Dominic Trémaux has traveled a fair bit in his short life, but Roaring Heights stands out as the most unique. There’s an unparalleled commitment to aesthetic, demonstrated by both the breathtaking art deco architecture and the dedicated vintage dress of the city’s residents. It’s interesting, if not a little touristy. But despite the obvious artifice, it’s a welcome change from his normal haunts: Bridgeport (polluted and full of rude people), Champs Les Sims (so provincial), and Faefall (technically on a different plane of existence, thus making it difficult to fit in).
But Dominic isn’t here for the beaches or clubs or celebrities. He has burned into his mind an address: 21 Palm Tree Avenue, the home of a man by the name of Gaius Gallus, suspected vampire. And he assumes--perhaps incorrectly--that this home contains what he’s looking for: four wands, priceless and powerful family heirlooms, and an ancient scroll with magical properties. He doesn’t know for sure what a vampire would want with such objects, but his primary hypothesis is that somehow, the vampire could use the magic components from the wands to strengthen a necromantic command spell contained within the scroll. The results could be devastating, which is why Dominic must retrieve them at any cost.
Palm Tree Avenue is just north of the city center, in an obviously affluent neighborhood. The house itself is cold and imposing. He drives by the home several times a day for a week, slowing down a little each time in the hopes he’ll gain some sort of clue about the missing heirlooms or their illegitimate owner. And each time, he feels an almost immediate desire to slam on the gas. It’s a ward, no doubt--a magical aura projected around a location with the purpose of psychically repelling any intruders. It’s the perfect security device for a vampire: with a ward he can ensure a safe resting place during the day without having to rely solely on human guards.
The ward also suggests that there is a mage in Gaius’ service, which is something of an anomaly. Most mages refuse to socialize with other magical creatures, and some--such as Dominic’s mother, Maker rest her soul--avoid even mundane humans. Younger mages are usually a little more open-minded, but few would work with or for a vampire.
Each time he drives by, Dominic tries to gauge activity. There’s the ward, of course, but does Gaius also have guards? Do they patrol the grounds? But he senses no one. The ward must be Gaius’ only protection. It’s possible that with this scant attention to security, Gaius is not keeping the stolen goods on his property. But Dominic doesn’t know where else to look, so his decision is made for him: he will need to break into a vampire’s home in search of magic wands.
Even to someone steeped in witchcraft and the occult, that last sentence sounds absolutely ridiculous.
When not conducting laughably bad surveillance, Dominic spends his time researching and planning. He rented a room at the recently renovated Windfall Motel, which has become his base of operations. It’s secluded, and the owner doesn’t question his insistence that he pay in cash. The owner also doesn’t ask for identification, so he signs in under the name Nikolas Oskarsson, a precursor to his plan.
He has decided to enact the plan in question the following morning, on Leisure Day. It’s the longest day of the year, and while he doesn’t think he’ll need that much sunlight, he wants to play it safe. But despite the promise of an exhausting day ahead of him, Dominic can’t fall asleep--he’s jittery, anxious about all of the possibilities. So he turns to reading. He has already read most of the texts on vampires he brought with him on this trip, and only one remains: Sanguine, or An Investigation into Homo Vampiricus.
Sanguine was published during the clumsy infancy of the contemporary scientific method. It chronicles the experiments of one Dr. Hawthorne, utilizing an epistolary novel format not unlike Frankenstein and Dracula. In fact, any person unfamiliar with the occult would assume that it’s nothing more than a cheap imitation of superior works of literature.
It begins with a preamble, written and signed by Ada Cummings:
“In the search for truth, man often disregards that which seems impossible, frightening, or against the very laws of nature. But you must recall that seemingly blasphemous creatures exist all around us: a female komodo dragon, for instance, can reproduce without the seed of a male, a biological trait counter to the laws of our Maker Above. It is with this gentle reminder that I ask you, dear reader, to hear my story with an open and scientific mind.
Some thirteen years ago, upon the death of my parents, I was taken into the care and tutelage of one Doctor Jude T. Hawthorne, a premier mind in the fields of phrenology, cryptozoology, and the occult. I felt particularly fortunate to find myself in such a situation, for Doctor Hawthorne had taken neither student nor ward during his illustrious career, as he was famously secluded. Despite my uncertainty as to what I should expect of him, I resolved to meet every expectation Doctor Hawthorne had for me: I would prove my worthiness as a student and--as soon came to be--adopted daughter.
Doctor Hawthorne and I became fast friends; I demonstrated my intellectual capabilities as a modern, educated young woman, a woman who had benefitted from the best education either sex could hope for, and he revealed that beneath his stoic exterior was a gentle and curious soul.
A few months after my arrival, Doctor Hawthorne requested that I join him in his laboratory as his assistant, a role that I cherished. It was there that I discovered the cause of my dear Doctor's solitude; he had in his laboratory three terrifying specimens, beasts of unnatural origin: vampires, he called them.”
Ada continues for several pages, explaining how and how Dr. Hawthorne ended up with three vampires in his possession and imploring the audience’s trust. Literary scholars take this preamble as evidence of its fictionality--after all, so many epistolary novels begin with similar pleas for patience and understanding. But Dominic knows better. Dr. Hawthorne was a real person, a scientifically minded mage who studied vampires tirelessly. And while this is Dominic’s first time reading the ‘novel,’ he had come across references to Dr. Hawthorne before. In fact, there are several texts by mages devoted to interpreting and recreating his experiments, which Dr. Hawthorne had conducted nearly twenty years. He was able to keep vampires in a constant weakened--but conscious--state by intravenously injecting a liquid silver elixir he had developed, and he used that as an opportunity to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of his captives.
The majority of the novel is experiment notes written by Dr. Hawthorne and then annotated by Ada. The results are fascinating: even with his subjects debilitated, Dr. Hawthorne discovered that vampires are physically superior to humans, both in strength and speed. The intelligence of his three test subjects varied widely so he hypothesized that physical prowess is what makes them predators to humans, not innate cunning.
Dr. Hawthorne’s primary objective, though, was to determine which elements of folklore were true and which were not. Obviously vampires are weak to silver, as demonstrated by his elixir. He also discovered that his subjects could cross running water despite tales to the contrary. They were not weakened by garlic or any religious imagery. They could die from staking, however, which the doctor discovered that when one of his subjects--a female he called Nox--taunted him too many times. It must have taken extreme physical force to puncture the rib cage with a mere piece of wood (sharpened Crataegus, according to the notes), so Dominic discounts that as a possible method of defense. It’s both impractical and far too violent for his tastes.
The experiments contained within Sanguine are both fascinating and repulsive, and Dominic soaks in every detail, hoping for some sort of insight that will help him in the unlikely event of meeting Gaius face-to-face. But with only a few pages remaining the notes end abruptly, leaving unclear the results of an experiment about dismemberment and regeneration. Instead, Ada’s narrative takes over:
“The creatures developed an immunity to the silver elixir. It was a slow process, but they hid their growing strength like the horrendous, duplicitous beasts they are. And one night, as we prepared for an experiment, they struck. Even the silver chains that held them couldn’t stop their rampage.
The Doctor’s screams echoed in my ears as I fled, running as quickly as my frail legs could carry me. And curses to my feminine frailty--I tripped as I ran, in the process knocking over a tray of surgical tools.
I believed this was to be my end, torn asunder by these sins against the Maker. But the creatures stopped, knelt, and began to count and collect the tools. Their countenances were twisted, angry, and they cursed as they tallied. I could tell in that moment that I was witnessing truth in fairy tale, evidence for an experiment Doctor Hawthorne had not yet conducted: arithmomania.
It was in this way I was able to escape, dear reader--I threw to the ground everything I could find, and the creatures--bound by some supernatural compulsion--were forced to kneel and count every object in their path.”
Arithmomania. Dominic had heard of this vampiric trait before. But this is the only text that has confirmed it through observation.
He had conceived a loose plan before arriving in Roaring Heights, its seed having been planted before he left Aurora Skies. It started with a simple question: how can I avoid the vampire’s attention? And when that question popped in his head, the answer was right in front of him. But with Sanguine, his plan has become more concrete.
His life is ridiculous.
The second step requires Lark’s help, and for that, he turns to her Simstagram page. He recently discovered through idle web searching that all of Lark’s social media pages are unsecured, and her Simstagram is the most active. It seems shortsighted on her part--after all, any weirdo could stalk her this way.
Dominic tries his best to ignore that he is currently said weirdo.
The most recent picture on her feed is a couple’s selfie of her and Nikolas. Lark has a faint smile on her face, which is gently framed by her dreads. Her ears poke out from under her hair, betraying her extraterrestrial heritage.
But it’s Nikolas that Dominic is really interested in. He studies his face, trying to memorize every detail. Their eyes are about the same color, but Nikolas’ face is longer, his jaw less defined, his lips not as wide. He has a birthmark under his left eye, and Dominic recalls from their meeting that Nikolas is taller and broader than he is.
Suddenly there’s a pop-up on his screen: “NEW POST” it says, with an arrow pointing up. Dominic drags his thumb across the screen, refreshing the page. It’s another selfie, this one just of Lark. “Overdue >:(“ the caption says, followed by a series of hashtags: #killme #neveragain #thisishell #week41 #babybee
The corners of his mouth twitch, but he stifles the smile. He’s happy for her, really: she has a partner, a baby on the way, and she seems content. She has a good life, more or less, and she deserves it. He wants this too, someday--a family, that is. But his mother died before she set up his betrothal, so he’ll need to arrange his own marriage.
But there’s no time for daydreams. Dawn is approaching and he has to focus.
Dominic takes a deep breath. He’s only cast this glamor spell once before, as a teenager, in order to conceal a particularly grotesque acne outbreak. He’s unsure if it’ll work for more than that. The spell is a short incantation, the end of which is followed by a tingling feeling. And then nothing. He doesn’t feel any different, at least not right away.
But then a he realizes his clothes feel a little tighter, and his head feels lighter. He looks in the mirror.
Nikolas looks back, sans the lip and ear piercings.
It’s a simple idea: should anyone see him, whether through a security camera or face-to-face, they’ll see Nikolas instead. And since--from what Dominic surmised--Nikolas is nothing more than a thief-for-hire, they’ll assume that he is stealing the wands for another client. All blame will be on Nikolas, and no one will expect Dominic. Dominic as Nikolas. Wait, Dominikolas.
Dominic chuckles to himself. He’s surprised by the laugh--it’s deeper than his own, his voice identical to Nikolas’. This is a damn good spell.
Outside the sun begins to rise over the horizon. Dominic squints his eyes as he opens the motel room door. Despite the softness of dawn, the sun feels too bright. He shouldn’t have stayed up all night. But he needs to press on.
Gravel crunches under his feet as he lumbers to his truck. He isn’t used to the weight of his current form, and it’s throwing him off balance. Then a thought crosses his mind. He pauses by his truck, then kneels down and scoops up a handful of pebbles. He shoves them into his pocket. Just in case.
Oppressive. That’s the word Dominic has been searching for. Gaius’ house is oppressive. It makes him want to turn around and return to the relative comfort of his motel room.
But he has to remain resolute. He takes a few breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Then he steps over the property line.
The repellent feeling disappears. The ward must not affect anyone already on the property. Dominic smiles to himself a jogs up the steps.
But at the top of the stairs right above the front door is a camera, which Dominic notices only after he steps into its frame. “Shit,” he mutters as he stumbles backwards. It takes him a second to process what he needs to do next. Of course, anyone who views the security footage will see Nikolas, not him, but he still wants to avoid being captured on camera if possible.
Luckily he’s naturally prepared for such a situation. Some mages are gifted with a specialty, and while Dominic is weak overall he has a useful power: an uncanny ability to command to varying effect and success, whether it be objects or people. It’s more practical than one might think. A good command can get someone out of almost any situation, though his commands are often limited to a single word. And so he offers a simple command; “frange.” The camera sparks, allowing him unimpeded access to the door. Another imperative (aperi) opens the door.
It’s cool inside, unnaturally so, causing Dominic to shiver. It appears the ground floor is one large room broken up only by accent walls and opulent decor, which is mix of different cultures and eras. Gaius must be one eccentric collector.
Dominic takes another deep breath and focuses, trying his hardest to hone in on where the wands might be. And his senses draw him down, to the estate’s basement.
As he creeps downstairs, a sense of dread overtakes him. Something feels off, wrong, unnatural. If he had to guess, he’d say that he’s close to either his target, or to the daytime resting place of Gaius Gallus. It doesn’t help that the room he’s in--a lounge, from the looks of it--has a wall of windows that open to the pool. He feels like someone could be watching him. He has to find a way to get out of sight.
He has two options, two sets of doors. One with a single frame, one with a double frame. Both locked. That’s no problem for Dominic of course. He decides on the double doors, repeating his earlier command: “aperi.”
Dominic pushes the door open. The wands aren’t in here. There is, however, an ornate bed, with two alabaster figures draped across it.
Dominic slowly approaches the bed, walking as gently as his new heavy feet will allow. It’s incredible: two vampires, in the curiously preserved flesh. They aren’t breathing, but according to Dr. Hawthorne’s notes, vampires never breathe. Thus, their slumber seems just like death.
For a moment, a dark thought crosses his mind. If he had a stake, he could ensure the retrieval of his family’s heirlooms without any worry of retribution. But even with the necessary tools, he knows that couldn’t bring himself to kill anyone, especially not for mere theft.
He turns around, carefully tiptoeing out of the room lest he wake the dead.
On to the other door. This one is a little harder to open, and he has to repeat his command three times before it complies. He should take that obstinance as a sign, perhaps even a warning that something magical is inside. But Dominic is still surprised when, upon opening the door, he finds a young woman standing at a cauldron, stirring a noxious smelling mixture. Her aura is almost as disgusting, evoking a sickly sweet feeling in Dominic’s stomach: she’s a mage as well, and not a pleasant one.
He freezes. She hasn’t seemed to notice him yet. He glances around the room. Maybe if he can find the heirlooms quickly, he can escape without her noticing.
And there they are, on an alchemy station just a few steps from the door: two wands, and one scroll. The other two wands must be somewhere else in the room. Dominic looks around as he sidles towards the alchemy station.
But the witch notices him. He’s clumsy in this form, his footsteps too heavy. She whips around and holds up her hands. He scrambles for his wand--he can only cast a few spells without it--but she’s too fast. Two balls of light shoot out of her palms, the force of which hurls him backwards. He hits the flagstone wall, smacking the back of his head against it in the process.
His eyes flutter. The witch kneels down in front of him, a devious smile on her face.
“I’ll let Mr. Gallus decide--”
But before she can finish, Dominic passes out.
It feels like just a minute. He opens his eyes to see the witch sitting across from them, a well-worn book in her hands.
“Oh, you’re up,” she smiles as she slams the book shut, “I was afraid you wouldn’t wake up in time.”
His head is pounding. “For what,” he responds groggily. He doesn’t remember where he is, much less who he’s talking to.
“Nightfall, you goose. Mr. Gallus and Ms. Esposito will be awake soon. I was afraid you’d still be unconscious--you’ve been out for like hours--and they hate waiting.”
That’s right. His heart beats faster as he recalls where he is and under what circumstances.
“And another mage, too” she continues, “they’ll definitely want to talk to you.”
“Dormi,” he holds his hand up, concentrating his hardest. It’s difficult to cast without a wand, at least for him, and more so without his father from whom to draw power.
But it works. The witch crumples to the ground, dropping her book in the process.
“Oblīviscere meus faciem,” Dominic whispers. He’s done this spell combo before--a sleep spell, then a slightly more complex memory wipe charm--but never on a mage. Hopefully it’ll work. He grabs the two wands and the scroll from the alchemy station and rushes out of the room, leaving the snoring witch behind. He moves quickly, creeping towards the basement stairs. If the witch was correct, the two vampires could be waking up any moment now.
But one is already awake.
A crisp voice cuts through the air: “And what do we have here?” Dominic twists around and stumbles, falling onto his back. Gaius watches him with a look of amusement on his face. “Could it really be--Oskarsson,” he tilts his head, “I never thought we would meet in the flesh. Especially like this.”
“I-I-I--” Dominic stutters, but can’t seem to get a single word out. He’s still groggy and disoriented. At least that’s how he excuses the cowardice.
“How disappointing,” Gaius takes a step forward, “you were so articulate when we first met. I hate to think I’ll remember you this way.”
Dominic’s mind races as he thinks of what to do. Wait, of course--he prepared for this. He shoves his hand into his pocket, then turns it inside out, spilling the pebbles he picked up in the parking lot.
Gaius looks down at the pebbles, then at Dominic. His brow furrows and he snarls, “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Dominic’s heart stops--it didn’t work. He’s a dead man.
But then Gaius growls and kneels down, hastily picking up and counting the pebbles.
Dominic scrambles to his feet and runs towards the stairs, tripping on his own shadow as he goes. He doesn’t look behind him, even as a door creaks open.
“What the hell are you doing?” An exasperated female voice asks.
“Help me count these,” Gaius orders.
“Just shut up and help me, Bianca,” Gaius roars.
They continue to bicker as Dominic darts up the stairs and out the front door.
He makes it to the motel in record time, having pushed his old truck to previously unreached speeds. He bursts into his room and slams the door behind him, slumping to the ground.
Too close. Too dangerous. What was he thinking? Was he thinking at all? It had seemed simple enough: break in, find the four wands and the scroll. But he found only two wands and the scroll. That’s better than nothing, but the cost of it all--he was so close to death.
They saw him, as Nikolas of course. They think he broke in, so no one will go looking for someone fitting Dominic’s appearance. Perfect, right?
But he’d forgotten, perhaps purposefully, that all humans are connected, and no man exists on his own. He had taken Nikolas’ criminal ways as a sign that he is disconnected from the world, severed due to his eschewing of the social contract that binds society together. It’s how Dominic justified stealing another man’s face for the purpose of--amongst other things--framing him.
But it’s not that simple. Nikolas doesn’t exist on his own. He isn’t a lone wolf, or an island, or any other cliché.
He’s connected to Lark. So with Nikolas on a vampire’s radar, she’s in danger, too.
Dominic hangs his head. How could he be so fucking shortsighted?
Author’s note: Wow, this chapter was hard to write. I hope it wasn't hard to read. XD I've seriously been working on it off and on for the past three weeks. I'm never getting distracted by a minor character again!
Anyway, some credits: the witch is a sim Teal Moon sent to me forever ago. Thanks! The Windfall Motel is made over from a lot I downloaded on MTS, and Gaius’ house is also a house I downloaded from MTS and edited.