The scroll laid on Dunkan’s desk just as he said it would be. When Laurissa opened it, she found it began with Dunkan’s travels in Africa. It was well documented. Every kind of tool humans used, from farming to war and their uses, was documented. They had spears made of copper and used leather from lions and elephants for helmets. They used wood infused with copper as shields. Amber adorned royalty around their necks.
Lord Dunkan had traveled through Egypt and found the same types of weapons. The Egyptians used gold with turquoise and lapis gems as jewelry. They used swords and spears, and arrows as weapons. He met vampires there and learned different techniques of the tendril. It was his study, and it was everything Laurissa already knew.
There seemed to be a lot of details here for a vampire who is not interested in exploring and learning new things. Perhaps Dunkan feels he has learned all there is to know. What foolishness. The world is constantly changing. There are always things to learn and explore.
There must be some way to protect oneself. She continued scanning Dunkan’s scroll. He traveled across the sea and onto this land, then north to the islands across the northern sea.
He discovered stone builders there and learned their trade. Lord Dunkan had read to her from a similar scroll not too long ago. The land was full of magic. The magic users summoned the elements such as air, water, fire, and earth. Each element had its own power. The earth used vines to trap and poison the victims. They could befriend animals to command them to do their will. The bear and the wolf were the most honored animal.
The water element was strong and patient. It could become hard as stone and crush its opponent or become soft and suffocate it. It had the ability to heat and boil flesh off its victims.
Fire was life giving. It consumed everything and breathed oxygen like a living entity. After its consumption, new life burst forth.
Air can become a vacuum and draw oxygen out of one’s lungs. It can rage and lift the strongest tree from the ground. It can take a single straw of hay and impale it into a skull killing the victim.
Each element separately was strong but defeat able. Combining elements made them impossible to overcome. Storms can create enough energy to make fire.
Lord Dunkan recorded such a storm where lightning struck the ground, and a fire began consuming the land. He described in detail how the air felt and the power that seemed to attract every hair on his body. The vampires described this as electricity. The druids told Dunkan electricity can burn a person or simply stop a heart. When a person is charged with electricity, you can touch the skin and experience a small jolt that seemed to travel through your very bones. Lord Dunkan experienced this and found it painful.
Lord Dunkan cleared his throat, startling Laurissa. “My apologies, my dear. It is time to feed.”
“I am not hungry.”
Dunkan witnessed a mage use water to…
“You did not eat yesterday. You should eat today.”
Laurissa’s eyes glowed brightly, and her anger flowed through the tendril like a hot poker. “I am not hungry.” Her voice sounded hollow and gave a clear warning she was in no mood to be trifled with. Lord Dunkan took in her rage and found it delightful.
Dunkan witnessed a mage use water to…
“Oh my dear, you are something special. I should thank you for not interfering with Boros’ training.”
“Not now, Dunkan.”
Laurissa continued studying the scroll.
Dunkan witnessed a mage use water to create a bubble…
“Found something interesting?”
“Not. Now. Dunkan!” her warning is clear. Stay away or suffer the consequences.
“As you wish.” Lord Dunkan walked away.
Dunkan witnessed a mage use water to create a bubble and trap a human inside, while the mage’s partner…
“Edna seemed disappointed you have not made an appearance.”
Laurissa stood and pulsed her power with hundreds of daggers at Lord Dunkan. “Leave me!”
Lord Dunkan felt the cuts and looked with surprise. The rage he saw bordered on madness. “That is enough, Laurissa! I will not allow this level of insolence. You will submit to me.”
Laurissa calmed her rage and approached Lord Dunkan. She could smell his fear. He almost looked as if he wanted to bow to her. She took his wrist and bit hard, making her fangs brush the tendons and bone beneath. She fed quickly and deeply, taking as much as she could before he stopped her.
Lord Dunkan gripped her chin hard and forced his wrist away. This feeding session was not at all enjoyable as it has been. Laurissa had slipped into some type of madness. He released her chin and watched as she slowly turned and walked out the door. He walked to the desk to see what it was she was reading. Laurissa had darkened her tendril as she read and is still darkened. He wondered what it was she sought.
She had been asking to be trained in defenses for some time. Nothing in this scroll would train her how to use a weapon. His journals were simply for him to reference. Any skills learned were practiced so he did not forget the skill.
The portion of the scroll was opened to the time he visited the highlands. His records of the elements were at the top of the page. Did she want to learn elemental magic? There is nothing like that here. It is too far for traders or storytellers to come to Madwell. What did she find so upsetting? Lord Dunkan will allow her to calm down then proceed to inquire why she felt angered about his writings.
Laurissa went to the sitting room to collect Edna. She needed time to study and is furious she is interrupted. Time is slowly slipping away, and she has not made any improvements. How will she be able to defeat a room full of vampire that is much stronger than her if she is constantly being interrupted? Reading the same line over and over is infuriating.
Dunkan is right. She had an obligation to Edna. She felt the need to end Lord Dunkan’s life, and she almost allowed it. She must keep a sound mind and keep her emotions under control. Her rage burned like fire, demanding a release. She would grant it. She only needed time.
Laurissa took a deep breath to extinguish the flames and put aside her frustrations before she rounded the corner to the sitting room.
Edna is pacing the room near the door alone. The air stunk of fear. The other females are still out with their charges. Laurissa will have to inquire once again why Edna is so fearful. She is sure Edna was not a virgin when she turned her into a vampire. She cannot simply be afraid of Laurissa’s anger. Edna is very troubled, and it hurt Laurissa’s heart to see her in pain.
Laurissa sent a tendril in greeting to Edna, and Edna sent hers. “Let us go somewhere private.”
Laurissa guided her to the edge of the woods. Edna did not speak and constantly looked over her shoulder. Her demeanor began feeding the flames of anger within Laurissa. She has had enough of the stench. She will tell Edna what is happening. Perhaps this will calm her nerves. She has not been able to properly bond with Edna.
Laurissa went into the woods as far as her tendril would allow her, then sat against the tree she had practiced against. Edna continued to pace and would not look directly into Laurissa’s eyes. The joy Edna seemed to have when she was discovering what it meant to be a vampire is gone. Her fear is strangling her life.
“Come sit with me.”
“Laurissa, you are frightening me.” Her voice shook as tears build in her brown eyes.
“There is nothing to fear. Sit and listen to me a moment.” Edna did as she was told. “Your suspicions have been right. I am trapped by Lord Dunkan. He is the one who turned me then mated with me. This was not my choice. He is very cruel and wishes to create a vampire empire. I have defied him every day and fought against his vision. He has kept me from you and my studies by giving me tasks to complete. I plan to free myself very soon. I need your help, Edna.”
Edna’s entire focus changed. Her fear was gone, and her body suddenly relaxed as if she was looking for a task to occupy her mind. She is now fully focused on Laurissa. This only brought Laurissa’s determination to find the cause of Edna’s fear. It is obvious Edna is not afraid of her.
“Tell me how I can help.”
“When last we spoke, I suggested studying your tendril. What have you found?”
“Not much, I am afraid. I have been practicing commanding humans. I know my tendril has several strands that connect to my mind and body. Beyond that, it is a mystery.”
“You have power, Edna. Your tendril can be your weapon, and your power can help protect you. Form the tip of your tendril into the tip of a dagger.” Edna easily did as she was told. “This allows you to force your way into someone else’s mind. The more power you use behind the dagger, the less likely the vampire can resist you. Laurissa reached for Edna’s tendril and caressed her memory strand. Edna cried out. “It is painful when your tendril is touched. Remember this pain. Other vampires experience this as well. You must learn to control your pain and allow it to go through.” Laurissa looked at her memory strand closer. Something is wrong. “What is your earliest memory?” Edna’s mind automatically showed Laurissa images of waking in an abandoned house in Madwell. Laurissa was standing over her. The strand is a tiny strand and slowly twisted around the entire tendril. Edna’s color is a light tan. Her light tan had traces of black on part of the memory strand. Laurissa touched the strand, and it showed Lord Dunkan standing over Edna. She cradled Laurissa’s body as she laid ridged on the ground.
“Lord Dunkan, she needs help!”
Lord Dunkan struck her then picked her up by the throat. “It is apparent Laurissa has not taught you respect. This is my house. You will call me Master.”
“Yes, Master. Forgive me.”
Lord Dunkan dropped her and looked at Laurissa’s body. “Do not leave her sight. Make sure you are with her when she feeds.”
Lord Dunkan knelt in front of her and sent a dagger tendril to her. Edna cried out and begged him to stop. His tendril reached for her memory and lingered there, searching for any memories of Laurissa’s training. When he did not find anything, he said, “Report to me everything you learn from Laurissa. Is that understood?”
“By the gods, Edna, I am so sorry. Why did you not tell me?”
“He told me not to. He said there would be consequences if I told you, and because of your connection to him, he would know.”
“Is this what you are afraid of?”
“Yes, sister. You said you would protect me. I wanted you with me so he could not hurt me. I did not lie to you. You frightened me as well. Your anger is not to be dismissed.”
“Listen to me, Edna. Your life is now in danger. You must never return to the manor.”
“Please do not abandon me! I do not think I can live alone. You asked for help. Allow me to help you. Do not tell Lord Dunkan what you discovered.”
“You do not understand. Lord Dunkan has broken a promise. When you became a vampire, I was concerned he would try to control you and turn you against me. I told him if he or any of his vampires touched you or instructed you, I would end your life. He has touched you and commanded you, Edna. What is worse, now he believes he can control you. He will force me to kill you, or he will do it himself. I do not wish to end your life, Edna. You are not tainted by his rule. You must leave.”
“I will not, sister.”
“Do you wish to die?”
“No, sister. You came to me for help, I could smell the anger and worry. Your life is in danger, and so is mine. I will stay near you when you are not around Dunkan. He does not want you to know what took place. He will not corrupt me.”
Laurissa studied Edna’s eyes for a moment. She seemed to tell the truth. Lord Dunkan had pinched her heart and mind strands to ensure she spoke the truth. Laurissa searched for Edna’s heart, and mind strands then pinched them together. Edna cried out, and beads of sweat began to roll down her back. “Tell me a lie.”
Edna thought for a few minutes, then said, “I have black eyes.”
The stench of it was horrible, but her tendril hummed and vibrated vigorously as her heart raced and her mind worked to think of something.
“Tell me a truth. What is your name?”
“I am called Edna.”
The strands did not vibrate. They hummed and pulsed in rhythm to Edna’s life force.
“Who are you loyal to?”
Confusion went through the tendril. “No one, sister. I serve no one. I call you friend and wish to help.”
She told the truth. “Will you do as Lord Dunkan commands?”
“If you command me not to, I will not.”
Laurissa kept her strands pinched then looked directly into Edna’s eyes. She could see the detailed colors that formed to make the copper brown color one saw. The tiny veins pulsed, and the dark pupil expanded as fear overcame Edna. “Do not do as he commands. If he asks you to call him Master, you will look to me first. You will come to me for permission to complete any request or demand he makes of you. Swear it on your life Edna!”
“I swear, sister. I will come to you if he speaks to me with his tongue or tendril.”
Laurissa was satisfied with the outcome. It is almost dawn, and she has not yet slept. There is still much to do. She would have to push herself to the limits. The race against time has begun. The finish line to the race to the death is approaching too fast. It will be her life or Dunkan’s. She would be satisfied if she died with Dunkan.
Laurissa stood up and gazed toward Madwell. She must ensure the humans were safe before she perished.
“Sister?” She heard Edna’s weakened voice. She could see Laurissa was lost in thought. Laurissa looked down at her with glowing blue eyes. The fire burned brightly. Death screamed for a release. It frightened Edna to see such determination. She almost felt sorry for Lord Dunkan and was glad to know the fury and the death she saw were not aimed at her. “What is it you need?”
“There are three young vampires in Lord Dunkan’s manor. Boros is Lord Dunkan’s charge, and the two females each have a female charge. They should be released soon. I want you to find vampires who disagree with Lord Dunkan. Start with Dunkan’s new charge, Boros. Those who are loyal to Dunkan must die. I need you to be my eyes and ears.”
“I will do this for you, sister.”
“Give me a day to prepare. I will give you tools to use if I am successful.” Laurissa said with a hollowed voice. Her gaze was not on Edna. It was far into the future. “Yes, sister.”
“Rest tonight and meet me here tomorrow night.”
Edna quietly disconnected from Laurissa and began walking to the manor. Laurissa opened her tendril to Lord Dunkan. He does not like it when she closes her mind from him. He had just ensured she would not. As long as Edna was out of her sight, she would be listening and watching Lord Dunkan. The moment he touches Edna will be the death of them both. She did not want the plans of vampire domination to continue; however, she would give her life to keep Edna safe. Attacking Lord Dunkan too soon will mean her death and quite possibly Edna’s death. The struggle to free herself seemed hopeless. She could feel Dunkan’s grip on her tighten. It strangled her from within. She pulled against him suffocating her soul. The leash had to break eventually.