JONATHAN DIDN’T KNOW HE WASN’T HUMAN. But then, even if he had, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.
He’d always painted what he saw, out of mud or food, or whatever came to hand. He had to; these visions pushed him, bled out his eyes and filled his ears until all he could even taste was weird unraveling of the future, and the only cure for augural blindness was to splatter it out in colors, shapes, forms.
He’d done it since he was a child. Since he could remember. For all he knew, he’d done it in the womb.
Childhood would have been bad enough without that, but his father was Portuguese, too. That kind of thing could get a small child killed.
In 1636, the Tokugawa ruled that all offspring of the “Southern Barbarian” must either leave the country or be put to death. Whether they had someplace to go was someone else’s problem.
Hundreds of mothers and children left that year, but when he was put on a boat heading to Macao, it was without his mother.
She couldn’t go with him. Wouldn’t? He’d never know.
Jonathan tried to forget, to purge those memories, the echoes of screaming children and weeping women, the shouts in foreign tongues as the ship left harbor and left family and left everything he knew behind.
He was four, maybe five or six. He couldn’t be sure. He’d tried to forget, because it was on that ship the Bad Thing happened, and he had a hard enough time reliving the future.
* * * * *
Jonathan’s name used to be Eiji. It could mean second-born or peace or prosperity, depending on how it was written. It could also mean eternity.
His mother had taught him to hide his painting, to do everything he could to keep it safe from any prying eyes, and he tried. The problem was he couldn’t help what and when he painted.
He couldn’t not get it out, vomiting brain-matter through his fingers and hands until it existed outside himself and not cluttering his head anymore. It had to happen or he’d go blind with it, deaf with it, writhing and screaming on the floor and gripping his skull until he had the chance to draw it out. So the day they left port, his cheeks still stinging from the passage of many tears, he wandered down into the hold.
Already shaking with too much sight, he searched for and found a relatively smooth place on the hull. He only had a few small inks with him—nothing much, but his mother (whom he later realized was a prostitute) had little to give. He knew to use it sparingly; to be cautious, careful, economical, but the images spilled from him even as he spilled his precious ink.
Eiji-who-would-be-Jonathan gasped and tremored, threw up the weak rice and water porridge in his belly, and drew with shaking hands until the invasions left his head to sit in black strokes on the wood. They were frightening images: a woman, unlike anything he’d ever seen and scarier than the yokai he’d imagined, a woman who could eat the world, killing everyone on board this vessel.
A woman who would do just that. He was four, maybe five or six, but already knew what he painted came true.
He cried then, alone and too pale and very small, taken from his mother and sent to who knows where. There was nothing he could do but wait for the monster to come.
No Reparations Are Expected At This Time
DEPARTMENTS OF INTERWORLD LAW ENFORCEMENT
CODE BLUE SAPPHIRE
PRIVATE: For Nox Eterna, the Blood King, father of the Night Children:
We regret to inform you we apprehended one of your Children’s blood-providers less than a mile from Incident No. 58426 28B-DRAGON. While we have determined she was not involved with the Darkness-based magic that began Incident No. 58426 28B-DRAGON, we feel it advisable to caution you that your children must take more care with their toys. Had she not been Kin, we would have had every reason to suspect her.
We wish for no animosity with you. Expected visitation from Lord-General Ramses Al-Benumm tá Oman will occur at your place of residence within the next week. No reparations are expected at this time.
Your great health,
Salis Kamialfaod of the Hush
Junior Deputy Commissioner
Division 58B, Code Blue Sapphire.
THIS WAS A VERY BAD DAY.
Salis buffed his shoes, ironed his uniform, used magic to change the shade several times until the seams began to fray, and finally gave up and purchased a brand new one.
He’d needed one anyway. Half-troll heritage made regular clothing replacement necessary.
“Be respectful,” said Lord-General Ramses Al-Benumm tá Oman, divesting him of his weapons (why?) and handing him official paperwork.
“I am always respectful,” said Salis stiffly.
“That’s why we’re sending you,” said the Lord-General.
Salis did not say but you were supposed to go yourself. He thought it, though.
This was a very bad day.
* * * * *
Notte’s home was… nice.
It definitely wasn’t the kind of place one would expect from the terrifying ancient creator of an entire powerful race. Perched on a cliff above the Mediterranean Sea, it sat surrounded by flower beds and an enormous circular drive clearly designed to deliver multiple guests to the front door. It glowed in the evening sun, stucco and red clay emanating the warmth of artisanship from artigiani centuries past.
There were no guard dogs, no gun turrets, no hired hands ready with wands or magic swords to skewer trespassers. The windows were all clean, but Salis could not see through them.
He swallowed. Breathed deeply. Remained calm.
His boots crunched on the gravel, a heavy sound hinting at his own weight; hopefully, this place had been maintained and he wouldn’t find himself stomping holes in anyone’s floors.
No one stopped him all the way across the drive. No one issued a challenge or asked politely for an invitation or subtly threatened repercussions if he stepped out of line. Salis stood at the door for a moment, waiting for servants, or bells, or any of the usual magical precautions.
He swallowed again. Was Notte… not home?
His hearts rattled in his chest like dropped stones. Had the Blood King not been told he was coming?
Salis had never run from anything his entire life—not from his mixed heritage, or his hateful teachers, or his superiors who refused to promote him as earned. He’d never run from any enemy at all, but this weird situation made running look tempting.
“May I help you?” came of course from behind with no footsteps and no shadow and not even an errant breeze to warn him.
Salis counted carefully to three as he turned so as not to move too quickly. One should never move quickly when facing a predator. This was lesson number one in dealing with any member of the Darkness, after all.
Well, it wasn’t Notte.
A gangly, freckled man stood there, the crazy red of his hair and freckles startling against the vibrant vampire green of his eyes. Night Children were almost impossible to date because they simply didn’t age like the rest of the world, but Salis had been around the block more than once. This angular youth—standing there with hands in his pockets and an easy smile—was old. It was in the eyes, sometimes.
Salis bowed. “Yes, I believe you can. Greetings. Among the Mythos, I am Salis, of the Hush. I am looking for your father.”
“Good luck with that. He’s been lost at sea for about a thousand years,” said this guy, then laughed.
That was a break in protocol.
Ah, but the Hush were used to that. Frightened people, guilty people, angry people, everyone responded differently to the presence of the Hush—though this was the first time Salis had seen unafraid. “I believe you know that is not the father I mean.” He stepped closer. “I am here to speak with your father. Disrespect will be met with extreme prejudice.”
This would normally be the point at which the interogatee babbled, or went pale, or fidgeted. Or lied.
The redhead waved one hand like shooing away a fly. “He’ll be here. He’s taking care of something in New York right now. Wanna come in for a cuppa?”
Another breach. Salis breathed slowly, willing his stony skin to keep its gray color instead of blooming an angry blue. “Was he not told of our visit?” Damn you, Ramses.
“Sure. But there was an emergency—family stuff. Come on in, will you? Sun’s setting, and you do not want to know what creeps around this place in the dark.”
This was disrespect. It would not be brooked. It would not—
The vampire held his door open. “Oh, I’m Terrance, by the way.” Terrance held out his hand, teeth white and even, freckles like stars all up his arm and under his sleeve.
Were all Night Children crazy? Hand-shaking? How… human. Salis ignored it, cursed Ramses out a few more times in his head, and pushed past the insane redhead into the manor.