“Wait. You’re a...a vampire too?” Leila squeaked out, her hand fluttering to her throat, eyes wide with fright.
Nikoli couldn’t help the pang of guilt he felt as her trembling lip gave away the hurt of his betrayal.
“Well...yes, I am, but I wouldn’t hurt you, Leila.” Nikoli took a step towards Leila with his hands reaching towards her, but she took a step back from him instinctively, causing him to freeze in his tracks.
“Please, just don’t come any closer.” Leila pushed her trembling hands, palms out in front of her, in a feeble attempt at keeping the vampires at bay.
Sighing, Nikoli rubbed his face in exasperation and took a step backwards to placate Leila, dropping his hands to his sides.
“Nik -” Jessa started, but Nikoli halted her words with an angry glance out of the corner of his eyes.
“Don’t you dare speak to me.” Nikoli turned his head slowly, projecting all of his anger onto her, his hands curling into white knuckled fists at his sides.
He was trying so hard to reign in his anger, but he was about 10 seconds away from strangling her. He hoped she’d make the right decision and refrain from continuing to push his buttons.
That was all it took for him to have his hand around her throat, lifting her off of the ground. He squeezed until her eyes started to bulge and her face turned red-violet before he eased off a bit.
“I’m not in the mood to play your games, Little One. Quit trying my patience or it will soon run out,” Nikoli spat out the words, his anger boiling over.
He still held her off of the ground, her feet dangling in the air as she tried desperately to pry his hand from her slender neck. Giving her neck one final squeeze in warning, he set her back down onto her feet, releasing his hold around her neck. Jessa rubbed her neck gingerly, wincing, probably trying to ease the soreness.
“Geez Nik. That was more than a little unnecessary, don’t you think?” She eyed him warily then they both flicked their gaze at Leila who was watching their heated exchange with a guarded expression.
“So...?” Nikoli said impatiently, pulling her attention back to him. His anger showed in his stance; arms crossed tight against his chest, legs about hip distance apart. “Spit it out, girl.”
Jessa pursed her lips and smoothed her hair. Nikoli had never seen her so nervous before. It was rather unnerving. He remained calm as he held on to his last shred of patience.
“Oh...you’re going to think I’m crazy, but-” stopping mid-sentence, she exhaled a shaky breath, glancing from Leila back to Nikoli and tried again. ” I think she may be the one. The girl from the prophecies?” Jessa’s voice wavered at the end, making her voice slightly high-pitched.
Nikoli’s laugh came out as a bark, “What makes you say that?” he said, his voice full of disbelief.
“The necklace. Isn’t that the one from the tapestries?” Jessa pointed at the amulet around Leila’s neck, her eyebrows raised.
Nikoli dropped his arms slowly and looked at Leila, the meaning of Jessa’s words sinking into the pit of his stomach.
“It can’t be,” shock filled his voice. His face paled even further as it dawned on him what she meant. “The one who can either save or destroy us all...”
“Wait. Wait wait wait wait, just wait a minute. What are you talking about? What prophecy?” Leila blurted out finally, pressing her lips together in a tight line and hugging herself with her arms, her brows furrowed, her eyes full of worry.
Leila looked at Nikoli pointedly as he clenched his jaw, waiting for him to say something. When he didn’t, she turned her attention to Jessa, who snuck a peek at Nikoli before opening her trap.
“See the two original vampires were named Enoch and Florance, so the legend goes, and were the victims of love. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem, but Enoch was dating the witch, Abagail, at the time that he met Florance or Flora as she liked to be called. Now, Enoch had no idea that Abagail was a witch when he fell madly in love with Flora, the granddaughter of the inn keeper where he worked. Flora was helping out her grandfather for the summer and for both her and Enoch, it was love at first sight.” Jessa rattled off, excitement lighting up her face as she spoke of the old legends, while Nikoli just rolled his eyes at her in annoyance.
“Okay...but what does that have to do with me?” Leila interjected, confusion contorting her delicate features.
“I’m getting there if you would just shut it,” Jessa lashed out at Leila, calming down once she took one look at Nikoli’s furious face, “Sorry…”
Jessa looked at Leila sheepishly, her face screwed up in fear as she glanced back to Nikoli before continuing.
“Anyways, when Abagail found out about the budding romance between her fiance, Enoch, and the innkeeper’s granddaughter, Flora, she had a conniption fit. Witches were notoriously impulsive when emotional and would just cast spells on the people that angered them. The spells, unfortunately, were generally unintentional and controlled by their emotional thoughts. They need not chant or use candles, they simply had to think a defensive thought and it would seal the fate of whomever it befell upon.” Jessa started pacing away from Nikoli, waving her hands as she told the story.
“Why are you dragging this story out, Jessa?” Nikoli took advantage of the pause Jessa was taking for dramatic effect.
Jessa whipped back around to face Nikoli, her arms crossed over her chest as she sneered, “Because it has to be told a certain way, Nikoli, otherwise it just doesn’t sound as good.”
“Guys, please, just finish the story.” Leila spoke tiredly, sitting down on a nearby chair, her fingers rubbing her temples as she rested her elbows on her knees.
“Okay, so basically vampires were unheard of until Abagail, a rather unique and powerful witch, said something that changed everything:
‘I bestow upon them a fate worse than death. They will remain alive, but spend all of eternity together, wishing that they were dead for betraying me.’
“Thus, the first vampires were born, the Adam and Eve of the undead, if you will.” Jessa said smirking at Leila, pride filling her voice as she spoke.
Leila just stared at her pointedly, looking dazed and confused as she waited for Jessa to get to the point. Jessa narrowed her eyes at her, but continued on.
“From there they turned others accidentally. For all it took was one bit and an unfortunate accident to the human’s body for them to begin to change.” Jessa finished with flair, hands on hips.
“I still don’t understand what it has to do with me or my family.” Leila, cradled her head in her hands and mumbled.
A dawning realization caused Nikoli’s eyes to widen as he took over.
“Abagail is your ancestor, if the legends are true. The spoke of a similar colored light emanating from her successors. In fact, I didn’t realize it until Jessa pointed out your necklace, but I spoke to one of your relatives long ago who wore the same exact amulet that you are wearing now. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before…” Nikoli trailed off, lost in thought before turning his gaze once more on Leila, “And you said it came in the mail? From your grandmother, right?”
“Yes...did you -- did you know her?” Leila’s eyes were as round as saucers as she grasped her amulet.
“I think I did. Briefly. Really I only met her once when I was looking for Shamus’s ashes. I liked her, she was nice.” Nikoli smiled, remembering.
“Shamus?” Leila furrowed her brows, pursing her lips as she looked up at him.
“Yeah, my best friend.” Nikoli started, briefly telling the story of Shamus, while keeping his distance from Leila.
“The story goes that each generation of witches grew more and more powerful. It was also believed that witches could choose to live forever, but that they had to turn their backs on love to achieve that, hardening their heart to stay immortal. A witch turning their back on the love of their life, meant that the other party would die. Once they were in love, they had to give up their power in order to keep their partner alive or risk losing them.” Jessa chimed in, happily collaborating for the moment that she was needed.
“That makes me….a witch?” Leila asked in a whisper, turning her back on them for just a moment.
Nikoli was having a hard time coming up with reasons to not believe that she was indeed the witch of all witches from the prophecies, Abagail’s descendent. So, he simply said yes, not knowing what else to say.
“What about the part where you said something about “the one who could destroy us all?” How does that fit in?” Leila questioned, her hand shaking as she stroked her hair.
“According to legend, only the successor of the original witch can reverse the curse once placed on the original vampires to make them human again.” Nikoli responded, trying to keep the pleading look out of his eyes.
“And are you asking me to do this for you?”
“No,” Nikoli croaked out, his voice full of emotion.
Leila paused a second, searching his face, “Why not? Why aren’t you asking me to turn you human?”
“Because...I love you too much to make you choose between me and your birthright, that’s why,” Nikoli managed to whisper through the lump forming in his throat as he held her gaze.
“Oh….This is too much. I need to go,” Leila spoke her thoughts aloud as she tore her eyes away from his reluctantly and walked to the door.
She turned to look at Nikoli one last time before going outside, her eyes swirling with confusion and sadness.
“Wait!” Nikoli called, but she didn’t stop.
Nikoli watched Leila walk away, saddened by what had just transpired, knowing he couldn’t go after her because of the sun. The way she had looked at him, with such fear, would probably haunt him for quite awhile. Her being scared had hit him harder than both the anger and disappointment that had flashed in her eyes. As she disappeared from his line of sight, all he could think was that he hoped that she would one day learn to forgive him. He knew he couldn’t change the fact that he was a vampire, but in that moment he truly wished that he could. If he hadn’t become a vampire, he might have never met Leila. He wasn’t for sure if he believed in legends, but one thing that he was pretty certain of was that they were fated to meet. Fated to love each other. Fated to be together. He was determined that nothing and no-one would interfere with that. They would be together. He could feel it in his undead bones.