Restlessness of the Soulless
Sleep evaded the vampires that night. Frustration pressed heavily on her mind: Vincien, Zacharios; all of them no better than the rest, including herself. It ws near dawn before Cypress found an outlet for her suppressed fury.
She worked silently, without a shirt, her brush strokes patient, steady, and sure. A black sports bra bound her breasts, leaving exposed her scarred front and backside. Yet she had grown immune to the troubling memories and phantom pain the sight or thought of those scars usually caused; Cypress was too engrossed in her painting. Her leather pants and tall black boots had been exchanged for soft flannel pajama pants of red and yellow and black, and fuzzy pink slippers. The slippers had been a gift from Vincien, given to Cypress on her sixth-hundredth and eighty-second birthday, three months ago.
One step closer…to what? She allowed the thought to trail off. For Cypress knew too well that nothing waited for her at the end of it. There could be no end to a never-ending story, as was always the case when dealing with the undead. Murder or suicide were the only ways out of these repetitious, jaded chapters. Cypress had contemplated both options often.
None of the above was bothering the vampiress presently, however.
Acrylic paint stained her skilled fingers as Cypress smudged and blended colors with her talons, and sharpened edges here and there with scalpels. Calm emerald eyes stared out of the dark face on the canvas: the sure gaze of her village home's chieftain, the compassionate but stern look of a father. His brown skin olive-tinted. Dark curls hung long and untamed about his head, his clothes were soiled with rich dirt from working in the fields alongside other villagers. Large hands he held out in front of him, the palms facing skyward to reveal their coarse texture, and small scrapes of crimson that might be his own blood from no serious injury, and wrinkles or creases created by time.
They lay out in the sun, contemplating everything and nothing. Little Kira, barely six years old, was one of those not thinking about anything in particular. On either side of her lay her elder brothers, Anto and Baltus. Five years the eldest,, Baltus was eleven and preparing to enter adulthood. Soon Baltus would join the able men in hunting, so that is what he was preparing for and thinking of now. Just two years younger than him, at age nine, was Anto, but he was not yet ready for adulthood and instead thought about the shapes the clouds took and why they might take them.
Sol, the sun as well as their protector, watched over the three children that lay in the field, daydreaming. It was so bright, but Kira cherished the warmth.
Her clawed hands swept over the canvas, giving life to someone whom had not lived for a very long time. Vampires especially appreciated beauty, and Cypress was not exempt from this trait.
A shadow fell across the children suddenly. Baltus noticed first and opened his eyes quickly, and covertly nudged his siblings into alertness as he sat up. Anto lazily returned his head from the clouds and slid his eyes sideways, toward the newcomer. Kira opened her emerald eyes to slits and looked through them at the olive-brown face of an older man with curly black hair and wide round eyes as green as her own. He was tall and muscular, like all the other men of the village, but it was those eyes that made him unique, which made his children unique. All of the other villagers had brown eyes, black or ebony. His attire was not fanciful: he was a peasant, and so he dressed like one. Brown breeches, made from the hide of an animal he had skinned himself, and a white shirt made of rough material hand-woven by Kira's own mother. This was Santi, Lord of this land, head of this village, and Kira's father.
Stepping back to momentarily observe her mural, Cypress almost smiled at her talent, and almost wept over the inert subject trapped within the blended colors. She compromised with an indifferent nod of approval at the painting, and the lifeless figure that stared back at her paternally, showing his calloused hands as though for appraisal of their cleanliness. Then she stepped closer and continued smudging the background in places that needed it. Littering the floors were newspapers, which Cypress spared no more than a glimpse of every so often. They were outdated, of course. Cypress didn't really care for the news of this modern world. She had seen much too much drama already over the centuries. She had seen war up close, from behind enemy lines; she had watched disease and famine kill millions; she was a killer herself, and so knew what the real world was like outside her own little vampiric world and didn't care to read anymore about it.
Uncharacteristically startled by the small voice, Cypress turned on her heel and her black eyes swept the room until meeting with a set of warm, thoughtful deep brown, the color of milk chocolate. That chocolate stare belonged to a thin, lean little girl, her complexion pale as dove feathers and just as soft as well. Mousy, brown hair fell straight and thin to the girl's narrow shoulders and newly trimmed bangs fell in those large, sallow eyes. The pain, fear, crushed benevolence, and restrained anger in those chocolate eyes was all too familiar to Cypress. She imagined that her black gaze often expressed the very same, if not masked by practiced indifference. Yet her servant would not live long enough to master such coveting techniques, for it had taken the vampiress centuries to perfect.
"Sara," Cypress acknowledged the servant carefully. "I didn't hear you come in," she said, observing the door of the apartment still open behind the child of fourteen. "Tonight is a full moon. You weren't out all this time, I hope."
"Oh! No, Mistress. I just stepped out for groceries." Sara stopped herself there.
Cypress did not press the serf further, and only gave a dismissing nod. The girl bowed low, ducking her head as she noiselessly shut the door and hurried from the room, into the kitchenette, where she would be out of sight. Returning to her painting, Cypress suppressed her anger once again.
Sara had been a gift, one meant to spite, given by Katrina. Undoubtedly the child had been kidnapped at a much younger age, her family drained, and she had been raised tortured by the depraved vampiric sisters, abused almost constantly; if not physically then mentally. It was all Cypress could do to step away from her painting so that she wouldn't destroy it out of senseless rage. How dare they?! Even for vampires, how could those damned sisters become so wicked?! Or had they always been so?
"Mistress?" came one small, timid voice that didn't startle this time.
"Are you alright?" Her voice came closer, nearer to the fuming vampiress that had abandoned her canvas and collapsed into a cozy leather armchair. The furniture was entirely for the young mortal's sake. Before the precious gift, Cypress's apartment had been barren, and rarely attended to. By now, the waste of space had become a model of luxury, with expensive rugs, thick, long curtains, a blend of fabric and leather furniture, dark wooded flooring and gray tiling where the rugs came up short, and only he best electronic devices to be had. Cypress used none of it, for her master bedroom was still empty, except for a sheet-less mattress where she slept through the daylight, and no windows to be had where sunlight might accidentally leak through. "Have you… had a meal yet?"
Cypress looked up at the delicately-put inquiry. Her servant's eyes were on the scars covering her back and front, ones that would never fade throughout this vampiress's endless eternity; but upon seeing her Mistress meeting her gaze, Sara quickly averted her gaze to the blue rug underfoot. The vampiress chose to ignore the examination; this was not the first time she had caught Sara looking, though the mortal dared not ask about them.
Her black glare softened, and Cypress returned her attention to the rug as well. "Actually, I'm feeling rather ill tonight. I met with a lot of…" she searched for the right wording, which would be appropriate for a child to hear. Fresh memories of Zacharios invaded her mind, of Katrina and Lyndelia, even Vincien. She finished with half a smile, "A lot of nasty things that upset my stomach. Thank you for the offer, and your consideration, though."
Still, Sara hesitated, looming near her Mistress's side.
"You needn't be afraid of me, Sara," murmured Cypress, sensing this. "I would never voluntarily hurt you, hard as that is to believe coming from something so defile as what I've become."
The crack of the seven-tongued whip echoes around the stone chamber. Young Kira cowers in the corner, trying to make herself even smaller to minimize the target. Evil laughter immediately succeeds all her cries, for each time the whip finds scarred flesh.
Having the impression her Mistress was in a contemplative, yet willing-to-talk mood, Sara pressed on reluctantly. "Could I ask you a favor, Mistress?" The question came out in a rush, and Cypress looked up. It was extremely rare that Sara asked for anything for herself; and after being raised by Katrina and Lyndelia herself, Cypress could understand the child's fears on such topics.
"Of course, Sara."
Yet Sara appeared to lose her nerve at meeting the vampiress's onyx gaze, and quickly looked away.
"Please, Sara," Cypress encouraged gently. "As long as it is within my power, I will try to grant your wish, if you would just tell me."
Timidly, and very quietly, Sara began: "It is out of my place to ask such a thing."
"Go on. In my own company, I am often leaping away from my post. Your small step will not be punished."
"There is a girl," Sara whispered, her hands worrying each other nervously. "She—she is a cast-off servant." Cypress tensed, being able to assume the rest of the request. "She live in an alley now, behind the supermarket where I was for groceries. She's sick and—and I would like to take care of her. May—may I help her?"
"Do you wish for me to hire her?"
"She is used to work, and…"
And punishment, Cypress's thoughts finished. However, it was very dangerous for any supernatural creature to take in a slave of another godly being, even if the servant had been cast off. There were no guarantees that the wretched soul's Master or Mistress might turn up to reclaim them, on some cruel whim. Violence would ensue, and death was usually resultant; that, or revenge would soon be had. Could Cypress go to such lengths and risk what little of an undead life she had, to rescue some lowly serf?
No, she couldn't do it just to rescue some lowly serf. But she would do it for Sara.
"Very well," said the vampiress regally. "You may go fetch her. Use your allowance to buy Regina some clothes and other necessities, as I'm sure she was left without any. I will replace what money is spent on her. Do not mention my name; we do not know what ears may be near and may overhear. If she doesn't wish to come, leave her and return here at once."
Sara smiled brightly, though not as brilliantly as she might have before all the pain and abuse done by sickeningly twisted creatures more vile than Cypress wished to recall. Then the child bowed low and was out of the apartment, on her way to find another lost soul.
Once her servant had gone, Cypress returned to her painting, her fury against the undead once again repressed.