Book 4, Chapter 18

For an instant, I felt like I was frozen, too — like time wasn’t moving for anyone or anything. Not the bullet, not myself. As though I were trapped in that moment when my life was supposed to flash before my eyes, except the only thing I could actually see was how I was actually going to die.

Assuming it killed me, of course. After all, I had survived being roasted alive by the sun — I’d kept moving even when my body had been so badly damaged I couldn’t feel anything. What if being shot in the head only did enough damage for me to expend the last of my reserves healing the injury?

Well, with Fumiko so near to me, she would be the first to die to sate my bloodlust. Followed, I had little doubt, by the gunman for making me kill one of my only friends in this world.

And then Mr. Spiky stood up. “What on Earth…” he started to say.

“Don’t move!” I squeaked. I couldn’t move even to look at him — not with Fumiko’s proximity keeping me frozen in place. My eyes widened. But when I’d gotten close to Mr. Spiky while we’d been fighting, he’d been dragged into my time stream — and apparently he was close enough that he’d been pulled into it again. As long as he didn’t move out of my range, he’d be able to…

I didn’t know what, exactly.

“Abby?” Mr. Spiky asked. “What’s going on?”

“Someone’s sniping me,” I answered. “From across the street. I stopped time, and you got pulled into my time stream because you’re a vampire too and, I don’t know: magic. But if you move too far away you’ll drop back down to your own super-speed instead of mine.”

“Oh,” Mr. Spiky said — as though what I’d told him made perfect sense. Hell, for all I knew it did. Maybe that was a commonly known phenomenon among vampires.

Mr. Spiky stepped awkwardly in front of me. Being wrapped up in a truck bumper seemed to throw off his balance a little. He looked at me, and then at the bullet over his shoulder. Then back at me.

“Well, it appears that my answer has just become a lot more pertinent,” he muttered. “I take it you’re stuck — she isn’t one of your donors and your aura is snagged on hers?”

“Uh…” I said. “Yes?” What answer? What had I asked him before being shot at stole all of my attention?

…oh, yeah: What are you going to do now, Mr. Spiky?

Mr. Spiky sighed. Then he straightened and turned around. Annoyingly, that blocked my view of the bullet. If I was going to die again, then I wanted to see it coming. I’d seen all the other deaths coming, even if they’d caught me by surprise, too.

“Well?” Mr. Spiky said impatiently. “I’m ready.”

My eyes widened — it was about as much as I could move — as it sank into me what he was doing. I tried to form a protest; I tried to ask him why… but I couldn’t do either. I wanted to live. And I knew why he was standing between myself and a bullet, because we had shared blood.

“I… thank you, Mr. Spiky,” I said.

He shrugged and said: “Benjamin. Of the Dolcet family. And please, just make sure you’re back before I get free of these bindings and kill your friends or mine.”

I swallowed back my nerves and nodded. Then I let go of my grip on time.

The crack of the rifle shot seemed to hit my ears at the same time as the bullet hit Benjamin. But that was just because I’d let go of my hold of time and couldn’t process everything that was happening fast enough.

Benjamin jerked and fell back. Standing in front of me had let him use the truck bumper as an improvised bit of armor, and the bullet didn’t tear all the way through him after impact. I tore myself free from Fumiko’s arms, surging to my feet even as Benjamin was blown off of his.

In the distance I heard the whisper-snk of the rifle’s bolt action being cycled again, and the clatter of the spent casing as it struck the flat roof of the convenience store.

Benjamin hit the ground. My connection to his emotions was severed as his curse canabilized his reserves of life force to mend the damage of a sniper round punching into his sternum and tumbling around in his insides. And then I was free of Fumiko, and I froze time again.

I stepped over and past Benjamin, leaving him behind — outside of the area of effect where he would be dragged into my time stream. He froze in the midst of struggling to free himself of the truck bumper. Even with my ability to freeze time I would have to act fast, it seemed: In order to do anything I would have to unpause time, after all, and once Benjamin was free he would feed and kill just as I had thought I would, had the bullet taken my unlife instead.

The only difference was that I knew I could put him down if I had to — and he knew he couldn’t do the same to me.

I charged out of the alley and across the street. Without even thinking about it I leapt and cleared the edge of the convenience store’s roof. I didn’t land cleanly — I was so shocked that I’d actually leapt from the ground to the roof that I wasn’t quite prepared for the landing part.

The rooftop was covered in gravel and stank of tar. I hit it, slipped, and skid. I was also immediately nauseous and violently ripped out of my personal time stream.

Someone shouted, far too close to me. “No good, target is gone!”

I snapped my head toward the voice and saw what had disrupted my super speed: scattered across the roof were small metal disks that made my night vision swim when my eyes passed over them. Even with purely mundane sight I could tell that each had a circle of strange runes inlaid on their surface, however. They dully reflected the city’s ambient light.

Wards? More like landmines: and if they made my night vision fail, they probably explained why I couldn’t maintain my personal time stream, either. I had to have passed over at least three when I went sailing over the roof’s edge, and my landing skid had knocked aside two more.

I didn’t have time to think about that, though, because now I was on the roof with two guys who were moving at least as fast as I did. Shit, did I even have super human strength while in the effect of these wardmines? I hoped to god I did as my gaze finished sliding across the roof and settled on the man who’d shouted.

He had a swarthy complexion and buzzed, bleach blond hair. He was young, wire-thin and crouched on one knee, watching the alley through a blocky set of binoculars that he held in one hand. The other propped a wicked looking shotgun across his lap. I was almost certain it could be fired multiple times, like the one Hans had used to put down Mr. Salvatore.

Next to the spotter — past him, from where I’d landed — the shooter was prone with his rifle propped on the short lip around the roof. He had short-cropped dark hair and fair skin, and looked young — young but hard, with bulky muscles on his short frame.

They were both wearing long-sleeved, dark grey shirts with some kind of padded vests strapped over them. Probably bullet proof? There were spare clips and at least one grenade each tucked into webbing over the vests, but those still looked bulky enough under that to be armored. Each wore combat boots and cargo pants with who knew what in the pockets. They each had a pistol — the spotter had two — and a knife sheathed either at the small of their back or on the side of a boot. Laying in easy reach next to the sniper was another one of those shotguns.

Just what I needed: Militant warlocks.

I ran at them as fast as I could because they were already turning toward me, too, and their guns had range that I desperately lacked. The one with the binoculars dropped them and rose to his feet, snapping his shotgun into firing position and shouting: “Nine o’clock!” as he did.

My stomach lurched each time I crossed a warded tile, but I didn’t have the time to weave between them — they were too close together for that, anyway. I remembered how Hans had blasted Mr. Salvatore backwards out of the air, so I didn’t leap. I tried to keep my center of gravity low, hoping that if I did get shot I’d be able to stagger through, grab one of them and get my fangs into him.

The spotter fired before he even finished raising the shotgun. The boom echoed off the rooftop and left my hyperactive hearing ringing in agony. The slug blew a chunk of the roof apart just to the left of where I was running, which let the part of me that shrieks fearfully in the back of my head briefly overwhelm the emptiness in my aura. I lunged forward anyway, but the spotter rode the recoil of his missed shot and adjusted his aim, continuing to fire as he did. Boom boom boom.

The second shot hit my left hip, shattering it. The thin, broken reserve of life force holding back my vampire instincts shattered as well when the curse tried to pull in more than the power remaining to me for healing the damage. I stumbled, but made it another step on a partially mended hip, only for the third shot to blow a hole clear through my gut. That barely fazed me. I had a plan, and I just needed to clear another step or two. Grab one, rip his throat out with your teeth. Use the surge in energy to catch the other and properly feed while the first is too busy dying to interfere.

Then the fourth shot ripped through my chest, shattering the left side of my ribs as it ripped through me — and at the same time, the sniper finished rolling to a crouch and raising his shotgun. The fifth and sixth shots — one from each of them — took me at the same time, or near enough to make no difference. One made my right leg splinter and twist. It gave out beneath me even as the force splintered the bone apart and obliterated my knee.

I fell like a bullet-ridden marionette.

But not like one whose strings had been cut. With a mental snarl I shoved off the lure of dormancy: I had been burned alive, to the point that my body was a withered husk of bone and charred flesh, but I’d still been able to move, to fight, to kill. I was not going to let fucking food be the end of me.

The spotter put two more slugs through me, center of mass, blasting out more of the roof beneath me as I tried to rise. I stopped trying to rise. I didn’t move at all.

“Holy fuck!” The spotter exclaimed. He sounded like a kid. I bet Daniel would call him one. An excited kid: one who’d just gotten off a roller coaster. He turned toward his partner. “Did you fucking see that? Holy shit! I haven’t even seen Mr. Fiore just barrel through…”

I didn’t wait for him to finish. While he was distracted and his back was turned, I surged up and forward, tackling his legs. My plan had changed, informed purely by the relentless need to sate my thirst and heal my mangled body. I tackled the young man clumsily, but I managed to yank his legs out from under him regardless. I caught the top of his boot and hauled myself up while he screamed — then bit down hard through the leg of his cargo pants, right over his calf muscle.

But that didn’t mean biting into his flesh.

Instead, my teeth shredded cloth and then skittered and caught over a tightly woven metal mesh: like some sort of synthetic, light weight chain mail. I screamed in frustration while the fallen man screamed in fright — then I tried to bite him again. He responded by wrenching back his other foot and then lashing out: smashing the sole of his combat boot into my face. For the second time tonight I lost teeth. My nose and cheek splintered too, and he kicked twice more while wrenching free of my grasp.

“Jesus! Fucking! Christ!” The spotter yelled, punctuating each exclamation with another kick to my head. I tried to rise up and pull myself over him so I could get to his exposed neck or face or hands, but the repeated face stomps kept me at bay.

Then his partner — who had yet to say a damn thing — stepped past him. The sniper smacked me with the barrel of his shotgun, knocking me off of the spotter. Then, before my broken, ruined body could respond, the man who’d tried to snipe me in the alley slammed the barrel of his gun against the side of my head. Not like a club, but like a spear: a straight jab that left the muzzle grinding into my temple and my cheek being ground into the roof.

And then he pulled the trigger.

Midnight Moonlight, Book 4

16 responses to Book 4, Chapter 18


  1. Twice, TWICE you left use with the MC about to get shot.

    Fuck you too sir.

  2. Rob

    Ha ha! Indeed, from “cliff hanger” to “cliff hanger and oh btw the entire cliff is exploding.” Plus it seems less lkely that this bullet will be avoided, it seems to me; but maybe so — this isn’t a terribly dark/gritty story, as they go. 🙂

    Can’t complain, anyway — a high powered protagonist withers up without high powered challenges/adversaries; and if Abby could just breeze her way through every fight (or even just reliably won, after temporary difficulties) after awhile it would get boring.

    • Eren Reverie

      That’s very true, about the challenges — which is why I wanted this series to have the relationships it does. A lot of Abby’s challenges will be social or psychological — and if it’s appropriate she will get to punk on or intimidate her opponents. But when it isn’t? I don’t think I’m going to pull any deus ex to save her from the consequences. I try to make sure that even if she ‘discovers a new ability’ it is actually something that makes logical sense given things that have been shown or discussed in the books, rather than coming entirely out of the blue and being explained after the fact. I fully expect my readers to call me on it if I ever fail in that.

      That said, this book probably is going to be the most action oriented of the series so far… And Abby’s opponents might be misinformed, mislead, or even doing the misleading — but pushovers they are not. I like a clever protagonist — but I like clever antagonists, too, so I’m perfectly happy to pull out the stops for both sides of the story. (When I started writing this, I was expecting Abby to win after Mr. Dolcet took the bullet for her. …whoops.) 😉 I blame years of being one of those GMs that teach munchkin players to fear the lowly kobold…

      • “I try to make sure that even if she ‘discovers a new ability’ it is actually something that makes logical sense given things that have been shown or discussed in the books, rather than coming entirely out of the blue and being explained after the fact.”

        Have you ever heard of Sandersons first law? Because this is basically what it means and i become so happy when people write in this way instead of just going “Oh and btw you can do this too”

        Also you where on of THOSE GM? Awesome they make everything so much more fun XD (This reminds me of that time one of my players completed an encounter by setting himself on fire)

        • Eren Reverie

          I hadn’t read that article, but I looked it up in response to this. I think my system is probably one of those ‘middle’ systems — I’ve laid out some very broad strokes about things like how it relates to belief, emotion, souls and auras — but then the specific powers and vulnerabilities are a lot more ‘hard’ — even though the ‘why’ of them might boil down to something like ‘the force of the prevalent local and historical beliefs and unconscious assumptions has turned this magical vulnerability/power into a functionally real thing.’

  3. Rob

    Aww, end of my day (I’m in GMT+2) and she’s still on the cliff. No worries, I’ll survive somehow! But it reminds me to ask two related questions — first, could you possibly enable the standard wordpress checkbox below the comment area that would say “notify me of new posts”? I know there’s another button to follow but that seems to require a real wp login, not just the email address; my preference is to avoid creating still more accounts when i can avoid it.
    Second, what’s the normal post schedule? The home page says M&F, but last week we had a Saturday bonus chapter *and still* M/W/F updates. Not that I’m complaining! But feel free to fill the buffer instead of adding in extra updates. 🙂

    • Eren Reverie

      Hi! Thanks for pointing out that I didn’t have that enabled. It should be now — I’m not hosted on wordpress.com, so I have to turn on a lot of the defaults through the Jetpack plugin and hadn’t realized I’d missed that one. (Then again, I’m not horribly familiar with the default wordpress.com site stuff, anyway, haha.)

      The normal post schedule is M/W/F. I’ll have to update the homepage… I can’t remember the last time I touched that. I have it listed as M/W/F on the Web Fiction Guide, though, and that’s what I try to live up to since that’s where most of my readers have come from (except that I recently put a project wonderful ad on Tales of MU, so a lot have come from there.)

      Ideally, I’ll load the chapters into the buffer and they’ll be scheduled to come out at 6:00 (UTC-5, so I think that comes out to 1:00 pm for you?) but that hasn’t been happening quite so much lately, though I do try to at least get them up on the right day. (Right now I’m about 1.3k words into the next chapter, and I just got back from work… give me an hour or two, maybe, and it should be up?)

      I try to land the bonus chapters on Saturdays. Those are supposed to be based on the ranking of the series at TopWebfiction.com (So don’t forget to vote!) — If the series is in the top 15 on any Friday of the month, I’ll post at least 1 bonus chapter that month. If it’s in the top 10, I’ll post a bonus chapter for that week regardless of whether or not I’ve already posted the ‘teaser bonus’ chapter for the top 15. That hasn’t happened yet, but… fingers crossed. 😉 If the series ever hits the top 5, not only will I be absolutely floored, but I’ll post a Sunday bonus chapter that week as well as the Saturday one.

      Last week, however, was a bonus bonus chapter — I’d gotten a bit hooked on the Daniel story line, myself, and had written it without actually checking the series ranking. Then I figured: Well, I should post this. 🙂 I don’t like writing content that I don’t share, so it is _really_ unlikely that I’ll ever write a stockpile of bonus content that doesn’t get released — in most cases, either I’ll write it on the spot when I check the ranking, or I’ll put it up as a ‘thank you, readers, for being awesome and damn you for getting me invested in this plot line!’ bonus.

  4. x

    Typos:

    Ehe slug
    The

    who’s strings had been cut
    whose

  5. Syndic

    Typo: “canabilized” should be “cannibalized”

    Instead of typing out another long comment, I’ll just go for “what they said” for this one ^_^

    …well, for the powers part anyway. turns out I have to type a bit more: While I like alive-Abby best, I do so love the plans that deadish-Abby comes up with. “Grab one, rip his throat out with your teeth. Use the surge in energy to catch the other and properly feed while the first is too busy dying to interfere.” – Memo to self: do NOT piss off the Abby.
    “I was not going to let fucking *food* be the end of me.” yiiiiikes run away!

    Those poor fools trapped in a horror movie where Abby is the monster!

  6. star34

    Ok then not only did Benjamin step up and take the hit for Abigail, but now warlocks are coming armed for bear (vampire).

    Not a good place to be, about to get shot in the face after getting shot 3 other times already. Poor Abby just wants to save the people she cares about and call it a year.

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