Claire sprung upwards atop the still dampened bed sheets with a start. She clutched her arms around the quickly cooling skin of her body, which was still covered by the remaining lair of sweat from their previous lovemaking. She couldn’t stop herself from letting out an agonizing moan as the first of the many terrible hunger pains ripped through her. She was completely lost and confused as she looked around the dark bedroom. The only two things she was coherently aware of were that she was alone, and she needed food... immediately.
She bolted from the bed, paying no heed to her lack of clothing, nearly panting with hunger as she reached the table and snatched up the plate of food Sean had not touched and scooped it into her mouth. Though, only a moment after trying to swallow it she found herself coughing and gagging, forcing the food back out of her mouth and onto the wooden floor, becoming quickly aware of one of the many new facts of the existence she had somehow decided that she had wanted to be cursed with.
She could feel that her eyes wanted to produce tears, but somehow, could not. All she knew is that she needed to stop this pain, any way she could. She then moved just as quickly to the door of the home slamming it open and bracing herself in the doorway as she looked around in the dark night that surrounded the place. As soon as her predatory gaze moved to the barn, both horses neighed loudly and bolted from the small building, to the point of jumping the fence that surrounded it and galloping down the dirt road as quickly as they could to flee from her, a reaction they had never once had to their previously beloved owner.
Claire whimpered not only at the overwhelming fear of her that they now displayed as they fled, but also as another horrible pain caused her to double over, there in the doorway. When she was finally able to stand again, her eyes searched the woods, falling upon the entrance to the path that had been so familiar to her when she had still lived with her parents…Her parents.
She tried to push that thought away, but there was no way to fight the beast that now resided inside her once another pain tore thru her, and forced her feet into action. She took off thru the woods with no thought remaining clear in her mind except that of the need for blood. She could hear the heartbeats of nearly every creature in the woods, or so it seemed. But more disturbing even than that, was that she could smell them too, or more specifically, she could smell their blood pounding thru their veins. Those two sensations did nothing but force her to move that much more quickly in search of her prey.
When she reached the halfway point between her current home and her previous home, she froze at the sight of Viola having just finished gathering the remaining items from the night. But her cease in motion did not last more than a second as she found herself not thinking at all, but simply acting. With deadly speed, Claire rushed upon the young girl from behind, swiftly sinking her newly formed fangs into the girl’s neck, knowing that this was truly the only way to stop this new and terrible agony, at all.
When Sean and Haven reached the clearing, only minutes later, they fell upon a scene that Sean was in no way prepared for. Claire was on her knees upon the ground, the snow fluttering thru the air to land around her still naked body, where she stared down in shock at Viola’s pallid and lifeless body laying before her, those two marks upon her neck being the only thing Claire’s eyes could even focus on.
“Oh my god, Claire….” Sean whispered, his own shock nearly matching hers.
Haven sighed deeply at the scene, obviously saddened by it, but not nearly as shocked as Sean and Claire both seemed to be, as he knew all too well of the grip that the beast had on all of the Kindred in those first moments of their new existence. Haven swallowed hard as he silently moved to pull his jacket off and then drape it over Claire’s still shaking shoulders as she stared in horror at the two bloody holes she had left in the dead girl’s neck, unable to speak at all.
“Claire…” Sean could not say any more this time either, his eyes also riveted to the dead girl, wishing he had even thought to insist on Viola coming with him when he went to find Haven, though who knows what else may have happened if Claire had not found her there to fill her own unbearable hunger, the hunger that he himself had cursed her with.
Another sigh as Haven turned back to Sean, “We only have an hour till dawn.” he stated in an unreadable monotone, “Take her back home, and I’ll take care of the body.” he swallowed again, “We’ll sleep today and leave at nightfall.” was his simple order as he then moved to lift the girl’s body into his arms, and started away, saying nothing more, as he knew there was nothing he truly could say, anyway.
Sean swallowed again as he allowed himself to only briefly watch Haven depart with the dead girl in his arms. He then turned back to Claire, who still knelt upon the ground, staring blankly down as though she could still see the girl’s body before her, a solitary red tear slipping down her own cheek at last.
“It is almost dawn.” Sean finally managed the whispered sentence as he moved to kneel down in front of her.
As she offered no response, or even moved, he sighed sadly once more and then moved to lift her into his arms, as Haven had done with Viola. Her only reaction was to curl herself more tightly, desperately against him, in possibly even more pain then, than she had been for the entirety of that cold, dark night, already.
Sean gently kissed her forehead and carried her off toward their home once more, wondering if she would ever truly recover from the events of that night, and finding himself wishing, once more, that he would have been left as lifeless as his bride had left that young girl. If he had been, then at least three lives could have been saved, if only he had been allowed to lose his, after all.
Claire still had not spoken a word by the time she and Sean rose in silence at the next night’s sunset. She simply stayed there upon the bed, wrapped in only a blanket, hugging her arms to herself and staring at the dark blanket Sean had thrown over the window before that morning’s sunrise.
“Claire?” he spoke softly as he sat up next to her in the bed, looking over at where she still stared toward the window despite it being covered to the now darkened night outside.
Sean sighed quietly, having no idea how to break thru her own guilt and silence, as he was still quite affected by knowing what she had done as well. He could do nothing more than just move from the bed, dress, and begin packing clothing and whatever other belongings he might have imagined that they still could have some use for.
He had just finished the packing, when they heard a carriage approach. The sound did manage to jar Claire’s eyes away from the window, but the look on her face was actually one of fear, rather than any other emotion.
“It’s probably Haven.” Sean attempted to assure her, though the words did not seem to calm her look of fear any. He shook his head once more and headed from the bedroom to check on the correctness of his assumption.
Sean had just reached the small window of the living room when there was a firm, but slow knock upon the door of their home, where it was indeed Haven who waited for Sean to open the door to him.
“I don’t think she’s quite in the state to travel yet.” Sean greeted his sire, his own pale eyes turned guiltily downwards as he spoke in a more than tentative tone.
“You really have no choice, Sean.” Haven said softly, though his tone remained completely unreadable.
“What does that mean?” Sean asked, his blue eyes coming up at last, showing a bit of his own fear as well, at the sound of the words.
“There are rules in our world. It’s the only way to keep all of us safe, and hidden from the human world. And you and I have both broken one of those rules. We have to leave on our own, or we’ll be forced to.” Haven added more quietly.
“What rules? What are you talking about?” Sean asked, his own stress over the entire last week, let alone just the previous evening, hardening his tone.
“One of the rules, to keep our numbers down, and keep us better hidden, is that we are not allowed to make another without permission from the Prince. I had no idea you were even in the same town where you found us, let alone any intention of embracing you. But nonetheless, I did it out of my own guilt at stealing so much of your life away from you already.” Haven said, his own voice dropping, a bit of the guilt that he spoke of showing thru his tone, “After all, you did only endanger your life to protect your sister.” he added, not then allowing himself to mention the fact that he himself had programmed Sean, years ago, to act in such a way, without a thought for his own well-being.
“What do you mean, we’ll be forced to?” Sean asked, casting another worried glance back toward the bedroom that Claire had yet to emerge from.
“Do you really want to risk not believing me?” was Haven’s only response.
“But this isn’t about what she did, then?” he asked Haven in a near whisper.
“We’re all in the grip of the beast when we are first reborn. You were. I was. She had no control over her own thoughts or actions. It happens to more of us than we’d like to admit. Hence our reputation as ‘monsters’ proceeding us.” Haven responded in the same sad, quiet tone.
“But, it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t…” Sean’s voice trailed off.
“And you wouldn’t have embraced her if I hadn’t embraced you, or if my sire hadn’t embraced me.” Haven told him pointedly, “There is no end, or logic, in that line of reasoning. What’s done is done. The present and future are all we are in control of. And the future will be much worse if you don’t come with us now, away from a territory whose laws we’ve broken. Understand?” Haven told him bluntly.
“But will she ever recover from what she’s done?” Sean asked in an even quieter, more pained whisper.
Haven sighed once more before trying to find words to respond with, “I’m afraid that is one answer I don’t have for you, childe.” he whispered back, moving to gently touch Sean’s long free locks and place another small kiss upon his cheek, “We have to get moving.” were his only other words as he moved back in the direction of the carriage which Ana and Chantarell waited at the reins of, both looking just as somber as their master.
It seemed as though they had been traveling for hours before any of the five spoke up at all. Ana and Chantarell sat on the seat outside of the actual covered part of the carriage, guiding the horses and watching the darkened road ahead of them. Haven sat inside the carriage, on one of the two seats, staring out at the stars around them as the horses carried them westward. Sean sat at the other side, staring down at the wooden boards beneath them while Claire laid upon the seat next to him, her cheek against his thigh as he absently let his fingers wrap around her long locks, still trying desperately to find some way to break thru the walls that now seemed to surround her. He had meant to give her the chance to spend eternity with him, but now she seemed so very far away, he began wondering if he’d ever even truly be ‘with’ her again at all.
As Claire lay there, staring blankly at the same floor that Sean’s eyes were glued to, listening to all the sounds of the night around them, now being painfully aware of each and every one, the horses neighed loudly as a deer startled at the side of the road as they approached. The sound seemed to jar Claire, as if her hearing were too sensitive from her place there, locked inside her own head.
Sean quickly looked down at her, keenly aware of any motion at all, on her behalf, “You ok, Claire?” he asked with concern, his words easily causing Haven to turn away from where he was watching the nighttime woods pass them by.
“The horses, they’re terrified of me.” she whispered.
Haven and Sean both looked slightly perplexed by hearing her voice at all, let alone her statement, though less ruffled than Sean, of course, Haven responded first, “I think the deer startled them, that’s all.” he tried to assure her, despite what little time he had spent in Claire’s presence, let alone speaking with her at all.
“Our horses.” she clarified in the same pained whisper, at least seeming aware of the present conversation, despite having not seemed aware of much of anything at all since the moment Viola’s life’s blood had stopped her frenzy, only to replace it with countless horrid feelings of guilt.
“We’ll get more.” Sean promised, trying his best to comfort her as he gently traced her neck with his fingers upon that same place where he had sunk those fangs into her flesh, less than twenty-four hours earlier, turning it as cold as ice, just as his own now was.
“They ran from me…like their lives depended on it,” she whispered, “And they did.” she added, nearly choking on the words.
“Claire…” Sean began, swallowing hard again, still not sure what he could possibly say to even try to quell the guilt she had over taking another life. Fortunately, Haven had managed to stop Sean from succumbing to that fate after his own embrace. Only, the one time Sean wasn’t there for Claire, was the one time that she needed him most desperately. And that thought tore at him, the way her own guilt was tearing at her, over more than just Viola’s death.
“They ran, and I needed it, needed blood so badly, that the only thought I had was to go and find it. The only place I thought to go…” she swallowed again, “I was going to my parents’ house…my own parents!” she choked out the confession, the red tears welling up in the corner of her eyes at last.
“But you didn’t, Claire.” Sean responded in his same whisper as he moved to tightly squeeze her shoulder as if to assure her that he was there for her, then, if not when she had so badly needed him to be, the night before.
“But if I hadn’t found her there…” Claire just shook her head as she forced herself to sit up at last, her eyes then turning to where Haven silently watched the two of them, “And, the girl, she was one of your servants, wasn’t she?” she asked him, her eyes cast downwards in shame.
“She’s been with us less than a month. She had consumption. She was dying already, so I gave her my blood, to save her.” Haven answered quietly.
“So you saved her, just to have me kill her less than a month later, then.” Claire said softly.
“Just my way of being punished for deciding who lives and dies…for playing god.” Haven admitted in the same quiet tone.
“Like when you brought me back?” Sean couldn’t stop his own words.
“You wouldn’t have died at all, if I hadn’t altered your mind, all those years ago.” Haven said softly, still not looking back their way.
“What do you mean?” Sean asked with narrowed blue eyes.
“When you first came back to us, fifteen years ago, the only way I could have you near me during the day, was to alter your mind.”
“What are you talking about?” Sean asked, his voice only raising slightly as Claire looked between the two men with confusion.
“When you came to our door that night and I offered you a home, I put you in a sort of trance, and implanted it in your head, to protect the three of us, no matter what. And the night Chantarell was attacked, that kicked in, and made you save her, regardless of any danger your own life would be in.” Haven confessed.
“But…” Sean was obviously having trouble finding his own words, “I didn’t even know it was Chan at the time. I didn’t even see her face.”
“But your subconscious knew, and that’s what I altered, after all.” Haven admitted.
“But, I…I would’ve saved any woman from that.” Sean assured.
“But if it was any woman, you might have ran once you saw that knife. But you stayed, didn’t you, Sean?” Haven let out another sigh, “Cause you had no other choice, as long as she may have been in danger. You had no choice, because of me.” he said softly, looking away once more.
“You have all this power, Haven.” Sean said as he too looked down, not sure what else he could have planned to say at that point.
“As will you, both of you.” he added, “And the one thing I can still do, to try and just begin to make up for everything, is to try and teach you how to use it more wisely than I have used mine in recent nights. That’s the one real gift I can still try and give both of you, so just maybe eternity won’t be as painful as your introduction to it has been, already.”