Maestro does not appreciate my roguish charm

From last post:

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

I slid the door open a crack. “You’re looking for Ella?” I said. She had followed me to the door but was standing in a corner, where she couldn’t be seen from outside.

“My time on earth has been long so it is simple to overlook such an inane quip. Yet my patience is not infinite.”

“So why wait for me to…” I looked at the threshold, which Maestro had made no move to cross. “That’s an actual thing? You can’t come in here unless I invite you?”

“It is a taboo. Even those among us with little interest in tradition would not violate it.”

I opened the blind fully but slid the door only slightly further, so the opening was as wide as Maestro’s shoulders. “Be right back,” I said, and retrieved the two chairs from the dining table. I pushed one outside and put the other in front of Ella. For myself I pulled over a kitchen stool. Ella and I sat down, and then Maestro.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked Maestro. “Some wine?”

“I am familiar with the reference. I do not do requests, sir.” Maestro then spoke to me with a faster cadence then he had before, without losing any of his precision. “When we last spoke I advised you to stay on good terms with those who walk in the dark. Since then you placed one of us in a situation where she was manipulated by one human and injured by another. Perhaps you think showing defiance in spite of your limited powers gives you a sort of roguish charm.”

“I didn’t place Leticia in that situation. I’d like to know how she’s doing.”

“She is well. Nevertheless there are those, more prideful than I am, who see her injury as an affront to be avenged. Those following Miss Sherrinford tonight are among them.”

“So they’re with you?’ said Ella. She actually seemed relieved that she was being stalked by vampires and not by a Welsh goat-worshipping cult.

Maestro nodded. “I accept the veracity of Mr. Ormand’s account and do not believe you acted out of malice. I would regret your loss and have told your pursuers of this. They will not impede your return home.”

I decided to overlook the “your loss” crack but wanted to press Maestro on something else. “What about Pickman’s camera being stolen? Do you know about that?”

“It is possible that the thief performed a favor for you. There are some things that are best left unknown even to a highly disciplined human mind.” He looked at Ella again. “You know of what I speak.”

Maestro stood and so did Ella and I. “Until we meet again,” he said. He turned and I asked him to stop. He stopped but didn’t turn back around.

“This is the second time we’ve talked,” I said, “and I still don’t know your name.”

“The name you applied to me in your account of your first meeting.”

“What, ‘Maestro Nosferatu’?”

“That will suffice. Farewell.” And he was gone.

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Another blog, another Twilight post

This weekend I joined an actual vampire, a werewolf hunter, a scholar of the weird, and a sword-wielding filmmaker for a matinee of the new Twilight movie. It was something Leticia suggested, I guess to show us there were no hard feelings after we crashed the film festival last month. Or maybe to punish us.

Seeing New Moon isn’t something I would have considered if Leticia hadn’t asked and I think Ella, Ingrid, and Pike felt the same way. Before the movie started we would periodically look at each other with “So…um…Twilight” kinds of expressions. We sat on a side bank of seats near the back, so Pike and Ingrid wouldn’t obstruct the views of 90% of the people in the audience.

The order we were sitting in was Ingrid, Ella, me, Leticia, and Pike. My position in the middle gave me an interesting auditory experience. For instance, here’s what I heard from my left and right in the scene when Bella mopes around for three months:

I: chortle
E: exasperated sigh
L: sympathetic “mmmm”
P: derisive “pfff”

Here’s what I heard when Jacob whips his shirt off:

I: chortle
E: intrigued “mmmm”
L: luxurious “mmmm”
P: exasperated sigh

Afterward we went to Perkins, where Leticia assured us she wouldn’t take it personally if we didn’t like the movie. Her only complaint seemed to be that the sole red-haired vampire was a villainess. Actually, most of the time we spent on the movie was asking Leticia how closely it matched up with her experience. There weren’t a lot of questions she was comfortable answering directly.

Ella asked her if there was an actual vampire council like the Volturi and Leticia responded that if there was, you wouldn’t have to get in an elevator to see them. Ingrid asked if Edward was a typical vampire. “I’ve met some like that,” Leticia said with a smirk.

Pike wondered if vampires’ fangs get in the way if they kiss humans and requested that Leticia demonstrate a safe mouth-to-mouth kissing technique on Ingrid. Leticia and Ingrid laughed and Ella uttered the same sigh she did during the movie.

I  asked about human-vampire couples. Actually it was more like, “So, a human and vampire…you know…is that…I mean…do…” Leticia responded that it was complicated. Actually it was more like, “Yeah…I…there have been…it’s not…um…” Ingrid put an end to it by slamming her hand on the table. “Dudes!” she exclaimed. “We’ve got to hunt that dog thingy once there’s snow on the ground and I can track it!” We agreed.

Maestro

From last post…

“You guys shouldn’t be here!” [Leticia] whispered. I asked what she meant. “I mean that everyone here is…” she glanced to my left and gasped. I looked in that direction and saw a pair of guys glaring at me. They looked familiar but it took me a few seconds to place them: they were the vampires Leticia was with when we first met her. They strode toward us.

“Pike,” I said, “are we crashing a film festival of the undead?”

“You brought them here?” snapped one of Leticia’s former companions.

“She had nothing to do with this,” I said.

Other people in the crowd were starting to look at us. “We’re just here to see the Pickman film,” said Pike.

“You’re not welcome here!” hissed the second guy. I think he’s the one Pike hit with his sword in our first encounter. He opened his mouth wide, exposing his fangs. “You will regret this intrusion.”

“Ho ho!” said Ingrid. She pulled from her purse a metal rod and shoved the purse at me. “You want a piece, Twilight?”

I didn’t find out until later that Ingrid was holding a collapsible baton. The reason I didn’t find out is that we heard a voice say “Stop.” It was an interesting voice: calm, commanding, and with the purity of a struck tuning fork. Everyone was silent.

I looked around and saw a figure that I somehow knew was the source of the voice, even though his back was to us. He was wearing a long, dark coat and had hair to match. He was standing in front of an open door and we saw his pale face in profile. He raised his right hand, pointed into the room he was standing in front of, and went in. I followed the direction without questioning it for a second, and it appeared that Ella, Pike, and Ingrid were equally compelled.

red_birch

We found ourselves in a classroom, facing two men. One was the person who directed us into the room, a man whose face had a refined majesty that evoked the portrait of a great historical figure like Washington or Jefferson. Or Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies. The other was a man with a beard and a scar near one eye, and I realized he must be Bertrand, one of the vampires Ella met at the bookstore. Ella, Pike, Ingrid, and I stood in the middle of the room while the other people took places around the walls. I spotted Leticia, who looked worried.

“Greetings,” said Maestro Nosferatu or whatever he was, in that same fascinating voice.

“Hello” I said. “Nice to meet some fellow film fans.” I gave Leticia a small grin, and she responded by widening her eyes and shaking her head.

“Well. An insouciant [I had to look that word up] young man who is acquainted with our sister Leticia and whose company includes a warlike Norsewoman. Arthur Lewis Ormand, I presume.”

“Yes.” I was a little surprised, which Maestro appeared to pick up on.

“I find value in the public chronicles of the hidden world. There are others who do not. Leticia has told you this.”

“She has. She’s not the reason we’re here, by the way.”

“You need not fear for her. What you will do is tell me why you are here.”

I explained our earlier run-in with Pickman and that we thought the film was by the same man. Maestro asked his people if Pickman had made an appearance at the festival and he hadn’t. Next he spoke to Ella, asking her if Pickman was connected to the lore she discussed with Bertrand; Ella said she was unsure.

Maestro and Bertrand had a brief conversation and Maestro looked at us. “One of us will deliver the Pickman film to you,” he said, “if we feel it would be…appropriate. The four of you shall leave, unimpeded. Bertrand shall accompany you, as there are some things he wishes to discuss with Miss Sherrinford.”

Maestro then looked at me and everything around us seemed to grow dim, as if we were on a bare stage, each illuminated by a spotlight. “I trust, Arthur Lewis Ormand, you will make a better attempt to stay on good terms with those who walk in the dark. You will need all the allies you can acquire, if you continue to confront these eldritch things.”

I don’t remember what I said in return, just feeling desperate to get out of there. Pike, Ingrid and I stayed close together while Bertrand and Ella walked ahead, talking in low voices. I glanced at Leticia, who gave me a relieved sort of smile.

On the way to the car I kept looking behind me, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” running through my head. When we got there Bertrand departed with a slight bow. We all let out a sigh. Except for Ella, none of us had said anything since we left the classroom.

“We totally could have taken those guys, you know,” said Ingrid.

The discussion between Ingrid and Pike on the way home, going through the various combat scenarios possible with Ingrid’s weapons and whatever objects we could find on site, helped make me feel a little less anxious about the whole encounter. Not by much though. I think Ingrid picked up on that, because she proposed that we all stop at her home before we went our separate ways. We wound up staying there until dawn.

More movie fun with Pike

Last post I talked about some video Pike recorded at an underground film festival and he recently told me about another festival that was keeping a low profile. He hadn’t heard of this one before and found out about it through someone he knows at the University of Minnesota, who said that a screening room on campus was reserved all weekend by an unidentified organization. Pike went there the first night and, while he didn’t pick up a schedule or see any movies, was able to use his camera to zoom in on a large schedule posted outside the door, where we were able to see Pickman’s name attached to a film.

I asked Pike why he didn’t investigate further, and he told me the crowd there was “dressed like the board members of a goth corporation” and he would have stood out. Not a good thing for an event he and most other people apparently weren’t supposed to know about.

Pike was going to go again that night and asked if Ella and I wanted to go too and see if we could get in. Both of us were interested. I also called Ingrid, who’s interested in that creature Pike showed me from Pickman’s video, and she wanted to go as well. I tried to invite Leticia but was only able to leave a message on her phone.

Saturday evening we arrived at the screening room, all dressed in dark semi-formal wear. Ella used this as one of her rare occasions to wear makeup, which included eyeliner and dark red lipstick. Ingrid was wearing a long skirt, which was the first time I’d seen her not wearing jeans, and carried a large purse which I imagined contained her high-class evening combat gear.

We must have arrived between screenings because there was a small crowd outside the doors. No one seemed to look at us like we were out of place and we checked out the schedule of films. When I looked at Pike’s image of the schedule I didn’t pay attention to the entries other than Pickman’s, but now I saw that the film that we had apparently just missed was created by someone named Leticia.

I pointed this out to the others and looked at the crowd, wondering if it was a coincidence, when I saw “our” Leticia talking and laughing with someone. We made our way over to her, and when she finished her conversation she noticed us. Her expression quickly became one of shock.

“You guys shouldn’t be here!” she whispered. I asked what she meant. “I mean that everyone here is…” she glanced to my left and gasped. I looked in that direction and saw a pair of guys glaring at me. They looked familiar but it took me a few seconds to place them: they were the vampires Leticia was with when we first met her. They strode toward us.

“Pike,” I said, “are we crashing a film festival of the undead?”

Mysterious visitors

While I do not regret urging caution with respect to Leticia, after reading the previous post I am more inclined to view her motives favorably. And of course I was quite pleased that she would try to get more information about the subjects I study. I had an unexpected opportunity to thank her when she arrived at the Bookmark two nights ago, wearing a white sweater decorated with the image of an evergreen forest.

She accepted my thanks, though she seemed somewhat preoccupied. “It’s funny you should bring that up,” she said. “Those guys I mentioned? They want to talk to you.” This I was not as pleased with. Even if Leticia and her cohorts weren’t actual vampires – and I had little reason to believe they were – the prospect of a meeting with elder (self-professed) nosferatu about knowledge that some would call forbidden made me uneasy.

“Well,” I responded, “That would depend on the time and place.”

“Um…yeah,” said Leticia. “That would be here and now.”

The door opened and a pair of tall gentlemen entered, dressed in black ulsters. Arthur used the word “refined” to describe Leticia’s features and refinement was certainly the impression I got from her comrades. They appeared slightly older than Leticia, with solemn expressions. One had a neatly trimmed beard and near his right eye there was a small vertical scar, which didn’t seem like it would be a characteristic of a being who could be harmed only by a handful of materials. The other was clean-shaven, with dark wavy hair and a narrow but sensuous mouth. I looked at him and found myself staring into a pair of smoldering dark eyes.

“Good evening,” said the bearded gentleman. The other greeted me by name. They both had slight accents that I had difficulty placing, though the way the second one said “Miss Sherrinford” was quite delightful. “I hope you will forgive our sudden appearance,” said the first gentleman. He introduced himself as Bertrand and his companion as Aubrey. Apparently part of the vampiric code is to dispense with last names.

“It is rare to encounter one with your…specialized knowledge,” continued Bertrand, “and I was most enthusiastic for a meeting. If you would feel more comfortable accompanied by your sorceress friend, I would welcome her presence.” I responded that I would like Miriam by my side, and went to the back of the store to speak with her.

“Vampires?” she said when I told her about the situation. “You know, I was debating whether I should have protected the store against them.” She explained that she has placed various charms at the entrance of the bookstore to prevent malicious non-human entities from entering. “I know I shouldn’t just assume all vampires are evil, but still… Anyway, I’ll join you. I know some ways to keep them in line if they misbehave.” She reached into a desk drawer wand withdrew a ring with a large purple stone, which she placed on one of her fingers.

The five of us sat at the coffee area in the back, Bertrand, Aubrey and I at one table and Leticia and Miriam at another. What followed was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve ever had. They shared some astonishing information with me, and surprisingly enough I appeared to have some information they lacked. I won’t share the details here, for a number of reasons, but it was certainly time well spent and gave me a number of new ideas for research.

When our guests departed, Leticia purchased a copy of Dewey and Aubrey gave me a card with a number to call in case I had another encounter with the strange forces we were discussing or their avatars. I’ll certainly contact him if that happens. Or perhaps I may request his assistance with an investigation of another sort. I am, after all, a seeker of… specialized knowledge.

The Vampire Leticia

The poll results were in favor of a meeting with the lady vampire, which is kind of how I was leaning anyway. She left an e-mail address in her comment, which is how I contacted her to set up our meeting last night. The place I selected is a coffeehouse purchased last year by one of my former high school English teachers and her daughter. As promised in her comment, Ingrid would be there too.

Shortly after I arrived and secured a table, Ingrid came in, strode over, and took the seat next to me. “So what happened?” she asked with smirk. “Pastor Hottie break your heart? Is that why you’re going on a date with someone that can’t stand crucifixes?”

“First of all, this has nothing to do with my pastor,” I said. “Second, I don’t really see this as a date…”

Ingrid snorted. “Yeah, it never is with you, is it? Anyway, check this out.” She rolled up one of her sleeves, revealing a wooden stake strapped to her wrist. She rolled up the other, showing me a container of McCormick garlic salt. “How about you, what’re you packing?” she asked. “One of your squirt guns with Lutheran holy water?”

At this point the vampiress entered. She was tall with long, dark red hair and had a narrow, refined kind of face, with pale skin and high cheekbones. This refinement was offset somewhat by the sweater she was wearing, which was blue and red and decorated with white snowflakes and reindeer. As they were when I first met her, her eyes were bright and her lips were full. And yes, she was hot.

She grinned broadly when she first saw us then quickly covered her mouth, looking around. She approached our table and sat opposite me. “Got to be careful,” she said, smiling and pointing to her exposed fangs. She greeted Ingrid enthusiastically.

The vampiress told us her name was Leticia and that she would love to know more about our Verona expedition and the Brand incident. She said she couldn’t tell us a lot about the vampiric world but would be happy to share what she could. She took great care to point out that she doesn’t kill her victims: she takes what she needs and mesmerizes them into forgetting the encounter.

Ingrid pressed Leticia on whether she would ever kill someone and she said “well, if someone really pissed me I suppose off I might!” with a little laugh. We waited for her to say she was kidding. She didn’t.

Regarding the night we met, Leticia told us that that her two companions were from out of town, and that as far as she knows she’s the only vampire who lives around Detling. It made sense to me that vampires would want to live in more populous areas, though Leticia did inform us that there’s a small north woods community that gets a number of vampire visitors each year.

She looked like she was in her late 20s but I figured that wouldn’t be an accurate indication of how old she really was. I asked how long she had been a vampire but she declined to answer (“you don’t ask a lady how old she is!”). Similarly, she wouldn’t say how she had been turned.

Ingrid asked “So do you…like being undead?” Leticia became more serious. “I don’t really think of it as undead,” she said quietly. “I mean, the people I…it’s different, but…it’s not really a liking or not liking kind of thing.”

I figured I would change the subject so I gave some more details about our various encounters in Verona, which Leticia enjoyed. She said she’d love to accompany us if we made a return trip.

I asked if Leticia or her comrades knew anything about the folklore Ella studies. “You know, that’s interesting,” she said. “I hadn’t heard those names before, so I asked some of the guys who’ve been around for a while, and they got a little freaked out. That kind of scared me, since these are guys who’ve fought windigos and laugh about it. They wouldn’t tell me anything.”

I wondered if there were any vampire blogs out there. “Oh yeah!” Leticia said. “I have one. So do a lot of us. There’s even a vampire blogging convention now. This year it’s in… well, it’s close enough that I’ll probably go.” I asked if I could come too. “Ah, that could get a little…hairy,” she said.

Action scene, cut short

From last post:

“Well guys,” said Pike, “we’ve been through a lot together. And now, it looks like we’re going to have to fight our way through some vampires.” Pike grinned. “Is this not the best movie shoot ever?”

“Are you insane?” snapped Ella.

“We can totally do this!” countered Pike. “Number one, we don’t even know if these are real vampires. Two, we’ve got some extra swords here so we can at least hold them off. Three, we crossed a bridge to get here, right? Vampires hate running water. We get to the bridge and we’re safe!”

Ella groaned and moved to the back of our group. “I’m calling Miriam,” she said. “You’ll keep them distracted, right?”

“Good Plan B, Ella” said Pike. “Stay close and grab a sword, guys.” The trio in front of the amphitheater hadn’t moved from their previous position, and still didn’t move when we picked up swords that were used in the fight scenes recorded earlier. But when we stepped off the stage they started to follow. We walked backward down the path we had come.

“Sorry, gentlemen and lady,” said Pike, “but we’ve got to go.”

“I insist that you stay,” said the man who had spoken to us, with an edge of menace. He and Pike had the following exchange:

Pike: I reject your insistence.

Vampire: Your rejection is futile.

Pike: Your definition of futility is irrelevant.

Vampire: Your concept of relevance is inconsequential.

Pike: Your…inconsequentiality…um….

Second Vampire: Oh, screw this.

The second male vampire lunged at Pike, who responded with an impressive sword strike. “Wow, Pike!” I said. But then I saw that the vampire merely had torn clothes and an affronted look.

“Pike?” said the female vampire. “Hold on.” She looked at the stage, where Pike and his crew had left the equipment. “Are you shooting a movie here?”

“Yeah,” said Pike.

The vampiress looked at us. “Is one of you…Arthur Lewis Ormand?”

I didn’t think it would be a good idea to identify myself and no one else said anything either. The vampiress smirked and widened her eyes. She was looking at me. When she spoke again her voice had a weirdly resonant quality, as if it were causing the strings of a cello to vibrate next to my ear. “Is one of you Arthur…”

“Yeah, that’s me,” I said, with an enthusiasm that surprised me. I half expected a Spartacus moment from my companions, which didn’t materialize. I did hear another groan from Ella, however.

The vampiress moved a little closer to me, though not close enough to be hit by a sword. Her eyes were bright and her full lips were curved in an anticipatory smile that revealed her fangs.

“Omigod!” she said in a normal voice. “I read your blog!”

“Really?” I said.

“Totally!” she responded. “It’s so cool that someone’s writing about the real Detling!”

“Thanks!” I said. I hadn’t met such an enthusiastic a reader before.

“Oh! And I love Ingrid! You should do more stuff with her!”

Ella sighed. “Come on, Arthur, she’s just toying with you.”

The vampiress clapped her hands. “Ooo! You’re Ella, right? That is such an Ella thing to say!”

“Well, yes,” said Ella, a little vexed.

The vampiress turned to her companions. “Aw, we have to let these guys go!”

At that moment a breeze came up. It was strange, because I could hear it and see the vampires’ hair and clothes blowing, but I felt nothing. The breeze quickly escalated to a gale that the vampires had trouble standing against. But I still couldn’t feel anything and it didn’t seem to affect anyone in our group either.

Ella chuckled. “Brilliant, Miriam! Let’s get out of here.”

“But…” I pointed at the vampiress. “I thought we were, you know, connecting.”

“She can post a comment if she likes the blog so much,” Ella said. “Now come on.”

We ran back to our cars and Ella told us to meet at the bookstore. Shortly after I got there, Miriam arrived. She explained that she set up the birdbath in her backyard to show her locations she’s familiar with, kind of like Galadriel’s fountain in The Fellowship of the Ring, I guess. That’s how she knew how to target the wind she created. Upon learning that Miriam couldn’t teleport the movie equipment from the amphitheater, Pike resolved to go there shortly after dawn to retrieve it.