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The Waterhorse


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Julien Vaillancourt

He found it nauseating to be in the house.

When Philippe had been alive, it had been different.  Philippe's warm, golden light spread through the old half-rotted wood, sparkled in the dusty chandeliers.  Philippe wanted the house to be a home when they joined to talk about hunting monsters, so someone had aired the laundry and dusted the chair rails and made sure the food in the refrigerator and the pantry wasn't rancid.  Philippe was not only the heart of his family, but it's will.  Without him, they were cracked, grasping fingers, talons with no root, teeth biting at nothing in particular, a stomach shriveling from lack of care.

Philippe's brothers lived in Baton Rouge.  His sister was in the French Quarter, and his mother in law... Julien didn't remember.  The only person who had lived in the plantation house, before Philippe, was his grandmother, and she was long dead.  One couldn't really say that Julien lived there.  He... tolerated the presence of the house on his property, even as he struggled to breathe life into his lake, to breathe power back into his cold, withered, nearly human limbs.

So the house was full of dust and dirt, and the smell of old food and rotten wood, and the people who congregated in it were insensitive and vain and paranoid.  They were shadows.  They had so much fury in them to kill vampires, or witches, or anything that twisted on the edge of their perception.  Julien was certain he was not more than the width of a cambric handkerchief from their hatred too, but he was family.  And that meant something to them.  To him, indeed, as well, he might note.  Or else, long-suffering or not, he wouldn't so easily tolerate their stomping through the home he had with his husband, exploring everything, spreading themselves out like a pernicious flower.

It would be simple to see the difference in styles of slaying by watching them now.  The siblings were huddled around the kitchen table.  They had photographs and dossiers and a map.  Their voices raised in excitement.  Julien sat by the window, cleaning his fingernails with the point of a dinner knife, and thought about the creature that had murdered his husband.

Monster slaying was a family business, but, being a monster, Julien had never considered he might wish to join in it.  Until that moment.

Philippe's flesh had reeked of magic.  Dark, vicious spells.  Beneath the obvious hexes that had ended his life there was other insidious, commanding work.  Julien had tasted compulsion in his blood, the darklost desire for a vampire.  So there had been more than one.  And so his golden beauty, his bright child, had been darkened and compelled.

Well.  Whatever sapped his strength wouldn't last forever, and he had their taste now on his tongue.  Their trail.  Revenge wouldn't solve anything, but at least it would get him out of that damned house.

December 12, 2019 08:54 am

Julien Vaillancourt

The child's sweet laughter should have disturbed him.  The other sounds of the inhabitants of the house did.  The barking of the dogs, the engines of their vehicles, the loud sounds of conversation during the parties.  And yet, when the boy ran around through the trees, it was only the sound of his unfettered, uncomplicated happiness that didn't scrape upon Julien's nerves.  On the contrary it was... like, to some extent, sunlight flickering through the clouded, algae-thick depths of the lake to the darkness at the bottom, where he nearly slept.

He had never seen the child before that day.  But the boy was running recklessly over wet lawn and wet leaves, and his foot went out from under him, and before he could do more than cut off his laughter the icy lake water covered his sudden shriek.  His clothes, thick against the autumn weather, grew instantly heavy and pulled him down.  Down, and down, and Julien's open eyes saw his terrified face, a form still chubby and barely out of infancy, reddish hair made muddy and green by the shifting silt and lakeweed in the water.

He only had the faintest, briefest instinct to devour the lad.  He had not needed to eat humans in a very, very long time.  Longer than the country he rested in had existed.  While he could have done so, out of spite, the boy would make nothing more than a poor mouthful and... he felt sorry for him.

Sorry for the pain and terror in his bright eyes.  Sorry not to hear any more of that laughter.

He surged upward.  He had not moved for centuries, and his body was sluggish and heavy, but still strong enough to handle the paltry weight of a child.  Strong enough to bear him up on to the earth, turn him on his stomach and urge the brackish water from his mouth and lungs.

Gasping, coughing, the boy turned over- but he was no boy- it was a man.  Philippe, grown, his red hair tousled, his bright eyes dying, red spattering instead of water from his pale parted lips-

"You didn't save me," he gagged out.  "You can't save anyone.  All you can do is kill."

With a jolt, Julien woke, and he grasped the closest bit of furniture he could find and hurled it against the wall so hard it broke, snarling, "May Hell herself devour whatever nightmare gave me that.  I'll have its skin for a cloak if ever I find the foul thing."

But the nightmare wasn't wrong.

December 13, 2019 03:14 am

Julien Vaillancourt

Christine Vaillancourt was the one of the family to whom it always seemed to fall to talk to him.  She was also the one he tolerated the most easily.  She did not resemble Philippe at all, except for her lips and her skin tone, but he remembered them laughing in the kitchen around some esoteric holiday preparations, which was more than he could say for the brothers, who had always been loud and disparaging.

After Philippe's death, everything was tentative and sharp edged and raw.  Nobody simply said, "It's a dangerous mission, we'd like you to join us."  Instead, Christine leaned her hip against the butcher's block in the middle of the kitchen, looked at him for a moment, then busied herself making some sort of rich, high-alcohol fruity cocktail.  Her hands were clean and steady as she chopped up strawberries that very nearly needed to be tossed, but her body was tense and the stories she told didn't mean anything.

"I'm not going to drink a strawberry cocktail, Christine," Julien said.  He intended to say it gently.

But the young woman's face crumpled.  She slammed the knife down on the chopping block, thankfully far from her fingers, wiped bright pink strawberry gunk on the cleanish towel and then raked her hands roughly through her dark hair.  Her knees bent, she shook her head.  "It's so hard without Philippe," she whispered, her voice harsh and sad.  "We can't do anything.  I don't know if-"

Whatever she meant to ask of him was too much.  He already knew it.  When she had spoken of the loss, the loss that burned and ached within him at all times, he had felt gentle toward her.  Thoughtful.  But within a moment her selfishness had stricken through everything he wanted to feel.  That was how they always were.  Nothing mattered but what they could do.  How strong they could be.  Who they could kill.

It was familiar, and unpleasantly so.

"What do you want from me?" he asked softly.

Her face closed down.  She looked hurt, and curled one arm over her chest to be held close to her body, as if she had been wounded.  "We- we know how strong you are.  Couldn't you help us with a run?"

He licked his lips.  There was little he wished to do less.  "After I find who killed your brother," he said softly, coldly.  "After I teach everything that lurks in the darkness what terror truly is.  Maybe.... I'll hunt with you after that."

Christine grabbed the corner of a table and gripped it hard.  She squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them slowly.  "Julien," she said, and said it hard and deliberate, the way they rarely did.  "I can't run this hunt.  My brothers can't run this hunt.  They'll die.  We'll die."  It was a cruel thing when she added, "I've had enough brothers die, Julien."

He felt cold.  He felt like nothing.  A lissome, gossamer spar that drifted over to the table, unable even to answer her he was so furious she had dared to use that tack.  He listened to stories, and looked at photographs, and knew that after this one run he would never allow this again.  None of them would be here.  Not at this filthy table, not smelling vaguely like his husband, not... just not.

"Fine," he whispered.  "But just this once."

December 15, 2019 06:19 am

Julien Vaillancourt

Philippe was twenty when Julien first understood what it was he did.  What it was his family did.  Julien had been coaxed into the warmth of the library, where he was busy caring for the woefully neglected books. This placed him within the house, where Philippe wanted him, easy to pull about as desired- and that evening, they were in Philippe's bedroom, but the redhead was packing up weapons and strapping on Kevlar.


"What precisely is it you and your siblings do?" Julien asked, hearing how dry his voice was in a room empty of everything else except the sound of steel and lacings.


"We protect people," Philippe said.  "We hunt monsters."


Julien was distinctly unimpressed.  "I am a monster," he said coldly, laying back deliberately on the bed in which they had already made love.


Philippe made a face.  "You're not like that!  You haven't hurt anyone in a long time.  You wouldn't hurt anyone.  We're just... we're just protecting those who can't protect themselves."


It was a very pretty idea, and very much like Philippe.  But he would never have asked Julien to help him.  He was good at what he did, and he understood the creature he had married.  Julien would have died at Philippe's command.  But he had never had any desire to kill what the Vaillancourts considered monsters.




Till now.




The day before the hunt, he scrubbed the house from top to bottom.  The children wouldn't arrive till just before dusk, and he had energy like a poison within him.  He dusted and washed everything, then oiled and mopped, cleaned windows, then smashed mirrors because his arms weren't tired and he was sick of the thought of it all.


Nicol and Olivier had left a dossier on their target.  It was all so very simple, so very banal.  The things humans thought made for the worst killer.  Indiscriminate.  Ate women and children.  Julien had trouble not rolling his eyes and asking when they had last eaten veal.


These vampires didn't deserve to die any more than anyone did.  They ate, they lived.  They didn't torture, or kidnap, or hurt children.  They were merely easy to find.


But Julien had killed a thousand, or more than a thousand, who deserved it less.  The faint twinges of conscience that pricked him over this job he thought likely were due to his dislike of the circumstances.  He braided his hair back and glared at the mirror as he heard the harsh roar of his sibling-in-laws' vehicles pulling in.
December 17, 2019 04:50 am

Julien Vaillancourt

The night was cold.  The air was fresh and chill and biting.  It was still, and he could hear sounds from far away.  The scrape of the siblings' shoes on the ground.  The distant noise of music.

How long had it been since he'd killed anyone?  It might have been five hundred years.  Five hundred years sleeping in the darkness of a lake, swallowed by exhaustion and ennui, five hundred years not caring about dominance or power or cruelty or hunger or any of the things that had pushed him forward for so long.

And then fifteen years with Philippe.

He pushed thoughts of his husband far into the back of his mind.  He did not belong here.  Had he been working this mission with the others, he might have, but he did not belong in what this meant for Julien.  His memory didn't suit the bad, bitter taste in Julien's mouth.  Old, curdled blood.

They hit hard and fast.  The air was suddenly full of the smell of gunpowder and the sound of screams.  Julien left the young ones in the parlor to the humans and headed downstairs.  Here, it smelled like blood, though perhaps by the end of the night the entire house would become an abattoir.

But it smelled like something else as well.  Water.  Chemical rich, in a way that made his nostrils ache, but water nonetheless.  A heated, underground pool.  That was tempting.  Julien had never eaten a vampire, and doubted that one would sit well in his stomach, but to be free of this guise, to pull another under the kiss of the waves, that would be pleasant.

He teased his glamour a little, pulled it more sharply into focus.  He took off his shoes and padded barefoot, trailing desire after him, till he saw the vampire.  She looked at him with longing.

"I want you, dearheart," he whispered, and as she came closer, this poor young thing who did not deserve any of it, who was only trying to survive, he stepped into the warm steam of the pool room and she came up to stroke his neck...

And her hand stuck fast.

His smile was fast, ironic and cruel.  He grabbed her wrist, and dragged her back deep under the water, where his body shifted, became scaled and massive.  And his teeth, like daggers or thick jagged icicles, parted her head from her body so that the water was red.

"Poor thing," said the cabyll-ushtey, and licked his lips.
December 18, 2019 10:12 pm

Julien Vaillancourt

It was quiet beneath the water.  The chlorine stung his nose and itched along his skin, and the blood in the water, still red, tasted strange as he drank it through his gills and tasted it on his long, not precisely equine tongue.

The warmth was strange, too, designed for human enjoyment, not like any lake or river in which he had ever rested.  But it was water.  Not water that felt like home, but water that felt like a shabby hotel bed after a long journey.

He rose from it, transformed as he walked up the simple concrete stairs.  Step after step, his white form dripping with pink water.  His clothes were ruined, wet hair trailing down in some semblance of propriety, till he wrapped a bath towel around himself and watched the patterns of red spread over the over-starched white.  Red and white was the manner of this evening.

As he exited the pool room, Olivier stopped dead in the hall, staring at him.  What did he see?  Julien couldn't say, only that the human slayer cursed and shuddered as he turned back the way he'd come.  "All dead down here, I presume?" he spat back over his shoulder.  "You didn't... didn't eat them, did you?"

"I didn't eat her, no," Julien replied.  His feet were leaving wet prints on the floor, starting clean and then gradually muddy from the filth left on the hardwood.

"She was the master?" Olivier asked.

There hadn't been a master.  They were all young, all weak.  She had been the leader, Julien thought, but only because she was a little older and a little less foolish.  A little more practical and able to create a place for these fledglings to survive.  But not for long.  They hadn't been subtle enough, powerful enough.  Julien wondered why he pitied them.

Pity wasn't an indulgence he often felt compelled to explore.

Perhaps it was the chemicals itching on his drying skin.

Perhaps he was just tired of all of this and ready for something new to begin.

At the stairwell, Olivier's gun hand twitched.  He wanted to turn it on Julien.  Julien could feel it.  Could feel the violence and taste the fear in the air, and he knew that if Olivier thought he could win, he would have shot Julien down right there and told the others a monster would always, in the end, be a monster.  That he had merely been defending himself.

Julien smiled at him, then sighed.  "You hypocrites are so exhausting."

"What?" the young man snarled.

"Do you want to try shooting me?  Do you think you have the right sort of bullets in that heavy gun?"

"I-- no, you're running the mission, you're-"

Julien yawned.  "Tres bien.  If you don't care to shoot me, get to the clean-up work.  Christine assured me none of you will be bothering me again after this."
January 07, 2020 08:37 pm
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