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, May 30, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 87

Ileana crawled out of the well with Nicoleta in hand, and she soothingly comforted and stroked the little girl.

Lina, one by one, dragged in all of the vampires that had been killed, twenty-two of them, and laid the cold corpses in a great, bloody mound in the workroom.  A few of the vampires she’d found outside still had some life in them, but she dispatched them quickly.  Andrei, who wore his mask, looked at the pile in disbelief and said to himself, “How am I going to process all these?  This will take forever.”  He then proceeded, with Lina’s help, to dump as many as he could into his great cauldron.

“Why do you have to do all this?” Lina asked, quite amazed at the whole process.

“It’s the method that was taught to me by my predecessor a long time ago.  It allows me to preserve the vampire for a long time without going bad and makes it possible for a person to eat the vampire meat without being infected,” Andrei answered.

“How does it work?” she persisted.

“There’s vinegar in the solution I dip them in.  The cooking and the odor of the vinegar eliminate the infectious miasma, the “bad air.”  But, because we cook the vampire meat slowly, we preserve the vital energy.  It’s the vital energy that makes you healthy and strong when you eat it: because you’re eating the vampire’s potent life force.”

After some considerable work, a temporary door was stitched together by Vasile, Anton and Ileana, made of pieces from the previous door and planks of wood taken where they could find them.  Lina helped as much as possible, but as the first rays of sunlight broke the horizon, Lina shrouded herself in her cloak and retracted to a corner of the workroom away from the light

After Andrei had put as many vampire corpses into his cauldrons to soak and slowly cook as he could, he hung the rest in the hope that he could desiccate them before putrefaction set in.

He then announced to a sleepy Anton, who was about to collapse from fatigue: “Anton, I have to congratulate you.  You made a fortune today.  I don’t even know if I have enough gold on hand to pay you and Vasile (and I can’t forget Lina), for the twenty-two vampires you killed.  I’ll pay you three what I can now, but you’ll have to give me a little time before I pay you in full.  Though, I assure you, I will settle my debt.”

“I don’t need your money,” Anton responded, “I didn’t do it for the money.  I did it because you told me, and I believed you, that this would be necessary to save my sister.”

“I know why you did it,” Andrei smiled, cheerily, “And we will save your sister.  Soon.  I don’t know how yet.  We’ll start planning that as soon as we get rested.  But you still deserve to be paid.  Right now, just get some sleep.”

At that point the voice of Lina then broke into their conversation, telling Andrei, “I don’t want your gold either.”  Andrei was prepared to tell her the same thing that he had just told Anton, but she instead said, “I can’t use gold.  I want whatever it is you turn those vampires into.”

“You mean the vampire medicines?” Andrei asked, “Are you sure?  Certainly I can give you vampire medicines instead, but it’ll be a huge amount of it.  Enough to last a normal person for years.”

“They’ll serve for food, and make me stronger,” Lina said, huddled up with her hood completely pulled over her face and her knees pulled against her chest, “That is what I need.”

“You’re willing to eat your own kind?” Anton then asked her, with his lips curled in disgust.

Lina peaked out from beneath her hood to see Anton’s eyes.  Then she told him, emphatically: “They’re not my own kind.  Not anymore.”

“But you are one of them.  You can’t help that.  You’re a vampire,” Anton told her.

Lina shook her head and lowered her eyes again. “I can.  I will,” she hissed in his direction, “I am what I say I am.  And I’m no longer a vampire now.  That is what I say.”

Anton simply shook his head and walked up the stairs to sleep and collapsed into a bed.

<-- Go to Part 86         Go to Part 88 -->

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 86

Anton applied himself to shooting with renewed vigor.  His next two arrows both carried death on their tips, and two more vampires lay on the ground.

Andrei was trying to push his large cauldron in front of the disintegrating door to bolster it, but the massive metal pot was heavy and dragged along the ground.  Lina, hearing the sound, rushed downstairs and immediately joined in to help.  With Lina’s help, the task became nearly effortless.  The massive cauldron scratched loudly across the floor until it was placed in front of the door.  Now the pounding of the battering ram rang with the sound of the cauldron.

Vampires continued leaping to the roof to try and disrupt Anton and Vasile whose arrows had been deadly effective, putting almost a dozen vampires to their death on the ground.  One vampire, standing on the roof, reached for Anton from above and grabbed an arrow from his bow just as Anton was about to fire.  In the same motion, the vampire tried to stab at Anton, who stood just inside the window.  Anton was ready this time, instantly loading another arrow and putting it directly into one of the eyes that peaked through the window.

Returning to the window, Anton fired again and Vasile followed, leaving only six vampires remaining.  But those vampires were cracking through the door.  As Anton set up another shot, he saw the six vampires drop the log and start pushing the door, with cauldron behind it, open enough to pour inside.  Anton snatched the life of the last vampire of the group as Vasile snatched another, but four vampires were inside and blazing with rage.

Anton turned around and planted himself at the top of the stairs.  Vasile was immediately beside him.  Andrei was racing up the stairs with four vampires speeding to catch him.  Vasile took the first shot and a vampire rolled down the stairs with an arrow through his skull as the other three leaped over it.  As soon as Anton had a clear shot, he let his arrow fly and one more vampire dropped to the ground with a loud thud.

But as he reached for one last arrow from his quiver he knew that neither he nor Vasile would be able to kill either of these two remaining vampires in time.  The vampires moved so rapidly that, even as fast as Anton could load, aim and shoot his arrows, there simply wasn’t enough time.  He could see the vampires’ fangs, bared for that bite from Anton’s neck, dripping with hunger.  In those mere seconds and fractions of seconds there was nothing he could do, and the thought crossed his mind that, even after all they had done, they had still failed.

But neither of the two vampires made it to their intended victims.  Suddenly their expressions changed from fury and triumph to fear and shock as both vampires were pulled backwards at once.

Lina, who had hid in the workroom instead of following Andrei up the stairs, had ambushed the vampires from behind.  With each of her two hands she grabbed a vampire.  One of them she swung around and threw headfirst into the cauldron so hard that he lost consciousness, but the other she dropped to the ground and pinned while she applied her mouth to his neck.  His hysterical efforts to free himself, were slowly sapped of their vigor as his strength gradually ebbed.  Lina was soon lifting his feet to facilitate the flow of more blood into her mouth, until she eventually gave up and tossed him aside.

She proceeded to the next vampire.  He wasn’t quite dead.  His breathing still continued weakly and his heart beat on faintly, which only helped to pump more of that blood into Lina’s mouth as she pierced his veins.

After it was all over, Andrei, Anton and Vasile walked down the stairs to join Lina.  They were all tired, dazed and unwilling to do anything.  Andrei had to goad them into action, saying, “We need to clean this up as quickly as possible, and put something in place of this door in case more come.”

Lina was the only one who was in high spirits and she gladly volunteered, “I’ll go check and make sure they’ll all dead and I’ll bring in all the bodies.”

<-- Go to Part 85         Go to Part 87 -->

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 85

Anton leapt to the window to see what Lina was speaking of.  He couldn’t see as clearly in the dark as she had, but through the shadows he saw, just as she described, a crowd of vampires approaching.

“They’re here, and they’re many,” Anton shouted to Vasile across the hall, adding with a smile, “If you ever wanted to see how large of an attack this house could repel, today’s the day to find out.”

In the workroom Ileana and Nicoleta had been resting, Nicoleta nestling into Ileana’s arms and sleeping while Ileana dozed off.  Andrei immediately spurred them into motion, ordering Ileana, “Take Nicoleta down into the well.  Stay there until this is over.”

Ileana nodded her head and entered a small closet next to the workroom, where she began to open to entrance to the well.

Andrei tried to persuade Lina to join them, telling her, “Go with Ileana down into the well.  The vamires won’t find you there.  If all goes poorly at least you three will survive.”

Lina shook her head and said, “No, I’ll fight.”

“But you’re too valuable,” Andrei argued, “We can’t lose you.”

“I’ll be more valuable fighting,” Lina said, turning away from Andrei who futilely tried to continue speaking with her.  Ileana and Nicoleta had now disappeared into the floor and Vasile and Anton positioned themselves with longbows and arrows at their respective windows.

What became evident as the vampires came closer was that they had come prepared.  The vampires had felled a tree, stripped it of its branches and its top, leaving only a long, thick log, which they bore on their shoulders.  Two other vampires carried axes, which apparently had been instrumental in accomplishing this feat.

The two axe-wielding vampires led the charge, and started applying their axes to the back door.  From within the workroom the loud pounding of the axes on the door was heard resounding through the room like a steady drumbeat.  Andrei felt his first sense of fear as he felt each thud sending a shudder of shock through his body.

From his window, Vasile shouted to Anton, “Only shoot the one’s that are close, and make every arrow lethal.  Shooting from here should be easy in comparison to what we’ve been doing in the woods.”

From the window, the vampires were only a body-length or two away, and fixed in position at the door with their axes swinging.  Vasile and Anton both unleashed their first volley upon the two vampires at the door.  Within only a moment, the axes were both dropped to the ground as the two vampires collapsed.  One arrow had dropped in through the eye of the vampire and exited through the back of the neck causing blackness to instantly pass before his eyes and causing his body to slink to the ground, twitching with convulsions.  The other arrow entered just above the ear and exited out just beneath the opposite ear, sweeping him instantly into silence and causing his body to collapse in mid stroke.

The rest of the vampires were quickly behind them, bearing the log in arms and charging directly for the door.  They used the log as a battering ram, pounding into the door so hard that the wood sighed and creaked.

Vampires also started leaping for the roof.  Aiming directly for Anton, one vampire took a running leap towards his window.  He arced high in the air, above Anton’s head, his arms outstretched.  Anton had to quickly pull back and aim.  Je tried his best to get an arrow into the chest of the vampire while it was in the air, but he failed.

The vampire landed just in front of the window and Anton quickly scrambled back as the vampire reached in through the window trying to stab him with a dagger in hand.  Startled and falling backward, Anton tried to reload and aim for this vampire, that’s arm flailed about just in front of him.  But before he could, Lina leapt forward to help.

With a rapidity of movement that startled Anton, she ran to the window and grabbed the vampire’s arm and pulled it further in.  His body, of course, would not fit through the window, but it brought closer to her what part of him she truly wanted.  His neck, right there at the end of his arm was just at the window, and she opened her mouth and bit into the flesh with her teeth.

It was the first time she had used her new teeth.  They were so sharp that they sank easily into the skin, and the vampire’s blood flowed out into her mouth.  It had a taste much more succulent than the red brew which she’d grown accustomed to eating in the coven, something infinitely more tantalizing and delightful.

The vampire struggled as she drained his blood, but his strength only weakened the more she consumed, until finally it was only gravity that was pulling him from her grasp.  She eventually let go of the vampire.  His arm slipped through the window, and his body dropped from the roof to the ground.

Anton shrank from the terrifying Lina, whose lips and teeth were still stained with blood, but she stepped away from the window, a bit lightheaded from the food, and let him return to the window and re-initiate his shooting.

Below, the vampires continued to pound on the door with their battering ram, and the door, which splintered and bowed, looked on the verge of giving way.

<-- Go to Part 84         Go to Part 86 -->

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 84

Andrei’s home deliberately had few places for persons to get in and out.  There were only two doors (one in the front and one in the back), and both of these doors were thick, heavy and reinforced with metal.  It would take several troops with a battering ram to break these down.  On the upper floor were four small windows.  These were deliberately made to be too small for an adult person, human or vampire, to fit through, but, through them, one could see all sides of the house.  The only other way for anything else to get in and out of the house was through the chimney, which was also too small for human passage.

The walls were made of stone, held together with strong mortar, and the roof was made from a row of stone columns.  A cannonball would have to be used to knock through the exterior, and, so far as he knew, no vampires had access to cannons.

In short, the house was meant to withstand any siege that vampires might be expected to attempt, and it had withstood several before, with improvements being made after previous attacks exposed weaknesses.  Yes, as Andrei well knew, no walls of human construction could ever be completely impregnable, and any sufficiently strong force could smash its way in.

“I want you and Vasile at the two West windows,” Andrei said to Anton, “If the vampires attack tonight, they’ll probably come from that direction.  If they get in here, they’re going to do it by battering down the doors.  Short of them managing to get their hands on a canon, I don’t see any other way.  You’re going to pick them off before they have a chance to do that.  In the past they’ve usually attacked in groups of five to eight of them, and as soon as I’ve downed only one or two of them, the rest just flee.  I’m hoping that, if they attack, it won’t be anything worse than that.  But I don’t know how important this vampire is to them.”

Andrei turned to look at Lina after he said this.  She immediately averted her eyes to avoid his look.

“If it looks like you’re going to lose,” Lina said, turning to look back at Andrei after a considerable silence, “I think you should just give me up.”

Andrei simply shook his head when she said this and bluntly announced in front of everyone, “No!” and then walked away.

Lina lowered her eyes and felt, once again, that strong feeling of guilt that she’d experienced after kidnapping Nicoleta.  She’d only wanted to free Nicoleta to make that guilt go away for good, but now she was feeling it all over again and just as strongly.

Lina walked upstairs and found Anton standing at one of the windows looking out into the forest, watching for approaching vampires.

“I can probably see better in the dark than you can,” she said to him, “You should let me watch.”  Anton stepped aside and let her look through the window.  The window was so high off the ground that tiny little Lina was barely able to see through it.  Anton had to fetch a box for her to stand on so that she could comfortably look out.

As she stood there, she asked Anton, “Do you feel bad about having to protect me?”

Anton replied without hesitation, “No, I don’t.  You’re worth it.”

“Even though I’m a vampire?” she asked.

Anton smiled and then said, “This isn’t about you personally.  I don’t care about you.  I care about what you can do for us.  If it was someone else that could help us and you stood in the way, I would defend them and gladly kill you.”

Lina was quite surprised by this answer and decided she had nothing to say in response, so she simply looked out the window and surveyed the forests with patient attention.

It was a long wait there at the window for her, while she stood and Anton sat down on the bed behind her, almost drifting off into sleep; so long that she was beginning to think that Andrei’s fears about a vampire attack were unjustified.

But as the moon slowly sank lower on the horizon and the night got darker and Vasile and Anton got more and more tired, the vampires got closer.  Lina finally saw them, just visible through the trees, a mass of approaching shadows that flowed over the ground.

“They’re coming,” she said to Anton who sprang to attention when she said this.  In a panic she stepped down from the box, paler than usual with fear, telling Anton in a quiet voice, “There’s more than twenty of them out there.”

<-- Go to Part 83         Go to Part 85 -->

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 83

Andrei replied to Lucian by speaking as slowly as he could, “The vampires are keeping hundreds of humans prisoner in their coven.  Hundreds.”

“By the blood of Christ,” Lucian swore with shock.

He fell silent as indecision pushed him to and fro.  He feared personal repercussions from Asha should he fail to persuade Andrei to release this vampire, yet, if what Andrei was saying were true, the necessity of helping these people was beyond debate.

“Still can’t we just release this vampire to them?” Lucian tried to compromise, “Just release her?”

“I think we’ll need her help if we ever hope to free these people,” Andrei said, “Besides, I don’t want to imagine what they’ll do to her if they should get a hold of her.”

“For the love of God, she’s a vampire,” Lucian indignantly replied, “Why do you care?  These things are beasts.  You chop them up yourself and make them into medicine.”

Andrei shrugged his shoulders and admitted, “So maybe I’m a hypocrite.  But I won’t back down.  She’s staying with us.  She saved someone, a young girl.  That’s enough for me.”

Lucian backed away at this point, opening the door to leave.  Once the door was open, he turned back to Andrei and told him, “This issue isn’t over.”  Then Lucian left and Andrei closed and locked the door behind him.

In the coven, Sim lay in his bed.  He had been restrained, with his arms and feet tied to the bedposts, such that he was sprawled spread-eagle across his beautiful bed.  His shirt had been stripped, such that his muscular chest and white sweat-soaked skin were exposed.

In that position, for a long time, he waited, in agonizing anticipation of what he knew was undoubtedly coming.  Asha herself stepped in through the door, which was guarded by two vampires who stood in the hall.

“This is so disappointing.  You were my right hand man,” Asha told Sim as she entered, “I think you know what is about to happen.  Since Lina is still new to this coven and is thereby your responsibility, I’m afraid you’ll have to take her punishment in her absence.  I won’t quite give you the full sentence because I’m optimistic that she’ll be returned to us, and that she can thereby endure the complete punishment.  Thus, so long as she is eventually returned, your life is spared.”

A vampire trailed after Asha, carrying a tray on which were placed the remains of the arrows that had, only a few days ago, been removed from Sim’s body after their last excursion.  The curved metal heads of the arrows and crossbow bolts that he had been shot with had been cleaned and polished such that they glinted under the candlelight.

Asha picked up the remains of one of the arrows.  Not much of the shaft remained of this one, which had been broken close to the head, and was thus more like a short stick with an arrowhead attached.  Asha took the arrow point and set it on Sim’s skin, so that he could feel the coolness of the metal.

“I believe it is traditional for the first stage of the torture to be the display of the torture devices.  For people who take this very seriously there is, apparently, supposed to be a gradual crescendo of torture, with the display being the first, relatively mild, agony of the process.  I don’t have time for such formalities though, so I’ll skip directly to the pain.”

Asha pushed the arrowhead into the flesh of Sim’s arm, and he was immediately wracked by a jolt of pain.  Asha pushed the arrow in and then began to turn it inside him and the pain was amplified.  Sim cried out, but at the same time tried to grit his teeth to control himself.

“Because we vampires heal so much more thoroughly and quickly, there really is a lot less art to torturing you than a human being,” Asha calmly explained, “There’s not as much risk of killing you prematurely.  Your body can endure so much before it gives in, especially a strong vampire like you.”

Asha picked up another arrow and with a hard thrust, drove it into his leg.  Then, she pushed it in further, twisting it as it dug deeper inside of him.  Sim’s body convulsed as he tried to escape, to no avail, and he continued his screams of pain.

Asha then pulled out the first arrow from his arm with a swift gesture that brought to Sim a single, profound rush of pain.

“I think it’s better if I do it more slowly,” Asha said, reconsidering, “I’m not very experienced with this.  I really shouldn’t be hasty.  You and I have quite of bit of time together.”

<-- Go to Part 82         Go to Part 84 -->

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 82

Several vampires jostled for the opportunity to fetch Lucian for Asha, but it was Uta who ultimately won out by ignoring this argument, retreating to her room, and rapidly slipping herself into her black clothes.  She then bolted through the caves and was out into the daylight before they could stop her.  With her quick speed she left behind several other vampires that tried to join her, heading directly for Lucian’s home, where he most likely would be at this time.

The house that Lucian occupied was significantly larger than any of the small farming cottages that most of the villagers possessed, and was at the center of a large estate, which Lucian owned.  It had a gleaming white exterior with many windows and was abutted by a horse stable and carriage house.

Uta had to approach the house circuitously, since it would not be profitable for a vampire to be seen approaching the home of the magistrate and there were several laborers working Lucian’s land.  Uta zipped behind trees and ducked through the grass, approaching the home out of sight of the many eyes that occupied the nearby outside.

Uta climbed the exterior of the house with ease, leaping up and grabbing an overhang, before pulling herself up to a second story window, which she was able to look in through.

From the exterior she silently searched the rooms for him.  His wife and an indoor servant were visible moving through the halls, and Uta had to wait many minutes before Lucian was alone in his study.

Uta opened the window and silently dropped into the room, so quietly that Lucian only just saw the movement out of the corner of his eye and gasped with fright when he turned to see a vampire standing only a few paces from him.

“You frightened me,” he told her, taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, “What is this about?”

“Asha needs to speak with you.  Something’s wrong.  Someone’s fled,” Uta whispered in a hissing voice.

“I don’t see why she can’t just send me a message.  It’d be a whole lot simpler.”

“No,” Uta urged, moving towards Lucian and preparing to pick him up, “She needs to speak with you.”

Lucian turned up his hands in a gesture of resignation, before walking to the door of the room and locking it.  Uta quickly snatched him up off the ground and carried him to the window.  She leapt out of it and landed on the ground silently, immediately running for cover before she began her course back to the coven.

Lucian was carried rapidly on the back of the young vampire through the woods, and was inside the coven once again after several minutes of running.

At the foot of Asha’s throne, he was greeted and then told, “One of our vampires has escaped.  I would like you to get her back.  Her name is Lina, and she is hiding in Andrei’s home.  Can you do this for us?”

“Yes,” Lucian replied, “But as I told this young vampire, I don’t see the necessity of bringing me down her.  You could’ve told her and she could’ve told me.  What’s the point?”

Asha smiled and said, “I want to guarantee your cooperation.  And I like you visits.  You come so seldom to pay me a friendly visit.”

“I’ll speak to Andrei as soon as I can,” Lucian conceded, thinking of all the work that needed to be attended to back in his study.

“You’ll speak to Andrei now!” Asha interjected forcefully.  Lucian could do nothing but nod his head at this point and bowed to withdraw himself.

Within an hour of that visit he was at Andrei’s, knocking on the door and stepping inside to tell Andrei, “I’ve come to try to persuade you to return the vampire to her coven.”

Andrei let Lucian inside, only so that he could close the door behind him and keep the place secure, though he saw no reason for letting himself be persuaded by Lucian.

“We just signed a truce,” Lucian explained, “which is very valuable in saving the lives of a great many of the people around here: the parents and their children, especially the children, who are particularly vulnerable.  Yes, I know what you’re doing is not technically in violation of our treaty, but the treaty is built on mutual respect.  We don’t want to have to enforce it with arms; so we must take the precautionary approach and avoid aggravating our enemies.  Most probably, this vampire is running from some crime she has committed against her fellows vampires, and we are only giving her harbor and undermining their laws.”

“She has come with a human, a human she freed, a human that is supposedly one of hundreds,” Andrei finally said.

Lucian was brought to the quite unusual experience of having nothing to say when he heard this.  He could only ask, with evident shock, “What did you say?”

<-- Go to Part 81         Go to Part 83 -->

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

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 81

There was a knock on the front door of Andrei’s store.  Andrei called, “Who is it?” and the voice of Anton replied, “It’s me.”

Andrei opened the door and got a quick glance of the beautiful colors of sunset were visible in the sky.  The clouds opposite the sun were painted a rosy pink and the sun, low on the horizon, enflamed the sky in a bright orange.

Andrei told Anton hastily to come inside, and then he closed the door behind him and locked it.  “What is it?  Why did you ask me to come?” Anton asked.

Anton was still wearing his soiled work clothes and he smelled of the sweat of a hard day’s labor.  His hair was dusty and messy, but he still smiled with that youthful confidence when he looked at Andrei.

“This way,” Andrei gestured and led him into the workroom.  There in the room was seated Vasile and Ileana.  And beside them was a small female vampire, who immediately caught Anton’s attention.

“I know you,” Anton said to the vampire, though not quite able to place from where he remembered her face.  Then, suddenly it came to him: the night when Constanta was taken, the tiny vampire being carried on the other’s back.

His brow furrowed, his eyes turned red and he lunged at her as soon as he remembered.  His arms were outstretched, aimed directly at her throat, which he grabbed as soon as it was within reach and squeezed as hard as could.

“What did you do with her?  What did you do to my sister?” Anton shouted at her.  Vasile and Andrei both leapt forward to restrain Anton, but it was hardly necessary.  Lina was able to easily remove his hands and kick him away with her feet, sending Anton falling backwards onto the ground.

Anton immediately stood up and was ready to lunge at her again, but was this time successfully restrained by Vasile and Andrei.  He still shouted at her, “Just tell me you killed her and we can put an end to all of this!  I can kill you and you can turn me over to them so they can kill me!  And it’ll all be finally over!”

“We’ve brought you here to protect her,” Andrei said directly into Anton’s ear while him and Vasile held onto the boy.

“Her?  Why?” Anton asked in disbelief, finally relaxing himself and stopping, “She’s responsible for my sister’s death.  She was there when they took her.”

“How old is your sister?” Lina asked, and Anton was able to hear the strident quality of her voice for the first time.  She calmly sat in her place and stared blankly up at Anton after she spoke.

“She’s twelve, almost thirteen.  Why do you ask?”

“She’s alive then.  Most probably.  I don’t know exactly who’ve they've got in there, stored in their cage; there’s many hundreds of them.  But they hold on to young girls.  They’re the most valuable,” Lina explained.

Anton paused for a long time as he stared at Lina, who placidly looked back at him.  He was trying to gauge her; see if she was sincere and honest.  He searched her face for some indication of trustworthiness.  What he saw was a face that was surprisingly innocent-looking and beautiful despite its experience.

Finally, Anton asked, “If she’s alive, how do we free her?”

“That is why we are here to protect this vampire,” Andrei interjected.

Anton turned to him at this point and nodded his head.  “Alright,” Anton quietly said and sat down, ready to hear about the attack that they were expecting.

Another knock was heard at the door.  This one Andrei was not anticipating, and he looked around to see if anyone knew who it was.  He then went to the front door and asked, “Who is it?”

“It’s Lucian,” said the voice on the other side.

Andrei opened the door, and there indeed stood Lucian, dressed formally and cleanly in his jacket and wig.  Andrei led him inside and Lucian began without greeting, “I hear that you have a vampire in here.  I’ve come to try to persuade you to return her to her coven.”

<-- Go to Part 80         Go to Part 82 -->

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 80

Finding the door firmly locked, the two vampires applied their fists to it, striking the door repeatedly.  One of them finally called out to those inside, “Andrei, we’ve only come for one of our own.  Give us the vampire.  We don’t want you.  This is an internal matter.  Don’t get involved.”

All persons in the store turned to Lina in search of answers.  Andrei was the first to speak up, asking her, “What is this?  What’s going on?  Why are we protecting this vampire?”

A pair of feet touched the ground from beneath Lina’s cloak as a human shape sank to the ground.  Nicoleta flung the cloak off from on top of her, exposing her unmistakably human face.  She looked around at the group with wide eyes and gripped Lina for support.

“Who is this?” Ileana asked, in a voice more warm and inviting than Andrei’s.  She bent down to speak with Nicoleta, who recoiled a little at the stranger, “Who are you little girl?”

“Her name’s Nicoleta,” Lina responded in a hoarse and screeching voice.  She coughed to try to return her voice to its previous timbre without success, continuing, “She was a novice, until recently.  Until the vampires took her.  I mean, I took her for the vampires.”

“I don’t understand.  Why are the vampires after you?  Why are they banging on our doors right now asking for you?” Andrei asked in a quieter voice, so that he might not be overheard by the vampires outside.

“Because I stole her from them.  I mean, I freed her from them.  I want to take her back to the convent.”

Outside, the vampires were still pounding on the door, reciting over and over again, “Andrei, Andrei.  Just give us the vampire.  This is not something for you to get involved in.  She is one of us.  You just give her to us and we’ll go away.  Remember the treaty.  You cannot use her.”

“Just leave!  I’m not letting you have her.  This is not part of your damnable treaty.  She came here of her own volition and she’ll stay as long as she wants!  I won’t harm her,” Andrei finally shouted at the vampires outside, with such force and conviction that they finally gave out the pounding and walked away.

Everyone relaxed a little at the sound of the vampires departing, but Andrei just smiled to them and said, “Don’t worry.  They’ll be back.  And in force.”

By the time the two vampires returned to the coven, Asha had already sorted out what’d happened.  She asked questions of several different vampires to reconstruct the events: Tor had been knocked out; Lina had carried a basket through the halls; the basket, now empty, was left behind in her room; she’d put on a cloak; she’d walked up through the tunnel; the guard had seen a bulge on her back; then he’d been pushed away and she’d left.

It was only necessary to speak with Dragomir to confirm what she suspected.  She stepped into the barred room and summoned him to her.  He limped forward through the crowd, his scarred, ugly face emerging from the shadows, and bent his good ear towards her.

“Do you know Lina?” Asha asked, “She’s a young vampire, only recently arrived.  Did anyone see Lina enter the pen and take someone out?”

“A few people saw a small female vampire snatch a youngster named Nicoleta,” Dragomir replied, nodding his head, “It was odd not to see Mir do it.  But we all thought she was new and Nicoleta had become food.”

Asha felt hot anger rising inside of her to hear her suspicions confirmed.  She responded, though, in an attempt to remain calm in front of Dragomir.  “Yes.  For food.  She was taken for food,” Asha said, adding emphatically, “And you make sure no one thinks otherwise.”

When the two vampires returned to tell Asha that Lina had taken refuge at Andrei’s, she was incensed.  She slapped both of them across the cheek so hard they tumbled to the ground, her claws bent so that they drew four red lines across each of their cheeks.

She then commanded them, hovering over them while they lay on the floor, “Get her back.  Tonight.  I want her here.  Take as many as you need.”

She then instructed what vampires remained present: “I want Sim detained in his room.  And I want to talk with Lucian before the day is over.  Make it happen.”

<-- Go to Part 79         Go to Part 81 -->

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 79

The guard looked down at Lina and saw her guilty, frightened look, and then finally noticed the massive bulge on her back.  He shouted back down the hall, “I’ve got Lina, she’s right here,” as he reached down to grab her wrist and hold her.

But Lina swiftly pushed away his hands and, mustering all the strength she had within her, pushed the guard through the wooden door.  He was a strong, heavy creature, with rapid reflexes, but he was unprepared for the surge of strength and energy from what he perceived to be only a tiny vampire.  He tripped over and fell through the door, which Lina promptly closed behind him.

She then applied herself to the rock.  She had been barely able to do it before and now that sinking weakness from the food in her belly made her struggle.  But the rock did give way and she had it raised above her head as she heard the sound of several vampires scrambling to unlock the door.

The vampires opened the door a crack, but quickly recoiled from the sunlight with screeches of pain.  She leapt out and let the rock drop behind her with a resounding crash that was so loud that it caused Nicoleta to involuntarily jump and cry out.  Lina had to tell her, “It’s nothing.  We’re good.  Now hold on tight,” and then she began to run with all the speed she could muster.

The first thought that crossed her mind as she began to run was that she was leaving the coven for good.  She realized, now, for the first time since she’d planned on hatching Nicoleta’s escape, that there was no going back: she was either going to end up dead or permanently banished and at enmity with Asha’s coven.

Lina accelerated with full intensity, nearly to the speed of a horse in gallop.  The wind flowed around her, blowing off the heavy hood over her head, which she had to hold in place while her other hand tried to hold onto Nicoleta whose grip was slipping after holding on for so long.

When she turned back for a quick glance behind her, she could see that there were already two vampires on her trail.  The vampires had been delayed by the necessity of putting on their daylight coverings, but they were making quick progress, gradually reducing the distance between her and them.  Lina was not nearly as quick on her feet as the older, stronger vampires, and she was slowed by the weight that she carried on her back.  As she looked at them, she began to doubt that she could make it to her destination without them catching her.

She then realized she didn’t know her destination.  She’d been running aimlessly.  But, as she turned forward, she perceived that she was heading towards the village of Vallaya.  It’d been the last place she’d gone, and her direction must've spontaneously pointed there for that reason.  She recalled the fortified building that Sim had told her they couldn’t break into.  This would have to be her destination; though, how she would get in there, she didn’t know.

She turned back and she could see the two vampires even closer, their torsos bent forward, their arms punching with wrathful energy, and their legs wildly flailing beneath them and.  They seemed to be only a few paces behind her now.

When she turned forward again, she could just see Andrei’s home in the distance.  There was a door on the back of the building and she aimed herself directly for it.  When she reached it, she tried to pull it open, pounding at it with both fists.  But she had no time to wait for an answer.  The two vampires lunged forward at her, their bodies landing upon the door as she just dodged to miss them.  Lina then raced around the building.

As she came around the front, she found herself in the main street of the village with person’s moving about and a dozen or so eyes immediately looking in her direction.  She didn’t linger to return their stares. The door besides which the “Apothecary and Vampires Wares” sign swung back and forth was just opening as two customers sought to leave.  She pushed inside, taking them with her and once inside she closed the door and held it closed.

The two customers screamed with fright at Lina’s pushy entrance, but she screamed at Andrei and Ileana who stood behind the counter, “Lock this door now!  There’re vampires after me.”

Andrei was paralyzed with indecision, but Ileana didn’t hesitate, leaping over the counter and quickly dropping two door beams into place just as a pair of bodies pounded into the door from outside.

<-- Go to Part 78         Go to Part 80 -->

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 78

Lina ran back into the kitchen and quickly closed and locked the door to the pen.  She dropped the key into Tor's pocket, just as he began to move about, reaching up to touch his aching head.

Instead of trying to disappear before he saw her, Lina decided that it would be better to attempt some more misdirection.  She leapt onto the counter and started eating from the pot of the special vampire brew that'd been made for Asha.  She figured the consequences for knocking Tor out and stealing some food would be much more modest than freeing a human, and she hoped that Tor wouldn't be in as much of a hurry to chase after a girl who'd only stole a little bit of vampire brew.  When Tor opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Lina, gulping spoonfuls from the pot of vampire brew.  He groggily asked, “Lina?” which she took as her signal to depart.

She ran into the hall, picking up the basket, running up the stairs to her room and closing the door behind her.  She'd passed a few vampires in the hall, who didn't give a second thought to a young vampire taking a basket from the cache into her room, but she was worried that this large basket would become suspicious if she tried to carry it further.

Lina opened the basket and lifted Nicoleta out.  “I'm getting you out of here,” Lina told Nicoleta “If we don't get caught.”

Lina then pulled out her outdoor clothes, her cloak, head-covering, boots and gloves.  She started to put them on, reserving the cloak for last, and told Nicoleta, “Now hold onto my back.”  Nicoleta hopped onto Lina’s back, piggyback style, her arms wrapped around Lina’s neck, her legs wrapped around Lina’s stomach.  Lina then put on the cloak to cover both of them.

She checked herself out in the mirror, the thick, flowing coat was a very effective cover and hid Nicoleta quite thoroughly from the front.  On the other hand, if someone saw her from behind or from the side, it was clear she had a massive bulge protruding from her back.  The dim light of the cave would probably help her, but she’d have to do what she could to hide her back side.  That no one at all would notice the huge bulge on her back seemed unlikely, but she didn’t have any time to think up a better solution.  Vampires may already be looking for her, and the first place they would look is her room.

She stepped out into the hall, looking both ways and seeing no one immediately in sight.  Walking quickly but in a way that didn’t look hurried, she walked towards the great hall.  When she stepped inside, she saw an unusually high number of vampires lounging around.  The beams of light that pierced through the ceiling illuminated the room, and Lina felt immediately exposed.

But she kept on moving forward, trying to angle herself to keep her back side out of sight of the vampires.  She slowly climbed the stairs and moved towards the ramp.  A few vampires looked in her direction and their eyes lingered on her longer than a casual glance.  If nothing else, it was unusual to see a vampire heading surface-ward during the daylight hours, and they perceived that something about Lina was unusual.

Lina though, didn’t give them enough time to intervene, moving quickly into the shadows of the ramp and up towards the wooden door.

She pounded on the door and the guard opened up and looked through.  He looked down at her with a wary look, asking her, “You’re going outside again?  Wasn’t once enough for you?”

“I won’t do it again for a while, I swear.  Just a short jaunt outside,” she pleaded.

He looked at her as if he didn’t want to let her through, but he conceded and waved her through, saying, “Come on.”

But as he was about to close the door, a shout emerged from below, “Is Lina here?  Have you seen her?”

Another voice answered immediately, “She just went up the ramp a minute ago.”

<-- Go to Part 77         Go to Part 79 -->

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 77

Suma and Tor were there in the kitchen as Lina peeked inside.  After a long period of lingering, Suma emerged into the hall and departed, perhaps to attend to some errand, and Lina looked inside and eyed Tor carefully.  The opportunity for snatching the key from him seemed poor, both because he was, as usual, lounging on his seat and because she could see that he had two pockets sewn into his trousers, either of which might contain the key.  But she decided to move forward.

“Tor, I have a question,” Lina asked Tor, just entering the room and slightly moving in his direction, “How do you make these humans into the red liquid that we eat?”

Tor raised his eyes, just noticing Lina's presence.  He replied lethargically, “We call it 'the brew,' and the process of making it is too complex for a little girl like you to understand.  Maybe some day if you apprentice in the kitchen, then someone can teach you how.  Though I imagine not: not just anyone is capable of possessing the skills for it.”

“Do you ever go into the pen?” she asked, just trying to look for something to talk with him about.

“No, I don't.  It reeks in there.  The collective smell of so many unwashed humans is far too much for a chef of such a refined nose as myself.  Those beasts are disgusting.”

Lina was now close to Tor and decided to ask, “Do you have the key to the pen?”

All he said in response was, “Why?”  But before he did, he touched his right pocket, just to check.

Seeing this, Lina decided to try her hand at distraction.  Touching his shoulder, she pointed to a random pot on the wall and said, “What’s in that pot?”

Though Tor was far beyond the point of tolerance, he still looked in the direction where her right hand pointed and said with an annoyed sigh, “It's just another step in the process of making the brew.” But as he was turned and was speaking, Lina reached down with her left hand into his right pocket, plunging her hand deep into it and clasping the metal object she found, immediately hiding the key behind her back when Tor turned to her.

She waited for him to notice, to ask what she was doing in his pocket, to angrily insist that she return the key she'd just stolen, but instead he simply asked, “Are we done here?  I have work to do.”

“Do you need to pull a human out of the pen for slaughter?” she asked, hoping this might prompt him to leave the room.

Instead he just asked, “Isn't there somewhere else that needs cleaning?”

Lina nodded and backed away.  Holding the key firmly in her hand, she said, “I’ll just clean up real quick in here.”  She grabbed the broom and swept in the kitchen.  Tor eyed her, irked by her very presence.  But she didn’t notice, since her mind was carefully running through her options.

Once she had circled around the room and noticed an empty pot sitting on the table, she made up her mind.  She decided she would face up to the consequences of her actions later.  After Tor relaxed and stopped watching her, she quietly set down the broom.  She picked up the large, heavy pot in one hand and then she swung it at Tor's head with vicious force.  The metal connected with the flesh of his head with a brute clang and knocked him to the ground.

Lina quickly dropped the pot and ran straight for the door to the pen.  She shoved the key into it and twisted hard at the bulky lock.  The sweet click of the door unlocking was clearly heard, and she pulled with all her force to open it.

When Lina ran into the pen the humans looked at her with confusion and fear, used to only being visited by Mir.  She called out, in a quiet voice, “Nicoleta, Nicoleta,” again and again looking between the persons who timidly backed away from her.

After some frantic scrambling about that seemed to last agonizingly long, she finally found Nicoleta in the arena, still watching the work of Oana's altar, not even noticing Lina's entrance.  Lina had no time for explanation, so, as soon as she reached Nicoleta, she simply grabbed her in one arm and whisked her away.

Nicoleta cried out in fright, screaming and panicked, initially thinking that she was being taken away to her death.  Lina yelled at her in a whispered shout as she carried her out, “Shut up, shut up, shut up.  I'm freeing you.”

It took Nicoleta a minute to notice who was carrying her, looking up to her and asking in a confused voice, “Madalina?”

Lina had no time for explanations, now racing out the door and through the kitchen, she quickly shoved Nicoleta into the basket and said, “You make a sound and we'll both die!”  Lina looked around in all directions to see if anyone had noticed, and saw no one.

At that moment, she heard a pained groan coming out of Tor's mouth from within the kitchen.

<-- Go to Part 76         Go to Part 78 -->

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Vampire Wares, pt 76

Lina quickly hustled up the tunnel to the exit and pounded on the wooden door for the guard to let her through.  The guard opened the door for her, and, after she told him she had permission from Asha, he lifted the rock for her.

She was surprised how overwhelming the daylight sun was.  Even under all the covering, it seemed to beat down on her like a rain of fire.  She walked around for a little bit, though this was just to make it look like she was doing something.  The reason she’d come out was to see whether she was genuinely strong enough to lift the outer rock on her own.

After what Lina thought was a sufficient passage of time not to appear at all suspicious, she returned to the rock and prepared herself for the task of lifting it.  She squatted down before the rock, rubbing her hands together and taking a few deep breaths.

After a few moments of hesitation, she put her fingers beneath the underside of the rock and began to pull upward at the weight.  Gradually, from the force of her strength, the rock began to move, began to rise.  It didn’t seem to float up by her strength the way the bed did, but it was achievable, with the full extent of her exertion.

When the rock was finally raised above her head, she saw the guard on the other side looking at her with surprise.  He actually held out his sword in anticipation, not really sure who it was who was lifting the rock, since she was the only vampire who was out.  When he saw Lina, her face red with exertion, and sweat pouring down her forehead, he dropped the sword and rushed forward to help her.  With the weight out of her hands, Lina could finally take the breath that she’d been holding through her whole exertion, which was followed by many heavy breaths.

“You’re already strong enough to raise the stone?” the vampire guard said, “You’re quick.”

Lina gave a shy “thank you,” and then hastily walked inside like one embarrassed.  She was soon back to her room and pulling off her heavy clothes, which felt hot and intolerable, while her body was still sticky with sweat.  Dropping them to the floor and changing into the loose garments that most of the vampires wore in the cave, she was soothed and relaxed by the cool of the cave.

She looked down at the muscles of her arms and legs and thought she could really tell the difference in how they’d strengthened, how they’d almost overnight improved in tone and seemed stronger, more adult, more healthy.

She needed rest, both tired by the heat and by the exertion and she lay down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling.  The thought of how to acquire the keys to the pen suffused her thoughts.

She recalled a conversation she’d overheard once.  Sister Elisabeta was once reproving a repentant former thief, who’d told Elisabeta about his former life.  At one point he said something like, “You’d be amazed that you can just snatch a purse right off of a person.  And they won’t notice because they’re paying attention to something else.”  Lina was skeptical and had considered trying her hand at pickpocketing while she was in the convent to see if it worked as he said — not money, which she had no use for, but something more relevant to her, like the keys to the novices’ rooms or some food.  Ultimately, she’d never made an attempt, since her fear of being caught was greater than her curiosity.  Now she chided herself, thinking that it might’ve been easier if she’d tried it in the convent, where the consequences were still relatively small.

She slept first to recover her strength.  She was willing to take her time.  Though she felt there was a certain urgency to getting Nicoleta out of there as soon as possible, she also knew that she would get only one shot at this at this and she wanted it to be done right the first time, which required measured prudence.

When the time was right, she grabbed the basket and placed it in the hallway near the kitchen.  It was conspicuous sitting there, something vampires would have to move to avoid, but she trusted no one would take it.  She then took her broom and again began to sweep around and towards the kitchen.

<-- Go to Part 75         Go to Part 77 -->

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 75

Asha continued with her story: “I imagine I was about your age when I started having to serve men as a prostitute.  I hated it, of course.  It was awful.  The men were awful: they were ugly and they stunk, and they’re breath stunk and they would paw all over me with their grimy hands.  So, from the very first one, who broke my hymen one painful afternoon, I started to make a list, an inventory, in my mind, of all the people that had wronged me: my parents, the Madame at the brothel and the other men that profited from it, and all the men that visited and had me.  I memorized their faces, as well as their names and anything else about them I could learn.  I still remember very clearly the very first man that broke me in: he had a bushy beard and long, greasy hair and this dull, stupid look in his eyes as if it took great mental effort even just to recall his own name.  I held onto this inventory of persons because I knew, with absolute certainty, that I would take my revenge on any and all of them that I could, when the time was right.  I didn’t know how.  I didn’t know when.  I just knew that I would.  I was waiting, biding my time, until that opportunity came.

“And you know what?  It did come.  Our brothel was visited one night by vampires.  ‘Stormed’ would probably be the more appropriate term, since they broke down the doors and start killing women.  It was an utter shock to me, as well as everyone else.  The vampires were completely new to the region.  No one had heard a thing about vampires before, nor really understood what was going on when we were attacked.  We assumed that the attackers were simply some heathen savages with a thirst for blood and we tried to repel them accordingly, with no success.  Half the women were killed.  I was not.

“I was deliberately spared.  I was visited by Jule, a vampire already quite old by that time and he entered my room, where I was huddling in the corner, afraid, trying to hide from him.  But he didn’t kill me.  Smitten by my beauty, perhaps, he simply raped me.  And then, when he finished, he told me, that he had a done me a favor.  I thought that was preposterous.  Being raped was even worse that those johns taking me for money.  But he actually turned out to be right.

“I became very sick soon after, and when I finally recovered, I was hyper-sensitive to light, I was strong, I was fast, I had lost all sexual desire, and I gained a hunger that could only be satisfied with blood.  I didn’t understand what I’d become, or what I was, but I rampaged and killed.  I first slew the Madame, who’d somehow survived the vampire attack, and the two nobles who respectively rented out and taxed the building of the brothel.  I latched onto their necks and drank their blood and then eviscerated their bodies for due recompense.  Then Jule found me out and took me into his coven, this coven, though we hadn’t moved into these caves yet.  And he taught me what I needed to know about being a vampire.

“Then, with his and the other vampires’ help, we tracked down every man I could find from my inventory.  I couldn’t find all of them, unfortunately.  Some of them were soldiers or vagabonds who either died on their own or were settled somewhere far from here where I couldn’t find them.  Those I didn’t get to.  The rest, though, I found and I killed them; we killed them, together: drank their blood, desecrated their bodies and left them in the open air for the animals.  Because I had remembered.  I had kept track of all those that had wronged me.  I knew their sins, and was prepared to dole out justice, however long it took.

“I still haven’t lost that habit.  I remember.  I always know how things stand.  And I’m sure to bring justice to those who do wrong.  Do you understand?”

Lina nodded.  And then Asha told, “If you’re going to go outside, be sure and cover up.  The sun will burn you up.”

Lina then left Asha’s room without a “goodbye” or a “thank you,” going directly to her room and pulling out the cloak, shoes, gloves and head covering that she would need to tolerate the daylight sun.

<-- Go to Part 74         Go to Part 76 -->

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 74

Lina went to door of Asha’s room to speak with her.  She saw on the door, carved onto its surface, a lion standing on all fours looking directly at her, its mane bristling with pride.  Lina knocked on the door and a voice told her she could enter.

Inside she saw Asha naked, face down upon her bed while two vampires hovered over her, kneading her muscles with their hands.

“What do you want Little Lina?” Asha hissed, still lying flat, without opening her eyes or turning her head, her face buried in her mattress.

“What are they doing to you,” Lina innocently asked.

“Is that what you came here for?  They’re massaging my muscles.  It relaxes me and feels very good.  If that’s all you want, then you can leave me.”

“No, no,” Lina hastily interjected, “I wanted to ask your permission for something.  I want to go up to the surface.”

Asha finally opened her eyes and turned her head to look at Lina, “Why do you want to go outside?  It’s daylight out now, isn’t it?”  Lina nodded, and Asha said, “I hate going out in daylight.  You want to go out now?”

“I do, yes,” Lina hesitantly answered.

“Why?  What do you want that for?”

“I miss seeing the sun.  I miss being out,” Lina said.

“You’re a creature of the dark now.  You must get used to it,” Asha vehemently asserted.

“I want to get out.  I want to walk around in the fresh air.  I want to do something.  What do you vampires do all day?  There’s hardly enough work for me to fill a day.”

“So you’re bored?  Take up a hobby, then.  They taught you how to read in that convent, didn't they?  See if you can find a book to read.  Do something creative.  Even if I let you outside, what will you do?”

“I don’t know,” Lina shrugged her shoulders, “Walk around.”

Asha brought the massage to a stop by raising her hand and then sitting up in her bed.  Her naked beauty was exposed to Lina temporarily, who looked up at Asha with a distinct look of envy, but she quickly lowered her eyes when Asha noticed her stare.  Asha put on her light indoor clothing on and dismissed the two vampires from her presence.  They left the room and waited in the hall.

“You wish you were beautiful like me, don’t you?” Asha said, “You will be someday.  Be patient.  You’ve already become more beautiful since you came here.  I can tell.”

Lina blushed shyly, not because she was embarrassed by the compliment, but worried that Asha might infer her secret.

Asha continued, “I was quite beautiful even when I was a young human.  But it was not a blessing, I assure you.  You don’t know what it’s like to be beautiful.  Being beautiful means always being seen, always being noticed.  It can be quite oppressive to have eyes on you all the time.”

“No worse than never being seen,” Lina replied, causing Asha to emit a slight laugh.  Not knowing what more to say, Lina reiterated her request, “Will you give me permission to go outside?”

“I will give you permission,” Asha said.  Lina turned, ready to leave, but Asha stopped her, saying, “But I want you to hear a story first.  I want you to hear about my life as a human.”  Lina turned around and looked at Asha, who smiled in that arrogant, domineering way she always smiled and said, “It’s quite instructive.”

“You grew up in a convent as a novice,” Asha began, “left there by your parents, no doubt; perhaps motivated by some misplaced sense of piety to offer you as their devotional sacrifice to God.  I grew up as a whore in a whorehouse, abandoned by my parents from their own indifference and negligence.  I was born a long, long time ago.  All I know about my parents is that they were nomads from the East.  And, perhaps because they had too much to carry, they left me, in a small city far from here, in the care of an older woman, who, if I haven’t been misled, paid my parents to take me.  She paid for me because I would earn for her far more in return.  She took care of me while I was young, and I worked by cleaning the rooms of what I would later find out was a brothel.  I would clean up after the sweaty sex that the other whores had in those rooms, until I was old enough.”

<-- Go to Part 73         Go to Part 75 -->

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 73

After Vasile finished telling his story, there was a silence as he continued reaping the wheat and Anton sat looking up into the sky.  Anton looked tired from a day’s work, but there was also something else to his harried appearance — he looked sad.  So, Vasile asked him, “Do you miss your sister?”

The question brought some quiet tears to Anton’s eyes, which he wiped away with the sleeve of his shirt before he replied, ”Every day.”  He then asked Vasile, “Would it sound foolish if I said I think she’s still alive?  Is it false hope or is there something to this feeling I have?”

Vasile shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wish I could tell you you’re right.  To be honest, I don’t know what goes on in those vampire caves.  I do know they need food, and no one’s ever come back.  So, it seems to follow that… ”

“I know,” Anton said.  Then there was a long silence as Anton stared off into the distance.

In the pen, Constanta was bored.  Living on her father’s farm had meant, since she was old enough, a life of nearly constant work from morning to evening: rise in the morning, eat, work all day, eat in the evening, sleep.  Sunday service, some holidays around the year and a lighter workload during the winter were about all she’d known of idleness since as long as she could remember.

The life in the pen, on the other hand, was almost entirely idleness, and Constanta was not the type of child that had learned to entertain herself.  To stave off the boredom most of the people of the pen, besides sleeping and eating, gambled and had sex.  Others were more creative with their time: organizing entertainment such as singing and theatrical performances; others carved designs and pictures into the wall; others sought ways to access previously inaccessible stalactites that lined the ceiling, hoping make their fortune; some fruitlessly plotted ways to escape; many told stories; and many simply sat around and talked, gossiping and complaining.  None of this was for Constanta, though.

She sat and watched several men carving a massive crucifix and altar into one wall of the arena under Sister Oana's direction.  Oana had begun her planned work and was employing the labor of several men to carefully chip away at the rock with crude stone tools.  She paid the men, but they were mostly just glad to have something interesting to do.

Constanta turned at the sound of Dragomir's approach.  He limped towards Oana, flanked by an entourage, including two intimidating thugs that he used to punish and intimidate recalcitrant dissenters, and two of the women from his harem, both pregnant.  Oana stood at the foot of the wall, overseeing the work and relaying instructions when he announced, “Oana, I have to speak with you.”

Oana turned around to face Dragomir and looked back at him impatiently as he prepared to speak, “Oana, I am concerned that you have made no effort to impregnate yourself since you arrived.”

Dragomir acted as the hand of the vampires within the pen.  The persons of the pen, some three quarters of whom were women, adamantly resisted pregnancy, none wanting to bring a child into the world of the vampire’s pen, such that great force had to applied to overcome this resistance.

“I am not going to break my vow of virginity,” Oana told him, “So you can quit being concerned.”

Dragomir's two thugs, started to step forward, but Dragomir stopped them.  He had been reluctant to use physical force on a woman of God, some residue of piety still lurking in him somewhere.

“Then you will be marked,” he threatened, referring to the red X stained on the wrists of those ready to be slaughtered.

“So be it,” Oana replied with indifference, “Better to be dead than break my vow.”  She turned her back to Dragomir and his entourage and shouted at the men who were working for her to get back to work.

“I’ll give you another week.  That's it.” Dragomir shouted at her, red with ire.  What he didn't want to openly admit, though, was that her unique popularity as a preacher made dealing with her particularly delicate, but he told her with perfect earnestness just before he walked away, “I won't wait forever.”

<-- Go to Part 72         Go to Part 74 -->

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 72

The sun was just above the horizon as Vasile walked across the expanse of Josif’s fields in the direction of Anton, who he saw in the distance, submerged shoulder-deep in the sea of wheat.  Anton was bent down with crescent blade in hand, reaping the grain with long, flowing swings that gathered the stalks into his hands.

As Vasile got closer, they greeted each other, and Vasile asked, “Where’s your dad?”

“He’s been having to work Mihai’s crops,” Anton responded, with some bitterness, “It’s that time of year, to fulfill our serf’s duty.”

“Is he happy to have you back?”

“I don’t think that’s the word I’d use.  I don’t think anything makes him happy.  Though, I feel like he’s pleased that he turned out to be right about me trying to be a vampire hunter, and he’s resisting the urge to gloat.  To him, things are better off staying the same as they’ve always been, I suppose.”

Vasile grabbed the scythe out of Anton’s hands, and took over his job while Anton rested.

“I’ve decided to stop taking the vampire wares,” Vasile said.  He squinted under the light of the sun.  Ever since he’d started taking the vampire medicine, so many years ago, the sun had gained an overbearing quality, and now was, gradually, beginning to lose that overbearingness.  “I guess it’s time to start growing old,” Vasile continued, “I’ve been trying to reschedule my sleep so that I’m actually awake through the daylight.  It’s impossible for you to understand how long I’ve been a vampire hunter and how many nights I’ve been out in the forest waiting alone in the trees for a vampire to cross my line of sight.  Almost every day, for decades, alone at night: in summer when nights are warm and in winter when over half the day is left to the vampires.  I’ve seen a great many sunsets and sunrises, but not so much of the day in between.”

“How did you ever become a vampire hunter?” Anton asked.

Vasile shook his head when Anton asked that. “I can barely remember life before becoming a vampire hunter,” Vasile said, taking a deep breath and throwing some extra long swipes at the wheat to give himself some time to gather his thoughts.

“I was young when it happened.  You see, I grew up with my mother, living in the woods.  My father wasn’t there.  He was some highwayman who’d gone away or been hanged or something.  She wasn’t clear on the details.  My mom would poach game and gather fruit and roots for us at day.  At night, we lived in a tiny room made out of the hollow of a tree.  We had to keep it well camouflaged, since the vampires were out at night.  They weren’t then like they are now.  They would be out every night, prowling in packs.  And they have powerful noses, so we’d have to spread over the entrance of our little hollow whatever pungent flowers and plants we could find to mask our smell.

“But eventually they found us, probably because our cloak of scent wasn’t very good that night.  They only got her.  When she heard them approaching, she hid me under a blanket in the corner.  I heard the sound of her being dragged away, and was just waiting for them to find me.  Waiting all night for them to notice I was there in the corner under the blanket.  They didn’t.  But I was all alone from then on, without my mother, or anyone.

“I didn’t know how to do anything but hunt.  So I became a vampire hunter.  It wasn’t vengeance that drove me.  I didn’t know who the vampires that actually took her were, and I wasn’t going to find out.  I just wanted to earn money.  At the time there were a bunch of vampire hunters, all young.  Some of them deserters from one of the armies, some of them bandits and highwaymen, some farmers’ kids.  They were a reckless and cavalier bunch: they didn’t care if they lived or died.  And they took in huge hauls of dead vampires.  I was consistently the least successful, because I was the most cautious, took the fewest risks.  But that kept me alive.  As they all got killed off, one by one, I survived.   We’d take our kills to Andrei, or to Dragomir.  He was an apothecary that also made vampire wares, but the vampires eventually succeeded in breaking into his home, destroying the place and dragging him off for food.  Now, I guess it’s finally completely over.  No more vampire hunting.  No more dragging my kills to Andrei’s.  No more waiting up all night in the trees.  Just living a normal life again.”

<-- Go to Part 71         Go to Part 73 -->

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 71

The symptoms were so unpleasant that, as Lina stared up at the ceiling, she began to worry.  Her whole body felt terrible: her muscles sore, her throat ragged, her stomach aching, her body weak.  “Did I consume too much?  Is my body really capable of handling that much?  Is it more than a young vampire can handle?” she asked herself as the overriding feeling that she'd polluted her body with something deeply unhealthy dominated her thoughts.  After a long stretch of unpleasantness, she finally let her abused body plummet into a sleep from which it felt like she would never rise.

In her sleep she began to dream.  It was a moderately pleasant dream, of being back at the convent (always of the convent) with Sister Elisabeta instructing her in theology and Sim there to protect her whenever Oana should overstep her reprimands.  If there was one thing that she truly lacked when she was at the convent, it was someone there to protect her.  And when she stepped outside and watched the sun high in the blue sky, she thought to herself, “It doesn't burn so bad.”  In fact, the sun felt warm and she felt happy to be back at the convent.

It was at this moment when she woke up again, back in the darkness of her room, lying in her bed, her sheets wet with sweat and her body shivering from the cold.  She opened her eyes, oblivious to how much time she'd lost to sleep, but she suspected that it’d been a great many hours, since her sickness was gone.  In fact, the sickness wasn’t just gone; her body felt revitalized.

As her mind began to slowly open itself to wakefulness, she stepped out of her bed and moved her body about.  Her body moved as if it was something new, like her arms were recently acquired appendages that had just grown in.  There was a strangeness, an unfamiliarity to her movements.  She went to look into the mirror, and noticed she looked different — subtly but noticeably different.  Her face was quite beautiful, for one.  She became enrapt in her own appearance, feeling for the moment like a person savoring the beauty of a new and attractive stranger.  She turned her face in the glass to observing it from every angle, inspecting the different facets of her newfound resplendence, her bright eyes and smooth skin.

A dark thought crossed her mind, as she feared that it would be a bit too obvious to the other vampires how beautiful she’d become and how quickly.  It might raise questions, suspicions.  But then she thought that none of them had really paid her close enough attention before to notice a difference.

She next wanted to see whether her strength had made any dramatic improvements.  She approached her bed: a sturdy wood frame with a heavy feather mattress and several layers of sheets.  As a novice, she would’ve barely been able to raise it off the ground.  As a vampire, just a few days ago, she’d been able to lift it fully off the ground with only some difficulty.  Now, as she tried to lift it, it seemed to float up into the air, like a piece of driftwood rising to surface of a stream.

The great rock that covered the entrance, that had been beyond her strength only just the previous day, was now, she was sure, within her strength.  She was one step closer to freeing Nicoleta.

Lina now only needed to figure out how to get into the pen and then figure out how to sneak Nicoleta out.  Neither of which she knew how to do.  She had seen the key that was used to open the door to the pen: a large black key.  Both Mir and Tor appeared to have a copy.  How would she get a hold of it without being caught?  She didn't know.  And how could Nicoleta be taken through the halls of the coven without anyone seeing her?  She didn't know the answer to that either, but she felt that there was a good place to look.

A few minutes later she was in the cache with a flame in hand.  This was one room that she was sure the other vampires would not be worried about her visiting unchaperoned.  What exactly she was looking for, she wasn’t sure.  Something that would be big enough to conceal Nicoleta and that she could carry in her hands.  There were clothes aplenty, but she suspected these wouldn't really conceal her enough.  There was a chest that looked suitable, but not ideal.  Even better though, she noticed, a basket, a tall storage basket, perhaps pilfered from some large estate nearby.

The outlines of a plan began to shape themselves more distinctly in Lina’s mind.

<-- Go to Part 70         Go to Part 72 -->

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 70

Tor huffed with frustration when Suma left.  Then he saw Lina and felt suddenly thankful she was there, ordering her, “Go fetch Mir, little Lina.”

Lina's first impulse was to obey, but instead she simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Who?”

This was more annoyance for a single day than Tor could take, and he huffed with frustration again, even louder this time.  With a great display of effort, he dragged himself to his feet and lumbered ponderously across the room.  “How can you not know Mir,” he said as he passed her.  Then, as he stepped out the door, he reminded her, “Don’t touch anything while I’m gone.”

As soon as he was out the door, Lina saw the opportunity she'd been waiting for.  She ran over to the separate pot that Suma had used to fill the single final bowl, reasoning that the single final bowl must be going to Asha and that this separate pot contained the remains of the deceased vampire.

She leapt up onto the counter and knelt before the great black pot of warm red liquid.  She scooped several large ladle-fulls of the thick substance into her mouth and quickly gulped them down, one after another.  She tried to cram as much of it into her stomach as she could as quickly as possible, not knowing how effective it was or how much her body could take.

When she thought she heard the sound of footsteps in the hall, she dropped the ladle, jumped down to the ground and quickly picked up the broom to commence her cleaning.  Sure enough, Tor entered, waddling through the entrance with loud and heavy breaths and with Mir behind him.

“Mir,” Tor said as an introduction, pointing at Mir, still clearly annoyed, as they walked by.  Lina nodded at him and got out of the way of Mir’s imposing bulk.  Mir went to the door that led into the pen and opened it with a thick, black key that he carried with him.  The heavy door swung open and he disappeared into the pen.  Tor stood guard at the door, to make sure that no humans attempted to escape while the door was open.

Finally, Mir emerged from the pen with a grey-haired woman wrapped in his arms.  The woman flailed about, trying to hit Mir, trying to knock herself free, and just trying to do whatever she could to get away.  Tor locked the door behind Mir with his own key, as Mir dumped the woman onto the table and then in one swift motion twisted her head on her neck, with such force and abruptness that immediately her whole body instantly went limp.

Lina immediately felt she’d stayed too long and seen more than she'd wanted to.  She hastily moved out of the room, as the two vampires started to cut away the woman’s clothes and shave her.

Lina’s departure was apt for another reason, as well: she was also feeling the effects of the mixture that she’d drunk and needed to get away.  She put down her broom and went directly to her room.  The first sensation she felt was of wanting to vomit up the entire contents of her stomach.  Her stomach was so filled with food, as if she’d stuffed herself with a giant feast until she was about to overflow.  She arduously resisted the urge to throw up, not enthusiastic about the possibility of having to try to steal some of the food again.  She had to lie down on the bed, and almost felt light-headed, her head spinning and her body reeling.  Wave upon wave of energy seemed to be flowing outward from her body's center to her extremities.  Sweat glistened on her skin, as her heart rate accelerated and her body grew incredibly warm.

“When will this be over?” she agonizingly asked herself.  Her stomach felt awful; her head felt awful, and, as the moments passed, it only seemed to get worse.

<-- Go to Part 69         Go to Part 71 -->

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