Keystone – 11/21

This entry is part 11 of 21 in the series Keystone
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Author: Winsomeone
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 46,252  Complete-21 chapters and epilogue
Warning: explicit exsanguination scene
Beta: EnigmaticBlues

Summary: Sent to retrieve artifacts from another dimension the Slayer and her team become deeply embroiled in a twisted plot that places them in dangerous opposition to the Watcher’s Council.

A/N: AU Adventure. Set within the Grundyverse this story stands alone, a separate endeavor for this community, and although there is humor and romance, the plot is darker than what I usually write to suit our community theme of obstacles. Our poor beloved characters- they’ve certainly got ‘em in spades.

Disclosure: These characters belong to Joss, ME, Fox and anyone affiliated with same. Only Empress and the plot are mine.

Chapter 11

Grange stepped around the remains of his dinner discarded haphazardly on the floor. The elderly man had left a bitter aftertaste in his mouth.  It was enough to make a vamp gag. He preferred young women; their estrogen-laden blood had a sweet taste that reminded him of fine wine. And of course there was also the added bonus of what he could do with them before he drained them.

Unfortunately for this meal he hadn’t had a choice. The thought of being held captive enraged him all over again and he gave the body a hard kick.

He felt a little better now, although the way he’d been grabbed outside the cave last night still rankled. He’d finally killed Anderson– it had been touch and go there for awhile, he’d put up a fight– and was leaving to hunt the witch when three vampires had shown up and called him over. He’d sort of recognized one of them from the night he’d been turned, although the other two were complete strangers. Then he’d made a big mistake and walked over to see what they wanted.

The two strangers grabbed and held his arms while the other vampire– his Sire it turned out–gave him an ultimatum. Either Grange went with them willingly to work off some half-ass indentured servitude that he supposedly owed for the Siring, or they dusted him right then and there.

They were extremely angry that he hadn’t remained in the cave where they’d left him. When he’d tried to explain that he didn’t know becoming a vampire came with specific rules, they’d beat him nearly senseless. How the hell was he supposed to know any of that crap? This damn dimension was becoming worse every single moment.

When they finally stopped, he’d elected to go along with them– what choice did he  have? Besides, they were taking him to where the icons were kept, so this wasn’t such a bad thing. It would be a lot easier to steal them with inside access.

After bringing him back to the huge stone building where he’s originally stolen the icons, they’d locked him inside a small room and left him there. Several hours later someone shoved the old man in and relocked it.  Now he’d been fed–albeit with the pot bellied geezer–and left to stew some more. This was ridiculous. He was still hungry and without enough blood to heal properly, his bruises from the beating still ached. He kicked the body in the ribs again.

He was about to try pounding on the door when there were footsteps outside in the hall. Someone inserted a key in the lock and turned the knob. The door swung open and Grange was facing his Sire again. Waiting warily, he realized he still didn’t even know the vampire’s name.

“Follow me.”

Grange stepped over the body. “Where are we going?”

“We have an audience with Calder.”

That certainly didn’t tell him anything. Who the hell was Calder? He knew he’d better show them that they still hadn’t broken his spirit, so he stopped walking. “Who is Calder?”

“Calder is our leader. He must not be kept waiting.”

“Fine. Lead on McDuff.”

His Sire looked confused, but turned down the hall.

Grange snickered to himself. He’d be running this place inside of a month if he wanted to stick around. But he missed civilization too much. They could take their desert and shove it. He wanted those icons.

Calder, so far the only vampire who had demonstrated an ability to change his face, turned out to have a massive frickin’ God complex. Or maybe it was a King complex. Grange couldn’t decide. Then it struck him. Rock star. With his long dark hair, angelic face and smoldering eyes, the leader held an uncanny resemblance to one of the dark stars of the music world– Jim Morrison, long dead leader of the Doors.

Guards stood before the doors while his entourage was arrayed though out the ornately decorated room. Calder himself leaned negligently in a tall-backed wooden chair resembling an old fashioned throne, while his booted feet rested on the end of a long wooden trestle table. One arm was propped and his chin rested on his hand.

The leader of every vampire in the dimension appeared bored out of his mind.

Grange followed his Sire through the room until they stood close to the end of the table. Calder negligently lifted a hand. “I understand you have sought an audience, Rayce.”

Grange watched his Sire bow before replying. “Yes. I have brought my lowest minion Grange for your blessing, so that I may begin his training.”

Calder motioned for Grange’s Sire to step away.

Rayce bowed again, moving to the edge of the room and leaving Grange to face the leader alone. Meeting Calder’s eyes he realized he’d been completely fooled by the leader’s lazy demeanor.

The black eyes assessing him sparkled with cunning and intelligence. The bored attitude was merely a façade, an affectation to lure his cadre and his subjects into ease. His true nature was radically different.

The Lizard King.

“What village are you from, minion?” His voice was deep, the inflection unusual.

“I’m not from a village here.” Grange shifted. He wasn’t sure exactly how he was going to explain this.

Rayce moved forward slightly. “He is one of the men that attempted to steal the portal keys the first time.”

“I see.”  Calder lifted an eyebrow and stared at Rayce. “What would make you believe a thief would be a good addition to my Cadre?”

“He exhibited thought and bravery in the execution of his plan.”

Calder snorted. “The timing was poor and he himself caught and the keys returned. I see nothing well thought out, nor did walking through the front door prove anything except the stupidity and laziness of my own guards. His plan failed, unlike the Warriors’ plan earlier today. Coming in through an unused tunnel system showed true cunning and resourcefulness and we have yet to recover the keys. I see no reason to offer a blessing to this minion. He is unnecessary. You must choose another.”

Grange’s thoughts tumbled over each other. Someone stole the icons earlier today? It must have been the Slayer. Hearing himself referred to as an unnecessary thief, he realized this wasn’t going to be some rubber stamp-type ceremony. His very existence was in jeopardy. He’d better become an asset in a real hurry.

“I know who has stolen your portal keys and I can help you retrieve them.”

Calder’s cold eyes turned to Grange again.

Forcing himself  to remain still, he returned the stare nonplussed.

“I have changed my mind, Rayce. Leave us.”

Grange watched his Sire open his mouth to speak. Obviously thinking better of the idea, he clamped it shut, bowed and left the room.

Calder waited until the door closed before speaking. “How is it you know about this morning’s theft, minion? Were you in league with the warriors? A sneak thief with friends who have succeeded where you failed.”

Grange stood as tall and straight as possible. It wouldn’t do for Calder to believe he was nervous. He’d learned years ago as a fresh faced cadet that you never let the enemy think you’re afraid. Never let them see you sweat.  “It’s true that I was once with them, but now I’m a vampire and I belong with others like myself. I still understand how they think and act and I can be a valuable asset in your search.”

“It appears you’ve evaded death today minion. I have a troop returning to the garrison within the next hour. They were supposed to retrieve my keys but were unsuccessful. You may assist the troop leader in regaining them when the sun drops.” He held up his hand to stave off Grange’s reply. “I do not tolerate mistakes. If you are unsuccessful, you will die. Now leave me.”

Next chapter here

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