Arabian Knight

Chapter 4

LaCroix had been quite busy for the past week getting the club ready for its grand reopening. He had promised Janette when she handed it over to him nearly a month ago that he would preserve it as a place for homeless vampires to find shelter. However, he saw nothing wrong with implementing a few changes to make the Raven more financially productive. He had been spending the night auditioning strippers, not an unpleasant task but not as easy as it would seem. He didn't want women who would eagerly agree to sexual favors for money because he couldn't afford to have the place raided for prostitution, so he had to choose the women he planned to hire very carefully. Single mothers with children to support and bills to pay seemed to be his best bet. He thought briefly of Nicholas, knowing that he would not approve of him turning the Raven into a strip club, or exploiting women, but then Nicholas never approved of anything he did.

LaCroix was both irritated and relieved that Nicholas had not been around lately. He had been so absorbed in his human world that he hadn't even noticed that Janette had left town. It was just as well. Janette had not wanted to deal with him, had not wanted Nicholas to know she was leaving or where she had gone. She had finally had enough of his obsession with mortality and coming around only when he needed help solving some police case which he deemed more important than his vampire family. LaCroix would miss his daughter of the night. They had only been reunited for a year, but he understood her reasons for going. He had agreed to stay behind and care for the club and to keep an eye on Nicholas. It wasn't wise to leave him alone and unsupervised for very long.

It was close to dawn and all was quiet in the club. That was when LaCroix felt it, or rather when he became aware that he could no longer feel it. The psychic thread that had kept master and child linked to each other for nearly eight centuries was suddenly gone. LaCroix stood in the middle of the dance floor and looked about in all directions as if he could visually pick up the tracks of the lost connection. He closed his eyes and concentrated as he stretched out with his mind, seeking, but not finding a trace of what once was. He tried to figure out what it could mean.

One explanation would be that Nicholas was dead, but that didn't make sense. LaCroix knew that he would have been able to detect the pain of a stake through the heart, decapitation or a fiery death. The sun had yet to rise, so it was apparent that Nicholas had not succumbed to the dangers of daylight. But something had obviously happened to him. The thought that Nicholas had allowed his doctor friend to experiment on him once again came to mind. The last time she had practiced her incompetence, her so- called cure had turned Nicholas into a blithering and pathetic drug addict. LaCroix had chosen not to do anything about the good doctor's meddling at that time, hoping instead that Nicholas -- while under the drug's influence -- would dispose of Dr. Lambert himself. Unfortunately, that was not the outcome.

It could be that the doctor was at it again. Perhaps she had come up with another hair-brained treatment to try on Nicholas, one which had temporarily blocked the psychic bond to his master. LaCroix shook his head in disdain. "Enough is enough, Dr. Lambert!" he snarled to himself. He had been more than patient with this latest infatuation of Nicholas, but if she wasn't stopped soon, she might very well lead to his son's destruction. Once again, the master vampire knew that it was up to him to save Nicholas from himself. He'd have to go find his impetuous child and put an end to his fruitless search for mortality once and for all.

In her haste to fulfill her quest for the magic puzzle, Natalie was already behind the wheel of her car by the time she realized that she had just left her incapacitated houseguest all alone and virtually helpless up in her apartment. She hadn't considered the early morning rush-hour traffic or how long it might take to battle her way through it to the precinct and back. Although it was possible that Nick might just sleep the whole time she was away, Natalie felt a little guilty about abandoning him. She could have at least asked if he needed anything. There could even be a prescription he needed to have filled. As she now recalled, it did seem as though Nick had wanted to say something to her as she flew out of the door -- which by the way -- she had neglected to lock on her way out.

"All right, all right!" she responded to that little voice which goaded her into going back and making sure Nick was okay. That little voice must have known something because just as she reached her apartment door, she heard a crashing noise from the opposite side. "Nick?" she called out worriedly as she threw open the door, her heart racing in fear of something gone wrong.

She found the object of her concern lying in a tangled heap on the floor, cursing vehemently as her cat Sidney scurried into the bedroom. In his bid to leave the couch, Nick had tripped over the previously unseen animal and in the process, had overturned the coffee table, dumping over a vase of flowers and a few other items in his wake. Natalie scrambled to his side, quickly pushing all obstacles out of the way.

"What happened? Are you all right? Are you hurt?"

Nick couldn't keep the hiss of pain from escaping his lips. Luckily, his wounded arm had been unaffected by the fall, but he did succeed in further aggravating his sprain ankle. "Tripped over the cat," he explained tersely. "But I'm okay," he insisted even though his hard to control groans told another story.

"You don't sound okay," Nat pointed out as she helped him into a sitting position on the floor. "If you're hurt, Nick, you need to tell me."

After settling himself with a couple of deep breaths, Nick took assessment of his true condition. He looked at Nat and answered her honestly. "My ankle. I accidentally put my full weight on it and now it doesn't feel so good. Not that it was feeling all that great to begin with."

Natalie set the coffee table upright again, then placed one of the pillows from the sofa on it. "Here, let's just get you comfy again." She wrapped both arms around his waist and eased him back onto the couch, then lifted his right leg and gently nestled it onto the pillow on the table. "How's that?" she asked after stuffing another smaller pillow behind his back.

"Better," Nick sighed. "Thanks. What are you doing back so soon?" he asked. "I thought you were going down to the precinct."

"I was. But I ran out of here so fast, I didn't stop to think that you might need something. So, what were you doing getting up? You were suppose to stay off your feet."

"I was going over to the window. I wanted to see the sunrise. Forgot I wasn't as light on my feet anymore." Nick jerked his leg and grunted loudly as a spasm of pain suddenly shot through his ankle.

"Did the doctor give you anything to take for the pain?" Natalie asked.

Nick frowned when he realized just what had become of his prescription drugs. "I left it in the pocket of Schanke's jacket."

"Well, I've got something that should help." Nat went into the kitchen and came back a moment later with a couple of pills and a glass of water which she offered to her guest.

Without question, Nick accepted the pills and popped them into his mouth. It wasn't until he tried to swallow them along with a sip of water did he realize that he had no experience in the art of pill taking. Both the pills and water went down the wrong way, leaving him gagging and coughing in an attempt to clear his airway.

"Nick!" Natalie took the glass away from him and set it out of the way, then began forcefully patting his back to help him expel that which his body saw as foreign and unwelcome.

After a moment, his throat was clear and he leaned back against the sofa, drawing in deep breaths, his eyes closed and his features twisted in a mixture of relief and frustration. Nat stood and studied him carefully, finally getting a clearer view of the new Nick Knight. He was no longer the invincible, immortal vampire with superhuman strength and capabilities she had come to know so well. He was mortal now, slightly damaged and at present somewhat overwhelmed by his brand new existence.

Natalie reached out her hand to caress his unmarked cheek. "I'm sorry, Nick. I shouldn't have left you alone like that. I don't know what I was thinking. You're practically helpless now, aren't you?"

Nick's eyes slid partially open as he leaned into her touch. "I've wanted this for so long," he spoke with a shuddering voice. "But I'd be lying, Nat if I said I didn't miss my powers. Instant healing definitely has its advantages."

"No doubt. I take it, you've never had to swallow pills before?"

"Only pretended to."

"Well, don't feel bad. It's a subtle art. Not everyone gets the hang of it right away. I'll be right back."

Natalie disappeared into the kitchen once again, this time returning with a glass of fizzling water. She swirled the liquid around in the glass a bit and waited a moment to give the fizzling a chance to die down some. When she handed the glass to Nick, he eyed the contents suspiciously.

"Trust me," Nat smiled. So he did, drinking it all down and frowning slightly at the salty flavor. But at least he didn't choke on it. "Good boy," Nat said as she took the empty glass from him and gave his hair a quick ruffling.

"Nat? Can you help me to the window?"

"Nick, I don't think--"

"I have to know, Nat if this is... complete." It wasn't enough that he had the physical attributes and limitations of a mortal. He had to know if his reaction to sunlight was normal.

It was a bit of a struggle using Nat as a crutch, but Nick eventually made it over to the window. He steadied himself on one foot as he held on to Nat's shoulder and waited for her to draw open the curtains. He could see the early morning light just peeking over the tops of buildings in the far distance. They stood there for several moments waiting for the sun to rise further into the sky, until at last a golden ray streamed into the window. Nick hesitantly reached his hand out into the ray's path, then beamed a smile at Natalie when all he felt was warmth.

"It's official," he grinned.

"Congratulations, Nick. Welcome back to the human race."

Nick pulled Natalie closer to him and kissed the top of her head. "Thank you." He was content to stay in front of the window and let the sun bathe him in its golden warmth, but the peaceful moment was shattered by the ringing of the phone.

"Oh, who could that be," said Nat, wondering how she could reach the phone and not have Nick topple without her support. She decided to simply let the answering machine handle the call. However, when instructed to leave a message, none came. There were a few seconds of silence on the other end of the line, then the caller hung up. "Wonder who that was," Natalie pondered aloud. "I'm sure Grace or someone from work would have left a message."

"LaCroix," Nick stated with certainty. "He's trying to find me. He's realized that our link has been broken, that something has happened to me. He'll probably think that you had something to do with this."

"You mean because of the experiment we tried before?"

"Yes. He was uncharacteristically understanding then. I suppose it was only because he knew no serious harm had been done. I don't think he's going to be quite so forgiving this time."

"So what are you saying? That he's going to come after me?"

Nick thought about the matter carefully, attempting to put himself in his master's place just for a moment. "Eventually. Right now his main concern is finding me. More than likely, he went to the loft looking for me. Since I'm not there, he'd assume that I must be with you. If you had answered the phone just then, that would have told him all he needed to know."

"Well, if he's at the loft," said Nat with a slight shrug, "then that means we're safe. The sun is up now so he'll be trapped there all day. That gives us plenty of time to get to the puzzle and solve it, and make that wish. Right?"

Nick didn't want to worry her with the news that LaCroix wouldn't let a little thing like the sun stop him from seeking his goal. The master vampire had shocked him already by appearing at his loft in the middle of the day and placing himself in direct sunlight to demonstrate his superiority.

"Nick? We are safe for now, aren't we?"

Nick spoke softly so as not to frighten her too much. "I think it's a good idea that we leave right away, Nat. We'll stop off at the precinct to get the puzzle. But in case things don't work out, we need to be prepared to keep going."

"Keep going as in--?"

"Leaving Toronto and not coming back."

Natalie didn't bother to argue with him. If he thought there was even the slightest chance that LaCroix might stop by during daylight hours, that was good enough for her. As quickly as she could, Nat packed up the cat and a few personal items, and they were soon on their way.

Baghdad - 1258

"Now that I have explained about the magic wish box, I shall tell you the story that goes along with it."

"Wouldn't you like to make yourself more comfortable first?" asked Nicholas, as he patted the empty spot next to him on the bed.

"I am most comfortable as I am," stated Shalimar, intent on keeping a safe distance from the vampire.

Nicholas chuckled lightly, then tucked his hands behind his head as he settled back against the soft pillows. "Then, by all means, continue with the tale," he bid her.

"Many years ago near the land of the pharaohs, lived the simple people of a small village. One day, the village was invaded by an army of soldiers who plundered and burned the homes to the ground. The villagers they did not kill, they encased in chains and took them to be sold as slaves. Out into the desert, they marched the slaves, giving them no food and very little water. Many faltered along the way and were left behind to perish in the barren wasteland. Just as the sun was going down on the fifth day of their trek, they came upon a caravan of merchants headed to market. The camels were loaded down with many fine and wonderful things, including food and wine. The soldiers used their weapons and great might to take what they wanted. They pulled items from the packs, and if it were not to their liking, they tossed it to the ground.

"Now, among the new slaves was Demarcus, not quite a man, but no longer a boy. As he lay resting on the ground with the other slaves, one of the soldiers -- more interested in finding another jug of wine than anything else -- tossed items from one of the camel's packs over his shoulder, not caring where they landed. One discarded item landed beside Demarcus. There was just enough give in his chains for him to reach the item. It was too dark for him to see clearly what it was, though he could tell it was a box of some sort. He thought it might be something of value which he could use to buy his freedom later, so he hid it away by burying it in the sand beneath him.

"Later that night, when all was quiet and everyone asleep, Demarcus pulled the little box from the sand. He still could not see what it was he held in the darkness, but he ran his hands all over, seeking a way to open it. His fingers pulled and pushed at the box, and twisted it in directions it seemed to want to go, when all of a sudden, the box began to click. He felt it moving about by itself in his hands. It soon opened, revealing a crystal sphere which he would not have been able to see had it not begin to glow in the darkness. Demarcus was quick to cover it with his hands so that the glowing would not attract attention. He glanced around and saw that no one else was awake, so he parted his hands slightly to look upon the crystal. He saw a swirling of blue smoke which began to form symbols he was unfamiliar with. He thought how pretty the crystal was and couldn't help but whisper the word aloud. And as he spoke it, the symbols in the sphere changed to those of his own language. He understood then that he was to make a wish. Can you imagine what he wished for?" Shalimar paused in her storytelling to quiz her audience.

"If he had at least half a brain, he would wish for his freedom," replied Nicholas with the only answer that made sense to him.

"Is that what you would have wished for if you were in his place?"

"Of course. No man wants to be a slave."

Shalimar nodded her head in agreement. "But what of the rest of his people? Should he not wish for their freedom as well?"

Nicholas frowned at the question, realizing that indeed it was the right thing to do, and he felt a sliver of shame that he had not thought of that himself. "Yes, he should wish freedom for them all."

"Indeed, he should have, but alas, he did not. His first thoughts were of himself and how he wished not to become a slave. The glow of the sphere died down and the box closed itself up. Demarcus heard a noise and thought someone might be coming, so he quickly pushed the box into the sand and laid his head down. Soon, he fell asleep. When next, he opened his eyes, it was midday and as he stood, he saw that his chains were gone. However, so was everyone and everything else. He was all alone in the desert. He realized that the soldiers had probably tried to wake him, but he slept so heavily that they thought he was dead or near death and decided to leave him behind as they had done some of the others. You see, his wish had come true. Demarcus now had his freedom... but nothing else."

"He still had the magic box, did he not?"

"He had hidden the magic box in the sand. When he dug where he thought it should be, he did not find it, because when the soldiers removed his chains, they had placed him in a different position than when he first fell asleep. The box may have been found and taken away by the soldiers or it could still be buried somewhere beneath the surface of the sand. Demarcus had the choice of crawling around the hot dunes beneath a blistering sun, seeking that which might never be found or he could begin walking towards the city, still two days away and possibly his only chance for salvation."


The sudden, loud tapping on the car's window snapped Nick quickly back to reality and nearly caused him to leave his skin behind. With a hand grasping at his thumping heart, he sighed in relief when he saw who was trying to get his attention. While forcing his sharp breathing under control, he rolled down the window to speak to his partner.

"Schanke, you nearly scared me half to death. What are you doing here? I thought you were headed home."

"I was. But I figured, since I was in the neighborhood, I might as well go ahead and get the paperwork over with. Plus, I decided to put in for a little time off. You know, since you'll be out of action for awhile, I thought it would be a good time to take a mini- vacation. I've been putting in a lot of overtime lately and the wife and kid hardly recognize me anymore. Myra and Jenny were already planning to visit the grandparents down on the farm, so I figure I might as well join them."

"Sounds good," Nick smiled. "I hope you all have a great time."

"So what are you doing here?"

"Oh, um, Nat accidentally took some files home that she was suppose to drop off here earlier. I just came along for the ride."

"The cat came along for the ride too?" asked Schanke with a nod towards Natalie's pet in the backseat confined in a small cage.

"Dropping it off at the vet. Time for its checkup."

"Oh, yeah, that reminds me." Schanke reached into this jacket pocket and pulled out a small white bag. "You forgot your prescription."

"Ah, so I did." As Nick reached his hand out to receive the bag, Schanke noticed the morning sun beaming harmlessly across the pale skin.

"The sun," Schanke pointed out. "That didn't bother you?"

"No, it didn't."

"That's what you wished for!" Schanke stated excitedly. "You wished your sun allergy away, didn't you?"

"Yes," Nick nodded slightly unable to hide his secret joy any longer.

Schanke seemed a bit apprehensive. "This isn't going to be like last time, is it? You're not going to go all wacko and start eating everything in sight, are you?"

Nick chuckled lightly. "No, Schanke. This isn't the effects of drugs this time. This is... a true miracle."

"Wow! That's great! I'm really happy for you. That 'make a wish deal' really works."

"Seems to."

"That means you've got two more wishes coming to you?"


"And that's why you're here, right? You came to get that puzzle so you can make another wish. You want to be healed overnight, is that it?"

"No, it's not like that, Schanke--"

"Look, Nick, I know you're not used to being less than perfect, you hate depending on others to help you out, you hate not being able to drive your own car, but that's life. Things like that sometimes happen. I know it's real enticing to just make a wish and make all your problems go away, but you have to think about the consequences. Remember what happened to Melville? His first wish was great and the second one was okay, but the third one--"

"Schanke--" Nick raised his voice to demand his partner's attention, but once he had it, he wasn't sure of what to say to him.

"Nick, I threw it away," Schanke blurted out his confession.

"You what?"

"When I went in, I found one of the night shift guys, Davis, fooling around with it. The guy should have gone home over an hour ago, but he was sitting there basically hypnotized by the thing trying to solve it. I snatched it from him and told him to go home to his wife and kids. He looked at me like he didn't realize he even had a family. I'm telling you, Nick, I've got a bad feeling about that thing, so I tossed it in the dumpster out back."

Both their heads turned at the sound of the garbage truck as it pulled into the rear parking lot to collect its load. Nick was torn between begging his partner to run after it to rescue the puzzle and leaping out of the car and hopping after it himself. Solving the Chinese puzzle box and wishing LaCroix out of his life seemed to be the only real hope of retaining his mortality, but now that hope was sailing away in the back of a garbage truck on the way to the city dump.

"You don't hate me, do you?" Schanke asked, almost fearing the reply.

"Of course not. It's okay, Schanke," Nick assured him. "Don't worry about it. I've got what I've always wanted. I'll just settle for the one miracle."

"Good. I was afraid you might be... well anyway, what's done is done. Hey, I gotta run. I'll see you when I get back from cow country, okay?"

Nick realized that this would be the very last time he would see his partner. He and Natalie would have to disappear without a trace now, leaving Schanke and everyone else to wonder whatever had become of them. He hated to have to do that to his friend. It had always been the hardest part about being immortal; deserting people he had grown close to. He had to wonder just how many of his past acquaintances had wasted their time trying to find him after one of his famous disappearing acts.

"Nick? You okay?"

"Yeah. Just a little tired is all."

"You look it. When Nat comes back, have her get you back home pronto so you can get some rest."

"I will. Ah, Schanke?"


"Natalie and I will be going on a little road trip."


"We...uh...want to spend some time together away from the city and all."

Schanke smiled knowingly. "You and Nat? Finally!"

"Yes, finally," Nick nodded. "Now that the sun allergy isn't a problem, we thought we might expand our relationship. I don't know how long we'll be gone, so if you don't hear from us for a little while, I didn't want you to worry."

Schanke grinned cheerily. "You and Nat take your time, Nick. Just don't go getting lost. I plan to be best man at your wedding."

"You're already the best man, Schank."

Schanke patted his friend's shoulder in a gesture of farewell. "Take it easy, Nick. I'll catch you later."

"Good-bye, Schanke." As he watched his friend and partner get into his car and drive away, Nick whispered solemnly to himself, "I'll miss you, partner."


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