Almost forgot to use this teaser. People seemed to like the concept of a certain character and I’m happy to share his debut. It’s actually getting rather difficult to get this guy involved because he’s trying to stay neutral, so it’s a special joy whenever I get to use him. It means every scene needs to drip with his personality. Hope that comes across from this excerpt.
Clyde and Mab come out of the vertical shaft covered in cobwebs and poisonous spiders that they casually wipe off. Instead of knocking on the metal door in front of them, the vampires search the floor for handles. Lifting the stone cover off the real entrance to Gregorio’s lab, they hold it over their heads and jump in at the same time. With the opening sealed, the pair are plunged into darkness and expect to quickly land in a dimly lit room. Instead, they hit a cold slide and are sent flying through a tunnel that steadily narrows. Bumps in the ground knock them into the ceiling, which is covered in a slime that sticks to their bodies. They are pressed together and wonder if they are about to be crushed into paste until they abruptly slam into a moss-covered wall. Falling a short distance, Clyde lands on his feet with Mab quietly perched on his shoulders, both of them too stunned to move an inch. It is only the sight of experiment-covered tables and the pungent odor of alchemy supplies that snaps them out of their trances. The instant the pair breathe a sigh of relief, a blast of water erupts from the gratings beneath their feet and washes them clean.
“Who dares enter the lair of Gregorio Roman the . . . Oh, it’s only you,” a frail-looking gnome says as he steps out of the shadows. Placing tinted glasses on the tip of his bulbous nose, the bald vampire lights a small torch that illuminates his entire lab. “Looks like I need stronger lenses because that still hurts. Could go outside more often too, but I hear it’s cold and there are bears. You know, neither of you talk to me about staying in my lab for so long that even moonlight hurts my eyes. I’d apologize for the robe and slippers, but I don’t care. When you get to my age, appearances no longer become important. So, how goes the war?”
“We’re not winning, but I think there’s more important things to discuss right now,” Mab answers, nudging her head towards Clyde. She frowns when the ancient vampire merely yawns and fixes his dark red robe in a way that briefly exposes himself. “I’m not the one to ask about it anyway. Xavier tells me only what I need to know for my own missions. We’re on one now to uncover traitors and kill them. By the way, do you have anything to say to Clyde?”
“Haven’t heard that name in a long time,” Gregorio states while rubbing his chin. A squeak causes him to hurry over to a table where a mouse is navigating a booby-trapped maze. “I’m trying to see if mice can learn from the mistakes of others. The rest are watching from the cages over here, but they’re more interested in breeding. Now, you mentioned my favorite son who hasn’t come to visit in the last fifty years. He requests a special weapon from me, goes off to get in trouble with one of our greatest enemies, and never returns. Not a note or a telepathic message or even a birthday snack from the ungrateful idiot. I’d give him a piece of my mind if he was here, but the fool would probably put it in his stomach instead of his skull.”
“Fine, I made a big mistake and you were right that I should have stayed away from that orb,” Clyde blurts out. His presence finally acknowledged by his maker, he is forced to stand completely still while the gnome examines him. “As far as your other complaints, I’d have visited if I wasn’t buried. You had to have known that since Mab would have reported to you before going to Xavier. I’m here now though and I promise to come back after we get this job done. Can I have that sword?”
“Sorry, I don’t think I recognize you.”
“Stop goofing off, old fang.”
“The rudeness is familiar, but my son would still have some manners.”
“Nadia says hi if that helps.”
“Knowing my daughter doesn’t mean anything.”
“For the love of everything bloody, you want a hug.”
“Well, it’s been fifty years.”
Clyde sighs before embracing the gnome, who immediately slips out of his arms and swiftly jabs him in the wrist with a finger blade. Gregorio casts a paralysis spell that locks his son in place for a few seconds. The younger vampire shrugs off the magic, but remains where he is and patiently waits for the examination to be over. It is not until he notices that Mab is nervously tapping her foot that he remembers he has a pulse. Even though the gnome is calm, Clyde knows that his secret has been discovered and prepares himself for what he thinks is the inevitable. To his relief, the first thing that happens is a chair of bones walks over and he gets to sit down while the finger blade is twisted further into his flesh. Mab perches on the edge of a lab table, which violently bucks her onto an approaching couch that is as soft as a cloud. A marble pedestal that ends at a clawed foot hops over to deliver a punch bowl of blood with cups floating inside the thick liquid.
“First, I still think that necklace is ridiculous. Don’t care that you stole it and earned the friendship of your slightly better half,” Gregorio says while removing his nail from Clyde’s wrist.