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, March 30, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 52

Mir looked at Lina once she’d turned around and said to her with a dismissive grunt, “The new girl.  Sim’s infected.  Right?  What was your name again?  Lina?”  Lina nodded, and he continued, “I’m Mir.  If no one has told you yet, access to this area is not for casual visits.  We don’t want to infect our animals now do we?  What were you doing here?”

“Just talking to one of them,” Lina innocently replied, “I didn’t know it was restricted.”

“Well don’t talk to them,” he stringently ordered, “It’s not good becoming emotionally attached to your meals.  This is not your place.  Tell Sim to keep a closer eye on you, since you’re his responsibility and he’ll get punished for your wrongdoings.  Now, get out of here.”

Lina looked back quickly in Nicoleta’s direction before she left and saw Nicoleta looking back at her with a confused look.  Then she quickly left, and went directly to Sim’s room, telling him she was ready to start her cleaning duties.

Nicoleta meanwhile asked Oana, “What was that about?”

“She wanted to know whether you’re alive,” Oana replied.

“It makes no sense.  Why would she care?  What did she think would happen when she handed me over to the vampires?  As far as she knew I was supposed to be dead and eaten by now.”

Nicoleta wandered away from the large “barred room” and went deeper into the caverns of the humans’ vast pen, to reach the so-called “arena.”  Unlike the clearly artificial walls of the barred room, the arena appeared to be one of the original natural caverns the coven was built upon, since the ceiling was populated by a forest of stalactites that hung in long spikes from the ceiling.  The ground had been smoothed out and mostly flattened, with many random pieces of furniture scattered about, but the ceiling and many of the walls were untouched.  Many people sat in the room, some relaxing, some talking, others sleeping, and others alone, preoccupied with thought.

Nicoleta sat down on the cold floor and herself became preoccupied with thought, wondering what would happen to her here.  She had already learned that there were people who had been here for decades.  Even a few children who had been born here.  Was this to be her permanent home from now on?

Many events had transpired since the night she was taken from the convent and Nicoleta recollected them in order. It began when Madalina had suddenly woken her from a sleep, tightly wrapped in her own sheets, her mouth gagged and Madalina ominously looming over her.  She had been carried on Madalina’s shoulder, stuffed through tight orifices and ultimately placed at the feet of the vampires like a divine offering.  Then she was placed inside a net and carried by the vampires’ rapid steps through the woods to the entrance of their cave.

Once inside, she remembered seeing that vast room with vampires in numbers she simply couldn’t count, as she repeatedly tried to swing her head this way and that to catch all that was going on.  While in the process of carried through the forest her fears had been able to slowly subside and hibernate in her chest, but seeing such sights, in disbelief that there could be such vast numbers of vampires hidden under the surface of the ground, her fears were vehemently revived.  The only possibility that crossed her mind was that she was to be food for these monsters and that they would tear her body limb from limb and eat her every fragment of flesh until she was finally relieved from the suffering by the oblivion of death and her soul’s ascent to heaven.

But that wasn’t what they did.  The one vampire, that female, who entered with such a regal presence, ordered her and Oana taken away, and so they were.  Passing through halls and rooms, until a door was opened, she and Oana were untied and then thrown through the opening, just before the door was closed behind them.

When she stood up, she grabbed Oana for comfort, and they looked around terrified, not knowing what horrors to expect from the shadows.  They cautiously began to explore the space, with great trepidation, staying close to one another to protect each other.

The first person to approach them walked with a crooked step and had long black hair that splashed out in all directions atop his head.  He seemed to have only one good eye, and bent this ugly face towards them to give them a good look.  He asked them, “What’s your names,” and likewise introduced himself as “Dragomir.”

In a certain sense, he was the leader of the humans of the pen, and only advised them of one thing, “Stay out of the way of the vampires if you want to last.”

The next day, Nicoleta would discover what Dragomir meant.

<-- Go to Part 51         Go to Part 53 -->

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 51

Once Lina decided that, for her own peace of mind, she had to see if Nicoleta was still alive, she knew it must be done immediately.

She already knew that rules in the coven were different than the rules that restricted her in the convent she’d left.  She had more freedom of movement here, not to mention her own room, but she still wondered whether there were any places that were off limits to her, such as the holding cell where the humans were.  And she wondered how they punished misbehavers her.  She was not eager to find out, but still knew she had to see Nicoleta.

She stepped out of her room and quietly closed the door, almost by instinct.  It had been what she’d done every time she’d snuck out of her room at the convent at night, though it was hardly necessary in these circumstances.

When vampires passed her by in the halls, they looked at her with cold, threatening stares, which she was unsure how to interpret: were they suspicious of a new vampire wandering about unchaperoned?  At first, when she’d met Sim, she’d found him abrasive and hostile; so perhaps this was normally how vampires treated new members.  Vampires were not, to all appearances, warm and friendly with one another and she would have to adapt herself to their manners.

She walked in the direction of the holding cell, ambling quietly over the stone floor.  Entering the room she’d only just recently left, she again saw the long row of bars that stood between the vampires and the humans.  She looked around to see if any vampire was nearby spying on her before she cautiously approached the bars.

People recoiled from her when she approached, even though the bars kept her out just as much as they kept the humans in.  Holding onto the bars, she called out in a loud whisper, “Nicoleta!  Where are you?  Does someone know Nicoleta?”

The humans looked at Lina with suspicion and malice. One even took the brazen step of spitting in Lina’s direction, but most of them simply backed away and tried to hide in the shadows.

Lina continued her pleads, “Nicoleta!  I have to know if you’re alive!  They didn’t kill you already did they?”

“They wouldn’t kill her,” some anonymous person spoke from the shadows, “Too young.”

“You know Nicoleta?  And she’s alive?” Lina asked with some excitement, “Oh, please could you find her for me, so I can see her with my own eyes.”

All Lina could hear from that direction was a sort of dismissive huff, as the person expressed their disparagement of Lina’s request and made no movement to help.

Finally a shape approached her, and when it got closer, Lina saw once again, Sister Oana, looming still tall and imposing above Lina.  The experience of being confined underground for days had certainly cowed and disheartened Oana, giving her a more frightening and disheveled appearance than before.

“What do you want?” Oana asked.

“Nicoleta.  Is she alive?  Can I talk to her?” Lina asked.

“She’s alive.  I don’t know if she could be easily found.  There’s a vast web of caves back through these halls.  It’s shocking to think how much of this underground the vampires have dug out beneath the surface.  But why do you need to speak with Nicoleta?”

“I just want to talk to her.  To see if she’s alive and doing alright,” Lina pleaded.

“You are the reason she is in here, and the reason I am in here.  You are cooperating with infernal creatures that have no part in God’s law, and you are asking for us to help you.  For what?  To ease your own conscience?  Is this it now?  Now you are feeling guilty, while you’re still human?  After it’s too late for us?  If you want to ease your conscience then release us all and kill every last vampire from the earth, and only then will God, perhaps, forgive you.”

“I’m here,” a weak voice called from out of the shadows, compelling Oana to stop her tirade.

“Nicoleta,” Lina said, addressing her roommate as she saw her stepping out of the shadows.   Lina reached her hands through the bars as if she wanted to touch Nicoleta’s hand, “They’re taking care of you, aren’t they?”

Nicoleta simply nodded.  She didn’t approach Lina, whose actions confused her more than anything.  Here was the girl that had kidnapped her and handed her over to the vampires and now she seemed to be acting like they were long parted friends.

A gruff and screeching voice of one of the vampires, suddenly called out from behind Lina, causing her to jump and pull away from the bars of a sudden.  “What are you doing here,” a strange vampire she didn’t know, named Mir, said to her, and she turned around cautiously.

<-- Go to Part 50         Go to Part 52 -->

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 50

Lina started seeing many shadows moving around on the other side of the bars.  She didn’t immediately realize they weren’t vampires, but, their movements and the color of their skin gave it away.  The room was filled with humans who drearily shuffled about.

“The granary is for them,” Sim explained to her, and she understood that the huge stocks of food were necessary to keep these unseen numbers of persons alive.

The way he said this and sort of smiled indicated that this room was a great point of pride for the coven.  It was like a rich man showing off his costly jewels and furs, or, perhaps more appropriately, showing off the vast herds of cattle that grazed in his fields.  It would take Lina a long time to appreciate the work that had gone into building this hoard of humans, but her reaction would probably have been unswayed had she been aware.

All she could feel, when she looked at just the numbers of persons she could see, maybe eighty to a hundred, not to mention those she couldn’t see, was a deep unsettling horror, which was all the worse, because, with Sim beside her, she felt that this feeling was not something she could outwardly express.  She tried her best to hide her reaction.

At that moment a face passed in front of her vision: Oana.  Oana was among the sad faces that shuffled about, and Oana turned and saw Lina.  Lina remembered that moment in the forest, just a few days before, when Sister Oana, pinned under a net and terrified, had asked Madalina, “You’re helping the vampires?” in a way that tried to impress upon Madalina the profound guilt that she should feel.  Sister Oana, now behind the bars, looked at Madalina in the same way she had in the forest, when she realized Madalina was cooperating with the vampires.  Lina felt the sting of that look, and it was even more of a struggle for her to hold back her reaction.

“You are not your blush of shame; you are not your tears; you are not that weight on your chest.  All of those are not you, and can be put aside and stomped beneath your feet,” Lina silently told herself as she closed her eyes.

“This is our granary,” Sim explained to her, “The pen where we keep our food.”

Sim then gestured for them to leave, telling her, “You won’t be working here.”

The next room he showed her was simply called “the kitchen,” though there were no fires or ovens or anything resembling cooking going on inside

“This is where we prepare our food.  You will not be working here either, at present,” Sim told her.

The room had a low ceiling and was furnished with several tables and shelves.  There were now two vampires, Suma and Tor, that moved around actively with large pots and bowls being stirred, while indiscriminate ingredients were being added.  She wasn’t enthusiastic about knowing the source of the food they were preparing or their methods of preparation, as she imagined it would only make the experience of consuming the food more repellent than it already was.

The final room he showed to her was simply identified as their cache.  It was something between a treasure horde and a junk pile.  The room was stuffed high with acquisitions that the vampires had made from their various raids over the centuries, including quite valuable sums of precious metal and jewelry as well as furniture and artwork of varying states of condition and grades of quality, besides mountains of clothes, linens and fabrics.  Many of these items were clearly useful and valuable, but others seemed as if they’d simply been left, with no one wanting them but no one wanting to throw them out either.

“If you want, you can comb through the cache for clothes or decorations for your room,” Sim explained.  She tried to give a feeble smile, but she didn’t have much excitement left in her.

She stepped inside and looked through the dresses, halfheartedly.  She didn’t want to be searching through piles of junk now.  She, in fact, didn’t want to do much of anything at all right now.  She told Sim, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m tired.  Can I go and rest.  I’d like to give my new bed a try.”

“Of course,” Sim replied and he led her back to her room.

When they arrived, Sim told her, “After you rest, you’ll start your work assignment.  You’ll be cleaning.  You’ll find me in my room.”

She nodded and told him she would see him soon.  Then she closed the door and went to the bed and lay on top of it.  She was not sleepy, simply drained of energy and emotion.  She wanted to close her eyes and escape from all this unpleasantness in dreams, but she couldn’t.  Too many thoughts passed through her head, and in her thoughts she wondered if Nicoleta was there, whether she had survived.  After many minutes of restless cogitation, she finally resolved that she must find out if Nicoleta was in the pen and still alive.

<-- Go to Part 49         Go to Part 51 -->

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 49

Anton told Constanta, as she held the vampire medicine: “You’ll want to mix it with something.”  He fetched a bowl of oats, added some water and mixed in some of the medicine.  It made the otherwise lightly flavored oatmeal potently awful.  But Constanta ate it down to appease her brother.

After retching a bit at the taste, she calmed down and could begin to feel the effect.  It was overwhelming.  She could feel it inside her body like a vapor slowly suffusing from the pit of her stomach to her fingertips and toes, and a rush of energy that surged through her body followed behind.  She leapt up and told Anton, “This is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever eaten in my life,” and kissed Anton profusely on his cheeks, leaping about and cheering with excitement.

Anton smiled and said, “Wow!  It seems to work even better for you than for me.  I’ll definitely have to get as much as I can for you.”

In the coven, Lina too was feeling better.  The feeling of sickness was quickly subsiding and her state of health continued to improve even beyond its previous norm, until it felt like her body was humming like the string of a violin.  She felt like she could run a thousand miles without getting tired and could leap over the tops of the trees.  Her body also felt much warmer than it had before, and she seemed to pump heat out of her bowels like an oven, like someone could stuff raw dough inside her and pull out a baked loaf some minutes later.

“You’re ready,” Sim told her as he entered his room and saw her energetically hopping around, “Let me show you around.”

They stepped out of the room, into a hallway extending in both directions with doors on either side.  Up a set of stairs to one side was another level, too, with more of the same doors, all of them leading to the vampires’ private bedrooms.  On the wood surface of all the doors animals were carved in relief to distinguish one door from another.  As she looked at Sim’s door, it had carved into it the image of a horse, with its four legs extended in a full gallop while the hair of its mane streamed in the wind.

Sim led Lina up a set of stairs to a door on the upper level, which, unlike the lower level, was a curved hallway, with rooms only on one side.  At the far end was a door inscribed with the image of a cat, standing on its two hind feet while its forepaws extended forward as if it were actively scratching some unseen foe.  Sim opened the door and told her, “Here is your room.”

Lina’s room had a fine bed, with a good carpet spread on the ground and some decoration on the wall.  “It formerly belonged to Sol, who was killed shortly before you and I met,” Sim explained.

She didn’t like it quite so much as she’d liked Sim’s room: it seemed smaller, less elegantly decorated and was further away, but she was still delighted.  “I’ve never had a room all to myself.  I don’t even know what I should do with it,” she said.

As she stepped inside, she noticed, next to her bed, hanging on the wall a small mirror, made from polished silver and glass, and she looked at an image she didn’t often get to look at.  She’d never been proud of her visage.  She knew she was a girl of no particular beauty: she had an irregular face that was too long with a crooked nose, sunken eyes and an absent chin.  But something about her face seemed to be different now that she studied it closely.  She raised her lips and closely inspected her teeth, which continued to grow, her canines now significantly protruded and her incisors more pointed and sharp.

Lina remembered that Sim was standing there waiting for her, since he had more of the caves to show her.  He watched her with a smile as she inspected herself.  She sheepishly apologized and followed behind while he led her down the hallways.

Returning to the lower level, he led her deeper into the bowels of the cave.  Their first stop was a room Sim identified as the granary.  She only took a peak inside, where she saw large overflowing sacks of wheat, barley, onions, potatoes, cheese, and more.  She asked, “What is this for?  I didn’t think you vampires ate this food.”

He didn’t answer her question directly, but with a smile said, “Let me show you the next room.”

This next room was vastly larger than even the Great Hall where she’d first been introduced.  Its ceilings were average height, but it stretched deep into the darkness, but these depths were blocked from her by a large row of bars that completely prevented entrance or exit.  It was so huge and seemed to extend further than she could see, down many separate caves and recesses off into the distance, that she didn’t realize at first what was on the other side of the bars.

<-- Go to Part 48         Go to Part 50 -->

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

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 48

Lucian’s announcement brought a sudden clamor of speech from the crowd.  Many people had already anticipated this development and it only confirmed that the rumors were true.  Yet still, to hear it now from Lucian’s lips made emotions begin to pour out.  Many of the citizens cried out in celebration, including Josif, who cheered on the news with a vociferous shout.  Others among the crowd, more quietly, expressed silent disappointment.

“No longer will we have to fear them stealing our children at night,” Lucian jubilantly announced, trying to ride the wave of excitement from the crowd, “No longer will we have to fear them raiding our towns.  The threat of the vampires is over, from hereon and in perpetuity.  One day in the future we will look back on this era with a quaint reminiscence, and wonder what it was that made us once so afraid.  We will say to ourselves, ‘What could’ve made us cower in fear?  These vampires are our neighbors, and our friends.’  For, from now on, the monsters of the night are no more monsters but companions.

“From now on anyone caught murdering a vampire will be treated the same as any other murderer.  No longer will vampire killers be excepted from our rights and laws.  And we no longer from theirs: we shall be given the privilege to punish vampires who commit crimes against us, the same as if it were one of our own.  Today we leave behind those old fears and embrace a new prosperity in which progress will no longer be hindered by fear and in which possibilities will reach higher than we once thought possible.”

“When will this agreement take effect?” Andrei cut in at this point.  It appeared as if Lucian had quite a bit more words to say, though not really any new information to convey.

“We will make an official announcement at Terem, in three days.  A binding agreement will be signed before all present, and our town’s practice of vampire hunting will cease to be legal, and, to the great power of God be thanked, will cease to be necessary or desirable as well.”

Anton looked at Vasile, who gripped Anton’s shoulder to comfort him.  He quietly told Anton, “We’ll continue to hunt until the agreement is signed.  I promise we’ll bag you another kill before you have to go back to farming.”

At the end of the meeting, Andrei’s only response was to quietly tell Ileana, “We’ll have to raise the prices on our vampire wares to control supply.”

Anton, though, could not react so calmly, unleashing the full passion of his disappointment and despair once back to Andrei’s.  He pounded the walls, he wept and cursed himself for his stupidity.  “My father was right and I was such a damn fool!” he told himself over and over again as he hurled tears from his eyes and fell to his knees.

It was only with great difficulty that Vasile was able to coax him into attending the hunt that evening.  Anton’s stubbornness tried the patience of even the infinitely patient Vasile, who told him, “Our time is limited.  We must get out there and do our work as soon as possible.”

But Anton could only moan and complain, “What’s the point?  It makes no difference.  I might as well just go back to father, concede that he was right and give up this whole business.”

Eventually Anton did concede and followed Vasile out that night, though they found no success.

The next afternoon, Anton went to Andrei’s and purchased the vampire medicine that he had promised Constanta.  Andrei had a dizzying variety of different products, which Ileana explained for Anton, “We have medicines for bones, skin, liver, brain, eyes, and others.  They’re made from the respective parts of the vampire’s body: the bone formula is made from vampire bones, and the skin formula from vampire skin and so on.  Just make a request.  We also have a general formula, which is a mixture of most of the varieties together.  It’s not quite as potent as the individual medicines, and if you’ve got a particular problem, I’d recommend getting something specifically for that.  But it is our most popular product and good for overall general health.”

Anton indicated he’d like the mixture.  Ileana brought to him a small wooden box, that was tied closed with a string.  Ileana carefully opened it to display the contents inside.  Wrapped in a red cloth was a brown mixture, ground down like grains in a mill to a course powder that emitted an awful stench.

Ileana continued to explain: “Our products are of the finest quality.  My philosophy of business is that reputation is as valuable and easily swept away as gold dust, and the only way you’re going to weigh down your reputation is with consistent, high quality.  We could dilute our products with dirt or chalk or human remains, but we don’t because they wouldn’t work as well; some of our customers would notice and our reputation would be trashed.  I might be able to sell, but I couldn’t continue to demand the same high prices without the reputation, which means I wouldn’t make nearly as much money as I do now.”

Anton brought the medicine to his little sister, who was glad to see her brother, and happy to receive presents, but looked on this particular present, with mixed emotion.  “It’s very kind of you, brother,” she acknowledged with a forced smile.  Anton pressed her to eat some immediately, to see how her body responded.

<-- Go to Part 47         Go to Part 49 -->

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 47

Late that afternoon, in the forests near Vallaya, while the sun was still above the horizon, Vasile and Anton trained.  Vasile forced Anton to fire shot after shot from his longbow into a tree.  Anton’s skill with the longbow was already quite developed and it showed.  From one hundred paces, he was able to consistently place his arrow into the center of the trunk he aimed for.

When Anton tried his hand at the crossbow, though, he was not nearly as successful, flying wide of his target with most of his shots.  Anton and Vasile were constantly searching behind the tree to fetch the crossbow bolts that he’d thrown off target.

Vasile explained as they searched, “The crossbow isn’t quite as accurate as the longbow, but it is easier to aim and more effective.  I’ve modified the bolts of the crossbow so that they induce more bleeding.”

The shaft of the crossbow was much thinner than the arrow’s.  The head of the bolt consisted of two iron arrowheads, crossing perpendicularly to one another.  The arrowheads were not parallel with the shaft, and in fact curved partly around the shaft, like ribbons curling around a maypole.

“The curved arrowheads do more damage to the flesh when they penetrates the skin,” Vasile explained, “The most important thing is to get vampires to bleed, which weakens and ultimately kills them; unless you can hit them in a vital organ such as the brain or heart, which can kill them immediately in one shot.  The problem with most arrows is that the shaft of it mostly plugs up the hole when it penetrates, so they don’t bleed as much.  This is why I use larger arrowheads and thinner shafts.”

They then practiced by throwing the knife, which Anton greatly struggled with, his knife mostly slapping against the tree with its handle or not being thrown hard enough for the blade to penetrate.  Vasile warned him, “If you use the knife, keeping your distance is important.  The last thing you want to do is get any of their blood on you.  Close combat with vampires is simply not feasible.”

When they went out to hunt that evening, they saw nothing.  The vampires were quiet and Vasile told him, “Our days of vampire hunting are numbered.  There’s a meeting tomorrow, and we’ll have to attend.”

That meeting was convened by Lucian in the early evening after everyone was ready to retire after a long day’s work.  Crowds sat on the long benches that filled the main room of the town hall.  Everyone of importance was there.  Andrei and his wife Ileana sat next to each other, speaking quietly and confidentially.  Cornel, the blacksmith sat in the middle, still wearing his work attire, not speaking to anyone but sitting stiff and confidently in a calm and stoic way, his short black hair combed for the evening.  Beniamin sat in the front in colorful formal dress, anxiously reading a long scroll, which he sporadically interrupted to adjust his wig, or straighten his jacket.   Josif sat in one corner in his dirty work clothes, huddled by himself and with a posture of anger and bitterness.  He stared at his son, Anton, who sat next to Vasile and hadn’t addressed his father.  Josif’s eyes burned into Anton’s back, but the boy wouldn’t turn around to notice them, occasionally trading words with Vasile, but mostly remaining silent.

After some minutes of waiting, Lucian emerged from his office into the room, dressed formally in doublet and hose, and his usual white powdered wig on top.  He formally bowed before the crowd with extra flourish and began his speech, “My fellow villagers, I have called this meeting to apprise you of the latest developments, which I think you will find are eminently fortuitous to our situation.  As you know, the threat of the vampires has been a peril looming over our village since long before any of us here crawled from our mother’s womb.  Yet, nothing has been done about it, except to lock ourselves in at night and pray that the vampires fail to knock down these flimsy doors we hide behind.  That is, nothing has been done about it until now.

“In the interest of all citizens of Vallaya and in fact of all citizens of this great land, and of Transylvania and Romania and our neighboring countries, I have taken it upon myself to negotiate an end to all hostilities between vampires and humans, from hereon and in perpetuity.”

<-- Go to Part 46         Go to Part 48 -->

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 46

After Magistrate Lucian assented to Asha’s agreement, he and his family were released.  She told him that she would visit him when she was ready to formally begin their agreement.  That was several weeks ago.

When Lucian and his family returned to their home after having been absent for almost three days, people questioned where they’d been.  He and his family looked tired and disheveled, and when their servant greeted them at the door of their home, the questions came, and Lucian had to provide them with lies.  He told them that they had been summoned to the home of a sick relative.

After reflecting for a few moments on the history of his experience in the caves of this coven, Lucian exited through the entrance from which he’d entered, with the same vampire raising the stone to let him out again, and he returned to his office in the town hall to plan for the future town meeting.

While Lucian visited, Lina rested in Sim’s capacious bed.  As time passed, the unpleasantness slowly subsided from her body.  Her head still exploded with the sensation of a profound headache, her muscles still ached and she still felt overall unhappy and displeased.  But this time when Sim came in, felt her forehead and inspected her teeth, he told her, “The period of danger is over.  You shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick.  Ever again.”

Lina smiled weakly when Sim told this to her and thanked him for his help.

“Don’t thank me yet,” he told her, “You still have yet to try your food.”

The smile fell from her face and she looked anxiously at a wooden bowl that he now carried towards her.  She sat up and looked at it, and there was a thick red, syrupy fluid that swayed back and forth as he moved the bowl towards her.

“Drink,” he said.

The liquid was warm, and it emitted an odor that was new to her and she didn’t find pleasant.  “Blood?” she asked.

“Among other things,” he said, “You will drink it.  When you’ve drunk this, you will be a vampire and a member of this coven for now and forever.”

Lina looked around.  For the first time, she noticed that innumerable vampires were crowding at the door to Sim’s room.  She could barely see them in the dim light, but their presence urged her insistently to drink.  She couldn’t back down with all those eyes watching, so she took the bowl in her hands and she touched it to her lips.  The warm liquid flowed into her mouth and down her throat and she emptied the bowl in several large gulps.

The taste was familiar.  She’d cut herself many times in her life, such as on her fingers or on her hand, and instinctively put the wound to her mouth.  It relieved the pain and transferred to her tongue the same flavor she now tasted.  But the sweetness of her own blood was no longer the same when she tasted someone else’s blood.  It disgusted her.  The disgust was not in the taste itself, but in the idea of tasting someone else’s blood.  Still, she could not convey her disgust, and had to present the best she could make of a smile to all those who watched.

“This will be your bread and butter from now on and forever,” Sim told her, “Don’t worry.  You’ll only grow to love it more”

From behind Sim, out of the shadows, Asha emerged and told Lina, “Welcome, Lina, to our coven.  If Sim has deemed you worthy to join our coven, I’m sure that you more than are.”  Asha then tenderly kissed Lina on the cheek and left.  Then from the halls of the coven the loud sound of a collective howl emerged, as all the vampires at once celebrated the entrance of a new member to their numbers.

When everyone had left and Sim and Lina were alone she asked, “Who is that woman who was just here.  She was in the throne before.  She is so beautiful.”

“Asha,” Sim said, “Our ruler.  The first and oldest vampire among us.”

“How did she become ruler?”

“Because she is the oldest.  Admittedly, to become oldest she had to kill several vampires that preceded her.  But this was decades ago.”

“Why don’t others near the top kill her?”

“Because they know they’ll fail,” Sim responded, “She is strong and agile.  And dangerous.  And many would defend her.  She has transformed this coven for the better.”


Sim laughed at her, “You ask endless questions.  Like a curious little child.  She has changed this coven by bringing order to it.  You’ll see.  I’ll tell you more about it in due time.  But for now, you rest.  That first drink will tire you as much as if you’ve eaten a harvest feast.  You must sleep.”

<-- Go to Part 45         Go to Part 47 -->

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 45

Asha immersed herself in thought after having said these things, and Lucian waited in silence for her to continue.  He asked her cautiously, “Am I permitted to leave, now?”

“Yes,” Asha said, “But remember, until this deal is completed, your debts are yet to be discharged.”

“Yes,” Lucan bowed with deference, and then he turned to leave.  The confines of this coven still troubled him deeply and he looked on the walls of the cave with the apprehension that can only be birthed by the most unpleasant experiences.

Some several weeks ago, he, his wife, and their two daughters had been snatched directly from their home by a series of nets wielded by the vampires, whisked from their beds as easily as an eagle plucks a fish from the water.  The vampires dragged them through the forest, and then threw them to the ground in the main room.  There, he beheld a terrifying sight: numbers of vampires that he hadn’t imagined possible, more than fifty vampires, perhaps sixty, around him, in a crowd, in the dim light of the cave, leering at him hungrily.

He immediately tried to beg, “Please spare our lives.  Please do not eat us.  For the love of God, don’t eat us.  I’ll do whatever you want.  I’ll do anything,” over and over again.  He had been surprised at his own willingness to degrade himself when not only his own life, but the lives of his whole family were on the line.  All the while, Asha sat on her throne, listening to his pleadings with pleasure and with patience.  When he looked at her, he thought she would submit.  He thought she would sympathize.  But in the end she only ordered to have him put in a cage with his wife and children.

They were dragged down a cave, thrown behind a door, and locked inside.  The four of them were left alone in the dark, in some subterranean room, dank and musty and so incredibly silent.  He called out to them over and over again, to let him go, insisting that he would do whatever they wanted.  He would give them endless mountains of gold and jewels and anything they could want.  But it was to no avail.

In complete darkness, he had no sense of time, and there he waited, alone with his thoughts, which only dwelt on his apparently inevitable fate.  He imagined the vampires tearing off his flesh, eating his body until they were licking the blood from his bones.  He imagined they would then grind the bones until they were dust, which would blow away in the wind, and then they would do the same to his wife and daughters.

Vampires came to bring them food, and in the process told him that they would start by eating his youngest daughter, since the young ones tasted best.   They seemed to salivate as they looked at her, only eight years old, her glowing hair and her innocent eyes only sheltered from the horror by her own naiveté, which couldn’t quite grasp the whole horror of their situation.  He begged them to take him and spare his family, but they insisted that his daughter would make a mouthwatering delicacy.

In this way, they worked upon his desperation until it was raised to such a high pitch, that he would agree to anything to spare his family.  And only then did Asha tell him what he’d have to do.

When Asha brought him to the foot of her throne, he expected the worse, that he would have to kill some person who’d earned the enmity of the vampires, or perhaps that he would have to desecrate some holy place (for it was rumored everywhere that the vampires were haters of God and of Christ), and he was prepared to do it.  He was prepared to kill every soul in his village, even if he had to carve a crucifix into a spike and stab every last one of them through the heart, one by one; he was prepared to stab nuns and set fire to churches and commit every sin.  For his family, he was willing to do it.

All she wanted, however, was to negotiate an end to the violence.  She wanted Vasile to stop killing her kind, and any future vampire hunting to be forestalled.  She wanted, in fact, all killing of vampires to be strictly forbidden.  And, in exchange, not only would she spare the life of Lucian and his family, but her coven would also agree to stop killing the humans.  He didn’t ask why she would want to do this.  All he knew was that it was the most wonderful thing he’d heard in his life, and he readily agreed.

<-- Go to Part 44         Go to Part 46 -->

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 44

That same morning, Magistrate Lucian covertly exited the town hall and snuck into the forest.  He promptly walked in the direction of the vampire coven, constantly checking his back to make sure that no one had seen him.  He was most worried about his secretary, Beniamin, who he’d sent on an errand to talk with a few of the local farmers, which would hopefully keep him away for a few hours, plenty of time for Lucian to perform his own errand and return.

After some considerable walking, he could see in the distance the dry channel and thick nest of trees, which surrounded the entrance to the coven.  He plowed into the shrubs, through which he had to pass to reach the entrance.  He had tried before to pick up the large rock that furnished the door to their coven, but had been unsuccessful.  When he tried it now, straining with all his might to raise the stone, he again made no progress.

Fortunately there was a small hole in the ground that provided air and light to the interior of the coven.  He tramped off in that direction.  Some thirty paces away from the entrance a large boulder partially jutted out of the ground.  Down the middle it was cracked into two separate large pieces, and between them was a significant gap.  The gap appeared to simply look downward into an empty blackness, but it, in fact, extended down into the cave of the coven.  Lucian put his mouth to this gap and called out loudly, “It’s Lucian.  Open the entrance.  I can’t open it.”

He put his ear to the gap to listen for a sound of response.  A few seconds later he heard a distinct shout, “Open it for Lucian.”

Lucian hustled back to the stone, which now was gradually opening.  It was only opened partially and Lucian had to descend to his knees and crawl through.  On the other side a vampire, wearing his hooded cloak and wearing gloves and a head covering to protect his skin looked down at Lucian and let down the rock once Lucian was inside.  In the darkness, Lucian rose to his feet, and the inner, wooden door was opened.

Lucian passed through, now walking downward through the entry hall, and finally turning the corner to reach the main room of the coven, the Great Hall.  The room was almost empty, except for two vampires performing routine cleaning and maintenance.  During the daylight hours, two small shafts of sunlight lit the room to a dim twilight.  One of the shafts of light, penetrating through the hole that Lucian had spoken through, pointed directly downwards and terminated on an outcropping of rock erected to block the light from slicing directly into the center of the room.  The other light, at the opposite end, angled sideways and terminated in a wall.  The holes provided light and air, but were angled so that no direct light would ever touch a vampire.  The vampires didn’t want to have to move around within their coven with cloaks and black clothes, as they found these stiflingly hot, so any direct daylight had to be redirected so it would not strike the skin of the loosely clothed vampires.

Asha was called into the room, and she walked to her throne, while Lucian stood waiting.  “What is it?” she asked.

Lucian deferentially bowed to Asha and humbly reported, “I’ve visited and spoken with officials from all of the local villages, visited Count Mihai, a local landlord, as well as visited representatives of the Bathorys and Zapolyas, two of the biggest aristocratic families of the region.  None of them have objected to your agreement to end vampire-human killings, and said they are willing to honor it, so long as the vampires are faithful in their part.”

“Then, we shall have to visit Vallaya and make our agreement official,” Asha said.

Lucian bowed his head and tentatively suggested, “It would be better if we did it in Terem.  That’s the biggest village around here.  I know it’s a longer journey for you.  I can provide you with a carriage.”

“What I have to do to please you filthy creatures,” she complained, “The carriage better be dark.  But were you able to persuade them to destroy those infernal vampire medicines?  Are they willing to destroy Andrei’s business and stop the execrable practice of consuming our dead?”

“No,” Lucian admitted, lowering his head, “They benefit from it too much.  They’re unwilling to concede.”

“You really are despicable creatures,” Asha frowned and added through gritted teeth, “This agreement will have to do for now.  But don’t consider it our last.”

<-- Go to Part 43         Go to Part 45 -->

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 43

That day Madalina woke from an awful sleep.  In her fevered delirium she had dreamt many unpleasant dreams.  In one, she had tried to return to the convent and the sisters rejected her and labeled her a witch and prepared to tie her up with her sheets and set her atop a pyre.  In another, while walking in the forest, she was trapped in a net and then bit by a vampire she didn’t know on the neck and it caused her blood to burn like it was molten lead.

When she awoke, the sheets she lay in were soaked with her sweat and were wrapped tightly around her due to all of the wriggling and squirming in her sleep.  She felt like her whole body was in agony.  All of her muscles ached and her skin burned.  It felt like she had been tenderized by a large mallet all night and had been dipped in a bubbling cauldron.  Her throat was scratchy and sore, as if she had swallowed an acorn whole.  Even her blood felt like it was in pain as it pumped through her veins.

Her first thought as she opened her eyes was that she was in her bed in the convent and she turned to look beside her with the full expectation of seeing Dorina and Nicoleta across the room, but instead she only saw a wall.  The memory of what had transpired, slowly dawned on her, and she looked around with apprehension at her new surroundings.

The room where she lay was beautifully decorated, with stone walls, an elegant wood ceiling and a tiled floor.  Tapestries hung on the walls, elaborate patterns were painted into the ceiling and a beautiful rug covered the floor.  A single candle illuminated the whole room, which was devoid of windows.  There were three doors in the room, though.  One led into a small toilet compartment, one led into an expansive wardrobe and one led out of the room.

She decided to explore the room, even though her body was profoundly weak and she ached all over.  Stepping out of the bed, she discovered, first of all, how cold the room was, and, only wearing a nightdress, she shivered a little.  She hobbled over to the door to the toilet compartment, and discovered Sim’s private toilet, which drained into a communal pit that all the toilets shared.  She was quite impressed; a private toilet was a luxury she’d never had.

When she walked over to the wardrobe, she found an array of clothes hung and folded: cloaks, gloves, elegant suits and a large collection of casual shirts and trousers of soft, airy material she liked the touch of.

When she tried to door out into the hall, she found it locked, and walked back to the bed.  Before stepping in, she could see just how ornate the bed was.  The bedspread that covered it was an intricately embroidered fabric, replete with swirling shapes and designs.  Underneath it were several layers of sheets, and beneath that were the many layers of cushioning that nestled her to sleep through the night.  She climbed back in and relaxed in the soothing softness of the padding, and sank into the warmth that enveloped her.

Within a few minutes, the door opened and Sim entered.  He saw immediately that Madalina was awake and he approached her to inspect her more closely and feel her forehead.

“How am I doing?” she asked weakly.

“If you’re alive, you’re doing well.  I wish I could tell you the danger has passed, but we still must wait.”

Sim then pushed back her lips to look at her teeth, and said with approval, “Good.”

Madalina felt with her tongue, what he was referring to.  Her canines seemed slightly longer, and her incisors also appeared to have grown.  Seeing a vampire from up close, she could see that Sim’s canine teeth were considerably longer than a human’s, and that his incisors had also grown longer and more pointed.  She could imagine those large, sharp teeth tearing into human flesh, which prompted her to ask, “Food for me?”

“You’re not ready,” he told her, then asking, “You were Madalina, right?”  She nodded, “yes.”  And he said, “From now on, we’ll simply call you ‘Lina.’  You’re the first we’ve had by that name.”

Lina then asked in a weak and helpless voice, “When will I be better?”

Sim said in a way that seemed like callous indifference, “If we’re lucky, soon.  If we’re not, never.”  She felt his coldness like a sting of reproach.  Even after the previous day’s ceremony, she wasn’t quite aware that he’d willingly taken on the responsibility of infecting her, and that he truly wanted her to become healthy.

<-- Go to Part 42         Go to Part 44 -->

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 42

Anton had hoped that his visit with his family would raise his spirits, but his father’s relentless negativity only made him more unsettled.  They invited him for dinner, but he said that Vasile was expecting him and that he needed to commence training.

He walked out the door and Constanta walked him down the road some way so she could talk with him alone.

“Are you happy with this apprenticeship big brother?” she asked.

“It’s only just started,” he answered evasively, adding, “Though I think I miss spending time with you three – especially you.”

“I love my big brother too,” she said, giving him a big hug, “But I worry about you.  If you died out there, it’d be horrible.  I’d be all alone, and so very sad.”

Anton was troubled by the thought of his little sister unprotected, alone, and vulnerable to the vampires of the night.

He decided to change the subject and said to her, “You know what I’m going to do for you?  I’m going to use my money to buy you some of Andrei’s vampire medicines.”  He expected this to make her happy, but when he turned to look at Constanta, her reaction was less than positive.  A disgusted look spread across her face.  Anton said, “They’ll make you stronger and healthier and more beautiful.  You won’t get sick anymore.”

“I don’t want to eat that,” Constanta said, continuing to embellish the look of disgust on her face, “It’s made from dead vampires.  Yuck.  It’s almost like cannibalism.”

“No, it’s just like the medicine that old apothecaries make from human corpses – taking dried bones and grinding them up and such to cure ailments.  Vampire wares are like any other medicine.  And besides, it’s not really cannibalism.  Vampires aren’t people.  They’re monsters.  Evil vicious monsters that would grab you out of your bed at night if it weren’t for Vasile and I.”

Constant remained unconvinced, but she was willing to concede, just for the sake of placating her brother and she reluctantly said, “I guess I can try.”

This made Anton happy and he promised wholeheartedly to bring her something within the next few days.

Anton was then off, quickly returning to Andrei’s where he found Vasile impatiently waiting for him.  Vasile told him as soon as he arrived, “We’ve got training to do.  We need to do more target practice.  I want you to be able to shoot an arrow through a vampire’s eye at a hundred paces.  And we need to start practicing your crossbow handling and knife-throwing.”  That afternoon, the two of them doggedly practiced until the setting of the sun, when they went out for an unsuccessful night’s hunt.

The next day the town was astir by the return of Magistrate Lucian.  He rolled into town in his elegant horse-drawn carriage, his usual powdered wig atop his head and a large smile on his face as he stepped out the carriage door.  Though he had not publicly announced it, the word had spread throughout Vallaya that it was concerning a treaty between vampires and humans.  Lucian simply had to convince all of the nearby towns and villages, as well as the landed aristocracy of the region, to join him in this agreement and it would be concluded.

When Andrei heard the sound of the horses and stepped out of his shop to see who it was, he saw Lucian, glowing with joy, waving to Andrei when he saw him.  He knew immediately that Lucian’s quest had been successful; he could see it in the way that Lucian glowed and swaggered.  Beniamin, Lucian’s secretary, seemed pleased with himself too, and followed behind Lucian, if not with the same swagger and confidence, at least with the same pleasure of success.

Lucian approached Andrei and said, “How are you doing?  It’s so good to see you.  You can’t imagine how successful my trip was.  I’m calling a town meeting.  Maybe we can get everyone together tomorrow evening.  Does that sound good?  Is your lovely wife back?  It’ll be a pleasure to see her once again.  I thank God every time she returns from one of those dangerous trips.  It’s so risky for a  woman alone on these roads.  I hope you’re not bitter about this agreement.   It’s not good for you, but it is for the greater good.  Without vampires to kill, your business won’t be quite as lucrative I imagine.  Though it seems like you’ve got huge stocks of those vampire wares, which should take many months, maybe years to sell out.  I think Vasile should be the one more disappointed.  Though I’ve heard he’s got gold enough stored away to live like a king for the rest of his life.”  Lucian’s words poured out of him in one continuous stream.  He didn’t bother to wait for answers to any of his questions, and finished up his sustained monologue by saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow, it’s been good talking to you,” and shook Andrei’s hand before he walked away.

<-- Go to Part 41         Go to Part 43 -->

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 41

Anton slept deeply that day after the hard exertion of chasing vampires through the dark forest at night.  The four coins he’d earned were in the pocket of the shirt he wore to sleep, and, when he woke up in the afternoon, he heard the sound of the coins jangling in his pocket.

When he stepped into the dining room of Andrei’s abode, the room was empty.  A large table was spread with a beautiful white tablecloth and a loaf of bread with some cheese wrapped in a blanket beside it stood waiting for him.  He eagerly tore off some bread and placed some bits of cheese he broke off onto it and began to eat.

Ileana heard him and entered the room.  When she saw him, she said to him, “I hope you slept well.  How about I help you break your fast with some eggs and beer?”

She returned a few minutes later with some boiled eggs and a frothing mug of beer.  Anton, who was quite hungry, opened the eggs and wolfed them down between large gulps of beer, with little attempt at civility.

“Slow down, slow down,” Ileana cheerily admonished.

She then brought out a small bowl of the same foul-tasting vampire wares that he’d eaten the day before.  She also set down a steaming bowl of beef stew, remarking, “We got the stew cooking up for Andrei’s dinner tonight.  You might try mixing in the medicine with the stew to take the edge off the taste.”

“Are you crazy?” Anton replied, “That’ll just ruin the stew.  It smells too delicious to be ruined.”

“Suite yourself,” she said, as Anton raised the brown liquid to his lips and closed his nose while he put it in his mouth.  It tasted at once sickly sweet, sour and rotten and he could feel it coating the interior of his mouth and down his throat with a stench that wouldn’t wash away, no matter how many gulps of beer he took.

After Anton finished eating, he announced to Ileana, “I’m going to visit my family.”

Ileana said, “Alright.  But don’t be too long.  Vasile will be up shortly and I’m sure he’ll want to train before dark, target practice with the bows and knives, and all that.”

“I’ll be quick,” Anton said, and he rushed out through the back of the house.  He tried to move quickly to his house, but the food weighed heavily in his stomach, and the overpowering taste of the vampire medicine was still in his mouth.

When he saw his family’s farmhouse, he felt like it’d been an eternity since he’d seen it, even though it’d only been some two days.  And apparently his sister’s Constanta felt the same way, as she suddenly ran out to come greet him with her arms outstretched and joyous as he approached.

“Oh, brother, I worry so much about you.  These past two nights I’ve been dreaming about you being bled dry by some frightening vampire.  It’s horrible.”

They walked inside and his mother who was baking bread was there to meet them.  Anton’s father, Josif, was soon to follow and they greeted him warmly, though his father looked unhappy and asked earnestly, “Have you given up this vampire-hunting business?”

“No, father,” Anton said and then reached to his pockets to pull out his gold.  He then placed the four coins on the table, saying, “My formidable hunting skills earned me this.  One for each of us.”  The three of them marveled at the wealth that he’d thrown on the table and at first couldn’t believe it.

Anton turned to his father to gloat, saying, “I told you vampire-hunting would be worth it.  I told you I would lift us out of this rut.  What do you say now father?  This is only my first week.”

Constanta and Viorica were dazzled by the coins and picked up one each, his mother asking, “For us?  This is too much.”

His sister gushed and gave Anton a warm hug saying, “I have the most wonderful brother, ever.”

But Anton’s father picked up his coin, bit it and then inspected it closely.  He said, “What am I going to do with this?  I can’t pay for anything with gold coins.  Am I supposed to go down to the blacksmith and buy a horseshoe with one of these?  Cornel wouldn’t have enough money in his whole store to change this.”

“I can get Andrei to change it for you,” Anton sighed with growing frustration.

“Then you can just give him back the whole coin,” Josif sneered, “We don’t need his charity.”

“It’s not charity!” Anton said, starting to yell, “I bagged a vampire.  I mean, we, Vasile and I, did.  We shot him through with half a dozen arrows, and this is what Andrei paid us.”

“Oh my God,” Constanta exclaimed, “I should thank heaven you weren’t killed.”

“How was it?” Viorica asked, “How was it your first time?”

“Terrifying,” Andrei said, “And terrible.  They’re so cold and powerful.  And it’s even scarier to see them up close.  I admit, I don’t have much of an appetite for killing.”

“You’ll see that I was right to try to prevent you,” Josif said, pointing his finger directly at Anton, “I just pray that you figure it out before you end up dead.”

<-- Go to Part 40         Go to Part 42 -->

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 40

In this massive room, the Great Hall, were some sixty vampires, and they were turned to look back to the group now entering, Madalina standing to the side of and behind Sim, while the other two vampires, who bore Sister Oana and Nicolete prisoner, stood behind her.

Asha then arrived, with a large shout of, “Stand Aside!” which caused the crowd of vampires to part down the middle, making way for Asha, who walked towards the throne in front without impediment.  Asha wore a simple black dress, but behind her trailed a long cloak of thick, ornamented material, which dragged along the tiles behind her.

When she reached the platform, she turned around, pulled the cloak up towards her and dropped it onto the ground.  Then she sat down on the throne with relaxed confidence.  The dress she wore hung on her body loosely, like a toga, in stark contrast to the typical puffed-out hoop-skirt dresses that one would find in the courts of the aristocracy.  Asha’s dress was something more appropriate to the warmth of the Mediterranean, than to the cold winters of middle Europe.  That dress, thigh-length, sleeveless, with a low neck line, revealed the physical perfection of Asha’s body, her pale white, flawless skin, her precise curves and the strength of her, sleek, toned muscles.  Her radiant face had the severity of a person of power and experience, and none of the sweet innocence of a young woman.  She looked like a person who’d seen more seasons than the tallest tree in their forest and was determined to survive forever.

“Send those prisoners off,” Asha said, screeching her command to the vampires that were carrying Sister Oana and Nicoleta.  Madalina watched as Bai and the other vampire dragged Madalina’s two acquaintances from the convent down a separate cave where she assumed she would see them no more.

“Present yourself!” Asha then said, addressing Sim and Madalina.  Sim started to move towards the front of the room, grabbing Madalina by the hand to take her with him.

Once at the front of the room, Asha said to Sim with a certain personal intimacy, “This is the girl who will join our coven?”

“Yes,” Sim replied, and Asha asked, addressing Madalina, “Name?”

“Madalina,” Madalina replied, and then Asha addressed herself to Sim and said, “And you agree to be the one to infect her, before all these witnesses, understanding the responsibilities this entails.”

“Yes,” Sim responded, “I agree to take care of her.  She is my responsibility.”

“And you’re willing to become infected, understanding all the risks, burdens and responsibilities that entails?” Asha said, now addressing Madalina.

Madalina had no understanding of the risks, burdens and responsibilities that Asha was referring to.  She was aware of certain limitations of being a vampire, such as being unable to see the sun anymore and her dependence on humans for food, but she was otherwise ignorant of what a life she was trading her convent for.  Nonetheless, she told Asha, “I’m willing.”

“So be it,” Asha said.  Then from a side holster she drew a dagger and raised it so that everyone could see.  She said to Sim, “This will be your sacrifice,” and then she grabbed his hand pulling it toward her and exposing his wrist.

Delicately she sliced across his wrist, to open a small sliver in his skin.  A single dark red drop of precious blood appeared and swelled at the surface of his skin.  Sim then turned to Madalina and said to her, “Drink.”

She looked uncomfortably at the blood before her, which appeared neither appealing nor appetizing, but he shouted at her one more “Drink!” grabbing her head and pulling it towards his wrist.

She put her lips to his wrist, and took the large drop in her mouth.  The salty, bitter taste touched her tongue and she swallowed it and then backed away and looked up at Sim.  He nodded to her to indicate that she’d done well.

Sim then warned, “You’ll feel light-headed.  You’ll develop a fever.  You may pass out.  It should subside in a day.  If you survive, you’ll be a vampire.”

Madalina’s response to these words was shock.  She hadn’t been told there was some chance of death.  She wanted to protest with anger, but she was starting to feel the effects of the infection as her body rebelled against the pathogens swirling in her blood.  Her head was feeling light, and she was sapped by a growing weakness that was taking her legs from beneath her.

Sim reached forward and picked her up in his arms.  Her forehead was already beading with sweat and she felt as if the whole world was disappearing from her.  Before she lost her consciousness, she heard Sim say to her, “Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of you.”

<-- Go to Part 39         Go to Part 41 -->

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 39

Despite this joyous occasion, Vasile had to deflate the mood. “Though we bagged the vampire, tonight was a failure,” Vasile soberly admitted.

Andrei and Ileana looked to Anton, who lowered his head and nodded, while Vasile continued, “Apparently there was an attack on Terem.  We saw the signal and ran in that direction.”

“It’s been years since the vampires have launched any serious attack on Terem or anywhere, for that matter.  They used to happen all the time, but the last time it happened Anton was probably still a boy.  Now people just quietly disappear, and they don’t even do that as much as they used to,” Andrei said.

“The vampires aren’t out at night as much,” Vasile said, “As I said to you before: I think they’re in decline.  I can’t imagine there’s more than five or ten of them left in all.  But as we were heading towards Terem, we saw four vampires and they had taken three females hostage.  All three women appeared to be alive. And we couldn’t stop them.  We only got the one vampire.”

“Alive?” Ileana asked, “Why?  Have you seen them taking people alive before?”

“I may have.  It’s usually hard to say.  It’s hard to get a good look at something that’s flashing by in the middle of the night,” Vasile admitted, “Tonight they were definitely alive, but I don’t know why?”

Madalina, Sim, Nicoleta, Sister Oana, Bai and the remaining vampire arrived at the coven soon after their encounter with Anton and Vasile.  They had made quick progress on foot, zipping along at the pace of a horse at gallop, until they reached the entrance of the coven.

Nestled in the base of a dry channel surrounded by a thick throng of trees, the entrance was covered with a canopy of shrubs, which they had to push through.  Beneath the shrubbery was a large stone, which appeared to be immovable and set into the ground, but which the vampires were capable of lifting.  For strong and aged vampires like Sim, the task was easy.  The stone hinged on one ends so that it opened like the mouth of an alligator, and everyone was able to enter the mouth of the cave.  Once everyone was within the entryway of the cave, Sim lowered the stone back into its place from inside.

After the stone was put back into place, the entryway was complete darkness.  Madalina’s eyes had adjusted to the faint light of night, but now they were in complete blackness.  Madalina heard movement in the darkness and when she looked in one direction she could see the faint outlines of light.  A moment later there was a knock and a door opened.  Orange, flickering light appeared and she could see two silhouetted shapes standing in the doorway.  She followed Sim and the vampires, on a downward sloping path.

She could barely see her feet in front of her, but the floor looked clean and the walls looked flat and smooth.  The ceiling was held up by supports in the form of a series of archways through which she passed.  The archways themselves were made of metal-reinforced wood, which was polished and painted.  From what she could see, the hallway through which she was passing looked more like the entryway to some great castle, than to the underground hovel or rude cave that she imagined.

As they moved further down, the light grew brighter.  It was very dim, and still quite difficult to see, but she could make out the outlines of things in the hallway.  Then they turned a corner and a great room lit by a few scattered fires opened up before her.

The room was enormous, larger than the interior of the church she’d attended at the convent.  The ceiling was as high as a tree, perhaps ten times the height of an adult, and the length and breadth of it were even longer than the height.  The ceiling was supported by four rows of thick, stone columns, decorated with ornate capitals, displaying images of vampires carved into their surface.  The floor of the place had been flattened and tiled, with a central mosaic of a dragon in the middle.  At one end was a raised platform with a chair, apparently a throne, now empty, and the rest of the room was crowded with vampires mulling around, waiting perhaps, and talking in their strident voices, which collectively sounded like the sound of a distant waterfall.

As the vampires in the room heard the returning group approaching they turned to look up to Sim, Madalina and the others.

The group was, at this point, on a walkway that was raised above the room, and Sim led Madalina down a set of stairs until they were at the level of the other vampires, whose many eyes stared intently at her the whole time.

<-- Go to Part 38         Go to Part 40 -->

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 38

There was no perceptible motion from the fallen vampire that Vasile and Anton approached, but Vasile put two more crossbow bolts into the vampire’s head and neck from a safe distance, while Anton, following his master’s lead, put one arrow through the chest, just to be sure.

Assured that it was dead, Vasile stepped forward and placed the two hooks under the shoulders to drag it.  Anton stepped forward to grab the rope and Vasile warned, “Remember, we don’t want to get infected.  Don’t touch him.  Don’t let any of his blood touch you.  Don’t even let his smell touch your nose.”

Anton nodded and began to pull, discovering that the vampire was incredibly heavy, especially for what looked to be a lean twenty-five year old male of only average height.

“They’re very heavy,” Vasile smiled understandingly with a small laugh, “And they only get heavier as they older.  This one’s probably as old as I am.”

“How can you tell?” Anton asked, looking with a puzzled look at the vampire, who only looked a few years older than himself.

Vasile strained to think of a way to explain this to Anton.  He finally said, “Vampires don’t age like you and I.  Once a person is infected they age towards their peak.  If they’re older than about their mid-twenties, they get younger; if they’re a child, they get older.  Once they hit their peak, they stop aging and just get stronger, heavier, leaner, and … well, to be honest … more beautiful.  You’ll be able to tell after a while.  It’s not something I can really teach you, just something you’ll learn by experience.”

Anton looked down at the vampire again, pierced through with arrows and bleeding from many wounds, and saw the image of a martyred St. Sebastian he’d seen in a book once, bound and writhing while arrows pierced his body.  The vampire was pale and slender like a sickly young adult, but strong as a horse and nearly flawless in handsomeness.  It was a figure that looked at once attractive, and yet also pitiable, because it looked so weak and vulnerable.

“You’ll find it’s a long slog to Andrei’s,” Vasile said, interrupting Anton’s musings, “And dangerous.  This is the time when the vampires would most love to catch us.”  Anton then they began to drag the body, while Vasile pulled with him alongside.

When they finally reached Andrei’s, Andrei was at the door in a flash, putting on his cloak, hat, mask and gloves, and opening the way for them to enter.  He openly admired the vampire as they dragged it into the cauldron, saying with pleasure, “This one is very ripe.”  He then explained to Anton, “The older vampires make better medicine.  The vampire-wares we get from them are more potent.  Whatever it is that extends the lives of the vampires, seems to accumulate in their body as they age.”

Vasile then removed his outer clothes, put them in a separate pot to heat and boil and instructed Anton to do the same, telling him, “This’ll remove any of the infection that might have been absorbed in your clothes. We take many precautions.”

Once he removed his own outer clothes, Andrei was eager to congratulate Anton on his first kill, rushing forward, shaking his hand and hugging him.  Andrei added with excitement, “And we’ll have to pay you of course.  Let me get the gold right now.”  Andrei walked away, continuing to talk, “I pay Vasile monthly, but you and I can work out whatever schedule you prefer.  For this first time we’ll pay you some gold up front.”

Andrei was still speaking while he was out of sight in the other room.  When he returned Ileana was besides him in her nightdress.  “Your first kill already,” she said to Anton and gave him a smile, then addressing Andrei, “You know what this means about me winning our bet.”

Andrei shook his head in disappointment at his wife, then dropped four beautiful gold coins into Anton’s hand.  Anton looked at the coins, silent and astonished.  In his hand was as much money as his father would earn in a year.

Andrei then explained the calculation, “This vampire weighed about two hundred twenty-five fonts, and I pay Vasile a font of gold for every five hundred fonts of vampire mass.  That adds up to forty-five hundredths of a font of gold for you two, which is seventy-one and one tenth of a dram.  Divide that by two and you each get thirty-five and fifty-five hundredths of a dram.  So, that adds up to three ten-dram coins, with a little left over.  But, as a gift for your first kill, we’ll round it up.  So, that adds up to 4 ten-dram coins.”

Anton had nothing to say, and Andrei tried to encourage Anton to smile, by spreading a large silly smile on his own face.

The only thing Anton could say was the understated comment, “My family will be pleased.”

<-- Go to Part 37         Go to Part 39 -->

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 37

The sound of vampires in full run was distinctive.  It was somewhat like the sound of a galloping horse, but without the punctuated four-hoof cadence.  It was a continuous, light thumping of feet on ground in a quick staccato beat.

It was apparent just from the sound that there was more than one vampire, in fact, it sounded like several, and Vasile was prepared to wait it out and let them pass.  But as he peaked through the shrubs that him and Anton hid behind he saw that they bore three captured humans.

Sister Oana had been secured, using the net, to a long, wooden sled, with two runners underneath.  The sled was designed to make it easier to drag victims, by reducing friction, and one of the vampires dragged this sled behind him.  Nicoleta was wrapped in her net and simply was being hung between two of the vampires, like a pot suspended over a fire.  Lastly, Vasile noticed what appeared to be a little girl clinging to the shoulders of one of the vampires, causing him to say to himself, “That’s unusual.  Why isn’t she tied up?”

He shook off that thought, realizing there was no time to contemplate it now.  He turned to Anton, leaning close into his ear and said as quietly as possible, “They have victims.  We have to attack.”

Anton was undeterred by numbers and nodded.  He raised his long bow with arrow, eager for his first kill, whispering to Vasile, “It’s about time I get to show you my skill.”

As desirous as Vasile was to try to save all three persons, Vasile and Anton alone couldn’t take on four vampires.  Their only chance was to attack one of the vampires, saving one person, and hope the rest kept running.  Vasile decided that the vampire with the sled was the most vulnerable and he said quietly to Anton, “Aim for the one with the sled.  Keep firing until it’s dead.”  And then he added with special emphasis, “Don’t miss.”

Vasile raised his crossbow just above the top of the shrubbery, took quick but careful aim and then fired.  Anton’s arrow was hard on the tail of Vasile’s and both of them lodged into the body of the vampire in quick succession, Vasile’s landing in the back of its thigh just below the buttocks and Anton’s piercing the side from behind and exiting out the front, through his stomach.

The vampire stumbled with a cry of pain as its precious blood splashed from out its wounds.  The rest of the party turned to look at their fallen brother, but Vasile gave them no opportunity to recover, raising his second crossbow and placing a crossbow bolt with surgical precision in the neck just below the jaw.  Anton was quick to unload another arrow, putting it through the stomach of the vampire now prostrate on the ground.

Bai, who was holding Nicoleta, dropped her and lunged for their brother, but Sim screeched, “Leave him!  He’s dead!  Just the sled.”

The sled was grabbed by Bai before Anton or Vasile could get a good shot, though Anton threw one wild, hasty shot that flew wide of its mark.  Vasile told him, “Save your arrows,” as his head fell under the weight of disappointment.  The three remaining vampires continued on their way rapidly while Vasile and Anton watched them disappear.

Anton couldn’t contain his anger and frustration and he pounded his fists against the nearest tree, finally letting out a few tears of frustration once he stopped.  He then sat down despondently.  Vasile looked at him with concern as he reloaded both his crossbows.  Vasile admitted despondently, “We failed.  But we still have a vampire we have to take care of.”

He pulled out two bird-shaped masks and handed one to Anton.  “This’ll keep you from becoming infected,” Vasile explained as he placed the mask on his head.   The leather mask covered the entirety of the face, with two glass eye pieces through which he could see, and then over the nose was a long, bird-like beak.  Within the tip of the beak a pungent smell emerged, from a vinegar-soaked sponge, which caused Anton to wince.  “The smell keeps you from breathing in the infectious miasma, and turning you into a vampire.  Try to breath through your nose.”

Anton nodded, standing up and following Vasile forward towards the body.  Vasile had both of his crossbows ready and pointed at the vampire, and Anton imitated him by pointing his longbow at the motionless vampire.

“Keep your weapon ready,” Vasile instructed, “They’re still dangerous.  If he’s able he’ll try to attack.  And if he can attack, he’ll kill.”

<-- Go to Part 36         Go to Part 38 -->

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 36

From their vantage point, the sentries saw imperfectly the action taking place within the forest.  The vampires gathered beneath the canopy of the trees, and the sentries could just see movement through the leaves.  They launched several arrows in the direction of the vampires with blind hope, but no apparent success.

A moment later the vampires were gone; the attack was over; all three persons were lost.

Cezar related to the nuns, with disappointment, “They’re all gone.  They’ve all been taken by vampires.  I’m sorry.”

Quiet weeping crossed the eyes of several nuns as they bowed their heads.  Whispered prayers were heard and several made the sign of the cross in petition for the souls of all those lost.  With a slow and solemn step, they finally retired to their quarters, many wiping away the tears that dripped on their cheeks.

Sister Elisabeta led Dorina and Mirela back to their room.  As they passed down the hall of the novitiate, doors were being pounded from the inside, with voices asking, “What's happened?  What's going on?”  Every novice in the building was awake and wanted to know what they'd missed, but was not permitted to leave their room.

Sister Elisabeta helped the two girls into bed and said, to console them, “The fate of Madalina and Nicoleta is in the hands of God now.  And God is a benevolent being.  We will pray for them, all of us.  Please try to sleep.  It’ll be alright.”

After Sister Elisabeta left the room and locked the door, Mirela hopped out of bed and opened the window.  She leaned out over the windowsill and called out to the novices in the neighboring rooms in a whisper, “Psst, Camelia, Andreea.  You there?”

Several windows opened on either side of her with various young faces poking out of the window to look towards Mirela.  The narrow gap between the outer wall and the novitiate was dark with no moonlight reaching down into it, so that the faces only looked like vague silhouettes of the various girls.  “I’m here.  What happened?” Camelia asked, the first to speak up.

“Madalina, Nicoleta and Sister Oana are all gone — taken by the vampires.  It looks like Madalina kidnapped Nicoleta, and Sister Oana chased her down.  Then they were all captured by vampires in the woods,” Mirela whispered in Carmelia’s direction.

“What!” Carmelia responded in a surprised whisper, “All three?  Why did Madalina kidnap Nicoleta?”

“That’s all I know,” Mirela responded, “Pass it on.”  Mirela then retracted into her room and closed the window, as further whispers relayed the message to others.

Dorina sat on her bed clasping her knees in her arms and looked up at Mirela with eyes on the verge of tears.  When Mirela leaned in to hug her, she began to bawl onto Mirela’s shoulder.

“Oh it’s so horrible,” Dorina sobbed, “Horrible.  Why Nicoleta?  She never did anything?  Madalina was asking for it, but Nicoleta…  She was nice; she always prayed; she always followed the rules.”

“I know” Mirela comforted, “It’s just not fair.  I’m going to miss her so much.”

“Did we do wrong?” Dorina asked, “Should we have told Sister Oana Madalina got out?  If we’d told her, we would’ve been punished, but it would’ve prevented Madalina from leaving.  What’s any punishment compared to getting Nicoleta back?  If only we could just do it now, and have her back.  I’d scrub every corner of that church.  I’d live inside the crypt for the rest of my life, if only it’d bring her back.  Will we be forgiven?”

“God will forgive us,” Mirela assured, “Though we erred and acted from ignorance, God will forgive us.  If it’s any comfort, remember that these are just steps on the way to some divine plan.”

“How?” Dorina leaned back and looked at Mirela with a skeptical frown.

“I don’t know,” Mirela said, “But that’s what they tell us, anyway.  And I want to believe it.”

While the young novices talked in this way, though, Anton and Vasile pursued.  They ran through the forest toward Terem in pursuit of the vampires that the signal had led them to expect.  They weren’t sure if they would ultimately reach Terem still under siege from the vampires or if they would, if fortune were on their side, encounter the vampires somewhere in the forest.  Ignorant of what was going on, they plowed forward in the hope that they might be of help, and that they might bag a vampire or two in the process.

And fortune did smile on them that evening.  Right in the middle of their run, Vasile suddenly grabbed Anton by his cloak from behind and yanked him downwards, pulling him towards the nearest bush.  As he did this he whispered with the profoundest urgency, “Down! Now!”

As they collapsed to the ground and the previous sounds of the two men subsided into silence, the faint sound of approaching vampires could just be heard.

<-- Go to Part 35         Go to Part 37 -->

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