Isolde: Blood-Rose Guardians (a supplementary novella)

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Fire and Ice

Tristan stole me away that night from his parents’ clutches. We boarded a boat and then another and spent months it seemed crossing oceans to some distant location. It probably wasn’t months; it was just that the journey was uncomfortable so it seemed to take longer. Eventually the boat landed on a newly discovered and now inhabited island – now called Iceland. The soil was dark and the location was a strange mixture of fire and ice. Volcanic eruptions extended the land along a ridge that crossed the island, making it ever larger. It was so far north though that the polar ice battled with the lava for prize of place. Tristan kept me here with him for a long time while he debated his father’s arguments for slaying me. Marcus, it seemed, had not told his family why I ired him so and Tristan had had no idea that his namesake was his father’s prior lover. We built a house of stone and lovingly tended the few stray plants that had emerged through the weathered lava field about our home. We mostly ate fish and the few other settlers on the island for blood. The settlers were an unlikely combination of Viking immigrants and Irish monks and us – two vampires.

Tristan loved me here in our hideaway on remote shores. I could not possibly live like this forever, but for a while I might endure the isolation and the excessive consumption of fish. Our cottage was simple and hand built from stone blocks chipped from the igneous rock formed by cooled lava. We managed to pilfer the pelts of seals and a polar bear that had become trapped on an ice float. It had died of dehydration it seemed, but as we stripped the pelt from the hide and tanned it to preserve it, I felt blessed to have such a warm covering as the winter approached and the ice was winning the battle against the lava. There was little to do but ravish each other’s bodies in the darkness that prevailed for longer and longer as winter touched our shores.

Had he been an average man, his hands would surely have calloused from working the stone, but he was not an ordinary man and as he ran his hands across my stomach I was grateful for that fact. He looked upon my body as though I was the most beautiful girl in the world – I knew I wasn’t, but in his eyes, I felt it. His lips covered mine and I tasted his tongue. His hands explored my body and parted my thighs; fingertips delving into the moistness of my loins. He fluttered them against the sensitive nub and plunged them within my warm depths; enticing me to open myself fully to his desires. He filled me with his throbbing erection and I wrapped myself tightly against his body. Our hearts raced together as our bodies writhed in their intimate connection. He was no William, but he was a more than adequate lover and I appreciated his efforts to please me. Had I known he was planning to leave me, I might not have appreciated him so much, but as he thrust deeply within me and I clenched at his buttock with my fingernails, I knew naught of his intentions and simply enjoyed the love-making activity as the waves of orgasm rippled across my muscles. He pushed me through the ecstasy and on toward another moment of sheer elation before finding release himself as I sank my fangs into his shoulder with the second climax.

He was gone when I stirred the next day. I reached across the ‘bed’ for him and found the space cold. It was a reminder of the other Tristan’s methods and in a sudden panic, I pulled myself out of bed. Wrapping my naked body in the bear skin pelt, I left our dwelling and surveyed the horizon. It was not light, and it would not be much at all this day for the winter solstice was upon us. I saw nothing. The darkness of the polar winter blanketed all of Iceland and the seas beyond. He was gone. He had left me, virtually alone in the middle of nowhere – trapped in the darkness as his father had decreed. I felt the most horrific ache in my heart and wondered if he felt it too as he journeyed across the seas away from me. Had he saved me from a fate worse than death or merely delivered me to it?

I was a woman alone – exiled to an island so new it continued to form as lava spewed forth from the ridge at its centre. The air was laden with sulfurous fumes at times and it snowed ash at others. When the lava chose to take our homes there was naught we could do but watch it. The ice too would take our lives with its bitter cold. Was this place hell? It hadn’t seemed that bad until Tristan left me here alone…but now, surviving each day as a woman alone in the Arctic Sea, I felt I was being bitterly punished…and worse – somehow Tristan had bound me to this land. I could not wade more than a few metres from the shore before an invisible rope hurled me back onto the black rocks on my ass. It was like the spell that had kept trapped in tents, but this one, was far more powerful. I was somehow bound to the land. I was imprisoned, alone in the darkness. If I survived the winter, at least the sun would rise again, and by the summer sun, this place wouldn’t seem all that bad – I hoped.

I cursed Tristan because he had left me here, and I cursed myself for loving him so much that my heart ached in his absence. I hated that I was bound to such a man. I hated that the man I was bound to had chosen his father’s side over mine. I hated that although I should feel as though I was the most important person in his world, I felt as though I was the least. I loathed him for leaving me here in the very centre of nowhere; for trapping me in my own private hell. Had I not forced Marcus’ eyes from his male lover, he may never have sought out a female one – Morgan may still be mateless and her children never born. It was my actions that had allowed them to exist and here I was paying the penalty for allowing and aiding their creation.

I tried to start my apothecary business up again, though the produce I had to work with was severely limited – though I had no shortage of volcanic sulfur for the treatment of wounds…and a poultice made from the leaves of the weedy nettles that seemed to proliferate on our volcanic soil was quite a decent remedy for the ailments of the skin here in Iceland. We suffered from frostbite and thermal burns, from infections of rocks and sea creatures but not from the common ailments often seen on the continent. I experimented with eel skin and kelp straps for making bandages; with sea urchin spikes for needles and horsehair for thread. I found human blood to be a rare commodity and needed to develop mutually beneficial relationships with settlers across the island to ensure I had a ready supply. Though I went to bed with these men, I never developed an affection for them and purely engaged in the nocturnal activities to acquire the much needed human blood. I would survive for as long as I could on seal and walrus, but inevitably there would come a day when I needed human blood and with great humility it was on those days that I would endeavour to attempt the former Vikings into intimacies. It was never difficult; they craved the touch of a woman as much as I craved the haem-rich blood flowing through their bodies. Did I feel dirty and tainted by the life I was forced to live due to isolation at the top of the world – absolutely! Could I do anything differently – not with a hope at surviving this place unless I took a permanent mate and risked my heart again!

I look back now and wonder what drove me to survive. I had lost both of the men I had ever loved and found only poor substitutes to replace them. I had lost the land I loved and all contact with the rest of the world. I knew not that the world was not flat for such a long time; I wondered of the stories of Prestor John, snippets of which arrived with each new raft full of Irish monks. For some reason they kept coming to us. I don’t think one monk ever returned to Ireland to tell them that the gods of Iceland were Thor and his companions, not the Christian one the monks always promised to shepherd us under and deliver us from sin via his mercy…had they taken a look at Iceland – they might have thought twice about sending their shepherds to us…but as they failed to return home, more continued to brave the crossing. Some of them converted to the religion of the island; some of them died on the journey; most of them wished they had never sought to save this particular island of heathens and a stone placed above their grave the only recognition that they were ever here!

I always introduced myself to the new arrivals and occasionally managed to subdue them enough to feed and gain some fresh blood. They always tasted just a little different to those that had survived mostly on fish. One boatload of monks had the foresight to bring sheep with them and we tended a communal flock. The young males and the old females were eaten eventually, but in the meantime we had wool and lambs and milk. The first goat presented more of a problem but as it was an animal sacred to Thor it was revered until we could figure out what to do with the infernal creature that would eat anything in its path and jumped our simple stone fences as though they were entertaining obstacles put specifically in its path for exercise.

In summer, the fields were lush with grass and the sun shone as if it would never set. I enjoyed the light and soaked as much of its glorious rays into myself as I could before the darkness started to creep back in. It was at the end of summer that Tristan returned and tipped my world upside-down again.

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