So, the Order of St. George, including White Knight, were plotting to kill Vlad. First thing I did once White Knight dropped me off was call Vlad to warn him.
Vlad answered on the second ring. “Damson! I thought I would never … it is good to hear from you.”
I sort of called him a murderer and stormed off last time I saw him. He killed a relative of mine, in a war, hundreds of years ago. And occasionally I was mentally possessed, sort of, by her sister. That put a big damper on my budding romance with him, sure. But in the last year, he’d saved my life a dozen times and helped me survive some nasty growing pains. Vlad was on the list of people I’d take a bullet for, even if I occasionally felt the urge to fire it.
“Hey, Vlad, look, I’m sorry about, you know, everything, but, nothing’s really changed between you and me.”
“Then why have you called? Are you in trouble?”
“Not this time. You’re the one in trouble.”
I could practically hear his eyebrows going up. “Me?”
“Yeah. You told White Knight you were a dragon. Ma always says if one Georgian knows, they all do. Well, as usual, Ma’s right.”
“Tell me,” he ordered, voice turning all business.
“They’re coming after you tomorrow night, at your house. There’s a half dozen of them, plus White Knight. You need to get out of town, change your name, disappear. Right now.”
“I do not run from Georgians.” His voice was so hard and sharp, it sliced.
“Vlad, they know your abilities and your weaknesses. They’ve been killing dragons for centuries.”
“And I have been killing Georgians for centuries.”
That stopped me for a minute. Some puzzle pieces clicked together in my brain. “You and dad fought together. Dad was at the siege at Camelot. He would never have fought with a Black unless …”
“Unless we had a common enemy.”
“My dad told me, when I was little, that all the Georgians were dead.” I remembered Dad’s face, a flash as vivid as if it just happened. There was a hardness in his eyes that I’d never seen at any other time.
“We believed that we had wiped out their order,” Vlad said. “Sir Robert thought it safe to settle down, marry, have a child. We were wrong.”
My father and Vlad had hunted the hunters, killing any Georgian they could find. I shivered in the warm afternoon sun. “You can’t just kill them, Vlad. It isn’t right.”
“Georgians murdered my wife, Damson. They murdered my children. They murdered my children’s playmates, and the woman who washed our clothes, and her baby still in its cradle. I have dedicated my life to wiping out their order. I won’t rest until the last Georgian is truly dead.”
Oh sweet heaven. I’d just turned this from a trap for Vlad into a trap for White Knight. One of them was going to die tomorrow night. I was surprised to find myself as horrified by the thought of White Knight getting killed as I had been by the thought of Vlad dying. I’m not sure when, but White Knight, arrogant bigot that he was, had become one of those people I’d take a bullet for. “I can’t be responsible for this. Look, consider it a personal favor to me, Vlad. Don’t kill them. Just get out of town.”
His voice softened. “My sweet Damson with the great heart that would save all, whether worthy or no. You are so like your father. He saved my life, even though he hated me. As long as they live, you will always be in danger. I owe it to Sir Robert to make the world safe for his child, as it never was for mine.”
“Vlad, no!” He hung up on me.
Damn. Damn Damn.
What was I going to do?
I looked at my phone as if it would give me an answer.
I saw Liberty’s number. Liberty was one of the most powerful superheroes on earth. I could call her. But what the hell was I going to tell her? She was so straight-laced, she made rulers look crooked. If she got in the middle of this, White Knight or Vlad or both would end up in prison for attempted murder. She’d never understand that they considered themselves soldiers still fighting some centuries old holy war. The law was the law.
I scrolled up. Jack. God, Jack. My heart twisted. Jack would listen. Jack would understand. Jack would hold me, make me feel better, then calmly and sensibly come up with a way out of this mess. Then, his insane courage would put him right in the crossfire. No. No way I would risk getting him in the middle of this.
Fafnir was in Oregon now. If he got on the next available flight, he might be able to get here in time. But what would he do? I remembered him standing over White Knight’s unconscious body, ready to shove the Knight’s own sword through his heart. I swallowed. No, calling Fafnir would just make things worse.
I scrolled all the way to the bottom of my contact list. TakeDown. TakeDown had fought beside White Knight, and Vlad had saved his life a half dozen times. TakeDown considered both White Knight and Vlad to be friends, comrades in arms, fellow heroes. TakeDown would get it.
I touched his number.
“I don’t get it. Why are they trying to kill each other?” TakeDown said.
I sighed. “Look, just meet me at IHOP. I’ll explain.” Why IHOP? I’m sort of used to it, I guess. It’s one of the few places that’s open when I’m normally hungry. I do wish they wouldn’t put pancake batter in the omelets, though. Gives me indigestion.
I told TakeDown everything. I even told him I was a dragon. I’d never told anyone that before.
“So, these Georgias want to kill all dragons to make the world safe.”
“And Vlad wants to kill all Georgians to make the world safe.”
“That about sums it up. They both think they’re heroes, trying to save the world.”
TakeDown ran a hand through his not quite buzzed short brown hair. “What are we supposed to do about it?”
“Keep them from killing each other?”
“Tall order. What kind of firepower do these Georgians have?”
“Other than White Knight, I don’t know. They all moved like someone you wouldn’t want to get crosswise with. I assume they have some way to bypass dragon defenses. Weapons that will cut through scales, or armor that boosts their strength, or maybe they’re supes themselves. I couldn’t tell just by looking at them.”
“What about Vlad? I know most of his abilities, but what else has he got?”
“He’s got a lot of money and some very trigger happy security. I know that. And, since he knows they’re coming for him, he’s probably setting up some sort of trap.”
“So, all we have to do is get in past a multi-millionaire’s paranoid security, not fall into a deadly trap waiting to spring on anyone who gets in, handle the unknown abilities of a group of possibly super-powered religious fanatics trained and armed to kill dragons like Fafnir. And somehow, keep everyone from killing each other, without getting ourselves killed in the process.”
I dropped my head on the table. “Maybe we should try something easier, like negotiating peace in the middle east, or getting Lord Vile to go straight.”
“Piece of cake,” TakeDown said grinning, and patted me on the arm.
He had me draw out a blueprint of Vlad’s house and the grounds around it from memory. Vlad gave me a tour of the place the first time he took me there to train. He had something very much like a modern castle made mostly of concrete with pretty facades over it. It was full of secret passages and had an elevator shaft drilled into the cliff that went down 50 feet to a boat dock on the lake. The roof of one section of the house opened up. Vlad was into stargazing. There was a huge pool with a swim-through tunnel into the house. Most importantly, it was surrounded on two sides by a wall of rock, where the construction crew had dug a flat spot into the side of the hill. One other side had a sheer drop-off cliff down to the water. That was where Vlad taught me to fly.
There was only one way in, a long private road lined with trees that led to a tall iron gate. If you went in straight through the gate, the road led into a huge underground garage, big enough to park a semi in. If you turned left in front of the house, it led to a circular driveway by the massive oak front doors, under the shadow of the tall walls of rock. Both would be great places for an ambush.
“If I were Vlad, I’d have snipers on those rock walls, on the roof, and inside the parking garage,” I told TakeDown.
He nodded. “In case the Georgians have some sort of armor, or another way to handle normal ammo, I’d probably use explosive armor-piercing rounds. If I didn’t care about blowing up my house, I’d add some bombs here and here.” He pointed at the main support structures for the underground concrete parking garage.
“Bury them alive,” I whispered.
“Yeah. If the Georgians go in that way, I’m sure as hell not following them in.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “We could call White Knight. Warn him he’s walking into a trap.”
“If you do that,” TakeDown said very softly, “he’ll know you warned Vlad, so he’ll make sure you don’t overhear their plans anymore. They’ll come after Vlad a different night. You and I won’t know about it. They’ll catch him unprepared.”
“And kill him,” I finished.
“The way I see it, Dee, White Knight and his gang are the perps here. Vlad’s a victim defending himself. You don’t warn a murderer that his victim isn’t a sitting duck.”
I swallowed and nodded. TakeDown had a fairly black and white view of some things. Not as black and white as Liberty, but still. I couldn’t really argue with him on this. Vlad had committed no crime in this country in this century. He was an upstanding citizen in his own home. White Knight and his cronies weren’t going there to arrest Vlad in any case. “Knight’s a hero, TD. He’s the guy who saves busloads of kids. He’s not a murderer.”
“Let’s hope we can keep it that way.”