OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gustav Mahler Persia

8. Vampire, or Too Many Haikus

Tira returns to her room, troubled by the vision. She resolves to discuss it with Farallon or the River Master the next day.

Earlier that same day, Hank and Haiku have already talked to Master Crockett. They are giving to him the winnings for the bet he placed on Mahler and company. Crockett is pleased that all have survived and graciously gives them a share of his winnings to purchase some healing for the giant. They go to the House of Healing in the Hall of Art and speak to a Healer. It takes their entire store of fifty gold eagles, but they gey a healer to come with them to the Kraken's Head. Healer Blaine examines Mahler and immediately determines that he is riven. Blaine tells Mahler that his riving is not particularly severe and could be cured. He warns him that the process would be expensive though, probably on the order of five hundred eagles. Mahler is dismayed by the cost, but realizes that if he ever comes into such a sum, he might be able to aid Sanyo. It takes the greater portion of the day, but Blaine manages to restore Mahler to a vastly improved state of health, closing his wounds, knitting bone and restoring internal organs. Blaine does not offer to heal Char.

Back at Persia's Haiku announces that the River Master has hired her for a trip up to the Boothian Peninsula. Haiku recovered Scorch's sword after Iron John killed him and decided to see if she could sell it. The River Master agreed to sell it on consignment and wants Haiku to accompany him, on the trip. They will be gone about two weeks.

Tira talks to the River Master about her vision. Crockett tells her that Kanukka did die in fire, but has never heard of the type of apparition she saw. She tells him that Scorch had taken her lumina crystal before he died and asks how she might retrieve it. He suggests that she speak to someone more familiar with the underworld, like her friend Persia.

Persia in the meantime bids Basarin farewell. The half-breed has summoned up the courage to apply for membership in the dance troupe that performs at the Theater, and has been accepted. She will be moving out and taking up residence there.

Hank has decided he is tired of the rain holding up his road repair activities and requisitions oil clothes to make temporary work tents over his project. The Architect is impressed with his ingenuity.

Tira asks Persia to see if she can contact Harker for her. She neatly pens three letters, each stating plainly:

Dear Mr. Harker,

May I please have my crystal back? You can send it to the Hall of Art,



Persia cannot read, and so takes the letter with a straight face. It takes her four days to track down Firkin, an informant whom she knows has connections to Harker. Firkin tells her that it might take him a day or two to get an answer. Persia tells him he will receive a gold eagle for his trouble; half now, half when the message is delivered. She also buys him a beer.

Firkin returns to the Kraken two nights later. He says that Harker would be delighted to return the crystal on one condition: Tira must agree to a private audience with the crime boss on his private yacht. Despite the misgivings of her companions, Tira agrees, Harker has told her to be at a particular pier on the next night when there is heavy rainfall at sunset.

While waiting for this to occur, Tira has Farralon show her a painting of Kanukka. Although the figure she saw in the garden was indistinct and swiftly vanished, it seemed to have dark hair, while the former Archon was a redhead. Also she finds out that Gamina has dropped out of school and has not been seen since the day after the Death Pit.

Six days pass before rain falls at sunset. Tira dutifully reports to the dock as directed. Mahler borrows a rowboat from a friend at the fishdocks and the rest of the party follows her at a discrete distance, in case Harker should try something undehanded. They wait tensely in the small boat, bailing the rainwater, while Tira is rowed out in a golem-rowed covered boat to Harker's large and extravagant houseboat. Here she is taken aboard and searched for hidden weaponry before being ushered into his presence

Harker questions her deeply about her past in the Wilds and her current situation in the city. He seems to already know a great deal. In particular he wants to know why Iron John and by extension the Archon are so interested in her. She responds that it is a mystery to her, but speaks candidly about her experiences in the city so far. Harker also wants her to tell Haiku to stop snooping around his clubs. He has ignored her presence so far, because she has been losing large amounts of money in his gambling dens. But enough is enough, he says. With the death of Spike, he expected the party to stay out of his way. He is convinced that Haiku is trying to spy on his operations.

This is all news to Tira, who believes that Haiku is away on a trip with the River Master. She protests this to Harker, who tells her that she has probably been lied to. Nevertheless, when Tira asks for her lumina crystal, he removes it from a drawer and presents it to her. He tells her that an education at the Hall is very expensive, and he would be willing to pay for any information she might have on Iron John's or the Archon's interest. He tells her there is a drop box at the Wyvern's Roost that is checked regularly. She agrees and is escorted back to the shore. Once on the docks, she lights her crystal to signal her soaking comrades in the rowboat that she is safe. They return the rowboat and hold a hasty conference in the boathouse. They decide to return to the Kraken to discuss what they have learned.

At the tavern, they compare notes and still come up dumbfounded. It is Sanyo of all people who comes up with a solution. The strange doings with Gamina and with Haiku fit the pattern of a legendary creature called a vampire. A vampire is a spirit that subsists by devouring the spirits of others. After a period of intimate contact, the vampire will assume the morphia, anima and psyche of the victim. The victim will slowly wither away, becoming slower, weaker, simpler and less distinct until finally they disappear into dust. They determine that a vampire must have attacked Gamina. While the real Gamina weakened, the vampire walked about the city posing as her. When the healthy Gamina of the Death Pit pretended to heal Haiku's wounds, the intimate contact with Haiku's blood allowed her to begin the process of stealing her spirit. While Haiku has been away with the River Master, the vampire has been posing as her.

This is confirmed when Mahler Hank and Tira, returning to the Hall encounter Keno, quartermaster of the Columbia, escorting a weakened and slow-witted Haiku towards the Kraken's Head. Tira and Hank go to the River Master, while Mahler carries Haiku back to the Tavern. Before they separate, they are interrupted by a large and extremely good-looking warrior who runs pasts them with a look of stark terror on his face. Since he does not stop to talk, they continue on about their business.

The River Master does not necessarily believe their tale of vampires, but realizes that Haiku is indeed sick. Since Sanyo told them that vampires of legend are harmed by the light of lumina, Crockett agrees to lend them a couple of lanterns from the Columbia. He also agrees to accompany them, should they need some back up.

Tira runs to the Hall of Art and drags Farralon from his bed, telling him tales about vampires and lumina and doubles. Farralon is about to question her, but when she mentions that Haiku's life is endangered he grabs his oil cloak and says she can explain on the way.

Meanwhile, Persia has been prowling about the rooftops in the vicinity of the Kraken and has spotted someone who she could swear was Haiku running through the city with swords bared obviously searching for someone. She follows for a block or two and then calls out to her. The double of Haiku looks up at her with no sense of recognition. She looks just like Haiku, but speaks with an odd accent. She shows tells Persia that if she has not seen a certain lowlife sneak-thief cutpurse, then she can get lost. Persia retreats, perplexed, but continues to follow from the shadows. She sees the strange Haiku encounter a good-looking warrior with a look of terror on his face. He shrieks upon seeing her and flees. “Haiku” looks at his retreating form in consternation and says, “What the hell was that about?”

Meanwhile Tira and Hank, returning to the shambles with Farralon and the River Master encounter some armed men, who recognize the wooden man from the pits to be a companion of Haiku. They claim that she has just broken into one of their gambling dens and broken a table and upset some customers. They are about to get more forceful with their interrogation when the River Master reveals his presence. Cowed by the appearance of a Master, the men retreat. As they approach the tavern they startle a suspicious-looking man who ducks into a nearby sewer opening, a rash action on a rainy night. As they approach the Kraken's head they are observed by Persia. She abandons her shadowing of the other Haiku to follow them into the building. There she finds Farralon explaining to the others that before Gamina disappeared, she apparently removed a large number of valuables from her father's household. Evidently the vampire, before abandoning her last identity wanted to grab as much money as she could to support an apparently hedonistic lifestyle. She tells them what she has seen and they immediately react by rushing out into the street. Persia directs them to the last place she saw the other Haiku and they see her disappear around a corner chasing the suspicious-looking figure who had earlier dived into the sewer, while shouting, “Stop, thief!”. They immediately hear someone shout out, “vampire!” followed by the sounds of combat.

Rounding the corner they see... two Haikus, locked in combat. One of them appears to know Tira and tells her to slay the double. Tira responds by raising her lumina.

Mahler notices the thief trying to skulk away in the confusion and casually snatches him off his feet.

The Haiku who recognized Tira immediately breaks off combat upon seeing the lumina and runs down a narrow alley, knocking a lantern from Hank's hand and smashing it on the cobbles. Persia follows in hot pursuit. In the meantime, Farralon looks at the remaining Haiku and cries, “Nyra?” who replies, “Farralon?” While from the upper back window of the Kraken's head the weakened Haiku leans out and loudly demands what all the noise is about.

Tira at this time decides to circle around the Kraken and cut off the other end of the alley. Here she surprises the handsome warrior, who seems to have picked this place to hide. He takes one look behind him and screams, “She's not human; she can't be killed!” Babbling something about seeing a mortal wound he had given the vampire close nearly instantly he admonishes Tira to run for her life. Tira watches him run off and advances upon the vampire, who is closely followed by Persia and the River Master. The supposed vampire, trapped between foes, decides to attack Tira. It is unnerving because she appears to be Haiku in all respects right down to Tira's spirit sight. Tira summons her nerve and strikes at the vampire with her eating knife, delivering a bloody gash. The Rivermaster also delivers a telling blow with his broadsword while the bogus Haiku narrowly misses decapitating the young adept. It is Persia and her stiletto that finally end the combat. No sooner has the agile feline withdrawn her slender dagger than the vampire utters an inhuman cry and begins to disintegrate before their very eyes. In a moment, there is nothing left but dust washing into muddy lumps by the driving rain. Persia decides to separate the sludge into bits with her feet, completing the destruction.

Meanwhile Mahler, who was too big to follow the others down the alley, has asked Nyra, show is apparently a friend of Farralon, if the man he is holding has stolen anything from her. She says he has taken her pouch and it contained a valuable letter. She vows to kill the cutpurse if the letter is not there. The greasy little man claims that if had found such a pouch he would surely have returned it to her. Mahler decides to settle the problem efficiently and upends the thief, shaking him up and down. A variety of items fall to the cobbles, including three or four pouches, a garrote, a sap and a slim dagger.. Nyra snatches up her pouch and finds a letter within, unopened. She tells Mahler that he can let the man go. Mahler does so, but first picks up the pouches and tools from the ground. He tells the little man that he can collect them tomorrow morning at the Kraken, if he is in fact an honest man. The man swears to do so, rapidly running down the rainy lane. He is never seen again, of course.

Eventually, everyone returns to the Kraken. Koda serves up a late dinner (or early breakfast) to everyone while introductions are made. Tira teases Farralon about his evident attraction to women from the Wilds. Nyra reveals that she is Kabekki and she is bearing a letter she intends to deliver to the Archon. She says nothing about its contents. By comparing ancestries with the real Haiku, who is recovering rapidly upon the destruction of the vampire, they discover a common ancestor. Haiku and Nyra share the same grandmother, a Kabekki woman named Ysolde, who was captured by Yzlond raiders thirty years ago. They decide that this accounts for their strong resemblance to one another. In the warm light of the inn, and out of the rain, the differences between the two are more clearly seen. Nyra decides to spend the night at the Kraken's Head, seemingly familiar with the tavern. Persia returns home. Tira is about to spend the night next to Char when Farralon reminds her that she will be missed back at the Hall. Mahler offers to escort the students back through the city. (11/17/01)

To learn more about how
Farralon knows Nyra, see the story,
Bad Night in the Shambles