The building wasn’t very different from the typical architecture in the rest of Mountainville…of redwood and slanted roofs to keep the rain from gathering, wide porches with thick wooden chairs and copious ferns as company, it was, as everything was in the Cantoo Eleven Province, woodsy and beautiful yet functional.
The difference in this building’s function, however, made it unique in all of the city. It served as the province’s sanitarium. The large, cozy-looking building was ringed with a wide open area, searchlights set in nondescript recesses in the roof’s eaves and a barbed wire fence most effective in its function – keep the sane people outside safe and the insane people inside in.
Reception was just like the outside – cozy, comfortable chairs, lush ferns and plants for decoration and a large, functional desk took up most of it. As Jim Solare signed in on the visitor’s side of the desk, he glanced up at the mission statement burned into a plaque on the wall behind reception. “Keeping the citizens of Mountainville safe both within and without”. He raised an eyebrow, wondering at how many both residents and visitors would catch its double meaning.
“Have a seat, please, Mr. Helios,” the pleasant woman behind the desk requested. “I’ll let the Carekeeper know you’ve arrived.”
“Thank you,” Jim said politely. He chose a chair with a view of the outside and sat down. With nothing to do but wait now, the tall, blonde-haired male of 47 winters stared ahead, not really seeing the bare, stone-worked driveway or its soft dirt landscape.
His mind drifted to the events of the past week and how easily they could have sent him to Moonville’s equivalent of this dreadful facility. How he had failed to protect his pure, innocent daughter despite her being nowhere near this accursed city and how their family history had decided no one had learned its lessons and bore repeating until the message had been received loud and clear.
Well, Young Jim had received the message and in his grief-stricken state had taken care of his daughter first, attended the trial second and now there was only one thing left to do.
Kill the vile animal that had raped his daughter.
The Carekeeper led Jim down the empty white corridors mostly in silence. Other than family, the inmate known as “Old Man Loki” received no visitors, being deemed too dangerous to those unaware of his latent magickal abilities and temperament.
“We keep him in a containment room that dampens his magick,” the man was saying. Jim had tuned him out as he had gone on about the sanitarium and their state-of-the-art facilities and a sterling reputation for their compassion, rehabilitation methods and treatment of mental illness, but refocused on the man’s words as he touched on the special case that was their latest in a long residency of male Whoticores. “He’s kept behind a specially tinted glass panel that prevents him from hypnotizing any of the staff or visitors. No one has ever been able to suppress that part of the Whoticore bloodline’s abilities and it makes him particularly dangerous,” the staff manager emphasized.
“So I’ve heard tell,” Jim nodded. “I have a natural immunity to hypnotic suggestion. You needn’t worry about me being at risk.” He smiled. “I have made a life’s mission of studying their talents and abilities. I know how to handle them.”
His escort examined his tall, well-built visitor. “Really? Very few outside the family know the truth about them. The Whoticores have this uncanny ability to hide their – “ he waved a hand in front of him, searching for a phrase.
“Activities?” offered Jim. “Evil? Influence?”
“All of the above,” the Carekeeper nodded. “So, if you are not family, how do you know about them and what is your interest in them and in Loki in particular?”
“Research,” Jim lied. “There are ways to contain them, but that only results in leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Our – institute is more interested in magickal defense against them, prevention of the problem before it becomes a problem.”
“Ah,” the manager said, rather unconvincingly. “I would be interested in their applications in our daily handling of Mr. Whoticore if they prove successful.” Something about the man’s words felt – off – to Young Jim and warning bells went off in the back of his mind. There was no doubt the Whoticores had been a problem for them for centuries…why would he try to deceive Jim about having such a need? Surely it did exist from what he had read and knew of their reputation in the Solare family’s grimoire passed down from their ancestress, Lethe Solare. Never one to leave anything to chance where it concerned his family’s enemies, on the outside he only smiled and nodded, adding an, “Of course, we will gladly share our techniques with your staff.”.
They arrived at a heavy oak and steel door to which the Carekeeper pulled out the keys. Three deadbolt locks and a heavy steel bar across the entire door were disabled and removed. Jim heard them replaced by the guard on the side they had just left, with the keys the Carekeeper had entrusted to him. The keys to freedom were never brought inside with staff, family or visitors – that lesson had been a harsh one to learn in the past that had cost lives.
They walked the last, long corridor to a single, plain doorway with no door. Jim felt a tingle of magic as they passed through. He looked to the Carekeeper questioningly.
“A memory dampening spell,” he explained. “Keyed specifically to Loki’s aura. If he escapes and passes through that doorway, he’ll immediately lose his memory. It’s our hope that if he ever does escape and gets this far, the disorientation will delay him long enough we could get additional security in here to contain him.”
All these insane measures at once impressed and worried Jim Solare. “Is all this necessary, just for him? Haven’t there been other Whoticore males just as bad?”
The staff manager shook his head. “No. Loki is the worst in memory. We don’t know why, exactly. It might have had something to do with him having been born during a blood supermoon. No one knows for certain. He seems to have been born a natural predator. He started ‘hunting’ even before his eyes darkened.”
The blonde man with him clenched his fist at the side facing away from the Carekeeper. “‘Hunting’?” he asked, fighting to keep his voice even and neutral.
“Females,” the other man replied. “Solare females, of course. That’s all they’re ever interested in. There’s no more apt description for it and Loki takes a special pleasure in the capture – ”
“Of – of course,” Jim nodded, cutting him off. He feared if the man went on he might lose it and do something to reveal his true purpose here.
The facility employee stopped at the final doorway. “Here we are,” he blew out a mildly stressful breath. “I’ll be monitoring you from another room.”
Young Jim looked sharply at him, surprised. He had carefully planned out how he was going to take Loki out, had not really expected to get away afterwards. He knew his life was forfeit for the opportunity to seek revenge for Serena’s violation, but he had at least thought he would be able to tell the bastard why he was going to die first before being caught or worse, prevented from carrying out his mission.
“Something wrong?” The Carekeeper’s voice broke through his thoughts.
“No, no…just, you know, preparing for this mentally.” It wasn’t a lie this time. With the added complication of not being in the same room with their prisoner, this was beginning to look more and more like a mission doomed to fail before it had begun. He would have to stall for time while in there, look for a weakness in the facility’s security, something he could exploit. “All right,” he said quietly. “I’m ready.” He stopped the man from leaving with a hand on his arm. “Will we be monitored audibly?”
“That’s up to you,” the Carekeeper shrugged. “It’s not mandatory unless we detect there is a problem.”
“Fine,” Jim nodded. “I would like some privacy with the – subject.” He wanted to say animal but stopped himself in time.
“Very well. Good luck.”
Taking a deep breath, Young Jim passed through the doorway and into another room. There was a wall of shatterproof glass floor to ceiling, with a simple table and chair on each side. The slowly building agitation he had felt ever since coming here had subsided somewhat when it was explained he would not be allowed to be in the same room with the Whoticore filth. Now there was an element of stalling and time he needed to readjust his plan, for readjust it he would, because no matter what and no matter the cost, he would kill Loki Whoticore.
“So, you’re a Solare male,” came a voice from the other side of the clear wall.
Jim froze and looked up sharply from where he had been pacing the empty room.
There was no one on the other side. He blinked, rubbed his eyes.
“Can’t see me, can you,” the voice turned amused.
Jim could see the entire room from where he stood…there was a single, closed door that went back into another area he assumed were Loki’s living quarters, but other than that, the chair and desk, there was nothing and no one on the other side of the glass.
“How amusing,” the deep, dark male voice rumbled. “There is an historical precedent for this, you know, Solare.”
“Where – where are you!” his visitor demanded, backing up slightly. He stopped short, not wanting to appear afraid of his enemy, but by then it was too late to cover it up. The fear had been displayed and if both rooms shared the ventilation system, he wouldn’t be surprised if Loki Whoticore could also smell a twinge of fear in the sweat that had cropped up unbidden on the back of Jim’s neck.
“Where? Right in front of you,” Loki patiently explained.
Only Jim’s eyes moved now, slowly from side to side, examining every inch of the room. Was the bastard still in the other, closed-off room perhaps? Was he projecting his thoughts into Jim’s mind just to unnerve him?
“‘Historical precedence’?” Solare asked, hoping to stall until he could figure out where the sanitarium prisoner was.
“Of course. Don’t they teach such things in Moonville? It’s quite basic to Hidden in Plain Sight spells…cases of aboriginal tribes discovered who could not see the boats in their own harbors because they had never seen one in their entire people’s history,” elaborated Loki. Something about the deep, frightening voice was softening with the subject matter…maybe he was comfortable discussing magick. His visitor was not. It was a forbidden subject in his House. Never practice, never die from its consequences…something that had been practically beaten into him growing up.
At last Jim zeroed in on where the voice was coming from. It was indeed right in front of him, behind the desk, but there was a strange fuzziness obscuring the chair. He sat down carefully, never taking his eyes off the spot, willing himself to see beyond the aural disturbance. “I’ve heard the stories,” he said tightly. “So?”
“Ah, never studied, then. Useful to know.” Silently his visitor damned himself for revealing weakness. This creature, if the Solare grimoire of Whocate was any indication, would be a master of magick. “And you must have never seen a Whoticore before,” the man went on, starting to sound, what?..bored…no…
…he was studying him, Jim realized with a deep shiver crawling up his spine.
“Am I right?” the Whoticore rumbled, seeking confirmation.
Only just now did something said out of place occur to Young Jim at that moment, “Wait, earlier you called me…I’m not a Solare – “ he lied.
Something slammed into the glass with such force it wobbled, scaring Jim out of ten years growth. He stumbled back, falling off his chair. The aura of malice coming from the other side of the wall grew in exponential strength as well. “Whoa!” he yelped, hitting the ground hard, the chair underneath his back causing a quick, sharp moment of pain.
The light in the room suddenly grew brighter, almost blinding. Jim’s eyes adjusted quickly as he moved to right himself when two people came striding into the room behind him. Hands on either side helped lift him up as a feral snarl of anger and pain cut the air around him from the other side of the glass wall. While getting up, he blinked, but now, suddenly, he clearly saw the large male prisoner on the other side, shielding his eyes and – was that a hiss that escaped his lips..?
“Are you all right?” the Carekeeper asked Jim.
“Yes – I’m fine,” the guest replied, thoroughly rattled, but grateful for the quick response to his distress. When he was back in his chair, he ran a hand through his blonde hair. “What the hell was that!” he exclaimed.
Loki was up against the glass, fingers splayed from the largest hands Young Jim had ever seen on a human male. “Don’t lie to me – Sola – “
“ – Is he always so – irritable?” Jim cut him off intentionally, not wanting the staff to know his real name and that he was from the Moonville Solare family – their natural enemies.
“Depends,” the staff manager said. “What the Tartarus did you ask him?”
“I was trying to explain how I thought he was – mistaken about something,” Jim elaborated as vaguely as he could get away with.
“Oh, yeah, don’t do that,” the Carekeeper shook his head, catching Jim’s attention. “He can see through lies in two seconds – almost before they’re out of your mouth. If he thinks you take him for a fool, you’ll never get anywhere with him.”
“Okay, I – jeeze!” Jim startled again, looking back at the Whoticore for the first time, getting a good, uncomfortably close look at his all black, dead-looking eyes. There was no visible differentiation from the iris or cornea…no white, no color, just utter – nothingness.
“Never seen one this close, have you?” He could almost hear the smile in the Carekeeper’s words.
Jim couldn’t look away from Loki, at once fascinated, repulsed and terrified at their appearance. He finally looked up, confused, then look back down once again into the Whoticore’s evil gaze. “There’s no – “ he swallowed, trying to control his fear. “ – no light in…” he gestured at Loki’s eyes, then glanced up again, pointing his finger towards the lights set in the ceiling. “But there is light up…”
“That’s not a trick of the glass, Mr. Helios,” the staff manager said, using his fake name. “Light falls into his eyes, but somehow gets trapped in there. It isn’t reflected back out.”
Loki shut his eyes again, snarling, clearly still in pain, though the lights had begun cycling down from their debilitating brilliance. “I would appreciate it, Mr. Carekeeper, if you would tone those blasted lights down!” the Whoticore said in a surprisingly civil and sane tone.
“Only,” the sanitarium employee drew out a remote control from his pocket. “if you promise not to chew him up and spit him out again.”
The lights came down and the owner of the previously disembodied voice smiled a very unfriendly smile. “I promise nothing, Karl. All depends on the manners of my ‘guest’.”
“Well, considering he has never met you before, Mi’Lord, I suggest you teach him what you consider ‘respectful’ manners,” then to Jim, he asked, “do you want us to monitor the conversation – “
“No,” Jim sighed. “I get it. Treat this one as if walking on eggshells.”
“That won’t work Mr. Helios,” the Carekeeper shook his head. “I suggest you treat him with respect as is due – “
“‘Respect’?” snapped Jim, nearly coming out of his chair. “Loki raped an innocent young woman and Goddess knows how many others he was never punished for!”
“That is ‘Lord’ Loki to you,” the Whoticore huffed. He blew out a breath in exasperation. “‘Raped’ – hardly!” He pierced Jim with a knowing, wicked gaze. “Her pleas for me to complete the fertilization were quite – passionate, as I recall.”
Solare’s blood was boiling at the sickeningly graphic turn of discussion. He knew he would completely lose it and find a way to kill the man if he even hinted one more time that his beloved, innocent Serena had enjoyed his unwanted attentions! He slammed his hands down on the desk, infuriated. If he had to throw the lethal herbs tucked in his pocket at the ventilation shaft in an attempt to reach this vile creature, thus killing himself and the facility staff as well, he would gladly –
It was the Carekeeper that broke the tension, surprisingly. He grabbed Young Jim by the arm and led him outside with enough force to let the visitor know this was not a suggestion to come with him, but of an urgency he should not protest. Out of earshot, Moonville Sanitarium’s Manager gave him a harsh look. “What is wrong with you, Helios? You’ll never get him to cooperate with that attitude! We should just stop this right here and now if you cannot conduct this visitation in an objective, professional manner.”
Jim bit his lip, realizing his terrible mistake. “Yes, yes, you’re right. I apologize. It’s just – I know the family personally and this is quite a difficult case for me to take on – “
The Carekeeper narrowed his eyes. “Then your institute should send someone else to conduct this interview. Why would they send you knowing you’re personally involved?”
Jim had to think fast or he would be thrown out and never get the chance again to exact revenge for his daughter. “Our other – case workers are on vacation or other assignments,” he lied. “And there is some urgency to conducting this investigation sooner rather than later.” With great reluctance he didn’t have to manufacture, he explained why.
The Carekeeper’s eyes widened. “That’s – that’s not possible. The Whoticore family told us – “
“I can guess what they told you and it’s wrong, believe me, Carekeeper,” Jim impressed. “We were just as shocked as you.”
Karl put a hand to his head. “I’ll have to tell them. Sarlayna’s vision must have been wrong, but I don’t see how that’s possible!”
Jim squeezed the man’s upper arm. “Please! Wait at least until I finish my evaluation of Loki.” The lies were coming easier and easier now, at least, making saying ‘evaluation’ instead of ‘revenge’ less obvious in his voice. “It might be I can draw him into revealing more than you have even been able to up to this point.”
The Carekeeper shook his head. “That’s doubtful, but I am willing to try in light of this news. Though it won’t matter soon.”
“Why is that?” Jim asked.
“I don’t suppose there’s any harm in telling you, Mr. Helios, especially if you intend to stretch these interviews out beyond today,” Karl said thoughtfully, then refocused on his visitor. “Something – strange happened to Lord Loki when he, well, when he – fertilized Miss Solare.” He could see Jim’s face darken at the sensitive subject again and hesitated. Jim nodded for him to go on, steeling himself this time. “It’s part of why he’s so mentally unstable and how he got caught so easily after this last assault.” He sighed. “And why House Whoticore finally consented to having him committed. They knew what was coming when they saw his condition.”
For some reason, Young Jim felt an uneasy flutter begin in the pit of his stomach. “Go on.”
“We suspect a magickal as well as a genetic reason, but he seemed to have cast a spell either before or during, um, well, during the copulation,” the man told Jim carefully.
The Solare House head felt his guts tighten further.
“This spell, whatever it was, seems to have put nearly all of Lord Whoticore’s life force into his semen. He knew, of course, that the fertility of the bloodline was finished with the birth of his two grandsons.”
“He has sons and grandsons?” Jim’s jaw dropped at the news. More of their kind in the world meant this wouldn’t be the end of his mission once he ended Loki’s miserable existence.
“Yes, two sons – Erik and Narik,” the Carekeeper nodded in acknowledgement. “And their sons, Loki’s grandsons. They’re very young yet – just 2 ½ years old.”
His visitor closed his eyes in pain. Opening them, he urged his host to continue. “The spell, his life force – if he already has sons and grandsons, why do that?”
“We don’t know,” the Carekeeper admitted. “But in doing it, he sacrificed his own body’s life essence – and worse. One would think if he had wanted his line to continue, he would have cast such a powerful spell upon his own sons, but he did not. For some reason known only to Loki, he felt it was worth giving up his very soul to soul erosion to create one more child with the Solare bloodline and only the Goddess Whocate knows why.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into the Halloween horror that is the most feared Patriarch of the Whoticore bloodline to live since Whocate’s First Son, Lord Acheron. What he reveals before his death will affect the future of not just the Whoticores, but both families and of everyone they touch in the Cantoos. Don’t miss a chapter – sign up for exclusive previews of new chapters today for as little as $1.00 on Patreon!