Arcadia, place of magic, island of wonder. Location of adventure, of danger, of refuge. A place that can change a person forever. A world somewhere within the vast expanse of the universe tied closely to the Earth we all know and love, even if most earthlings are not aware. These close ties are through the many colonists from Earth that have settled on the island. The human colonists have amassed in the Plains. Gathered from all over Australia and New Zealand these people make a new life for themselves in an economy based almost entirely on sheep. Sheep to feed and clothe the island's population. Hundreds, thousands, countless flocks littering the grassy hills.
Most of these humans live in the capital and only city of the Plains: Ward. Ward, where everybody knows your name, provided it's mate, or bloke, or Sheila. Like a true frontier city it is policed by the local army division, soldiers in hi-tech armour under the command of captain DeLancy.
The colonists all can visit Earth through portals opened by pendants that have been issued to every one of them. Doorways between Earth and Arcadia, letting through those with no evil intent, ejecting all others.
Barring the occasional magical catastrophe or attacks by sixth century gargoyles the main tasks of the Ward Division of the Arcadian Army consist of saving cats from trees and opening doors for people who have locked themselves out. Not always though... Not in this story.
This is a story. It takes place on Arcadia, in the Plains, in Ward. It is a story about one soldier, Arcadian Army, Ward division.
His name is Perry.
"So what is it that couldn't possibly wait?" The count looks impatiently at the captain before him. Looks UP impatiently, one might add, as the captain is the very definition of the term 'mountain of a man'. "I've got an appointment on Earth in 15 minutes."
"Sir?" the captain asks baffled. "It is currently 0603 hours in the morning."
The count's tendency to sleep in is almost legendary throughout the island. Generally appointments are only made after noon and before 9 PM.
"Time differences," the count yawns. "Can't escape those. So what is it?" The captain cleared his throat and, if the count didn't know any better, almost looked sheepish.
"18 hours ago soldiers Ellis and Jones completed a routine inventorisation of objects confiscated under Plains law. It has come to light that three objects are no longer present in our custody," he reports, somewhat less loud than usual.
"Oh?" the count responds.
"No traces of burglary or entry have been detected. It is my intention to personally investigate this matter myself as to-"
"DeLancy, what objects?" the count asks impatiently. The captain sniffs up a deep breath through his nose.
"Objects 16-1 to 16-3, sir," he reports. The count looks quietly at the captain. Then he blinks and sinks into his chair.
"Oh terrific," he groans.
"I shall expand every effort to-"
"Yeah yeah, I'm sure you will," the count sighs. "Look, I have to go. Inform Arcadia City of this, okay?" He gets up again and pulls his pendant out from under his shirt. As he holds it out in front of him a green portal opens up before him with a bright green flash. "And find them," he manages to both order and plead.
"YES SIR!" DeLancy bellows, saluting vigorously as the count disappears into the portal. As it closes up the captain lets out a deep breath, shrinking visibly. A few seconds later he swiftly swings around an exact 180 degrees and marches out the room.
On Earth, there is an island too. A large island, much larger than the Arcadian one. And on it is a city. A large city, much larger than Ward. London, it is called, a city of which much can be said, most of which is not of any importance. The most interesting thing is that currently one of Ward's inhabitants is walking, no, sneaking and slithering through its streets. Avoiding the light of the street lights by sheer instinct he slips into an alley and searches the shadows. As he narrows his eyes he detects movement there. It is the barely visible silhouette of a man and a woman, the woman holding the man in a tight embrace, her mouth gently resting against the man's neck. Galen, the Arcadian looking on, nervously runs his hand through his straw-like hair. He wonders if it would be considered rude to just stand there and peek. As discretely as he can he clears his throat.
"Mm?" The woman opens her eyes and stares straight at him, her lips still in the man's neck. The man himself seems remarkably undisturbed by Galen's presence. In fact, as the woman breaks the embrace he simply slumps down to the cold alley floor in a way that suggests he will not be getting up any time soon.
"Oh!" the woman exclaims. "Well, what kept you!?" She steps out of the shadows wiping her mouth. Raven black hair flows down her shoulders, deep green eyes look straight at Galen amidst a beautiful face. Not the type of stunning beauty that is destined to wither away, no, this beauty has something eternal, something inhuman almost. Her clothes are an ensemble of the brightest autumn colours, designed over many years to do to men what flowers do to bees, gracefully adorning her like she were a goddess gracing the mortal plane.
"I... Er..." Galen stammers, slightly taken aback and not sure whether to gaze at her or the motionless man on the floor, "London's a big place," he explains.
"I know," the woman pouts. "But I got bored." Suddenly her face lights up like a lantern. "Did you bring it?" she asks anxiously. Galen reaches down his pocket and produces a small, star shaped pendant. It is shaped like a star, gold and green as its primary colours.
"The Star of Arcadia..." she says softly, admiring it. Galen raises an eyebrow on his pliable face.
"Yes," he says. "How did you know?"
"Oh, you hear a few things in 300 years," she remarks casually as she gently picks it up by the chain. She holds it out in front of her and watches it dangle from left to right as she slowly cocks her head.
"So... How does it work?" she asks. "I mean, do I say something like 'abracadabra'?" She notices nothing is happening. "Hokus pokus?" She tries.
"Not really," Galen replies. "As far as I know, just hold it out in front of you and want the thing to work.
"Oh, like this..." the woman remarks as she holds out the pendant. Instantly there is a bright white flash.
"EEP!" she exclaims startledly and jumps back. She gazes into a portal before her, made up of green and white swirls flowing into and out of each other, merging, breaking up, slow and patient like flows of magma.
"You know, this reminds me of those lava lamps," she remark amusedly after a second of silence. "The sixties were fun, you know. Lots of hippies."
"I wouldn't know," Galen mutters, "I was in diapers back then." He steps towards her and holds out his arm. "Shall we, my dear?" he grins. The woman smiles sweetly at him as she steps right past him and into the portal, taking absolutely no note of the arm. Galen shrugs.
"After you," he says to no one in particular as he follows her in.
Soldier Perry shoots up from behind the desk as DeLancy bursts into the little office. This is the office of the captain himself, at night occupied by whoever leads the night shift. Nowadays, this is usually Perry, more or less DeLancy's protégé. The captain closes the door behind him without a word and turns back to look Perry over.
"Hm," he remarks approvingly at the soldier's rigid stance, his own hands behind his back. "At ease, Perry," he generously offers. Perry relaxes his stance to something slightly less rigid and something more accommodating to such things as breathing.
"No," DeLancy says, after looking him over yet again, "at ease, soldier." He nods at the desk chair behind Perry.
"Sir?" Perry asks confusedly. If the captain really intends for him to sit down this must be a truly special occasion indeed. He mentally runs down a list of family members and friends who might have died or come to some other form of harm.
"Sit down," DeLancy indeed orders casually. Perry slowly lowers himself into the chair and looks up at the large captain.
"Perry," DeLancy starts, "I assume you are wondering why you are here."
"I work here, sir," Perry replies dutifully.
"Ah, yes," the captain responds, undeterred. "Now, Perry, the following information I am to depart on you is not to leave this room."
"Perry," DeLancy starts, "Currently an event has taken place at some unknown point in time which has endangered the security of the island itself."
"Permission to speak freely, sir."
Perry pauses to prepare his statement. "Oh?" he then asks. DeLancy gives him a firm nod.
"This situation requires that a full investigation into the matter conducted by the person most suitable for the job at hand," he continues. "Due to the delicate nature of the matter I have given it careful thought..."
Perry stands up and straightens himself as well as he can. "I see, sir," he says modestly. "What... Will my role be in this?"
"You will locate and if possible return the missing sheep," DeLancy announces proudly. Perry blinks a few times at this rather surrealistic shift in topic.
"As you are aware, sheep from flocks throughout the Plains are currently vanishing with no discernible trace. As I shall be unable to investigate this matter further for the duration of the aforementioned investigation which I shall conduct personally, this responsibility falls to you."
"Yes sir..." Perry replies, still at full attention but with considerably less enthusiasm.
"Congratulations soldier," DeLancy says happily. "Your first investigation will commence tomorrow evening."
"So this is Arcadia?" the woman notes. She sits crouched on the edge of a rooftop, overlooking Ward. She points at the great castle around which the city has been built. "Who lives there?"
"This is Ward," Galen behind her explains, "the human part of Arcadia, so to speak. Count Arno lives in the castle."
"Mmm... A count," she muses. "I'd like to meet him some time." She looks back at the thief. "It's been a long time since I've been near nobility."
"I'm not sure if that's a good idea," Galen says diplomatically. It occurs to him that he is a bit nervous. Generally he is used to dealing with LESSER evils.
"Oh come on, it'd be fun!" the woman exclaims with a smile. "Did you know they don't really have blue blood?"
"They're exactly like other people, really," she continues, "they just like they are. Shame really." Suddenly she giggles fondly at an old memory. "I have some funny stories about them. Want to hear?"
"Nnno thank you," Galen replies uncomfortably. "It's nearly dawn here, you see," he quickly adds. "The time difference, you know."
"Oh... Right..." The woman sighs disappointedly as he body seems to slump down. "You know, I never really get to talk to anybody anymore..." She looks up at him and smiles. "At least tell me where you got this." She holds the pendant up at him.
"Not much to tell, really," Galen says with a shrug. "We all have one of those. Only normally you can't just open up a portal into someone's living room with it, or enter with evil intent. I used mine to get away from some..." He hesitates for a moment trying to find the right word. "... Undesired attention, and I figured I could never get back. Found out I could, figured if the thing was broken there might be more, went looking for them, found them, yadda yadda... And here we are."
"Ah..." the woman replies. "Galen?" she then asks.
"Don't ever become a storyteller."
"Don't intend to," Galen grumbles. "Now, to become a citizen, you-"
"Citizen?" she asks and blinks confusedly at him.
"That's what we discussed, no? Live here, feed on Earth... Best of both worlds..."
"Ooooh!" the woman replies, nodding. "Oh, no, I could never leave the cats and my little church." She smiles. "It's run down, but it's home."
"But... Why then..."
"No," she continues as she gets up on her feet and surveys her surroundings. "I think I'll live on Earth and feed here or something. It should be easy enough with these portals."
Behind her Galen responds with utter stunned silence.
"Thank you so much!" she exclaims happily as she turns around to look at him. She cocks her had as Galen's mouth moves up and down without making a noise. "What?"
"There's... Still the matter of payment," Galen decides, his greedy mind still running on automatic pilot. Her smile lessens as she blinks oddly at him.
"You know... Money?"
"Oh, I don't have any money," she says matter-of-factly. "But..." She steps towards him with a broadening, mysterious smile and gently wraps her arms around the nervous criminal, looking him in the eyes. "If you wish I could thank you in other ways." Galen nearly chokes on his breath for at least two separate reasons.
"I... Still would prefer payment," he manages to squeeze out. Two deep green eyes give him a hurt look.
"You know," the woman says, laying her cheek on his shoulder, her face turned towards his neck, "I really should be upset... You interrupted my meal."
For a few seconds Galen is frozen to a point a statue would be jealous of. Finally only his mouth moves as he speaks.
"It's a gift," he says flatly, with a flair for self-preservation. "Take it." Suddenly she clutches him tightly and gives him a big kiss, right on the jugular.
"You're a sweetie!" she tells him happily when she's done. Galen does nothing but look at her with the most stupid expression his face can display.
"Maybe we'll run into each other again some day?" she continues as she lets go of him and back to the edge of the roof. Galen nods very slowly in reply. After a last encouraging smile she turns around and leaps to the rooftops at the opposite side of the street. As Galen watches her disappear into the distance he finds himself doing something he doesn't do very often.
He wonders if he did the right thing.
It is cold. The type of cold that cuts through the bone, where every breath itself hurts. An hour before sunrise, nearly the coldest time of night, before the sun's rays warm up the cold island once again. Perry briskly steps through the streets, a diamond shaped piece of metal under his arm. This is his soldier's armour, compressed to portable shape. Technology is somewhat unusual on this world.
Missing sheep, he muses in his mind. It's hardly as important as whatever it is the captain will be doing, but with an economy based on the many flocks roaming the Plains, it IS something that needs to be dealt with. All the usual explanations have been ruled out; no dragons overstepping their boundaries, no faeries making use of their unusual sense of humour... The more he thinks about it, the more this appears to be a true mystery. Lost in deep thought he stares at the little puffs of vapour that emerge from his mouth at every breath. It really should be snowing with temperatures like these, he feels.
"Hi..." The gentle female voice tears him from his already derailing train of thought. He looks up and to the side, where a young woman with raven black hair leans against the wall in an alley.
"Cold weather we're having, isn't it?" she asks. Perry nods in agreement.
"Yeah," he adds to that as he continues on his way. The woman catches up with him and walks alongside him.
"I feel like I'll freeze to death like this," she tells him. Perry looks her over.
"Maybe you should dress warmer," he suggests friendly. She chuckles amusedly.
"I like you," she says. "What's your name?"
"Perry," Perry simply replies. "George Perry, but no one really calls me George, really."
"I'm Venn," the woman says.
"Is that Italian?" Perry realises he's probably way off. For one thing, her complexion is too pale. Venn coyly cocks her head at him and smiles.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" she teases.
"You shouldn't be out at this time of night with this kind of weather," Perry advises her. Venn's smile turns into a smirk.
"You mean there are dangerous people around?" she asks.
"Perhaps you know a place that's warm and safe for me then?" she suggests, gently rubbing her shoulder against his.
"Yeah," the soldier replies as he looks at her. "Home." The smirk vanishes from Venn's face.
"But it's lonely at home," she tries.
"Lonely out here too..."
Venn stares at the human. Just how oblivious can one be, she wonders. She steps out in front of him and walks back as she runs a long fingernail along his chest.
"Walk me home?" she asks sweetly. Perry stops in his tracks and looks at the woman before him.
"I think you'll know the way better than me," he says with a friendly smile. to his surprise the woman's face twists in anger.
"Jeez!" she exclaims. "What!? you WANT me to do it the hard way!?" He looks baffledly at her. It slowly begins to occur to him that there's not a puff of vapour coming from her mouth.
"Are you feeling alright?" he asks with concern. Venn grits her teeth and clenches her fists.
"Stop being prince... Decent and come WITH me already!" she yells at him.
"Well, ma'am, it's a flattering offer, but-" With a catlike hiss the woman throws her jaws apart revealing two pairs of long, sharp fangs as she leaps at him with blinding speed. Swiftly Perry side-steps her, there's the ring of metal behind his back and as he turns around he sees Venn slide down a lamppost to be sprawled out over the sidewalk.
"Hey!" she exclaims, half baffled, half filled with indignation. Quickly Perry slaps the diamond shaped piece of metal on his back.
"Ma'am, you're in violation of regulation 1 of the vampire act..." With a series of clangs and clicks the metal expands into full armour around him. "I am hereby placing you under arrest." He aims the palm of his right hand at her. Venn looks back at him with a look of total incredulousness.
"What!?" she asks.
"You're under arrest."
"No, the part before that." She rolls on her back and looks up at him again from the sidewalk.
"Regulation 1 of the vampire act?"
"Yes," she says as she pulls herself up on her feet by the lamppost. "What's that?"
"You're being arrested for attempted feeding without consent," Perry patiently explains.
"Consent?" He receives an odd look from the vampire. She receives a firm not back. For a few moments she stares silently at him.
"Well, may I feed on you?"
Venn rolls her eyes agitatedly then leaps up to land on top of the lamppost. "Well, what's the point then!?" She exclaims exasperated as she glares down at him. She follows this up with a furious hiss in his direction as she prepares to dive at him. A green bolt of plasma from Perry's right glove impacts into the lamp, sending green sparks flying in a small explosion.
"EEK!" the vampire shrieks. With a swift leap onto a rooftop she disappears from sight.
With a deep sigh Perry activates the communicator in his left glove.
"Perry here," he says tiredly. "Be advised of rogue vampire activity in sector seven." Before he can get a reply he shuts his communicator and continues on his way home. From a rooftop Venn's deep green eyes watch intently as he walks home through the streets of Ward.
"Jerk," she mutters.
"You are... Mister Hatchet?" Perry puts his notes in his left hand and holds out his right in greeting at the small but sturdy man before him, trying to speak over the noise of the sheep pen. The little man looks up at the soldier, takes his time to thoroughly clear his throat then spits to the side, taking care to not hit an sheep.
"Aye?" he replies, eyeing the hand.
"Soldier Perry, sir," Perry continues. "I'm here about the sheep."
"Aoh, yea'" mr. Hatchet says, grabbing the hand and squeezing it firmly, only after wiping his own on the leg of his trouser. "So when'll yer cap'tn be 'ere, lad?" he asks friendly.
""I'm afraid the captain's indisposed, sir," Perry responds, soothing his throbbing hand under his arm. "The investigation has been transferred to me." Mr. Hatchet suddenly looks a lot more grim. In Perry's imagination so do the sheep.
"Well," Mr. Hatchet says reassuringly to the both of them, "Ah'm suore ye've got yer experience too, eh?" He looks silently at the soldier as he tries to formulate an answer to that.
"Eh?" the sheep farmer asks again, a bit more doubtful this time.
"You know what they say," Perry tries with a friendly grin, "first time for everything..."
"Bloody 'ell," the farmer groans.
Meanwhile a bright white flash occurs in Perry's living room, followed by a portal opening. It is a green and white portal, the green shreds flowing through the white and the white shreds mixing with the green in a mesmerising spectacle. With a self-satisfied smile Venn slowly steps through into the room and looks around. Behind her the portal closes, leaving the room in silent darkness as she slowly takes in her surroundings. It is fairly plain and functional: e dinner table, a few chairs, a couch, a TV... It occurs to her that this place could use a female touch as her gaze slides across the pictures of mom and dad, the empty walls, the single plant on the window sill...
"Hello?" she asks uncertainly at the world around her.
"Tha's the second time't happen'd 't me now. First time sev'n, this time FIFTEEN!" Mr. Hatches paces back and forth agitatedly.
"This seems to be a trend," Perry notes, fervently jotting down notes in a notepad. "the amount of sheep vanishing continues to rise."
"Aye!" the farmer agrees. "'n first time, they were jus' s'me random sheep. Th's time they took fifteen'f mah best! Breedin' material they were!"
Perry swiftly writes this down and thoughtfully taps his chin with the rubber of his pencil.
"Higher quantity and quality," he muses. "That indicates an intelligent force behind this."
"Well d'ah," the farmer responds, trying out one of those newfashioned colloquialisms. "'f ya ask me it's tha' bloody wolf 'it is!" he exclaims. "Not tha' ye're askin' me, 'f course."
"Wolf?" Perry asks curiously. "what wolf?"
"Antro wolf," the farmer enlightens him.
"There's th's antro wolf, see? 'T’s living’s right 'mooing th'sheep 't is!" Perry flips a page on his notebook and quickly writes this all down.
"'n a log cabin!" the farmer adds with an angry nod.
"Oh, the anthro-wolf," Perry says. "I met her once... Well, I didn't actually speak to her, the captain did. You suspect she's involved in sheep theft?" Perry enquires. Mr. Hatchet shrugs.
"'t is a wolf. Gaht nothin' against wolves, mind... But she's got no business 'ere."
Perry flips back a few pages. "Eye witness accounts describe a flash..."
"So she used a flashlight, I d'know..."
"Right," Perry remarks thoughtfully, taking down more notes. "Well, we'll keep you informed on any developments in this matter. Thank you for your time." He closes the notepad and puts it under his arm.
"Aye," the farmer sighs. "Ah'll be aitin' w'th baited breath."
"You'd better not, sir, it's not good for your health," Perry advises. "Have a nice evening." He turns around and walks away, losing himself in thoughts about the case.
"Cheers mate," the farmer mumbles. Then Perry turns around again and scratches his head absentmindedly.
"One more question..."
"Where can I find this Anthro-wolf again?"
Venn throws open the bedroom door and bares her fangs at the occupants of the room. There are exactly zero, she finds. She carefully steps inside and looks around the dark room. Bed in the corner near the window, night stand next to it, closet next to that and a chair in another corner. So plain, so dull... On a sudden hunch she swings around to check behind the door. As could be expected, no one there either. Taking a deep breath just so she can let out an exasperated sigh she walks towards the bed. With arms spread wide she lets herself drop onto the mattress, bouncing up and down slightly before coming to a full restful halt.
"Jeez," she sulks to herself. "No family, no pets.. Cute guy like him could do better than THIS." Hoping against all reason she rolls on her side and peeks under the bed. There she finds little more than a pair of slippers. Rolling back on her back again, she groans slightly.
"Good thing I'm putting him out of his misery," she grumbles.
Politely Perry knocks on the door of the log cabin and waits patiently with his notepad under his arm.
"Just a second!" a female voice yells from the other side. Footsteps approach and there's the rattling of a lock before the door is opened just slightly, a little chain still keeping it from opening further. The anthro-wolf behind the crack looks with non-to-pleased surprise at the soldier on her porch.
"Yes?" she asks.
"Good evening, ma'am. Could I have a moment of your time?" Perry has paid close attention to DeLancy. He stands straight as a candle and stares out over the anthro-wolf's head, right between the pointy wolf's ears.
"I'm down here," she remarks flatly. Perry blinks once then looks down at her. "Is there a problem, sir?" she asks.
"Not an immediate one," the soldier replies. He takes the notepad out from under his arm and the pencil out of his breast pocket. "You are the anthro-wolf?"
The anthro-wolf gives him a look with the wolf's eyes over her muzzle.
"Jessie," she says.
"Right," Perry responds as he writes this down. "May I come in?" He looks like he'll write the answer to that down too.
"Sure," she sighs. She closes the door to undo the chain, then opens it again and steps back to let him in. "So why are you here?" she wants to know as she closes the door behind him. "Is this about the sheep?"
"Hm?" As Perry looks around the room his eye is quickly caught by a number of drawings stuck to the wall. "Hey, these are good!" he exclaims. He drops his notepad and pencil on the table and admires the drawings closely. "Who made these? You?"
"Uh-huh?" Jessie nods proudly, albeit slightly baffled.
"That's pretty good!" Perry admits. He looks along the wall at the different pictures. There's a gargoyle there, a few sketches of a dragon, a blond-haired human boy...
"Who's dog is that?" he asks, pointing at a particular drawing.
"That's my boyfriend," she grumbles. "Jason."
"Oh..." There's an uncomfortable silence as Perry continues to stare at the wall.
"He lives in Ward," Jessie finally says, breaking the silence.
"Ah..." Perry replies. He spots a sword hanging over the fireplace. "You're a sword fighter?" he asks, nodding at the sword.
"I know how to use it, yeah," she says, nodding. "I've been told I'm pretty good."
"You have a permit?"
"Is this why you're here?"
"Er, no..." Perry admits sheepishly. He picks his notepad off the table and clears his throat. "I am currently investigating the matter of disappearing sheep from the pens and barns of sheep farmers throughout the Plains. I spoke with some of them earlier and-"
"They say I did it!" Jessie finishes his sentence.
"... I am now conducting a search for eye witnesses," Perry corrects her. "But yes," he adds, "most of them do."
"Sorry," Jessie sighs. "Ever since I got here they've trusted me as far as I can throw Ward. But I'm as worried as they are! Look!" She snatches a piece of paper from the table and holds it up for him to see. It is a half-finished sketch of what appears to be a sheep.
"A sheep..." Perry concludes correctly.
"Not 'A' sheep. Keebler!" She puts the sketch back on the table. "He's my friend, you know..."
"You're friends with a sheep?" Perry enquires, attempting to suppress an incredulous tone. He suddenly remembers his notepad and starts scribbling furiously.
"Well, this one talks. I bought a dictionary so I could understand all the things he says, actually."
"Ah, the talking sheep!" Perry exclaims. "I heard of him." He continues to jot down notes.
"Yeah. What if something happens to him?"
"So far his flock seems to have been left alone," Perry notes thoughtfully, finishing off his notes. "We'd have had the perfect eye witness otherwise... Speaking of which..."
"I haven't seen anything," Jessie sighs. "I wish..."
"Well," Perry says with forced cheer as he flips his notebook closed, "don't worry. We'll get to the bottom of this sooner or later."
"Maybe," she replies as she picks up a pencil and continues to work on her sketch. Perry turns his attention to the wall again.
"So out of all of these," he asks, gesturing at the pictures on the wall, "which one is your favourite?" The anthro-wolf looks up and takes only a few moments to decide.
"That one," she decides, pointing her pencil at her drawing of Jason. Perry smiles amusedly at the wall.
"I thought it might be," he says. "Good evening, ma'am, I will let myself out."
Perry stares at his notes. He has put them on a small table next to the sink where he is brushing his teeth, something he's been doing for the past 15 minutes. The problem with this case, he feels, is that there are no suspects. The anthro-wolves clearly couldn't eat 15 sheep a night, dragons would have a hard time not getting noticed, predators would leave some sort of trace. The disappearances take place throughout the Plains with no discernible pattern. It has always appeared to him that the key to solving any mystery is to ask the right question. So, following this, either his question or this theory is wrong. Realising he's not going to solve this mystery this night he bends over the sink, spits out the toothpaste and steps to the side. There he watches Venn soar past him with a hiss and slam her face into the bathroom mirror which promptly cracks in a pretty star pattern. As he watches on with a slightly cocked head she staggers back, then forward again and finally slumps down into the sink.
"Hey!" she exclaims as she swiftly shakes her head, pulls herself together and pushes herself to an upright position again. She follows this up with rolling her eyes to the back of her head and staggering, trying to regain her balance. Perry looks on with a half open mouth.
"How did you get in!?" he demands. The vampire sends a defiant look in what is probably his general direction.
"Well, wouldn't you like to know?" she teases mysteriously as she wobbles on her feet.
"Well... actually..." Perry starts, taking a step closer. He stops when Venn lashes out at him with her nails, hissing furiously.
"We'll meet again, human!" she threatens. Then she swings around to face the door and rushes out. There is an "Oop!" and a thud, quickly followed by footsteps disappearing down the stairs, through the hallway and out the door, leaving Perry standing in the bathroom, still holding his toothbrush and staring incredulously at the door.
"Your bathroom?" DeLancy looks down with furrowed eyebrows as Perry stands before him, stiff as a board.
"Yes sir. I don't know how she got in. There were no signs of break-in..."
"Hrm," DeLancy grumbles. He gets up, steps to his bookshelves and takes out a binder.
"Soldier Kenning recently took this course..." He places the binder on his desk revealing the title of its contents: "Law, Order and Vampires". "Following this conversation you are to inform said soldier of this incident right now."
"Yes sir," Perry replies automatically, stifling a yawn. The captain responds to this breach of protocol with a stern look.
"My apologies, sir," Perry quickly excuses himself. "I slept in daylight."
"Do not let it happen again, soldier," DeLancy warns, "As representatives of the city of Ward, the Plains and the island of Arcadia we are never tired, we never falter, and we do not yawn."
"Yes sir," Perry says with all the enthusiasm he can muster, "we're not tired..."
"Good," the captain concludes briskly, "you shall have no difficulties in performing your duties this night."
"No sir," Perry answers automatically again. DeLancy takes a pen from his desk and opens another binder in front of him. The sheets of paper are on the whole rather empty. Each sheet appears to consist of the halves, each consisting only of a date, a slash and a lot of white space. The captain flips the pages to the current date. Then he clears his throat and fills his lungs with air before looking at Perry again, sitting up straight as a candle.
"Soldier Perry! Report!" he orders loudly. Perry winces inwardly.
"Nothing new to report, sir," he announces. "No additional eye witness reports, no new leads or evidence. Sheep continue to disappear."
Without moving a muscle on his face DeLancy removes the cap from the pen and writes a single neat slash after the date. Then he stares quietly at the empty pages.
"The case requires a breakthrough" he decides after giving the matter some thought. Perry wonders for a moment whether this was a conclusion or an order.
"There appears to be a developing pattern though, sir," he suggests. The captain looks up at him.
"Explain," he orders.
"Well," Perry starts, clearing his throat for good measure, "firstly, the sheep that disappeared are no longer random sheep, but sheep of particular value. This would suggest intelligent reasoning and mere theft. Secondly, the number of sheep disappearing has been and is increasing, indicating increasing self-confidence and efficiency. Lastly the disappearances take place at unguarded flocks at all times, indicating an awareness of the presence of potential eye witnesses. I currently believe two separate questions can be asked, namely who is behind this and how is it done. Interestingly, one question is probably the key to the other, though which is which is at this point unclear."
DeLancy looks up silently at the soldier.
"The question of who is behind it is perhaps easiest to answer. The current evidence suggests it's either a person or persons with either a use for sheep or the ability or contacts to transfer these sheep to such a person on a fairly large scale. Furthermore, this person has sufficient knowledge of these animals to determine the relative value of an individual sheep..."
"As to the question of how, this is still entirely unclear. My suspicion is that of a spell capable of making specific sheep from a flock disappear, however, this is based on little or no factual evidence. And investigation into this area may be worthwhile, though it could take a long time. There would be no short term solution."
When Perry stops talking there are a few seconds of total silence.
"But I could be mistaken," Perry then sheepishly admits. The captain looks at the page in the binder then crosses out the diagonal line. "Growing pattern" he writes down.
"Dismissed, soldier," he casually orders, admiring the page.
"Kenning?" Perry walks up to the soldier sitting in the locker room changing into citizen clothing. Kennings looks up at him.
"Oh, hello Perry. Time for the night shift again?"
"Yeah..." Perry says. "It's not bad. I'm a night person, really."
"Me too, actually," Kenning replies. "I'm trying to get transferred to night shift myself. I'm really interested in what goes on at night."
Perry sits himself down on a bench. "You might be disappointed. Ward doesn't have much of a nocturnal population."
"I know," the soldier sighs, "but I'm not gonna see much at day either, am I?"
"Actually, that's why I'm here," Perry notes. "You know we have a rogue vampire, right?" Kenning's face begins to reflect a mixture of excitement and concern at the mention of the vampire.
"Yeah, I heard! Are you alright?"
"Yes and no," Perry replies. "See, she was in my bathroom last night..."
"Oh my... What did she want?"
"I don't know... Kill me is my first guess though. She said we would meet again."
Kenning gets up and steps towards an open locker. "Now, you are sure this was a vampire..."
"Are any items missing from your home? Money, valuables..."
"Well, that does seem consistent with vampire stalking, yes." The soldier produces a binder and a book from the locker.
"Look, it was a vampire," Perry blurts out somewhat chagrined. "I do know how to recognise them! Pointy teeth, hissing, desire to kill me..."
"No need to snap at me," Kenning interrupts him, "I'm trying to help here, okay?"
"Yeah, I'm sorry," Perry sighs. "Didn't sleep much today."
"I can imagine," the soldier says sympathetically. "Frankly, I don't envy you."
"Now, do you have any relatives or other people living in your home?" Kenning leafs through the book, quickly scanning the pages with her eyes.
"No, I live alone." For a moment Kenning stops leafing and looks up at him.
"Really? Not even a girlfriend?"
"Is that a problem?"
"Not really," the soldier smiles, "just that you seem like someone who'd have a choice of women."
"Does this still have anything to do with vampires?"
"No, it's called small talk," Kenning patiently explains. "Ah, there it is."
"There what is?"
"Alright, first you need to know a few things about vampires. Now, Vampires nearly always come when you're alone, or at least unguarded. They appear to have some sort of extra sense for that. So what won’t work is assigning a guard. Not if we want to catch her anyway..."
Perry nods slowly, inwardly cursing his luck.
"That is why I'm gonna give you this." Kenning shows him the book, opened at page 312. Perry moves his face closer and squints, attempting to read the upside down text on the pages.
"This here," Kenning instructs, pointing at one particular paragraph, "is a protective spell. Just think of it as a curse, only a good one. Just read it out loud on your bed and no evil should be able to pass..." The soldier grins at him. "You're not evil, are you?"
Perry responds with a look.
"Right, well, this should keep you safe while you sleep. You can only cast it on one object in the house though. Spells are picky that way."
"thanks," Perry says gratefully as he takes the book. "I really appreciate it."
"No problem," Kenning replies with a friendly smile. "Return it when you've caught her, okay? Just... One little thing? A favour?"
Perry opens his locker. "what is it?" he asks as he puts the book inside.
"when you've caught her..." The soldier grins embarassedly. "Can I see her? I never saw a live vampire before... Well, undead, whatever."
"Sure," Perry answers, slamming the locker shut. "I've got to get to work now thought. Thanks again."
"Bye." Perry stifles another yawn before walking out the door. Kenning watches him until he disappears from sight.
"No girlfriend, cute guy like him?" the soldier muses. She bends over and finishes tying her shoelaces.
Not too far from the Thames in London stands a small church. It is run-down and covered in graffiti. Lower windows are broken and boarded up. Years and years ago people came together in this place to hear about fire, brimstone, love, compassion, tolerance and judgement. Even back then it was Venn's home. She loved hearing the father's preaches float up to her hidden loft. There was so much fire in his voice, so much compassion... Nowadays the church is silent, it is her domain alone until the day a demolition crew comes by to take down yet another century of history and memories.
In the loft heavy but delicate drapes line the walls, blocking out all sunlight. A single lamp illuminates a small collection of furniture, most noticeable of which is a bed lavishly made up with satin and silken sheets. Fluffy satin pillows of the finest quality finish off a resting place for a princess. Everything in this loft has been painstakingly collected over many years either directly or through good but short-lived friendships. Venn is the queen of her castle. This British afternoon the queen is sitting on the side of her bed and watches a soap on the telly.
"I like John," she tells a black cat cleaning itself at her feet. It looks up and meows, pleased at the sudden attention. The vampire gently picks it up without taking her eyes off the screen, where John can be found.
"Perhaps we'll meet him some day, hm?" she says gently, scratching the cat under the chin. It proceeds to purr contentedly and rubs its head against her hand. Venn meanwhile yawns profusely, flaunting her fangs at the little world around her.
"It's night in Arcadia," she tells the cat, absentmindedly scratching it between the ears. "I had better go now, he may return home early." She smiles softly and nuzzles the side of the cat's head. "Just for me..." Slowly she gets up carrying the cat on one arm as it swishes its tail from left to right, resting its body against her tummy. The vampire reaches down her front and pulls out the pendant. As she averts her eyes away from the flash the familiar green-white portal is opened before her.
"Hey, want to see where the human lives?" she coots at the cat. As if it understood anything she said it meows and rubs its head against her face. Venn gives it a sweet smile and carries it with her throw the portal, gracefully emerging into Perry's living room a moment later. The cat meow's pitifully at the sudden unexpected change of scenery, struggling slightly to get lose.
"Yes," Venn says soothingly, petting it as she looks at the room disapprovingly. "I know..." she turns around to face the still open portal. "Now I have business to take care of," she tells the cat, giving it one last scratch between the ears. "You be good now..." With that she lobs the cat back through the portal. As the portal closes behind it the room is left in darkness. Venn stalks around quietly, evaluating hiding places.
"Excuse me..." Perry carefully taps the back end of a sleeping sheep before him in the barn.
"Mrm..." it replies, twitching its ears.
"Excuse me," Perry tries again. This time the sheep raises its head and looks back tiredly at the soldier couched down behind him.
"I trust there is a reason for the intrusion in my private time?" it asks.
"You are..." Perry carefully checks his notes as he gets back up on his feet, "Mister Keebler?" He looks at the sheep again. It floats up from the floor, turns mid-air to face the soldier and slowly narrows his eyes at him giving him a chagrined look. Keebler is one of the most unusual sheep around. In fact, it may very well be the most unusual sheep. Ever since stacks of residual magic collapsed onto the Plains throwing reality for a loop Keebler has been able to not only speak in a quite distinguished British accent, but also defy gravity. In this context Perry's question might indeed have been somewhat redundant. Keebler lets out a deep sigh as Perry stands in embarrassed silence.
"I presume your presence here is related to the abductions of my sheep brethren..." the sheep helps him along. Perry silently clears his throat as he puts the tip of his pencil to paper.
"the disappearances, yes," he replies, nodding. "You call them abductions?"
"Very few things happen without reason, soldier," Keebler answers, thoughtfully floating around in circles, "though I will not comment on matter of validity."
"Hm," Perry answers, scribbling this into his notepad, "well, this IS the angle I am currently looking into..."
"Can I be of assistance in this matter?" the sheep inquires.
"Well, yes." Perry flips to a fresh page. "I am searching for eye witnesses. We could use your assistance."
"Well, as you may be aware, this flock has thankfully been spared up till now. I have yet to witness anything peculiar."
"I know," Perry replies, "but... There are hundreds of other eye witnesses. In other flocks." Perry cannot help but beam proudly at his idea. Keebler, however, slowly raises an eyebrow which, when it reaches the top, stays frozen in place.
"I understand you wish for me to interrogate sheep?" he asks relatively flatly.
"Exactly. Plenty of sheep must have seen something..."
The floating sheep lets out a sigh of suppressed exasperation. "I fear this is a concept many people fail to grasp. I cannot assist you in this." Perry cocks his head curiously.
"Do you mean unable or unwilling?" he asks sincerely.
"I would not be unwilling," Keebler replies forcefully. "This frightful matter affects both me and a friend of mine..."
"Jessie," Perry concludes. Keebler nods slowly and floats back to the floor.
"I am willing to consider any workable alternative," he says. "As it is I fear I cannot be of any help to you."
"It can't hurt to try, can it?" Perry suggests.
"It will be a waste of precious time, soldier," Keebler responds, eyes closed as he attempts to doze off again.
"Keebler..." Keebler takes a deep breath and sighs extensively. Then he opens his eyes and looks up at the soldier.
"Sir, what is your knowledge on linguistics?" he asks patiently.
"That... Has something to do with language, I believe?" Perry tries uncertainly.
"Yes, it has something to do with language," responds condescendingly neutral. "Sheep, soldier," he explains, are stupid."
"Huh?" Perry replies halfway through writing this down, somewhat taken aback.
"I trust this statement did not come as a shock to you," Keebler remarks. "Now," he continues his lecture, "If you insist I could speak with a number of sheep..." he raises his hooves to draw imaginary quote-marks in the air as he says the word 'speak', "however, you must understand, sheep language consists of little more than concepts such as 'food', 'not food', angry' or 'scary thing'."
"And... that's not enough," Perry concludes.
"Unless you wish to ascertain whether the scary thing is edible or not... No." Keebler lays his head back down again and once again closes his eyes. "Should you require assistance I could render I shall take it under consideration. For now, I would like to continue to rest."
"Of course," Perry sighs dejectedly as he puts his notes away again. "Good night sir."
"Preposterous time to conduct an investigation," the sheep mutters.
"Protecting those who need protection, may no harm pass through this shell; transparent shield, perfect reflection, this object now receive this spell..."
Perry sits on his bed and stares at the spell in the book. "Well, that was hokey," he mumbles to himself. He reaches out his arms and carefully feels around for any shield he might find. Not entirely to his surprise he finds nothing but empty air. He lets out a sigh and gets off the bed. Seems like he'll be sleeping in light once again. Yawning, he trudges to his wardrobe closet, opens it and gazes inside. Instead of his pyjamas, or rather, besides them, he finds himself looking straight into Venn's face as she stands uncomfortably bent over among his shirts and pants. For a fraction of a second they stare at each other. Then Venn leaps at Perry with a scream, only slightly slower than Perry manages to slam the door shut. There's a painful thump inside accompanied by the clicking and rattling of clothes hangers.
"Ow! Hey!" is the muffled response from inside. Perry jumps back onto the bed. With a single thought his armour extends from the plate on his back to surround him completely as Venn stumbles out of the closet, shooting him a dangerous glare. Having taken a moment to find her bearings again she swiftly leaps at him with a furious hiss. Perry yelps, quickly raises his arm and fires a bolt of plasma at the vampire which promptly explodes at about one foot distance, throwing Perry back against the wall. At about the same time Venn finds herself rapidly slowed down as she leaps into what feels like an invisible rubber wall. As Perry slides down the wall she is flung back through the room coming to a sliding halt in the doorway.
Again, the two look at each other, this time in utter befuddlement. It is Venn who finally breaks the silence as she grabs her arm and takes a sharp breath.
"Agh..." she complains. "Rug burn."
Perry sits up straight and rubs his eyes, waiting for the spots to go away.
"What was that?" he asks at no one in particular.
"Don't ask me," Venn responds, sitting up straight herself, "it's not my bed."
"No," Perry admits, it is mine. So what are you doing here!?" With some minor difficulties here and there Venn picks herself off the floor.
"Yes, wouldn't you... Like to kn... know...?" she remarks mysteriously, grunting in-between at the pain this inflicts. After just a moment to dust herself off and regaining her dignity remarkably quickly, she walks back to the bed. Perry quickly gets up and leans against the wall, watching her carefully. With care, she pokes a finger at the air between the. As she hits something the air between them starts to ripple and bulge like the side of a bubble, or perhaps jello in an earthquake. While Venn get deeply involved in giving the uncooperative air a highly indignant look Perry rolls his eyes.
"'May no harm pass through this shell'," he quotes. "Wonderful..."
"Huh?" the vampire responds, "you cast a spell!?"
"Yes, but it seems a rather literal one..." Perry says, eyeing last few ripples as the fade out of existence.
"And I can't get to you and you can't shoot me?"
"Apparently so..." Venn stares at the human in slight disbelief.
"But I spent all night waiting for you!" she exclaims, almost whines. "In the closet..."
"Well gee, maybe next time," the soldier suggests flatly. Venn steps back and lets herself drop onto the one plain decorative chair.
"I don't see why we have to go through all this trouble," she complains.
"Well, I'd rather not die," Perry explains, still leaning against the wall. Venn groans tiredly and rolls her eyes.
"You're a mortal!" she exclaims exasperatedly, "You die anyway!"
"Yeah, so do vampires who assault people, eventually," Perry remarks calmly. Venn looks up at him with a chagrined stare. Then an amused smile starts to form on her face.
"You think you will kill me?" She chuckles amusedly. "How sweet, I haven't heard that sort of thing in..." She rolls her eyes up, retrieving memories. "... About thirty years, I guess." She grins slightly. "The guy with the crossbow..."
"What did you do with him?" Perry demands to know.
"Oh, more than I'll do to you," the vampire says casually. "He got special treatment. You'll be gone by next week."
"You know," Perry says, equally casual, "my father was a policeman. You know what he'd say to that?" Venn looks up at him.
"He'd say, if you haven't caught someone by now, you never will..." This remark earns Perry an unamused glare from the vampire. "Of course, he left when I was eight," he continues. For a few seconds Venn just looks at him. Then she speaks.
"Are you a policeman?" she asks.
"I'm a soldier," Perry answers. "And you're still under arrest, by the way."
Venn steps back and looks the soldier over. "You don't look like one..." she decides.
"Well, except for the armour of course," she clarifies. "Without it you look more like a social worker or a food inspector or something." Perry gives her another silent look.
"You know what my father'd say to that?" he asks. The vampire slowly cocks her head and raises an incredulous eyebrow.
"He'd say, doesn't matter what you think, you're still under arrest." He raises his arm at her again.
"Of course, he did leave when you were eight, right?" Venn continues for him. "Careful, you're going to hurt yourself again." This time Perry is the one to smile.
"Not if I step off the bed," he tells her. He agilely hops to the side of the bed. Venn looks on with a smirk as he bounces back into the wall at the other side with a loud clang.
"Told you," she says with a shrug.
"Oh for crying out LOUD!" Perry exclaims, eyeing the air around him furiously, "whose side is it on!?"
"This is boring," Venn suddenly decides, absentmindedly tapping the air around the bed, causing more circular ripples to travel to and bounce off the floor, ceiling and walls. "I'll return later," she announces. With that, she turns away from Perry and the bed and heads for the door.
"You know," she remarks as she briefly halts in the doorway, "just because your father was a policeman doesn't mean you have to be one..." She continues on her way and disappears from view down the hallway and down the stairs. "At least make up your own lines!" she yells back. Perry groans and lets himself slide down the wall onto the bed. Moving to Arcadia was probably a bad idea in retrospect.
"It is an outrage!"
"Sir... Please, sir, calm down..."
"Calm down!? Maybe if some people stopped being calm and started doing something..."
"Sir, I assure you, we're doing everything we can..." Perry says as soothingly as he can without sounding condescending. Farmer Johnson has every right to be upset, he knows. For the third time some of his flock vanished. Entire life's works are disappearing from under people's eyes.
"Well, you can't do much then, can you?" Johnson sneers angry as he sits back down. He sighs and rests his head in his hands. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that," he adds. "This is-" There's a rapid knock on the door. As both the soldier and the farmer look up it is thrown open. Three more sheep farmers burst in.
"W'eard th'soldier's 'ere!?" the one in front says? His eyes quickly focus on Perry sitting at the table. Perry looks up at the man, then at the two others behind him, who seem to have no other function than to look threatening and let they're de facto leader do the talking.
"Yes?" he asks as neutrally as he can. Johnson gets up from his chair and walks up to the other farmers.
"Jeffrey, don't make trouble now," he says reasonably. "The man's doing his job." Jeffrey does not seem interested. He steps forward and looks down on the soldier.
"We'd all l'ke ta know when yer gonna do som'thing!" he announces.
"I'm in the process of doing something right now," Perry explains, gesturing at his open notepad on the table. Jeffrey is not impressed. He snatches the notepad from the table and throws it at his feet.
"When're ya gonna ARREST som'one!?" he demands.
"Jeffrey!" Johnson exclaims. Perry looks up at the angry farmer with frightening calmness as he bends over to pick up the notepad. Before he can do so it is kicked into a corner. The soldier looks at the corner for a while in silence.
"Well!?" Jeffrey asks. Slowly Perry gets up and faces the furious farmer.
"If you have any suggestions..." he offers.
"You know who we're talkin' 'bout!"
"Could you tell me anyway?" Perry asks. Jeffrey grunts agitatedly.
"Th'wolf! I'se been sayin' it's trouble from th'start!" he exclaims in the soldiers face.
"You are referring to Mrs. Jessie?" Perry enquires.
"Ne'er mind 'er NAME!" Jeffrey steams, "Look, she gorra motive, 'asn't she!? Or are ya THAT thick!?"
Before Perry can reply farmer Johnson firmly places himself between the two, his arms crossed, his look determined.
"You have to understand," he explains to the soldier with forced calm, "This is very hard on us all. Including Jeffrey."
"What 'e 'as ta und-!" Jeffrey starts. A quick glare from the older farmer silences him in an instant. Having done so, he returns his attentions to Perry.
"I strongly suggest this matter be solved quickly," he continues. "Before someone gets hurt."
As if to emphasise these words Perry's communicator starts beeping urgently. Perry quickly taps it, grateful for the unexpected excuse to end this conversation.
"Perry here!" he responds extra forcefully.
"Jones," is the short greeting. On the background Perry can hear yelling and jeering. "Hey Perry, think you could join us at the anthro-wolf's cabin? We've got some trouble here."
"On my way! Perry out!" Perry shoots a quick glare at the three unfriendly farmers as he rushes to the corner to pick up his notebook.
"There you have it," Johnson says, resigned. Without saying another word the soldier strides past the four of them and out the door.
"We'se warned ya!" Jeffrey yells after him.
With a bright white flash a portal opens on a deserted rooftop in Ward, heralding another coming of Venn. She emerges through the portal and takes her time to survey her surroundings. Ward is starting to seem familiar. Below the streets are empty, not lively as in London. It's boring, yet at the same time, she realises, this place finally gives her the opportunity to be herself. Except that the humans here still make ridiculous a fuss about feeding. Finally her eyes rest on one of the buildings in the street below. A pub! While the streets are empty this establishment seems to be the centre of the neighbourhood, buzzing with life and excitement. It has been a while since she's gone out, she realises. Perry probably won't be home again till the end of the night, there's plenty of time. She leaps off the rooftop, bounds off a lamppost and lands a mere few meters away from the pub. Like the predator she is she swiftly looks around to see if anyone spotted her. Having convinced herself that this is not the case she rises again and looks at the sign hanging over the door.
'The Bloody Irishman'...
A smile forms on her lips as she walks towards the door, full seductive mode.
The Bloody Irishman lies in a most special part of Ward. Soon after human colonisation and construction of Ward a few years ago it was found that with human colonists came human nature, and some colonists, while their desire to start a new life was sincere enough to pass through the portals, simply could not help but fall back on stealing, gambling, assault and other generally unpleasant practices. To deal with this increasingly urgent problem in a society designed to be a Utopia of some sort, the council member responsible for the peace, Dick Elders, set about giving the human soldiers stationed in Ward policing duties, complete with all the rights and duties that comes with the job. At the same time he set apart a specific part of Ward. Here, the soldiers were not to enter without special reason or special permission. The immediate problem more or less contained to one neighbourhood in the almost constant shadow of the great castle, no one ever really had the motivation anymore to change this and look for a more structural solution. Odd? Not really. If this works for radioactive waste dumps, it can work for the crime problem in Ward.
Many inhabitants of this particular dump turn their heads as Venn enters the pub. This is not unusual in itself. In fact, it is quite normal for any stranger to wonder into this pub to receive the same kind of attention, at least as long as there's still something of value on him. Venn's case, however, is different. The way she enters, with pride, with dignity and so much self-confidence it is almost solid, suggests a wisdom with worldly matters such as these which commands instant respect. Aside from that she is quite a change from the kind of women usually found in The Bloody Irishman; she is refined in her beauty and seductive in ways that almost seem to transcend humanity. In terms of the average male customer this translates to 'Wonder if she wears anything underneath.' the female customers, generally plastered with make-up and not afraid to flaunt what they have whether they have it or not, this somehow translates to a jealous 'shameless tart!'
As the room momentarily is filled with hushed exited conversation and a particular customer that rather looks like a human scarecrow chokes on his drink and scurries towards the door, Venn casually steps to the bar, making sure not to give anyone the pleasure of looking into her eyes, and finally sits down on a barstool in a way reminiscent of a cat making herself comfortable in someone's lap.
"Wine, please," she tells the bartender, a firm, bald man who seems remarkably unaffected by any of this.
"Which'd ya like," he responds, not looking up from the glass he's cleaning with the greatest of care.
"What do you have?" the vampire asks with a faint smile.
"Red 'r white," the bartender clarifies, carefully peering through the bottom of the glass.
"I will have a white whine, please," Venn decides, crossing her legs and running a hand through her long black hair. When she looks at the bartender again she finds he's looking straight at her, leaning onto the counter.
"Ya can pay for it, right?" he asks without blinking. As Venn prepares to give him the look that makes little puppies' hearts melt the man sitting on her left speaks up.
"Jus' put it on ma bill, Duke!" he exclaims, louder than was strictly necessary. Then he turns to Venn. "Drinkss're on me," he slurs slightly.
"Of course," Venn replies with the sweetest smile.
Perry worms his way through the jeering crowd at Jessie's cabin. Apparently something interesting is going on the porch, but the crowd always just prevents him from seeing. Receiving more abuse and signs of unwelcomeness he continues his way, feeling like a salmon swimming upstream, until he finally emerges from the front of the crowd. There he is greeted by a sharp piece of metal swishing through the air mere inches away from his face.
"Get lost!" a furious voice growls over his head. As Perry stumbles back into the crowd he looks up to find an anthro-wolf standing on the porch, dangerously swishing a sword through the air in the general direction of the crowd around him.
"Jessie's done nothing! You leave her alone!" he yells, his words lost in the jeering and yelling of the crowd. To the left and to the right of him there's a soldier, keeping the crowd from climbing over the fence as the anthro-wolf fervently holds the fort at the gate. Diagonally behind him stands Jessie, looking in turns worriedly at him and the crowd, making the occasional attempt the grab the sword away from him. There's some unclear yelling from the front of the crowd. Unclear to Perry, that is. The anthro-wolf seems to have heard quite clearly.
"What!?" he exclaims, "You say that again!" He throws his sword back furiously. Jessie dives at it but misses as he suddenly swishes it forward and aims it at the offending human. "You DARE say that again!"
Apparently the person in question did not dare. Reluctantly Perry decides it's probably time to take action. With a thought his armour expands around him.
"NO!" The wolf yells at someone else in the crowd. "YOU get the hell out of here! We have a right to be here!" He slashes at the crowd again. With a clang the sword comes to a sudden halt in Perry's metal glove.
"You're must be Jason, right?" he asks friendly as the anthro-wolf turns to glare at him. Jason opens his mouth, then closes it again, somewhat taken aback.
"I'm Perry," Perry continues. "Why don't you let me take this?" he asks, jiggling the sword, ignoring the searing pain in his hand. Jason, it turns out, is quite a strong fellow.
"Jason..." Jessie says behind the anthro-wolf, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Erm... Sure..." Jason says, perhaps a little ashamed. "You're gonna protect her, right?"
"To protect and serve, is what my father'd say," Perry says with a smile. He gently pries the sword out of his Jason's hands as Jessie pulls him back a little.
"Let the man do his job," she says calmly, in the mean time casting a worried glance at the crowd. Some cheer rippled through it as Perry took away the sword. Perry stands in front of the gate and looks concerned at the crowd as it moves forward.
"Please move back!" he yells as the other two soldiers do their best to keep people off the fence.
"You move back!" a large farmer yells back in his face as he steps onto the porch, closely followed by a couple of friends. Try as he might Perry is quickly moved aside.
"Go home, soldier boy!" Another sheep farmer shouts. Perry looks on befuddledly.
"Just move back," he tries again, with little more success. Jason moves in front of Jessie and backs her into the house as he growls at the approaching farmers.
"PERRY!" one of the soldiers shouts desperately as he's being overrun. The large farmer reaches out for Jessie. Jason reaches out too, with his fist right into the man's jaw. So great is the force of the furious blow that he stumbles back past Perry until he drops off the porch. Before the other farmers well and truly realise what is happening one of them is flung against and over the fence before they even respond. Perry looks on as the enraged anthro-wolf grabs the two remaining farmers by the shirt and literally shoves them back.
"PERRY DAMNIT!" the soldier shouts again. Jason snatches the sword from the soldier, heaves it high over his head and chops at the fleeing farmers with such force that it is cut two inches into the wooden side of the porch. This, finally, snaps Perry out of it.
"Keep those people OFF and AWAY from the porch!" he yells at the soldiers.
"DON'T TOUCH HER!" Jason furiously tells the crowd as it backs away again from the slashing sword.
"Jason!" Perry commands as forcefully as he knows how. "Give me the sword!"
"You said you'd protect her!"
"I will! Trust me!"
"Forget it!" Jason tells him, then turns back to the crowd. "GET OUT OF HERE! GO!" he yells. Perry gets this sinking feeling. He decides to try a different approach and turns to the crowd.
"CLEAR THE AREA!" he commands. "OR YOU MAY BE PLACED UNDER ARREST!"
"You clear off!" one of the farmers up front shouts back.
"Go learn yer job!" the one next to him adds. Perry takes a slow, deep breath. Loud jeering drown out his next words.
"What'd 'e say?" one of the farmers in the crowd asks his friend next to him.
"I dunno. Som'thin' 'bout 'is father?" his friend replies.
"What's that gotta do with anythin'?" Before his friend can reply a bright, large, green bolt of plasma soars over the heads of the crowd, splitting it in two as people dive for cover. For a few moments, it appears as is someone found the mute button on the crowd, as well as the pause button as they all look up at the soldier standing on the porch, lowering his right arm.
"Of course," he says, "He did leave when I was eight."
Perry scans the crowd for familiar faces. Near the back he finds Johnson and Jeffrey, both looking at him as befuddled as any of the other farmers.
"You," Perry says, pointing at Jeffrey, "You and you..." he continues, pointing to Johnson and whoever the farmer next to him could be, "You get up here right now." He pauses for effect as the three slowly get off the grass. "The rest of you," he continues, "Go home." With that, he turns away from the farmers, giving them no further attention. As they all get up slowly, grumbling at army brutality, he looks at the sword, then at Jason, who seems a lot more meek again.
"I'm going to have to confiscate that," he says. Jessie walks up from behind.
"But that's mine," she says softly.
"I know," Perry says. "You will have to pick it up at the barracks later."
With a deep sigh Jason gives up the sword, looking at Jessie.
"I'm sorry, hun," he says. Jessie puts her arms around him and presses herself close, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Thank you for coming."
"So... Ya hear about the missing... Ssheep?" Venn takes another sip of her wine as she listens to the man next to her, professional vampire that she is. The wine is remarkably good, far outclassing anything you'd usually find in a place like this. She takes a moment to enjoy it, then looks up to the bartender and gives him a smile.
"I should come here more often," she compliments him. She receives a half-interested nod in return. At the same time the man next to her starts to grin at her.
"Yeah, ya should," he comments happily. "I'm 'ere ev'ry night, ya know..."
"Where did you find this?" Venn asks the bartender, temporarily ignoring her new friend.
"It's all legit," he assures her. The vampire blinks at him, looks at her glass, then looks at him again.
"I didn't ask that," she says.
"Ah'know" the bartender mutters casually.
"'Ey Duke!" the man next to her exclaims, "find yer own gall, eh!?" The bartender looks at him, grunts something indecipherable and continues cleaning the glasses.
"Jealous?" Venn smiles amusedly at the man.
"Got no business..." he mutters coarsely in his glass. "So..." he continues with forced joviality, "Ya hear 'bout the missing ssheep?"
"The ones that are missing?" Venn teases him.
"... Yess," the man replies after some thought.
"No," Venn replies, draining her glass.
"Well, ya ssee..." the man slurrs mysteriously, looking intently past her, "These ssheep, right?"
The vampire nods patiently.
"Well, ya ssee, they're..."
"Missing?" she helps him along, smiling all the way.
"Yah! Ya did hearrof it then!" he exclaims. Venn closes her eyes and continues to smile.
"Steven, maybe it's time ta go home, eh?" Duke butts in gently.
"No!" he exclaims. No, she wan'sa 'ear this, right?"
"Oh yes," Venn agrees, "it's very interesting." And to think most people think being a vampire isn't even a real job. She looks down at her glass and cutely cocks her head at it. "Empty," she notes.
"Well, ya ssee..." Steven continues, ignoring her plight, "You ssee, ah think tha'ss funny... Ya wanna know why i'ss funny!?" He grins broadly at her.
"Of course," Venn says, smiling still.
"Cause this'ere soldier an'is capt'n cahn't fig're 't out! ... Ah think tha'ss funny..."
"'s not funny to the sheep farmers," Duke butts in again. Steven gives him an irritated and elaborate hand wave, flinching for a moment as he nearly loses his balance.
"Ah don' care! Do any of them lot care 'bout me? That'ss right... Di'n' think so..."
"Steve, ya ever stop ta think where yer money comes from? 'ventually, ah mean?" Steven remains silent for a while, first thinking, then sulking.
"What?" What's happening to the sheep then?" Venn now wants to know.
"Serves'em right..." Steven mutters to his drink.
"Yer new 'ere, aren't ya?" the bartender asks casually, picking up her glass to clean it.
"The ssheep's been... Dissappearing!" Steven explains. "They's just' like... Poof..." He makes a wide gesture with his arms, indicating the shape of a poof. Venn looks down thoughtfully for a few moments before formulating her reply.
"So?" She asks. Then she cocks her head at him. "You're not a sheep farmer."
"Mah son's student at th'Arcadian University," the bartender explains, "'e reckons sheep are the foundation of Ward's economy." He shrugs helplessly as he checks her glass for any remaining smudges. "B'sides, mus' be frustrating ta lose all ya have a bit at a time..."
"Not as frustrating as trying hard to get a simple thing and still not getting it," Venn decides.
"Eh?" Steven asks eloquently.
"Oh, just a guy," Venn explains with a slightly annoyed sigh. Steven perks up at the unexpected opportunity.
"Ah, don' worry 'bout 'im," he slurrs reassuringly, carefully putting an arm around her. "Plenty of guyss ta take 'is place." He pauses for effect. "May ev'n ssit right next ta ya..."
Slowly Venn starts to smile a broad smile again as she slowly lets herself be pulled closer and rests her head on her shoulder.
"You're right," she says gratefully. "Thank you."
"Ya like a drink?" he asks gently.
"Yes," Venn replies softly, craning her neck to look at his.
"Duke! 'nother drink for the lady..."
"Very well, now that we're finally all seated..." Perry looks the current distribution of seats over. Around the table in Jessie's cabin sit first Johnson, then Jason, then mr. Wolfe, the random farmer Perry picked out, Jessie and finally Jeffrey Barns; a hopefully constructive set-up, more so than the last one where Jeffrey and Jason were seated next to each other.
"... Unless there are any other objections!?" He fiddles with the sword again as mr. Wolfe slowly raises his hand.
"I'd like to go home now, really," he mumbles uncertainly, looking diagonally up at Jason.
"Oh c'mon, wha'ssa point ta this?" Jeffrey groans tiredly. "Ya're wasting ahr time!"
"Hey, when are you going to arrest them!?" Jason demands.
"Arrest US!?" Jeffrey exclaims. "We's jus' peaceful-"
"You call that peaceful!?" Jason shoots up from his chair. Jeffrey follows suit.
"Jason!" Jessie warns.
"Jeffrey!" Johnson exclaims simultaneously.
"Don't worry hun," Jason growls, "I'll be peacefull." Jessie now gets up from her chair and gives him a warning look. Mr. Wolfe slowly shuffles his chair back.
"Jeffrey, control your temper," Johnson tells Jeffrey forcefully.
"We's bein' walked all over!" Jeffrey exclaims.
"Would anyone mind if I left now?" mr. Wolfe tries. Perry drops his poor abused notepad on the table and just looks at the mess before him.
"Jeffrey," Johnson orders; "Jason," Jessie begins; "SIT DOWN!" they both exclaim at their respective counterparts. There are a few moments of silence as everyone looks at each other somewhat bemusedly.
"Can I..." mr. Wolfe starts yet again.
"NO!" The other four exclaim irritably. Perry looks on befuddledly as they all take their seats again and grumble among themselves about hotheaded people, people who think they're the boss and people who won't take responsibility. Finally it is Jeffrey who addresses him.
"Are we gonn' get start'd yet!?"
Steven lets out a deep sigh into his glass. "Y'knoww?" he slurrs at Venn, "Nah one'sz evver 'nderst'd me like... Ya..." Venn smiles at him as she coyly looks him in the eyes, meanwhile trying to translate the sounds coming from his mouth. "Nah mah wife, nah mah g'rlfriend..." He raises his head. "'nyway, go''a take a whizz..." he suddenly announces. Without wasting another second he turns away from her, slips out from under his arm and drops off his barstool, the fact that he landed on his feet being mere coincidence.
"Come back soon," Venn says. Without his support under her arm she notices it has become slightly hard to maintain her balance. She solves this by turning back to the bar and leaning on it with both arms.
"His wife left him, ya know," the bartender informs her.
"Found out 'e had a girlfriend," he expands, "so she left him. Then his girlfriend found out 'e had a wife..."
"That's silly, you know that?" Venn tells him.
"Yeah, well, whacha gonna do, eh?" Duke sighs. "'e's been here every night since. Getting drunk." Venn stares at the door behind which Steven disappeared.
"He should just find another girlfriend," Venn tells him boredly.
"Well..." Duke starts, filling a tall glass with beer for a passing customer, "not a ladies man, 's his problem..."
"I've had lots of men like him before," Venn responds, raising her glass. "They're all the same. In the end anyway..."
"Yeah, well," Duke places the glass on the counter and gives it a shove. Venn watches it slide towards its owner. "Try telling them that."
"I often do," the vampire replies after taking another sip of whine.
"Does it help'em?"
"Rarely," Venn replies honestly. The sound of flushing announces Steven's imminent return. Duke puts his large hands on the counter and looks Venn straight in her green eyes.
"Look miss," he says, "I've seen ya with him and yer either a saint, or a demon. All ah'm saying here is, ya'd better not hurt him..." Venn puts down her glass and smiles as she looks down with closed eyes.
"I never get complaints," she replies as the door to the bathroom is thrown open, bounces back and is thrown open again. Steven stumbles out and staggers back to his seat.
"Now," Johnson starts, "I must apologise for the behaviour of my colleagues. You must understand that these are very difficult times for all of us."
"Difficult times for me too..." Jessie grumbles, taking a sip from her hot chocolate.
"It will all pass," Johnson tells her reassuringly. Jessie slams down her mug.
"That's what I'm hearing for months now! It's not passing!"
Jeffrey slams his hands flat on the table and leans forward to look at her past Jason. "Tha's cause ya cannae keep yer paws of ahr flocks!" he exclaims. Jason snaps his head at him and growls deeply, bearing his teeth.
"Jeffrey!" Johnson warns.
"Ya see!? Ya 'ear!?" Jeffrey exclaims, backing leaning away from the anthro-wolf, "They'se animals the lot'of'em!" Perry sighs inwardly and looks at Jessie and Johnson for help.
"Jason! Cool down!" Jessie leans forward and gives her boyfriend a warning look. He looks at her, looks back at Jeffrey again and finally leans back in his chair with his arms crossed, grumbling.
"Times for sheep farmers haven't been easy," Johnson excuses his colleague.
"So we heard," Jason remarks grimly, still eyeing the farmer.
"Aye," Jeffrey chimes in, ignoring the male anthro-wolf. "Ev'n Johnson's 'ad it 'ard."
"Especially Johnson," Mr. Wolfe adds, putting his mug back on the table.
"Oh?" Perry responds as he pauses his fervent act of jotting down notes. Johnson takes a deep breath.
"I have had some misfortune in my investments the past two years. The house and the flock... It is all I have left."
"I'm sorry to hear that, sir," Perry replies as a momentary respectful silence fills the room.
"You see," the farmer continues, "I may still seem well off, but this has not been true for quite some time..."
"And with the disappearances..."
"I will lose what little I have left. You see, Mr. Perry, Arcadia is not always the promised land we imagined it was."
"I'll say," Perry and Jessie mutter in unison.
"So th'question is..." Jeffrey remarks, "When're ya gonna do som'thin' 'bout it!?"
"We are doing the best we can," the soldier replies almost automatically as he finishes writing his notes.
"And 'ho's this 'we' anyway?" Jeffrey demands.
"Well, we's only seen you lately," Jeffrey explains.
"Yes, whatever happened to that nice forceful mr. DeLancy?" mr. Wolfe wonders out loud.
"The captain is currently involved with a top-priority case," Perry explains, "but I-"
"You mean to tell us our plight is of lesser importance?" Johnson asks calmly yet incredulously.
"It's... Second-to-top priority," Perry replies somewhat uncertainly.
"No personal insult intended, mr. Perry..." Johnson presses his finger tips together thoughtfully, "But mr. DeLancy had experience and our confidence. Many of us feel slighted to have been dealt a rookie in replacement." Perry looks down stoically at his notes, not certain how to reply. There are a few moments of uncomfortable silence.
"You know, I have a friend who talks a lot like you," Jessie tells Johnson, trying to break the silence.
"If we had some proper help from the army," mr. Wolfe says, slowly and carefully, "I think the anthro-wolves wouldn't have gotten into any trouble."
"I am currently solely responsible for running the night shift," Perry replies sourly, trying to regain his pride.
"Noth'n e'er 'appens on the night shift!" Jeffrey retorts. "Tha's jus' mindin' the store..."
"I led the Ward forces the night Triton attacked," Perry counters.
"When half the castle fell on Ward?" Johnson replies. Perry groans irritably and rests his face in his hands.
"Listen, lad," the farmer continues, "I'm sure you'll make a fine soldier one day but right now we need a man who will get us results. Our livelihoods are at stake." Perry lets out a deep sigh and leans back in his chair, looking at the people present.
"You know what?" he says. He gets up and grabs the sword that was leaning against the wall. "I don't have time for this."
"Now list'n 'ere-" Jeffrey starts.
"No, YOU listen!" Perry bursts out, "we all knew very well what we would get ourselves into when we got here! You wanted anthro-wolves away from your sheep, you should have stayed on Earth. What's next? Want the gargoyles gone too!? The fay!? The Firstborn perhaps!?" Five pairs of eyes look oddly at him as he heads for the door. "Now I've been insulted and condescended upon by sheep, vampires, sheep farmers, you name it, and I'm fed up with this." As he grabs the door handle and yanks the door open he looks back one last time. "You want results? Stop making me baby-sit the lot of you!" With that he slams the door shut behind him.
"'e's flipped," Jeffrey remarks incredulously.
"Yeah," Jason agrees.
"And he forgot his notepad," Jessie notes.
As he furiously strides away from the cabin Perry hears the door open behind him.
"Mr. Perry!" he hears Jessie yelling behind him, her footsteps quickly closing in on him. "Wait!" He stops mid-stride and turns to watch the anthro-wolf run up to him, waving the notepad in the air, finally stumbling to a halt in front of him, panting.
"Oh, thank you," he says somewhat flatly as he takes the notepad from her.
"I also wanted to thank you for coming," the anthro-wolf pants. "I... I didn't know what to do anymore..."
"You'd better move in with Jason for a while," Perry advises in a resigned tone of voice. "I'm sorry..."
Perry sighs. "I haven't done anything useful the past few days. Took a lot of notes, didn't help me one bit!" He looks hatefully at the notepad.
"I'm sure you'll find them," Jessie says comfortingly.
"You think!?" Perry snorts. "Wolfe was right, you know. Cause I can't do my job you're paying the price."
"That's not true!" she exclaims. "You're a fine soldier. A nice guy!"
"Being nice doesn't solve crimes, that much is clear," Perry replies. "You'd better prepare for a long stay with Jason."
"You have some leads, right?" Jessie asks. The soldier thinks about this for a while.
"Not really, I think," he finally decides.
"Well, I'm sure you'll find one..." Jessie smiles encouragingly, then looks back over her shoulder at the log cabin. "I always wanted to live in a log cabin, you know..." she says softly. "You'll make sure I can come back, right?" Perry sighs slowly as he stares at the cabin.
"Better start packing, Jessie," he replies.
"Thank you for walking me home..." Venn walks arm in arm with Steven, mainly making sure he doesn't fall over. "The streets aren't safe at night."
"Well-if ssom'ne triess any... thing..." Steven clutches his fist and raises his arm. This difficult act results in him slowly keeling to the right towards Venn. Before she can compensate the vampire is shoved to the side and over the curb with one foot, leaving her to stumble as Steven drops to the ground.
"Ah think... Ah 'ad a bit-to mush ta dring," he notes bemusedly from down on the sidewalk. Having regained her balance and dignity Venn cannot help but giggle.
"So did I, I think," she says as she slowly steps back onto the sidewalk and crouches down to help Steven off the ground.
"The'e'ss a ssong fer thiss, 'know?" he slurrs as he is hoisted back on his feet. Without waiting for a request he starts singing, loud and remarkably off-key.
"Sshow... Me tha wayee to go 'ommmme...
Ah'm tired an'ah wanna go ta... Bed...
Ah'ad a li''le dring 'bout'n hour ago,
An'it wen'right ta m-"
"In here," Venn says gently as she guides him towards a narrow alley.
"... An'it wen' right to ma 'ead..." Steven finishes as they disappear into the alley. "Hey, Ya nne'er tol' me yer name..."
"Venn," Venn simply replies.
The night passes slowly. On top of a hill in the grassy plains of, well, The Plains, Perry sits and looks out over the hills, as he has done now for the last few hours. Keeping the notepad closed beside him, next to the confiscated sword, he runs everything he knows through his mind again and again, occasionally looking up, half hoping to see the elusive flash of bright white light. There is something he's missing, he feels. As if everything's as simple as putting 2 and 2 together, he just needs to find the other 2.
Every mystery can be solved by asking the right question...
How do the sheep vanish?
Why do they vanish?
Who's making them vanish?
How would they know where to steal them from?
Is there even a who behind this?
This, he realises, is getting him nowhere. He leans back, gently laying himself down in the grass, and stares up at the three moons that occupy the sky among the stars.
This was what impressed him most about Arcadia when he first got here. Sure, all the creatures and the magic were impressive, but the casual way in which this blended in with every day life somehow made them... Lesser... But the moons were different. Like a truly, truly special place requires three moons. Not four, not two, certainly not one...
He stares into the smallest of the moons, his favourite, he decided long ago. Back when he was happy to have come here. Back when he was just a simple soldier with no investigations to worry about. Back when there wasn't a vampire after his blood. How does she get to the island anyway, he wonders. How does she get into his house?
And suddenly, without trying, Perry gets 4. Well... 3.9.
Quietly Perry unlocks his front door. He has not been assaulted on his way home, which means she is probably hiding under a table or something. With a resigned 'Let's get this over with' sigh he pushes the door open and carefully peers inside. No one there. That's not surprising as at that very moment Venn drops from the rooftop and smacks face down into the pavement, about two feet from his right.
"Hey!" she complains, "You moooved!"
Perry had resolved to be prepared this time, to face her resolutely and deal with her swiftly. Nevertheless, he does nothing but stare as she slowly gets up, glares at him with her intensely green eyes and sways on her feet. He only just remembers to step back and activate his armour.
"You're ahfraid of mee... Ahren't you?" Venn slurs with a sly grin as she finally manages to regain her balance by leaning with her arm against the wall. "Well, you sshould bee," she continues as she moves in closer for the kill, still holding herself steady by leaning against the wall, making no effort to hide the hideously sharp fangs in her mouth. The thought alone seems to make her tense with anticipation.
"You ssee," she says with great flair for inherent superiority as she inches towards him. "I donn'd led-" After a few moments of balancing on one foot she slowly keels over through the open door frame which she had managed to miss completely. Perry, who had looked on in utter bemusement till this moment takes a deep breath and steps inside to crouch down beside her.
"Everything alright?" he asks casually. The vampire rolls her eyes to look annoyed at him.
"I hope you ged annneemmia," she snarls despondently at him.
"You know," Perry says firmly as he grabs her under the armpits, "I think you had a little too much to drink." On a mental count to three he raises himself to full height again, hoisting Venn back on her feet.
"Did nnot!" she protests as the soldier places a firm grip on her shoulders and starts pushing her further into the house. "But Ssteven did, I guesss," she continues. "But I leffd... Room for you."
"You'd better not have murdered someone," Perry grumbles at her as he shoves her through the living room. In reply, Venn chortles. Then she stops, but only to giggle amusedly. He finds she is not struggling much, barring any difficulty she has standing up. Given how sure she is of herself, why would she?
"You're lohvably na... Eeve," she finally says as he places her in front of the kitchen sink. "Eeven forr a... mordal."
Perry grabs the side of the sink with his left hand and places his right hand in her neck.
"Nuh..." Venn mutters confusedly as she feels the cold metal of his glove in her neck. This is followed up by a screech as her head is thrust into the sink, stopping mere inches from being slammed into the bottom.
"Now Venn," Perry says, clearly and loudly articulating, "You are, as you know, under arrest. I will now begin to interrogate you." It takes a few seconds for Venn to catch up to the course of events. As she finally does she hurls her nails at him, clawing away wildly at his armour, her hisses echoing in the sink.
"LEMMEE GO!" she shrieks. "YOU CAN'T-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEGH!" Cold water streams down her hair into her eyes, her face and her neck. "YOU JERK!" She exclaims, panting heavily as Perry turns off the tap again. Even after 300 years the human instincts of catching her breath in water and while angry don't seem to have completely faded away.
"I am doing this so a wolf may go back to her cabin and visit her friend the flying sheep," Perry explains calmly. This silences the vampire for a few seconds.
"You're nuts," she then proclaims, the words echoing in her ears.
"Welcome to Arcadia," Perry says. "Now, I have one question to ask..." Venn sulks and plots quietly in the sink, the cold drops of even now running down her back. If she had any body heat they'd at least warm up along the way.
"Why is it that sheep disappear, you appear and the captain is involved in a secret investigation all at the same time?" Perry asks sternly.
"Wouldn't you like to knnow?" Venn replies mysteriously, or at least tries to with her voice trembling with anger. She shrieks furiously at yet another continuing splash of cold water.
"Why would I tell you!?" she yells over the noise of the water clattering in the sink around her.
"I won't stop till you do!"
"I don't KNOW!" Venn exclaims in a high pitched voice, her body hopping up and down. "What is it people here have with sheep!? It's not healthy!"
"I think you do!" Perry yells back. "Now TALK!"
"NO!" With all her might Venn pulls herself out of Perry's grasp as she pushes herself away from the sink, stumbling into the kitchen doorpost. She clutches it tightly as she looks back at the soldier, her chest heaving with her heavy breathing, her lips curled up to reveal her lovely teeth in all their deadly glory. There she stands, dripping onto the linoleum, looking like a drowned cat in more than one way and knowing it.
"You jerk..." he hisses at him, closer to tears than she'd like to admit. "You have no right to treat me like this... No one has!" She let's go of the doorpost and stumbles into the living room as Perry raises his right arm at her.
"You'll be the next human I have!" she yells at him from the living room as he heads for the door. Suddenly, there's a bright white flash. For a second Perry stops in shock, then he peeks out the kitchen door. A green and white portal has opened, right in his living room. The white and green parts flow into and out of each other like snakes. Venn's silhouette stands before the portal, holding a pendant in her hand, shaped like one he knows all to well. Shaped like the star of Arcadia.
"And you will NOT survive," she threatens. Then she swiftly swings around, steps forward and misses the portal entirely, stumbling a few steps further in surprise. She takes a second to figure out what happened, then turns around like this was exactly her intention.
"Jerk," she adds to her previous rant, her voice still trembling. Then she steps forward and into the back of the portal, just as Perry remembers he meant to shoot at her. When he raises his arm again the portal shrinks and vanishes, leaving him standing in the silence after the storm. While he lowers his arm again, an understanding smile forms on his face.
DeLancy puts the report on the farmers' protest and the anthro-wolf's cabin away with a pondering look on his face, and frowns at the second report on his desk, also marker 'priority'. It has been a busy night. He would have liked to have discussed this with Perry, however, the soldiers informed him that Perry left early, claiming to want to ask someone a question. Having fiddled with the report until it is placed neatly parallel with the edges of the desk he picks up the next and scans the pages."... Witness saw the victim standing in the doorway... Informed the victim it was past closing time... Victim mentioned a hickey and passed out..." The captain looks up from the report, furrowing his eyebrows. This is a most worrying development.
"... Healers described the victim's status as critical but hopeful..." Without warning and certainly without knocking the door to his office is thrown open. On instinct DeLancy leaps up from his chair and prepares to either salute or defend himself, whatever will be appropriate.
"Objects 16-1 to 16-3!" Perry exclaims, slamming his hands flat on the desk, an excited look in his eyes. For a moment, DeLancy's taken aback. Just for a moment. Then he looks calmly but sternly at the soldier.
"Perry, close the door," he orders. Perry swiftly swings around, steps to the door and closes it with so much enthusiasm that the half-transparent window continues to tremble for a few seconds. DeLancy looks the soldier over as he finally remembers to spring to attention.
"Permission to speak, sir," he requests as the trembling fades away, leaving the room in silence. He is more calm now, but certainly no less enthusiastic. The captain sits himself back down and looks up at the soldier with a raised eyebrow.
"Granted," he replies cautiously, as if half fearing the soldier will simply explode in his face.
"They're pendants," Perry states, trying hard to contain himself.
"Venn had a pendant," he begins to explain fervently, "a Star of Arcadia. There was a white flash and-!" Perry stops instantly the split-second this captain opens his mouth.
"The vampire was carrying with her a pendant?"
"Yes sir!" Perry exclaims. "You see, I asked her how she appeared here and how the sheep disappeared, and she had a pendant!"
"Where is the vampire now?" DeLancy wants to know.
"She escaped, sir," Perry tells him happily. "Through a PORTAL!"
"Hrm..." DeLancy grumps. "Perry," he says slowly and meaningfully, "close the door,"
"It's closed, sir."
"Well done," the captain compliments him. Then he becomes grim again. "The situation," he states, " is as of currently as follows..." He sits up and sniffs up a deep breath. "At the date of march 7th at 0330 hours AM the Plains in general and Ward in particular were the focal point of the cataclysmic event in which built up stacks of residue magic collapsed onto the surrounding area. This led to many a-typical events in and around Ward."
Perry nods. "I remember, sir. My pyjama's ran out into the street without me."
"Indeed," the captain nods back. "Most such events have been recorded either the aforementioned night march 7th or the days following the event. This included notable events such as the creation of the Nooit, the impact of the solidified cloud, the speaking, flying ram..." DeLancy looks intently at the soldier as he lowly crawls towards his point.
"Not all these events were publicly recorded," he starts as he opens his drawer and takes out his own personal pendant for display. Few people wear it constantly since reports of possibly damaging long term effects from overexposure. "The concept is a familiar one," he states. "Portals to and from Earth can be created with limited control over the exact point of arrival. A person or persons attempting to enter with evil intent are rejected by the portal."
"But not with portals opened by objects 16-1 to 16-3," Perry concludes. DeLancy nods briefly.
"the cataclysm has resulted in the disactivation of these security measures in these three pendants, resulting in the ability to open a portal anywhere and enter for any reason, a clear violation of island security... Destruction of said items proved unsuccessful, upon which on the date of may 15th, the pendants were hidden among other confiscated material in the vault, to remain there until an as of yet undetermined date."
For a while Perry is silent, contemplating the captain's words and parsing his last sentence.
"Who knows about this?" he finally asks.
"The current list of people known to be aware of the existence of these objects are you, me, the count and the royal family."
"and Venn," Perry adds helpfully. DeLancy nods once in agreement. "... And one or more sheep rustlers," Perry continues. This time the captain raises an eyebrow at him again; the right one. Then the other one raises and after some staring dawn breaks on the captain's face. Perry can almost hear the birds chirping.
"the open up a portal," the soldier explains, "resulting in a bright white flash. They somehow know which flock is unguarded that night and which sheep are the most valuable ones. Before anyone arrives they rush the sheep through the portal and vanish without a trail or a trace."
"The greatest security risk to the island in recent history in the hands of a vampire and common thieves?" DeLancy asks incredulously.
"Whoever stole the pendants failed to think big," Perry concludes.
The captain takes a deep breath and breathes out slowly.
"Good job, soldier," he finally decides.
"Thank you, sir," Perry replies, still somewhat excited. "What will our next step be?" The captain's face goes grim again as he leans back in his chair to think.
"This would require a swift, overpowering operation, which requires visible manpower," he muses out loud. "This would attract attention to the pendants. By official unofficial policy preventing this is the first priority."
"And a small scale operation, sir?"
"The units would be spread to thin," the captain grumbles, the corners of his mouth facing a definite down.
"Permission to offer a suggestion, sir," Perry requests.
The day passes. The sun travels through the sky in its usual way as the citizens of Ward go about their daily business. The attempted murder of a drunk by the vampire is, of course, a hot topic of conversation this day. And as night falls, the moons rise and the streets clear, the hot topic sits on the edge of a rooftop, a sketchbook in her lap. Her tongue occasionally sticking out following the motions of her pencil she is entirely taken in by what she's doing. So much so that the whoosh over her head doesn't register until she hears the thud below. Below she sees a lone figure stepping through the shadows. There's something odd about this person, Venn finds. Curiously she follows the figure as it moves towards a street light. There it becomes clear what is different about this person: It has wings, and a tail! Venn quickly forgets all about her sketch and stares at the creature as it steps further into the light. She's a female, white all over, with the inside of her wings black. A gargoyle! With fascination the vampire looks on as the gargoyle steps back out the light and halts right at the spot where light and darkness mingle. She just stands there, doing nothing. Wearing nothing too, Venn notices. Well, nothing worth mentioning, merely some old animal skins covering up the essential bits, and there's this sword dangling from her side.
Slowly Venn gets up, clutching the sketchbook to her chest and holding the pencil in her hand, still eyeing the curious creature. With a single catlike leap she jumps down and across the street to land quietly on the sidewalk on the other side, some distance behind the gargoyle. Even so, the creature turns her head and looks at the vampire. It is hard to connect any kind of meaning to the look, she just... Watches her, motionlessly, her eyes slowly narrowing. Venn rises herself from her crouched position to stand up in all her glory, all the while looking right back at the gargoyle, appraising it carefully.
"You are a gargoyle," Venn tells her as she walks towards the creature. The gargoyle swiftly look over her other shoulder as the vampire aims to pass her on the other side.
"I am Sirius," the gargoyle state. "Named after the star," she adds automatically. Her name has caused confusion a number of times now, often leading to people replying things such as 'Yes, I am serious too'. Finally pride took a back seat to practical concerns and Sirius started adding the clarification.
"I never saw a gargoyle before," Venn continues as she starts to circle the gargoyle, either not noticing or ignoring the suspicious stare she's receiving as she looks up and down examining the creature. "I heard of them, but..." Sirius remains in place as she is being circled, moving only her head and part of her upper torso.
"Many more gargoyles live on the Cliffs," she replies curtly. Venn stops in her track and looks up at the gargoyle's face.
"Really?" she asks.
"Then why do you live here?" Venn continues to examine the creature. Her eye now is caught by a large, rather ugly amulet around Sirius' neck. "What's that?" she interrupts the gargoyle as he takes a breath to speak.
"It is an amulet," Sirius replies, suspiciously closing her hand around the Demon's Eye. "Why are you here?" she demands.
"I just saw you and I never saw a gargoyle before," Venn replies honestly. It strikes her as a little unfair that she's apparently not trusted even though she has no harm in mind right now.
"There is a vampire prowling the streets," Sirius warns her, looking up to her left, then to her right. "You should not be here."
"Then what are you doing here?" Venn asks, somewhat defiantly as if not really believing her. Sirius takes in a deep breath through her nose and breaths out slowly.
"I am here to remember," she replies reluctantly.
"Remember what?" Venn cocks her head curiously. The gargoyle turns away from her and looks at a specific part of the street, marked by a slight crack in the road.
"This is where the last of my clan died," she explains solemnly. "My mate, my leader..." Venn looks to the side at the gargoyle, then walks over to the crack. She stops at about half a foot of distance and looks straight down at it.
"Here?" she asks. She receives no reply, but as she looks back at the gargoyle she is given a slight nod.
"Oh..." the vampire replies. It's not like this interests her terribly, mortals die all the time after all, and a crack in the road is not the most spectacular sight. The gargoyle interests her though, so she decides to keep up the conversation.
"What happened to them?" she asks. The gargoyle remains silent.
"I do not wish to discuss this strangers," Sirius replies matter-of-factly. After over 300 years even Venn can recognise a hint. She starts to smile willingly.
"I am Venn," she says in her usual friendly tone. Oddly enough, the gargoyle's face only seems to harden more as she steps off the sidewalks and closer towards her.
"The vampire," Sirius adds calmly. Venn knew this place was different. The portals told her that. Galen told her that. the enormous castle dominating the city skyline told her that. But this type of response is more alien to her than any of these things. Never had she realised more that Arcadia is different than at this very moment, the very same moment on which she realises she has just made a mistake of remarkable proportions.
"Er," she utters, thinking fast to try and get a grip on the situation. "No," she counters.
"Open your mouth," Sirius demands.
"No!" the vampire replies defiantly, stepping back slowly.
"The count has informed me that I need to be polite," Sirius states calmly but firmly. She puts her hand on the hilt of her sword and unsheathes it slowly as she speaks. "Please open your mouth."
With dismay the vampire looks at the tip of the sword that is now aimed straight at her, swallowing with some effort. She looks at the gargoyle’s face, hard like rock. Then she looks at the sword again as she formulates her plan. It is not the first time a weapon is aimed at her, of course, but never did the owner have wings and claws and talons, rarely did the owner look so unmoveable. If she could turn pale, she would turn pale. If she could sweat, she would sweat. Instead, she does what she CAN do: she bolts.
As she runs off Sirius bares her teeth at her and hisses furiously. "Demon!" she roars, then opens pursuit.
The Plains are quiet at night This wide open space covered in hills offers little cover for predator and little shelter for prey; there are few leaves the wind can rustle in; Ward itself has not much of a night life and that which it has is killed off by the threat of the vampire stalking the town at night. This time of the year many of the flocks spend their nights in barns, their occasional bleating lost to the outside world.
A bright white flash occurs in farmer Hatchet's barn. Instantly a portal opens up, not the familiar green type, but the type with green and white swirls flowing in random patterns, into and out of each other, illuminating the barn in an eerie green/white light. A silhouette emerges. Another one. Yet another. Five men step through the portal and swiftly look around. the last one to enter carried a stopwatch in one hand and a Star of Arcadia pendant in the other.
"Alright," he commands, "45 seconds. Go!" Through rows of nervously bleating sheep the other men run off in groups of two. Of each pair one starts dragging selected sheep from their place, while the other brushes the tracks out of existence with large brooms made of long metal strips.
"25 seconds!" the leader updates as the first two sheep are shoved through the hole. "Faster people! I want faster!" Away the men go again as the sheep bleat in an upset tone at the men rushing through them, dragging and pushing other sheep, by the ears if the need be, towards the inedible scary thing casting eerie shadows on the walls. Three sheep. Four sheep.
"10 seconds! We're behind schedule!"
"5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Time's up! Return to the portal!"
Six sheep. One of the pairs leap through the portal as the other pair rushes back through the mass of sheep, wiping away tracks as they go along with another sheep following in their wake.
"Leave the mutt!" the leader commands, "It's inferior!"
"It's following us!" one of the pair complains. "Get lost!" he yells at the sheep, making a kicking motion in its direction. The sheep startles back, then continues to follow them.
"Get LOST I s-"
"Take it with you! Twelve seconds over time!"
"You asked for it," the other half of the pair tells the sheep as he grabs it around the neck. Accompanied by loud distressed bleating the disappear through the portal and, after pressing a button on his stopwatch, the leader follows them in. Without any more fireworks the portal closes, leaving the flock in consternation, confusion and darkness.
Eight seconds later farmer Hatchet throws the door open and looks inside at the by now familiar sight of the distressed flock in his barn.
"Bloody 'ell," he grumbles, gritting his teeth.
Perry looks up from the book on vampires as Kenning approaches him, her compressed armour under her arm and a hot cup of coffee in her free hand.
"Oh! Hi Kenning." He politely closes the book, using a finger as a bookmark. "Sorry, I should have returned the book. I was just curious..."
"Oh, don't worry about it," the female soldier chuckles as she puts the coffee on a desk next to him and drops the armour on the floor. "Told you you could keep it. "She hoists herself onto the desk and leans back to stretch with a stifled yawn.
"Tired?" Perry remarks with an understanding smile.
"Hm-mm," Kenning replies. "I worked half a shift this morning already," she yawns. Pausing for a moment to finish her yawn, she finally continues. "Is it like this with every vampire who comes here?"
"Don't know," Perry shrugs. "This is the first one since I came here. Frankly, I hope it's the last."
"Mm!" Kenning exclaims impatiently, quickly swallowing a gulp of hot coffee. "I hope I get to see it!" Perry sighs, checks the number of the page and lays it down on his desk.
"Kenning, she's dangerous."
"Jeez, are you always this formal?" she asks disapprovingly.
"I DO have a first name, you know..."
"... Which you never told me." Perry allows himself a slight smirk at his colleague's expense.
"Oh," she replies. "Well..." She hops off the table and takes a slight bow. "Tanya Kenning. Nice to meet you, mr...?"
"Perry," Perry replies. "First name George," he adds before Tanya can respond. "But no one ever uses it."
"Well then, George Perry," she says teasingly, "Call me Tanya from now on. Whenever people hear Kenning they just think I'm a guy anyway... So what were you reading?" She sits back on the desk and picks up her cup for another sip of coffee as Perry picks up the book and looks at it.
"About all the different types of vampires," he says, attempting to find the page again. "I didn't know there were so many, really."
"The royal family didn't tip you off?" Kenning smiles.
"They're firstborn," Perry defends himself. "Everything about them is different. Including their vampirism."
"They're in there too, you know," Kenning nods at the book. "But yeah, they are different. They don't fit all the common characteristics of all the other vampires."
"They... Drink blood, right?" Perry checks confusedly. Tanya sighs a little exasperatedly.
"Yes, but that's just one of the aspects."
"What else is there then?" Tanya hops off the desk again, takes a quick sip of coffee and begins to explain.
"Well, everyone knows about the blood drinking thing, but there's a lot more to vampires! There's a personality change too!"
"I know," Perry interrupts, "they become evil."
"No..." Tanya replies, hushing him. "What kind of vampire someone becomes depends on the kind of person you were. And what kind of vampire bit you. Some people even think that the different types of vampire are just different types of personalities turned vampire..."
"This one's evil though. She murders."
"Not necessarily," she corrects him.
"Now come on..."
"No, hear me out..." Tanya pauses to make sure Perry is indeed hearing. "Now, all vampires, minus possibly the firstborn, all have some slight... Sadistic tendencies..."
"This isn't necessarily a bad thing! It can sometimes make them very... Playful."
"And sometimes it makes them seem evil," Tanya admits with a sigh. "The thing is, if you give a vampire a chance, they may surprise you..."
Perry can't help but chuckle. "I've been surprised alright. More than once, the last few nights."
Tanya puts her hands behind her back and smiles at herself a bit.
"I kinda went off there, didn't I?" she admits sheepishly, staring at the desk. "But there's all sorts of help we could give her, and... Well..." She shuffles her feet. "I'd just love to meet a vampire... Just once."
"You never know," Perry tells her. Then he looks up as from a few desks away Kevin raises the horn of a phone into the air.
"Perry!" he yells. "It's mr. Hatchet!" Perry shoots up from his seat.
"Sorry," he excuses himself. "We've been waiting for this call." He then turns his attention to Kevin as he rushes towards the phone. "Kev'! Get the captain."
"See you!" Tanya yells after him.
The sheep looks up worriedly at the large black man kneeling down in front of him. It is locked in a small makeshift pen constructed from iron bars, in the corner of a smallish warehouse. Crates are stacked seemingly randomly all over the place, so it cannot see the other humans, though it sure can here them.
"Now, we're gonna try this one more time," the man tells it with forced patience. With remarkable speed for a man his size he grabs the beast around the back of its head, then proceeds to pry open its mouth. Under great protest from the sheep he examines the insides closely.
"Hm. Seems okay," he mutters as he lets go again. The sheep stumbles back as quickly as it can.
"Come back here, I ain't done yet!" the human commands. The sheep however fails to become any more co-operative. With an agitated sigh the man gets up and strides towards the sheep as it backs further away into the side of the pen. Having lost any and all patience he suddenly lashes out at the sheep and grabs it firmly around the neck.
"What's your problem!?" he asks rhetorically. A rhetorical question is a question to which one does not expect an actual answer. Perhaps this is the reason why the man lets go of the sheep as if it were on fire when the reply comes.
"Your fingers in my mouth and your hands around my neck, mostly," it replies in a deep voice, complete with British accent and accompanied by a suitable glare. For a while he does little more than a lot of staring.
"I didn't just hear that," he finally decides feebly. The sheep slowly raises an eyebrow.
"I do so loathe being forced to repeat myself," it complains.
"Sorry," the man apologises nervously. "No!" he corrects himself, "not sorry. DAVE! ... You just wait right here, okay? I'm calling a friend DAVE!"
"You appear nervous," the sheep remarks. "A bad conscience, perhaps?" It cocks its head and produces a sly smirk.
"Just... Shut up, Fluffy!" the man snarls in near panic.
"I take offence, sir," the sheep responds firmly. "That is not my chosen name."
"Oh, right... And what is it then, huh? DAVE!"
"I am known as Keebler," the sheep replies calmly. It slowly raises itself off the floor, floating upward until it's face to face. "And you are...?"
"Angelo," the befuddles human answers. "DAVE!"
"I'm right HERE, Angelo," an annoyed voice from behind the man announces. Keebler cranes his neck to see around the large human before him, finding the leader of the troop leaning against a crate with his arms crossed over the pendant. "What the HELL is going on!?" he demands. Behind him the other three look on with suspicious curiosity. One has already drawn a gun. Angelo turns and leans back to give Dave a good view of the floating ram. "It's a talking sheep," he clarifies.
"So I heard," Dave notes as he saunters closer. "Question is..." He climbs over the side of the pen and continues to approach the sheep while Angelo moves out of the way. "What's it doing HERE!?"
"Perhaps I could shed some light on this matter," Keebler offers, rising up further up the leader's height.
"We'll be having sheep tonight if you don't," the human threatens, glaring the sheep straight in the eyes from a very short distance.
"Am I to be impressed?" the sheep asks, slowly raising a sceptical eyebrow as he looks him over as well as he can from this distance.
"Wanna try me?"
"Threats are the last resort of the weak of mind," Keebler tells him, quite casually. "Had you been anything bit a two-bit criminal you might have understood the power of curiosity over brute force." He places his hooves in Dave's face and shoves him away in a way that just has to hurt. The human stumbles back, then rubs his face as he glares at the sheep. When he removes his hand from his face it becomes clear that he is grinning.
"Two-bit, you say?" he grins. "How many two-bit criminals have this, huh!?" He practically slams the pendant resting on his chest, smirking proudly at the levitating ram.
"Indeed, you have managed to acquire access to Arcadia," Keebler responds, unimpressed. "Give a simpleton a nuclear detonation device and he is still merely a simpleton." He prods the human in the chest with a hoof. "You are utterly oblivious as to what you possess. The Arcadians feared invasion; what did you do?" Dave would never have thought a sheep would ever mock him. "You stole cattle."
"You don't know who you're dealing with, Keebs," Dave snarls. His face has turned as red as a tomato and his fists are clenched in anger.
"On the contrary," Keebler replies firmly, like a mentor rebuking a pupil. Meanwhile he floats to the left, all the while facing the human. "I believe you are supremely ignorant as to what you have gotten yourself involved in. I believe the same goes for every one of you." He looks to the side at the group of men watching from a little distance. It would appear some of them are a little worried. Suddenly Dave lashes out and grabs the sheep around the head. Furiously he pulls the ram's face close, till it's no more than an inch away from his own.
"Alright," he speaks swiftly, "what are you and WHAT are you doing here!?"
"I am a sheep," Keebler articulates clearly and firmly. "As to your second question... Unhand my face." The two men, well, man and ram, remain locked in a battle of stares for a few seconds.
"Courtesy often is more effective than threats," Keebler repeats slowly. The human grits his teeth and gives the four men to his side a nod. The smallest one raises his gun and aims it straight at the sheep. Then, slowly, Dave let's go and steps back.
"Very well," Keebler replies friendly, then takes a deep breath. "The reason for my presence is actually fairly simple. It is true that your thefts have left the Ward Division with more questions than answers. However, a young soldier named Perry, I believe, in charge of the investigation pertaining to the sheep disappearances, came into more or less violent contact a vampire named Venn."
"A Vennpire, so to speak," one of the men comments. Both Keebler and Dave turn their heads to give him an unamused look.
"Get on with it already," the leader tells him as he turns his head back again.
"The vampire had possession of a pendant much like that adorning your neck. From this he surmised, correctly, it now appears, the reason for the disappearances."
"And sent you to spy on us," Dave surmises smugly.
"More or less," Keebler admits. "As it had become clear that the supposed thieves were aware of which flocks are guarded and which are not a campaign was started by his captain and himself the very next day to encourage farmers to watch their flocks, though without revelling the specific reason for this. Farmer hatchet, to whom these sheep here belong, was told differently."
"Clever," Dave smirks. "Not clever enough. Seems like your soldier boy needs to try again." He grabs the sheep behind the back again, holding it firmly. "Don't think we'll let you off just cause you snitched..."
"You believe that THIS was the purpose of my monologue?" Keebler asks, disapproving of such slow reasoning skills. Dave finally runs out of things to say back as a green flash occurs behind him.
"HALT!" a booming voice announces, "YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!"
"I merely led attention away from the bug in my pelt," the sheep tells, not entirely without glee. As the four other man open fire, Keebler slams the top of his head into Dave's face and zooms off to safety.
Venn tries to hold her breath. It is an old human habit, which she never really managed to shake. It doesn't matter if she even needs to breath or not, as she presses herself against the chimney, bruised, her clothes ruffled and torn in places, the white gargoyle searching on the other side, her nerves get the better of her and she holds her breath. Her dead lungs are inflated like a balloon, filled with air for which there is no use. This does not happen often to Venn. Some vampires like to seek danger, enjoy the thrill of battle. These vampires live short lives... Afterlives, whatever. Venn prefers to operate from safety, the only battle she enjoys is the cat-and-mouse type, her being the cat. Like this she has survived a very respectable 3 centuries, and then some.
Without making a sound she holds the pendant out in front of her, listening to the gargoyle's footsteps behind her. No portal opens. It must still be recharging.
The cat-and-mouse type battle she enjoys, her being the cat. This one is simply upsetting. She is upset by the unfairness of it all; she didn't intend to harm the gargoyle, she just wanted to talk to her. To look at her. She'd never seen a gargoyle before, a fellow creature of the night. She did nothing to her and still she has to run for her life. It upsets her that there is no justice. What upsets her even more is that she lost her sketch book. It may be soaking in a puddle somewhere, or worse, someone found it and is looking through it... Her heart would beat like crazy if it would beat at all. She presses herself further against the chimney. Quiet... Like a mouse. It is then that she notices, for no particular reason, that the sky above harbours no less than three moons. Funny she never noticed that before, she finds. She also finds that she kind of likes it.
Sirius's silhouette blots out the view of the moons as she leaps over the chimney, sword drawn. With a startled squeak Venn dives out of the way, in time to narrowly avoid the blade as it cuts through her sleeve and hacks into the bricks. Swift as lighting the gargoyle swings to face the vampire, sword at the ready, eyes glowing like fire, bright red.
"Hey..." Venn utters befuddledly, fumbling with her sleeve.
"Your reign of terror ends, creature," Sirius tells her, making clear that she means every word. "For all that this human settlement is, it is my home." Venn pulls herself together after the initial shock. She crouches a little and extends her neatly varnished nails, letting out a threatening hiss to display her fangs in all their glory. Sirius raises her sword and narrows her eyes. "I will defend it," the gargoyle states threateningly. For what seems like an eternity the two creatures face each other motionlessly, eyeing each other suspiciously.
"I don't like your hair," Venn suddenly reports. Though the gargoyle remains motionless, Venn could have sworn she flinched.
"These long ponytails, they're not graceful," the vampire continues. "They're just a ugly lump on your back." She stands up straight again and runs a hand through her own hair. "Hair should flow."
The gargoyle looks at her, still motionless. "I am a warrior," she states.
"So?" Venn asks in reply. "And what's with the am-" One moment Sirius stood several meters away from her, the next Venn can barely stumble away to avoid yet another leap in her direction. Instinctively she snatches around for something to keep her from falling and manages to grab hold of a passing ponytail. One quick yank and a furious shriek later Venn stands pushing her boot into the gargoyle's back, particularly the heel, pulling Sirius' hair back as hard as she can.
"See?" she purrs, full of confidence again, "it doesn't even help. Hair should flow." With blinding speed Sirius swings around her upper torso. With a quick slash of the sword Venn unceremoniously drops on her backside with a thick pluck of hair in her hands, at which she stares incredulously.
"Hey!" she exclaims indignantly. Sirius glares back as she sheathes her sword.
"Er... What are you..." Venn stops as green flames burst from the gargoyle's claws. Deciding against any further contact with the creature she scrambles up on her feet and dashes for the side of the roof. Just as she looks back a green bolt of flames is flung in her direction. Venn dives to the ground as the bolt zooms past, singeing her hair and comes to a sliding halt against the low wall surrounding the rooftop. Breathing heavily, even though it serves no purpose, she looks back again to see the gargoyle draw her sword once more.
"Come on..." she mutters between clenched teeth as he holds out the pendant once more. Sirius raises her sword and takes a flying leap at the desperate vampire, her fierce roar only outdone by the even fiercer glow in her eyes.
"COME ON!" Venn yells at the pendant. With a bright white flash the familiar green and white portal opens between her and the swiftly approaching gargoyle. Then it closes again, leaving Venn alone on the rooftop.
"Hello?" she asks quietly at the rooftop. Carefully she raises herself on her feet, wincing at the aches in her body.
"Have fun in London," she mutters, slowly convincing herself that this was exactly what she planned to do. She leans back tiredly and drops off the roof.
"HOLD YOUR FIRE!" DeLancy bellows at his opponents as bullets ricochet off his armour and bounce off his energy shield. "LAY DOWN ON THE FLOOR WITH THE HANDS IN THE NECK REGION!" he continues, as does the weapons fire. "YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!" he clarifies again. Another green flash occurs down the alley to the right of the sheep rustlers. One of them swings round and aims his gun at the new portal opening. Before he can fire more than one shot a green bolt of plasma slams into his chest, sending him flying several feet before coming to a halt against the sheep pen, where he slumps down.
"This was the lowest setting," Perry's voice announces. "Who wants to see the next one?"
Meanwhile Dave runs through the warehouse, cursing very profusely under his breath. As hard as he can he slams his flat hand against a button on the wall. next to the large door, cursing even more as it slowly raises with enough of a racket to wake up the dead in China. All that seems to be missing is a giant neon sign arrow flashing over his head. The moment the door is raised high enough he slips under the door into the cold night. His jacket is still inside, he realises under more, slightly louder cursing. He'll never get away from that hulk in armour unless... He takes the pendant from his neck and holds it out in front of him.
"Come on!" he snarls at it, shaking it nervously. Finally something happens: something fast and heavy slams into his back. He sails through the air for several meters before coming to a painful sliding halt on the concrete ground of the industrial terrain, four legs sharply prodding into his back. The pendant slides away into the darkness.
"It was you, I believe, that referred to me as a 'inferior mutt'?" a familiar, deep, cultured voice asks. Even if Dave had a reply to that it would have been lost as a hoof is firmly placed on the back of his head, shoving his face into the concrete.
"So this is Earth," Keebler muses as he walks across and steps off the thief towards the location of the pendant. "Charming is hardly the word," he disapproves. With a deep groan Dave rolls on his back as metallic footsteps approach from the warehouse.
Slowly DeLancy circles the four men, each cuffed behind the back and sitting back to back in a small circle.
"Look, it's like I told you!" the smallest exclaims nervously. "We don't know! Only Dave does! Ask him!"
"The perpetrator shall be interrogated upon his apprehension," DeLancy states. He continues to circle.
"He's telling you, we DON'T KNOW!" Angelo exclaims.
"It's alright, buys," Dave's voice sounds from behind a stack of crates. He emerges from behind them escorted by soldier Perry and sheep Keebler. "We don't have to tell them anything."
"PERRY!" DeLancy bursts out, much to the dismay of the prisoners who are unaccustomed to DeLancy's unique ways of communicating. Perry is not. Holding the criminal by the handcuffs he jumps to attention before the captain can utter his next word. "REPORT MISSION STATUS!" DeLancy orders.
"Criminal apprehended with sheep assistance, sir!" Perry reports, causing Keebler to harrumpf noticeably. "Pendant could not be retrieved," he adds after a slight pause. Clouds start to rain on the captain's sunny temper.
"I fear..." Keebler starts. He stops as the large captain gives him a sideways glance. "Sir..." he adds reluctantly. This time he gets the human's full attention. "... that the pendant disappeared down a grating."
"We may need a special search unit to get it out," Perry suggests. "I think it may lead to the sewers."
"Hrm," DeLancy replies gruffly. "... We know where to pinpoint it's location," he decides. Then he turns his attention to the leader of the thieves.
"Interrogation of your partners in crime has revealed that you were in contact with an inhabitant of Arcadia, more specifically a citizen of Ward, who relayed to you information regarding flocks that were unguarded at the times of theft," he informs without pausing or blinking.
"And?" Dave replies stone cold. The captain opens his mouth to speak, but is cut off as the criminal continues. "I mean, what do you think you can do here, hm? Hm!?" He wrestles himself lose from Perry's grasp with a quick jerk and looks straight at the captain.
"You gonna kill us? People will start asking questions. Your secret little world will be exposed." The sheep raises itself to ear level besides him.
"They have managed to master the concept of a jail," he informs Dave.
"Right... And no one's gonna notice us missing, right? They'll just go along their merry ways not remembering we were ever here. Look, I'm gonna cut you a deal..." Dave notices both armoured men and the sheep are all looking silently at him.
"I think we trust you more where we can see you," Perry explains kindly.
"Now wait a minute..."
DeLancy raises his wrist communicator to his mouth. "DeLancy to central. Open portal for transportation of criminal elements."
"I gather the Arcadian royal family has some slight influence to exert in this world," Keebler relates. A bright green flash, brighter than the two before, is prelude to the opening of a portal big enough to march a platoon through.
"No! No! You can't do this!" the leader complains loudly as his helpers stare in awe. Perry grabs him firmly by the shoulders.
"Off you go," he says, pushing the criminal into the portal. "You'll get three meals a day."
"I want a lawyer!" Dave demands.
"We have some of those too," the soldier assures him as the disappear to Arcadia. Keebler follows closely behind, a broad smile on his face, as DeLancy bends over to pick up the first of the remaining dumbstruck sheep rustlers.
"So that leaves one still to be found..."
The count sits back in his desk chair, fiddling with a random pen. He is wearing the bathrobe he quickly slipped on when DeLancy gently woke him up by pounding the door.
"Yes sir," DeLancy confirms.
"And one with the vampire and one in a sewer on Earth."
"Yes sir," the captain confirms again. "A special search unit has been implemented to investigate the sewers and locate the object."
The count blinks tiredly a few times. "We have a special unit for that?"
"Soldiers Vicar and Anderson required disciplinary action, sir," the captain explains.
"Ah..." The count leans forward and rests his elbows on the desk, rubbing his eyes. "So..." He stifles a yawn. "Any idea who took them yet?"
"No sir. The investigation my lead to the identity of this perpetrator."
"Well, I assume you're well able to find him and the pendant," Arno muses. "We'll at least have one, we know where one other is, which counts for something too, I suppose..." he looks up at the captain. "Well done," he compliments. DeLancy responds with a brisk salute.
"Thank you, SIR!" he exclaims. "Much of the credit must go to soldier Perry, sir," he adds.
"Where's Perry then?"
"Soldier Perry continues to conduct the investigation, sir. He informed this captain that he may be able to wrap things up this night."
"That's good," the count answers. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have one hell of a portal-lag..."
Johnson looks silently at the soldier for a second.
"You've arrested them?" he asks bemusedly.
"Well, yes," Perry replies. He looks curiously at the sheep farmer's less than enthusiastic expression. "You're not pleased?"
"Pleased?" Johnson bursts out in brief nervous laughter. "I am ecstatic! Well done, mr. Perry!" He quickly turns around and heads to a cabinet at the other side of the room. "This," he decides, "is cause for celebration. I assume you will apprehend any accomplices soon?"
"Things are looking good," Perry admits. "One of the thieves immediately revealed information about help from within Arcadia. The Plains, to be more exact."
"So they knew which flocks were unguarded," Johnson concludes as he opens the cabinet.
"Yes. They had help from someone who'd be in a position to know these things."
Johnson sighs very slowly with his back to the soldier, not moving otherwise.
"And who could use the money, of course," Perry continues.
" I imagine so," the farmer replies flatly. Perry steps closer.
"Is there a problem, sir?" he asks helpfully. Suddenly the farmer swings around and Perry stares into the barrel of a hunting rifle.
"Yes," Johnson answers. "Take off the armour, mr. Perry. I have no desire to harm you." Perry takes a deep breath as he looks at the farmer defiantly.
"You know what's really funny?" he asks, though there's little amusement in his voice. "Really, you'll laugh." He reaches back and removes the compressed armour from his back.
"Slide it over here," Johnson gently orders.
"We did interrogate Dave, as he calls himself, but he never did tell us your name." the farmer looks silently at him, not quite managing to hide his dismay. Perry crouches down and places the armour on the floor.
"But I remembered how you spoke of financial problems," Perry continues. He slides the armour against Johnson's shoes. "Plus you seem to know pretty much everything of everyone in the world of sheep farmers. Now I know my notes became something of a joke to you people, but I guess it was good for something." The soldier raises to his full height again, never taking his eyes off the farmer's face, which remains stubbornly stoic. "I'd show you the entry if I brought them along."
"And the badge," Johnson simply replies, nodding at the communicator badge pinned on Perry's uniform. Perry takes it off and tosses it at the farmer. It bounces off the floor and against the wall before coming to a sliding halt.
"So now what?" he asks.
"Now," Johnson replies, "I will leave."
"There's nowhere for you to go, sir," Perry says, quite friendly and rationally, shaking his head.
"There is," the farmer replies, though without much joy. He reaches back with his left arm, feels around a little, then finds his personal pendant.
"Good night, mr. Perry," he says bitterly as he holds it out in front of him. Perry looks back with a grim expression.
"I'm afraid there is not," he tells the sheep farmer, who looks confusedly at the pendant, which refuses to work. "Your pendant has been remotely deactivated along with those of other possible suspects." Johnson slowly forces himself to think as the soldier speaks.
"Lower the rifle," Perry says softly. "Don't lose what you have left."
"I already lost it," Johnson replies dolefully, letting go of the pendant. It drops onto the armour, resulting in an unexpected loud clang, silencing both men for a few moments. Finally Perry takes the initiative, as well as a careful step forward.
"Stay there!" Johnson exclaims before Perry can speak, the nerves finally breaking through. "I do not WANT to shoot you, but so help me!"
"What!?" the soldier suddenly exclaims agitatedly, "another death thread!? I've been getting those all WEEK, Johnson!" He takes a deep breath to concentrate as the sheep farmer blinks a few times at him.
"You need to work on your temper, son," Johnson says somewhat bemusedly.
"Lower the gun, sir," Perry orders slowly. Johnson starts to edge to the side and back, towards the wall.
"Please lay down on the floor with your hands behind your back, mr. Perry," he asks as he crouches down and runs his left hand down along the wall.
"Even if the court is lenient," he explains as Perry lowers himself to lie down on the floor, "my colleagues here will have my head. And quite right they would be too..." With a quick Pull he yanks an electric cord from where the wall and the floor come meet. "Yes, now with your hands behind your back. Like that, yes, thank you." He steps on one side of the cord and pulls it in two. Dragging along a lamp stand he approaches the soldier with the cord, walks around him and then gets down on his knees, one knee on Perry's back. There he throws his rifle aside for a moment.
"You really have nowhere to go, Johnson," Perry says with determination as the cord is swiftly wrapped around his wrists. "You won't get far."
"I have little to lose either," Johnson remarks nervously, expertly tying a knot that would keep a sheep tied up for days. After a quick tug on the cord to determine the quality of the knot he jumps off and picks up his rifle again.
"I really am sorry, mr. Perry," he says as he grabs the door handle. "It was not supposed to be like this."
"It never was," Perry replies flatly, "and it always is."
Giving the soldier one last look Johnson opens the door and rushes out. He stops just in time before running into something long, shiny and sharp. In one swift motion he raises his rifle and aims it at the owner of the sword prodding into his belly.
Jessie and Johnson's gazes are locked.
"You see," Perry shouts from back inside the house, "we had a little personnel shortage due to the vampire problem. So I brought volunteers."
"I know how to use this," Jessie threatens at the farmer. Johnson resists the urge to bite his lip.
"Do you now?" he replies, raising the butt of the rifle a little to seem more threatening himself.
"Yes," she answers. "Pointy bit goes in there..." She nods at his chest as she slowly raises her sword, "... and out the other side."
"I'm the one with the gun," Johnson tells her, "and there's only one of you."
A furry hand suddenly clutches the barrel of the gun and yanks it up. A shocked Johnson looks along the arm into the face of anthro-wolf number two: Jason.
"Can we count to two?" he asks with a very toothy grin. With a deep shuddering sigh the sheep farmer lowers his head and raises both his hands over his head.
"Look hon," Jessie smiles. "I think he can!"
Silently Venn waits, pressed against the alley wall. Concentrating deeply through her pain and misery she listens to the approaching footsteps. Step, step, step... Like that of a cat stalking its prey her head follows the passing soldier. After waiting for a few seconds she quietly slips out of the alley and onto the street. The illuminated sidewalk is not her favourite hunting ground, but it will have to do. With the patience of a saint and the intentions of a demon she follows the soldier, silent like a leaf in a breeze, glaring at his back, but not too hard, or he might notice. He's still carrying that stupid notepad of his, she notices. When he is dead she will take a peak at what's in there anyway, she decides, wetting her lips. Suddenly the soldier stops in his tracks. Venn immediately halts mid stride, not that it does her much good, as the soldier turns his upper torso to look at her. Venn is startled for a moment as her carefully laid out plan of attack falls to pieces.
"Why do you ALWAYS have to RUIN it!?" she screams out, frustrated and non-too-happy.
"You don't look so good," Perry notes as he turns around completely. She is bruised, her clothes look worse for wear and her hair is at most an attempt at fixing a mess.
"Well, I'm having the worst night of my life! Death! Whatever!" Venn throws her hands up in frustration. "I mean, I sit there waiting for you minding my own business and I see this white gargoyle and I go and talk to her and she attacked me!"
"Huh?" Perry replies, trying to get his mind to catch up with the long string of blurted out text. "Sirius? what did you do? where is she now?"
"London," the vampire answers curtly before continuing with her rant. "I mean, she hit me and she ripped my clothes and I fell off the roof... She tried to kill me!" Venn is probably closer to tears than she will ever admit.
"Sucks, doesn't it?" Perry asks with a smile. Venn tries to give him a deadly look, but finds she just doesn't have the strength anymore.
"I mean, look at my sleeve," she mutters, fumbling with her torn sleeve.
"Anyway, we'll have to pick her up then," Perry decides. "I ought to thank you, really," he remarks unexpectedly. The vampire looks back at him with a puzzled expression.
"I ought to thank you, really," Perry remarks unexpectedly. The vampire looks back at him with a puzzled expression.
"You were a great help in solving the case," the soldier explains. Venn let's go of her sleeve and just stands there, staring at the soldier.
"So you found the sheep?"
"Yes," Perry replies with a nod.
"The wolf and the sheep can go and be friends again?"
"Yes." Perry nods again. Venn looks silently at the soldier again. Truthfully, she is not sure what to make of this.
"Wolves and sheep can't be friends," she finally decides. "It's not normal."
"Well, stranger things have happened," Perry tells her. He takes the notepad out from under his arm and steps towards her. This Venn knows how to handle. She spreads her arms and legs slightly and hisses softly at the mortal, baring her fangs.
Perry stretches out his arms and holds the notepad out at her. She realises it's her sketchbook. Again, she is left without a response.
"This is yours, right?" he asks. "You dropped it when Sirius chased you."
Venn looks at the sketchbook with a mixture of relief and horror. Slowly, she reaches out for it, wary for any tricks or traps. As nothing seems to be happening, she suddenly snatches it from the soldier's hands, quickly checks it for any damage, then gives him a defiant look.
"You are very good," Perry compliments her.
"You... Looked at them?" Venn asks, attempting to hide the dread in her voice as she slowly steps back.
"Mm-mm," Perry replies. "It was very impressive. That last drawing is the spitting image of me... Well, if you think away the evil black moustache, and the goatee, and the horns and scar..."
Venn sulks embarassedly as she clutches the sketchbook tightly.
"Have you been doing this long?" Perry asks with interest.
"It helps pass the time," Venn says, almost mutters, looking at a street tile.
"There was this one picture of a black cat," the soldier continues, "who-"
"That's non of your business!" Venn suddenly snaps back. The soldier and the vampire again stand silently looking at each other.
"I've had a bad night," Venn finally mutters. She takes a deep breath and sighs equally deep. No one can sigh as deeply as a vampire; they can sigh till there's not a whiff of air left in the lungs.
"I don't feel like killing tonight," the vampire decides. She slowly turns around, keeping an eye on the soldier.
"Doesn't have to be that way," Perry tells her. With a single leap Venn lands on top of a lamp post, bouncing up and down slightly as it vibrates.
"You don't have to spend your life hiding from attack, hunting people for food," Perry continues. Venn doesn't know whether to groan, sigh or laugh. She turns around to look at him from above, where he looks so much smaller.
"There is help for you here on Arcadia," the mortal explains. His good intentions are almost cute.
"You are the one that'll need help," Venn tells Perry with narrowed eyes.
"You'll continue to hunt me then?" Perry asks.
"I swear you will be the next human I feed on," Venn replies evilly. After some thought she adds, "Well, except maybe for a between meals thing or something." Perry looks down at the ground, pouting his lips while pondering. Then he looks up.
"I'll see you then," he says.
"I will see you," the vampire corrects him. "You won't see me." She leaps up at the nearest rooftop and disappears from sight, leaving Perry to stand alone in the cold streets of Ward. He looks up at the rooftop upon which Venn disappeared, but finding nothing he quickly turns around and rushes home. From up on one of the rooftops Venn's emerald green eyes watch his every move as he disappears from sight. Slowly a smile forms on the vampire's face.
She convinces herself it's an evil one.
Jessie and Jason are copyrighted to their respective owners. All other characters are copyrighted to Arno Jacobs. Gargoyles is owned lock, stock and barrel by Buena Vista and Disney and have been used without their express permission. Arcadia is copyrighted to... The Arcadia Clan. Does anyone ever read this stuff? If I ever did I knew how to write one of these. Any comments / flames / suggestions? I do have an e-mail address and a guestbook. email@example.com.