Isadora lunged forward, thrusting the sword into the chained vampire for what seemed like the hundredth time. He cried out in agony, and she watched indifferently as his skin knitted itself back together within seconds. Looking back and forth between the two restrained guards, she found herself wishing their race didn’t heal quite so quickly. It was terribly difficult to get satisfactory torture results when dealing with immortals.
This is becoming tedious, she thought sadly. They couldn’t carry out a simple death order, and now they can’t even keep me entertained. Ah, well…everything outlives its usefulness, I suppose.
“You are no longer serve any purpose for me,” she told her prisoners. Gregor opened his mouth to protest, but Isadora whirled around with the sword, beheading both of them in one swing.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, addressing the head that was now rolling across the stone floor. “Were you going to say something? No? Alright then.”
Dropping the bloodied sword to the ground with a clatter, she turned to her new set of guards.
“Clean up this filth, and then draw me a bath. I need to soak away this stress.”
Inspired by the example made of their predecessors, they scurried to obey, leaving Isadora to pout in the great oak chair at the head of her rooms.
Why does everyone fail me? First that sniveling Hunter, and then my own guards! What does a girl have to do to get good minions?
As she was imagining all the wonderful ways she would torture Rolf and his family when she found them, her new sentries entered the rooms and announced that her bath had been readied.
Isadora sauntered out the side door to the washroom and her gilded tub, pausing to give each of them a lingering kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you, loves. Now go on back to…well…whatever it is that you do when you’re not serving me. I will ring if the need arises.”
Bowing low, they turned and exited the room, and Isadora was again alone with her thoughts and the sumptuous feel of warm water on bare skin. Closing her eyes as she laid back against the edge of the tub, she reached out with her mind, attempting to eavesdrop on her four little rogues. Locating them easily – and clucking her tongue at their folly of leaving their minds open – she wormed her way into their conversation as she lounged.
Absently she listened to Dimitri, Tannis and Aurelius plotting their futile insurrection, but quickly found it boring. Searching again, she came to Elspeth, lying on the bed and sobbing.
What’s this? Isadora thought with delight.
Our little newling is upset? She grinned wide. How tragic.
Probing into Elspeth’s thoughts, she quickly surmised the cause of her tears.
The gypsy girl? She’s in love with a Hunter? Oh, that’s rich. I knew she was stupid, but this?
She laughed as she sunk lower into the bath, reveling in Elspeth’s heartache and finding it the perfect balm to calm her nerves. A wicked idea popped into her head then, and her eyes flew open at the sheer genius of it.
Oh, yes, Isadora thought with excitement, this is just too easy…
It’s nothing personal. Clean houses just wig me out. I’m always wondering…can I touch this? Can I sit here? Is this for show or to actually use? Like those little towels people hang up this time of year – you know, the ones with the appliqués on them? Why would anyone do this to an item meant to soak up moisture? And once you have successfully dried your hands, you feel obligated to fold it back just so in order to display said cutesy appliqué appropriately. It’s insanity. But I digress. Let’s return to the point, shall we?
For those of you out there who have children and manage to keep a clean house, I applaud you. Mostly because you scare the hell out of me, and I don’t want to offend you, lest I have some horrible dust-rag accident while sleeping. But as much as I admire your efforts, don’t expect me to come over anytime soon. Or ever. My children would turn your house upside down before you could say "Nanny 911". And don’t expect me to invite you over, either. If you are concerned enough about the condition of your house that you find it necessary to trail after your little ones and pick up every little dropsy (or even worse – have successfully trained them to do it), I am relatively sure your head would explode upon entering my home. Not that I live in a pigsty, or anything approximating it. But by the heavens…I have children! Messy, drawing-on-the-walls, what-the-hell-did-you-just-wipe-on-my-couch, don’t-eat-that-you-have-no-idea-how-old-it-is-and-what-were-you-doing-under-the-bed-in-the-first-place children. And that’s how it should be, in my opinion.
Children are visceral, primal creatures. And while I can understand the need to instill a sense of general tidiness in them, eventually you have to pick your battles. Well, maybe you don’t, little Martha Stewart-esque reader. But I do.
Is it a big deal if my son decides to see how long half of a peanut butter sandwich will stick to the wall before falling off? Yes, yes it is. Because eventually one of the animals will smell/see it there, and commence tearing the wall to pieces trying to reach it. Now, if he sticks it where the dog can reach, I might be persuaded to ignore it. (Side note – never, ever, ever have small children without at least one dog. You have no idea how much work it will save you. You’re welcome.)
Is it a big deal if my daughter draws a stick figure of herself on her doorframe and writes her name under it? No, I don’t think it is. It’s cute, it’s an artistic expression, and I only allow them access to washable markers. What do you think I am, stupid?
Yes, you could write your own name in the dust on my shelves more often than I would like. (If you do, please just refrain from dating it. Thank you, The Management.). But that is not what I see as important. My children are crazy, funny, creative, interesting little individuals. I would rather enjoy the chaos of a sheet tent collapsing all over my living room and trapping at least three animals underneath with us and all the dollies that were invited to the tea party. (Note: Be sure to stop at the entrance of the tent to get your stamp before proceeding to the party. My daughter is quite firm on this.)
Does it matter in the grand scheme of things whether or not their clothes are picked up, or their shoes put in just the right place, or my home is always show-ready? No, no it does not. What matters is that when people walk in my door, they feel relaxed, at ease, at home, and do not completely freak out if their kid drops spaghetti all over my floor. That’s what the dogs are for, anyway. And that is what is important to me. A sense of comfort, of welcoming, no matter where they come from or who they are. A place of rest, with no judgment or comparisons of best housekeeping tips.
In the immortal words of my friend who visits with her two kids often, “You know, your house always makes me feel better about my own.”
Elspeth tried to rehearse what she would say to this Wise Woman as she walked toward the edge of the village.
Hello, there! Beautiful night, isn’t it? I was wondering if you might be able to help me. It’s nothing much really…I just need something to kill the oldest vampire in existence. Have anything for that?
She shook her head in frustration. There had to be a better way to approach it.
As she thought, a little cottage came into view, right on the tree-lined border surrounding the hamlet. There was a wooden fence painted in bright colors, and the space in front of the dwelling was overflowing with all manner of plants, flowers and herbs.
Well, this must be the place.
Elspeth moved tentatively through the garden and up to the entrance. Intricate carvings covered the door – cryptic symbols, moons and stars, half moons, strange depictions of flora she did not recognize, and beautiful swirls intertwined throughout. She lifted her hand to knock, but the door opened before she had the chance.
‘Crone’ was the only word Elspeth could think of to describe the woman in the doorway. Her face was a collection of leathery wrinkles, and her posture was stooped with age. But her eyes were a warm, sparkling brown, and they twinkled with bemused wisdom.
“Hello Elspeth,” the hedgewitch croaked. “I’ve been expecting you.”