Whitesteeple Ch. 01bythelastempress©
I will try to tell you everything in order, I think it will make the most sense that way. If you don't understand something, you'll have to ask. I will try to do this efficiently, but it may take some time. I am not accustomed to this.
My mother was a witch. Now, before you get Freudian on me, let me assure you, my mother actually was a witch. I don't know if she was a good witch or a bad witch but she was my mother and I loved her. I never met my father and my mother never talked about him, and after I got to a certain age, I no longer asked her about him.
I lived with my mother, in a city, a large one, and if you are smart, and have traveled a bit, you will probably guess where it is before I am done. My mother hated living in the city, although it never really bothered me. For her, the city was distraction, and in a way, an abomination, because she believed strongly in nature and a natural order that was absent from the cityscape.
Regardless, though of where we lived, she left her mark on me. Not only in the lessons she gave me, but in the simpler, more meaningful ways that parents influence their children, with her actions. I did not follow her down the path she had chosen for her own life, and I think that always saddened her, but she loved me enough to let me choose for myself. Besides I think she already knew how different I was.
I grew up understanding that the world that most people accepted as normal, was not the whole truth. I felt the pull of the unseen world, on the edges of my consciousness. As I grew, I discovered I had unusual talents, some which set me apart from my peers, still I myself often wonder how naïve I was, in my belief that I understood the world around me. That understanding would not come until much later, and in ways I could not yet fathom.
But I am skipping ahead now, there are things I am forgetting to tell you, although I wish at times I could forget them myself.
My mother died when I was twenty two, there was no terrible car accident, or no sudden death in the night. She died a slow, wasting death before my eyes, and it still bothers me that I could not help her more, but I was with her at the end, and I know she was grateful for that. I was too.
There wasn't much money after she died, just enough that I could keep the town house and stay in school but I had to start working more then every Monday and Thursday at the college bookstore if I wanted to continue to heat my house so I decided to take a bartending class.
I watched the papers for a few weeks afterwards, looking for a job I thought I could tolerate for at least a little while. I noticed every Saturday this add was run. I have to admit to you, it made me very curious from the start.
" Wanted bartender with good social skills, must have flexible hours. Good tips. Must not have weak stomach, must be good with diversity, extra skills are bonus. Apply in person anytime. Ask for Benedict. 7328 Madison Whitesteeple."
What exactly could one expect from such an advertisement? Was it a strange rave bar or maybe a girlie bar, why would one have to have a strong stomach? I had been trying to suppress my curiosity for several days but by Wednesday of the second week I decided I would go and see this strange place, if just for my own amusement.
The ad clearly stated "apply anytime", and as I got off of the El I hoped that would be the case. I had stayed longer than I had hoped at the library by the college, but if I didn't pass the midterm I was studying for, I don't think I would have made it through Art history.
Whitesteeple seemed to be in a neighborhood that city developers like to refer to as "being rehabbed." That means that most of the other businesses are empty or have bars on their windows and that lots of the properties are being flipped. It didn't bother me, I had lived in this city all my life and I was not afraid, nor did I have any illusions. I did wish though that I had come earlier. I did not know this neighborhood and it would be dark by the time I left and it would be foolish not to take a cab, and I could hardly afford it.
The bar? The club? The den of thieves? Was a fair sized two story building built in utilitarian red brick of the 1930's. On a large overhanging eave several gothic looking gargoyles stared down upon me, I hoped that their unsettling grimaces did in fact keep evil off my back
The sign that hung crookedly upon a wrought iron bar from the building's second story stated " Whitesteeple Pub" in large green letters. Underneath the bar's title in smaller notation " Open nightly, a particular place for particular tastes."
I walked up the steps wondering what had brought me here. Even over the promise of good tips this looked like the sort of place that would wind up getting me into trouble. I walked through the double doors and directly into the largest man I have ever seen.
He was easily six foot four and thought by the way I bounced off of him, I guessed he must weigh at least three hundred pound. I felt instantly that there was something different about him. He had a strange feeling, it made my stomach flip and flop, that had been happening since I was a child when I encountered something unusual. He was something "Other."
"May I help you Miss?" His voice was monotone at best, and he was dressed expensively in a dark well fitted suit that made him look very much like a secret service agent. I could hear the ambiguous noise of a bar from the carved mahogany doors he stood impassively before.
I opened my mouth and something like "ahhohhhuuu" came out in place of words. I was still recovering from the shock of seeing him. I had been expecting something a little more like a goth girl. Mr. Suit stared me down until I dug in my purse and shoved the ad I had clipped from the newspaper.
"Benedict." I managed. Proving I had mastered elementary level communication.
( I know what you're thinking by the way. Clipped an ad from the newspaper? How stodgy! But in my defense it started with coupons and became habitual. You wouldn't believe some of the deals you can get with coupons.)
Mr. Suit stared at me skeptically for a moment longer before he handed me back my newspaper clipping and opened a door to his left. It was not the one that lead to the bar room, but an enclosed staircase.
"Go to the top of the stairs to the third door. Knock twice. I will let him know you are coming." The whole speech was delivered in the uninterested authoritative voice of a bored security guard, albeit a massive one.
"Ok." I tried to sound polite. To be honest with you I was wondering if I could slink out the door now, or if Mr. Suit would follow me up the stairs and murder me.
But he didn't move from his place by the mahogany door and I went up the stairs by myself. Do you know how you can tell the quality of a place by the décor? I could tell by the expensive bamboo flooring and the tasteful muted colors that someone had spent a lot of money on this place. I saw the pictures on the wall and thought them particular. They were black and white photos of the locations of some of the greatest events in history. Greatest and bloodiest, the location where the Bastille once stood in Paris, Ipatiev house in Ekaterina, and in a strange wooden frame, larger than the rest Whitechapel's Bucks row, hardly comforting.
"Enjoying our art work Miss?" His dark voice startled me and I spun around to see who had caught me loitering in the hallway.
He was a vampire. Even with my untrained eyes I could see it. Devastatingly handsome little bloodsucker, I remember thinking, though he was not particularly short. Did you ever notice that vampires are never squat and ugly with receding hair lines? His hair was honey gold and curled about his face, his eyes were a deep coffee brown and his skin was the pale white of longtime sickness although his face was chiseled and strong.
"You're a vampire!" I shouted and pointed my finger towards him in an accusational manner.
I turned to flee but he caught my arm and turned me back towards him. His solemn face lit in a surprisingly boyish smile. "Interesting." He said with a little too much enthusiasm as he looked me up and down again. "You are here for an interview? Come with me."
I would like to say that I pushed him down, took his stuff and ran away, but I didn't, I allowed him to escort me into his office and close the door behind him. That was how I met Benedict.
"You will forgive me for asking." He said as he moved around and sat behind a huge cherry desk. "But I am unaccustomed to such a comment from what appears, to my eyes, to be a little mortal girl. How did you know I was a vampire?" He spoke with warmth, even humor, but I was not ready to smile at him.
I watched him suspiciously from where I sat across the desk. When I answered it was quick and defensively. "I don't know, I just can feel it. I always have been able to."
"Interesting. Can you tend bar?"
"Yes, although I am starting to wonder if that is a wise idea." I muttered sullenly. He wore a dark charcoal sweater over a snow white shirt.
" Perfect! Wonderful! What did you think of Templeton?" The way he smiled sent shivers through me, I could see the tips of his fangs, when he spoke, the sharp little flashes of white were curved slightly, like a snake's fangs. He was so appealing, but alien, like a unique piece of art that I didn't quite understand
"Is that who the guy by the door is? He is something "other" as well. Although I don't know what, I have to see it a couple of times before I can recognize it." Why was I telling him these things? I wondered if he was using some kind of vampire magic on me. I looked around for something I could use as a stake.
"You may be just what we are looking for." He tapped his fingers on his chin and his voice became more serious. I wondered if the vampire had spent been in Britain before or after his death, because he spoke with a soft British accent. "My name is Benedict. I am a vampire, I am also the manager of Whitesteeple. Do you know what Whitesteeple is?"
"You are educated I am sure. You have heard of Switzerland?"
" That is what Whitesteeple is. It is an independent space that is neutral. It is a location where many things which are not part of the mortal world may come and associate. But our grounds are Elysium and we enforce it strongly. You referred to Templeton as 'other' he is a lup-garou."
I did a wonderful imitation of a fish. "You mean a werewolf?"
Benedict's eyebrows raised slightly. He looked strangely appealing, I began to understand all those stories I had read about women seduced by vampires. "Close Miss, a werewolf is a creature that is born or created and has three forms. Man or woman, hybrid or movie werewolf and wolf form. A lup-garou is born, they can not be created, they are an embodiment of a nature spirit, they have two forms man, and wolf. "
"Ahh" I replied vaguely I was in a vampire's office talking about lup-garou's, the realization of that made want to throw up.
"Speaking of which" Benedict added nonchalantly," what is your name?"
"Ren, or Rena. Why?"
" If you are not inclined to hysterics, and don't have any significant fears of insects or lizards, I would like to offer you a job. But I would not do so if I did not know your name. What is Ren short for?" He cocked his head at me and a golden curl fell across his forehead.
"Serenity." I said with disgust.
Benedict laughed and I bristled. " No. My parent's were not hippies and I didn't choose it so don't hassle me. My name is Rena."
"Rena. You are interesting, and you may take it as a compliment to yourself, I have seen many things in my lifetime. Follow me please"
I did follow him, and I am not to stuck up to say that I checked out his fine backside as he lead me down the hallway and banged on the door. "Kira my love are you there?"
"Blow me Benedict!" The voice was flirty, that of a thirty-something woman who was used to trading banter with this vampire.
"Tsk Tsk such a dirty mouth on you my dear, I have our new bartender, would you like to meet her?"
I watched her door swing open and the sensation of 'otherness' hit me and I reeled backwards. Benedict grabbed a hold of my shoulder in a crushing grip, and I clambered to catch hold of his arm. His hand was all that was keeping me upright. I admit, that, to this day I am proud to say that I didn't scream when I saw Kira. She was ugly, really terribly ugly. You will think I am ungracious I am sure, but I am being honest when I say that. She also radiated power.
"An impressive catch Benedict, this one has witch blood, and something else, something much darker. She is strong if she can see through my mask." Kira spoke efficiently, I heard her moving around the office, but I couldn't make it in there on my own, she had too much presence. Benedict wrapped his solid arm around my shoulders and led me to a chair across from her paper strewn desk.
"We all experience that from Kira at first, it will pass, I think. It did for me although it does nothing to change her temperament." He snickered a little at his own joke as he situated me in the chair. I glanced hesitantly back at Kira who was smiling at me. It made her even more hideous that before.
I was speaking before I realized it. "What are you? A witch? You feel a little like my mother." This whole day wasn't turning out the way I expected at all.
" I am a hag and I am going to help you transition to Whitesteeple. We will have to introduce you slowly I think, but you will see some sights girl! Here are your W2's." She added as she handed me a stack of papers she pulled from a filing cabinet. Benedict left closing the door behind him.
All through the two hours I spent in Kira's office I was wondering how I managed this. I should have followed my instincts when I was outside of the building. Kira filled out a calendar with my name scrolled across the top and with her neat handwriting she filled in my schedule.
Benedict was waiting outside of Kira's office when she finished with me and he walked to the door although I recall having the distinct desire to flee from him again. He introduced me to Templeton who nodded coolly and said " Welcome to Whitesteeple" with slightly more enthusiasm than you usually receive at the D.M.V.
Benedict surprised me by stopping me at the door and kissing both my cheeks in that smooth European way that looks so charming and distinct to Americans. His lips were chilly on my warm cheek. Being so near him, I wanted to brush the rebellious hair from his forehead, but held my hand in check. "Tomorrow then Rena, I will look forward to seeing how you manage at the bar."
I walked outside and was surprised by the difference a few steps had made. The air outside of Whitesteeple's door was heavier, the colors on the trees, and the buildings that surrounded me were dimmer somehow. I looked at the schedule I held crumpled in my hand. Seven to Two a.m. Why not, I wondered as I hailed a cab from the sidewalk, I would give it a try, I hadn't been expecting this so perhaps it was my good fortune.
Thus began my dealings with the many creatures of Whitesteeple.