40

SANCTUARY OF THE MOON

"Believe it or not, occasionally I think the best of people – though I almost always regret it."

Helen was relegated to perching on her own desk, leaning toward the man she'd known as both a friend and nuisance for the better part of two centuries. At the present he was casually wandering the line between both, admittedly veering toward the former for most of the evening. She didn't know exactly what had turned Nikola's mood but he'd been off ever since the reading of James's will, casting those famous pouts of his at the room.

His mood soured sharply. The vampire dug his claws into the wood, chipping bits of it away.

"Nikola, stop that..." Helen slapped his hand away.

Aside from the artificial glow of her desk-lamp, this could have been 1888. John was by the fire seeking refuge and trying not to take offence at James's last wishes while Tesla, who had expected nothing, was struggling to deal with the reality that people had faith in him. She'd expected him to be elated – a good stroking to his ego usually did the vampire good. He was not. Tesla was lost.

"Almost?" Helen's prompted carefully.

Tesla's eyes replied. They were levelled at her, blue as ice in the sad depths of a forgotten glacier. It unnerved her to see both his natures riddled into one; human eyes – vampire claws.

"I think the best of you," he replied, "despite everything."

John nearly choked on his scotch. "I have better things to do than listen to another symphony of, 'Tesla, my life is woe'." He leaned over and snatched the bottle of scotch, tucking it under his arm. Its contents sloshed as he paced toward the window, taking in the vista of stars and sky. The city winked back at him. Thousands of streets – abandoned lane-ways with barely enough light to see the walls. Another beautiful night to wander through. "I'll see you in London next week as arranged. Adieu..." The curtains kicked up as he vanished to polish off the bottle in privacy.

Tesla reclined in Helen's chair. The leather creaked. It was old and, judging by how easily fresh cracks appeared in its veneer, unloved. "Do you ever realise that I am completely alone in the world? You and John have Ashley, until he-" Nikola stopped himself short of putting James's passing into words, "well James had his work and a wide range of associates and Nigel faired the best of us."

"Haven't you got a distant great-grand-nephew-"

He stopped her with an elegant wave of his hand. "No, let me finish Helen. I used to think I could bear the loneliness. Why do you think I never took the care to write? Sixty years... Walking away from you the first time was hard enough but to do it every year? Once a week? Or am I to stay here under your roof and persist with this rouse of ours? I don't know how to break a soul but this must come close."

"Walk away from what, Nikola?" she shook her head in confusion. His moods were as changeable as the electric currents he loved, pulling back and forth against the world.

"Do you remember the storm?" he whispered. "What you did that night was, unforgivable."

"O-of course I remember," she stammered softly, reaching for his hand. She laid hers gently on his. He stared at the comforting touch suspiciously. Nikola was jaded, more so than she'd ever taken the care to realise. For all his bravado and theatrics, flirting and romantic gestures, he was broken and she was the cause. Her heart sank to realise that the stories of his solitary life were true. All those women he flaunted in front of her were just that, lights and nonsense for her benefit. "Nikola – I was young and -"

He snatched his hand away. "I'm done with this... this insanity." He stood up, dragging his hands through his wild hair. "I'm not angry," he amended steadily, "just tired. You are my drug and over the centuries I have been a hapless addict. This is my only chance to break free and make some kind of life for myself. What else can I do? Stalk around your Sanctuary at your beck and call in the off chance that you will take pity on me one night when you have had too much to drink? There is nothing more insulting to Love. I have gone as far as I can with you, Ms Magnus."

Helen slipped off the desk and swept around the corner, cutting him off. "Nikola, this is madness!" He'd always left but never with the intent of not returning. When he tried to shift past her, she placed her hands on his chest as she had done that night, pushing him back against the desk, leaning him over it only this time there was no storm at his back.

"Goodbye, Helen," he whispered. "Think of me sometimes. I will think of you always."

She started shaking her head, her hands digging into his jacket as she kept him pinned to her desk. "Not a chance, you moody vampire!" she hissed. "We have unfinished business," Helen added, "and I believe we left off here..."

Helen leaned in close, exactly as she had done over a century ago. Nikola tried to resist her, terrified that if he did this the last pieces of his soul would be hers and he'd be forever chasing shadows. Before he could think, her perfume was making his eyes drift close. Her hand was running up the back of his neck, holding him steady as a pair of soft, teasing lips pressed against his.

"Volim te..." Helen murmured, nudging him gently with her cheek before draping her arms on his shoulders.

Tesla was startled. "I think you mean, 'Dobro jutro...'"

They both laughed softly, holding each other until Nikola turned his head to the side and eyed one of James's letters trembling in the light breeze coming through the window.

"What am I meant to do with a Sanctuary?" he asked. James had left him the London Sanctuary, all its wealth and inhabitants. He had never had a responsibility of such magnitude – something to tie him to the world. If he did this, he was agreeing to more than just James's wishes. Nikola Tesla would become part of the world again.

"Take care of it," Helen replied, laying her head on his shoulder. "It's what he always wanted."


Sand. There was just so god damn much of it. Henry kicked it with his boot, certain that the nearby desert would swallow this oasis village before noon, rearing up in a ferocious snarl against the scattering of mud-brick homes and lonely palms. He checked his watch. Five minutes to.

"Seriously, are you sure?" Henry nudged Apries. "I mean dude there has to be a better lost temple-turned-sanctuary for you to lord over." Sure, it was a beautiful building in that old, 'ruin-of-humanity' way but getting any kind of modern convenience into there would have to be a bitch. Henry would be utterly shocked if it had running water let alone a stable internet connection.

"This is my home, young wolf," Apries strode through the court yard, glancing fondly at the broken tiles. "Perhaps not this exact village or building but I belong here, in Egypt – at least for the moment. I have a lot of history to catch up on before I can proceed in the world. Besides, are there not as many Abnormal creatures here for me to care for?"

Henry shrugged. "Plenty I reckon. Hell you could start with those home grown sand creatures that have been at us for the last year."

"If I can find any more," Apries inspected an orange tree trying to make a life out of the dust. "I suspect the suffering of the People of the Sand is at an end. My ancestors told stories of creatures that lived in the sky, gods that flew with the eagles neither man nor beast. Amasis, like most of his scholarly peers believed this to be creative response to reality, forged by primitive people to explain the inexplicable. None of us ever imagined that those stores would have a basis in fact. A creature from another world playing with our lives as though we were grains of sand, waiting the tide? I doubt even your modern world is prepared for that."

"Every abnormal has a story," Henry offered, sinking into the shade to escape the overbearing heat. This place was a breathing furnace and they the microbes eking out a living in the shade.

"Do werewolves, Mr Foss?" Apries asked curiously.

Henry shrugged. "No one knows much about us. Why do you ask?"

"Tesla has been catching me up on the current understanding of the world and it seems a curious evolution."

"Yeah well, as I said. We don't know much about it." Henry kicked the wall this time. "Do me a favour – don't start with werewolves."

Apries even managed a smile, albeit one with fangs. "As you wish, Mr Foss. Ah, here we are."

The doors to the Sanctuary screamed open, swinging on ancient brass hinges. Apries and Henry slipped into the sanctity of shade, sucking in the cold air which smelled of stone. The entrance foyer was enormous and barren. Columns of granite towered up above their heads, barely lit by scatterings of candles set up directly on the stone floors. There were occasional dips in the ground, only five inches deep and filled with water. Frescos, nearly eroded away, lingered on the walls more like ghosts than decorations.

"Talk about your fix-her-uppa..." Henry whistled, his voice echoing around the room.

Apries led Henry up first a grand arched staircase, then a series of smaller, winding vertical towers until they reached the top of a lonely turret whose side had been torn away in an old war. The view beyond stretched until the horizon died against a sweltering mirage.

"This is the edge of the world," Apries whispered. "Magnus wanted a backup plan – a Sanctuary set off the map to keep her secrets. There will be no networks here, no technology of any kind. It is entirely untraceable and I will keep it that way."

"A bit too altruistic for a vampire."

"Mr Foss, I regret to say that you do not know very much about the nature of vampires."

Apries brought a small box out of his jacket. He opened it and tipped it over, scattering his brother's ashes into the desert wind.


SANCTUARY OF THE MOON

The late Amasis's Sanctuary of the Moon was a good deal less intimidating basking under the orbs of artificial light set up by a swarm of archaeologists. What was once been a terrifying hell had become a sad, silent tomb. Most of the corpses were covered in white sheets or removed, taken back for analysis. They had already discovered dozens of new species and many more sub-species. It was a treasure trove of lost species – sadly none of which had lived to tell their secrets. Everyone broke for lunch, assembling in the best preserved building at the top of the underground hill where their permanent camp seemed out of place. Two figures remained down the opposite end, digging in the dirt near a partially collapsed structure.

"New boss, eh?" Ashley glanced up from her excavation. Declan had set aside his weapons in favour of jeans and a ruined T-shirt with the name of an obscure band scrawled over it. This had never been his thing but he was taking to it, enjoying the simple pleasure of digging something up instead of putting it in the ground.

"I think Tesla prefers us to call him, 'Lord Tesla'," he half-joked. "No," Declan amended. "I hate to admit it but the vamp's taking the whole thing rather seriously – in his own way. Hey, is it true about him and Magnus? Rumour mill's gone into overdrive since his last visit."

Ashley shrugged. "Dude, I know less about it than anyone else. I'm the child, remember?"

"True," Declan grinned. "Neither of them are big on sharing. Am I doing this right?" he eyed his progress with an air of suspicion. His hole was deeper than Ashley's but he was worried he was clawing through all the archaeology.

"You're fine," Ashley assured him. "Though I'm not sure why the Great and Powerful Tesla sent you here to babysit me. Everything here is long dead."

"Well, you know. Same old Tesla. He's convinced that your father's journal is correct – that the City of Gold is around here somewhere. The Sanctuary of the Moon could be a distraction, a false entrance."

"Definitely same old vampire," Ashley muttered, but at least he wasn't trying to steal it out from under her mother's nose this time. That showed a level of improvement. "I hate to disappoint but everyone knows that's all a lie to fool the Spanish. There never was a -" her eye was drawn to the pool of water beside the city. It had a faint glow around its edge, almost like glitter. Then she remembered. "Oy, over here," she dragged Declan across to the water. "Look at this." She dipped her trowel in then drew it out slowly, reveal a couple of tiny flecks of gold. "It's in the water."

"Son of a bitch..." Declan dipped his hand in. "Where does the water go? The pool finishes here."

Ashley was shaking her head. "It's not where it's going, it's where it came from." She turned her head to the great, ornate doors that were closed. She remembered the tunnel beyond but they'd never dared to follow it. "Fancy a swim?" she tossed him a torch out of her bag.

There was a shine in Declan's eyes. "I'm supposed to be excavating the ruins for your mother."

"And what would your boss want you to do?"

Declan laughed. "Follow the trail of gold, obviously."

Hours later, the Operations Manager strolled through the hollow city, keeping well back from the crumbling walls. He paused, frowning when he saw Magnus and Macrea's dig site abandoned. "Where the devil did they get to?" Joe muttered, hands resting on is hips. Dammit, he was a homicide detective, not a missing person specialist. "Bloody hell... not again!"

THE END

"I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed."

-Marco Polo