Toiling on yet another carved series of runes and sigils made her wish she had a few more thralls. But this far from civilization, it was hard enough to feed the mouths she already had. Her servitor was due back any day now and would bring not only spell components but the precious blood they’d run so low on. In fact, Hennessey had spotted a ship approaching this morning. Maybe supplies would be arriving soon. Until then, more dust, more drudgery.
She continued chiseling the smooth stone floor for several more hours, a task poorly suited to her personality. Despite her unnaturally long life (getting a little unbelievable at this point, she mused), she had never yet outgrown her impatience. She pondered if that was the aspect of her personality that had led her to make the decisions she had and how long she could be contented with her current form and path. Her chosen condition, for all its benefits, was eternal. Was that a commitment she had prepared herself for? This was the best body she’d had in centuries, but could it satisfy her for… well, forever?
Her musings were interrupted, as they so often were, by the sound of an exaggerated accent calling a greeting across the cavern. “’Ello, Milady!”
Her annoyance tempered somewhat by the prospect of fresh blood, she responded evenly. "Onslo, what have you brought me?
“Think you’ll be pleased, Milady,” he replied. “700 pounds of rose quartz, the crew of a small galleon, two of your thralls and a little something else.”
While she had yet to be impressed or delighted by any of his surprises, she looked up from her work expectantly. Hope springs eternal, she thought before briefly pondering the irony of using that particular expression. The creature that had taken to calling itself Onslo had retaken its more terrifying natural form. But the truly unusual sight was the Hunter standing placidly next to him. Mazrim, her Hunter party’s monk and weaponsmith, was standing in her most guarded sanctum. She didn’t think of him as their best vampire hunter; that distinction went to either the paladin or the moose woman with the necklace. That girl combined hatred with expertise in some deadly ways and had even proven impressive at their first meeting. Added to that, something about her made her impervious to the charms employed by the Children of the Night. Against logic she still dared to hope that the female Hunter would be useful someday. But the monk was a fearsome combatant and had both magic and blindingly fast physical prowess at his command. His presence here and tranquil manner meant he was clearly under the control of one of her thralls. “How did we come by this treasure?” she asked, finally impressed by Onslo’s efforts.
“The Caldwell lady apparently tracked us to the warehouse,” he said, false accent fading. “She brought some Hunter friends, but they said they didn’t want to fight. Offered to leave us in peace if we took some cargo with us. Naturally, we got curious and opened the barrel they’d had us load. Lo and behold, the monk pops out. Cheeky blighter mighta been fine if he’d fought or run, but he just sat there on the barrel grinnin’ until Jameson managed to put the razzle-dazzle on him and bring him to our side. Figured you’d have some use for a hostage. Or…?”
Or, indeed. This opened some interesting options. She’d been envious of Jameson’s ability to study and choose which spells she learned for some months and was considering ridding herself of the thrall. But she’d proven more than useful on this excursion even though she was just told to guard the cargo. Maybe she’d make the transition to being free-willed as well as Hennessey had. She considered her options briefly. “If the Hunters have allied with the Caldwell woman, then they’ll be difficult to use going forward. We may need to make alternate plans. I’ll have Hennessey turn the monk. Take Walker and Jameson and return to Elim.” She handed him a lightly singed piece of paper with a brief description and an address on it. “Bring its contents to me as per my second wish.”
“Very well, my lady,” he replied deferentially. “But this will likely run afoul of the Hunters again. Does your third wish still stand?”
“Their usefulness looks to be at an end, but I still hold out hope. If Jameson and Walker kill them, then bring the necklace back to me. Otherwise don’t antagonize them.” She knew that would prove difficult for a creature like Onslo, and that just made the command all the more satisfying to deliver. “Keep the captain and what crew he needs to make the return journey. Send everyone else in here. We’ve gone too long without a meal, and it’s starting to wear on us all — especially Korbel.”
“As you say, my lady.” Onslo sketched his traditional bow before turning and walking away several paces. She’d known him long enough to not be surprised when he turned and addressed her again. “I have one request, my lady, if I may.”
More generous than annoyed, at least for the moment, she agreed. “Name it,” she told the reddish beast.
Onslo’s tusks glinted in the torchlight in a mockery of a smile for a moment before he turned the tables and made a wish of his own.