Every child has a day when something happens which disappoints them so utterly that a magical transformation occurs and they become adults. It may have been that one Christmas where you really wanted that Playstation and you ended up with a pair of woolen knitted socks. For Liam, it was the first time he had died at the age of six, though his memories of the exact events were vague and uncertain. The worst kept secret the world has is that adults experience those disappointing moments as well. Liam waited a good few minutes after the streak of cursing had ended before peeked into the room to find Samantha Goodbody watching her latest crushingly disappointing moment flit around the air invisibly.
Sitting down next to her, Liam patted her shoulder, “Well, you won’t get paid for this one but at least I know what you did. That counts for something, doesn’t it?”
“Not unless you have a million dollars shoved up your ass, and no offense Liam, you don’t.”
Liam took in the enormity of the payday she had lost. That would have been a massive finders fee. Liam took a deep breath, but Samantha covered his mouth before he could start cursing. Putting a finger to her lips, she pointed at the former maze, now largely a smoldering wreck. The smoke above it formed tendrils that drifted through the air, ghostly hands at the end of each tendril picking up and letting go of books.
“What’s that all about?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to ask my father when I get back home. This is proof enough for me to get my room back.”
“Wait, your father kicked you out unless you killed the Lich? What a dick!”
“Glory is a bitter dish.” Sam rose without explaining her comment, patting her sides and her legs, stretching each leg and arm to test for damage, “We had better get going if we’re going to make that meeting.”
Reaching down, she gave Liam a hand up and turned to leave. It was always such a whirlwind traveling with Samantha. Barely had they gotten out of the near-death frying pan when she was already rushing them into the fireplace. Thankfully, when they reached the top of the stairwell and exited the building, a familiar yellow cab was idling at the curb, waiting for them. It’s shadowy driver waved them over, the front of the cab entirely obscured in darkness somehow despite the sunshine beaming down.
“How the hell does he do that,” Liam took a quick look around to see if there was any other form of transportation?”
Sam laughed, a quick short laugh, “In this case, I think it might be because I’ve spent most of my time here beating the shit out of people and asking questions about where I can find the Lich.”
Getting into the taxi, they were greeted with the usual level of brusque courtesy Liam had come to expect from Simon’s private driver, “You two are both late to the meeting. They went ahead without you so Simon told me where I could find you and pick you up.
Liam scooted in next to Sam and tapped the back of the drivers seat, “Hey, you mean Sam is late. This isn’t really my tea party.”
“I wish I could let you off the hook here, Liam…”
“Sure, you do.” Liam snorted.
“Alright, no I don’t. You’re Miss Goodbody’s plus one, which everyone is allowed. I had thought she would have told you by now.” Liam glared at Sam, who had already passed out in the seat, “I’ll take that as a no. We’ll make this a quick drive, then.”
Grumbling under his breath, the driver pulled out and drove towards the Nair mansion. He got them there in record speed and impossible time given the afternoon traffic. Samantha slept the whole way. Liam occupied himself by counting how many near accidents they had on the way. He had never known Simon’s driver to be one for reckless driving so the situation must have been dire. Arriving at the mansion, Liam was unsurprised this time to find it mostly empty. The buzz of people coming and going remained, and when the cab ground to a slow, jerky halt in front of the steps leading into the building, he saw why. The security around the building had been doubled, making Liam wonder if they were expecting a small army to raid them during them meeting.
Stirring from her slumber, Sam opened the door and almost tumbled out of the car, the closest to grace and elegance that she got when she wasn’t hunting. Liam hopped out on his side and crossed around to walk with her to the massive doors where they were met by a security team wearing black suits and sunglasses that swept them up to the fourth floor, a floor in the house Liam had never before been to, halting them in front of a set of dark wooden doors. While they waited to be let in, Liam examined the doors. The handles of the doors formed a circle in the center and on either side, engraved meticulously into the wood, a crowd stood holding their arms out towards each other, smiles gracing almost countless faces. On the right side of the door, was a multitude of humans and on the left, every species Liam had ever encountered at the Nair mansion, and some he didn’t even think existed anymore. Across the top of the door was engraved the words, “Friends offer empty hands and full hearts”.
The phrase confused Liam so he nudged Sam gently in her side with his elbow hard enough to cause her to grunt slightly, “What does that mean?” he asked, once he had after her attention and she had smacked him.
Looking up, Sam smiled a rare, genuine smile, “It means you come here without weapons and ready to accept everyone for who they are. Got to love the Nair family.”
“But you hate everyone and nobody took your weapons away.”
“Shut up, Liam.”
“I feel so accepted. I can feel the love, really.”
The doors swung open from the inside, opened by two more black suited security guards and Liam instantly knew he was out of his depth. All four walls were entirely bare. A light shone down from the ceiling onto the one piece of furniture in the room, a circular table with chairs set for six people. It was so bright, it obscured the rest of the room in gloomy darkness. Five of the seats were occupied, and even though Liam had only seen one of them before, thankfully there was a plaque with a name in front of each person at the table.
The only one Liam knew at the table was Simon’s father, Varnes Nair, the man for whom Sam’s father was named. He was a massive man with brown hair parted to the side. Towering above everyone else at the table, Liam figured his seat must have been custom made to hold his sizable frame. He shared his sons refined features and his bright blue eye, though his father still possessed both of his. He wore a blue suit with a pocket watch and a small cup of tea sat in front of his place. When he moved to look at Liam and Sam, he moved with a grace Liam wouldn’t have expected from such a large man.
Directly to his left was the head of the Neelan family, a man named Isaac. He was portly, moving steadily towards obese, fairly bursting out of the suit he had chosen to wear. It didn’t seem hot to Liam, but the man was sweating and wiping at his brow generously with a damp handkerchief that had a date with a dumpster once the meeting was over. He had fat, pouty lips and dark green eyes that looked at nothing in particular, but clearly took everything around him in.
To his left sat an empty chair, which belonged to Samantha and to her left sat the head of the Rever family, named Jacob. He wore a white suit with a white dress shirt. Around his face, covering the entire top half of his head, was the scarf his family was infamous for wearing. He had embroidered a cloud with seven red drops falling in a straight line from right to left across his face. A series of pale scars on his chin stood out, even on his pale face. He had what could only be called a predatory smile, which confused Liam since he thought the Rever family was renowned for being emotionless.
The last head of the family was by Renata Aliway who led the Aliway family. Simon had once gifted Liam with a flask Renata had made for him, but once Liam found out how much it was worth, he pawned it. She was a stunningly beautiful woman with periwinkle blue eyes and dark brown hair that cascaded down her back in a single braid. She wore a simple white dress with a red ribbon tied around her neck. In front of her lay a small sketchpad, which she was still doodling on as the party waited for Samantha to take her seat.
“Enough of this nonsense, we’re not stopping the meeting just because our stand-in finally showed up. I have other matters to attend to.” Liam’s blood froze. He knew that voice, he had heard it before. The figure seated directly in front of Liam, facing away from him, turned around. He had soft features, appearing the perfect gentleman at first glance. He wore a black suit, a black dress shirt and a dark red tie that dimly reflected the light. What caught Liam’s gaze was his eyes, a shiny red color that made his eyes appear to be covered in fresh blood. When he looked at Liam, he could feel his skin crawl. As he watched, a drop of red slid down his cheek. A gloved hand reached up and wiped it away, leaving a small red streak. Liam had no idea who he has, but he knew the man got Simon worked up and that was enough to have him on edge. Best to keep an eye on that one.
Varnes Nair spoke up, his voice deep and yet full of reassuring tones, “Calm down, Adrian. We allow you to sit in on this council, not to disrupt it. Please join us, Samantha. I trust your father is still recuperating.”
“That’s what he keeps telling me,” Samantha took her seat at the table and leaned it back, balancing it on two legs, “Sorry I’m late, I had some work to do before I came here.”
“So I’ve heard, from friends of course,” When Isaac spoke, he had a melodious voice that hardly matched his girthy form. He continued dabbing at his forehead and stealing glances at the man Varnes Nair had called Adrian.
“I think everyone in the city has heard this story. I wonder if you took any joy in this killing? What justice was there in this hunt?” The head of the Rever house turned his face to Samantha, his smile never fading.
“I would have taken far more joy in it if the Lich hadn’t dissolved into nothingness after I beat him,” there was a collective gasp from around the table as she made her way to her seat, “but I think we should get started, so please spare me your speeches on justice.”
The council was about to begin when a voice rang out from the gloom behind the head of the Rever house, “Liam!” Somehow, even in the dark, a little white shadow detached itself from the wall and bounced over to Liam. It was Jenny.
Varnes coughed politely. Jenny frowned for an instant, but grabbed Liam by the hand and dragged him over to stand beside her behind their respective houses. Once settled, Liam braced himself. When you show up at serious meetings like this without a reason to be there, you always end up hearing things you weren’t supposed to hear. It wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many people willing to do diabolical things to get that information from you.