Feeling sand under his feet, the runner sensed he was finally home. He felt the chill wind blowing across the river as the Ice Maiden retracted her wings. Blinking to adjust his eyes to the dim light, he gazed round.
“Home sweet home,” said Trine with a smile.
“Sure is,” he replied as he gazed up the beach towards his humble home. “Nice to know where I finally am again.”
Ignoring the hint of sarcasm in his voice, Trine began to walk across the uneven rocks towards the stone steps that led up to the hut. Without another word, the runner followed her, taking care not to turn his ankle on the loose rocks.
There were leaves and piles of debris blown into the corners of his small enclosed courtyard. It didn’t escape his notice that there were several vodka bottles and discarded fast food packaging among the debris. It seemed that the local youths had discovered his home was empty. Fortunately, they hadn’t broken in and the stout door remained securely locked.
Pulling the key from his jeans pocket, the runner unlocked the door then stepped aside chivalrously to allow Trine to enter ahead of him. The air in the cabin smelled stale and slightly damp.
“Give me a minute or two to get the stove lit,” he said, laying his key on the table. “Soon be warmer in here.”
“Can I do anything to help?”
“You could light the lamps,” he suggested, reaching into the basket beside the woodburning stove for some kindling, “Matches are on the table.”
Once there was a fire burning in the stove and the lamps had been lit, the beach hut felt more homely. Having closed over the curtains on the two small windows, the runner rummaged through the small cupboard under his bookcase and found a bottle of red wine and two glasses.
“Not quite up to your father’s standards,” he apologised as he handed Trine a glass.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “I should ask him to send some to us. Keep out the chill.”
“Sorry I can’t match the luxury of his castle.”
“Nonsense. This is perfect. Cosy.”
“Very,” he commented, glancing round. “I’m not sure how we’re going to make this work. I’ll see what I can sort out tomorrow. You can take the bed tonight though. I’ll sleep in the chair.”
“I can’t take your bed from you,” said Trine simply. “You rest and I’ll explore. I need to stretch my wings and I also need to hunt.”
“Be careful,” he cautioned warmly. “Head inland over the hills if you’re ok with a dinner of sheep or cow.”
Trine nodded, “I just want to get a feel for the area.”
“If you’re planning on looking for her, you won’t find her,” cautioned the runner calmly. “She’s an expert at staying out of sight.”
“Do you have any idea how you intend to kill her?”
“No,” he lied, gazing down into his glass. “I’ll work something out. I need to regain her trust. We didn’t exactly part as friends last time.”
“Do you even know how to summon her?”
“No” he lied for a second time.
After Trine headed out to hunt, he washed the two wine glasses then got himself ready for bed. It felt good to be home. Good to be back in his own space. Lying on his side in the comfort of his own bed, he gazed at the photo on the bedside table and smiled. He’d missed seeing his family before he fell asleep at night.
Tired though he was, sleep refused to come, His lies from earlier were gnawing at him. In his heart, he hadn’t decided when to kill the dark angel, but he was in no rush to take action. Killing her in cold blood felt wrong. Summoning her would be easy. All he needed was a white pebble to leave on the bench in the graveyard. However, if he requested any audience, how would he explain his renewed interest in her? They hadn’t spoken since she’d told him he was on his own. He would need to work out a believable excuse for asking to meet with her.
His eyes finally grew heavy and he drifted off into a deep dreamless sleep.
The sun was rising as Trine returned to the beach hut after a successful night’s hunting. She had flown into the hills to the north across the river and stumbled across a herd of deer. Before the herd and noticed her presence, she had drained two does dry and harvested the blood from a third into the leather flask she carried in her pale blue cloak.
Instead of heading straight indoors, the Ice Maiden took a walk along the water’s edge, watching the sky to the east turn from red to gold as the sun broached the horizon. She slipped her hands into the deep pockets of her cloak. Her right hand found a small crystal ball hidden in the depths of the soft fabric. It had been a parting gift from her father; it was a way of communicating with him should she need to. She had an almost overwhelming urge to hurl it into the dark depths of the river beside her but, on second thoughts, decided to keep it for now.
The gentle lapping of the waves soothed her as she walked along the shoreline. Gazing out across the river, she could understand why the runner had chosen to settle here. It was so peaceful. It felt safe. For the first time she was completely free of the confines of the castle. Freedom was something she craved. This was the first time in her life that had father had removed the enchantment on her that bound her to the castle. He had removed it as a precaution in case she fell foul of the dark angel and she used it to trace her way back to the Court of Elders. Trine realised if she chose to, she could disappear for ever; if she left the crystal ball in the hut, Stefan wouldn’t know anything was amiss until she was long gone. With a small smile, it dawned on her that she could become as elusive as the dark angel if she chose to. However, if she messed up this assignment, she would never be invited to join the Court of Elders. Trine felt torn. Glancing up at the beach hut she sighed… then there was the runner himself. Just thinking about him sleeping inside made her smile and lit a little flame of affection inside her. As she climbed the rough stone steps up to the courtyard, Trine prayed that he wasn’t in a rush to kill the dark angel.
Feeling the cold blast of air as Trine opened the door, the runner looked up from fastening his jeans. The Ice Maiden felt her cheeks flush as he turned his back to her. Spotting the Celtic tattoo across his back for the first time she said, “That must have hurt.”
“What must have?” he said as he lifted his shirt from the bed.
“The design on your back.”
“Nipped a bit,” he confessed. He paused to put his shirt on, shaking his shoulders to ensure the split fabric settled neatly between his wings. “She designed it for me.”
“Why?” quizzed Trine, her curiosity getting the better of her.
“She gave me a box of phials of some concoction to pour into the wing buds to stop them forming. There was some weird moss in the box too. The two centres of the design marked the spots I needed to pierce every month to pour the stuff in. Worked too until those little bottles ran out.”
“What was in them?”
“No idea. Some kinds of flowers and herbs. Lavender and Thyme and shit like that. The bottles, the moss and the design all formed part of some trinity spell or something. They were all connected.”
“And no one questioned why you’d suddenly got a huge back tattoo?”
He shook his head, “No. I already had a couple anyway. My wife actually really liked it.”
“How did you pierce your own back?” quizzed Trine as she watched him fill the kettle.
“You don’t want to know,” he replied as he set the kettle on the stove. “How did you get on last night? Successful hunt?”
“Very. Found a herd of deer about thirty miles north of here. Satisfied my thirst,” she answered with a yawn.
She shook her head, “Sleep.”
“Bed’s all yours,” he said with a grin. “I’ll give some thought as to how we can rearrange things in here. There has to be a way to give you some space of your own.”
“Waken me at sunset,” said Trine as she slipped off her cloak. “I want to teach you something.”
“Patience, Son of Perran. You’ll find out at sunset.”
While the Ice Maiden slept, the runner sat at the small pine table attempting to redesign the layout of the beach hut. It didn’t take him long to work out that he would need to extend his hut to add on an extra sleeping space. Quietly, he slipped outside to measure up the courtyard.
By late afternoon, as the sun began to sink lower in the sky, he had worked out a plan. He still had some spare building materials stored in the garage of the family home that should be sufficient to extend the hut out into the courtyard. If his memory served him right, there was a small window frame in the garage too. The next puzzle was how to transport it all down here.
“Hello,” said a sleepy voice behind him.
“Hey! I never heard you come out,” he said, turning to face Trine. “I think I’ve figured out how to create more space for us. Going to take me a week or so but I think I can make this work.”
“What did you have in mind?” she asked, drawing her cloak about her to ward off the chill wind.
“I can extend the hut out into the courtyard at the west side,” he explained pointing round to the far side of the cabin. “I’d left space back there to build a woodshed and maybe a small workshop, but I can pile the logs up round here. I’ve some building stuff in the garage at my old house. I just need to work out how to get it down here.”
“Sounds like a lot of work just to give me somewhere to sleep.”
“Sounds like a fun project to me,” he said with a grin. “Keeps me busy.”
“Well, what I was going to teach you might actually help,” revealed Trine softly. “There were limits to what I could show you back at the castle, but things are different here.”
“What are you talking about, girl?”
“I’m going to teach you how to transport from one place to another,” she declared, smiling at him. “My father forbade that lesson at the castle but he’s not here now. Once you get the hang of it, we can both move whatever you need down here.”
“Cool,” he said, feeling slightly apprehensive at the thought. Being transported wrapped in another vampire’s wings always made him feel a little queasy and left him with a dull headache.
“Don’t look so nervous,” she laughed, “It’s easy once you know how.”
Patiently, Trine explained the theory behind transporting from place to place. She explained that the key to its success lay in the ability to focus on the vision of where you wanted to go. If concentration levels wavered, things could go off course, so a clear mental image was crucial. Suggesting that they start off small and with short distances, Trine proposed that he attempt to transport then across the path behind the beach hut and into the field beyond.
“Ok, put your hands round my waist then draw your wings round me. You need to make sure your wings overlap slightly. No gaps. You don’t want to drop me,” coached Trine calmly. “Once you are happy with where your wings are, focus on where we are going and keep that image in your mind. Do not let that image move. Then say, “rape ad locum oculo meo”.”
“What does that mean?”
“Take me to the place in my mind’s eye,” she translated. “Ready to try?”
Reluctantly he nodded.
“Ok. Concentrate on the field,” said Trine.
He placed his trembling hands on her slender waist then drew his brown wings round her, trying to focus on the image of the field. Quietly he repeated the Latin phrase then felt the world go still and dark.
Seconds later he felt soft grass under his feet. For a brief moment, his concentration wavered, and they tumbled to the ground in the field across from the hut. A rather startled looking sheep was staring at him.
“Not bad,” laughed Trine as she got to her feet. “Concentration is the key.”
“Yeah I get it,” he said as he brushed some damp grass from his jeans.
“OK. Take us back,” instructed Trine. “Perhaps aim for the beach behind the house rather than the space outside, Gives you a little more wiggle room for the landing.”
Nodding, he focused on an image of the stony shoreline behind the beach hut, wrapped his wings around them, recited the phrase and waited for the darkness to descend, At the last second his mind wandered to the water’s edge.
“Agh!” squealed Trine shrilly as they landed knee deep in the river. “It’s cold!”
“Sorry. Kind of overshot that one,” laughed the runner.
“At least you didn’t drown us,” laughed Trine as she walked ashore, her wing tips dripping. “Try again. Back to the field.”
Darkness had fallen by the time the runner could successfully transport then back and forth from the field to the beach.
“Well done,” praised the Ice Maiden as they headed back indoors. “You learn fast.”
“Thanks. Sorry about the wet feet,” he apologised following her into the hut. “How does it work for moving objects?”
“You hold onto them tightly and follow the same process,” replied Trine, reaching into her cloak for the leather flask. Pouring some of the doe’s blood into the open bottle of wine, she said, “Tomorrow night we can fetch whatever you need from your home.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he agreed, accepting the glass of blood-infused wine from her. “Does that trick work for getting food and things?”
“It works for anything and everything,” she replied. “Why? What were you wanting?”
“Some fresh bread and maybe some cheese to go with this,” he said, raising his glass.
“As you wish,” said Trine, setting her glass down on the table. “You’ve earned it.”
The clouds parted to reveal the bright full Corn Moon. Its light swathed the fisherman’s hut in a soft welcoming glow as the dark angel landed softly in the small courtyard. There was smoke drifting out of the chimney and light in the windows. Silently, she stepped forward to look into the cabin. Her blood ran cold at the sight she saw. The runner, her runner, was sitting at the table enjoying wine and cheese with a stranger to her. That stranger had wings. That stranger was another vampire but who?
This was not a welcome sight. A sour taste in her mouth, the dark angel turned away from the window, spread her wings and soared up into the darkness.
“What was that?” asked Trine, turning towards the window. “I thought I heard something outside.”
“Let me check,” said the runner calmly. “Probably kids looking for somewhere to get hammered or laid.”
Crossing the room, he opened the door and stepped out into the darkness. The courtyard was empty. All around was silent apart from the gentle noise of waves hitting the beach. Then he spotted something. Bending down, he picked it up. It was a small black feather with a purple tip. He slipped it into his pocket.
“No one there,” said the runner as he closed and locked the door.