A Sanguine Universe short story by
Angel De La Noche
Los Angeles, California
Dorian Wade stepped from the driver's seat of his modified silver F1 McLaren. He ran a hand reflexively along his tightly wound braids and straightened his red and silver racing jacket, the words DAREDEVIL printed in large, stylized letters on the back. He was tall and good-looking, with a runner's body the color of cream coffee and eyes that had stared death in the face. As the McLaren's butterfly doors closed behind him, the race car purring, Dorian flicked on a pair of sunglasses, striding towards the club.
The music was a mix of synthetic summer sounds with thumping bass and shouting voices. Past the line of hopeful club-goers, Dorian could see some of, but more importantly, smell, the nearly twelve hundred patrons of the packed nightclub.
"Hey. You're supposed to be dead," a young girl of no more than seventeen said as Dorian passed her in line.
She was twiddling a fake ID with manicured, sweaty hands, standing with a group of older girls who were hardly paying attention to her. Dorian could smell her sweet scent, mixed with the heady, familiar aroma of fear. The line was long, but the night was longer, and any number of dangers could claim her before she reached the club. And what then? More predators than she could fathom awaited through those doors, some of them inhuman.
"And you're supposed to be in bed," Dorian growled, pausing to lower his sunglasses and deliver a soul-piercing glare.
Beneath the dark sunglasses, Dorian's eyes were terrifyingly feral. The right eye was white, outlined in red, like a full moon on fire, and the left was like the moon sitting over a burning land, red and smoky with hate.
A shiver of true terror passed through the girl, and she turned to her friends, crying. Dorian Wade had shown her just a taste of what awaited, a mere fragment of the lunacy possible in the dark belly of the Angel. Though she was not likely to cross to where his kind went, the night was long and full of dangers.
Dorian continued past the line and to the bouncer, ignoring the protests of nearly a hundred forlorn people. He didn't belong in lines with humans. Not anymore.
"Xaruk," Dorian said as he approached.
Dorian was able to perceive in his proper form that Xaruk stood at around seven feet tall and weighed nearly five hundred pounds. He had four massive arms and more blood on his hands than he wanted to talk about, and he kept these crossed over his broad chest. Xaruk wore a black t-shirt with the word Angel printed in white on the front and Bouncer on the back. He smiled as Dorian approached.
"Dorian fucking Wade," Xaruk said, chuckling. "You are supposed to be dead, you know."
"I know," Dorian answered.
Xaruk laughed and gestured with his thumb to a red curtain behind him. A black placard with the words VIP in white sat above it. Dorian nodded, and Xaruk reached behind him and rapped a door behind the curtain twice.
Xaruk stepped to the side and pushed through the curtain. The door Xaruk knocked on no longer existed. Only a set of long stairs leading down.
"Have a good one, Xaruk," Dorian said, starting forward.
"You too, Wade," came the reply and the sound of a door closing.
Silence followed, and Dorian didn't even question it.
Before Dorian had made it to the bottom, he knew his destination was empty. A glowing neon sign read Los Noches in cursive lettering, and Dorian ducked beneath it, stepping out into the vast, vacant lounge.
Los Noches was a supernal resting place, a safe haven in the sprawling battleground of Los Angeles, and a living entity fed and maintained by those who worked the supernal bar. It meant something different to everyone who passed through it, and some of them never left.
As Dorian took three steps towards the bar, a figure in all black wearing a crow mask manifested from the shadows.
"Wristband," the humanoid creature said.
It had no smell, but Dorian didn't want to investigate. The humanoid entity in the crow mask offered a box of rubber wrist bands, each symbolizing something different. Dorian selected the white one, representing neutrality, and put it on.
"How may I assist you, sir?" The creature said, closing the box.
"I just want a drink," Dorian said. "Where is everyone?"
The creature gestured to the bar. Dorian took a seat in the center, empty seats to his left and right.
"Kale of the local House of War is taking on a Satanic Vampire by the name of Dakota. The match has been going for hours," the creature said, vanishing into the shadows and leaving Dorian to stew.
So stew he did. Hotel California by the Eagles played softly, though Dorian couldn't pinpoint the speakers, and after listening to the song in silence for about three minutes, a door behind the bar opened, and Azul, the demonic master of Los Noches, appeared.
"Dorian Wade," Azul said, ducking below the door and emerging behind the bar.
Azul stood at nearly twelve-foot tall and was one of the most enormous supernatural creatures Dorian had ever seen. An ancient Vampire who had more in common with a demon, Azul had existed in one form or another since the dawn of man, or so he claimed. Azul always wrapped his privates in chains and was otherwise nude, his rippling gray skin bulging with muscle.
He'd fed, and recently.
Azul's eyes blazed with energy that played like fire, trailing behind him. He approached the bar and set to checking his supplies.
"What can I get for ya?" Azul said, gesturing to the chalkboard menu.
There were drinks with names Dorian couldn't pronounce and drinks with magical effects that Dorian didn't know. He felt lonely and heavy-hearted and didn't care enough to make such a decision.
"Surprise me," Dorian said.
Azul's shoulder's slumped.
"You ok, man?" Azul asked, leaning forward. He eyed the white wristband, recognizing that Dorian wasn't someone he was allowed to touch, and nodded to himself. Azul began to look around. "Y'know what? I've got just the thing."
Dorian watched as Azul opened a fridge and was immediately bathed in silver and green light. It smelled of northern mountain woods and timeless trails but also of powerful, unnatural magic. It made Dorian's nose wrinkle.
"What is that?" Dorian asked.
"Temporal pocket," Azul answered, turning around with a giant glowing pitcher in his hand.
"and what is that?" Dorian asked.
He was beginning to perk up, the prospect of the fantastic drawing him from his heavy thoughts.
"I thought you wanted to be surprised?" Azul asked, laughing. The sound was booming and overpowered the music.
"It looks like it has flowers in it," Dorian commented.
Azul gathered a glass and filled a quarter of it with ice.
"It does. Marigolds. About eight different kinds, from Signets and Lemons to Tangerine and Safari Scarlets. Not gonna tell ya the other four, though. House secret," Azul said, grinning.
He poured heavily from a bottle of Tequila that Dorian didn't recognize, adding the sweet-smelling flower mixture and stirring.
This was the most relaxing thing Dorian had done in weeks.
"So, why don't you tell me what's bothering you?" Azul said, applying an edible marigold and orange zest as garnish.
"I'm the White Wolf of legend, said to bring peace to the warring Werewolf tribes and usher in a new era. My brother leads half of the warring tribes. Every time we've met, he's tried to kill me. We can't talk. There's just hate and animosity. Now, my people tell me I have to kill Damon, that I've got to kill my own brother. That's how I'll cow the other tribes, with a brutal show of murderous dominance."
Dorian scoffed and looked away. His fists were tight, and his nails were growing sharp. Blood trickled from puncture wounds in his palms, spilling to the hardwood bar that happily absorbed it.
Azul nodded, not the least bit perturbed. He'd heard the stories time and again, but to serve the patron who lived them was a different story. Azul set the garnish and then rubbed a liquid substance around the rim and set it ablaze with a snap of his fingers. As the fire flickered, low and hazy, Azul slid the brilliant orange drink to Dorian.
"Phoenix Marigold," Azul said with more than a hint of pride. "Drink it. You'll feel better. Guaranteed."
Dorian nodded and blew out the flames. Then he began to drink.
The alcohol hit him hard, but his regenerative capabilities would kick in automatically, rendering most of the buzz useless. Something else came through, masked by the sugar and the smell of Marigolds. A smoky memory, another time, and it wrapped Dorian like an old friend and swept him away.
Gone was the bar, the mythical Los Noches, living home to Los Angeles's monsters. Instead, before Dorian, sprawled out like an endless paradise, was a field of Scarlet Marigolds, glinting and shining in the setting sun.
A gasp shuddered from Dorian as a figure stood up. He was beautiful and foreign, familiar and not, and a tear rolled down Dorian's cheek as he looked upon him. The figure extended a hand and smiled as the sun continued to sink below the horizon. The wind blew, and Dorian smelled only them, the predators and all about them, prey. A timeless scent from before the dawn of man.
It was Damon, but it was not.
Then, it was gone, and Dorian leaned back, nearly falling off the bar-stool. He was in Los Noches again, and Azul's back was to him, putting away the ingredients to his Marigold cocktail in the fridge he had called a "Temporal pocket."
"How is the drink? Feeling any better?" Azul asked, the smile evident in his voice.
"I think I just had a vision of a different time. A different me," Dorian said, standing up.
Azul turned around.
"Wow," Azul said, his knowing smile widening. "That's amazing!"
Dorian laughed and reached for his wallet. He felt fantastic. He couldn't wait to get back in his car and take her out to the freeway, really let her loose.
"How much do I owe ya?" Dorian asked.
"On the house," Azul said. "You've already paid."
"Have I?" Dorian asked. He could sense the living structure, dormant and happy, but at the same time sentient and aware. "I suppose I have."
Azul went to take the glass, but Dorian reached forward and plucked the little marigold flower from the top.
"You're supposed to eat that," Azul commented, brow furrowing.
"I think I'll keep it," Dorian said, tucking the Marigold into his jacket pocket. "Little something to remember you by."
"Oh, I think you'll remember me just fine," Azul said, flexing his pecs and hefting his chain belt provocatively.
Dorian chuckled, heading for the stairs and his partner, the vehicle spirit called the Silver Pinnacle. As he put his hand on the railing, a thought came to him, a tidbit of lost knowledge from a time before this one.
"Hey, Azul?" Dorian called, turning around.
Azul looked up.
"Hmm?" the vampire demon said.
"Did you know that some cultures considered Marigolds to be flowers with magical powers?" Dorian asked.
Azul smiled wide, every one of his teeth fanged, vicious, and polished white. His eyes blazed with orange fire.
"I had no idea," Azul said, lying through his teeth.
Dorian left Los Noches, driving away towards the dawn, the Marigold tucked tight against the windshield. He didn't know why, but the flower made him feel better. He felt hopeful and invigorated, full of purpose.
"Let's go see Damon."