“Where is he? Where’s the dog? Where’s Lucien?” Astor screamed. His eyes bulged so hard they hurt. His skin was cracked, dry. Blue veins swelled and beat. He’d been too busy raging to feed.
He screamed at no one, though everyone heard. His halls lay empty. His coven’s denizens hid, terrified creatures cowering from his ire.
The humans shackled to the walls, with siphoning tubes attached to their arteries, did nothing for his appetite. Muffled cries seeping from sewn shut lips should’ve been music to Astor’s ears, but even that sweet sound couldn’t sooth him.
But when he felt a familiar burning sensation along his arm, coming from the sigil engraved there, he calmed some. Had to be Bailien. He rolled up his sleeve and grasped the sigil, closed his eyes and opened the conduit.
Serf has contacted me, Bailien said. He and Lucien are on their way to the morgue. They think the Recreant’s there.
The morgue? Sloth’s domain? Astor said. He rubbed the talisman dangling from his neck. The spell infused glyphs glowed but didn’t ignite. Lucien was supposed to have reported to me. That was the deal, Bailien. Astor rolled the talisman along his clawed fingers. The glyphs glowed brighter.
On the other end of the conduit, Bailien clenched his teeth as he felt the binds along his back burn. Please, Astor, Bailien begged, hating himself for doing so. Lucien’s relentless. He wouldn’t break the hunt if he was close to catching his prey.”
Astor enjoyed hearing the former Winged-One grovel. Enjoyed having power over this arrogant fallen angel. He’d make sure that Bailien never forgot that he was subordinate to a Mortal Born vampire.
After a few more seconds of delivered agony, Astor released the talisman. Well then, what are you waiting for? Go to the morgue. Lucien’s wrath tends to rule him. I want the Recreant alive. He’s taken much from me. I won’t allow him the mercy of death. Not yet at least.”
Yes, master, Bailien said.
Be back before the meeting starts tonight, whether you catch the Recreant or not. If you capture him, the better. I won’t have to tell them anything. But if you don’t, I’ll have to inform them. I can’t keep this information from the others. I’ve risked much already keeping this to myself. Though I’m sure the other coven leaders would’ve done the same.”
Without another word, Astor let go of the sigil and broke the connection. He opened his eyes.
Astor turned. It was William. Astor wasn’t in the mood to hear much of anything else at this point. He’d lost Drake, a promising fledgling. The Recreant responsible was still on the loose. He needed more benevolent souls for the Seven, to feed their creation. He needed more bodies for the never-ending demands of the flesh trade. He had to host the meeting tonight-a meeting he’d loathed arranging-with the six representatives from each coven in District One. Then there was Lucien’s insubordination. He was supposed to be back at nightfall. It compounded an already stressful situation. Astor was so livid that he didn’t realize he’d punctured his lower lip with his fangs until he tasted his own blood.
“You wished to see me, master?” William had enough sense to keep his eyes averted from his master’s, and his head down.
“Tell me you’ve found more good souls for the Seven.”
“Master, you know how difficult it is obtaining virtuous souls,” William stammered.
Not the answer Astor had wanted to hear. Under any other circumstance, his reaction would’ve been different, much more lenient, but these weren’t normal circumstances.
William saw a blur of movement, then Astor’s hand was gripping his neck. Astor lifted William off his feet and slammed him into the wall by the prisoners.
“Please, master! I’ve stocked the walls for tonight’s meeting. My thralls have not reported back to me yet. Benevolent beings are so rare!” William begged.
Astor’s free hand shot into William’s mouth and grasped a fang. “Not a difficult task finding malevolent souls. Stocking the walls with such easy fare doesn’t impress me, William. The Seven have their demands, their quota, and I mean to meet it.”
“Why must Coven Lust’s quota be higher than the others?” William said.
Astor couldn’t decide what angered him more. William’s failure to find him a good soul or his stupidity. He squeezed his minions throat harder, dug his claws into flesh. Blood ran down his fingers. He tightened his hold on William’s fang. “Because our business is flesh, idiot!” Astor yanked, tore William’s fang free and flung it over his shoulder. He let go of William.
William fell to the ground on his knees, holding his mouth, bleeding between his fingers.
Astor glared at him. “Whimper once and I’ll remove the other as well.”
William kept his hand over his mouth.
“Leave me. Find me a replacement.”
As quickly as he could, and without looking at Astor, William bounced to his feet and ran for the exit, hand over mouth, trying not to let a single snivel escape his bleeding maw.