Tag Archives: #darkangel

Silently Watching By The Light Of The Ice Moon – postscript

Keeping his wings securely folded around them, Jem paused to take a deep breath. The unconscious dark angel was a dead weight in his arms, and he knew he couldn’t hold her for much longer. Praying that he had made the right decision, he slowly unfurled his wings and looked anxiously round the room they’d arrived in.

“A welcome surprise,” commented Stefan from his seat by the fire.

“Help me,” Jem gasped. “I can’t hold her for much longer.”

Without hesitation, the senior vampire was on his feet and moved swiftly to lift the dark angel into his arms. She stirred but didn’t regain consciousness.

“Thank you,” breathed Jem, feeling more than a little lightheaded.

“Help yourself to wine,” offered Stefan as he carefully laid the stricken vampiress on the chaise that sat beneath the window. Gently, he laid a soft fur across her. “Can I assume that neither your mother nor my daughter knows that you are here?”

“When I don’t return, they’ll soon figure it out,” replied Jem as he poured himself a generous goblet of wine.

“Meryn is my most skilled healer,” commented Stefan, coming to join him by the fire. “Sit, son. Please.”

“I think we’ll need her,” stated Jem as he took a seat. “Anna’s in a bad way.”

“So I see” nodded the head of the Court of the Elders. “I’ll be honest, I had my doubts when Trine and your mother told the court about how broken Anna was. I was wrong to doubt them.”

“She was in a bad way when I found her tonight. Worse than she’s been for weeks.”

“Found her? I thought she was staying in your home?” quizzed Stefan, looking confused.

“She was,” replied Jem. “When you summoned my mother and Trine back here, Anna attacked me and took off. My mother said she used magic.” He paused, not wanting to reveal his mother’s secrets, then continued, “I went to look for her. Found her lying in an old stone watch tower a couple of miles away. She passed out when I picked her up.”

“And you chose to bring her here instead of to your beach home?” Stefan stared at the younger vampire with one eyebrow raised quizzically.

Jem nodded. Indicating the slashes on his cheek, he said, “I did it to protect my mother and your daughter. Anna’s dangerous. Unhinged.”

Stefan nodded, “You acted wisely and with bravery, Jeremiah.”

Jem flinched at the sound of his full given name.

“I won’t kill her while she’s injured,” he stated with a soft defiance. “You need to help her. Heal her.”

“Did you even have a plan for killing her?” challenged Stefan, wholly suspecting that the younger man would have no answer for him.

“Yes. I was going to trick her into drinking some of my blood. Its poisonous to her but I know that she’s attracted by it,” he replied plainly.

“Curious. Why would your blood be toxic to her?” mused Stefan.

“She said something once about a common bloodline.”

“Possible. Interesting. I need to give that more consideration,” Stefan acknowledged. “For now, though, she needs a healer, and you need rest. “

Before Jem could reply, he rang a small bell and one of his household stewards appeared almost instantly.

“Please show our guest to his chamber. Same apartments as last time he visited us. Unlock the door to the private sitting room too,” instructed Stefan. “Jem, I’ll send for you in the morning. We have a lot to discuss. Go. Rest. Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of her.”

“You promise not to harm her?”

“I promise,” assured Stefan sincerely. “You have my word. I’ll have her carried to a secure suite of rooms. You can see her in the morning.”

“Thank you.”

Fatigue threatened to overwhelm Jem as he followed the young steward through the maze of corridors and stairwells to his room. When he entered the familiar chamber, there was already a fire blazing in the hearth and the room was warm. A previously locked door was open, revealing a small sitting room beyond. He could see that a fire had been lit in there too and that a plate of food sat on the table beside the fireside chair along with a jug of wine and a pewter goblet.

“I’ll bid you goodnight, sir,” said the steward with a small bow. “If you need anything, just ring the bell. Someone will attend you.”

“Thank you.”

“Pleasure, sir.”

Wearily, he wandered through to the small sitting room, poured a goblet of wine then sank into the leather chair with a sigh. As he gazed into the flames dancing in the wide hearth, Jem wondered if he had truly acted wisely.

Silently Watching By The Light Of The Ice Moon

Frost sparkled on the rocks around him as he sat on the shore. In front of him, moonlight shimmered on the still, dark river. All around him, everything was blanketed in silence. He gazed up at the almost full moon. “Two more nights until its full,” he thought to himself. “Two more nights until they’re back.”

Sub-consciously, he touched his cheek. Four ragged gashes ran from the corner of his eye down into his bearded jawline. Blood still oozed from them.

He had two nights to put things right.

A fire burned in the grate, its flames sending shadows dancing across the stone walls of the chamber. Both women sat in silence watching the flames, almost as if they were seeking inspiration in them.

“We tell your father the truth,” said Meryn softly. “Tell him everything.”

“Everything?”

“Everything relating to Anna,” replied the older woman. Smiling, she added, “Maybe keep the truth about your depth of feelings for my son quiet for now. Let’s see what fate he proposes for our friend first.”

Silently, Trine nodded.

A tray of food lay untouched on the table. With a sigh, Meryn got to her feet, crossed the chamber, and poured them both a full goblet of blood infused wine.

“Here,” she said, offering the cup to the Ice Maiden. “Drink this. We both need to keep our strength up.”

“Are we on trial?” asked the younger woman anxiously.

“No,” Meryn assured her calmly. “We may both be reprimanded but tomorrow’s court meeting is not a trial. If we both tell the same truth, we’ll be fine.”

“And what will happen to her?” Trine paused then almost whispered “And to Jem?”

“Time will tell,” began Meryn, sipping thoughtfully on her wine. “I expect Stefan will demand that we bring Anna to him. We can argue that she’s still not strong enough to stand trial. She’s still unable to hunt. Unable to care for herself. She needs to be fit and well to face the Court of the Elders, Trine.”

“And Jem?” she repeated.

“He’ll be expected to honour the deal he struck with Stefan.”

“And then my father will honour his deal and…”

“No!” interrupted Meryn sharply. “I will not allow that deal to be honoured.”

“Can you prevent it though?”

“I’m working on it,” promised the older vampiress warmly. “Everything’s going to work out, my dear. Trust me.”

Alone on the beach, Jem reflected on the events of the day. The sun had barely set when his mother and Trine had been summoned back to the Court of the Elders. There had scarcely been time to say goodbye before both women vanished. From the shadows of the heavy curtain that served as a door to his bedroom, Anna had watched the entire scene.

Pausing to pick up a small blue tipped feather that had fluttered to the ground as Trine had been transported back to her father’s castle, Anna had walked across the room, her injured wing dragging uselessly behind her. Twirling the feather round between her finger and thumb, she commented, “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me, Son of Perran. Just like old times.”

“If you say so,” he muttered sourly.

“You’ll never be able to do it,” purred the dark angel, stepping towards him. Gently, she ran the feather down his cheek. “You don’t have it in you.”

“Don’t I?” he challenged, staring at her intently.

“No. You don’t,” she stated with a smug smile.

“Well, all we can do is wait till Trine or my mother returns,” he replied, swiping her hand away. “We’ll see what Stefan has in store for both of us then.”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said coldly. “I think I’ve out-stayed my welcome here. I’ve imposed on your hospitality for too long.”

“You’re going nowhere,” he growled angrily.

Letting go of the feather, the dark angel reached out as she murmured an incantation. Her fingernails turned to steel blades in an instant and before he could move to defend himself, she’d slashed his face then vanished in a swirl of smoky green light.

A purple tipped feather lay on the floor beside the blue one.

Staring out into the darkness, the runner deliberated what to do next. Did he wait until he heard from Trine or his mother? Or did he try to re-capture the dark angel before they returned?

Breathing heavily, the dark angel lay in a crumpled heap on a leaf littered, stone floor. She’d acted on impulse with merely a split second to determine her destination. Glancing round in the moonlit shadows, she knew she’d missed her mark but how far off course was she?

Standing side by side outside the door that led into the Court of the Elders, both women waited in silence. Sensing the younger woman’s fear, Meryn reached out and took her hand, whispering, “Trust me.”

Before Trine could reply, the door swung open, and they were ushered inside. Flanked by Michael and Alessandro, Stefan sat behind the oak table. His face betrayed no emotion; his hands were folded in front of him.

“Good morning, ladies,” he greeted them, keeping his tone even. “I trust that you are well-rested.”

“We are,” replied Meryn, her own voice cold and emotionless. “Cut to the chase, Stefan.”

“Such impatience, Meryn,” he commented. “But, fine, I’ll cut to the chase.” He paused to stare at each of the women in turn. “You have both lied to me. By lying to me, you have lied to the Court of the Elders.”

“Neither of us has lied,” interrupted Meryn bluntly. “We may not have revealed the full truth but there were no lies.”

“Well, let’s start by revealing that “full truth” now then, shall we?” he suggested. “Can you both please advise this court how you came to be living with our errant sister, Anna, instead of bringing her here to face trial? Can you perhaps explain why your son did not kill her on sight as agreed, Meryn?”

“We were nursing her back to full health to bring her to you, father,” explained Trine, her voice shaking with nerves. “I fought with her almost seven moons ago. I thought I’d killed her, but Jem found her lying injured three moons after the fight. She was too weak to face trial or to travel. I asked Meryn to come to me. She came to my aid without knowing who she was to heal.”

“Care to start this tale from the beginning,” said Stefan calmly. “Include all the details. Leave nothing out.”

It took several hours but finally, as the candles around the chamber burned low, Meryn and Trine finished their account. The three male vampires had listened intently, occasionally interrupting to seek clarification. When they’d told their tale, Stefan bowed his head. He sat deep in thought for a few long silent minutes then said, “I believe all that you’ve testified here today to be true.”

For the first time since they’d entered the chamber, Trine felt a glimmer of hope.

“How confident are you that she remains incapacitated?” asked Alessandro, his Italian accent echoing round the otherwise silent room.

“Confident,” stated Meryn. “She’s unable to fly due to her injuries. She’s barely able to get out of bed un-aided. She can’t hunt.”

Alessandro nodded then commented, “You’ll recall Anna trained with a mage in North Africa some time ago. When her training was complete, she drained him of life. How confident are you that she’s lost the skills he taught her? Does she still possess that magic?”

Exchanging anxious glances, the two women stood in mute silence, unable to truthfully answer the question.

“Have you placed your son in danger by leaving him alone with her, Meryn?” asked Michael softly. “Anna has never shown any signs of compassion. What’s to stop her from killing him now that you’re not there?”

Meryn paled visibly. It was Trine who found her voice first.

“I don’t believe she’ll kill Jem,” she began. “She loves him too much.”

Stefan nodded slowly, “I believe you’re correct, daughter, but your mate may still be in grave danger left alone with her if that magic remains intact.”

“Then send us back there tonight,” proposed Meryn. “Together the three of us stand a better chance of controlling things than my son does on his own.”

“You both need to feed first. Hunt tonight and you may return to them at dawn,” stated Stefan, his tone leaving no room for debate.

Using some of the medical supplies he’d procured to help with the dark angel’s wounds, Jem cleaned the four deep slashes on his cheek. They were ragged and deep and should probably be stitched but he had nothing to close them with. He would have to take his chances that they would heal without leaving him too badly scarred.

Instead of going to bed at dawn as he usually did, he threw some more logs into the wood burner, poured a large glass of blood infused wine, and sat staring into the flames, seeking a solution to the key Anna dilemma – where had she gone?

Using her magic had drained the dark angel of all of her limited energy. She had crawled into the corner of whatever ruined building she had landed in, covered herself with leaves to disguise her presence from prying eyes and slept from dawn til dusk.

When she awoke, she was still weak, but she found the strength to get to her feet. In the fading light, she managed to work out that she’d transported herself into the ruined chapel beside the main house in the grounds of the estate that lay to the north of the village. Her aim had been less than accurate, but she was less than a mile from home. If she could get back there, she could use her magic to try to restore her damaged wing.

First though she needed to feed and in her current physical state she was unable to hunt. Cursing her damaged wing under her breath, she walked across the chapel to the doorway. There were sheep in the field beyond. A possibility but they were likely to run the moment they sensed her. In the field across the driveway to the south, she could see that there were horses gathered together under one of the old oak trees. They were less likely to run if she approached.

Keeping to the darkest shadows, she walked slowly across the field, trailing her wing through fallen leaves and mud. As she suspected, the sheep scattered as soon as they sensed her in their field.

Car headlights approaching up the driveway sent her scurrying for shelter in the dark shadows behind a huge oak tree. With her heart pounding and her legs trembling, Anna watched as it continued its way up to the “big house.” Satisfied that it was safe, she continued her journey to the field where the horses were still gathered beneath a tree, munching on the contents of a hay net. There were three of them, two chestnuts and a grey. None of them flinched as she walked down the grassy slope towards them. It was decision time. A thick prominent vein in the grey’s neck caught her eye. That was sign enough for her.

As the two chestnut beasts fled in terror, the dark angel drank greedily from the pale coloured horse, draining its life from it swiftly.

Shortly before dawn, Meryn and Trine were summoned to Stefan’s private study. When they entered, they found him sitting alone, gazing into the depths of the wine goblet in his hands.

“Are you ready to take your leave?” he asked without looking up.

“Yes,” replied Meryn. “As soon as you say that we can.”

“You can on one condition,” he began, looking up to stare at them. “Bring Anna to me no later than one week from today.”

“As you wish,” agreed Meryn calmly. She paused before asking, “And Jeremiah?”

“Bring him with you. I have a lot to discuss with him.”

With that he clicked his fingers. Both vampiresses felt the air shift and, the next thing they knew, they were standing on the path that ran along the front of the beach hut. The sun was just beginning to rise and the sky to the east was streaked with red.

“Red sky in the morning, sailors’ warning,” said Meryn absently. “My grandmother used to say that. Come on, my dear, let’s get inside. Its too cold to stay out here watching the sunrise no matter how pretty it looks.”

A welcoming warmth greeted them as they entered the beach hut. Looking up, eyes wide, the runner gasped, “Trine! Mother! You’re back!”

“So it would seem,” stated the older woman somewhat sarcastically.

Sensing that something was amiss, Trine went straight across to the bedroom, drawing aside the heavy curtain. The bed beyond was empty.

“Where is she?”

Turning to face them both, he said simply, “She’s gone.”

“Your face!” gasped his mother. “Anna did that?”

He nodded, “Right before she fucked off in a puff of green smoke.”

“Guess that answers that question,” sighed Trine, crossing the room to inspect his wounds.

“What question?”

“Our friend trained with a mage a long time ago,” Meryn explained. “Her magic would appear to be intact.”

“A mage?” he echoed, looking confused.

“A witch,” said Trine by way of explanation.

“Actually, a warlock,” corrected Meryn with a smile. “The same mage who trained me but let’s keep that between the three of us.”

“Would one of you please tell me what is going on here?” demanded the runner bluntly.

“Plenty of time for stories after I’ve looked at those wounds,” declared his mother sharply.

With his wounds freshly cleaned, the runner sat and listened while the Ice Maiden and his mother told him about their appearance before the Court of the Elders. He was relieved to hear that Stefan hadn’t punished them, seeming to understand the need for the dark angel to be in full health before meeting her fate at his hand.

“So, now what?” he asked, running his hands through his hair.

“We rest,” said Meryn calmly. “We have a week to find our friend, but I suspect that tonight’s full moon offers us our best chance.”

“Do you have a plan?” asked Trine quietly.

“I do but I’m too tired to explain it right now. All I’ll say is this. Jem, you’re going to have to trust me completely.”

Before he could reply, she disappeared into Trine’s room.

“Help me put fresh linen on the bed,” said Trine. “Your mother’s right. We need rest.”

Smiling, the runner got to his feet, took her hand, and said, “I can think of something else we need too.”

Giggling, Trine allowed herself to be led from the room.

The full moon was living up to its name as it rose. The temperatures had plummeted as dusk fell. All around the beach hut everything was glittering with a thick layer of frost under the glow of the Ice Moon.

When Trine and Jem entered the living room, they found Meryn already sitting by the stove, sipping a glass of wine.

“Are you both well-rested?” she enquired casually.

“Yes, mother,” replied her son. “So, what’s the plan here?”

“We…I need to use magic to trace magic, but I need a conduit. That’s where you fit in, son.”

“A conduit?” quizzed Trine as she poured Jem and herself some of the blood-infused wine.

Meryn nodded, “When a vampire creates another, they leave a trace behind. A little bit of themselves. Their maker’s mark so to speak.” She paused to take a sip from her glass. “I’m hoping that our friend has left a little of her magic behind in that trace.”

“And how do you propose to find it, mother? I assume its not a physical mark like my tattoos.”

“I need to scry your mind back to the point when she created you.”

He had suspected as much.

“Remember there was a partial transformation first that failed,” he prompted before drinking deeply from his glass.

“Do you trust me, son?” asked Meryn plainly. “I promise to probe no further than that partial transformation. For this to work, you’ll need to open your mind willingly to me.”

Knowing he had no choice, he nodded his consent, “No further than that. You promise?”

“You have my word,” she answered sincerely. “But I intend to use my own magic to seek out Anna’s in your mind. This will feel different to any other attempts that have been made to probe your memories. I need to locate that trace then feel through it till I connect with her.”

“Will it work?”

“Only one way to find out,” answered the older woman. “I need to draw on the moon’s energy, so we’ll do this outside.”

The rocks were glittering as the three vampires settled themselves down out of sight of the path. They’d walked a little further east of the cottage to find a suitably secluded spot where the light was also right. Sitting facing her son, Meryn looked into his deep brown eyes and smiled. “Try to relax. I’m going to place my fingers on your cheek bones and jawline. I’ll try to avoid those cuts. I need to use an incantation. All you need to do is let me in. Don’t resist the probing. There might be intense heat or intense cold. I won’t know which until I find the connection. It depends on which type of magic she used.”

“And if you don’t find any?” he asked.

“I’ll find it,” she said confidently. “Ready?”

With a quick glance towards Trine, he nodded.

Closing her eyes, Meryn placed her fingertips along his well-defined cheek bones. She positioned her little fingers on his jawbone below his ears then nestled her thumbs among the wiry hairs of his beard at the centre of his chin. Whispering words he couldn’t decipher, she moved her thumbs together to touch. The instant they connected, he felt an icy piercing pain shoot through him. It seemed to curl through his mind carving a frosty trail as it twisted and turned. He resisted the urge to scream as his mother probed deeper and deeper into his soul.

After a minute or two, he felt her hesitate then the energy shifted slightly. A vision began to form in his mind. The scene was misty at first but slowly cleared to show Anna lying on a leaf strewn stone floor. He could see tall stone walls surrounding her. She was swathed in moonlight, but it was coming from a gap in the roof rather than the small square windows that were high up in the walls.

He felt the icy magic being repelled then the world went black. As he lost consciousness, he felt his mother’s touch retreat as Trine’s arms wrapped round him to prevent him from falling backwards.

“Jem,” he heard his name being called through the fog in his mind.

“Jeremiah! Wake up!” Immediately, he recognised his mother’s sharp tone.

Groggily, he muttered, “Awake.”

“Are you ok?” asked Trine, her voice filled with concern.

“I think so.”

“Did you see her?” demanded Meryn, looking pale and exhausted by her efforts.

“Yes.”

“And do you know where she is?”

As the world came back into focus, he looked his mother in the eye and nodded.

“Can you get to her tonight?”

“Yes. She’s not far from here,” he said, sounding surprisingly calm.

“Where is she?” asked Trine curiously. “Back at her mausoleum?”

“No. She’s lying in an old stone watch tower. It’s in the estate to the west of here. Less than two miles away.”

“We’ve no time to waste, son,” said Meryn. “Go and fetch her before she moves on. Bring her back here.”

“Do you want one of us to come with you?” offered Trine, concerned that her mate might be heading into danger.

He shook his head, “I need to do this on my own.”

Before either of them could stop him, he got to his feet, spread his majestic, green-tipped wings, and soared silently into the night sky.

In less than five minutes, he was perched, crouched down on the top of the crumbling wall of the tower. Some thirty feet below him, he could see the dark angel sprawled on the floor, her damaged wing lying at an awkward angle. Soundlessly, he jumped down, landing sure-footed as a cat beside her.

“Son of Perran,” she murmured without opening her eyes.

Laying a hand on her shoulder, his heart filled with sadness. She suddenly seemed so frail and vulnerable. Before his emotions could get the better of his common sense, he lifted her into his arms then wrapped his wings around her. She lost consciousness in his arms as the world went dark.

Frost sparkled on the rocks around him as he sat on the shore. In front of him, moonlight shimmered on the still, dark river. All around him, everything was blanketed in silence. He gazed up at the almost full moon. “Two more nights until its full,” he thought to himself. “Two more nights until they’re back.”

Sub-consciously, he touched his cheek. Four ragged gashes ran from the corner of his eye down into his bearded jawline. Blood still oozed from them.

He had two nights to put things right.

A fire burned in the grate, its flames sending shadows dancing across the stone walls of the chamber. Both women sat in silence watching the flames, almost as if they were seeking inspiration in them.

“We tell your father the truth,” said Meryn softly. “Tell him everything.”

“Everything?”

“Everything relating to Anna,” replied the older woman. Smiling, she added, “Maybe keep the truth about your depth of feelings for my son quiet for now. Let’s see what fate he proposes for our friend first.”

Silently, Trine nodded.

A tray of food lay untouched on the table. With a sigh, Meryn got to her feet, crossed the chamber, and poured them both a full goblet of blood infused wine.

“Here,” she said, offering the cup to the Ice Maiden. “Drink this. We both need to keep our strength up.”

“Are we on trial?” asked the younger woman anxiously.

“No,” Meryn assured her calmly. “We may both be reprimanded but tomorrow’s court meeting is not a trial. If we both tell the same truth, we’ll be fine.”

“And what will happen to her?” Trine paused then almost whispered “And to Jem?”

“Time will tell,” began Meryn, sipping thoughtfully on her wine. “I expect Stefan will demand that we bring Anna to him. We can argue that she’s still not strong enough to stand trial. She’s still unable to hunt. Unable to care for herself. She needs to be fit and well to face the Court of the Elders, Trine.”

“And Jem?” she repeated.

“He’ll be expected to honour the deal he struck with Stefan.”

“And then my father will honour his deal and…”

“No!” interrupted Meryn sharply. “I will not allow that deal to be honoured.”

“Can you prevent it though?”

“I’m working on it,” promised the older vampiress warmly. “Everything’s going to work out, my dear. Trust me.”

Alone on the beach, Jem reflected on the events of the day. The sun had barely set when his mother and Trine had been summoned back to the Court of the Elders. There had scarcely been time to say goodbye before both women vanished. From the shadows of the heavy curtain that served as a door to his bedroom, Anna had watched the entire scene.

Pausing to pick up a small blue tipped feather that had fluttered to the ground as Trine had been transported back to her father’s castle, Anna had walked across the room, her injured wing dragging uselessly behind her. Twirling the feather round between her finger and thumb, she commented, “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me, Son of Perran. Just like old times.”

“If you say so,” he muttered sourly.

“You’ll never be able to do it,” purred the dark angel, stepping towards him. Gently, she ran the feather down his cheek. “You don’t have it in you.”

“Don’t I?” he challenged, staring at her intently.

“No. You don’t,” she stated with a smug smile.

“Well, all we can do is wait till Trine or my mother returns,” he replied, swiping her hand away. “We’ll see what Stefan has in store for both of us then.”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said coldly. “I think I’ve out-stayed my welcome here. I’ve imposed on your hospitality for too long.”

“You’re going nowhere,” he growled angrily.

Letting go of the feather, the dark angel reached out as she murmured an incantation. Her fingernails turned to steel blades in an instant and before he could move to defend himself, she’d slashed his face then vanished in a swirl of smoky green light.

A purple tipped feather lay on the floor beside the blue one.

Staring out into the darkness, the runner deliberated what to do next. Did he wait until he heard from Trine or his mother? Or did he try to re-capture the dark angel before they returned?

Breathing heavily, the dark angel lay in a crumpled heap on a leaf littered, stone floor. She’d acted on impulse with merely a split second to determine her destination. Glancing round in the moonlit shadows, she knew she’d missed her mark but how far off course was she?

Standing side by side outside the door that led into the Court of the Elders, both women waited in silence. Sensing the younger woman’s fear, Meryn reached out and took her hand, whispering, “Trust me.”

Before Trine could reply, the door swung open, and they were ushered inside. Flanked by Michael and Alessandro, Stefan sat behind the oak table. His face betrayed no emotion; his hands were folded in front of him.

“Good morning, ladies,” he greeted them, keeping his tone even. “I trust that you are well-rested.”

“We are,” replied Meryn, her own voice cold and emotionless. “Cut to the chase, Stefan.”

“Such impatience, Meryn,” he commented. “But, fine, I’ll cut to the chase.” He paused to stare at each of the women in turn. “You have both lied to me. By lying to me, you have lied to the Court of the Elders.”

“Neither of us has lied,” interrupted Meryn bluntly. “We may not have revealed the full truth but there were no lies.”

“Well, let’s start by revealing that “full truth” now then, shall we?” he suggested. “Can you both please advise this court how you came to be living with our errant sister, Anna, instead of bringing her here to face trial? Can you perhaps explain why your son did not kill her on sight as agreed, Meryn?”

“We were nursing her back to full health to bring her to you, father,” explained Trine, her voice shaking with nerves. “I fought with her almost seven moons ago. I thought I’d killed her, but Jem found her lying injured three moons after the fight. She was too weak to face trial or to travel. I asked Meryn to come to me. She came to my aid without knowing who she was to heal.”

“Care to start this tale from the beginning,” said Stefan calmly. “Include all the details. Leave nothing out.”

It took several hours but finally, as the candles around the chamber burned low, Meryn and Trine finished their account. The three male vampires had listened intently, occasionally interrupting to seek clarification. When they’d told their tale, Stefan bowed his head. He sat deep in thought for a few long silent minutes then said, “I believe all that you’ve testified here today to be true.”

For the first time since they’d entered the chamber, Trine felt a glimmer of hope.

“How confident are you that she remains incapacitated?” asked Alessandro, his Italian accent echoing round the otherwise silent room.

“Confident,” stated Meryn. “She’s unable to fly due to her injuries. She’s barely able to get out of bed un-aided. She can’t hunt.”

Alessandro nodded then commented, “You’ll recall Anna trained with a mage in North Africa some time ago. When her training was complete, she drained him of life. How confident are you that she’s lost the skills he taught her? Does she still possess that magic?”

Exchanging anxious glances, the two women stood in mute silence, unable to truthfully answer the question.

“Have you placed your son in danger by leaving him alone with her, Meryn?” asked Michael softly. “Anna has never shown any signs of compassion. What’s to stop her from killing him now that you’re not there?”

Meryn paled visibly. It was Trine who found her voice first.

“I don’t believe she’ll kill Jem,” she began. “She loves him too much.”

Stefan nodded slowly, “I believe you’re correct, daughter, but your mate may still be in grave danger left alone with her if that magic remains intact.”

“Then send us back there tonight,” proposed Meryn. “Together the three of us stand a better chance of controlling things than my son does on his own.”

“You both need to feed first. Hunt tonight and you may return to them at dawn,” stated Stefan, his tone leaving no room for debate.

Using some of the medical supplies he’d procured to help with the dark angel’s wounds, Jem cleaned the four deep slashes on his cheek. They were ragged and deep and should probably be stitched but he had nothing to close them with. He would have to take his chances that they would heal without leaving him too badly scarred.

Instead of going to bed at dawn as he usually did, he threw some more logs into the wood burner, poured a large glass of blood infused wine, and sat staring into the flames, seeking a solution to the key Anna dilemma – where had she gone?

Using her magic had drained the dark angel of all of her limited energy. She had crawled into the corner of whatever ruined building she had landed in, covered herself with leaves to disguise her presence from prying eyes and slept from dawn til dusk.

When she awoke, she was still weak, but she found the strength to get to her feet. In the fading light, she managed to work out that she’d transported herself into the ruined chapel beside the main house in the grounds of the estate that lay to the north of the village. Her aim had been less than accurate, but she was less than a mile from home. If she could get back there, she could use her magic to try to restore her damaged wing.

First though she needed to feed and in her current physical state she was unable to hunt. Cursing her damaged wing under her breath, she walked across the chapel to the doorway. There were sheep in the field beyond. A possibility but they were likely to run the moment they sensed her. In the field across the driveway to the south, she could see that there were horses gathered together under one of the old oak trees. They were less likely to run if she approached.

Keeping to the darkest shadows, she walked slowly across the field, trailing her wing through fallen leaves and mud. As she suspected, the sheep scattered as soon as they sensed her in their field.

Car headlights approaching up the driveway sent her scurrying for shelter in the dark shadows behind a huge oak tree. With her heart pounding and her legs trembling, Anna watched as it continued its way up to the “big house.” Satisfied that it was safe, she continued her journey to the field where the horses were still gathered beneath a tree, munching on the contents of a hay net. There were three of them, two chestnuts and a grey. None of them flinched as she walked down the grassy slope towards them. It was decision time. A thick prominent vein in the grey’s neck caught her eye. That was sign enough for her.

As the two chestnut beasts fled in terror, the dark angel drank greedily from the pale coloured horse, draining its life from it swiftly.

Shortly before dawn, Meryn and Trine were summoned to Stefan’s private study. When they entered, they found him sitting alone, gazing into the depths of the wine goblet in his hands.

“Are you ready to take your leave?” he asked without looking up.

“Yes,” replied Meryn. “As soon as you say that we can.”

“You can on one condition,” he began, looking up to stare at them. “Bring Anna to me no later than one week from today.”

“As you wish,” agreed Meryn calmly. She paused before asking, “And Jeremiah?”

“Bring him with you. I have a lot to discuss with him.”

With that he clicked his fingers. Both vampiresses felt the air shift and, the next thing they knew, they were standing on the path that ran along the front of the beach hut. The sun was just beginning to rise and the sky to the east was streaked with red.

“Red sky in the morning, sailors’ warning,” said Meryn absently. “My grandmother used to say that. Come on, my dear, let’s get inside. Its too cold to stay out here watching the sunrise no matter how pretty it looks.”

A welcoming warmth greeted them as they entered the beach hut. Looking up, eyes wide, the runner gasped, “Trine! Mother! You’re back!”

“So it would seem,” stated the older woman somewhat sarcastically.

Sensing that something was amiss, Trine went straight across to the bedroom, drawing aside the heavy curtain. The bed beyond was empty.

“Where is she?”

Turning to face them both, he said simply, “She’s gone.”

“Your face!” gasped his mother. “Anna did that?”

He nodded, “Right before she fucked off in a puff of green smoke.”

“Guess that answers that question,” sighed Trine, crossing the room to inspect his wounds.

“What question?”

“Our friend trained with a mage a long time ago,” Meryn explained. “Her magic would appear to be intact.”

“A mage?” he echoed, looking confused.

“A witch,” said Trine by way of explanation.

“Actually, a warlock,” corrected Meryn with a smile. “The same mage who trained me but let’s keep that between the three of us.”

“Would one of you please tell me what is going on here?” demanded the runner bluntly.

“Plenty of time for stories after I’ve looked at those wounds,” declared his mother sharply.

With his wounds freshly cleaned, the runner sat and listened while the Ice Maiden and his mother told him about their appearance before the Court of the Elders. He was relieved to hear that Stefan hadn’t punished them, seeming to understand the need for the dark angel to be in full health before meeting her fate at his hand.

“So, now what?” he asked, running his hands through his hair.

“We rest,” said Meryn calmly. “We have a week to find our friend, but I suspect that tonight’s full moon offers us our best chance.”

“Do you have a plan?” asked Trine quietly.

“I do but I’m too tired to explain it right now. All I’ll say is this. Jem, you’re going to have to trust me completely.”

Before he could reply, she disappeared into Trine’s room.

“Help me put fresh linen on the bed,” said Trine. “Your mother’s right. We need rest.”

Smiling, the runner got to his feet, took her hand, and said, “I can think of something else we need too.”

Giggling, Trine allowed herself to be led from the room.

The full moon was living up to its name as it rose. The temperatures had plummeted as dusk fell. All around the beach hut everything was glittering with a thick layer of frost under the glow of the Ice Moon.

When Trine and Jem entered the living room, they found Meryn already sitting by the stove, sipping a glass of wine.

“Are you both well-rested?” she enquired casually.

“Yes, mother,” replied her son. “So, what’s the plan here?”

“We…I need to use magic to trace magic, but I need a conduit. That’s where you fit in, son.”

“A conduit?” quizzed Trine as she poured Jem and herself some of the blood-infused wine.

Meryn nodded, “When a vampire creates another, they leave a trace behind. A little bit of themselves. Their maker’s mark so to speak.” She paused to take a sip from her glass. “I’m hoping that our friend has left a little of her magic behind in that trace.”

“And how do you propose to find it, mother? I assume its not a physical mark like my tattoos.”

“I need to scry your mind back to the point when she created you.”

He had suspected as much.

“Remember there was a partial transformation first that failed,” he prompted before drinking deeply from his glass.

“Do you trust me, son?” asked Meryn plainly. “I promise to probe no further than that partial transformation. For this to work, you’ll need to open your mind willingly to me.”

Knowing he had no choice, he nodded his consent, “No further than that. You promise?”

“You have my word,” she answered sincerely. “But I intend to use my own magic to seek out Anna’s in your mind. This will feel different to any other attempts that have been made to probe your memories. I need to locate that trace then feel through it till I connect with her.”

“Will it work?”

“Only one way to find out,” answered the older woman. “I need to draw on the moon’s energy, so we’ll do this outside.”

The rocks were glittering as the three vampires settled themselves down out of sight of the path. They’d walked a little further east of the cottage to find a suitably secluded spot where the light was also right. Sitting facing her son, Meryn looked into his deep brown eyes and smiled. “Try to relax. I’m going to place my fingers on your cheek bones and jawline. I’ll try to avoid those cuts. I need to use an incantation. All you need to do is let me in. Don’t resist the probing. There might be intense heat or intense cold. I won’t know which until I find the connection. It depends on which type of magic she used.”

“And if you don’t find any?” he asked.

“I’ll find it,” she said confidently. “Ready?”

With a quick glance towards Trine, he nodded.

Closing her eyes, Meryn placed her fingertips along his well-defined cheek bones. She positioned her little fingers on his jawbone below his ears then nestled her thumbs among the wiry hairs of his beard at the centre of his chin. Whispering words he couldn’t decipher, she moved her thumbs together to touch. The instant they connected, he felt an icy piercing pain shoot through him. It seemed to curl through his mind carving a frosty trail as it twisted and turned. He resisted the urge to scream as his mother probed deeper and deeper into his soul.

After a minute or two, he felt her hesitate then the energy shifted slightly. A vision began to form in his mind. The scene was misty at first but slowly cleared to show Anna lying on a leaf strewn stone floor. He could see tall stone walls surrounding her. She was swathed in moonlight, but it was coming from a gap in the roof rather than the small square windows that were high up in the walls.

He felt the icy magic being repelled then the world went black. As he lost consciousness, he felt his mother’s touch retreat as Trine’s arms wrapped round him to prevent him from falling backwards.

“Jem,” he heard his name being called through the fog in his mind.

“Jeremiah! Wake up!” Immediately, he recognised his mother’s sharp tone.

Groggily, he muttered, “Awake.”

“Are you ok?” asked Trine, her voice filled with concern.

“I think so.”

“Did you see her?” demanded Meryn, looking pale and exhausted by her efforts.

“Yes.”

“And do you know where she is?”

As the world came back into focus, he looked his mother in the eye and nodded.

“Can you get to her tonight?”

“Yes. She’s not far from here,” he said, sounding surprisingly calm.

“Where is she?” asked Trine curiously. “Back at her mausoleum?”

“No. She’s lying in an old stone watch tower. It’s in the estate to the west of here. Less than two miles away.”

“We’ve no time to waste, son,” said Meryn. “Go and fetch her before she moves on. Bring her back here.”

“Do you want one of us to come with you?” offered Trine, concerned that her mate might be heading into danger.

He shook his head, “I need to do this on my own.”

Before either of them could stop him, he got to his feet, spread his majestic, green-tipped wings, and soared silently into the night sky.

In less than five minutes, he was perched, crouched down on the top of the crumbling wall of the tower. Some thirty feet below him, he could see the dark angel sprawled on the floor, her damaged wing lying at an awkward angle. Soundlessly, he jumped down, landing sure-footed as a cat beside her.

“Son of Perran,” she murmured without opening her eyes.

Laying a hand on her shoulder, his heart filled with sadness. She suddenly seemed so frail and vulnerable. Before his emotions could get the better of his common sense, he lifted her into his arms then wrapped his wings around her. She lost consciousness in his arms as the world went dark.

Silently Watching Before The Sturgeon Moon – three days later…

Gale force winds and rain lashed the beach hut, the waves from the high tide reaching the outside edge of the high courtyard wall. Thick dark storm clouds blanketed the area and had done for three days.

They had been three long tense days as the occupants of the beach hut had watched and waited, taking it in turns to sit with the dark angel day and night. Those seemingly endless hours keeping their vigil had given then time to talk and time to formulate a plan.

During the first long night, Meryn had sat with her son watching him almost as closely as she watched the angel. Gradually, she began to tell him about her past, told tales of her youth spent in both Spain and in a small village at the southern most tip of England. He listened closely as she told him about her parents, both true blooded vampires. With tears in her eyes, Meryn spoke about her Spanish mother, her adoration for her evident from the emotion catching in her voice. Her father had been Italian, from one of the oldest vampire families and been one of the founding members of the Court of the Elders. When she spoke of her late husband, her tears flowed freely. He had been her true soulmate and, despite her family’s misgivings, had happily sacrificed her wings to enjoy a “mortal” marriage. Reaching out to touch her son’s knee, she said, “You are my greatest love. You always will be. Despite what this creature has done to you, I am so proud of the man you are. Never forget that.”

The next night, she sat with Trine. For hours they sat in silence before the younger woman began to reveal the depth of her feelings for the runner, voiced her fears for their future and, after some gentle motherly encouragement, spoke of her hopes for that future too. Recognising the signs from the younger woman’s words and from the look in her eyes, Meryn saw that she’d found her soulmate in Jem.

Huddled together in the living room, listening to the raging storm on the third night, they all sat in silence.

“Time to bathe that wound,” Meryn announced shortly before midnight. “I want to try something different. Let’s heat the solution and see if that helps to drive out the last of the poison. Make it hot.”

Without argument, Trine poured some of the infusion into a pot and set it on the stove. The initial hot poultice had drawn most of the poison from the wound; the twice daily washes of the alcohol-based infusion seemed to be drawing even more from it, but the swabs had not come away clean yet.

When the liquid began to bubble, Trine lifted the small pot from the burner and carried it through to the runner’s bedroom. Meryn had already removed the soiled dressings from the dark angel’s back and was gently running her fingers over the open wound, muttering under her breath. Taking care not to burn herself or to touch the liquid, Meryn took the pot from Trine and soaked two square cotton swabs. She applied them to the wound, added a dry dressing on top then pressed down hard.

“Her eyelids flickered,” whispered Trine.

“I’m surprised she didn’t scream,” commented Meryn. “We’ll repeat this in an hour. I added an incantation to draw strength from the storm to add to the cleansing forces at play here. If we need to, we’ll repeat it a third and final time an hour after that.”

An hour later, as Meryn pressed down on the wound again, the dark angel’s eyelids flickered again. The fingers of her right hand clawed at the bedcovers.

“A promising sign,” said Meryn calmly.

Another hour later, Meryn showed Trine how to apply the hot infusion, taught her the healing incantation and where to press down on the wound. As the ice maiden applied the force as directed, the dark angel let out a hoarse cry of pain. Looking down on her, Trine saw that her eyes were open and filled with agony and hatred with a hint of fear there too.

“Welcome back, Anna,” said Meryn coldly as she moved into the dark angel’s line of vision.

Silently Watching Before The Sturgeon Moon

Reds and oranges streaked the skies in front of the beach hut as the last light of day began to disappear. Sitting on the beach, the ice maiden and the runner kept a close eye on the path, watching for dog walkers and stray cyclists. Being outdoors before darkness had fallen always came with a risk.

Inside the hut, the dark angel still lay clinging to life. For eight days, they had kept watch over her, changing her dressings and keeping her comfortable; for eight days, the dark angel had remained unconscious, her wound oozing black stinking poison. It was the lingering stench of that dark pus that had driven them outdoors before nightfall, their desire to breathe fresh air mutual.

“We need to send for a healer,” said Trine softly. “That knife wound is beyond my skills and your modern medicines are too big a risk.”

“And where do you propose we find a healer?” quizzed the runner, running his hand through his dark tousled hair.

“I may have a way,” she whispered, keeping her gazed fixed on the river in front of them.

“What are you trying to suggest here?”

“Before we left the castle, my father gave me a crystal ball to use to communicate with him in an emergency,” revealed the ice maiden. “It’s paired with one he has. I could reach out and ask him to let me speak privately with the healer I have in mind.”

“A crystal? And you never thought to tell me about this?”

Bowing her head, Trine whispered, “I’m sorry.”

With a sigh, he reached out and took her hand, “It’s fine. Do you think you can get help from a healer by using it?”

Trine nodded, “But we need to be careful what my father hears. If he thinks I need help for our guest, he’ll refuse on the spot and most likely turn up here to kill her himself. You are meant to be killing her, not healing her, after all.”

“There is that” conceded the runner. “I assume you have a plan?”

“I can feign a womanly issue to put my father off the scent. It’s my only hope of getting a private audience with the healer.”

“That could work, I guess,” he admitted. “Who is this healer? Can they be trusted? How can you be sure that they won’t tell your father the truth?”

“I trust her,” replied Trine without hesitation. Turning to face him, she said, “It’s Meryn.”

“My mother?”

Trine nodded.

“Shit!”

“She’s our best hope,” stated Trine quietly. “We know she doesn’t want you to die so she might be prepared to help here to keep you alive.”

“Is there no one else?”

Trine shook her head.

“Fine. Do it,” he growled, getting to his feet. “I’m going for a run. I need to…”

“I get it,” said Trine, putting her hand on his arm. “Be careful. I’ll try to reach my father.”

Under the cover of darkness, he pounded the familiar forest trails. With his wings drawn tight, he increased the pace, keen to put some distance between himself and the beach hut. How had his life become so complicated and tangled in the lives of two vampiresses? As he ran, he allowed his mind to drift back over his first meetings with the dark angel. In a twisted way, he realised in those early days he’d drawn some kind of pleasure from knowing that she was watching him. He’d felt flattered, he guessed. Then there was Trine… His feelings for her ran deep…ok, he admitted to himself, he was in love with her but how did that work in this vampire world? How could their relationship have any future when he’d already requested of her father that he end his life once the dark angel was dead? Did he really want his life to end? Deep in thought, he continued to pound out the miles, hoping to find some answers in his heart.

Carefully, Trine opened the drawer and reached into its depths for the suede pouch containing the crystal ball. Slipping it out onto her trembling palm, it felt heavy, just like her heart. She knew how hard it had been for the runner to hear that she needed his mother’s help. Over the months they had spent together, he had confided in her about some of the complexities of their broken relationship. A wave of guilt washed through her. What she had omitted to tell him was that she’d need to invite Meryn to the beach hut in order to heal the dark angel.

The crystal in her hand filled with a smoky blue light then, as the mists cleared, it showed her father sitting by the fire in his study. Her heart swelled at the familiar scene, and it struck her that she missed her evenings by the fire in that room with him. He looked worried and that concerned her.

“Father,” she spoke softly so as not to startle him, “Father, turn around.”

“Trine!” gasped Stefan. “A pleasant surprise. Is everything alright? Have you found her yet? Is she dead?”

“So many questions,” replied Trine, trying to keep her tone light. “Yes, no and no to answer them. I do need your help though. Is Meryn with you?”

“She’s resting in her chambers. She only returned from Spain a few hours ago.”

“Spain?”

“Court business. Restless nights in Barcelona. Carelessness by some fledglings,” he muttered. “Nothing for you to concern yourself with. What do you want with Meryn?”

Bowing her head to avoid eye contact, Trine said, “I need to talk to her woman to woman, father. It’s a delicate personal matter. I need her herbal guidance.”

Even through the glass, Trine could tell her father’s cheeks had flushed slightly in embarrassment. He had always shied away from such things and his reaction sent a little surge of hope through the ice maiden.

“Can it wait till tomorrow?” he asked.

“If it has to,” replied Trine, feeding some disappointment into her voice. “I’d hoped to talk to Meryn tonight but, if she’s retired for the night, it can wait a few more hours.”

“I’ll go to her,” stated Stefan. “Reach out to me in half an hour, child.”

“Thank you,” said Trine but the crystal was filled with only blue mist once more.

Slipping the ball into her pocket, she went to check on the dark angel. As she pulled the curtain aside to enter the runner’s bedroom, the stench of the wound hit her. The angel lay face down on the soft mattress, with her back exposed. Gently, Trine peeled back the white dressing to check on the knife wound. Underneath, the cotton pad was saturated in black pus. Fighting back a wave of nausea, Trine bathed the wound with salt water then applied a fresh dressing. She scooped up the soiled pads, took them through to the living room and threw them into the wood-burning stove. The flames flared a bright green as they engulfed the soiled material.

In her pocket, she sensed more than felt a change in the crystal. Her hands were still wet from the salt water, causing her to take extra care not to drop the ball as she withdrew it. The blue light shimmered then cleared to show Meryn’s chamber rather than her father’s study.

“Trine, darling,” greeted Meryn warmly. “Your father said this was urgent. Are you ill?”

Shaking her head, Trine asked, “Are you alone?”

“Yes. Stefan has gone back to his tower. Talking about women’s issues unsettles him,” replied Meryn with a mischievous smile.

“I need you to promise to keep what I am about to ask a secret.”

“A secret?” echoed the runner’s mother, her curiosity piqued. “You can trust me, Trine. Is this to do with my son?”

“Not exactly. We need your help to heal a wound,” replied Trine.

“Is my son injured?”

“No. He’s fine,” Trine paused. “It’s a long, complicated tale. I need you to come here. I’ll explain all when you get here.”

“Darling, I’m exhausted,” began Meryn hesitantly. “I’ll need to hunt before I can make that journey.”

“Hunt on the way,” suggested the ice maiden swiftly.

“A possibility,” acknowledged the senior vampiress. “Tell me what you can about this wound.”

“It’s a knife wound. It’s a deep one but beyond my skills. I’ve been treating it as you showed me but eight days on, it’s still black and the pus smells vile. When I throw the soiled cloths on the fire, they burn green.”

“Not a good sign,” nodded Meryn. “Do you know which poison the blade was tainted with?”

Trine shook her head.

“Is it a mortal you are treating?” quizzed Meryn, choosing her words carefully for fear of being overheard.

Again, Trine shook her head.

“I’ll come,” said Meryn calmly. “I’ll be with you before sunrise.”

“Thank you,” sighed Trine, her relief evident. “What will you tell my father?”

“That you have a woman’s monthly sickness that needs my hands on healing. That will buy us a few days at least. Maybe even a week.”

With his soul somewhat soothed and his anger quashed, the runner returned to the beach hut an hour or so before dawn. He had paused to hunt briefly on his return journey, dispersing his threatening Rabbia Sanguina with fresh blood. He snatched two deer near the edge of the forest, drank his fill from the first then filled two leather flasks with the blood from the second before draining it dry too. Opening the beach hut door, he sniffed the air. It reeked of poison.

“Trine?” he called out quietly as he stepped inside.

“Through here,” she called back from his bedroom.

Joining her in the room beside the dark angel, he asked, “Any change?”

Trine shook her head, “Meryn will be here before dawn.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Just that there was a poisoned knife wound that I needed help with. I was careful not to mention our guest, just in case my father was listening in.”

“Good girl,” he nodded, passing her one of the flasks. “For you.”

“Thank you,” said Trine, accepting it from him. “Thoughtful of you, Son of Perran.”

“I’ll mix the other flask with some wine.”

The ice maiden nodded, “Have some ready for Meryn, please. She’s going to be tired when she gets here.”

Without a word, he nodded and left the room.

As the first light of dawn began to streak across the sky, they heard a soft noise out in the courtyard. With a glance at Trine, the runner got to his feet and crossed the room to open the door.

“Mother,” he said coolly, stepping aside to allow the small dark-haired woman to enter.

“Meryn!” cried Trine, rushing towards her before embracing her tightly. “You made it! Were you followed?”

Shaking her head, Meryn said, “No. I made sure to fully cloak myself before I left my rooms.” She paused to look round the hut, “Cosy. Very homely.”

“Thanks,” said the runner, forcing himself to smile. “Take a seat. Wine?”

“Please, son,” answered Meryn before turning to Trine. “Now, tell me the truth, child. What’s the true story of this poisoned knife wound? I can see its neither of you, but I can smell it.”

“Let me show you,” began Trine, looking suddenly nervous. “Then we’ll talk.”

She led Meryn towards the heavy curtain, drew it aside and beckoned to her to follow her into the bedroom. When she saw who was lying prone on the bed, Meryn gasped.

“What have you two done?” she demanded sharply, “Jem, explain this.”

“Jem?” echoed Trine, hearing the runner’s given name spoken for the first time.

Rolling his eyes, he confessed, “Jeremiah but don’t even think about it!”

“Enough!” snapped his mother as she moved to examine the dark angel. “Which one of you did this?”

“It was me,” admitted Trine. “But I acted in self-defence. She slashed and stabbed me first.”

“You appear entirely healed though?”

“She caught me with a different knife. It was also several moons ago. She lay injured for three moons before we brought her here,” Trine explained. “Can you help her?”

“Let me examine her,” stated Meryn. “Then I want the full truth from each of you. Give me space to work here.”

Taking that as their cue to leave, Trine and the runner retreated to the living room.

Half an hour passed before Meryn pushed the curtain aside and re-joined them in the living room. She lifted her glass of wine from the table and swallowed it down. As she poured herself a second glass of the blood-infused wine, she let out a long sigh, “I can help heal that wound but I need some specific herbs, stones and moss. This is going to take time. As for her wing, I doubt I can save it. Time will tell.”

“Tell us what you need, and we’ll fetch it,” replied Jem without hesitation.

“For someone tasked with killing our friend, you seem very keen to save her life,” observed his mother calmly. “And there’s the simple observation here around how you knew where to find her.”

“Killing her and letting her die like this are two different things, mother.”

“How did you find her?”

Keeping his eyes down, he confessed, “I knew where her lair was.”

“And you kept that information from Stefan when you made your bargain with the court of the elders?”

He nodded.

“Why?”

He shrugged his shoulders, keeping his eyes cast down to avoid her angry gaze.

“And you, young lady,” she continued turning to face Trine. “Did you know he knew where she was?”

“No,” replied Trine honestly. “But we weren’t in a hurry to find her.”

“I bet you weren’t!” spat Meryn. “Too busy playing happy families in here!”

“Mother, its not like that,” protested the runner sharply. “Trine has been teaching me how to use my wings, how to hone my skills.”

Meryn stared intently at Trine, opened her mouth to say something but changed her mind.

“What am I going to do with you both?” she muttered before taking a mouthful of her wine. “You truly don’t understand what you have done here but its too late now.  It’s done. I need rest. I need those herbs and mosses. The stones may be more of a challenge. While I rest, you two need to work out where to source those from.”

“We can’t fetch anything while the sun’s up,” commented Trine quietly.

“True,” she conceded wearily. “Fine. We wait till dusk then seek out what we need. Now, where can I rest?”

“Have my bed,” offered Trine readily. “It’s through here.”

As she headed through to the ice maiden’s bedroom, Meryn said, “Now, you two better have your story straight by tonight. I want honest answers here and not this bullshit you’ve been telling me.”

With the sun sinking behind the hills across the river, the runner and the ice maiden again sat on the beach in front of the hut. Neither of them felt rested; both of them felt like naughty teenagers who were about to be grounded. In unison, they looked up as they heard the hut door opening behind them then listened to the crunch of the stones as Meryn picked her way gingerly towards them. Without a word, she sat on a nearby rock, drinking in the spectacular view.

“I can understand why you chose to settle here,” she commented softly. “I can understand why you’re in no hurry to leave here either. It’s beautiful.”

“We didn’t mean to deceive anyone,” began Trine, holding onto Jem’s hand. “Meryn, you know how claustrophobic my life was. Being here. Being free… I just wanted to enjoy that for a while.”

“I understand, child,” nodded the older woman. “He still sees you as his little girl. A little girl needing her father to protect her.”

Trine nodded, tears stinging her pale blue eyes.

“No tears,” said Meryn warmly. “I’ll do what I can to preserve your freedom and your new life here. I can see that it suits you both. Plus, my son still has a lot to learn.”

“Thank you,” whispered Trine with a small smile.

“More pressing is what to do to help your friend indoors,” began the senior vampiress. “I’m unfamiliar with the plant life in this area. To treat that wound, I need to treat poison with poison. What I don’t know is what she used to poison the blade in the first place though. I need to choose carefully here, or we could end up using the same poison and that would kill her.”

“Would it help if I took you to her mausoleum?” offered Jem calmly. “When she transformed me, she used bottles of stuff kept in her storage boxes. She also gave me three gemstones to carry always. She may have more.”

“That would be a wise place to start,” acknowledged his mother. “Trine, I need you to remember your lessons. I need you to find me some hemlock, not cow-parsley but hemlock. Young strong stalks in full bloom. They look similar but the hemlock will grow near water. I need at least six large stems. I also need digitalis. Choose the ones with the deepest shade of flowers and the brightest speckles in the mouth of the flowers. I need six stems of those too.”

“Anything else?”

“There’s moss that I need. I’m not sure if it will grow this far north. It’s long and stringy. It’s a silvery strand.”

“I know the stuff,” interrupted Jem. “She gave me some to heal the holes in my back before my wings sprouted. It doesn’t grow here. It was dried moss she gave me. She may have kept some though.”

Meryn nodded, “Its easily found in Spain and Portugal but not any further north than the south coast of England. Let’s hope she still has some. We need its healing properties.”

“Anything else?”

“Feverfew. As much as you can gather.”

“What’s it for?” quizzed Trine curiously.

“I’ll dry it and leave it with you to use as tea, child. It’s to put your father off the scent. If he asks what you gathered for me, that’s what you say I used,” stated the older woman with a wink. “Now, to work. We’ll meet back here at midnight. Jem, where’s this mausoleum?”

“I’ll transport us. It’s not far.”

Unfurling his majestic wings, the runner took a step back, allowing his mother to become accustomed to the dim forest light. In front of them stood the dark angel’s mausoleum. He felt his mother shiver beside him.

“This way,” he said simply, setting out towards the dark stone tomb.

The door was stiff to open and as it swung aside the stench of decay hit them both.

“This place needs smudged,” muttered Meryn. “We need some young pine branches.”

“I’ll fetch some in a bit,” he promised. Using his cigarette lighter, Jem lit the sconces, praying that they would stay lit. Shadows danced on the stone walls as his mother surveyed their surroundings.

“Not much to show for over two hundred immortal years,” she commented almost sadly. “Do you know where she stores her belongings?”

Silently, he nodded then reached down to one of the stone benches and slid a section of the stone aside. “There are several sections, but I think she keeps most of her stuff in this one.”

Snapping her fingers and murmuring an incantation, Meryn plucked a ball of light out of the air, balancing it above the palm of her hand. She bent over the open storage space, allowing the ball of light to illuminate its contents. Inside there was a carved wooden box and several leather pouches of various sizes.

“Lift those out,” she instructed bluntly. “Then open the next bin.”

Within a few minutes all six storage spaces had been searched. Two contained clothing but the remainder were home to various treasures.

“It feels wrong going through her stuff,” commented the runner as he closed over the last stone lid.

“Its necessary,” replied his mother, taking a seat and lifting the carved wooden box onto her lap. “I never thought I’d see this again.”

“Pardon? You know her?”

His mother shook her head, “Not exactly.” She paused then said, “My brother created her. This box was originally my mother’s and her mother’s before that.”

“That explains something.”

“And what’s that?”

“My blood is toxic to her,” he revealed then, bowing his head, added, “That was my plan for killing her. I thought I could trick her into drinking it in some wine.”

“But you never intended to kill her, did you?” she asked softly.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “I’ve thought about it many times over the years. She stole my life, my real life, from me and I’ve struggled to forgive her for that. She tricked me into this life. I never asked for it.”

“It’s the last life I wanted for you,” said Meryn sadly. “But what’s done is done.”

“What happened to your brother?”

With tears in her eyes, Meryn said, “That was the first golden rule she broke. She murdered him in cold blood. She drugged him then burned him alive. Lowen was my twin. I felt his pain as he died.”

“I’m sorry, mum,” he said reaching out to put a hand on her shoulder. “I know how it felt when I lost my wife. It tears your heart apart.”

Wiping away her tears, Meryn nodded. “Let’s take this stuff back to your house. First though, fetch some branches till I purge the smell of death from this place.”

When they arrived back at the beach hut, Trine was already back from her foraging. She had filled the log basket with the various plants she’d collected, and her efforts met with Meryn’s approval.

“Alcohol,” stated the older woman. “Clear alcohol. Vodka or gin.”

“There’s some vodka in the cupboard.”

“Fetch it,” she instructed. “Trine, boil some water in a pot that you are prepared to discard when we are through here. When its boiling, add the hemlock and digitalis. Feed them into the water like spaghetti into the pot. Don’t breathe in the fumes.”

Muttering under her breath, Meryn sorted through the items they’d brought from the dark angel’s mausoleum. Every now and then, she added a few items to the pot on the stove before finally adding some powdered tiger’s eye, rose quartz and black tourmaline.

“Where’s that vodka?”

Jem passed her the half empty bottle.

“We’ll need more,” she stated bluntly. “At least two more bottles.”

“I’ll fetch them,” he volunteered before stepping outside to transport himself to the nearest supermarket.

“Trine, fetch me some of those dressings you use,” said the elder vampiress. “Lay them out on a plate till I drip some of this onto them. Three should be enough for now. We need to apply this while it is still scalding hot.”

Taking care not to drip the poisonous liquid onto the bedcovers, Meryn laid the swabs over the suppurating wound. There was a hiss as the swabs touched the black pus. Carefully, she covered it them with a large dry dressing then stepped back.

“Now, we wait,” she stated calmly. “That dressing needs to stay in place for twenty-four hours then we bathe that wound twice a day with the cool alcohol infusion.”

“Thank you,” whispered Trine with a smile. “Do you think this will work?”

“We’ll know in three days.”

Silently Watching Under The Strawberry Moon

Trembling, he dropped to his knees on the bloodied rug and gently placed a hand on Trine’s shoulder. She whimpered faintly. Taking care not to hurt her even further, the runner scooped her up into his arms and carried her through to his bed. Blood had soaked through the leg of her tight trousers and a second patch was soaking through her cloak at her shoulder. How to stop the bleeding? As a feeling of panic began to creep over him, instinct took control, fading memories of teenage first aid training filtering through. Grabbing a nearby t-shirt, he tore it into pieces then pulled the leg of her trouser up to expose the wound. It looked like a deep ragged knife wound running down her calf, stopping just shy of her Achilles tendon. He applied compression to the wound then bound it tightly with strips of the torn fabric. The Ice Maiden’s wings were folded awkwardly and, fearful that they would break, he eased her into a sitting position, rearranged the feathers to protect them before easing her cloak from her slender shoulders. It slid off easily. Blood oozed from a second deep wound to her shoulder, but he could see that it was already congealing. Taking care not to hurt her, he eased Trine’s top away from the wound, reached for another t-shirt and pressed it onto the wound, unsure how to immediately secure it in place.

In his arms, she let out a sharp cry of pain. Her eyelids flickered then he felt her go limp. Was there something in that shoulder wound? What had caused it? A knife? A shot? An arrow? Regardless, both wounds needed to be cleaned properly and dressed. The beach hut was void of medical supplies. Knowing he couldn’t just take her to A&E, the runner reasoned that the quickest way to get what was needed was to transport himself to the nearest pharmacy. It had been years since he had last set foot in one. The best he could visualise was the local branch of Boots. Holding onto as clear an image as he could recall, he closed his wings round him, silently praying that he’d end up where he needed to be.

Unfurling his majestic, green-tipped brown wings, he opened his eyes and looked round. Hairdryers, curling irons and electric toothbrushes were on the shelves in front of him. Bingo! He’d at least made it to the correct shop. First aid supplies and antiseptic were at the back of the shop. Finding a large plastic bag behind the counter, he filled it with everything he thought he could possibly need, closed his wings around himself once more and transported himself back to the beach hut.

He gauged he’d been gone less than ten minutes.

Pausing to put the kettle on to boil, to give him some hot water to clean Trine’s wounds, he hurried back into the bedroom. The Ice Maiden was lying where he’d left her.

“Trine?” he spoke quietly, trying to keep the panic from his voice. “Can you hear me? Who did this to you?”

Her eyelids flickered but that was her only response.

“Fuck,” he muttered, tossing the bag of medical supplies onto the bed. “Let’s get those clothes off and get those wounds cleaned up.”

Cursing himself, he realised too late that he should have tried to find some antibiotics in the pharmacy. Would they even have been effective on a vampiress?”

It took him a few minutes, but he finally had her stripped down to her silver silk camisole and panties. He’d checked her over for other signs of injury but, apart from a few ugly purple bruises and the nasty gouges on her cheek, he found none.

In the living room, the kettle began to whistle on the stove.

“I’ll be right back,” he promised softly.

Using warm water laced with disinfectant, he bathed her wounds tenderly then carefully dressed them. The stab wound to her leg was still bleeding but the flow of blood had slowed considerably. Her breathing was slow and steady. There were no signs of fever, but she still had not regained consciousness. Positioning her as comfortably as possible, propped up on pillows, he let her rest. With a heavy heart, the runner dragged in a chair from beside the dining table and settled himself to keep a vigil over her.

As the first light of dawn began to streak across the skies, Trine began to stir. At the first sign of movement, the runner was on his feet and by her side.

“Hey, it’s ok. You’re safe,” he said gently, laying his hand on her forehead to check for fever. Her skin was still cool to the touch.

“Pain,” she murmured. “Thirsty.”

“Give me a minute. I’ll fetch you something.”

He returned with a glass of blood infused wine and some painkillers he’d thought to toss into the bag almost as an afterthought.  He held the glass up to her lips.

“Sip it slowly,” he cautioned. “I’ll hunt for us later. This will need to do for now.”

“Tastes good,” whispered Trine, struggling to open her eyes. “Wasn’t sure I’d make it back here.”

“I’m glad you did,” he said warmly. “Now, rest. There’s time to talk later.”

“Stay with me.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.”

Three days and nights passed before Trine was strong enough to stay awake for more than a few short minutes and felt well enough to get out of bed for a while. She had barely protested when the runner offered to carry her through to the living area to sit by the stove.

He’d hunted the moment it had grown dark, settling for sheep’s blood for them both as he hadn’t wanted to stray too far from the hut. Already he could imagine the farmer’s protests over the loss of two ewes to “dogs”.

Passing a glass of the still warm blood to her, he asked, “Do you feel up to telling me what happened?”

“It was her,” began Trine, pausing to drink deeply from the glass. “She was here. She followed me. Hunted me.”

“Who?”

“The dark angel,” she revealed quietly. “She’s beautiful.”

“She is,” he acknowledged. “But she’s dangerous with it.”

“We flew north. Flew for hours. I lured her away from here. There was a storm. We fought. She stabbed me. I managed to grab her knife. Managed to stab her in the back with her own knife. She fell. I did too,” she paused then continued, “I hid in a church for hours, but some men came. I transported back here before they would see me.”

Telling the abbreviated tale had left the injured Ice Maiden exhausted. The runner refilled her glass, and she drank in silence.

“She said you were hers. Said you were unique. She described you as pure,” Trine paused, her pale face a mask of pain. “She knows you intend to kill her. Knows about the deal with my father. She said he won’t honour it.”

“How could she possibly know about that?”

“I have no idea, but she knew.”

“Do you think she survived?”

Trine nodded, “But I’ve no idea where she may be. Wherever she is, she’s badly injured.”

“Should I look for her?”

“Do you even know where to start to look for her?”

The runner sat in silence, staring into the flames dancing in the wood burning stove. Trine’s question hung in the air unanswered.

By the eve of the full Strawberry Moon, Trine was almost restored to full health. The long light summer nights meant their time outdoors was limited to a few short hours. Neither of them had strayed far from the beach hut while she’d recuperated. Initially, the runner had hunted for her but gradually, over the cycle of the Strawberry Moon, Trine had felt strong enough to hunt locally for herself.

With their thirst quenched with doe’s blood, they sat on the beach in front of the hut, listening to the gentle movement of the river before them.

“I wish we could stay here forever,” whispered Trine, playing with a smooth round white pebble.

“Don’t you miss your life in the castle?” he asked curiously.

Trine shook her head, “No. I’d miss the freedom being here gives me. I’d much rather be here than there.”

“Why do you bring this up now?”

“Because I know my father and he’s going to expect results from you,” she replied. “And soon.”

“But if he’s searched for her for years, why would he expect results from me in only a few months?”

Gazing into his dark brown eyes, Trine said simply, “Because a child always knows the way back to its mother.”

With a long sigh, he confessed, “Well, I used to.”

As the Strawberry Moon shone full and bright over the calm river the next night, the runner sat alone on the beach in front of the hut, deep in thought. He’d barely slept after his conversation with Trine the night before and the little sleep he got was troubled by bad dreams. Putting his hand in his pocket, he pulled out the small white pebble that he’d picked up months before. He sat lost in his thoughts, turning it over and over in his hand.

Although she hadn’t said as much, he guessed Trine knew he was struggling with the thought of actually killing the dark angel. He held onto a false hope that her fight with the Ice Maiden had seen her fall to her death. In his heart, he knew he had to look for her, to at least confirm if she was dead or alive.

“You look troubled, Son of Perran,” commented Trine as she approached him, picking her way carefully over the uneven rocks.

Without looking up, he said, “If she survived the fall after your battle, she’ll have found her way back to her mausoleum.”

“And you know where it is?” Trine’s words were more of a statement than a question.

The runner nodded.

“Go,” she said warmly. “If we can at least report back to my father that you’ve seen her that may stall him for a few more months.”

“Don’t you want me to kill her?” he asked, feeling suddenly confused.

“I want you to keep your word to my father so that you stay in his good graces,” replied Trine honestly. “But I’m not ready for our time here together to end. I’m not ready for you to die, my dear.”

Reaching up to take her hand in his, he said, “I’m not ready for this to end either but I need to check to see if she made it back or not. I need to check her mausoleum.”

“Is it far?”

He shook his head.

“Then go before you change your mind.”

The ground under his feet felt soft as he landed silently in a clearing near the concealed stone tomb. It was the same small clearing that the dark angel had led him to many years before. Moonlight lit his way through the trees as he walked soundlessly towards the mausoleum. There was no sign of fresh footprints near the small stone building; there were no signs of life near it either. Carefully, he walked round to the front. He stopped dead in his tracks. The door, usually tightly closed, was slightly ajar.

With his heart pounding and his hands suddenly sweaty and trembling, he walked towards the door. Reaching it, he pulled on the edge to open it wider. A sense of dread hung over him as he stepped nervously inside. He could smell the distinctive ferrous aroma of blood in the air; he could smell the stomach-turning aroma of decay and excrement. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the runner thought that the tomb was empty then he spotted something lying crumpled on the floor. Now able to see a little clearer in the dim light, he noted the numerous dead mice and voles littering the stone floor. Cautiously, he approached the dark bundle.

It was her. It was the dark angel.

At first, he thought she was dead then he heard a shallow rasping breath.

She was alive.

Using his cigarette lighter, he lit two of the wall sconces. The flames hissed and spat as the light grew brighter around them.

Slowly, he knelt on the floor beside the prone angel. One of her majestic wings lay at an awkward angle. From the stench surrounding her, the angel had lain there for some considerable time.

“You came,” she whispered hoarsely. “I knew you would.”

“Sh,” he said softly. “Don’t try to talk. Let me help you.”

“Don’t touch me!” she spat venomously.

“I need to if I’m to help you,” he said firmly. Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, the runner produced a slim pewter hip flask.

“Drink this,” he instructed, holding the flask to her parched lips. “It’s still warm.”

Holding her head in his left hand, the runner put the flask to her cracked lips. The dark angel took a few hungry sips then slowly opened her eyes.

“Help me,” she whispered, her eyes silently pleading with him.

“That’s why I’m here,” he assured her, offering her more of the warm deer’s blood.

“My back. The knife,” she said weakly.

“The knife’s still in there?”

“Yes.”

Gently moving her wing, the runner saw the hilt of the knife lodged in the angel’s back between her shoulder blades and close to the root of one of her magnificent purple tipped black wings. Blood was crusted round it and there was a putrid smell from the wound.

“I can’t treat you here,” he said simply. “I’ve nothing to clean that wound even if I can get that blade out. You could bleed out. I need medical supplies. You need a doctor!”

“Do what you must, Son of Perran,” she said faintly. “I trust you.”

Knowing he had but one choice, he lifted her into his arms, taking great care not to touch the knife, wrapped his wings around them both and visualised his destination.

Silently Watching During The Aftermath Of The Hunger Moon

Two long days and nights had passed and there was no sign of Trine returning. He had scoured the local area searching everywhere he thought she could possibly be but had found no trace of her. Exhausted, he’d returned to the hut each day at dawn then slept fitfully until the sun went down. Where was she?

In desperation, he’d risked a daylight excursion on foot into the woodland where the dark angel’s mausoleum stood hidden among the dense trees. A quarter of a century had passed since he had last been there, but he found it easily. The tomb was deserted but the footprints around the doorway suggested that she had been there recently.

Safely back at the beach hut, he picked up a small white pebble. If he left it on the bench in the graveyard, would she still come? Deep in thought, the runner slipped the small stone into his jeans’ pocket.

Breathing heavily, Trine crouched down low in a shadowy corner of the small ancient church. She was unsure of exactly where she was, but she guessed she was some two hundred miles north of the beach hut. It felt like a long way from home. It had been a fraught couple of days to say the least. She was in agony.

As soon as she’d left the safety of the beach hut, she had realised that she was being followed. Hunted.  Her years of study at the Court of the Elders had stood her in good stead. Using her skills, she had flown high, using the low-lying clouds for cover, looping back to circle her stalker. It had taken several hours, and the sun was starting to rise but finally Trine had caught her first glimpse of the dark angel. She was everything she had imagined and more. The dark angel was the most breathtaking vampire that Trine had ever seen. She was beautiful.

With the sun creeping over the horizon, Trine had initially turned for home but eventually she had been forced to seek shelter in a ruined stone cottage high on a remote hillside. When she’d emerged at dusk, there was no sign of the dark angel. With a sigh of relief, she had soared into the night sky to fly home to the runner. Within minutes, the sense of being followed had returned.

The dark angel was tracking her once more.

Part of her wanted to continue to head for the sanctuary of the beach hut. The runner was meant to be seeking out the angel to kill her as agreed and she could easily lead her straight to him. Or was he? Was he too stalling for time here? If she led the dark angel back to him, he’d be forced to uphold his deal with her father then she’d be summoned back to the castle. She wasn’t ready to go back there.

The only alternative was to keep heading away and try to lure the dark angel into danger.

As she flew further north, Trine flew over several small remote islands. Some looked inhabited; others looked to only be home to flocks of seabirds. There was a storm brewing and the Ice Maiden prayed that she could find shelter before the storm struck or the dark angel did.

Suddenly, she became aware that dark angel was close – very close. As thunder peeled overhead, she felt a sharp pain in her calf. Glancing round Trine saw the dark angel within arms’ reach, a dagger in her hand. Swooping round, the Ice Maiden made a grab for the dark angel’s wrist. She wasn’t swift enough. The dark vampiress caught her by the arm, burying the knife deep into her shoulder. Screaming in agony, Trine kicked out hard and fast, managing to knock the blade from her assailant’s grasp. Kicking out for a second time, she connected with the angel’s shoulder and heard a crack.

With a howl, the dark angel flew at her reaching for her injured shoulder. Trine was too quick for her and soared up and away out of reach. Within seconds the dark angel was on her tail.

Their eyes locked as they stared at each other.

“He’s mine,” hissed the dark angel as she pulled a second dagger from her waistband. “Mine! Not yours! Mine!”

Before she could use the knife, Trine had whipped it from her hand and plunged it into her back between her majestic wings, twisting it as she drove it in. Fighting to remain conscious, the dark angel lashed out, her long nails raking down the Ice Maiden’s pale cheek.

“Looks like he’s mine now,” stated Trine, trying to sound calm and in control.

“You don’t know how to care for him, little girl. You don’t know what he truly is.

“And what is he?” demanded Trine, the roaring wind making it difficult for her to be heard.

“He’s unique! One of a kind. He’s pure!”

“Pure?”

“Yes. Pure,” spat the dark angel. “Even he doesn’t know what he’s capable of yet.”

Lightning cracked across the sky to the northwest of them.

“You’re nothing to him,” declared Trine icily. “Let him be.”

“Why? So he can do your father’s bidding and kill me?” laughed the dark angel through her pain. “Yes, I can guess the deal he struck with the court. Even if he does choose to kill me, Stefan won’t be able to uphold his end of the deal. Fate will see to that.”

Around them the storm was closing in.

“What do you mean?” screamed Trine, trying to make herself heard over the howling wind.

“You’ll find out, Ice Maiden.”

Another crack of lightning lit up the sky above them. Trine felt the air crackle and when she looked again the dark angel was gone.

Realising the danger she was in, she swooped down in search of somewhere to shelter for the night. As the storm hit, she crawled into the sanctuary of an old church. Finding a dark alcove deep in shadow, Trine had finally collapsed in a heap on the cold stone floor.

Crouched in the shadows, pain shot through her shoulder and her calf. Biting down on the edge of her cloak to prevent herself from crying out, Trine listened. She could hear male voices approaching. She had to escape.

Injured as she was, she knew she couldn’t fly back to the beach hut. She would have to try to transport herself there, but she was weak. Regardless she had to try, and she needed to act fast.

Just as the two men opened the church door, Trine stood up unsteadily, balancing on her good leg, wrapped her wings around herself and vanished.

Dusk had settled on the beach hut marking the third night since Trine’s disappearance. Flames were dancing in the wood burning stove. With a heavy heart, the runner sat staring in through the glass panel on the stove’s door. He had his hand in his pocket, playing with the smooth white pebble. If Trine wasn’t home by dawn, he’d visit the graveyard and summon the dark angel. He was ready to confront her. Part of him was worried that he’d waited too long already.

A loud clatter from Trine’s room made him jump to his feet. He was across the room with inhuman speed, his feet barely touching the floor. Drawing back the curtain, the runner let out a cry, “Shit!”

Trine lay in a bloodied crumpled heap on the pale cream rug.

Silently Watching under the Corn Moon

dark-angel

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 joint 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.

“Coffee?”

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.”

“What?”

“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.

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

Silently Watching On A Mother’s Moon….one week later

dark-angel

Faced with no alternative, he took a seat at the table. His glass was already filled with Stefan’s favourite wine and the runner drank deeply to fortify himself for supper with his mother. Like himself, she hadn’t aged and still looked like the same mother he remembered, occasionally with fondness, from his childhood. It also struck him that he couldn’t see any sign of wings….

“Well, this is the last place I thought I’d be sharing a meal with my son,” she commented brusquely. “All those years trying to protect you, shelter you from this life and you are stupid enough to end up in this mess.”

“As loving and caring as ever, Mother,” he replied, staring her straight in the eye.

“You have no idea, child!”

“Well, how about you explain it to me?” he suggested, his tone acid filled.

“I was born to this life,” she revealed calmly. “When you were born, I went to great lengths to hide you from this existence. I sacrificed my wings for you among other things. There’s too much of your father in you. You’re too gentle in nature to survive successfully as a vampire. Too easily led.”

“Bit late for that lecture,” he commented. “About thirty years too late, Mother.”

“And don’t I know it,” she said with a sigh. “And I blame myself. Your father wanted a son. I’d have done anything for him then. I risked everything giving birth to you and when you arrived, you were perfect and human. All the pain I put myself through to ensure of that had worked. NO blood for over seven months. Can you imagine how much of a challenge that was?”

“I explained my absences to you as business trips,” she continued, her food growing cold on the plate in front of her. “I tried to be gone no more than a week or two at a time as you grew up. Once you were older and I’d divorced your father, life became easier. You could stay with him while I attended to things. Allowed me to earn back my place at court.”

“Do you expect me to thank you?”

“No!” she snapped. “I expect you to listen. Listen well and understand. You’re set to appear before the Court of Elders in the morning. Do not play games with them. No bargains. No deals. Just do as they ask, and you’ll be able to live out your days in that beach hut of yours if that’s what you desire.”

“But I’ve already made the deal, Mother.”

“Fool! You made your bargain void when you agreed to learn our ways from Stefan. He has played you. Played to your youth and your weaknesses and he’ll do it again tomorrow. No more games.”

“So, what would you have me do, Mother darling?” he spat, his blood rage simmering inside him.

“Just agree to kill the bitch for them then agree to return here when summoned.”

“And if I still want Stefan to keep his end of the bargain?”

“If you expect that to happen then you’re a bigger fool than I thought you were,” she hissed as she got to her feet. “For once in your life, listen to me and do as I ask, son!”

Without a further word, she swept out of the room.

 

Next morning, her words were echoing in his mind as he stood outside the Court of Elders beside Trine waiting to be summoned inside. With a smile, she took his hand and said, “Be sensible in your choice of words in there, Son of Perran.”

Rolling his dark brown eyes, he said with a smile, “You sound like my mother.”

Before either of them could continue the conversation, the large oak door swung open, inviting him to step inside.

As before, the room was lit by flaming sconces and candelabra and was dominated by the large intricately carved table. For the first time, he noticed the pattern on the floor – runes- and took note that the table was in a different position in the large circular room.

“Welcome, Son of Perran,” greeted Stefan warmly. “Step closer, please.”

Instead of four seats, there were now seven seats behind the table. As before, Stefan, Michael and Alessandro were seated but to either side of them were two more seats. Three of those were occupied by women, one of whom was his mother. The last seat was occupied by a child of no more than ten or twelve.

“We’ve called the full court together,” explained Stefan as if reading his mind. “Last time we only afforded you a partial hearing, so all agreements struck on that date are void now that you have voluntarily appeared before a full court. Do you understand me?”

“Perfectly,” replied the runner, realising his mother had been correct and that Stefan had been humouring him.

“We’ve invited you back to discuss our request that you kill the dark angel who broke our code when she created you. Over the years, she has repeatedly broken the golden rules of our code of conduct but so far, we have been unable to catch her. Will you do as we ask, Son of Perran?”

“I will,” replied the runner, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt.

“No conditions this time?” quizzed Stefan raising one eyebrow.

“Only that I be allowed to return home.”

“That we can agree to on one condition,” replied Stefan. “My daughter accompanies you to continue your education. Is that agreeable to you?”

The runner nodded.

“Then we have reached an accord, Son of Perran. You may leave.”

With a last glance across at his mother, the runner turned and left the room.

Silently Watching at the Bone Moon- Beyond the Door…..

dark-angel
As the large oak door swung open, his heart was pounding in his chest. Beyond it, he could see a dimly lit room dominated by a large alter-like table.
“Go on,” whispered Trine anxiously. “Don’t keep them waiting.”
Pulling himself up to his full height, he took a deep breath and stepped inside.

The room was circular, suggesting it formed part of a castle tower and was much larger than he’d anticipated. Behind the large table sat three male vampires. There was an empty seat to their right.
“Welcome, Son of Perran,” greeted the gentleman seated in the centre. “Come closer. We don’t bite.”
The vampire’s dark humour caused his companions to laugh.
“My name is Stefan. I am the head of the Court of Elders. To my left is Michael and to my right, Alessandro. We’re delighted you could join us at such short notice.”
All the runner could do was nod silently. His palms were clammy, and he could feel a trickle of sweat running down his back between his wings. Facing the three large male vampires was intimidating but, more worryingly, where was his mother? Trine had assured him that she was one of them.
“She’s not here,” said Alessandro, his accent revealing Italian roots. “We agreed it would be easier to talk if she weren’t here.”
Again, the runner nodded.
“My daughter has told us a little of your history,” continued Stefan. “The Court owes you an apology. Our errant sister should never have brought you into our ways. I am sincerely sorry she has damned you to this life without your full consent.”
“Apology accepted.”
“Most gracious of you. Thank you,” said Stefan with a slight bow of his blonde head. “Please tell us your story, Son of Perran. Start at the beginning. Start with your very first meeting with our wayward sister.”
Fighting to keep his voice steady, he told the Court of Elders about his first sight of the dark angel all those years ago on All Hallows Eve, about the bite and the broken fang on mid-summer’s night then the offer of a partial transformation. He could feel himself becoming emotional as he relayed the tale of how the partial transformation failed, about his Rabbia Sanguigna then the dark angel’s trip to Spain to acquire some of his mother’s blood. As he told how that too had failed, he grew angry and, by the time he was telling the Elders of his final meeting with the dark angel, he could feel his Rabbia Sanguigna rising.
Stefan raised a hand to pause him, poured something from a pewter jug on the table into a goblet and passed it across to him.
“Please, drink,” he instructed softly. “It’ll still that anger, son.
Without protest, the runner accepted the glass and drank deeply, tasting a strong, gamey blood mixed with alcohol.
“And then my daughter found you,” prompted Stefan calmly.
The runner nodded.
“And how do you feel about your vampire existence now, Son of Perran?” enquired Michael. It was the first time he had spoken, and the runner was mildly surprised to hear he was an American.
“I hate it,” he replied honestly. “Don’t get me wrong, the flying’s kind of cool but I don’t enjoy this life. It’s cost me everything I love.”
“That we can understand,” sympathised Stefan with a wistful smile. “You were tricked into it by that woman’s selfish obsession with you and her total disregard for our code of conduct and our rules.”
“She’s been a thorn in our sides for nigh on two centuries,” revealed Alessandro. “We tried to work with her, but she too was ill-conceived. Her creator was a fool. A drunken womanising fool. She’s always been head strong, self-centred and obsessive in her desires.”
“We welcomed her here,” interrupted Michael. “Tried to integrate her into the wider family but she wasn’t interested. She’s been a loose cannon for too long.”
“Trine said you want me to kill her for you,” he said, fixing his gaze on Stefan, brown eyes locked on blue. “Is this true?”
“Sometimes my daughter says too much,” sighed Stefan, a hint of exasperation to his tone. “She is, however, quite correct. We hope to enlist your help in ridding the world of this evil creature once and for all.”
“Why should I help you?” he challenged, suddenly finding a level of confidence he rarely felt.
“You can name your price, Son of Perran. Put simply, if we could kill her ourselves, we would but we can’t. You, however, have a distinct advantage over our centuries of experience. She’s bound to you. That gives you the upper hand here.”
“And I can name anything as my price?”
“Within reason, yes.”
Silence hung in the air between them as the runner considered his options. Pushing any last doubts to one side, he said simply, “I’ll do it on one condition.”
“And that is?”
“Once she’s dead, you kill me.”
The head of the Court of Elders looked to his two companions, who both gave a small nod of consent.
“Agreed,” said Stefan simply.

From the shadows behind the table there was a small barely audible gasp of “No!”

Silently Watching at the Bone Moon

dark-angel

Gazing out at the snow-covered hills across the river, he reflected on the barren winter he’d endured so far in his isolated beach hut. It had been almost two months since he had moved into his new home; it had been two months since he had seen the Ice Maiden.

“Sit. We need to talk,” she had said.

Doing as instructed, he had taken a seat on the bench beside her. For several minutes she had studied him intently then, much to his surprise, she had bowed her head and wept. Her emotional reaction caught him off guard and, tentatively, he had reached out to put a comforting arm around her cloaked shoulders. Even through the thick blue velvet of her cloak, he could tell there were wings folded beneath it.

“Son of Perran,” she had begun, once her sobs subsided. “We have failed you. We should have prevented this from going so far. We should have stopped her. I am truly sorry.”

Somewhat confused, he had asked, “Who is this “we”? Who are you and how do you know me? How did you even know I was here?”

“You must have so many questions,” she had acknowledged as she dried her eyes with the soft edge of her cloak. “So many questions.”

“I do,” he had replied bluntly. “And I’m hoping for some answers.”

“My name is Trine,” she had introduced. “For nigh on a century I’ve been tracking her, trying to stop her, but she’s clever and she’s strong. I almost caught her about a quarter of a century ago. She was returning from Europe. She was weak. I almost had her, but I was summoned back.”

“I’m confused.”

“Oh, there’s so much she hasn’t told you,” Trine had sighed as he felt her probing into his mind.

“Stop that! Get out of my head!”

“You sensed that?”

“Yes, I did, and I never gave you permission to go poking around in my memories,” he had retorted sharply. After taking a calming deep breath, he had suggested, “Now, how about you start at the beginning and answer some of my questions.”

Trine had nodded, “I have been sent by the Court of Elders. We are all, well they are almost all, pure blood vampires. I was tasked with tracking and capturing the dark angel who created you. Over the centuries, she has broken so many of the rules so many times. Like you, she should never have come into being. She’s been a rogue vampire for too many years. She’s out of control. Impulsive as she is, the Elders never suspected that she would be so selfish nor so foolish as to create another. The Court of Elders had no idea that you even existed. I stumbled across you by chance, Son of Perran, about five years ago. Just a fleeting glimpse but I recognised what I saw. I just didn’t know who I had seen.”

“Where? When?”

“You were running. You thought you were alone. It was late at night. You were running through the forest behind the village near here. It was the unnatural speed that caught my attention. No human could have run so swiftly nor so soundlessly nor so gracefully in the dark on a moonless night,” Trine had explained slowly. “I lost sight of you in the trees. I’ve been searching for you ever since. I spotted you earlier tonight as you passed the graveyard near the village church.”

He remembered the night Trine had just described vividly. It had been the night his wife had died. The pain of his grief had almost driven him insane and, needing to escape, he had waited until his children were asleep then gone for a run in the wee small hours. The trails had been pitch black but he had raced them sure-footedly at full pace, stopping when his emotions had overwhelmed him, dropping him to his knees in tears. He had knelt on the rough muddy path and wept until he thought his lungs would burst and his heart would break then he had collected himself and run home, arriving just as the sun rose over the horizon.

“Son of Perran,” Trine had begun, her voice soft and calming. “The Court of Elders want to meet with you. They need your help with an urgent matter.”

“Who are these Elders? Why should I help them?” His angered had been blooming and he remembered the fire of his Rabbia Sanguigna simmering.

Sensing it, Trine had said simply, “Rabbia Sanguigna.”

“That’s what she called it too. Gave me a potion to try to control it.”

“I had guessed as much. A potion that contained the blood of your mother.”

“How did you…….”

“Your mother is a member of the Court of Elders,” Trine had revealed, hoping that she hadn’t revealed too much too soon.

“My mother vanished years ago,” he had stated. “Are you telling me she’s still alive?”

“Yes. Very much alive.”

“Fuck!” he had roared into the darkness, hardly believing what he was hearing from the Ice Maiden.

“Son of Perran,” Trine had spoken in soothing tones. “You need time to adjust to this new phase of your life. I need to leave soon. I need to report back that I have found you, but I need you to make me a promise first.”

“Why should I?” he had spat angrily. “I am sick of this! I hate this life. I hate what she’s made me. Why should I promise you anything?”

“Fair question,” Trine had agreed. “I need you to promise to do something that only you can do. The Court of Elders will be eternally grateful.”

“What?”

“I need you to…the Court of Elders needs you to kill your dark angel.”

“Kill her? And just how am I meant to do that, pray tell?”

“I have no idea,” she had sighed wearily. “I’m sorry. I’ve asked too much of you.”

He had simply stared back at her.

The Ice Maiden had left a few minutes later promising to return in two full moons for his answer. When she had risen to leave, the runner had been surprised by her height. He had gasped aloud as she had spread her pale blue wings and disappeared into the night.

 

Now, it was the day of the second full moon since Trine’s visit. He had used the intervening weeks to think, to reflect on everything the dark angel had ever done or explained. The breathing space had given him time to become accustomed to his winged state and to learn to fly.

Much to his surprise and, despite his initial hatred of his wings, he swiftly fell in love with flying. It had taken him a few days to figure it out. There had been more than a few bumpy landings but, once he had mastered it, he had savoured the freedom it gave him. Seeing the world from above, enjoying a bird’s eye view, was breathtaking.

As the weeks had passed, he grew more comfortable in his own skin and had grown in confidence.

Over the winter, he had fallen into the habit of sleeping for most of the day, rising in time to watch the sun set over the hills. There were improvements he wanted to make to his new home but most of those needed to wait until Spring. Time had passed easily though. There were logs to gather for his stove. He had to hunt regularly but pickings were slim during the first few weeks of the year. He’d enjoyed many long late-night flights over the area, exploring the hills on the north side of the river. He’d passed some of his time reading. He’d spent countless hours sitting on the bench beside his hut, gazing out across the river lost in thought.

He had Trine’s answer ready for her.

 

The last rays of light were stretching across the sky when he felt a subtle shift in the air behind him. He was standing down on the beach in front of his house watching the waves.

“Son of Perran.”

Turning at the sound of her voice, he smiled, genuinely glad to see her, “Hey.”

Returning his smile, she walked daintily across the rocks and pebbles to stand beside him. It didn’t escape his attention that the Ice Maiden stood taller than him.

“So peaceful,” she commented, her voice barely more than a whisper. “So quiet. If I lived here, I’d never leave.”

“It’s nice,” he agreed, tossing a pebble into the water.

“We need to talk,” began Trine, sounding a little anxious.

Silently, he nodded and gestured towards the hut.

“Let’s go indoors,” he suggested. “There are usually dog walkers about at this time of day. I’m guessing this isn’t a conversation you want to risk being overheard.”

“No, it’s not.”

 

The hut was warm and cosy, two antique oil lamps illuminating the small space. Picking up two logs, the runner added them to the wood burning stove, watching the spray of sparks.

“I’ve been sent to fetch you,” said Trine simply

“Fetch me?”

Trine nodded, “The Court of Elders are demanding that I bring you back with me immediately.”

“And if I don’t want to go?”

“That’s simply not an option.”

“Didn’t think it would be,” he sighed.

“Have you considered your answer?”

“Yes, and I have an answer for you.”

“Don’t tell me,” interrupted Trine, her tone sharp. “Save that for the Elders.”

“Are you one of them?”

“Not exactly,” she revealed, her gaze landing on the framed family photograph that sat beside his bed. “My father sits on the council. I’ve not earned my place yet.”

“Ah, so I’m your way onto the council?” he surmised with a smile.

“Yes,” confessed the Ice Maiden. “That’s why I need your co-operation as much as the Court of Elders does.”

“If I agree to come and to help them, will they listen to a request from me?”

“Perhaps.”

Noticing that she was still staring at the photograph, he reached over, lifted the picture and handed it to her. “My wife and kids. That was taken on our last holiday together.”

“They look so happy.”

“Good times,” he said wistfully, replacing the frame on the shelf. “But your dark angel friend has cost me all of that.”

A cold silence hung in the air.

“I’ll come.”

“Thank you,” breather Trine, her relief obvious.

“How do we get there?”

“I’ll take you.”

“Where exactly are we going?”

“I can’t tell you that. It’s forbidden.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“Sorry. The Court’s rules are strict. Very strict. Are you ready to leave?”

“How long will I be gone for?”

“As long as it takes.”

“Fine,” he muttered, knowing it was pointless to even attempt to continue the conversation.

As he felt her pale blue wings envelop him, he prayed that the Elders would agree to his terms.

 

The world around him went black.

 

When the world came back into focus, he was standing in an icy cold stone corridor. Flickering flaming sconces lit the passageway, their shadows dancing on the walls and vaulted ceiling. There was a large studded oak door at the end of the corridor. It was closed.

Suddenly, he was overcome by nerves but, taking several deep breaths, he followed Trine along the corridor without complaint.

She paused outside the door and turned to face him.

“Ready, Son of Perran?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

 

The door slowly swung open.