What is an Executioner?
The Executioners are the vampire's equivalent of special police. They go on "assignments" that The Guild (the United States and Canada's vampire government) send them on, and they don't have a reputation for being very nice. It's a reputation that's often well deserved.
This is a collection of stories about those Executioners. In some stories, they've already been promoted to Executioner rank,; in others, they're still guards, working for the citadel, and, in a few, they haven't even thought about joining The Guild yet.
Though the stories stand on their own, together they weave a narrative about the beginning of The Guild in the United States, the evolution of it as the immortal population grew, and the Executioners that helped to shape it.
You can read more about Jorick, Jamie, Verchiel, and many others in the Amaranthine series and in the Vampire Morsels Short Story Collection.
This story begins in Scotland in 1615.
There was thirst. Burning, like a flame in Jamie's throat. He swallowed, but it only made it worse.
When he became accustomed to it, to the ache, he reached beyond, coming to terms with himself, his surroundings. He lay on his back, warm, not uncomfortable. There was no immediate pain, aside from his dry throat.
He opened his eyes slowly. The bright room flickered in and out of focus, then sharpened into a scene too clear to be real. Was he dreaming?
The room looked real; and just as he remembered. The large bed, the fireplace, the pitcher near the bed, the familiar lamp, his wife's cloak draped over a low stool. It was his bedroom at home, in the family castle, butbut how had he come to be there? And why was everything so bright?
He closed his eyes against it and the memories came back, edged in red, distorted, as if they were from long ago. Things had gone badly at Dunbar. They'd have been fine if they'd only waited, but the officersno, they hadn't been happy to sit. They'd ordered the attack. After two days, thousands lay dead, and many times that number were captured by Cromwell's army.
Jamie's hand moved unconsciously to his side, where he'd been wounded. Phantom pain throbbed as he pictured the ragged, maggot-edged wound. Was that last night? Earlier today? He remembered that he'd cowered in a ditch and tried to redress the mess with a torn tunic, stolen from a washing line. Too sick to go further, he spent the night there, shivering with fever. Every sound became an imagined pursuer, an enemy sent to sweep up the last of the rebels. No. The sun had risen. He remembered the warmth on his fingertips, the song of the birds as he forced himself to climb out, to follow the winding road toward his father's lands. He was so close to homeso close to Margaret.
Her image moved to the forefront of his thoughts, looking as she'd been when he last saw her. Long red hair curled around her shoulders, green eyes looked up at him, filled half with love, half with sadness.
She'd pressed a lock of hair into his hand, tied with a soft ribbon. "Ye will return, my love. Walk unafraid on yer journey and ken my heart goes with ye."
"Aye, I will, and ye will be waitin' ta greet me when I do."
She'd smiled, even as a tear slipped down her cheek. "Aye, that I will. A greeting you won't soon forget."
Jamie opened his eyes on the over-bright room again. Though he didn't remember the arrival, he'd returned, just as she said he would, just as he'd promised her. What came next, he didn't know. He'd planned to try again to start a family, to settle down victorious, but with the loss of the battlehe might need to go back.
He only needed to see her, try to explain it. She always understood, and, even when she didn't, she pretended to. They'd known one another since they were children. She'd followed him like a shadow with wild red hair and a perpetually dirty face. As they'd grown, her wild hair was tamed, and the dirt disappeared from her cheeks. He remembered the night he'd noticed her. Yes, he'd seen her a thousand times, a million times, but he'd seen her as a nuisance, as a child. That night, the light from the bonfire playing on her milky skin, he'd seen her as something more.
Their courtship was brief and their union no surprise to anyone but him, as if the clan had long seen it coming. Even she'd taken it for granted.
"I knew when we were bairns that I would be yer wife one day," she'd said more than once. "I always knew. Didn't ye?"
He was smart enough to lie, to say he'd always planned it, though mayhap it wasn't as much a lie as he thought. He'd never seriously considered another lass, never thought about it at all if he could help it. There were clan wars to worry about, then the bloody English. Always something to keep him and his father busy. Maybe, under all that, he'd secretly known that his fiery haired shadow was destined to be there forever.
"Until our hair turns white, our eyesight fails, and all our little bairns have babes of their own."
The memory of her words made him smile, and brought a new urgency to see her; kiss her, hold her and, once he'd healed
He sat up slowly, hand still at his side, body tensed for pain. None came. His quizzical eyes moved to the site of the injury as he pulled back the blanket. He found no bandage or wrapping, only a crooked scar.
A scar? How long had he been abed? For it to have healed fully, it must have been weeks. From the look of the scar, the smoothness, perhaps months. Months abed? How could such a thing be?
No wonder I'm so thirsty.
He grabbed the bedside pitcher, ready to drink whatever was inside, but it was empty. Aggravated, he set it back with too much force. Shards dropped around the night table, just as the door opened.
"I didn't mean-" he broke off at the sight of Rechert, his father's servant. The man's wide eyes moved from the broken pitcher, to Jamie's face, then to the floor.
"Ye are awake, sir."
"Aye, that I am. And thirsty." Jamie rubbed his throat. "What must a man do ta get a drink here?" Though it was meant as a joke, he saw Rechert tense. "What is it? Is something amiss?"
The man didn't look up, only murmured, "Nay."
His demeanor didn't match his answer, and Jamie was instantly on guard. Was it because he'd been abed so long? "What day is it?"
"'Tis the sixteenth of September, sir."
"The sixteenth?" How could that be? He'd been wounded only thirteen days ago? UnlessHad he been sick that long? "What is the year?"
Jamie ran a hand through his hair, fighting confusion. It was the same year, the same month, so how could he have healed so quickly?
"Shall I fetch the Laird?"
Jamie closed his eyes and nodded. "Aye. Mayhap Da can explain this." How could it be possible?
Rechert cleared his throat. "I meant Sir Androu."
Laird Sir Androu? Jamie bit back a snort of contempt. Ever afraid to make waves, it was no surprise that Rechert would cater to Androu's need for a title, even if his brother-in-law did not legally possess it.
"Nay. Of all the men in the world, I'd rather see Cromwell than Androu just now. I can imagine his amusement at the state I'm in." Wounded, helpless or rather mysteriously not wounded. Androu would seize on Jamie's confusion, lord it over him. His cold gray eyes would shine, and his thin lips would twist in that smug smirkwhy Jamie's sister had fallen in love with him was a mystery. Even more so that she'd married him. That he had married her was no surprise, though. Jamie knew well that Androu hoped to find a way to inherit the lands and title. He still remembered the joke Androu had made on their wedding night.
"One step closer ta being Laird, aren't I?" He'd chuckled.
Jamie hadn't found it so funny. "Nay. Ye'd need first ta get rid of Father, then of me, and I dinnae expect ye'd survive the attempt."
And he wouldn't, either.
Rechert took an uncomfortable step back. "Shall I get her ladyship, then?"
Ladyship? Jamie's ma was long in the graveunless he meant Margaret. "Aye, yes. Fetch me wife." He tried to struggle through a creeping, feeling of unease to add jovially, "And a drink. My throat burns."
The man didn't move, only looked stricken.
"Did ye hear me, man? Bring Margaret and a drink." Rechert still didn't move, so Jamie snapped, "Have ye gone deaf?"
When Rechert flinched, Jamie regretted his tone. Rechert had been with the family since he was a child. "I'm sorry. I dinnae mean ta be so cross. I just this blasted thirstI just need ta see Margaret and get a drink before I'm consumed." He coughed, like gargling sand. "A drink," he muttered, tossing the blanket aside, ready to stand and find his own liquid. Any liquid.
"She's dead, sir."
Jamie froze, one foot on the floor. "What do ye say? Who is dead?"
Rechert flinched again. "Yer wife, sir. Margaret."
The too-bright, over-sharp world contracted, pressing in on Jamie with a suffocating pressure that stole his breath. Dead. Margaret. Dead. ButBut
"What do ye say?"