Chapter 1: Graveyards and Ghouls
Lillian sighed in pleasure as the last trickle of blood slid down her throat. She closed her crimson eyes and let the corpse fall to the ground. Tonight's hunt wasn't all that spectacular, but she really didn't have much time to be fooling around. Finding a permanent dwelling was imperative for Lillian at the moment. Staying in hotels was all well and good until someone began thinking it odd that a room's occupant never left during the day and was out all night.
Time to get the show on the road, she thought as she opened her now grey eyes, the colour they usually were and straightened her suede jacket and tightened her pony tail. Without a further glance at the drained body at her feet, she walked towards the entrance of the alley. The night was still young, people flocked to and fro, hurrying to finish their chores and return to their cozy homes. Everyone passed by in a blur, Lillian was not interested in them, and they were not interested in her. It was how it always was and how it always would be.
Lillian preferred it that way, as did most of her kind. Of course, there was the occasional few who wanted their presence known to the human race, to rule over them. Most debunked and ridiculed those few. If humans discovered the existence of vampires, creatures believed only to be found in fairytales and Hollywood, well, vampires wouldn't exist for much longer after that. Despite superior senses and strength, vampires where outnumbered when it came to the general populace of the human race.
It really wouldn't take much to destroy her kind, not with the modern weapons now available. Sure, bullets didn't have much of an effect. All they would do is slow them down unless enough lead was emptied into them. But weapons had far evolved from simple metal bullets. High tech lasers, fire bombs, nuclear weapons? Who knew what sort of measures humans would go to destroy something that threatened them. They destroyed each other often enough to prove they were not hesitant to shoot first, ask questions later. Lillian doubted they would spare a second thought on the wellbeing of her and her fellow vampires.
Disoriented from her thoughts, Lillian paused on a street corner. She was lost. Having only arrived in Newgate the night previous, spending the day snoozing on a bench underground in the subway, she didn't know left from right. The city was a prosperous one, busy, and riddled with the supernatural. She had a friend in one of the covens that was established in the city, but she was loath to situate herself in any established vampire havens. She had been branded as a rogue, a vampire not belonging to any particular coven, preferring to wander where ever she felt. It suited her just fine; she didn't really have a reason to settle down in one place anyways.
As much as the hidden corners and secrets the town had to tell, her exploration had to wait. Her main priority was to find a safe haven for the day. Daylight came early during the summer and she only had a few hours to search. Her funds were low, her sire choosing not share the wealth of her clan with her children, choosing to keep it to herself and surround herself with luxury. Her greed annoyed more than one of Lillian's brothers and sisters, leading them to leave the coven as soon as possible as rogues, Lillian included. A house or apartment of her own was out of the question, at least until she was further settled in. Her best choice as the moment was an abandoned warehouse, or even a crypt, as cliché as it sounded.
Crypts, while generally cold and uncomfortable, offered an amount of security not usually presented in warehouses. Warehouses, on the other hand, were large, and contrary to popular belief that vampires slept in coffins, offered space and room for movement, preferring not to be confined for any period of time. Humans and other vampires alike flocked to warehouses like flies to honey, while crypts were generally left alone. Also, since she was on the wrong side of town for a warehouse, being that they were scattered around the docks, left her with the sole choice of finding a cemetery to shack up at for the night.
Stretching her arms above her head, Lillian yawned into the night. She hadn't gotten very much sleep during the day, a subway bench was not the most ideal place to sleep. Nor had she gotten a full day's rest since she had left her sire's coven, being too accustomed to a soft bed. All the more reason to find a place of her own, a soft place to rest included. A lack of sleep made her horribly cranky.
Her recent meal didn't help her any either, she would be perfectly content to find a soft dark corner to curl up in and sleep, but that was not going to happen anytime soon. Scowling, she stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets. It was times like this that she doubted her choice to leave home, but she knew that it was way too late for regrets. She wouldn't go back anyways, even if they dragged her kicking and screaming.
At least it was a nice night. The sky was free of clouds and smog, allowing the stars and bright moon to shine. It was cool for a July night, but since the city was right off the water, it was to be expected. Lillian didn't mind, heat made her antsy and did horrid things to her hair.
The gravel under her boots crunched, filling the silence of the night and scattering away her thoughts. She had moved away from the more public areas without realising it, now lost somewhere in a more residential area. "Damn it."
Apparently her sense of direction hadn't improved over the years. A glance into the distance showed indicated what direction led downtown, but that didn't help her at all at the moment. Instead, she turned back to the direction she was originally going, and continued on. It didn't take much longer for her to stumble upon exactly what she was looking for.
'Newgate Cemetery' was grafted in sprawling letters over the gate leading into the graveyard. A gothic styled fence bordered the resting place for the dead and a thick lock and chain guarded the grounds from intruders. A quick look around satisfied her want for privacy and with a bend and a jump, she leaped over the fence, landing in a silent crouch.
Gravestones dotted the earth in rows, some gleamed with the polish of new marble, while others sagged with age. Aged trees rested their branches and leaf-fingers protectively over the markers, calming the atmosphere of the cemetery yet stood stoically, intimidating any living visitors.
It looked lonely and cold and, save for the rustling of leaves and hoot of an owl, was entirely silent. Resigned, Lillian dug her hands into her pockets, hoping to warm the cool digits in the layers of fabric, but knew it was in vain. Warmth was something she relished, piles of blankets, hot baths, even the silken heat of fresh blood, warmed her like the sun had when she was human. There would be no warmth tonight save the lingering heat of her last meal.
The imposing structures of mausoleums stood deeper within the grounds, leading Lillian further through the maze of tree-guardians and grave markers. With each step she took, Lillian could feel the unease in her stomach grow. It felt like something wasn't right, like something was waiting to happen – or perhaps had already happened.
"Ring around the rosie,"
Chills snaked down Lillian's back as the haunting tune floated through the dark. The sweet childlike voice sounded so young, yet held a danger within. Lillian should know, many of her kind used the same tactic to lure in prey. And that was how she felt at the moment; like prey.
"a pocket full of posies."
Lillian spun around, the voice now behind her. Shadows and stone stretched out in the distance, nothing moved save for the rustle of leaves and petals as the breeze sailed. She could almost feel her heart pounding in her chest, but she knew that it was only a memory.
The voice was getting closer, but Lillian couldn't see or smell or sense anything. A ghost, maybe? No, the wind caught something and it smelled like death.
The breeze felt cold against her skin, washing away the lingering warmth of her meal that chilled her skin. Lillian clenched her fists, irritation overcoming her fear. Whatever was out there wasn't going to scare her. She was a vampire for God's sake, she could take anything that came at her.
"we all fall down."
Bending her knees slightly, Lillian stood ready for fight or flight. "Who's there?!"
Twisting, Lillian's fists were held in front of her, ready to fight, but faltered at the child in front of her. Draped in a long white gown dotted with dirt, stood a little girl who couldn't be older than ten. Long brown hair framed a deathly pale face while haunting blue eyes glowed eerily in the night. Dark shadows lined her eyes, and her skin held a tint of grey, marking her as dead.
The girl giggled, her hands behind her back, "Are you going to play with me?"
Lillian scowled, slightly relieved that it was only a child, even if it was a dead one, but didn't relax. "No. Why are you here?"
The girl cocked her head, her lips tugged into a frown. "Master brought me. She said that I could play here."
Fighting the urge to bare her fangs, Lillian took a step back, taking another when the child moved closer. "Play? You mean chew on corpses, ghoul."
The ghoul-child's frown deepened, anger furrowing her brows for a moment before she smiled, washing her displeasure away. "Not cold toys, a dolly with warmth and life came to me to play." The frown returned, "But she yelled and said mean things, she was a bad toy." Smile, "I made her quiet. Now she is good and says only nice things," a thin finger pointed towards a crumbling stone, "isn't she such a pretty dolly?"
She hadn't seen it before, but now that it was pointed out to her, she noticed the body slumped against a grave. Lillian could smell the putrid sent of cold, dead blood. She could see the shine of the moonlight against the slicked organs peeking through skin and bone. A young face, the last traces of dark make-up only slightly visible, was open and terrified. Lillian tasted the bile rise in her throat and she shuddered, closing her eyes and looking away.
When she opened them again the grey of her eyes were tinted red disgusted with the creature in front of her. It was one thing to kill for food, for nutrition, but it was another to play with a meal, to draw out the death and suffering. This ghoul obviously didn't understand that, either that or she didn't know. "Where is your master?"
The ghoul blinked, "Master said to wait here, that she would bring me more dollies. Are you a dolly?" A predatory gleam appeared in the ghoul's eyes, and her voice held a hunger one would never expect from someone her age. "Can I play with you?"
A step back, and then another. Lillian's knees trembled as the girl advanced. "I am not a doll, ghoul. Now back away."
The ghoul's face twisted in rage, warping the delicate child-like features into a grotesque mask of hunger and death. She snarled, revealing sharp, pointed teeth and hissed, "You are my dolly. Play with me!" She lunged, her hands clawing towards Lillian throat.
Lillian threw herself to the side, rolling on the ground and swiftly pulled a knife from her boat. Shooting a glance over her shoulder towards the furious ghoul, she took aim and the knife went flying, sailing to pierce the ghoul's throat.
Shrieking, the ghoul stumbled back, tripping on the hem of her dress. Her hands flew to her throat, surprise written on her face as she found the knife lodged in her throat. Her shock soon fell away, but the ear piercing scream was cut off when Lillian stood and delivered a sweeping kick. The creak of decomposing flesh and the snap of bones was heard as the ghoul's head separated from her body.
The body collapsed as the head rolled away, coming to a halt as it hit the corpse against the tombstone. Almost immediately the ghoul began wailing, pained shrieks and high pitched threats falling from blue lips.
Lillian stood and dusted off her jeans. Ignoring the noise coming from the ghoul, she pried her knife from her throat. The knife was cleaned by rubbing it against the grass, and slid back into her boot. All the while the ghoul's shrieks quieted, falling silent save for the occasional hiccup.
"I'll ask you one more time, ghoul, where is your Master?" Lillian was getting tired of this game, but she knew that the more answers she got from the ghoul the better. For one thing, ghouls were not supposed to be created, as they were far too dangerous to keep as servants and were unpredictable. They fed on corpses, dead flesh, and on occasion even vampires – when they somehow got a hold them, that is. One vampire against a group of six or more ghouls was dangerous and life threatening. While the ghouls didn't hold the same amount of strength and stamina as a vampire would, death had broken a few limitations on exactly what they could and couldn't do. If there was a ghoul left alone here in cemetery, who knew how many more there were around the city?
The ghoul pouted, the expression twisted and sent a chill down Lillian's back. She hoped she would never again have to witness a severed head pout. "I don't know. Master said she would come back and bring me dollies."
Dollies, humans to eat. While ghouls normally ate the flesh of corpses, they didn't stop there. Human flesh was on their menu as well, but they dined upon human's even less often then they did vampires. Ghouls were even more sensitive to sunlight then vampires were and preferred solitude or the company of their own kind. "How long has your Master been gone?"
The ghoul's brows furrowed in thought, "Master brought me here when the fire lit up the sky. She brought me a dolly then too."
Fire in the sky? Did she mean the fireworks from the night before? Every year around this time in the summer the country celebrated with fireworks and carnivals. There were plenty of opportunities to get lost in the crowds, amongst the costumes and displays to smuggle a ghoul through town and hide during the day.
As much as Lillian wanted to walk away, to leave the ghoul to be claimed by daylight, she couldn't. A ghoul meant trouble, it meant a reckless vampire who risked exposure and who knew what else. She would have to find a coven and report this. They would send someone out to properly interrogate the ghoul in ways she couldn't herself.
Sighing, she grabbed the head by her hair and dragged the body to the nearest mausoleum. A firm yank opened the door rusty with age, and she dropped both in rather unceremoniously and deposited the ghoul's latest meal in the mausoleum as well.
The door closed and ghoul and corpse safely behind it found Lillian slumped against the ground, her hands shaking. She knew that she should be able to look at situations like these with a calm eye, but she was barely past being a fledging and never experienced these sorts of occurrences first hand. It still came as a shock to her to see these creatures that she only recently learned actually existed.
A moment passed before she rose, her lips set into a thin line. A glance at her watch told her that she only had a few hours until sunrise. She needed to phone her friend and get directions to her coven. It looked like she would be going to a coven after all, the very place she would rather not be. With a shake of her head, she took off with a run. At least she'd get to sleep in a bed for the day.