War of the rose
Two men were walking in the woods as the snow was falling softly on the ground. They were men of about fifty years old, both were veteran hunters and were following a deer's trail for quite some time in the mud and the remaining of the winter snow when one of them suddenly noticed, human foot traces.
-Hey! Lars, look! There are human traces here!
His companion came to look at them.
-They were made by some kind of boots. Not the kind of boots we use in the wild… Some kind of city boot, like those rich persons wear. The not too comfortable ones, the stylish ones. How come someone came here with those boots? His feet must be on fire!
-Yeah, why would a man with that kind of boot be in the woods so far away?
They let go of the deer's trail and followed the human traces out of curiosity until they suddenly stopped, feeling observed.
They looked up a cliff and saw a young blond man dressed in elegant but now ragged and dirty clothes gazing at them with a mad look in his strangely reddish eyes. He seemed to have not eaten or taken care of himself for days because his traits were worn out and emaciated and he looked extremely pale, the contour of his eyes were all blackened giving him an even more sickened expression. He was unshaven and he had untied hair. He really didn't seem in good health, physically or mentally. The young man was fixing them intensely, observing them obsessively like a wild beast would do with its prey, while almost drooling over them and the two veteran men suddenly got chills.
Before they had time to do anything, the young man threw himself from the cliff and jumped on one of the men. The hunter fell down and tried to get out of the hold of this wild and crazy attacker but the young man seemed extremely strong and was tightening his grip on him as the man tried to get out. The now terrorised man saw the crazy man's mouth opening and got a glimpse of the man's pointy fangs before they swiftly sank into his neck. The man's scream was drowned in his own blood while the vampire was holding on to him and sucking his blood loudly.
The other man was horrified and froze in terror while his companion was drained of his blood by the monster. As his friend was being killed, the man suddenly turned heels and began to run away in panic. The young man finished his first victim then turned toward the man running away and began to pursue him. He quickly caught up with him and tackled him on the ground while growling. The man turned toward him to fight back and saw with terror the young man's completely crazy expression, starring at him from too close with his bloodthirsty reddish eyes, his mouth all bloodied from the blood of his friend; the fresh blood was dripping down the young man's chin on the horrified hunter. The vampire bit the second man as ferociously as he did for the first before he drank his blood avidly.
After a while, the second man also died, completely drained of his blood and Raphael sighed in complete relief as blood was running down his throat, appeasing it from its too long dryness and he began to slowly regain his senses. After he appeased the horrible thirst he had endured for too long and that drove him completely insane, Raphael felt alive again. He got up and barely looked at the men he just killed. He hated to get out of control and act like a beast but he was now getting used to that even if it was the first time he had become that crazy for so long. The time he cried at his servants' death, his first victims, was far. If he was to cry at each victim he made he would not have finished. At least he had now regained his sanity. He turned his head away still not looking at his victims because he didn't appreciate what he did either and began to wipe the blood from his face using some snow to help clean it. He had blood almost everywhere; on his face, on his clothes... Looking at his torn and stained clothes, he quickly changed for another costume in his bag. He would have to buy clothes soon; he didn't have any spare costume now. He put his black costume with a short cape with his family crest on it; the cape should protect him to a certain degree from the cold of the region. He quickly combed himself; even in the remote nature, he didn't want to look like a beast.
After that, Raphael looked at his surroundings; he didn't know for how long he walked completely lost and mad in these remote lands. He didn't even know where he was.
He felt he had somehow left the land of the gods and came back into the normal mortal world but where was he? He didn't have a clue. Too bad he could not speak with the men he just killed. He tried to judge by the look of those men. The men looked Caucasian; he must have come back in Europe. But where? The men seemed dressed like hunters but what is the difference between a Swedish or Russian hunter or any other hunter? What he could tell was that by the snow still covering some spots, he must be in northern Europe, not Spain, Greece, Italy or other southern countries. He may even be in northern France, maybe near his family manor… Thought he doubted it. Maybe in New France? That would be really far from home… But the vegetation looked European… Yet, how is vegetation in New France? He never been there. He could almost be anywhere… Maybe tonight he would recognize the stars' constellations to try to locate his situation a bit?
But for now, maybe he could follow the men's traces? Since the ground was mostly snow and mud it may be easy to do…
Then as Raphael followed the traces, the snow already falling intensified and became a storm, covering the traces Raphael was following. He would have to hurry following them before he lost them completely! He hurried his pace and continued on his way. He walked for the entire day; he had long since lost the traces of the men and was walking around without a clue to where he should go. At least the sun was not dangerous since it was not there. One good point to this damned freezing storm at least. But when night came, he could not see the stars either so he continued walking; he wanted to find somewhere to sleep as soon as possible and didn't want to freeze to death.
That night, Amy was still wandering the corridors, wondering what she should do after her visit to her father's private study. She really wanted to go search for him but she didn't know where to search. Even if she was almost certain he had gone for Soul Edge, she didn't know where to search.
…And she feared the outside world.
Even as a human she almost never got out of her home; she was too shy and already didn't feel like she belonged among people. The only time she was going out among people was when she and her father were sometimes going shopping or when they attended church.
She hated to go to church; she had never been too faithful; she was first raised as a Protestant, then her mother decided to teach her Catholicism when her father died and her mother came back to her old beliefs. But Amy did not really see the difference between the faiths and wasn't very pious. She just didn't care and wondered why God had left them in this misery. It was hard to praise him for that. When her mother died, she truly felt no one cared for her. No god, no human.
Then Raphael came; he was Catholic but also not very fervent. He didn't care about the religious wars and mostly loathed them, something his neighbours in Toulouse didn't appreciate since they were all Catholic fanatics. To Raphael's dismay when he arrived in Toulouse, the religious confrontations kept going on even there and the Catholics wished him to fight by their side. Raphael always refused and this didn't help him in his relations with his neighbours.
Amy remembered the times she spied on some courtesy visits from the neighbours, where they would try to get Raphael to join their side. The conversation sometimes degenerated into loud and violent arguments and the neighbours often left the house angry at Raphael's refusal to join their cause. Some branded him as coward, traitor and Huguenot supporter, a serious offence; he could be executed for this.
Raphael didn't want to involve himself in this war for three reasons: first, he was not motivated by this at all, he already gave enough to the cause while he was still living at his family manor, his father often forcing him to lend his fighting talents to the Catholic side, second, he feared he would meet on the front some acquaintance that would recognize him and uncover his true identity, and third and most important, he had to stay with Amy, she was his priority.
He could have tried to gain some aristocrats to his side for more protection against the accusations of betrayal from the fanatics, but he was tired of this kind of life. He didn't want to have to suck up to higher authorities anymore to get what he wanted. All he wanted was to be left alone in peace with his daughter.
But to calm the fanatics, he still had to comply to some extend, so even if both of them were not fervent faithful, Raphael went to church with Amy every Sundays and Amy remembered that people would talk behind their backs and point finger at them but her father would tell her not to care about that and that at least it was enough to calm the discontents down and keep the danger of being branded as a traitor at bay. The priest would admonish Raphael each time for his lack of devotion and that he should help his Catholics fellows in the fight. Then they would go back home, relieved that it was finally over. Amy would go back to her room and Raphael would lock himself in the library.
Amy also remembered the time the priest suggested to Raphael that he send his daughter to a convent to learn more about religion and socialize with other girls of her age. Raphael strongly opposed the priest's suggestion and left the church really upset that day. He didn't want to get separated from his beloved little girl and he knew that the nuns were often very easy on the whip. He never laid a hand on Amy and would never let anyone else hurt her, even for educational purpose.
And the few months before her father's first trip, she remembered those neighbours who were always asking Raphael when she would make her Debut at the court. They were so annoying! Amy didn't want to go to court, her father had described what it was to her and really didn't encouraged her to go there even if he told her she could choose whatever she wanted to do. If she wished to go, he would comply to her will but she really didn't want to.
And the time a rich duke came and talked about an engagement for Amy, who was thirteen, to his fifteen year old son. The face and mostly the stare her father gave that duke were frightful. He didn't say a word but strangely the duke never came back to ask for Raphael's little girl's hand. Amy smiled at the thought of this; she really didn't want to get married to some aristocrat she didn't even know, even if this duke was really rich and was related to the powerful Guise family and that it was a surprise that someone so influent asked for her hand. If this man had known she really came from the streets, that her real father was a protestant Englishman and that she even actually lived under a false identity, he may have changed his mind, but her father's frightening attitude made it do it faster before he discovered those secrets.
Raphael sometimes wondered if he was wrong to keep Amy away from people, but Amy always told him she wanted it to be that way and that she was grateful to him that he did so. Raphael then always smiled because that was what he wanted to hear. He feared that society would hurt her. They already were hermits among humans.
And with what happened to them, they truly would remain recluses from society for the rest of their lives now… Amy thought with some bitterness that she was now a monster… No duke will come to ask for her hand and no one will want to be her friend now… Not that she needed a lover or friends, she had her father and needed no other company. But for now she didn't even have her father; she had to go to the outside world… to save him… She suddenly worried again: What if he was already dead?
-Oh, father… Please be alive…
Suddenly a servant came to her.
-Ma Dame! … Walachi troops are back! They are still coming on the road, this time we spotted them sooner with our scouts. But they are preparing another offensive, they still have war machines… We are preparing like your father instructed us, you are supposed to go to the throne room for your safety. They will probably be here tomorrow.
Amy calmly looked at the servant. She seemed unemotional but inside she was truly terrified by the information.
-So they came back…
She lowered her head while she seemed pensive. She then lifted her head again and asked the servant:
-You say everything is prepared for the defence of the castle?
-Yes, Dame Amy. Your father said you would not have to worry over this. We are prepared.
Amy thought: How can I not worry when you don't even come back, father?
She suddenly asked the servant:
-Do you fell that my father is still alive?
The servant seemed surprised by the question.
-…I… don't have such power to tell you, Dame Amy…
-You don't fell any bond with him?
-Well, I fell loyalty toward him but it won't make me able to tell if he is alive or not! …I'm sorry.
-Very well. Go prepare for the battle like my father told you to do…
-Ma Dame, you must also install yourself to the throne room. Your father really insisted on that. He didn't wish for you to stay in your frail tower.
Amy sighed again.
-Very well. I shall pack my stuff.
-Do you need help, ma Dame?
-Non, merci. I can do it alone. You can go.
The servant asked if she was certain but Amy still dismissed his help. She never asked much to the servants, here or the human ones they had in Toulouse, and mostly did everything she had to do herself. Except the meals. She didn't know how to cook and didn't want to learn. But for everything else, she remained the little girl who could manage for herself on the streets and didn't need any help or requested any. Except maybe her father's help… But mostly his presence…
She took the stairs to her room and went inside to pack the stuff she would need in case the castle was besieged. Amy first looked outside the window and didn't see anything. Her father still wasn't coming back. She didn't see the army either but they were supposed to be farther on the road, behind the mountains. Those soldiers came back and her father wasn't here to protect her and to reassure her! She missed his self-assurance, it was comforting to her. Now she was alone! What will she do? She could not fight the invaders! And she didn't have much faith in the minions' strength. She was really scared and desperate. Tears came to her eyes, she was alone in her room she could now cry her worries and her fears. She wept a while but she quickly tried to stop her tears from falling. She found a new resolve; Instead of staying helplessly here, waiting for her father to come back, she will act. She will protect what her father created for her. She will soon be an adult, she will stop relying on her father and will take her responsibilities! Raphael will be proud of her!
Amy packed some clothes, her favorite doll and books in some bags and took her precious Albion. She then went to the throne room and put her bags in it.
She kept her rapier and went outside in the castle's courtyard. She walked to a servant guarding the gate.
-I would like to go out. Please open the gates.
The servant stared at her with surprise.
-… But Dame Amy, you know that seigneur Sorel has forbidden you to go out!
-I know. But he is not coming back. Please open the gates.
-I cannot. There will be a war Dame Amy!
-I know. I will take care of it.
The servant looked at her with a surprised gaze. Amy continued:
-Let me out. I am in command here. I order you to do so.
-You will take… I cannot let you out Dame Amy! There will be a war! And those are your father's strict orders.
-And… what if my father… never came back? You would keep me forever here?
The servant seemed to hesitate. It has been a long time indeed that the master had not returned… Dame Amy may well be the new master of the place now…
-But you cannot go out anyway! Do not worry about the incoming battle. A scout will soon come back and tell us more information about the invading army. The soldiers will be ready tomorrow morning and the enemy will probably attack then. Maybe you could accompany them if you stay behind…
-I cannot go out during the day, you know it. I must go out now.
Since the minions were less infected they still could go out during the day like Amy and Raphael could at first, they just felt more sluggish than a normal human.
-No, ma Dame, you are no permitted to go out. You are still a child and the master will kill me when he comes back if I let you out. You must stay inside!
Amy got upset and turned heels without a word. She went back to the throne room and packed some clothes and beauty accessories in a back pack before she went to the basement.
There, like a wine cellar, was where their blood reserve stood. Amy never drank blood from the neck of someone, her father didn't want her to and she didn't want to either; it disgusted her. So Raphael always brought blood back from his hunts and stored the bottles here for Amy to drink in a glass like a civilized person. At home, her father also drank that way. The method to collect the blood was also more civilized, he only had to cut his victim and take the blood and that way he could even let his victims live without turning them to minions, but it was hard to do; seeing the blood flowing from the wound really awakened his vampire lust and sometimes he could not refrain himself from already sucking all the blood, killing the victim. The process was also a long and arduous way to get blood so Raphael mostly did it only for Amy. He didn't send his minions to do it: they were unable to control themselves in front of blood and never could collect blood without savagely biting the victims and killing them. Only Raphael was more able to control himself. That way, no need to go farther to find new victims, he could reuse the same over again if he could refrain himself from killing them.
The blood cellar was still much filled with blood bottles; since her father's departure, Amy was the only one to go in here and she wasn't a big drinker. She wondered if it was because she had more willpower than her father like he always complimented her (It comforted him to know that she at least was less influenced by this annoying thirst) or if it was because she was less influenced since she was being infected on a lesser scale? Whatever the reason, she drank very less often than her father and had much less blood urges.
She was sad for her father, who was ashamed of his behaviour in front of her, he was giving in to his vampire nature so much more easily than her… He thought that she was disgusted by him when he was acting that way, so he never really told her everything but Amy knew and she mostly was sad for him. She knew he was probably more influenced by Soul Edge than her and didn't have the choice to drink blood or even to sometimes act like a beast. And even if he never truly confided in her about it, she knew that some nights, he would go out to drink human blood and have fun hunting them, then when he would come back, he would feel bad. She knew it by the fact that he would not act as usual; he wouldn't speak much to her and would avoid her gaze before he would quickly go to his room. And this was all the evil sword's fault! Soul Edge really corrupted him thought Amy with some sadness.
Her father was cursed and never choose to be that way. He never choose either to infect her, so she never was angry at him for that either even if he hated himself for that. Of course, she hated her vampire condition; now she could never go out in the sun, not that she was much of an outside person before; she mostly spent all her time in her room writing and drawing even before she became vampire, but it was sometimes agreeable to go outside and hear the birds sing while feeling the sun and the wind on her skin. Now at night, the birds didn't sing and the moon didn't feel the same as the sun. Only the breeze remained similar. No, even this was colder. Nothing was the same anymore. She really hated her vampire condition but she didn't hate her father for that. She even felt closer to him since they were now both rejected from the normal world.
But she now had to go to this normal world, and it scared her. But she had to find her father and bring him back. He has been missing for too long, she was worried beyond everything. Maybe he needed her; maybe he was horribly wounded like last time and who but her could help him? They could not rely on anybody else in the world since they were monsters. She didn't trust the minions, so she would come to her father's rescue herself. She had to find him and help him. For this, she needed supplies for her journey, so she took some blood bottles and put them in her bag. She also took some money to buy food and things like that. She planned to first defend the castle and then search for her father. After having taken care of the army, she would not be able to come back here to get her stuff, in fact yes, she would, but not to get out again, since the minions didn't want her to get out, so she had to already take her stuff for her journey.
Amy discretely went back near the gate. When the scout came back and everybody was looking at him for his report, Amy silently slipped past the door and went outside. Luckily, she always was good to go on unnoticed so nobody saw her as she quickly ran the drawbridge while it was lifted and jumped from it on the road ahead of her. The minions still had their intelligence but maybe they didn't have it all… They had boring conversation and never seemed too bright. Maybe they were naturally like that even while human but anyway Amy didn't care. She gracefully landed on the road and swiftly got up. She sighed at the fact she had to escape from her own castle and then looked at the long road surrounded by chasm on both sides that she had to go across. If someone was looking they would see her but she had no choice so she began to run on the road toward the forest. She ran without stopping and entered the forest where she hid herself on the side of the road to take back her breath. Then she walked along the road but while still hiding in the forest, toward the enemy camp that was supposed to be further on the road.
About three hours later, she saw the army camp. She silently crept toward it. She kept thinking about what her father once said: 'An army that has lost its commander is like a crab that has lost its legs'.
She would break this crab's legs.
She silently slipped in the camp unnoticed in spite of the guards, she really was good at that, and went to the biggest tent. There was no guards in front of it and a man was inside looking at a map pensively. He was in the end of his thirties or the beginning of his forties and he seemed very well dressed so Amy thought he must be the commander. She silently entered the tent and stood before the entrance. The man suddenly noticed her. He was surprised.
-Who are you, child?
-Are you the commander of this army? Asked Amy on a neutral tone.
-Yes. Neculai Teodor Iancu, baron of Rackovâ. And what do you want, young girl? And this late in the night?
For all answer, she replied looking at him calmly in the eyes:
-I'll break you.
-You are on my father's domain.
The man didn't understand at first then his eyes widened as he realized and he asked:
-You are the Vampire's daughter?
Amy looked at him without a word but he had the answer to his question in her eyes.
-And he sent you here alone? To try to kill me? Ha! Well he is crazy! Even if you are a child, I won't stop before you. I have to save the people of Walachia from the curse of your father. It is my duty!
-I see, but I cannot lose here. I have to protect what my father fought for.
-If you insist on fighting me, I will kill you with my own hands, I will do everything to bring justice back to this land!
-Only the victor can decide what is justice.
The commander seemed surprised at her seemingly lack of emotion and calm replies. He went to a table and took his sword. He gallantly bowed before Amy and told her.
-Very well. So you came for a duel? We shall fight then.
Amy gracefully curtseyed before she took her fighting stance. She suddenly realized it was the first time of her life that she would really fight, a real fight; not some practice with her father. This time, it was for real and she could die. A nervous chill ran down her spine but she tried not to show it and kept her composure. She didn't act like her father often suggested her; he always told her that psychology was very important in a fight and that she should act with more self-confidence and mock her opponent whenever she can to bring them down. But Amy didn't feel that way, she thought a fight was no laughing matter. The general was a little embarrassed to fight a young girl but since she was a vampire and had herself came to challenge him, he had less scrupules toward fighting her.
-En garde. Said Amy before she gracefully whirled toward the general and slashed his arm. The general winced then threw himself at the young girl. She was short, he wasn't used to fight small persons, so as he adjusted his strike to hit her, Amy had time to react. She deflected the strike and violently kicked him on the leg. The general let go a muffled cry of pain. He then angrily slashed at Amy who tried to back off while parrying. Since she wasn't sure about which move to do, she kind of did none of them completely and weakly parried the general's strike losing her rapier in the act. The rapier was sent flying some feet away in the tent. Her neutral expression gave way to one of panic and she quickly threw herself toward her precious Albion to take it back. The general did nothing while she took back her weapon.
-You should not give me any chance, stated Amy coming back with her rapier ready.
-I don't. It is just against my honor to strike at a disarmed opponent. I won't give you any chance in the fight.
Amy heard herself reply:
-The truth of the matter is you are weak.
It was finally easier than she thought to act cheekily in a fight; she was herself embarrassed and surprised at her reply. The general replied:
-Your father taught you to be a very insolent girl… But I can't expect much more from monsters like you.
Amy gazed at him coldly.
-I won't forgive you.
She threw herself at the general who swiftly thrust his sword at her and slashed her left shoulder while she slashed his hip. Amy then swiftly whirled and tried to strike at her opponent's thigh but he blocked the strike and kicked her on the stomach, sending her tumbling away.
-Go back to your father, child! But what is the use of fighting? You'll both be burned at the stake very soon!
-You've yet to win. For now, with your words, you're only making it worse. For you.
Amy made some hand-mill with her rapier and the general couldn't parry. He got his hand slashed and lost his sword. Amy looked at him and didn't do anything while he picked up his sword. She thought: Am I weak too? I should not… What would have father done?
The general then faced Amy again. Amy told her opponent:
-Come to me. It's not because I did the same thing that you did, that I will spare you.
-Big talk from a little girl! I won't spare you either, vampire!
They clashed together for a while. The general was now swinging his sword backward to give it momentum; he was doing it very fast but Amy suddenly saw it in slow motion; the man had left a very big opening toward his heart and Amy had to seize the chance; she swiftly thrust Albion toward the vital organ. Amy closed her eyes as her rapier impaled the man's heart. She heard a groan of agony, the clashing of a weapon falling to the ground and opened her eyes as the man was falling down at her feet. She widened her eyes and gazed at the man she just killed.
She had mixed emotions: she was horrified to have killed someone but she was proud to have destroyed that enemy of her and her father. Maybe it was also easier than she thought, to kill… The general was dead; blood was abundantly coming out of his wound and Amy felt her vampire lust come over her. She got upset about it and tried to forget it. She just killed someone, she won't act like a beast on top of that! She felt she had nothing more to do there and quickly but quietly left the tent and the camp. Nobody seemed to have heard the fight. She went back on the road and walked away from the enemy's camp and from her own castle.