Screams and cheering filled through the arena as the song came to its close. The air felt electric. Damien grinned wildly, leaning towards the audience.
“I love you, Del Sol Valley! I can’t wait to feast on your blood!”
The crowd went wild. He could make out some of the chanting.
Damien paused to soak the final few moments in. They all worshipped him, and he didn’t have to hide a damn thing, besides his name. This decade was glorious.
Still on a high from performing, he headed backstage for a moment before he would meet a few select fans for the more exclusive experience. Being the last night of the tour, he better make it count.
The door opened briefly; letting in the excited voices of his band. No doubt they’d be celebrating. They’ve long stopped asking Damien to join, used to him keeping his distance by now.
It was a fine line to walk. One band mysteriously disappearing was good for his image. A second would be suspicious.
He turned his attention to the unwanted guest.
“I’m not ready for the VIPs yet, Max.” Damien looked up, mildly annoyed at the intrusion.
But his irritation evaporated the moment he saw her.
“You should know that I’m not Max. Or has all this noise numbed your senses that much?”
She took off her hat, fully revealing the cracks in her face. Where did those come from, he wondered? Her skin always used to be silky smooth, and she was far from reckless.
“Delphine! You’re looking very… current.” He greeted her with a snicker.
She ignored his sarcasm. “Thought I would make an effort for the big city, seeing that I’d be meeting a renowned musician. Or whatever you call this…”
“The term is rock star.” He frowned. Not that he expected her to understand any of it.
“Isn’t a star a big chunk of rock?” She tilted her head to the side, smiling conspicuously.
“Mostly gas, actually.” He corrected her. “I won’t hold your ignorance against you though, after all they did say the earth was flat in your times, didn’t they?”
“Call me ignorant all you wish, but I’m not the one referring to myself as stone and gas.” She retorted. “Not to mention… Billy Bloodlust? Really?”
This was going nowhere. “So what brings you to Del Sol Valley?” Damien changed the subject.
Delphine’s expression grew more serious. “I have a message from Verena. She wants to see you.”
“You’re Verena’s errand girl now?” He raised an eyebrow. “I would have expected her to send her crone.”
“Alba has done quite enough travelling lately.” She replied elusively. “Besides, I’m here on my own accord. I wanted to see that famed Del Sol Valley for myself – well overdue, after all this time. See what all the silver screen buzz is about.”
This was getting more and more peculiar. “I think you’ll find times have moved on from that a tad. Del Sol Valley might be a bit much to take in for you… But I’ll gladly be your tour guide, show you all the hot spots.”
“That won’t be necessary. I think I will be staying here for a while. Ample time to discover things for myself. And you’re going to see Verena, remember?”
“I don’t answer to Verena anymore, you know that.” Damien said coolly.
Delphine did not offer a reply.
“What does she want with me anyway?” He broke the uncomfortable silence.
“Best let her tell you herself.” The woman frowned.
“Not even a tiny hint? For old times’ sake?” Damien pulled a face. “Is she really expecting me to drop everything without having the slightest idea why?”
Delphine sighed. “Verena would say this will be worth your while, that she is close to uncovering a source of unimaginable power.”
“And what’s that got to do with me?” He shrugged her off.
“Alba would say you are being called upon because another son of Verena’s has betrayed her worse than you ever have.” She told him, her voice strangely distant.
“Somebody trying to one-up me, huh?” Damien let out a soft chuckle, but he knew he wasn’t fooling Delphine. He stood up, reaching out for her hand.
“I’m not all that interested in what Verena or Alba would weigh in. What would Delphine say?” He looked into her eyes. But she simply shook her head.
“It’s not like you to plan an extended covenless stay in Del Sol Valley of all places.” He pointed out. “You crash my gig unannounced after decades of silence to tell me you’re walking away from this source of power?”
“I was never one for power play, in case you forgot.” Her hand slid out of his.
“Forgot?” He repeated. That was rich. “You will find my memory is still very much intact, in spite of all the noise. I remember everything you said when we last spoke, down to the very last word.”
That caught her off guard, he realised to his satisfaction.
“One moment you’re telling me you couldn’t possibly leave Verena to her own devices since she’s oh-so-dangerous, and now you’re suddenly washing your hands off her, with her on the cusp of this supposed power? So which is it, Delphine? Sounds to me like it was all just a convenient excuse.”
Delphine’s eyes met his. “I’m not sure what she is planning, but I don’t want any part in it.” Her voice was quiet. “I was quite fond of the one who betrayed her.”
“Someone’s definitely trying to one-up me.” Damien gave her a jovial smirk. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re trying to break my heart all over again. God job I have none.”
“It wasn’t like that.”
He didn’t feel like entertaining that particular subject. “I’ll hand it to you, Delphine, you’ve always known how to pique my interest. A source of power, a charming traitor… So tell me, what crypt does Verena rot in these days?”
“Not quite a crypt. She lives in Mount Komorebi. Mainly hunts in the Senbamachi area, to be more precise. You shouldn’t have trouble finding her.” Delphine replied mechanically.
“I best go. Can’t keep those VIPs waiting, I’m certain.” Delphine ended the conversation abruptly. “It’s been good seeing you.”
“You too.” Damien mouthed. But she was already gone.
Damien took a peak into the alley. Certainly fit the bill. Delphine didn’t exactly share Verena’s address, but the grand master vampire was predictable. Didn’t take a genius to figure out her hunting patterns.
Quieter corners of parks, inconspicuous alleyways just off a main square – places that were secluded but still close enough to heavily frequented areas to give an illusion of a child that just happened to wander off…
Sure enough, he spotted her lurking in the shadows. No doubt ready to launch into a speech about how she’d lost her mother and hoped the kind stranger would offer assistance.
“I would have thought you’d be bored of this shtick by now.” He approached her, hoping he sounded underwhelmed.
She looked up towards him. Her smile wasn’t quite a smile, but the gloating look in her eyes told him that she too found him predictable.
“The prodigal son returns.” She cooed.
“What can I say, I simply couldn’t stop myself from running back into your motherly arms, mistress.” He said coldly.
“Save the performance.” She replied curtly. “I have no interest in your theatrics.”
“If you didn’t want theatrics, then why did you summon me?” He asked in a mocking tone.
“Just because I don’t appreciate something doesn’t mean it won’t be of benefit elsewhere. Walk with me.” Verena said simply. She propelled herself ahead without another word.
What am I doing, he shook his head, but of course, he followed her anyway. It didn’t take them long to reach Verena’s house.
Delphine had clearly embellished the truth a touch. While the place was technically not a crypt, it sure still felt like on one as far as Damien was concerned. All kinds of unpleasant memories resurfacing.
And the sight of Alba didn’t exactly add a homey touch.
“Make yourself at home.” Verena gestured towards one of the couches, heading towards the one on the further end of the room.
Damien had no intention of sitting down. It was clearly no accident she opted for the more imposing of the seats, in the hopes of sitting him down opposite her like a child that needed scolding. Nothing involving Verena was ever an accident.
“Mistress, if I may…” Alba interrupted. That ought to piss Verena off, Damien smirked to himself. Did Alba not get the memo? “Since he is here now, may I finally be permitted to hunt down the traitor? We are losing time…”
Now this was interesting. Alba was not happy. Not that Alba was ever happy, per say. He knew the wise thing would be to watch Verena’s response play out, but Damien couldn’t help himself. If he’d had an interest in shutting up and observing others, he wouldn’t have taken to the stage.
He made his way over to Verena, making sure to tower over her as much as possible.
“I hope you didn’t bring me here for a tracking mission. Clearly you have no shortage of dogs for that kind of thing.” He turned to Verena, ignoring Alba’s glare.
“No, that’s not what I have in mind.” Verena confirmed calmly.
“The traitor does not need to be tracked.” Alba hissed. “We know exactly where he is. Just say the word, mistress, and he’s as good as dead.”
The grand master vampire seemed bemused. “And what would that accomplish, exactly?” She sneered.
“I can only imagine the kind of information and connections he must have, judging by this warm-blooded vampire alone.” Verena continued.
“But he needs to pay…” Alba protested.
Damien was not following. He wasn’t sure which was more perplexing; the notion of a warm-blooded vampire or seeing Alba openly defy Verena.
The grand master vampire remained unfazed. “What makes you think that killing Micah would equate to making him pay?” She asked Alba.
“You know what he’s like, Alba. If I wanted him dead, all he’d need would be a gentle push.” Verena’s voice lacked any warmth. “Truth of the matter is I’m shocked he isn’t dead already. So I ask you again, what’s to be gained from killing him?”
It wasn’t much to go on for Damien to assess the situation. Delphine had been right though, whoever this sucker was, his prospects were looking grim.
Alba did not respond, so Verena carried on.
“You need to shift your focus, Alba. The question to concentrate on is not how to find and kill Micah. The question is how they’ve kept him ‘alive’ for all this time. Now that is something worth answering.”
Her words seemed to have placated Alba, but Damien’s own patience was running out. There were too many unknowns, and as far as he could tell, none of this was of any merit to him, nor his business.
“As much as I like a good mystery, your riddles are getting a bit tired.” He cleared his throat. “Can’t say I flew halfway across the world to watch you bicker, so if you’ll excuse me…”
“Leaving so soon?” Verena turned towards him. “Some may view that as rude.”
“You better tell me what’s in it for me. I’ve come a long way just to listen to this bullshit, so pardon me if I’m not being a good boy.”
“I’m sure it was a great inconvenience to hop on your private jet.” Verena’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll make sure there’s something to be gained for you in all of this.”
“Let me be the judge of that.” Damien shrugged. “As things stand, I already have everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”
“Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear.” Verena’s smile dropped.
“I’m well aware you enjoy your play-pretend independence, but let me remind you that the only reason you can indulge in your little musician stunt is because I allow it in it the first place. You did come running to me the minute I’ve sent for you, didn’t you?”
“I don’t need your permission.” He gritted through his teeth.
“Of course not,” Verena agreed, her voice turning alarmingly sweet. “But parading in the public eye makes you rather easy to find. As you have said yourself, you have come so very far. Would be a shame to lose it, wouldn’t it?”
“Now, where were we?” She batted her eyelashes giddily, exaggerating every word. “I believe I’ve asked you to sit down, and I’m not fond of repeating myself. So why don’t you be a good boy and stop causing me all this heartbreak?”
Damien’s body felt heavy as he lowered himself onto the couch.
“Lovely.” Verena grinned. “Now, if you’re both quite done interrupting, can we finally move on to discussing what I actually need from you?”
A/N: If you need a refresher on Delphine and Alba (It has been a while since the vampires have made a proper appearance, after all), Chapter 1.25 gives a good overview of the coven. Fun fact; Damien gets an honourable mention in that one too.