Omeria didn’t feel so inclined to sit by Rayden in the dining hall during first meal. It was impossible to forget the ridiculous pseudoargument that occurred between Rayden and Nestor over Hettie and herself. The argument that led to Nestor’s blackened eye. If Sam wasn’t there to break it up what would have transpired? Rayden did come with a young man’s appeal but his energy and mannerisms were annoyingly off-putting. Though he was one of the best Kobo protectors, she would never feel safe with him around her or Nestor again. She did in fact see a punch to the face kill her brother Jacobi just weeks prior. If Rayden would hit Nestor, his leader and frenemy, then he would be likely to strike anyone. Sam and Omeria, seated together, briefly bonded over their dislike and distrust of Rayden.
Sam vented to Omeria. “And they wanted to exile me for helping Lottie Punishere escape her captivity. I was a hero. But this fool gets to punch Nestor straight in that non-aging face of his and still break bread with us, like it never happened. I should’ve let him finish. Knock some sense into Nestor for once.”
Omeria took in a big gulp of berry juice. “Well, in all fairness Grant and Yessenia exiled you. Nestor was in the deep sleep when Grant was the leader. Nestor knows how much you contribute to Kobo.”
Sam perked up. “I’m glad, somebody notices… Cause I notice a lot of things. Odd things.”
The other Kobo builders at the table seemed to be in their own world. They discussed the upcoming housing projects, women, meals, the fee for grapes and Errola’s future Ondello gold festival in which Omeria was the only one at the table who would be invited.
Omeria laughed. “Odd things…please inform me. I haven’t noticed anything odd here at all. Oh, yes besides Nestor’s visions of the past, the warlock and the female Punishere strolling about among us.”
Sam continued, “You do see that Nestor and Grant are both missing from first meal?”
“Is that cause for concern? They are getting ready for the leader’s summit. Or looking for the goldkeeper’s ledger book. Grant is going to escort me to Ondello soon. They’ll be back shortly,” Omeria stared at the berry soaked lettuce on her plate. “It would be nice if Nestor told me when he won’t be around. I hear that he has too many enemies to count. I do worry about that.”
Sam responded, “No, he won’t tell you his whereabouts. Nestor and Grant disappear together often. I believe that Grant, the perfect man is ill with a sickness. I saw Grant once looking feverish and pale. His eyes were red not brown. They never talk of it, when I ask about it. Not even Yessenia, the old crow.”
“Anyone can get ill?”
“Not the perfect man,”Sam believed. “No, they are hiding something. They never say where they are going. I saw Grant late at night, wrapped in a big cloth. Nestor was taking him outside of the gate. I was close to Agnes and she said she didn’t know why. If Nestor kept a secret about himself and Grant from Agnes then it is something big that should be looked into. You could…”
Omeria stared into Sam’s dull eyes. “I’m not spying on Nestor for you. I’ve been here for five moments. You’ve been here a lifetime. Perhaps, you don’t need to know. Blindly jumping heart first into Lottie Punishere’s concerns is what got you exiled from Kobo.”
Sam smiled. “You might be right about that. But I wouldn’t waste too much of your time fretting about Rayden. Grant is the golden coin here. Cause there is no one and I mean no one that Nestor cherishes more than Grant. I’d bet if Grant said so, you’d be gone.”
“It’s no secret that Nestor favors Grant, “Omeria noted. “It’s not like he’s his flame or anything, cause I am.”
“Now, I’m not saying that they are involved. I just feel like Nestor would give his right eye for Grant and I still wonder why. It’s like he adores Grant. Like he owes him and not for being his former goldkeeper or confidant. If I was you, I would find out why he loves Grant so so much.”
“Oh, yes gain his trust and then tell you all about it.”
“Well, of course. And I’ll keep their big secret.”
“Wait a moment…Is this all about you being exiled?”Omeria asked. “You want some dirt on Grant and Nestor so they’ll think twice about exiling you again?”
Sam turned his whole body towards her. “Listen carefully. I’ve been very nice to all of you women. Helped you all out every time. Now, you are going to help me. Go and find out Grant and Nestor’s secret or something might tragically go wrong with your shack.”
“Sam, are you possessed? Did Mercy get to you?” Omeria frantically questioned him causing the other builders to notice. “Do you feel alright?”
“Just get the information for me. Wouldn’t want any roofs to come crashing down on heads during the night,” Sam whispered to her. “I’m not leaving Kobo.”
Omeria’s plate of romaine lettuce stayed on the table. She stood up and took a few steps backwards keeping her eyes fixated on Sam. She nearly bumped into Sarah during her escape.
Sarah grabbed Omeria’s lower left arm. “Be careful, hun. Berry juice doesn’t grow on trees.” She saw the worry lines etched across Omeria’s pretty face. “What’s wrong? Is it Nestor? What did he do this moment?” Sarah looked towards the leader’s table. “Nestor isn’t here? He said we’d discuss going to the Flaco marketplace to sell the berry tarts and pies. And Grant isn’t here either, I see. I could have at least talked to Grant about it.”
Omeria walked with Sarah outside of the dining hall. “I thought that Kobo was a peaceful place.”
Sarah laughed. “Every place has problems. It has to be better than the village of Logoff.”
“It is better. Today, I’m feeling a little lost,”Omeria voiced. She kept looking back to see if Sam had exited the dining hall. “People are not always who they seem to be.”
Once in a blue moon, Nestor pondered on whether to tell his people the truth. Grant, the most perfect man in the land, had a big frightening secret. A secret that Nestor knew eventually as Mercy had promised would come to the light. But when?
5 years prior
Nestor thought his heart would pierce through his chest. He was astounded by the force of the beats. He had learned to accept his punishment from the Punishere for stealing the miro but this was more than he could handle. All of his time spent with the vamps didn’t make him want to become one. Could he even be doubly cursed? If Mercy couldn’t help him then perhaps he would find someone who could deeper within the Crescent. Since he had witnessed his young friend Donavo turn into a werewolf he understood that his time was limited.
Mercy opened the door to her shack. “Come on in handsome one.”
Nestor shuffled inside with his arms folded together. He looked from corner to corner. “Is your sister Patience here?”
Mercy walked him to a wooden stool. “Sit. You’ve gotta bigger worries than my sister. Let me grab the book.” She stared at Nestor’s neck as a heavy book of spells floated past her head and then landed in her hands. “My flame you are always into troubles.”
Nestor ran his fingers across the bite marks. “Why haven’t I turned yet?”
Mercy scanned the pages of the book. “My guess is that you are already cursed by the Punishere. Your thievery has finally saved your life. Well done.”
“This is not a joke. I don’t want to be that type of freak.”
“Relax, Nestor. This I can fix. I will simply unlock the curse of the fangs with a little spell. I wouldn’t let anything really bad happen to you. Would I?” Mercy rubbed his shoulders.
Nestor sank into the stool. “You couldn’t undo my punishment.”
Mercy swallowed some pride. “The Punishere tribe is quite powerful. There are no spells yet to undo their work. Next time, don’t get caught stealing in the Bristol village, Nestor. That’s all I can say about that. But trust me, I will never let you turn into a vamp.”
“He came out of nowhere.”
“They usually do. You are a tasty treat.” Mercy kissed his cheek. “I can’t say I blame him. Did you catch the freak’s name? I’d like to know who my next victim is.”
“Look, I’m not turning into a vamp so let’s just forget about it,”Nestor insisted. “I come from a place of peace.”
“There is no peace here in the Crescent, Nestor. He attacked you. He’ll suffer for it.”
“He’s just one bad berry out of the bunch, leave him be,”Nestor tried to persuade her. “It’s of his nature.”
“Well, we will see about that won’t we?All about his nature.”
“What are you plotting Mercy?”
Her head shifted downward on her right side. “His name is Granite. He has brown skin and black curly hair down to his shoulders. He’s quite beautiful actually. Possibly more handsome than you except for the fangs.”
“He’s okay looking, I guess,”Nestor mumbled and looked away from her. “Trust me you don’t want to meet him.”
Scenes of Granite living his life flashed through Mercy’s mind. “And he can count and he speaks very well. The vamps seem to admire him. He has two brothers.”
“He told me that he hates humans and I shouldn’t be on this side of the Octo Trail. I’ve always been back and forth. I’ll just try to avoid him.”
“Nestor, you would try to avoid someone? You’re too brave for that. One day we will run this land. All of it. No hiding. Tell me did he make you feel inferior?”
“Of course not, no one does. I don’t want to fight with Granite or Declan Mortis III or Dralon. I’ve never had any trouble with his brothers and I don’t want any trouble now. Out of the three brothers one will become the next leader of the vamps. I hope that it won’t be Granite. He fully hates humans. I was easy prey for him.”
“He’s not going to become leader of the vamps. I can assure you and he won’t be sucking anybody else’s blood any time soon.”
“Leave it alone.”
“No, he’s going to apologize to you today.”
Mercy waved her arms around and spat out random babbles of word, so Nestor thought. A chair floated to the floor and positioned itself in front of Nestor.
“Mercy, don’t,” Nestor yelled. As always, it was too late to stop Nestor’s bad influence of a flame. You had to be quite the dare-devil or a sinister force to be a bad influence on lying and thieving Nestor. Nestor closed his eyes as streams of blinding lights rose from the concrete floor. When Nestor opened his eyes he saw Granite sitting casually on the chair across from him.
Nestor raged. “His brothers, his tribe will look for him. Send him back.”
Granite smiled at Nestor. “I hate it when my meal talks. You still look rather human to me. You need another bite?”
Mercy stood beside Nestor. “Nestor is welcome in the Crescent at any time. His visions make him a freak not a human.”
Granite returned. “When I’m in charge Nestor will never walk into the Crescent village. You betray your own kind witch by inflaming him. You should be cast out. Anyone can see that he’s more human than not.”
“Human,”Mercy held on to the word. “I just figured out your punishment. You will become what you hate most. The perfect human being. You will help my flame in Kobo. He needs assistance.”
Granite chuckled and patted his stomach. “I’m hungry and you are no Punishere. You don’t have the power.”
“Watch this,”Mercy replied. “Granite no more.”
Nestor pleaded with Mercy not to turn Granite into a human. He didn’t want to deal with Granite in any form let alone take him back to Kobo to live with the humans that he hated. Lecturing or punishing Granite would never change the fact that vamps bite humans.
Nestor got on his knees before Mercy. “Please, I don’t need to even the score. I don’t.”
“I understand that you don’t,” Mercy patted the top of Nestor’s gray tight braided head. “But I do, my flame.”
Granite fell out of the chair and unto the floor. He instantly appeared to be without life. He didn’t move or make a sound until he started to shake and spit out blood.
“You don’t know what you are doing!” Nestor sat Granite upright placing his back against the back of the chair. “I think Granite is dying.”
“No,” Mercy uttered. “His name will be Grant, dear. ”
“He will be recognized no matter what his name is. His tribe will look for him day and night. You want him to tell them what you did to him? Changed his life over me. Come on, this isn’t humorous. Stop this before it’s too late! ”
“I’ll change him back when it’s time,” Mercy revealed.
“Who will I tell my people he is?”
Mercy closed her book of spells. Granite surprisingly remained silent.
“Your people will believe that Granite grew up in Kobo with them as the perfect man Grant. There will be no traces back to the vamps whatsoever.”
Nestor promised himself that he wouldn’t be romantically involved with Mercy ever again. Stealing, flying through the air and being limitless was fine but this was changing someone’s whole existence. It was clearly an abuse of her power to turn an unwilling freak into a human. Nestor did feel shamefully responsible for Granite. Nestor’s steps in life led to Granite losing his. To make things worse, Mercy made Grant extremely physically attractive, more pleasing to the eye than Granite had been, which made it impossible to keep a low profile. Mercy also gave him a kind heart and an above average intellect so that he could advise Nestor. His charms and ability to count made him the perfect choice for Kobo’s new goldkeeper. Everyone, in Kobo had memories of Grant, though they had never met him before. It was a bigger lie to keep up than the beasts in the berry fields. Nestor and Grant in no time became the best of friends.
However, every once in a while Nestor would take Grant to see an expensive physician who didn’t ask too many questions. A lot of Kobo’s gold was spent on shaving Grant’s fangs. Nestor guessed that this was Mercy’s way of taunting Grant. Nestor dreaded the day when Grant would turn back into his blood thirsty Crescent enemy Granite.