.
Demetrius’ beautiful naked body doesn’t exactly make me want to sleep, Alex said with a lilt of desire floating across their bond. He makes me want to be very awake.
I’m sure, the Nomad answered with a twitch of his lips.
Do not think ‘fledgling sandwich’ again!Alex mock warned even as he laughed.
It was a “joke” that the Nomad wanted to have a threesome with both Alex and Demetrius. Except it wasn’t altogether a joke. As their master, he could have insisted that it happen. Fledglings were powerless in many ways to their masters. But the Nomad would never do that. It was not his way.
In any event, he was relatively sure that they would have some sexual escapades together in the future. But for now, Demetrius was much too possessive of Alex to share. Demetrius also still had hard feelings about the Nomad abandoning him to another vampire clan soon after he was made. But it had been necessary. Just like it was necessary now to be apart from Alex. The Nomad had not wanted to leave his fledglings. In fact, it had felt like cutting off a limb to leave them.
The Nomad wrenched himself out of those dark thoughts and countered with, You do not want me to say ‘fledgling sandwich’ because you’re secretly desperate for it to happen.
Uhm, yeah, in YOUR dreams, Master.
I notice that when Demetrius is happy with me he calls me ‘Master’ yet when you’re upset with me you call me ‘Master’. It is very confusing, because I feel both rewarded and chastised at the same time, the Nomad said. The two of you must be consistent or I’ll never know when I’m being bad or good.
Where are you? Alex asked, ignoring his statement. He was peering intently through the Nomad’s eyes again.
Alex, you need to go back to bed, the Nomad warned.
But it was too late as Alex cried, That’s Miskatonic! I recognize it. That’s where I got the books that told me about you!
Alex was referring to their last adventure, which the Nomad was glad had come to a successful conclusion. It had ended with Alex and his younger brother Peter’s mother dying, but both boys had survived. Well, Alex had died, but he had been reborn to his Second Life. Demetrius had been cured of a wasting disease. Some of the traitorous Graughan Clan of vampires had been killed. All in all, it had worked out. There were still some loose ends, but he wasn’t going to worry about that.
At that moment, the Nomad saw Flynn crossing the quad. His backpack was hiked far up his shoulders. His dark blond hair was ruffled by the wind and his gray eyes squinted in the sun. Flynn, too, wasn’t fond of the sun at that moment evidently, but he had been ensconced in the library for who knew how long.
Who is that? Alex asked, all agog.
Flynn Haggerty, the Nomad said as he watched Flynn’s powerful jean-covered thighs and ass. Alex, what do you see when you look at him?
What do I see? The young vampire sounded confused, but then he realized what the Nomad was asking. Alex had many gifts, and one of them was to see into people, to see who and what they really were.
I see … darkness, Alex said and there was a sharp breath. It’s gone … maybe it wasn’t real.
No, it was real, Alex. It was very real, the Nomad murmured.
Flynn headed out of Miskatonic’s wrought iron gates and disappeared into the crowd walking down the main street. The Nomad sincerely hoped that Flynn was headed to his apartment to shower and sleep.
You … you like Flynn, Alex said and there was the slightest trace of jealousy in his voice. Or are you just hungry?
I am hungry, but Flynn currently smells of Cheetos, old Cheetos that have been left lying underneath a very dirty couch alongside some sweat socks … well, he needs to bathe before I even fantasize about putting my fangs into him in any event, the Nomad answered.
That had Alex mentally laughing harder. That’s an image I didn’t need and I swear I’m smelling stale Cheetos now! But seriously what’s the deal with Flynn and you?
Nothing. Not in the way you’re thinking. The darkness you saw in him. That is what is drawing me to him, the Nomad explained. Nothing more.
So you noticing his pert ass was just no-nevermind? The Nomad could almost see his fledgling’s blue eyes twinkling with mirth at that moment.
He does have a nice ass. But so do many lovely young men. No, it is the darkness you glimpsed that makes him interesting to me, the Nomad said.
I don’t know, Nomad, I think you might be protesting too much, Alex teased.
The Nomad had reached the tower that served as his office and living quarters on the grounds at Miskatonic. He gratefully slipped into the cool stone lobby, closing the heavy wooden door behind him. Safe from the blinding sun. The scent of dust, wood polish, and old paper wrapped around him in a comforting haze. Ancient, timeless smells that always made him feel at home.
Flynn encountered something as a child. It marked him. I don’t think its done with him. In fact, I know it isn’t. I want to know what it is, what it wants and to see how it will play out, the Nomad explained..
He knew that Flynn believed he had hidden his past well as a survivor of Hamilton, but the truth was that the Nomad had known about Flynn since that October night when all the residents of the Ghost Half had disappeared. The Nomad had watched Flynn and the other children grow up, but Flynn had drawn him more than any of the others and it wasn’t just his pretty face and wounded eyes. Flynn was the lynch pin of something. He didn’t know what yet, but he would find out.
When you say ‘see how it will play out’ it sounds like you mean to just stand back and watch rather than help him, Alex said. There was the slightest censure in his soft-hearted fledgling’s tone.
That’s exactly what I intend to do, the Nomad answered simply. It was best not to mince words. Since Alex could see his intentions, or most of them anyways, it was pointless to prevaricate.
But you like him! Alex protested. And you think he’s in great danger. Are you really just going to sit back and let something bad happen to him?
The Nomad sighed and began walking up the spiral staircase that led to his office on the second floor. Alex, you will learn – though likely not for some time as you are so delightfully young and empathetic – that we cannot save everyone and sometimes that we shouldn’t even try.
Alex was quiet for long moments and then said, You’re right. We can’t save everybody. But ...
But Flynn’s been put in your path, Alex said and there was a strange tenor of adultness to his voice, as if he was the older one between them for a moment rather than merely being 18 years old to the Nomad’s many millennia. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe you’re not just supposed to be a spectator in his life. Maybe you’re supposed to help him.
At that moment, the Nomad reached the landing for the second floor right outside of his office. He saw the legs and cane of Charles Marstand, Dean of Occult Studies, and one of the senior members of the Next Society sticking out from one of the chairs. If he had not been so consumed with talking to Alex and his fledgling’s revelations he would have known far sooner that the old man was waiting on him.
You must go to sleep now, Alex. I will speak to you later.
You’re not mad about what I said about Flynn are you? Alex asked tentatively.
No, my very wise fledgling, I just want you well rested. Demetrius would be very angry with me if I kept you up any longer. Sleep, Alex, sleep. The Nomad gently sent his fledgling into the dreamless sleep of the vampire. Alex did not resist him though the Nomad continued to feel the young vampire’s warm presence like a candle flame in the dark of his mind.
“Charles, what a surprise!” the Nomad said with fake enthusiasm as he strode into his invaded office.
The Nomad gave the seventy-three year old yet hale and hearty man a sharp smile. They had never gotten on. One of the largest reasons was that Charles was leery of the Nomad’s interest in darkness while the Nomad found Charles’ caution grating.
“I’m sure it’s not a surprise, Xavier.” Charles was sitting in one of the comfortable high-backed leather chairs that dotted the large circular room. His legs were stretched out in front of him and his silver eagle-headed cane rested between them.
The Nomad walked around him to his own desk chair. He sank into it arranging himself into a lazy, languid sprawl. His desk, piled with scrolls, books and the latest computer technology, was between them like a battlefield over which they were vying. He took off his sunglasses, not needing their protection in the tower. His violet eyes hooded and he tented his fingers in front of him as he looked into Charles’ razor-sharp blue eyes in that worn face.
“You’re here about Flynn,” Xavier said.
“Are you still intent on taking that young man back to the place where he was traumatized?” Charles asked.
“Poor Flynn. He thinks no one knows his secret and its actually common knowledge around the faculty’s water cooler,” the Nomad said with a wave of his hand.
“Flynn has potential, Xavier. The fact that he survived the Incident tells me that. His work, too, has been exemplary,” Charles said. He leaned forward. That hawk-like face was intent. “But if you take him back to Hamilton, we have no idea what it could do to him or … what it could do to all of us.”
The Nomad flexed the fingers of his hands. “You believe if we just close our eyes and pretend that it will all go away? That if Flynn stays away from Hamilton, he and the world will be safe?”
The cane thumped against the floor as Charles shifted. “As opposed to what you would do? Take him right into the thick of things again? Force something to happen?”
“I believe that Flynn has been touched by darkness. He’s like a magnet. It will come to him or he will go to it,” the Nomad said. “It is just a matter of time.”
“But you don’t want to direct the form it takes! You don’t want to try and even save that young man,” Charles said and the Nomad eerily felt like he was hearing Alex’s arguments all over again. Except where Alex’s words had moved him, Charles’ only irritated him. “You just want to … watch.”
“It’s the only way we learn, Charles,” the Nomad said carefully. “There is a … pattern, you see. A greater meaning. When you look at where the darkness appears in this world from a bird’s eye view you can glimpse it.”
“What pattern, Xavier?” Those shrewd blue eyes narrowed.
“I don’t know. I just know it’s there.” The Nomad’s mind drifted on currents of a thousand years at a time. Things he’d half seen. Things he hadn’t understood at the time. Repetitions. Dead ends. So many things.
“We all look for meaning, Xavier. The human mind is designed to look for meaning, patterns and --”
“What about the inhuman mind?” the Nomad interrupted.
“I don’t know about the inhuman mind, Xavier. I thought we were talking about yours.”
The two men stared at one another for long, quiet moments.
“Have you any objections to the other students I propose to take?” the Nomad asked.
“Does it matter? You’re … free to do whatever you like according to the Charter.” Charles’ lips pursed in annoyance even as he said it. “The Guide evidently has some faith in you.”
The Charter he was referring to was the Next Society Charter. The Next Society’s purpose was to both protect humanity from supernatural creatures and to establish diplomacy with them if at all possible. The Society also did its best to keep the existence of such creatures secret from the rest of humanity. The Guide was the unknown leader of the Society. The Guide changed the Charter periodically and the Nomad had been amused to find out that the Guide had written into the Charter that Professor Xavier Fall was to be given carte blanche in all things. The Nomad had no idea who the Guide was, but he was inclined to like them very much. The result was that Charles could grouse about him taking Flynn on the expedition, but he couldn’t do much about it.
“Yes, well, I would like your thoughts,” the Nomad said after he had left Charles dangling for a bit.
That hawk-like face studied him and then said, “You’ve picked an interesting group to be sure. Corey Rudman has become quite the asset. His innate friendliness has a way of putting people immediately at ease. They open up to him. And he has absolutely no qualms about befriending non-humans.”
“That and his violently colored clothing options sometimes stun predators, giving us all time to get away,” the Nomad said dryly. Corey was notorious for wearing neon, strobe-like colors that always clashed with his marvelous dark red curly hair and Santa-like beard. The Nomad was quite fond of him though.
“Yes, yes, well, that is his way of being individualistic, I suppose.” Charles sniffed. The Nomad did not point out that the Dean’s own penchant for wearing tweed jackets with elbow patches and bow ties was much the same thing. “And then there is Jaela Smith. I’m quite friendly with her parents.”
“They’re professors at Winter Haven University, are they not?” the Nomad asked.
Charles nodded. “Quite a coup that we got Jaela to come here rather than stay at her parents’ school.” He smiled and showed a bit of sharp teeth. “Well, Miskatonic is her chance to get out from their behind their shadows. And I believe … well, she hoped to leave behind some unpleasantness behind in Winter Haven.”
“When you’re a psychic and can find out people’s secrets I would say Winter Haven would not be a friendly place to be,” the Nomad responded mildly. Having Jaela on the expedition would be interesting. He was able to block her gift, but her readings on everyone else would be of great use.
The older looking man nodded in agreement. “Isabel Aumont is a very interesting addition, too. Her family was quite against her coming to Miskatonic as well.”
“Am I sensing a trend? Is Miskatonic now the place where teens go to rebel?” the Nomad asked with an amused lift of his shoulders.
“Parents are damned over protective. They don’t want her out in the world, using her abilities to actually do some good. Old, aristocratic French family. Still have some money from a small vineyard, but looks like they are doing their best to moulder quietly away in the countryside,” Charles said with a grimace. “Young woman needed to get away or she’d be mouldering with the rest of them.”
“She is allegedly a Seer of the Dead,” the Nomad murmured.
“Not just allegedly. I’ve tested her myself. She is the real thing,” Charles said with a tartness he was legendary for.
“I’m hopeful she can exercise that gift in the field. If the former residents of the Ghost Half are dead, she might be able to communicate with them and tell us what happened,” the Nomad said.
“If? You think they may still be alive? After fifteen years?” Charles harrumphed.
“I have no expectations one way or the other. I like to keep an open mind,” the Nomad responded mildly.
“And finally, you’ve chosen David Kwon.” Charles ran a blue-veined hand over his worn face. “That young man worries me. Yes, oh, yes, he does.”
“How so?” The Nomad though already knew. David Kwon was a very unique individual. He was an emotional vampire though he preferred to be called an Empath. But David didn’t just feel other people’s emotions, he lived off of them.
“He’s got dark shadows under his eyes. Skulks about. Hardly speaks. That’s some days. Other days he is like a fireball of energy. Can’t sit still. Always moving, twitching,” Charles said. “I thought it might be drugs, but … that doesn’t seem quite right.”
The ups and downs came from whether David was feeding or not, but Charles seemed unaware of this.
“He’s an excellent audio-visual technician, which will be quite necessary for the investigation,” the Nomad said.
There was a discrete knock on the Nomad’s office door at that moment. A young man with sandy brown hair and green eyes stood there shyly. He had a messenger bag slung diagonally over his chest and was clutching a tablet in his hands.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, Professor Fall,” he said.
“Not at all, Chad. It is time for our meeting, is it not?” the Nomad said with a lazy grin at the young man.
Chad nodded vigorously. A flush covered his high cheekbones. “Yes, sir, but if you need me to come back …” He let the sentence hang.
The Nomad’s fangs ached. “Not at all. Professor Marstand was just going.” The Nomad stood up from behind his desk, signaling that their conversation was over if his words had not been sufficient.
Charles did the same. His silver-tipped cane dug into the floor as he leaned on it. He fixed the Nomad with a stare that would have quelled a lesser man. “I do hope you know what you’re doing with this expedition, Xavier.”
“Oh, I’m sure I don’t. But that’s the fun of it,” the Nomad replied with an unrepentant grin that had Charles letting out a fluttery breath of annoyance.
Charles turned and walked out of the Nomad’s office. The tapping of his cane echoed after him. Chad came into the room, closing the door behind the older man.
“He seems rather annoyed, Professor. I truly hope that I didn’t interrupt something important,” Chad said as he turned back to the Nomad.
“Not at all.” The Grand Master Vampire had already come around his desk. He took Chad’s clutched tablet from his hands and tossed it onto the chair. He then divested the young man of his messenger bag.
“Oh, good, because I -- I really wanted to see you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you,” Chad whispered.
Chad’s hair was mussed in the process of taking off the bag and he quickly smoothed it down as he looked at the Nomad with undisguised lust in his eyes. Chad thought they were having a torrid affair. What he didn’t know, what he never remembered of their time together was that he was also giving the Nomad his afternoon snack. The young man’s green eyes became blank as the Nomad stood directly in front of him and with his Vampiric Seduction quelled all thought in him. His hands fastened on Chad’s trim waist. He would give Chad the fucking of his life in a little bit. But first, he needed a drink.
The Nomad’s sharp white fangs extended as he leaned over the young man. He licked a soft patch of skin on Chad’s throat. Then he bit down and Chad’s rich blood burst on his tongue like the ripe blackberries. The Nomad’s violet eyes fluttered closed as he drank, but in a moment they would fly open as he found himself imagining quite another person in his arms and another’s blood flowing down his throat.
Alex would not be surprised by his imagining, but the Nomad was. He had, of course, been thinking of Flynn Haggerty.