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Queen of Shadows

By mirna03 All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

Chapter 1

The frost had decorated the window with intricate patterns as Iris gazed outside watching the snow fall softly. It was a crisp night, the moon peaking from the clouds made the snow brighter. In her eyes every detail of each snowflake was seen with sharp clarity, the lines that converged in the middle, the way they radiated from the center, each frozen diamond as beautiful and unique as the one that fell before it. In the distant she heard the howl of a wolf, and closing her eyes sensed the pulsating energy of the creature, felt its strong heart beating, the hunger in its belly, the clawing, gnawing sensation of a creature starved. She turned away from the window, her black boots clicking against the wooden floor as she sat in her most comfortable velvet chair near the hearth. Closing her eyes, a wave of tiredness washed over her, not the kind of tiredness that can be cured with sleep. It was the kind of tiredness that befell one who had a long, weary life. She was ready for eternal slumber but could not find a means to end her life. Bullets, weapons, bombs, nothing can kill her. She was immortal. Most would assume her to be a vampire, and she certainly did look the part, with her long, gleaming black hair cascading like the waterfall of night. Her eyes a light brown, with flecks of gold that shimmered in the light when she fed on the souls of humans. She was far worse than a vampire, for vampires could stop themselves from draining a human or turn them into one of their own. But for Iris, who had walked the Earth a thousand years, she had never come across anyone like herself, one that needed the souls of humans to sustain itself. You see, starvation couldn’t kill her either. She would grow weak to a point where she wound up bedridden, but would never die. She learned that lesson in the 19th century, after her numerous failed attempts to end her life. These days she lived a life of solitude and enjoyed the comfort of loneliness. She had taken the lives of countless lovers, for those who she bed end up dead, withering away into ash under her fingertips.

Iris was starting to grow restless and weak not having fed in nearly six months. The taste of souls filled her mind with desire and longing. For the past hundred years she only picked victims, whose life had almost run its course, putting them out of their misery prematurely. Over the years her heart had grown soft, and she began to kill out of sustenance instead of pleasure. The days where she enjoyed the pursuit, seducing her prey, wining and dining them at exquisite restaurants for weeks at a time and bringing them back to feed while they were in the midst of orgasm were long gone. These days she wound up at a bar or a nightclub and chose her next feed in an instant, bringing them back to her mansion, draining them of their souls. Life had lost all pleasure and meaning for her as she continued to do the actions mind numbingly, distracting herself from the sense of hopelessness that had wormed its way into her heart nearly two hundred years ago.

Rising from her chair, Iris made her way downstairs, and donned her long black coat. It was time to hunt. The snow had stopped falling and the clouds had cleared away, paving the way for the moon to shine its light upon the ground. The looming evergreen trees cast long shadows against the white backdrop as Iris breathed in the fresh air, embracing the coldness that swept her body. It was a long trek to the main intersection, but Iris didn’t mind. She had always enjoyed long nightly walks during winter’s coldest days, surrounded amongst the silence of the trees. As she arrived closer to the main intersection she felt her senses over stimulated by the noise, the lights, the people. She felt her hunger tug at her, and forced herself to keep walking until she sensed a weak life force. Iris hailed a cab and decided to head to her favourite club, The Liquid. There was a long line of people at the door, but all Iris had to do was go through the back entrance, unlocking it with a simple touch to the bolt. As she entered the club her senses were overwhelmed by the pulsating life of people. A slight smile touched her lips as she watched the people sway their bodies to the rhythm of the music, their arms up in ecstasy. So much life filled her with such hunger, such desire as she scanned the room and spotted a handsome young man. Her eyes found his, and as she looked into the depths of his soul she knew he would die within a few hours of a gunshot wound to the head. As she approached him, another wave of energy filled the room; it was unlike anything Iris had ever felt before at this club. She turned her attention to a beautiful woman in black sitting at the bar, her long legs crossed, sipping on a glass of wine. Her lips, the colour of blood matched her long painted fingernails. Iris stopped midstride, wanting to approach her but she couldn’t sense the woman’s impending death and so with great effort she continued to walk towards the handsome man.

His face broke into a grin and his green eyes crinkled as he watched Iris approach him. She felt a twinge of sadness as she locked her lifeless eyes onto his. She saw his whole life in those eyes, saw that he had just graduated from university with his business degree, cared for a younger sister whom he adored and fawned over, had a proud single mother who sacrificed her time for money to put him through school. Iris felt the weight of his life in her chest as she saw the day he was born and the day he were to die. She was a monster.

“Hey there!” he waved casually as Iris stood in front of him.

“Would you like to dance?” Her voice was husky and he found her slight accent hard to place as he took her by the hand and led her to the dance floor. Iris smiled sadly, and briefly looked towards the bar to see the beautiful woman watching her. Iris felt her pulse slightly quicken. Something about that woman gave her a rush of excitement and a sense of familiarity that left her feeling unsettled. For the first time in hundreds of years Iris felt uncomfortable. She wondered if the woman was like herself, a predator of the night.

“You are beautiful,” he said to her as they moved to the music. “What’s your name?”

“Laya,” she whispered against his neck and felt her body draw closer to his. “Would you like to come back to my place?” She looked deep into his eyes, yearning to devour him. It was taking an overwhelming amount of willpower to force herself to keep her head clear, to ignore the hunger that was about to overwhelm her rationale.

He nodded eagerly. “My car is parked just around the corner.” Iris smiled, and just as she was leaving with Mark, her eyes were drawn once more to the beautiful woman at the bar. The woman smiled, her ruby lips parting slightly. Iris felt a rush of emotions, something with such profound intensity that left her feeling slightly out of breath. In that instant as Iris locked eyes with her, she saw into the depths of her world, a life that revolved upon years of music lessons, sacrifices and dedication to become the best cellist in history. Iris felt comforted that the woman was not one of her own, or some devious creature out to claim her territory. Yet, there was something about her eyes that made Iris uneasy, perhaps it was the pools of darkness, of an endless, fathomless abyss. Mark turned to look at her, flashing her a quick smile and Iris put the woman at the back of her head making a mental note to come tomorrow night.

“My place is pretty close actually, it’s right around the corner,” Mark started the car, and turned to look at her.

“No. We will be going to my place. I have a magnificent mansion up in the mountains. It’ll take around half an hour to get there but it’s well worth the ride,” she touched his cheek lightly, her smile seductive and inviting.

He grinned back, captivated by her charm, “So what do you do for a living Laya?”

“I’m a writer. I live secluded from the world because it helps me concentrate on my work, but sometimes I mingle with the common human. I like having some fun once in a while.”

Mark let out a boisterous laugh, “I hope you don’t intend to kill me in your secluded mansion!”

“You’d be lucky if I did,” Iris smirked. She gave him directions to her house, and as he pulled up to the driveway he gazed in awe.

“You live here by yourself?” he asked getting out of the car. “This is more like a small castle.”

“I like the Victorian era, so I modelled my mansion to be furnished in a similar manner.” Mark walked in behind her, still in awe as he drank in the beautiful scenery, the tapestries that hung on the walls, the architecture of the ceilings, the furniture exquisitely carved out of wood, the fine detail of the designs on the railings. She led him into the bedroom and walked towards the dresser pouring them two glasses of wine. She watched as Mark gawked at the place, his eyes wandering over to the large canopy bed, its scarlet and golden curtains brushing the floor. Iris handed him the glass and sat on the bed watching him over the rim of her glass.

“This is just...wow. This place is all yours? You must be making a lot of money as a writer if you can afford this place.”

“The details are unimportant,” Iris let out a breathy laugh and patted the bed indicating for him to join her. As she drew him close, her lips touching his, she felt all that he was feeling, his dreams, his desires, and his fears. It crashed against her like tidal waves, feeding her appetite; she devoured those emotions in a single moment, yearning for more. She could see the fear in his eyes as he broke away from her, drawing himself back.

“What was that?” his voice was shaky, pupils dilating. Iris remained silent, gazed deep into his eyes and searched for the feeling of happiness. She saw in his memories, him and his sister baking cookies for a bake sale, and so Iris drew forth the feeling of comfort and home. She watched his body sag slightly; the corners of his mouth relax as his lips parted. His eyes grew soft and Iris leaned in closer, her own eyes filled with deep remorse. Clothes scattered to the ground as night fell away to day and as Iris experienced her last moments of physical pleasure with Mark, she opened her heart and felt the life leave from his body. A small smiled played on his lips, his eyes grew peaceful and soon his breathing became even. She watched as the sun rose turning his hair to gold and the flecks of gold gave way to ash. She felt his body crumble beneath her, the grey dust glistening in the morning light, all that was left of him. A single tear slid down her cheek as she took a handful of ash and let it slide between her fingertips. Iris allowed herself to feel the sorrow for a moment before removing the sheets from her bed. His soul had revitalized her, and as her eyes gleamed golden, she was filled with the curse of eternity.

Iris spent the morning thawing the ground in order to dig a small plot of land to place Mark’s urn in. She marked all her plots of land with a black rose that grew even in the coldest of winters. Since she had moved here a hundred years ago, she counted nearly three hundred black roses. Iris usually spent the day sleeping for she was a creature of the night, and preferred to be cloaked in darkness. However she had trouble falling asleep that afternoon, her thoughts clouded with the woman at the bar. She usually wouldn’t visit the same place two nights in a row but felt a magnetic pull, and knew she would end up there tonight.

As the moon rose, Iris rose with it and made her way to The Liquid. When she entered the club, she felt her presence before she saw her, and made her way to a small roped off section with plush velvet couches.

As their eyes locked onto one another’s Iris smiled, “May I join you?”

“Yes of course.” She studied Iris over the rim of her glass, her eyes unblinking.

Iris sat down next to her, and took the glass of wine she offered. “I’m Iris,” she extended her hand courteously and nearly pulled back, surprised at how cold the woman’s hand was.

“Willow, nice to meet you,” she gave Iris a small smile, a smile that didn’t quite reach her lifeless eyes. There was something about her that Iris couldn’t put her finger on. There was a sense of familiarity that drew her towards Willow; however she couldn’t sense anything supernatural about her either.

“Why were you watching me last night?” Iris asked boldly, her eyes unwavering as she tried to probe Willows memories.

“Why wouldn’t I be watching a beautiful woman dance,” she leaned in closer, her face as pale as freshly fallen snow. Iris breathed in her scent, not the lavender perfume she was wearing, but the scent of her life and soul itself. It was the most exquisite and alluring scent she had ever come across, and felt her appetite stir.

“Come home with me,” Iris whispered, touching a strand of her dark hair.

Willow laughed, “I’m afraid I can’t. I’m not the kind of woman who goes home with a stranger. I saw you with that boy just the other night, and now you want to take me home?”

For the first time in nearly a hundred years Iris felt the blood rush to her head, the excitement of a hunt had filled her veins, and Iris could only think of devouring her soul. “Well, then tell me about yourself. What do you do for a living?”

The next few hours rushed in a blur as Iris found herself enjoying the most stimulating conversation she had had in centuries. She found herself being drawn to Willow’s intellect as they discussed politics, religion, classical music, the renaissance, and touched on subjects that were too sensitive for most people. By the end of the night Iris felt like she could fall in love with her.

“Iris, I’m having a recital tomorrow and I’d like for you to come,” she handed her a concert ticket as she rose from her seat. 

“Are you sure you don’t want to come to my house tonight?” Iris asked hopefully.

“Maybe some other time.” A flash of sorrow touched her eyes as Willow leaned in and kissed her cheek. Iris felt her knees go weak, her heart pounding as she watched Willow walk away. It had been nearly three centuries since any mortal had made her feel this way and while Iris’ heart felt reassured, there was still an uneasy feeling at the back of her mind that she couldn’t shake. Willow was unlike any other human Iris had ever met, but she was an artist and artists tended to be some of the most fascinating people mortal or otherwise. As dawn approached Iris made her way home, walking the entire way, her mind lost in thought over how drawn she was to Willow. She  recalled all those years ago when she’d toy with her food, enjoying the chase, stretching those moments for as long as possible before she gave in to temptation. She tried to sleep that morning, but once again found herself restless so eventually gave up and got dressed. She wore her best gown, one as dark as night. It hugged her waist, and flared slightly towards the bottom. The exquisite beadwork glistened in the light as she put on her black lace gloves, and ruby necklace that was given to her as a gift in the 18th century.

Twilight approached and in her urge to see Willow she raced through the woods, the trees nothing but a dark blur that grazed her peripheral vision. The sunset created a canvas of deep purple hues with streaks of gold and shades of orange. It was a breathtaking view and had the circumstances been different Iris would have stopped to enjoy the scenery. She slowed down as she approached the concert venue, hoping that no one had seen the speed at which she was racing. The hall was packed with smartly dressed men in suits and women in elegant gowns. The crowd was older, sophisticated, one with class and taste. Iris gave her ticket at the booth and was ushered to a seat at the center of the auditorium. As the room began to fill, she opened her booklet scanning through the pieces that were to be performed. Her breath caught in her chest as her eyes rested on a picture of Willow dressed in a scarlet gown, eyes closed as she played with such devotion. The image was so lifelike and ethereal that Iris had to blink several times, and resorted to closing the booklet. Something about the picture made her feel uncomfortable, despite how beautiful Willow looked.

A hush filled the room as the curtains parted, and there she sat in all her glory. Wearing a shimmering midnight blue dress, her hair forming a crown at the base of her neck, she looked stunning, like gothic royalty. As she began to play a slow, melodic tune, Iris closed her eyes, and let the music carry her into the depths of her memories. She felt the vibration of the strings stir at the base of her stomach and work its way up to a tremor that she felt in her heart. In her one thousand years on Earth she saw kingdoms fall and burn to the ground, witnessed the rise and fall of the Mongol empire, remembered walking by the construction of a monument in the 12th century that would eventually come to be known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She had fought in the Hundred Years’ War against England; disguising herself as a French man, saw the Black Death sweep across Europe in the 1300’s, claiming the lives of millions. As the music became slow and sorrowful, Iris felt tears start to form at the corner of her eyes. She couldn’t remember the last time she cried, remembering the horrifying days she witnessed death and destruction. She watched as her mortal friends were accused of sorcery and hung at the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. She was the demon, it was her that should have been lynched. She remembered the toll of bells in England announcing King Albert’s death in the 19th century, the queen in mourning for the rest of her life only donning herself in black. Iris carried the guilt of all the lives she had come across and lost, either from preying or through no fault of her own. She felt the deep, sombre tune reverberate against her chest as she watched lovers from different centuries come and go. Her heart bled for the children she bore, and eventually left, for she never aged and she could not let them see her this way. In that moment, she saw her entire life played out to the music of the cello, and finally there was silence. Iris opened her tear filled eyes, and looked around to find an empty auditorium. She turned her eyes on Willow who stood across from her hauntingly beautiful, her cello nowhere in sight.

 Iris smiled, for she finally understood, “You are death. You have come for me at last.”

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