It's no longer a door to his current residence.
What the hell.
...It being empty, he creeps inside very gently. It's a bar, there's no threshold to hedge him out. What's going on?
"Oh, very nice. I'd never considered the BAC thing, I'll have to keep that in mind when I return home. Maybe I'll hit some drunk virgins next time I have a centennial."
The door opens again.
The girl who opens it looks like she's in her late teens. She's very thin, but in a sort of sleek way, the sort of look you'd normally need Photoshop to get. Her skin is paper white, her hair and eyes are ink-black, and she's very heavily accessorized - there's stuff wrapped around the base of her ponytail and braided into her bangs, she's got necklaces and bracelets that don't look like they're principally for decoration, bags and wands and crystals hung from the sash around her waist. Her mouth drops open a little when she sees the place, revealing ivory fangs; the door falls shut behind her.
"Did you kill the door? That's inconvenient. We're in some kind of bar with a habit of replacing doors with itself. Come on in, have a drink, apparently you don't actually have much choice, sorry about that. I've never heard of commas, what would those be?"
"Well, there's Red Court, which I am, we're delightful rubbery monster things in human flesh and we drink blood. There's Black Court, they're dried-up rotting corpses and they drink blood and get everybody pissed off about vampires by being generally awful. And the White Court eat emotions and sparkle and are a bunch of prissy little twats. Oh, and there's the Jade court but they stick to China and I know fuckall about them. I think their legs are stuck together or something."
"I'd find a way to make room, this stuff is delicious, but if you're watching your weight I won't push. Can't swallow, huh. Interesting. I'm not going to make any crude jokes about that, because I happen to be a gentleman. Well, actually that's a filthy lie, but implying a crude joke is pretty much the same as actually making it for my purposes."
"Ah well. I'll find some nice monster who can tolerate my neurotic ways eventually. Anyway, you never answered my question, what's your species like? You drink blood, you breathe, you're mortal, you have families, you date food. Any fascinating quirks? Repelled by holy objects? Turning into bats? Kill people with sex? My kind have a party trick I can demonstrate if you like, it's great fun."
"Huh, you actually do turn into a bat. Weird, that's one of the more inhuman Black Court tricks, I'd expect you to be on the vanilla end of the spectrum. And most vampires are actually repelled by holy objects. Supposedly we're repellant in the eyes of Whoever, and Whoever lets us know it. And the party trick is nothing like the sex thing. Really, you could call it the opposite of that."
"Religious vampires. Something new every day. Anyway, the trick..." He stands from the barstool and grabs the top of his head. In one fluid motion, he rips off his skin and stands before her, a slimy red bat-thing with an enormous dripping tongue. And a stupid grin on his face. "Abracadabra!"
"Huh. Well, parasitizes, then, I'm pretty sure we don't have to kill people but not much point in letting them live and tell their human friends about the big scary monsters. If you don't eat humans, what do you eat? Don't tell me it's animals, that's disgusting. And our definition of 'faerie' is even broader than the one for 'vampires', I'm pretty sure half the species on the planet are different kinds of fucking faeries. That's why I carry a bag of iron filings under my skin, gets rid of them very nicely. Those fuckers."
Sorry, says the bar. I'm not hooked up directly to the translation effect.
"It's all right, I wasn't blaming you," Leekath says, without looking at the napkin.
"With the dragons' permission," Leekath emphasizes. "It's against my religion to bite people without permission. And I wasn't using peripheral vision, I can hear objects talking about themselves. That's how I was sure there was an ambient translation effect. The napkins look to me like they're in Leraal, but they say they aren't in anything in particular."
It shouldn't be long, but I don't control it or have any direct information on that.
"Not long as in -"
It's almost never kept someone here for more than a couple of days.
"Okay," she sighs. "I can do a couple of days."
Speaking of which, he's now almost entirely human-looking, only his face remaining monstrous. Out of consideration to Leekath's possible squeamishness, he's left his crotch Ken-doll smooth for later assembly. He begins to don his outfit, brushing it clean of rapidly evaporating ectoplasmic flesh.
"Oh, it's ectoplasm. We can't do anything else with it, the mask is a racial ability thing, but if you're a wizard or a sidhe or something you can turn it into just about anything you like. Couple of weeks ago we got a rain of frogs, that was some high-level ectoplasm weirdness."
"So what kind of details can you hear with that, anyway? Can my pants tell you about my sexual history? Do my flannel shirts love me as much as I love them? Is the knife hidden in my left arm traumatized by me stabbing a malk with it?"
"Don't remember this place being a bar. I distinctly remember an abandoned warehouse with no windows. And- definitely no exploding stars. Either of you know what the fuck's going on?"
"Leonardo Cristobal Sangre de Dios Rojas Moreno de la Corazón, vampire of the Red Court and filthy coward, call me Leo," puts in Leo. "Currently antagonizing the good Ms. Hhirheek, mostly by accident, and enjoying a truly excellent cup of blood. Speaking of which, could I get a refill?"
"Vampires," says Leekath, sighing. "According to this place's buggy translation magic we are all different kinds of vampires. Please tell me your kind doesn't murder people."
"Out of luck. I mean, some individuals abstain. I know a guy. But they're freaks with no taste buds."
Leekath sighs heavily.
Blood specifically or would you care to try something else? napkins the bar.
"Something else like what?" asks the redhead skeptically.
You would likely find a variety of synthetics equally pleasant.
"Huh, sure, why not. Try anything once."
A glass of something blue appears. The redhead sips a bit. "Oh hey, not bad," she remarks, looking speculatively at the glass.
"Human blood has bits of soul in it, which is an essential nutrient for growing vampires. Though, actually, you mentioned you drink from other species, now I'm curious. Bar, do you think I'd like something from one of her dragons?"
He takes a cautious sip from the dragon blood. Considering the glass, he pours the rest down his throat.
His eyes bulge and he spasms slightly. "Fuck! That is- that is some aftertaste. Jesus God, it's like if knives had a flavor."
"So, newcomers, what's your fun new take on being bloodsuckers? Leekath's folks are nice and friendly and turn into bats and marry food, mine are delightful rubbery monster things contained in an ectoplasmic fleshsuit. Oh, and do you have the sunlight thing? The sunlight thing sucks."
"Sunlight thing being catching fire? Yes, it's unpleasant. Well, you can see my lovely forehead ridges. And we don't have souls and as a group we're very into the apocalypse, though I'm starting to think of giving it up in light of recent events. Other than that... we explode if you put a bit of wood through our chests, that could be notable. Not much else to speak of."
"Direct sunshine and we sparkle, no spontaneous combustion. Very conspicuous, therefore very illegal," says Maggie. "No apocalypse, not so friendly, if we're going to marry food we turn it into not-food first, and in terms of my physical composition what you see is what you get, though what you see is in fact nigh-invulnerable unless another vampire goes after me or somebody ignites me."
"I burn in the sun," says Leekath, "much worse than even a really pale human, if I'm not wearing a suncloak or a sunscreening spell. I usually go with the spell."
"Well, you might be able to get away with it if the human doesn't tell anybody," shrugs Maggie. "Or you eat them right away and then they of course don't tell anybody. But if there's somebody talking too much about anything a little funny, the Volturi figure you can't handle being a vampire and should instead handle being a pile of ashes, see?"
"How come you haven't turned him?" wonders Maggie. "More to the point if you keep biting him how do you avoid it?"
"...You keep using that word, what do you mean?"
"...Turn...ing?" says Maggie.
"I don't know what that is."
"Holy hell," says Maggie.
"Magic. All right. Back where I come from magic is less suited for gay dad assistance and more suited for murder, sorry for the confusion. Back to the other confusion. Vampires aren't born, they're made. At least sensible vampires. You take a human, you drain their blood, you give them a mouthful of yours, and bam, new vampire."
"And my kind don't do that at all, that's weird and gross," says Leekath. "Why would you even want to?"
"Well," says Maggie, "I never have, but if one day I locate the love of my life and she has a heartbeat, standard procedure is turn her and keep her forever."
"A witch?" frowns Leekath. "God this translation magic's glitchy."
"Witch is somebody with a personal magical power," says Maggie. "Sometimes humans have 'em and they're better after they become vampires, sometimes people get them only after they turn."
"That's not what a witch is. Ugh, even wizarding translation works better than this."
"Yeah, witches are not that. I don't know about glitchy, though, I feel like if you stranded a bunch of English-speakers on islands containing various weird magic things you'd get a lot of similar-looking overlap. Like, there's these things that drink blood and react to sunlight, they're vampires, doesn't matter that one's a creepy demon thing and one has a weird bumpy face and one sparkles. There's these people with insert magic here, they're witches, doesn't matter if they do exactly one thing or try to cause the apocalypse or, I don't know, whatever your weird kind does, probably flies around on broomsticks and apologizes a lot."
"Vampire's a language?" asks Maggie.
"Yeah. We can't speak other languages particularly well when we've turned into bats."
"Turned into bats. Now I've heard everything."
"Aw, but it's a neat party trick! We could all demonstrate something, if you want. Sparkles could hop out into the sunlight, Suzanna could... I don't know, do some weird magic thing? Maybe she can do a light show. We'll be the Amazing Vampire Circus."
"I'm not saying whatever word you're saying. I'm speaking Leraal. It's the idiotic translation magic," says Leekath.
"So we're kinds of miscellaneous, ah, Earth vampire," says Maggie, "and you can be..."
"Elcenian vampire?" attempts Leekath.
"Elcenian vampire it is."
"Nah, I was calling you Sparkle Party because it's funny. I can stop. Anyway, Lydia, I'm glad you are now a more comfortable special snowflake. I could probably turn myself into a bat if that's the issue at hand, but I'm not 100% sure I could turn myself back, so... probably not doing that."
Abruptly, a small and terrified girl runs into the bar! The door vanishes behind her. She squeaks wordlessly, then lets out a much louder wordless squeak when she notices people.
The girl flinches at the mention of her species. The corpse glares. "Oh, would you stop cowering? I'm not going to kill you, I'm occupied with other things. Besides, there's witnesses. And we've never met. I'm not Drakul, I don't kill people for existing."
The girl is distracted from her cowering by irritation. "I'm not a little girl! I'm twenty-three years old*. I'm just... short. And she's scary. And you kill people."
*Twenty-two and a half.
"I make neat tidy punctures in my fiancé's neck with his enthusiastic permission and I drink a bit and then I perform a blood-replenishing working so I don't have to wait three weeks between feedings or go to other sources," says Leekath.
"I know a my-kind-of vampire who's never killed anybody," Maggie says. "He's an odd duck."
"The White Court don't do anything with blood at all," explains Leo. "They're all about emotions. Lust and intimacy, in this case, or so I'd imagine from that description. I'm sure your parents are very proud of their little vegan. Or, no, what's the opposite of that, horribly ashamed. Horribly ashamed of their little vegan."
Tessa downs the dragon's blood. Then she cackles loudly. "Christ, that stuff is strong! I love it, where can I find one of those to kill?" (Her body rapidly grows less desiccated, looking almost human apart from her blackened fingernail-claws and her fangs.)
"You turn people into vampires and then enslave them?" asks Leekath.
"Apparently she does. We don't usually, bit too hard to control newborns. I get along fine with my maker but she didn't try to keep me when I wanted to move back to Ireland," Maggie says.
"Ghouls," says Leo the Walking Dictionary, "are horrible monsters who are very good at killing things, can come back from just about any injury that doesn't involve decapitation or reducing them to paste, and are kept as something of a mercenary army by the White Court. Though they get loaned out to the Reds when we need them. They have to eat their body weight in raw meat per day, it's delightful."
"Dogs are like that, to the wild versions of those. I mean, wild sheep aren't particularly dangerous- well, they can be, but not so much- but it's the difference between a wild bull and a milk cow. Which is substantial. I almost got killed by a wild cow once, and this was after I turned. Anyway, we did that to wolves so we could have animals that would kill mice and protect our homes and stuff."
The backyard is currently experiencing its day cycle, says the bar. If that is deemed too risky I could provide a directional ultraviolet lamp for you to borrow.
"Huh," says Maggie. "Right, what do you all say to those options?"
"I think that the risk alone would bar me entirely from your world. That means I'm either sneaking into Lavinia's world when her door comes back, or I'm going with one or more of the weird triplicate vamps. Though there's no need to pack up just yet, I'm just looking at my options."
Just "Bar", please. €8.45 for my next suggestion.
Maggie produces euros and gets something fizzy and gold.
"...We don't speak English. There's a vampire language, with regional dialects, and a bunch of other languages. The planet's a square, I think that's unusual. There's plenty of magic; I'm three kinds of magic and I was only born with one of those. One sun. Plants, animals, oceans, land, air, what do you want to know?"
"I live in a country with a appointment-based parliament that can be removed by popular referendum," says Leekath. "One of my dads is in Parliament and I work for him. There's a neighboring country that's a kingdom, and some others elsewhere, and theocracies and representative democracies and so on."
Sky grits her teeth. "You're right. That's why I'm getting out while I can."
"Well enough. It's almost admirable, in a gutless sort of way."
I could provide you with a set for the cost of the paper, says Bar.
"I don't have any cash on me."
I can take your credit stamp.
"...Sure. Charge me a thousandth of an aaber for a set of current Esmaarlan immigration forms suitable for an offworlder her equivalency. I do have a pen."
And here is a stack of paperwork. Leekath hands Sky a pen. The forms want to know her name, sex, previous names and sexes if these are possibly relevant to confirming that she is attached to her past identity, age, what that translates to in human years, her country of origin, status therewith, native magical talents, acquired magical skills, whether she is going to be farming anything, whether she will wish to be going on government assistance within the forseeable future, etcetera, etcetera.
(Sky takes the papers in a trembling hand and goes to work on them at a nearby table. Her name is Skyler Raith- no, Skyler Reed. She puts down sex and age and country and tries not to curl up and cry with fear.)
Sky's forms are going well! She has listed a variety of natural powers appropriate to a somewhat anemic vampire of the White Court, she will probably not be farming, she will almost certainly be on government assistance. She's left "acquired magical skills" blank because she's fairly sure she doesn't have any. She continues apace. (She writes pretty quickly, especially when she's blocking out something like Tessa being terrifying.)
"Other side effects include disrupting the natural order and weakening the fabric of reality," mutters Sky.
"Don't tell me how to do my job, little pest. Do I nag you about your congenital lack of a spine?"
Tessa smirks. "Exactly."
"Sufficiently motivated humans can echolocate, sort of, so I guess I could learn, but normally no that's not a thing," says Maggie. "And yes, there is a distinct aura of, not sure what to call it, dramatic nihilism? Pretty unfriendly."
"I really have no idea what you're talking about," contributes Tessa. "If you feel cold, you might put on a sweater."
"Can you do that as many times as you like?" asks Maggie.
"No," says Leekath.
"Ah, never mind then." Maggie swigs; her glass is empty. "I'll just take as much of whichever of those lovelies was cheaper as the contents of my pockets will buy me, let's see, that's..." She counts her money very fast. "Three hundred thirty euro, and take it home with me."
She gets a large quantity of the gold stuff. She picks it up with one hand.
"And I shall be going."
"My credit stamp is not infinite, I pay the rent on a rooftop cottage for me and my fiancé," says Leekath.
I can also simply rent you a perch, or you might find the trees in the yard comfortable enough.
"Trees might do. I guess I've got options."
I cannot produce magical items.
"Well," says Leekath, "that rules out almost everything worth having in Elcenia that costs more than, like, five aaberik."
So Bar produces twenty complete outfits of variously pastel, variously embroidered and beaded, artful Esmaarlan clothes, and six pairs of shoes, and, in a basket, miscellaneous accessories and locally appropriate jewelry. I did a little bargain hunting for you, but this is all top wearing-out-and-about quality for the locale, Bar promises. Appropriate for the various Esmaarlan seasons and should be reasonably fashion-forward for the next year and respectable for twenty to thirty. The individual pieces should mix and match pretty well, although they're presented in complete outfits for your immediate convenience. It's Esmaar, so it's dresses, and skirts with blouses, but there are several pairs of leggings in there too (and socks, and three cardigans and a poncho and a shawl, and underthings, and two scarves, and sashes.)
I can exchange twenty thousand dollars for eleven thousand four hundred and nine-tenths aaberik.
"That's a lot, that'll keep you comfortable for months if you move in with people or find a single occupancy - Esmaar is mostly huge families all living together so finding a place to stay might be a problem, rent on a normal house will eat that in one payment."
"There exist little one-bedroom places. I actually live in a tiny house on top of an apartment building but we get charged extra for the view and roof access and metropolitan location. I know there must be cheaper but I'm not sure how easy they'll be to find. If the rest of your paperwork checks out okay you can live in temporary housing until you do track something down, though."
"Anyway." Leekath picks up the forms. "Usually, the contents of these would be verified with a wizarding lie detection spell -" As an afterthought, she deactivates the ward stones and puts them away. "I can't cast it here because wizardry only works in Elcenia. I can do lie detection with kamai, though." She pulls her gold wand and makes a little gesture with it; the shields on Sky's mind are no longer helping with anything now they're alone. "This might mean you have to do the whole thing over again on the other side, because kamai isn't formally used for governmental processes like that; but I'm going to do it anyway because it would be a hassle to put you back if you get turned away. All right?"
She did kill a guy once. And her vampirism could theoretically present a problem, if she got particularly hungry in a public place. But she's noted that if she's well-fed there's no trouble, and that the manslaughter was completely unintentional and mostly her father's fault, and that she has absolutely no intention of killing anyone else.
"I don't know how a decent quality translation spell will render the name of your species, but you probably shouldn't continue to call yourself by the same words I'm using. It will set up the wrong expectations and upset people. We have procedures for feeding my species if we wind up in public housing. I'm not sure how that would be managed for you; can you tell me what you need such that it could actually be provided by a government agency in more detail?"
"Well... if I got a job at a salon or, I don't know, polishing dragons or something, I could do what I've been doing. Otherwise, there's always the 'weekly sex with someone or other' route. I've got enough self-control to keep myself from killing anyone with that, and it's not totally horrible, it's just- not my favorite thing."
Bar provides a copy of Statute Rulings.
"Where's that nice chart..." Pause. Leekath turns to 898. "Okay." Peer peer. "I think it is in fact legal for you to not tell anybody what's going on if you get a job at a salon, but that means nobody's going to know how your job interacts directly with your feeding needs and you wouldn't be able to get special consideration against layoffs or anything if that came up..."
"There's no risks to the salon thing," says Sky indignantly. "It just feels really nice and you're tired for a little bit. And I wasn't talking about prostitution, just- going out and being aggressively pretty at people until one's into it. Though the disclosure might make that harder. It's not risky for that either, I have a ton of practice, but I can see where disclosure would be necessary given the theoretical risk of ripping out their souls."
"Yes, you definitely have to tell people if you're at theoretical risk of ripping out their souls, and - look, my kind of vampires are the sole existing precedent you have to work with for feeding off other people, even if you aren't drinking blood. And we always ask and everybody knows exactly what we're doing. Even making people tired or making them feel nicer than they normally would while receiving salon services is slightly iffy. I think you're within legal parameters about it but that's not saying terribly much."
"Yeah. I think I'll- let it be known, then, I don't know if somebody could detect it or something and I wouldn't want to be caught out about it. And if that makes people too worried to let me at their hair I'll, I don't know, find a boyfriend or something. Or trawl the local college for guys sexually frustrated enough to ignore my draining their spirit energy. That's a classic."
"I mean, you won't be competing with a lot of other members of your species for access to people who'd be interested, you just may have an initial marketing problem and I'm not sure the government will be able to be responsible for it from the get-go," says Leekath. "That's the only serious wrinkle I see. You still would prefer to immigrate rather than go home, given it?"
"Okay. We'll see if the door will cooperate with the plan. I can sign these, I've got the licence for it, but obviously you can't immigrate if you can't physically enter Esmaar, so they won't take de facto effect right away." Leekath signs the papers in a few places. "You'll still probably have to do this all over again but this will get you as far as the office that's supposed to handle the thing."