UNEDITED (This is book 7. Grab Books 1-6 on Amazon)
How the hell everyone had survived that, she had no clue. For what seemed like an eternity she just laid there, watching the rain. When it finally started to let up and rays of sunlight hit the airship’s balloon, she sat up and scanned the deck.
The ship was damn full, half of them at work, half just trying to get out of the way.
They saw her sitting up, and started to cheer.
“Enough of that,” she shouted, leaping up and pulling at her clothes, as if she could brush the water away. “You all did it.”
“But we lost the ship,” Reems admitted morosely.
She looked back at the storm in the distance. With her vampire sight, she was just able to see the shape of her ship where it had landed on the side of a hill, not far from the coastline.
For a long moment, nobody spoke. It as likely they were all waiting for someone, likely Valerie, to explode. This shouldn’t have happened. One little storm, and they lost their shit.
Truthfully she wanted to go off on her captains, to start kicking stuff and swearing. That ship had started to grow on her. Instead, she just continued staring for a long moment, letting them all consider what had happened and process it in their own way. Getting angry at someone and trying to point fingers wasn’t going to do any good now.
“Where is that, would you guess?” she asked, immediately followed by sighs or relief when the others realized she wasn’t going to kick their asses.
A man stepped forward, the boy Kristof next to him. They spoke in a foreign language for a moment, then the man said, “Not a clue, but the boy remembers seeing that land on his way over.”
Kristof nodded. “I distinctly remember that hill. I thought I’d never seen a hill so green in all my life.”
“Wait, you speak the same language?” Valerie asked excitedly. “You’re from the same area, then?”
The man nodded. “My family, it turns out, emigrated from near his town. Outcasts; left over some dispute long ago. But I know his country, and spent some time there as a teen.”
“Well, sir,” she beamed at Captain William, “you might just be the hidden puzzle piece we’ve been looking for.”
“And the islands?”
“My best guess? Judging by the size of the island, or what we saw anyway, I’d have to say the Faroe Islands. Not that I’ve ever been, but I’ve seen a map or two in my time.”
“Remind me to go back and get my ship someday,” Valerie commented, though she knew that was unlikely to happen. She really did like the carving, though, and the map, and would hate for those to fall into someone else’s hands.
She turned back to the sailor and asked, “Do you think you could find this city, or at least the general vicinity?”
He nodded. “Not exactly, but the area? I can at least ask around, get us there.”
With a laugh, she turned to the crew. “Does anyone else not realize we are headed to Norway? Now that you know, does anyone have anything they can offer?” The crew laughed, and she held her hands up. “That’s on me. It’s taught me an important lesson about making sure to share my plans with everyone involved.”
“We coulda told you that, boss,” Reems said. “Like, I would’ve loved to have known about the plan to send one of our ships down like that. I would’ve advised you to send this one instead.”
“Hardy-har-har.” Valerie looked at him. “Tell you what, we find another awesome ship, she’s yours.”
Suddenly her eyes went wide and she ran to the rail, staring at her ship as if that alone would bring her back.
“What is it?” Cammie asked, stepping up next to her. “The comm device, it—”
“This one?” River asked, fishing it out of the pack at his side. “Why do you think I was late getting to the ropes?”
A smile spread across Valerie’s face. “You angel! I knew I saved you for a reason.”
He laughed. “You saved my life because you somehow knew I had this on me?”
“I’m an all-powerful, all-knowing vampire, don’t you see that yet?”
“Hmm, must be that my simple human eyes are incapable of seeing such B.S.”
Silence followed that remark, broken by Valerie’s laughter. “Boy, I’m liking you more every day.”
He smiled, then gave her the comm device and gestured to his wet clothes. “I’m going to check with William and see if there’re dry clothes for everyone on board.”
“Some of us’ll have to go without a spare,” one of the sailors interjected. “Tell him I said you can have mine.”
“If he doesn’t have the spares stowed away,” River replied, then walked off to the control room.
“We need to get all of you dry,” Valerie told Cammie, glancing around at the sailors. “I don’t want anyone getting sick on this trip and ruining all the fun sightseeing.”
“Sights?” Cammie laughed. “Ladies and gentlemen, on your left you have the lost airship of Valerie… Wait, how is it I don’t know your last name?”
“Vampires kinda get rid of the whole last name thing. Just something we do.”
“I guess it has to do with separating ourselves from our pasts.” Valerie shrugged, turning to look toward their destination. “In a way, I get it. There’s so much I’d like to forget. The path lies ahead and all that.”
Cammie nodded, arms wrapped around herself for warmth. “Sure, that works. Makes sense, in a delusional sort of way.”
“Not meaning offense, but everything we do, every choice, comes from who we are and what we’ve been through. Hell, some would even argue we aren’t really making the choice, that a combination of our past experiences triggers an automatic response.”
Valerie pursed her lips, then shook her head. “Something’s wrong with you.”
“Oh, something’s been wrong with me for a very long time.” She shrugged. “But I’ll take it, because it makes me who I am, and I happen to love that person.”
“You are kinda great,” Valerie replied with a wink.
“Hey, no winking at me anymore. Don’t think I haven’t heard about you and your carpet-munching ways.”
“What the fuck?”
“Sailors talk.” Cammie laughed. “Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t think I’ve munched on a few carpets in my day? It was practically a carpet buffet back in the Golden City, though the buffet had much more to it than just that. That place was totally fucked up, honestly.”
“I’m not a… I’m not repeating it. But I won’t be reduced to some stupid label like that.”
Cammie eyed her a moment. “You exclusive now?”
“Meaning, if you didn’t have the carpet, only…” She glanced around, her eyes stopping at one of the sailors standing watch, an arc rod hanging from his belt. “I’ll word it this way. Would you rather lie around on a carpet, or be out there wielding an arc rod?”
“That’s the weirdest metaphor I’ve ever heard.” She positioned her hand as if attacking with an arc rod, moving to hit her opponent, and then frowned. “You’ve had your mind in the gutter so long, it’s covered in shit.”
“Fuck you,” Cammie said with a laugh. “Just answer the question.”
“You want to know if I’m dedicated one way or the other now?” Valerie rolled her eyes, turning away from Cammie.
Her feelings for Robin hadn’t had time to subside yet, and it had never really been about the sexual side of their relationship. Sure she’d had those feelings, but that wasn’t the whole of it. Thinking back to Jackson, it was kind of the same way. He had swept her off her feet, made her feel something, and not just with his arc rod.
Finally she sighed and turned back to her friend. “I wouldn’t say I’ve made a choice, in that sense. It’s about who I have feelings for. Maybe in this world, we don’t have to make choices based on some physical aspect of the body?”
“Sure, sure… But which do you like more?”
“Oh, for the love of all that’s holy, can we change the subject?” Valerie scoffed. “I mean, really! This is pretty damn typical Cammie right here, and I thought you’d changed.”
“Me? Change?” Now it was Cammie’s turn to scoff. “No, no, no. And no. I’m still as charged-up as ever. Just, now my energy’s all flowing into one man.”
“More than I need to hear, I’m sure.”
“But I’m happy for you,” Valerie added. “I mean, really. Cammie settling down? That’s something I never thought I’d live long enough to see, and since I’m some crazy powerful vampire now, that’s saying a lot.”
“Thanks,” Cammie replied with a chuckle. “Surprised me as much as anyone, but at least I’m not about to have a baby anytime soon.”
Valerie scratched her chin, considering that.
“What?” Cammie asked.
“It’s just… Have you ever wondered if we’re able? I mean, you’re a Were, and we all know there are no problems there. But vampires?”
“Now we’re getting into uncomfortable discussion topics.” Cammie started to walk away. “Think I’ll check on Royland. See about some combat practice with an arc rod.”
“Wait, seriously?” Valerie blinked, trying to understand her friend. “You can talk all day about what’s going on downstairs, but the minute I bring up children you freak out.”
“Sorry, can’t hear you over the wind!” Cammie smiled, then vanished belowdecks.
Valerie stood there staring after her for a moment, then noticed a sailor walking past.
“She could totally hear you,” the man said.
“Thanks, I figured as much.”
Valerie shook her head, unable to comprehend Cammie sometimes. She found herself talking with the sailor, hearing his story, then starting to tell hers. When she got to the part about her brother leaving her for dead outside Old Paris, she noticed half the sailors on the ship around her now, leaning on the rails or sitting cross-legged, listening like a bunch of school children.
“This isn’t very exciting,” she said, looking around at them. “I feel like the old woman with her stories.”
“No, please tell us!” the sailor said, and the others nodded with wide eyes.
So she gave in, continuing to tell them about her journey west to Old Manhattan and how she had liberated it and stopped her brother from invading.
“It started as revenge, you know?” She looked around at them, quite sure not a one of them would be alive without having felt that at some point in their pirate communities. “I felt betrayed, alone…and, I’ll admit, afraid. But that didn’t last long, because I knew that the people of America needed me. They had a vampire army, led by the second most powerful vampire I knew at the time, heading their way to kill or enslave them. I had to get over there before him, to stop him and see justice done. Little did I know, justice would soon become my driving force in this life.”
“So you intercepted him and put a stop to it?” the sailor asked.
“After a pirate attack on the way over, finding out that people were hunting vampire blood and putting a stop to a large portion of that, and making a few friends along the way, yes. I had a small army by the time my brother arrived, and with their help we took him out the moment he got there.”
There were several mumbles of excitement about this. Valerie lost herself for a moment, thinking back to the moment Michael had arrived, interceding to level the playing field between her and her brother. Without Michael, the fight would have been one-sided, and she was pretty sure she would have died. He liked to keep his secrets, though, so she left that part out.
“One would think a city would implode after witnessing a battle between vampires like you’re talking about,” the sailor said, frowning. “I mean, hell, how’d you keep everyone from losing their minds?”
Valerie thought about that. “Most of the population wasn’t around. It took place at night, and I remember lightning and rain, so they were probably inside. Most of the police and whatnot had suspicions, or there were the Enforcers. Many of them were actually part of the hunt for vampire blood.”
This brought on new questions and Valerie relaxed, diving into the rest of her journey. By the time she told them of her final take-down of the corrupt and evil CEOs, the sun was setting and the sky was covered in streaks of purple and orange clouds. She left out key moments, such as meeting Robin and what followed with her. This crowd didn’t need all the details, and the topic was certainly still too raw for Valerie to feel comfortable even hinting at.
She had excused herself and gone to the side of the ship to watch the sunset, leaving the others to discuss everything she had just told them. Some were skeptical about all of that being possible in such a short amount of time, but many of them were in awe.
A laugh snuck its way up and escaped. When had she gone from ultimate vampire warrior lady to storyteller extraordinaire? As long as it served to motivate them, she supposed it all worked out in the end.
“Land ho!” William shouted, stepping out of the control room and glaring at all of them for just sitting around. “You all want to get to work, or will we have naptime after story time?”
The sailors laughed at that and thanked Valerie for the tale before getting back to business.
“Story?” she asked no one in particular.
“Well, none of that really happened, right?” River asked. She hadn’t noticed that he was still there, leaning against a barrel of food stores. “I mean, it’s all pretty ridiculous.”
“Is it?” She smiled, nodding to herself. “I guess you’ll just have to wonder then.”
He frowned, then nodded. “Okay, I’m done wondering. You were pretty badass on the island, but everything you just told us? No way. Not believing it.”
“Hey, it happened. I did everything I just said.”
“Keep telling yourself that.” He winked and ran off, jumping out of her reach as she playfully tried to swat him.
“Get back to work!”
Stupid kid, she thought in amusement, and then turned to look out over the rail. They were sailing in smoothly, the land growing larger as they approached. Judging by the direction they had been traveling and assuming their guesses were right about what was where, this had to be it.
They had found Norway.
FROM JUSTIN >>> Oh, man! I really just want to throw you into the middle of the book, but I know that would be insane and give you way too many spoilers. So for now, this early intro stuff 🙂 This week in writing world I have reached the mid-point in my latest novel, but it’s almost at the same word count as a finished regular novel of mine. So… that’s good, right? Lots of words = more fun reading without knowing it’s going to be over as soon as you started.
Of course, some people just skim it anyway, right? No skimming allowed!
Also, I had sushi with Chris Fox yesterday. He’s a cool dude, and has some really cool scifi fantasy stuff coming out soon. So today, instead of my normal sharing of one book, I’m going to point you all to his page for this new Magitech Chronicles, and share some other sweet scifi fantasy books I recommend.
FIND THE POST HERE, along with links to my interviews with the authors on my Creative Writing Career podcast.