Great dark fiction. Chapter 3.
| As Ryelle drifted further and further into the darkness, she felt warm, comforted. She closed her eyes, curled up and wrapped the darkness around her like a blanket. Suddenly, she felt herself getting colder. Wrapping herself up tighter, she shivered. The coldness didn't subside. Instead it intensified, pulling her out of her blanket of darkness. Opening her eyes, the brightness of the inn room blinded her. Draven stood over her, a grim look on his face. "I told you to wait," he said, sadly.
"Draven," She said, reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck, but had to stop as a splintering pain spread through her arms. She pulled her arms close to her body and howled in pain. "It feels like I'm breaking," she said, holding back tears.
"Your mortal body is dying," Draven said, taking Ryelle gently into his arms and sitting by the fireplace. "I had to change you to save your life."
"Unh," Ryelle hissed in pain, biting her lower lip.
"Don't do that," Draven said anxiously and coaxing her to relax. "If you taste blood now, you'll get hungry. I can't leave you here on your own to get you something."
Determined to make it through, Ryelle nodded, causing another spasm of pain to go through her body. All her muscles tightened up, forcing her stomach to void itself of its contents. "Sorry," she apologized to Draven.
"It's all right, my darling," he said, holding her close to him gently.
He held her close through the rest of the day and three-quarters of the next day, caring for her while her new body was its weakest. Once he deemed Ryelle was able to care for herself, he went outside to hunt. He brought back a young male child, covered in pox. Ryelle glared at Draven.
"My love, he pleaded with me to kill him. His blood is fresh." He said, a serious look on his face.
"I pleaded the same," Ryelle retorted, but bit into the child's neck regardless. The boy didn't make a noise in protest as she drained the blood from his body. She let go and let the small body fall to the floor. She felt stronger already. "It's still a shame," I said sadly.
"I know," Draven said, kissing her gently and helping her to her feet. "Now you're one of us. You look stunning, more beautiful than before. I didn't think it possible," he said, turning her to face the mirror.
Ryelle stared at her reflection. Her skin was like snow, and her lips and cheeks, flushed from feeding, were a deep red. Her long, thick, burgundy hair fell about her shoulders and face, making her look paler than I was. "I'm going to burn once I go outside," was all she could think to say as she continued to stare.
Draven chuckled. "We don't go out during the day, for that reason."
"So we sleep in coffins, right?" Ryelle inquired, half-jokingly.
Draven shook his head. "We don't sleep. We regain energy by feeding."
She bit her lip in thought. "And we die if we don't feed?"
"Not exactly. It's more like a coma."
Ryelle nodded. "Do we die?" She had heard a lot of rumors saying how to kill a Vampire, and even some saying they were indestructible.
"Yes, but the ways to do so are difficult unless you have the right resources. A stake through the heart won't kill one of us, but if the heart is removed and/or destroyed, we can die. Silver is deadly poison to us. Just touching it will affect you and give you something to the effect that lead poisoning would do to a human. If silver touches your heart, it will disintegrate on contact. Sunlight can set us aflame if we are outside unprotected for too long during the day, and if our bodies are torn apart and burned, we can die that way as well. In other words, it's only easy to kill our kind if you know how. Also, we are always on the watch for hunters. The most famous group of hunters right now is Prima Noctus. They're all trained killers. Those three hunters from last night weren't Prima Noctus. If you run into any of them, you're bound to die. As for power...Vampires gain power by killing other Vampires. What happens is the Vampire's power is channeled through your weapon into you. The most powerful, old Vampires are nearly impossible to kill."
"Have you killed many of your kind?"
Somberly, Draven nodded his head.
"I see," Ryelle said, looking out the casement window. The sun was setting, painting the sky with bloody reds and pinks and fiery yellows and oranges. "Your coachman left this morning," she observed.
"No bother, we can run to Hungary."
Ryelle shook her head. "You're barking mad! Hungary is over a country and a half from here!"
Draven chuckled. "I'm sure you'll find it quite amusing, actually, once we reach my castle before sunrise."
"If we reach Hungary by dawn, then I'm the Queen of England."
"Ah, a pleasure to meet you then, my Queen. Allow me to escort you?" He said, bowing down to one knee and offering his arm.
Ryelle smiled and took his arm. "Prove me wrong," she challenged.
Draven grinned mischievously and swung her up over his shoulders. "Hold on tight, darling," he said, rushing forward and breaking through the casement. He ran faster than twelve, or even twenty horses. The countryside sped by them as they ran, Ryelle's arms wrapped tight around Draven's neck. Towns gave way to green fields, and fields gave way to forest. They didn't stop for more than a moment for Draven to get his bearings. About halfway through the trip, Ryelle let go of Draven's shoulders and ran alongside him. The feeling was exhilarating, more so than anything she had ever experienced in her life. The cold air blew her hair behind her in long fiery strands that shimmered silver in the moonlight. She looked over at Draven. His strong, chiseled face was set in a determined expression as he ran, his long, black curls escaping from the tight ponytail they had been in. As the sun began to peek over the horizon, the trees gave way to deep purple moorland. Ryelle slowed, looking at Draven. He slowed as well, smiling at her. "I told you. My castle is right there," he bragged, pointing to a tiny speck in the distance.
Ryelle grinned facetiously. "I'll race you," she said, bolting off toward it. Draven chuckled and started after her, and, after a short time, passed her. He stood at the gate when she arrived and nodded in the direction of the sun, now boldly making its way into the sky.
"You'd better hurry," he said, opening the gate and letting her in the giant door.
The castle was massive, and the great hall where they stood now had some of the most detailed stonework Ryelle had ever seen.
"The masons have been quite kind to me," he said, grinning. "They keep my secrets, and I keep theirs."
Ryelle marveled at the grandness of it all, and didn't notice as a doorman came forth to take Draven's cloak.
"Do you like it, my darling?" he asked, coming to her and stepping in the way of her sight.
Ryelle met his eyes with her newly changed violet orbs and smiled. "It's beautiful..." she breathed.
"Then I have a feeling you will like this even more," he said, taking her left hand and kneeling down. "Ryelle, the girl who I found with no name, will you be mine forever?" He asked, presenting her with a glittering gold and diamond ring.
Ryelle's jaw dropped and she found herself lost for words. "Yes," She finally managed to whisper, taking the ring with shaking fingers and slipping it on her finger.
Draven smiled. "I love you so much, little Ryelle. I have since I first laid eyes on you."
Ryelle smiled in return. "I love you too, Draven."
"Let's finalize it, then. Right now. There's a chapel somewhere in here," he said, scooping her up into his arms and carrying her down the corridor. She laughed for the first time in many, many years.
He set her down outside the chapel door. "Father!" He called, walking inside.
The chapel was beautiful-- it was in an indoor garden with benches and flowers and an altar. Over the altar stood a latticework arch that had roses growing on it. Ryelle stared in awe and wonder as she stood there, waiting for Draven.
Shortly, Draven walked back toward her, a somber look on his face. "Gone. I leave for a little more than a year and a half and all my servants join the kuruc."
"The kuruc?" Ryelle repeated, puzzled.
Draven nodded. "An army of peasant militia, devoted to overthrow the Hapsburg royalty. I personally don't agree with the Hapsburg's methods, but they leave me alone so I let them be. But for my servants to join the kuruc... it's almost an insult. It means they'd rather die than serve me."
"Were you cruel to them?" Ryelle asked.
He glared at her, anger sparking in his molten eyes. "I would never harm them. I paid them well, and most nobles don't move a finger to help their serfs." He had begun pacing the aisle, hands clutched behind his back. "Why they would do this to me though, I don't understand."
"Perhaps they were upset that you were gone for so long," Ryelle ventured, stepping toward him.
"I've been gone longer and they never deserted me. I think they were forced. I found this in Father Franz's room," he said, handing me a bloodstained paper, folded in fourths. With shaking fingers, Ryelle opened it.
The others and I are disgusted with the way the serfs in Hungary are treated. We have joined the kuruc and we plan to overthrow the Hapsburg rule and begin a new rule of our own. Don't expect to find any of us here waiting for you.
F. Franz Fertari
She handed the note back to Draven. "Maybe they weren't forced. Maybe they just got caught up in Nationalism," she suggested. "I'm sure they'll be back."
Draven sighed. "They loved me, all of them," he said, shaking his head. "Why leave when you have access to everything you want? When you've been granted the perfect life?"
Ryelle shrugged. "I tried to, once," she reminded him.
"Yes, but you came back to me. They won't. The Hapsburg army will crush them," he said, shaking his head.
"Maybe not," Ryelle offered. "Maybe the kuruc will be victorious."
"The Hapsburgs are not decent people like you and I. They are cruel and vicious, and have an entire army at their command. The militia won't stand up to them. No, I'll have to fight beside them," he said, crushing the note in his fist.
Ryelle shook her head. "No, Draven. You can't."
"I have to." He looked to his doorman, who seemed to be his only staff that had stayed to wait for him. "Get some of my things ready. I'll need both my flintlocks and rifles. You and I are going to fight."
"Draven," Ryelle caught his arm. He looked at her, worry and anger darkening his golden eyes. "Please, be careful."
He bent down and kissed her lips gently. "You should be able to take care of yourself now. Wayfarers and travelers frequent the road below, so don't be afraid to feed if you need to," he said.
"What if you don't come back?" Ryelle asked hesitantly.
"I promise I will return to you, and when I return, once the kuruc crush the Hapsburgs, we will marry and live out our lives here in peace," he said. "I love you, my darling." He kissed her lips once more, a somber look on his face as he donned his greatcoat. "Bring the coach 'round," he said to the doorman as he left the chapel.
Ryelle sat on one of the benches and stared blankly at the altar. She knew nothing of Hungarian history and culture, but what Draven told her about the Hapsburgs seemed to be a huge problem. She wondered how long she would have to wait for his return.
"Countess," the doorman addressed her from the doorway.
Ryelle stood and faced him. "I'm not a Countess yet," she corrected, "and anyway, you can call me Ryelle."
The doorman nodded. "The Count would like me to give you a short tour of the castle so that you know where everything is before nightfall."
Ryelle nodded and followed him out of the chapel. She only half paid attention through the tour. Her mind was on other matters, like if she could take blood from an unwilling traveler. She learned the location of her chambers, Draven's rooms, the servant quarters, the parlor, and the guest chambers. Those she would need to know. Once the tour ended, Ryelle retreated to her quarters to wait.
It was three long, lonely years before Draven returned to her. She had been able to feed often, since merchants often chose to use the roads through the moors. She often had visitors stay for weeks, or even months. She only had to kill one old, pudgy traveler, and then, only because she knew he wouldn't make it to his destination anyways. Ryelle didn't spend much time with the visitors she had; instead, she shut myself in her chambers to watch for Draven's coach.
Finally, one snowy winter morning shortly after Christmas, Ryelle saw Draven, driving the coach on the winding road that lead up to the castle gate. She rushed to the door to greet him, expecting news of the kuruc victory. However, Draven walked past her, his golden eyes and caring face aged somehow. He wore a solemn look. "Pack your things," he said, quietly.
"What happened?" Ryelle asked, following him.
"The resistance failed. I've been stripped of my Lordship over these lands. We must leave," he replied simply.
"To where? Back to London? Everyone there believes you're dead. If you return, they'll know what we are!"
"To France, to live in peace. I hold a Lordship there, over a small town in the country. It's where I met Alon. I'll be able to pass off that I'm a descendant of myself, since I left there centuries ago," he said, continuing to walk to his chambers.
Unable to argue with him, Ryelle silently went to her room to pack a few things. She took a small selection of courtly dresses, some slippers, and a few of her favorite pieces of jewelry, including the amethyst on the silver chain that she had bought what seemed like a millennia before. It all fit into a single small chest that she could lift herself and a jewelry box. Under the bed, she found a case with a pair of silver dueling pistols inside. She decided to pack those as well, though she hoped not to use them. She donned her dark red winter cloak and carried the chest and the jewelry box to the coach and loaded them in. Draven followed her shortly, loading a few chests, a rifle, and a small black box inside. "Get in," He said, donning his hood and black gloves so the sun wouldn't affect him and climbing up to drive. His black greatcoat swirled in the wind. Without a word, Ryelle obeyed.
On the way to France, they stopped only twice to feed under the cover of night. With her vision greatly improved, hunting was never a challenge for Ryelle. The traveling time was two weeks.
It was dusk when they arrived at the manor in France. The village was quaint and consisted mostly of farmers and merchants fiercely devoted to Draven. He had to explain himself only once, and had even willed the land to himself. He had decided to go by his name still, claiming it was passed down through the generations. When a villager asked him his age, he told her 20, which bought them about 15 years of peace before they had to move again.
The manor was beautiful, but my no means as grand as the town house in London or the castle in Hungary. There were only six rooms: Ryelle's room, Draven's room, the kitchen and dining room, a servant's quarters, a parlor, and a guest room. There were five servants, and by the end of the week, Ryelle knew them all by name. Yvette was her handmaiden, Francis was the cook, Annete and Giry were maids, and Fernando, an immigrant from Spain, was Draven's groom. Draven and Ryelle were married one month from their arrival. It was a simple occasion, including a few villagers and the household staff. The local priest wed them happily, apparently glad that a descendant of the Great Draven Seraph had desired to come back to the village and live under his religious jurisdiction. The village was six hour's journey from Paris, but the local tailor was happy to service them after dark. He called it the Seraph Custom. Apparently the villagers had passed down stories from long ago. Draven met with an extension of the Consortium in Paris twice a month now, eager to work on his cure.
The fifteen years they had bought ourselves passed with no event. Eager to move to a new place, Ryelle readily packed her things and loaded them into the coach. They moved again 7 or 8 times, to different countries, experiencing new cultures and enjoying 15 years of peace each time.