“We shouldn’t have wandered off.” Bishop picked Neka up and looked around hopelessly for something familiar to lead them back to the others.
“Neka didn’t like them.” She pouted and rubbed her face on his shoulder. “Don’t be mad at Neka.”
“I’m not mad.” Bishop sighed. “I’m lost.”
“We’re all lost.” Farren offered his outlook as he cleaned himself up. He had managed to keep the young vampire and his Master unharmed from any attacks this far, but they had been lucky. “No one knows this place. I can’t say I would have done any differently than the girl, though. Raziel is unpleasant and his family unfriendly.”
“That’s not true.” Bishop sighed. He knew them only briefly but he had liked each of them. “I think its this place making everyone uncomfortable.”
“Neka thinks they are just useless.” She insisted as she sniffled. “Daddy says the Keeper is nothing but trouble.”
“He probably thinks the same about me.” Bishop frowned. It was not that he was particularly wounded by the fact Kage disliked him, but the fact Neka was so willing to accept her father’s ideas as her own.
“Neka loves you, though.” She squeezed around his neck and licked his face. “Daddy will like you someday.”
“How fortunate for you.” Farren patted Bishop’s back.
“Lay off.” Bishop muttered not wanting to turn the comment into another argument. “Didn’t you live here with this woman? Can you find your way?”
“I did not wander the Garden.” Farren shook his head.
“There’s something up ahead.” Vafera fluttered her wings and tugged at Bishop’s hair. To get his attention. “That way.”
In the distance there were stone structures and a clearer skyline so they started toward hopeful to put themselves on a course that would cross with their companions. Being lost in a Garden newly relocated to Hell was not high on Bishops list of things to try and he would gladly give it up the adventure quickly. He was also afraid is they were attacked by more than a few of the armor clad angels, Farren would be overwhelmed and there was no way he could protect the girl on his own.
The structures were in ruins, but what remained sat around a large circular center and Bishop hoped they could wait there for the others and sped his pace.
“Carefully.” Farren pulled Bishop by his sleeve. “Someone is nearby. I smell blood.”
“That’s disgusting.” Bishop answered quietly.
“Don’t even pretend that you can’t smell it, too.” Farren smiled and shook his head as they moved into the courtyard. “Vampire.”
“Oh. It’s just you.” Nei smirked at them and rested his arms around Presia.
“We ended up separated.” Bishop explained sheepishly. “Do you know where anyone else is?”
“You look like shit.” Nei raised an eyebrow at his young vampiric child in disappointment. “You haven’t fed.”
“No.” Bishop looked away embarrassed and not even sure if that was an appropriate emotion to be feeling. “It didn’t seem like a priority.”
“Well, it is. You have to feed, you hopeless fuck.” Nei shook his head and lifted Presia to her feet as he stood. “You aren’t going to be useful to anyone if you don’t.”
“You be nice to Bishop.” Neka hissed at Nei and shot blades of chaos in his direction, pouting when arrogant vampire dodged aside with Presia. “He can eat when he wants to.”
“So how bad is the pain?” Nei ignored the attack and continued his fatherly chat with Bishop.
“I can deal with it.” Bishop ran his fingers through Neka’s hair and tried to smile. “I don’t really want to talk about this in front of the kid.”
“In front of that kid?” Nei laughed. “The Viper’s daughter? In a year she’ll be deadlier than you or I could ever hope to be.”
“I would never hope to be deadly.” Bishop shuddered. “I don’t want to be.”
“You hurt, Bishop?” Neka looked at him with her mismatched eyes and tears fell down her cheeks. “Neka doesn’t want you to hurt. Why do you hurt?”
“Because he won’t feed.” Nei explained plainly as he started to head out of the courtyard with Presia on his arm. “And if he doesn’t want my advice, he doesn’t need my company.”
“Wait.” Bishop just fell to his knees and held Neka tighter as he tried his hardest not to cry. He wanted to protect her and couldn’t on his own. He hated to cave to an obvious manipulation and he wanted little to do with the ‘feeding’ that they wanted to push on him, but it was becoming unbearable just to stand and he needed to look after Neka. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Lucifer made it easy for you.” Farren kneeled beside Bishop and squeezed his shoulder. “You don’t have to be deadly. Just thirsty. I’m here when you need it.”
Bishop had been struggling for hours. So much that he was scaring himself with how well he could smell the blood in Neka’s veins. He couldn’t fight the thirst anymore with an offer made so plainly. He covered Neka’s eyes with the fingers of one hand and with the other pulled Farren closer by his shirt and bit into the side of his neck.
Farren held Bishop through it. He was amused that it was the attacker and not the victim shaking. Further amused by the little girl peeking through Bishops fingers with an excited expression and a tail twitching behind her enthusiastically.
“Now, was that so bad?” Nei laughed.
“What is this place?” Bishop didn’t want to be taunted over it. He wanted to forget what he had just done and that he liked it. He gave Neka a quick squeeze to pre-empt any inquiries and jumped headlong into a discussion he hoped would provide adequate distance from the topic of his fangs.
“I believe it was part of some sort of complex.” Presia admired the crests on the ground. “A large communal estate of sorts. Their home. Or at least part of it. But it seems detached. Like a mask.”
“Or a doorway.” Farren offered quietly.
“Seems too obvious for that.” Bishop used Farren’s shoulder to steady himself as he stood. He felt like he had been drinking, the world shifted in the wrong direction as he walked and his feet seemed too heavy, his head too light. His mind was astonishingly clear however and he gave them what reason he could see for moving on. “It’s more like a distraction. If there were a door to something in this place it would be subtle.”
“Could be buried eighty feet deep or standing eighty feet tall and surrounded in flashing lights, it doesn’t matter a bit of a fuck to me.” Nei grinned. “Presia says a door is going to open. A door is going to open. In the meantime, your little kittens’ Daddy and his friends are off having all the fun without me.”
“You find this shit amusing?” Bishop held Neka’s hand as they followed. “What is wrong with you?”
“With me?” Nei giggled. “There is nothing wrong with me. I find battle exciting, what I find amusing is that you managed to sell yourself into slavery to the Viper’s kid. You clearly weren’t looking for my gift, so what did you get out of the bargain?”
“Bishop is Neka’s friend.” She hissed and kicked the back of Nei’s legs until Bishop picked her up and she cried against him. “Neka loves Bishop.”
“Love?” Nei turned and grabbed the thin leash that she had wrapped around her hand that led to Bishop’s collar. “Is that what this is?”
“He is Neka’s.” Neka tugged the cord away. “Bishop has to stay with Neka forever.”
“Leave her alone.” Bishop insisted softly. “It isn’t her fault. And doesn’t your girl call you ‘Lord’? Isn’t that just the way it is with you people?”
“Enough.” Presia smacked Bishop across his face. “It is not the title or even the leash that my Lord Frost has taken issue with. I am by all rights his property. The greatest Master however is one who loves and respects his pets. The companionship born through that mutual respect can be very powerful, very beautiful.”
“She is just a little girl.” Bishop defended.
“With a very well informed mind I assure you.” Presia smiled and turned her attention to Neka as she spoke her advice. “Still young enough to make decisions that will forever affect her. Ask yourself little Viper, do you want a slave? Or a friend?”
“Neka wants Bishop.” She gnawed on the cord nervously.
“Neka, I’m not going anywhere.” Bishop hugged her close as he stopped a moment to sit and comfort her. He pulled the leash from her mouth and tapped her chin with it. “Don’t do that. You’ll make your Father mad. I don’t want you in trouble. You don’t have to listen to them.”
“Thrones!” Farren unleashed his attacks on as many as he could before he lifted Bishop and Neka to safety from a second onslaught.
“May I join you, my Lord?” Presia giggled as her attire changed and a matching set of sheathed blades appeared at her hip and on her back. Nei backed up to her and drew his blades and she could feel his heart racing.
“I’ve missed this.” Nei spoke through a wicked grin. “Stay close.”
“Always.” Presia nodded and a thick blue ribbon lengthened between them and wrapped their waists. A physical reminder in the heat of battle of the limit to their bond before they would cause one another pain.
“Wow!” Neka flushed as she watched Presia fighting beside Nei. They moved like water together. Even though they were so close and fighting so many different enemies, never stumbling over each other, never hindering each other.
Farren fought those he could when they were close enough, defended Bishop and Neka when they were attacked. The sudden surge in attackers was bothersome. He was sure there had not been this many before. Sachiel must have gotten unsure of herself and doubled her forces. He had feared for his daughter in the hands of Sachiel’s madness, now he worried for the girl being caught in the battle they had brought to Eden. He watched Bishop holding Neka and desperately hoped someone was protecting Evadia.
“Not a great time to get distracted.” Nei taunted Farren as he and Presia came to their aid.
“It’s like they are after her.” Bishop gratefully accepted Presia’s arm around them and the shield of protection she spread over them.
“These are newly called Choirs.” Farren pulled Nei into Presia’s protection before unleashing a mist of rot into the air that quickly worked it’s decay on the coming attackers. “Likely sent to find a child in Eden…”
“Meaning your daughter is lost out here, too.” Bishop sighed. “We should look for her then.”
“No, we should do what we came here to do.” Nei corrected him quickly. “Your pal is gonna sniff his way to his old girlfriend so I can quit this miserable Garden and go back to Drifa.”
“I was only ever in the estate.” Farren turned away.
“Which should make it the easiest fucking place to find.” Nei chuckled and sheathed his swords. The break in the attacks had made them all relax just enough to get sloppy and he noticed the last of the attackers a second too late to do anything other than prevent it from hurting the others. He squeezed Presia’s fingers as he watched the angel’s blade emerge from his chest and only scratch Bishop’s face.
“Lord Frost!” Presia took him in one arm and set fire to his attacker with the other. “Hold on, Nei. Please.”
“Why did I do that?” Nei stumbled from the loss of blood as Presia pulled the blade back through the wound. He could see fear and gratitude on Bishop’s face and silently wished the best for his unfortunate son.
“To save your child, my Lord. And the one he holds dear.” Presia spoke sweetly and filled his wounds with magic as tears ran down her face. “You did well.”
“It was fucking stupid.” Nei closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of life returning to Eden.