"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Monday, November 10, 2014


I ran.

It reminded me of those times I ran as a child, when I was young enough to feel light and weightless, flying over the ground with a fierce, burning joy.  Now, I moved with blinding speed, as fast as I only imagined I could run back then.  Gravity barely had a grip on me.  I passed like a shadow through the trees, barely disturbing a branch or a leaf in my wake.  Stoker had been right.  Denn die Todten reiten schnell.

The Dead travel fast.

It was fifty kilometers from the Tenebrati stronghold to the nearest train station, with nothing but forested mountains between.  I made the journey in less than an hour.  As the village lights began to show before my eyes I slowed, moving in a wide circle around the community rather than passing through it.  The terminal was on the opposite side.

I had no reason to flee like this, to run off the moment Athena and the others were not looking.  There was no law in the books Alexa had given me indicating the Clan could, or would, hold me against my will.  And yet the moment my Clanmates were distracted, that is exactly what I had done, gathering my few possessions and leaping from my fifth story window, disappearing into the woods like a flash.  I couldn't articulate why I was escaping this way...but somehow I felt it important to keep Simon Harrow--or Harot, or whoever he was--from them.  Especially now.

Harot was an Outcast, and the skirmishes between the Outcasts and clans like the Tenebrati were increasing in frequency and ferocity.  Now, a battle with them had driven Kanna, one of my Sisters in Blood, into the Dusk...a sort of living death that severe injury, blood loss, or starvation could induce in us.  Athena had gathered the others to revive her, a process that like creating a new vampire cost a measure of a Progeny's potency, so I knew my Sire would be occupied tonight and in a weakened state.  If I was running to Harot--and what other choice did I have--now was the time to do it unnoticed.

I had made subtle inquires, pressing the Familiar for information on the evenings when he came to let me feed from him, and checking schedules and maps at other times.  I knew from the nearby train station I could make it to the nearest metropolis, and from there to Geneva.  The email I had received was from a solicitor there, and the first stop I needed to make on the journey home.  Tonight presented to moment I had been waiting for, and I took it.

Coming round now towards the station, I stopped dead in my tracks, staring.  I was still 200 meters away, standing at the edge of the woods and the railroad tracks.  In the dark of the moonless night, and the silence, there was a woman there, wandering aimlessly around the trees.  I narrowed my eyes and my muscles grew rigid, my fangs slowly unsheathing from my jaw.  There was still time before the train, and the Hunger was twisting in my gut.  I could appease it on the way there.

And yet...

Something was wrong.  The woman moved in circles, her face blank and her eyes dead.  Her skirt was torn and her blouse shredded, exposing one shoulder and one naked breast.  Reaching out with my senses, I felt a sudden bitter chill down my spine.  My fangs retracted and I drew away in instinctual revulsion, the same way I might be repelled by a corpse.

A Shade.

The Progeny cannot sustain themselves on the blood of the deceased, nor can they just rob a blood bank and drink what has been donated.  It must come living from the veins of another.  Anything else is poison, and it repels us.  This...thing...in front of me was one of the Bloodless, one of the Living Dead.  A Shade.  Any human being the Progeny drained to death was damned to become one.  The body died, but the earthbound spirit roamed like a ghost, visible to Progeny eyes but detectable to the Quick only as a chill in the air or a feeling of wrongness.  This was one of many reasons our laws discouraged us from killing.  A dead human was not only useless to us, it haunted us, a reminder of our sin.

This girl, whomever she had been while Quick, had been killed by us and now haunted the ground where her life was ripped from her veins.

I kept my distance, wondering if this was the work of the Outcasts.

Slightly delayed by this apparition, I leapt over the four meter high fence surrounding the station with seven minutes to spare.  At the ticket booth I smiled at the old man behind the counter, ordering a single one-way ticket.  Through the glass, my mind reached out and brushed its tendrils across his.  He nodded and handed me my ticket, opening his cash drawer to deposit money he only imagined I had given him.  I nodded and walked away.

On the platform my eyes flickered over the faces of other passengers.  That was when I saw him.

The Familiar was sitting on a bench ten meters away, and when he saw me he came to his feet.  The first thing that flashed through my mind was that bad luck had placed me on the same train as him.  Now, he could run back and tell Athena he had seen me here.  The second thought flared immediately after.  Athena knew I was coming.  She sent him here to stop me.  Either way he had to be confronted.

I closed the distance between us.

"My Lord," he said quietly.  His black mop of hair hung in his eyes, and he flicked his hand across his face to part it slightly.

"You are a long way from home.  Going somewhere?"

He lowered his eyes a few moments, before looking up at me.  "I gathered from his questions that my Lord was planning a trip to Geneva."

And here I thought I had been so cautious.  "You were spying on me?"

The boy shook his head.  "No, not like that, my Lord.  I...I..."

"You were spying for Athena."

The boy bit his lower lip, and the expression I first took for fear now looked like something else.  "No, my Lord.  No one knows you are leaving.  At least I told no one."

I leaned towards him, trying to be as menacing as possible.  "Then why?  Why have you come here?"

The boy looked up at me, his dark blue eyes round and very wide.  "Take me with you."

I frowned a little, shaking my head.  There was no law among my kind limiting my freedom, but this Familiar was property.  He had the status of a herd animal or a pet.  If he was running away and I helped him, I might actually be guilty of something.  "You came to Athena of your own free will, boy.  I have seen it in your blood.  She took you off the streets.  You owe your life to her.  Is this how you repay her?"  As the words echoed in my ears I suddenly wondered which of us I was really talking to.  "Have you been so badly treated that you feel you must run away?"

The boy shook his head more vigorously.  "No, my Lord!"

"Then why?"

"Because I need to be with you," he replied, staring up at me.  "Only you."

He's taken quite the shine to you, Athena had said.  We had been at a gathering together when the Familiars were called in to provide us with our "refreshments."  The boy made a beeline directly for me, actually cutting off another Familiar headed in my direction.  Why?  I had asked.  I nearly killed him.  Athena smile knowingly at me and gave a slight shrug.  Why do the Quick fall in love with those they do?  Who can say.  But while the Kiss of any Progeny can bring pleasure to mortals, sometimes a mortal becomes addicted to the Kiss of a specific Progeny.  They crave it above all else.  Consider yourself lucky to be so desired.

I shook my head.  "It isn't safe where I am going."

"So you need me," the boy said, grabbing my hand.  Despite myself I felt a slight wave of embarrassment, glancing at the passengers around us.  "Who will protect you when you sleep?  I can.  I can fight.  They trained us to defend our sleeping Masters.  And I can be your eyes and ears.  Your servant.  I will do anything you ask...but please, take me with you.  Please."

I turned it over in my mind, weighing the pros and cons as the train rolled into the station.  In the end, I agreed.

"I've never asked your name," I said as we boarded.

"Stefan," the boy answered, looking at me as if I had just granted his fondest wish.  "Stefan."

And so, my Familiar in tow, I left the safety of my Clan behind.

Part Seven continues here.

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