two deleted sections squished together with the sadly omitted Jeremy, because Aurelie hates vampires
My eyes had drifted to the doorway. I could see past Anne into the darkened hall. The servants hadn't bothered leaving the hall lamps lit, and so the only light source was the open door. Beyond it everything was shadows. But one large lump of shadows looked darker. I got to my feet. It was distinctly darker, and person shaped, and moving slightly. Anne glanced over her shoulder.
"Oh. Ignore him, he's just lurking for fun."
I turned around and picked a sword up off the mantelpiece. It was moderately ancient, the relic of some battle one of my great-great-great grandfathers had won. But it was kept well-oiled and slid from its sheath nicely. I didn't need her to say any more, I knew what that dark shadow was. I couldn't call myself a sorceress if I couldn't recognize the basic sentient species and there is really only one creature that can lounge in darkness like that. I recognized this member of the vampire species in particular. He was something like Anne's pet, though he resented the term. Theoretically, he stuck so close to her because she protected him from hunters, by threatening them with hexes and shrubberies if they tried to behead him. Why she put up with him was completely beyond me.
"I just don't understand why you don't leave it in the graveyard where you found it," I said as I moved towards the door, the sword bright with reflected lamplight.
I stopped several feet from the doorway as the dark shape grew a little less dark and came into focus. He stepped into the room, twirling a walking stick and looking bored. I've read that they always look bored, except when they strike. It lulls you into a sense of security because nothing so apathetic could be dangerous, right? And then you were bleeding from the neck.
He was fine if you liked pale, thin men with night black hair and the tendency to loom suddenly instead of approaching like a normal person. I don't. Vampires tended to be more entrancing than actually handsome; it was just their confident air, and of course their magic. It's all about disguise and misdirection and hypnotism and it strikes all the wrong chords when you're human and you know magic, because you know it was designed specifically to lure and ensnare you. You feel uneasy even before you see them, and then when you do you're afraid to make direct eye contact, because you know they have spells ready just for that. They are like the monstrous hypnotoads of the deepest jungles of the Wolf Continent; gazing into their eyes immobilizes their prey and they can snatch the poor sods up at their toady leisure.
The vampire and I don't get along.
"I didn't find him in a graveyard," Anne snorted.
"Well then how exactly did you end up with a vampire?" I had never managed to get a straight answer from her on this point and the vampire was too embarrassed to say.
"I saved him from hunters," Anne said in a distant voice meant to make the listener feel slightly uneasy. "They'd set traps down by the east wall, which they're certainly not allowed to do."
"Traps?" I asked, wondering just what kind of snare you set for a vampire.
"Drugged humans and a big sack," the vampire said in his lazy drawl. "I stopped to offer assistance."
"Oh, I'm sure you did."
"They attacked him! He hadn't done anything and four men leapt out of the bushes with sacks and pikes."
Anne shuddered. Ever since she had had that unfortunate encounter with the flesh-eating shrubbery she had a very focused hatred of anything remotely shrub shaped. The idea of hiding in bushes was one she could barely get her head around; when she saw the things her first impulse was always to set them on fire.
"And you came to his rescue?" I asked, wonder just what could have prompted such altruism.
"I set the bushes on fire," she said with wide, innocent eyes. Then, catching my look they narrowed quickly. "They moved and it was dark. Those men were lucky I only set them on fire." And sadly that was true.
"They ran off screaming," the vampire said with apparent relish; he hardly drawled when he said it.
"And you've been following her around ever since?"
The look that vampire gave me at that moment told me far more than the rest of the conversation had. It told me quite plainly that the following had not been his idea, that he was not very pleased by it, and that, for some reason he did not understand, he kept doing it anyway. I could have almost felt sorry for the bloodsucker, had he not been, as it were, a bloodsucker.
Leeches could have been another apt comparison, except people recognize leeches for what they are when they see them. And then even though he was wearing long pants and a tall hat no one on the street would know him for what he was. Long pants! It was as if he was advertising, which was silly as the laws about hunting magical creatures had never been repealed.
"I thought you would get along," Anne proclaimed, apparently oblivious to our glaring contest.
"Famously," he drawled in a lazy voice that was almost worse than an elderly lord's 'withering disdain' voice.
"Yes, like cats and rats."
"Rats with swords," the vampire commented, and I shifted my grip on the hilt slightly.
"No, rats with pointy teeth and cats with swords."
He looked faintly amused at my expense for a moment, before the way the candlelight reflected off the naked blade caught his attention. It was suddenly a few inches closer than it had been a second before.
"Nasty, bloodsucking, parasitic rats; there's a reward for their skins too."
He gave me a look which said quite plainly: I don't like you either. I appreciate that kind of honesty in a monster. At least you know where you stand, and hopefully where the nearest sword is.
"It's not as if your meals are free of bloodshed."
"The things I eat don't say "no thank you, could I have my neck back please?""
"No, but they don't walk away from your plate either, do they?" he demanded. "And they're probably screaming 'please no!' only you can't understand them, or you wouldn't if you got your food yourself."
My grip tightened on the sword while Anne rolled her eyes.
"The two of you need to focus on what's important."
"And what would that be?" I demanded.
"Helping me decide what to get my brothers for Midsummer. I was thinking something that bursts into flames or a dangerous animal."
"Animal, definitely," the vampire said with a wave of his hand. "I know where you can get a dragr."
"You would know where to get ghouls. I think you should get them those cursed hats we saw last week."