SNAP: New Talent

Free SNAP: New Talent by Michele Drier

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Authors: Michele Drier
on my face.
    “Well, their main family is here,” Carola began in her light voice. “They aren’t nearly as diversified and spread as we are, but they do have smaller branches in Europe. And one of the reasons we’re pushing Jean-Louis to make you a partner in knowledge is that a major branch is in Russia and Ukraine.”
    The Baron took up the story. “When the Cossacks, as well as other Russian Imperial troops, were running pograms throughout the edges of Eastern Europe, the Huszars were right along with them.  That family...” he broke off in disgust and shook his head then continued, “Wherever there’s been death and disturbances, the Huszars have been there.  I don’t think they’re smart enough to have stirred up troubles themselves, but they are the ultimate hangers-on.  They’d send scouts out to all the major cities in Central and Eastern Europe to watch the pulse of the people.  The minute they spotted trouble, they moved a small group in, to feed off the losers.
    “Those small groups took some pressure for food off of the main branch of the family, the ones still here in Hungary, and allowed the native population of the area to successfully breed.  It was a strategy to keep food resources available.”
    I was stunned.  Not because the Huszars had spread out, but because the Baron spoke so casually about the peasant population as a food resource.  Of course I knew that the Huszars, and vampires everywhere, lived off blood, and usually ended up killing their victims.  I just hadn’t followed that through to its logical conclusion.
    I looked at them.  “Is this how you view all humans?  As a renewable food source?”
    There was a chorus of gasps and denials then Pen spoke.  “I’ll put that rudeness down to the fact that you’re still naive about the world and proper behavior. Of course we don’t view humans as renewable food.  If we did, do you think that we’d be in the business we’re in?”
    A good point.
    “The Huszars are boors, uneducated and uncultured.  That does not make their behavior the standard for all vampires.”  Jean-Louis’ voice was tight, a sign he’d taken umbrage.  “We saw from the beginning that killing our neighbors was not the best plan for the long run and began recruiting donors and developing substitutes.  By using raw animal meat and blood, we were able to cut down our consumption of human blood.  Usually, some every month or so will keep us healthy, and the donors can easily supply that.  Of course it’s much easier in these days of refrigeration and fast, reliable transportation.”
    Now the Baron broke in again.  “We’re discussing this now because beginning tomorrow, when you go to Kiev, you’ll be going into the areas that were part of the Huszar expansion a few hundred years ago.”
    “And you need to know that you’ll be watched by some of the Huszar family as well as their paid goons, the Chechens and whoever else they’ve been able to scratch up. I want you safe and I want you to heed our warnings.” Jean-Louis’ glimmer was coming back.
    I nodded to all of them.  “Thank you for including me in your confidences.  I will watch my behavior and not act so rashly.  I don’t want to endanger any of the demons or any of you.
    “Now, please excuse me, I’m going to my apartment to pack.”
    Jean-Louis didn’t follow me upstairs.

Chapter  Fourteen
    The ancient city on the Dnieper River.
    Land of,...what?  I didn’t know.
    Like much of the old Soviet Union, Kiev and Ukraine were still little known in the West.  My most vivid recollection was that Kiev was the closest large city to the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.  And that made me anxious. 
    On the plane, I’d done some research.  It turned out that Kiev was really an ancient city, with its beginnings as a trade center in the 5 th century.  It had seen the Vikings come and make it their capital of the Rus, and suffered complete destruction under the Mongols

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