Blood Lines / Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven


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The absence of shadows against the wall told him he had slept late, his body trying vainly to regain some of the energy spent on spell-casting the night before. His tongue felt thick, his skin tight, and his bones as though they had been rough cast in lead. Soon, a slave will wait at my bedside, a glass of chilled juice ready upon my awakening. But soon, unfortunately, did him no good at the moment. He looked over at the clock-eleven fifty-six, oh three, oh four, oh five-and then tore his glance away before it could trap him further in the progression of time. Only half the day remained for him to feed and find the ka that burned so brightly.

Moving stiffly, he swung out of bed and made his way to the shower. The late Dr. Rax, who over the course of a varied career had been familiar with the sanitary facilities, or lack thereof, along the banks of the Nile, had considered North American plumbing to be the eighth wonder of the world. As gallons of hot water pounded the knots from his shoulders, he was inclined to agree.

By the time he finished a large breakfast and was lingering over a cup of coffee-an addiction every adult ka he had absorbed seemed to share-he no longer felt the weight of his age and was ready to face the day.

For a change, a cloudless blue sky arced up over the city, and, although the pale November sun appeared to shed little warmth, it was still a welcome sight. He took his cup to the wall of windows that prevented the other, more solid walls from closing in around him and looked down at the street. In spite of laws that forced most businesses to remain closed on the day known as Sunday, a number of people were taking advantage of the weather and spending time outside. A number of those people had small children in hand.

The series of individually tailored spells he had worked last night, each with its own complicated layering of controls, had drained him and the power he had remaining would barely be enough to keep him warm as he chose the child whose ka would replenish his. He was using power in a way he would never have dared when unsworn souls were few and even slaves had basic protections but, with nothing to stand in the way of his feeding, he saw no reason to hold back. Not one of the deaths could be traced to him- necessity had taught him millennia ago to take the mundane into account-and very shortly even that would cease to be a consideration. When the police and their political masters gave themselves to Akhekh, he, as High Priest, would be inviolate.

He had no idea how many sworn acolytes his lord needed in order to gain the strength to create another such as he. Forty-three had been the greatest number he had ever been able to gather in the past but, as that had been just before Thoth's priests had been instructed to intervene, he suspected that forty-four or forty-five would be enough. That the thirty ka to be gathered up in this time had been coerced would make only a minimal difference. He had used the smallest pieces of their ka necessary to convince them-in two cases those had been very small pieces indeed-and enough truth had been spoken during the spellbinding that their pledges would hold. The thirty coerced would be equivalent to no less than twenty free; a respectable beginning.

After the ceremony, he would not need to be as magically involved and would, therefore, need to feed less often.

'And when I find you, my bright and shining one?" He placed his empty cup down with the rest of the breakfast dishes and scooped up the opera cloak the Solicitor General had found outside the library door. "?1 may never need to feed again." As the satin folds slid across his fingers, he basked in the remembered glow. This ka would stand out like a blaze of glory against the others in this city; now that he had touched it, it would not be able to hide from him. He was mildly curious about what kind of a man-for it had been only a man, there had been no mark of god or wizard about the presence-would carry such a ka, but curiosity paled beside his desire.

The opera cloak pooled about his feet. Perhaps he would return the young man's forgotten garment, and as their fingers touched he would look into his eyes and?

With such power at his command there would be nothing he could not do.

Tony wasn't sure what had driven him from his basement room this morning, but something had nagged him up out of sleep and onto the street. Two coffees and a double chocolate chip muffin in Druxy's had brought him no closer to an answer.

Hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jacket, he stood on the corner of Yonge and Bloor and waited for the light, effortlessly eavesdropping on the conversations around him, filtering out the yuppie concerns, paying close attention to a cluster of street kids complaining about the cold. At this time of the year, those who lived in parks and bus shelters worried first about surviving the coming winter and then about their next meal, their next smoke, their next bit of cash. They talked about the best places to panhandle, to turn tricks, what doorways were safe, what cop would cut a little slack, who'd been picked up, who'd died. Tony had survived on the street for almost five years and knew what talk had substance behind it and what talk was just wind. No one seemed to be saying anything that would clue him into whatever it was that had him so jumpy.

He walked west on Bloor, thin shoulders hunched high. The new jacket he wore, bought with money from a real honest-to-God steady job, kept him plenty warm enough, but old habits took time to break. Even after two months, he was still a little unsure about the job, afraid that it would vanish as suddenly as it had appeared and with it the room, the warmth, the regular meals? and Henry.

Henry trusted him, believed in him. Tony didn't know why, didn't really care why. The trust and the belief were enough. Henry had become his anchor. He didn't think it had anything to do with Henry being a vampire-although he had to admit that was pretty fucking awesome and it certainly didn't hurt that the sex was the best he'd ever had and just remembering it made him hot-he thought it had more to do with Henry just being a? well, being Henry.

The feeling that had driven him out and onto the street had nothing to do with Henry, not specifically at least. Henry feelings, he could always recognize.

Dropping down onto the low wall in front of the Manulife Center, Tony rubbed at his temples and wished the feeling would go away. He had better things to do with his Sunday afternoon than wander about trying to find where the ants between his ears came from.

He kicked his heels against the concrete and watched the parade of people pass by. A baby in a backpack, barely visible under a hat and mittens and a scarf and a snowsuit, caught his attention and he grinned up at it, wondering if it could even move. Jeez, the kid's gonna spend the first few years of its life only seeing where it's been. Probably grow up to be a politician.

The baby appeared to be gazing in happy fascination at the man who walked along behind its parents although, as far as Tony could tell, he wasn't doing anything to attract its attention. He wasn't a bad looking man either; quite a bit of gray in the hair and a nose that hooked out into tomorrow but with a certain something that Tony found attractive.

Guess he likes kids. Sure is staring at that? that? Jesus, no.

Under the pale blue hat with its row of square-headed yellow ducks, the baby's face had gone suddenly slack. The bulk of its clothing held it upright, arms reaching out over the carrier but Tony knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that the baby was dead.

Cold fingers closed around his heart and squeezed. There was now no gray in the hair of the man who followed.

He killed it. Tony was more certain of that than he'd ever been of anything in his life. He didn't know how it had been done, nor did he care. Jesus God, he killed it.

And then the man turned, looked right at him, and smiled.

Tony ran, instinct guiding his feet. Horns sounded. A voice yelled protest after a soft collision. He ignored it all and ran on.

When even terror could no longer keep him moving, he collapsed in a shadowed doorway and forced great lungfuls of air past the taste of iron in the back of his throat. His whole body trembled and every breath drove a knife blade, barbed and razor sharp, up under his ribs. Exhaustion wrapped itself shroudlike around what he'd seen, dulling the immediacy, allowing him the distance to look at it again.

That man, or whatever he was, had killed the baby just by looking at it.

And then he turned and looked at me. But I'm safe. He can't find me here. I'm safe. No footsteps sounded in the alley, nothing threatened, but his scalp prickled and the flesh between his shoulder blades twisted into knots. He didn't need to follow. He's waiting for me. Oh, God. Oh, Jesus. I don't want to die.

The baby was dead.

They'll think the baby's asleep. They'll laugh about the way babies sleep through anything. Then they'll get home and they'll take it out and it won't be sleeping. Their baby will be dead and they won't know when or how or why it happened.

He scrubbed his palms across his cheeks.

But I know.

And he knows I know.

Henry.

Henry'll protect me.

Except that sunset wouldn't be for hours and he couldn't stop thinking of the baby's parents arriving home and finding? He couldn't just let that happen. He had to tell someone.

The card he pulled from his pocket had seen better days. Limp and stained, the name and number on it barely legible, it had been for years his link to another world. Clutching it tightly in a sweaty hand, Tony moved cautiously from his hidey-hole and went looking for a pay phone. Victory would know what to do. Victory always knew what to do.

'Nelson Investigations. No one is available to take your call, but if you leave your name and number, as well as a brief reason for your call, after the tone, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you."

'Shit." Tony slammed the receiver down and laid his forehead against the cool plastic of the phone. "Now what?" There was always the number scrawled on the back of the card, but somehow Tony doubted that Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci would appreciate having this kind of thing dumped in his lap. "Whatever kind of thing it is. Jesus, Victory, where are you when I need you?"

He shoved the card back in his pocket and, after a cautious examination of the passing crowds, slipped out of the phone booth. Squinting at the sky, he began making his way back to Yonge and Bloor. He knew where Henry was and the hours between now and sunset would only seem like they were taking up the rest of his life. With any luck.

The boy had seen him feed; or been aware, at least, that he had fed. Apparently, there were a few in this age who had not built barriers of disbelief around their lives. The incident was of interest but placed him in no danger. Who would the boy tell? Who would believe him? Perhaps later he would search him out and, if he could not be used, he was young enough still that his life would be an adequate source of power.

At the moment, he had all the power he needed. He felt wonderful. An infant's life, so very nearly entirely unrealized potential, was a pleasure to absorb. Occasionally, in the past, when his fortunes were high, he would buy a female slave, have her impregnated by an acolyte, and devour the life of the child at the moment of its birth. The slave's birth pains and then the despair at the loss of her child became a sacrifice to Akhekh. Such nourishment took careful purchasing and then constant monitoring, however, as the children of some women could be claimed by the gods while still in the womb. Perhaps, with so few gods active, when Akhekh's temple had been built anew, he would be able to feed in such a way as a matter of course.

He raised his personal temperature another two degrees just because he had the power to spare. It was too lovely a day to return to the enclosure of his hotel room. He would walk to the park, ward a small area, and soak up a few rays while he searched for the ka that blazed so brightly.

'Mike, it's Vicki. It's about two-ten, Sunday afternoon. Call me when you've got time to talk." She hung up the phone and reached for her jacket. Now that they knew high-ranking police officers were involved and, given those same officers had already pulled him off the case, a tap on Celluci's phone line was a possibility; a slim one, granted, but Vicki saw no reason to discount it just because the odds were ridiculously high. After all, they were hunting down an ancient Egyptian mummy and who'd want to figure the odds on that.

'An ancient Egyptian mummy named Anwar Tawfik." She hoisted her shoulder bag up into position. "How much do you want to bet that's not its real name." Still, it was the only name they had, so she planned on spending the afternoon checking the hotels clustered around the Royal Ontario Museum. Everything pointed to it having remained in that area and, from what Henry had to say, Mr. Tawfik apparently preferred to travel first class. She wondered briefly how it paid for such a lifestyle and muttered, "Maybe it has a platinum Egyptian Express card. Don't be entombed without it."

Henry.

Henry wanted to get as far away from this creature and its visions of the sun as was humanly possible. He didn't have to say it, it was painfully obvious. She doubted he'd be willing, or even able, to face the mummy again.

'So I guess that means it's up to me." Her glasses slid forward and she settled them firmly back on the bridge of her nose. "Just the way I like it best."

The vague, empty feeling, she ignored.

His ka swept over the city and found no trace of the life he had touched so briefly the night before. A ka with such potential should shine like a beacon and searching for it should only be a matter of following the blaze of light. He knew it existed. He had seen it, felt it. It should not be able to hide from him!

Where was it?

The connection between them had lasted less than a searing, glorious instant before the young man threw himself backward through the library window and away but even such a slight touch would enable him to gain access into the young man's ka. If he could find it.

Had the young man died in the night? Had he taken one of the miraculous traveling devices of this age and flown far away? His frustration grew as he brushed over a thousand kas that together burned less brightly than the one he desired.

And then he felt his own ka gripped by a greater power and, for a moment knew a sudden, all-encompassing fear. Recognition lessened the fear only slightly.

Why have you not given me the suffering of the one I claimed?

Lord, I? He had walked through the woman's ka and gathered all the information he needed for his lord's pleasure. He had intended to set it in motion the night before. Had he done so, the suffering would have begun. The touch of the intruder's ka had driven it right out of his mind.

No excuses.

It made no difference that the pain existed on the spiritual level only. His ka screamed.

'Are you all right?"

He felt strong hands around his arm, lifting him back into a sitting position, and knew the wards had broken. Slowly, because it hurt, he opened his eyes.

At first, while he fought his way free of the webs of pain, he thought the young man standing so solicitously by resembled the young man who had escaped him; who had been responsible for the delay in the working of his god's desire. Who had been responsible for the agony his god had seen fit to twist around him. A moment later, he saw the hair was lighter, the skin darker, the eyes gray rather than pale brown, but by then it didn't matter.

'You tipped over." The young man smiled tentatively. "Is there anything I can do?"

'Yes." He forced his throbbing head up enough to meet the other's gaze. "You can throw yourself in front of a subway."

Eyes widened and face muscles spasmed.

'Your last word must be Akhekh."

'Yes." Legs moved jerkily away. Body language screamed no.

He felt better. There had been nothing subtle about the coercion, but there had been no need. The young man would live such a short time that laying on an appearance of normalcy would be a waste. He could feel his lord following close behind, drinking in the despair and panic. The young man knew what he was about to do, he just couldn't stop himself from doing it.

Hopefully, his lord would be appeased until the chosen one could be delivered.

Vicki paused outside the Park Plaza Hotel and looked down at what she was wearing. Sensible shoes, gray cords, and a navy blue duffle coat were fine for most places in this city, but she had a feeling that when she walked through the door and into the lobby she was going to feel underdressed. The hotels she usually searched for suspects did not have a doorman; if someone was stationed out front, he was there as a lookout in case the police arrived. Adjoining shops sold cigarettes and condoms, not seven thousand dollar diamond and emerald necklaces. The windows would be opaque because of plywood, not because the glass had been impregnated with gold.

And I am not being intimidated by a building. The Park Plaza was directly across Bloor Street from the museum and therefore the logical place to begin a search for Anwar Tawfik. She strode past the doorman, swung through the revolving door at a speed that would have swept any other occupants off their feet, and paused again in the echoing quiet of the green marble lobby.

Some things, however, were universal to hotels. The registration desk had two harried clerks behind it and eleven people-eleven very well-dressed people, Vicki noted- attempting to check in. She sighed silently and got into line, mourning the loss of the badge that would have made waiting unnecessary.

His stride had nearly steadied by the time he reached the hotel. The vast amount of power he had absorbed from the infant's ka had acted as a buffer between the anger of his lord and any lasting damage. There had been times in the past when he had crawled away from such an encounter on his belly and it had taken days of pain and fear to recover his strength. Thankfully, the new acolytes would soon be sworn and his lord's attention would not then be directed so exclusively at him.

Akhekh, while not one of the more powerful gods, was still very conscious of services owed in return for immortality.

The liveried doorman scurried to open the door and he swept past the tinted glass and into the lobby, stopping abruptly at the touch of a familiar ka.

She looked much as she perceived herself although in truth was a little less tall, a little less blonde, and rather more determined of jaw. What was his lord's chosen doing here, however? He reached out and gently stroked the surface of her thoughts. After the nights he had spent mapping it, her ka could hold no secrets from him.

He frowned as he uncovered the reason for her presence. She searched for him? She was no wizard to be aware of his wandering in her? ah, she searched at the request of another. Apparently, he had not been as thorough at the museum as he had thought. No matter. He smiled. His lord would have twice the pleasure for the plans he had made for the suffering of Ms. Nelson could be adapted to include Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci as well, without even the need to search the detective's ka.

But, in the meantime, it would not do for the chosen one to disrupt his sanctuary. Without so much as touching her awareness, he laid a false memory over the parameters of her search.

What am I doing back in line? Vicki wondered, shaking her head and turning for the door. They're not going to have any more information now than they did a moment ago. Computer listings could be changed, Anwar Tawfik might not be the name he was registered under, and if the manager had never heard of him, there wasn't much else she could do but check the rest of the hotels in the area.

Maybe she'd think of another angle to hit later.

'Yes, it was a very pleasant evening, Mrs. Zottie. Thank you. Now, if I could speak with your husband?" He looked out over the city as he waited for the Solicitor General to pick up the phone. When he stood close to the wall of windows, the rest of the suite seemed less enclosing.

'You wished to speak with me, Master?"

'I assume you are alone?"

'Yes, Master. I took the call in my study."

'Good." It had become necessary to ask for the effect of the control spell had Zottie's mental abilities deteriorating at an unanticipated pace. Fortunately, his assistance would be necessary only until the others were pledged.

'Pay attention, there's something important I want you to arrange?"

Henry had faced enemies before, faced them and conquered them, but his nature denied him the ability to face the sun. Vicki had offered him a chance to leave-she'd understand if he ran from this creature he had no chance of defeating.

She'd understand. But would I?

Forcing his muscles to respond, he swung his legs off the bed and sat up, golden afterimages of the sun still dancing across the periphery of his vision.

When I face this wizard-priest, I face the sun. When I face the sun, I face death. So when I face him, I face death. I've faced death before.

Except he hadn't. Not when he truly thought he was going to die. Deep in his heart he had always known he was stronger and faster. He was the hunter. He was Vampire. He was immortal.

This time, for the first time in over four hundred and fifty years, he faced a death he believed in.

'And the question becomes, what am I going to do about it?"

It was one thing to endure the dreams when he had no knowledge of how or why they came, it was another to let them continue knowing they were sent. He must have become aware of me from the moment he woke at the museum. But even knowing who, the question of why still haunted him. Perhaps the dream of the blazing sun was a warning, a shot fired across his bow saying, "This is what I can do to you if I choose. Do not interfere in what I plan."

'So it all returns to running. Do I let him have his way or do I face him again?" He leapt to his feet and strode across the room, head high, eyes blazing. "I am the son of a King! I am Vampire! I do not run!"

With a loud crack, the closet door ripped off in his hands. Henry stared at it for a moment, then slowly let the pieces fall. In the end, the anger and the fine words meant nothing. He didn't think he could face Tawfik again, not knowing he had to face the sun as well.

The sudden ringing of the phone slammed his heart against his chest in a very mortal reaction.

* * *

'All right, Mr. Fitzroy says you can go up." Tony nodded, brushed his hair back off his face with a hand that still trembled, and hurried for the inner door. The old security guard disapproved of him, could see the street kid lurking just below the surface; thought thief, and addict, and bum. Tony didn't give a rat's ass what the old guy thought, especially not tonight. All he wanted was to get to Henry. Henry would make it better.

Greg watched the boy run for the elevator and frowned. He'd fought in two wars and he knew bone-deep terror when he saw it. He didn't approve of the boy-part of his job as security guard included keeping that type out of the building-nor did he approve of his relationship, whatever it was, with Mr. Fitzroy, but he wouldn't wish that kind of fear on anyone.

Henry could smell the fear stink from across the apartment and when Tony launched himself into his arms it became almost overwhelming. Keeping a tight grip on the Hunger that had risen with a body so vulnerably presented, he set his own fears aside and held the younger man silently until he felt muscles relax and the trembling stop. When he thought he'd get an answer, he pushed Tony gently an arm's length away and asked, "What is it?"

Tony rubbed his palm across lashes spiked with moisture, too frightened to deny there had been tears. The skin around his eyes looked bruised and he had to swallow, once, twice, before he could speak.

'I saw, this afternoon, a baby? he just?" The shudder ran the length of his body, Henry's presence finally allowing him release. "And now, he'll? I mean I saw him kill the baby!"

Henry's mouth tightened at the suggestion that someone would threaten one of his. He pulled Tony, unresisting, over to the couch and sat him down. "I will not allow you to be harmed," he said in such a tone Tony had no choice but to believe it. "Tell me what happened. From the beginning."

As Tony spoke, slowly at first, then faster as though he were racing his fear to the end of the story, Henry had to turn away. He walked to the window, spread one hand against the glass, and looked out over the city. He knew the dark-haired, dark-eyed man.

'He's killing children, " Vicki told him.

'He'll come for me, " cried Tony.

'Because we're all there is." Even Mike Celluci had a voice in his head.

I feel the sun. It's hours to dawn and I feel the sun.

'Henry?"

Slowly, he turned. "I'll go to where you saw him last, and try to track him." He had no doubt he would recognize the scent, pick it out of a hundred scents laid across concrete on a November afternoon. And if he found the creature's lair, what then? He didn't know. He didn't want to know.

Tony sighed. He knew Henry wouldn't let him down. "Can I stay here? Until you come back?"

Henry nodded and repeated, "Until I come back," as if it were some sort of mantra that would ensure his return.

'Do you, do you need to eat before you go?"

He didn't think he could; not eat, not? "No. But thank you."

Brushing his hair back off his face, Tony managed a shaky grin and the shadow of a shrug. "Hey, it's not like I mind or anything."

Because he could do no less than this mortal boy, Henry drew up a smile in return. "Good."

The shrilling of the phone snapped both heads around wearing almost identical expressions of panic. Henry quickly slid a mask in place so that when Tony glanced over at him and asked, "You want me to get it?" he appeared under control and could calmly answer, "No. I'll take care of it."

He lifted the receiver before the second ring had quite finished sounding, having moved from the window to the phone in the space between one heartbeat and the next. It took him almost as long to find his voice.

'Hello? Henry?"

Vicki. No mistaking the tone split equally between worry and annoyance. He didn't know what he'd expected. No, that wasn't true; he knew exactly what he'd expected, he just didn't know why. If Anwar Tawfik decided to contact him, he would not be using the phone.

'Henry?"

'Vicki. Hello."

'Is something wrong?" The words had been given a professional shading that told him she knew something was wrong and he might as well tell her what.

'Nothing's wrong. Tony's here." Behind him, he heard Tony shift his weight on the couch.

'What's wrong with Tony?"

The obvious conclusion; he should've known she'd jump to it. "He has a problem. But I'm going to take care of it for him. Tonight."

'What kind of problem?"

'Just a minute." He covered the mouthpiece, half turned, and raised a questioning eyebrow.

Tony emphatically shook his head, fingers digging deep into a cushion. "Don't tell her, man. You know what Victory's like; she'll forget she's only human, just charge out there and challenge the guy and the next thing we'll know, she's history."

Henry nodded. And I am not only human. I am the night. I am Vampire. I want her with me. I don't want to face this creature alone. "Vicki? He doesn't want me to tell you. It's uh, trouble with a man."

'Oh." He didn't dare read anything into the pause that followed. "Well, I want to spend some time with Mike this evening; fill him in on what we know is happening. Warn him." Again the pause. "If you don't need me?"

What did she sense? The half lie? His fear? "Will you be here for the dawn?" Regardless of what happened tonight, if he was to have another dawn, he wanted her there for it.

'I will." It had the sound of a pledge.

'Then give my regards to the detective."

Vicki snorted. "Not likely." Her voice softened. "Henry? Be careful." And she was gone.

A little of the horror lost its effect. It was amazing how much "be careful" could sound like "I love you." Holding her words-her tone-like a talisman, he went over the location with Tony one more time, shrugged into his coat, and went out into the night. He took dubious comfort in the knowledge that now, at least, he could be sure he wasn't going crazy.

* * *

Many of the spells he had spent long years learning would have to be adapted to this new time and place. Unfortunately, as he now found himself in a culture that held few things sacred, finding substitutions would not be easy. The ibex had been revered to the extent that sacred had become a pan of its name and that made beak and blood and bone very powerful agents for magic. Somehow he doubted that rendering up a Canada goose would have the same effect.

Suddenly he sat bolt upright in the chair and twisted to face the windows. It was out there. And it was close. He scrambled to his feet and began to throw on street clothes. His ka would not need to search again, simple awareness of the young man would be enough to find him.

He didn't know how that glorious light had been hidden during the day, although he expected he'd soon find out. One way or another.

Henry had traced the scent to the southeast corner of Bloor and Queen's Park Road where it split, one track going north, the other south. Slowly he stood, brushed off the knee that had been resting on the concrete, and considered what he should do next. He knew what he wanted to do, he wanted to go back to Tony, say he couldn't find the creature, and deal with the younger man's fear instead of his own.

Except that wasn't the way it worked. He had made Tony his responsibility. Honor had driven him out onto the streets and honor would not let him return.

Night had followed day, cold and clear, the kind of weather where the scent clung to the ground and the hunt rode out behind the hounds.

His best friend, the brother of his heart, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, rode beside him, their geldings tearing across the frozen turf neck and neck. Ahead, the staghounds bayed and just barely ahead of the pack the quarry raced in a desperate attempt to outrun the death that closed upon its heels. Henry didn't see the exact moment the dogs closed in, but there was a scream of almost human pain and terror and then the stag thrashed on the ground.

He pulled up well back from the seething mass of snarling dogs who darted past striking hooves and tossing antlers to worry at the great beast, but Surrey took his horse as close as it would go, leaning forward in the stirrups, eyes on the knife and the throat and the hot spurt of blood that steamed in the bitter November air.

"Why?" he asked Surrey later, when the hall was filled with the smell of roasting venison and they were sitting bootless, warm before the fire.

Surrey frowned, the elegant line of his black brows dipping in toward the bridge of his nose. "I didn't want the death of such a splendid animal to be wasted. I thought I might find a poem?"

His voice trailed off so Henry prodded, "Did you?"

"Yes. " The frown grew thoughtful. "But a poem too red for me I think. I will write the hunt and keep the stag alive. "

Four hundred and fifty odd years later, Henry answered as he had then. "But there is always death at the end of a hunt."

The track to the south had almost been buried beneath the other footsteps of the day. The track to the north seemed better defined, as though it had been taken more than once; to and from a hotel room perhaps. Henry crossed Bloor, drew even with the church on the corner, and froze so completely motionless that the stream of Sunday night pedestrians flowed seamlessly around him.

He knew the dark-haired, dark-eyed man approaching.

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