Dark heirloom an ema mar.., p.10
Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 10
I looked over his shoulder, but couldn’t understand the hand script. “What is that?”
“It is a record of every known vampyre clan in the world.”
“Who wrote it?”
Jesu hesitated. “My father started it. Jalmari continued it after he passed away. It’s divided into two parts, the major clans and the minor clans. The minor clans are more like sub-cultures within the major clans.” He pointed to charts and lists which covered every page. “Jalmari and our father kept lists of every clan’s leader, their birth and death dates, and who inherited the throne after them.”
He pointed to another list. “This tells the details about the High Blood Council.” He flipped to another page and then tilted the book so I could see. “Here we have a list of every major clan’s features and powers. We will go down the list and see what you can do.”
“Won’t that take forever?”
“Nah, a few days at the most. We could probably eliminate most of them by tonight.”
“Maria said the color of my eyes narrows it down to four clans. Should we start with those?”
Jesu shook his head. “Maria’s wrong. Had you a sire, then she would have been correct. But I think you could be a mix.”
“If you tell me about your heritage it might help speed things up.”
“Whoa, slow down. A mix? Like more than one clan?”
“Yes. I told you, I have a theory.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “So let’s hear this theory of yours first.”
Jesu sighed. “I think you are a vampyre. In fact, I am certain you are.”
“That’s impossible. Vampyres are born.”
“Are you saying you were not born?” he smirked.
“You know what I mean. I certainly was not born a vampyre. I think I would have noticed before now if I was.”
“Not necessarily. Vampyres are mostly human until they hit puberty. Once the hormone levels rise, the Nephilim genes are kicked into high-gear and the vampyre changes. The process takes about three years total. During this time, the vampyre gets their powers, loses the pigment in their skin, and begins to age slower.”
“But I’m not an adolescent. Besides, wouldn’t one of my parents have to be a vampyre too?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps, perhaps not. Two vampyres can reproduce a human.”
“Yes, I know. I read the journals.” I motioned to the pile of books.
Jesu nodded. “So maybe two humans can make a vampyre.”
“That’s not possible.”
Jesu grunted. “Are you always this closed-minded?”
I narrowed my gaze. “No, but surely you know that doesn’t make sense. Vampyres are human-Nephilim hybrids. So it’s impossible for two humans to produce a vampyre.”
Jesu shook his head. “Think of this way; let’s say a hundred years ago two vampyres had a baby human. The baby survives, grows into a man, and has a family—”
“His Nephilim genes are passed down,” I whispered.
He nodded. “Exactly. Now say that man’s grandson marries a woman who also has Nephilim genes present in her DNA. Could they not reproduce a vampyre?”
“Oh my God, it’s like a recessive disease.”
Jesu scowled. “Well, I would not say that, but you get the idea.”
“Wait.” I stood. “You think I could have vampyre ancestors?”
“It is possible.”
“But that’s just your theory, right? You could be wrong.”
He nodded and glanced at the thick book on his lap. “Yes, I could be wrong. That is why we are going to test it and see. If I am correct, you could have any mixture of vampyre genetics spanning back thousands of years.”
“How will we know if your theory is correct?”
“If I am right, you will have multiple powers from multiple clans. That is why we are going to go down the list one by one to see what you can do.”
Gnawing my lip, I decided to tell Jesu about my family. We made a deal, and he was honoring his end of the bargain so far.
“The truth is, I don’t know a whole lot about my extended family. My mother is Romani-Hungarian. She immigrated to the U.S. with my grandparents when she was a child. Both grandparents passed away when I was little. I don’t know if I have other living relatives in Hungry. Mom doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“Do you know her maiden name?” Jesu asked.
“Mora,” I said. “Helena Mora.”
“And your father?”
I winced to the side. “Dad was Native American.”
“Was?” Jesu cocked an eyebrow.
I folded my hands in my lap. “I haven’t seen him since I was ten.”
“I am sorry.”
I shrugged. “I don’t remember much about him. I don’t think we were ever close.”
Jesu turned his attention to the dusty, worn book on his lap. He flipped a couple of pages and then pulled a folded sheet of blank paper and a pen from his pocket.
“Would you like to start now?” He smoothed the piece of paper over the page of the book and wrote Mom’s name at the top.
“Sure, I guess,” I said.
He nodded. “Quite a few clans can phase and fly, so that does not tell us much, but I will note it anyway.” He scribbled unintelligible words on the paper. Tapping his index finger on a chart in the book, he continued. “We will begin with the Strigoian Clan, from eastern Europe. They are originally from Romania, but spread out and now occupy Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. They are a heavily female populated clan and many of them are hermaphrodites.” Jesu paused and glanced at me.
“What?” My shoulders coiled at his questioning glance. “I am not a hermaphrodite!”
His lips curled at the edges. “Are you sure?”
I crossed my arms and glared at him. “This is serious, you pervert.”
I sat, but narrowed my gaze in warning. He better behave.
“Okay, the Strigoians possess a couple of powers which set them apart from the rest of us,” he continued. “First, they can climb sheer surfaces. Second, they can shape-shift into bats.”
“Climb sheer surfaces? Like, the way insects walk up walls?”
“Ha, yeah right.” I shook my head. Jesu stared back, his expression expectant. “Oh God, you’re serious? But that’s—”
“Impossible?” He sighed. “How can you keep disbelieving after everything you have already seen? Do you even believe you are a vampyre?”
I glanced around, not sure how to answer.
“No. I did not think so.” He frowned.
I bit my lip. His green eyes looked distant, as though he considered giving up, and I didn’t want that. I needed his help. I tried to think about climbing walls and shape-shifting seriously. The notion of it was so unreal, but I had to give it a try. Jesu was convinced that this was the way to figure things out, and at least he had an idea. I was completely clueless.
“Look, Jesu…” I forced myself to put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. I tried to explain the best way I could without hurting his feelings. “I’m sorry. I’m not used to this. I’ve lived my entire life in a world where vampires were things of myth and movies. I’m trying my best, really, and while I can’t say that I believe in vampires or that I am one, I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.”
Jesu blinked. “I thought you were from Chicago?”
“It’s an expression.” I sighed. “Never mind. The point is, I promised I would cooperate, so we’ll do things your way.”
“Try it, then.”
“Climbing walls? Now?”
“Yes, now.” He stood and motioned to the blank stone wall between the bed and the wardrobe. “Give it a shot.”
I gulped and faced the wall. It stood no more than ten feet tall. Not a big deal, except that I wasn’t Spider Man. “How?”
Jesu shrugged. “I am not sure. I am not Strigoian.” He stroked his chin. “Just try
“Yeah, sure, why not.” I stepped closer. The light of day obscured most of the stones’ detail, even with the sunglasses on. I found two reachable spots extending out less than an inch. I took a deep breath and grasped the barely protruding stones as best I could. With one foot, I searched around for some place to wedge my toes so I could push myself up. My nails nearly broke as I tried to dig my fingers into the cement filling. I might have been strong enough to punch a hole in stone, but I definitely wasn’t cut out for rock climbing.
Jesu burst into laughter. I let go and rolled back on my left foot, which hadn’t left the ground. Crossing my arms over my chest, I faced him and huffed loudly. He was bent over, the tips of his ebony locks grazing the floor, as he slapped his thigh and gasped for breath.
“Don’t laugh, I’m trying aren’t I?”
He sucked in air only to bellow out more laughter as he clutched his waist. I rolled my eyes and sat on the bed with my lips pressed into a tight pout.
“I am sorry.” He grasped the edge of the bed to balance himself while trying to regain his composure.
“Really, my apologies. You should have seen yourself. You act so human.”
“Well that’s what I was for the first twenty-three years of my life, thank you.”
“I’m sorry. Please, continue.”
“But I already tried. I can’t climb sheer surfaces… or rocky surfaces, for that matter.”
He bit his lip, trying to fight back another chuckle. “You were approaching it like a human would; you were trying too hard. Try it more like an insect.”
“Oh, like an insect? Is that the idea? Oh yeah, sure, no problem. Let me just go change into my grasshopper legs.” I rolled my eyes.
He sighed. “Have you no imagination? Do not try to climb the wall, do not think about it logically. Just go do it.”
“Go.” He pointed. “Get up there.”
“Ugh.” I stood and faced the wall.
“Just let the powers come naturally.”
God, I have no idea what he means. Climb the wall, but don’t try to climb the wall. I grumbled to myself. Frustrated, I slapped both palms flat against the black stone. Something sticky oozed out beneath them.
“Ew!” I jumped back. A dozen fine strings of a clear, gel-like substance stretched like melted cheese, connecting my hands to the wall. Walking backward, the gel stretched over a foot long before the strings finally snapped. “What is this?”
Jesu examined my hands. “It looks like glue.”
“Where did it come from?”
He turned my hands this way and that way. “I think it came from the pores on your palms.”
“Is this normal?” Who am I kidding—nothing within this castle is normal.
“I don’t know. Wait.” He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the huge list of vampyre clans onto his lap. His eyes scanned the page for several moments. “Yes, it is normal. It says here the Strigoians secrete a thick, clear mucus on the palms of their hands and feet which allows them to scale any vertical surface with ease.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You could have warned me about this, but didn’t?” I stood with my arms outstretched, being careful not to get any goop on anything.
Jesu chuckled. “Sorry, I did not read that far ahead.”
“So this stuff will keep me anchored to any vertical surface, eh?” I kicked off my shoes, then peeled off my socks with my toes. “Here goes nothing.”
Holding my breath, I leaped two feet into the air with the palms of my hands and bottoms of my feet facing forward. My body smacked hard against rock, causing little black pebbles to crumble to the floor. Thank goodness I was numb or I might have gone into another coma doing that.
Panting, I realized my entire body lay flat against the surface of the wall, the left side of my face smashed up against stone. I wanted to push back a little so I could see, but I worried I would fall if I moved. Jesu was silent somewhere behind me.
“Am I ‘oing ‘ith?” I tried to ask.
“Well, you are not climbing, but you are sticking to the wall. At least both your feet are off the floor.”
I looked up, scraping my cheek. The ceiling loomed three feet above my head. I was determined to spider my way up the damn wall, even if it was only an inch or two.
Grunting, I lifted my right hand. The squishy goop tried to resist. It felt like I had Velcro gloves on, and was stuck to a sheet of felt. I pulled my hand above my head and slapped it down, feeling the ooze suction me to the wall as a new layer of glue seeped from my pores and gripped the stones for me. Not having to physically grab anything with my fingers felt odd.
I repeated the motion with my left foot, lifting it up and feeling the goop squish out a new layer when I replanted my toes. My knee scraped against the wall as I tried to angle my leg to get my whole foot as flat as possible for better traction.
After a minute of getting used to the Velcro sensation, I found a good reach-step-reach-step rhythm. The crown of my head bumped against the ceiling in no time.
“This is amazing!” I breathed.
“I am glad you are enjoying it. Come down so you can try shape-shifting.”
“Hold on, I just got an idea.” Arching my neck back so I faced the ceiling, I reached my left hand up and over, and laid it flat on the ceiling.
“Ema,” Jesu hesitated. “I do not think you should overdo it.”
“Shhh. I got to try this,” I whispered while placing my right hand parallel to the left one. My back arched at an uncomfortable angle. I had to think a moment about how to move my legs. If I lifted them too high, my knees hit the ceiling and I got stuck. I resorted to inching my way up little by little.
A single bead of sweat dripped from my brow, but it didn’t roll down. Instead, it rolled sideways and dripped off my ear. I was on my hands and knees, hanging upside down from the ceiling. And I’d never been so scared in my life. The goo began to thin and I didn’t know how to make myself secrete more.
“I think I’m freaking out.” My breath rasped as panic bubbled in my stomach. “I don’t know how to get down!”
“Just crawl backwards.”
“I can’t. The glue is thinning and I’m scared.”
“Then let go.”
“What? No way.”
“I will catch you, do not worry.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “I can’t.”
My instincts kicked in and aggression replaced fear. Stop blubbering and pay attention. Back up. There you go. Here comes the wall, one foot and then the other. But gravity decided to give me a reality check and I slid while trying to reach the wall with my right hand.
I screamed and flailed my arms around like propellers. Unfortunately, that’s not how vampyres fly. Jesu caught me in his arms, cradling me so that I was parallel to the floor, my feet still suctioned to the wall by the goop.
His bright green eyes sparkled as he looked into mine. “See?” his lips stretched into a sideways smile. “I told you I would catch you.”
Breathless, I couldn’t do anything but stare back. He pulled me away from the wall until the glue on my feet stretched into thin hairlines and finally snapped. I assumed he would set me down on the bed, but he carried me into the hallway instead. “Where are we going?”
“To the lavatory to wash your hands and feet. I do not know how this stuff works, but I do not want you getting stuck to yourself.”
In the bathroom, Jesu sat me on the edge of the porcelain tub with my feet inside the huge bath. He didn’t bother to turn on the light switch. Plenty of overwhelming rays still filled the majority of the wing, even though it was late evening by now.
I turned on the faucet with my elbow and then tried to adjust for warm water. I gave up when I realized I couldn’t feel a damn thing anyway. “I miss knowing if things are warm or cold.” I soaked my hands
Jesu handed me a washcloth, but it got covered in goop and stuck to my hand. “You will get used to it after a while and you won’t feel as numb as you do now.”
“Can you feel if something light brushes against you? Not hear it or smell it. Just feel it?”
Jesu glanced at the floor. “I am not sure. I can hear and smell just about everything long before it gets close enough to touch me.”
I peeled the goop off my palms. The stuff didn’t stick to my fingertips. “Let’s say you have a sheet wrapped around you. Could you feel that?”
“I have never really thought about it before. I can feel this, though.” He rested a hand on my forearm. I tried to feel it too, but the sensation was nothing more than faint pressure against my skin. I had no idea if his hand was warm and soft, or dry and callused.
“How much of that can you feel exactly?”
“I can feel the heat radiating from your body when I touch you.” His angular cheekbones flushed bright blue. I was jealous. That was much more than I could feel.
“Is my skin still soft?”
“Yes.” He turned a darker shade of azure and looked away while removing his hand.
I grumbled. “Would you mind? I’d like to take a bath.”
“Of course.” Jesu rose and left the bathroom. I closed the door and stripped while waiting for the tub to fill. Lying down inside the claw-foot bath, I tried to stop the knotted web of thoughts and questions buzzing in my brain. I just wanted one moment for myself. One moment of peace.
Pushing out the vampyres, the wall-climbing, the bloodlust, the coma, and the attack, the only thing left in my mind was Anthony. A vivid image of his round face formed in my mind’s eye. His soft sandy curls fell over his hazel eyes just like they always did. I had the urge to call him, to hear his voice. I almost stood, wanting to get my dead cellphone.
Instead, I slumped deeper into the bath water and leaned my head against the wall of the tub, wishing more than anything that vampyres could cry.
A week passed since I first awoke in a guest room in Jalmari’s castle. I figured out the routine here pretty quickly. During the day, everyone kept to themselves, hiding in the darkest corners of the castle, passing the time with quiet activities. At sunset, the castle brimmed with life. The maids came out to scrub floors and dust antiques. I learned the servants were all Neo-Draugrian. Most were vampyres, but a few were vampires.
by J. D. Brown have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes