Red: 1. An Introduction
A lone woman walked down the side of the lane, stopping often to look back over her shoulder. She pulled the dark cloak tighter around her shoulders, warding out the chill of the night, looked up to the now darkening sky, with its band of purple along the edge of the skyline before deepening into that almost oppressive black of the full sky. No moon shown tonight and the lanterns hanging on their posts were not yet lit along this portion of the lane. She moved further along, pausing again a few yards away to look back again, almost as if she expected someone, or something, to come out of the shadows cast by the three and four story buildings lining the lane. Satisfied that she was indeed alone, she continued along, not stopping again until she was before the library. Approaching the building she could tell that someone had extinguished the lanterns in front of the place purposely from the glass littering the gravel path. Her paranoia of the new surroundings made her pause again to peer into the darkness of every crevice and corner until she was satisfied that no one was hiding there, waiting for new prey. Pulling her cloak tighter around herself, she avoided the shattered glass to ascend the stairs slowly, cautiously. She was new to this city, but it was her nature not to trust anyone, not even at the library and especially not at night.
She stepped into the library slowly and looked around, taking note of everything she saw, from where the two exits were to the alcoves, even the handful of patrons and where each of them was. Her many years of training had turned this exercise in scouting into natural instinct. Slowly walking the perimeter of the first floor before moving on to the second, she glanced at the shelves, noting where the aisles were that contained the books she needed. A door in the back, by the restrooms, with a plaque glued to it stating only employees were allowed through it, caught her attention. She made a mental note of the door; she would ask one of the librarians about it later. For now, she made sure to keep an eye on who went near and through it. Finally, she chose a table in an alcove in the back of the second story of the library. She deposited her backpack on the table and started gathering books she would start with. Once satisfied with the large pile of books she had collected and placed on the table, she sat down facing the room, pulled out a notebook from her bag and started reading, taking notes here and there as she went. She looked up from her research occasionally to take note of the changes in her surroundings, or when someone walked by the alcove, then went back to reading. Thus became her routine over the years.
The library was nearly empty, as usual for this time of night, as Red looked around for a moment from where she sat at her regular table. From the alcove in the back of the second story, facing the rest of the library, she could see down the aisles of shelves, which blocked most of her view of the library, with the exception of the main doors; they were far enough away from her that no one would be able to sneak up on her. It was quiet and the air carried on it the faint scent of musk, the scent of things very old. The soft illumination inside the building came from the few light fixtures around the room, and a single light on each of the large tables. Around the outer walls of the library were small alcoves, each about twenty or so feet from the next, with shelves full of books between each one. Each alcove had a light in the back, casting just barely enough light to read by. There were no windows inside the library and every inch of the walls were lined with shelf upon shelf of books, each shelf almost overflowing as they were filled to capacity. The center of the room contained the two dozen tables that occupied the lower level of the library, with row after row of shelves arranged so that a person could see down each row from the Librarian’s station in the center of the tables. The center of the library above the tables was open to the second floor. When one walked up to the upper level and looked around they would find that there were only a dozen or so alcoves on this level, and even fewer tables, only one in each corner. There were, however, row upon row if shelves, with just enough room between them for a person to possibly squeeze by if there was another already in the row, but only if they were both thin as boards. Even the walls on this floor were covered with shelves almost overflowing with books. The library would need to be expanded if they acquired too many more books; there were now so many more books than when she first started coming here.
Red looked around once more before looking to the pile of books that she had in front of her. It was a large pile, covering most of the four-foot square oak table consuming most of the space in the little alcove. This night the pile included many books on the occult and the legends of vampires and ghouls, even books on Nostradamus and his prophesies, as well as a large stack of newspapers from cities worldwide for the last ten days. There had been some major events taking place in the world over the last week or so that she needed to check into for him, and she had always been one able to find information in not only what was written in the papers, but what was not written. One of the librarians was still bringing her books and another was bringing newspapers an hour later as she was reading them and setting aside the ones she did not want or need any longer. As quickly as she set them aside, they would be replaced with another as the librarians kept bringing her more books on the subjects she had requested. She had several books open and was looking through them all, back and forth between them and taking notes, and she soon found her thoughts drifting.
A couple hours later, she looked up and stretched, deciding on a short break. She took a moment to look at her watch and when she looked up her eyes wandered to the door in the back before turning towards the front of the library. Her breath caught in her throat, her heart skipped a beat as she glanced towards the front doors. Walking into the library was the most awe inspiring man she had ever seen. He stood an inch under seven feet tall, wearing all black leather, from his steel plated combat boots to the three quarter length leather duster he wore with a hood pulled up covering most of his face but did nothing to conceal his massive muscles. He wore black leather pants, accentuating the rippling muscles of his long legs as he walked, and a black leather shirt clinging to his well-muscled chest. His hands were covered with black fingerless leather gloves, which left the backs of his hands bare from his knuckles to the strap at the wrist and had a row of spikes at the knuckles. He walked around the library, pausing in a few places looking at books on the shelf and Red found herself wondering how a man dressed as he was had not been considered to be out of place. After he had paused a third time she noted that he was stopping in the same places she had pulled books from. An eyebrow lifted as she considered whether this man could possibly be someone with whom she could study with or if he might know someone she could. Her head tilted to the left as she considered her last thought, wondering where it had come from. Why was she even thinking about anything to do with this man? The many patrons of the library quickly moved out of his way upon seeing him. Red smiled to herself as, several times, the shelves almost toppled over as he tried to step between the rows. The muscles of his legs rippled under the leather of his pants as she watched him ascend the stairs to the second story, taking the steps two at a time. After stopping to talk to one of the librarians for a moment, who motioned over toward her, he walked up to her table. She looked up at him and it took every ounce of control she had not to lose her composure.
“Interesting subjects you have there.” His voice resonated deep in his chest and made her quiver. He did not speak loudly, but his voice filled the small alcove easily. He was looking at her with dark brown, almost black, eyes that seemed to look into her very soul. As she watched him, he scanned the books in front of her, noting the subjects: several forms of martial arts, instruction in the use of several oriental weapons, the making of and use of pistols, rifles, and swords, as well as quite a few books on boxing and personal security. There were even a few of the different mercenary publications stacked on a corner of the table, most unusual for a woman to be reading them, even in this day and age. His hand went to the top one, moving it aside to see more of the same under it. A small warning went off in the back of her mind that she ignored as she looked at him. Before she could look away, his gaze caught hers and she felt as if her soul had been lost.
It had been like this between them for millennia. Every new town they moved to, she would see to the security of the new sanctuary while he met the new Prince of the region, and then he would introduce her and the rest of the family. While she waited for the meeting with the Prince, she would check the library. Once she was introduced and accepted, she would be free to move around within the city. This time, however, it was she who met the Prince first and had to introduce her family. Red had never been comfortable with being in the foreground of things, even as a child she preferred to stay out of sight, and this time was no exception. The Prince had asked her questions that she was sure Ty would not have wanted answered, and though she did her best not to offend the Prince by avoiding answering, she would never lie when asked a direct question; it was how she always got into trouble with Ty. He had warned her once, long ago, that her honesty would someday get them all into trouble, that day was not long ago.
With some effort, Red pulled her concentration back to his words, controlling her expression and her voice as she answered him. “Aye, ye know me, mo choroi, always something new tae be learned.” She smiled sweetly as she spoke, her thick Irish accent was more prominent than usual tonight. Perhaps it was her nervousness in the task that lay ahead of her in but an hour’s time, or perhaps it was his proximity, who knew? No one could really explain, not even Red, why her accent always went to the Irish when her emotions were heightened; they weren’t even a people when she was living. None the less, it never failed that when Ty was near or her emotions were strong, she would slip into the accent as if it was second nature to her, speaking their tongue more often than she spoke any of the other many languages she knew. “It be set for less than an hour from now. Are ye ready? Are the others?”
“They need but a moment’s notice and they will be there. Do you have a location for me?” His voice made her quiver. She had never acted the school girl, yet when he asked her if he could sit she could only smile and nod, not trusting her voice not to say the words that were in her mind. She had never had a problem controlling her emotions, not even when she was human, but when he was around, she found it difficult to control her desire and love for him. He had always told her this was not a bad thing, to use the emotions that raged within her to her advantage. It only took one time of losing that control for her to learn her lesson.
She controlled her expression, and her voice, as she answered him. The Prince’s sanctuary was not in the heart of downtown, where her sister had thought it would be, but rather just to the northwest of it, in the richest part of the city. This Prince was a vain man, always flaunting his money and power. It surprised Red and Jessica at first that he had never exposed their kind to the humans; they only knew him to be the grandson of some wealthy oil baron who settled in the city a little over a century ago. His real name was Baldessare though the humans knew him as Kenneth Lansing.