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The Triad of Finity
Oliver Nocturne, Book Six
By Kevin Emerson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Kevin Emerson
All rights reserved.
The Menteur's Heart
Night falls pleasantly early in Seattle in November. The days are brief, cloudy, barely ever seeming brighter than twilight. On the rare afternoons when the sun even appears, it cowers in the far corner of the sky, pale, fleeting. The mountains gather their first blankets of snow, the ocean cools to gray, the last leaves fall. Humans wrap themselves tightly in coats and scarves. They retreat into their homes earlier, huddling in the warmth and light to celebrate their harvest. And beyond their closed window shades, the city's other inhabitants enjoy the long, dark hours.
This November had been exceptionally rainy, and that put a spring in the lurking steps of all who woke at dusk, with the notable exception of a certain vampire family, who rose one Thursday evening with a foreboding event on their calendar.
Mr. Crevlyn was scheduled to arrive promptly at eight.
"This sucks," said Oliver Nocturne as he entered the kitchen and slouched down on a stool at the center island.
"Now, now," said Phlox from across the kitchen, where she worked over the gleaming titanium forge, her back to him. "It will be fine."
Oliver dropped his heavy backpack to the polished stone floor with a thud and leaned on his elbows. He brushed his hair from his eyes—he'd been letting it grow the last few months, and had even put a green streak in the front—and took a sip from the lead goblet before him. He was glad for the sweet, slightly citrusy taste of kangaroo blood. It was one of his favorites. Still, it wasn't enough to change his current mood. "It's not going to be fine," he muttered.
"Well," said Phlox, turning around with a steaming skillet in one hand and a spatula in the other, "there's nothing we can do except endure it." She was dressed smartly as usual, her platinum hair wrapped up in a severe bun.
Oliver rolled his eyes. How many times had Phlox said that lately? "Why do we have to endure it? How about we tell them no, for once, and then—"
Phlox's eyes flared from their usual hazel to a brilliant turquoise. "Charles," she began— but stopped.
Oliver looked away. It rarely happened anymore, but sometimes, when she was flustered, Phlox still slipped. Oliver didn't feel mad at his mom for this. Instead, he felt a surge of ... weird. It only happened when he was acting defiant or insolent, like his older brother Bane used to, before he'd been slain to dust. Actually, Oliver was maybe proud of that, of being able to channel his brother now and then. Except it made him miss Bane, too. Right about now, Bane would have come sauntering up the stairs, probably slapped Oliver on the back of the head before dropping down beside him.... Instead, the kitchen was silent.
"Sorry," said Phlox quietly. She slid a trio of deep-fried dumplings onto a cast-iron plate. "Oliver," she began again, "you have to understand ..." Her eyes, no longer glowing, arched toward the ceiling. This was Phlox's now well-understood reminder that everything they said was being monitored by hidden microphones.
Oliver sighed. "I know," he said dejectedly, "but, sometimes I just ..." He shook his head. "Whatever." He reached for the plate and Phlox's delicate ivory hand fell atop his. He felt the reassuring cool of her skin, the razor scratch of her burgundy-painted fingernails.
"It will be okay," she said.
Oliver nodded, but that was getting harder to believe. He slid the plate over and took a bite of a still-sizzling fritter, his taste buds delighting, in spite of his mood, at the burst of molten chocolate inside, spiced with habañero concentrate and especially sweet with the addition of extracted lynx adrenaline, which not only tasted like mint but was known to have relaxing properties. Like the kangaroo blood, this was another rare treat that Phlox surely intended to counteract the ordeal Oliver was about to endure.
Footsteps clicked up the stone staircase and Sebastian swept into the kitchen. "Hey Ollie," he said, rubbing Oliver's hair as he passed. He was dressed in a sleek black suit. He picked up a goblet at the far end of the island, took a long swig, then traded it for a stone mug of coffee which had been sitting on a small warming plate on the counter, bubbling away. Vampires liked their coffee hot, preferably boiling. He tapped a dash of cayenne pepper into it before drinking.
"Any updates about our guest?" Phlox asked as she opened the refrigerator. Its silver door rose upward to the ceiling with a hiss.
"Nothing new," said Sebastian. "Same as the other visits, as far as I've been told."
"You know," said Phlox thinly as she arranged the clear plastic bags of blood hanging on racks in the fridge, "Mother told me that Mr. Crevlyn's not even technically a physician anymore. Apparently he was formally stripped of his license for questionable practices. That's why he took the job at the Asylum Colony. They have looser standards." Oliver's grandparents lived in Morosia, the underworld beneath Europe.
"Sounds like the perfect person to be the new head of Half-Light," said Sebastian grimly.
Phlox turned to him and her mouth curled skeptically.
"What did he do, anyway?" Oliver asked. "To lose his license?"
"Well," Phlox began, "it's all confidential, but Mother says the word in Morosia is that at the Asylum Colony, Mr. Crevlyn was in charge of the demosapien alchemy division."
"The mixing of demons with living humans," said Sebastian gruffly, checking his watch, "and it's nothing we need to discuss further."
Oliver was fine with ending the talk. Humans and demons ... it reminded him of something he didn't want to think about, anyway: the other thing he had to do before school tonight.
"Or maybe we should be asking someone," Phlox began, and she raised her head so that the listening devices would hear her loud and clear, "whether it's appropriate for our son to be in the company of someone with that kind of background."
Sebastian looked at her and shrugged, a gesture of powerlessness that Oliver hated to see. Mr. Crevlyn was the new head of operations at the powerful Half-Light consortium, Sebastian's employer, and he'd personally put himself in charge of examining Oliver, to determine his "mental state."
Oliver understood why: He was, after all, the key figure in Half-Light's plot to open the Nexia Gate, thereby freeing all the vampires from Earth and remaking the universe, which, as a consequence, would also destroy Earth and everything in it. Half-Light had been planning this for decades, maybe even centuries, according to a prophecy which stated that a sired but demonless vampire child could open the Gate. Oliver was that child. And now that the Anointment had been completed, there was no turning back. Only, it was more complicated than that, for a number of reasons, but mainly because of ... don't think about—Oliver tried to warn himself, but a strong and painful memory arrived anyway:
Oliver felt a moment of fuzziness, like a wave had washed over his mind. He was brought back to his senses by a thudding knock on the sewer door downstairs.
"That's him," said Sebastian. He headed for the stairs, his lips pursed.
Oliver stuffed the troubling thoughts away. He needed to focus to make it through what was about to happen. He finished his fritters and listened as the door opened, greetings were exchanged, and footsteps returned to the kitchen.
Sebastian entered first. "Mr. Crevlyn is here."
He strolled in wearing a bright grin, the kind that was too wide, as if it had been practiced often. He wasn't much older than Phlox and Sebastian—Oliver would have guessed about three hundred—but was uncharacteristically wide and soft around the middle for a vampire. And that was the oddity of his face, too: its breadth, its tendency to shine too brightly around those gleaming, peach-colored irises, without care for the other sources of light in its sphere. Neither Mr. Crevlyn's suit—a dour, mulch-colored tweed—nor his accessories—conservatively striped tie, modest watch and briefcase—gave away his true nature, but his smiling face revealed a disquieting confidence, that self-assured comfort in oneself that seemed to be most apparent in the most dangerous figures.
"Good evening, Nocturnes," said Mr. Crevlyn smoothly.
He stepped into the kitchen and moved aside. There was a sound of shuffling metal and another figure entered. The crimson-robed form had to hunch to fit into the kitchen. Its shackled wrists and ankles jangled. Its face was hidden by a hood. A Codex, from HalfLight's private library.
"And how are we tonight, Oliver?" Mr. Crevlyn asked. The smile widened, the cheeks contorting, creating extra folds.
Oliver looked away. "Fine."
"Well then, shall we?" He looked to Phlox. "Coffee would be lovely," he said, as if she'd offered. "Spiked, if you don't mind."
Phlox nodded slightly, her mouth a thin, tight line. "Of course."
Oliver slumped off the stool and headed for the living room, where he dropped onto one of the leather couches. Phlox and Sebastian sat on the other, to his left. Mr. Crevlyn spread himself on the edge of a high-backed chair across from him.
The Codex lowered to the floor, sitting cross-legged on a pillow. Its black, skeletal hands produced a small mortar made of flecked stone. There was a pinch of dried brown incense in the bowl. The Codex struck a match and lit it. A thin trail of gray smoke slithered up into the room.
Mr. Crevlyn flipped open his briefcase and removed a bundle of black velvet. He placed this on the table and unwrapped it, revealing a long, pink crystal shard. "Veritesssch," he whispered, and the crystal began to glow. Oliver knew it well enough: a Menteur's Heart, similar to a human lie detector, though quite a bit more powerful and accurate, as demons and vampires were much more skilled at deception than a creature with a soul could ever be.
Oliver felt like the Heart was barely necessary in his case. He didn't bother lying anymore. It never worked out.
"Well now," said Mr. Crevlyn. He looked at Oliver, eyes bright. "How are we feeling these days?"
"Fine," muttered Oliver.
"And how is school?"
"Good," said Mr. Crevlyn. "All right, then, just for the sake of clarity, let's review: If I'm correct, this all began when you met the Orani girl. She invaded your home, and yet due to your Human Sympathizing Syndrome—an unfortunate consequence of your sired origins that we know is not your fault—you let her live and befriended her."
Oliver just stared ahead but inside he rolled his eyes. This was all ridiculous. This all began, he thought, when I was stolen from my human parents and sired, but he didn't blame Phlox and Sebastian for that. They had merely wanted a child, and hadn't been able to have one. So they'd volunteered to raise the prophecy children. Oliver's origins were really Half-Light's doing. And because of those origins, he'd felt strange his entire existence. But that wasn't why he'd befriended Emalie. It had been because she was actually interested in him, not to mention how she was interesting herself, fascinating even.... Gone....
"Then," Mr. Crevlyn continued, "there was the mix-up with the murder of the Orani girl's cousin and whether the subsequent zombie was your minion—"
"His name is Dean," Oliver added. He hated how Mr. Crevlyn always did this: not using names as if they somehow weren't worthy.
Mr. Crevlyn paused for only a moment, his smile undiminished. "Of course it is. And all of that business was, in fact, orchestrated by the LeRoux girl—"
"Lythia," Oliver added.
"Yes, she was the zombie's true master, and she was trying to steal your prophecy. So, again, not your fault." Mr. Crevlyn nodded like Oliver was supposed to feel good about that. "Then, let's see, following that we had the brief period where the girl tried to slay you—"
"Which wasn't Emalie's fault," Oliver interrupted. He felt his anger growing. Mr. Crevlyn's smile lessened. Phlox eyed Oliver severely, but kept silent as he continued. "She was being controlled by The Brotherhood of the Fallen. They were the ones who wanted to slay me."
"Indeed," said Mr. Crevlyn. "And finally, there was the continual misinformation given to you by the rogue Architect. Her deceptions led you to seek out Selene, the Orani oracle, to search for your original human parents, and to try to thwart your Anointment. Again, Désirée is a powerful being, and so one can hardly blame you for all that, can they?" Mr. Crevlyn's smile returned.
"Sure," said Oliver. He knew by now that this was one of the goals of Mr. Crevlyn's visits: to make Oliver feel good about himself and his destiny. And an obvious second goal was to reform Oliver's image, and by extension his parents' image, in the Half-Light vampire community. There was much suspicion and mistrust as to whether the Nocturnes could handle being the family of the Nexia prophecy, but now that the Anointment had succeeded, and there was no other choice, Half-Light wanted to make sure that everyone saw the Nocturnes in a good light. It wasn't for Oliver and his family, it was for the safety of the prophecy, just like everything had always been.
Sebastian spoke up. "And has Half-Light determined the whereabouts of Dead Désirée?"
"She remains ... unaccounted for," said Mr. Crevlyn with a sigh, his smile faltering only momentarily, "but all measures are being taken to find her." He turned back to Oliver. "Well, I must say, Oliver, it is a testament to your strength and guile that you are still here and not a pile of dust, considering all the danger you've been exposed to! This alone should prove your worth as the chosen vampire, don't you think?"
Oliver just shrugged. "Sure."
"The closest he came to dust was when Half-Light tried to slay him," said Phlox thinly.
"Ah yes," said Mr. Crevlyn, "well, these things do happen. Luckily, as the new Director, I can assure you that I have a far better handle on things."
Mr. Crevlyn reached out and ran his hand over the Menteur's Heart. Its glow brightened, flickering on all of their faces. He was increasing its sensitivity for this final question. "Now then, we really just have our one last usual piece of business to attend to before we're finished for the evening." He leaned forward. "Oliver: Do you, or does anyone you know, have any idea as to the current whereabouts of the Orani girl?"
Oliver felt Phlox and Sebastian's eyes on him. He felt a rush of nerves in his gut. The crystal's glow made spots in his vision. At full strength, it would detect even the slightest hint of a lie....
But, unfortunately, Oliver only had the truth to tell. "No."
Mr. Crevlyn gazed at the crystal, and when its glow did not waver, his brow almost seemed to furrow. "And if she does try to contact you, or alert you to her whereabouts, I can only urge you, again, to let us know."
Oliver nodded. "Sure."
Mr. Crevlyn leaned over, blew out the crystal, and wrapped it up. The Codex's eyes extinguished. Both stood. "Oliver, on behalf of the Half-Light Consortium, I want to thank you and your family for your continued cooperation."
"As if we had a choice," growled Sebastian.
Mr. Crevlyn shrugged his eyebrows and continued. "We'll see you next time. And in the meantime, rest assured: We will be watching out for your best interests. Now, we don't want you to be late for school."
Oliver just glared at him.
"You can let yourself out," said Sebastian.
"Certainly," Mr. Crevlyn replied, his grin unfaltering.
Oliver still hadn't moved as the sewer door clicked shut. Phlox leaned over and stroked his arm. "You did great. We endure these things, and we move on."
Oliver didn't reply. He felt blank.
"You should get to school," said Sebastian. "I'll walk there with you, if you—"
"Nah." Oliver got to his feet. "It's fine. I'm ... fine." He wasn't, not at all, but he still had that thing to do before school and now he felt like he needed to more than ever.
Oliver headed into the kitchen, grabbed his bag and hurried out.CHAPTER 2
Oliver emerged from the sewers and trudged through the falling evening to school. He was early; the last humans were still loitering out front, hunched against the drizzle, waiting for rides. Oliver walked right by, continuing up the street and across a damp park.
He knew that right now, in some Half-Light office downtown, his ankle sensor was announcing that he'd left his prescribed route to school, and an occupied vampire sentry was no doubt being dispatched to follow his movements, likely in the form of a bat or owl. But if he hurried, he should have enough time....
He leapt easily onto the roof of a city bus, then sat, sweatshirt hood over his head, remembering a time when it had been hard for him to perform what now seemed like the most basic work controlling the forces. The first time he'd leapt onto this bus, he'd almost fallen off the side, and barely avoided being noticed.
Ten blocks later, he stood and vaulted off, over the streetlights, landing cat-like atop a house. He continued roof-to-roof. Some of the yards below had already been strung with holiday lights, splashes of warmth among bare, dripping branches. Their cheery glow only made the crowding sense of memory thicker in Oliver's mind.
Excerpted from The Triad of Finity by Kevin Emerson. Copyright © 2014 Kevin Emerson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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