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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 Before The Sturgeon Moon – three days later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Her eyelids flickered,” whispered Trine.

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

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

“A promising sign,” said Meryn calmly.

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

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

Silently Watching Before The Sturgeon Moon

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you trying to suggest here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My mother?”

Trine nodded.

“Shit!”

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

“Is there no one else?”

Trine shook her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Spain?”

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

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

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

“Can it wait till tomorrow?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is my son injured?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trine shook her head.

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

Again, Trine shook her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did you tell her?”

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

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

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

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

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

Without a word, he nodded and left the room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You appear entirely healed though?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did you find her?”

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

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

He nodded.

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trine nodded, tears stinging her pale blue eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

“Anything else?”

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

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

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

“Anything else?”

“Feverfew. As much as you can gather.”

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

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

“I’ll transport us. It’s not far.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pardon? You know her?”

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

“That explains something.”

“And what’s that?”

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

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

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

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

“What happened to your brother?”

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s some vodka in the cupboard.”

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

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

“Where’s that vodka?”

Jem passed her the half empty bottle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll know in three days.”

Silently Watching Under A Waning Strawberry Moon

His feet landed firmly on a patch of rough gravel. The jolt caused the dark angel in his arms to groan weakly. Swiftly, he left the path, crossed the narrow strip of grass then carried her down the rough-hewn stone steps to the walled courtyard of the beach hut, taking care not to slip. Hearing him approach, Trine opened the door, spilling light out into the courtyard.

“You brought her here!” she gasped, eyes wide with surprise.

“I didn’t know where else to take her,” said the runner as he carried the angel inside. “Close the door. Can you fetch the bag of first aid stuff? I think it’s beneath the sink.”

Heading into his own bedroom, he called back, “I’ll need some hot water soap and a flannel too.”

“Do you need help?”

“Yes,” he replied without hesitation. “That knife is still in her back.”

“What?”

“I think she’s been on the floor of her mausoleum for the last three months,” he revealed as he laid the dark angel on the bed face down. “She’s barely alive. She’s been feeding on mice and voles. The place was littered with them.”

“It’s a miracle she’s alive,” muttered Trine as she turned to fetch the supplies.

Taking care not to hurt her any further, he began to strip the dark angel’s soiled clothing from her limp body. Her cloak practically fell off in his hands, revealing her blood soaked back. The fabric of her blouse was torn and thick with congealed blood and stinking green pus. He could see it was all crusted round the embedded blade and around the hilt of the knife. Through the sheer fabric he could see that the skin around the root of her wing to the right of her spine was black. The root of her wing looked shrivelled, and the wing lay limply by her side, the feathers dull.

“We need a healer,” stated Trine simply as she appeared beside him with the Boots bag and a bowl of steaming hot water.

“I know but I can’t rock up to A&E with her, can I?” he replied sharply. “We’ll need to pull that blade out ourselves. Unless you have a better idea?”

Silently, Trine shook her head.

“Let’s clean her up first before we touch the knife,” he suggested. “Do you have any spare clothes she can borrow?”

“I’ll find something,” said the Ice Maiden, already heading towards her own room.

By the time she returned a few minutes later with some underwear and a loose blouse, he had stripped off the angel’s stinking clothes and thrown them outside.

“I’ll bathe her,” said Trine bluntly, her tone leaving no room for debate. “We’ll need more medical supplies. More of those white pads and more of that sticky tape.”

Nodding, he said, “I’ll fetch some. I’ll see if I can find some antibiotics too. We need to kill any infection.”

“Your modern drugs may kill her,” said Trine wisely. “Bring back some honey. Manuka honey if you can find some. We’ll treat this the old-fashioned way.”

“Ok. I’ll see what I can find,” he promised. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”

Finding the first aid supplies was easy. He transported himself back to Boots and filled another bag from their shelves, adding some penicillin from the pharmacy just in case. There was no food section in the store so there was no honey. Thinking on his feet, he transported himself out of the shop and into the empty concourse of the mall, keeping to the shadows. Nervously, he looked around. Further along to his right, he spotted a sign saying, “Health Food Store”. Cautiously, he crept through the empty mall, praying that he was avoiding being seen by the cctv cameras. Once outside the small health food shop, he transported inside. Luck was on his side! Inside the door was a display of manuka honey. Quickly, he scooped six jars into the bag, folded his wings around himself and returned to the beach hut, landing lightly in the courtyard.

When he re-entered the bedroom, Trine had just finished bathing the dark angel and had managed to dress her in some clean underwear. She had begun to gently clean the infected skin around the knife.

“How is she?” he asked anxiously.

“The same,” replied Trine without looking up. “She hasn’t regained consciousness. I haven’t found any other injuries though.”

“I got everything you asked for including the honey,” he said, holding up the bulging bag. “I brought some antibiotics just in case. Penicillin.”

“Penicillin?”

“I’m no chemist but they discovered it was a cure for infections a hundred years ago. It grew as a mould or something.”

“We’ll try the honey first,” suggested Trine. “If it doesn’t work then we can talk about using your modern magic pills.”

“Ok, so now what?”

“We pull out the knife and be ready with clean clothes to staunch the flow of blood,” she advised calmly. “You pull it.”

Silently, he nodded his agreement.

Space in the room was tight. Carefully, Trine climbed up onto the far side of the bed, gauze swabs in hand, taking care not to move too much and disturb the prone angel’s position. Standing at the side of the bed, the runner placed a hand on the dark angel’s arm and whispered, “I’m going to pull the knife out now. Sorry. This is going to hurt.”

“Slow and steady. Don’t twist the blade,” cautioned Trine, looking as anxious as he felt.

Wrapping his hand round the ornate hilt, he pulled gently. At first there was no movement from the blade.

“Harder,” instructed the Ice Maiden.

He applied a little more force, and the blade began to ease its way out. It was catching on something hard inside, either the edge of her shoulder blade or maybe a rib or a vertebra. Blood started pouring down her back around the metal.

“Pull hard. Quicker!”

“You said slowly.”

“There’s too much blood. Get it out now!”

With a final tug, he freed the blade. The second it was out, Trine placed a wad of gauze over the wound to soak up the blood. A putrid smell filled the room.

“That wound is bad,” she said. “Smells of death.”

“Well, that knife’s been in there a long time. I felt things moving inside her as it came free. I’ve a feeling there might be bone fragments loose in there,” he explained, feeling a little queasy as he recalled the blade catching on bone as he’d pulled.

“Bones will heal. We need this bleeding to stop first. Pass me more of those white squares.”

It took a few minutes, but the flow of blood finally eased then stopped. Taking care not to start the bleeding again, Trine washed the gaping hole out with hot water then cleaned it with some antiseptic wipes. The runner watched as she then soaked some more the square swabs with honey and packed the wound. She taped a large clean white dressing over the top.

“That will need to be cleaned and dressed daily until it heals,” she said calmly. “If it heals.”

“You’ve done a good job. Thank you.”

“I’ve done my best,” she said with a weary sigh. “Healing her just to kill her feels all wrong.”

“I know,” he acknowledged. “But she’s got to heal first. That wound could end it all.”

“True. All we can do now is wait.”

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.

 

Silently Watching at the Long Night’s Moon

 

dark-angel

It was one of those rare crystal-clear sunny December days and the air around him was crisp, the cold biting on his cheeks. There wasn’t a living soul to be seen for miles. Eyes fixed on the road ahead, he ran. Mile after mile, he ran hard and fast, grateful for once to be free to run at his true pace, instead of running at a pace fitting of his physical age. He was angry. He was frustrated. He was scared… no, not scared… uncertain about what the future held for him.

Over the quarter of a century that he’d followed the monthly ritual to the letter, there had been many changes in his life. He’d watched his children grow up, leave school, graduate from university then venture out into the world on their own. Each of them had left home before they graduated in their chosen field; each of them had emigrated and were now scattered to the corners of the globe. Without them, the family home grew quiet. Fate dealt him a cruel blow when a short illness claimed his beloved wife. In the five years since her sudden death, the family home had grown empty, void of life. Now that he had finally retired from his job, his never-ending future stretched as endlessly in front of him as the road he was running along.

Life was lonely.

In all that time, he hadn’t aged a day. By the time he reached his late forties, he’d had to “fake” ageing to prevent questions being asked. Adding grey to his hair had been easy. Explaining the lack of wrinkles had been harder but he’d dismissed it as “good genes” to curious friends and colleagues. Hiding his physical abilities had been frustrating, to say the least.

Hiding his vampire urges had become a way of life. Initially, he’d used the excuse of “checking out a new trail” as a convenient cover story to travel further afield to hunt. He’d even resorted to creating fictitious non-local running buddies to allow him more freedom to seek out fresh blood. Now that he lived alone, he could come and go as he pleased. In his heart though, he missed the days of “lying” to his family about his excursions. Over time he had grown adept at covering his tracks, choosing his victims with great care.

Reaching the cattle grid, his chosen turning point, he turned for home, the sun now behind him as it sank lower in the sky. Pounding out the miles, he tried to ignore the two pain points on his back. Gradually over the weeks, the sites of his wing buds had grown hard and tender. Over the past few days, he had become aware of the skin stretching and tightening to the point of being painful. Now, as he pounded his way up the final steep section of his route, he felt the taut skin split and tear. He howled in pain across the empty landscape.

His wings had begun to emerge……….

 

Perched on the church roof, the dark angel sat watching the sun set. Over the years she had tried to nurture her fledging and ensure his safety but he had proved to be more strong-willed than she’d anticipated. In the early years, he had been an attentive student, proving to be a quick learner, but, once he mastered feeding himself, their paths had rarely crossed. With a heavy heart, she had been forced to watch from afar. Occasionally, she still followed him at a discrete distance purely for the pleasure of watching him hunt. There was a gracefulness to his movements that she had come to envy.

In her heart, the dark angel knew that she had broken many of the rules laid down by the Court of Elders when she had created him but she had gone to great lengths to keep her tracks well-hidden. To the best of her knowledge, they remained blissfully unaware of the runner’s existence.

And, for both their sakes, it had to remain that way.

A steady pounding rhythm echoed through her and she turned to gaze up the hill towards the railway bridge. Smiling, she sensed his return as he ran up the street towards his home.

Blood stained the back of his running top when he twisted to look in the bathroom mirror. He hadn’t really needed that reflection to tell him his shoulders were oozing blood. Carefully, he peeled the sweat-soaked t-shirt over his head, wincing as the soft material grazed the broken skin. As he stepped under the jet of hot water in the shower, he cried out in agony. He could almost feel the wings growing and bursting through. Could they really be developing so fast?

He hated to admit it but he needed to see her. Needed to see the dark angel.

Next morning, after an uncomfortable and largely sleepless night, he walked down the hill towards the graveyard. He’d picked up a small white pebble from a plant pot beside his front door and was turning it over and over in his hand as he walked.

It had been almost three years since he’d last summoned her……

When he reached the cemetery, he bounded up the steps then walked purposefully towards the bench, placing the pebble in the centre of the slatted seat.

Without a backwards glance, he headed home to wait.

Late afternoon, as he enjoyed a cigarette in the garden, he watched the sky redden as the sun set. As the yellows turned to gold then red, he wondered how long it would take the dark angel to respond to his signal.

Sensing a subtle movement in the air behind him, he spun around.

“Son of Perran,” greeted the angel warmly. “It’s been a long time.”

Glancing round, he checked that there were no lights on in any of the neighbouring houses and that none of his neighbours were in their gardens.

“Relax,” she purred. “The shadow’s hiding my presence from prying eyes.”

“Come inside,” he invited, indicating the open back door.

“No, thank you,” she declined politely. “I prefer to remain outside. Now, you summoned me?”

He nodded.

“Are you going to tell me why or am I going to have to guess?”

“Come inside and I’ll show you.”

“If I must,” she muttered, reluctantly following the runner into the house.

With a small smile, he watched as the dark angel wandered around his kitchen, a curious look on her face. She ran her slender hand over his granite countertops almost marvelling at their smoothness.

“Not what I expected,” she murmured before turning to face her fledging. “Now, what did you need to show me? I’m sure it wasn’t your kitchen.”

“This,” he said as he pulled his loose hooded sweatshirt over his head.

Slowly, he turned around and stood with his back to her.

“Oh,” she said, taking a step towards him.

From the two designated spots in the Celtic tattoo that spanned his shoulders, two small wings were forming. Having burst through the skin twenty-four hours earlier, his wings were now growing rapidly. Already the first feathers were clearly visible.

“Well, are you going to magic me up a potion to reverse this fuckup?” he growled as he felt her run her cool hand over his blossoming wings.

“No.”

“No?” he echoed sharply. “What do you mean no?”

“Son of Perran, I told you twenty-five years ago that there was nothing else I could do,” she explained.

“So, what am I meant to do?”

“Let them grow. Let them flourish,” she said casually before adding, “Then learn to fly.”

“Fly?” he yelled. “Fly? You think I want to fucking learn to fly? How am I meant to live with wings? Please tell me that.”

“Enough, child!” she snapped, her patience finally worn thin. “The time has come to accept who and what you are! For over a quarter of a century, I’ve watched over you. I’ve taught you. Some lessons you learned better than others. Now though, you are on your own. I can’t protect you anymore.”

Pulling her own majestic wings around her, the dark angel moved towards the open door.

“Wait!” he called out.

She paused.

Taking a deep breath to calm his anger before his Rabbia Sanguigna surfaced, he said, “I appreciate that you’ve tried to help me after this transformation went wrong. I do. I know I broke some of the rules but they were rules you never told me about until it was too late. So, humour me a few moments more, please.”

With her green eyes blazing with ager, the dark angel nodded.

“How long will these things take to grow?”

“About a week.”

“How easy is it to use them?”

“You’re athletic. It’ll come easily to you.”

“Is there anything else you should have told me or taught me before now?”

His last question hung in the air. For a moment or two, he wondered if she was going to answer him then she bowed her head.

“Son of Perran, I have failed you,” she spoke slowly. “I broke many rules when I created you. A price will need to be paid in time. For now, my final piece of advice to you is to leave. Go into hiding. Avoid large gatherings. Avoid cities.”

Before he could reply, she slipped out of the door.

When he went to look for her, she was gone.

Closing the door, he realised that the time had come and that he needed to move on. The time had come to close up the family home indefinitely and move into his private “bolthole.”

Several years before he had seized a rare property opportunity and purchased one of the fisherman’s huts on the shoreline. Over time, he had renovated the semi-derelict building, ensuring that it was water-tight, warm and furnished then he had left it empty.

The time had finally come to take up residence.

Over the course of a week, he put his affairs in order, circulated a rumour that he was going travelling now that he had retired then began to sort through his belongings. He kept it simple – keep, leave or trash. There had been numerous trips to the local recycling centre as he disposed of his old life box by box. Under the cover of darkness, he carried the boxes of belongings to be kept down the narrow, overgrown path from the main road to the hut.

As the days passed, it felt to him that the more of his old life he eliminated, the more his wings flourished.

By the following Thursday, under the watchful eye of the Long Night’s full moon, he left the family home for the final time with a heavy heart but without a backwards glance.

It was almost midnight by the time he had walked from the village to the hut. He had sold his car earlier in the day, handing the keys over with a wrench of pain rattling through his soul. It had seemed the more sensible option to travel along the longer, darker coastal path, feeling secure in the knowledge that most of the journey could pass unnoticed in the shelter of the forest.

Under the cover of the trees, he didn’t need to hide his wings. Despite his initial disgust at their growth, he had to concede that, now fully formed, they were majestic, rivalling the dark angel’s. Much to his amazement, the feathers had grown in varying shades of russet, brown and gold, their tips a bright emerald green. In a twist of fate, their colouring reflected the colours of nature that he loved among the trails that he ran so relentlessly.

He breathed a sigh of relief when the low hut finally came into view. Luck had been on his side and he hadn’t seen another living soul since leaving his former home behind him. As he unlocked the door, he glanced out across the still river, marvelling at the full moon’s perfect reflection on its glassy surface. A familiar warmth welcomed him into his new home.

Using only the light of the moon, he busied himself unpacking the last box of personal effects that he had brought from the family home. The last item to be lifted from the box was a framed photo of his wife and children. It had been taken on their last family holiday. Precious memories of those two weeks in the sun made him smile as he set the frame on the shelf beside the bed.

An unfamiliar noise outside spooked him. Every sense was suddenly on alert. He glanced out of the small side window across the enclosed courtyard adjacent to the hut. Beyond the boundary wall, there was a bench that sat on the grassy verge facing the river.

A hooded figure sat there alone.

With his heart pounding in his chest, he stepped outside to investigate.

If the midnight visitor heard him approach, they gave no outward sign until he was two strides away from the bench then they looked up. Even in the pale moonlight, he could tell the cloaked figure was a beautiful blonde woman. She was staring at him with piercing glacier blue eyes.

“Son of Perran?” she asked, her voice soft but almost void of any discernible accent.

Slowly, he nodded.

“Sit. We need to talk.”

 

(imaged sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

Silently Watching One Week After The Buck Moon

dark-angel

One week later the air was heavy and muggy, a thunderstorm gathering overhead. As he jogged up the hill towards the graveyard, it matched his own mood. The first drops of rain fell as he climbed the steps into the cemetery. As he approached the tree, a bright flash of lightning lit up the dark sky, revealing the dark angel herself who was standing in the shadows.

“Well met, Son of Perran,” she greeted him formally as she stepped forward.

“Hey,” he replied forcing a smile. “Looks like we’re about to get wet.”

“Not at all,” she said stepping forward. “We’re leaving.”

Before he could protest, she swept her wings around him. The world went black and everything felt still.

When the world cam back into focus, he wasn’t surprised to find himself in the dark angel’s mausoleum home.

“Is this the way I’m going to have to exist?” he asked as he sat up and looked round. “This place feels different. Smells different.”

“It’s the oils,” replied the angel calmly.

“Oils?”

“Lavender and geranium,” replied the angel lifting a large box from a previously unnoticed niche by the door. “Take your shirt off.”

“Pardon?”

“Remove your shirt,” she said slowly and deliberately.

Without argument, he removed his running top, tossing it onto the stone bench. As he stood in the middle of the tomb, stripped to the waist, he was acutely aware of the angel’s gaze on his lean toned body.

“Enjoying the view?” he teased as she walked behind him.

Her green eyes dark and intense, she stared at him, the gaze boring into his soul. She moved round to stand directly behind him. She studied his back for a few moments then ran her cool hand over his shoulder blades. Tiny sparks of electricity pulsed through him as her cold fingers caressed his warm skin. He felt her pause and run her thumbs over the tips of his shoulder blades.

 

Taking a step back, the angel studied his smooth skin, tanned from the summer sun. At first, she couldn’t be sure and she thought for a moment that his luck had held then she noticed a slight circular discolouration. There were two patches of skin about two centimetres across that were a darker shade than the rest of the runner’s bronzed back.

“The buds are there,” she said quietly as moved round to face him.

“Buds?” He looked at her with a face filled with confusion.

“Your wing buds are forming.”

“Ah!”

“I have worked out a way to slow their development but you’re going to have to work out a way to administer the treatment on your own,” she explained, her tone serious. “How are you with pain?”

“I’m tough. I can take it,” he replied, sounding calmer than he felt.

“Each of the phials in that box contains an oil that you are going to have to use once a month. I can only stall the development for so long. This treatment had to be prepared in a single batch. I cannot make any more. There are three hundred phials in the box for you. Do not break any. Do not drop any. These are the only ones in existence.”

Glancing into the cardboard box, he saw that it was filled with slender phials containing a dark liquid.

“I’ll administer the first dose,” the dark angel explained pointing to a larger phial that lay on a black velvet cloth on the bench alongside her ornate knife. “I need to ensure that I treat the centre of the buds. I’ll make the first cuts. You will then use the same holes each month.”

“Holes?”

The angel nodded, the white streak of her hair almost shimmering in the candlelight.

“Wait a minute,” he stalled sounding anxious. “What’s the plan here?”

“The phials contain an infusion of horse chestnut bark, lavender oil, geranium oil and thyme plus a few other items. The oil needs to be poured into the centre of each bud once a month and the wounds covered with the moss that’s at the bottom of the box. The moss has been treated with the infusion. You’ll only use a couple of strands at a time.”

“And how a I going to explain two holes covered in moss on my back to my wife?” he demanded sharply.

“You like to decorate your body. You’ll get another tattoo across your upper back. The holes will be lost in the design,” explained the angel calmly.

“Oh, will I?” he retorted. “And I assume you’ve picked the design for me too?”

“I’ve designed it for you,” she replied calmly. “The design is part of the enchantment. It needs to be identical to the drawing inside the box.”

Before he could protest further, the angel reached into the box and pulled out a single sheet of paper with a Celtic design expertly drawn on it. Looking at the detail in it, he wasn’t averse to having it inked across his back. There were two points in the design where there was an obvious cross over and he deduced that those would mark the spots that matched the holes.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll get it done. I’ll get someone at work to recommend a place. That won’t be cheap to get that inked.”

“There’s money in the box to cover the cost.”

“Thought of everything, haven’t you?”

Lifting the knife, the angel said, “I hope so.”

With the knife poised over his smooth skin, the angel asked, “Are you ready?”

“Go for it.”

“This is going to hurt.”

“Just do it.”

As the sharp tip of the blade bit into his skin, he flinched but never utters a sound. When she pierced the second hole, he was ready for it.

“This will burn,” she said as she picked up the large phial. “Really burn.”

“How am I meant to get tattooed if the skin is burnt?” he asked.

“The skin won’t be burnt. This will burn inside you. It will feel like fire.”

He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists as the angel poured the liquid into the two open wounds on his back. Pain ricocheted through him as the liquid worked its way around the nubs of his wings.

“Christ!” he yelled as the heat intensified.

“Almost finished,” promised the angel rubbing some strands of the pale green moss into the wounds. Instantly the pain stopped spreading and began to ease. “Done.”

“Whew!” he said rolling his shoulders stiffly.

“Well done. You handled that well,” she praised with a smile. “Guard that box with your life. One phial is enough for both buds. One phial once a month. When the phials run out then we have to last nature take its course.”

Pulling his running vest back on, he nodded.

“These should last you about twenty-five years if you don’t smash any.”

“I’ll be an old man by then,” he joked lifting the box.

“No, you won’t, Son of Perran,” she countered. “You’ll look exactly the same as you do just now. You’ve not aged one day since your transformation. Time will be kind to you.”

“Ok so how do I pour that stuff in on my own?”

“You’ll find a way. Pierce the holes open first then pour in the infusion.”

“Not quite the DIY I had planned but I’ll figure something out,” he muttered. “And I’ll get that ink done.”

“Get it done this weekend. It should then be healed before the next full moon if you can.”

“Fine,” he agreed bluntly. “Any more orders?”

The angel smiled and shook her head. “You can find your own way home from here.”

She pushed open the door of the mausoleum to reveal the dark stormy night outside. “Follow the path to the right.”

“Till next time,” he said as he headed for the door.

“Soon, Son of Perran. Soon.”

 

Over the years the box had sat on the second top shelf at the back of the garage. Its contents steadily dwindling as the months and years passed. In the box, wrapped in an old t-shirt, was apiece of wood with two nails driven straight through it, their tips sticking out proudly. Those tips had been filed until they were needle sharp and had been sterilised until they now shone silvery in the light of the garage.

Carefully he hung the piece of wood on the nail on the garage wall, making sure it was level. He unbuttoned his short and laid it on the bonnet of his car then lifted the last glass phial out of the box.

With well-practiced ease, he stepped back and leaned his full weight against the piece of wood, feeling the nails piercing their target for the final time.

 

(Image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)