// STRIXHAVEN; MAURICE’S COLONIAL HOUSE //

The sun slowly fills the house with light. The party, composed of MANDARC, CEDRIC, KEVIN, STRAUD, have sheltered the night in the town of Strixhaven in the home of the mage MAURICE WEATHERSPOON.

The evening prior, the night fell, and with it, KEVIN’s consciousness. As a Vampire who’d endured the Cure, he had resuccumbed to the need for nightly sleep.

KEVIN had claimed one of the spare bedrooms to fulfill this need. Outside the door, acting as guard, are the Vampires VLADISLAUS STRAUD, CEDRIC, MANDARC. They have been taking turns meditating so as to preserve energy for the trip ahead.

MANDARC has fed twice in the night. If the other men wonder where he’s sourced his meals, they say nothing.

If all goes as expected today, he’s expecting this evening to see the face of a one FRIDAY PERKINS; a talented mage with whom he’d once shared a bed.

Figuratively, of course.

Shortly after leaving McCOY’s service, MANDARC had been swiped up by the prestigious VLADISLAUS STRAUD: a name with which all vampires, young and old, were well-aware.

The Elder had taken him under his wing without hesitation, providing him with most every need.

Most every.

FRIDAY PERKINS had been a student of MYRTLE MARSCAPONE’s Queens academy who’d never strayed too far from the nest after graduation.

Had PERKINS found the Elder or was it the Elder who’d sought her? MANDARC didn’t know, nor did he ever intend to seek the answer. Some things were better left to the realm of mystery.

But it was certainly true that she’d displayed a persistent jealousy of the Gift. Her magical bloodline would stop the Curse from ever fully becoming manifest; even if he’d tried to convert her, in a few days, like having suffered a flu, she’d be back to her same old self.

MANDARC had tried, with the best of intentions, to convince her that life among the eternal undead wasn’t all she thought it cracked up to be, but his petition had fallen on deaf ears.

Today, he can only hope she’s been neglecting her studies.

The sound of stirring comes from inside the chamber.

In a moment, emerges the red-haired KEVIN MARSCAPONE.

KEVIN

‘MORNING.

WE SHOULD GET ON THE ROAD.

This suited MANDARC just fine; the last thing he wanted was to sit down in some stiff chairs and wait for MAURICE to fry eggs. He seemed nice enough for one of the Enchanted, but he was still just that.

Had KEVIN received any messages in the moonpass? STRAUD insisted, vehemently, that the visions were anything but prophecy – but MANDARC maintained suspicion.

A finely crafted synthesis seemed indistinguishable from Creation.

~ ~ ~

Without so much as a word to their host, the four leave the house from the door in which they entered.

The van they’ve enlisted as their convoy is entirely black, save the tinted windows. It is taller than a standard four-door. MANDARC has gleaned that KEVIN has given it a nickname.

“The MONSTROSITY.”

It is a stupid name. The implication, the comparison, offends him.

~ ~ ~

Inside the faithful steed, the journey continues. Signs for Saint Louie become more frequent. The estimated distance in miles steadily declines.

MANDARC can’t wait to get out of this car.

KEVIN

SO.

DO WE HAVE AN ADDRESS FOR THIS PLACE? I’VE NEVER BEEN.

STRAUD

WE’RE LOOKING FOR NEW YORK TELEPHONE.

CEDRIC, ever self-assured, dares to correct him.

CEDRIC

SAINT LOUIE.

STRAUD maintains his distance, refusing the strike-out.

STRAUD

WHATEVER.

~ ~ ~

KEVIN makes his way downtown, following signs for the local telephone authority. Located next to the monolith is a large parking garage.

Underneath the stone entrance is hung a large cylinder, horizontal, intended to indicate the limiting height for any vehicle desiring entrance.

KEVIN

I THINK WE’RE JUST GONNA MAKE IT.

They drive through. KEVIN rolls down his window and accepts a parking ticket.

They find space for the car.

SLAM.
SLAM.
SLAM.

The four of them make their way to the entrance.

~ ~ ~

The front of the building is done in floor-to-ceiling glass.

What was clearly once an open, austere space, festooned with colorful mosaic, has since been lined with a row of metal detectors and security desks. Each desk boasts just a singular folding chair.

There is no one in line.

CEDRIC walks up to the desk.

CEDRIC

GOOD MORNING, OFFICER.

MANDARC is sure that he’s received news that his new position as a cop has been accepted. What was ever denied to CEDRIC?

SECURITY

WELCOME. WHAT BUSINESS HAVE YOU?

MANDARC looks about. He despises anything that takes him into the world of the Mortals.

STRAUD

RECORDS AND BOOK-KEEPING.

The man, heavy-set, pauses for a moment, looking over each of them. Like their appearance in the grocery store the day prior, MANDARC can’t help but feel out-of-place and awkward; technicolor among the monotone.

The request is received and approved.

SECURITY

DOWNSTAIRS. TAKE THOSE STAIRS –

He gestures.

OVER THERE AND IT’S DOWN THE HALLWAY TO YOUR LEFT.

CEDRIC

WE’LL NEED TO USE THE ELEVATOR.

MY FATHER…

CEDRIC steps back as if to motion toward VLADISLAUS STRAUD.

The man’s expression weakens, apologetic for his inattention.

SECURITY

OH… MY GOODNESS.

I’M SO SORRY.

I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE…

A realization falls over MANDARC.

MANDARC

(thinking) He’s using the glamour.

(thinking) And he thinks the Professor…

(thinking) …is in… a wheelchair?

SECURITY

I’M SO SORRY, SIRS. IT’S BEEN A LONG DAY.

PLEASE, SIRS.

MAKE YOUR WAY OVER THIS WAY.

MANDARC

(thinking) They’re letting us through. We’re bypassing the detector.

He tries to stifle a laugh.

(thinking) He thinks Kevin is pushing the wheelchair.

Once past the checkpoint, they descend the stairs originally indicated by the uniformed man.

They have no need for an elevator. But what does he know?

People bustle about the marble floor. Rooms are labeled with clear signage. The place seems to buzz with activity.

MANDARC

(thinking) Few visitors. Many employees.

Finally they reach their destination.

The sign seems to quote STRAUD.

RECORDS & BOOK-KEEPING

The door is unlocked.

~ ~ ~

Inside are rows and rows of tall shelves. The shelves are packed floor-to-ceiling with phone-books.

Each has a yellow spine.

STRAUD

WE NEED THE WHITES.

KEVIN

KEEP LOOKING.

Inward they proceed, single-file, working their way through each aisle.

The labels get less and less modern, the font choices becoming more arcane in ornamentation. The smell of oil and dust is overwhelming.

MANDARC

SEVENTIES… SIXTIES…

HOW FAR BACK DO WE NEED TO GO?

STRAUD

JUST PICK ONE UP, MANDARC.

MANDARC raises his hand and places it on an aged spine.

1953-54

MANDARC goes to hand it to STRAUD. But the silver-haired gentleman waves his hand as if to dismiss the presentation.

STRAUD

DON’T MAKE ME. CAN YOU NOT READ?

Something seems to possess the young vampire. He moves away from the group, eyeing none of them. The others step back to allow him space.

He lays the book on his lap and opens it, preparing to flip through it. But something seems off about his approach.

MANDARC

(thinking) This… is all wrong.

He grabs it by the cover and he lets his intuition guide him. He holds the book perpendicular and lets gravity pull each page. The sound of the leaves cascading echoes against the bookshelves.

Soon the book closes with a:

FWAP!

The room is silent, choked in the smell of acid-eaten paper.

STRAUD

DO YOU KNOW WHERE WE ARE NOW?

MANDARC is silent, dazed, somewhat unaware of what’s just transposed.

He lost all sense of time in the succession of names and numbers. But something, somewhere, seems to have sunken into his memory.

He’s been stunned into silence.

A clatter of keys rattle in KEVIN’s hand.

KEVIN

HERE.

He tosses the keys to MANDARC, who catches them one-handed.

YOU DRIVE.

~ ~ ~

The WEASLIE house is tucked away in an antiquing suburb of Saint Louie. The streets are oddly quiet. The sky is grey, cloudy.

When the car drives into the driveway, MANDARC wonders if the engine’s roar had been audible from inside the home.

CEDRIC

SO.

WE REALLY DOIN’ THIS, HUH.

The four exit the car.

MANDARC stands still and looks about. In the distance, hears a dog barking, but it is not his dog.

MANDARC

WE JUST… GONNA…

STRAUD tries to reassure him.

STRAUD

LET ME GO FIRST.

The four clutter outside the primary entrance to the residence. STRAUD stands silent for a moment.

MANDARC thinks he hears the television chattering away. The sound effects and general tone make it sound like a drama.

MANDARC

(thinking) How little has changed.

And with a swift cadence,

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

STRAUD jiggles the door handle and…

it comes open.

When MANDARC looks up, STRAUD has already placed his foot inside the door.

MANDARC steps over as if to follow him; the others follow suit.

STRAUD

EVENING, MISS – FRIDAY PERKINS.

The sound of his voice is slightly muffled.

I THINK YOU HAVE SOMETHING THAT BELONGS TO US.

MANDARC enters the door and the indoor scene comes into view.

PERKINS was indeed sitting upon the couch watching television; the red-haired WEASLIE sits off to the side of the room positioned at the will of the computer.

They had clearly not been expecting company.

PERKINS catches sight of MANDARC.

PERKINS

YOU?!

The remaining vampire and mage enter the doorway.

PERKINS starts to comprehend the seriousness of this intrusion. But she tries to hold her ground, standing, gritting her teeth.

I SEE YOU BROUGHT ALL YOUR BUDDIES WITH YOU.

COWARD.

BRONALD WEASLIE stands up from the computer chair.

STRAUD

MISS PERKINS.

THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AN ORDEAL.

WE ARE JUST AFTER THE DOG.

She grimaces, widens her stance. The air seems thick, viscous with her rage.

What comes out of her mouth is of deafening volume. All but STRAUD wince, draw their hands toward their ears.

PERKINS

THE DOG IS MINE!

But STRAUD maintains his composure.

STRAUD

MISS PERKINS. PLEASE CONTAIN YOURSELF.

THERE IS NO REASON YOU NEED TO RESIST OUR REQUEST.

He turns to WEASLIE.

PLEASE, MY OLD FRIEND.

CAN YOU TALK SOME SENSE INTO YOUR LADYFRIEND?

I WAS NOT AWARE SHE EVEN ENJOYED THE COMPANY OF THOSE OF A CANINE…

PERSUASION.

PERKINS

SNAP OUT OF IT, WEASLIE!

But her words seem ineffective.

MANDARC steals the stage.

MANDARC

FRIDAY. PLEASE.

I DON’T WANT TO FIGHT.

I JUST WANT MY DOG BACK.

PERKINS

YOUR DOG?!

She raises her hands in bared fists.

YOUR DOG.

MANDARC

YES. MY DOG.

PERKINS lunges at the group, aims a punch at MANDARC. KEVIN, CEDRIC disappear from sight.

MANDARC steps aside from PERKINS with relative ease.

STRAUD

WEASLIE. YOUR GREAT-UNCLE WAS A DEAR FRIEND OF MINE.

I SUPPOSE YOU DON’T REMEMBER ME…

BUT HE WAS A GOOD MAN.

HE DID GOOD THINGS.

PERKINS doesn’t intend to go after the Master; she believes MANDARC should make for easier pickins.

PERKINS

SLOW DOWN YOU COKED OUT PIECE OF SHIT!

STRAUD

WEASLIE. PLEASE LISTEN TO ME.

YOU DON’T WANT TO THROW YOUR LOT IN WITH THIS WITCH.

YOU’RE MORE THAN THIS.

MANDARC is affected by the witch’s slow spell; he can feel the molasses take effect as he steps to the other side of the living room. It feels incredibly crowded with delicate furniture.

Can’t he just get the dog without making a mess of things?

MANDARC

FRIDAY.

DON’T BE LIKE THIS.

She turns around to face him. Her red eyes glow with a familiar intensity.

STRAUD

WHERE IS THE CRYSTAL, WEASLIE?

I CAN FEEL ITS PRESENCE.

DON’T INSULT ME BY FEIGNING IGNORANCE.

MANDARC

FRIDAY. PLEASE. YOU’RE NOT YOURSELF.

PERKINS

WHAT WOULD YOU KNOW?

YOU AND YOUR… YOUR…

PILLOWFRIEND

REFUSED ME THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE!

FRIDAY raises her hands and a crackle of lightning emits from her outstretched fingers.

MANDARC focuses, finds that emptiness and peace within his body, trying to remember what the Master has taught him.

The electricity glows blue and he tries to visualize its arc –

Nothing about the universe is truly random.

With great difficulty, still afflicted, he raises his hand.

The electron flow is absorbed.

It energizes him, reverberates through his matter.

The slow has been neutralized.

But as he shakes clear of the alteration, PERKINS seizes the opportunity to lunge at him in an effort to deliver another punch to the face.

MANDARC blocks her, energized, invigorated.

His palm stops her punch, his fingers gently cupping her fist.

MANDARC gets a moment face-to-face with the spellcaster. As they make contact and the force of her intended blow dissipates, her pale skin seems to take on a scaly appearance, crumbling.

One, just one, of her protections, has melted.

STRAUD

WEASLIE, WE WERE FRIENDS ONCE.

GIVE ME THE GIFT FROM YOUR FORMER MASTER.

YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT HE WEARS THE GUISE OF A FALSE PROPHET.

CEDRIC, KEVIN are nowhere to be found. Where the actual fuck are they?!

MANDARC

WHY ARE YOU SO PISSED OFF?

FRIDAY

BECAUSE – MANDARC.

HE’S MY DOG NOW.

MANDARC

YOU’RE WRONG.

FRIDAY

YOU CAME HERE, BEFORE, DIDN’T YOU?

LEFT YOUR PUTRID SCENT FOR THE HOUND TO FOLLOW.

I WAS TRYING – TO CONVINCE HIM… –

She seems to have some trouble shouting through gritted teeth. But she opens her mouth and screams again.

THAT YOU’D DIED!

She raises her right hand and above begins to twirl a needle of glistening ice. The spear grows as it spins, becoming thicker; a diamond of pure malice.

MANDARC

(thinking) How will I evade this?

STRAUD

WHERE IS HE, WEASLIE?

WHERE IS THE DOCTOR?

PERKINS finally lets loose her missile and as if with preternatural reaction, MANDARC dodges the spike hurled, but feels a rush of air graze his cheek. Behind him, a window shatters.

STRAUD turns his attention from the stunned WEASLIE and addresses MANDARC.

The voice is quiet and calm. They are back at the STRAUD MANSION, or are they?

(whispering) Do not fear the sand. The Witch cannot touch you.

MANDARC blinks and resumes consciousness. PERKINS has broken the window and shards of glass permiate the echo of shattering.

PERKINS is going to throw the shards at him.

(whispering) The Blood Mage has been here. We must escape before the moon rises.

How can he hear –

DODGE!

The shards of glass whirr past his face.

PERKINS

STRAUD! VLAD! YOU CHEAT!

She changes her aim, turning toward the silver-haired man. She aims a strike toward him but he catches the projectile in his hand. He holds her firm.

STRAUD

NO.

Her body flies backward, landing with a THUNK on the couch.

The television has been blaring audio this entire time.

Unaware voices talk amongst themselves, heedless.

LEAVE US, CHILD.

He turns back to WEASLIE. With one finger, he touches the young man upon the nose.

MANDARC

ONE LAST HIT, MASTER.

LET ME FINISH HER OFF.

His face, but not his body, turn toward his apprentice.

STRAUD

YOU’VE BEEN DOING NAUGHT BUT AVOIDING HER.

YOU WILL SHOW MERCY.

YOU WILL SHOW MERCY.

YOUR FRIENDS ARE OUTSIDE. THEY’VE LEASHED YOUR DOG.

WE’RE READY TO GO.

PERKINS is still sitting on the couch, exhausted. Some kind of holding spell?

YOU’VE DONE WELL. REJOIN YOUR PARTY.

He feels the pull to obedience. In the melee he’s seen hide nor hair of his lost companion.

MANDARC

BUT WE HAVEN’T EVEN…

STRAUD

YOUR FRIENDS HAVE TAKEN CARE OF EVERYTHING.

MANDARC

MY…

STRAUD

WHAT, YOU THINK THEY ARE MY FRIENDS?

MANDARC pauses.

STRAUD turns around and faces WEASLIE, sitting in the computer chair. His eyes are blank, expressionless.

MANDARC must do as his Master says – he leaves the room, leaving the door open as he goes.

From inside the house comes the same muffled sound.

STRAUD

SIT STILL.

THIS WON’T HURT… ONE BIT.

~ ~ ~

Outside, the dog DEXX is bound on a leash. He shifts around uncomfortably, but when he sees MANDARC, he pulls against his binds, eager for greeting.

KEVIN

MANDARC.

WE GOT THE DOG’S FOOD.

HE’S BEEN OUT.

I THINK WE’RE ABOUT READY TO LEAVE.

CEDRIC has that familiar… shit-eating grin of satisfaction upon his smug face.

MANDARC turns back toward the house.

STRAUD soon steps out, locks the door behind him. He walks down the steps, avoiding an untamed tangle of weeds.

STRAUD

HAVE WE JUST ABOUT FINISHED?

~ ~ ~

The car is quiet. Even the dog settles down and snuggles into MANDARC’s lap, trying to resist falling to the sway of the turbulence.

Suddenly, their phones alight with urgency.

All not driving have their faces buried in the text, silent with shock.


PIDGE-ADMIN//

open chat @08:41 PM

GEORGE HENRY//

It's the Missus.

She's dead.

close chat @08:41 PM