The Discord Trilogy

 
 

Prefect Duncan

This takes place in chapter seven from The Golden Apple of Discord - Prefect Duncan of the Noricum Vampires.


Three women and a man stand in front of my desk. They have come to New York for their biannual census accounting. My assistant, Castile, stands to my left, waiting to bring in another coven.


“Because there are four in your group, I have assigned you part of the North American western seaboard. Even with an area so broad as to encompass Portland to San Francisco, your inability to conceal your allotted kills is unacceptable.”


Sayo, the coven’s leader, steps forward. “You said to concentrate on human trafficking from the Pacific Rim into Portland, Oregon. We did that.”


“You left bodies in shipping containers for the port authority to find.”


She replies, “They didn’t tie it to vampires.”


“Only because I changed the cause of death on the medical examiner’s paperwork from exsanguinations to asphyxiation.”


She flinches and takes a step back, with good reason. If I turn her over to the Quorum for punishment, this will not end well for her.


I say, “As North American prefect I can only be over ruled by the Quorum."


She lets a breath out. “But—”


"Your endorsement is revoked. I am combining you four with another coven.”


I motion to Castile, who opens an adjoining door to another office and calls in four vampires from another coven. Sayo and the other three shift uncomfortably. They are all under fifty years old. Their contemporary ideals should have made an obedient coven that fit together well socially.


In that way it succeeded, but their carelessness in concealment forced my hand.


“Ramon, meet your new coven mates. You have done exceptionally well in southern Mexico. These four are in need of mentoring. They are reckless and lack afterthought.”


He has always been good at instructing inexperienced vampires. “Your advice to use the Sinaloa Federation drug operations as a scapegoat has proven most useful.”


I reply, “No one will question the Sinaloa to prove otherwise.”


One of the younger men in the Mexican coven clears his throat. “Then we are to remain in Culican?”


“I have new territory to assign you. The Tijuana Cartel has greatly expanded their human trafficking operations.”


Ramon nods. “Thank you, prefect. This bounty is most appreciated.”


“Be mindful of your kills.”


Sayo asks, “Be mindful how?”


I motion Ramon to answer. Sayo must learn to seek his advice and obey his counsel. If she cannot, other methods of behaviour correction will be necessary.


He says, “When women don’t return home, the assumption is they have been taken to be sold by the cartel. We leave the warlords. Their greed is our camouflage.”


I add, “Learn this lesson well, Sayo. To maintain secrecy, we eat those whom society will not challenge authority to save. By disposing of kills where criminals rule, it guarantees secrecy, as they work to avoid police at all costs.”


She bows slightly and takes a step back. Perhaps she can be taught.


“Castile, prepare an updated endorsement. This eight-member coven is hereby issued Tijuana, Mexico, up to Los Angeles, California, with an allotment of no more than thirty kills per week.”


Ramon says, “Excuse me, prefect. May I make a request?” I nod. “I would like to petition for the creation of a vampire.”


An interesting request, but, if not handled properly, a dangerous one. I remember well Priam’s stories of the Dacian Wars.


“You have four more assigned under your stewardship. Why do you need another?”


“It’s not a matter of numbers, prefect, but a matter of whom.”


“You have found a human you wish to make immortal?”


“Yes, prefect.”


Ramon has been helpful. But if he has done so only to secure my favor, his loyalty can be lost easily should I not grant his request. The Noricum do not barter for obedience.


Turning to my interrogation ability, I get a feel for the portion of his mind responsible for creativity. He has not tried to lie, yet. Now he will not have the option to do so.


“This human you wish to turn, what his or her occupation?”


The truthful answer rips itself from his throat before he can create a lie to appease me.


“She is a drug mule for the Sinaloa Federation.”


He rubs his throat. It is a common response to my ability.


“Does she have family ties to any cartel?”


“None.” He coughs a bit after he answers. Others say it feels like the gag reflex in your throat kicks in without warning.


“Have you or any member of your coven purchased humans outside of your assigned quota?”


“No.”


Everyone except Castile shifts nervously. Vampires without additional aptitudes do not like being reminded of those of us who do. It is why the Detachment and the Quorum are so feared.


That reminds me of a call I need to make.


“I can see no reason to deny your petition. See that you file a Socious registration when the time comes.”


Ramon lets out a shaky breath. “Thank you, prefect.”


“Castile.” I snap my fingers. “Amend the permit to include the creation of one additional vampire with a Donec Dignissim report dated six months from now. I wish to see Ramon’s new Socious then.”


After Castile makes a copy, I take their new endorsement, sign it, drip red wax on the bottom, and stamp it. The Noricum seal ensures equality in our world. Peace to the victor, mercy to the meek, death in rebellion. These are the words we live by. Without them, our society would disintegrate under the banner of war with every coven greedily fighting for blood.


With the Noricum, we are all equal.


Castile ushers the new Southern California coven out. Once they leave, I pick up the phone to dial my mentor, High King Priam.


“Prefect, before you converse with His Majesty, I have the information you requested about the errant vampires in Toronto.”


I put the phone down. This has been a difficult case.


“As you instructed, I placed the locator on the conspicuous vehicle and found a distinct pattern. Every three days it moves from deep in the Algonquin Provincial Park north of Toronto into various areas of the city. Every time that vehicle makes the trip, multiple humans are found dead in a manner consistent with feeding.”


This is exactly the kind of intelligence I was hoping for. Not in several decades have I had such a hard time pinpointing an illegally feeding coven.


“Do you have a name this vehicle is registered under?”


“It belongs to a Blake Severin, but I do not believe he is involved.”


“Why not?”


“The vehicle is covered in mud and a back window is shattered. He is a high school mathematics teacher on Prince Edward Island, not Toronto.”


“Stolen?”


“I believe so, prefect.”


This is to be expected of an errant coven.


“Do you have a location?”


He hands me a satellite picture printout of a cabin nestled in the deep forest next to Reed Lake on a path named Bissett Creek Road. If the illegal coven thinks hiding in a remote location will protect them from the consequences of their crimes, they are mistaken.


“Well done, Castile. You are dismissed.” I pick up the phone to call Priam, but Castile stays put. “Something to add?”


“Assistants are normally present for the monthly conference.”


It always irritates me when Castile gets like this. I would ask for a new assistant, but he is good at what he does.


“I will be sure to tell Priam of your contribution. You are dismissed.”


He leaves, but I wait until the elevator doors close before I dial Priam.


“Duncan, it is good to hear from you.”


“You as well, High King.”


Priam chuckles. “What formalities have we to get out of the way?”


“Formalities can wait. I have a more pressing matter to seek counsel on.”


“Oh? Have you found the problem in Toronto?”


“I have.”


“Is it the Dacians as I suspected?”


This is news to me. I never knew he suspected the Socious killers. “Why would you suspect the Dacians? Do you have news from Brasov?”


“Nothing I did not already know. The Dacians have long danced in the shadows of the human sex trade market. Romania is Toronto’s chief source of slaves. When you told me of a coven in Toronto flagrantly disregarding our laws, I naturally suspected them.”


Decades ago Priam instructed me never to assign a coven to Toronto. Now I know why.


“I would expect better living conditions for a Dacian than the spit of a cabin these vampires are living in.”


“You have found them?”


“Castile desires I make sure you know he is the one who found their automobile. He found their location through the means of a tracking device placed on their vehicle. However, something about their style troubles me.”


“Go ahead.”


“They do not even try to cover their kills. Bodies are literally left in stairwells and apartments with doors gaping open.”


“Are they taunting us?”


“If it is the Dacians, then likely, but they may not know any better. I find it hard to believe such ignorance exists; not since the South American Rebellion have I seen such recklessness.”


“How many strong are they?”


“From their eating habits, I estimate at least six. For this reason I am requesting the Premier Detachment.”


“A wise decision. I shall have Lucius dispatch them directly. Sabine has asked after you. Shall I send her as well?”


His phrasing makes me laugh. “Sabine knows very well she is always welcome and does not need an invitation.”


“Anything else to add?”


“Not as of right now. I shall inform you as to the criminals when I know something more. You may need more room in the entombed vaults with how defiant these ones are.”


Priam’s voice loses all humor. “If it is the Dacians, do not try to engage them and inform me immediately.”


“I will report back to you either way.”


“Very good.”


The connection drops. To think the Dacians are so active on this continent is something I never considered. One cannot have too much information about an enemy, and with this coven hiding in the wilderness, the Socious killers may be building another army in the new world.


Twelve hours later, Castile and I board a private jet on the JFK tarmac. As the cabin door closes, the engines engage, pushing us immediately to the runway. I have never been on this jet before. It must be a recent acquisition of Priam’s.


Four men of the Premier Detachment and their servants rise and bow when I walk in.


Edson says, “Prefect, how may we be of service?”


“First let us get in the air. Then I will brief you.”


He dips his head. “Of course, prefect.”


Castile secures my briefcase and one of the servants gets clearance from the control tower for us to take off. While the aircraft moves onto the runway, a wadded-up piece of paper bounces off my head and onto my lap. Turning toward the culprit, I see that Ismet is chuckling and rubbing his temple. Alton looks toward the ceiling innocently and whistles.


It is good to see the brothers have not changed.


Flattening out the paper exposes Ismet’s handwriting. “Bridget asked the Queen if you were still without a Socious.”


This is not the first time the South American prefect has inquired to Sabine about me. Unfortunately, my polite rebuff of Bridget did not have the intended effect. If I ever were to take a Socious, it would be one who did not pine for royal approval. Bridget was appointed as prefect after the South American Rebellion for that very reason. The Quorum knows her greatest motivation is to be esteemed by royalty.


She is as sycophantic as they come.


Alton is the younger of the two brothers and quite the gossip, but only within the administration. To vampire society, he is a feared warrior. Ismet can exchange sight with anyone in the world once he has seen them. Alton is similar but with blindness instead of exchange. When they work together, we are able to acquire massive amounts of intelligence with no risk to us before ever launching an assault. Their abilities are also useful in combat.


Edson is not so jovial, which is why he is their captain. His conversion is somewhat of a mystery. It took far longer than normal, was more painful, and, at the end, left him with a frightening ability. It is nearly the mirror of Prince Verus’s ability. While Verus can experience the memories he absorbs from another, Edson can make others relive his memories. You suddenly find yourself in a different place, feeling everything as if you were there. When he forces you to relive his conversion, the pain is paralyzing.


Francisco’s ability is similar to Verus’s but no more than a shadow of its potency. He can see the last visual impression from the dead. It is useful to provide undeniable proof of illegally feeding vampires. His gift is more helpful in investigation than in combat, but he has completed special combat training from Lucius. No one is foolish enough to claim he is unqualified for a position on the Premier Detachment.


When we level off at cruising altitude, Castile fetches the papers from my briefcase.


I say, “This assignment has a possibility you have never faced before.”


Alton smiles. “Your Socious announcement party?”


“A possibility of Dacian involvement.”


The humor leaves his face.


Ismet asks, “How are the Socious killers involved?”


“We are not sure if they are culpable.”


Edson says, “Prince Lucius said you expect at least six and have a location. Will we need to request additional support to facilitate transport back to Boulogne?”


“Before we start talking entombment, let us see if it is indeed the Dacians we are dealing with. In any case, the vampires in question are staying in a remote cabin in a large forest north of Toronto. We will stop at the morgue before heading to their nest.”


Ismet studies the satellite picture. “We should approach on foot. If we come near this location in a noisy automobile, it gives them ample time to flee.”


Pointing to the path, I reply, “We will rent a car for most of the journey, but a stealth approach is preferred even if they are not Dacian.”


Francisco asks, “Do we know of any additional aptitudes?”


I reply, “Between all of you, the possibility of any abilities we cannot handle is extremely remote.”


Alton chuckles to himself. “If a vampire dies in the woods, does it make a sound?” He then jerks. “Edson, I do not need to experience that.”


Edson scowls. “Then take this assignment seriously, or you will be smelling whale rot for the rest of the flight. This is possibly Cothelas the tyrant, not a disorganized band of rabble.”


The name of Priam’s mortal enemy forces a silence in the cabin.


Alton shakes his head and Edson releases him. It is no secret where Edson got this particular memory. One of the ships used to transport troops for the South American Rebellion was a whaling vessel. Edson was one of their passengers and has complained about it for years.


A minute later, Alton breaks the silence. “Shopping mall collapse in China. Real or fake?”


Francisco says, “I am not taking that bet. The fire afterwards has Prefect Lushan written all over it.”


Alton says, “Did you hear about Iran?”


“What happened?” I reply.


“Ruth questioned a coven about excessive feedings. They tried to pass off a forged Asian endorsement.”


“I did not think anyone would be foolish enough to try something like that. What happened to them?”


Ismet says, “Verus read them. They conspired to sell forged endorsements. We now have four new entombed ones. I put one there myself.”


It has been a busy year in Boulogne.


-X-


The threat of Dacian aggression is unnerving for everyone. Hopefully we can arrest the errant coven and be done with it. The long-term implications of Noricum governance in North America are enormous.


We leave the jet with the Detachment servants and depart from Downsview Airport in a large vehicle. Castile forged all the necessary paperwork, granting us smooth passage into the morgue. The latest kills are six in total. They were an entire film crew found drained in a derelict house. An anonymous call to emergency services alerted the police, but thousands of dollars of film equipment and computers were left at the scene.


What brought this event to Noricum attention were several children used for making pornography locked in a bedroom closet, safely away from the bodies.


Evidence like this is why I never suspected Dacian involvement. If it were the Socious killers, the children would have been eaten and the adults left, enabling them to bring in another crop of underage food. The only commonality the feedings share is an offensive pattern toward criminals. Each batch of deaths has overwhelming proof of crimes against children at the scene. Over and over again, the weakest humans are spared.


They eat like vampires, but are unlike any I know.


Castile opens one of the refrigerator doors. The drained body of a white male looking to be in his early forties jerks when the slab locks into place. There is only one jagged bite mark on the neck, a messy kill. This is the work of a new vampire, not well practiced in feeding. Whichever vampire did this tried to cover their bite with a knife wound. These are not the first illegally feeding vampires to try to cover their teeth marks with blades, but the cut was poorly made.


“Francisco,” I call, and back away from the body.


He steps forward and places his hands over the eyes of the corpse. A few seconds later, he steps back, and Castile opens another door. They repeat the process until all six yield their dying vision.


I ask, “Did you get everything you need?”


He nods.


Only a few strange looks from morgue personnel mark our departure.


Once we are driving away in our rented sport utility vehicle, I ask, “How many?”


Francisco answers from the backseat. “Four women, none of whom I have seen before.”


Four is lower than I thought. Perhaps they did not hunt together in this case.


From the driver’s seat, Castile says, “If it is only women, they should be easy to subdue.”


The Detachment holds their breath, and for good reason. Even though Castile was born and raised in Latin America, he should know better by now. I reply, “Would you say to High Queen Sabine’s face she is easy to subdue because she is a woman?”


He tenses, as he should.


“Then do not say it to me, either.”


-X-


At the Mattawa Golf and Ski Resort along the Trans-Canada Highway, we leave the vehicle by a small grocery store to complete our approach on foot. The GPS marks our target a couple dozen miles from our position. This forest is so remote, they would never have been found without the tracking device. Just ahead, the car rests at the end of a small trail. Ismet tucks away the GPS display and we proceed toward the cabin. Several meters ahead, a grass-filled clearing exposes a dilapidated cabin with four women standing in front of it. Without words, the Detachment falls into formation. Before we do anything, I must ascertain the women’s origins.


Very quickly, it becomes apparent that something is wrong. Our approach was silent. How did they know we were coming?


The first thing that strikes me is the red hair they all share. The second is the condition of the clearing. On every side there are large trees torn out by their roots. What kind of battle was fought here?


They do not even recognize us. The tallest has red hair that looks like a lion’s mane. Although very beautiful, she looks bored, not fearful of our approach. I glance at Edson and he nods in return. She appears to be the most arrogant of the group, which means she is probably the strongest. That makes her Edson’s responsibility.


There is a small one in back with short red hair. She looks more curious than afraid, but the way she stands behind the others makes me think she is the weakest. She will be the one interrogated. The one in front has long, straight red hair and stands in front of the other three like an animal protecting her young. Perhaps she is the group’s captain.


Closer and closer we get, and still the women stand their ground without fear. Perhaps they are Dacian.


The fourth woman, with a braid in her hair, waves at us. Her chipper voice says, “Hi.”


Their captain in front glares at her.


There should be more, at least six. They ate so many. If they are not Dacian, it is hard to believe this is the cause of all the trouble in Toronto.


“Is this all of them, Francisco?”


“Yes, prefect.”


The one with the curly mane rubs her hands together with an eerie smile. “Is this all of you?”


This audacity is unheard of. If she is not Dacian, she will soon learn to behave otherwise. With Edson, she will rue the day she defied the Noricum.


Training my thoughts on the small one, I ask, “Who is your sire?”


She glances at the woman in front of her and says, “Taralie.”


I have never heard of a Taralie, and these vampires are far too ignorant and casual to be Dacian. Cothelas and Draco do not feast on the dregs of human civilization, nor do they preserve the defenseless. These are not the Socious killers. These are vampires who must learn to respect the rule of law, by any means necessary.


I look to the leader. “In the name of the Noricum, you are under arrest.”


-X-

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