Read The Strange Path Online

Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

The Strange Path (5 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
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“Surely you’ve known you were different from others, Whiskey.” Setting her wineglass down, Fiona leaned forward. “Known that you were alone when surrounded by your alleged peers, felt a burning need as a child for something unimaginable?”

Cora poured another shot, and handed the glass to her. Whiskey sipped it this time. “Everybody feels that.” It still burned, though the sensation rapidly became familiar. “Everybody thinks they’re special, more important or different from the rest of the assholes around them.”

“But you
are, Ninsumgal,
” Cora whispered, leaning forward to kiss Whiskey’s forehead.

“Bullshit.” Manuel stood, and downed the rest of his beer. “She’s no more
Ninsumgal
than I am
usumgal.
” He thrust a chin toward the curtain separating them from the dance floor. Bronwyn slid to her feet, and the pair walked out in a rattle of metal chain.

“How did—?” Whiskey turned to Cora. “How did he hear you over the music?”

“We all heard her, little
lamma,
” Fiona answered. “We’re Sanguire as, I believe, are you.”

Whiskey shivered. Of all the strange words these people bandied about, this one meant something to her. “Sanguire.” She’d heard it before, said it before, but couldn’t remember where or when. “Sanguire.”

“You recognize it?”

Sensing danger, Whiskey finished her drink. “Tell me more about
kizarusi.
They give the ultimate gift? What gift?”

Fiona smiled. “Their blood. None of us can live without it.”

They do think they’re vampires.
“So,
kizsarusi
are...your victims?”

Cora laughed, wrapping an arm around Whiskey’s neck to hug her. “No, silly! Most
kizarusi
are from well-established Human families who have served us for generations.”

Whiskey did her best not to flinch away from the blonde. She searched through her memories of horror flicks she’d watched over the years. Almost all vampires had a human caretaker during the daylight hours, someone who’d been driven mad and protected their masters and mistresses with rabid devotion. “Like...Renfield?”

Fiona sneered. “Hardly, dear Whiskey.” She took a sip of her wine.

Daniel decided to join the discussion. “You read too many trashy vampire novels, youngling.”

Whiskey took his comment as an invitation. “What did you inject me with last night?” She shifted in her chair, automatically grasping Cora’s waist to keep her from toppling from her perch. “It didn’t just look like blood, it
was
blood, wasn’t it?”

“Very astute,” Fiona said.

A wave of light-headedness swept over Whiskey. “You gave me your blood! You’re trying to turn me into a vampire!”
What if one of them has AIDS or something?

“I rest my case.” Daniel snorted. “It doesn’t work that way, Whiskey. You either are or aren’t Sanguire. No blood transfusion can make a Human into a Sanguire.” He took a swallow of beer.

“Drink,
Ninsumgal
.” Cora refilled Whiskey’s shot glass.

The alcohol ripped through the curtain of weakness. Whiskey gasped, and held out her glass for a refill. “Well, it did something,” she insisted. “My knuckles aren’t wracked up anymore, and I think my bruises have gone away.” She looked at the fine lines on her arm. “Tattoos sting for days, but this barely hurts now.”
Come to think of it, my nipples don’t hurt that much, either.

“Which proves my theory,” Fiona stated. “You are Sanguire, or you couldn’t enjoy the benefits of Daniel’s medical cocktail.”

Whiskey stuttered, the alcohol in her system blurring her thoughts.
Jesus, this stuff’s strong.
Fiona watched in amusement as she gathered her thoughts. “I can’t be...Sanguire. I don’t drink or need blood to live.”

“Yet,” Cora whispered.

Whiskey gave her a sharp look, seeing a beautiful smile on her face.

“It is the nature of our people to age slowly.” Fiona stroked her cheek with one finger, lost in thought. “We have always hidden among Humans, and have evolved a bit of camouflage.”

“In order for our offspring to survive childhood, they age like Humans until they reach physical maturity,” Daniel said. “Once they attain adulthood they begin the
Ñíri Kurám
, to walk the Strange Path. It’s a gradual phenomenon that takes many years to complete. Most of us utilize a
Baruñal
and the Book to accelerate the process.”

Whiskey peered at Daniel as his light Germanic accent flowed over her. His words were nothing but noise to her.
Baruñal? Ñíri Kurám?
Gibberish.

Cora blocked her vision, gray eyes staring into hers. “Whiskey?”

“Three shots in under half an hour. She’s had too much to drink.” Fiona suddenly appeared beside Whiskey. She took the shot glass and set it on the table. “Odd that you should carry the name, yet have difficulty holding the liquor.”

Whiskey flushed, feeling overly warm. “It’s jus’ a nickname.” She felt a moment of dismay at the sound of her slurred voice. Attempting to control herself, she enunciated her next words carefully. “I’ve never had whiskey before. Only beer or wine.”

Fiona brushed her fingers through Whiskey’s hair, an insincere parody of tenderness. “Not anymore, dear little
lamma.
From now on you’ll eat and drink the finest the world has to offer. You’re home now.”

“It may also be a result of the healing and hunger,” Daniel said. “She’s using a lot of her energy to repair the damage.” He appeared within Whiskey’s groggy vision, leaning over her, lifting an eyelid to peek at her pupil, ignoring her sluggish attempt to slap him away. “It’s been hours since she last ate, and her metabolism has accelerated as she’s mended. She needs more food and sleep.”

“Let’s get her to the bench for a quick nap, and I’ll order dinner.”

The world swooped and rolled as the three got Whiskey to her feet.
It was only three drinks, damn it!
“I’m fine. Jus’ lemme alone a minnit.” They ignored her, manhandling her to the bench seat. She closed her eyes for a moment, opening them with a start at the deep sound of metal scraping metal.

The heavy metal table now two feet away, Fiona smiled at Whiskey. Dusting her hands, she headed for the curtain.

“Damn, she’s strong.”

Cora knelt on the floor beside her. “As will you be when you complete the
Ñíri Kurám, Ninsumgal
.”

Whiskey wanted to ask what the words meant, but couldn’t make her mouth form the question. Her eyes drifted closed.

She didn’t feel it when it happened.

 

***

 

An overpowering copper aroma choked her nostrils. Hot liquid splashed down her inner thigh. These sensations told the tale of injury long before her flesh screamed, splitting beneath the thrust of a blade. With each pulse of her heart, she hemorrhaged, soaking her skirts with stickiness. The pain reverberated down through the arch of her foot, and up to her hip, spreading with each beat of her heart. She attempted to pull back, find something—anything—to put between herself and her attacker. Clumsy with the enervation already seeping through her body, she stumbled. 

There was a shift of time. One moment she stood with her life’s essence pooling in her boot, slicking the marble beneath her. The next she battled cold, icy talons wrapping her body in a freezing embrace. Bewildered, she didn’t know how much time had passed. Unable to stop her teeth from chattering, she stared up at the vaulted ceiling of her private audience chamber. A shadow blocked the intricate gilded paintings. She took precious seconds to study it, making out the details of a strange woman looming over her.

The woman spoke.
Minn’ast.
Her musical words sounded both intimate and foreign.
So familiar. Is that my name? How can I remember a woman I’ve never seen?
Green eyes glittered with unshed tears above her, mahogany hair cascading down to brush her face. The woman spoke more words in a voice full of anguish. She understood no more than the tone of them. She heard herself respond, instantly recognized the slurred voice as hers, but the words were as strange as the woman’s. Cold gripped her, deepening beyond ice. She no longer had the energy to shiver.

The world went dark.

 

Chapter Six

Sharp, burning pain woke her. With a hiss, Whiskey sat up, clutching at her thigh. As she roused, the ache receded. She sat on the bench seat at Malice, music throbbing in time with the fading spasm in her leg. Alone. “Fucking nightmare,” she muttered.

She released her leg to scrub at her face, and brush hair from her eyes. A glance around showed that Fiona’s people hadn’t left the bar, though they’d cleared out of the immediate area. A crimson filigree shawl Cora had worn adorned one chair, and a small shoulder bag last seen in Bronwyn’s clutches sat in the corner of the bench seat. Drinks and half-eaten food were scattered across the table’s surface. She’d been out at least long enough for everyone to have had dinner, and continue drinking.

Her stomach ached at the reminder of food. Whenever she drank her metabolism went into high gear. She’d never suffered a hangover, but after a binge she’d be absolutely starving. Like now.
Swinging her legs to the floor, she stood with little problem, the intoxication having faded to a minor buzz.
How long have I been out?
She didn’t have a watch, and there weren’t any visible clocks.
It can’t have been too long. Don’t the bars close by two or three?
Unless Fiona had greater pull than Whiskey suspected. Considering one of the bouncers appeared to be Sanguire, it wasn’t too far a stretch to think closing time had come and gone hours ago.

She looked at the curtain of chain, not seeing much beyond except flashing light and shadow. Was someone standing outside the divider? Fully awake, she stared at the darkness, and listened intently for any movement outside. Was that the sound of cloth moving?
Dumb shit! You can’t hear over this music any more than they can.
Someone yawned loudly on the other side, and she straightened in surprise.
Fuck! There’s someone there.

She couldn’t imagine any of Fiona’s people hovering over her. Most of them treated her with indifference. Only Cora and Fiona paid outright attention to her. Had they wanted to come in, they’d do so. Still unsettled by the drink and the bizarre discussion, Whiskey took some time to collect her wits. She returned to the chair she’d been seated in before she’d gotten so smashed she couldn’t talk. Pouring herself another shot of alcohol from the bottle, she spun the chair around to face the curtain. “I know you’re there. Might as well come on in.”

The tinkle of chain links heralding his arrival, an outrageous figure took up her summons. Thin and lanky, the specter looked like he’d just sidled out of a comic book. His black hair stuck up in three spiked mohawks, one centered and one at either temple, sweeping to the back of his otherwise bald skull. High cheekbones made his long face appear gaunt and accented his deep-set eyes. He was dressed in black, and Whiskey felt a surge of jealousy mix with her apprehension. His outfit was a Goth’s wet dream: leather pants, thick-soled boots, spiked knee guards, unadorned T-shirt and a leather trench coat.
These guys don’t do things by halves.

“Ah, the prodigal daughter awakes.” The man’s voice was a pleasing tenor. He pulled another chair away from the table, and sat across from her without invitation. “Sleep well?”

“Well enough,” Whiskey allowed.

The caricature visibly tested the air, sniffing, his leather creaking as he leaned slightly closer. “I detect a certain...Cora about your person, do I not?”

Whiskey feigned nonchalance. “You know Cora?” Had Fiona requested his presence, or had he sneaked past her? “Who are you? Do you work for Fiona?”

He smiled coyly, dusting his clothes with an air of false modesty. “I am no one of import. Nor am I in service to a wild youngling such as that little temptress. I am but a mere servant of my
Ninsumgal
, here in this wondrous city to search her out.”

Ninsumgal.
The word annoyed her. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t think this man meant her harm. The use of that word cemented that for her. She gathered her indignation. “Look, I don’t know who you are, or what a
Ninsumgal
is, okay? Why don’t you just leave, and I’ll be right behind you. You go your way, I’ll go mine.”

He acted shocked. “My apologies for my lack of manners. Allow me to introduce myself.” Standing, he swept into a low bow. “Reynhard Dorst, at your service,
Gasan
.”

His sudden movement surprised Whiskey. She flinched backward. When she saw he didn’t intend to attack, she felt a heavy blush. “I don’t care who you are. Get the fuck out of here.”

Dorst peered up at her from his bow, a hairless eyebrow raised. “Hardly a proper response, my dear. It’s customary to answer with your name at the very least.” He slowly straightened. “A slight nod of the head wouldn’t be amiss, either, since common curtsies have gone out of style.”

She stared at him. Though he was quite a bit taller, she didn’t feel a threat. Dorst, despite his garish appearance, wasn’t here to hurt her. Sheepish at his lesson on etiquette, she said, “I’m Whiskey.”

“Yes, you are.” He rewarded her with a slight smile, and a nod. “You’re also an enigma, my dear. Someone unexpected, possibly someone perilous. At the very least, someone who is in danger.”

She thought of Fiona, and frowned. “How am I in danger?”

“By your very existence.” 

She watched him rummage in a voluminous pocket of his trench coat, and wondered if her instincts had been wrong. He remained between her and the doorway. There were no other exits. She mentally prepared to put up a fight.

He extracted a bag from a local fast-food chain. “Hungry?” He set it on the table and removed a greasy paper-wrapped bundle. “With or without cheese?”

The aroma of hamburgers overpowered her. “With.”

“Excellent choice.” Dorst tossed the sandwich to her, and retrieved another for himself. “There are those godawful potato strips in there if you’d like.” He slid the bag closer to her. Stepping away from the table, he resumed his chair, effectively continuing to block her from the exit.

BOOK: The Strange Path
13.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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