Thicker than Blood: Awakening

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A Wingless Angel

When Mary opened her eyes, she noticed dark clouds had covered the Sun. That was strange, but it wasn’t as strange as what she realized had fallen on her. It was a person, bound in old chains. She pushed them off her with some effort, rolling them away from her. Sitting upright and scurrying backward, she glanced over at the prisoner. What was a person doing inside the side of a mountain?

Glancing over the limp form, she identified the person as a man, wearing a torn, beige tunic and worn, black knickers with brown leather, laced boots. Platinum blonde locks fell from his head to at least his backside. There was a tear in the upper back with what looked like stained blood around it. Reaching out to roll him back toward her, his visage looked noble, if a bit sickly, as he appeared to be sleeping. Just when she was about to question what he was doing chained about his torso and legs, she noticed a familiar bulge under his lips. Fangs...

The wolf hollowed again, making her lookup. Its head was pointed at the sky. When she looked, the clouds were moving away. She gasped, dragging the man back toward the mountain. As the Sun rays brightened the area once again, she stripped off her coat, draping it over the sleeper. She pushed his long legs up under the coat, noticing how much taller he was than her. Standing back to make sure he was concealed, she glanced back at the wolf, but it was gone. When had it left? Never mind that now. She had protected the vampire. What had she gone and done that for? Groaning, she went to investigate his former prison.

Kicking aside the crumbled earth and rocks, Mary glanced at the small space the vampire had just vacated. It was just large enough for him to fit, and that was only standing upright. It must have been uncomfortable when he was placed inside. Then again, since he was still alive, it was probably a terrifying experience. She hoped she hadn’t just released a criminal.

Leaning her forehead against the back of the earthen hovel, she noticed something wrapped in cloth. Picking it up, she was impressed by the weight. As she unwound the covering, she discovered a sword inside of a wooden-tipped sheath. She unsheathed the blade a bit to look at how weathered the metal was, and surprisingly, it appeared to have held up well, not that she was an expert on weaponry. Without any other secrets to be found, she left the space to return to the mound propped up against the mountain.

Resting the sword beside the vampire, Mary went for the bottle in her coat pocket. As she unscrewed the lid, it occurred to her that this guy was going to be hungry when he woke up. Staring down at the red liquid in her hands, she debated whether or not she should give him any. After all, she didn’t know what it did for her, so how could she know what it could do to a legitimate vampire?

Biting her lip, she started to pace around the clearer area, weighing her options now. How did she even get into this mess in the first place? What were those symbols? Had they been a spell of some kind? If only she could have inspected them a bit more, she might have been able to commit them to memory to look up later. Before she realized it, the sky began to darken. It didn’t faze her until the vampire began to shift beneath her coat.

Again, she acted on impulse and grabbed onto him. She held him as still as she could as the Sun’s reach faded from them. She was already strong in her own right, but the vampire put up a decent fight to free himself, hissing from beneath the garment. Once it was clear, she jumped backward, allowing the vampire to shake himself free of the black cover.

When his face came into view, amber eyes glared back at her. He managed to lunge toward her while still being restricted by the chains. He was snarling like a rabid beast. It had to be bloodlust. So much for debating whether or not to feed him. Barely dodging him, she opened the bottle of serum when he landed on the ground. Grabbing him by his loose hair, she shoved the mouth of the bottle to his lips.

The struggle only lasted a brief moment longer as his senses became aware of the taste of the serum. Slumping his tense muscles, the sound of his gulps were loud enough to make her concerned. She helped him to sit up as he drank. Her heart broke at the level of desperation in his eyes. He looked as if he might weep. This must be what a person looked like before they starved to death. For the first time in her life, Mary Black felt pity for a vampire.

“Hey! Don’t forget to breathe,” she cried, taking the bottle from him. He gasped for air as if he had been suffocating. Laying him back down on the leaves covering the ground, her crimson eyes examined him. He was beginning to look less thin, especially in the face.

“It’s all right now. I’m Mary, Mary Black. I’m a friend.”

“Friend...?” He wheezed in a thick, Slavic accent. Mary guessed he might be from Russia or some neighboring country. She nodded in response to his weary gaze. It hadn’t occurred to her that he might not understand English. “Thee... holp... me...?”

“Yes, I set you loose without realizing it,” she grinned shyly. That sounded great. ‘I released you on accident’ was such a great way to show you care. “Those chains don’t look very comfortable. I’ll help you out of them if you promise not to lash out again. Promise now!”

The vampire nodded his head excitedly. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad vampire, or perhaps she was setting herself up to be attacked. Setting the bottle down, his honey-glazed eyes stared at it. He needed assistance to sit upright again, but he didn’t resist or struggle further. As she pushed the chains over his head, she wondered how much serum would quench his thirst. His eyes were still locked on it.

Once his trunk was free, he rotated his shoulders, producing several, loud cracks from his stiff joints. Mary couldn’t help flinching. He grinned at her reaction with amusement. The leg chains were not as simple to remove, so she grabbed a rock from the rubble and used it to break one of the links. With her strength and the edge of the stone, the link shattered, and the chain uncoiled.

“There,” she huffed, tossing the rock. His eyes remained on the bottle as he rubbed his wrists. “I supposed you’re still thirsty. You look like you could use it more than I right now.” She picked it up to offer it to him. “Drink up.”

He bowed his head in gratitude. Taking the bottle from her hand, he drank with a bit more dignity this time. Shaking the dust and dirt off her coat, Mary tried not to stare at him. Just how long had he been in there? His clothes looked to be around the European Medieval era, but his accent was definitely of Slavic origin. The archaic pronouns implied he had some education from Europe though. Just who was he? She wanted answers, but she was trying to be considerate to the poor guy, having just woken up.

“I thank thee for the sweet blood, Lady Mary Black,” the vampire spoke up, making her turn around.

He reached for his sword, making her gape in disbelief. So much for promises. Instead of attacking, he laid it upon the ground before him, kneeling on his right knee. Placing his right hand on his chest, he bowed his head.

“I owe thee both mine own life and freedom. Henceforth, I give mine own blade to thy service.”

“You what?” Mary gaped back in shock. What was this? What was going on? “Please, there’s no need to bow to me. You’re free now. You can do whatever...”

She stopped, realizing what she nearly said. What could a vampire from the Dark Ages do in the twenty-first century? He would be lost. How could she turn him away? She’d let him out. He’d sworn something or other to her. As far as she could tell, she’d gained a vampire servant. Just great. How was she going to explain this to Wes and Mitch? Good thing Wes had figured out how to make more of the serum. He would be feeding two now.

“I hope you don’t mind relocating then,” she sighed heavily at last. “I’m not exactly a local.”

“I shall wend whither thee lead, mine own lady.”

“This is going to take a while to get used to...” She looked up at the sky. The Sun was completely beneath the horizon now. If they headed west now, hopefully, they wouldn’t run into it on the way back to Virginia. “What in the Queen’s name have I gotten myself into now? I don’t even know your name.”

With his face still low, the vampire listened as she spoke of things he did not completely understand. He did grasp that she had not expected to find him, and she was not exactly certain how to proceed. Staring at the earth beneath him, he reflected on the last events he recalled before living in that mountain. The seemingly endless darkness had been suffocating, grinding his fangs just remembering the faces of the ones responsible for his captivity. He would have his revenge, but for now, he would serve his savior. Her benevolence to him, a stranger, could not go unsettled.

“Mine own name is Gabriel, Lady Mary.”


She found it strange that he was named after an angel, but then again, vampires were once human, were they not? She looked over him, seeing how much more muscle had grown back on him. There was still some serum in the bottle as well. She hoped he didn’t have much more to fill in.

As she pondered her situation, it occurred to her that she might need allies in her search for her sister. She might have a fight coming. Gabriel might just be the person she needed. Had that wolf led her here, knowing that somehow?

“Well then, Gabriel, you needn’t call me a lady. I have no such title. You may call me simply Mary, or Miss Black if you must. All right?” He stared back at her with a confused expression on his face. She let the matter drop, not wanting to confuse herself. “Then let’s be off. We have a flight ahead of us.”

Wes was alone in the kitchen, cooking up a batch of serum. He found it amusing that the formula was mixed in a cast-iron pot. It was such a complex compound, but it was structured like an old, family recipe. It was too bad Mary’s dad had passed away; otherwise, Wes would have wanted to discuss why a man with a doctorate in Biochemistry had turned to alchemic methods. He put the lid on the pot to let the ingredients boil, but the sound of the sliding door made him wheel out to see what Mary was doing home before sunup on a Sunday.

“Hey, Mary,” he called before he made it into the living room, “you’re home early. Did that lead in Luton get you any...” He paused when he saw the tall man still standing on the balcony. He looked like a live-action role player with a very well-weathered costume. Something told him by the smile on his roommate’s face that he wasn’t though. “... where?”

“Something like that. Haha...!” She tried to laugh like Mitch often did in silence to lighten the mood and failed.

She could just imagine Gabriel behind her, glancing around the room at all the new things. On the entire flight back, he had almost slowed her down, distracted by the difference in scenery. She wondered if his jaw would ever close at he marveled in awe. At least, he seemed to be polite enough to not touch things that didn’t belong to him. That was encouraging.

“Wes, I’d like you to meet my new friend, Gabriel. We met in Romania, and due to a truly obscure story that I don’t feel like sharing right now, he...” She had to pause, trying to think of a word to describe the arrangement she’d found herself in. “He feels he owes me a life debt, so he came home with me! Hm!” Again, the awkward laugh failed to lessen the odd atmosphere.

“Mary...” Wes stared over at the Ren Fair man once more. He didn’t look threatening with the curious look in his eyes, but was that a real sword in his hand? The paraplegic couldn’t help but think this forebode of more visitors in the future.

“You don’t have to dance around your question. You’re starting to look like a little kid that found a frog on the way home from school, trying to convince Mom to let them keep it. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything... You want to know if he can stay, right?” She nodded with a worried look on her face. “Well, if we work under the same arrangement you have, as long as he earns his keep, I won’t turn him out. You know I’m all for ‘you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours’.” Crossing his arms, he waited for a proposal. This was sure to be interesting.

Glancing behind her at the vampire still waiting outside the threshold, she saw him catch her gaze. He stared back with his serious expression. He didn’t have much of a public presence unless he was trying to intimidate people. He couldn’t very well work in the pizza shop. As a vampire, he had to sleep during the day, whether he liked it or not. She didn’t want him seen by too many people, so where did that leave him? He was more than strong enough to do manual labor. Did they have anything like that he could do? She whipped her head about to look at Wes with a wide grin, making him raise his brow in surprise.

Mary was not one to grin. It usually was a widespread of lips you got out of her, and occasionally, Mitch made her laugh enough to show off her front teeth, a little bit. She didn’t like flashing her teeth though, so seeing her fangs out for the entire world to see, Wes had to blink a few times. He had never really gotten a good look at those canines before, so he took a moment to collect himself. He wasn’t seeing things. Those were fangs and dimples, a strangely adorable combination.

“Wes! I have a wonderful idea,” she chimed. Even Gabriel tilted his head, intrigued by her excitement. “You recall Mitch mentioning that someone should watch the shop at night, don’t you? He was saying that someone could organize the stock at night, so it wouldn’t take so much time in the mornings. Gabriel could organize early delivers, restock the kitchen, and make a presence so we don’t get broken into again! Don’t you see, Wes? As a nocturnal person, he could stay all night long, and before dawn, he could come back up here when there are people on the boulevard discouraging crime! Isn’t it fantastic?”

“Well, you made such a detailed case, how could I say no?” Wes replied, a bit dumbstruck. Mary had sold Gabriel as a pack mule. “It’s a good thing I cracked the formula the other night, or I’d have to do that whole, weird process twice. Welcome to Virginia, Gabriel. Hope the place isn’t too small for you. It’s only a one-room apartment. We didn’t exactly plan on more people living here when it was renovated.”

“Oh, thank you, Wes!” Mary reached out to embrace her roommate. She was so excited that she missed the stunned expression he gave as he stiffened at the touch. Leaning back, her crimson eyes shimmered gratefully. She’d solved her vampire servant problem without having to send him away.

“Thou art most gracious, Lord Wes,” Gabriel said with a bow from the waist. He was still waiting to be let in, which Wes waved shyly. Finally, the vampire stepped inside.

“He does that.” Mary waved defensively in her roommate’s direction. “You have work tomorrow though. Why are you still up, mister?”

“I was making a batch of serum. You’re welcome.” Wes made a pouting face up at her, recovered from his shock as best he could. Turning on his wheels, he checked the time on the kitchen clock to see how long the pot needed to boil. “It should be another forty minutes before this batch is done. Glad I thought to try adjusting the ingredients tonight. You can tell me if it’s right. Then, I’ll go to bed. Okay, Mom?”

“Oh, you tease!” She shooed him back to the kitchen as she went to hang her coat. Looking back at the vampire, she sighed. Bedtime for him wouldn’t be for hours. She felt bad since she wanted to go to sleep herself. What great freedom he had been given to sit by himself in a strange apartment.

“Gabriel, if you’d like, you can sit in the chair there. I’m just going to shower and head for bed in a bit. You can shower if you like after. Will you be alright on your own until sunrise?”

“I shall keep vigil till then, mine own la- Mary. Rest well.”

“All right then, I’ll be back in a moment.”

Watching her walk into the next room, Gabriel contemplated something that had been nagging him for a short while. As he had been observing Mary Black, he couldn’t help the feeling of familiarity, as if he should know her from somewhere. Of course, that was hardly possible, but still, he felt something he could not ignore. Brushing the thought aside, he walked silently toward the glass door they had entered, pondering his original problems.

He walked back out onto the balcony, looking up at the moon and stars. He wondered if there was still time to set things right. Just how long had he been inside that mountain? There were so many things in the world he had never seen before, like the once called ‘New World’ that apparently wasn’t quite so new anymore.

“Michael,” he said in a soft voice, “art thee still alive? What of thee, mine own rose? Doth we behold at the same moon thus night? Art thee well? Hath thee faded in mine own absence?”

His face was troubled as he stared at the moon. Once, it had brought him joy and pleasure, yet all it gave him this night was heartache. So many faces reflected on the glowing surface, and none gave him peace enough to rest. Too long had he been kept silent, waiting to strike back and reclaim that which had been stolen from him. Mary had set him free to grasp his goal. He would not waste this chance.

“I shall find thee, mine own loves. I shall free thee from the one that tore us asunder. I shall reunite us all.”

In the kitchen, Wes stared at the stove from his chair. He listened to the boiling liquid in the pot as his thoughts began to steep over the events that just happened in the other room. Mary had never actually hugged him before. He trembled a bit at the mere thought of the action, gripping the arms of his chair.

He had a thing about his personal space, or his ‘bubble’ as he called it. Mary had agreed to it without a fuss since she had struggles interacting with people. This was probably a one-time thing, and she had most likely acted out of the desperation of her circumstances. Still, his insecurities were a struggle he had been dealing with for a while. He’d fought hard to get the independence he had now, but Mary didn’t know about any of that.

With that in mind, how could he blame her or even stay upset? All she knew was that he was paralyzed from the waist down. He hadn’t volunteered much of anything about himself to her, which seemed a bit selfish in hindsight. He had made her open up, so she didn’t bottle up her emotions. The last thing he wanted was a self-destructing roommate. They had maintained a pleasant, friendly relationship for the past two years, and he liked it the way it was. He didn’t need to get close to anyone ever again. He felt his back throb suddenly, making him flinch and grip his chair tighter.

“It’s over, Wes.” He went back to watching the time for the pot. The twinge in his back continued though. “It’s done.”

Stepping into the shower, Mary let the warm water soak into her blonde locks first. All the dust and dirt left her feeling filthy, but it was better than singed and coughing up smoke. Her ruby irises stared blankly at the tiles of the shower at her feet. Another blown day in her search for answers. She doubted she would be able to go out later that day as Monday was approaching. Mingling with the water streaming down her face, tears were carried from her tired eyes.

Another birthday passed. Another year gone without her sister. Just as she was about to ask herself if all of this was even worth it, she slapped her cheek hard. Letting the sting go numb, the tears came again. She had to be strong. She had to have hope. She had to believe that somewhere out there her sister was alive, waiting to be with her again. All these years would not be in vain. She would find out why her life had been stolen from her by these monsters, even if she had to bear her fangs back in defiance.

“Where are you...?” She cried through clenched teeth. Leaning her forearms on the shower wall, she trembled. “Where are you, Mara? Where are you?”

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