Tag Archives: #serialisedfiction

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 Under The Strawberry Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyelids flickered but that was her only response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pain,” she murmured. “Thirsty.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Stay with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?”

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

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

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

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

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

“How could she possibly know about that?”

“I have no idea, but she knew.”

“Do you think she survived?”

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

“Should I look for her?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why do you bring this up now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The runner nodded.

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

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

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

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

“Is it far?”

He shook his head.

“Then go before you change your mind.”

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

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

It was her. It was the dark angel.

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

She was alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The knife’s still in there?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

Silently Watching During The Aftermath Of The Hunger Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dark angel was tracking her once more.

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

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

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

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

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

Their eyes locked as they stared at each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pure?”

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

Lightning cracked across the sky to the northwest of them.

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

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

Around them the storm was closing in.

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

“You’ll find out, Ice Maiden.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silently Watching under the Corn Moon

dark-angel

Feeling sand under his feet, the runner sensed he was finally home. He felt the chill wind blowing across the river as the Ice Maiden retracted her wings. Blinking to adjust his eyes to the dim light, he gazed round.

“Home sweet home,” said Trine with a smile.

“Sure is,” he replied as he gazed up the beach towards his humble home. “Nice to know where I finally am again.”

Ignoring the hint of sarcasm in his voice, Trine began to walk across the uneven rocks towards the stone steps that led up to the hut. Without another word, the runner followed her, taking care not to turn his ankle on the loose rocks.

There were leaves and piles of debris blown into the corners of his small enclosed courtyard. It didn’t escape his notice that there were several vodka bottles and discarded fast food packaging among the debris. It seemed that the local youths had discovered his home was empty. Fortunately, they hadn’t broken in and the stout door remained securely locked.

Pulling the key from his jeans pocket, the runner unlocked the door then stepped aside chivalrously to allow Trine to enter ahead of him. The air in the cabin smelled stale and slightly damp.

“Give me a minute or two to get the stove lit,” he said, laying his key on the table. “Soon be warmer in here.”

“Can I do anything to help?”

“You could light the lamps,” he suggested, reaching into the basket beside the woodburning stove for some kindling, “Matches are on the table.”

Once there was a fire burning in the stove and the lamps had been lit, the beach hut felt more homely. Having closed over the curtains on the two small windows, the runner rummaged through the small cupboard under his bookcase and found a bottle of red wine and two glasses.

“Not quite up to your father’s standards,” he apologised as he handed Trine a glass.

“Thank you,” she said softly. “I should ask him to send some to us. Keep out the chill.”

“Sorry I can’t match the luxury of his castle.”

“Nonsense. This is perfect. Cosy.”

“Very,” he commented, glancing round. “I’m not sure how we’re going to make this work. I’ll see what I can sort out tomorrow. You can take the bed tonight though. I’ll sleep in the chair.”

“I can’t take your bed from you,” said Trine simply. “You rest and I’ll explore. I need to stretch my wings and I also need to hunt.”

“Be careful,” he cautioned warmly. “Head inland over the hills if you’re ok with a dinner of sheep or cow.”

Trine nodded, “I just want to get a feel for the area.”

“If you’re planning on looking for her, you won’t find her,” cautioned the runner calmly. “She’s an expert at staying out of sight.”

“Do you have any idea how you intend to kill her?”

“No,” he lied, gazing down into his glass. “I’ll work something out. I need to regain her trust. We didn’t exactly part as friends last time.”

“Do you even know how to summon her?”

“No” he lied for a second time.

 

After Trine headed out to hunt, he washed the two wine glasses then got himself ready for bed. It felt good to be home. Good to be back in his own space. Lying on his side in the comfort of his own bed, he gazed at the photo on the bedside table and smiled. He’d missed seeing his family before he fell asleep at night.

Tired though he was, sleep refused to come, His lies from earlier were gnawing at him. In his heart, he hadn’t decided when to kill the dark angel, but he was in no rush to take action. Killing her in cold blood felt wrong. Summoning her would be easy. All he needed was a white pebble to leave on the bench in the graveyard. However, if he requested any audience, how would he explain his renewed interest in her? They hadn’t spoken since she’d told him he was on his own. He would need to work out a believable excuse for asking to meet with her.

His eyes finally grew heavy and he drifted off into a deep dreamless sleep.

 

The sun was rising as Trine returned to the beach hut after a successful night’s hunting. She had flown into the hills to the north across the river and stumbled across a herd of deer. Before the herd and noticed her presence, she had drained two does dry and harvested the blood from a third into the leather flask she carried in her pale blue cloak.

Instead of heading straight indoors, the Ice Maiden took a walk along the water’s edge, watching the sky to the east turn from red to gold as the sun broached the horizon. She slipped her hands into the deep pockets of her cloak. Her right hand found a small crystal ball hidden in the depths of the soft fabric. It had been a parting gift from her father; it was a way of communicating with him should she need to.  She had an almost overwhelming urge to hurl it into the dark depths of the river beside her but, on second thoughts, decided to keep it for now.

The gentle lapping of the waves soothed her as she walked along the shoreline. Gazing out across the river, she could understand why the runner had chosen to settle here. It was so peaceful. It felt safe. For the first time she was completely free of the confines of the castle. Freedom was something she craved. This was the first time in her life that had father had removed the enchantment on her that bound her to the castle. He had removed it as a precaution in case she fell foul of the dark angel and she used it to trace her way back to the Court of Elders. Trine realised if she chose to, she could disappear for ever; if she left the crystal ball in the hut, Stefan wouldn’t know anything was amiss until she was long gone. With a small smile, it dawned on her that she could become as elusive as the dark angel if she chose to. However, if she messed up this assignment, she would never be invited to joint the Court of Elders. Trine felt torn. Glancing up at the beach hut she sighed… then there was the runner himself. Just thinking about him sleeping inside made her smile and lit a little flame of affection inside her. As she climbed the rough stone steps up to the courtyard, Trine prayed that he wasn’t in a rush to kill the dark angel.

 

Feeling the cold blast of air as Trine opened the door, the runner looked up from fastening his jeans. The Ice Maiden felt her cheeks flush as he turned his back to her. Spotting the Celtic tattoo across his back for the first time she said, “That must have hurt.”

“What must have?” he said as he lifted his shirt from the bed.

“The design on your back.”

“Nipped a bit,” he confessed. He paused to put his shirt on, shaking his shoulders to ensure the split fabric settled neatly between his wings. “She designed it for me.”

“Why?” quizzed Trine, her curiosity getting the better of her.

“She gave me a box of phials of some concoction to pour into the wing buds to stop them forming. There was some weird moss in the box too. The two centres of the design marked the spots I needed to pierce every month to pour the stuff in. Worked too until those little bottles ran out.”

“What was in them?”

“No idea. Some kinds of flowers and herbs. Lavender and Thyme and shit like that. The bottles, the moss and the design all formed part of some trinity spell or something. They were all connected.”

“And no one questioned why you’d suddenly got a huge back tattoo?”

He shook his head, “No. I already had a couple anyway. My wife actually really liked it.”

“How did you pierce your own back?” quizzed Trine as she watched him fill the kettle.

“You don’t want to know,” he replied as he set the kettle on the stove. “How did you get on last night? Successful hunt?”

“Very. Found a herd of deer about thirty miles north of here. Satisfied my thirst,” she answered with a yawn.

“Coffee?”

She shook her head, “Sleep.”

“Bed’s all yours,” he said with a grin. “I’ll give some thought as to how we can rearrange things in here. There has to be a way to give you some space of your own.”

“Waken me at sunset,” said Trine as she slipped off her cloak. “I want to teach you something.”

“What?”

“Patience, Son of Perran. You’ll find out at sunset.”

 

While the Ice Maiden slept, the runner sat at the small pine table attempting to redesign the layout of the beach hut. It didn’t take him long to work out that he would need to extend his hut to add on an extra sleeping space. Quietly, he slipped outside to measure up the courtyard.

By late afternoon, as the sun began to sink lower in the sky, he had worked out a plan. He still had some spare building materials stored in the garage of the family home that should be sufficient to extend the hut out into the courtyard. If his memory served him right, there was a small window frame in the garage too. The next puzzle was how to transport it all down here.

“Hello,” said a sleepy voice behind him.

“Hey! I never heard you come out,” he said, turning to face Trine. “I think I’ve figured out how to create more space for us. Going to take me a week or so but I think I can make this work.”

“What did you have in mind?” she asked, drawing her cloak about her to ward off the chill wind.

“I can extend the hut out into the courtyard at the west side,” he explained pointing round to the far side of the cabin. “I’d left space back there to build a woodshed and maybe a small workshop, but I can pile the logs up round here. I’ve some building stuff in the garage at my old house. I just need to work out how to get it down here.”

“Sounds like a lot of work just to give me somewhere to sleep.”

“Sounds like a fun project to me,” he said with a grin. “Keeps me busy.”

“Well, what I was going to teach you might actually help,” revealed Trine softly. “There were limits to what I could show you back at the castle, but things are different here.”

“What are you talking about, girl?”

“I’m going to teach you how to transport from one place to another,” she declared, smiling at him. “My father forbade that lesson at the castle but he’s not here now. Once you get the hang of it, we can both move whatever you need down here.”

“Cool,” he said, feeling slightly apprehensive at the thought. Being transported wrapped in another vampire’s wings always made him feel a little queasy and left him with a dull headache.

“Don’t look so nervous,” she laughed, “It’s easy once you know how.”

 

Patiently, Trine explained the theory behind transporting from place to place. She explained that the key to its success lay in the ability to focus on the vision of where you wanted to go. If concentration levels wavered, things could go off course, so a clear mental image was crucial.  Suggesting that they start off small and with short distances, Trine proposed that he attempt to transport then across the path behind the beach hut and into the field beyond.

“Ok, put your hands round my waist then draw your wings round me. You need to make sure your wings overlap slightly. No gaps. You don’t want to drop me,” coached Trine calmly. “Once you are happy with where your wings are, focus on where we are going and keep that image in your mind. Do not let that image move. Then say, “rape ad locum oculo meo”.”

“What does that mean?”

“Take me to the place in my mind’s eye,” she translated. “Ready to try?”

Reluctantly he nodded.

“Ok. Concentrate on the field,” said Trine.

He placed his trembling hands on her slender waist then drew his brown wings round her, trying to focus on the image of the field. Quietly he repeated the Latin phrase then felt the world go still and dark.

Seconds later he felt soft grass under his feet. For a brief moment, his concentration wavered, and they tumbled to the ground in the field across from the hut. A rather startled looking sheep was staring at him.

“Not bad,” laughed Trine as she got to her feet. “Concentration is the key.”

“Yeah I get it,” he said as he brushed some damp grass from his jeans.

“OK. Take us back,” instructed Trine. “Perhaps aim for the beach behind the house rather than the space outside, Gives you a little more wiggle room for the landing.”

Nodding, he focused on an image of the stony shoreline behind the beach hut, wrapped his wings around them, recited the phrase and waited for the darkness to descend, At the last second his mind wandered to the water’s edge.

“Agh!” squealed Trine shrilly as they landed knee deep in the river. “It’s cold!”

“Sorry. Kind of overshot that one,” laughed the runner.

“At least you didn’t drown us,” laughed Trine as she walked ashore, her wing tips dripping. “Try again. Back to the field.”

Darkness had fallen by the time the runner could successfully transport then back and forth from the field to the beach.

“Well done,” praised the Ice Maiden as they headed back indoors. “You learn fast.”

“Thanks. Sorry about the wet feet,” he apologised following her into the hut. “How does it work for moving objects?”

“You hold onto them tightly and follow the same process,” replied Trine, reaching into her cloak for the leather flask. Pouring some of the doe’s blood into the open bottle of wine, she said, “Tomorrow night we can fetch whatever you need from your home.”

“Sounds like a plan,” he agreed, accepting the glass of blood-infused wine from her. “Does that trick work for getting food and things?”

“It works for anything and everything,” she replied. “Why? What were you wanting?”

“Some fresh bread and maybe some cheese to go with this,” he said, raising his glass.

“As you wish,” said Trine, setting her glass down on the table. “You’ve earned it.”

 

The clouds parted to reveal the bright full Corn Moon. Its light swathed the fisherman’s hut in a soft welcoming glow as the dark angel landed softly in the small courtyard. There was smoke drifting out of the chimney and light in the windows. Silently, she stepped forward to look into the cabin. Her blood ran cold at the sight she saw. The runner, her runner, was sitting at the table enjoying wine and cheese with a stranger to her. That stranger had wings. That stranger was another vampire but who?

This was not a welcome sight. A sour taste in her mouth, the dark angel turned away from the window, spread her wings and soared up into the darkness.

 

“What was that?” asked Trine, turning towards the window. “I thought I heard something outside.”

“Let me check,” said the runner calmly. “Probably kids looking for somewhere to get hammered or laid.”

Crossing the room, he opened the door and stepped out into the darkness. The courtyard was empty. All around was silent apart from the gentle noise of waves hitting the beach. Then he spotted something. Bending down, he picked it up. It was a small black feather with a purple tip. He slipped it into his pocket.

“No one there,” said the runner as he closed and locked the door.

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)