It took Lumina roughly three days to make it to the town of Normal from the last Op location. The last year had been exhausting, though the return of Lord Evandrus from wherever he’d been hiding had made work more organized than it had been. If only the wolf population hadn’t dropped so much in North America. The children of the six houses flew into a frenzy of growth once the news of the massive change got out. So much so that Lord Evandrus had not only pulled additional children in to assist, but he actually requested the First Father to make more. The mission had come as a request from the Mothers, or Succubi as they called themselves. Their requests always took precedence by order of the First Father. There were reasons for this that looked for all the world like guilt, but no one dared to say it out loud.
Finding The Calm was simple enough. Lumina parked her rental car and put on her mask. It was something of a badge of office that told anyone who recognized it that she was on official business and not to be interfered with. Humans thought she was just some crazy person and let her be, which was fine with her. The mask was a formed plate that looked like a facsimile of a crying face with no mouth and a rising sun on the forehead. Some of her fellows wore a type of hooded frock, but Lumina preferred to wear a plain, long-sleeved black dress shirt and slacks. She also eschewed the armored bracers and velvet gloves many wore in favor of simple black drivers gloves. They were relics and Lumina felt they didn’t offer enough protection for the trouble they caused when observed.
As she entered the Cafe, She could feel the subtle push of a Mother’s glamor. The Cafe was fairly busy and Lumina surmised she didn’t feel more customers were needed at the moment. The staff worked cheerfully, though a few balked when their eyes fell on Lumina’s mask.
“Welcome to The Calm,” The young Barista said, clearly nervous. “Can I take your order?”
“Not at this time,” Lumina said, her voice gentle. “I’m here to speak with the owner, Miss Sapphire Smith. She should be expecting me.”
“I’ll get her,” Another Barista said as she scurried off into the back.
A few moments later, Lumina was directed to the back and into Sapphire’s office. It wasn’t a big space, but it had the distinct cozy air Mother’s tend to surround themselves with. Sapphire was behind her desk, standing with a hand extended. “Thank you for coming. I’m Sapphire.”
“Lumina.” She took Sapphire’s hand and bowed her head respectfully. “How may I assist, Mother Sapphire?”
“I have been harassed by a Vampire named Bo and his siblings,” Sapphire said as she returned to her seat. “They came to my business to do so after I asked another Vampire I am confident was their father to leave.”
“Had the father done anything to be ejected?”
“No. I simply do not allow Vampires in my business under any circumstances.”
“Of course. Do you believe he sent his children to harass you?”
“I don’t think so,” Sapphire said as she began to tap her finger on her desk. “I think he hasn’t taught them any manners, however. They didn’t react as though they understood that they were doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. The one named Bo even groped me in front of my customers and staff.”
“Allow me to apologize for their impudence. I will see them properly educated for this transgression against your peace, Mother Sapphire,” Lumina said, bowing her head again.
“Don’t apologize for them,” Sapphire said, almost spitting the words. “Punish them and make it clear that I am never to see them again.”
“Of course, Mother Sapphire. Have you any idea where I might find the ones who offended you?”
Sapphire nodded and stood up. “Follow me.” Lumina followed her out to the cafe floor where she pointed out a young woman talking to some friends. “That human is his pet. She should know.”
Lumina looked at the woman for a moment before reaching out her mind to touch her. She could feel the effect of the Voice of Authority on her mind. She could feel the owner, Jakob. That was enough. She could track him now.
“I have what I need, Mother Sapphire,” Lumina said softly. “I will go a mete out an appropriate punishment. I assure you that you will not be bothered by these children again.”
“See that you return when you finish so I can reward you,” Sapphire said.
“That is not needed, but I will do as you ask.” Lumina bowed her head again and left the Cafe.
Lumina left on foot, content to leave her rental car at the Cafe as she’d been directed to return. A walk was nice. Three days in a car was hard on the body and even with everything that made her special she was still human. She felt the tug of Jakob’s being leading to a nice part of town that looked to be a renovated industrial area. The pull drew her to a distressed brick warehouse with a secured door. It was too exposed to try and pick and the metal frame would protest too much at being forced. She stepped back and studied the building for a moment. She could feel Jakob on the top floor. The door buzzer showed a few different buttons so when rang them one at a time, looking for a response.
“Hello?” The voice speaker came to life.
“Yeah, hey. I’m your neighbor on the top floor. My outside door key keeps sticking and I don’t wanna break it. Could you buzz me in?” Lumina said, relaxing her voice.
“Bob give you a bad key?” The voice came back.
“I didn’t get it from the building guy. My Dad had it made for me and must have forgot to test it.”
“Ah, I’ve had that happen. Sure, I got you.”
The door buzzed and unlocked with an audible clack.
“Thank you,” Lumina said as she pulled the door open.
The inside of the building had a played up distressed aesthetic, but it was clearly done on purpose and not as the result of lazy design. Even the freight style elevator retained the same old warehouse look, but all the parts and paint were new. Lumina rode the elevator to the top floor, allowing Jakob’s pull to lead her to his home. She rang the bell and stood clearly in view of the peephole.
After a few moments, the door opened to reveal a bearded young man wearing a plain white button-down and tan slacks. He looked at her with confusion making it clear he didn’t know what he was looking at. “Can I help you?”
“I am looking for Jakob. He is here.” Lumina said.
“Yeah, but who are you?”
“He will explain. Take me to your Father at once.”
“Ok,” The young vampire said, allowing Lumina inside. His confusion a testament to his ignorance.
He led her to the next room where a group of vampires lounged. Two were watching TV but an elder one was reading. That was Jakob. Lumina could feel the trail lead to him.
“Who was it, Riggs?” Jakob asked without looking up.
“You will stand before me for judgment, Father Jakob,” Lumina demanded, cutting off Riggs before he could speak.
Jakob’s head snapped up and he visibly blanched. He moved from his seat to standing before Lumina before his book could hit the floor. “Apologies. I did not realize.”
Riggs looked at his maker in confusion and unconsciously stepped away from the woman at his side. The two watching TV had risen to their feet at this point, their expressions as worried as the were confused.
“Which of your Children is named Bo, Father Jakob?” Lumina asked.
“The Tall boy by the TV.” Jakob said, looking directly ahead.
“Stand beside your Father, boy,” Lumina said, point to a spot beside Jakob.
Bo stood for a moment look to his Father for guidance.
“Is he deaf?” Lumina asked, turning her face towards Jakob.
“No. He is simply stupid,” Jakob said, turning to glower at Bo.
“Sorry, Sir,” Bo said as he hurried to his father’s side.
“As a matter of fact, I would like you all to line up before me.” Lumina pointed to the floor besides Jakob and Bo. Riggs and the girl hurried into position. “Bo. You and your siblings seem to be ignorant of what I am. Is this correct?”
“I planed to educate them when I felt it pertinent,” Jakob interjected.
“Father Jakob, I am fairly certain at this point that your name is not Bo.” Lumina turned to look at Jakob again, her tone flat.
“Apologies,” Jakob muttered.
Lumina looked back to Bo and cocked her head expectantly.
“I don’t know what you are,” Bo said after a moment. Seeing his father’s reactions had caused fear to spread through the room making the TV seem much louder than it was.
Lumina tapped her mask. “This is the mask of the Children of Contrition. We are the seventh house of our Lord, The First Father. We serve the Seventh Scion as the tempering hand that guides the family. If you even see this mask, understand that you will obey any command given, no matter how small, lest you cross the will of the First Father. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Bo said.
“I have come because you, Bo, violated a Law. One must never disturb the peace of a Mother. Sapphire Smith, the Owner of The Calm Cafe tells me to broke this Law. You came to her place of peace and cause a disturbance. This alone is unacceptable, but she tells me that you in particular groped her before her staff and customers, I assume as an act of dominance.”
“You did what?” Jakob said, his eyes bulging with rage.
“I didn-” Bo’s voice was cut off as Lumina grabbed his throat and pulled him down to face her.
“You will not speak lies in my presence,” Lumina said, her voice hard. She could feel the lie even as it formed in his mouth. “I did not ask for a confession. I am telling you what you did wrong. If you attempt to lie again, you will suffer for it.”
“Ok,” Bo croaked out. Lumina released him to a small shove.
“The crime of disturbing a Mother’s peace is severe, as you will come to understand.”
“I’m sorry, but what is a Mother?” The female vampire asked. “I mean besides the obvious.”
“Outrageous.” Lumina said, the words coming unbidden as she looked back to Jakob. “What else have you failed to teach your children?”
Jakob was silent, his head drooping in defeat.
Lumina stepped to the young woman. “What is your name?”
“Farrah,” She replied.
Lumina placed her hands on either side of Farrah’s face and ran through her mind. She searched for the rules and laws. She looked for general knowledge and there was nothing of value. She released Farrah’s face and found herself genuinely angry. “You have taught this girl nothing, Father Jakob.” She practically spat the words. “She doesn’t know anything about the First Father beside his name and that he is to be respected. Your abject failure is not a violation of the law, but such disregard for the lives of your children is simply unacceptable.”
“It was my intent-” Jakob started.
“At what point did you believe I would care about your intent? Does intent undo the fact that I was summoned by Mothers to punish ignorant children for breaking the law? Do you believe your intent will stay my hand?” Lumina almost shouted.
Jakob’s head dropped again. “No,” He said softly.
Lumina adjusted her shirt sleeves. “In light of your ignorance, Bo. I will will offer you a mercy as well as an education. One I expect your Father will complete in time. On your knees.”
Bo did as commanded and sat on his heels.
“Based on your sister’s ignorance, I assume you do not know the true nature of your curse. It is an insidious and subtle thing. Most allow their children to discover the truth on their own. I will give you this knowledge early, however.” Lumina reached into him with her mind, effortlessly finding the thing she was looking for. The trigger for the curse. She could feel the pain he had inflicted on his victims as a stream, small and weak, but more than enough for her needs. She loosed it on his psyche and release him. The effects were instantaneous as usual. He froze, his face a rictus of pain. “He will enjoy what he has given the world for the next week. You however, Father Jakob, will drink until the cup is dry. When you awake I expect that not only will you educate these children, but that you will vacate this town. I’m sure another will enjoy it more reasonably.”
Jakob began to shake and wring his hands. “May I at least kneel first?” He asked.
Jakob settled on to his knees and Lumina release the river of pain his soul held at bay. He froze, much like his son, though his face was more one of terror and simply pain.
“I do not know for sure how long your Father will sleep, but when he wakes, remind him of my commands.” Lumina turned to leave, her work finished.
She felt, rather than saw, Riggs’ outstretched hand and the words of protest forming on his lips. He would not have time to recognize his mistake. Lumina spun and with a flick of her arm she shattered his. She loosed the stream of pain in his mind and watched as he hit the floor face first. “Let that be a lesson to you, Farrah,” She said without looking at the last vampire standing. “Care for your siblings until they wake. Care for your father until he wakes and understand this,” She said as she stepped towards her, over the body of the fallen Riggs, “The Children of Contrition do not offer mercy twice. When they wake, you leave. If I return and you have not left, I will bring hunters with me and I will feed you to them. Understood?”
“Yes,” Farrah said, through hands clasped over her mouth.
Lumina returned to the Cafe, checking her phone as she went. There had been no new orders yet, so she could finally take a break. She considered renting a room to sleep as it had been a few days. At the Cafe, she found Sapphire serving customers. She waved Lumina to the counter with a warm smile.
“Did you deal with it?” The Mother asked.
“I did. They will not bother you again,” Lumina said simply.
“Good,” Sapphire said, as she handed her a small sandwich. “What can I get you?”
Lumina removed her mask and tucked it under her arm. “What is good?” She smiled.