Shaded from the May sunshine, the dark angel sat on the church roof under the shelter of a towering horse chestnut tree. It was mid-afternoon and the local schoolchildren were slowly and noisily making their way up the steep hill. The tantalising smell of their youthful blood was teasing her senses. She hadn’t fed for a week and forbidden young blood was a tempting thought. Watching the kids closely, she spotted that two had peeled off from the group and were disappearing up the single-track road passed the graveyard. Should she? The thought lingered……
Restlessly, he paced the large room that he had been escorted to following the meeting with the Court of Elders. There had been no sign of Trine in the hallway as he had been led down the long corridor and up a tight, twisting, stone staircase to the room he was now in.
The room was round with several long narrow windows affording him a spectacular view over an unknown mountain range. Most of the peaks were snow covered. There were no obvious signs of any towns or villages. Not knowing where he was in the world unnerved him. He felt trapped. Imprisoned.
A tray of food lay untouched on the table beside the large fireplace. He didn’t feel hungry. He paused his pacing to stare into the flames of the log fire that was burning in the hearth, listening to the hiss and spit of the sap as it oozed from the largest log. Several small flames danced along the length of the burning piece of wood.
Behind him, the door opened with a squeal of rusty hinges and a creak of old oak.
He smiled in spite of his sour mood when he saw Trine step into the room.
“You haven’t eaten,” she noted as she stepped towards him.
“You need to eat.”
“I’m not hungry,” he repeated.
“Then at least have a glass of wine with me,” encouraged Trine, pouring them both a generous glass of dark red wine. “It’ll quench your blood thirst.”
Without waiting for his reply, she passed him the glass, their fingertips grazing each other as he accepted the glass.
“How long does your father intend to keep me here? I feel like a prisoner,” quizzed the runner, unable to mask his exasperation.
“I don’t know. The Court of Elders is still in session. I’ve not been able to speak with him yet,” apologised Trine quietly. “I’ll wait with you though. You’re his guest not his prisoner.”
“A guest who isn’t allowed to leave his room.”
“Patience, Son of Perran,” chided Trine with a smile. “I might not be privy to them but I’m sure my father has good reasons for asking you to stay.”
“I wasn’t asked,” he muttered.
In an effort to change the subject, Trine said, “I grew up here. Spent my childhood roaming every inch of this place.”
“Where are we?” asked the runner, hoping she would reveal their location.
“A long way from your beach hut,” she replied evasively. “I can’t tell you our location. It’s forbidden.”
“Why am I not surprised!”
“What happened when you went before the Court?”
Walking back across the chamber to the window, he replied, “Your father asked me if I would kill her.”
“And will you?”
“For a price.”
“You bargained with the Elders?” exclaimed Trine, eyes wide with shock. “That’s unheard of! Well, unheard of and for you to still be alive to tell the tale.”
“Your father agreed to the deal in the end.”
“Wow! You must have really impressed him.”
“He did,” came a familiar voice from the doorway. “Trine, a little privacy if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, Papa.”
Without moving from his stance by the window, the runner watched Trine glide gracefully from the room, closing the door behind her.
“Our deal should remain a secret between yourself and the Elders for now,” cautioned Stefan, as he poured himself a glass of wine.
The runner nodded before taking a sip from his own glass. He could feel the blood infused wine coursing through his veins.
“Can I leave?” he asked simply. “I’d like to go home.”
“Soon,” replied Stefan calmly. “We still have much to talk about. Plus, I’d like to personally educate you a little on our history and our code of conduct. It might prove helpful to you for the task that lies ahead of you.”
Deciding to remain silent about the fact that he already knew how to kill the dark angel, he nodded reluctantly, “And I suppose my mother wants to meet with me too.”
“She does but I’ve sent her on an errand for me,” Stefan revealed. “You’ll see her before you eventually leave here, I’m sure.”
“And where is here?”
“You know I’m not about to reveal that, son,” said the mature vampire with a smile. “This castle has remained hidden for almost a thousand years. We’d like to keep it that way.” He paused, noting the setting sun outside, “Tomorrow I’ll ask Trine to give you a tour. She knows this castle like the back of her hand. She grew up here without playmates. I regret that. Her mother would never have approved this life for her.”
“Is her mother not here?”
“She’s dead,” replied Stefan simply. “Giving birth to Trine killed her. Too much blood loss. Vampire births are dangerous.”
Stefan shook his head, “She has a brother. He’s in the North on a mission. My son prefers the company of wolves to vampires.”
Together, they stood watching the sunset, drinking the wine in silence. As the sun dipped below the horizon, Stefan drained his glass and said, “I’ll have Trine show you round after breakfast. I’ll meet you in the afternoon to begin your formal education. For now, though, Son of Perran, I’ll bid you goodnight.”
Next morning Trine returned to the chamber carrying a tray of breakfast for him.
“You must be starving,” she observed lightly. “Did you sleep well?”
“Actually, I did,” replied the runner as he got out of bed. “What am I meant to do for clean clothes?”
“Look in the wardrobe, silly,” giggled the ice maiden. “There’s plenty to choose from.”
Crossing the room to open the large mahogany wardrobe, he wasn’t surprised to find it filled with clothes in his exact size. Lifting down a shirt and dark jeans, he said, “Give me a few minutes. I need to shower.”
Despite his initial reservations, the runner enjoyed his tour of the castle. As they walked through the various hallways, Trine told him stories from vampire history, pointing out features that were of historical importance. She also interspersed their history lesson with anecdotal tales of her childhood escapades. Their tour ended on the castle ramparts.
An icy wind was blowing as they walked along the narrow path that led them round the walls of the castle.
“You room is in that tower over there,” said Trine, pointing out one of eight towers of varying heights. “My father’s rooms are in the tallest tower and the Court is below them.”
“Where is your room?” he asked, admiring the splendour of the architecture.
“Above yours,” replied Trine. “Non- Elders are lodged in that tower as it is the one furthest away from the head Elder’s chambers.”
“So, when you were a child you had to sleep away over here while your dad was in his big fancy tower?”
Trine nodded, “Occasionally I would sneak into his room. If he found me asleep in his bed, he usually let me stay. When I got older though he would always make me return to my own room.”
“Where does my mother live around here?” quizzed the runner, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“In that small tower to the right of where my father sleeps. There are three female members of the Court. They all have rooms in that tower.”
“The view is stunning,” he conceded, gazing across the mountains. “Why does no one just up and fly away?”
“There’s an enchantment over the castle. It prevents anyone from leaving without my father’s permission.”
“Everyone,” repeated Trine. “Let’s go in. He’ll be waiting for you by now.”
Instead of leading him back to his own room, Trine led them round the ramparts towards the tallest tower. Eventually, she paused beside what to the runner just looked like a stone wall. With a wink, Trine pressed on a combination of smaller bricks and a hidden stone doorway opened.
“Did I mention secret passages?” she said with a girlish giggle. “Come on. Follow me. Watch your head. The ceiling is low inside.”
Taking him by the hand, Trine led him down a narrow staircase, along several twisting corridors before finally emerging in a sumptuous sitting room via another doorway hidden behind thick velvet drapes.
“When will you learn to use the door, daughter?” chided her father, who was sitting in an armchair beside the fireplace.
“Never, father,” she laughed.
“Ignore my childish daughter,” said Stefan getting to his feet. “Welcome, Son of Perran, I trust Trine is taking good care of you.”
“Yes,” replied the runner. “She’s been giving me a tour of the castle. Don’t think I’ll ever find my way round here.”
“It is a bit of a maze,” conceded Stefan warmly. “Please, sit. Trine, make yourself useful and pour us a drink then make yourself scarce for an hour or two. I wish to speak to our friend here in private.”
Once alone, Stefan raised his glass towards the runner and said, “Skal.”
“You must be wondering about why we choose to live here,” began the Head of the Court of Elders.
The runner nodded, “However, I would like to go home if that’s ok with you.”
“And as I said before, I’d like you stay for a short while,” stated Stefan in tone that left little room for negotiation.
“I would like to begin to fill in some of the gaps in your education. From what I’ve heard you’ve been taught very little about our traditions, our rules and our way of living. Once that education has been completed, I plan to bring you before the court again to discuss your creator. If at that hearing you still wish to make the same bargain, then I will keep my word and we will arrange for you to be extinguished.”
“I’m not going to change my mind.”
“Time will tell, son,” he said. “Plus, I promised your mother.”
“She has no right to interfere!”
“She has every right, Son of Perran,” countered Stefan sharply. “You will remain here until the second full moon. Ironically, it’s the Mother’s Moon.”
“Guess, I have no choice.”
The weeks passed swiftly as he settled into the way of life in the castle. Mornings were spent studying in the castle library with Michael; afternoons were spent with Alessandro. Every day he had dinner with Trine, their meals prepared in the kitchens to ensure that the lust for blood was quenched. Once a week they were allowed out to hunt. An enchanted chain spell kept him tethered to Trine, the furthest he could stray from her was twenty metres away. Together, they hunted on wildlife, choosing mountain goats and the occasional sheep.
In the evenings, Stefan would invite him to join him in his chambers. On the odd occasion, Trine was allowed to stay. Despite himself, he began to look forward to the evenings by Stefan’s fireplace. They chatted amiably over a few glasses of wine discussing the world in general or more often than not the runner had questions about the things he was learning.
As May’s full moon approached, he began to look forward to the thought of returning home. He was craving the comfort of his own things. He was eagerly anticipating sitting on the beach in front of his hut watching the sunset and listening to the waves lapping in against the shingle beach.
His heart however was troubled. Over the weeks, he had grown closer to Trine, grown fond of her. His lessons had shown him just how twisted and dangerous the dark angel was, but he still had reservations about killing her in cold blood. He was, as Stefan had anticipated, having second thoughts about ending his own eternal life.
A date for his second appearance at the Court of Elders had been set. He was due to appear one week after the full moon.
Standing alone on the castle ramparts, the runner watched the sun sink below the horizon. The moon was slowly emerging – the full Mother’s Moon. He stood gazing out across the mountain range watching the sky darken and the moon brighten.
“There you are!” exclaimed Trine from behind him. “You’re late!”
“Late for what?” he asked without moving.
“Supper with my father. He’s waiting for you,” explained Trine. “And you now how he hates to be kept waiting.”
“And if I don’t want to have supper with him?” challenged the runner defiantly. “I’m quite happy out here.”
“Son of Perran,” she snapped, her blue eyes staring icily into his soul. “Don’t play games with me! You can come back and howl at the moon later, but you are coming with me now!”
Before he could protest, she wrapped her wings around him and the world went black.
When he opened them, he knew instantly by the smell and the pattern of the rug that Trine had transported them to Stefan’s study.
“Thank you, Trine,” he heard a familiar voice say. “Son?”
Lifting his gaze from the floor, he found himself face to face with his mother.
“Mother,” he greeted with quiet sarcasm. “What a pleasant surprise.”
“Sarcasm never did suit you,” she rebuked sharply. “Come. Sit. Supper is getting cold.”
When he glanced round, Trine had vanished. Stefan was also conveniently absent. He was alone in the chamber with his mother.