“Hey, Daren. Can you stay a little later tonight? I need some help restocking the shelves.” Cal pulled a cart of boxes from the storage room. “Just got that new RPG lineup in. I’ll start rearranging now if you’re cool manning the register by yourself.”
“Yeah, no problem. I’m feeling a lot better now. Mom won’t let me leave home without that drink powder.”
Cal started restacking some board games. “When’s that storm gonna pass, you think? I’m getting a buzz in the back of my head.”
A customer entered the store and walked up to the counter. “So, I was wondering if you guys have an RPG night. You know where people show up to join or run campaigns or one-shot games?”
“We tried a few times but there wasn’t much interest, so we stopped advertising it.” Daren looked over at Cal. “Hey, Cal. He wants to know if we have an RPG night.”
Setting down the games he was rearranging Cal made his way to the counter. “Game master or player?”
Cal had decided to completely rearrange the store, not just the stock. “You can stay really late, right? It’s Friday.” He started lifting one end of a shelf.
“Yeah, I have no plans.” Daren grabbed the other end of the shelf and followed Cal’s lead to the corner of the store. “I was wondering what you know about werewolves, though.”
“Always carry silverware. Not the cheap stuff, the actual silver stuff.” Cal chuckled. “Joking aside, that depends on what kind of werewolf. I’ve never met a real one, so I don’t know anything first hand.”
Daren nodded as they set the shelf down. “Yeah. My grimoire’s fairly non-specific on what myths and legends are true, and what ones aren’t.”
“One thing I know is that wolf’s bane should repel them and that they transform under a full moon. Other than that, some legends have proto-werewolves that wear wolf’s skin to control their transformation. Either those werewolves are actually shape shifters or they used the skin to temporarily cut themselves from the moon cycle.” Cal moved over to the next shelf. “Let’s put that one on the other side.” He grabbed one end while Daren grabbed the other.
“Why the sudden interest in werewolves? I can feel a faint presence on you. The taste of werewolf is faint, but it’s there…along with something else stronger.” Cal almost dropped the shelf and carefully set it down. His eyes were wide. “Who have you been talking to?”
Daren set the shelf down. “Just some new kids at school. Why?”
“I feel the trace of vampires on you. Two different kinds though I can’t quite tell which. One’s a blood vampire, but the other…”
“Wait, other kinds of vampires? I’ve only heard of the one kind. What’re the others? Hold on a sec.” Daren jogged to the employee’s room and grabbed his grimoire and a pen then jogged back out.
Cal had started moving some of the smaller items in the shop. “Oh, gonna take some notes?”
“There’s nothing in here about other types of vampires. If there are others I should write it down.”
“Okay. According to various myths there’s some vampire-like creatures that feed off things other than blood. They have all the other characteristics that are commonly attributed to vampires. Undead as in reanimated, fast, able to persuade others easily. All the minor powers and the ability to live forever if they are undisturbed. Also, vampires aren’t affected by garlic. They are affected by aloe, though.”
“What other things can they feed on?”
“Let’s see, life-force is one. It’s different from blood sucking because those fed upon by blood suckers aren’t necessarily made weaker by it.” Cal sat down in one of the chairs. “Another is a psychic vampire. They can feed off the thoughts or the emotions of others. If they are around a lot of people they can go unnoticed for extended periods of time, but if they feed off only a few then those people become emotionless husks.”
Daren was furiously writing in his grimoire. “Emotionless husks. Do they feed actively like blood drinking vampires?”
“The life-force ones do, but the psychic vampires feed automatically. Also, unlike the other two they don’t become physically sluggish if they overeat, they become mentally sluggish. Though I’ve never heard of a psychic vampire overeating on purpose I suppose they could.”
“How do they accidentally overeat? That doesn’t make sense.”
“If they are around trauma they can absorb too much of the emotion. I’ve seen it-“ Cal caught himself. “I can’t talk about that, though. Anything else before we move more shelves?”
Daren set his grimoire down on the counter. “No, not if you won’t talk about the things you’ve seen. Let’s move some more shelves.”
“The new kids are what?!” Neta Medakus was brewing in the basement when Daren told her what Cal said. “Are you still planning on talking with them on Sunday?”
Daren nodded. “If they were going to do something they could do it at any moment. You know that.”
“I’m coming with. I’ll get the spray bottles.”
Neta pulled two spray bottles from a shelf. One was labeled wolf’s bane and the other was labeled aloe. “These spray bottles.” She motioned at the small, three-inch-tall bottles with press sprayers on them.
Daren stared at them for a moment. “That’s what those are for?”
“Yes, protection. I expect that if they were too deviant that the council would do something about it, but just in case I’ll put spray bottles around the house.”
“Hey, you haven’t heard from dad lately, have you? I have questions that I want to ask him.”
Neta smiled sadly. “I haven’t. I’ll ask Octavianus if he can get ahold of him for you though. We talked today.”
“Octavianus? Why were you talking with him?”
“He’s trying to get me on the council. I’m not even a warlocke, I’m just an herbalist. I don’t know his full reasons, never could read that vampire.” Neta sighed. “It would make it easier to get in contact with Darek though.”
“It’d be his seat, right? Kind of a temporary member?”
“Maybe. Octavianus wants to keep me on when your father gets back, but I don’t know about that. For now, let’s focus on what to do for Sunday.”
Cal was playing with his rottweiler, Shanta, on Sunday when he felt three presences getting closer. Shaking his head, he looked at Shanta. “Well, girl. If we’re done playing round up with the cows we should go check on Daren. It seems his friends from down the lane are visiting.”
Shanta barked happily.
“Yes, you’ll get to see Daren. Let’s go.” Cal connected Shasta’s leash and started walking down the driveway. “Don’t let me forget to grain the cows on the way back.”
Shanta started walking down the driveway and onto the road. She was walking so fast Cal had to jog to keep himself from being pulled over.
“Whoa, girl. We don’t need to go this fast. Calm down.”
Neta and Daren were waiting in a clearing in the small forested area behind the house. Sara, Jayse, and John walked into the clearing and were surprised to see Neta there too.
“Who’s that?” John asked as he walked closer. “I didn’t think you were inviting anyone.”
“I’m his mother, Neta.”
“Ah, are you a warlocke then?” Jayse asked, walking forward with Sara.
“Just an herbalist, I’m afraid. Though that means I know how to deal with your kind.” Neta pulled out the spray bottles. “I came armed in case anything funky happens.”
As she said this Shanta came running up the path and tackled Daren. She was yipping playfully.
“Sorry, I couldn’t keep up, so I let her off the leash.” Cal was able to get out between pants. “I’ll just sit down over here and catch my breath.” He dropped down onto the grass in lotus position.
“Shanta, get off me! I’ll get you a treat, just let me stand up.”
Barking happily Shanta licked Daren’s face and removed her paws from his chest. Then she sat on her haunches, waiting for the dog treat.
“Here,” Daren pulled a bit of jerky out of his pocket and gave it to Shanta, “and next time don’t tackle me.”
Shanta took the stiff jerky and started chewing on it, content for the moment.
“So, who’s that?” John motioned at Cal.
“I’m Cal Stver, Daren’s boss. I came over for a surprise visit. Shanta loves Daren for some reason.” Cal stood up. “I just think he’s a lazy employee, even if he works late on Fridays.” He noticed Daren was carrying his grimoire. “If I’m interrupting something important then I can come back later. Shanta won’t leave for at least an hour now, though.”
Jayse perked up. “Stver? I know that from somewhere…where do I know that name from?”
“It’s an old Armenian family. If he’s from the American branch, there’s no problems.” Sara patted Jayse on the shoulder. “Nothing’s wrong here.”
“No, it’s something else. One of the boxes…Stver, you’re coming with me. We’ll be right back.”
Before Neta could even think about using the spray bottle Jayse and Cal disappeared. Shanta whined softly.
“He’ll be right back, girl. Don’t worry.” Daren looked at Sara. “He will be right back, right?”
Sara sighed. “I think so. I have no idea what he was talking about.”
“Some of the boxes came last night,” John said. “The ones from Hilsonville. I’m not sure which ones though.”
“As long as he doesn’t forget to tell Erik he’s bringing someone in the house. Erik hates it when Jayse does stuff like this without telling him.”
“Erik?” Daren asked, “I thought you three lived alone.”
“We have to have a fake guardian. Jayse is pretending to be a Junior. I don’t know why.” John sighed. “Well, back to the conversation at hand. I want to break from the moon cycle. What do I need to do to gain that sort of trust from you?”
“Daren,” Neta stared into John’s eyes, “can you do that? You’ve never done anything that complicated.”
John didn’t break eye contact with Neta. “A Medakus warlocke can do it. I know your line, and I know the original name of your line. If there’s a spell that can be cast, a Medakus can cast it.”
“You say you go by Ainsley. Will the council know of you by that name?” “No, but if you ask Andali Windspeaker if he vouches for John, son of Thomas I assure you he will.”