The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 35

Sister Oana could see Madalina just ahead of her carrying Nicoleta.  The little girl tried to run as fast as she could but Sister Oana, larger and unencumbered, was far faster than her.

But as she was just about to reach the little girl, she heard a sound in the trees, which traded her anger for fright, the sound of the sighing of the tree trunks and the rattling of leaves, as the trees bent and swayed under the weight of vampires that leaped from one tree to another.

The sentries saw the movement of the trees from the wall, and, though they could distinguish no shapes between the leaves, they knew that it was not the wind, and Cezar shouted at the top of his voice, “Vampires!  They’re coming! Close the gates!”

This stirred everyone into motion.  The nuns quickly closed the outer door, locked it with the two beams and lowered the portcullis behind it.  The two sentries quickly ran around the wall towards their canon.

They used this canon to fire a signal high into the air, which those who saw it would understand as a signal that vampires were near.  The signal was produced by a hollow cannonball that was doused in oil and lit.  Due to the fire, these cannonballs were particularly difficult to handle.  The cannon would be charged with gunpowder and pointed upwards towards the forest. Then a rod would be placed at the mouth of the cannon to prevent the cannonball from falling in.  The cannonball, first doused in oil, was then set atop the opening and lit.  As the flames circled around the circumference of the cannonball everyone stood back and covered their ears.  Then the rod was quickly removed.  The flaming ball would ignite the gunpowder as soon as it touched it, launching it high into the air.  An arc of flame then streaked across the sky.  If all went well, the flame would snuff itself out part way through its descent and crash harmlessly onto the forest floor.

Approximately a league away, Vasile and Anton sat high within another tree, waiting and in anticipation of yet more vampires that evening.  They heard the sound of the cannon as a faint pop in the distance.  The sound drew their attention to the sky where they saw the flaming ball rise and sink.

“Vampires,” Vasile said, “In Terem.  We have to get there as fast as we can.”

Vasile then dropped from the tree, with Anton close behind him, and they both began to run in the direction of Terem.

Madalina heard the sound of the cannon and saw the beautiful dot of light float above her.  The light of the cannonball faintly lit up the trees as it soared above them.  Madalina didn’t know what the flaming cannonball signified, so long had it been since Terem had faced a direct assault from the vampires.

Sister Oana, though, did know what it signified.  She had been alive at a time, decades ago, when the vampire raids were a persistent, terrifying threat and she froze in her tracks.

“Madalina stop!  There are vampires near,” she shouted with panic, just before a net dropped around her.  Sister Oana stumbled to the ground, shouting “Run Madalina!  Run! Save yourself!  Get out of here!”  She quickly scrambled to her feet to try and free herself, but two vampires were already there beside her.  They pulled at a rope to bring the net closed, sweeping Sister Oana off her feet as the net whisked under her.

Another flaming cannonball was launched into the air and they all watched it fly above them and again begin to sink and disappear.

Sim landed right in front of Madalina and told her to drop the body.  Once Madalina set Nicoleta on the ground Sim looked at Nicoleta and said, “This one’s good.”  He then wrapped her in a net and handed it off to Bai.

Sister Oana entrapped and laying on the ground, turned her head to look at Madalina.  She saw Madalina handing over Nicoleta and the vampire talking to her, unmolested, and asked in a voice of utter disappointment, “You’re helping the vampires?  Why?”  Intoning that everything she’d ever tried to do to help Madalina become a virtuous girl was all in vain, she asked again, “Why?”

Madalina glanced in Sister Oana’s direction when she heard these questions, but she merely turned away.

The first volley of arrows landed near them, dangerously close and Sim looked at his three companions and said, “We can’t wait.  Go now!”

Sim then bent down and told Madalina, “Get on my back.”

She leapt onto his back, gripping him around the neck and putting her legs around his hips.  “Hold tight,” he said, and then he began to run.

<-- Go to Part 34         Go to Part 36 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 34

Madalina was resolved that it would be Nicoleta she would take to Sim as her prize.  After making this decision, she spent a few moments assessing the situation, planning out how she would do everything and in what order, as she feared that the only way to make this work would be to do everything properly without a single stumble or hesitation.

Madalina’s first step was to open the door out of the room.  Then she quietly approached Nicoleta with gag in hand.  She would first do everything that could be done noiselessly, and she would perform those tasks slowly and carefully.  Madalina carefully slid the long strip of cloth she held around Nicoleta’s head.  Even as she slipped it under her head, Nicoleta lazily dreamed away, with the side of her face buried in her pillow.  Then Madalina slowly wrapped Nicoleta’s sheets around her, borrowing this idea from the girls.  She carefully pinned the sheets shut.  It was nowhere near as tight as Madalina’s wrap, but it would probably hold long enough.

She knew of no way to perform any of the remaining tasks noiselessly.  Thus, she would have to perform these tasks quickly and smoothly.  First, Madalina abruptly tightened the gag, jolting Nicoleta awake.  Madalina quickly muffled Nicoleta’s mouth with her hand, just as she started to shout.  Her stifled shouts were not enough to wake the other girls, but she still flailed and struggled against the sheets.

Madalina quickly bent down and lifted the small girl on her shoulder.  Her legs almost crumpled under the weight, but she was able to walk her through the door.  What she was less successful at doing was in keeping Nicoleta quiet at this point.  Nicoleta sceamed against the gag in her mouth, a cry that made more than enough noise to rouse the other girls awake.

Mirela and Dorina blinked and sat up, not quite sure what sound it was they heard.  Madalina was already out the door but heard the sounds of movement coming from her room.  She ran out of the novitiate and across the courtyard without hesitation, and without checking if the sentries were out of sight.  Mirela and Dorina saw the open door, saw the empty beds of Nicoleta and Madalina, and leaped out of their beds in pursuit.

Madalina struggled to push Nicoleta through the hole she’d squeezed herself through those many times before, but she was having trouble because Nicoleta wouldn’t stop squirming and because Nicoleta wasn’t quite as small as Madalina.  But as she stuffed the girl through with her foot, she could hear the sound of a sentry as he called, “Hey!  You!  What are you doing?” She then heard the shuffle of stamping feet as he circled around the wall to approach her.

Madalina didn’t look back, now shoving herself through the hole and unlocking the outer door.  She pushed the door beams aside as she heard the stir of commotion.  Her two other roommates were in the courtyard by now, and now they, with their shouts, added to the noise that was being made by Cezar, the sentry, who called out, “Sisters!  One of your girls is out here!  She’s going to the forest.  Hurry!”

Sister Oana was the first out the door into the courtyard.  Anticipating Madalina’s excursion, she had kept an ear open all night for sounds of alarm.  When she entered the courtyard she saw Mirela and Dorina and asked them, “What is it?”  They both pointed to the door, which was now slightly open.  Madalina was pushing Nicoleta through the gap with all her energy.  Her body was sweating from exertion and she was pale with fright.

“Madalina, No!” Sister Oana roared.  When Madalina heard the sound, she turned back and looked at Sister Oana with terror, just as she squeezed herself through the door.

Sister Oana approached the gate and pulled the lever to raise the portcullis.  The machinery stirred, the counterweights dropped and the portcullis slowly rattled upwards as more of the nuns emerged from their quarters

Once the portcullis was open, Sister Oana pulled open the outer doors, and continued her pursuit out beyond the walls, into the darkness of the forest.  The rest of the group, though, looked out at the dark forest, to which they were now naked and exposed, and shivered with dread.  A few nuns reluctantly stepped forward to the threshold of the gate and looked out into the night, afraid to go any further and uncertain what to do.

Atop the wall, the sentries silently watched the distant figures disappearing into the forest, Madalina struggling to run with a great weight squirming on her shoulder and Sister Oana behind her and quickly gaining ground.

<-- Go to Part 33         Go to Part 35 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 33

Madalina waited until she knew her roommates were asleep, before she made an earnest effort to escape from her blanket.  She now pushed as hard as she could with her arms, but it was to no avail.

She wanted to bang her head against the wall in frustration.  Her body could barely move and when she exerted herself to the full extent of her strength, she accomplished nothing.  She let out a few sobs before she took a deep breath and resolved to keep trying.

When she pushed with her legs she was more successful.  After some attempts pushing outwards, she heard that sound of ripping fabric.  She chastised herself when she heard the noise, fearing it would wake the girls.  If they heard that ripping they would awake and search for something even more secure to hold her.

She decided to quietly turn her whole body so that her feet were hanging over the bed, and then she sat up and wriggled downwards until her feet touched the ground, permitting her to stand on her two feet.

She was tempted to just hop out of the room and try to find someone who could free her, but decided against it.   She was on her own.  She looked around the room for something to snag herself onto.  She was thinking that maybe if she could snag the cloth onto some sharp hook, she could thereby use it to rip the fabric, but she didn’t see anything and gave up.

Instead she tried to bend down and reach the pins with her teeth.  This was not as easy as she expected.  Her spine was simply not flexible enough to touch her mouth to her belly button, and certainly not flexible enough to reach any of the pins above it.   She wanted to stomp her feet in frustration, but held back and simple lowered her head for one sob before she continued.

With effort, she was able to reach one of the pins, one affixed just above her knee.  By bending her legs and curling her back and neck downward, she could just take the pin in her teeth and carefully pull it out, spitting it onto the floor.

She was disappointed in how little additional freedom this gave her.  This didn’t do much except give her legs a bit more room to move.

She did notice, though, that her hands did have a little bit more freedom.  Her arms were still pinned to her side, but she could freely move her wrists and fingers.  She decided that with her two hands she would pick up and collect into her grasp all of the blanket below her waist.  After a minute or so of gathering up the blanket, she was finally holding the lower part of the blanket, bunched up in her hands.  From here she was able to bend her wrists and touch the exterior of the blanket.  She couldn’t reach anything right away, but one of the needles was just beyond her grasp.  With a little bit of squirming and pushing with her arms, the needle was reachable.  With two fingers, she pulled the pin that was affixed above her navel and dropped it to the ground.

The blanket loosened more and her arms were able to move a bit more freely.  With the additional freedom of movement this afforded, the last steps were relatively easy.  She could just reach the other three pins and pull them out.  She then shimmied until the blanket unfurled around her and fell to the floor at her feet.

To celebrate, she crouched down to her knees and, placing her face in her hands, she firmly clenched her teeth and silently screamed.

She didn’t want to think yet about how difficult the next step would be.  She would have to bundle up and drag one of these fat wretches out of the novitiate, through the gates, and far out into the forest, before she reached Sim.

As she contemplated which one to take, she slowly ripped away a strip of cloth with which to gag the unfortunate victim.

<-- Go to Part 32         Go to Part 34 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 32

“No,” Madalina said without hesitating or breaking eye contact, “I didn’t sneak out last night.”  She then turned her head to be released from Sister Oana’s grip and lowered her eyes in meekness.

“Good. If that’s true, then we might be having a good influence on you,” Sister Oana said with an attempt to mimic the sweat and pleasant smile of Sister Elisabeta, “But, we are still watching you closely, to make sure you do nothing you shouldn’t.”

Madalina said, in a quiet and meek way, “Yes, sister.”

“You may go now,” Sister Oana then said, and Madalina began to dash off.  But she stopped herself before she left, wrapping herself around Sister Elisabeta and giving her a warm hug.

Sister Elisabeta squealed with joy, “Oh my!  What is that for?”

“I just wanted to thank for everything and for being really nice to me,” Madalina said.

Sister Oana looked at Madalina suspiciously, but Madalina ignored her, letting go of Sister Elisabeta and running off to attend service.

Madalina took special opportunity to watch the sunset after she finished the evening meal.  She stood out in the courtyard and could just see over the wall the pink and purple clouds that were spread across the sky while the sun disappeared over the horizon.  “This might be the last time I’ll see you,” she quietly said to it.  This rather dismal thought was almost enough to make her want to give up the whole thing.

She reflected on how she’d probably never see again anything in this convent, the church, the novitiate, the gardens, the plants and trees and all those people she knew.  This was the only home she’d known since she was barely old enough to remember.  She couldn’t remember the castle she’d grown up in, and the long journey to get here.  She only had heard about such events other.  Every memory she had was in this convent, and she would be seeing it no more after this night.

That evening, after the Compline service, Madalina returned to her room and found her three roommates there ahead of her.  The three girls stood, waiting for her and watched her intently as she walked into the room.

“Are you going to sneak out again and get us all into trouble? Mirela asked, in an inquisitional tone.

“No,” Madalina said, avoiding their looks and moving to her bed to change into her nightclothes.”

“Don’t bother lying to us,” Mirela continued, “We know about last night.”  Madalina looked towards them, and when she looked in Nicoleta’s eyes, Nicoleta lowered her gaze in shame.

“I won’t do it again,” Madalina said, “I guarantee you won’t have to worry about me anymore.”

The girls didn’t say anything, waiting for Madalina, who was now changed into her nightclothes to step into bed and lay down.  Once she lay on her back, the girls closed in, swarming around her in a body.

“We’re not going to take any chances,” Mirela said, while the three of them restrained Madalina, who squirmed and struggled.  They took her blanket and wrapped it around her tightly like a rolled up parchment, so her arms were pinned to her side and her legs were held together.

Mirela asked the other girls, “Did you find a rope or something to hold this closed?”

Nicoleta pulled out a few pins and said, “Only this.”  They then affixed the pins to the fabric of the blanket so that the wrap wouldn’t unravel.

“I think this should hold,” Dorina said, tugging a little at the sheets

“You should be able to sleep fine like this.  It’s not too tight is it?  Not uncomfortable?” Mirela asked, with feigned concern on her face, “Don’t worry we’ll let you out for Midnight Office and Matins.  We wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.”

Madalina tried to push outward with her arms but the sheet wrapped around her was simply too tight.  The pins held firm and she didn’t possess the strength to tear the fabric.

As the girls watched her squirm futilely they became more confident the restraints would hold.  They retired to their beds and relaxed, wishing each other a good night.  Slowly they fell asleep while Madalina lay awake, unable to sleep or move, wrapped tightly in her blanket.

<-- Go to Part 31         Go to Part 33 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vampire Wares, pt 31

Sister Elisabeta explained, “We know that vampires were not created on the sixth day because when God surveyed his creation, he declared that it was good.  This means that the vampires, like other abominations, such as the giants, were created after the sixth day.  The giants, the Bible tells us, were created in the time of Noah and killed in the flood, and the same fate would’ve befallen the vampires, had they existed then.  But, no, they were created much later.  How many of you know the story of Ahab, the king of Israel and the husband of Jezebel?”

Some hands were raised and Sister Elisabeta called on a girl, asking, “What do you know about Jezebel?”

One of the older novices said, “She married Ahab and persuaded him to worship Baal, and kill the true prophets, but she was stopped by Elijah.”

“Yes, very good,” Sister Elisabeta said, very proudly, “She led her husband and the people of Israel into wickedness by switching from the worship of the true God, to that of wicked pagan demons such as Baal and Asherah and, the even more wicked, Moloch, who was worshipped by sacrificing children by fire in Topheth.  Ahab raised many statues to these pagan demons in many cities, including in Samaria.  He died in battle at Ramothgilead when he was shot by an arrow and bled into his chariot.  After his death, they decided to clean his chariot, so they took it to the pool of Samaria to wash off the blood, which drained into and polluted this pool.  In this pool, the prostitutes also washed, such that they washed in the blood of Ahab.  And these prostitutes became infected with the wicked blood of Ahab, as they were prone to such infection from living a sinful life.  These prostitutes infected the men who came to them in sin, and those wicked who were infected, infected yet others, until vampires became a scourge upon the earth, which will not be wiped away until the second coming of our Lord, when He will wipe away all sin from the earth.”

Sister Elisabeta told them more about the second coming and the infectiousness of sin, and then finished with a prayer.  When she finished her lesson and the novices dispersed for further prayer, Madalina approached Elisabeta and said, “Sister I have a question I was hoping you could answer for me.”

“Yes, dear,” Sister Elisabeta said, “What is it?”

“I was wondering if you knew why my parents left me here at this monastery.”

“You sound as if you regret that you were put here,” Sister Elisabeta consoled, “I think you underestimate the value of being in a place of peace and isolation.  Out beyond the walls of this convent the country is in turmoil, with many people fighting for power.  And members of your family are at the center of it.”

“Really?” Madalina asked, suddenly interested, “What are they doing?”

Sister Elisabeta hesitated, thinking about it for a moment, before she said, “Your father has been fighting in wars with the Ottomans, and some of your relatives have been leaders of Transylvania vying for power.  But there has been much change of power and it’s not for us to keep track of all these conflicts and intrigue.  Which is the reason why your parents put you here, to save you from all of this turmoil and danger and live in peace and virtue.”

“Your parents left you here as a gift to God,” Sister Oana interjected, “They saw giving you to our monastery as penance for their sins.”  They turned to see Sister Oana approaching them through the garden. Sister Elisabeta tried to interrupt and say something at this point, but Sister Oana cut her off, “Fortunately, this has presented an opportunity, as Sister Elisabeta said, for us to bring you to the virtue that so escaped your family.  And we will teach you virtue.  So long as you listen to us and cooperate.”

Now standing next to Madalina, Sister Oana reached down and raised her chin so that she was looking directly into the Sister’s eyes.  Sister Elisabeta again tried to intervene, but Sister Oana raised her hand to hold her back.  “You didn’t try to sneak out again last night?” Sister Oana asked, while looking directly into Madalina’s eyes.

<-- Go to Part 30         Go to Part 32 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 30

Sister Oana moved a bit closer to Cezar who was hovering above her atop the wall and she asked him, somewhat perplexed, “You saw Madalina entering the novitiate?  You mean, through her bedroom window?”

“No, through the front door, of course.  I saw her crossing the courtyard and entering the novitiate through that door,” he said, pointing across the courtyard to the door leading into the hallway of the novitiate, “I didn’t get a good look at who it was.  It was just a brief flash of movement: a little figure in a dark cloak. I couldn’t tell you for sure if it was the girl you’re looking for.”

“Did she leave the convent?” Sister Oana asked, “Did she come from outside the wall?”

“I told you all I saw,” Cezar replied with a shrug, “It’s possible.”

“Thank you Cezar,” Sister Oana replied, “You continue to keep watch for her.  I am sure this is not the last time she’ll try to sneak out.”

As she walked away, she confessed to herself that she wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the situation.  She reflected on what she knew as she approached the novitiate: Madalina was not leaving through the window, meaning she’d found another way out of her room, probably some way to unlock her door from the inside, and Sister Oana herself would have to be more vigilant in keeping and eye on Madalina, since clearly Madalina’s roommates were not up to it.

As Sister Oana contemplated these things, Madalina sat on the grass beneath the plum tree in the Sisters’ garden with the other novices.  Around the edges of the garden, flowers bloomed, and, in the center, a small pond ringed with stones glinted with sunshine fragmented by ripples. In front of the novices, Sister Elisabeta sat on a rock, looking over them and read from the Book of Psalms.

Madalina sat alone and while Sister Elisabeta read, she glanced over the faces of her companions, including her three roommates.  It would have to among these three girls that she would have to chose her prey for Sim, but which one she couldn’t decide.  “Which one has been meanest to me?  Which one has done the most to make my life here unpleasant?” Madalina thought to herself.  She considered exempting Nicoleta, since she had, so far, not told anyone about seeing her out of bed last night.  She considered taking Mirela, who was in a certain sense the leader of the group.  But on the other hand, Dorina was a bit smaller in size, and thus easier for Madalina to carry.

“If only they knew what power I wield over them right now,” Madalina thought, “Would they mistreat me as they have before?  Would they repent of all the times they ostracized me and teased me?  Would they be kind to me for once?”  As she remembered the many embarrassments she’d experienced at the hands of these three girls, she only regretted that she could only pick one.  She remembered once when they captured a spider and put it in her sheets just before bedtime; when they’d put water on her bed in the morning and tried to persuade everyone that she’d wet her bed; the multiple times when they’d hidden her cassock while she slept so she couldn’t be properly attired for Matins.

After finishing up her reading, Sister Elisabeta closed the bible and said to the girls, “Now one of you had asked me if I could talk about where vampires come from.”  The girls looked at one another inquisitively, and Sister Elisabeta asked, “No, it wasn’t any of you?  Well, maybe it was one of the Sisters who asked me to tell you about it,” thinking to herself.

“No matter,” Sister Elisabeta finally said, “We will talk about it anyway, since I think it is instructive.  It is not usually an important part of you theological education, but I think it is an instructive example of the ways that evil operates in this world.  But before we begin, are there are questions?”

“Yes, sister,” Dorina said raising her hand, “Are all vampires evil?”

“I’m afraid so, Dorina,” Sister Elisabeta sighed, the idea that there was any evil in the world clearly upsetting her, “What they do is wicked in the eyes of the Lord.”

“But any of us could become infected,” Madalina couldn’t help saying, “It happens to people by accident.”

“If any of you should ever become infected, God forbid, then you must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples: ‘And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.’  Likewise, if you should ever become a vampire then it would be better for you to starve and enter the afterlife pure than to sin by staining your lips with human blood.”  Sister Elisabeta spoke severely and in an ominous tone that chilled the young novices.

“So, if we become a vampire, we should kill ourselves?” Dorina interrupted, quite confused.

“No, dear, that would be a sin,” Sister Elisabeta admonished, in a nonetheless pleasant tone, “For your body belongs to God, and it is an affront to God for you to destroy it.”  She then tried to soften up these dark discussions and raised their spirits with a smile, saying, “But you shouldn’t worry because I don’t believe that God would ever permit that fate to befall a virtuous person.  Vampirism is a disease of the sinful, and so long as you are good, God will protect you from it.”

“I heard they eat livestock too,” Mirela spoke up, “That’s what some of the farmer’s say.”

“Well, if that’s true, then that’s what you may have to do” Sister Elisabeta conceded, “But this is all idle talk.  None of you will have to worry about, since this will not befall any of you, so long as you remain virtuous.  Now, let me to return to talking about the origin of the vampires.”

<-- Go to Part 29         Go to Part 31 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 29

Andrei finally arrived at the back door and opened it up, permitting Josif to enter.  The middle-aged man was transported with rage and huffed with deep breaths as he lunged inside.  His large, broad-shouldered body eclipsed the wiry, old frame of the aged merchant, who recoiled with some fear as Josif said, “You’ve taken my son.  You’re holding him here, and I’ve come to take him back.”

“The boy is resting,” Andrei said, with some attempt at a calming voice, “Let him sleep.  He’s been out all night.”

Josif didn’t seem to even hear Andrei and began moving around the room, calling “Anton!” and looking for the boy, as if he would find him hidden under an overturned bowl, all the while asking, “Where is he?  Where are you hiding him?”

Anton, at this point, appeared at the door, drowsy and sleepy-eyed, and said in an irritated voice, “Dad, what are you doing here?”

Josif ran over to Anton and grabbed him by the arm, telling him, “Come on.  We’re leaving this place now.”

Anton removed his father’s hand from his arm angrily and pushed it away, saying, “No dad!  I’ve decided to come here.  I just told you yesterday you can’t stop me from doing this.  Just let it be.”

“That, I don’t believe.  No son of mine would decide to do this.  I think I know my son.  This apothecary has persuaded you, by unnatural means.  What potion has this magician given you?”

“None!” Anton started to scream, grabbing his father by the shirt and shaking him, “I have come here, as I told you to earn money.  I am doing this for all of us.”  But as soon as Anton noticed himself growing angrier, his hands trembling, he restrained himself, letting go of his father’s shirt and backing away.

“Your sister misses you,” Josif said, “You mother misses you.”

“I will come and see them.  I am less than a league away and have only been gone for one night,” Anton said.

“So, is this how it is to be?” Josif said, shrinking like one wounded, “You live here and only come to visit us?  You do not want to eat or sleep with your own family anymore?  You’ll earn money and we’ll be too poor for you?”

Anton lowered his eyes when he heard this and said to his father, “Just go.  We’ll speak of this another time.”

“Vasile is taking care of your son,” Andrei injected, “He will keep your son safe.”

“I don’t want to hear from you,” Josif said to Andrei, and he turned around and left the workroom, slamming the door as he left.

“You should get back to sleep,” Andrei said to Anton who hunched over despondently.

Anton returned to his room and lay back in the soft bed, tired but unable to sleep as his heart raced.  His thoughts drifted to his family, and particularly to his sister Constanta, whom he did not want to abandon.

In Terem that morning Cezar began his day by ascending the stairs to the wall walk and following it around the circumference of the wall.  The circular area that was encompassed by the wall and which Cezar circumnavigated enclosed two distinct districts: the city of Terem taking up the majority of the area and the convent occupying a corner on the southern edge.  The buildings on the southern edge of Terem formed a dense cluster of stone houses, built side by side, one after the other, the back sides of these houses forming a continuous wall that transversed the area within the wall.  The garden and the nun’s quarters and the back of the church all lay just to the other side of this dividing wall.  The only connection between these two separate segments of Terem, was the wall walk, the continuous walkway at the top of the wall.

Thus, as Cezar walked along this wall walk, he overlooked the lively, prosperous city of Terem, then saw it come to end, and saw begin the more subdued and modest monastery of Terem.  The convent itself was, in its more subdued way, a lively community, and there below him many persons moved in several directions, the nuns in their habits and the young novices similarly attired, while a smattering of servants hastened to their duties.

He saw Sister Oana speaking, in what appeared to be a reprimanding tone, to one of these servants, and he called out to her, “Sister Oana!  Could I speak with you?”  Sister Oana dismissed the servant when she saw the solider and approached the wall.  More than a body-length above her head, Cezar leaned over and looked down on her.

“I came here to tell you that I saw something last night,” Cezar said.

Sister Oana hastily indicated for him to be a bit more quiet and looked around to make sure no one heard them.  She then led Cezar to the small gap between the church and the wall, where it was a bit more out of the way and she would be less likely to be overheard.

In a quieter tone, speaking downwards to Sister Oana, Cezar said, “You said you wanted us to look for a novice, about twelve years old trying to sneak out.”

“Yes,” Sister Oana nodded.

“Last night I saw someone entering the novitiate.  She was small, so I’m guessing it may have been the girl in question.”

<-- Go to Part 28         Go to Part 30 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 28

Bai and Sim continued walking aimlessly, sniffing the air as if they had caught to scent of something important but couldn’t place its location.

Bai finally threw up his hands in frustration and said to Sim: “What are we after?”

Sim hastily gestured for him to be silent, still hoping they might be able to catch by, surprise, whomever it was they’d heard.

“We are chasing hares,” Bai said, using an expression axiomatic among the vampires for going after something too trivial to be worth the effort.

“Obedience, underling!” Sim snapped at Bai.

“The night retreats,” Bai complained.

Sim hissed in aggravation at Bai’s complaints, but he couldn’t argue with the apparent truth of what Bai said, so he screeched with condescension, “You will follow my lead, underling.”  Then he led Bai, at a rapid sprint, in the direction they had been originally heading.

As they left, Vasile lowered his weapon and followed them with his eyes.  As they receded into the distance, he squinted as much as possible, hoping that perhaps this time he might finally see them disappearing into their hole.  In some thirty years of hunting, he had never found the entrance to whatever cave or hole they slept within, but he nonetheless always believed that the discovery of it would be just around the corner.

Divining Vasile’s thoughts, Anton asked, “Have you ever tried to track them to their cave? I’m a great tracker.  I’m sure I could follow their footprints right to their home.”

“Tried, but never succeeded,” Vasile said, “We could try again.  Not now.  Still too dangerous.  But at morning.”

Just the mention of morning made Anton expel a vigorous yawn, and reminded him how long he had gone without sleeping.  His father and him had arisen the last morning, as usual, before daybreak, meaning he had gone for nearly twenty-four hours without sleep.

“Or I can track them alone while you sleep,” Vasile said, noticing Anton’s fatigue.

“I will join you,” Anton said sleepily, “I’m not tired.  I never get tired.”

“No you won’t,” Vasile said, “At sunrise, I’ll lead you back.  And you’ll sleep while I track.  We can practice with weapons in the evening after we’ve both slept.”

They did as Vasile said, Anton being led back to Andrei’s where Vasile left him. Ileana let him in through the back door and asked him, “Are you hungry?  Do you want some food?” but Anton shook his sagging head.  She understood and led Anton to a guest bedroom, where she presented him with a bed.

When Anton first looked into the room, his eyes opened wide with pleased amazement.  The one thing he noticed above all was how abnormally clean it was: the floor well swept, the sheets clean and the wallpapered walls free of dirt.  It also lacked that conspicuous smell he’d grown so used to from his usual sleeping place, that admixture of human and animal stench that seemed permeate every corner.  Though he didn’t have time to appreciate, as sleep beckoned him, he thought to himself that he’d like to bring his sister Constanta here and share it with her.

He undressed and then dropped onto the bed.  It was infinitely more comfortable than the bed he was used to and he sank into it like falling into a warm bog.  Though he was so tired that he could’ve probably fallen asleep on a nest of pinecones, this bed was particularly inviting, and he fell asleep almost right away.

After what seemed like only an eye blink, Anton was roused from his sleep by the sound of a fist pounding on a door.  Truth was that several hours had passed, but he progressed through such deep sleep that it seemed like nothing.

As he looked around, he momentarily forgot where he was, so accustomed was he to waking up in his one-room cottage with his family.  He looked around and gradually remembered his surroundings.  He saw Vasile sleeping soundly in a bed across the room from him, and was able to recount how he’d gotten there.  All the while the distant sound of someone ferociously pounding on the door continued.

It wasn’t someone pounding on his bedroom door, but rather on the thick exterior door of Andrei’s, the back door that led into the workroom.  As he began to focus his ears, he heard a voice that accompanied the pounding.  It clearly was shouting “Andrei!  Open this door!” repeatedly.

He then heard the voice say, “Give me back my son!  You can’t take my son!  The magistrate will hear of this!” before it returned to the repeated refrain of “Andrei!  Open this door!”

At this point it was clear who was making the sound, and Anton now recognized, in the sound, muted through the thick walls, the enraged voice of his father, Josif.

<-- Go to Part 27         Go to Part 29 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 27

Early that night, Anton’s first night hunting, Vasile led him deep into the forest, to a thick stretch of trees nestled at the bottom of a gentle slope, where a small creek drained downhill.  Vasile had been most successful finding vampire prey in this region and came here often.

Vasile walked up to a tall sturdy oak, which looked like a good holding point.  He explained to Anton, “We’re going to climb this tree and wait up there.”

Vasile hopped up and grabbed a branch, easily pulling himself up and subsequently raising himself up between the branches.  Though Vasile was several decades older than Anton, he seemed to have the sprightliness of a teenager.  He was strong, quick and agile and was already a few body-lengths up the tree when Anton tried to follow behind, with considerably more struggle.

When the two of them finally settled into a pair of branches, Vasile explained, “We must do this so that no vampires are able to get the jump on us.  Though I’d get more kills if I could be mobile, the vampires are much better at tracking me than I am at tracking them.  They can hear me when I walk and could be at my throat before I’d have a chance to react.  Thus, we have to wait somewhere, hidden, for them to come to us, to avoid becoming prey.  Caution, my boy.  Caution is the reason I’ve survived so long.  You’ve decided to engage in something very dangerous, and caution is what keeps you from taking one step too far.”

And there they sat in silence, Vasile’s eyes surveying the forest in all directions while the hours passed.  Vasile said almost nothing to Anton.  When Anton got bored and tried to relax, Vasile would nudge him and say to him, “You cannot relax.”

“A vampire-hunter needs only two things: patience and deadly aim,” Vasile explained, “Especially since we will not see as many vampires as I used to, when I would see them every night and would have my choice of prey.  Now I wait days before I see any.  We may have to wait a very long time.”

But immediately after he said this, he suddenly stopped and froze.  A faint sound of movement was audible in the distance.  Anton heard the sound too, the sound of quickly moving footsteps, and he grew nervous and excited.  In the distance, they saw two shapes running.  The two vampires were Bai and Sim, returning at a leisurely pace from their rendezvous with Madalina.  The vampires usually darted across the forest at night in blazing sprints, but these two moved at a moderate jog, clearly neither in a hurry nor afraid.

Anton immediately reached for his crossbow and raised it, but Andrei stopped him abruptly, and indicated for him to be silent.  Anton silently mouthed, “We can’t take two of them at once.  Be Silent.  Let them pass.”

Anton froze and slowed his breath, trying to be as quiet as possible.  But when the wind blew through the trees, he was temporarily jolted and had to grab hold of the tree’s trunk.  In this hasty motion, his foot scraped against a branch and his crossbow bumped against the tree.  Neither sound was particularly loud, but it caused the two vampires to suddenly break off their run.

Sim gestured to Bai and nodded in the general direction of Anton and Vasile.  Sim  and Bai both raised their noses to sniff the air.  Sim silently questioned Bai whether he smelled anything, and Bai shrugged his shoulders.  Nonetheless, they decided to cautiously approach the direction from which they heard the sound.

Vasile slowly pulled an arrow from his quiver and strung it on his longbow.  He silently mouthed, “Arm yourself.  Don’t shoot until I do.  Aim for the legs.”

Anton picked up the crossbow and began to aim it, then he lowered it, and looking at Vasile, he silently mouthed, “Let me have the longbow,” miming with his hands at the same time.

Vasile took a deep breath, looked at the longbow contemplatively, and then relaxed it and handed it to Anton, raising one of his crossbows instead.

Bai and Sim continued to move in the same direction, moving heedfully and sniffing the air.  Anton leaned over to point his weapon directly at them, his bow taught, eager to fire, but Vasile cautioned, silently, “Patience!”

Anton’s heart started pounding in anticipation, and as his body warmed up, sweat started to leak from his pores, releasing his human odor into the air.

Vasile knew from experience that they could not kill them both, especially since the two appeared to be fairly old, maybe some sixty years old, he guessed.  A sixty-year-old vampire would prove much harder to kill than the youngster he’d just killed a few days ago, and the two of them together would be well nigh impossible.  A single, well-aimed shot could kill a vampire, but he didn’t want to risk it from this distance unless necessary, especially since he didn’t know how precisely Anton could fire.  Their only hope was, if necessary, to injure the vampires and then run with every ounce of their stamina.

But even better would be for the two vampires to disperse on their own, for which Vasile fervently waited.

<-- Go to Part 26         Go to Part 28 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Vampire Wares Schedule Change

I've decided to shift the schedule forward one day. So, from now on, Vampire Wares will be published Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday. I hope this works better.

And remember you can always check out everything that's been written so far (up through chapter 5 now) collated together here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 26

Madalina walked through the cold of the forest in anticipation of her meeting with the vampires.  A low-hanging moon penetrated through the upper canopy of the trees creating faint shadows on the ground, and creating bits of fractured light that moved along Madalina’s body as she moved.

From a distance, two vampires watched this tentative shape that moved with circumspect glances in all directions.  She did not notice the vampires, since they were perched high in the branches of a tree a significant distance from her.  The acuity of sight of the vampires far exceeded that of a common girl, and they had little trouble distinguishing objects even in the dim light of night.

The two of them waited for her to walk near to them, hopping to the branches of separate trees to get themselves closers.  When the vampires leapt from one tree to the next it caused the trees to sway as if they were being pushed by a furious wind.

Madalina heard the sound of the trees and looked up above, but could see nothing through the deep darkness above her.  Until, almost out of nowhere, she saw the faint streak of a moving object falling in her direction.  She again tried to leap out of the way as she had before, but she hadn’t reacted early enough.  A net suddenly landed atop her, with heavy weights at the four corners to hold it down.

Madalina scrambled to pull herself out of the net, furiously pulling at it and lunging for one of the weights.  She picked up the weight to toss behind her and make an egress from beneath the net, but, just as she was escaping, she saw the legs of a dark figure standing in front of her.

It was the same vampire she’d seen before, and he looked down on her with an amused expression.  “Sim,” he said.  He then pointed to a second vampire standing behind Madalina, and said, “Bai.”  She turned around to look at Bai, who was pale and hairless and looked at her with a vicious look.

“You will bring someone to us tomorrow, here, someone young, or we’ll take you, instead,” Sim said as Madalina began to slowly stand up.

“So I can join your coven?” Madalina asked eagerly.

“Yes,” Sim said, “If you bring someone.”

Madalina wanted to immediately say something to show her happiness and her appreciation, but Sim merely pointed her back in the direction of her convent and said, “Now crawl away cretin, and don’t touch us.”

Madalina slowly backed away from the two of them, nodding her head and said, “I will be back, tomorrow, with someone.”  Then when she had put some space between her and the vampires she turned and ran.

It had not been how she anticipated it.  She had been pleased by the result, but she had at least expected something in the way of welcome, some interest in welcoming a new member to the group.  But everything about their demeanor and tone seemed to add up to bitterness and disdain.

As she approached the wall of the convent, she again waited for the sentries to pass out of sight, and then she entered through the door.  Entering into courtyard, she darted to the novitiate and walked down the hall to her room.

When she entered the room, she closed the door and leaned against it to breathe a sigh, as if she could finally relax for the first time in weeks.  But within a moment she heard a sound among the three occupied beds.  Madalina froze, deciding to remain silent, then she changed her mind and began to undress as fast as possible and try to climb into bed before she was noticed.

Nicoleta had woken and after a few minutes of groggy rolling about, she suddenly sprang up in her bed and looked in Madlina’s direction.  Madalina was stuffing her cloak under her bed and hopping into her bed as Nicoleta looked at her.

“Madalina!” Nicoleta whispered forcefully, “You didn’t go out did you?”

“No, I swear,” Madalina replied, “But please don't tell anyone you saw me.”  Madalina was optimistic at seeing that it was Nicoleta who saw her.  She was the most forgiving of the three, the most pliable and sensitive.

Nicoleta pouted with a loud harrumph and crossed her arms.  “Madalina!” she whined, “No!”

Madalina mouthed, “Please,” very deferentially.

After a few more displeased grunts, Nicoleta finally asked, “No one saw you, did they?”

“No, no one,” Madalina assured her.

Nicoleta, though, did not want to leave it at that and was thinking about what to do.  She finally resolved to wake the other girls and leave it to them, standing from her bed and approaching them.  Madalina saw her and quickly leapt from her bed and gently grabbed Nicoleta’s arm to stop her.

“Please!” Madalina pleaded, “Please.  Let them sleep.”

Nicoleta frowned and sighed, but she conceded and turned back to her bed with a disgruntled harrumph.  She finally laid down, watching Madalina to make sure she laid down too.  After she was sure that Madalina was asleep, she let herself sleep too.

<-- Go to Part 25         Go to Part 27 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 25

When Madalina’s three roommates, Dorina, Nicoleta and Mirela, saw Madalina, later that day they told her what Sister Oana had told them.

“If you get punished, we get punished with you,” Dorina complained.

“We’re not going to let you get us into trouble,” Mirela insisted.  She then grabbed Madalina’s hair and gave it a good yank to emphasize her point.  “We’re going to watch you at night from now on, to make sure you don’t leave”

The three girls then turned their back on Madalina and walked away.  They had never been particularly apt to be nice to Madalina, but it had all been comparatively mild until now.  Mean comments passed between the three girls as they walked away.

“She’s always so conceited,” Mirela said, starting it off.

“I heard her parents left her here because they couldn’t stand to have her around,” Dorina said, “It’s not surprising, is it?”

“No they probably abandoned her hear because she looks like a giant ferret,” Mirela said, and the three girls laughed.

“That explains how she’s so good at climbing,” Dorina said, and the girls laughed again.

Knowing her roommates would be watching her tempted Madalina to cancel her planned excursion.  But it did not tempt her enough.  She wanted to go, more than anything.  She’d been left here at the convent by her parents to finish off the rest of her life in resignation, but she simply couldn’t stand to let the rest of her life be at their disposal: neither the nuns, nor her parents.

When bedtime arrived and the girls settled into their beds, they all sat up staring at Madalina, waiting for her to sleep first.  “You going to sleep, Madalina?” Mirela asked.  Madalina nodded and laid down her head, pulling her covers up over her face and closing her eyes.  Keeping still and silent, she then waited for them to follow her and go to sleep.

The three girls lay down after her, but they didn’t go to sleep either.  After a while, Madalina noticed that they were taking far longer than usual in falling asleep.  In fact, they were waiting for her to sleep first.  Suspecting they were listening to her, Madalina decided to try and actively pretend to be asleep instead of just remaining quiet and motionless.  She didn’t know exactly how she sounded when she was asleep: did she snore?  did she talk in her sleep?  So, she simply began to breath heavily in the way the other girls would when they were asleep.

After a few minutes of this, she heard a whisper from Nicoleta, “Is she asleep?”

“Yes,” Mirela said.

“Are you sure?” Nicoleta asked, “Does she normally snore?”

“Not usually,” Dorina said.

Mirela then silently stepped out of her bed and leaned over Madalina to look at her closely, conceding, “She’s asleep.  Keep your ears open for her tonight, in case she wakes up.”

The girls were not adept at this, though, normally sleeping through even the somewhat loud noises Madalina had on a few occasions accidentally made when sneaking out at night.  In fact, Madalina believed she was the only one who knew that Nicoleta talked in her sleep, even though she sometimes uttered her sleep-talk gibberish at full volume.

Madalina remained patient while she listened for the sound of the three girls falling asleep.  Dorina sounded like the first to fall asleep.  Mirela took a little longer, shifting and squirming a little bit before she finally fell asleep.  And last came Nicoleta, who sighed heavily a few times before she started to snore lightly and settled into her pillow.

Madalina waited for nearly a half hour after they were all asleep before she decided to sneak out.  She quietly raised herself up, pulled out her cloak and put on her shoes, moving even more slowly and quietly than she normally did.  Everything was done with extra care, even her breathing, which she slowed and muted.  She walked slowly across the floor, so that even the touch of her feet and the shuffling of her clothes were barely audible.  When she unlocked the door, she took more than twice as long as she normally would, just to make sure the metal click was as quiet as could be.

When she finally stepped out into the hallway and closed the door, she relaxed and took the first full breath she had in many minutes.  She then rushed down the hall to the courtyard.  She checked to make sure she wouldn’t be spotted by the sentries, looked out for Sister Oana, and squeezed through the hole by the portculis and ever so carefully unlocked and opened the outer door.

Waiting until the coast was clear once again, she ran into the woods and disappeared into the darkness, directly East, as instructed.  She still didn’t know whether the vampires had decided to accept her, or if the wolves had decided to hungrily gobble up this little rabbit.

<-- Go to Part 24         Go to Part 26 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 24

To reach the wall walk where the sentries perambulated atop the wall required one to exit the convent, circle around the wall, and enter from the opposite side.  The reason was that the wall enclosed both the convent and the village of Terem right next to it, but there was no way to travel from the convent to the village, without fully exiting the convent.  A more convenient route from the convent to village, such as opening a door in one of the walls that separated the two sections, was opposed by the convent, who preferred to keep themselves mostly sequestered from the commerce of normal life.

As Sister Oana stepped out of the gates of the convent, earlier that day, she walked on a well-trodden path leading around the walls to the main gates of the village.  The villagers used this path every Sunday when they went to attend the Sunday service conducted in the church upon the convent grounds.

Reaching the main gate, Sister Oana stepped through, and stepped into the middle of a bustling city center.  In front of her was the main square where several stores and stalls sold goods to the crowds of eager customers.  The streets were paved with stones that horses and wagons walked across and at the heart of the square was a flowing fountain around which people sat and children played.  The village of Terem, that Sister Oana stepped into was, due to the wall that protected it from vampire attacks, the most thriving village in the area.

Sister Oana walked down a side street leading to the office of the guards, behind which she could see the stairs leading up to the top of the wall.  A pikeman named Cezar stood guard in front, holding his long pike in hand, while a loaded arquebus rested against the wall beside him.

“Could you direct me to the captain of the guard,” she asked Cezar.

“Captain Flaviu’s asleep sister,” he said politely, “And he doesn’t like to be woken unless it’s urgent.”

“Then can you deliver a message?” She asked, “I just want him to tell the sentries to look out for one of my novices.  I suspect that she’s been sneaking around at night.  She might even be trying to sneak out of the convent.  She’s a small girl, about twelve years old, with dark hair.”

“You didn’t have to come all the way around here to tell me this, Sister,” Cezar said, “You could’ve just called to one of the sentries on the wall when he passed by.  I’m sure they’d be glad pass on the message.”

“I didn’t want to bring any attention to myself,” Sister Oana said, “We don’t want this novice to find out she’s being watched.”

“Understood,” he said, “I’ll tell the sentries.  But you don’t have to worry about her getting out at night.  She’d have to raise the portcullis, which is hardly something you could do without someone noticing.  It’s about as quiet as a tiptoeing cannonball, I’d say.”

“This girl is quite inventive,” Sister Oana said, “She’s like a sly little mouse sneaking through the cracks in the walls.  She’d already managed to climb up onto the top of the roof of the novitiate.  She was probably up there looking for a way over the wall.”

“Why ever would one girl be so determined to get out of there?” the pikeman wondered, “You feed her, you clothe her.  It’ a cruel world out there.  She’d probably get devoured before she could enjoy her freedom.”

“Because she’s young and naive,” Sister Oana sighed, “That’s why little girls like her need adults to look after them.”  Cezar nodded with understanding.

When Sister Oana returned to the convent shortly thereafter she called together Madalina’s three roommates, Dorina, Nicoleta and Mirela.  She ordered the three girls to join her in the courtyard and there she said to the three of them: “As you know, your roommate Madalina has been sneaking out at night without permission.  Such behavior cannot be tolerated.  If she is caught out of her room at night without permission again, not only will she be punished severely, but you three with her.”

“But Sister,” the three girls objected.

“No argument!” Sister Oana cut them off, “You will share the punishment with her, for permitting her to do this.  If she has to be locked in the crypt again, you will be locked with her.  If she has to clean the whole church top to bottom, you will have to clean it beside her.  Am I understood?”

“Yes sister,” the three girls replied with dour consent.

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of this,” Sister Oana said, “There will be no leniency and I can assure I will keep this promise no matter what.  I do not tolerate disobedience.”

<-- Go to Part 23         Go to Part 25 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 23

The cottage that they shared was a single room, with the kitchen and dining table at the one end and the two beds at the other end.  Anton’s parents, Josif and Viorica shared one bed and Anton shared the other bed with Constanta.

Anton stayed awake and waited, lying in his bed and looking up at the ceiling while the rest of his family slowly faded into sleep.  He wasn’t able to sleep, since he had to leave to meet Andrei, but, as nervous as he was, he wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyways.  He’d always been taught to stay indoors at night, and now he was not only going out but going deep into the forest, towards where the vampires lived.

As he heard the deep, nasally breaths of his family, he presumed they were all asleep and got up to go.  He put on a pair of loose, rugged trousers, a shirt and a pair of leather boots.

As he stood up, ready to leave, a hand reached out and grabbed him on the arm.  Constanta lay in bed and looked up at him with her big eyes and silently mouthed the words, “Don’t go!”

Constanta was several years younger than him, and even for her size she was skinny and pale.  She was someone who needed protecting, and she’d always been able to rely on Anton.

He reached down to kiss his sister on the forehead and whispered in her ears, “I’ll be back.  No vampires will get to me, and I won’t let them get to you either.”

He then stood up and walked out the door.  The night air was cold and it seeped through the fabric of his shirt such that he could feel it on his skin.  He then began his walk into town towards Andrei’s shop.

Once Anton arrived and was led in by Andrei, he found Ileana and Vasile sitting in the workroom waiting for him.  Ileana, dressed in her nightgown, looked apprehensive as she watched Anton approaching.  In contrast, Vasile, who waited, fully dressed, fully armed and covered in his cloak, looked calm and dispassionate.

“We’ve drawn a bath for you,” Andrei said, leading Anton into a separate room.  A large porcelain basin filled with water sat in the center of a private room.  Steam rose off the surface of the water and Anton touched it to feel the warmth.

“Put your clothes aside, and change into these after you’re done,” Andrei said, pointing to a set of black clothes hanging on the wall with boots below them, “And wash thoroughly.  Clean all your human stink away.  And then we’ve got some oil, which I want you to rub on your body, especially on parts of you where you sweat.  All clear?”

Anton nodded, and then once Andrei left, he removed his rough and dirty laborer’s clothing and stepped into the warm water.  He savored the wonderful warmth of the water, since a warm bath was a rare luxury for him, taking an opportunity to lay back and relax.  But he also knew that everyone was waiting for him, so he cut it short and tried to lather himself up as quickly as possible.  When he stepped out, he felt like a new person, like a snake slithering out of its skin.

He opened the vial of oil that Andrei had given him, which smelled strongly of tree sap and pine needles.  He doused himself with it and put on the new clean clothes, and stepped out for everyone to see him.

As he approached, his short, brown hair still wet and tussled, Andrei told him, “Good to see you nice and clean.  You smell so much better.  Most importantly, though, the vampires won’t smell you.”

He picked up a cloak and threw it to Anton, saying, “Wear this.”  Anton put it on and Vasile then handed him a crossbow saying, “We’ll see how well you can use this.”

Anton looked at the weapon with curiosity.  “I’ve never handled a crossbow,” he said, “But I can handle a longbow.  I’ve hunted many times with my father.  And I’ve been taught how to use an arquebus.”

Vasile raised an eyebrow in interest at hearing this.  “I don’t want to use an arquebus.  I don’t use any firearms,” Vasile said, “They’re too loud and not as accurate.  But if you know already how to handle a longbow, that’s good.  It’s a difficult weapon to master and quite essential.”

“I can’t just handle it.  I can place arrows on a prey with as much precision as I can touch you with my finger,” Anton boasted, poking at Vasile with his index finger.

“We’ll see about this,” Vasile said, handing him a belt with an attached knife and sheath, “You don’t want to have to use this at close range, but it can be thrown.  We’ll practice that, too.”

They opened the door to the night and the forest spread out before them.  Ileana hugged Anton anxiously, telling him, “I bet Andrei you’d bag a vampire in your first week.  Don’t make me a loser.”  Then she said to Vasile, “And you!  Bring him back alive, will you?”

Andrei cut in and said, “Wait a minute.  I almost forgot,” running to the table and grabbing a bowl for Anton.  Inside was an unpleasant brown mush that Anton recoiled from in disgust when it was pressed before him.

“Eat it,” Andrei said, “Vampires wares.  You’ll need it if you want to survive.”

Anton took the bowl in his hand.  The smell that rose from the mixture reeked.  It smelled like rotten liver and vinegar, and Anton curled his nose in disgust.  He tried a small taste of it, but it was so awful that he coughed.

“You’ll learn to cherish it,” Vasile said.

Anton made another attempt, pouring all of it into his mouth and trying to avoid smelling it as he uncomfortably gulped it down.  “Disgusting,” Anton wretched.

“Time to go,” Vasile said, as Anton handed the bowl back to Andrei.

They walked out the door, while Andrei and Ileana waved them goodbye.  In front of them the dark forest extended far into the shadows, and they strode forward and walked into the night.

<-- Go to Part 22         Go to Part 24 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 22

Anton stopped at the sudden sight of his father, simply startled at first, but becoming nervous as he saw his father’s displeasure.

“Where have you been?” Josif asked, “You left yesterday too.  Going into town I suppose.”

“Yes,” Anton said, “Just into town.”

“Don’t do it anymore.  We don’t have time for that,” Josif said, with rising anger, “There’s work that needs to be done, and it does not wait.  I need you here.”

“Yes, father,” Anton bowed his head in subservience and pushed past him out the door.  Then after a moment he raised his eyes again and turned back to his father, saying, “But father, I wanted to work in town, to earn some money.”

“If you’re looking for work, there’s plenty of it here.  I’ve got enough work to fill every hour of the day.”

Josif then stopped as he remembered what he’d heard about Vasile, and he said ominously, “Wait.  This isn’t about Vasile looking for an apprentice?  Is that what you mean by work?”

Anton kept his head bowed and didn’t say a word.  Josif objected forcefully, “No!  No son of mine is going to do that!  Crouching in trees in the middle of the night, dragging vampire corpses to Andrei’s, so he can chop them up and sell them to spoiled aristocrats like Mihai?”

“Don’t you see, father,” Anton finally raised his eyes and responded with energy, “That the wealth that Vasile earns is a way out of serfdom.  No more Mihai, no more landlord of any kind.  You’ll be able to have your own land – we’ll be able to have our own land – and every bushel of its produce will be ours.”

“You will be killed before you raise enough,” Josif responded, “Vasile has been lucky.  You will die just as all of the other vampire-hunters who have tried have failed and died, and then where will I be left?  Only your sister and mother to help me, as I age?  No!  It’s foolishness.  And besides, do you think that Mihai will simply let me leave if I want my own land?  I cannot simply leave.  He has a choice whether he wants to let me leave, and he will not.  I can guarantee it.  I have known that pig for too long to believe that he will do otherwise.”

Anton listened to all that his father said with bent down head and growing anger.  He finally sprang upon his father with an unleashed growl and said to him, “You will not prevent me!” as he grabbed his father’s shirt and pushed him back against the wall.  Pots shook on the wall from the force of the impact, and Anton raised a hand to punch his father across the jaw, but he stopped and let his father go.

His father wasn’t ready to cower, though.  This was not an even matchup.  The nearly forty-year-old Josif was considerably larger than his sixteen-year-old son and he grabbed his boy and struck him across the face more than once.

Anton freed himself from his father’s grip and left the house in a hurry, slamming the door behind him and running at full speed through the rows of wheat.  He ran as fast as he could, and pushed himself to the limits of his endurance until he finally couldn’t take it anymore.  His lungs ached and his throat was raw as he dropped to the dirt and hunched over on his knees to cry.

It would be hard to describe what made him cry at that point.  Hfe felt at once so incensed and so powerless.

But he hated to see himself in this condition: angry, frustrated, on the precipice of violence.  So he stood up, dried his tears and pushed all of his anger and frustration into his gut.  He looked out over the golden spans of wheat and remembered that his father had pointed out a place where their fence needed repairing and he headed in that direction.

That evening as the family ate, Josif, Anton, Anton’s sister, Constanta, and mother Viorica, sat in an uncomfortable silence.  They ate a leek stew with bread, and all three of them were huddled silently over their food while only the sound of spoons touching bowls and lips slurping soup could be heard.

Josif had told Constanta and Viorica about Anton’s plans and they would occasionally look up anxiously from their stew towards Anton.  None of them felt they could do anything to prevent him from leaving.

It was his sister who first spoke up, standing from her chair, and embracing her brother, with the words, “Please don’t go.  I don’t want you to die.”

And to her he said, “I promise I won’t die.  For you.  Those vampires will never be able to get to me.”

<-- Go to Part 21         Go to Part 23 -->

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 21

Anton was there again at the door of Andrei’s that next day.  He stopped the front of the store before he entered, looking at the store, with its stone walls, the “Apothecary and Vampire Wares” sign swinging on its perch, and the heavy front door, built of thick beams of wood and reinforced with iron to withstand the impact of any potential vampire invader.  Anton again, as yesterday, knocked on the door diffidently and unsure.

Ileana was there to let him in and greeted him warmly when he entered, “Anton. Glad you came back.  Always a pleasure to see you,” before retreating to the other side of the long counter.

Andei was standing next to her and said, “So, I’m guessing that you’re showing up here because you haven’t changed your mind.”

“I haven’t changed my mind,” Anton said, speaking in a quiet voice.

“Are you sure?” Andrei asked.

“I’m sure,” Anton said, in a voice exactly like someone who wasn’t sure.

“Well, I’ve talked to Vasile.  He’s willing to give you a shot.  He has asked me to tell you in detail about what’s involved in this business, to really make sure you know what you’re getting into before you commit.  So, I’m going to take you back, and tell you all about what I do.  And if your mind still doesn’t change, then Vasile will take you on and show you what he does.”

Anton hopped over the counter and Andrei led him into the back, telling Ileana, “I’ll be a few minutes.”

From the back of the shop they passed through a shelf-lined hallway, where surplus quantities of medicines, ointments, balms, alcohols and vampire wares were stored.  Then the workroom opened in front of him.  The workroom had a high ceiling and like all of the shop and house, was very dark, with thick windowless walls protecting them front the dangerous forests that surrounded them.  The workroom was lit with several large torches and a few candles, which threw flickering shadows in every direction.

The room was dominated by the large cauldron where whole vampires were soaked and cooked.  As Andrei stepped up to the cauldron he explained, “When Vasile brings me a vampire, he’ll come through this door,” pointing to a thick, heavy door leading into the workroom from outside, “and we’ll put the vampire into this pot.  We have to be careful, since the vampires are infectious and none of us here are really interested in becoming vampires.  The liquid in this pot is acidic and the vampire is cooked at a low temperature to kill the infection.  I don’t really understand how it works.  My predecessor developed these methods a century ago.  Treating it this way allows us to enjoy the benefits of the vampire meat without the risk of becoming one.”

“Do you eat the vampire wares?” Anton asked.  After Andrei nodded, Anton then asked, “What’s it like?”

“It tastes unpleasant.  We have a whole range of products, which have different tastes, but none are really pleasing to the tongue,” Andrei said as he curled his nose in disgust, “You’ll have to mix it with something, or cook it into something.  The benefits are worth it, though.  They’ll make you stronger, faster, healthier, younger, and more attractive.  They’ll cure diseases; they’ll end ailments; they’ll change you.  Vasile depends upon them heavily to be a better hunter.  You’ll have to consume them too, and if you bring in vampires, I’ll be glad to provide.”

Anton listened intently as Andrei moved around the room and displayed some of his recently prepared vampire wares.  When Andrei opened one box and Anton gave it a sniff, he recoiled in disgust.

“There are downsides to the medicines, too.  You will become like a vampire in every way: you’ll start to become more sensitive to light, your skin will burn more easily, you’ll have more nightmares, and you’ll probably start to become more irritable, and,” adding the last confidentially, “between us, you’ll lose your sex drive.  These are all temporary effects and they’ll wear off if you stop taking the medicine,” Andrei explained.

Andrei took Anton through more of the shop, showing him what he was doing with the most recently acquired vampire carcass, which had been mostly processed, but with some parts still being worked, dried, fermented, ground and such.  Anton eventually cut Andrei short and told him he had to return to his father’s farm and really couldn’t spare any more time.

“You remember that you’ll not be able to keep this from your father,” Andrei reminded Anton as he left, “Don’t even try.”

Anton nodded and then left, and as he began to jog back towards the farm, he thought with apprehension about what he’d committed himself to.

His father’s farm was somewhat close to the town center, but still nearly a half league away.  He was breathing heavily when he stepped into the house to grab a bit of bread to eat and perhaps nip some pottage from the stove to make up for the lunch he’d missed.  But as he was heading back out of the house with a bit of bread in his hand, to return to work, he ran directly into his father, who stood in the door and blocked his way.

<-- Go to Part 20         Go to Part 22 -->

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 20

That evening, as Vasile prepared for his nightly hunt, Andrei told him about his visit from Anton: “We had a boy named Anton who came in and said he wants to become your apprentice if you’re interested.”

“Who is he?” Vasile asked as he put on his boots and cloak and strapped on and armed his weapons.

“He’s Josif’s son,” Andrei answered, as Ileana entered, bearing a glass of boiled wine, seasoned with cinnamon and apple.

“This should keep you warm and keep your senses sharp,” Ileana said, handing him the wine.

“Josif I know,” Vasile said to Andrei, sipping from the wine, “A hot-headed man.  I don’t want an apprentice like that.  He has to be calm, calm as a statue, and patient.”

“Anton is not like his father,” Ileana said, “At least not in that way.  He’s got a cool head.  He’s a bit arrogant, but I think he’ll learn his place.  He’s used to having a father boss him around.  I’ll bet you a gold coin he’ll make a good vampire hunter in no time.”

Vasile shook his head at Ileana’s bet, but conceded, “We can give him a trial run.  Don’t know for sure about anything until we try, right?”

“And I can’t imagine there’ll be kids flooding you with requests,” Ileana said, “The farmers around here don’t have the stomach for danger.  They prefer to hide when it rolls over the horizon.  Though they’re happy to have someone, like you, face it for them and willing look up at you in awe.”

“Tell Anton exactly what this job entails,” Vasile said to both of them, “Exactly what you do here and I do out there. Don’t do it to discourage him, but be honest.”

They both nodded in agreement.

Mihai, Josif’s landlord, had been demanding many days from Josif recently to work on Mihai’s manor, with the approach of harvest.  Josif had limited time to work his own farm, and thus, Josif had wanted to take a careful account of his stores and see what he could expect for the winter.  He inspected his grain supplies while Anton was feeding their livestock.

“When you inherit this land and your father’s serfdom, then it’ll be up to you to labor away all your strength for that swine Mihai,” Josif grumbled.

“You make it seem as if I have no choice,” Anton said, as he dropped a bale of hay next to one of the cows and it began to eagerly pick away at the block.

“It’s inescapable, boy” Josif said in his gruff and surly voice, “For men like us, who aren’t born into this life with privileges, our future is written.  We are Mihai’s puppets.  This is the way it’s been and the way it’s going be.  It’s not this life that God has set out for us for bliss.”

The wood beams of the barn creaked under the pressure of an early evening wind, and Josif saw it as a prompt to get inside.  He was eager to get his aching bones back to the warmth of the house, while Anton dispensed oats for the horses.

“I think you underestimate the possibilities open to me,” Anton said.

“I don’t,” Josif said, turning back to his son, with rising anger, “I’ve lived a life.  I’ve seen what’s there, and what happens to a man.  I’m no longer a dreamy-eyed youth like you, who doesn’t know what’s coming.  The only happiness I’ll get waits for me after I’m dead.”

Josif then left the barn without another word, while Anton finished up.  After his father left, Anton kicked a barrel and screamed in frustration.  His father was a stubborn and difficult man to work with, but he was most difficult to work with when he was right.

“But he’s not right,” Anton thought to himself.  He looked at the horse that munched impassively away at its food and he said, “No, father, I refuse to accept it.”

<-- Go to Part 19         Go to Part 21 -->

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 19

Sister Oana led Madalina from the courtyard into the nun’s quarters.  From the entrance, the hallways splayed out into two separate wings lined with the separate rooms of all the nuns.  Between the two wings, a large outdoor garden of iris and plum trees was tucked away.

Sister Oana led Madalina down one of the halls and knocked on a door at the end.  A weak, crackly voice called for them to enter and they stepped into a spacious room.  Two windows looked out onto the beautiful garden, where sun flowed in, and the room was decorated with oil paintings and an Ottoman carpet.  On one end was a bed where an aged woman, the abbess, sunk deeply into a capacious and amply stuffed feather bed.  She was beneath several sheets, topped by a colorful silk bedspread, and was dressed in the basic garb of a nun, with her black habit and apostolnik.

When Madalina looked into the old woman’s eyes, she saw a distant, pensive look, which looked distracted and absent-minded and stared off into the distance.  When Sister Oana shouted at the abbess, “Mother Alina?” the abbess seemed to only just notice that Sister Oana was there.

“Yes?” Abbess Alina said.

“This novice has a confession for you, to deliver personally,” Sister Oana explained.

“Oh?” Abbess Alina reacted with some surprise, “By all means.”

Sister Oana then nudged Madalina forward and said, “Go ahead, tell her.”

Madalina had only met the abbess a few times, delivering food to her occasionally and sometimes having to make other deliveries to the room.  She had never seen her anywhere but in this room in this bed, and she always felt uncomfortable to be around the old woman.

Madalina spoke up: “Mother Abbess, I am afraid that I have been sneaking out of my room at night and climbing onto the roof of the novitiate to look at the stars.”  Sister Oana cleared her throat.  When Madalina looked behind her, the Sister was mouthing “and.”  Madalina then added, “And I lied to Sister Oana about this when she caught me out of my room.”

“Oh?” Abbess Alina asked again, “I should wonder how a little girl could get all the way up there.  It must have been a long time since I was sprightly enough to do such a climb, and I don’t know if I could’ve done it then.”

“What punishment would you recommend for her?” Sister Oana interjected.

“Oh, yes,” the abbess reacted, “What would you recommend Sister?”

“I think that she should be required to pray by reciting the Jesus and Lord’s prayers 100 times each and then she should be required to sweep the courtyard and spend one night in solitary confinement in the crypt.”

“Oh dear me!” the abbess reacted with surprise, “So much?  Maybe without the time in the crypt and not so many prayers.”

“Are you sure Mother Alina?” Sister Oana asked with some emphasis on “sure.”

“It doesn’t seem so much, what she’s done,” the abbess said, “When I was a little girl you couldn’t imagine what trouble we got into.  One time we snuck into the barn at night, and upon seeing the cows we realized we’d never tasted milk straight from the udders and…”

“So then fifty of each prayer, sweeping the courtyards and cleaning the church floors?” Sister Oana cut in.

“What’s that,” the abbess asked, somewhat confused.

“Is that alright Mother?” the Sister asked.

The abbess looked confused and then abruptly answered, “Yes, yes.  “I trust your judgment.  Thank you.”  And she smiled as if she hoped everyone would be satisfied with her decision.

“God bless you Mother,” Sister Oana bowed and then retreated with Madalina.

“Bye, bye,” the abbess said, waiving and smiling pleasantly, clearly pleased just to have company.

Once out in the hall, Sister Oana looked down at Madalina and said, “You heard the abbess.  No time for dalliance.  You have things to do.”

Madalina entered the church first and began to pray the Jesus Prayer, reciting, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” counting off each iteration with a small prayer rope.  After completing that, she transitioned to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy Name…” and so on, counting the iterations again with her prayer rope.

She then worked through all of the morning and much of the afternoon on the cleaning, pausing only for the third hour and sixth hour services.

She was deeply tired after she finished it all and collapsed into bed with sore arms and bruised knees.  All she knew was that she needed to rest that evening since.  She would again be sneaking out to see the vampire, the night after and it would require the full extent of her strength and acumen.

<-- Go to Part 18         Go to Part 20 -->

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