Analise finds herself amongst vampires (Parts 1 and 2).
Analise could not bring herself to meet her husband’s eyes. By the look of him, Garrett had been beaten before he was dragged here to hang numbly in front of her in the grip of two women of the night. Blood leaked from his torn lip and onto the neatly trimmed beard growth of his chin, and the flesh around one of his eyes had begun to swell. His clothes, simple garments consisting of a dark tunic and trousers, were ruffled and made filthy with the grime of his ordeal.
Unable to look at him, she nervously glanced about the midnight panorama around her. They were atop of a high hill, just on the outskirts of the town of Suttonsville. The only source of light came from the twinkling stars in the heavens above, serving as witness to the evening’s horror. Apart from Analise herself, only the two night women holding Garrett and the man responsible for this tragedy were present.
Belial, her personal tormentor, kept himself close to her, standing just a single step behind her, as if he were drinking in the scent of her presence.
This is his fault, his doing! Anger and anguish almost encouraged her to spin about and strike that accursedly seductive face of his. But her hand remained still, burdened by the guilt of knowing that this was as much her doing as it was his. My fault…my sin was the carriage that brought us to this dark place. Traveling deeper into the fragile sanctuary of her mind only reminded her that it was her own weakness to temptation that had allowed Belial to sway her with his charms when first they met at the local pub. Within herself, she could muster no defense against the horrible truth. She had been all too eager to forget and betray her husband and the marriage they shared that night, and now she confronted the consequence for weakness and wickedness.
A breeze swept through the evening air, stirring the hair of the night women across from her. Yet still they stared at her, both of them smiling with mischief in their eyes as their tresses cascaded over their fair faces. The one to her husband’s right was gorgeous in her flowing dress of white, her golden hair stroking at the wind as though with a lover’s affection. Her curves were ample, her lips full, and her smile was something promising of both pleasure and pain. The woman to Garrett’s left was almost the exact opposite, but no less alluring. She was a lithe and slender thing, with long dark curls and large, doe-like eyes set in a round, pretty face. Between the two of them, Garrett looked sorely out of place as they each held him effortlessly with a single arm beneath each of his.
“Do it,” she heard Belial whisper into her ear from behind, his lovely lips nearly caressing her pale flesh. She shivered at the sound of his voice, ecstasy mixed with terror. So soft his voice, a commanding song to which I have become a slave. The agonizing sensation was made all the more intense as the wind brought a ticklish touch of his long, auburn hair onto her cheek. “Prove your love for us, Analise. Prove your love for me…and remove him.” As he purred into her ear, his hand slid into hers a delicately curved dagger fashioned with a golden pommel.
Her fingers coiled about the hilt and she nearly squeezed her eyes shut in some attempt at retreat. Again he was tempting her, making her feel the seductive fire of pleasure in his words. She wanted to thrust her arm out, to plunge the knife into Garrett’s soft chest and watch as his blood gushed forth. The thought instantly brought to her a surge of panic, and she bit down on her lower lip. He’s my husband, she tried to remind herself. I love him!
This was wrong, she knew, terribly wrong. It had been her choice to walk down this dark road, not Garrett’s. He should be set free and allowed to live. The sin was not his burden to bear. But if she defied Belial and the night women, what then would they do to her? There was no one around to implore for help, and even if she could scream for the town to hear, most of the common people would never hear her over the roar of their evening festivities. Suttonsville was famed for its great breweries and constant celebrations.
Just as she noticed a look of impatience flutter across the night women’s faces, she heard someone approach from the base of the hill. Deliverance? She could only pray that the gods in the heavens above hadn’t abandoned her.
She watched in desperate, anxious waiting as he completed his ascension up the ridge, appearing from behind the two women, having come from the direction opposite the town. At first, Belial and the women all seemed to become suddenly hesitant, like children caught misbehaving.
Analise swallowed past her fear and forced her gaze upon the newcomer. He was of around the same height as her husband, but shorter than Belial. Nonetheless, his presence was one of subtle authority. The effortless grace with which he made each step put her in instant awe of him. Simple raiment of black covered his slender form. He wore no cloak and no gloves, but a sheathed sword hung from his left hip. His hair was black; the tresses so long that they came down to just teasingly brush at his shoulders. He had a square face, the skin pale and ghostly under the silver glow of the moon. Yet there was something in his clean-shaven visage that resonated in a mixture of power and beauty.
Through the thin veil of dark wisps of hair dangling from above his brow, sharp eyes of eerie blue glanced from one person to the next before settling upon Analise. She felt the weight of his power, the quiet undertones of his anger, and she wanted nothing more than to cringe and step away. Somehow, though, she managed to stand still.
“Dorian,” the golden-haired woman purred from Garrett’s right, her voice sensual and sweet, akin to a lover’s murmur during the tender moments of sexual afterglow.
“Dorian,” the second woman adoringly echoed.
The newcomer ignored the night women and looked instead to Belial. He tilted his head to the left, as if to convey interest or amusement. “And what, pray tell, do we have here?” His voice was as soft as a rare breeze in summer, warm and comforting like a favorite pillow. Analise almost felt her fears put to rest in the presence of such comfort, but she forced herself from the deceitful daze.
“Conversion, My Lord,” Belial answered with a bow that was meant to appear solemn yet felt half-hearted to her perception.
The man called Dorian looked from Analise and then to Garrett. Her husband held a gleam of defiance in his working eye. For a moment, she was afraid that he might say something to offend his captors, but--much to her relief--he remained silent.
“And this is?” the newcomer quietly asked.
“The girl’s husband,” the golden-haired woman answered with a bright smile, delighted to be of service.
Analise could have sworn that she caught sight of the man Dorian cringing ever so slightly. Yet his eyes blazed to life far too quickly for her to be sure. The icy blue orbs again looked at her and Belial in turn. She could feel his anger, his outrage, but it, like the cringe, swiftly dissipated, leaving only utter coldness in its wake. He turned back to Garrett.
“A cruel fate you face,” Dorian murmured to her husband. Garrett met his eyes with as much a glare as he could muster, but the strength was gone from him, stolen away when he had realized the infidelity of the wife he had adored.
“You interrupted the ritual when I was turning her,” she heard Belial explain to the newcomer, still remaining close by her side. “You stopped us before she could drink her fill of my blood. But she rose as one of us nonetheless. Now we must make sure of her loyalty.”
Drink my fill? Rose as one of them? Now she remembered, and such pain was the footfall of terrible memory. Her head swam with the obscure haze of disordered events, of Belial and his delicious touches, his perfect, knowing hands, and the cool sweetness of his mouth. And then she recalled the ecstasy of bleeding, the pinnacle of pleasure she had never before imagined--and it had all come to an abrupt end. This man, this Dorian, had interfered, had stripped her of her pleasure and peeled Belial from her sweating, writhing body. After that, there was only blackness…until now.
She watched as Dorian fixed the other man with a hard stare before at last giving a curt nod of his head. “So be it then, but I warn you not to tarry for much longer.” He stepped to one side and gestured with a hand to guide Analise towards her husband.
The wind stirred again and she felt the dark blue wool of her cloak wrap around her body even as brown tresses fell over her face. She wished she could forever hide behind that veil, but a second breeze brushed the wisps of hair aside, clearing the path for her eyes to settle upon her husband.
She inhaled deeply, though to no effect, and she began to walk forward. Each step felt harder than the last, as though her legs were becoming frozen with every passing second. The dagger had become a terrible weight in her hand, but she managed to push herself onward.
And then Dorian moved in front of her. She dared to hope that he would end this and prevent her from making the horrible choice. Her hope almost became fulfilled when he reached for her hand and took the knife away. Gods above! Praise be to you!
Ahead of her, Dorian looked the dagger over before moving a hand to the sword at his hip. The scrape of the blade clearing its scabbard echoed in the silence of the night, slicing into her prayers and bringing with it the demonic wings of burden as he handed her the new weapon, pommel first.
“His head,” Dorian softly explained to her ensuing look of confusion. She stared down at the offered sword, feeling the heavy weight of his eyes on her. Ever so slowly, she gleaned every ounce of courage within her to lift her gaze to his. His blue eyes, so suddenly pale and devoid of life, stared back at her in a manner she feared was knowingly. It was as though he could see her every thought, know her every feeling.
Then I am truly damned, abandoned for my horrible sin. She bowed her head in a tentative nod to confirm her understanding as she accepted the blade. In front of her, the night women had forced Garrett down to his knees in order to facilitate the killing stroke.
Her hand wrapped around the sword’s hilt and her eyes were drawn to the glitter of moonlight upon its immaculate blade. Though she had never held a sword before, she couldn’t help but appreciate the extravagance of this particular weapon. The blade was strong and sturdy, the balance crisp, and the pommel had been shaped so that the crosspiece reflected the curvaceously sharp wings of a gliding bat. It should have been heavy, she knew, but she held it with ease in one hand. The frailty of her former life was no longer a concern. For my sin I have gained a strength never before imaginable.
She moved forward, almost eager to taste the feel of thrusting steel into flesh. But, as before, she tried to force such thoughts from her mind. The panic struck her again as she wondered what was happening to her. Garrett was now directly before her, about to be executed for the crime of loving her. He had always been a good man, had comforted her during her father’s sickness before he died, had loved her greatly, and even if not with skill, then with all the strength of his heart. He loves me, she sadly reflected, pain becoming a storm writhing within her.
She felt all their eyes on her, all of them except for him. She reached her left hand, her empty hand, towards his face. He instantly looked up at her. His eyes, even the swollen one, still contained within their dark depths his boundless love for her, accompanied by the tragic anguish of her betrayal. Her hand caressed along the flesh of his cheek, and the sudden sparkle of reflecting moonlight drew her attention to the ring adorning her finger, the endless symbol of their marriage.
Don’t say it, she prayed. Please don’t say it.
But it was as though he had also took note of her wedding ring, for he whispered in a hoarse, throaty voice, “I love you…”
Tears threatened to gather around her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she managed to choke out. “I’m so sorry…”
“Do it,” purred the golden-haired woman, her smile wide and wicked.
“Oh, yes…please…plunge it in…plunge it in… plunge it in! ” the raven-haired woman began to chant, her voice wavering in pitch as though she were goading on a lover to propel her to the peak of pleasure.
She looked from them and to her husband, who had kept his eyes on her. There was so much she wanted to say to him, so much shame and guilt she wanted to confide in him. But it was impossible.
“Analise,” she heard Belial say from behind, an edge of impatience in his voice.
She spared him a glance over her shoulder and gave a delicate nod. Another useless breath was taken in before she gathered the sword’s hilt in the grip of both hands.
Garrett still looked up at her, his love an eternal shimmer in his dark eyes.
And she brought the sword down—
—And to the left, slashing into the golden-haired woman’s face. A horrible screech split the air, but Analise was heedless of fear just then. She twisted the sword around and thrust the blade into the belly of the second woman.
Even as the raven-haired woman’s wail echoed the first, Analise pulled the sword clear and turned to Garrett, her eyes wide with desperation. “Run!” she begged him. “Run, my love! Run!”
To her elation, Garrett found the strength to push himself to his feet and scramble down the slope of the hill.
Knowing she had to ensure her husband’s escape, she twisted herself about to slash at the man Dorian. But his right hand shot straight towards her, his long fingers catching onto her wrist and intercepting the blow. She struggled against him, but it was useless. He was as unyielding as stone. She looked up at him pleadingly, but his pale visage remained without expression, his cool eyes revealing nothing.
And so she glanced after Garrett, only to see that Belial, his eyes suddenly red like the roots of burning flames, had begun to give chase. “No!” she cried out.
Then, to her surprise, she heard Dorian utter the words: “Let him go.” She watched as Belial stopped in his tracks and swung about to face the other man. She saw Belial’s confusion and anger, but Dorian said again, this time more slowly, “Let him go.” Though he had spoken calmly, in that same, easily tranquil manner of his, there dwelt a power in his voice, a great, underplayed strength that seemed to humble Belial’s seething rage.
She looked up to the stars, silently offering a prayer of thanks to the gods for her husband’s escape. Then she heard the chorus of savage, hungry hissing from behind. Terror again seeped its blade into her as she beheld the sight of the two night women converging on her. The golden-haired woman’s face was still torn and bloody, the flesh hanging loose and raw, her white dress sullied with the mess. Her companion was in no better condition with her own gown shredded in the center and blood weeping down her skirts.
“Give her to us!” the golden-haired woman begged of Dorian as he still held her wrist in his grasp.
“To us!” the second woman agreed. Their eyes were aflame as Belial’s had been a moment earlier, their fingers poised like the claws of some wild beast, their nails elongated and sharp like knives.
She wanted to weep and sob, to plead with Dorian to not let her go. But, as before, she remained still and silent despite her fears.
Slowly, Dorian unwrapped her wrist from his grip, but only after he had peeled the sword away. He did not even look at her, keeping his eyes fixed on the two women and Belial before him. “This farce is at its end,” he said gravely, coolly, and with a pointed glance at Belial. “I trust we will suffer no further emulation of this evening’s debacle.”
The other man winced ever so faintly before lowering his head. “None, My Lord.”
Dorian treated the three of them to a small, icy smile. “Good. Now let us be off before the sun provides any assurance that your promise might lack.”
The night women similarly bowed their heads and started walking off. Belial lingered for a moment longer before following after them.
With them gone and only Dorian left, Analise stole a glance in the direction Garrett had gone.
A hand settled upon her shoulder and she turned to see Dorian. Through the ice in his visage, she thought she caught a flicker of sympathy. “There is nothing there for you now,” he whispered.
Somehow, she knew that he was not wrong.
They had come to a stone tower that seemed long abandoned. Perhaps once it had been part of some minor castle, but the wrath of time had left only the tower and a few of the desolate buildings around it to remain standing in lonely silence. Dorian had advised her to seek the comfort of sleep in a pile of hay that had been laid to one side of a vast chamber. She had protested that she was not tired, and that the hay might have fleas. He had only smiled at her thinly and told her that the fleas would be of no concern to her.
In the end, she succumbed to his wishes and spread herself out atop of the hay. Weariness fell over her like never before and she lost herself in a deep, dreamless sleep. When at last she awoke, it was to the relentless chorus of soft moans and groans, played in harmony to the unending cries of the ecstatic.
Her eyes fluttered open and she looked across from her, where Belial laid with the two night women in a second pile of hay at the other end of the chamber. Their bodies stripped of clothing, their limbs were all intertwined in some erotic tangle of cold skin against cold skin. Analise could not help but stare, watching in morbid confusion while trying to discern what was happening. The golden-haired girl, her face once more whole and gorgeous, had her mouth on Belial’s neck, her tongue and teeth caressing the tender flesh. Blood leaked from her probing tongue, painting the man’s throat red with crimson fluid.
Despite herself, Analise felt a sudden temptation stir within her as she watched this gruesome lovemaking. Across from her, the raven-haired girl, sitting on her hands and knees, fixed her gaze upon Analise. The night woman smiled and gestured with the forefinger of one hand to beckon her towards them.
Analise shuddered and quickly ran for the door. Before her was a flight of stairs, which she ascended with all haste to be away from the wicked threesome.
She soon found herself out on the open rooftop of the tower. The air was cool and refreshing, the wind gentle and faint. Delicate flakes of snow fell from the heavens above, sprinkling the surrounding earth in a white blanket of frost and ice. Swallowing lightly in an attempt to give moisture to the arid desert her throat had become, she moved to the weathered ramparts across from her. Her eyes instinctively stared off in the direction they had come from, the direction back to Suttonsville…back to Garrett.
A movement from her left caught her attention and she turned to see Dorian sitting atop one the higher parapets. He was shrouded within the dark folds of a cloak this time, the fabric dancing lazily in the night’s breeze as he sat with one knee bent upwards to serve as an armrest.
If he had sensed her presence, he made no effort to acknowledge it. Instead, he remained seated in silence, staring off into the opposite horizon. Curious, she followed his gaze. Far in the distance, she could see a mass of clouds and the pale flash of lightning as a storm raged over the land.
Her eyes again wandered back up to him, watching as snowflakes fell upon his soft locks of dark hair. “Are you not cold?” she murmured quietly into the evening silence.
Without turning to look at her, as though already aware that he was no longer alone, he merely whispered in reply, “Are you?”
“Terribly,” Analise confessed with an involuntary shiver, her arms wrapping around herself.
The silence resumed its easy reign over them, and she found herself again following his gaze to the distant horizon. “What is it that you are looking at?” she finally dared to question.
“The same thing you were only a moment ago,” he answered faintly.
Home? Analise felt a familiar sorrow blossom within her chest, and she returned her eyes to the direction of the home that the gods had taken from her.
“I am sorry for what has befallen you.” The sudden whisper of Dorian’s voice startled her, and she looked up to see him still staring at the storm in the midnight horizon.
She put a hand on the eroded rampart and sighed quietly. “What has befallen me? What are we?”
At long last he spared her a glance from those chilly blue eyes of his, his eerily beautiful face partially veiled by wisps of windblown hair. “We are the Eternal,” he murmured in somber explanation, “the ageless reflection of humanity’s inherent depravity.”
Humanity’s inherent depravity. His words brought to her mind the fire of terrible memory, of her shame and betrayal. “I miss Garrett,” she said abruptly. “I want to go to him, to at least see if he is all right…” And to tell him that I am sorry…so dreadfully sorry.
“If you go to him now, it will be more out a yearning for companionship than a testimony of your love for him,” Dorian softly replied. He turned to her and she saw within the pale azure of his eyes a peculiar glint of compassion.
“But I do love him,” she argued. Her fingers gripped at the stone of the rampart and she felt part of it melt into dust within her grasp.
Dorian slid down from his seat to smoothly land beside her. “And that is why you should keep away,” he said gravely. She had been about to argue again, to offer another bout of defiance, but something in his expression gave her pause. She could see within his eyes a faint touch of…of what? Sorrow? Regret?
“You feel that you are alone now,” he murmured with his eyes again glancing at the faraway storm. “And in your misery, you yearn for company, for someone to share the agonizing burden with. You think that having someone near will lessen the weight of your fears and will ease the pain of longing. But the more we drag others down into the misery of our morbid existence only increases the tragedy we have found ourselves consumed by.”
A smile settled along his lips, cold and cynical, sad and mocking all at once. “I thought I had learned and mastered this lesson when I left my kingdom of Panerka to begin my self-exile all those years ago. But the misery of loneliness is not one easily conquered, as delineated by the unfortunate existence of our companions below.” His eyes met hers and the cynicism was replaced by what appeared to be genuine sorrow. “If not for me and my own yearning, these scions of mine would not be, and never would the agony of the Eternal have intervened with the affairs of your life. For that reason, I am truly sorry…for I am acquainted all too well with the pain of loss.”
She listened to his every word, absorbed his every nuance in expression. “Panerka, the City of the Dead,” she muttered. She had heard of the city’s name in stories from her childhood. The tales said it had once been a great, glamorous city full of riches and wealth, the envy of the world. Then, mysteriously, it had fallen from grace, its populace turned into monstrous reflections of the people they once were, all in the servitude of a fearsome lord of monsters who had usurped the throne and spread his undead army into the neighboring realms.
Realization donned on her and she stared at the man before her with shock and awe lighting her eyes. “You are…you are the vampire lord, the monster king of Panerka.” He said nothing, but the cool silence in his face was confirmation enough. She shook her head in confusion, frowning at the thought of fantasy becoming reality. “But it was said that you died…after King Solon of Halospear defeated you and repelled your army from his borders.”
A smile split his lips. It was a chilling sight, something entirely devoid of mirth and warmth. Still he kept his eyes away from hers, off to the horizon, yet she could see the amusement dancing within the sapphire depths. “Humans,” he said, speaking the word as though the creatures of reference were worthy of scorn, or distaste at the very least, “their brains would explode should they cease to simplify history’s intricate complexities.”
He shifted his gaze unto hers. “King Solon was at my mercy,” he calmly explained. “I had him alone in one of the chambers of his great palace, and his life could have ended at my hands. Yet I did not kill him.” Though his eyes remained on her, she could see that he was looking back through the ages, deep into the elaborate recesses of his memory. “I offered him life, so long as our war could at last reach its end. There were to be no campaigns against the Dead City or the territories I had conquered for my people. The Kingdom of Panerka would remain as it had become without further expansion.”
His focus returned to the present, the intensity in his eyes something sad and tragic to behold. “You see, Analise, it was a dream of mine to create from the disaster of my people a home within which we could have at last the paradise we were deprived of in life. It was a dream I had kept with me since before the time of my own descent into this unholy darkness. And King Solon, faced with the option of this arrangement or certain death, chose to accept my offer of peace…chose to help me see my dream come true.”
She watched as his smile returned, cold and thin. “Just as we had reached our accord, a wizard in his service entered the chamber and began the chant to the spell that would mean my demise.” He turned away from her, his eyes moving up to the starlit heavens and the descending flakes of snow. “This wizard had been experimenting with the magical energies in his command to find a suitable combination of the powers that would prove effective against my kind during the war. He had arrived at an incantation more painful and far more deadly than any other spell emulating nature’s anger against our kind.
“It is the living world around us, you see, that detests our abnormal existence to a level that surpasses mortal comprehension. Everything enjoyed in life is a pain to us now. This wizard understood our agony and wrought with his magic a great burst of energy capable of reflecting the seething fury of the daylight sun. He told this to his king just as he had begun the conjuring of his power.”
Analise found herself again clinging to Dorian’s words, hanging in suspense for the conclusion to this retelling of the myth she had grown up with.
To her surprise, Dorian’s next smile appeared genuine, something lacking the chilling coolness of former smiles. “The king stopped him. He had me at his mercy, could have killed me and forever ended the threat posed by my wretched people of Panerka. But he was a man so unlike others of his kind. Oh, there dwelt the lure of temptation within him, that I do not doubt. But nobility to him was something more than a social status as it had been for the aristocracy of the living Panerka. It was something born of honor and duty. And so, against the urging of his wizard, the king permitted me to leave.” He paused and seemed again lost in the fog of memory. “He trusted me to honor our agreement when he could have killed me and worry not for the slippery thing that is trust.”
“And you put yourself into exile from Panerka,” Analise quietly finished.
“The kindness of King Solon reminded me of how, even if rarely, humanity can glow even when engulfed by the shade of despair. There is, however, no such glow found in those who have become my people,” he added with the weight of the world seeming to again descend upon his slender shoulders. “I have lost just as you have lost, though the suffering conclusion of my life was delivered by the corruption and wickedness of living humans. You see, Analise, the end of my life was caused not by the depravity of the dead, but by the depravity of the living nobles of Panerka, who, in their ambition for power, plotted against my family.
“When I was brought back from the blankets of death’s bed, it was to honor the dream I had when alive, to rule the kingdom that was by right mine. I shared that dream with those I had taken with me, and I meant for it to become the dream of us all. Panerka, City of the Dead, would have stood as a united empire expanding into the remaining realms of man and expelling from the world his hypocrisy and depravity. We were, in essence, the true core of man and humanity. We were humanity’s sinful secrets, our insatiable lust a reflection of man’s unending desire, our hunger for life a metaphor for man’s gradual destruction of his world.”
Analise stared at him, captivated by the sheer intensity with which he spoke, the soft, powerful emotion conveyed in each single word he uttered. I have come to stand before a god among mortals…a dream in this nightmare that has become my life.
“Panerka was my dream,” he finished quietly. “But I learned all too late that the dead no longer dream. The creature we humans become when taken from the sun’s grace, lost to the banal cravings of our core nature, is something I realized would never glow in the same way that King Solon proved humans who enjoyed the breath of life could.
“There is no dreaming for the dead. There is only suffering, only the hunger for more to suffer alongside you. In this we become what the sun hides from humanity’s living eye--the inherent demon lurking within us all, the terrible truth that we are the destroyers of our very own worlds.” He shook his head suddenly, as if in disappointment of all that had happened those many years ago, and in sympathy for what had transpired just the previous night. “For this, and for so many other reasons, I am sorry that you now share the eternal fate of the damned.”
“But I do not want to be like this!” she said with desperation starting to rise within her, panic and despair welling within her eyes. “I want to go home.”
“We all want to go home, dear Analise,” was his gentle answer, “but all we can do is either accept what we have become and embrace the nightfall of our nature, or…”
She took a step towards him, anxious for him to complete his offering of a choice, of an escape from this terrible existence apart from life. “Or?”
He turned away, glancing again at the faraway horizon and the gathering storm clouds. “Or we could fight to cling to what made us human…fight against time to keep ourselves from forgetting.”
“From forgetting what?” she asked, feeling that salvation clung to this pivotal answer.
“From forgetting how to dream,” he murmured while deliberately looking into her yearning eyes. But before she could respond, he walked on ahead, straight past the ramparts and off the tower’s very edge.
She ran to the ledge, watching as his cloak flapped in the air while his feet soundlessly settled upon the snowy earth below.
Analise hesitated for but a single moment, and then she leapt after him.