'Dancing bears, painted wings…
Things I almost remember.
And a song, someone sings…
Once upon a December.
Someone holds me safe and warm,
Horses prance through a silver storm.
Figures dancing gracefully…
Across my memory…

Far away, long ago…
Glowing dim as an ember.
Things my heart use to know…
Things it yearns to remember.
And a song…
Someone sings…
Once
Upon…
A December….'

In my imagination, I'm in a grand ball. Really, I'm meditating and this is my day-dream. I stand in the middle of the ballroom, numerous people dancing around me. All with a partner. All except me.

I try to move between the dancers, trying to reach the wall of the ballroom, but it always seems to stay the same. Like I'm forever trapped in the middle alone. Why am I alone? "Why am I alone?" I call out to the people around me, but they ignore me. It's like I'm a ghost, a phantom… A shadow…

Blackness overtakes me and the beautiful lullaby continues to waltz gracefully around my mind as I slowly rise out of the deep waters of my meditation. A hand rubs my right leg gently. "Thorn. Thorn, wake up." Daryk asks softly. "We are here and everyone is waiting inside. Please wake up thorn." He rubs a little harder, trying to wake me.

Agitated, I stir and open my eyes, blinking as the cruel world we call real life comes back into focus. It's almost twilight, the sun a wild red-orange, with a soft gold trimming the edges of the red, like a banner of war. I groan and bury my face into the back of Daryk's neck. "You screwed up my meditation." I growl angrily. He laughs out loud, amused with my irritability. He sets me down slowly, carefully, as if handling a sensitive child. "My thorn seems to have mastered the art of meditation. I wonder if she will teach me." he chuckles to himself as I straighten my outfit. I take a deep breath and look at Daryk, my eyes glaring but my face blank. "Are we going in?" I gesture towards what I now see is a giant, massive mansion surrounded with thick, tall trees. Thick wines, bushes, and smaller trees cover the mansion, which looks more like a one-building boarding school. If it wasn't for all the green, you'd be able to see that the whole outer building is covered in dark paneled wood with ancient mahogany trim. The style is medieval Victorian with a European vibe to it. I cock my head to the side slightly, my interest held wholly on the building. I take an involuntary step towards it. It's like it wants me to come inside. Like it wants to welcome me… welcome… me… welcome…

Welcome home…

My eyes go wide with fear and shock, but I quickly compose myself before Daryk notices. Daryk studies me for a minute, then bows and holds out his hand as if to ask me to dance. I stare at it for a moment, like it's something new and different that I've never seen before. Curiously, I place my hand over the cool, smooth one before me.

Daryk smiles and pulls me to him, wrapping a strong, steady arm around my waist as he leads us up the front stairs and onto the porch. A soft fall wind chills me, startling me from my daze and the laughing breeze caresses my face as gently as rose petals. My face hardens into a stony boredom as Daryk opens the door in a graceful flourish.

The inside is dark, I see nothing but shadows. And I swear, some of them are actually moving. We enter slowly, and my mind whirls with different techniques that I could use if this is all a trap. A girl… Yes, a young girl… She looks tempting… Who is she, is the question…

these whispers of the dark float to me as Daryk leads me into the forbidden-feeling house. "Mother, Father, brothers, sisters, family. I bring you Melissa Ravyn Thorn, our future Queen." Hisses lace through the blackness at this. Damn, he must be either really brave, or really stupid. I think to myself with approval as I look around. My are just starting to adjust when a bright light comes on, blinding me for a moment. I blink rapidly and stifle a gasp of shock and dread as I come to see what is really around me.

Vampires.

Everywhere I look, a different pale face is peering at me curiously, hungrily. Ignoring the driven-in instinct to slay every last one of the, I keep my face impassive and I pull my hand from Daryk's and cross my arms across my chest. I meet each gaze steadily, holding it until they look or flinch away from my glare. They all have a dark, pulsing aura like Daryk's and all of them have intense purple eyes. "I'm guessing this is the welcome committee." I mutter just loud enough to be heard by Daryk. He gives a confused smile and scratches his head in that way you do when you're thinking. "Please, just give me a minute." He murmurs only to me before stepping forward. "I have return Father, Mother." He bows to the couple dressed in gold; to both individuals separately. The woman cocks her head slightly to one side and looks at me thoughtfully with a vibe of open curiosity and wonder. The man, on the other hand, stares at me with scrutiny, and he feels like a coiled snake; just waiting to bite at whomever tries to harm him or his family. "Daryk, when were you going to tell us Miss Thorn had arrived in Woodsville?" he demands in a voice like a glacier moving over gravel. He looks at Daryk's bare chest with disdain. "And where is you shirt?" he hisses angrily and his eyes flash red. "Well, I did tell you yesterday, but you insisted on meeting her. So I brought her to you." Daryk explains hastily. So nobody knew we were coming… I smile slyly in my mind. And THAT, my friends, is an utterly rare beyond rare sight, even if it's in my mind only. Gives him a dangerous feel. Cute, smart, dangerous…

I pull myself out of my mental contemplation as I try to listen to Daryk and his father speak in hushed, low voices in Romanian, but there are even levels of vampire whispers that even an experienced Hunter cannot hear. The other vampires watch me closely, engrossed in my every movement no matter how slight. A delightful morsel… Has Prince Daryk brought us a snack? My mind goes to full alert at hearing these slight whispers. Is Daryk really a Prince? More importantly, is he the Prince? They're all hungry, this I can feel. I tense slightly, ready to fight to the death if necessary.

"Oh, do not be so ridiculous." a familiar voice says as Marissa pushes her way through the thick ring of creepy vampires. "Honestly, someone would think that you are all going to eat her." Marissa gives me a welcoming smile. "Hello, Raven. It is nice to see you again." she comes forward and hugs me tightly but carefully, like before, to avoid crushing her bulging belly. "It's good to see you too, Marissa." I hug her back awkwardly, stiffly until she pulls away and beams at me. "You are just in time. Tonight is the full moon and we were just about to celebrate with a feast." I freeze, but Marissa keeps talking, walking around me and looking off into space. "And now you can meet my husband and participate with us, that is, if you don't have to be back any-… Is something wrong?" Marissa stops walking and looks at me. Even Daryk and his father have stopped talking and are studying me closely.

"Tonight's the full moon." I repeat in a strained voice. Marissa nods slowly. "Yes, but I don't see-" I hold up a finger, cutting her off as I think furiously, my mind whirling with thoughts. Not tonight. I scream mentally. It can't be tonight! "Tonight is the blue harvest moon." I whisper. I look up at Daryk. "I have to leave." I conclude solemnly.

"But- but you just got here." he protests. "You can not leave now." he pleads slightly as he takes a step towards me. I look at him exasperatingly. "It's the blue harvest moon." I point east to where the moon should be rising. "I have an important rite to perform tonight and I don't have my things to do it here." I practically shout in frustration. I've never missed a celebration of any kind. Daryk looks at me steadily. "What is it that you require?" he asks solemnly. I give him an 'are-you-fucking-kidding-me' look. "My wand, robe, and five symbols representing the five elements: air, fire, water, earth, and spirit. And if I don't get home, like, right now, I'm going to have hell to pay for." I yell angrily. It's then that I feel it; the ancient, boundless power pulsing from deep within the earth beneath my feet. My eyes flutter close as I hesitantly reach out with my mind towards the unbearably strong force. It shies away, so I coax it gently. I need to get home. I tell it gently. Please help me get home.

As if it heard me, the power surges over me, bathing me in a bright, florescent black light.