The Fiction Press Supernatural Stories Award 2008 award winner for BEST PLOT!!
This is a re-write of the FPSSA 2008 Winner for Best Plot. Chapters will go up fast as they're re-written. Thank you for reading and please REVIEW!
"And when he looked upon her, he lost all reason. For her beauty could tempt the Spirits from their Trees, and her grace was the thing of the divine. Though he had struggled, his battle was lost and at last he did that which was forbidden. He dared touch.
From her comes all that follows. Lilith, for beauty or body, is the goddess that births all."
The Chronicles of the Lilu (fragmented and approximate translation)
The first time I saw a Vampire I was only fifteen.
It had been in the dead of winter, sometime before Winter Solstice but after the first snow. Curled under a heap of heavy blankets, I was warm and deep asleep, probably dreaming pretty dreams about prettier things. The ear splitting air siren tore through the room, waking me with a start and causing me to try to franticly burrow out from under my hole of blankets. Heart pounding, I peeked out and stared at the winter frosted windows. The city lights had flared to life and filled my otherwise dark room with stark twisting white lines.
I flung back the covers, my bare feet touching the freezing hardwood floor. I dashed for the door. The air horn sounding at such an hour could only mean one thing: A Vampire was in the city.
I pulled open the heavy oak doors and blinked against the blinding harsh hall lights. Holding one hand up to cover my eyes I stood stunned as servants rushed by my door.
"Lilith," my mother breezed out of her room, pulling a loose wrap over her shoulders and hair. She pushed a thick fur cloak into my hands. "Come on," she lightly touched my arm, directing me into the hall. "We're going to the shelter."
I pulled the heavy cloak around my shoulders. "What's going on?" Servants darted by; doors opened and slammed as bodies rushed down the hall.
We paused at my sister's door but before Mother could try the handle the door swung open. Candace stood in a thin white nightgown, her long blond hair tangled around her furious eyes. "What the hell is that noise!"
Mother gently took her wrist and put the cloak into her hands. As calm and poised as ever, Mother softly stated, "There's a Vampire in the city. We're going to the shelter."
"What?" Candace looked dumbfounded, still rubbing her eyes as Mother hurried us to the stairs. "Seriously?" She glanced at me and her eyes revealed a wicked light. "Cool."
Mother slapped her shoulder. "This is not 'cool.' This isn't a game."
I fumbled down the stairs, my knees weak with fear and adrenaline. "But where's Father?" I asked as we walked through the Dining Hall. Valets flew by, some at a dead sprint. We couldn't run though—it wasn't lady-like. Nice to know that if we were to be eaten by Vampires at least we didn't break our etiquette.
That thought made me glance over my shoulder, fearing a wild-eyed Vampire would suddenly appear from the shadows.
"He's at work with your brother," Mother started to respond but the heavy sound of running footsteps and clanking armor made us all spin around.
From the courtyard several soldiers rushed into the main hall, their white armor reflecting the lights like shining stars and their red banners morbidly reminding me of slashes of crimson blood.
"My lady," the nearly winded Captain gasped out, dipping his head in proper respect, "the Duke sent us."
Mother pushed her full lips together but nodded curtly. Undoubtedly she had figured Father himself would have come to ensure we were safe and sound. Of course I do suppose that would be a lot to expect of the War Archon, given that he would be commanding troops in the hunt.
Once we reached the shelter, Mother stood by the door as Candace and I hurried down the stairs. It was only as I brushed by her that I noticed she was trembling. I stopped at the base of the stairs, turning to look back up at her. With shaking hands she smoothed the veil around her hair. Yet her tremor was shrouded by her perpetual quiet demeanor. She stepped onto the stairs, letting one of the male servants pull close the heavy metal door and slide the steel bars into place.
She glanced up when she saw me watching and came to me, curling one arm around my shoulders. "Don't fret, Lilith." The many bangles and bracelets she slept in clattered together in a soft music that was wholly her. "We'll be fine."
"Oh don't be such a baby, Lily," Candace dropped into one of the soft chairs with a huff. "We're perfectly locked away from all the excitement in here."
I glanced around the dark room that was slowly gathering light as servants shuffled from oil lamp to oil lamp. I was surprised to see so many crammed into the room. One forgets how many are employed until they're gathered all at once in one small place. There was hardly room to walk!
Even in the middle of the night, woken from a possible Vampire attack and shoved into a shelter surrounded by clearly panicking servants, Mother still managed to gracefully float down into a chair, primly poised. "Why don't you two girls rest. Close your eyes. The men will have this cleared up in no time."
Cleared up. Like it was something simple and easy. Somehow I was pretty sure hunting for a rouge Vampire through the streets of the White City was never easy.
"Do we even have a TV down here?" Candace whined, staring deploringly around the room.
"There isn't even electricity down here, how do you expect a TV to work?" I mumbled back, tugging the cloak closer around my shoulders. It was damn cold in here.
"We don't watch television," Mother stated as she opened an old book that must have been down in the shelter for eons. It cracked and protested as she flipped the pages.
We might not watch TV, but I was pretty sure Candace found a way to. She had a very odd fascination with the Human culture. Little did I know that I would too once I got a little older.
Waiting for something to happen can be terrorizing. But, after what seems an eternity, "terrorizing" just morphs into pure boredom. Even the servants had slunk off into sleep, some curled on the carpeted floor, using hands for pillows and cloaks for blankets. Mother too seemed to have drifted into a light sleep, her hand rested in her book and her chin tucked elegantly to her shoulder. Even in sleep she kept her head veil over her hair. Candace and I, in our hurry, hadn't even bothered to don ours. Of course I also hadn't bothered with shoes either. I rubbed my hands over my numb feet, trying to give them a little warmth.
"I'm hungry," Candace grumbled, glaring off into nowhere. "What the hell is talking so long?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "No clue but I could really use something to eat."
Candace glanced at me then, her beautiful face lighting up. A very dangerous mischievous grin tilted her lips. "Oh, my little sister! I can't leave you here to starve," she gushed out.
"Huh?" I responded dully, still rubbing my frozen feet. "Hey, what are you doing?" I asked as she jumped up from the chair. She hopped over sleeping bodies, grinning wickedly.
"It is my mission to see that you are fed," she giggled, darting up the stairs.
"Are you mad!" I hissed and shot after her, hopping over the slumbering hurdles. "I'm not that hungry," I whispered when she stopped at the massive metal door.
"Poor girl, hunger had made you delusional," she whispered back.
"There's a Vampire out there!" I cried, trying to stress my point without raising my voice.
She paused and glanced over her shoulder at me. "I know," she grinned. "That's the fun part." Her hands expertly traced out symbols into the stonewall. I was still too young to fully recognize it, but I was pretty sure it was a Silence Spell. When she was done, she threw all her weight against the steel bars, slowly shifting them to the side.
I'd always had a rather unnatural resistance to magic so I could still heard the metal groan and cry but it seemed no one else did. At least no one jumped up and demanded, "Are you trying to kill us all?"
Pushing open the door seemed another difficulty and I watched her twist her fingers and her lips flow—a Bull Spell for physical strength. After that she could push open the door with ease. She crouched down at the door jam, her white skin and nightgown glowing against the darkness behind her. "I'm going to be the scavenging party. Stay here."
But I jetted up the stairs, clutching my long nightgown in one hand and taking the stairs two at a time. I didn't give myself time to think as I darted through the door.
"What are you doing?" Candace hissed. "I just said stay here!"
I trembled—both with utter fear and sheer excitement. "What are you going to do, tell on me? I can't let you go alone."
Candace snorted but strained to let the door slowly slide shut. Even with the spell the door was clearly a heavy weight. "And what can you do? You haven't even Awoken into your power yet."
I grinned, moving to grab her arm. "I'll be moral support."
Candace snorted again. "Great," she muttered.
She locked her arm around mine and in the dark we slowly started to shuffle off in the direction of the kitchen. At every groan of the house or chirp of some imagined sound we jumped, issuing tiny shrieks. Candace would dissolve into giggles but my heart only pounded harder with each scare. Suddenly this really didn't seem like a good idea.
"Where are the guards?" I whispered.
"The guards Father sent. They were out here when we went into the shelter."
I felt her shrug even though I couldn't make out the gesture in the dark. "Goddess," she breathed back, "what is that smell?"
I wrinkled my nose as I got a whiff of what she was talking about. It smelled like someone was boiling copper. "I don't know. Someone's spell components?"
She shrugged again. No help there. We reached the kitchen, which was lit from the silver sheen of the moon. Candace dropped my arm and started opening cabinets.
As I stood, hands rested on the tiled island, I imagined I heard other sounds—like light footsteps, the shifting of paper, or the rustle of clothing in the very next room. I shuddered with each sound, fear crawling up my skin and forcing my muscles rigid.
"You know," I whispered at her as she dropped to her knees and rummaged quietly through another cabinet, "there was probably food downstairs."
I barely saw her blond head nod. "Probably," she agreed.
"One of the servants would've brought food," I continued, a cold sweat breaking out over my skin. I could have sworn I heard someone walk across the floor in the next room.
She nodded again. "Most defiantly."
"So why are we here!" I hissed.
She sat back on her heels and held up a bag of pumpernickel bread. "Found something," she grinned.
A jar crashed to the floor in the other room, shattering on impact.
Candace smile wilted at once and I clamped one hand over my mouth to keep from screaming. "What was that?" I gasped around my hand, staring at her with wide eyes.
Candace made a cutting gesture with her hand, telling me to shut up. She then waved frantically at me, trying to get me to come to her.
"Someone's in there," I whimpered and turned to look at the door, my heart pounding painfully. I tried to crane my neck to see if I could make out a figure.
"Lilith!" She hissed. "This isn't a B grade horror flick! You don't go towards the noise!" She scuttled towards me, shoving the bread into my hands. "Is it the Vampire?"
"Why would I know that!" I snapped back, clutching the bread to my chest for dear life.
"Is it someone…" and she gained confidence as yet another jar fell to the ground. "My goddess, someone is looting during a Vampire attack!" Filled with righteous rage she stormed towards the door.
"Wha—what?" I stumbled after her furious pace. "Are you sure?"
But I asked too late. Candace raged into the room, legs spread apart in an incensed stance. "Hey!" She yelled, "Who do you think you are looting the Dukes house!" And she flicked on the light.
His head jerked up from the papers that were crumpled in his hands. His face, with skin as white as bone, was charred and burned along the left side, black flakes exposing actual bone. His ear was melted away and part of his pale bond hair was blackened and burnt.
Recent battle scars from spell strikes he had yet to heal from.
He pulled back his thin and dry lips, exposing bloodied fangs.
"Va—va—Vampire!" I screeched.
He dropped the papers, lunging forward with impossible quickness.
There was a roar like thunder and his body was flung backwards. Earsplitting wood cracked and the glass shattered as his body flew through the wall.
Candace stood, one arm stretched out in front of her, steam still drifting off her skin. "Shit," she gasped, her blue eyes wide in shock.
She had sent the Vampire through the wall, demolishing most of the windows and cracking through the thick red wood. Intent, she darted through the splintered wood and shards of glass.
"Candace!" I yelped and raced after her into the night. The wood dug into my skin and the glass shredded my feet. I slide to a stop, staring at my sister.
She stood facing the Vampire who was slow to get to his feet. Clearly he had taken one too many blows over the night.
Her white blond hair whipped around her face in the winter wind and her eyes were viciously intent—I saw not a speck of fear in her. She stood with her legs braces wide apart; gripping her nightgown in one hand and exposing her bare white legs. The other was out in front of her, palm facing the creature. Blue near translucent flames wrapped around her bare arm, dancing high off her skin. The heat blazed so hot that the falling snow above her melted mid-air, covering her in a halo of white stream.
She grinned a terrible grin—like that of some vicious pagan goddess and made a come-hither gesture with her fiery fingertips. "Bring it, Fang-boy," she snarled.
He growled deep in his chest, dropping into a low stance. His bright eyes glared at her with such hatefulness it was fearsome. "Are you the daughter of Goddard St. Augustine?" He asked.
Still clinging to my bread I trembled violently, huddled down so that he couldn't see me. What did he want with one of father's daughters?
For her part Candace didn't so much as glance my way. She took the full danger. "The one and only," she said and hurled the spell.
The fire tore through the night, burning through falling snow and raging across the courtyard. The Vampire lurched to the side, not fast enough to avoid the spell but quick enough that he missed the full brunt of it. It hit his shoulder, curling and charring both his coat and the skin beneath.
If he registered the pain, though, he was too wild to notice. He ducked and lunged, crossing the space too quick for me to see.
Candace gasped, yanking up the other hand to hurl another spell but she was too slow. I screamed, futile, poised to throw the damn bread if it came to that.
A roar filled the courtyard and again the Vampire's body went flying through the air. He crashed into the stonewall, the stones shattering into shards on impact. Candace was crouched down, her hands pulled up to her ears, clearly shocked.
"What in the hells are you doing here!" Father's bellow bounced off the stone walls.
I yipped and ducked further.
Father strode into the now broken and smoking courtyard, his crimson cloak flung over one shoulder and trailing behind him in a terrifying display. I trembled at the sight of him in his full armor, his furious blue eyes emphasized by his silver helmet. He jerked it off, glaring at Candace and me. "Get them to the shelter!" He roared and someone grabbed me by the arm, yanking me to the feet.
I stumbled as the faceless soldier dragged me along. I glanced over my shoulder at Candace who, instead of being ashamed and chagrined like me, was just grinning wildly as another soldier pulled her along. She saw me watching and asked, "Do you have the bread?"
Numbly I held out the squished and mangled package. My little contribution to the war effort.
Candace just smiled. "Good girl."
"What were you thinking," I said back and she beamed.
"I was thinking that I had to do something. Maybe I have a little of that warrior blood in me."
"Women can't be warriors."
"Maybe I'll be the first."
And I did so admire her then. My big sister—who, even if for a brief moment, was a warrior queen. I stared at her, wanting so desperately to be like her. I couldn't wait for the day when I would come into my power—to Awaken. I'll be just like you, I promised to myself. I would be adventurous and exciting and maybe even a little bit wild—all I would have to do is wait until I Awoke.
But I never really got that chance. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, down the road less traveled. I never got to be that girl.
And that nameless Vampire certainly was not the last one I would ever meet.