The wind carried a dreaded smell that was all too familiar. The sickening mix of wood and flesh composed the smog coming from the village. It made my nostrils flare. Regrettably, I take a slow step forward and around the oak tree. Hidden only by the shadows, I pear into the village. My stomach and lungs twist inside me and I watch the fire burn another sister away. Her name was Susannah Martin. She was the youngest daughter of the celestial coven at only fourteen.
I clench my fist. Anger washes over me as her lifeless body still flamed. It never became easier to watch. I survived Queen Mary’s reign of England. Yet so many years later, savages still carried her legacy of fire on.
A twig snaps behind me. My hand grips the steel dagger from my holster as I twist around. My hand loosens once I recognize his face, however. The sharp, swav face that eternally held my heart in place. Along with Jet-black hair that blended with his dark robes.
“No wonder why the hunters have been active lately,” said Damien. “You know, if it weren’t for that coven, I would have been the crown prince of the clan.”
“I am aware,” I tease. “It’s not like it’s the millionth time you’ve told me so.”
He approached my side, looking out at the dying fire that covered the woodlands in fog. My heart pounds inside me. As I stand so close to him, the smell of yellow roses extinguish my burning lungs. I find a sudden need to yearn for him and to wrap my arms around his waist. It is out of only respect that I do not succumb to his awe.
“Why are you here?” I turn to look into his eyes. “You should be in Ironsway with your squadron.”
“Alexander.” He took a sharp breath, and pulled out a small bag. “I did the job.”
I look at him. I’m in disbelief. I grab the purse and open it to see it filled with gold coins. I clench it close, pressing it on top of my chest. I can’t look at him.
“I thought we would wait until winter before crossing to France. Why now?”
His hand, soft as silk, turns my chin to face him. His eyes, stinging wet from the smoke, hypnotise me, the way they always have.
“We can escape what’s coming; spend the rest of eternity together.”
His lips steal a kiss from mine. As I close my eyes, the fear of what we’ve become dims. It is warm to be with him, safe even. In a world where everything is cold, I can’t help but fulfill my yearning and kiss him back. It feels right even though everything about it is so wrong.
“I swear by the moon that I will be at your side.” He whispers once our lips part away.
“Don’t swear by the moon, for it is always changing.” I caution. We break away and leave the outskirts of the village. I can’t bear to be here any longer.
As we walk through the woods, I hand back the purse to Damien. When I heard about the job, I didn’t feel comfortable about it. Some Noble family needed a vampire to take care of an opposing house. The pay was too good to say no to but the risk was too high to manage. I begged Damien not to accept it but he was always stubborn headed. I guess it’s one of those things that made me fall in love with him. No woman can match his boldness. Only one has ever come close.
A scream rings out from a far. Damien and I exchange a look and we race to the source. As the scream became louder, we manage to spot Marabella, trapped in a net by a man in a leather jacket and a bird mask.
“Speak of the devil,” I thought to myself.
Damien dashed behind the hunter and I slow down. Through a sharp black blur, Damien grabbed the hunter by the neck and launched him to a tree. The hunter screams in agony before silence takes over. I run over and cut the net using my knife. Mara rises from the ground. Her silver dress was now stained by the mud and she was furious. As she curses up a storm, I go over to check the hunter.
I can hear his blood still flowing through his heart. The hunter’s leather clothing seemed to resemble the separatists over in the New World. I noted several silver bracelets around his wrists and collarbone. If the hunter was a pilgrim, as they called themselves, he couldn’t possibly afford that much silver.
Looking back at Mara, her eyes say it all, Damien opened a canteen and handed it to her. She took one small sip. Then a second one. She then emptied the entire thing in one big gulp. As I return to her, she hands the canteen back to Damien. I could see blood dripping from her mouth.
As we stand together, She steps away to the tree. Taking the hunter by the throat, I could hear the man’s heartbeat rise in a crescendo. His flesh makes way to each of her fangs as she bites down. I looked away but I could hear the hunter’s heartbeat become slower and slower. All until his heart stopped and the body went limp.
Damien put his hand on my shoulder as my back faces Mara. I smile.
“Boys, come take a look at this,” she calls out.
She is holding a letter, no doubt from the hunter. The two of us crowd around her to read it. The handwriting is clean, seeming printed onto the note.
“Remember the Black Death?” Damien reads aloud .
We glance at one another, before simultaneously staring at the hunter’s bird mask.
“The Black Death wiped most of our kind off the face of the earth did it not?” Marabella asked.
“That witch Susannah predicted that the black death would come again,” Damien added in. “That’s why she was left to die by the village’s hand.”
I looked up at the stars. They have taken a new form in the sky. It was a change that only transpired once a year. The time of harvest. I looked back at Marablessa and Damien
“She did predict something like the black death. But, it wasn’t the black death exactly. She claimed it was something that was in water that could bring an end to all vampires. She said it would come in seven stages. Each one worse than the last. Yet she never said when the first stage would happen.”
Damien sighs “If anything, vampires would first forget about the prophecy before it would strike.” He walks away from Mara and stands off the center between me and her. “What did the Council say about all of this?”
“They believe that it will be caused by the witches,” Mara informed. “His majesty wishes to prevent this by gathering all of the witches in one spot and burning them to the ground like in London.”
“That is idiotic,” I respond. “If we burn another city to the ground, we might destroy another granary and cause a famine.”
“What about the massacre that we did back in the Qing dynasty?.” She brings up.
“Don’t forget about the Sichuan Massacre as well.” Damien peeped in.
I open my mouth to speak but I can hear a pin drop as Mara shoots a dirty look at me. “Lady Marabella of the Asia Regens,” I very rarely used formal titles unless I was sending out my decree. “I plead with you to take this information into consideration. Such a grand play may have disastrous consequences.” I look at her. She’s caught off guard by my formal ship, but she seems to take in my words.
“I will talk to Lady Ingrid at the Vesper coven.” She says. She stuffs the note between an opening in her breasts. “But don’t expect this to make it to the King.” With that, a black cloud rises from her feet to consume her and a bat flies off into the night sky above.
I look back at Damien who is clutching the purse of coins. He looks at me and softly smiles.
“I guess we aren’t going to make it to France before winter.”
I smile back at him, “I guess not.”
The town of Ironsway is known for three things: The Frederickson Iron Mine, Rabbit’s Bakery, and a local Irish pub. To most, it’s just another junction town. To Damien and I, it might as well be a second home.
As we walk through the small wooden gate on the east end, I start making a beeline for the pub. I needed something to wash down the taste of death in my mouth. Witnessing two deaths in the same hour is exhausting for my conscience. I open the door and embrace the dimmed light of the tavern. The ruined wood of the floorboards bend to my every step as I announce my presence to the three patrons. Behind the bar, five barrels of liquor sat stacked onto each other with one currently being emptied of it’s wonderful golden liquid. The bartender behind the counter was a small man. He was chubby but with some built on his arms. His hairless head glistened in even the faintest lights, evident even now. I walk up to the man and slam my body on the high chair.
“Sean! Pour me an ale.”
“I thought you’d say that.” Sean turns around and hands over the filled glass in his hand. “I saw you coming in through the east gate.”
I take out a silver coin from my pocket and slide it over. “You are a messiah.” I take a big swing as Damien walks into the room. I don’t even need to see him to tell that he’s disappointed. I can simply sense his darkness burning up in him.
“Cut me some slack. It’s been a long day,” I yell out to him.
“I’ll be upstairs,” he says. As he walks past me, he stops and turns me around to face him. “But if you end up wasted with your britches hanging off your ankles, you’re sleeping outside.”
“That was one time, Damien,” I say.
“Three times,” he responds before walking off, disappearing up a set of stairs across from the main door. I shrug and continue drinking.
As my head begins to grow heavy, my mind wanders on the burning of the poor girl. The sight of her cries of pain as her hair and blouse were set ablaze haunt me. For her to suffer such a cruel fate is unjust. Yet, it was how she was betrayed by her own people that turned my stomach the most. It’s a sickening thought, and an everlonging fear that hangs over my head.
I finish my glass and make my way upstairs to the small hallway and to the second left door. Inside the furbished and wallpapered room, Damien was laying on the large bed, writing in a book. I closed the door, and locked it behind me. The walls here weren’t made of wood like most. They were made of stone, which meant no one could hear anything that happened inside. As I turn around, he tosses his book aside. I run and collapse into his open arms and suffocate myself in his wool undershirt. We wrap and cuddle so closely together there isn’t a millimeter of space between us. I muffle as he wraps his arms around me. I never want to break away from this bliss. I move my hand under his shirt and slide the tip of my fingers up and down his back. He starts to wiggle at the sweet touch and pulls himself away from me.
“I’m tired, Alexander.”
“I’m not.” I kiss his lips and float my hands around to his abs, following the path made by each scar.
“Alexander, stop.” He whimpers. I push on. Moving up to his pecks, I start lifting off the shirt, revealing the roughed skin I had just caressed. My lips peck his neck and I can just smell the blood off of him.
“I need you,” I whisper.
“No!” He pushes me off and stands from the bed. My heart cracks a bit as I lay on my side alone. His eyebrows curl downward as he raises his voice. “What is wrong with you today?”
I sit up straight and comb my dark brown hair back. “I’m sorry. It’s just… you know how I am with death and stuff.”
“I am aware, but I said I was tired!” his voice scorning me. “You can’t just push things until you get what you want.”
“I know!” I groan. “I just want some alone time with you. I’ve missed you.”
Damien sighs. “I missed you too, but I need to report back to my squadron.” Grabbing his robe, he took an empty cabinet and pushed it to the side to reveal a hidden longsword hanging in the stone. Before leaving though, he sat down next to me.
“Maybe tomorrow, if all goes well.” With that, he kisses my cheek and heads out. From the opened window, I see him walk down the street to the intersection. I lie back on the bed and resolve any built up tension I acquired. A few minutes later, I walk out the Inn and head across the street to the hardware store.
As I walk across, I look at the dark gray sky above. The sun hasn’t shown its face for days now and the clouds only part at night. I don’t mean to complain though. Vampires are known for their intolerance to the sun but it is an odd pattern.
As I walk into the hardware store, an old man bumps into me on his way out. He doesn’t stop or even apologize. He just shoots me a dirty glare and walks along the road. I head inside the hardened wooden room. The small building consists of two wooden shelves littered with tools and hardware. As well as a small counter where a old man with gray hair sits playing with some gold coins.
As I walk up, he glances up at me and hids the coin. He flashes a smile as I reach the counter.
“How’s it going, ladd’e?” The man said in his Irish accent. “Are you here for some supplies?”
“Yes,” I tell him. “The usual stuff will do.”
“That costs extra,” He rubs his chin despite barely having a stubble. “But you already know that.”
I shrug and go for my purse as he turns around and goes to the back. The door behind me opens and heavy boots start walking up to me. I look behind and see a hooded figure standing before me. I couldn’t see their face and the only feature not covered by the massive cloak were the hardened boots I heard earlier.
“Alexander,” they said. “Where’s Damien?”
I turn around to face them. “I haven’t seen Damien in weeks. Even if I did know, why should I tell you?”
The figure hummed in a tone of understanding, or maybe adderation. Either way, I could tell they were smirking under that hood.
“Certain people want to talk about that job he did,” the figure pulled down the hood to reveal cut hair flowing down to their shoulders. As the robe dropped behind her, the curves and leather clothing of a femfatal stood before me. With silver daggers on her sides, she launches them out and jumps at me.
Before she touches me, I’m up by the wall on her left. The knives dig into the wood of the counter as I prepare for a fight. As my nails grow and sharpen, I charge at her and slash her. She manages to pluck one of the knives out of the wood as I claw one of her shoulder pads. She backs off and starts to mutter an incantation, as flames start appearing in her freehand. I again dash away as she fires her spell into the wooden wall, setting it on fire immediately. I hit the door, because I wasn’t looking, and crash outside into the muddy road.
I get up as the witch grabs her second knife and starts walking out. I grab my steel dagger and grip it so the blade is under my hand. She swings down and I block it with the knife and move back as she swings for my stomach with her second. She goes for a second swing and finally drives one of the blades at me. As her arm is extended out, I take her wrist and pull her in to slam my knee into her stomach.
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