Inspired by promt for Vampires Ball. A group of vampires have existed throughout history.
| The glowing sign in the front window said open, and yet the shop was almost completely dark except for the light shed by a few dim lamps. Gabriel liked it better that way at night when he had few if any customers. From behind his elaborately carved desk, he looked out at the street through the glass windows creating nearly the whole front wall of the book store. He was a tall man, and not heavily set, with brown hair and amber colored eyes.|
Bookshelf after bookshelf lined the walls and stood in rows, but still they would not hold the entire collection of Gabriel's precious books. Some were neatly stacked upon finely polished tables, while others had even been piled on the floor in careful arrangements. All of the plush chairs, however, had carefully been left cleared. It was upon a couple of the many red velvet chairs placed about the shop that Gabriel's three friends now sat.
In the chair closest to Gabriel's desk, sat Hunter, a slightly shorter man with rough black hair and definitely pale skin. He wore a black cloak over his shoulders, and sat slightly slumped over as if he wanted to hide his face from the world. Opposite from him sat Ossar, a man just as tall as Gabriel, though he was lankier, and his sleek hair red in color. He sat back at ease in his seat with his arms casually draped across the chair's finely curved arms. On Ossar's lap sat Araina, a tall, slender woman with long, blonde hair. She leaned casually back against Ossar‘s chest, a large book open in her hands and her sparkling blue eyes focused on it. Ossar shifted forward slightly to rest his chin on her shoulder as he also scanned the pages with his darker blue eyes.
Gabriel's head slipped gently to one side so that his brown hair, longer than Hunter or Ossar's, would not cover his ear as he listened. His sensitive hearing could create the scene well before it came into view in front of his shop window. There were light, quick footsteps hurrying down the sidewalk, and behind them came numerous heavy footfalls accompanied by rather drunken laughter. He sighed softly. Some unfortunate girl had crossed the wrong gang on the streets tonight.
The first of the others to take notice of the approaching commotion was Araina. No doubt Hunter and Ossar heard it too; they simply chose to mind their own business. Araina sat up a little straighter and glanced toward the door. Her eyes then moved disapprovingly around the room. "Are one of you going to do something?" she asked, her lip turning up in a slight snarl.
"For our own safety, it is always best to keep to ourselves," Gabriel answered her. His own eyes, however, were focused on the front door.
Araina got to her feet and turned to Ossar. "I was in such a predicament once. It would have been nice then if there had been someone to come to my aid." Her voice was accusing. Watching them from behind his desk, Gabriel could tell that Araina's gaze made Ossar uncomfortable, for he cringed as if she had burned him. Hunter was acting as if he didn't hear any of them.
"That was a long time ago," Ossar whispered. "Before you became what you are now. Now you can protect yourself, and even if you couldn't, you would have us to protect you."
"It makes no difference," Araina hissed. "I remember as if it were yesterday," she paused and wrinkled her nose at the unpleasant memory. "Yet they condemned me as a witch!" She glared around at each of them in turn, and only Gabriel met her gaze calmly. He knew her past. She had been convicted in the Salem witch trials. "If none of you will do anything, then I will chase them away myself!" she snapped, and strode toward the door. Before she'd moved more than a few steps though, Gabriel was already on his feet and standing in front of her.
"I said that it was always best to keep to ourselves, but I didn't say that was what we were going to do." Araina gave a small nod, and walked back and spun around to stand behind Ossar's chair.
Gabriel walked to the door. The footsteps and voices were much louder now, and he judged the moment just right. His hand closed over the doorknob and he turned it, swiftly opening the door just as a frightened young lady passed it. With his free hand he reached out and grabbed her wrist. She cried out as she was pulled into the book shop, but Gabriel quickly closed the door. With a quick twist of the deadbolt, it was locked against intruders. The frightened woman stared up at him. "It's alright," he told her. "Over there, that's Araina. She'll take care of you." He motioned for her to go to Araina, and she numbly did as she was told.
Gabriel turned back to the door, and watched as four men came to stand before it. He knew immediately that they were from one of the various city gangs. The way they dressed, looked, walked, and even smelled to him gave them away. His nose wrinkled at the strong smell of alcohol coming off of them. "You can't stay in there with those freaks forever," one of them called.
"She can stay in here with us freaks as long as she likes," Gabriel snarled. With his back turned on the others, his normally brown eyes went coal-black, and he opened his mouth wide to reveal his long, sharp fangs. A low hiss issued from deep in his throat, threatening the men on the other side of the glass, and they stumbled over each other trying to get away from him. They ran back down the street the way they had come. Gabriel turned back to his friends, eyes normal again and his mouth set in a grim line. No one would believe a bunch of drunken men when they said they'd seen a vampire. He casually reached up and flipped the switch that controlled the lighting on the open sign down so that it dimmed and flickered off.
The woman whom he had just pulled from the street and her ill fate stood, looking rather confused and shocked, beside Araina. She seemed not as old as some women Gabriel had seen passing his bookstore, and yet not as young as some either. Gabriel sighed, regretting that he was a poor judge of age. He had been through so many ages in history, and yet physically he had not changed to appear any older, nor had his friends.
"You're safe now," he said, speaking softly. The woman looked at him for a moment, staring at him with light blue eyes. There was something about those eyes that he liked. When he stared back into them it was like looking into a pool of water and feeling its cleansing coolness wash over him. Her shoulder length hair created a light brown, almost blonde frame about her fair face. Her body was relatively slender, though not so much as Araina's.
"Th-thank you," the woman finally managed to stammer. Gabriel simply nodded. They all remained motionless for a long moment in the same positions they had been in. Hunter still sitting in the chair nearest the desk, Ossar leaned back in the chair opposite of his, with Araina standing behind him, and the just rescued woman beside her. Gabriel stood and gazed upon them all, regarding them carefully, and feeling the tension in the room as if it were a physical thing.
Then Hunter suddenly left his seat, crossed the room, and was at the door before anyone could react. "Hunter!" Gabriel barked his friend's name, and Hunter undoubtedly recognized it as an order to halt. He froze with his hand already on the doorknob and the deadbolt unlocked. "Where are you going?" It was not a question, it was a demand. Gabriel had been with his friends for more years than he could easily count, and he had known Hunter long enough to know that he sometimes needed a little extra guidance.
Hunter turned to look back at Gabriel, and smiled, his mouth tight with the effort not to bear his sharp, white teeth. His eyes had grown perceivably darker, revealing his intentions to Gabriel. "Hunting," he answered bluntly. The door opened and with that Hunter was gone, sweeping down the dark street in the same direction as the men from the gang had previously fled.
Gabriel stared after him, resisting the urge to shake his head. He did not walk back to the door to relock it. There would be no more need to fear the four men who had chased the young woman to the bookstore; Hunter would make sure of that. Instead, he turned back to the three others left in the bookshop. Araina was now looking down on Ossar, with her hands on his shoulders. She seemed to think her duty over now that the other woman had been saved from the gang members, and had turned her attention back to her one and only love and mate. Now the duty was all Gabriel's
Gabriel sometimes wondered at the differences apparent in his friends. All of them were the same kind of creature, all vampires, and yet they were from different times with different personalities. Though Araina had a strong will of her own, she often chose to stay close to Ossar because she loved him. Ossar returned her love and protection equally, though he was a very laidback and joking fellow, unconcerned with the world and all its problems. Hunter, on the other hand, was the opposite of them in the extreme. He was lonely, quiet, and oftentimes dangerous. He had been put through terrible pain during his early years as a vampire, and it was evident even now in his actions.
Gabriel was simply himself. These two before him and the one that had just left were all the family he had left, and they looked to him as a leader. Now there was this human woman who looked to him for guidance. He sighed, slightly agitated with this sudden problem thrust into his hands. She would be frightened, cold from the wind outside, and possibly hungry. Taking care of her would be even harder considering that she was so helpless and Gabriel himself was what he was... a vampire, a predator.
He steeled himself though. It wasn't as if he hadn't been human once himself. He knew human needs and wants, so he could handle this situation just like any other. "Are you well?" he asked the woman, noticing the subtle shaking that had seized her body.
"I-I..." It seemed that her voice had been taken from her. She swallowed a few times, cleared her throat, and then tried again to speak. Again she failed.
Gabriel waited patiently, but a sudden harsh look from Araina told him he should do something more. He strode over to the woman and put his arm around her shoulders, something he'd seen Ossar do for Araina when she was upset. "What is your name?" he asked.
That seemed to be a more specific question that she was able to answer without too much trouble. "Katherine."
"I am Gabriel. Katherine, do you know that you are safe now?" He continued when she nodded. "You may spend the night in this shop if it gives you some sense of security." Withdrawing his arm from about her shoulders, he folded his hands carefully before him. To his surprise, he found Katherine's scent quite tempting. Usually he was well in control of himself; much more so than Hunter or Ossar, although Araina kept herself in check nicely. It made his mouth water to look at Katherine's soft, pale skin and know that extraordinarily clean blood pulsed beneath it.
"That would be so nice," Katherine said, "but you've got to leave sometime, right?"
"No," Gabriel assured her. "Our quarters are below the shop. We rest there." When he said ‘we' he indicated Ossar and Araina, but of course he meant Hunter as well. "There is one sofa in the bookstore that you're welcome to sleep on. When morning comes it will perhaps be safer for you to leave." He watched intently as Katherine nodded.
"Yes, I would appreciate it very much." She looked around, and Gabriel correctly guessed that she was searching for the sofa.
"At the back of the store," he told her. Again, and rather dazedly, she nodded. Her slow, unsteady steps took her out of view behind book cases and to the rather small sofa that was placed there; normally for readers or for the vampires, who did not sleep often. When Katherine was out of sight, Gabriel's lip lifted in a half snarl and turned back to Araina and Ossar. "Are you happy now that we've rescued her?"
Araina nodded contently, positioning herself once again on Ossar's lap. "It is a terrible thing to be frightened and alone," she sighed. She glanced up through her eye lashes at Ossar, and then Gabriel. "I suppose nether of you have experienced that. Perhaps Hunter has come close, persecuted as he was; but still he could not have experienced the fear that I mean." Her own lips curled back over her perfectly straight, sharp, white teeth. "Some men know no boundaries to their greed. They deserve what punishment comes to them."
Gabriel pursed his lips. The men that had just run away from him at the bookshop's door would certainly find punishment at Hunter's hands. He had not stopped Hunter from going though, so perhaps he too thought such men's punishment just. Katherine was now in danger though, whether she knew it or not. She was among vampires now, and Gabriel wondered which was a kinder fate: left to the hands of the gang members, or bitten on the neck by a vampire who could no control himself?
Gabriel was worried about himself most of all. Katherine's unique human scent had excited him so much that it had been hard to let her go free. He cringed at the thought of his own reaction. Yet if he could have enough self control to leave her be, she would be safer here than in any other place. Yes, he decided. I can do it. He was actually averse to the thought of taking a helpless human's life, and knew well enough that he could restrain himself when it was necessary. He had saved her, and he could keep her safe now.
Walking slowly for his kind, he went back to his desk and settled down in the chair behind it again. Araina, seeing his acceptance of Katherine's, presence, settled more comfortably back into Ossar's lap. She was right; they could not have left Katherine on the streets. Gabriel felt a protective instinct over those weaker and less fortunate than he. He protected his friends, his little group, so it was only natural that he had rescued Katherine. All he had to do now was follow that instinct. At least that's what he told himself.
They all sat there for a moment more before Hunter swept back into the store. His passage was marked only by the closing of the door as he stood in front of the desk. Gabriel raised an eyebrow at him, but Hunter nether spoke nor made any action in response. The other vampire stood there for a minute, his now light eyes gazing down at Gabriel; then he turned to the back of the store, heading for the stairway that would lead him down to his sleeping quarters.
Gabriel was on his feet in an instant, walking to the back of the shop with Hunter. "You killed them?" It was less of a question and more of a statement, but Hunter nodded anyway. Gabriel stopped him and held him where he was, waiting until Hunter raised his eyes to continue. "Did you dispose of the bodies appropriately?"
Hunter nodded, his eyes strangely focused over Gabriel's shoulder. "Of course. Now I am full, and tired, and I must rest. You, on the other hand, have something to take care of now." He pointed over Gabriel's shoulder, and Gabriel turning, drawing in a sharp breath. Katherine stood staring at them, trembling.
"I know that you are my leader Gabriel, and you know that I am eternally grateful for the way you saved me from the church. You also know that it is my duty to remind you of your many duties, and she," he indicated Katherine, "must be dealt with accordingly before she spreads our secret." Hunter then turned away from Gabriel, and made his way down the almost hidden stairway that led to the sleeping chambers.
With an inward snarl, Gabriel turned to Katherine. Not only did he now have to deal with the human girl, he was also reminded of how he had first met Hunter. He was the prisoner of a church, and they had tortured him to make him confess his sins. If Gabriel had not freed him, they would have burned him at sunrise.
Walking slowly, he approached Katherine and put his arm around her shoulders again. He turned her away from the direction Hunter had gone and bent his head so that he could look down into her face. She looked scared, mistrustful.
"He killed the men who chased me here," she said. Gabriel nodded, knowing that it was not a question but a simply stated fact. Katherine turned the force of her blue eyes on him, magnified by the fact that they were glazed by tears. "Will you kill me now?"
Gabriel shook his head kindly, guiding her slowly and carefully away from the back of the store. "Your life is not in danger. We only..." he paused, debating on what he should say next. "We only kill those who we judge need to be removed from the earth." He looked down into her eyes, which searched for the truth, and sighed. "Katherine," he breathed, "are you ready to believe whatever I tell you?"
Katherine nodded, and he continued. "Hunter not only killed those men, he took their blood." Gabriel's sharp eyes watched Katherine's reaction, but found only a shocked and still face.
"He took their blood, you mean...?"
"He is a vampire," Gabriel informed her. "He drank their blood. In fact, we are all vampires, and have been here for many, many years."
"But that isn't possible!" Katherine said, drawing away. "You're all so young, you couldn't have lived for many years. You're no older than I am, surely."
"Physically, we have not aged. Come," he said, gesturing for Katherine to follow him down a long row of books. Katherine hesitated, and Gabriel was ready to spring to trap her if she should try to make a run for escape. After a moment though, she followed him. They walked beside the row of books, and Gabriel spoke evenly.
"Every book in this shop has something to do with history. Some stories you now consider fiction are simply books of truth that history has forgotten. I know," he said. "I was there throughout the ages, and I have seen the truth of both human and vampire history. In fact, I have written several books myself under pen names." He glanced at Katherine, who was completely silent. She was staring at the spines of the books they passed. He turned to her.
"Are you well?"
"You're lying," Katherine accused. "You're just saying all this to scare me."
"What reason have I to want to frighten you?" Gabriel asked sincerely.
Katherine looked unsure, glancing away from him to the old books again, and back to him. "Some of these books are practically ancient. There's no way you could be telling the truth." An idea suddenly seemed to come over her, and her posture straightened a little more. "If what you say is true, then prove it," she challenged.
Prove it, Gabriel thought. He breathed in Katherine's sweet, human scent, and was suddenly acutely aware of her closeness. So long he had considered himself the historian, but now he was a predator once again. His eyes grew darker, and his mouth opened, saliva running down his fangs. It was easy for him to see the fear on Katherine's face, and fear even had a tangible scent to him, but he didn't care. He ignored her soft whimper as he reached out and drew her back against him.
With his arms about her comparatively small form, he held her back to him. His teeth just barely brushed the back her neck as he lowered his head. Katherine cried out it in fright, and Gabriel was brought crashing back to his senses. Sighing once again, he closed his lips over his teeth, and pressed them gently against the back of her neck.
"I am what I am, and I have no choice in the matter, but I do not kill people like you. I am too civilized for that," he whispered to her. "You have seen, and now you know. I have proven what we are and what we can do." Reaching into his cloak, Gabriel drew out a fragrant plant. "Now, sleep Katherine," he said softly, and passed the leaves under her nose.
Katherine struggled for a moment, and then her body went limp. Gabriel knew without a doubt that she would sleep until morning. Effortlessly, he slid his arms under her and lifted her up, carrying her back to the sofa at the back of the shop. There he laid her gently, looking down on her with a grim smile.
It pleased him how he could control himself, and how he had taught his friends to almost do the same. He gazed down at Katherine, and knew that there was no danger to her now. He turned away, and walked down the hidden stairway to his living quarters. He called softly to Araina and Ossar, and they were immediately at his side, following him. Perhaps a sleep was in order... a long sleep.
When Katherine awoke, she almost thought that the night before had been a dream. It did have an unrealistic quality to it that made her wonder. Then again, she awoke on a small couch, looking at the backs of numerous bookshelves, and she was certain that it had been no dream. As she pushed herself up, a relatively small piece of paper fluttered down from where it had lain on her shoulder.
She carefully unfolded the piece of paper as she sat up, and these were the words written upon it in the clear, neat script of Gabriel:
There are rules here that you cannot understand, so you must leave as soon as you awake and receive this note. Go home, and do not return to this shop ever again. It isn't a safe place for you. Even though you must leave, I write this so you will know. I give you this so that you will remember what history has forgotten... that we live! You have seen what we are, and know that vampires stalk the world. Never underestimate a legend, for it may simply be a truth that history has no memory of.
She stared at the last line of his letter, and would have smiled had it not been for the grief of leaving these strange, new creatures.
Take care, the writing said, and remember.
Oh, she would remember. Never would she forget this place nor the people here. Never would she forget the vampires, and certainly never the one who had come so close to killing her and then let her go, Gabriel; the great historian whom history could not hold.
Word count: 3,944