A white void glowed bright all around, and through closed eyes he saw the veins of his eyelids illuminated by the light just beyond them. He saw the red hue of blood flowing through them, ever so gently causing the thin strands of life to pulsate with refined delicacy. He saw each cell of the fluid for what they were as they greeted his consciousness, each tiny atom that made him into a living creature. Or, something close enough to it. The left one opened first, peaking into the brilliance with a curiosity that he was still thankful to have. What he saw took him by shock, and the right one followed soon after, widening as dull pupils adjusted accordingly. Radiance overthrew his view as he stared into nothing but a peaceful whiteness; a serenity in it that he had never felt before. It filled him up, cradling his body and molding to his form. He felt the void move, and him move with it. It carried him without touching him, but never ceased in making him feel like a child being reunited with an old friend. As if this invisible chariot were taking him where he needed to go, finally. His muscles relaxed and his posture titled back until he was almost laying down. The rush of calm felt unfamiliar, but still he made no large effort against it. It felt right. To let go. It just felt right. A peace he hadn’t been able to have for so long, unable to find it himself wherever he looked.
His eyes fell back, lids shutting over them as the tranquility lulled him into a sleep. He yawned before everything went black.
”So, I’ll ask you again, what happened to you?”
”After what happened between us, I was broken. I am broken. I lost everything.”
”You may have convinced everyone around you, might even have convinced yourself, but I know better.”
I know that voice. It was faint, and grew the more he willed his mind to listen in.
“We were too different and any relationship between us would end badly no matter what, but don’t you ever think that I didn’t know who you were. Question is, do you anymore?”
I thought I did. I thought I knew, but I was wrong. I was so wrong.
”You’re not the monster you think you are.”
You should have been afraid of me, and you weren’t. You never were, and that was what I loved you for. You saw all of my evil, stared it right in the face, and still you held me up. You never abandoned me even when I deserved as much, even when I abandoned you. I was wrong, Wisteria. I am so sorry. I was wrong about everything. You knew me more than anyone ever did. I should have never turned away. I-I’m sorry.
“You don’t think I’ve learned anything from you? You think I’m still that selfish boy you met months ago? You think I haven’t thought about you!? Missed you!? Wished that everything that happened to fuck this up never existed!? Is that what you think, old man!? I can’t get rid of you! You’re always fucking right there, testing me on every fucking decision I make in my life whether your with me or not! Don’t you get that?!”
Oh, Emery… I’m sorry I failed you. I’m sorry we ended up like this, and that I was too weak and far too stubborn to help you. I should have done better. I should have been better for you, when you needed it most. You were my son, and I should have held you close in our final days instead of leaving you behind. I am so proud of you, I always have been. You have always been Mother Moon’s favorite child. Please, Emery. Please, forgive a foolish old man who didn’t know any better. Please find a way to forgive your father after all of this.
The mountains of people who he was leaving behind slowly crept through his head, playing as if he were right there during those last moments he had ever seen them, and even some of his most memorable experiences with them. Having them all removed from him bore holes in his heart that would never mend, but he know he would see them again. One day. If not sooner, then later. And that, well… That was alright with him. Colette, Calvin, Asa, Wisteria, Emery… His memory would always be with them, and theirs with him. It would live on in their hearts when they need moments of bravery, and find themselves reminiscing about their pasts. He would never forget the few that made his world a better place despite the faults, and he was certain they would never forget him all the same.
Eyes fluttered open as the moving came to a stop. A staircase presented itself before him. Was this Heaven? A soft, familiar boyish smile painted along his features. Whatever it was, it felt good. If Vampires could truly die again and wind up somewhere, he would have wanted to wind up here. Slender fingers reached for the misty banister as one foot began his ascension.
”Michael, my boy!” A hearty voice boomed from behind him, stopping him in his tracks. A voice that had haunted him in the worst ways for years. His head turned timidly. ”F… Father?”
The large man’s grin was contagious as his arms were held out wide to his child. Michael’s smile turned upwards until it stretched across from ear to ear, as he felt himself start running to his Maker. Babanel laughed as they embraced, holding each other as the large man caught his prodigy. He collapsed against him, head nuzzling against his Maker’s chest. All the problems between them, the bitterness especially, washed away in that moment. It was lost with the void. “Welcome home, son. I have been waiting such a long time for you to find your way back to me. Come now! Emery has been blabbing my ear off for awhile now, and it’s your turn to shut his yap up, ye’?” Babanel wrapped his arm over Michael’s shoulder and led him up the staircase. The two ascending up to where they belonged, in a place free from the troubles of Earth. Together again, forever now.
In the end, all would be well. Maybe not for some, but for enough.
Long live Athoria.
The Draugr Queen tore into the flesh of her prey, long since losing track of the number of bodies she had left along the way. She drank from the tremoring body, lifting it by it’s neck, it’s legs dangling off the ground as she drained it. Feeble hands pushed uselessly against her, but still she fed, feverishly lapping at the ruby liquid. A warmth filled her body as the body grew still. And she tossed the empty husk to the ground, stepping into the smoke filled night.
Asa stepped from the last house of the row, blood dripping down her chin. And with burning eyes she walked toward Michael, pulling him to her in the light of the inferno and bringing her lips to his. A growl of satisfaction emanated in her throat as she hungrily explored his mouth, the blood from her own mouth mingling with his as her hand possessively pushed against the small of his back, pressing his body to hers. She smiled against the kiss, playfully licking Michael’s lips, her free hand winding itself in his messy locks. “Mine,” she thought her feverish lips moving against his, the crackle of burning wood and the smell of burning flesh filling the air. Asa was breathless as he responded, her hunger momentarily forgotten as she lost herself in lust. And for a moment she lost control, biting into the soft skin of his lip with a moan, fresh blood passing her lips. More. Her shaking hands curled into talons as she tasted the new blood, her fangs again fully extended.
The ancient fought her urge, ripping her mouth away with reluctance and beaming at Michael, her exposed fangs tinted red. She released him, her hand lingering fondly against his cheek, her breath still ragged as she gazed into his dark eyes. But the hunger had already reawakened in her. Asa turned her nose to the air, the scent of live human almost concealed by the thick smoke beginning to fill the village. “I think we missed one,” she murmured, her eyes shining with excitement.
Michael pushed into her frame. The build of the Ancient like a monolith as she remained unmoved in his furious efforts of lust, hands roaming against her hips. He snarled as she bit into him, the long delicate fingers of both his hands now forming balls as they gripped the garment she wore and pulled her to him. Their bodies were one in that instance, as blood began to gush from his lip and dribble down his chin. Hers, he was, and hers alone he wanted to be. In the heat of their lust, burning like the building around them, her body scorched his own. Vibrant with possession and power, her intensity rose as her incisors extended against his bloodied mouth. He could feel her react and attempt to pull away, but Michael’s grip pulled her in place. Before long, though, the elder of the two broke free from the trance of his sweetened blood. The Mistress raised her hand and caressed along his cheek. Michael tilted his head into her palm, and for a brief moment amongst the chaos he found a small home of bliss rise between them.
Although his body was swollen with desire by just the carnal look in her eyes, he could feel her demand for control over herself. And so, his gaze turned from hers. But then, her nose turned upright to the air filled with smoke.
“I think we missed one,” she murmured.
He stepped forward, sniffing into the blackening smoke billowing around them now. Somewhere beneath the thickness lied the faint smell of living mortal. Michael growled, almost enraged that any creature could have fooled them with its hiding. “We’ll share this one.”
He began forward, lurching as though Hell itself would explode from beneath his seething skin. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he sang into the blackness, voice booming above the crackling of flames as the houses burned to smoldering ember at his feet.
”Give it up, Wight. You’re ours.”
Approximately 10 years ago
Noah had always been a brilliant and impossibly curious child, the apple of his father’s eye and the heart of his mother’s love. As the youngest of three Freeman boys, Noah had been the focus of attention in the home. A factor that would cause most children to become spoiled brats but Noah, although knowing exactly what he could and could not get away with, had remained a remarkably humble child. He had Stephen’s logic, Thomas’ sense of adventure, and a spritely attitude unlike anything the family had ever seen. Every morning, Richard would take him in his arms and hold him high over his head as the boy kicked and cried out in excitement then send him off to torment his brothers with pranks and unrelenting mischief. Then during the night, Noah and Thomas would crawl into bed with their older brother begging for tales of his many adventures until his mother would drag him away to sing him songs passed down from generation to generation until his lively eyes would close and drift off to sleep.
These were the happiest times in a father’s life. Memories of the men and boys coming together to sit around the fire place, telling tales of horrible beasts and the heroes that had slayed them. The look of wonder that would dance through the eyes of the young ones as Richard and Stephen told of their hunts and travels. Times when Noah would crawl into his fathers lap to watch as Stephen taught Thomas to wield a sword. This was all that was left of his little boy, fading memories and the constant reminder of what would never be.
He remembered that day as if it had happened only moments prior. Martha had ran to him with tears in her eyes, crying out that Noah was nowhere to be found. She clung to Thomas, fearing what had been on all of their minds while he had taken Stephen along with several other hunters into the woods to search. Noah loved his games, he would hide for hours until found then laugh at how much distress his little prank had caused. But there there was something different this time. They could all feel it. Something was wrong. Richard searched the forest surrounding the Freeman residence, clinging to the hope that the child was simply trying his patience and nothing more when he found his eldest son standing in a clearing with a blank look, face drained of colour.
Their eyes met and he instantly knew. Pushing his way past the brush he found his greatest fear to have become reality. There at Stephen’s feet lay the lifeless body of his little boy, arms sprawled out unnaturally at his side and blood coating his face and hair. Stephen spoke; his words a mere whisper lost in the grief that swelled in his chest as Richard fell to his knees in defeat, scooping the lifeless body of his boy in his arms and cradling him as he had when he’d been a babe.
He could not not remember walking back through the forest, carrying what had been left of his son back to his mother. He did not remember Stephen sending the party of men back to their homes and taking Thomas away to his room in order to shield him from seeing his dead brother. The man entered the home with his boy and found Martha standing at the end of the hall, waiting in worry. As she saw him there was a split second of visible relief. Noah had been found, he was back in his fathers arms and safe at home where he belonged. But the look in Richard’s eyes had told her the truth, she looked down to see the child’s head hanging limp over his father’s strong arm with dried blood caked to his blue tinted skin.
For a woman who had been so strong, she shattered like fragile glass at the sight. Running to her child, shaking him and screaming his name, trying to wake him from his permanent sleep. Richard had to sit the boy down on the long chair and pull his hysteric wife away, yelling for her to stop; that Noah was gone and would not wake up. It had broken her, it broke all of them. Nothing had been the same after that. He watched as his family fell apart. Stephen became even more withdrawn, Thomas could not fully understand what had happened to his little brother, and Martha simply drifted away.
She spent every moment in Noah’s old bedroom. Smelling his clothes and making his bed again and again. She shied away from her children, leaving Thomas to the nanny as she mourned the loss of her baby boy. It was not long until the grief had claimed her from him as well. Leaving him to find solace in drink until the bottle had been his only anchor to this world. He swore vengeance. Swore to God and anyone who would listen that he would avenge his family. That he would destroy those that had stripped him of all that he loved.
Richard held the papers in his hands, flipping through one by one. Reading and re-reading each and every line until their meaning finally sank in. They had found him. The murderous bastard who had killed his little boy. A vile despicable creature who had committed several similar murders in Night Haven. After two years of tracking this monster he had finally found it within his reach. The man abandoned his bottle and quickly grabbed his coat and blade, readying to leave when he found Thomas standing in the hall watching him with attentive eyes. He approached the boy and sat his palm on his head, looking down with a solemn gaze as spoke to him in a gentle voice before leaving to seek out his demon.
He walked through the darkness with purpose, still feeling the fading effects of the alcohol as he traveled down the long road to where this monster had been spotted. As he traveled the path he became aware that something felt wrong, it was strange that after all of this time a mysterious file would find its place at his doorstep by the hand of an anonymous sender. Be it the clinging effect of the drink or his need for revenge, the man did not care. He needed this to end. No longer could he go on like this, it was time.
Eventually Richard found himself traveling through the side streets of Night Haven, not really sure what he was looking for. He kept on his guard, keeping an eye out for the slightest bit of movement as he walked. Instinct told him that someone was near, watching him, waiting for him but his experienced eyes saw nothing. He wrapped his fingers around the hilt of his sword and looked back and forth, sensing where the nonexistent sounds were coming from. But again, there was no one to be seen. With a huff the man stormed out into the center of the street, pulling out his blade and lifting his fist into the night.
“Come to me demon! Depart from your haven in the shadows you coward! Come face me in the light of your mother!”
If he had been apart of the living, then the wind at his front would have stung against his stone like face. With this stoic expression, the monster crept through the thick black darkness as he had time and time again. Wandering along familiar paths he had unknowingly built from years of worn, the paths no mortal dared to take through Hallowed Oaks. Heavy boots hovered across the ground, creating no sounds at all — surprising for their weight. The creature was one with the night; intimately involved with it to the point where its ins and outs were memorized by now. Centuries of belonging to it can do that to a man, even a mortal one. But, it can also drive you mad. Mad with a lust that even mortals will feel over time. Mad with this insatiable desire that can only be tamed once satisfied. In the night, there is no right or wrong. There are no morals there to withhold your darkest fantasies from becoming a sick, delightfully morbid reality. Here in the darkness, blood is what you crave. Blood, and sweat. The most intoxicating mixture of scents that a body can make. It was a craving that sunk under even the toughest of skins over time. A craving that turned these innocent people into the monsters that stalked them.
And oh, did he long for it. The blood, the sweat — they were this monster’s strongest desire. He loved the chaos, he loved the anguish and the terror. He adored the power that came with being the cause that dimmed the light from their eyes. And when it came to spilling that sweat and that blood for revenge, well… Well that was something entirely special.
Like a giant, his height just barely reached the canopy of tangled vines and tree branches above him. As his dull green eyes looked out towards Night Haven’s lonely streets he could feel his chest rise and fall. Old habits died hard. The monster stalked forward, sinister in his quiet steps. Like a lion cleverly stalking what would soon be his prey, although he was sure he was going to enjoy this more than just any meal. This was far more than that. Far more than a quick jerk of the neck and a sink of his teeth in their tender bits of flesh. Revenge.
He adjusted his stance, allowing more of the lonesome road to come into view. And there, alone in the middle of the road only a ten or so yards away, was his soon to be victim. The mortal was practically serving themselves up on a platter.
As his eyes narrowed in on the being the soft smell of alcohol vaguely wafted through the air. What a fool, he thought.
”Come to me demon! Depart from your haven in the shadows you coward! Come face me in the light of your mother!”
The creature smirked at the call. And of course he obliged, walking with quiet steps out into the open behind the careless male. Mother above bloomed in her radiant light, illuminating the street and casting stretched out shadows to their backs. Such a beautiful stage for such a vile being to die upon.
”I’ve never met a man so eager to die. Although, with such determination I’m going to assume you found our little present to your family? I should not be this surprised you want to follow your wee boy, Richard. You’re more pathetic than your father, and that is saying something.” Michael chuckled under his breath, hardly being able to contain the fury of laughter that ached to bubble up.
Her eyes left his, but it was already too late. The wicked smile curved upon his lips was imprinted in her mind now, damaging her idea of him forever. She didn’t want to know this smile, nor this man. This man, this vampire, was an awful shadow that tainted her image of him. How could she cling to her calm state when he seemed so set on undoing every bit of good in himself? How dare he? His words were cruel, his tongue spitting poison. She didn’t want to hear what he’d done, regretted her question entirely. She wanted to run away and forget this monster while remembering the man.
It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t supposed to go like this. He was supposed to stay away and leave her to pick up the pieces of her mind and heart. He wasn’t supposed to change this way. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he’d killed her, now he’d went and had killed himself. Wisteria loved her murderer deep inside, but would always hate his. Balling her fist, her emotions started to take hold of her. She forced them back.
“You want me to weave a fine image for you of the tender meat I ripped off their damaged carcasses, and tossed aside for the birds? Is that really what you want to talk about after all this time? Rumors?”
“No, I don’t want to , but that’s not the point. The point is that it was you. You, who used to loathe careless vampires like that. Who would’ve never murdered an entire village just because you felt like it and would’ve never then left the corpses to rot. I know you, and I know that isn’t you.” Her words showed the smallest amount of anger. Suppressing the small spark in her chest, she sighed. “You’ve always been better than that. And you’ve always been too stubborn to see that.”
“So, I’ll ask you again, what happened to you?” Wisteria took her time to look over him. “And what have you done to yourself? You can go and growl at me some more, or you can tell me more tales of bloodshed. But I need an answer. If you ever have ever held any affection in your heart for me, you’ll tell me. I’ll leave you be then, and you can go and continue your current…Folly.” She meant it. She needed to leave before her broke her some more, if that were even possible.
Michael’s forked tongue and shadowing smirk fell dim on his face, almost as if he questioned himself. His gaze grew heavy as he tried to look at her with anything but hatred; not for her, but for himself. The ghost of the girl he had murdered months ago was now preaching how he was better than this, but was he really? If it were so, then why had his life led to this path of self righteousness? Why did he have this life at all? If he was better before, then why had it not worked out between them — or him and anyone at all?
Sullen expressions took over, and he adjusted the cloak around his frame. It was beginning to look less like ominous bat wings, and more of the cloth that is truly was the more pained his expression went. ”I’m not better than this.” The words slipped from his mouth as though he were admitting his defeat in the midst of a battle. “That’s the problem. I never was better than this. You were just delusional then; biting off of blind emotions when it came to me.” The sorrow welled in his eyes, but a stubborn pride pushed them back as he looked to her.
”When the Moon was gone for those few days, I abandoned everything…everyone. I left Emery, Thirst, and I headed towards the shores. After what happened between us, I was broken. I am broken.” The Elder took a step towards her, daringly so as the gap began to close right until he was only two or three feet away. “You do not know me. You never did, never could. Is that not why we’re apart? Our differences?” Her scent overwhelmed his nostrils, causing him to flinch at the disdain it brought now. “What you thought you knew about me was centuries of oppression, keeping myself at bay for those who I could never satisfy no matter the might that went behind my trying. What you knew was a failure, and a suffering little man. I’ve evolved from that… Or, at least I’m trying to. I’m trying to be better. That’s what’s happened to me.”
His presence towered over her; the scent of her soft skin causing his mouth to pool with saliva once more. But, of course, he gulped it back and tried to tame his animalistic hunger. Not her, he told himself.
”I lost everything, and I’m working my way back to the path I should be on.”
Wisteria wrapped her arms around her body, partly because of the cold and partly because she felt like falling apart. As if her body was made of glass, with several cracks, big and small, all over her legs, torso and face. With every movement Mi-he made, with every word he spoke, new cracks seemed to form. They would continue forming, until the glass shattered and she’d fall to pieces. And she’d be left to gather them, alone as usual. As she had many times before. It was almost routine by now, so she didn’t really mind that much anymore. Nothing would be visible on the outside. Not a single tear. All of it happened on a subconscious level. She’d adapted an almost pleasant, dream like state of numbness which allowed her to live from day to day and forget everything that ever had gone wrong in her life. Not just the vampire standing there, but everything she regretted and mourned. And that list had grown quite long. Mom. Dad. Arianne. Alys. Rosalie. Casper. Him.
If she fell into something akin to sadness, she corrected herself immediately. Ever since Rosalie had been killed, she had had plenty of time to brush up her old technique of forget and move on. Had perfected it, so to speak. And she couldn’t risk letting the elder opposite break her carefully built wall. He was one of the few, if not the only, who could. That made him her most dangerous foe. Her love for him her greatest enemy. It had nearly destroyed her, and she was set on surviving. She was a survivor. Like the vine whose name she carried. No matter what, she’d liveand grow.
”What happened to you?”
Wisteria forced herself to look into his eyes. Don’t flinch. “Plenty.” The word was spoken quietly, almost ashamed. “You’ve changed.” She noted. She couldn’t even begin to name what had changed. Almost everything. He was a figure that could inspire fear into anyone without even trying now. Threatening, hostile and empty. It didn’t nearly hurt as much as she’d expected to look at him because it wasn’t him. Just another stranger she had to fool. If she mourned him now, she’d be mourning a memory. She didn’t know whether that was good or not, would decide on that later on.
“There are rumours about plenty of blood spilling. An entire village flooding with blood. With two people being the cause…It was you, wasn’t it?” That sentence carried the first sadness she’d shown in a long time, and she cursed herself for letting her feel that emotion for a split second.
He had changed.
Michael took a step back, as if her words were battling his footing so he stayed a clear distance from her. Although, even as his feet wandered further away, he could still feel this empty pull inside of him — like a knot laced around him, leading to her — that wanted to draw his body closer. Denying that pull seemed practical, though he could feel his skin already rejecting the decision completely. Michael never was a man of practicality, especially now. What Vampire truly was?
He could feel her eyes, loss of all their old vibrancy, boring holes into him. They drilled through his newly found exterior and began to chip at the surface of who he really was. Who he was denying himself of being for a “better cause” and “a better life”. A better way of living, as he had it put to him so plainly in the beginning. Those eyes he used to gaze into. The eyes he would dream of staring back up into his. They were no longer a window into her mortality, just spaces that seemed withered with pain. He could barely muster the same courage she had, to meet those eyes. But, somehow, he found it. If he was going to maintain this pompous outer layer, he had to.
If she thought he couldn’t smell that sadness, that agony from just being near him — she was wrong. The young Human before him had bested his nose only once now, hiding the draft of sadness under the layers of repulsion, of confusion. But, somewhere within her words, he had found it and it only helped chip away at his shell.
“There are rumours about plenty of blood spilling. An entire village flooding with blood. With two people being the cause…It was you, wasn’t it?”
Michael couldn’t help but smirk. The twist of his mouth was evidently more sinister than he intended, but imagery of that haunting night with Asa put a blush on his face he couldn’t control. His stomach faintly groaned at the recent memories of the river of blood that flowed through that quiet village. It reminded him of the godly hunger he had been forced to satisfy lately.
”Is that what you want to hear? How I murdered those people in their beds? How their blood painted my skin? How the women fell to their knees begging for my mercy? Is this the story you really want, Wisteria?” He barked at her, growling at how she could possibly have this to talk about and nothing more. “You want me to weave a fine image for you of the tender meat I ripped off their damaged carcasses, and tossed aside for the birds? Is that really what you want to talk about after all this time? Rumors?”
Asa cupped his face with her pale fingers, laying a kiss on his parted mouth. “We feed,” she murmured against his lips. A low chuckle emanated low in her throat as she pulled away from him, her eyes burning with hunger and lust in the light of torch. “They might as well have gift wrapped themselves for us. Foolish humans, always so willing to believe they’re safe in their beds. They make it so…easy. And that is why they are the prey and we, my dear boy, are the predators.”
She brought a single finger to her lips, jerking her head towards the first building on the block. Asa let her fingers trail against the side of the building as she slunk towards the door, a single forgotten candle burning low in the window of the home like a beacon. The smell from within set her body aflame, her precious meal gift-wrapped in layers of timber and brick. And with one last leering glance at Michael she slammed her shoulder against the door, the wood splintering beneath her dense frame.
As the door fell beneath her might, she stormed through the wreckage into the one room home, the two humans sitting up wide eyed in their humble, hay lined beds. With a feral hiss she set upon the terrified woman, a blur of speed as she sunk her teeth into it’s neck, a sickening gurgle coming from it’s lips as she ripped it’s throat open with her fangs. Asa threw back her head, a growl ripping through her blood covered lips, sinews hanging from her red stained teeth.
Michael followed her, of course. Trailing close behind her like a puppy dog awaiting the leftover scraps their superior would abandon for them. As his Queen made for the woman, the Elder pressed forward — torch in hand — and flung it at the male. It caught the hay lining of their bed on fire. Michael reached through the growing flames, grabbing him by the neck and dragging him out of the wreckage. A guttural sound escaped the feeble man’s lips as the Vampire’s hand began to crush his throat. In one swift movement he hoisted the mortal upwards and ripped into its neck with his fangs. They sunk into its flesh with utmost ease, allowing a flow of blood to spurt into his mouth and begin to pool. Quickly he drank up, and neared the mortal to the brink of death before dropping the body to the floor.
”More!” His blood stained mouth exploded with the word. He roared like an animal before turning to the door and rushing out of it to carry on towards their next victims. One by one, he zigzagged through the small village, murdering off all he could to sustain his wild hunger. He allowed the torch he held to burn houses to the ground; finding joy in the death, and the screams that came just before it.
Michael’s body flexed with renewed life, but it didn’t prevent his killing. Slaughtering the mortals, their blood staining his attire, his skin — he breathed demise into them. Dropping their bodies wherever he wished, flinging them like tattered dolls children embraced with up onto the burning buildings. His mind whirled with death, an ally to their playtime. The body count growing as he went, unconcerned for his mighty Queen who surely reveled in this twisted chaos.
He could feel her ecstasy like lightning through his body. He could taste the blood she tasted, and smell the fear she smelled off the slowly rotting, burning mortals.
These fragile beings were ants to their magnifying power.
Wisteria was already at the end of the field when the silence that had seemed to have lasted for centuries was broken viciously by a series of terrified screams. They betrayed the fear, the absolute desperation of the woman and it made her heart skip several beats. She recognized the screams for what they were, the cries of a victim. She’d screamed that way too, when a vicious phantom had held her in his grasp. Whatever had gotten the woman, it was doing a good job of frightening her to no avail. Once upon a time, Wisteria would’ve ran towards the sound without any thought or hesitance. But she’d grown more careful and as she stood there shivering in the cold, she felt cowardly.
But then the screams became louder, and with it her breath seemed to stop. What if the woman was hurt now? What if, while she had been worrying, she would die? All because she wouldn’t help? Wisteria just couldn’t let that happen, refused to walk away like nothing had happened. The Witch moved into a sprint, the skirt of her dress flailing wildly as she ran as fast as her legs could take her. She’d never been a particularly good runner, but the urgency of the screams beckoned her to move faster, energy that could’ve been natural or magical fueling her limbs to move.
The Witch stopped all of a sudden, so quickly that she almost stumbled over her own feet. A young woman ran towards her, her hand on her neck, trying to stop the bleeding. When she noticed Wisteria, she frantically ran towards her and grabbed her hands. “Don’t go there! It’s terrible, gruesome! It’s the devil!” Winny wanted to reply, but the woman had already sprinted away.
Whatever it was, it hadn’t killed her. Frowning, she prepared herself for the worst as she took quick steps to the edge of the field. It was so dark that it took her some while to recognize the tall figure. The so called “devil”.
Wisteria would’ve probably sank to her knees right there and then if she wasn’t in such a high state of adrenaline. It couldn’t be…It was impossible. A horrible trick of fate. It was a message, sent to her by God himself. That He’d never be on her side, would always punish her for whatever sins she’d committed. She didn’t speak his name, her thoughts having trouble connecting the figure before her with the man who’d left a mere month ago. He seemed different. Older and more dangerous. A complete stranger.
Her eyes landed on the blood trickling down his lips. She’d kissed those lips once, she realised, and it was enough to make her stomach perform an unpleasant flip. “Who are you?” She wanted to ask. The elder before her wasn’t someone she knew and his eyes were exactly like the gossip had told her. Void of any life or compassion. Winny still refused to think of him as evil. Perhaps she ought to cry, surely that was what she was supposed to do? Weep over this change? But her eyes remained dry and her heart remained silent. Instead, hesitant brown eyes inspected him until she finally found the question she wanted to ask.
“What happened to you?” It was meant as a question, yet delivered as an insult.
Looming, his covered frame blended in with the surrounding darkness, causing him to appear almost as a shadow would. A shadow of an evil man, a shadow of a willfully broken immortal creature. If not for the pale of his skin, he’d have been nothing more than a part of the void. Though, was he not already? A small breeze came through and tousled the edged of his slightly curled mane as he pulled the cloak — now sitting awkwardly off his shoulders — around him, adjusting it as his ears perked up to the noise of slow footsteps. His eyes averted the trees lining the field, keeping his cold gaze down. The blood, now slowly dripping from his chin, went unnoticed — or rather, ignored — as the rustling of limbs just ahead of him grew closer, closer… His mind raced for a moment. A heat of panic whirled in his head. What do I do? What do I do? He wanted to flee, to shield himself from the pain that was about to come. If it was her, then…well… Was there really any doubt? He cursed the world under bated breath.
And then, the footsteps stopped. He winced at the silence that followed, practically feeling her immediate repulsion. He utterly repelled her, and the smell of her disgust wafted through his nostrils completely. He cringed for a moment — waiting, holding his breath for her to make the first move. He couldn’t even bring himself to look at her, let alone say something.
“What happened to you?”
After a few seconds of the agonizing quiet between them, she spoke, and her words stung probably more than they should have. What happened to him? Maybe if she cared to begin with, she’d know what happened to him. His dull eyes, lifeless as ever, raised just a bit to meet with hers. She didn’t look the same. When his eyes crept over her, he no longer saw the beauty of what rested inside. All he saw now was a hallowed out shell where that beauty used to be. Before he killed it.
Michael licked his lips, tasting the blood greedily before wiping it away the sleeve of his tunic. He took a step forward though stopped immediately after. Closing the gap between them scared him. He didn’t want to get too close. Too close, and he’d probably fall dead. Too close, and he wouldn’t be able to keep up this act anymore. Not for her sake, or his.
”Just…out for a meal.” His voice faltered over, almost cracking. Clearing his throat, he tried to find something to say. Something at all that would resemble some kind of regard to her humanity, to his humanity. But, instead, he scoffed. More at himself for considering “humanity” now, than at her tone.
”What happened to you?” Michael shot back, starting to pace.
The trees were very tall and very threatening, Wisteria noted as the leaves underneath her shoes made small crunching sounds. She’d tried to avoid the forest as much as she could, especially when the sun had already gone down, but the so called “shorter route” she’d decided to take, had led her to a desolate meadow with a thick tree line on both sides. It was quiet, not even the sound of animals reaching her ears. The whole area felt dead, like something had sucked the life out of the nature. Hallowed Oaks was nothing compared to this. At least there one could find signs of life, even if they weren’t always very friendly. She regretted having tied her hair back in a bun, as the cold air made goosebumps raise on her neck. Bringing up a gloved hand, she brushed a lose curl out of her face, her eyes falling on something.
Even thought the moon didn’t give much light tonight, Wisteria could clearly make out the red colour of one lone flower in the grass. A poppy. Her grandmother had told her a story about poppies once. How they had been pure before, as white as bride on her wedding day, but that the bloodshed of a long war caused by a greedy warlord had turned the flower crimson red. Even now, she never looked at poppies quite the same way. It was a miracle that the flower had survived for so long, seen as how it was winter. The reminder of tainted innocence.
Her thoughts on blood, she kept on walking, leaving the flower behind her.
Another cause for her nervousness were the rumours that had been brought to her attention. Terrible, dreadful rumours Wisteria didn’t dare to think about for too long. Voices had told her of a great massacre, of many innocents lives taken. Voices told her of one of the predators, a man, tall and threatening with dull eyes that represented the blackness of his soul. A woman with fiery eyes by his side. Or so they said, Wisteria didn’t doubt that the rumours would thicken in the next couple of days, and that already much fantasy had been added to the story. She dared bet that by the end of the week, the tales would tell about the devil himself having killed those villagers.
But the rumour didn’t settle well with her. Whenever her thoughts lingered on the subject, she asked herself the same question. What if? What if it was the very same man she’d known for what already seemed like a lifetime ago? Her once lover, friend,…Her murderer. When she thought about those things, she never once spoke the name. She didn’t do that anymore these days. She’d chosen to lie to herself instead, to lock whatever had once been away. It was her only choice. She’d go mad otherwise.
But right now, Wisteria’s thoughts didn’t linger on the rumours. Right now, Winny thought of blood and wars and poppies.
Ragged, sporadic breathing. The only sounds seeping passed the gusts of wind were those of a whimpering woman, and the fright-filled neighing of a strong horse. His footsteps landed heavy, though they were agile enough to maintain a steady keep-up with the horse, creating a singular thudding noise that sounded muddled through his focus. Tunnel vision gave his eyes a clear view of his soon to be prey, as he played the ever favorite cat-and-mouse with it.
It. That’s what they were now.
The horse’s speed was abnormal for the breed, which impressed him quite a bit. He didn’t have to exactly pretend to be slower, not by much at least. The mighty steed jumped over a fallen branch, and soon behind him was Michael’s wild expression following right on its trail.
The woman riding it leaned forward, frantic as she begged the horse to go faster — as fast as it could. Her fear, her trembling skin covered in goosed flesh, made Michael’s mouth pool with saliva. He could hear her heartbeat. He could hear her terrified thoughts as she imagined this to be her last few moments left alive. He could feel her hope that he would slow to a halt and allow them to flee from his fury — which only made him drool more.
As the horse zigzagged through the trees, he watched as it disappeared behind a line of thick brush which did nothing to prevent Michael from following. He pounced from the foliage, taking off into the air and found himself near the outskirts of a field. The woman kicked at the horse to keep the creature going, and a shaky neigh erupted from its mouth. But, of course, to no avail. The Vampire raced across the grass and jumped at the woman, knocking her off her perch and forcing her to the ground. She cowered in fear and thrashed in his grip. Using his strength he held her down and quickly jerked her head to the side before sinking his teeth through the tender, soft flesh of her neck. Like a knife through warm butter. Her blood pooled in his mouth, mixing with his saliva as her horrified screams bounced off the surrounding tree bark and echoed much farther. Earth shattering it was, truly. It forced a smirk against his lips. Their screaming was the best part.
But, then came that scent… A smell he had forced to the deepest parts of his mind. One that he had removed from his memories, or so he thought. The smell of a broken girl he had murdered off not so long ago.
The scent made him stop in his tracks, dropping the still alive woman to the ground. His eyes widened as his nostrils took it in. His spoiled meal stared up at him with absolute fear stricken through her gaze, cowering as she watched him relay what it was he was exactly smelling. And then, came a snapping of twigs.
”Go,” he whispered to the woman. “Leave.” Michael, with blood soaked lips, turned to find the source of the scent. As his prey stumbled to now get away, he surveyed through the darkness and stood up from his crouched position. The full height of him seemed a lot more menacing now, as if he were made from the darkness itself.
”Wi…” He fought himself with her name. A name he hadn’t uttered in what felt like eons.
The wind blew in gusts, the slight rustle of the untamed grass the only sound for miles. Their silhouettes were outlined in the moonlight as they stared hungrily down at the unassuming town, craving the blood coursing through the veins of their intended victims sleeping in their beds. A slow smile turned up the corners of Asa’s lips as she turned her face to Michael, tendrils of her hair escaping from the the simple braid down her back, the fur lining of her dress framing her pale cheeks. The ancient looked godly as she stood on the hill, surveying the village in front of her, her pale skin shining in the light of the moon, a halo of light seeming to encircle her body.
Asa reached out an ashen hand, gently caressing Michael’s cheek. “Soon, pet,” she murmured fondly, her fingers gently grazing his full, beautiful lips. “Come.” She gestured him forward, her black dress billowing out around her as she began to descend the hill towards the dim, lantern lit streets of the sleeping village. The ancient could feel her fangs pressing against the tender skin on in the inside of her lip, the hunger in her rising as the first whiff of human lingered under her nose. A hiss of appreciation left her parted lips, her eyes narrowing menacingly. The muscles in Asa’s jaw flexed as she imagined the first bite, sinking her teeth effortlessly into the soft human flesh, tearing the veins open with her sharp, unforgiving fangs. Soon.
Michael’s body moved fluidly against the harsh winds. Winds that preferably favored them in keeping their scent, and their noise muffled under it’s power. It shifted against his frame, causing his untamed hair to fly at its will. Strands of his mane fell against his face, shadowing the maniacal look that came with the urgent hunger building within him.
Like a wild animal, he lurched forward behind his Queen, following her footsteps up the hill that overlooked the sleeping village. As they approached the top the smell of mortal blood, in droves, flooded his nostrils. Violent colors flickered in his eyes as the intoxicating aroma sent chills through him. His gaze wandered from the view and fell to his Queen, as if he were silently pleading to her to hurry.
”Soon, pet,” came the voice of his Mistress. Her soft fingertips trailed over his eager lips, and his eyes filled with the passion that could only be mirrored in her own. The vibrations of power, of pure energy, hummed between the two — creating a wild spark of electricity doomed to be released in the most savage of ways.
Obediently, he followed her again. The blackened eyes glittered with flecks of red and orange narrowed as the two figures descended down the hill. The tips of his incisors pressed against the bottoms of his upper lip, making it all too apparent of his thirst, his overwhelming hunger. These urges came on so greatly. Ever since Asa, he had been able to feed for hours, whole days if he could — and that painful hunger within him was never pleased. His Queen had told him that it is his carnal desire to feed and feed, and that that bloodlust was the effect from years of suppressing his true nature. Perhaps she was right, he had figured. It was yet another thing to further his alliance to her. Another piece of evidence that proved her words true. Why else would he be experiencing this?
His Queen stepped ahead of him, though he made sure to keep as close as possible to her. The two walked slowly through the quiet village’s opening. If not for that erotic scent filling his head now, he’d have sworn the place deader than himself. Michael took long, confident strides towards one of the buildings and ripped off a lit torch from it’s bricked enclosure. He then turned to Lady Asa and gave a smug little smirk before wandering back to her side.
”Well, my Queen?”
“Out,” Gage got the chance to repeat that much before Michael’s next mini-tirade, and the younger vampire went so far as to give a disbelieving snort. “You certainly don’t pay me to run the place, which is pretty much what Iris and I have been doing,” he snapped, whatever small scrap of patience he ever possessed wearing thin.
Under normal circumstances (and apparently these weren’t normal circumstances) the two of them had a fairly easy coexistence; Michael was usually verging on annoyingly fatherly and Gage, as was quite typical of him, would act genuinely offended and vaguely threatened because the male pride definitely doesn’t die when the body does (and in Gage’s case appeared to have tripled in size and intensity).
Many a mug had been broken against the wall because Gage had a (very childish) habit of pitching them at Michael’s head when he pissed him off (or gave him an order), despite the fact that he’d never once actually managed to hit him. It was therapeutic or something.
There was a moment where Gage just stared at Michael silently after the elder vampire had finished speaking. Then, of course, there was an angry (and not just a little frustrated) growl, and there may or may not have been a subtle stamping of a foot, which was not at all childish and more an act defiance because he had absolutely no intention of going anywhere. Particularly now that Michael was trying to order him around.
So maybe he was being incredibly childish. Gage simply had a thing about taking orders, and the gist of that was pretty much that it just didn’t happen. He gave the hand that Michael used to wave him off an incredibly offended look, almost like he was vaguely considering snapping at it but decided against it at the last second.
“Are you going to answer my question, or are you going to keep being this weird neurotic lunatic and disappear again?” He let the question hang for a minute before continuing. “Just a warning, you might not have a pub to come back to next time. I was under the assumption that you knew that I don’t take kindly to being ordered about, but clearly not.”
Michael’s head jerked quickly at Gage’s backtalk. To say that the boy’s defiant attitude annoyed him would be the understatement of the year. He returned the growl, though his outmatched the child’s considerably. After all, Michael was older, stronger — more of a threat to the kin’s livelihood than he could imagine. And, with his new found sense of self, he no longer needed to cater to the feelings of others. No, no. They needed to cater to his.
”Unless you want to be sucking blood out of a tube in your stomach, I’d suggest you mind your tone with me.” His body turned toward Gage, and for a moment the tantrum he was throwing no longer made the Elder want to rip the kid’s spinal cord from his torso. Instead, it slightly amused him. Looking the male over, sizing him up, he could only imagine Asa’s amusement as well, had she been there. She had always preferred the deviant, wildly rambunctious kind over the mundane youth around here. Though before her, Michael might have considered Gage amongst those ordinary ranks. But now, with a bit more light shed on the truth, what would otherwise cause a nasty taste in his mouth now seemed a tad more pleasant. More understandable, if you will.
”I’ve been out near Olia Meadows, taking care of some business there. I’ve been working on my leverages here in Athoria, making connections.” He hoisted the sack over his shoulder. “I’d suggest you do the same if you plan to survive out here. Especially with that mouth of yours.” A bit smug, Michael began to head towards the door. His footing stopped short by Gage. “Now move.” His gaze stared down at the child’s, dominance purely radiating off of him. “I’ll pay you double to just keep things running for awhile more. I should return in time for that to have left your pockets far heavier than normal.”
It was clear something was amiss. Michael was never this cold, this angry. He was never so proudly aggressive, with either Iris nor Gage. For a split second, the pain he was smothering deep inside showed, and a slight frown found the surface of his face — just before he could drown it away again.