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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 104

With her heart beating in anticipation, Lina silently progressed forward, descending down the sloped cave.  She walked with silent steps, suspecting that more than a few vampires lay in wait.

She encountered her first vampires in this section of the cave.  Two vampires of medium age cowered in a shaded corner, terrified of venturing out into the light where the bullets and arrows would surely drown them if the sun didn’t burn them first.  They didn’t notice Lina’s approach until she was near upon them.  By the time they turned at the sound, Lina’s form already completely overwhelmed their vision.  In a flash, she leaped upon one, tearing open his throat, then attacked the other, drinking away the last of his blood until his sight faded from blurriness into black.

Lina stepped out into the light of Great Hall next.  The place only vaguely resembled its former splendor.  The tiled floor was littered with rubble, collapsed columns and a great many vampire corpses, arrows and crossbow bolts sticking out of their bodies like porcupine needles.  When she looked up, she now saw the sky instead of the columns and ceiling, and up there, standing at the edge of the crater, looking down at her, were the armed troops, with Flaviu standing besides them, nodding in her direction.

She entered the hallway, and before her stood a long row of doors, most of them closed.  The whole hallway was enveloped in silence.  The odor of vampires was palpable, but omnipresent.  She had no sense where any living creature was.  But as she moved closer to the kitchen, she heard the growing sound of a murmuring crowd.

Of a sudden two shadows approached her from behind and touched her on the arm.  She was so frightened that she almost jumped on them immediately, but in the split second before she turned and would’ve had her teeth upon his neck, she recognized the face of Anton.  Beside him was Vasile.  Both of them carried two loaded crossbows, weapons that seemed more appropriate to the cramped space of the coven than their longbows.

“We’ve come to help you get the humans out,” Anton said.

“And you need a weapon,” Vasile said, handing her a dagger, which he’d kept sheathed on his belt.

“I’ll lead you to the pen,” Lina said, “Stay behind me.”

They followed as she cautiously walked them towards the kitchen.  The room they found was a mess: many pots had been knocked over, red liquid spilled onto the ground, some broken, their shattered pieces littering the floor.  A layer of dust covered everything and considerable debris was spread throughout the room.  But there was Suma, as if oblivious to everything that was going on around her, cleaning up.  She’d picked up all the spilled pots and made sure as much of the red brew was salvaged as was possible.

When Suma saw Lina, clothed in black, with two armed men standing at the entrance to the kitchen, she cowered in fear, hiding in the corner.  Lina was about to ask her for the keys to the pen, when she noticed the door, slightly ajar.  Lina pointed through the door, and Vasile and Anton entered, while Lina remained behind, watching Suma to make sure she didn’t attack.

When Vasile stepped inside, he heard the nearing sound of a massive crowd of murmurers, and he walked towards them.  As he came in sight of the crowd, the sound, quickly faded into silence, and he saw there, in the faint shadows, several hundred human forms, whose heads all turned to him at once.

Vasile was difficult to see in the dark, but it was clear at first glance that he was not a vampire.  Vasile announced, in a hushed voice, “We’ve come here to free you.  We need to get out of here, now.”

A wave of cheering started to roll through the crowd, but Vasile strenuously tried to stop it, indicating that they should be quiet.

The crowd quieted once again and Vasile was ready to lead them out, when a small shape started pushing through the crowd to get to the front of it.  After a few moments, the face of Constanta pushed through and, looking in Anton’s directions, asked, “Anton is that you?”

When Anton saw her he ran forward and grabbed her in his arms, hugging her as tightly as he could and kissing he all over.  “I knew it,” she said to him over and over again as she smiled with joy, “I told them you’d come.”

<-- Go to Part 103         Go to Part 105 -->

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 103

Oana, freed from Mir’s grasp, was standing among the group of humans in the pen, when she heard the sound of Lina’s voice in the distance.  She whispered to Crina, “It’s Lina,” then, realizing that it was pertinent to everyone, she announced, “Lina, the vampire who freed Nicoleta.  She’s back.”

Crina recognized immediately what Lina’s return meant and she pushed through the crowd to go directly for Dragomir.  One of Dragomir’s guards was there to stop her, blocking her way and gruffly asking her, “What are you doing?”

Crina announced, “Seize him!” and several others rose up to assist her, a dozen hands grabbing the guard at once and pulling him away.  Dragomir tried to run, but two men cam forward to block his way and restrain him, pressing his arms behind his back and holding him in place while he struggled to free himself.  Crina pulled out a large stalactite, with a smooth, pillowy surface and, at the tip, a round, dull point.  She stepped forward and drove the blunt point of her stalactite directly into Dragomir’s stomach, with enough force to pierce through the skin and deep inside him.

Dragomir cried out and collapsed with pain as blood spilled out him, staining the stalactite and the hand that held it.  Crina raised the red stalactite above her head, and heard a roar of cheers from the crowd in the pen.

They shouted out just as Lina began her fleet dash from the Great Hall.  Just as she zipped through the door and pushed up the rock, darting out into the sunlight.  Just as she hastily covered her face, partially exposed without her head-covering, and ducked for cover.

The explosion that immediately followed rippled through the ground and sent a shockwave through the air.  In the pen, the loud boom caused the ground to quake and the ceiling of rock above them to shift and rain fine grains of dust upon them.  The people looked warily up at the ceiling above them and Oana announced, “We need to think about leaving.  Right now.  Everyone, gather what you need.”

Flaviu had laid the two barrels near the center of what Lina marked out as the walls of the room.  When they exploded a cloud of dirt rose into the air like a great, spiky dome, sending debris into the air in all directions, and leveling all things around it beneath its sudden shockwave.  His soldiers hid beneath their shields while a rain of rocks and dirt fell upon them.

Then Flaviu ordered the charge.  Men armed with arrows, crossbows and firearms ran up to the edge of the great crater in two lines and aimed down into it.  Beneath them they saw the remains of the Great Hall exposed to the sunlight.  Many of the great columns that had supported the roof were now toppled and the ground, decorated by the dragon mosaic, was littered with rocks and boulders.  The beautiful decorations of the Great Hall were cracked and scattered, and the throne was toppled and crushed.

Between all the debris, lay many vampires knocked down and crushed by the explosions.  Mostly sparsely clothed, their white skin exposed to the sunlight, grew quickly red.  Some lay on the ground, unconscious and motionless, whereas others were pinned beneath rocks or columns, and still yet others remained standing, though dazed and surprised.  With some of their skin being burned by the unbearable sun, they screamed in agony, those that could, trying to flee as quickly as they could from the light.  Flaviu ordered his men, “Fire at anything standing,” and the first volley of shots sniped some of those standing, who were slow to flee.

After this first volley, the forward line of shooters stepped backwards, and the second line, armed and ready, moved forward and launched a second volley as Flaviu ordered, “Kill anything that still moves.”  They captured some other still alive and some that had tried to escape, and silenced some of the agonized screams of those being burnt.

Simultaneously the cannons were rolled forward.  They were loaded and two cannonballs were launched at the hallway down which they’d seen some of the remaining vampires run.  The cannonballs rolled down the halls knocking down a few vampires in their way and lodging themselves deep into the walls of the cave.  But Flaviu shouted at the cannoneers, “Damnit!  No more of that!  There’s people down there somewhere.”

A succession of volleys blanketed the Great Hall with arrows and bullets, as the two lines, in successive turns, would fire, step back and reload, then step forward and fire again.  The projectiles from these many volleys rendered all life in the great hall still and silent.  More than twenty vampires now lay dead upon its floor.

At this point, Lina stepped forward and volunteered to enter.  “I’ll go in,” she announced, “There must be some ten or so still left.  Including Asha.  I’ll try to get to the humans before you set off that last barrel of gunpowder.”

Without waiting to be given permission, Lina ran towards the large boulder and opened it.  The hinge of this great door had been damaged, so she rolled the boulder aside instead of lifting it on its hinge, leaving the door now permanently open.  Then she walked forward tentatively into the shadow, not sure where some of the remaining vampires might be waiting for her.

<-- Go to Part 102         Go to Part 104 -->

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 102

While Asha talked with Sim just before Lina’s arrival, Mir entered the pen to fetch their daily ration.  He hauled out his key, a large, brass mortice key, to open the door from the kitchen, and, unlocking the door stepped inside.

He had been in the pen so many times, and been accustomed to a consistent and predictable reaction from the humans in there, that even the subtlest differences, as he at that time observed, were quite salient.  He couldn't have quite described the differences if he had to, but it seemed as if the humans, instead of dreading his arrival, were waiting for him.  His feeling of unease led him to walk forward cautiously, looking at the many eyes that didn't seem to be warily avoiding him, as usual, but actually looking back at him, with interest, with curiosity.

He carried a small club hanging at his side, which he drew into his hand and held, ready to strike any that might approach him.  As he moved he looked, searching for a red X that would indicate his victim for the day.

As he came to the arena, he saw a woman close to middle age, with a husky appearance and a large frame who bore the X on both hands.  She was directing several other workers who were chipping at the stone wall, gesturing and signaling with her red-marked hands.

Relieved to be done, Mir approached her and in his typical fashion, he grabbed her in his arms.  This one was a little larger than the average, not having been yet streamlined by the diet of the pen; she still contained many pounds from her above-ground existence.  But Mir was strong and lifted her easily.

Oana’s reaction as she was being picked up was not like most.  Instead of panicking and flailing about in fright, she instead became enraged, turning her vitriol on the vampire that was trying to pick her up, and shouting, “How dare you!  Put me down this instant.  I am a monastic woman.”

At seeing a popular preacher being taken by the vampires, with the rumor of Nicoleta’s escape fresh on the mouths of everyone in the pen, the rebellion that Crina had been striving to initiate began to organize itself.  One man stepped forward and tried to take Oana out of the guard’s hands, but he was painfully batted aside with the club.  Others followed, several approaching Mir at once.  Mir tried to swing around and knock them all aside, but he only hit a few of them, and others continued approaching en masse.  Mir was now racing towards the door.  A massive group of humans stood themselves between him and the door, but he didn’t pause, attempting to push through them using his size and momentum.

Dragomir sat in a large section of the pen that he’d cordoned off as his room.  Two half-naked women hovered over his fat, naked body, kissing him on his hairy chest, slowly and sensually, while two guards stood at the door of his room.  Stone statues and murals painted on the walls decorated his room.  A rude mattress lay on the floor in the center, on which he now lay, being pleasured by his women. titillate

In the midst of this carnal leisure, he was interrupted by a young man, who hastily ran to the door, shouting, “Dragomir, they’re attacking Mir.  A lot of them.  It doesn’t look good.”

Dragomir was thoroughly annoyed by this news, sitting up and dressing himself with a groan.  He told his women, “We’ll have to continue this afterwards,” and then commented to the young man, “Do they never learn.  If they just bend down their heads and keep quiet they’ll live a long life.  Now we’re going to have a whole lot of people become vampire food, again, just because they want to be contentious.”

He marched out of the room, and by the time he made it to the barred room, where a large crowd was gathered, he realized it was worse than he’d supposed.  They’d somehow managed to pin Mir to the ground, with something like twenty people now holding him down.  They were trying to figure out how to tie him up, with several people trying to gather rags in order to tether him to the bars.

Dragomir shouted out at them, “Let Mir go this instant!  Do you all want to end up dead?  Give this up, now, while you’re still alive.  Did you not think this through?  What are you going to do after you have him secured?  Are you just going to walk out of here past the dozens of vampires out there?  You don’t think they’ll be retaliation?  No, no.  It’ll be a retaliation far worse than anything you could imagine in here.”

At that moment, echoing through the halls of the coven, they heard a vampire screeching, “It’s Lina!  It’s Lina!” in a frightened voice, followed by the voice of Lina herself who, in a screech confirmed, “It is Lina!  Come and attack me!”

<-- Go to Part 101         Go to Part 103 -->

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 101

Two other guards waited on the other side of the door and heard with frightening immediacy the sound of the rock being lifted and the other guard being knocked against the door.  In quick succession they’d heard the guard collapse and heard him kick against the door as he struggled for life.  They’d quietly opened the door to investigate, and saw a cloaked figure there, gnawing on the neck of the other vampire.  As soon as the partially exposed face of Lina looked up at them, they fled.

Lina was able to catch one of them, and, tearing off her head-covering, wrestled him to the ground and sapped his mortal blood.  The other was beyond her reach, and he ran into the Great Hall screaming in panic, “It’s Lina!  Lina’s back!  She’s attacking!  Everyone to arms!  It’s Lina!  It’s Lina!”

She’d hoped to make a more dignified and memorable entrance, but she could’ve thought of no better way to lure all vampires into the Great Hall, than to announce her presence, and so she followed right behind him, and said proudly, “It is Lina!  Come and attack me!”

Shortly before Lina’s arrival, Asha had stepped into Sim’s room to see him.  She dismissed everyone from the room, leaving her alone with Sim to talk with him one last time.

Sim still lay upon his bed, barely alive, barely conscious, delirious and confused, the fear and agony deadened by weakness and fatigue.  His half naked body was covered in wounds.  Dried blood was caked all over his chest, his legs, his arms.  A large circle of red covered the sheets beneath him, and his head swayed back and forth as he muttered incoherently.

“If you can hear me,” Asha said to him, “I’ve decided to give you your reprieve.  Your little minion isn’t coming back.  So it seems only fair to kill you in her absence.  I’ll make it quick.  I guess you deserve that, for the services you’ve rendered to me in the past. Unfortunately, I can do no more since we in this coven cannot permit the even least betrayal.

“In fact, I’ll tell you a story before you depart from us.  You want to know how I killed Jule oh so many years ago, when you were a young vampire?  It wasn’t by hiding in the toilet, as they say, though I have to admit I do like that story.  No, you see Jule had a certain lust for human flesh not typical among us vampires.  A sexual lust.  He was uncharacteristically potent, and liked young human girls.  Not us vampire women, of course, since we’re as barren and frigid as a mountain peak.  He would have his guards bring in a girl to his room, then the door would be closed and he’d be left alone with her.  And after he was done, he’d kill her, drain her blood and impertinently dispose of her.  All of this was, of course, kept fully confidential, but I found out.

“The guards always hooded the girls when bringing them to Jule, to facilitate the secrecy of this whole practice, so I bribed one of the guards to hood me, and send me in as one of the girls.  Once alone in that room with him, I had my chance, and I didn’t let it slip.  I chopped his head off with my knife before he had a chance to resist, and this time it was his body that was drained.

“But the important thing was what I did with that guard that betrayed Jule.  I couldn’t have a guard that could be bribed into betrayal.  He had to be killed.  We here cannot permit the least betrayal.  It erodes the mortar that holds our coven together.  As recompense for what he’d done for me, I gave him a swift and honorable death, and I will do the same courtesy to you.  You will not be eaten.  I will have to drain your blood, though.”

Asha touched Sim’s face, wiping from it some of the sweat, then gently pushed his head to the side to expose his white neck.  She leaned down, opening her mouth.

But the sound of commotion in the Great Hall arrested her attention.  She departed Sim’s room in haste, telling Sim, in case he was aware of what she were saying, “I’ll only be a moment.”

The Great Hall had quickly flooded with vampires, though none dared to approach until Asha arrived, which was only a minute later.  Asha came to an abrupt stop when she saw Lina, her face now exposed, her lips and teeth stained with blood, her pale face glowing with the beauty of a vampire many times her age.  Even beneath the gore that stained her face, she had a radiance that was captivating and intimidating.

Asha commanded, “I haven’t time to draw this out.  Just kill her.”

At this moment, the two rays of light that pierced through the ceiling, were simultaneously severed.  The dim light of the room faded into near darkness and everyone turned to look up.  Lina recognized this as the signal and without pause turned around and ran.

<-- Go to Part 100         Go to Part 102 -->

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

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 100

Tam readied himself as Lina got closer, standing up and lowering himself to a thicker branch that would be able to withstand the full force of the long leap he’d need to make to reach Lina in one bound.

Lina still led at the front of her group, walking quickly, and occasionally turning behind her and looking at the troops in order to tacitly reprimand them for their slowness.

When Lina reached within about fifty paces of Tam, he decided to make the leap.  He pushed hard with his legs, launching his massive body high into the air, arching silently between the branches with the cloak flapping behind him, then crashing to the ground with a resounding stomp.

Tam had decided to simply pick Lina up and kill her while on the run.  He kicked up a great spray of dirt as he started his run, scooping up Lina in his arms and zipping off into the distance.

The troops were slow to react to this sudden appearance, unready and unprepared.  Only Anton and Vasile were quick enough on the draw, raising their longbows and drawing their arrows out of the quiver, as the shape of a running Tam shrank in their view.  With no time to pick their placement, Vasile and Anton both let their arrows fly.

But before the arrows could even reach their mark, Tam began to slow and stumble.  The two arrows landed on his back just as he began to fall.  The little vampire he’d been carrying had wrapped herself around his neck like a shirt collar, raised her head-covering just enough to expose her mouth and drained the blood out of him as fast as she could drink.

When she was done, she removed the two unnecessary arrows and held them out to Vasile and Anton as they ran towards her.  “Your arrows,” she told them.  She pushed the body aside and kept on walking, as the troops hustled to catch up with her again.

Constanta approached Crina, who she saw sitting in the midst of a group of people seated on the ground in the arena conferring quietly.  She tapped her on the shoulder and whispered in her ear: “I have something to tell you.”

Crina excused herself from the group and stepped off to the side and asked Constanta, “What is it?”

“A woman named Sorina told me yesterday that she saw Nicoleta being kidnapped, and she overheard the vampire saying something to her,” Constanta explained, “‘I’m freeing you.’  That’s what the vampire told Nicoleta.”

“Now why did she say that?” Crina asked rhetorically, a sly smile spreading across her face.

“The vampire knew Nicoleta, from before,” Constanta added.

“Do you know if they made it out?” Crina asked.

“I don’t,” Constanta admitted, “But if they didn’t, I’d think Nicoleta would be back in here.  Wouldn’t she?”

“You should’ve told me earlier,” Crina whispered, “The loose debris of dissatisfaction has been piling up here since before I arrived; all it has needed is a light to flare up into fire.  I’ll spread the word amongst those who are with us.  Be prepared for anything.”

Constanta admonished facetiously, “But Sorina said Dragomir doesn’t want word to get out about this.”

“I bet he doesn’t,” Crina laughed.

The troops arrived near the dry streambed and the exposed boulders, which signified the entrance to the coven.  Lina surveyed the area, trying to decipher the arrangement of the cave beneath the ground.  She began to draw lines in the dirt to indicate first where the passageway from the entrance proceeded, then where the Great Hall opened up, eventually able to find the holes in the ceiling, and roughly map out the layout of the room below.  All of this was done in complete silence, and afterwards, she quietly whispered instructions to Vasile and Flaviu, explaining the dimensions of the room below.

After this was all completed, they rolled forward the barrels of gunpowder and the cannons, and began to put everything and everyone in position.  When it was ready, Lina stepped forward and prepared to enter the coven alone.  She pushed through the shrubbery and rapidly lifted up the great boulder that covered the entrance, moving so swiftly that she was able to leap upon the vampire that stood guard even before he was able to raise his sword.

<-- Go to Part 99         Go to Part 101 -->

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 99

The next day Vasile led a group of men from Vallaya into the forest.  Besides him walked Anton, armed with a bow and carrying on his back a full quiver of arrows.  Anton’s father had his firearm, a long arquebus, loaded with powder and shot, along with extra bullets and a horn of gunpowder.  Cornel, the blacksmith, clad in his leather apron, bore a heavy axe and a large crossbow armed with one of Vasile’s bolts and touted several more in reserve.  They all wore what heavy leather clothing they could find as armor, making some effort to guard their chest and neck.

They met, on schedule, Flaviu, leading his troops, who trailed behind him in an informal clump, without any order.  Cezar was there besides him, carrying his own arquebus, along with nine others so armed.  The rest were armed with crossbows and longbows.  All of them were armored with helmets, skirted by a chainmail aventail for the neck and wore a chainmail hauberk to cover their torso and thighs.  A team of horses and carriages in the back towed along their two cannons, with several cannonballs and the three barrels of gunpowder.  In the front of the team, the small black figure of Lina led the way, unarmed and covered head to toe in her black cloak.

The two groups silently greeted each other, each simply nodding in the other’s direction.  Flaviu asked, “Where’s Andrei?  Tending his shop?”

Vasile replied guardedly, “He’s ill actually.  He wanted to come, but we wouldn’t let him.”

Falviu looked up and saw the sun high in the sky and whispered to Vasile, “God be thanked, she’s on our side.  Do you think they’ll be expecting us?”

“I think so, but they won’t be expecting this,” Vasile said, pointing to the gunpowder.  He also told Flaviu, “If any soldiers here want to pay their last respects to God before our battle, let them do it now.”

All of the men bent down on their knees and said a few prayers and took a few moments before they were ready to continue.  Only Lina didn’t join in, looking around her over the praying crowd with curiosity, like a foreigner observing a strange custom.

Some minutes later, the whole band of soldiers was on the move, Lina walking at the front of the pack, at a pace that was to her maddeningly slow, though to the soldiers was uncomfortably fast.

As the band approached half a league from the coven, they started to come into view of the nearest vampire sentry.  In the direction from which the band approached, they were visible by Tam, who at the moment reclined in his tree, trying to relax and catch some sleep, just to stave off the boredom of sitting for hours in the burning sunlight in this tree.  He resented being reduced to such menial duty.  He secretly fantasized of Asha apologizing for having put such a great soldier on such a trivial assignment, when his ears pricked up at the sound of motion.

He almost fell out of the tree, as he tried to sit up straight from the relaxed position he’d been in.  Once he turned his eyes and looked in the direction of the sound, he could see it as clear as day, even through the haze of the black cloth that covered his head: some thirty armed men, walking in the direction of the coven.

His orders were to flee back to the coven as soon as possible and raise the alarm.  At the speed he could run, with the head start he had, he knew they couldn’t catch him, not even Lina, who was far too young.

But he smiled to himself when he thought: “You know what would be even better than sounding the alarm?  Carrying a dead Lina in my arms.”  He would be showered with praise and worshiped as a hero.  He could imagine Asha’s emotions as she was torn by remorse for putting such a degrading task on such an unparalleled soldier, but also delighted that she had because his skill had led to such a fortuitous result.

It would be easy: Lina was young and weak and could be effortlessly subdued; she was so far ahead of the troop that he could snatch her and run without being shot; not to mention that along the trajectory she was walking, she’d be close enough that he could leap right at her, landing right behind her; he’d pick her up and run away before they could even get a shot off.  Even a far lesser soldier could pull it off with ease.

All he had to exert was a little patience while he waited for her to get close enough.

<-- Go to Part 98         Go to Part 100 -->

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 98

A moment later, Andre found himself pinned to the floor of his shop with Asha kneeling on top of him.  Her pungent breath exhaled into his nose and he turned away to avoid it.

"I know you're planning an attack," she hissed, "I know you want to destroy my coven.  So let’s make an exchange: tell me when you'll attack and I won't kill you.”

Asha pressed her body hard against Andrei and he winced a little at the pressure of knees and hands.  “I won't even tell your friends that it was you who gave them away,” Asha said, moving her face even closer to him, “You can trust me.  I never break an agreement."

Andrei remained silent, putting all his effort into trying to squirm away or lift her off of him, without success.  Asha shouted in his face, “Tell me!  How patient do you think I am?”

“No!” Andrei simply responded, and, as if timed to punctuate that sentence, two arrows at that moment landed in Asha’s shoulders.  She squealed with pain and immediately glanced up where she saw both Vasile and Anton behind the counter, already drawing their second arrows and aiming their eyes directly at her two eyes.

Asha knew she could kill at least one of them before they let out another arrow, perhaps even both, but she didn’t wish to hazard her life in a fight.  Instead she stood up from the ground and left the shop.  Anton ran forward and locked the door for Andrei, who lay on the ground, shaken and trembling.

He touched his face, and realized that some small drips of blood from the arrow wounds had landed on his skin, and he immediately went into his workroom.  As fast as he could, he washed his face with a special solution for repelling vampire infection, repeating to himself, “I can’t get infected.  No, I can’t get infected.”  He even removed all his clothes, dumping them in a pot and drinking another medicine that was supposed to act as an antidote to the vampire infection.

Looking over his skin for signs of blood as his long, frail body stood naked in his workroom, he finally sat down and took a chance to breathe and relax.  Vasile and Anton stood there looking over him, offering to help with whatever he needed.  Andrei told them he didn’t need any help.

While he looked at his hands, inspecting them as if he could see the infection that he suspected was crawling around on the surface of his skin, he told Vasile and Anton: “If we kill all of the vampires, all of them, I can retire.  I don’t want to do this anymore.  I want every last one of them dead.”

Anton asked, “What about Lina?” and Andrei frowned.

“She deserves to live,” Andrei sighed, “But she has to promise that she’ll be the last.  She has to promise she won’t infect anyone.  If we have to feed her the rest of her life, or the rest of our lives, so be it.”

Vasile and Anton watched on without saying a thing.  Andrei added, while leaving the room to put on some new clothes, “And tell Flaviu we haven’t any more time.  We attack tomorrow.  I want to be at the coven when the sun is directly overhead.”

Asha was back at her coven only minutes later, throwing open the stone with vigor and striding vehemently down the slope into the Great Hall.  With the two arrows still sticking out of her shoulders, she ordered the first vampire she could find, “Create a perimeter around the coven.  Half a league away I want one vampire in the trees in every direction.  Work in shifts so we can have a presence all day and all night.  If any army, any band of travellers, any lone hunter crosses within a half of a league of this coven, the vampire that sees it is to run back here and raise the alarm.  Every vampire in here should be ready for an attack at a moment’s notice.  We need to do whatever is possible to fortify our defenses: fortify the door, add more guards. Spread the word to everybody, now.  They’ll be attacking soon.”

After Vasile’s somewhat longer journey to Terem, he was telling Flaviu the news, “We march tomorrow.”

“If you could give me some more time I could scrounge together more men and certainly more munitions.  Right now we’ll have to settle for twenty men, and arquebuses for half of them, plus two cannons and three barrels of gunpowder, but I’m sure I could get more if you just gave me four or five more days.”

“Asha knows we’re coming.  She doesn’t know when or how, but we can’t give her more time to prepare.  She already gave Andrei a rather frightening visit.  I wish we could give you more time, but it would only be to the benefit of our enemies,” Vasile explained.

Flaviu nodded his head and assented, “So be it,” while he turned to pass on the news to his soldiers.

<-- Go to Part 97         Go to Part 99 -->

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 97

Walking to the doors of the town hall where he heard a loud knocking, Beniamin opened them to find, to his great surprise, a black-cloaked vampire standing on the other side.  He stiffened with fright when he saw it, and was tempted to close the door as quickly as possible, but he bravely inquired, “What do you want?”

“It’s Asha, may I come in?” the vampire said.

“Magistrate Lucian’s not here,” Beniamin told her, “I don’t know where he is.”

“I don’t need to speak with him,” Asha said, stepping through the doors and closing them behind her.  She led the way to Lucian’s office.  The shutters were open, permitting the light from the sun, which hung low on the horizon, to flood into the room.  Asha closed the shutters and the curtains of the room, and lit a candle.

Finally, she closed the door to the room once Beniamin stepped inside and opened up her face to him.  She took a deep breath of relief after getting out of the thick head covering.  She didn’t stop disrobing this time, pulling her cloak up over her head and setting it down on the chair.  She only wore the light casual clothing that was typical of the vampires in the cave, a thin, short-sleeved shirt with a low neck and short shorts.

Beniamin could only stand back and watch and gaze upon her beauty as her strong, slender vampire body was pulled from out of the cloak.  She stretched out her naked legs and reclined in her chair.  His eyes spread wide open and he gawked silently, before falling back into Lucian’s chair.

“I hope you don’t mind Beniamin,” she said, “It is just that this cloak is particularly hot and I want to be comfortable.  You will have to forgive the informality of my dress.”

“No need to apologize,” Beniamin stammered out, “Is there something I can help you with?”

“I need to know what’s been going on here.  If you don't mind.”

“It’s been absolute chaos here.  First some vampire showed up at Andrei’s, and then the vampires were attacking, trying to get her back.  Somehow Vasile and Anton were able to kill all of them.  It was like a battlefield back there.  You must have heard about it.  And now everyone’s concerned that the vampires have completely abandoned the truce and that there’s going to be fresh raids and kidnappings.  Are there going to be fresh raids?”

“No.  So long as you haven’t abandoned your part of the truce.  You aren’t planning a retaliatory attack are me?” Asha asked.

“Not me,” Beniamin replied, surprised, “That’d be tough.  You vampires are formidable opponents.”

“What about Andrei?  Is he planning something?” Asha asked, somewhat unimpressed with Beniamin’s insight or access to information.  Beniamin simply shrugged his shoulders passively.

“Perhaps you can find out for me.  For the sake of our treaty” Asha said, trying to turn on her seductive charms at once, looking directly into his eyes and smiling like a cat inspecting its prey, “Perhaps you can ask Andrei if he’s planning an attack and when, so we can stop it.”

Beniamin replied forthrightly, “I think if Andrei’s planning an attack on your coven he wouldn’t be too keen on you knowing about it.  You know?  The importance of the element of surprise and all.”

“You could persuade him.  For the good of the truce.  You’re very able with your words.  I could reward you,” Asha purred, “Don’t you still want to kiss me?  I know you do.  Perhaps you even fantasize about me.  I was a whore before I became a vampire.  For many years.  I’m experienced.  I know everything about how to please a man.”

“I don’t want to get infected,” Beniaming replied, frozen with fright while Asha approached him, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be here.”  Unfreezing himself, Beniamin pulled away from Asha and added, “They always told us vampires were sexless creatures.”

“There must be some way I can persuade you,” Asha said, seductively hissing into Beniamin’s ears.

Beniamin looked at her frightened, pulling away from her and not saying anything.  Asha grew impatient and instead lunged at Beniamin.  Before he knew what was happening, he was being lifted him by the neck and struggled to breathe.  Asha now pressed her face close to Beniamin’s and harshly hissed, “I can kill you if you don’t help me.  Easily.  Do you value your life?”

Several minutes later Beniamin was knocking on the front door of Andrei’s store.  Andrei asked, “Who is it?” and he heard the response, “It’s Beniamin.”

Andrei unlocked the heavy front door and saw Beniamin standing there with a nervous smile on his face.  “What’s wrong?” Andrei asked, but before there was a chance to respond, a black shadow leapt from behind Andrei and pinned him to the ground?”

<-- Go to Part 96         Go to Part 98 -->

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 96

Lucian trailed a good distance behind Flaviu on foot, watching him as he entered in through the Terem gates, walked through the main square and turned off down a side street towards the guard station.

There Flaviu found Cezar standing guard, and he ordered, “I want an inventory of the gunpowder we have in storage.”

Cezar responded with an emphatic “Yes, sir,” and then ran off to another building nearby, while Flaviu sat down and relaxed

Lucian took out his paper and wrote down a few more notes before Flaviu started to turn in his direction, and he had to hastily hide behind the nearest building.  Lucian didn’t bother to check and see whether he’d truly been spotted, and instead, simply ran off, leaving the city.

He continued walking at a brisk pace directly into the woods.  Within only a few hundred paces he heard a hissing from the trees, which sounded distinctly like a vampire trying to get his attention.  A tree swayed with a creaking sound above him, as the vampire bent the tree and then leapt to another.  A moment later Uta dropped from above directly in front of Lucian, so close to him that he leapt backwards away from her.

“No need to be frightened,” Uta reprimanded him, spreading a wicked smile across her face.  Her dark hair and eyes contrasted strongly with her pale skin, and she always partially leaned forward when she stood, leading with her nose, which seemed to smell the emotions of those she interacted with. “Do you have anything for me?” Uta asked.

“I took some notes,” Lucian said, extending the piece of paper that he’d been writing on.

“Asha’s not much of a reader,” Uta said, looking at the piece of paper, which Uta hadn’t the capacity to read either, and tossing it back to Lucian, “Just tell me what it says.  I’ll remember.”

Lucian briefly recounted what he’d seen, checking his notes to make sure he didn’t miss anything.  In response, Uta asked, “What did Andrei, Flaviu and Vasile talk about at this meeting?” clearly displeased with the thinness of the intelligence Lucian had provided.

“I don’t know,” Lucian admitted.

“What did Flaviu want with the gunpowder?”

“I don’t know,” Lucian admitted, “For guns I assume .  They must be planning an attack.”

“This is not enough,” Uta told him, “We need more information.  Most especially we need to know when this attack is and how they’re going to attack.  Now, get back to Terem and find out what you can, and if not there, go to Vallaya.”

Uta, at these words, then turned around and ran away as fast as her legs could carry her in the direction of the coven.

When Uta arrived at the coven, she relayed the information to Asha, who was at the time in her room standing in a tub of warm water, while two male vampires scrubbed her body with soap.  She smelled fresh, with a hint of frankincense to cover up the normally pungent vampire odor.

Asha turned to look at Uta while she relayed the information.  After heard all the information that Uta had to provide, in a moment of angry caprice she slapped Uta across the cheek with violent force.

By way of apology she admitted, “You don’t deserve that.  It’s not your fault.  It would be better if you passed that on to Lucian.  I’m afraid you’ll have to help him.  Go to Vallaya.  Spy on Andrei.  Tell me everything you see, and if you can find Vasile, see what he’s doing as well.”  Asha then added as she turned her head downwards and looked at her naked body, “I think I’ll visit Beniamin, see if I can ply my wiles on him, to see what he knows.”

“You have a most beautiful physique,” Uta concurred with a nod.

After Uta left, Asha asked to be dried off and brought her daylight clothes.

Oana continued overseeing the carving of the altar in the arena, which had been progressing well.  Much of the outline of the altar had been carved into the wall, with only a little bit of the rough work left.  Detail work would follow, and that would take nearly as long, but it would still be useful for fulfilling its pious purpose even in rough form.  It provided a space to pray before and praise the almighty, which she believed even those trapped in this horrible place ought to do.

Oana herself, even felt the compulsion to praise God as she observed how excellently the work was progressing, and took the opportunity to lower herself to her knees and pray.

While kneeling she heard behind her the sound of many footsteps walking in unison.  As Oana turned around she saw Dragomir standing at the center of his entourage.  Without a word of explanation he grabbed Oana’s wrist and pulled her towards him.  He dipped a bit of fabric into an inkwell and then drew an X on the back of her hand with the ink.  He then forcefully grabbed her other hand and drew an X on that one too.

“I gave you many warnings,” Dragomir said, “Don’t pretend you didn’t know this was coming.”  He then pushed her to the ground and walked away with his entourage.

Cornel’s blacksmith shop was nothing more than four walls and a roof, with a great furnace at one end and a large door at the front to open it for customers.  Tools and metal implement lied about everywhere and the floor was simply the bare earth beneath, cleared of all grass or plants.

As Vasile entered into the hot room, he saw Cornel pounding away at a wedge of metal that was to make the head of a shovel.  Cornel raised his head when he saw Vasile entering and said to him, “Welcome.”

Vasile greeted him, and said, “I’ve come to ask you a favor.  We’re going to be attacking the vampire’s coven.  As you may have heard, we think they have hundreds of humans being held captive.  We have some troops from Terem joining us, but we would appreciate your help in this battle.  Any strong hand that can wield a weapon is of value, even if you have no combat experience.”

Cornel didn’t say a word, but simply set down his work and walked over to a wall, where many tools were hanging.  He selected what looked to him like a suitably large double-bitted axe and held it in his arms, feeling the weight and swinging it  to see how it felt.  Then he walked over to Vasile and said, “I’m ready. Lead the way.”

Vasile smiled and said, “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but not right now.  In a few days we hope.  I’ll be sure and tell you.”

“Just tell me when and I’ll be ready,” Cornel said, setting down the axe and returning to his work.

In a bush behind the shop Uta hid while this short transaction was taking place.  She watched as Vasile left the shop and walked down the village main street.  He passed the church and walked the road towards Josef’s farm.  She didn’t think she could follow him directly without being seen, since this would require her to walk directly through the center of town.  She decided to take a long, circuitous route, and meet him at Josef’s, his most likely destination.  For this purpose, she darted through the woods towards the edge of the city, zipping through forests and fields, hiding behind shrubbery and trees.

She arrived just in time to anticipate Vasile’s arrival, lying flat in an irrigation ditch within hearing distance.  In the early hours of evening, with the sun low, Josef was heading indoors when Vasile and Josef intersected each other in front of the house.  After a quick greeting, Vasile explained to Josef the same thing he’d explained to Cornel about their attack on the coven.

After listening to Vasile’s words, Josef looked out across his fields thoughtfully and asked Vasile, “Will I die?”

Vasile admitted, “I can’t guarantee you’ll survive.  But we shall do what we can to preserve you.”

“I’ve got a lot of people that depend on me: my wife, my son, my landlord.  But there’s also my daughter.  She depends on me too.  You think she’s alive down there?”

“Lina thinks it’s unlikely she’s been killed.  If she is alive we shall save her, with or without your help.”

“Is my son going?” Josef asked.

“He has assured me that he will be joining us.”

“You’ll take care of my wife and daughter, should both my son and I die,” Josef asked, and Vasile nodded.  “Then do you have need of an arquebusier?” Josef finally asked, “I’m experienced and have a steady aim.”

Vasile replied with a smile, “Yes we do.”

<-- Go to Part 95         Go to Part 97 -->

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 95

“What do you mean?” Andrei asked Flaviu.

“I’ve got a few barrels of gunpowder in my store right now.  It shouldn’t be too hard to get a few more.  There’s been a bit of a lapse in the warfare recently, so we might be able to acquire some from one of the armies.  All we need to do is set a light to those barrels and it’ll pop the top off of that cave like a wine flask,” Flaviu said.

“And then we bring our guns, our cannons and our archers to the edge of that crater and we shoot down every vampire still moving,” Andrei added.

“But the cave system extends deeper beyond that main room.  Long hallways of personal rooms.  Many vampires will be in their own room, no matter when you attack,” Lina said, interjecting, “You will still have to descend and face them hand to hand.”

“No, what we’ll have to do is bring more explosives and dump them down in there to open up the place more.  I trust Vasile and Andrei know what they’re talking about, when they say that these vampires are too dangerous for hand to hand combat.”

“We can’t go too far with the explosions,” Andrei added, “We have to worry about the humans, the ones were there to supposedly save.  How far are they in there?”

“The pen begins maybe a hundred paces from the Great Hall,” Lina said.

“We can’t go very far.  Even with the gunpowder over the Great Hall, there’s a genuine risk we might still cause a cave in over the humans,” Flaviu noted, “Though we can’t avoid taking some risk, we can only push it so far.”

“Unless we could get all those vampires to be in the Great Hall.  Is there a way to do that?” Andrei asked Lina.

Lina said, shrugging her shoulders, “The only time I ever saw them all gathered there was when I first arrived.  They gathered to see me infected.”

“That’s what we need to think about, how to get them underneath that explosion,” Andrei declared, “Because I think this is the plan we’re stuck with.”

They all nodded, then the three men stood, and Lina stood with them.

“Lina, might I note that we couldn't have done it without you,” Andrei told her, flashing a bright smile in her direction.

“I have to agree with the good apothecary,” Flaviu agreed, belting out a hearty laugh to show his concurrence.

Vasile last of all nodded, “I never thought I’d see the day when a vampire would do so much to help me.”

The three men then turned around and, carrying their candle and the last bit of the dim light with them, they walked up the stairs and out of the room.

As they exited the church, they failed to notice Lucian kneeling in the front of the church, ostensibly in prayer.  His hands clasped in front of him, Lucian turned his head just enough to catch the faces of the three men that left.  He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote out the substance of what he had seen, noting that he’d seen Flaviu, Andrei and Vasile apparently meeting with Lina, who was now staying in the crypt of the church.  He then he stood up and exited the church with the folded paper in hand and followed Flaviu around the wall.

<-- Go to Part 94         Go to Part 96 -->

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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 94

Lina quietly ate away at meat and vampire wares in the dark of the crypt.  She was interrupted by the sound of a person opening the door to the crypt.  Some faint light was visible down the stairs and Lina automatically recoiled from it, grabbing a cloak to cover herself.

Several pairs of feet came stomping down the stairs.  In the lead was Andrei who bore a bronze candleholder, with single candle, which he shielded with his hand.

“Lina, good to see you.  Hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he said to her.  She nodded back to him.

Behind him, Vasile and Flaviu followed.  They waved their greetings and then proceeded to sit in a circle on the ground amongst the coffins, around the candle that Andrei had set down.

“We’re planning our attack,” Flaviu began, addressing Lina, “We need you to tell us what you can about the layout of the caves.  How many rooms and halls and how are they oriented?  Especially, what’s the entrance like?  How would we get in?”

“The entrance is surrounded by shrubbery and covered by a large rock, which I can lift,” Lina explained, “Behind the rock is a wooden door.  After the wooden door is a down-sloping cave which leads to the Great Hall.  From there, you have another cave leading into a long hall, down which all the bedrooms are located and the pen.”

Flaviu had to interrupt at this point, “Alright, so to invade, we’d have to lift a rock, then we’d have to use a battering ram to pummel open the door?  And we’d face no countermeasures here (no archers raining down on us from the wall or hot oil being poured on us); so it’d be pretty easy.  Then we’d simply be facing some forty odd vampires in hand to hand combat in the caves?”

“There’s nothing simple about that last step,” Andrei said, “In hand to hand combat the vampires would tear you to shreds.  This is nothing like traditional siege warfare.  These vampires are vicious, they’re fast and they’re strong.  It’d be a bloodbath if you tried to enter that way.”

“It’s true.  I am not the strongest among them, but I believe I could kill all three of you right now before you could escape this room,” Lina said, with a certain chilling frankness that brought the three men to a dead silence, “It is out of courtesy that I do not.”

There was a long pause before Vaile continued, “I just wanted to add that I’ve been hunting vampires my whole life.  No hunter ever gets close to them if he wants to live.  We use arrows and crossbows from a distance and we thoroughly disable them before we approach, both because they’re dangerous and we have to worry about infection.”

“But within those confined space, projectiles are almost worthless.  There’s no space for us to put distance between us and the vampires.  We start firing on them, and they storm our archers and kill them in a matter of moments,” Flaviu objected.

“Exactly.  And you’re not even mentioning that this will all be in the dark,” Andrei said, raising his hand to draw their attention to their current surroundings, “These are underground caves.  And the vampires can see vastly better than you and I in the dark.”

“Excuse me,” Lina quietly interjected, “It’s not completely dark.  There’s torches and candles everywhere, and if it’s during the day, there’re some small holes in the ceiling of the Great Hall.”  Lina had been hesitant to speak, and as soon as they all turned to look at her, she shyly lowered her eyes.  She added, “They permit some light in through the ceiling and give us fresh air.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Vasile said, dismissing her comment, “In dim light or complete blackness they have the advantage.”

“Wait a minute, though,” Andrei pointedly interjected, “Did you say there’s light coming in through the ceiling?”  Lina looked at Andrei confused, but she nodded.  “So those light holes presumable extend to the surface, right?” Andrei asked.  Lina again nodded, and Andrei continued, “Do you know how many of these holes there are and where we could find them from the surface?”

“There’s two of them I know of,” Lina said, “I don’t know where they come out on the surface, but I could figure it out.  Nonetheless, I don’t know why you should be interested.  They’re far too small to enter through.  They’re only maybe a hand’s breadth in diameter.”

“No, but maybe we could expand them.  We could dig through the ceiling.  That’s where we should be entering from.  If we can bore an opening through the ceiling, then we can snipe from there,” Andrei suggested.

“But how are we going to open the roof without being detected?  It’d take the hand of God to lift so much earth quickly enough to surprise them.  It’s not like just popping open the lid of a barrel to peak at what’s inside,” Vasile objected.

“Ahh, but we don’t need to lift off the lid of the barrel,” Flaviu said, with a burst of laughter rising in his stomach, “We just need to blow it to splinters.”

<-- Go to Part 93         Go to Part 95 -->

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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 93

The sound of Sim’s screams could only faintly and distortedly be heard in the halls of the pen.  Constanta, who’d been making friends with whomever she could, was sitting in the arena next to a woman named Sorina.  She had brown, ratty hair, which she kept cropped short, around a pretty face, in which her eyes frequently flashed with excitement, making her look like one who can take delight in anything.  She managed to keep herself clean, which was rather difficult in the pen, and for this reason, among others, she was popular with the men.

“What is that sound?” Constanta asked, as she had many times before, “It sounds horrible.”

“It’s best not to know,” Sorina said, quickly changing topics.  “There’s a woman who cuts hair in here,” Sorina said to Constanta, inspecting her hair, “Yours is getting rather grimy, You’ll have to earn some money to pay for the haircut, of course, but it’s worth it.”  She smiled with a characteristically devilish smile, which made her seem as if she was always trying to hide some secret impropriety.

“How would I earn money?” Constanta asked, “How do you earn money?”

Sorina laughed a little, answering, “You don’t want to earn money the way I do.”  When Constanta insisted on asking again her about her job, Sorina relented by saying, “I give companionship to men.”

Contanta looked at her confused, and Sorina explained, “Men get lonely and I provide myself as someone to be there with them.  Just like you have friends and family that you want to spend time with, men need people to spend time with, and they prefer to do it in the company of young, beautiful women.  There’re a number of women who provide similar services here in the pen.  It’s probably the most abundantly offered service here.  It doesn’t pay that well, but what else have I got to offer?”

“Men are strange,” Constanta commented, still perplexed.

“That they are,” Sorina said, “But I don't think it’s a job you should take.  Not for a long time.  Not until you give up.”

“Give up on what?”

“On the thought that you’re ever going to get out of here,” Sorina said, “I gave up a long time ago.  I was kidnapped probably when I was about your age.  I’ve been trapped here in the darkness for years.  You’d be surprised how you can get used to it, even feel like you belong.  I really don’t know what I’d do if I ever got out of here.”

“We will be out of here soon.  I’m convinced of it,” Constanta said, then asking as she leaned in close to speak quietly into Sorina’s ear, “You know what I believe?  I believe that Nicoleta wasn’t taken off to be eaten.  I believe that the little vampire that took her away was freeing her.”

Sorina didn’t laugh as she normally did, or even change the expression of her face when Constanta said this.  She only nodded her head.  She then looked around the room to see if anyone was listening in and she said quietly to Constanta, “Dragomir would be furious if he heard me saying this.  He’s bee vehement in insisting that Nicoleta is dead.  But I heard that vampire say something.  I was there when Nicoleta was taken, within earshot.”

Sorina had Constanta’s full attention as the two girls conferred close together, Sorina’s lips near Constanta’s ear to pass on the secret as confidentially as possible.  “Don’t tell anyone, but I thought she said to Nicoleta, ‘I’m freeing you.’  And that same vampire had come to the pen earlier looking for Nicoleta, as if she knew her.”

Constanta’s eyes widened as she heard these words.  She simply responded, “I knew it.”

Constanta then looked at Sorina with a glowing smile on her face, and Sorina repeated with her devilish smile, “But don’t tell anyone.”

“I won’t,” Constanta smiled, “This is the best news I’ve heard since I’ve arrived.  Don’t you see?  Nicoleta’s disappearance is like the rebirth of Lazarus.”  Sorina was confused so Constanta had to explain, “Lazarus was the first person resurrected.  He was the harbinger.  The first sign of the glorious apocalypse to come when we mortal humans will be resurrected and judged, when we will be freed from the oppressive kingdom of men, and liberated into the kingdom of heaven.”

Sorina laughed again, and gave Constanta an affectionate slap on the knee, saying, “Well I hope our liberation comes faster than the apocalypse.  It’s been sixteen centuries since the birth of Jesus with no apocalypse.  I can’t wait that long.”

Constanta laughed at this, thinking that Sorina had said something very scandalous, but she smiled delightfully.

<-- Go to Part 92         Go to Part 94 -->

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 92

Through the halls of the coven, the sound of Sim’s screams were currently on the increase.  Like the sound of wind whistling through cracks in the walls, the sound would fall and rise in the same way that gusts would ebb and swell.  Asha had ordered Sim’s torture to be scheduled regularly, vacillating him between periods of intense pain and periods of restless relaxation.

While they now worked on Sim again, the sound of his screams echoed through the halls, and was heard clearly in the Great Hall where Asha sat on her throne.

Leaning forward to apply her piercing eyes to Uta, who knelt before her, Asha said, “If Lucian can’t get Lina back, then he’s no use to me.  Tell Lucian that I dispose of those things that are no longer useful to me.  I can’t tolerate waste.  I need intelligence — useful intelligence.  Do people know about the pen?  Are they planning something?  What?  When?  Where?  I need to know immediately.”

“Yes mistress,” Uta said bowing, “I’ll deliver your message.”

“Deliver it with emphasis,” Asha said, “Make it memorable.”

That evening Uta infiltrated Lucian’s estate once again.  For a man of such wealth and prestige, it was surprisingly vulnerable.  She was able to manipulate the latch that locked the shutters outside his daughters’ room with ease.

The room had the look of one occupied by two young girls, with two, matching four-poster beds and toys and dolls spread out on the floor, including a wooden horse on wheels and rag dolls decked out in fine clothes.  Carved animal figurines hung on a string beneath an overhanging shelf, on which were displayed a collection of colorful stones.

Uta restrained each girl in turn: gently opening the curtains to her bed, then gagging the girl, then turning her over on her stomach and tying her hands behind her back.  With the two girls thus restrained, Uta held onto both of them and led them, by force, out of their bedroom room into their parents’ bedroom.  That room was locked, but Uta was able to break open the door with one swift kick.

Lucian and his wife both abruptly woke and rose from their bed at the sound.  When they looked at Uta with their two daughters, gagged and tied, they shouted plaintive calls.  Lucian tried to muster a commanding voice and he said, “What are you doing with my daughters?  Let them go this instant.  I order you.”

“I’m just here to deliver a message,” Uta placidly screeched.

“Just tell me the message, in God’s name,” Lucian shouted at her, “Why do my daughters have to be involved?”

Uta continued speaking as if Lucian had said nothing, explaining in articulated words, “In the coven, we have a great many humans meant for food stored in a massive, blocked-off section we call ‘the pen.’  Not all of them are ready to be slaughtered immediately.  Many we want to keep and hold onto for a while.  So, to distinguish those ready to be slaughtered, we stain the backs of their hands with red ink when they’re ready.  Allow me to demonstrate.”

At this point, Uta forced one of the girls to the ground, and held her down with one knee.  Uta pulled out a small dagger from her cloak, prompting Lucian to call out “No,” and try to run forward and stop her.  Uta deftly kicked Lucian away with her foot and then continued with her demonstration.

Uta dug the knife into the little girl’s skin and carved a line in the back of the hand, then she carved a crossing line to form an X.  The little girl squealed a high-pitch scream as she kicked and squirmed.  Then Uta applied herself to carving anther X into the opposite hand.  Large drips of blood bled out from these four gashes, down her hands and wrists.  Uta followed by carving the same pattern into the sister’s hands, accompanied by the same screams and protestations, which Uta dutifully ignored.

Finished, she stood the two girls up and turned them around to display their hands to their parents.

“I think you understand what this means.  I’m only here to deliver a message, but Asha asked me to make it memorable, so I pray you won’t forget, lest I have to return and apply more emphasis.”

“No, no,” the two parents shook their heads.  Uta then related the message in Asha’s words, and Lucian earnestly promised, “I will find out everything I can.  I can tell you already that they know about the pen.  They know there are hundreds.  And I saw Andrei and Flaviu, the captain of the guard, conferring confidentially.”

“Find out more,” Uta said.  She then dropped the two crying girls to the ground and walked away.  The parents leaped forward to hug their girl, who couldn’t restrain their fitful sobs.

<-- Go to Part 91         Go to Part 93 -->

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 91

After the meeting was over, Andrei prepared to bring Lina back to Vallaya with him on horseback.  But Nicoleta insisted, “Please, Andrei, she should stay here, where she’ll be safe.”

“Safe from the vampires perhaps, but what about these people?  I can’t imagine all of them are sanguine about giving harbor to a vampire, especially when Lucian’s been so successful in planting doubt in their minds,” Andrei said.

“In the convent then,” Nicoleta urged.

“I’m not sure…” Andrei began to say, but Nicoleta was already running off, shouting back at Andrei, “I’ll go ask Elisabeta.”

Nicoleta grabbed Lina to take her with her on this errand.  They exited and rounded the city walls, to enter the convent from the other side.

They found Elisabeta in her cell engaged in writing.  The door was open and Nicoleta had to regrettably interrupt with an artificial clearing of her throat.  Elisabeta turned to see the completely black-enshrouded Lina with Nicoleta beside her.  Elisabeta, wearing her black cassock and apostolnik, rose to speak, asking, “What is it dear?”

“Sister Elisabeta,” Nicoleta politely began, “I would like to ask your permission to allow Madalina to stay with us at the convent.  We were at Andrei’s before, but that place has already been attacked by the vampires once, and it’s much safer here inside the walls.”

Elisabeta’s normally sunny face darkened with concern as she looked at the black figure.  “Don’t you worry about infection?  Won’t she infect someone?” she asked.

“It doesn’t work like that,” Nicoleta told her, “It’s actually somewhat difficult to infect someone.”

“What about daylight?” Elisabeta asked, “Where could we put her to keep out of the light?”

This time Lina screeched in answer, “The crypt.  I’ll stay there during the day.”

“We’re already harboring someone.  Ileana.  I don’t know if we can harbor another.”

“Lina can afford to pay you for your troubles,” Nicoleta replied, “Andrei owes her lots of gold”

Elisabeta groaned a little, when she could think of no further excuses, adding, “Well, let me ask the Abbess.  Perhaps you two should come with me.”

Elisabeta led the way down the hall to the bedroom where the Abbess lay in rest.  Opening the door to the ornately decorated room, with its beautiful wall coverings and comfortable bed, Elisabeta called out to the Abbess, who lay in her bed, “Mother Alina, I need to ask you about something.”

“Do we have a visitor?” Abbess Alina asked when she saw Lina in her cloak.

“That’s what I wanted to ask you about Mother.  You see this little girl…. Well, she’s actually a vampire, though she used to be one of our novices.  She wants to stay here at the convent, for her safety,” Elisabeta explained.

“You know, in my day, we would have nothing to do with the vampires,” Alina explained, like one explaining some surprising revelation, “They were our enemies and that was that.  It’s really nice to see that things have changed and we’ve come to terms with them.  I really resented that we had to always be at odds.”

“But this girl deliberately left our convent to become a vampire only recently.  She put the life of one of our novices at risk, and may have gotten one of our sisters killed.  Do we really want to permit her safe harbor?”

“I have a secret for you, though I really shouldn’t tell,” Alina said quietly, slightly leaning forward, “When I was a young rassophore nun, one of our novices confessed to me that she wanted to be a vampire.  I had to do everything I could to prevent her from leaving the convent.  She confessed that the lifestyle of the vampires just seemed so free from the usual restraints to her.  She thought her life here was so tough and that if she just became a vampire, it’ll all be easy.”  Alina laughed a little as she recounted these thoughts, adding, “It was only for a brief period, fortunately, but it was with great effort I restrained her.  Her name was Oana and she eventually became a sister herself.  It’s silly now to think about now.  It’s curious to see how the wisdom of old age can repent of the dreams of youth.  I wonder what became of her.”

“Mother Alina, I was asking whether we could allow this vampire to stay in our convent.  What do you say?” Eliseta repeated.

“Oh dear, yes,” Alina replied instantly, “We welcome all God’s children.  I should wonder more what we might feed her, though.  Do vampires eat porridge and stew?”

“We’ll be going then, Mother Alina,” Elisabeta said, bowing and retreating.

Alina waved, saying, “Good bye, nice to have met you,” to Lina.

Despondently Elisabeta led the two girls down into the darkness of the crypt.  Lina saw the gated recess where she’d been locked up and the many tombs and graffitied walls.  Lina removed her cloak and stuffed it in the only source of light, an air vent close to the ceiling, occluding all but the smallest slivers of light.

After Lina removed her head covering, Elisetaba once again saw the face of the innocent and vulnerable-looking child she knew — significantly changed, and to all appearances even older than before, but still familiar.  Elisabeta looked at her with concern and simply said, “I’m so sorry, “ before departing from the room.

<-- Go to Part 90         Go to Part 92 -->

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 90

After pointing his accusing finger at Lina, Lucian continued: “We are being dragged into an internal dispute.  If this vampire were to have her way, we would be forced to fight her war for her.  Like us, the vampires battle for power.  But unlike us, they employ a savagery that we cannot fathom.  This vampire here seeks to take command of the coven of vampires that lives in the woods.  But she cannot do it alone.  That is why she has conned us into thinking that there are people we need to save.  Because she wants us to take our troops and risk our lives and attack her coven for her benefit.  When the war is over and the coven is mostly dust, she will seize control of the vampires that have been defeated and weakened, by our hands.”

“Do not forget that we have signed a truce, and the vampires are still willing to honor it.  All we need to do is return this vampire.  We do not need to return this girl.  Her survival is a blessing to us, and we should all wish her a long life.  We do not need to give the vampires another human soul.  All we need to do is return one of their own.  Are we concerned about the life of a mere vampire that we are willing to risk lives for it and to end our truce?  Why are we listening to these lies?”

“They are not lies,” Lina burst out in a loud screech.

Before Lucian could object, Andrei stood up and told the people nearest the window, “Could we close the shutters as a courtesy to Lina.  Please.”  Several persons went to the windows and closed the shutters, leaving only a few faint traces of light in the room.

Once the daylight was expunged, Lina stood from her chair and strode forward.  With her exposed white hands, she removed her hood and removed the black cloth that covered her face and revealed herself to the crowd.  She was not quite the beauty that Asha was.  She still looked young, for a vampire.  But she experienced something she was not accustomed to before the crowd: they were captivated by her radiant face.  Her gorgeous face commanded their attention, even if she did not have the practiced speaking skill of Lucian.

“Nicoleta has chosen to speak, of her own volition.  She has no reason to lie for me.  It was I who captured her; I who handed her over to the vampires; I who nearly got her killed.  I kidnapped her for them because I wanted to become one of them.  It is my fault she was almost killed.  Why would she lie for me?  She would’ve been stuck there underground for decades, prodded into birthing more food for them.  There are some now who have been there for decades.  They loathe the vampires.  They wouldn’t come before you to help us, any of us.

“And what would I benefit from this?  I do not want you to visit my coven and slay the strongest among them, leaving some behind for me to command.  No.  I want to wipe them all out.  Leave none behind.  And after that you will see that many, many persons that you have missed for a long time will be returned to you.  Trust this young girl.”

After speaking, Lina retreated to her seat and bundled herself in her cloak again, hiding from the many eyes that looked up at her.

Lucian tried to break in again at this point, but he was unable to raise his voice above the crowd, which was now alive with debate and protest.  Persons from everywhere were shouting back and forth at one another and refusing to be quieted.  The crowd was in a ruckus once again, as it had been just after Nicoleta had first spoken.  Though not everyone was willing to believe Nicoleta, the majority seemed to be on her side.

Amidst the noise and commotion, Flaviu walked up to Andrei and said to him, extending his hand for a shake, “You will have my soldiers to help you with this attack.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Andrei graciously replied.

Flaviu followed by asking, “When is this attack then?”

“I don’t even know the how, let alone the when,” Andrei admitted, “We’re going to start planning immediately.  But, whatever you do, make sure that Lucian knows as little as possible, if not less.  I don’t think I trust him.”

<-- Go to Part 89         Go to Part 91 -->

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 89

Sister Elisabeta reached down and swept up Nicoleta in her arms, screaming with joy, “Look everyone, Nicoleta’s back!  She’s back!  She’s alive!”

The whole tone and tempo of the convent changed at that moment.  At once, everyone came to an abrupt stop.  Then, curious to see what Elisabeta was talking about, they started approaching.  Once people recognized Nicoleta and really understood what Elisabeta was saying, they gushed with joy.

Elisabeta hugged Nicoleta so tight, that Nicoleta struggled to breath, while Elisabeta wept profusely.  “You don’t know how horrible it was to see you taken away, I thought, for good,” Elisabeta cried, “It’s like having one come back from the dead.”

Others, just as quickly pushed in to greet and hug and ask their questions of Nicoleta.  Dorina and Mirela were soon in the crowd pushing their way through, squeezing between the bodies of the larger adults that crowded around Nicoleta.  When they finally reached Nicoleta, they too hugged her, tears streaming down their cheeks.

The crowd finally quieted down when Elisabeta asked Nicoleta, “And what about Sister Oana and Madalina?”

Nicoleta tried to weakly smile as she told them, “They’re both alive.  But …”

“What is it?” Mirela pressed.

“Sister Oana was alive the last I saw her.  But she’s trapped.  The vampires have her, and I don’t know how long they’ll let her live.  And Madalina.  She’s become one of them.”

The silence persisted long after they heard these disappointing words.

The next day a meeting was called at the town hall.  The room was filled again to brimming with the curious citizens of Terem elbowing their ways into seats to hear from the girl who’d escaped.

While the crowd murmured in anticipation and people still jostled for seats, Ileana leaned down and told Nicoleta, whispering in her ear, “You’re going to tell the crowd what you told us.  Just say the words however they come to you and take as much time as you want.  You don’t have to be nervous.”

Seated at the table next to Ileana, sat Andrei and besides him, bundled in her black cloak, was Lina.  She kept her head lowered and had wrapped her cloak around her arms so that she looked like a baby in black swaddling clothes, quietly waiting in her corner.

Flaviu, the captain of the guard, stood up and, in his commanding voice, he ordered, “Quiet!” and the room immediately fell silent.  All eyes turned to look at Nicoleta as Flaviu gave her his hand to help her stand and move forward.

Nicoleta stood nervously before the assembled crowd, afraid to raise her eye and look out on all the eyes that looked back at her.  She turned to Ileana for support, and Ileana smiled her encouragement.

“The vampires captured me,” Nicoleta began, “But they didn’t kill me.  They didn’t want to kill me.  They live in a cave underground, out in the forest somewhere.  And underground with them they have a cage, a gigantic cage, where they keep people, very many people.  Almost every day, they go into the cage and they take someone out, and they eat them.  And they have so many, they never run out of people to eat.”

“How many people are in this cage?” Flaviu asked her, bending down to her level and speaking gently.

“I don’t know,” Nicoleta admitted.

“More people than are in this room?” Flaviu asked, as his eyes tracked across the crowd of nearly three hundred people.”

“Yes,” Nicoleta replied, “More than twice as many, I think.  It’s a great many people, so it’s hard to keep count.”

A cry of shock broke out across the crowd as more than one person voiced their amazement.  People started standing up, shouting towards the front, barely able to confine themselves in their seats.

Then a booming voice commanded silence across the crowd.  This time it wasn’t Flaviu.  Lucian stood from a seat in the front row and turned to address the crowd.  “This is a lie,” he told them in his most sincere and forthright voice, “I have it by the word of Asha herself that this is a lie.”

“This girl here was captured for food, shortly before our agreement was signed.  But the vampires have assured me that they consume humans no more.  Just like the rest of us, they eat the flesh of animals: beef, lamb, pork, and so on.  This girl was meant to be food (the vampires do not deny it), and only by the grace of God was she freed.  But she represents the end of an era.  She would’ve been the last human sacrificed to their hunger.  There are no more.”

As the crowd began to stir and object, Lucian raised his voice again, “Now you might ask, ‘Why is it that such lies are being told?’  And I can tell you the answer.  And the answer is sitting right there in that cloak.”

At this point Lucian turned and pointed a finger at Lina, who still sat in her cloak at the front of the room.

<-- Go to Part 88         Go to Part 90 -->

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 88

The next day Andrei decided that Nicoleta would have to return to her convent.

“It’s much safer there,” Andrei told Ieana that morning, sitting at the table, cutting from a loaf of bread, “There’s no chance the vampires will be able to get to her there inside those walls.”

Ileana shrugged her shoulders in agreement. “Though it’s so nice having a child around.  It’d be nice if we could have one,” Ileana commented, a warm smile crossing her face, “And she’s a sweat girl.  I’ll miss her.”

“Maybe you should go with her, then,” Andrei suggested, pointedly gesturing with the knife in his hand, “Just for the time being, of course.  Just until things are safer here.”

“But what about you?” Ileana asked.

“Someone needs to look after the shop during the day.  And defend it at night.  Don’t worry about me, I’ll have Vasile and Anton here to protect it with me, and to help me rebuild our defenses.”

“And Lina?”

Andrei shifted in his seat before he responded, taking a napkin to wipe his lips and standing from his seat.  He spoke cautiously, “She would be safer in Terem too.  But I don’t think they’ll take her.  Though, I would feel safer if she were there.”

Ileana found Nicoleta sitting in the workroom, bored, and she bent down and said to her, “We’re taking you back home today.”

“What do you mean?” Nicoleta asked, turning to look at Ileana.

“To the convent in Terem,” Ileana said, “You’ll be safer there.  And it is your home, of course.  I’m sure there’re people there who miss you very much.  You do like it there?”

Nicoleta nodded and then asked, “What about Lina?” gesturing in the direction of Lina who was still huddled in the corner of the workroom, “It’s her home too.”

Ileana hesitated as she thought exactly how she might respond.  Lina interrupted her, though, announcing, “They don’t want me there.  I don’t have a home anymore.  You needn’t bother.  I’ll be safe here.  I can certainly defend myself against vampires.”

Nicoleta approached Lina slowly and then sat down on the floor next to her, her shy little eyes bent down to peak under Lina’s hood.  Nicoleta said to her, “Madalina, I want to tell you something.”  Lina just raised her eyes, to peak at Nicoleta through the hood.  “I do forgive you for what you did, for kidnapping me and getting Sister Oana captured.  And I really, truly thank you for freeing me.  Even if you got me captured in the first place, the thing you did for me is above and beyond generous.  It makes me feel bad about all the mean things I said about you while in the convent.  I’m sorry.  The girls and I didn’t like you.  That’s no secret.  But we were wrong.”

Nicoleta then reached forward and did the best she could to hug Lina, even though Lina was still wrapped in her cloak with her knees against her chest and seemed unresponsive.  Nicoleta reached around Lina and gripped her for a moment before she let go.  As Nicoleta stood up and walked away, Lina said, “Thank you too.”

Andrei told Ileana just before she left, “Be careful.  The road to Terem’s dangerous.”

Ileana simply rolled her eyes and walked out the door, telling him, “I’ve rode far more dangerous roads than that.”

She pulled her horse from the stable and placed Nicoleta in the saddle, saying, “I’m guessing you haven’t ridden a horse before.”  Nicoleta shook her head and Ileana mounted the horse along with her and kicked it into motion.

As the horse galloped down the road towards Terem, the wind blowing through their hair, Ileana asked Nicoleta, “Is this fun?”  A big smile spread across Nicoleta’s face as she nodded excitedly, her eyes staring forward at the trees that zipped by on either side.

Ileana brought the horse to a stop at the doors of the convent.  The great doors of the main gate were currently closed, but not locked, and when Ileana pushed the door open it gave way.  In one hand she led the horse forward by the bridle and in the other she held onto Nicoleta, who hid behind Ileana as they entered.

The main courtyard was alive with people, moving back and forth about their business.  Several nuns in black habits, as well as a few novices and a great many servants moved this way and that, apparently so engrossed in their duties, that they didn’t notice the entrance of this stranger with her horse.

It was finally Sister Elisabeta who noticed the stranger, and came forward asking, “Is there something I can help you with?”

As she asked the question, she looked down to see who the young lady hiding behind the stranger was.  Nicoleta peaked out from behind Ileana and Sister Elisabeta’s mouth dropped with shock.

“Nicoleta?” she whispered in disbelief.  She then asked Ileana, “This is really her?  Am I really seeing her?”  Ileana nodded and Elisabeta burst out with joy.

<-- Go to Part 87         Go to Part 89 -->

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