The first thing that struck Janus about England was that the sun was shining. He was expecting to deal with the stereotype of England from movies, TV, and books where it was either foggy or cloudy all of the time. He put on his sunglasses on after he got off of the plane and scanned the people for someone holding a sign with his name on it. Harry had told the Midnight Star's main British reporter to meet him at the airport, since Janus knew he wouldn't be able to get along without help.
He'd been able to sleep on most of the flight, since Lynn taught him the trick of making a tape of music to sleep to, and buying a personal stereo that had a repeating function. Of course, it wasn't until they were out over the ocean that he was able to sleep, and then only with the aid of some anti-histamines. When the stewardess woke him up, he was so happy to have slept through most of the flight, he wasn't able to work himself into a full-blown fear frenzy over being on a plane. He had always hated planes, and had spent most of his life trying to get out of plane travel.
This time, however, there was no way he could drive where he needed to go. The airport didn't look all that much different than the other airports he'd had to deal with. He guessed that they were all built using the same plans, using the same uncomfortable furniture, installing the same drab carpet and they all had the same boring ads on the walls. Since CNN had started a special service for airports, there were even the same people on TV sets positioned all over the place taking about the same things they were talking about when he left Minneapolis. When he got inside the building, he saw a tall, distinguished looking man holding a computer printed sign that said, "Janus Trelane," as well as having the Midnight Star's logo on the bottom left hand corner.
He looked to be in his early fifties, with a wiry mop of salt and pepper hair, a gaunt face, and an impeccably tailored brown wool suit. Janus went over to him, extended his hand and said, "I'm Janus."
"My name is Winston Spelling, and you look just like your pictures," the man said, shaking Janus's hand.
Janus didn't quite know how to take that, since he always thought his pictures make him look older than he thought he was, and always heightened his "serious expression." Winston started moving through the crowd like an expert, and Janus struggled to keep up with him and he plunged through the airport toward the baggage area. Janus wasn't very good with crowds, since being in them always made him feel as if he was being crowded. When he was younger, and his powers were a lot newer, people would just get out of his way for no reason. He thought at the time it was because people could sense that he didn't like them around him, but now that he was older, he thought that it was because he would bulldoze his way through a crowd.
"Harry tells me that you're here on something very important. Normally, when someone calls from the states they need dirt on a celebrity here, or are looking for a new Royal Family angle, so I really don't know your end of the paper."
Janus smiled a little bit at that. Just how would he describe his part of the paper? Instead of going into a long "poor me, my life is weird" speech, he said, "It's not going to be that big of a deal. I just need to do some research. There's some information I need from a hall of records or something and a map to show me where there are caves."
They had made it to the baggage claim area, and the crowd was smaller than Janus was used to. He had no idea what time of the day it was, other than daytime, so had had no way to judge if he'd come in during a lull, or if it was just a much less crowded airport than he was used to.
"I don't know much about caves, not being a spelunker, but I do know where the best places to do most kinds of research are. What sort of things are you looking for?"
"That's the problem," Janus said watching for his own bag to come tumbling down the conveyer belt, "I won't know until I find the right cave. After that, I'll have a much better idea of what I'm looking for."
"It sounds like you first need to get a map," Winston said. Janus noticed that Winston was watching the conveyer belt just as attentively as he was. He could pick up the vague feeling that Winston wanted the bag to appear so he could be on his way. His mind started to probe deeper since his attention was drifting, but then Janus threw his barriers back up. He wasn't about to invade someone's mind out of idle curiosity just because he was suffering from jet lag.
"Are you in a hurry, Winston?" Janus said, trying to appease his curiosity without being invasive.
"What?" he said, and Janus couldn't tell if he was shocked or just startled. He smiled a bit and then said, "No, I'm not. Sorry if I seem like I'm in a hurry, but I just don't like being in crowds or airports. This trip has given me the worst of two possible worlds."
Janus smiled at that, "I know how you feel. I pretty much have to be knocked out to be put onto a plane. On the way over, I think I took enough sleeping pills to put a large bull to sleep."
"I've never thought of that," Winston said, "I always felt it was my duty to put up with suffering through a flight. I'll have to try that next time."
The bag finally came down, a beat up old suitcase with soft sides, because Janus would only carry clothes in it. His toiletries and other important things were in the gym bag he used as his carryon luggage. He'd spent too many times trying to find a Target to buy fresh toothpaste and underwear to trust the baggage handling of airports.
They chatted a little more on their way to the car, and Janus tried to keep from seeming too much like a tourist. He failed miserably, asking questions to Winston about every sign or ad he saw that didn't seem to make complete sense. He felt a twinge of homesickness whenever he saw an American product or place being advertised. Even though he'd just landed in England, he didn't feel at ease. He'd never been out of the United States, and had never had the inclination to do that sort of travel. Lynn talked about going to Europe for photography jobs, but didn't think she was big enough in the industry to get that sort of expense paid for.
For Janus, travel was part of what he had to do, not what he wanted to do. When he got time away from his responsibilities, he would just do what normal people did. Stay home, read, watch TV, try to clean his godawfully cluttered house (although Lynn was very good at making him put the piles of miscellaneous things out of sight). Travel was a part of the job he would rather have done without, and if there was a way to be faxed to his destination, he would have done it, no matter what the risks.
When they finally got to Winston's car, the time on the flight finally started hitting him. He'd left at night, and in England it was daytime, sunny and Janus felt like he'd lost an entire day. He wanted to just to go to his hotel and get some sleep, but he knew that he had to get started on his work here. He had research to do, and he didn't want to be here any longer than he had to be. If Wyddian found out that he was looking into the Vampire's past, there's no telling how he would react.
Janus had to know more about where Wyddian came from, and how he became a vampire if he wanted to face him. Janus didn't know much about magic, and had never had a teacher or mentor. He didn't even know if what he did was magic or a kind of psychic phenomenon that had the trappings of magic. He did know that he didn't want to face Wyddian without knowing everything about him, and finding a weakness that he might be able to use. He remembered the first time he'd fought Wyddian, full of power and empty of knowledge. He'd failed.
It had destroyed his life.
He was still paying for that day, and would pay for it until he died.
He would never make that mistake again.
Winston offered to stop so that they could eat, but Janus's stomach was still too messed up from the plane trip. Janus politely declined, asking if Winston could take him to a library before they went to the hotel, so that when he got to the room, he could get started on his research.
"Research? I didn't think you would have to do something like that. Aren't you just able to pick things up and know all about them, or read people's minds and such?" Winston said, keeping his eyes on the busy London streets.
"No, it's not that easy," Janus said, "I can't read minds the way most people think of it. A better way to say what I do is that I can sense what people are feeling, and sometime pick up on more if I work at it. I don't work at it very much though. Reading minds is..." Janus paused, looking for the right word. How could he explain that it was a violation of privacy that most people couldn't even comprehend. The few times he has connected to other people's thoughts, it came as a rush, both information he needed and secrets he shouldn't have known. It was painful. It was intrusive. It always felt wrong, even if he was doing it for the greater good. "Reading minds is not something to do lightly," he finally said, "I have to find out about some places in Northern England, and gather some historical data, and it's going to be extremely boring for someone to hang around and watch."
"Not a problem. I could drop you there, pick up a spot of dinner for you and run you back to the hotel. It's a modest place, but that's the best the paper would pay for."
"I'm surprised when they don't make me sleep in a manger," Janus said, causing Winston to laugh, "Hopefully, I'll be able to get everything I need in less than an hour. You don't have to wait if you don't want to."
"I would just go home and watch the news on the Telly, and it's not like it won't be in the papers tomorrow," Winston said, a warm smile on his face.
They chatted for a while about what Janus was looking for, with Janus being careful not to mention the personal connection that he had with John Wyddian. As he explained things it sounded logical, but he knew that in reality it was anything but. He left out that he was in England to find a cave that he'd dreamed about years ago where John Wyddian, became the first vampire. He didn't know what he would find in that cave, he just knew he had to go there. If he could find it. All Winston knew was that Janus had information that told him about a specific kind of cave. Winston listened attentively, asked very active questions to keep Janus talking and acted like a reporter. Janus became very aware that Winston was pulling more information out of him than Janus wanted to tell. Luckily, Janus also knew where the limits were, after years of funny looks from people who didn't understand how his mind worked.
By the time he was done explaining things, they were at the library. It wasn't the kind of building Janus expected. He expected it to be a huge gothic building, with spires, gargoyles on the eaves and a worn rock edifice. Instead, it was a modern box of a building with long, narrow windows right up close to the street. He arranged for Winston to meet him in about an hour after asking him for help in checking out books.
"It's not an issue," Winston said in his clipped accent, "use the card from the paper and I'll return the books when you're done."
When Janus went into the library, he was completely immersed in his search. This was the part of the story that Harry always glanced over, but Janus felt was the most important. Sure, it made for good reading to jump right to Janus leaping into the fray, putting together all the different clues to his adversary, or saving the person from a grisly fate, but it ignored the hours or research that Janus had to put in before that Big Moment. This was what separated him from other people who had tried to do what he did and failed.
Going through books so old that they creaked when they were opened. Chasing down a fact to find out where it appeared first. Finding how names and dates changed from being transferred from book to book. Finding out when an author invented something so fit his purposes, or changed an event to make it seem more logical. All of these things were part of his battle that weren't exciting, weren't fun to read about, and weren't what Janus discussed when people wanted to know what he did when he wasn't running a used bookstore that sold magic tricks.
All he had when he walked into the library was a vague image from a dream, hints from different discussions with John Wyddian, and the knowledge that large pieces were missing from his understanding of what was going on around him on this one. He found books on vampire lore that traced the legends back to the time of Rome and gathered up the best ones. He also got books on cities that had faded over time, rivers that had changed their courses (since ley lines tend to run near rivers), and information on unsolved murders so that he could track and see if there was any pattern of "clustering" of the crimes over time.
The hour went by quickly, with Janus drinking the knowledge of the books, and as he read he found that there was more he needed to know. It was like putting together a puzzle, with each piece opening up a place where he could fit three more parts of the picture. If it wasn't for Winston coming up, tapping him on the shoulder, and telling him that they needed to go Janus might have stayed there until he was kicked out as they closed up. Janus gathered up the books on the desk, and Winston grabbed a couple of them from him, looking at the spines. "You don't much care for light reading, do you?"
"Not really," Janus said, "the information I need isn't in a John Grisham novel."
"If you want more information about this sort of thing," Winston said, holding up the book about topography and old cities, "I could take you to the hall of records tomorrow. They would have older information. You have to remember, England has a lot more history that America, and we kept better track of it."
"It would be hard not to keep better track of history than America. Right now, if it happened before video tape, it just doesn't matter."
Winston checked out the books using the paper's account, so that Janus would be able to take the older books. Janus marveled at the fact that Winston's press pass actually meant something to the person at the counter. Janus was used to his press pass getting sneered at, since it had "Midnight Star" on it in bold letters, and in America, they knew it was the kind of paper sold at supermarket check out counter. Here in England, there didn't seem to be much of a difference between so-called legitimate newspapers and tabloids. Janus made a mental note to tell Harry next time he started to feel bad that legitimate papers wouldn't accept his submissions any more that he should move to England.
When they got to the car, Janus could smell food, and remembered that he hadn't eaten in hours. Winston told him that he'd picked up some American fast food for him, and he could grab something more substantive when he got to the hotel. He opened the bag, and it was a McDonald's value meal. He didn't have the heart to tell Winston he was a vegetarian, but instead ate the French fries while guzzling the Coke.
It didn't do much more than make him hungrier, but luckily the trip to the hotel only took another fifteen minutes. Janus looked at his watch, which was still set to Minnesota time, and figured that it had to be getting very late here. The streets were thinning out, and there were no cars in front of the hotel.
Checking in was quick, since Janus had done it so many times he anticipated the questions before they were asked, and had all of his paperwork ready. He put in for his wakeup call, and insisted on carrying his bags himself, much to one of the bellhop's chagrin. He hadn't converted any cash yet, and hadn't gone to a cash machine (and honestly didn't know if there were any that would work with his Midnight Star company card), and didn't want to worry about tipping an odd amount.
Winston stayed in his room for a few minutes, helping Janus get acclimated to the differences, showing him the TV, and that none of the electrical appliances he'd brought with him would work. Janus thanked him profusely. Winston brushed him off, saying that he was doing it for the paper, and that Harry would have to share the byline with him.
They chatted a bit longer, with Janus asking very practical questions such as, "when is breakfast," "how do you call the United States" and "is there going to be anything in the room that I don't understand or recognize." The last question came from staying in hotels in the South where there were lizards or cockroaches the size of his fist hiding under the bed. Winston told him not to worry about such things, and to just relax, do his research and he would see him around 10 the next morning. Janus looked at his watch and decided to finally set to England time and worry about what time it was back home when it was time for him to leave. Winston wished him a good night and gave him his home phone number in case there were any problems Janus had.
Then, Janus was alone.
He put the books on the desk and looked around the room for the first time, really getting a sense of it so that he felt at home. It was bigger than most hotel rooms and the decorations were much better than the normal "starving artist" look of rooms in America. He'd asked the paper to make sure he had a room with a lot of paper and room to do research, and unlike the US branch of the Midnight Star, they'd delivered. The desk was an antique writing desk with about five legal pads, and a box of pens. They really went all out at this place, unlike American hotel which would point you toward the nearest Paper Warehouse.
The room also had a small microwave, a pair of ornate dressers, a large bed and the bathroom actually had the sink inside the bathroom, which Janus always appreciated. He hated having to leave the bathroom to brush his teeth or wash his face. The walls were painted a dull, off-white, which kept it from seeming too bright when he had all of the lights in the room on. There was a TV on one of the dressers, and it doubled as a radio. He took a couple of minutes to figure it out before he was able to get a radio station that played light classical music he could use as background noise.
He called the kitchen to make sure they were still open, and ordered a salad, a couple of bottles of water, some bread and a box of Chamomile tea (so that he wouldn't have to keep ordering tea). They said it would be about a half hour, which bothered him. Why would it take a half hour to tear up some lettuce and throw it in a bowl?
He called Lynn's hotel, and she was out, so he left a message saying he'd gotten there, leaving his number and that he loved her very much.
He settled into the very comfortable chair and started reading, writing notes on what he was reading. He was trying to find something that would point him toward the cave he'd seen in his dream. He knew that it was very close to a cliff by the ocean, that it was deep enough that it took Wyddian hours to get to the bottom of it running at his full, heightened power; and that it be close to a river or some other source of power. He closed his eyes and was actually able to visualize it as he had in his dream. Janus was able to see how the cave had been 1500 years previous, and remembered every detail of the coast that Wyddian had landed when he'd thrown himself from the cliff the cave had been on. The problem was, Janus had no other details, and had no idea how time and tide had changed the shore.
It was bad that he didn't have more information, since he would think that what had happened to Wyddian was so powerful that it might actually create a ley line (albeit a polluted one). He felt like he'd only been reading for a short time when his food showed up.
He quit studying for a while as he ate, not really caring about the taste. He turned on the TV absently and watched the news. As he finished his meal, he noticed that he was getting extremely tired. He didn't want to got to sleep, but knew that if he didn't, he wouldn't be in good shape. Normal jet lag would mess him up, and this was far beyond the normal jet lag he would have to deal with. He had no idea what the local time was, but for him, it was still fairly early to him since he'd slept on the flight. It wasn't good sleep, however. Dark and dreamless, the way it always was when he medicated himself to sleep.
He grabbed one of the books and started reading again, stopping when he could no longer concentrate enough to read what was on the page. He made sure to put the dirty dishes in the hallway (but keeping the tea cup so that he could have a cup first thing when he woke up) and fell asleep without even unpacking or putting on his nightclothes. His dreams were short, chaotic and filled with images of death and vampires.
* * *
In Chicago, John Wyddian's phone rang. He was still in the upper floor of his building, watching out the window, as he had done since he'd risen as sunset. He had not left the building since he'd sent the message to Janus in the alley.
There was nothing left for him to do, since it was all in the hands of other people now. All he could do was wait, and waiting was something he had plenty of practice at. His hunger had not reached the level where he felt the need to hunt, since now he could go almost a month between feedings. He still had to do it, of course, but he relished the fact that it was not a driving force in his so-called life anymore. He'd been staring at a light off in the distance, he thought it might be the house light of some distant suburban home.
It had come on about a half hour after sunset, and glowed with a deep blue to the normal eye. However, Wyddian's eyes were far from normal. He could see it with pinpoint accuracy, even though it was miles away. It wasn't that he could see it magnified, or even tell exactly where it was, it still appeared to him as one of the many lights that were around the city. It was that he'd chosen that light to observe. It was a security light, that much he was sure of, since it flickered at the odd rate that house security lights would flicker at. Street lights were all the same, and porch lights shone at the same intensity for the most part, the only fluctuations in them were the minute ones caused by minor power surges and interruptions in flow that would last for shorter periods of time than humans could register. The house light he was looking at was a mixture of colors, but appeared to normal human as blue. He was able to make out magentas, deep purples, bright greens and yellow flashing through the blue from time to time. He had no idea why he was able to see such things, and had figured that his mind processed the same stimuli humans received in a different way as part of his curse. He could register the differences in electric flow by the intensity of the light if he concentrated on it.
The younger members of the family would use this to exclaim that they were better than humans, and many would stare fascinated at the changes in the world that their heightened senses brought to them, much as all children were fascinated by the new and previously unseen. For John, it was just the way of things. He'd never been entranced by the change, since all electric lights seemed the same to him. He had never perceived them the way a human does, so there was nothing for him to compare it to. He did weary quickly of the constant harping the Younger Ones did about being better than humans. If they only understood what had happened as well as he did, they would not be bragging about their "dark gift."
He used the far off light merely as a focal point for his thoughts. If someone had been around him, they might think that he were a pale statue, unmoving and solid, as he had not moved in hours. The phone rang a second time, and his hand snatched it up at a speed normal human eyes would not have been able to see.
He didn't say anything, waiting for the person to speak.
It was the woman who had questioned him a few days ago, the family's representative in England. Her voice irritated him, as he didn't like to talk to his people but once every few months. Twice in one week was beyond irritating. "He's here," she said briefly, as if she knew that she was pressing her luck.
"I know that," he said, no bothering to hide his anger, "why are you calling me?"
"I thought that..."
He cut her off his voice a low rumble filled with power and implied threats, "You are not to think, you are to do. Your problem is you waste time thinking. You want to know why he is there. You want to know what you should do. Listen to me, as you have never listened before. He is not to be interfered with."
"I don't think you have all the information, John," she said, the proper amount of reverence in her voice to get him to listen. Maybe, for once, she was actually acting in someone's interest other than her own. "He has been to the library looking for information on the caves. Knowing how good he is at figuring things out, he could be headed for the caves in Cornwall. The sacred one. Where it all began."
John Wyddian smiled, which was not something he did often. As much as he had accepted his destiny and curse as inevitable, he did not like to flaunt the changes that the curse had brought to his features. When he was a Knight, he was thought of as one of the most beautiful men of the time. Unravaged by disease, his skin was as smooth and clear as the skin of any man in the city he had grown up in. He was also blessed with dark, piercing eyes, a hawk nose and brown hair that would lighten in the sun until it looked almost as if he were blonde. However, his greatest gift had been his smile, with teeth strong and straight, unlike most of the people of the time.
Now, his perfect teeth were marred by larger than normal canines. He had learned, over the years, to speak and smile without showing them. This time, however, he knew that no one was around and he smiled wide. He imagined that his teeth shone brightly in the low light of the room, but had no way of knowing. He had not seen his own image in so long that he had no idea how he really looked. He had had paintings commissioned from time to time, and he knew that women still found him attractive. However, he didn't know if he still was. He could only go on the testimony and images of others. It didn't matter as much to him as it had when he was human, but he was vain enough not to allow his fangs to be visible when he smiled.
"That is good. It is where I want him to go. Make sure that all members of the family are gone from that area when he arrives. I don't want him to stumble onto them until it is time. I also do not want them to interfere with what he is doing," he said, deciding to sit down at the table, but still staring out the window at the far away lights.
He waited for her to respond. He almost wished that she would defy him again so that he could vent anger toward her. He knew that she was rebellious, she had been since he had brought her into the family, and while he loved her for it, he also knew her to be a threat.
She said nothing. She'd learned from their last conversation and that pleased John Wyddian, Lord of the Vampires. John Wyddian, the one who'd sold himself to evil long ago, however, felt weary and sad at the whole facade. He had to play a part, even with his power and influence. Even now he could not be himself, if there truly was a self left for him to be. "What Janus does is all according to the plan. You must trust me, young one. You must trust that I know what I am doing. You have a time and place in this, but I cannot let you know until that time."
"May I speak freely?" she asked.
John was surprised. Surprised enough to say, "Yes. No one ask asked before. They either say what they think I wish them to hear or they challenge me. This must be important if you risk my wrath. And You Do Risk My Wrath."
"Janus is a threat to you and to us. You know that he lives for vengeance. He won't rest until he figures out a way to destroy you. It consumes him, and we both know that once he decides to do something, he will not stop until it is done. With you antagonizing him, he will become more driven. He has left his home, his new love and all that he knows for information about you, which he will get. If he is willing to give up everything for this, should we not do what we can to stop him?"
She had developed a melodramatic way of speaking over her short time in the family. That was the problem with placing her with the old ones in England. They thought of themselves as creatures of fancy, an elegant sort of monster to be admired and thought of as romantic and she had drawn that from them, wanting it to be her reality. He knew better. He knew that there was nothing elegant about what he had to do. The draining of blood, the taking of lives, and the pact he had made, none of these things were things of romance. They had started with an ill-advised decision, and he knew what he was.
A predator. A lion amidst the lambs. He fed on those around him, and felt nothing for them as he did. It was not tragic. It was not romantic. It was not elegant or symbolic. It was the law of survival on a subtle scale. If he did not think it so pathetic, he would think it foolish and child-like.
"You must trust me. More than that, I cannot say. At this stage, telling anyone, even ones I trust about what I am doing could change it, and I will not allow that. You will leave the mage alone. You will not hinder him. You will allow him to find the information he seeks if he is able. More that that," he paused, feeling horridly melodramatic. It was one of the affectation he afforded himself. After 1500 years, he could bring a surreal sense of drama to his existence and not have to worry about what others felt. "More than that, you do not need to know."
She said nothing, and he terminated the call. He knew that she would now be up to something, and he had actually thought of that long before she had even existed. Even her rebellion was in his plans. Too many times he did not take people not directly involved in his schemes into account, and too many times, his plans had been dashed due to that.
He looked out the window again, scanning to find the light he had fixated on before. It took little time for him to find it and slip back into his near trance. He allowed his thoughts to flow back to when he first discovered Janus Trelane, and how he would fit into his well thought out plans. Janus thought that Wyddian had picked him out in Chicago at some point, and chosen him then. Janus, as usual, was spending too much time thinking about what he saw, and not what flowed around him.
Wyddian had chosen him when he was a small child. Soon after Janus started into school, one of the members of the family pulled his profile out of a series of standardized tests that Wyddian had financed. It was a small Midwestern company that blissfully ignorant of its owners, as most companies The Family owned were. There were some questions on their tests for school children that didn't have to do with math, science, reading or geography, but were inserted by The Family to find those people who might be naturally attuned to the gathering of power. Wyddian had smiled then too, something few mortals had seen and none had lived to tell others about. The test would show one or two students across the United States as being sensitives. Janus's name popped out as the others had done, and the company told the teachers that he was in need of psychological testing.
Administrators seem to think that most children are insane anyway, so they rarely question an official letter from an official company that they know quite well that says a child might be mentally ill. Janus was taken to a facility that was owned by The Family and was tested, scrutinized, and observed. Wyddian remember how he watched the young boy dutifully do everything he was told without question. He was intuitive, learning things that he should not know at his age. In some cases, he was so eager to give answers that he felt the testers wanted that he would not wait until the end of the question to give his answer.
However, what set Janus apart from the others was what his mother instilled in him at a very young age. He watched as the mother told the child how he was causing her inconvenience and Janus apologized, head downcast, eyes averted.
A feeling that it actually was his fault. A feeling that everything laid at his feet was his fault.
While others may say that vengeance drives the hardest, Wyddian had seen more of human nature than they ever had. He knew that human beings did more from guilt than any other emotion, save love, and love was often corrupted by the same guilt. It was that guilt that Wyddian knew he would be able to use if Janus was truly the one. There were many who could control power. There were fewer who knew that they did. Fewer still who did it well. However, it was rare that someone who did all of those things could harness the power into doing something bigger. For some reason which Wyddian did not fathom, there was only one. They did not have a trainer, as human myth liked to think, but walked alone.
They were always apart from others. Unable to ever truly be connected to them, in the same way that a shepherd could never really be one of the sheep. He could love them, care for them, even at times think like them, but he could never be one of them.
And so, until very recently, Janus had been alone. He would be alone again.
Wyddian had made his plan as Janus grew, adding to it as he watched the choices Janus made. By the time Janus went to Chicago, Janus was a puppet, dancing on Wyddian's strings. As Janus tried to figure out what his next move needed to be, he had no idea that he was following a path that had been crafted for him before he even knew about his power. John Wyddian watched the light, entranced but unseeing. Time was running out, and no one knew it but him. He would have smiled yet again at that if he had a sense of the absurd. Instead, he thought about the days of King Arthur and how he missed the smell of freshly oiled armor.
* * *
Janus had spent two days looking for the caves he'd seen in his dreams. He spent hours in the library looking at pictures of the coastline and caves along them, and had finally found an area that looked vaguely like the one in his dreams. He'd been able to get Winston to drive him up to Cornwall, where Janus thought the cave might be, and all the way up, Janus was asking him about the history of the area.
Sadly, Winston was a very nice man, knew a lot about current events, but when it came to history, his knowledge only went back as far as World War Two. Like most people, Janus guessed. In America it was far worse, most people's sense of history started sometime in the 50's. When they got to Cornwall, Winston made sure that Janus was in a nice hotel, paid for by the paper or course, and was unfailingly polite. He made sure that Janus was settled before leaving, and told Janus to call if he needed anything, or when he was ready to go back to London.
Janus thought for a bit about how he should try to talk Winston into moving to the US and having Harry move here, and that gave him the first smile he'd had since he'd said goodbye to Lynn at the airport.
The hotel was much smaller than the one Janus had stayed at in London, but it wasn't a downgrade by any means. It was better than Janus's house in a lot of ways. The furniture was old and made of oak, so heavy that Janus couldn't have moved it if he wanted to. The walls were wooden, with the grain of the wood brought out with a deep stain. There were no paintings on the walls, but the window overlooked the city in a way that made Janus glad there were no paintings. Normally, he would keep his window shades shut the entire time he was in a hotel room, but he thought that he might even sleep with the shades open so as to look over the lights of the city. The bed was covered with what looked like a handmade quilt. There was a large roll-top desk, and an armoire much like the one in his hotel in London with the TV nestled quietly inside. Janus instantly felt comfortable, and was happy to see a coffee pot with a timer next to his bed on the nightstand.
Janus got settled in his new room and sat quietly on the bed, legs crossed, eyes closed. He relaxed, calming the incessant chatter inside his head, quieting his thoughts and allowing himself to connect to the ebb and flow of whatever forces were in the area. The first thing he did as he calmed his thoughts was to imagine his room wrapped in a light, green glow. It would serve to protect him while he was there, and let him know if someone tried to enter the room while he was gone. He had similar wards around his house and business, and the green energy he saw in his minds eye was always connected to him, with no thought as to distance. It was as powerful when he was inside the glow as when he was thousands of miles away from it.
After setting his wards, he tried to tap into the area, to see if there was any information in the ley lines that surrounded him. There were two, one very faint and very old, and a second one that was corrupted. Janus was drawn to the corrupted one. He would imagine that power that was pure and untainted was a light green, the color of life. That which had been damaged, corrupted or born of hatred and pain were red. This line flowed under the city, not near his hotel room, but close enough that he could sense it. He looked at it in his mind's eye with fascination and curiosity.
If this was where John Wyddian had been changed, the power of such an event could have been enough to corrupt a ley line. Even the act of taking a victim, if Wyddian did it in the proper way, was enough to pollute the flow of life, since it was a perversion of it. If Janus imaged that the line was a river, he could see how it flowed, seeing the undercurrents and eddies that rippled through it. Some parts of the line were a deeper red, while some flecks of green would surface from time to time. He stared at its power, far greater than any of the "clean" lines he'd ever seen. When a line was corrupted, it grew in power since it is far easier to destroy than to create.
Janus focused on himself and wrapped himself in the green that he'd used to ward his room. He looked at his hands and saw that the green had seeping into his skin, instead of how he normally saw it as being just a little way apart from him. Tentatively, he dipped his hand into the red churning force, and felt nothing other than a slight sense of warmth. If he was not protected, to put himself into the polluted flow would have been pain that filled his being and would have become all that he was. Conscious thought was not possible with such pain running through him but wrapped in the green, he felt as if he were safe. He stepped on the red flow, and felt a slight tingle at the soles of his feet. He allowed himself to sink into the red, and as he did, the green on his skin seemed to grow stronger. It pulled the other green flecks from the flow and added them to his own without him even thinking of it.
When he was completely submerged, he tried to attune himself to the flow, finding where it was coming from, or how it has become so polluted. He tried to let go and wander with the flow of the force, but it was filled with so many eddies and drop pools that all he was getting was tossed around. He could sense that there were others drawing from its power, but clumsily. He even saw a whirlpool of energy flowing out of the shadow into the real world. Someone was tapping its power, but in such a way that it was out of control.
Janus then tried to force his way to the fountainhead of the flow, but was met with resistance. The flow was too strong away from it. He tried to pull more of the green from the flow, but as he got closer to the sun source of the corruption, there was less of it to call upon, and he would be turned back. He concentrated and forced himself to the top of the flow. He could have lowered his guard and dipped into the flow, gathering information faster, becoming part of it of the corruption. He could. But he wouldn't. The pain would be too great. The corruption would find its way into him.
He floated slightly above the surface of the river, his feet barely skimming along the churning surface. He moved slowly along, looking for the whirlpool that he'd seen when he was in the ley line. When he saw it, the size surprised him. He didn't know exactly what to expect, but in this mind's eye projection, it was at least large enough the he could lower himself into it.
He actually thought of doing that for a brief moment. Someone or something pulling that much power from a ley line had to be important, and might give him the information he needed. He knew, however, that if he were to be drawn into the vortex, he would not be able to escape. His body would be sitting the hotel room for hours, maybe even days. Unmoving, barely breathing, unprotected.
It wasn't worth it. He lowered his shield just a bit so that he could get a taste of what the vortex felt like, so that he could look for its counterpart in the real world of light and shadow. He allowed it to touch him, and it was like being brushed by razors. It cut him, and he could "see" his skin shredded where he wasn't protected by the green. The pain was raw, sharp, and in a way he couldn't understand, familiar.
He'd felt that before.
But he couldn't remember where.
Which was impossible.
He remembered everything.
Everything but this.
The next thing he knew, he was sitting on the bed in his room, sweat drenching his body and his breath coming to him in deep gasps, trying to fill his lungs as fast as he could. His heart was pounding so hard he could hear it in his ears. It drowned out his thoughts. He tried to calm himself but he couldn't. He leapt off the bed and ran into the bathroom, his stomach churning. Janus barely made it to the toilet before the contents of his stomach spilled out into the bowl, his throat and mouth burning with the aftertaste of bile.
He lay there for a while, doing nothing but breathing. His chest rising and falling with lessening intensity. He could still feel the touch of the vortex. He looked at where the red had touched him, and expected the see the skin charred and burned, but it showed no sign of damage. It had all been in his mind, but it felt as real as the cold tile on the bathroom floor. Janus stood up and looked himself in the mirror.
His gray streaks had grown. It was impossible, since he knew that the hair would have grow out in order to look gray, but the reality of it was staring back at him in the glass. He ran his hand through his hair, to see if it was just a trick of the light, but it wasn't. Something was different. He knew that pain, somehow, but he had been unable to figure out where. Whoever was drawing that power was someone he knew. Someone he'd dealt with before. Someone who'd hurt him in the past.
* * *
The next morning, Janus was running. The hotel he was staying at had an immense selection of teas, breakfast pastries, jellies and meats, but they didn't have the thing he wanted when he got up. Fitness equipment. Janus had become a runner back a few years ago, when he was drawn into a physical confrontation with a man possessed by the spirit of a computer bulletin board system which had been shut down with the advent of the more widely used Internet. The first time he'd tried to subdue the man, he was beaten bloody, and Janus had had to resort to trickery to defeat him.
That adventure had taught him two things. One, that he needed to be in shape if he was going to do what he was driven to do. Two, there were parts of his life that sound so damn strange that even he didn't want to talk about them with other people.
He wasn't running the way he normally did, however. He had looked at the map of the area he had briefly before leaving to get a general idea of where he wanted to go, and when he was on the road, he closed his eyes. The feeling from the previous night was still around, and he knew that if he would concentrate on it hard enough, he would be able to find the cave.
Sometime in the night he had come to the realization that part of the feeling he'd gotten in the trance was from his dream of the cave. It wasn't all of it though. There was also a part that was ripped from a part of him that he felt he no longer had. There was something missing, and that feeling was tied into it and he didn't know why. He'd obsessed about it all morning until he came up with the idea to run.
It would have to be found in the same manner of playing the game of "Warmer/Colder" where he would go in a direction and try to feel if it was getting stronger or weaker. Normal searching techniques hadn't helped him, and the local library was next to worthless on things further back than World War II, let alone 1500 years previous. The one thing about England was that it did take a little better care of its history as Winston had said, but one thing remained constant. Most people didn't care for history much beyond their own personal time frame of reference.
The sky was bright, and the area was starting to show the signs of the coming fall, with leaves beginning to turn brown and gold. Janus thought how odd it was that it seemed so much like Minnesota, except that England had a lot more hills. Then again, Janus had never been out of the United States, so he would be constantly putting everything into his own frame of reference. He was wearing a T-shirt and long running pants that looked a lot classier than the normal jogging suit he wore, making sure that they were both black. If he did make it into a cave, he wanted to make sure that he would be able to hide easily. He was also wearing a small backpack with a few items he might need if he did find the cave that bounced on his back with every footfall.
He hadn't liked running when he started doing it. It made his feet hurt and his legs feel like they had been stretched in an old fashioned rack. It took a couple of months before his body adjusted to the exercise and being to like it. As he did it more often, he learned that as he ran he could turn his mind off and just run. It was about the only time he was awake that he wasn't obsessing about something, and it had become an important part of his life. He'd also learned to train with weights so that if he did have to deal with a physical confrontation, he would at least be able to keep from getting beaten up too badly.
As his feet hit the pavement in a steady rhythm, he was able to tune out everything and just concentrate on what he saw in his mind. He'd never tried running with his eyes closed, as he'd always thought that he would slam into a post or a parked car if he did it. Not that most people ever think of running with their eyes closed, but Janus had always wondered what it would be like to just run without any outside stimuli. If he could find a way to run in a sensory deprivation tank, it would have been better than any vacation. He'd spent the morning clearing himself, emptying his mind so that he would be able to sense without looking, like he was able to do from time to time.
The first time he "saw" a parked car on the run, he only dodged out of its way at the very last minute and actually could feel its presence as he ran by it. The second one was bit easier, and after he reached the city limits, he was missing them by weaving out of their way so well no one watching would have known his eyes were shut.
The buzzing in his head that he was concentrating on kept growing slightly in intensity as he ran. He let himself go, not thinking of where he was going, but that he was just following the feeling as if it were a long string and he were pulling himself along it. He thought of nothing but the whirlpool he had sensed the night before and the world slid away from him. He could no longer tell how long he'd been running, what the temperature was around him, or if he were even running on a road or in the woods. He dodged and weaved things that he could sense around him, all the while not knowing what they were. Time compressed, faded from his thoughts as he sunk into the rhythm of the running and the following of the string.
He no longer felt as if he were on a path or a road, but as if he were running in place in an area without features. He could no longer tell if he was dodging objects, but he knew that he had to be. He felt as if he were nowhere, and the buzzing feeling at the back of his head grew so loud that he became harder and harder to concentrate. He stopped when the buzzing made it impossible to know what was around him and opened his eyes.
He had no idea where he was, or how far he'd traveled, but he was standing in front of the mouth of cave. He looked around and saw that he was within visual range of the ocean. The cave looked small and unassuming, with weeds around the mouth. This was not a cave that people went into very often, but Janus could see that the weeds had actually been disturbed recently. It was hard to tell how long it had been or if the weeds had been disturbed by people, animals or weather.
Janus looked around for a road or a landmark of some kind, but there were none to be found. He was at the crest of a hill that sloped downward slowly to the ocean, which struck Janus as odd, since he'd always remembered from his dream about Wyddian that he'd run out of the cave and jumped off of a cliff to the ocean. However, Janus thought, that was 1500 years ago, and a lot of landscape could change in that time.
As he walked toward the cave, his skin began to tingle a bit. He closed his eyes and saw that the whole area was suffused with the red energy Janus thought of as tainted force. He paused a second and imagined himself surrounded with his protective green aura that he could only see in his mind's eye. He grabbed the flashlight from his backpack and made sure it was working. He also made sure to slip a butterfly knife into the pocket on his running pants in case he had to deal with something physical.
The buzzing at the back of his head had settled into his spine, and made him feel lightheaded, as if the world was one step away from him. His arms seemed far away, and his legs, impossibly tired. He knew it had to be a reaction to the power of the cave's history, but it made him feel scared all the same. The buzzing made the base of his skull feel hot, as if he had a fever in just that one part of his body. He walked toward the cave's entrance. He didn't want to, but he had to. Inside were the answers he needed. He paused as he brushed aside the weeds, trying to see if he could feel any impressions from people who had come in here before.
He could get nothing. Either no one had entered this cave in a long time, or they had been able to hold their emotions inside so well they left no impression. Not a good sign for him either way, he guessed. For a second he thought of going back to his hotel room and doing more research. A place like the one he was looking for would have to have some sort of activity, wouldn't it?
He closed his eyes, reaching out with his feelings, trying to make sure as best he could. He could feel the slow, sickening spin of the vortex he had felt the night before and knew that this was the place. Once again, Janus had no choice.
He pushed the weeds aside and went into the cave. Once he got past the opening, it was rather large inside. It led downward at a very slow slope, and it was only a few feet inside that it got dark enough that he needed to turn on his flashlight. The cave was like most caves that he'd been in, musty, damp, and smelling like rotting vegetation. There had only been a few times he'd gone into caves that it didn't smell like something was rotting away.
The walls were smooth, and there were very few stalagmites and stalactites around. Janus guessed that it must have to do with the fact that right now, the top of the cave was very close to the top of the hill it was embedded in, but he hadn't paid attention to Earth Sciences since he had to take it in high school. He was able to walk upright through the dark, his flashlight making the whole area seem as if it was just late at night instead of underground. He always thought that underground should be so dark that it absorbed the light from his flashlight. The cave widened considerably once he got a few hundred yards inside, and he was amazed as how much further it went on.
Being a movie fan, he thought that the cave looked more like a movie set, than the kind of cave he was used to. Most of them were small, cramped, and he would have to crawl to get through places from time to time. This one kept getting bigger. He stopped when the grade became steeper and looked around. The walls were dull, with no discernable features, but it was big enough that Janus thought he could drive a car down through it, if he would have been able to widen the initial opening a bit.
He walked for about fifteen minutes before he felt the first odd twinge. He stepped over a crack in the floor, and felt a kind of dizziness. The world went gray for a second until he closed his eyes and reestablished his protective field. He concentrated to try and see what caused it, but it was hard to tell. Unlike an event based feeling, this one suffused the whole area. It was as if he'd passed some sort of threshold and has stepped into something...wrong.
He opened his eyes again, and could swear that there was something close by. It felt like the vortex from the night before, but not as intense. He shone his flashlight around, trying to see if anything was different, and he noticed that there was writing on the walls of the cave where he was. He crept closer to one of the walls, seeing that there were runes scratched into the walls. He tried to see if that was where the feeling was coming from, but nothing seemed to come from them.
He thought that maybe some people who were in to that sort of thing might have felt what he was feeling and decided that this might be a good place to practice magick. He reached up and touched the walls, and they were slightly warm to his touch. Not the kind of warm that other people would feel. To normal hands, the walls would feel damp and chilled, but to Janus, the presence of power was strong enough that it was physical.
He crouched to the ground to try and see if he could feel more of the energy. Most of the time, if it was connected to a ley line, it would flow through the ground stronger than anywhere else, since it was an Earth-based power.
As he was touching the ground, trying to get a read on things, he heard the sound of breathing behind him. Janus slowly turned around, leaving his flashlight where it was, so as not to let whatever or whoever it was know that he was turning to look. As he turned, he could hear the breathing getting closer, and coming from the deeper part of the cave.
When he had turned toward the sound, he could see that there were three young men, all dressed in black, staring at him.
"You do not belong here," one of them said. Janus couldn't get a very good look at them in the dim light, but what he could see was that they were young, well built, and had long blonde hair that had to be bleached. He couldn't get a good look at their faces, but since he couldn't feel the sort of chill he did when he was around a vampire, he knew that they had to be normal humans.
Not that three normal humans wanting to kick his ass wouldn't be enough of a challenge.
"Why not?" Janus said, moderating his voice so as not to show fear, "I made sure this wasn't private land before I came spelunking."
"Because this is our cave, and we don't let other people into it," the dark figure said. It stood there for a second, far enough away from Janus that he had time to react, but close enough that Janus wouldn't be able to get away if it became a chase.
Then, the first figure smiled, showing elongated fangs.
"Shit," Janus thought, "vampire wannabes."
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