In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 13 - Melancholia

Caio POV

The moon was reflecting silver light over Tazia’s lake surface. Cold winds have come down from the mountains of Needle forest, making the branches of the willow trees blow in an avid dance.

I was sitting on a boulder on the edge of the lake as Fang laid down beside me. My thoughts were everywhere. My past, my transformation, my present… every little detail was rushing through my mind, even the encounter with the human girl.

I picked up a small round stone, observing all its small details before throwing it across the lake. It skipped several times before finally sinking.

*Sigh* I let my head lay down over my arms, which rested on my knees. Delicate hands pressed affectionately on my shoulders, massaging them.

“How are you feeling? You can usually feel my presence from afar.” A beautiful woman stood behind me. Her golden laced armor hugged the simple white dress that covered her body. Her bare feet decorated with delicate golden chains and her curly blond locks tied back on a ponytail, a golden tiara framing her head.

When I didn’t react, she decided to sit next to me, resting her head on my right shoulder. We remained like this for some time, just looking out at the moonlight reflection on the water and the ripples the wind made over it.

“I heard you met someone.” Again, she tried to get a reaction from me. “Az…”

“Don’t...” A whisper, that’s the only thing she got from me.

She nodded, acknowledging my near-silent plea. Her captivating light blue eyes studied my tired face.

“What’s eating you?”

Once more, I didn’t answer. Instead, I closed my eyes tightly, my fingers pressing my nose bridge together.

“You haven’t spoken with the priest for over a month.” Her hand gently squeezed my biceps, stubbornly trying to get an answer off me.

“Certain things are hard to explain, let alone talk about it,” I replied, opening my eyes to gaze back at the lake.

“True, but he could listen to your internal battles and help you overcome whatever it is bothering you so much. I believe you forget that father Ronah knows about your past. Surely, he would understand! Otherwise, who else can you talk to? He’s the only one you can talk to apart from myself.” Her voice was as suave as the ripples created in the water.

Fang lifted his head, whimpering at Gabi with puppy eyes.

“But of course, you too Fang! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to exclude you.” She gave him a nice ruffle of his fur before addressing me anew with her usual gentle voice. “If you insist on not talking with father Ronah, at least talk with me. What’s wrong, brother?”

“Guess you forgot about Erik, either way, it doesn’t matter.” There was silence for a few minutes before I decided to meet her eyes.

“Been thinking about my life up until now. Everything that’s happened, including the day I turned into what I am today.” I let out a long sigh, dropping my head down as I closed my eyes. “Guess I’m just tired… VERY tired.”

“I understand. It’s been rough for you. It’s not surprising that it marked you so much.” This time, she placed a hand on my back, slowly rubbing it in circles to comfort me. My eyelids cracked open just a bit, not intending on concentrating my vision on anything specifically. My thoughts were everywhere, and It was driving me crazy to try to make sense of things. My life… or this I call life. A series of images flipped through my mind like a flashback or a slide show. An internal conflict of ideas and feelings, a thunderous hurricane that seemed impossible for me to calm it.

“For me, that was the most important day of my immortality. The day I decided to break the rules knowing I’d be punished for it.”

“Do you regret it?” Her voice was a mere whisper intertwined with the noise of the wind blowing across the trees. I shook my head no.

“I’d do it all over again if I found myself in the same situation.”

“… but you despise what you became. Your punishment included.” She tilted her head to one side in curiosity though I only shrugged.

“It was harsher than I expected. The worst part is, I’m starting to develop a taste for blood. Sometimes, I get so intoxicated by its smell that either it becomes hard to control myself or I lose total control of what I’m doing.” Subconsciously, my eyes moved back to watch the calm rippling movement of the water. This has become my therapy in its own way. It calms me simply by watching it.

“You mean, you can’t stop feeding off of your… prey before it’s too late?” She reached a hand about my face, tenderly turning so she could look into my eyes. All she could see was my blank stare. What could I say or do? It was true, I have lost control more than once. Unfortunately, ending my prey’s life in the process.

“Caio, in all our family, you’re the one with the most respect for life, human or not. Even as a vampire, you have always ensured this code of honor of yours. Stay true to it.”

“Gabriella… you don’t understand. Being a vampire is slowly changing me. I have killed innocents and it’s not something I take lightly.”

“I understand that quite well!”

“No, you don’t! You would only understand it if you were a vampire. You don’t go around claiming lives so you can quench your thirst.”

Gabriella didn’t reply to that with words, however, she hugged me tightly, caressing my head as only she could. I let myself relax, resting my forehead on her shoulder, feeling her soft white skin in contact with mine, that almost imperceptive heartbeat resonating throughout her veins. I breathe in her scent, realizing my mistake a second too late. My hunger had awakened the vampire in me and a second later, I found my canines grazing her skin, puncturing it ever so lightly. A trickle of blood ran down her shoulder. I expected her to push me away, however, she let me feed on her. The taste of her blood filled my senses, making my fangs penetrate deeper in her skin, allowing that dark red liquid to fill my veins and quench my thirst. After a while, she began caressing my hair to slowly bring me back to myself.

“There, there. That should be enough for now, brother.”

Slowly, I retrieved my fangs from her shoulder, licking the puncture marks to make them heal. My dazed eyes met hers as a drop of blood ran down the corner of my half-open mouth.

“You should be able to control yourself easier now.” She wiped the blood from my face with a kind smile.

My eyebrows knitted together as I shook my head to bring my consciousness back in its right place. I pulled away, breaking our embrace in an irate move.

“Why did you allow me to bite you? I just told you that I was losing control of myself! I could have killed you!!”

“Hey, hey! You don’t have to feel so angry with me. My blood will help you control your vampire side and…”

“Help control my vampire side for how long? I can’t nor will I ever continue to drink your blood even if it can help me keep control. I need to do it myself. Putting yourself on the line for my sake is very like you although I do not appreciate it. I will NOT be responsible for killing my sister.”

“You weren’t going to kill me, I knew it! Besides, you seem hungry.” I huffed with her last sentence.

“It’s none of your busyness if I’m hungry or not. I can take care of myself.”

“Alright, alright! I’m sorry.” She put her hands up in defeat.

We stared at each other for a while as I traced the contours of my ankh pendant.

“Tell me, brother, I heard you’ve met a girl.”

I averted my gaze, knowing well what she was trying to do but instead of answering, I allowed the silence to rule. It became all too fascinating to watch the movement of the long thin branches of the nearby trees dancing along with the wind, whipping the water like a painter creating a masterpiece.

“Oh, come on. Tell me! Did you enjoy speaking with someone different for a change?” Gabi repeated herself, giving me a painful pinch on the neck.

“Ouch!” Nonetheless, I turned to glare at her and met with her triumphant face.

“Yes.” I rubbed that painful place in my neck where she just ‘attacked’. “I’ve seen her once before.” Gabi lifted an eyebrow inquisitively. “It happened the other day when I was bathing. There was another girl with her too.” Now her cheeks turned a brighter pink while her eyes widened.

“MY LORD! … AND YOU LET THEM?” I rolled my eyes at her reaction. ‘What is going on with those women and their childish reaction?!’

“What was I supposed to do? Hide? Splash water on them? Tell them to look away with a screeching little girl’s voice? I don’t care!” I felt some kicks over my side and looked down to find a spasming white wolf in his deep sleep. The sight put a smile on my lips, making me pat his strong neck and head to calm him down. Gabi shook her head letting out a sigh.

“You’re impossible, brother. Don’t you know that is not something you should do in front of others? Especially women!” I glared at her.

“You speak as if I purposely did it in front of them. I was in the lake, far from any house. How in the nine hells was I supposed to know that they would be there that day? And what is it with you and Thia going off on me for that?”

“Oh, so you finally went back to talking with her?”

“I never stopped talking with her on purpose. There were no opportunities. We were both occupied with other things.” I was starting to get a headache from her.

“Either way, Thia is right! You shouldn’t have allowed them to watch you. It’s not appropriate!”

“Gabriella…” I rubbed my eyes in both irritation and tiredness. “Drop the subject! I thought you came to help me feel better, not worse.”

She giggled, acting as she hadn’t just annoyed the hell out of me with that last subject.

“But I did help you! I helped you in chasing that melancholia away.” She beamed, all excited for her deed. I shook my head, amused.

“Brother…”

“Hm?”

“Was she pretty?”

Saying her question surprised me wouldn’t be saying much. Not just because I didn’t believe that she would ask something like that, but also purely because she dared ask it after the last subject. It got me wondering why those two women were so interested in finding me a girlfriend. Consequently, my mind began jumbling her question. I told Thia that she was beautiful without thinking, but was she? After a while, I felt a hand running up my neck. I shot her a deadly glare. She was using the same expression from before, holding a slight smile over her lips while looking innocent and impatient at the same time. Before I got stuck with another painful pinch, I decided to answer her.

“I guess so. You know I don’t pay attention to that. Even more so when I have to protect her from werebears that insist that I’m entering ‘their’ territory.”

“I see. Don’t you think I should meet her sometime?”

Ignoring her, I looked down at Fang, who was still sleeping by me, and ran my hand through his fur.

“Thank you for listening and taking time from your busy schedule to come ‘cheer me up’. You’re the only one in our family who takes the time to come check on me.”

“The others care too, brother, but they don’t know how to handle you. Even our oldest brother has asked me how you were.”

I turned a sour expression to her.

“Mich is full of himself!” Gabi let out a soft giggle.

“You never followed his orders and always questioned his motives. If you ever gave him a chance, you would see he’s not that bad. Have you ever thought about how he feels?”

“Definitely! Like a stuck-up prick!”

She let out another soft giggle, giving me a big hug and a soft kiss on the cheek.

“You’re too much, big brother, but I still love ya!” I huffed at her comment.

“I gotta go. Promise me you will go talk with father Ronah next time you feel so down in the guts?”

A side nod, that was all she got. I wasn’t one to talk without a motive.

Just like that, she walked away, back inside the forest.

Fang and I must have stayed another thirty minutes there just enjoying the weather.

A noise woke Fang from his sleeping stupor. His big wolf head regarding the figure with a big yawn.

“Sorry I woke you up, big guy. It wasn’t my intention.” The tall man approached us.

“Fang curled up in a ball, hiding his head under his long furry tail to go back to sleep.”

“I wasn’t expecting you around here, Erik.”

I picked another round stone and threw it on the lake to watch it skip along.

“I was looking for you. Six teenagers were found dead in Needle’s forest the other day. The werewolves and the cops are going full out, conducting their investigation.”

My ears pricked, curiosity making me scrutinize him as he recounted all the details of what had transpired.

“The werewolf beta visited my clinic today. He asked me all kinds of questions, including where they could find you.” Erik leaned over a three trunk, crossing his arms.

“So, they are looking for me…”

“Seems like it! Of course, I told him he would find you patrolling Kodoku’s. He didn’t seem very happy with my answer.”

“I can imagine. Will see how much effort they put into finding me.” I smirked.

“I will keep an eye out for any information on my end however, you need to be careful, Caio. Whatever is going on, it’s not a child’s game.”

“Reason why I plan to start my own investigation. Will have Ben looking into it tonight.”

“In that case, I will see you back in the castle. Need to look into a few things. Will keep you in the loop, as usual.”

I answered him in the form of a nod. He turned, walking into the forest.

“Fang, time to go on our patrol.”

Fang yawned, glancing around. Lazily, he stood on his four paws, stretching his back legs out by almost dragging them along a step. When he was satisfied with the long stretch, he shook whatever dust or debris off his fur before jumping down from the big rock, following me.

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