“You shouldn’t let her bully you like that, you know.”
Vlad shrugged and kicked a rock down the street. It bounced off a broken cobblestone and into one of the few intact windows adjacent to the street. The glass splintered.
Vlad and Dave picked up the pace, even though there was nobody around to see. Not that Vlad blamed the fairies and pixies for staying inside. The streets
of Shadow City were not safe at night, not even with vampires everywhere trying to keep the peace by oppressing everyone in sight.
“Do you think Parthenia’s punk?”
“No way. Punk is sticking it to the man, man, and Parthenia, well, she’s even scarier than the man!”
“Whoa, don’t freak out man.”
“I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out! How come you keep talking about punk all the time?”
“I dunno, I just-” Vlad stopped at the corner. Shadow City Theatre lay ahead, lit with flaming torches and filled with noise. It might be the City’s cultural heartbeat, but it was mostly just Pixies complaining about being forced to make up numbers in the chorus and he didn’t like it one bit. “Do you ever wonder what it’s really all about, Dave?”
“What what’s really all about?”
The doors of the theatre burst open, and a young woman dressed all in black stumbled onto the street, screaming. She bolted straight toward Vlad and Dave.
“Life, man,” Vlad said. “All this.” He made a sweeping gesture, and accidentally grabbed the young woman’s shirt as she ran by. “Oh sorry, Miss Pixie. Are you alright?”
“Please help me!” Black makeup smudged under her eyes as fresh tears flowed. “Don’t make me go back! They’re trying to make me – make me –”
“Make you what?”
“Sing a happy song about the king! I hate the king! And I hate happy songs!”
Booted footsteps thumped toward them, and the young woman struggled in Vlad’s grip.
“Which king?” asked Vlad in some concern.
“The muse king you grass eater, what other king is there? Let me go, please. I won’t do it!”
A third Moon Trooper marched up to them and gave Vlad and Dave a stiff nod. “Well done soldiers, that’s my Pixie.”
Vlad shrugged and shoved her toward him, as gently as he could.
“You’ll all pay for this!” She screeched. “I will not be happy! And the king can bite me!”
“See, that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about,” Vlad said, as the Moon Trooper dragged the protesting Pixie back to the theatre. “Is that all life is now, Dave? Is this what we signed up for when we agreed to join this army and fight for our glorious vampire king? Nobody even knows who he is anymore, and that Pixie doesn’t deserve to be oppressed. And as for the muse king, what’s he ever done for us? We’ve never even seen him!”
Dave nodded thoughtfully. “It’s interesting you say that, Vlad. I have to admit I can’t help but feel like we’re the bad guys in this war.”
“And not in a punk way.”
Vlad and Dave both sighed, and resumed walking toward the theatre.
“You know Vlad, sometimes I wonder if we’re the bad guys because we’ve sided with evil, or if we’re the bad guys because we’re vampires. Like, does being vampires automatically make us bad? Can we like, transcend that? Because I feel like if we really put our minds to it, vampires could be a force for good.”
“I mean, the fact we have to drink blood to survive is what makes us bad,” Vlad replied, after thinking that through for a moment. “How do we balance those two things? How do we, I don’t know, repay fairies for their blood in a way that benefits them too?”
“Bit difficult when fairies are so hard to come by.” Dave sounded a little morose behind his mask. “Might have to be pixies.”
“Ugh, that’s like eating boiled potatoes.”
“I wish I could eat a potato. If you hadn’t gone and let Maria Celestina in that night, we could be eating chips right now.” The vampires tramped up the steps of the theatre and pushed open the door.
Inside, Moon Troopers on their night off crowded the rows of red velvet seats, silver masks paying rapt attention to the stage at the front. Fat red candles lined the walls, their warm glow jumping and flickering at the opening of the doors.
Vlad eased the door shut behind them. He and Dave moved into position on either side, since they were supposed to be guarding the show anyway, presumably from runaway pixies.
Far to the front, a tall moon Trooper dressed in a long red cloak dramatically threw out his arm. “And that is why the king must never die!” The declamation reverberated throughout the hall. “Long live the king!”
“Phew,” Dave whispered. “It’s nearly finished.”
“I see Kevin’s still leading up the dramatic society,” Vlad whispered back.
“Yeah, I heard he was a newsreader before he got vamped. Did a lot of voice training. Great that he’s not letting it go to waste just because someone made him a bloodsucking fiend and dragged him into a hell dimension.”
Vlad stared. “Seriously Dave, are you alright?
One of the Moon Troopers in the back row turned his mask toward them. “Shh, the last song is starting.”
Twenty Pixies trooped onstage, their unrelieved black making them almost invisible against the backdrop. One of them stepped to the front; she wore so much white paint on her face that she looked like a ghost. Her black-painted mouth turned down at the corners. Her black-smudged eyes made morose holes in her face. “I’m so happy the king is not dead.” Her gaze cut through the audience like a scythe, her lip curled up, and she returned to the chorus line.
“You suck!” Someone yelled from the middle seats.
“Yeah!” Yelled another one. “Make me believe you’re happy!”
The pixie chorus took a deep, collective breath.
“I don’t like it,” Vlad hissed. “This is just torturing Pixies for fun, and it’s not right!”
He didn’t hear what Dave said in reply, because at that moment a piercing shriek erupted from the roof, right before a young man wearing mostly leaves and hooves for feet ran onto the stage bearing a flaming torch stolen from out the front. “We’re the Invisible Army and this is a rescue!” he yelled. “Freedom for the Pixies!”
Watch this space for Rhymes with Bite Me Part Three!
You can also check out more Vlad and Dave in Shadow Book 3: Shiny Things