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Double-Edged War

Friday, March 11, 2044

McDermitt, Nevada



       “Mr. Arlenton, stay a moment.” Mr. Henderson called from the front of the classroom as the bell rang and the other students started packing up. Kaelin flipped his textbook shut and grabbed his notebook, shoving his pen through the spiral binding.

       He stepped up to the desk. Mr. Henderson waited until the other students had filtered out before speaking.

“Rough morning?”

       Kaelin shrugged. It wasn’t any rougher than the others.

       Mr. Henderson waited, but Kaelin added nothing and the man sighed. “You did pretty well with the linear functions, but you might want to spend some more time on the polynomials. I think you misunderstood a step in solving them.”

       Kaelin grimaced, watching him point the mistake out on one of the homework sheets.

       “This homework will keep your grade where it is. If you want to resubmit it with the corrections, we can push it up to an A-.” Mr. Henderson passed the papers over. Kaelin flipped through. It wouldn’t be hard to make the corrections.

       “When do you need it by?” Kaelin asked.

       “If you can get it to me Monday when you turn in next week’s homework, I can get it in the books. Oh, and I almost forgot,” Mr. Henderson tugged open his desk drawer and pulled out a small bottle. “Try this on your locker.”

       It was nail polish remover. He didn’t ask why Mr. Henderson had it. He just took it and muttered “Thanks.”

       Mr. Henderson nodded and started picking up his belongings, stacking files and notebooks into his battered leather briefcase, flipping the brass closures up. Kaelin slid into the hallway, weaving his way through the crush of students. He kept close to the wall when he could, tucking his arms against his chest to make himself a smaller target. It did little to stop the pointed elbows from digging into his sides. Pushing through the final wave, he made it to his dinged, rusted locker.

       It had been covered, again, in snipped up pieces of dirty magazines, his face glued overtop those of the naked men. In glitter, someone had painted the words Fag and Homo. It happened every week.

       Kaelin ripped off the pictures, letting the paper fall like vulgar confetti around his shoes. The glitter glue normally stuck for days, until it softened enough for him to chip away. But with a liberal dousing of the nail polish remover, today it brushed off. Only a random spray of glitter remained, the words illegible.

       He tugged open his locker. It was empty, until he added the thick, heavily abused pre-calculus book, the only textbook he had. He’d stolen the money for it from a snobby woman at the park. She’d left her purse just sitting there, teasing his itchy fingers.

       Before he closed the locker, rough hands shoved him forward and his forehead smacked into the metal, sending the door colliding into the locker beside it. The loud crash echoed down the hall, drowning out Kaelin’s curse. His head throbbed, a thin stream of red spilling into his eye.

       A second pair of hands knocked his notebook to the ground. He didn’t need to look to know who it was. Garret was the oldest son of Kaelin’s foster mom. They weren’t related, which was for the best. He didn’t think he could handle having a brother with that much stupid in him.

       “Aw, what’s the matter, pretty boy? Someone decorate your locker for you?” Garret said, sneering. Kaelin knew if he looked he’d see glitter crusted along Garret’s fingernails.

       Kaelin just knelt to grab his notebook, shifting enough away that the kick he knew was coming only glanced along his chest.

       “Ouch. That hurt. So much.” Dumbass, he added silently, standing before they could try again. He dropped the notebook into the locker and slammed it shut.

       “Why don’t you just go live with the leeches, fucking mattress muncher.” Garret snarled. Kaelin would happily go live in Sidrea, with the vampires, if it meant leaving here.

       Kaelin shoved by them. He passed his classroom and slipped into the bathroom. Wadding up a handful of paper towels, he pressed them into the throbbing cut. It wasn’t deep. Wouldn’t even scar. Kaelin turned away when his eyes caught his reflection.

       He didn’t need to see it. He knew what he looked like. Hair that fell too long for a boy, not quite blonde and not quite brown, eyes that sat somewhere between amber and mud, a mouth that looked too much like a girl’s. He wasn’t tough enough to be intimidating, and didn’t have the right sort of androgynous look for a gay boy.

       He was pressing the last paper towel against the still oozing cut when the bathroom door opened. He froze, but it was just Garret and his cronies, again.

Kaelin forced a cocky smile and leaned against the sink.        “Aw, it takes three of you to find your dick to piss, Garret? One to hold it for you, one to shake it?”

       Garret scowled, face twisting with disgust. “I ain’t no fag.”

       “No, you’re too ugly.” Kaelin turned away to wash his hands. He wished they just get it over with.

       Garret’s friends stepped forward to grab his arms. Even with Kaelin holding back, it took all three of the boys to get his head submerged in the toilet. Mrs. Wringle’s words circled in his head with each kick he doled out. Stay out of trouble, boy. No fighting this time. One more slip-up, and you’re done.

       Kaelin gagged as water flooded his mouth and nose. He thrashed in the bowl, vision darkening before they finally yanked him out, wet hair dripping down his face and onto his shirt. His head slammed into the rim of the toilet and he cried out, ears ringing.

       Garret dropped him onto his back, sneering down. Kaelin kept his fists at his side. Forced himself not to break the boy’s bones one by one.

       Garret tugged a wad of something from his pocket, shoving them into Kaelin’s mouth. The taste of rubber coated his tongue as he gagged again. He spat into his hands, a handful of colored condoms coating his palm. He flung them away.

       “Just a few gifts for you.” Garret and his friends snickered, leaving as the tardy bell sounded.

Kaelin let his head fall back to the tiles, the cut on his head throbbing. But he jerked to his feet, hands slamming the stall door shut, when he heard the bathroom door open again. His hands were shaking as he pushed the lever to keep it closed.

       Please don’t be…

       “Kaelin…” Daniel’s voice was pitched soft but mocking. Kaelin wiped his clammy hands on his jeans and held his breath, hoping maybe, for once, Daniel would overlook him. A second later, Kaelin flinched as loud banging clattered the stall door on its hinges.

       “Come on, Kaelin, I know you’re in there.” Daniel said. “Better open up. Unless you want me coming over tonight instead…”

       Kaelin reached out and slid the lock, letting the stall door swing open.


*           *           *


       Kaelin missed two classes. But he couldn’t miss fourth period. He sank into a desk near the door, slouching down to avoid the eyes. Mrs. Riley applied a new layer of lip gloss to her already moist lips and grabbed a stack of papers off her desk, throwing one in front of each student. Kaelin flipped through his to scan the exam questions. It didn’t take him long to bubble in the answers and write out one of the essays on the back of the test. He was the first one finished, as always.

       He stood up and carried his exam up to Mrs. Riley’s desk, sidestepping the outstretched foot waiting to trip him.

       Kaelin passed it over to the teacher, who gave it a bored skim before throwing it onto the other side of the desk.

       “Can I go to the library?”

       She rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

       A few seconds later, he heard chairs grating behind him as another student stood up. He made his way the few halls over to tug on the library doors but they were locked. He sighed, shifting his weight.

       Three more hours until school would be over. Lunch, then study period and gym. He had his homework for the week finished already, and he skipped gym whenever he could get away with it. His eyes scanned the empty hallway.

       There was no point in staying. He’d given the last of the money he’d pinched from the corner store to Kiana for her lunch, so he wasn’t going to eat anyway. If he started walking now, he could make it to the elementary school just a bit earlier than he’d planned. It might be cold but he’d be alone.

       He had his hand on the door handle when the Principal Simmons snapped from behind him,  “Kaelin Arlenton, where do you think you’re going?”

       Kaelin’s lips twisted down. “I don’t feel well?” It came out too much a question.

       “I was looking for you. There’s someone here to talk to you.” Kaelin glanced at the Principal, shying away before he could stop himself. The man looked too much like his son. Too much like Daniel.

       “Is it Mrs. Wringle?” Kaelin asked. His caseworker was the only person he could think of who would come to his school. It certainly wouldn’t be his foster mother. Mrs. Fowler spent all the time she wasn’t at work either asleep or using.

       “Mrs. Wringle and some friends.” Principal Simmons shifted impatiently. “Come on, boy. They don’t want to be kept waiting.”

        He hadn’t gotten in trouble lately, hadn’t stolen anything since the purse two months ago. Hadn’t gotten arrested. But there must be something he’d forgotten. Maybe Mrs. Fowler had complained. Mrs. Wringle only showed up if he was in trouble. He followed the Principal towards an unused classroom.

       Mrs. Wringle was sitting at a desk near the window. Her legs were tucked primly beneath the desk, her slate-grey hair pulled into a tight bun. Her lips were pursed in what was meant to be a smile. Kaelin turned away, glancing at the pair of strangers. A dark-haired man in his late twenties sat at a desk near the front, frowning at the cracked whiteboard. A stern man, hair just as dark but eyes green, stood behind him.

       Kaelin wavered in the doorway, taking in their expensive suits, the shiny shoes, the watch that probably cost more than most people’s cars. The sitting man glanced up. He stood and approached with a friendly smile, hand outstretched.

       Kaelin eyed it. He didn’t want his grungy hands anywhere near the gold cufflinks, the cashmere shirt.

The man withdrew his offer. “Sorry, I thought most humans…well, never mind, anyway. You must be Kaelin?”

       “Yes sir.”

       “I’m Principal Landler. I’m in charge of Rimidalv’s Academy.”

       “I’ve never heard of it.” Kaelin glanced at Mrs. Wringle. Was it some school for delinquents? Was he being sent away again? His heartrate sped up. He couldn’t be sent away.

       “You wouldn’t have, it’s across the border.”

Kaelin flinched. He had to mean the Nevada-Sidrea border, it was the closest one. But that meant Principal Landler wasn’t a human. He was a vampire. It was almost funny. Kaelin had always assumed if he met one of them, he’d know it. There’d be fangs, or…or glowing eyes, or whatever. Principal Landler looked normal.

       “Now, no need to be frightened, I don’t bite…. usually.” Principal Landler smiled at his joke and Kaelin tried to smile back. It was more of a wince, but whatever. It was close enough.

       “I haven’t crossed the border in over a year, sir. They made it quite clear that I shouldn’t return and I haven’t.” Kaelin’s voice audibly wavered. He’d been lucky that the border guards had been preoccupied with something. He’d only climbed the wall to get Kiana’s teddy bear from where Garret and his friends had chucked it over. He hadn’t thought about how he was getting back across until it was too late. Unlike the human side, which had trees butted right up it, the vampires maintained the fifteen-foot clear vision area between the wall and literally anything that could have helped him cross back over. Of course, it wasn’t the vampires who were worried about people slipping over, it was the humans.

       “Don’t worry, son. We’re not interested in silly pranks, it’s all forgotten. We’re actually here to talk to you about an experiment we’re working on.”

       “I don’t believe in human research, so I’m sure I wouldn’t be interested.”

       “Kaelin!” Mrs. Wringle hissed a reprimand. “These men came a long way to talk to you and you will listen!”

       Kaelin flushed and pushed his hands into his pockets.

       Principal Landler just smiled. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Wringle, I’m not offended. One of my favorite students plays with sarcasm often as well.” The man looked back at Kaelin. “It’s normal to resort to sarcasm when you’re afraid.”

       “I’m not afraid.” Kaelin argued. It was a lie. He was always afraid. But it wasn’t Principal Landler that he was afraid of.

       The principal smiled. “Have you heard anything about negotiations between the vampires and the humans?”

       “For dinner rights?” Kaelin mocked. “No, I try to stay away from the tabloids.”

       “I don’t know, some of the tabloids are good to read if you like a laugh.” Principal Landler mused. “But I meant the attempts to show peace between our two species.”

       “No.” Kaelin said. “I haven’t heard anything.” He couldn’t afford to waste money on newspapers and it wasn’t like Mrs. Fowler had a TV.

       “We are looking for a human student to transfer across the border to Rimidalv’s Academy to finish out the school year.” Principal Landler explained.

       “And you want to know who’s an asshole so you don’t pick them?” Kaelin suggested.

       “An asshole would fit right in with some of our students. We want you to come. Even though you aren’t one of the assholes.” Principal Landler answered.

       “I think you picked the wrong person.” Kaelin frowned.

       “I don’t think we have. We’ve gone over your records. We think you’d be perfect for the position.”

       Kaelin glanced at Mrs. Wringle. “Did you get me mixed up with one of your other cases?” If the vampires had seen his records, there was no way in hell they’d still want him.

       Mrs. Wringle smiled. “Of course not, Kaelin. But you have to admit, you’ve been doing much better since you came here. I’ve seen real improvement from you.”

       Not by choice. She’d told him if he got in any trouble, at all, he’d go to the Juvenile Detention Facility…essentially, a prison for wayward kids. And he wouldn’t have cared, if it wasn’t for meeting his foster sister, Kiana. But he knew if he left, she’d be alone. Sick as she was…he doubted she’d make it. He couldn’t risk getting in trouble anymore.

       “We see your potential and we’d like to give you the opportunity to reach it.” Principal Landler added.

       “There are other kids here who don’t have records.” Kaelin muttered. “Why me?”

       “Why not you?” Principal Landler rebutted.

       “My file’s an inch thick.” Kaelin answered. “I don’t get good grades.” A million other reasons he could list if he wanted to.

       “We have students at our school who have thicker files than you and worse grades. I don’t think your file defines who you are. You have no real ties to this school. Being in the foster system means you’re used to being shifted around. I don’t think it will disturb you to switch mid-schoolyear, like it would for some.” Principal Landler answered. Kaelin wondered if this was some kind of school for delinquent vampires.

       Before he could follow that thought, though, the mention of the foster system made everything else click.

“You want someone who nobody would miss if there was an accident.” Kaelin clarified bluntly. “Someone disposable.”

       “Kaelin! That’s not what he said. You should be more polite—” Mrs. Wringle scolded.

       “That’s alright, Mrs. Wringle. He has every right to question. He’s the one who has to attend the school. He needs to know that he will be safe when he goes there.” Principal Landler interrupted before turning back to Kaelin. “That’s not how I would have put it. There are risks but I don’t believe that you will be in any danger there. Naturally, the Academy would pick up your tuition and any other expenses. We offer one of the finest educations in the nation, human, vampire or otherwise. Our graduates continue to be accepted into every Ivy League college across the nation, even since our exposure. And, if the year goes successfully, you’d of course be welcome to finish out your senior year there as well. This is the chance of a lifetime.”

       “Where is this Academy? I mean, I know it’s across the border, but where? Would I be able to walk?” Kaelin asked. It was a twenty-minute walk to the wall as it was.

       “Well, part of your tuition covers living expenses. We have dorms, but given your situation, we also have a few nice studio apartments close by. It’s all taken care of.” Principal Landler answered.

       Any thought Kaelin had of taking the offer vanished. Who would take care of Kiana if he left? Mrs. Fowler barely remembered when he was there.

       “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s just not possible. I can’t leave Kia—” he rephrased. “I have responsibilities here. I just can’t pick up and move. Otherwise, I might have considered it, but the way it is…” He shrugged his shoulders. He had more than just himself to think of.

       Principal Landler looked at him for a moment, his expression searching, then turned to the other man. They exchanged a glance he couldn’t interpret before turning back.

       Principal Landler spoke slowly. “Well Kaelin, our academy is located close enough to the border that it would be possible for someone to drive you to and from campus, although it would have to be one of ours, for security’s sake. If that was your only concern, then we can still make an agreement.”

       Kaelin still hesitated.

       “Mrs. Fowler’s already signed the paperwork.” Mrs. Wringle said. “I can override her permission, if you insist on being stubborn, but if I do that, she would no longer be able to remain your guardian.”

       “She’s getting paid,” Kaelin frowned. “Isn’t she?”

       “That’s none of your concern.” Mrs. Wringle answered.

       “She’s getting a small fund to help with the inconvenience of you not being there to walk the other children to school, or get them off the bus.” Principal Landler replied, ignoring Kaelin’s caseworker.

       “So I don’t have a choice then.” Kaelin shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. “When do I start?”

       “The student will be at your house Monday by seven. School starts at eight. He’ll have everything that you’ll need.” Principal Landler said.

       “Is there a uniform?” Kaelin asked.

       “We don’t currently have a uniform. There is a dress code but it’s probably close to what you have here. I’ll make sure your guide has a copy of the student handbook.”

       “Where do I sign?”

       Principal Landler held out the contract and he added his name to the bottom.

       “I think once you get settled, you’ll really enjoy the school. If you have any problems, my office door is always open.” Principal Landler offered.

       “That’s what they always say.” Kaelin muttered. Every single school said it, every adult promised to listen, but no one followed through. “Can I go back to class now?”

       Principal Landler nodded, glancing at Mrs. Wringle. She frowned. “I need to speak to you about your attendance.”

       Principal Landler gestured for the other man, the quiet one, to follow him out, leaving Kaelin alone with his caseworker.

       Kaelin sighed and flopped into one of the desks, tuning out the lecture.

Tuesday, April 9, 1985
Los Angeles, California



       Seven-year-old Endymion watched his father pack. “There is talk of something starting in the East.” The newly appointed general repeated, as if the reasoning was going to change anything. “I won’t be gone long. Your uncle has agreed to look after you.”

       “You have to leave now?” Endymion frowned.

       “The sooner I go, the quicker I’ll be home.” His father zipped the case closed and picked it up. “Listen to your uncle.”

       “But dad…” He begged. The funeral was only two days ago. First he said good-bye to his mother and now his father. “Just one more night.” The tears streaked down his cheeks.

       “I’ll be back before you know it.” Father kissed the top of his head before hurrying out. Endymion dropped onto the bed and glanced around the empty room. He couldn’t think. Couldn’t breathe.

       The pillow grew damp.

       “I’m sorry…” a small voice said, a hand resting on his back.

       “He said he’ll be back soon.” Endymion reassured.

       The voice didn’t answer, but he knew why. Even at eight, his cousin knew what Endymion knew. His father wouldn’t be back soon. He had no one. He had nothing.

       “You have me.” Aldis rested his head against Endymion’s shoulder, and wrapped his arms around him.  “You’ll always have me.”

*           *           *

Friday, October 12, 2035
New York, New York

       The bedroom door slammed against the wall as sixteen-year-old Aldis rushed into the room. “Endymion!” He felt the bed shift. “Look!” He heard the crinkling of paper. “It’s official! It’s ours!”

       Endymion grumbled. Whatever his cousin was going on about could wait. It was too early, but he knew Aldis wouldn’t leave until he got his way. With a sigh, Endymion opened his eyes and stared at the bold letters on the front of the newspaper.


       He shot up with a grin. “Your dad did it!” They had been fighting for years, ever since the first sale his uncle spoke about purchasing a state from the crumbling United States. Endymion snagged the paper and read.

In a struggle that lasted for almost two years, the sale of Oregon has been finalized. The highest bidder is a man named Raheem Mydinn, the CEO of Mydinn Enterprises, the leading developer of medical robotics and experimental cancer treatments. In a startling revelation, Mr. Mydinn has revealed that he is a member of a new race of beings, who call themselves vampires.

IN FURTHER NEWS: Raheem Mydinn, King of the Vampires, discusses plans for cooperation between species.

       Endymion grinned. “This rocks!”

       “Right! It was a hard fight. The other bidder kept upping his offer which just dragged this whole thing on and almost doubled the price of the damn state but it’s ours!” Aldis laid back. “Do you know what this mean?”

       “No more hiding? No more moving all around? No more having to pretend?” Endymion laughed, flopping back next to his cousin. They could be themselves. They wouldn’t have to live in the shadows.

       “Yes.” Aldis nudged Endymion. “This will change everything.”

       “It’ll be the best thing that’s happened to us.” Endymion agreed.

*           *           *

Friday, March 11, 2044
Mydinn, Sidrea

       Endymion threw the alarm clock across the room. It shattered against the cobalt wall, sending pieces of plastic scattering across the arctic blue carpet. He didn’t want to go to school, and he sure as hell didn’t want to get out of bed when last night’s news promised another cold morning. He rolled onto his back and draped an arm over his eyes. Nothing was going to move him.

       Beside him, his cellphone flashed before sending a happy chime, indicating a new message. He grumbled. Nope. Wasn’t moving from this spot ever.

       The chime came again. He ignored it. Only one person would be awake this morning and texting him. Seconds later, a melody began as the texter switched to calling.

       Gods damn it… Endymion sighed. He leaned over and answered.

       “Good morning. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” Aldis was too chipper.

       “I’m dying, can’t go.” Endymion let out a stream of fake coughs.

       “I’ll swing by the store and buy you some medicine. Twenty minutes, and don’t make me come in to get you. I have a meeting this morning.”

       “You shouldn’t pick me up. I can’t get you sick or you’ll miss that important meeting.” Having no idea what the meeting was, it was a guess, but almost every meeting the heir to the kingdom attend was important.

       “Nineteen.” His cousin hung up.

Damn it.

       True to his word, Aldis was outside the apartment complex nineteen minutes later. Endymion shuffled to the Jeep, tossed his bag into the back and climbed in.

       “Why do you hate me?” He shut the door and clicked the buckle into place.

       “Because you stole my truck when we were kids.” His cousin pushed over a greasy brown bag. “I brought breakfast.”

       “I said sorry.” Who knew which incident his cousin was referring to… there had been several. But he was sure at least one of them he would have apologized for. His uncle would have seen to that.

       Endymion opened the bag and grinned, finding fresh fries. One of the benefits to his cousin being the crown Prince, he could convince the restaurants to cook non-breakfast foods at six-thirty in the morning. He pulled a couple out.

       “So, what’s today’s meeting?” One of the downfalls to being the crown Prince was the multitude of meetings his cousin was forced to go to. It made Endymion happy that he was fifth in line, behind Aldis, Aldis’ two sisters, and his own father. There would be a ton of bloodshed for him to get the throne, and none of it he wanted to see.

       “My experiment. We’re looking over possible candidates.” Aldis glanced at Endymion. “I have a meeting at two-thirty as well. So, I’ll be late picking you up.”

       Endymion sighed. It was the third time this week. “I need my own car.” He had his license, he was royalty, and yet, he was still forced to wait to go anywhere.

       Aldis glanced at him from the corner of his eye, his brows raising.

       “What? It’s not like I’d drive away and never come back.” Endymion grumbled. Except that’s exactly what he’d do, and his cousin knew it. He wanted nothing more than to leave this place and not return. Everyone thought coming forward to the humans and outing themselves as vampires was going to make life easier. Even him. Instead, after they purchased the state of Oregon and made it their own, things got harder.

       “I’m sure.” Aldis pulled into the school and parked by the door. “Just… try to stay out of trouble today. Ok?”

“Of course.” Endymion climbed from the car and grabbed his bag. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

*           *           *

       Endymion watched the football field as the flames licked the grass. He sighed. They were going to blame this on him. To be fair he was the cause of the fire, but they didn’t have to tell everyone that. It wasn’t like the fire had been on purpose. He didn’t think the grass was going to burn when there was fucken ice on the ground this morning.

       He tried to sweep the frost over the flames, but it only spread them further. Endymion grumbled. Stupid fire… He glanced over his shoulder as someone approach. Even. Better.

       “Yeah, yeah… to the principal’s office.” He told Coach Webster as he grabbed his bookbag. “I know the routine.”

*           *           *

       Endymion chewed on a plasma-flavored Life Ender, and propped his feet up onto the oak desk so he could lean back in Principal Landler’s chair. It was more comfortable than the un-cushioned one on the other side of the desk. He watched his handheld game pad, cursing as the group of monsters surrounded him. Damn game. He downed a Potion of Strength, and began to fight.

       The office door swung open a few minutes later and the principal walked in. He stopped, seeing Endymion, and let out a sigh.

       “Again, Endymion?” Principal Landler shut the door. “This is the fifth time this month.” He prowled over and cleared his throat.

       Endymion glanced up. “What?”

       “Feet.” The Principal crossed his arms. Endymion dropped them onto the floor.

       “Jeez.” He turned his attention back to the game. 

       The principal cleared his throat again.

       “What now?”

       “You’re in my chair.”

       “That one’s not very good, and you made me wait forever...” Endymion glanced at the older man.

       Principal Landler just glared. He never was one to give things up without something to say. Endymion never could figure out why he’d decided to age to almost forty, but here he was on the other end of that ‘I’m too stubborn to give up’ glare he was known for.

        Endymion moved to the other spot, dropping with a huff. Damn administrator, thinking just because he ran the school he had to have that chair.

       “Why are you in here now?” The principal sat.

       “Didn’t you hear?” No one had told him? Endymion pushed a button on the game. “Damn it!” Stupid fucken game. Stupid people trying to make him talk while he was playing. Mr. Landler leaned over, taking the pad from Endymion’s hand and placing it onto the desk.

Endymion glared. Now, he was going to die.

       “Why?” The principal questioned.

       “The football field may have caught on fire.” Endymion rolled his eyes. It wasn’t that big of a fire anyway. There was only a small patch the size of a basketball missing. The team wouldn’t even know since it didn’t touch the yard lines. Why did everyone have to make a huge deal out of it.

       Mr. Landler rubbed his eyes. “I was gone two hours.”

       “You were gone? Where to?” Endymion leaned on the desk. Maybe he’d be able to get his pad back without Mister In-charge knowing.

       “To a meeting with Devon J- That doesn’t matter. Just because you are the King’s nephew does not mean you can do whatever you want. You’re supposed to be an example for- Are you even listening?”

       Endymion stared at the stolen device. Another on-line player was near his character, a war-hammer in hand. “Damn it. That bitch again! I think she’s following me.” He snarled at the screen. This damn character was annoying as shit. She just wouldn’t leave him alone.

       Mr. Landler pulled the handheld back and flipped it over. “What am I supposed to do with you? Just because you are a Prince does not mean you can do whatever you please.”

       Endymion shrugged, “So, am I getting punished?” He didn’t think he was going to, but in case he did, he could just call Aldis.         

       “Do you ever?” Principal Landler sighed.

       Endymion stood. “Great. Can I have my game back?” He put out his hand. They stared at each other for several long moments, who could out stubborn the other? Finally, Principal Landler returned the pad. Endymion stared at the screen. “Fuck! She killed me. Lame. What kind of name is Pure_Ascension anyway?” He re-spawned his character.

       “Go to class.” Principal Landler glared. “Pay attention, please.”

       “Mm hm.” Endymion didn’t care. It wasn’t like he’d be in trouble either way.

       “I will find a punishment.” The Principal threatened as the door shut behind Endymion.

*           *           *

       Endymion sat in the courtyard. It would still be sometime before his cousin picked him up. He leaned against the stone statue. It was of some distant relative who helped fund the school. His great something or other.

       Powering on the handheld, he scanned his e-mail to see if the college replied to his application. He wanted to be done with this dull school. He glared at the black sign above the building. The silver cursive engravings read Rimidalv’s Academy. He rolled his eyes. If he didn’t know any better he’d say the place was named by humans. But he knew the truth… there were vampires dumb enough to name this prestigious school something that stupid.

       Getting accepted to college early would get him access to his trust fund and away from here. Living in the one-bedroom apartment and having to rely on his cousin for rides was starting to grate on his patience.

       Endymion eyed the e-mail from his father, dated three days ago and still unread. Aldis kept telling him to open it, but he knew what it said.

       Will return soon, blah blah blah, be good yada yada yada.

       Endymion’s finger lingered over the delete button a moment before he closed his inbox and opened Double Edged War.

       The blue Jeep pulled into the lot an hour and a half later. Endymion made his way over and tossed his bag into the back.

       “Hey,” Aldis said as Endymion climbed in.

       “Can you just take me home today?” He shut the door and dropped his head against the cool glass.

       Aldis pulled from the lot. “My dad wants to see you.”

       “Does this have to do with the e-mail?” Endymion watched the town go by. Mydinn was one of the better cities, what with the palace being only a half hour away.

       “Have you read it yet?”

       “No,” Endymion leaned against the seat and shut his eyes. “Just take me home. Tell your dad I’ll see him this weekend for dinner.”

       “Mm.” Aldis took a quick turn.

       Mydinn had picked up quickly after the location of the palace was decided. This became the closest to the royals one could live. The school followed soon after. Endymion was surprised his uncle agreed to Aldis and him studying at the private academy. The news of the Princes attending Rimidalv’s spread and the population seemed to have doubled over night. After his sophomore year, Endymion had begged for his own apartment away from the palace. It was clear Aldis was being prepped for leadership and Endymion wanted to avoid the extra trainings he’d be forced to take.

       “Where are we going?” Endymion glanced out the window at the thinning houses. They were heading further into the country.

       “Let’s hit the club.” Aldis replied.

       “Don’t you have lessons?” Endymion turned to his cousin.

       “I can miss one.” Aldis pulled into the parking lot of The Blood Bank, the hottest spot around and shut off the car. “Besides, how often do we get to hang out?” He climbed from the Jeep and started for the door.  

       Endymion entered the club behind Aldis; the bouncer already moving forward. The bald man stopped upon spotting them and dropped into a formal bow. “Prince Aldis.” His eyes traveled behind them. “You’re unguarded?”

       “I’d hardly say that.” Aldis smirked at Endymion before walking to a table on the edge of the dance floor.

 “Two high ends.” Aldis called to… Endymion wasn’t sure who, but he saw several people make their way toward the bar. His cousin dropped into a chair. Endymion sat across from him and scanned the early evening crowd.

       Around ten the dance floor would be packed with people. The lights would dim further and they’d begin strobing colors. Before that happened though, one of the bouncers would contact the palace and guards would be there to collect them.

       “It must suck,” Endymion commented. Aldis glanced over. “To be watched all the time. Like your every move is being recorded and if you screw up the whole world knows.”

       Aldis shrugged. “It’s not too bad. What bothers me the most is being expected to give up my last year of school, and if I don’t want to I’m supposed to juggle training on top of classes and homework.”

       “What’s wrong, Aldis? Can’t keep up with some math problems?” Endymion laughed. “I can do them for you.”

       “Hell, you don’t do your own work. I heard the teachers talking about a fire on the football field. That was you, huh?”

       “It wasn’t a big fire.” Endymion explained.

       “How are you still in school? Principal Landler should have expelled you months ago.”

A young red-head hurried over, holding out two large Weizen glasses.

       “Thank you.” Aldis smiled.

       She bowed, her cheeks flushing before running off.

       “He’s afraid. Thinks your father would have something to say about it.” Endymion picked up one of the glasses filled with darkened liquid and took a sip.

       Aldis laughed, “My father would have told him to kick your ass out and make an example.”

Endymion smirked.

       “Ah,” his cousin continued, “but you know that. Why does he think otherwise?”

       “I might have mentioned your dad’s been keeping an eye on me while mine’s in Liri, and that he could be upset if I’m not in school while he’s gone.” Endymion shrugged. It was a surprise how much he could get away with because people knew the King was his guardian.

       “Well I hope he doesn’t figure it out or you’re going to be on your way to River’s End.”

       “No chance! I’m not going across border to some blood bag school. I hear they don’t even teach their kind to read.” Endymion assumed they taught the students something, but he couldn’t imagine they were well educated, given their past.

       “They aren’t that bad.” Aldis glanced at the entrance. “That was quick. Devon must have been in the area.”

       Endymion spotted Devon Jorden, the King’s best friend and advisor, walking toward their table. His green eyes scanned the club.

       “Party’s finished before it got started.” Endymion muttered as he downed the last of the drink.

Chapter One
Chapter One
Find out what happens next
Double-Edged War: Holding Ground
Out Now! 
Find out what happens next
Double-Edged War: Taking Flight
Out Now! 
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