our guide, the oe I assume to be Pride, has suddenly become hostile toward both myself and those I arrived with. I make a mental note to mention the hate seething from him once I see Fenrir again. This kind of reception is unwarranted, especially toward those who are typically seen as the saviors of this hell hole of a world. His reaction to Fenrir’s name told me that he was not thrilled to know that I outrank him. He, apparently, has never met Fenrir. If he had, he would not hate those who are aiding him in the war against the Vampire Nation.
Perhaps some of his attitude is from my being a legend. I am better known than those who are fighting for the cause as part of the Partisan or of the Alliance. I am a sort of celebrity. Someone who commands respect despite not actually being a part of either army.
He stops just short of the city limits. Up until now, we have been in what remains of a suburb. Not in Baltimore proper. He unexpectedly turns on me. “I don’t care, vampire, who you know or who you claim as friends. Here, vampires are vampires. They are the enemy, even when they are allies.” His hate is beyond compare. “And I am not Pride. I am his second in command. But if you so much as breathe of this, I will deny it all. I simply want you to know that I hate vampires, no matter who they are or what their reputation.”
I glare at him. “Your hate of me is unfounded. As is your hatred of the vampires who have fought alongside of you. You are no better than the Vampire Nation when you hate. Hell. You’re no better than the allies of the VN. Beware of hate, or it will destroy you.”
He snorts self-righteously. “You hate the VN. Who are you to judge me?”
I peer into his eyes. “Who says that I hate anyone? Have you lived my life or walked my path?”
He shakes his head. “No. But…”
I get in his face. “Then do not assume that I hate anyone. You know nothing of me or those I hold as friends. Be careful in your own judgment, lest I be sent for you as well.”
He is visibly shaken by my words. “It’ll never happen.”
I smile. “Don’t be so sure. People like you come a dime a dozen. You fear that which you do not understand, even if it is your greatest ally. Your fear makes you hate. Makes you refuse to educate yourself. Do not forget that I have killed both werewolves and vampires alike when fighting the VN. I have even slaughtered the Greens and Greys as well as the Daemoni. I have faced many different vampire lords that you have only heard of. I have a right to be who I am. I have earned my celebrity and my renown. What have you earned? A lieutenancy? Big whoop. You are nothing compared to me. Either show me respect, or go be a part of the VN. There is no room in the Partisan or the Alliance for hateful shitheads like you.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Novoro smile. Our guide turns back around and resumes leading us to his general. I fall back to where Novoro is. He looks over at me. “No one has ever spoken to Brutus like that. Good work. You put him in his place.”
I look over at him. “Brutus?”
He chuckles. “Brutus Delany. Lieutenant to Pride. Most decorated and least trusted. Be careful. He is one of those who’ll sell you out to the VN.”
I smile. “I dare him to.”
I had always heard of the lights of Baltimore. In fact, there was an old song about them. A sad song. Now I see why the song was so sad. The old lights are simply dazzling.
Baltimore, for all intents, has been left untouched. But why? Why has this city been left alone while the others fell? Why did the VN by-pass Baltimore?
Novoro leans toward me. “There is a rumor about why Baltimore was left untouched.” His voice is a low whisper.
I look over at him, whispering in response. “Why is that?”
He smiles sadly. “The rumor is that the mayor and the leader of the Partisan who were over Baltimore were actually allies to the VN. If Pride and his band are any indication, I would have to agree. As I mentioned on the way here, Pride and his Partisans see people like you and I as traitors to the VN. In their minds, it makes us akin to spies…either intentional plants, or unintentional. We are a liability to them. Not all Partisan leaders see us thus, only Pride, but it is a potential danger we all face.”
We grow quiet as we near the head quarters. No need to be talking rumors as we enter the presence of a man whose integrity I have begun to question. Just as I have begun to question the integrity of his soldiers. But I keep my thoughts to myself.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Brutus has led us into a trap. I nod to Novoro. He realizes why and returns the nod. I watch him pat his gun and sword, sending a silent message to his men to be on their guard.
All slowly draw their swords and place them at their sides. A number of Partisan soldiers join us and do the same. It suddenly appears that the leadership here is being challenged by more than just our little troop. I watch the group grow slowly.
One of those who have joined us leans toward me and whispers in my ear. “You are not alone. Most of us know who you are, Cris, and we know what Pride plans on doing. We will not let that happen. Not to you, not to Novoro. We all owe Novoro our lives. And the Partisan always repays their debts.”