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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 69

Lina exited her room in the direction of the kitchen.  As a first pass, she simply walked by the room, slowing down somewhat and looking inside to see what was happening inside.  There were two vampires in there.  Neither appeared to be doing anything at the moment, both sitting back and relaxing.  They didn’t raise their eyes to look at Lina, and she simply walked right by.

Lina then gathered her broom and began to sweep through the hall outside the kitchen, again looking inside as she stood before the opening.  The room contained an assortment of cauldrons, jars, bowls and barrels, scattered around the room, and none of them had any apparent labels on them to help her sort one from another.

Finally, Lina decided to step inside with her broom in hand.  She looked around the room for a few moments before one of the vampires looked up to see her.  Several bowls were spread out on a table in the center of the room and one of the vampires was ladling out the thick red liquid into the bowls.

The vampire looked at Lina, who was simply standing there, motionless, with her broom in hand and the vampire asked Lina, “You here for food?  You can take one.  It saves me the time of taking it to you.”

She gestured with her hands towards the bowls, and Lina picked up one nearest to her and raised it to her lips.  As the warm liquid slid down her throat, she realized how much she’d been thirsting for it, as a sense relief and pleasure spread through her body.

Lina raised her empty bowl as if to ask where she was supposed to put it, and the vampire gestured to a large pot in which whole stacks of dishes were already sitting.  Lina set the bowl inside.

The vampire then asked her, “Lina?  Right?”  She nodded and the vampire said, pointing to herself, “Suma.”  Then she gestured behind her where the other vampire was sitting down and staring vacantly off into the distance and said, “Tor.”

“You want me to sweep in here? Lina then politely asked Suma.  Suma turned back to look at Tor to hear his response. “This isn’t really a place for young vampires,” Tor replied, in a noncommittal and lethargic tone.

Suma decided to ignore him and told Lina, “Go ahead.  It’ll save me some work.  He doesn’t care since he does nothing anyways.”

Lina thereby started to sweep the already quite clean floors of the kitchen.  They were tiled a rather striking white that showed every tiny stain that touched them, yet, despite this, seemed quite pristine.  As she moved around the room, she could see the various pots where their food was prepared.  Seeing the various stages of the process, she intuited that the humans were slaughtered, separated, and left to dissolve in some sort of formula, which turned them into a virtually liquid mush; this was then blended into the blood, which they kept and processed separately.  The images of these partially processed bits of human parts, did nothing to make the mixture she drank as food more pleasant, and she tried to push the images she’d seen out of her mind.

Suma noticed Lina looking into the pots and said to her, “Vampires way in the past used to just eat the blood.  But if you do that, you have to kill many more victims.  We no longer have the luxury of throwing the whole body away.  We consume every part of it and can now afford to feed much greater numbers with fewer kills.”  Lina nodded her head at this piece of information and then continued to sweep.

While she swept she watched Suma out of the corner of her eye and noticed something quite interesting.  After filling all the other bowls with liquid from one pot, Suma took another bowl of a distinctly different pattern and then filled that bowl from a separate pot.  She filled this bowl quite generously and then, since it was the last she could fit on her tray, she set down the ladle.

Tor spoke up at this moment, ordering Suma, “Fetch Mir.  We need to start preparing another human.”

Suma looked at him, irritated, and said, “I’m delivering.  You do it.”  She then picked up the large tray filled with the bowls and began to walk out the door.  Lina assumed that Suma would be away for a while, leaving just her and Tor.

<-- Go to Part 68         Go to Part 70 -->

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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 68

Lina felt embarrassed when Sim told her these things and she blushed with a crimson blush that only the pallor of her vampire skin could make so bright.

“Don’t worry,” Sim assured her, “You won’t do it again.”

“But I want …” Lina began to say before she began to trail off.  She was now ashamed to ask for it, and had to do it quietly, with head lowered, “I want to go outside.”

She had to admit to herself that there were things that she couldn’t do alone and she would have to call on Sim’s help, thought the very thought made her ill-at-ease.  Even just to think of asking (not to mention to ask for) someone’s help brought to the forefront, within her, powerful internal restraints.

Sim, though, only replied with a question, “Why?”  He turned back and looked at the surgeon who was still in the room with him to see if the vampire had been listening in on their conversation.  The surgeon looked back to Sim with a blank expressionless face, as if to suggest that he was only part of the background.  “There’s nothing out there for you anymore,” Sim then told Lina without waiting for her answer.

“I Just want to get out of here for a time,” Lina told him, not being entirely untruthful.  She had often wondered how it was that all the other vampires could stand to be down in these caves for such extended periods of time without any of the fresh air of the forest above.

“You’ll get used to it,” Sim told her, “I remember what it was like when I first arrived.  I was accidentally infected by Oto, as I think I already told you, and was only admitted to this place after I’d tried to survive for months on my own above the surface.  Trying to find a way to shield yourself from the sun during the day after you’ve been kicked out of your own house by your own family, I promise you, is very difficult and was accompanied by many painful mistakes.  Even then, after this place had become my salvation from the burning light, I still felt oppressed by the confines of the cave.  I wanted to get out of here every night.  But, after nearly getting killed by vampire hunters a few times, the desire passed, for good.  I hate going up to the surface.”

“But the vampire hunters are gone now.  There’s peace,” Lina objected.

“It’s best you just stay in here,” Sim told her, “You’ll adjust.”

This brought their conversation to an end, Lina considering it unlikely that she would bend Sim to her will this time, and the two of them both left the infirmary for their respective rooms.

When Lina returned to her quarters she found herself spread across her bed, deep in thought.  Her thoughts dwelled on her sole present objective, of fulfilling her promise to Nicoleta, by freeing her.  At the moment, she had no grander designs than this.  Even this simple task seemed difficult beyond her ability.  She didn’t know how to get Nicoleta out of the pen, how to get her to the door or how to open the door.

The only strategy that Lina could think of was simply to wait for her body to grow stronger and hope the other steps could be resolved in the interim.  She didn’t know how long it would take to gain sufficient strength (weeks? months? years?).  “If only there was some way I could accelerate the process?” she thought to herself.

It was only when she finally articulated this thought in her mind, that she remembered that there was in fact was a way that she could accelerate this process: the same way that Asha had gained strength when she’d seized leadership over the coven, by consuming the flesh of her kind.  Lina knew she hadn’t the stomach to kill any vampire, let alone the capacity, but she quickly remembered that Asha had already done the killing for her, just the night before.  If she could only get to that vampire. “Surely the vampire couldn’t have been eaten and gone already,” she thought to herself, “It takes time to process.”  She admitted that she knew absolutely nothing about how the vampires processed or prepared the thick red liquid that had become her sole source of food since she’d arrived, but it seemed reasonable.  The liquid wasn’t just blood.  It was more, and though she’d been reluctant to let her curiosity pursue the question further, she suspected that processing those other parts took time.

“Is the kitchen off limits?” she then asked herself.  After a moment, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I better hurry up and go in there before someone explicitly tells me I can’t.”

<-- Go to Part 67         Go to Part 69 -->

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 67

After her unsuccessful attempt at an excursion, Lina returned to her room and tried to sleep, but she had difficulty.  Sleep wasn’t the same since she’d become a vampire.  She didn’t feel the effects of sleeplessness like she used to, though she did feel compelled to sleep from time to time, if for no other reason than to individuate her days and let her brain sort through and bring to a close all that had happened that day.  But she no longer looked forward to sleep anymore.

Her dreams had become darker.  In the world of her dreams were pervasive shadows, and the feeling of foreboding seemed to lurk around every corner.  Even the most ordinary scenarios such as fetching a loaf of bread from the kitchen in the convent, took on a different color than they had before.  She would feel, when she dreamt of that kitchen that there was something waiting for her, hiding behind the potato sack, something that might leap out at her, but didn’t.  Or if she dreamt of inspecting the forest from atop the wall, she would feel that there was something not quite visible in the forest that was heading her way, something over the horizon or in the shadows.  Every time she tried to sleep, the foreboding was always in the background, like the chirping of crickets at night.  And when she would wake up, she would only be greeted with the loneliness of an empty room.

Other things had also begun to change since she’d become a vampire.  Her strength was on the increase, along with her speed and agility.  Her teeth were growing; now they looked more like the fangs of a cat than a human. With her teeth so much bigger, the feeling of them in her mouth was a disagreeable new experience; she was not used to always feeling her teeth on the inside of her lips.  Her voice was also changing, growing more hoarse, more screeching; speaking had become more labored, more uncomfortable.  Economy of speech became desirable.

But most notable were the changes in her beauty.  Her skin looked better, though far whiter, her hair was richer and more vibrant. And her face looked almost unfamiliar.  She looked at herself in the mirror, and she still recognized herself, recognized her contours, but yet it wasn’t quite her.  Her face had, subtly, grown more pleasant.  She had always been an awkward looking girl, plain and unworthy of notice.  But now, as she looked at herself, she felt she had a face that would make boys go out of their way to catch a glimpse of, especially as she was starting to look older as well as more beautiful.

Lina left her room and went to the infirmary to find Sim.  She passed Asha on the way out and politely stepped aside for Asha to pass before she went in to see Sim.  Sim was about to leave, his wounds mostly recovered and his strength having returned.  A surgeon was inspecting his wounds once last time before letting Sim leave.

Sim saw Lina and told her, “Good to see you.”

“You almost look like you’ve never been injured at all,” Lina said, observing the now only small and faint remnants of his previously almost fatal wounds.

“We vampires heal quickly,” he said, “You’ll appreciate that.”

Then Sim’s expression turned darker and he said, “Asha spoke to me.  She thinks I’ve given you too much liberty.  There is business in this coven a young vampire is not supposed to be involved in.  You were seen in the barred room talking with humans and you were seen at the entrance.  These are places where a young vampire is not supposed to be unattended.”

Lina cut in to make an excuse, but Sim raised his hand to stop her, and spoke over her saying, “I don’t need an excuse.  I’m not here to punish.  You’re new, and you have yet to learn.  The one thing you should know, though, is that you are my responsibility.  As the one who infected you, I must take care of you, until you are ready to be independent.  And being responsible means making sacrifices.  It means I have to work more and eat less, so that there is food enough for you.  I accepted these things willingly.  I was the one who talked Asha into letting you join, and that means you’re even more my responsibility than if you were someone I’d infected accidentally.

“Making sacrifices also means that if you do something wrong, I bear the weight of the punishment.  Asha has looked the other way, since these are small and first time transgressions.  But she will not do that for you again.  Or, I should say, she will not do that for me again.”

<-- Go to Part 66         Go to Part 68 -->

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 66

There had been an older man preaching to the humans in the pen when Sister Oana and Nicoleta had arrived, but as soon as the people discovered that Oana was a monastic, they pressed her to offer what religious comfort and advice she could.

Soon Oana began preaching in the arena, where a few hundred people would collect to listen to her.  Even at her first sermon, a crowd of people crammed into the arena, occupying what sparse furniture was present, but mostly sitting where they could upon the ground.  She stood before them in the back of the arena, difficult to see in the darkness, but easily heard, even as her voice echoed off the walls.  She explained to them that despite the desperateness of their situation, they would still be granted bliss in the afterlife, which the vampires would be denied.

“It is better to be a slave in the vampires’ coven, than a vampire yourself,” Sister Oana stirringly began, “For all of you here, I tell you, your place in the afterlife is secure, so long as you continue to be virtuous and to seek forgiveness for your sins.  But for the vampires, no such afterlife is prepared for them.  For such is the fate for all who taste of the flesh of man.  These caves are their Garden of Eden and the flesh they eat, that is their fruit of the tree of good and evil.  It is their original sin and temptation.  And for that sin there shall be no redemption.

“For in the future when Christ returns, he will inflict a great judgment, and all of us will be brought before Him to be judged in body.  For all of us that have already died, our bodies will be restored.  Reassembled by the power of God, piece by piece.  Even if your body has started to rot, even if the flesh has melted away from your bones and been eaten by worms, it will be reassembled.  And it will be reassembled whole. So that, if you lost a hand in life, in the second coming that hand will be restored to you, whole.  Even if you have only lost a finger or a tooth, it too will be restored whole.  Your sight will be restored, your hearing, your strength, your youth, your vigor.  All whole once again.  By the power of God.  For the power of God is great.

“But what about for the vampires?  How will they be reassembled?  Their bodies are made, piece by piece, from the flesh of the humans they consume.  When they drink our blood, eat our meat and skin and gnaw on our bones, they take our bodies and make them part of their own.  But God will need those pieces to reconstruct our bodies.  Every last piece of the vampires’ bodies will be needed to reassemble the bodies of those the vampires have eaten.  If they have a hand that is whole only because they have eaten your hand, then God will take the hand from the vampire and give it to you.  If they have a foot that is whole only because they have eaten your foot, then God will take that foot and give it to you.

“So, what will be left for them?  Nothing, I tell you.  Nothing.  For the vampires, no part of their body will remain.  Thus, for them, they will have no part in the final judgment.  Without judgment, then they can have no access to heaven, no access to the afterlife.  What then waits for them after death?  For them, death is only oblivion, eternally.  Nothing, eternally.  They will die into the hell of oblivion, reserved for those that live off the flesh of man.  Eternally denied access to the grace of God and eternally condemned to nothingness.  Nothing, eternally.  But for you, heaven awaits.  At the judgment, the arms of heaven will open up to embrace you and eternally wrap you in their warmth.”

After Oana’s preaching, many people stepped forward and placed small bits of stalactite in her hand as donation.  The stalactites formed the backbone of the small economy of the pen.  They’d been broken from the ceilings over the years and formed a money system that circulated throughout the pen, with larger stalactites having higher values and smaller ones lesser.  Balances had been constructed to compare weights and manage trading, though there wasn’t much to trade, mostly just clothing, services and extra food.  The only wealthy person in the pen was Dragomir, who used his wealth to build around him a harem of women and occupy and furnish the best part of the pen.

Oana looked at the bits of stone and said to Nicoleta, Constanta and Crina who were there with her, “With this money, I could employ some people to build an altar or a crucifix in here, don’t you think?  Something to give this place a more edifying appearance.”

Constanta, though, looked up at Oana and shook her head, “I don’t think you should Sister Oana.  It would be beautiful if you finished it.  But you won’t, because we’re sure not to be very long.  Between Madalina and my brother (who’s an amazing hunter of vampires) it’s just a matter of time before someone frees us.  We will see the daylight again.  Madalina promised.  This is not our home.  And we won’t be trapped here much longer.  I know it.”

Nicoleta and Oana exchanged a concerned look.  Neither of them trusted Lina at all, and they certainly didn’t trust Constanta’s brother, whoever he was, to be able to free them.  But they still were touched by Constanta’s optimism.

“We don’t need their help,” Crina disagreed, “We can get out on our own.  We just need to be organized.”

“I wish I could be as optimistic as you,” Nicoleta said with a smile.

<-- Go to Part 65         Go to Part 67 -->

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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 65

For many long minutes Lina stood, her back pressed against the wall, faintly hearing the sound of the vampire on the other side of the door breathing and occasionally pacing back and forth.  Lina was understandably nervous about getting caught and as each moment passed, the probability that someone might chance upon her only increased.  She anxiously stood against the wall, trying to remain silent while the vampire on guard aggravatingly remained at his post.

Finally, however, her patience was rewarded.  The door opened, swinging inward towards Lina.  As the vampire passed through and walked downward towards the great hall she was hidden behind the door.  He didn’t even bother closing the door, casually strolling away from her in order to gather his replacement.

Lina sprang forward as soon he was out of sight.  She decided to close the door behind her so that she would be less likely to be seen by someone approaching from behind.

The section between the door and the boulder, where she was now confined, was almost completely dark.  Unlike most of the coven, which was dimly illuminated by numerous candles, torches and flames, there was no light whatsoever here.  She could see the outline of the door behind her, as the faint light from within seeped around the edges, and she could similarly see the daylight that filtered through the cracks around the edge of the boulder.

The great rock above her could be pushed upwards as it would rotate on a hinge located at the very top of it. Lina thus applied herself to raising this rock.  She had noticed her strength beginning to advance, without any effort on her part.  She had lifted the bed inside her room with an ease that surprised her, but as she now attempted to lift the boulder, it resisted as much as if she were trying to press it into the ground.  She felt like she was able to almost push it upwards a finger’s width, but only that by stressing her muscles until they burned.

Sweat rolled down her face as she finally gave up, deciding to give up her whole plan, return to her room and reserve herself for a future attempt.  But when she turned back to the closed door and tried to open it, it failed to give way.  The door must have become locked from the inside when she closed it.

Lina struggled to open the door with the same effort she’d put to the rock, and with the same success.  It was built of very thick boards of wood and was thoroughly secured to the stone walls.  She was trapped.

At first she resigned herself to being caught, figuring that when the replacement guard returned, he would open the door and she could leave.  But she decided against this after only a few moments of meditation.  She passionately wanted to get out of the caves, even if only briefly.  She surprised herself by the strength of this desire and pursued it with freshly discovered energy, by applying her strength to raising the boulder once again.

To her surprise, the massive rock began to rise with ease, even so much that it seemed to be lifted without effort.  The brilliant light of daylight poured in with a brightness that she believed she had never in her life seen, and even with the head covering to protect her eyes, it was overwhelming enough that it made her squint.

As the rock raised above her out of her reach, she fell forward onto the ground, and only then did she realize that it was another vampire that was raising the rock from the outside.  From the ground, she looked up and saw Uta looking down at her with a perplexed look.  She suddenly rose to her feet as she saw Asha approaching, accompanied by the vampires that had joined her for the treaty.

“Are you guarding the entrance?” Asha asked, with a peculiarly confused, even somewhat suspicious look, “I thought I had you sweeping the halls.”

Lina was ready with an answer with little hesitation, “I was just looking after the entrance for a few minutes between shifts.”

As if perfectly timed to confirm Lina’s lie, the door was at that moment opened and a vampire stepped through.  The vampire was surprised at the daylight.  His hands were still exposed and he was marked with a mild sunburn after only a second or so of exposure, causing him to step back and hide in the shade.

Asha didn’t linger any further, and she stepped right through the door, with her entourage following, as the boulder sank into place and cut off the daylight.  Lina trailed them at the end, and she was given a strange look by the vampire who was supposed to be on guard.

<-- Go to Part 64         Go to Part 66 -->

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 64

Uta was a small, arresting beauty, with a pleasant softness to her features – a curved nose and a round face with large, open eyes – and many eyes turned to look at her with admiration when she removed her head-covering.  But it was Asha who drew the most attention, eliciting a slight gasp of awe among the collected spectators as she exposed herself.  Asha displayed to them her creamy, soft skin, her high cheekbones, her long, thin nose and clear blue eyes, and they found it difficult to dislike her, even though many had lost acquaintances and family members to her coven.

She looked over the crowd silently like a queen surveying her subjects and the crowd stared back, drinking deeply of her beauty.  Lucian, who was waiting behind her decided to step forward to speak and break this silence.

“I thank you all for coming to witness this historic event: the end of the war between vampires and humans.  I hope you will heed me when I beg you to attend to every detail displayed before you today, since for generations to come your children and their children after them will ask you to describe how it was witness the forging of history.  I pray that this event may be retained in our collective memory for their benefit.  Just like many great events in the past, the full gravity of this event is not fully fathomable to us here in the midst of it, but in time to come it will be recognized as a great turning point that will define all future affairs to come.”

Asha had to interrupt at this point with a loud assertion of “Let’s get on with this.”  Her strident voice had an effect on the crowd quite the inverse of her appearance, and they recoiled a little to hear her assert herself with such force.

Lucian respectfully deferred to her and walked back to the table where sat the treaty that had been drawn up.  Expounded in standard legalese was a description of the conditions and penalties of their peace arrangement, beautifully inscribed in Beniamin’s excellent hand.  Asha examined the document perfunctorily, though she couldn’t read, trusting that Lucian had not tried to sneak in any provisions of which she wouldn’t approve.

“We will receive all of your capital criminals?” Asha asked Lucian and he nodded, adding, “And we yours.”

She picked up the pen, dipped it in ink and wrote, in a crude, barely legible script, “Asha.”

A whole line of officials and representatives, representing the various villages and landlords that controlled the region were standing in the front with Asha and Lucian.  They all, in turn, signed the document, with handwriting considerably more refined and polished than Asha’s, until the whole bottom of the treaty was crowded with a congeries of signatures.

No handshakes were exchanged, but Asha and her four companions gave short bows to each of the representatives after they signed.

When all was completed Lucian rolled up the document and raised it in the air in triumph while Asha put back on her head covering and hooded herself, the other vampires following her lead.  Without further formalities she left, walking down the center aisle and exiting through the front door.  Lucian and Beniamin quickly followed behind and led the vampires into the two carriages, which departed from the village as abruptly as they’d come, headed back to the coven.

Lina was meanwhile preparing to make a small, unauthorized excursion out of the caves.  The timing was ideal, since Asha was still away and Sim, who was supposed to watch Lina, was still infirmed.  For this purpose, she entered her room and found a head covering, gloves and a hooded cloak in her closet, all of which she folded into a sack.  Sack in hand, she travelled to the great hall, which was, at the time, mostly empty.

The sole entrance and exit from the coven was the passage leading up and out of the great hall.  To exit the caves required passing through the passage, to a locked wooden door at the end of this passage and then lifting the large boulder that covered the opening.

The region between the door and boulder was under constant guard.  A number of different vampires shared this duty and they cycled frequently among them, sometimes leaving the place unguarded for several minutes while one of them went out to fetch the replacement.  It was a job that wasn’t practiced with much seriousness since no outsider had ever actually successfully discovered the entrance and it was doubted that any ever would.  And, with a peace deal being signed at that very moment, it seemed all the more pointless.  For these reasons, it wasn’t uncommon for guards to be found in profound dereliction of their duty.

It was this failing that Lina was counting on, hoping to sneak through during one of these gaps of duty.  From the great hall she swiftly climbed up into the dark passage leading out, unnoticed by the few vampires present.

Upon reaching the locked wooden door, she put on her dark clothes, and then she waited.  She could smell the vampire on the other side and knew that it was only a matter of patience.

<-- Go to Part 63         Go to Part 65 -->

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 63

Asha and Uta sat in a carriage looking directly across at Lucian and Beniamin, seated opposite them.  The carriage bumped around violently on the rough forest road, while in the center of the carriage the knees of the two humans and the two vampires were dangerously close to touching.  With each new jolt Beniamin stiffened himself to prevent himself from lurching forward and accidentally coming into contact with Asha.  He had come to believe that any direct physical contact with a vampire would automatically lead to infection making this carriage journey a terrifying ordeal for him.

He finally asked Lucian leaning towards him and trying to speak quietly, “Are you sure there’s no risk of infection?”

“There is no risk,” Asha loudly proclaimed in response, “Your damn worthless physicians have fed you more mountains of ignorance than I could possible push aside, but I will tell you this: we vampires know how infection works.  Vampirism is not spread through bad air; it is not spread through touching.  It is spread through fluids.  It lives in our blood, in our sweat, in our spit, in our tears.  So unless you decide to drink one of these fluids of mine or my companion, then you needn’t worry.  Though, I suppose a kiss would work as well.  Would you like to kiss me Beniamin?”

Asha said it in a taunting way, but Beniamin blushed when she said it.  Though her head was hooded and covered in a black cloth that enshrouded her face, Beniamin was familiar with Asha’s beauty from their previous meeting.  To his mind, she was the most enchanting creature he’d ever seen and he yearned for her to remove that covering and reveal her face again.  The carriage’s interior was dark, with the doors and curtains closed, but, though she was oppressed by stifling heat, she didn’t deem it safe and preferred to remain covered.

The ride was long, but they eventually pulled in through the gates of Terem.  The horse hoofs echoed on the stone pavement as they pulled into the center of town.  The market was alive with crowds bustling about in a loud hum of activity.  But when Asha and the four vampires accompanying her stepped out of the carriages, the crowds stopped and fell into silence.

Asha had never been inside the walls of Terem.  They were high and well guarded.  She’d always wanted to breach them, but only now, with peace, did this become possible.

Flaviu, the captain of the guard was there to greet them.  He was a short, stout man with white hair and a red-cheeked face, flushed like one drunk.  He extended a hand to shake but Asha ignored him and strode forward towards the town hall where she supposed the meeting to be held

The town hall was a red brick building with several white-framed windows and a pair of chimneys emerging from either side of the roof.  When Asha opened the door she was confronted with a large open room stacked with pews that were now filled with onlookers.  Above her head was also a gallery section and she could here the shifting of feet as people heard her entrance and moved in anticipation of seeing her and the other vampires.

Most of the villagers had the good fortune of never having seen a vampire, fortunate since most those who saw vampires were victims or the families of victims, the witnesses to a terrible raid or kidnapping.  When Asha walked down the center aisle all eyes were turned to her.

Rows of windows on either side of the hall flooded the room with light, until, at Flaviu’s command, the shutters to these windows began to be shut.  Darkness spread across the room in a slow wave that proceeded behind Asha as she walked towards the front, until all the windows were ultimately closed and the room was only faintly illuminated.  The crowds of people began to mutter in evident alarm and some people even cried out in panic.  Flaviu had to shout out in a powerful voice, “Quiet!  You’re all perfectly safe.”  The commanding voice stunned the crowd into obedience, and, even though they looked on nervously, they at least kept quiet.

Reaching the table at the front where a candle burned, Asha finally took off her hood and her head covering and exposed her face to the crowd, while the four other vampires with her did the same.  Though it must surely have been difficult for most of the townspeople to see her clearly in the dim light, the effect was transformative.  They had never realized how stunning the vampires were.

<-- Go to Part 62         Go to Part 64 -->

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 62

Anton picked himself up off the ground and began to walk.  He was finally willing to give up on waiting and take the sleep that he needed.  He walked in the direction of Vallaya, towards Andrei’s, where Vasile was undoubtedly resting.  But Anton didn’t stop at Andrei’s.  He continued walking in the direction of his home, passing by the church and steadily approaching the home he could see on the horizon in the distance.

As he got closer, he could see his father repairing the window and shutters, pounding away at it with a hammer and swearing to himself.  When his father saw his son in the distance, he gave him a cold look and didn’t make a step to approach him.

He shouted in Anton’s direction, “Well, look who’s come back.  You ready to finally admit you did wrong?”  When Anton didn’t say anything, Josif then grunted and turned back to his work, paying Anton no further attention.

Viorica, his mother, was inside preparing food.  When she heard Anton enter and turned around to see him, a smile passed across her face.  But immediately afterwards she wrapped Anton in her arms in a stifling embrace while tears rolled down her face, “Oh Anton, it’s so horrible!  They took Constanta!  They took her right out of our bed while we slept.”

“I know,” Anton told her.

“You know?” she asked, raising her tear-soaked eyes to look up at her son.

“I saw her being taken away, in the forest last night,” Anton admitted, “I saw them carrying her.”

“Well, why didn’t you stop them?” she asked.

“I tried,” he told her quietly, “I tried as best as I could, with all my strength, and more.  You almost lost me to them too.  They almost killed me.  But they failed, and I failed too.  I just wasn’t good enough.  I should’ve never gone to work for Vasile.  I was wrong.  If I was here I could’ve protected her.”

“I should thank God that I haven’t lost you too,” she said, crossing herself and lowering her eyes.  Then she asked, without much interest in hearing an answer, “What will they do to her?  What have they done to her already?”

Anton traversed the room to the bed where he and his sister had slept, to the spot from which she’d been taken the night before, and he sat down on her side of the bed, touching the tussled sheets she’d only just recently used.

“I don’t want to know.  All I know is that she’s dead by now,” Anton said, before he sank down into the bed and cried.

In fact, when Constanta was taken down into the vampire’s coven, that previous night, she was, just like those before her, tossed through the door to the pen and toppled to the ground.

Just as with Nicoleta, the first person to introduce himself to Constanta was Dragomir, who asked for her name, told her his name and advised her, “Stay out of the way if you want to last.”

Constanta asked the grizzled, ugly man just as he was walking away, “Where am I?”

“You’re in the pen,” he explained, turning back to her with a wily grin, “Welcome to your new home for the rest of your life.  And if you want that life to last, do what you’re told, and keep out of the way.”

Nicoleta and Crina were there beside Constanta right after him.  After hearing the commotion of Constanta’s entrance, they rushed to go see the new arrival and bent down to help Constanta up.

“You don’t need to listen to him,” Nicoleta quietly said to Constanta, before she asked her her name.  “Don’t dare think you’ll be here for the rest of your life,” Crina added.  They took her to the kitchen to sit down.  Nicoleta and Crina comforted Constanta while they explained the way things worked in the pen.

An hour or so later, after the two subsequent prisoners were thrown in and things were beginning to quiet down, a small uproar began to emerge over a piece of paper that had been dropped into the cage by a small solitary vampire.  Lina had, once again and with considerably more caution and circumspection this time, entered the barred room.  But, instead of lingering, she simply dropped a piece of paper inside and left, hoping that it would find its way to its intended recipient.

The first person who picked it up couldn’t read it and handed it off.  It finally ended up in the hands of Dragomir, who scrutinized the lines on the page and openly declared that it was a confidential communiqué directly from the vampire leadership to himself, and that he couldn’t divulge its contents.

Oana had to directly confront Dragomir and pry the letter out of his hand with Crina’s help, much to Dragomir’s annoyance and against the resistance of Dragomir’s bodyguards.  She examined it and confirmed that it was, in fact, nothing like what Dragomir claimed.

Oana walked into another room where Nicoleta and Crina were seated and dropped the letter into Nicoleta’s lap.  Nicoleta looked up at Oana and asked, “What’s this?”

“Madalina left it,” Oana said.

Nicoleta opened the folded up piece of paper, which was a small scrap torn out of a book with letters inscribed on one side using some sort of ad hoc red ink.  Nicoleta read the written words out loud to Oana, Crina and Constanta, “Nicoleta.  You’ll see the sun again.  I promise.”

<-- Go to Part 61         Go to Part 63 -->

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 61

As the first light of dawn crept over the horizon, Anton still waited in a tree overlooking the dry streambed where he’d seen the vampires vanish.  Vasile had left him there a short while ago, tired and in need of rest.  Vasile had told Anton outright, “It’s pointless to wait here.  They never come out during day.  You’re wasting your time.”  But Anton was undeterred.

He kept his position and he intently watched the shrubbery into which they’d earlier seen the vampires disappear.  He positioned himself at an ideal vantage point, high in the branches and near the streambed, which permitted him to look down directly into the shrubbery.

He was willing to wait, all day and all night if necessary.  And wait he did.  For several hours, as his eyes grew heavier and his concentration waned, he continued to wait, his eyes focused on the spot on the forest floor where he hoped to uncover the entrance to the cave where his sister had been taken.  As each minute passed, he grew sleepier and sleepier, such that he had to focus harder and harder just to keep awake.

Then he saw something.  It was movement in the direct center of his sight, which pricked his drifting consciousness back into awareness.  The shrubbery rustled and he saw the great boulder, the one that seemed to be embedded in the ground, start to move, start to rise up and permit an opening.  Five dark-cloaked vampires emerged, one by one, into the daylight.  Their skin was thoroughly protected from the light by their heavy coats, in which they moved with great lumbering gaits.

At seeing this sight, Anton completely dispensed with caution and decided to confront them, all five of them, single-handedly, in the hope that he could force his way past them, enter the cave and free his sister.  His plan for how to accomplish this wasn’t well drawn out or carefully articulated, but, without further consideration, he leapt right into the situation, quickly climbing down the tree and plummeting to the ground.

He descended to the ground without grace or stealth and all five of the vampires immediately turned to look at the loud noise behind them.  Anton drew his long bow and pointed it at Asha.

“I’ve come to free my sister, Constanta.  Let me in there and free her and no one gets hurt,” Anton demanded while a taught bow pointed its arrow point at Asha.

The five vampires looked at him with some disbelief, not really quite sure whether to take him seriously.  Not seeing any action on their part, Anton launched his first arrow in the direction of Asha.

Asha’s reflexes, sprung into action in an instant, and she batted the arrow away in a swift sweep of her hand, sending the arrow spinning away from her onto the ground.  Then, before Anton had even the chance to reach for another arrow, she lunged directly at him, grabbing him by the neck and pushing him against a tree.

Anton’s feet dangled above the ground and the whole of his body weight was hanging by his neck, which was wrapped in an iron grip that barely permitted him room to breath.

“You don’t shoot at me,” Asha snarled at Anton while he hung there in her hands, “I could have you executed even for just attempting to kill a vampire.  That’s the way it is from now on.  You want to join your sister?  Just try to kill me.  Just take out your knife and try to stab me.  Come now?  Your hands are free.  It’s there around your belt.  Just try it.”  Then as she squeezed a little bit harder on Anton’s neck, she repeated, “Just try it.”

Anton was, once again, saved at the threshold of death by fortune.  A whistle in the distance made Asha stop and turn her head.  Two carriages waited for her and the other four vampires.  The carriages were barely discernible in the distance, and her actions were undoubtedly all but invisible to the human occupants of these carriages.  But she nonetheless, decided to toss Anton aside instead of killing or enslaving him.  With her one hand, she hurled Anton through the air such that he painfully crashed onto the forest floor.

Asha and the other vampires, then quickly walked away in the direction of the carriages.

<-- Go to Part 60         Go to Part 62 -->

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 60

Nonetheless, Sim explained to Lina: “It must have been nearly forty years ago when Asha took control of the coven.  It’s hard to keep track of time.  After living for more than a century, a year is so small.  For you, forty years is more than your whole life, but when you get as old as I am, time will change.

“Back then, the coven was different: more disorganized, more chaotic.  We had no steady food supply.  When we’d get hungry, we’d organize raiding parties and seek out some village or house and grab whatever humans we could and just gorge on their flesh until we were sated.  And since we were careless, we’d accidental infect people all the time and get picked off by vampire hunters, of which there were many, especially after we returned from these orgies of feasting.  The caves were just a place to hide out during day or until we got hungry again; so no one really took care of this place.   It was a mess.  We lived like animals, always getting into vicious fights.  Even worse, the human populations in the surrounding villages were in decline.  We were predators overgrazing our herd.

“Until Asha seized power.  To do so, she had to kill a very ancient vampire, a man of some five centuries named Jule.  Jule was a fierce, intimidating man, he was hard and intense and more than willing to kill any vampire that offended him.  Asha wasn’t the first to try and kill him, but she was the first to succeed.”

Sim paused to rest, relaxing in his bed and taking a few breaths.  He was clearly short on strength at the moment.  Finally Lina had to ask, “How did she kill him?”

“No one knows for sure but her and Jule,” Sim answered, “The rumor is that she cut his head off.  She seduced one of his guards who let her enter his room when he wasn’t there, and she hid.  Since he was exceptionally paranoid and would check every corner of his room before he went to sleep and always locked the door with a full guard to protect him, the only place she could hide without being discovered was in the toilet, by which I mean down the hole of the toilet.  Then, after he was asleep, she quietly crawled out of the toilet with a massive blade strapped to her back and quietly approached the bed.  Then she decapitated him.  She sliced down so hard on his neck that the blade sliced completely through his mattress down to the stone floor.  Then she ate him.  After that it was considerably easier to kill the five other vampires that stood between her and the leadership.”

“How did she crawl out of the hole of the toilet?” Lina asked, “It’s not that big.”

“She’s a svelte woman,” Sim said, shrugging his shoulders, “And flexible.  That’s what they say.  So, after she takes control, she changes everything.  First of all, she thinks there’re way too many vampires.  We must’ve had as many as a hundred and twenty to a hundred and thirty vampires in here, and slowly she killed them off, either by deliberately sending them in the way of the vampire hunters or just killing them off for crimes or incompetence.  She wanted to bring the coven down to exactly sixty-one vampires.  Sixty-one she saw as the perfect number, and she wanted to keep it permanently at that number.  You were brought in to replace Sol, who’d died recently.  Though you being brought in was unusual.  She also had to stop us from infecting humans and had to try and eliminate all the vampire hunters to keep them from picking us off.

“She also started making us kidnap humans instead of simply killing them when we found them so we could hold them here.  We expanded the caves, and she barred off a huge section of our caves to contain them.  She had grand visions of eventually accumulating enough that we could maintain a stable breeding population of humans.  The humans would breed and produce children, which would replace the ones we killed.  To feed the humans we had to persuade a number of local farmer to give us grains in exchange for protection from becoming our victims.

“She helped craft new ways to process dead humans so that we would eat the whole body, instead of just the blood, inspired by the techniques of the apothecaries.  And she also cleaned up the caves so that they looked much nicer, adding new rooms, and giving us all assigned work, which was essential, since we were now spending more time down here, and were trying to build a self-sustaining community.”

“Has she succeeded?” Lina asked.

“Mostly,” Sim said, “We’re finalizing an agreement that will end vampire hunting.  And as you saw, the number of humans we have is in the hundreds and could sustain us indefinitely, if they were cooperative and bred like we want them to, which they don’t.  There’s always a new problem, but we’re coming close to achieving Asha’s goal.”

<-- Go to Part 59         Go to Part 61 -->

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 59

After watching the vampire body being carried off, Asha addressed the crowd again, reminding them, “I will be leaving for Terem in a few hours and will need a volunteer to replace Sim as my personal guard, since he is currently incapacitated.”  A few volunteers stepped forward and Asha settled on a young female vampire named Uta who was well known for her speed and agility.  She then dismissed the rest and Lina ran off to see Sim.

Sim was stretched out on a bed in the infirmary, with several visible wounds.  He was propped up in bed with a bowl of red liquid being lifted to his mouth, from which he drank.  Sim smiled at Lina when she entered and told her, “Glad to see you’re well.”

Lina touched her chest to feel the arrows exit wound and then reached over her shoulder to feel the entry wound.  The spots were still tender, but were already scabbed over.  For such large wounds, they had healed surprisingly quickly.

As soon as Tam had returned her to the cave, another vampire had carefully extracted the arrow from her, which was considerably more painful than the process of putting the arrow into her, especially since it had penetrated so deep through her body, just poking out the front of her chest.  The arrows heads were deliberately barbed, so that they did just as much damage when being removed as when being put in.  But once the arrow was removed, and she could finally relax, the blood started clotting, and she was soon on her feet.

The process had been much worse for Sim, with five arrows sticking out of him.  Pulling so many arrows out of him was vastly more painful, as the barbed arrowhead scraped against his inner flesh. With the amount he had bled he was severely weakened, and passed out before all the arrows were removed.  Blood was pouring out of him on all sides, and they had to quickly clean him up and slap him awake so he could eat some food, lest he should quickly die.

Ela was on a bed next to Sim, and she’d been almost as bad.  She’d not bled as much and had more strength, but removing the arrows was just as painful for her.

Lina told Sim, “We were more worried about you than me.  You came within a hand’s breadth of death.”

“Old vampires like us are hardy.  We worry about young vulnerable vampires.  I can’t believe he shot you.  What threat did you pose?”

Lina then got in close to Sim and said to him, “I’ve got a question.”  He turned to look at her as she approached and she continued, “Asha killed one of the vampires just a few minutes ago.  He didn’t bring back a victim, so she drank his blood until he was dead.  Then she ordered him taken off to the kitchen.  Why?”

Sim looked at her warily, apparently reluctant to answer her question. Finally he confessed, in a whisper, leaning close into her ear, “She’ll eat him.”

Lina stepped back with some shock, but Sim gestured for her to come close to him again and listen.  “Have you ever heard of vampire wares?”

Lina nodded, saying, “I’ve heard of them.  They’re medicines made from vampires.”

Sim continued, “Vampire wares can make humans who consume them healthier, younger, stronger, and so on.  They work the same for us.  If you were to eat another vampire, you’d become much strong and healthier than you are now.”  Lina wrinkled her nose at the thought of eating vampires.

Sim then told her, even quieter and more confidentially, “I told you Asha killed all of the vampires older than her to become our leader.  She didn’t just kill them.  She ate them.  Older vampires make the most potent vampire wares.  They make anyone dramatically stronger, faster, healthier and hardier.  Because of that, Asha vastly surpasses the next oldest vampire in all these qualities.  That’s why no one would be willing to try and usurp her.  She’s simply too strong, too fast, and too resilient.  And she just grows more so as time passes.”

“Do people want to usurp her?” Lina asked, innocently.

Sim simply laughed and flashed a smile.  “I can’t speak for the minds of all vampires,” he said, “but I don’t think so.  She’s made many changes that have improved this coven.”  After a moment of reflection he added, “Though, not all vampires are immune to the desire to aggrandize themselves.”

“How did she improve the coven?” Lina asked.

“There it comes again.  That endless string of questions,” Sim said, smiling again and giving Lina a wink, “You’ll make me talk until I grow hoarse.”

<-- Go to Part 58         Go to Part 60 -->

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 58

In the distance, Vasile and Anton saw another troop of vampires approaching.  The vampires were in a group of four and they too carried a young prisoner between them.  Vasile watched this group pass by close to the tree where he and Anton were perched high in the branches.

The vampires walked down into the dry streambed, into the midst of a thick nest of underbrush and disappeared.  At this moment, Anton was ready to go follow them, but Anton restrained him, since he heard more vampires coming.  In fact, there were two other troops of vampires arriving, each with four members.  One of the troops bore a victim in his early twenties, and the last bore no victim.

All eight of these vampires followed the same path as the first four, streaming in a line into the bushes and disappearing.

By this time, the first lights of dawn were creeping over the horizon, and Anton was unwilling to wait any further.  He dropped down from the tree and hustled towards the bushes where he’d seen them disappearing, pushing the branches aside and plunging himself in.  But all he saw beneath was another of the exposed boulders jutting out of the ground.  He pounded on the boulder again and again, as if he could break it with his bare hands.  He tried to push it to lift it, to do anything he could, but the rock wouldn’t move.

Finally giving up, he sprawled himself across the boulder and let out a long pent up flurry of tears.  He buried his eyes in his arms and sobbed repeatedly, imagining the worst indignities afflicted upon his sister and thinking about enduring an entire life with her absence.  Her absence would be something he’d never be able to shake off, something more persistent than his shadow, which at least had the decency to quit him in darkness.  Her absence would always be with him.

Anton turned to look at Vasile there with him, his eyes red and his cheeks still wet and he said to him, “She’s gone forever.”

After the final three squads returned to the coven, they presented their plunder before Asha in the great hall.  Bai and Tam had already presented Constanta to Asha, who congratulated them on this acquisition, saying, “Of course Sim has brought us the finest catch this evening,” before ordering her taken to the pen.  The next prize was a boy around fourteen, who Asha was also pleased to see.  The third prize was a young man in his early twenties.  This prize was not nearly so agreeable.  Not only were male humans of considerable less value than the females, but Asha preferred them younger.  Her ideal trophy would be a girl close to menarche, who would grow to be a fertile and productive mother.

Lina, standing next to Bai and Tam in the back of the great hall, watched Asha pour forth a warm flow of derision as she insulted the lead vampire for his poor haul.  But, this was nothing compared to the last group.  Lina had yet to see Asha angry before this moment and she watched Asha’s anger in full display as she lashed out at the leader of the empty-handed vampires.

“You had hours to find someone.  You had a whole village full of people and you couldn’t find anything.”

“Well, you see Asha…” the vampire began to spin out an excuse, but Asha cut him off, “You had your chance, and you failed.”

Then, with a speed and dexterity that made Lina leap back from fear even though she was some twenty paces away, Asha lunged at the vampire.  In one quick movement, she pushed aside his head to expose his jugular and sunk her teeth in, while knocking his body down onto the floor with her feet.  She savagely gnawed at the neck while his arms flailed about in some futile attempt to escape.  Before the vampire could react, his body was already nearly drained of all life and his muscles were twitching with his final death spasms.

With the body now motionless and sprawled across the ground, Asha finally stood up and pushed him away with her foot.  She wiped her lips, which were stained with blood and she announced to all those present, “We have kidnapped tonight because we need to fill out our herd.  If we cannot create a self-sustaining population of humans then there will not be enough food for all of us, and some of us will have to die.  This is thereby the punishment for all those who fail.  Are you all clear?”

Lina was rendered motionless by what she had seen, but she was able to nod her head along with all the other vampires present in response to Asha’s question.

Then Asha ordered one of the vampires, “Take him to the kitchen,” and two vampires carried the dead body away.

<-- Go to Part 57         Go to Part 59 -->

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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 57

Vasile watched Sim flee out of the range of his arrows and conceded that they’d have to let him go.  He then dropped down out of the tree and immediately attended to Anton.  Anton was now coughing due to the choking and looked as if his neck was deeply bruised.  What concerned Vasile, though, was the blood that covered Anton’s face and neck.

Anton, after another bout of coughing, was quickly on his feet shouting, “We have to go after Constanta.  We can’t let her die.”  But Vasile restrained him.

“There’s a stream nearby.  We need to wash you off,” Vasile insisted.  It was all Vasile could do to restrain Anton who was determined to break free of Vasile’s grip and catch the vampires.

Finally Vasile had to shout at him, “It’s too late!  You saw how fast they run!  They’re already underground.  We’re not going to catch them.  Now let’s get you washed off so you don’t get infected.”

Anton finally settled down and let Vasile lead him several hundred paces away to where a tiny stream trickled quietly.  Anton was quietly crying as he walked, tears streaming down his cheeks, which formed tracks through the now dry drops of blood.  Anton leaned down into the stream and dipped his whole head into the water, splashing water over his face and neck and clothes and through his hair.

When he lifted his head up, the water dripping off of him, Vasile told him, “We really should get back to Andrei’s.  He has some medicines which should neutralize any infection you may have contracted.”

“No,” Anton refused, “We have to track them.  We have to find their cave.  We have to get in there and get my sister out of there.  She may not be dead yet.  We still have a chance.”

“Your sister was the girl?” Vasile asked, now finally understanding.  He took a deep breath, uncertain, conflicted.  “Did you get any blood in your eyes?  In your mouth?  Did you taste any of that vampire’s blood?”

To each question Anton answered “no,” until Vasile asked him, “Did you smell the vampire?”

“I did,” Anton had to admit, “He smelled like sour onions and garlic,” trying to put to words the peculiar aroma that emanated from beneath Sim’s skin.

“Diseases are passed by scent,” Vasile explained, “At least many of them are.  Perhaps even vampirism.  That’s why we have to wear the masks.  Even you know that.  One is supposed to never breathe in the odor of a sick man no matter what.  I fear that you may have contracted their disease in your contact with the vampire.  If we get you back to Andrei’s immediately I think we can forestall it.”

“I don’t care,” Anton told Vasile, “If I become a vampire, then I’ll use my powers to rip apart all those responsible for my sister’s death with my bare hands.  All I care about is finding her and there’s no time to waste.”

Vasile didn’t want to try and force Anton.  So he simply nodded in the direction they’d seen the vampires flee and he said, “This way.”

Vasile had watched Sim by the moonlight for a substantial distance.  He had a general idea where Sim had disappeared, and he took Anton to the area, which was only a few hundred paces from where they’d been perched in wait.  It consisted of a dry streambed, where some dense patches of shrubbery grew.  Several exposed boulders poked out of the ground and they were in the mist of a large array of trees.

Vasile told him, “To the best of my ability, I would say this is about where he disappeared.  It’s hard to see any traces of blood in this dark, but the few drops of blood I’ve seen, seem to lead to here.  I can guarantee I’ve searched this patch of woods before, and if there is an entrance to a cave around here, I can’t find it.”

As Vasile calmly said these words, Anton’s anxiety was palpable, scrambling around looking everywhere in the bushes for any sign of the vampires, as if he expected them to be hiding just under a bush with his sister in hand.  Anton scrambled about, kicking up dirt and pounding the ground and swearing to himself under his breath.  Finally, after watching him for a minute or two, Vasile suggested, “We should wait and watch.”

Anton conceded, and the two of them climbed a tree within sight of the streambed and watched.  Anton couldn’t keep himself still and had to be constantly calmed by Vasile who silently watched the ground below them and kept his ears open for the sound of vampires.

After a long wait, as the night was about at its nadir, their patience was rewarded.

<-- Go to Part 56         Go to Part 58 -->

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 56

Vasile and Anton gazed in the direction of the sound of the approaching vampires impatiently, until, after many long seconds, four indistinct shapes appeared through the leaves and the darkness.  The vampires moved with their characteristic swiftness, and between them a captured prey swung back and forth.

“Damnit!” Vasile quietly whispered when he saw there were four and they had a prisoner in tow.  Vasile lowered the crossbow in frustration.  Four vampires was too risky, especially if it was for only one victim.  Additionally, he couldn’t help feeling they’d gotten lucky when they’d attacked the group of four vampires a few nights before.  He didn’t want to tempt fate again.  As he’d told himself many times, the only way a vampire hunter could survive was by playing it safe.

Anton saw Vasile lowering his weapon and offered a quizzical look in the darkness.  All Vasile could do was shake his head and indicate for Anton to lower his weapon too.

They watched the party approaching, and pass by almost right beneath them.  Vasile clenched his teeth to hold back his irritation.

As the group of vampires passed, though, Anton could finally see the face of the person that was in the net.  She was facing backwards and, and Anton could clearly see his sister Constanta, being taken by the vampires to almost certain death.

Constanta tried unsuccessfully to hold back her tears with all her might as she watched the forest retreating behind her.  She managed to keep herself quiet, but truth was she was completely petrified.  Then, out of nowhere, with a suddenness that caused her to start, she saw movement from out of shadows high in the tree, and a streak of color flashing in her direction.  An arrow lodged itself into the upper thigh of, Ela, the vampire next to her.  As Ela faltered and started to trip, Constanta was tossed about inside her net.  Another quick flash of color and an arrow was lodged in Bai, the vampire to the other side of her.  Though Bai winced with profound pain, he didn’t falter and continued to run.

Then Constanta saw falling from the tree a human shape that dropped to the ground, raised a bow and arrow, and in a blink lodged another arrow in Ela’s buttock.  Ela this time didn’t just falter, but fell.  Bai completely took Constanta from Ela’s grasp and reached out a hand to help Ela.  Picking herself up, Ela continued, but the arrows didn’t stop.

From his vantage point in the tree, Vasile was able to place a crossbow bolt in Ela’s side, thinking they might finally take her down, but Ela continued, undeterred, though deeply wounded.  The failure to bring Ela down and free the prisoner was more frustrating than Vasile could take.  Out of pure spite, he decided to hit at their most vulnerable spot, the small vampire that rode on Sim’s back.  It was clear to him that she was a vampire, and just as clear that she was newly initiated and thus preeminently vulnerable.  So he put a crossbow bolt as close to her neck as he could, landing it high in the center of her shoulder.  The bolt pierced so deeply through her that it poked Sim, just before he felt a moist cough spew from Lina’s mouth.

This attack on Lina compelled Sim to turn and face his attackers.  He pulled Lina from his back, wounded and bleeding, and he handed her to Tam.  Tam gingerly cradled her in his arms, and kicked up a flurry of dust as he sped away.  Ela and Bai were on Tam’s heals, limping along, but still alive.  But Sim, immediately seeing Anton with bow and arrow in hand and poised, ran towards him.  Anton had time to fire one arrow, lodging it in Sim’s shoulder, before Sim was on top of him.  Sim choked Anton’s neck while he beat his head to the ground.

With Anton’s consciousness quickly fading, Sim hurried to lean in and begin to macerate Anton’s neck before all is life went dark.  But just then, arrows started to rain from the sky.  Vasile was reloaded with two bolts and placed them both in Sim’s body, one quickly after the other.  The first one landed just as the base of his neck, and the second landed high in his neck and pierced through below his chin.  Blood spurted out of Sim onto Anton who was below him

The debilitating pain of this latter wound, made Sim cry out a squeal of pain.  The agony of the wound sapped his will to fight as energy drained out of him, and he let Anton go.  But he wasn’t ready to die.  Sim leapt up to the ground and ran.  Moments later, two more crossbow bolts pierced his left buttock and right thigh, but he was blind to this pain now, and simply ran, directly aiming for the coven.

When he entered into the coven, arrows sticking out of him in every direction, blood pouring down in long rivulets down his chest and back, his vampire comrades stood back stunned, immediately grabbing him to have his wounds tended.  But all he wanted was to know an answer to his one question: “Is Lina alright?”

<-- Go to Part 55         Go to Part 57 -->

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 55

As Sim and the other vampires closed in on Josif’s house, they slowed themselves down to a quieter step that wouldn’t disturb any of the sleepers inside.  Quietly they pattered towards the house, equipment on their backs.

Upon arriving, Sim quietly walked around the house in search of an entrance.  The window shutters were closed and the door was locked.  As he walked, though, he smelled the air to ascertain who was inside and where they were.  He could smell three bodies inside on the side of the house opposite the door.  They were just beneath one of the shuttered windows, and he noted to the others, “One of them smells of vampires.  That one must’ve been eating vampire wares recently.”

They decided that they would enter through the window nearest the three, net the youngest of them and speed out of there immediately.

Moments later Constanta was startled from her sleep.  She’d heard a noise she couldn’t identify outside, and instinctively she reached to the side of her bed where her brother Anton would normally sleep.  He wasn’t there, out somewhere hunting vampires, and she felt a cold chill to think of him so far away.  Her parents slept peacefully in the bed next to her, and she wondered whether she should wake them.  The sound had frightened her and she needed comfort.  Anton would always wake up at night whenever she awoke and he would help her to sleep.  He would sleep right next to her so that he would keep her warm, and he would put his arm over her to protect her from the monsters of the night

But before Costanta had a chance to approach her parents, a sudden crash startled her so much that she nearly fell over.  Turning her head behind her in a flash she saw the shutters being ripped from out of the window frame, such that now the window was open to the night.  Cold air poured in and the settling dust was illuminated in the moonlight that glowed down upon her.  She didn’t have a chance to react, though, since immediately a net was cast over her.  One end of the net was pulled beneath her to sweep her inside of it, and then she was hoisted bodily out through the window.

In those brief moments between the initial crash and Constanta’s disappearance, her parents had also been startled from their sleep.  They’d leapt from their beds and they’d lunged for their daughter who was plucked out of her bed like a fly being plucked from the air by a frog’s tongue.  But they could only watch as she was snatched from them while screaming her final plea of “Anton!  Help me!”  They were too slow.  Her voice was already fading as they reached the window.

Looking out through the window, Josif and Viorica watched helplessly as the four silhouettes quickly disappeared: two of them carrying Constanta between them in a net, one carrying a bag of equipment and the fourth carrying a young vampire on his back.

Viorica couldn’t contain her despair and in one great wail of pain she screamed out the name of her daughter, “Constanta!” such that her voice echoed across the plain.  Lina heard the sound of the lamenting mother even as the house faded in the distance, and she turned back to see if she could make out the distant shapes of the two grieving parents.

Vasile too heard the cry, but only faintly and indistinctly.  “What was that sound?” he asked Anton, who sat beside him as they were perched high in a tree, “It came from the direction of Vallaya.  Did you hear it?”

Anton had to confess he hadn’t heard anything, but he was curious, “What did it sound like?”

“Like a human scream,” Vasile said uncertainly, “But it was distant.”

“Do you think there were any vampires involved?” Anton asked.

“How could I know,” Vasile responded, “But if there were, they’re likely to pass near us.  We should get ready.”

Vasile raised his crossbow while Anton raised his longbow, with an arrow armed and in position.  They both turned in the direction of Vallaya and tried to pierce their sight through the darkness and forest, but all they could see was the swaying of leaves in the wind and the glistening of the moonlight reflected on these flickering leaves.

After what seemed like an eternal wait, Vasile began to hear the faint sound of vampires running and he silently mouthed to Anton, “Vampires” and pointed in the direction of the sound.

<-- Go to Part 54         Go to Part 56 -->

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 54

The light that streamed in through the gaps in the roof of the great hall was almost completely absent, indicating that it was early night now.  This light was the only sense of any passage of days that most of the vampires would perceive, since the coven was mostly kept in a continuous twilight of low light and flickering flames.

After a few moments of waiting, Asha announced to the vampires in a forceful screech, “Silence!” and the many quiet conversations that had produced a continuous murmur throughout the room, abruptly ceased and quietly faded as an echo through the caves.

“As many of you know, I’ll be visiting the village of Terem for an agreement that will officially end all hostilities between vampires and humans.  Thus, tonight is our last night of freedom.  And we’re going fill it full, to overflowing.  I want four teams out there tonight and I want you to bring back four humans in your nets.  Four pathetic humans, who will wail for mercy at my feet,” Asha explained, “Success is essential.  Failure will be punished.”

Asha successively addressed three of her most aged and experienced vampires to lead three separate teams to three separate villages.  She saved her favorite for last and gave Sim the most important destination, telling him, “You’ll attack Vallaya.  Bring three with you.  And also take your little minion.  This’ll probably be the only time she’ll ever get to experience the thrill.”

Sim turned to Lina and smiled after Asha said this, telling her, “You’re with me tonight.”

Sim organized a party much like the one that had fetched Lina, Nicoleta and Oana, including Bai and two other vampires named Ela and Tam.  They gathered together their equipment, including a weighted net, an unweighted net, a pair of bolas, and substantial lengths of rope.  They stuffed these into bags that felt overwhelmingly heavy to Lina.  Fortunately, she wasn’t required to carry anything.  She only had to follow along.  They dressed lightly in loose fitting clothes that moved just as silently as the vampires moved while they walked about.

To fortify themselves for a long run through the night they all drank hearty bowl-fulls of nourishment.  Lina, too, drank the still unpleasant red mixture, but as it suffused through her body she felt a rising energy that thrilled and excited her.

Before they left, Sim explained to Lina, “You’re just a passenger on this ride.  Do what you’re told and be sure to stay close.  Vampires that stray away on their own have a tendency to get sniped by vampire hunters.”

The five of them then walked up through the halls to the exit where Sim opened the door for them and they all three departed in a line, stepping out into the moonlit forest.

Lina could already run faster now than she was able to before, and was noticing both her speed and her strength improving, but next to the four aged vampires she was with, she was a slow sluggard.  For this reason, Lina again had to climb onto Sim’s back.  Sim bent down and she wrapped her legs around his midsection, gripping him tight around the neck and resting her head on his nape.  Even in the cold of the night, Sim felt so warm and she could hear the quick thumping of his heartbeat.

Before she had a chance to brace herself, Sim was off in a mad dash through the woods, raising clods of dirt beneath his feet.  Just to show off he suddenly leaped into the air, landing on the branch of a tree and leapt from it even higher into a grand arch above the trees.  Lina screamed as she was carried with him high into the air and gripped him even tighter as she looked down at the receding ground below.  With his hands, Sim snatched a bat flapping through air, and dropped to the ground with the panicked animal between his two hands.  Before the bat had a chance to bite him, he threw the animal out of his hands and continued on his run.

The first building they passed was the complex belonging to Andrei, where his business and his home were joined into a solid stone structure.  Lina asked if they were going to attack this building, and Sim told her, “No, that belongs to Andrei.  It’s well built.  Very hard to break into.”

Instead they passed by it, zipping through the heart of Vallaya, across the main street and by the church, moving rapidly and unseen, like shadows made by a falling star.  They headed beyond the village center, towards the nearby farms and the small houses that the farmers occupied.

In particular, Sim had his eyes on a small, single-room farmhouse atop the horizon. Inside this farmhouse Josif, Viorica and Constanta, silently slept in their beds.

<-- Go to Part 53         Go to Part 55 -->

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vampire Wares pt 53

The next day Nicoleta witnessed a person being removed from the pen.  She first noticed Mir stalking through the room covered in a heavy, hooded cloak with leather gloves to protect his hands and boots to protect his feet.  As he walked through the halls, quickly looking from person to person as if in search of a suitable subject, people stepped aside, and many tried to avoid his eyes.  They seemed to believe, perhaps quite reasonably, that if he didn’t see them, they might escape, but, in fact, it appeared as if he was looking for someone. When he saw a woman who was trying o discreetly hide her wrists, which were stained with two red X’s, he grabbed her.

The woman in question appeared to be past middle age, with grey hair on her head and traces of wrinkles.  Mir quickly reached out and grabbed her from behind, restraining her arms, which almost immediately began to flail about.  The woman screamed and cried and pleaded for help, but no one moved.

Nicoleta herself was at first afraid to move, but she finally gathered courage and ran at the vampire with all her strength.  She expected that if she knocked him down to the ground, others might follow and help. But, knocking into Mir’s body was more like running directly into the trunk of a tree than knocking into a person.  Nicoleta painfully thudded into Mir’s side, and he nonchalantly kicked her away, sending her skidding across the ground.

Seated on the ground, defeated, Nicoleta shouted at the other humans, “Why don’t we all attack him?  Together we can overpower him.”

By this time Mir was gone, dragging the screaming woman out the door into another room, where the distant screaming accelerated into a crescendo before it was abruptly stopped.  Though for the other humans this was a daily experience, for Nicoleta it was the first time she’d ever seen such a horrible thing, and she could do nothing but cry several tears as she sat upon the ground.

Oana stepped forward to comfort Nicoleta, at which point Dragomir finally spoke up in answer to Nicoleta’s question, “Don’t you think we’ve tried before?  We’ve attacked them.  We’ve ganged up on them.  We’ve lied in wait and ambushed them.  It never works.  It takes so many of us to overpower just one, and then another vampire comes to help and all we get for our efforts are bruises and broken bones and a few more of us dead and eaten.  The faster you learn to give up, the better things will work out for you little girl.  Just be happy that young girls are more valuable as baby-farms than as food.”

Oana and Nicoleta together went to the kitchen where food was being served.  The pen had its own kitchen, where several of the humans acted as cooks, with the raw ingredients being regularly supplied by the vampires.  The food was an almost unremitting monotony of the same meal day in and day out: large batches of stew, made from onions and potatoes, and a bit of bread and cheese on the side.  The chefs prepared cauldron after cauldron of stew, intersected with a continuous chain of loafs of wheat and barley bread.  There were several hundred humans that had to be fed multiple times each day, from an almost completely unvarying supply of raw ingredients, leaving very little room for creativity.

After Oana and Nicoleta sat down with their food, a woman decided to join them as they ate.  She introduced herself as Crina, a young woman with blonde, wavy hair that rolled down her shoulders.  Her eyes narrowed with defiance as she spoke and her smile spread wide as she told Nicoleta, “Just ignore Dragomir.  He’s right that we’ve tried many times and failed, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up.  He doesn’t want us to try to escape because he prefers the life he’s made for himself down here.  But there’s quite many of us who haven’t given up.  I’ve always found that even after every disappointment, there’s always just a little bit more hope, even as you think you’re scraping the bottom of the bowl,” Crina said, as Nicoleta ate up her last spoonfuls of soup.

“I want to believe you,” Nicoleta told her, feeling somewhat better.  As Nicoleta sat in the arena and recalled all these events, from her kidnapping up to the conversation with Crina, she still wanted to believe.

In another part of the coven, Lina cleaned, pushing a broom through the hallways to capture all the accumulated dirt and dust that settled throughout the floors of the caves.  It was an endless task, but Sim only required her to do it for an hour or two at a time.  Every vampire had their assigned task and she, as the least senior vampire in the coven was left with sweeping the floors.

She finished up a careful sweep of the upper floor and sat down for a break.  While seated Sim appeared around a corner, and she immediately picked up her broom and pretended to sweep.  But he told her to put down her broom for the day, explaining, “There’s a meeting in the Great Hall.”

She walked with him to the Great Hall, where a large crowd of vampires was already assembled, quietly waiting for Asha to speak.

<-- Go to Part 52         Go to Part 54 -->

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