Tag Archives: #gothicfiction

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.”

One Twist Of Time To Change Everything…..

Holding the ornate, old-fashioned timepiece in her small trembling hand, she paused. Her fingers were on the tiny ribbed winder. One turn backwards and she could restore the life that once was; one turn forwards and she’d move beyond the current hell into a new unknown life.

“You need to make your choice,” a ghostly voice whispered in her mind.

Taking a deep breath, she turned the winder……..

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

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 at the Hunger Moon

A thick blanket of snow covered the area. It had fallen thick and fast for more than two days, creating the deepest snowfall in the area for almost a century. Nothing stirred outside the beach hut. The coastal path had all but disappeared; the dog walkers had stayed away. All was silent and still.

Inside the beach hut was a different scene. Now extended to three full rooms, it was warm and brightly lit. When he had built on the bedroom for Trine, the runner had partitioned off his own sleeping space. They used heavy curtains instead of doors, but it was more than enough to afford them their privacy. When the bedroom had been complete, he’d allowed Trine free rein on how it was to be furnished. He had built a platform to serve as her bed with storage boxes underneath. Within a couple of days, Trine had sourced bedding, cushions and curtains for the small west-facing window. She had laid a cream deep-pile rug on the bare floor. Under the cover of darkness, the runner had made a couple of trips to his former home bringing a small chest of drawers and a large vanity mirror from his daughter’s old room.

Over the weeks, Trine had added some touches to the living room too, making it more homely. He hadn’t objected.

Pouring the last of the deer blood that she kept in her leather flask into the open bottle of wine, Trine said simply, “Snow or no snow, we need to hunt tonight.”

“That could be risky,” commented the runner, accepting the wine glass from her. “We can’t risk leaving footprints or blood stains on the snow.”

The Ice Maiden nodded, “And we can’t bring our kill back here.” She paused to take a sip from her own glass then said, “We may need to take a human life, Son of Perran.”

“No,” he said firmly, shaking his head to emphasise his disagreement. “I won’t.”

“It’s been over a week since we both drank warm blood. We need to hunt soon.”

“I know,” he said with a sigh. “Tomorrow.”

“It needs to be on a cloudy night,” stated Trine. “Tonight is perfect.”

“Fine. We’ll hunt tonight,” he relented.

“We could go together,” suggested Trine softly, reaching across to touch his hand.

“We could,” he agreed smiling across the table at her. “We could.”

Hidden by the shadows, the dark angel crouched behind the rocks to the east of the beach hut, watching closely as the runner- her runner- and his vampiress left presumably to hunt. Her patience had finally paid off! The hut was empty at last. Now was her opportunity to discover who this mysterious woman was.

The dark angel watched as the runner and the Ice Maiden disappeared into the dark to the north then, satisfied that they would be gone for a while, she approached the hut. Drawing her majestic wings around her, she transported herself inside.

Scanning the room, she took note of the two wine glasses on the table before exploring the bedrooms. There was little of interest in the runner’s sleeping space. His bed was neatly made, not a thing out of place. She ran her fingers lightly over the framed photo of his family that sat beside the bed. Slowly, she inhaled the room’s aroma, relishing in the smell of him. She could almost taste that toxic exotic blood of his.

The Ice Maiden’s room was a different affair. Her bed was a crumpled mess of quilts, blankets and pillows. There were no personal effects on display to give any clues as to who she was. Several shells lay in a dish on the chest of drawers. Collected from the shore in front of the beach hut, guessed the dark angel. The only other item on top of the pine unit was a hairbrush with long strands of platinum blonde hair entwined in its bristles. Carefully, she knelt down beside the bed and slid open one of the two deep under-bed storage drawers. Inside were some books, some journals and few loose pens rolling around the bottom. The journals were filled with drawings of wild-flowers and seabirds with the occasional portrait of the runner. One caught her eye and without thinking, the dark angel tore out the page and slipped the picture into her cloak.

The second drawer was filled with the Ice Maiden’s clothes. Something, however, drew the dark angel to explore the contents further. She rummaged under the neatly folded garments. Her slender fingers found a small suede leather pouch, containing something round and hard. Taking care not to disturb the clothes, she withdrew the pouch and opened it. Inside was a small crystal ball. Carefully, she tipped the heavy ball out into her hand and gazed into it.

At first the dark angel saw nothing in it and was about to return it to its pouch when she noticed the glass appear to shimmer. Gradually it cleared to reveal a scene inside. Her blood ran cold as she recognised Stefan, the head of the Court of the Elders. Swiftly, before her side of the scene emerged in the crystal ball’s twin, the dark angel dropped it back into its suede bag.

So, the Ice Maiden was connected to the Court of the Elders but who was she? If the ball was what she thought it was, it would show the person who had gifted it to her. The only person in the scene that had begun to emerge had been Stefan. Was the Ice Maiden his precious daughter? Still mulling this over, she returned the crystal to its hiding place and closed the drawer.

With a quick glance round to check that she hadn’t left anything out of place, the dark angel drew her wings round herself and disappeared.

A small black, purple tipped feather fluttered to the floor.

A large log was ablaze in the fireplace in Stefan’s study. The Court of the Elders had been deep in discussion all day about some troublesome vampires in Rome, who were embroiled in a territorial dispute. Against his better judgement, he had agreed that Alessandro should go alone and intervene to ensure peace was restored. With a yawn, he reached for his wine goblet. He really should have gone out to hunt but he was weary. Sipping the warm blood infused wine, Stefan vowed to hunt just before dawn. Beside him on a small table next to his chair sat a crystal ball, the twin of the one he’d entrusted to Trine when she’d left the sanctuary of the castle. A flicker of purple light in the globe caught his attention. Curious, he lifted the ball from its stand and studied it. There were wisps of purple smoke in it but no clear images. It should be blue not purple, he mused as he looked deep into the sphere. Who had found his daughter’s crystal ball? Shaking his head, Stefan decided it must have been a trick of the light. His daughter was well versed in their ways and knew to keep the crystal on her person at all times. She would not have left it unattended. He placed it back on its stand as the last speck of purple disappeared.

Light was beginning to streak the sky to the east as the runner and Trine arrived back at the beach hut. His sixth sense was twitching as they stood in the courtyard outside the hut. Before unlocking the door, he stood studying the footprints in the snow.

“What’s wrong?” asked Trine, drawing her cloak around her tightly to ward off the icy cold easterly wind.

“I’m not sure,” he said as he fished the key from his pocket. “Feels like someone has been here.”

“The snow from the path is untouched and its only our footprints on the beach,” observed Trine looking round the area.

“I know,” he agreed, opening the door. “It just feels… feels off.”

Inside the cabin, everything was exactly as they had left it several hours beforehand. The only difference was that the fire was down its last glowing embers.

“I’m ready for sleep,” declared Trine with a yawn.

“Me too,” agreed the runner. “Let me add some wood to the stove to keep the place warm.”

“I could keep you warm,” teased the Ice Maiden playfully.

“You could.”

“Your bed or mine?” she quizzed with a mischievous wink.

“Mine,” he replied without hesitation. “It’s bigger. More room.”

Alone in her mausoleum, the dark angel paced backwards and forwards trying to reason out why Stefan’s daughter should be here with the runner. They may not have parted on the best of terms, but he was still her fledging and she was bound to him. She’d allowed her temper to get the better of her and been too lax in her observation of him for too long. Drawing her cloak around her, the dark angel contemplated her next move. The last thing she needed was the Court of the Elders poking their noses into things. If they found out about all the rules she had broken, she would be taken to their hidden castle, put on trial and either sacrificed or sentenced to eternal life in the castle dungeons.

If the Court of the Elders and Stefan had discovered the runner’s existence, it could also mean certain death for her regardless. Her last sentence from them, more than two centuries ago, had forbidden her from creating another creature of the night. At the very least, she had to learn more about the mysterious vampiress who was sharing his cabin with him. Who was she and why was she there?

It was the blue hour, the hour just after sunset when the last light of the day added an extra clarity to the world. Stepping outside the beach hut, Trine breathed deeply, drinking in the crisp, cold, salty air. A cold wind blew across the river from the north east, its chill biting at her pale skin. She could see the full moon, the Hunger Moon, rising above the hills. With a smile she thought that she’d satiated  her hunger on their hunt the night before. But, after spending the night with the runner, Trine was keen to hunt again.

A crow sitting on a nearby rock caught her attention. It might have been her imagination, but she felt sure it was watching her. She could feel its eyes boring into her soul. In the dying light of the day its feathers looked almost purple in places. Something about the bird made her uneasy. Turning her back on it she returned to the warmth of the beach hut.

As the door closed, the crow spread its wings and flew up to perch on the roof to watch and wait.

Once back inside, Trine checked on the runner. He was still sound asleep, sprawled across the bed, his wings relaxed over him. Even in sleep, a satisfied smile played on his lips. Resisting the urge to caress him, the Ice Maiden returned to her own room. Having drawn the curtains and lit the oil lamp, she knelt down beside the bed and opened the drawer. She rummaged among her clothes and pulled out the pouch containing the crystal ball. As she gazed into its depths, her father’s study came into focus. Probing with her mind, she tried to reach him. Her efforts were met with silence. His study lay empty.

“Well, at least I’ve tried,” she thought as she returned the suede bag to its hiding place.

A small feather lying on the rug caught her attention. It was black with a purple tip. Gently, she picked it up, noting how pretty it was. On a whim, she tucked it into the edge of the frame of the mirror that sat on top of the chest of drawers, silently wondering where it had come from.

Time to hunt, she thought as she headed back to the warmth of the main room. There was nothing lying about that she could use to leave a message for her sleeping host. Guessing he would sleep for another hour or two, she decided to hunt swiftly in the hope she could return before he stirred. Taking care to be quiet, Trine slipped out the door.

Feeling the snow on the courtyard cold under her feet, she checked to see that there was no one around then spread her wings and soared into the night.

With barely a second’s hesitation, the dark angel transformed back from her crow disguise and soared off into the darkness, keeping the Ice Maiden in her sights.

The beach hut was silent, dark and cold when the runner finally stirred. Without lighting the bedside lamp, he dressed and wandered through to add more wood to the stove. There was no sign of Trine. His sixth sense was twitching. Something was amiss. Quickly, he checked outside to see if she was sitting on the rocks beside the hut she wasn’t there. He could see her footprints in the fresh snow outside the door of the hut and little scrapes in the snow to either side from the tips of her wings. Something still felt wrong to him. On a whim, he decided to check her room to see if she’d left a note or any clue as to where she’d gone.

Her room looked exactly the same as it always did, apart from one of the drawers under the bed was pulled out slightly. Everything else looked to be in its rightful place. Then his eyes fell on it. The purple tipped black feather tucked into the mirror. It could only be one of the dark angel’s feathers.

Suddenly he was consumed with dread. She’d been here. He’d been right when he felt that something was a bit off. His creator had been in the hut the night before while they’d been hunting. However, that didn’t solve the current puzzle. Where was Trine?

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.