Authors: Nina Smith
Hippy sat on the edge of the narrow balcony railing, leaning against the brick wall. She tossed the knife she’d stolen from the kitchen into the air and caught it. Then she did it again. And again. There was nothing else to do.
To her left, through the glass door into Poppy’s hotel room, Poppy and Pierus were still arguing about the best way to track down the Freakin Fairy. To her right was the longest drop to the ground she’d ever seen, and down there, lots of shiny lights and cars and ladies in pretty dresses. Another hotel rose up on the other side of the street, facing all the balconies and windows with mirror images of themselves.
She knew where she’d rather be. But no, Pierus had expressly forbidden her from going vamp hunting. Never mind that with every hour they wasted, Rustam Badora was building another army. Never mind if they killed him now, the vamp army on Shadow would fall apart. No, she had to sit here and do nothing because blah, blah, blah.
She caught the knife and jammed it into the wooden balcony rail. Maybe Poppy was right. Maybe she should just knock Pierus’s teeth out.
Hippy jerked the knife out of the wood and secured it inside her pinned-up hair, where she knew it wouldn’t fall out. Pierus and Poppy could be busy arguing for ages. She curled her feet around the thin railing and slowly stood up, arms out for balance. She’d never jumped from anything so high the people below looked like ants before. Nothing in Shadow was this high except the mountains, and you couldn’t really jump off them.
She looked over her shoulder. Pierus had his back to the door. Poppy was waving a book around. Good. She turned back.
Hippy almost shrieked in surprise. She clapped her hand over her mouth just in time. There, on the balcony directly across the street, a hooded, cloaked figure leaned on the balcony rail watching her. He pulled back his hood.
In the dim light Hippy could see a dark
face framed with long black hair, plaits and dreadlocks. He put his hands on the rail and leaped up to balance on it, just like she was doing.
Hippy eyeballed the figure for a whole ten seconds. She could call Pierus. Or she could do things her way and liven up an otherwise dull night. She pointed down.
The figure nodded.
Hippy jumped. It wasn’t like jumping off the fortifications at all. She plummeted down, down, down through the air. Wind rushed past her face, stung her eyes, whipped her hair. She never took her eyes off the fairy plummeting with her.
They landed at the same time on opposite sides of the road. Hippy’s knees buckled slightly, but that was the only sign she’d jumped from a greater height than usual.
The fairy waited only long enough for her to cross the road before he took off.
Hippy gave chase. She pushed her way through knots of women in sparkly dresses and men in black and white suits, dodged people on bicycles and crowds flowing out of cafes and bars.
The fairy just kept going. Every time she thought she’d catch him, he ducked down another corner. Every time she thought she’d lost him, there he’d be, right ahead.
Hippy was about ready to give up and go back to look at the sparkly dresses when she rounded a corner and smacked right into him in a dead-end street that smelled like rotten cabbage. Walls towered on three sides and the only light spilled from a few windows overhead.
She shoved him hard. “Freakin Fairy!”
He tilted his head to one side and studied her with a lively curiosity that made her want to shove him again. “Bloody Fairy. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”
“Believed what?” Hippy raised her hands to her hair to make sure the knife was still there.
Another two figures emerged from the shadows, both cloaked. They were taller than the fairy, but not tall enough to be muses.
“Who are you people?” Hippy closed her hand around the hilt of the knife. Just in case.
“There’s no need for weapons. We only wanted to talk to you,” one said.
“Then show me your faces.”
The other one snorted. “To a fairy who consorts with the muse king? Unlikely.” She made an impatient movement. “Get on with it. This has taken too much time already.”
“Get on with what?” Hippy moved her hands away from her hair.
“We want you to give a message to your friend the muse king,” the fairy said.
“Tell him to go back to Shadow. He’ll never find the Apple of Chaos.”
Hippy drew herself up. “Want to bet?”
“Yeah.” The fairy folded his arms. “Even if it wasn’t safe from him, he’s hardly going to get anywhere with only a Bloody Fairy for help.”
Hippy leaped, tackled the fairy and pinned him to the ground by the throat. “Say that again!”
“That again!” The Freakin Fairy used the bewildered second Hippy took to figure out his response to gain the upper hand and push her off.
Hippy only got in one good smack to his face before the tall couple dragged them apart.
“This achieves nothing.” The man’s voice was stern.
“This is what you get when you deal with fairies,” the woman muttered.
The Freakin Fairy looked at his feet and kicked at a rock. “Sorry,” he muttered.
The hood turned in Hippy’s direction.
She scowled. “We need the Apple of Chaos,” she said. “It’s the only way to drive the vamps back!”
“We know the situation and sympathise, but you must find another way,” the hood said. “We will not allow the Apple of Chaos to fall into
the muse king’s hands. You have no idea what he could do with it.”
“Nothing, without my cooperation.”
“Is that what he told you?”
Hippy glowered at all three of them and brushed dirt off her arms from the scuffle. “Rustam Badora is running around right now making new vamps. Maybe the three of you should think about helping, instead of playing games.” She turned her back and walked away.
“We know about the situation with Badora,” the hood said.
looked over her shoulder. “Do you know where he is? I for one am not planning on sitting around waiting for him to come knocking.” She gave the fairy a pointed look. “Bloody Fairies aren’t afraid to go on the hunt.”
The Freakin Fairy lunged. The hood grabbed him by the back of the shirt and held him back.
“Don’t forget to give the muse king our message.”
“Whatever.” Hippy left the alley. She was halfway down the next street before she realised she was completely lost and had no idea ho
w to get back to Poppy’s hotel. No big deal, she wanted to find the sparkly dresses again anyway.
She followed the streetlights until she came to busier roads, where lights from the overflowing bars made it almost as bright as day. She slowed and stared around her with big eyes. Ladies in sparkly dresses leaned on the arms of men in black and white. They sat at tables and crowded into small spaces drinking sparkling liquid out of shiny, shiny glasses. This was nothing like Shadow at all. She liked it. She wondered where she could get a sparkly dress and a shiny glass, but she was too shy to go up to a human and ask. The ladies looked forbidding in their painted faces and the men who noticed her look
ed at her like she was a piece of meat.
Hippy stuck her tongue out and squashed up her face at a man who was doing just that. He went bright red and hurried away.
She strolled down the street and kept admiring the sights. The pointy letters she didn’t understand were scrawled on almost every building. Some of the cars had the most interesting little metal animals on their hoods. She wanted to break one off and take it home, but that might have been impolite, she wasn’t sure.
She sighed. She liked looking at the shiny things, but she really needed to start looking for signs of Rustam Badora. So far the necks of all the humans she’d seen had been fairly intact, so he obviously wasn’t here.
A car that had been meandering down the street through the crowds of pedestrians braked sharply next to her.
Hippy looked around in time to see a man jump out of the back door and head toward her. Oh! She knew that car. She waved. “Hi Tony!”
“You!” Tony grabbed her by the shoulder. “I want to talk to you. And don’t you try anything with that damn spider of yours either. Get in the car. Come on.”
Hippy folded her arms. “I don’t want to.”
“I said get in the car. Don’t argue. You and me, we’re just going to have a friendly chat.” He tightened his hand around her shoulder and shoved her in the back door.
Hippy tripped and almost fell into the car. She saved herself from an undignified face-first sprawl by catching the
back of the seat. Tony shut the doors and the car moved off.
Hippy scowled at him. “What? I wasn’t doing anything.”
“Oh, I’m sure you weren’t. Just wandering the streets at nine o’clock at night dressed like Robin Hood or something. Shouldn’t good little girls be at home in bed?”
“I’m not good, and I’m not a little girl.”
Tony chuckled, but the sound held no mirth. “See, I suspected that. What you doing with a crook like Praeconius and that other geezer anyway?”
“Huh. You don’t have to tell me, I’m not your father.” Tony leaned forward. “What’s your real name?”
“Figures. Well Hippy, I’ve got a problem. I’ve been looking for my friends all day, the ones Praeconius kicked out of the car. Now they’re big blokes who can look after themselves, see? And they know what to do if they get separated from the team. But they haven’t checked in and I can’t find them anywhere. I didn’t really think Praeconius was the vicious type, she’s just after money, see? But I got nothing else. So you tell me where my men are.”
Hippy felt a finger of cold seep into her chest. So that’s where Rustam Badora had started. What had he done, followed their trail as soon as the sun went down? Followed them underground somehow? Had Tony’s friends strayed into a cave, or crossed his path after dark?
“I don’t like the way you’re looking at me,” Tony said.
“Vamps,” Hippy said.
“What do you mean, vamps?”
twisted her fingers together. She didn’t know how to explain it to him.
Pierus had said humans knew nothing of Shadow. It had taken a long time for Poppy to believe them. How was she supposed to convince Tony? “There’s a very bad man,” she said, hoping Tony would be happy with a half-explanation. “Pierus and I are trying to stop him, but he followed us here. Your friends may have met him.”
“Sweetheart, I’m a very bad man.” Tony smirked at her. “My friends are very bad men. What’s this geezer going to do?”
“Drink their blood.”
Tony screwed his face up. But he didn’t laugh, as she’d feared he would. “You’re serious?”
Hippy nodded. “I’m trying to find him,” she said. “Before he can kill too many people.”
“You? What’re you going to do? You’re nothing more than a little piece of jail bait.”
“I don’t know what jail bait is, but I’ve killed hundreds of his kind.”
“Well then you’re the youngest psycho I ever met.” Tony ran his hand over his bald head. “Fine, I’m game. How do we find him?”
Hippy stared. “You want to help me hunt Rustam Badora?”
“Sure, why not?”
Hippy drew her legs up under her and thought hard. Tony’s friends had had hours to be killed, wake up and come back. If Rustam stayed with them they could be anywhere. If not, they might not know what had happened. “Where were they supposed to go?”
“We got a rendezvous point,” Tony said. “But I checked in twice already. They weren’t there.”
“Try it again,” Hippy said.
“This is your rendezvous?” Hippy walked on her toes around a busted table to avoid treading on anything nasty wit
h her bare feet. Two long fluorescent lights flickered and blinked overhead, picking out jagged shadows and not much else in a really, really big room full of broken furniture and bits of glass.
“Well it ain’t exactly a romantic dinner for two, but something tells me you’re not that kind of girl,” Tony said.
Hippy shrugged. “I just like nice wide open spaces better.”
“Nothing, I was just calling you a hippy.”
Hippy screwed up her nose at him. These humans didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
“This way.” Tony headed for a big steel door and pushed it open. “You first sweetie.”
Hippy brushed past him and entered the next room. She stopped short. This one was lit by gas lamps hanging from the walls, just like the muses used back home. And sometimes the vamps. Tony came in behind her and closed the door.
Hippy looked over her shoulder. “Why’d you close the door?”
Tony chuckled and curled his hand over the back of her neck. His fingers were cold.
Hippy said a bad word she’d heard Poppy use earlier. Now he was so close she could see a mark on his neck that had been concealed by his collar.
“They told me you were dumb, sweetie, but I had no idea just how dumb. What happened, you get dropped on your head as a kid?”
Hippy balled a fist, twisted around and punched him in the nose. “You’re a vamp!”
“Ow!” Tony stumbled back, clutching his nose.
A low laugh rumbled through the room. Footsteps paced toward her from the shadows in the far corners. “Close,” a voice said. “He’s close. I’ll give him the gift of blood soon enough, but for now I need someone who can pass for human.”
Hippy bolted for the door. There was a rush of wind at her back. Rustam Badora slammed into her, pinning her to the cold metal. His fingers were so cold they burned her skin. He leaned close and inhaled near her neck.
“Ah, fresh fairy. You make me homesick.”
Hippy reached for her belt.
Badora’s free hand closed around her wrist and pinned that to the door too. “Tut, tut, tut. You keep that spider safely locked away or I’ll squash it.”
Hippy scowled. “Let me go.”
Badora leaned in close and breathed on her neck again. “Oh, I will, my dear. I have humans enough and more to satisfy me here. But I do intend to kill you the moment we both set foot in Shadow again. I’m saving you for last. I’m anticipating the bouquet of your blood with every breath.” He made a growling noise in her ear and then licked the side of her face.
“Eeeeewwwww!” Hippy wriggled out of his grip and broke away. She madly scrubbed at her face, stumbled backwards and almost fell over Tony, whose nose was bleeding. She lashed out in revulsion and punched him in the side of the head, which sent him crashing into the wall. “Ew ew ew! That was disgusting!”
Badora lounged against the door. His mouth crooked up. “You must make the muse king a very amusing pet.”
Hippy stopped jumping around and scrubbing her face. “I’m not a pet.”
“Of course you are. What else would he want with you?”
“I’m helping him find-” Hippy clapped her hands over her mouth.
“Find what?” Badora pushed himself off the door and paced toward her, hands behind his back. “Find what, Fairy?”
“His, um, shoes.” Hippy backed away as fast as he approached.
“Find Pandora’s Box, perhaps?” Badora’s red eyes looked her up and down hungrily. “Tell me, what does he want with that?”
Hippy had reached Tony’s position again. He was curled up against the wall, still clutching his nose. Blood seeped through his fingers. Ew. She felt sick. Her head started to spin, but there was no time for that. She clenched her teeth hard and kicked him in the ribs. “You told him about Pandora’s Box?”
“Would you stop hitting me?” Tony yelled through his hands. “Boss make her stop!”
Badora didn’t even spare him a glance. He just kept moving closer. “I
know a legend about Pandora’s Box,” he said. “It’s not a pretty story.”
You’re not that pretty either, but do I go on about it?” Hippy kept moving, even though now they were just circling the room.
The vamp king’s fangs made shallow indents in his lower lip. His white skin looked almost blue in the gaslight. “Vampire legend says we came from Pandora. But it was Pierus himself who made us what we are, when he stole something she guarded.”
“That’s the biggest load of bearfly droppings I ever heard.” Hippy dodged around a table. “Is that why you brought me here, to tell me vamp bedtime stories?”
“Ask the muse king,” Badora said. “He’ll tell you. Or maybe he’ll tell you a lie instead, to keep you
Then he disappeared. Hippy flattened her back to the wall and was preparing to run for the door again when he reappeared in a blur of speed in front of her. One long, curved, manicured nail traced the length of her face. “
Pandora was madder than a bearfly at full moon, you know. I don’t care about her box.”
Hippy thought he probably should, but she decided not to say anything.
“I have a message for Pierus.” Badora leaned in closer.
She screwed up her nose and inched away. “I hope it’s that you’ve found yourself a cure for bad breath, because you really need it.”
The vamp’s shoulders dropped. “Well really, if you’re not going to take any of this seriously I don’t see how we’re going to get along.”
Hippy rolled her eyes. “Don’t get all twitchy. What’s the message?”
“I’m proposing a truce. Obviously Pierus can open a door between the worlds. Tell him if he opens a door to allow my army into Dream, the Bloody Fairies will be left alone. We won’t bother anyone in Shadow again.”
Hippy edged along the wall away from him. “I don’t think he’ll go for it.”
“He’d better.” Badora stalked her every step. “Because if he doesn’t I’ll raise an army here and return to Shadow and crush muses and fairies alike. It’s really very simple. All we want is our own land, with a ready food source. It’s his choice whether that’s going to be on Dream or Shadow.” He reached out and curled his fingers around her arm. “If I were you, Fairy, I’d convince him to let us have Dream. Purely in your own interests. You’re quite safe until the day I set foot back in Shadow.”
Hippy glared. “One day I’m going to make you sparkle.”
“Your threats are pointless. I am Rustam Badora.” The vamp released her arm. “Get out of here.”
Hippy ran for the door. When she got to it, she stopped short and said a bad word.
“What is it?” Badora stalked her.
“I don’t even know where we are,” Hippy said. “I don’t know how to get home.”
He chuckled. “Tony can take you back. He knows the way, he’s been following the three of you most of the day.” He whirled around, strode to where Tony was still curled against the wall and hauled him to his feet.
A few drops of blood from Tony’s nose got onto Badora’s fingers. He licked them.
Hippy hid her eyes and shuddered.
When both men approached, Badora’s smile was thin and Tony was bleeding less. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I told him to take you straight home.”
Hippy backed through the door. “I thought you were going to vamp him. What if he runs off?”
“Oh, I am. He’ll return to me. He can’t help himself. Of course if he doesn’t return to me–” Vamp fingers fastened around Hippy’s throat. “I’ll be very upset.”
Hippy nodded emphatically.
He released her. “I will expect an answer from Pierus tomorrow night. We will find
you both.” He turned to go back into the room.
“Wait!” Hippy steadied Tony, who was swaying next to her. “Where are Tony’s friends?”
Badora licked his lips. “Where do you think?” He closed the door behind them.
Hippy sat in the back seat of the car, as far away from Tony as she could get. She’d never seen anyone in the early stages of vamp before and had no idea when he’d start wanting blood. Of course she should just set Fluffy Ducky on him, but then Rustam would be cross. She buried her face in her hands. What kind of a fairy was she? She’d gone there to kill him and ended up his messenger fairy. Maybe she should just go back and turn him into a blood fountain that would make Ishtar proud.
“Hey, don’t you go passing out in my car,” Tony said.
Hippy took her hands away from her face. “Huh?”
“Boss said you had too much to drink and to take you home,” Tony said. “Don’t you pass out. I’m not carrying you.”
Hippy scowled. “You even touch me, vamp, and I’ll break your nose again.”
Tony snickered. “A little thing like you? Break my nose? I’d like to see you try. Alright girly, here’s your hotel.”
Hippy looked out of the window at the hotel she’d jumped from several hours earlier. She breathed a sigh of relief, but that was quickly chased away by nerves. Pierus was probably going to be a little bit upset. “I don’t want to go in.”
“Boss said I was to walk you to the door,” Tony said.
“Come on. Let’s go.” Tony grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and dragged her with him out of the car, across the footpath and through the front door.
said several bad words and kicked him in the ankle. They stopped in front of the elevator and waited for the light to reach the ground floor.
“Where’d you learn language like that?” Tony hustled her inside as soon as the door slid open.
“From Poppy.” Hippy watched the light move from floor to floor with a growing sense of dread. How Tony knew exactly which floor to go to she didn’t know. At least, when they got off on the twenty-second floor, he didn’t know which door to go to.
Until she showed him. She couldn’t help but feel she shouldn’t have done that.
Tony thumped on the door.
A few seconds later Poppy thrust it open and brandished a gun the length of her arm in his face. “What do you want?”
Tony grabbed Hippy by the scruff of the neck and thrust her at Poppy. “I believe you lost this.” He paused, blinked rapidly and looked closer at Poppy. “Praeconius?”
“No, it’s the Easter Bunny.” Poppy grabbed Hippy and pulled
“You got that box thing yet?”
“Back off Tony, you said I had a week!” Poppy shut the door in his face, turned her back and leaned against it. A muscle in her jaw quivered. She laid the gun on the table next to the door and turned on Hippy. “Where in the blazing hell have you been?”
Hippy quailed. Poppy angry was a sight to behold, and she’d had her share of frightening creatures already tonight. She backed up fast.
Pierus thrust a chair under her. “Sit.” His voice was dry and cold.
She collapsed into it.
Hippy looked up at the both of them with wide eyes. Yep, they were both pretty mad. Her first attempt at talking came out in a squeak, so she tried again. “Did you know Tony was a vamp?”