The vampire gasped and fell back as Glory thrust the improvised stake into her stomach and up. Blood gushed from the wound as if she’d just poked a hole in Hoover dam. Glory scramble backwards in case the woman came after her, but after an abortive attempt to pull the stake out, the vampire’s movements slowed. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water for a few seconds, then even that stopped. Glory was almost disappointed she hadn’t turned to ash like in the movies, though she knew from her folklore research that vampires were not supposed to disintegrate at death. She blew mental raspberries at Hollywood. Though it definitely would have been more convenient if the body took care of itself; now she’d have to worry about getting rid of it and the bloody mess.
It took Glory a few seconds to catch her breath as she stood there. Her heart felt like it was going to hammer its way out of her chest. She wasn’t brave… she wasn’t powerful… she was just very, very lucky, and she knew it. For all her bravado, she was virtually helpless. When she finally managed to pull her eyes away from the corpse, she dragged herself to her feet to check on Aaron. She couldn’t tell if the pain in her skin had faded from adrenaline or if some of the tattoos she’d chosen for their healing symbolism had kicked in. Though initially reluctant to tattoo her entire body, Mr Motou had finally acquiesced. He had been as intrigued by the idea as she had been, and also, he understood her commitment when she explained what she wanted mixed with the ink. It had taken hours of grueling work. He had turned away two scheduled clients in order to devote all of his energy and skill to her tattoos.
The loss of her hair was a blow to her pride. She’d shaved it not only for the sake of tattoo placement, but because it had always been a source of pride for her, and her pride was what had gotten her into this mess. She’d never been vain like her sister, but if there was one physical thing she liked about herself, it was her hair. Aside from her intelligence, her hair was the one thing she took pride in. The former had suffered in the wake of her sister’s malicious use of her book. Obviously Glory was not as smart as she’d thought.
Shaving her hair off was symbolic, as was burning it to ash. Mixing those ashes, and the ashes of her mother, with the ink Mr Motou had used to tattoo her skin… that had been a vow. It didn’t matter if the ashes were really her mother’s. It was the symbolism that was important. She wasn’t going to cower and stumble over her modesty any more. Her pride and her aversion to conflict was what had gotten her into this mess in the first place. She had to be bold, she had to be strong, and most of all, she had to arm herself with the tools she had spent her entire life researching.
She stood up straight. Her skin no longer stinging from the ink, though she could feel the raised forms under her fingers like welts. Before he would even begin, Mr Motou had warned that it would take days to heal, that he would be irresponsible if he didn’t warn her that sleeping… would be quite difficult in the coming days to say the least. She had insisted, and really, it hadn’t been that difficult to convince him in the end. He was an artist who knew the value and meaning of his work, in a world where most just saw something stylish or barbaric. Every tattoo should have meaning and in that meaning, power. In some cultures, it was a right of passage, a milestone. In others, it was a way to fix a memory or moment in time. Tattooing was a sacred art form. They both knew that the pain of the tattoos was part of the process. Just as one usually had to suffer in society in order to do what was right. Nothing worth doing was ever easy.
It was not an aspect of his art that Mr Motou had had the opportunity to exercise for quite a long time. She’d offered him what money she still had in her savings, knowing it was inadequate for the extensive work he was about to undertake. He barely acknowledge the amount with a grunt as he looked through her diagrams and symbols, suggesting some revisions in those he was familiar with and some additions. Since her mother’s death, Glory had worked on nothing else. Collating the notes she’d been collecting for months into a plan to make her invulnerable to her sister’s machinations. But Lori knew her too well if she’d sent the vampire to get her new work before killing her. She resolved to burn her new notes and at the same time vowed again to bring her sister down.
Glory knew she should ache from the beating she’d just taken, but that was also fading quickly. The healing symbols on her shoulders or hands at work…? She had no way of knowing really. All of her research, all of her accumulated rituals and speculations, most of it guess work and instinct. She’d always believed they would work, every single spell she’d created, it was why she’d always kept them away from her sister. But she’d never put any of it into use for herself either. She’d always felt that to do so would be irresponsible.
It wasn’t like she could afford to be so reticent any more.
Mr. Motou had brought out an odd accumulation of herbs and ground them into the inks. Glory had no doubt that the health board would not approve, but she trusted his knowledge, even when he took out what looked like dried caterpillars with mushrooms growing from their heads. She might know more about the symbols she wanted engraved into her skin, but he knew the traditions that empowered them.
She heard Aaron groan in the kitchen and shouted, “Aaron! I’m coming!” It was time to see if her tattoos could heal more than just herself.
“Nice try sucker!” growled the vampire as she grabbed Glory by the back of her sweatshirt and swung her across the room and into a wall.
Glory unsteadily climbed to her feet, trying to control the unsteadiness of her legs. “Sorry… I think that’s my line.” Unfortunately it wasn’t all show. She suspected her shoulder might be dislocated this time.
The woman just stood there in the middle of the room, waiting. Her shirt was a mess and the table leg still stuck out a good three or four inches. She was shaking and making a gulping noise which Glory quickly realized was laughter.
“I have to give you credit. Your sister said you were a weakling, but I haven’t had this much fun in years! A little hint though,” she said snidely as Glory approached, “most people don’t have the upper body strength to penetrate more than a few inches into the body. ‘Specially with your little bit of broken wood.” She flicked it which her hand. “And you know, this was my favorite shirt, so I’m going to have to take it out on your hide.”
“Thanks for the tip.” Glory growled as she got closer. She wasn’t going to be fooled twice. At least her shoulder was already letting up a bit. Maybe it wasn’t dislocated after all. She took a swing at the vampire but knew she wouldn’t connect. She hadn’t planned to. The vampire laughed at her and attempted to grab her, but Glory ducked and cringed, then fell to her knees. When the woman stood back to gloat, as Glory had guess she would, Glory fell onto her back and kicked with all her might. “I’ll remember that in the future.” She hissed as her foot hit the wood sticking from the woman’s belly.
Arching her back as the wood finally pierced her heart as if that would drive it back out again, the vampire stopped making her gulping noise, though she did flop around like a fish for a few seconds. When the woman finally stopped moving, Glory went and stood over her, waiting for the smallest twitch to prove she was playing possum again. Finally, when she was almost certain that the body would not move, she lifted her foot and brought it down on the inch of wood still sticking out of the vampire’s gut and drove it right through her back. She would not be getting up again.
Glory leaned down and stared at the corpse for several more seconds. Then knelt and whispered, “I don’t know you. I don’t know who you used to be or if you were ever a good person, but I promise I’ll make my sister pay for everything. Even this.”
to Book 1, part 2, page 6