The day had started out so wonderfully: the sun shining cheerily, spreading its warmth without scorching, the short cut grass glistening in the early morning's dew, and the forest beckoning so invitingly, promising nice views within its trees' embraces.

Cassiel sighed forcefully, her honey hair flipping around her face with the exhalation, and looked around at the current bunch of trees she stood near. They all had started looking the same hours ago, and any sense of direction she'd possessed had vanished before that.

She shook her head and trudged on, the sun dipping lower and growing dimmer with each step she took. Its light had almost completely vanished by the time she finally spotted lights in the distance. Quickening her step, Cassiel realized with relief that the lights belonged to a solitary cabin, with two candles silently sitting in the window, lighting her path. Once she reached the cabin door, she hesitated before knocking, an odd sense of trepidation pausing her. She listened closely, but even her better-than-average hearing couldn't pick out any unusual sounds, so she knocked again.

A gruff, tired looking but young man abruptly cracked the door open to stare out. "...yes?"

Cassiel jumped slightly, then recovered enough to paste a bright smile on her face. "Oh, hi...um..." The man's tired look grew more annoyed as he waited for her to find her tongue, and his probing, bright hazel eyes unnerved her. "I'm lost and I can't find my way home and it's dark and-" She grimaced slightly, thankful that the growing shadows hid her face. 'Stop rambling, you dolt!'

The man quietly stood there for a moment, studying her as best he could in the dark, then turned away, allowing her space to walk into the cabin. Cassiel did so, admiring the natural wooden walls, and turned to see the man closing the door. A sudden spasm of nervousness arced through her, and she backed a step away as the man walked toward her; then, feeling foolish, she stood her ground.

Her host quietly crouched in front of an expansive fireplace and started prodding the logs in the fire around. "Where did you come from?" he queried, glancing up at her with his oddly colored eyes. Feeling a little trapped by his piercing gaze, Cassiel looked at the fire instead, watching the flames' ritualistic dances. "Whenir," she answered simply, naming the town her aunt lived in. 'She's going to be so worried...' Her conscience prodded her to ask, "Can you give me a ride back?"

The man quietly stood and brushed off his pants. "What're you doing this far in this forest?" he asked, his expression and tone as though he didn't even hear her request. Cassiel blinked at his abrupt tone. "I just...went exploring this morning, and I got lost...all of the trees around here look the same, and you know how-" She blinked again and stopped when she saw the look on his face, a mixed expression of anger and disgust.

He slowly stood and stepped closer toward her, his eyes trained on her mouth. "What are you?" he asked quietly, glaring at her. Cassiel felt like a guppy, only able to manage to blink and open her mouth, then close it, then open it again. "What do you mean? I'm...me."

He scowled and grabbed her arm, pulled a hunting knife out of a pouch around his waist, and cut the inside of her arm from the elbow to her wrist. Ignoring her pained gasp, he studied the wound, his glare and frown deepening when it healed completely within a minute. He muttered under his breath and put the knife away, pulled out a different knife, and created the same wound on her arm.

Cassiel's gasp came slower and more pained this time, and her arm felt like it was on fire. The wound didn't heal completely for several minutes, and even when the skin closed, she still felt the burning sensation under her skin. The man glared at her, pure hatred in his eyes, and shoved her toward a corner stacked with furs. She stumbled and fell into the pile, the experience not completely registering with her mind until the man walked out the door and locked it behind him.

Cassiel looked around, dazed and bewildered, trying at once to figure out both why the man seemed so angry and how to escape from the cabin. The only door didn't look like much, but she'd felt its solid strength when knocking, and while she was stronger than her slim looks indicated, she doubted that she was stronger than the solid wood.

Giving up her plotting for the moment, Cassiel quietly leaned against a wall and listened to the forest outside. There was silence for a while, with only a faint breeze caressing the outside of the cabin, but raised voices soon reached her. She perked up at the sounds and pressed her ear against the wall.

"What're you doing? C'mon, man, just put the gun down..." A gunshot rang out, startling her. The cry of pain that followed sent shivers down her back, and she curled up into the corner and covered herself with some of the furs.

Eventually, someone unlocked and opened the door; Cassiel heard the sound of something being dragged across the floor, then deposited beside her. She peeked out in time to see her generous 'host' leaving once more, then she looked at his cargo and blinked.

A man laid face down, motionless, as redness oozed from a hole in his back. Cassiel's nose twitched slightly at the smell of blood, and though she tried to control it, she couldn't help but eye the man's bloodstained camouflage clothing.

With a sudden groan, her fellow captive attempted to lift himself off the floor; failing miserably, he instead flopped onto his back, his face contorting into a grimace. Cassiel gently laid a hand on his chest, trying to ignore her hunger. "Where's the bullet?" she asked softly, thinking of the hospital so close to her aunt's house.
Her companion mumbled and blearily opened his eyes, his pale hair falling into his eyes as he stared up at her. His lips started forming the words, but no sound came; instead, Cassiel heard the door thud open, shaking the entire cabin.

Tensing, she peered over her shoulder at her captor. He merely raised an eyebrow at her and, dragging the only chair in the room toward her, sat down. "Have you done it yet?"

She blinked in confusion. "D-did I do what?" she asked shakily, uncertain of his question.

"Bitten him; have you started turning him yet?"

Before the man finished his sentence, Cassiel started shaking her head. "What do you mean? What're you talking about?" He simply raised a brow at her and focused pointedly on her teeth. "A vampire."

She shook her head again; quietly glaring at him, she asked, "What made you shoot him? Why'd you do this to him?"
He watched them both for a moment. "He smells like evil."

Cassiel shook her head in disgust, and then looked at her fellow captive, her eyes softening slightly in sympathy. She carefully eased him up enough to wrap her arms around him, trying to comfort him. The wounded man, his breathing growing more shallow with each second, watched them closely, his eyes confusedly flickering between them.

Their captor watched them for a moment. "So are you going to do it?" Cassiel shook her head emphatically. "Why not?" he asked, sounding only mildly interested in her answer. He watched her hug the dying man and turn her head to look at him. Tears suddenly sprung to her eyes. "I don't want him to have to live like me," she whispered brokenly.

Unable to feel her pain or understand her, he watched her for a moment longer, and then stood and walked toward the door. "It's your choice now," he told her over his shoulder. "Let him die, or not." He shrugged and walked out, once again locking the door after himself.

Cassiel looked at the man she held, and he looked back at her, his chest rising less and less with each breath. She bit her lip and uncertainly whispered, "Do you want to be a vampire?" He simply gazed at her, his eyes unsure, and did his best to keep breathing. She continued, "If I don't, you'll die, but if I do...you'll have to hurt people for the rest of your life..."

She silently watched him breathe for several long minutes and the emotions that played across his face as he considered his options. He finally nodded, a small, almost undefinable movement. Cassiel gently squeezed him; she lowered her mouth to his neck and tentatively bit him. She panicked slightly when he went limp, but she continued the process until she was sure it would work. Pulling away, she studied him closely, feeling relief when he stirred and slowly blinked up at her.
The man blinked slowly several times, trying to remember where he was and why he was there. Cassiel tentatively petted his hair, relaxing him more. He gazed up at her, his eyes glittering with slight pain and gratitude. "Thank you," he mumbled, making her smile slightly through her pained expression.

"You need to rest," she murmured, carefully laying him back against the pile of furs and drawing one over his chilled hands. He nodded slightly and closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep almost immediately.

Cassiel sighed and looked around the small cabin, trying to ignore the guilty feelings tugging at her conscience. It was either bite him or let him die, she reasoned. The feelings persisted, though, driving her to stand and walk over to the single door. She studied it closely, searching for the slightest imperfection that would allow her to break it down, open it, or anything to let them out.

The solid piece of wood swung open, almost bashing her nose before she jumped aside in time. The cabin man walked in and looked at her, his now-perpetual frown growing. "Get back over to the corner," he ordered quietly, dragging a leather bag in. Cassiel quietly consented and sat in front of the fireplace, and watched as he dragged the bag to her and crouched before her.

Silently, he began pulling out small, earthen jars and lining them up on the floor between them. Small, strange characters inscribed on the jars seemed to dance in the firelight as he placed the last jar down; he looked at her. Cassiel swallowed and met his gaze, not able to keep the curiosity out of her eyes.
"Drink the first one," he ordered gruffly, motioning to the first one he'd sat out. At her questioning look, he continued, "It'll start making you a human again."
Cassiel swallowed again, harder this time. "Will it hurt me?" she asked tentatively, uncertainly looking him in the eye. His face remained impassive, and he replied, "It'll make you human."

Her gaze dropped to the smallest jar, and she hesitantly picked it up. It was small, so tiny, but the odd engraved character on its side glittered menacingly. Her heart in her throat, she whispered, "B-but..." she swallowed hard. "But will it hurt me?"

He shrugged slightly and looked at the other man lying in the corner. Cassiel tentatively pulled the stopper off and sniffed the jar's top, then recoiled at the smell of garlic. She stared down into the bottle, trying to see the dark liquid through the shadows, but only caught a few glints in the firelight.
"Well?" She looked up, back into those dark, hating eyes. He waited expectantly, ready to pull out his knife, the one that could truly hurt her.
Cassiel slowly nodded and, shakily, lifted the jar to her lips. She closed her eyes and took a quick, deep swallow, gasping as the concoction burned its way down her throat. She shakily set it on the floor and stared at the man through bleary eyes. "Wh-what n-n-next?" she stuttered, unable to keep herself from stumbling over her words.

He watched her silently, his eyes trained on her face for several long minutes. Her eyelids began to gain weight, both forcing themselves down over her eyes; she struggled to keep them open, and lost the battle.

The man quietly rose to his feet and bound her wrists and ankles, and then pulled her outside. "I think he'll like this one," he murmured, glancing back inside. "She should get a fair price..."