The drive to Magnolia Promenade didn’t take long. After an hour or so, I arrive at the gates of Magnolia Public Cemetery with Kumar. I placed him in the car’s trunk at first, but halfway through the journey, he came to and started banging the trunk. I pulled over, opened the trunk, punched his ugly mug, and placed him in the back seat this time, bound by seat belts.
“Can I be released now, Mr. Tony?” Kumar asks as I park the car. “There’s an itch down my rear–”
“If you agree to cooperate with me for the time being, I will let you go.” I tell him as I turn off the car’s engine and place the keys in my suit pocket. “You will show me the way to Archon Malefica’s hideout, and in return, I won’t harm you.”
“A very agreeable plan, Mr. Tony!”
I unbind Kumar from the seat belts and throw him out of the car, letting his lips kiss the curb at full force. He squirms in pain for a moment with hands over his bloody lips, but after seeing me glare at him, he gets up and opens the gate of the cemetery without complaint.
“So your hideout is a cemetery…” I think aloud.
“Oh, this is just one of Madame’s safe houses. We don’t really have a permanent hideout, but all of our safe houses are still within the Newcrest area.” Kumar explains as I remember the Doc telling me before that some Houses have an almost nomadic existence, traveling from one hideout to another but within the same area of influence of the local Grand Archon.
I nod and we keep moving along the winding path of the cemetery. Magnolia Public Cemetery isn’t as big as the ones I’ve seen in Forgotten Hollow or in Newcrest. Many of the dead here are cremated and stored in the small public mausoleum, while the grave plots belong to more affluent figures who have passed.
Looking around, I notice most of the large tombstones here belong to businessmen, trendsetters, and war veterans, all who have made their mark in life. This makes me wonder if my family even gave me a proper memorial. My own death was faked by the Fengs, after all.
“Here we are.” Kumar stops at what appears to be a public toilet.
“Do you need to relieve yourself?”
“No, Mr. Tony! This is the entrance to the safehouse… I think.”
“I don’t remember exactly.” Kumar chuckles with unease and scratches the back of his head.
He then explains that in order to get into the hideout, I must enter the female side, look for the stall at the very end, and crawl through a vent hidden below some crude phone numbers etched on the wall. Then I’ll end up in the shower room of the safe house.
“One question, what does this safe house of yours look like anyway?” I ask the human thrall.
Kumar gulps and I assume it’s the gravekeeper’s house that’s just right behind the public lavatory. My vampire senses detect that Malefica’s henchmen (who might be human thralls or ghouls) are outside, standing guard, so walking in through the front door is obviously not an option.
“It’s the house over there, isn’t it?”
“It might be, it might be not.”
“I have no time for games. IS IT THE HIDEOUT OR IS IT NOT?” I snap at Kumar who is being as vague as a fortune teller.
“IT IS, MR. TONY! IT IS.” Kumar talks back in a tone that I do not like.
“Don’t you dare raise your voice on me, human.” I remind Kumar of his place as a servant of vampires. Maybe this is why the Doc always kept his distance when it comes to humans, especially the incompetent ones. A hierarchy must be established, as I have been taught.
But wait a second, where are these thoughts coming from? I’ve never addressed someone as human before. Is it because I have been a vampire for a few years now? Have I started to disassociate myself with being human, like the Doc has? These thoughts have been getting stronger as of late.
But I ignore these questions in my mind and look back at Kumar who seems to be shaking in his boots.
“Sorry, Mr. Tony!”
“Now get out of my sight. Go over there and take a break.”
With a wave of my hand, I mesmerize Kumar and watch him drone over to one of the benches and sit still. Now that I’ve pacified him, I make my way to the female side of the lavatory.
After crawling through the vent, I open the grate at the end with care and get out of the hole. I really did end up in a shower room. There were nasty things in the vent, like used condoms, tampons, and even a few unknown substances. I dispose of the things that stuck to my suit and look around. The humidity of the room is almost suffocating, so I head for the door and open it with caution.
Upon opening the door, the hideout looks much like a normal house but with the aroma of plasma fruit in the air. And on the couch sits a familiar little figure, watching a kids show on an old TV.
“Miggy? Miggy, it’s me!” I call out without thinking and notice a large henchman seated at the computer desk browsing SimBook. But he doesn’t seem to notice my presence. I sigh with relief and see Miggy turn towards me.
“A nice lady brought me to this fun place, Uncle Tony!” he tells me as he starts bouncing on the couch.
“A nice lady?” I make a guess on who might that be.
“That would be me.” A female voice speaks as black fog enters the room and materializes into a figure.
“How glad of you to join us for our slumber party tonight. You must be the Doc’s protege, am I right?” Archon Malefica speaks as I notice her holding a storybook for children.
“You’re Archon Malefica, I presume. Give back Miggy, you kidnapper.” I waste no time mincing words and form a small orb of dark energy in my hand. This is something I learned from one of Doc’s friends in Forgotten Hollow.
“Whoah, let’s talk this out first. No need for such hostility. Chill!” Malefica sets aside the book and seems to have interrupted my spell with her own magic as my orb fizzles out. My eyes widen as I can’t seem to create another orb of energy. Nullification magic!
“Auntie Maggie is really nice, Uncle Tony!” Miggy explains. Oh dear, I think he’s been brainwashed.
“So you brainwashed him, too?” I accuse Malefica.
“No, Uncle Tony! Auntie Maggie is real nice and has fun shows on her TV.”
“Really?” I furrow my brow and check to see if they’re lying. Malefica seems to be sincere enough in her tone, but I remain alert.
“Little Miggy speaks the truth. I swear on my coffin; I didn’t use any brainwashing spell on the dear child. Harms the brain cells, I heard.” Malefica says in a calm tone and I lower my guard. She then gestures me to take a seat on the sofa. “Now how about we sort this out like civil vampires and talk?”
I look at Miggy who just gives me a nod and decide that the Archon must be telling the truth. Now it’s time to ask questions.
“First off, why go through all that trouble kidnapping Miggy?” I ask Archon Malefica.
“I want my own heir. Being an Archon is tiring work, and I’ve been looking for an heir so that I can finally retire.” she explains.
“I didn’t know Archons could retire.” I squint my eyes, doubting what she says.
“That’s because you were turned yesterday, fledgling.” Malefica retorts while stressing the last word. “It is clearly stated in the Vampiric Code that an Archon may retire from their duties as long as they find an heir or marry another House’s Archon to form a merger.”
“So you decided to kidnap Miggy just for an heir.”
“Kidnapping is such a strong word, um–”
“Right, Antonio. Anyway, I didn’t kidnap this child. I used a light paralysis spell to calm him down, but he came here with me willingly.”
“But why him? What’s so special about kidnapping a child from House de Guzman?”
Archon Malefica laughs at the question.
“Just call it payback. Your Archon did something terrible to me in the past.”
“The Doc? If it’s all right to ask, what exactly did he do?”
Archon Malefica ponders for a moment, seeming unwilling to share whatever transpired. But she starts telling me what happened.
“Five years ago, I went to him for a physical examination. Just to check if my vampiric vitals are still in shape and that Dr. de Guzman’s the only vampire physician in town.”
I nod and let her continue her story.
“I would have gone to a gynecologist, but those human doctors stink. I’d have to pay a fortune up front just to have my lady parts checked. You know how healthcare benefits from the government have deteriorated over the years.”
“So the Doctor–”
“He took one look at it and said, ‘You won’t be bearing any vampire children for an eternity, for it is nothing more but a deep abyss.'” Malefica imitates the Doc’s accent as I smirk a bit, seeing that it is on point.
“AND THEN THAT STUPID GHOST KNIGHT OF HIS PHASED RIGHT THROUGH MY STOMACH AND SAID, ‘LOOK DOC, A GHOST IS BORN!’ AND THEY BOTH LAUGHED! I BECAME THE LAUGHINGSTOCK OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR A YEAR!”
I couldn’t help myself and start chuckling at her story.
“You might think it was funny, but for me, it wasn’t. I ripped apart his diagnosis and stormed out of his clinic, swearing never to avail of his services ever again. I eventually looked for potential mates, desperate to form a union between Houses.”
She then looks at Miggy.
“So I thought, if I can’t form a union with a worthy Archon, why don’t I just take the good Doctor’s child to have an heir? Raise him as a Malefica myself without having to merge House Malefica with some backwater House. Heck, even at this point, I can already tell that he’ll grow up into a handsome vampire who can represent the Malefica name well.”
Oh dear. Maybe I should tell her.
“Yeah, about that, Archon Malefica. There’s just one problem.”
“That he is the Doctor’s child and you refuse to hand him over. Well, all I can tell you is to leave right now and kiss my pale arse good night.”
“No, I mean–”
“Pleading won’t get you anywhere. I would rather have the Doctor himself come here and be down on his knees begging. I’d love to see him prostrate himself before me.”
“And a painting won’t do at all! That egghead of an Archon of yours only seems to appease his rivals by giving them rare art and paintings. But I don’t give two shits about art!”
“Calm down and let me speak. There’s something you should know.” I clear my throat. “This is not the Doctor’s child.”
“Don Antares’ child or nephew. A ward from a vassal House. Or maybe a homunculus he had created. I don’t care what he is. I just want this child.”
I shake my head and raise my hand to prevent her from making any more wild guesses.
“This child IS the Doc.”
And at that moment, Archon Malefica’s jaw would have dropped to the floor if it could after hearing the revelation.