I am very, very tentatively back. Nanowrimo, though, so maybe not really back yet.

I am woken from my nightmare by a soft brush against my mind, so far from the sharp twisting pain of just a few mornings ago that I wonder at the fact that it is the same person to wake me.

He leaves my mind with the simple thought that You will find me once you are free and I forget all images of blizzard and lolling tongues and grasping hands and scarlet pain at the words he chose.

He said free.

My Master used that word, when there were a million other ways to give me the order.

It sends a chill down my spine like there is a demon on my shoulder, but it is not quite only of fear – it might also be a thrill of something closer to excitement, down below my logical side. Diana looks at me with a bitter twisted smile because she knows what I am thinking because we can't pour everything in us out for our Masters and not gain something – some affection – of them in return.

"There was blood, and wolves, and frigid cold freezing the life out of me."

I sit up, facing her with an expression on my face that betrays just how much I need to have someone with whom I can talk.

Diana turns more slowly towards me, not as eager as I am to discuss our dreams, and that is the first indication I have that something happened to her yesterday while we were both asleep.

"He came to me," is her response, in a voice just a bit too strong to be true, a very good attempt at masking just how small she feels. She is trying to keep her pain hidden, and if I hadn't lived for too long doing the same thing then she would have succeeded in doing so.

As it is, I recognize the farce and let her keep it up because some things are just not anyone's place to do, and tearing down a wall like the one she has built is one of them.

"What happened?" I am quiet in my question, curious but trying not to pry because, firstly, it shouldn't be anyone's business but her own what horrors she has in her dreams, and secondly, there are some things that I'm better off not knowing.

But then again, some things just need to be shared. She looks at me with pale eyes burning with an eternity of horrors, and her nightmare spills from her lips like eloquent acid. It seems that, unlike me, Diana has been cursed with a perfect memory for what she dreams.

By the end of her tale, my short fingernails have gouged crescents in my palms, fingertips wet with blood to keep my mind off of the things a sadist does when no one can hear his victim's screams.

I have begun to think that he chose her not only for her beauty and her innocence and her goodness, but also for her uncanny ability to keep silent through the night; she has not woken me with any screams, even when I was in a light, restless nightmare sleep.

"He tells me that dreams offer a perfection of his own desires. He can do whatever he wants, and it will not show at dusk."

"I have never had a master who could manipulate dreams," I say, my mind turning to wonder on this strange ability.

It must be related to the Telepathy and mind-wiping practices of many elder vampires, but if so then why has Master Rakis never used it? Perhaps he could not be bothered with such an insignificant human as I, but despite all my insignificance he has chosen to bring me along in his escape from his estate, so something about me must be more important than I had known.

Perhaps he does not even have the power.

"Master tells me that we are connected beyond fate. He says that he would always have found me, eventually, because we belong to each other." The beautiful girl's confession is shaken and disturbed and far beyond horrifying, but she continues without wavering, "I believe that is why he can manipulate my dreams."

Suddenly I am sure that I never, ever want to experience this with Master Rakis.

The dawn creeps in past the curtains of this room, but even though Diana is asleep in the bed next to mine, I cannot find it within myself to doze off.

Too much runs through my mind – stories from Terra that the beautiful girl had told me to pass the time, thoughts of Ellon's dream-power, concerns about this new existence in a realm where I can be free, fears about freedom after so much slavery.

I have not had any liberty for ten years, since before I had been quite aware of myself. I was not even past my eighth year when Sagris became my home – I have no real recollection of anything before the vampires and the slavery.

What am I going to do?

Find me, is the answer, in the back of my mind, in the strengthening light of the morning.

I get out of the bed and walk over to the windowsill, placing one hand in the sun there. My skin is pale, almost translucent, having never seen sunlight in all my years as a slave. My various masters never put me to work in the fields; I was always too delicious to waste on labor.

I can see blue veins under the skin, like lines in marble.

Fascinated, I stand there for long minutes, watching the light play over my pale hand, relishing in the freedom to forgo sleep for such a novelty. The sun reveals that although I may be unhealthily pale, I am not sickly – the veins might show through my flesh, but my hands show evidence of long years of work and survival.

I have survived.

The realization brings a startled laugh to my lips, though it does not quite make its way out into the stillness of the room.

I have survived Sagris; I have survived vampires and masters and feeding and perversion.

But, watching my hand under the sun, I grow somber, because I might have survived it, but it has been all I have ever known. Growing in such an environment has surely twisted me, and now that we are here, on Terra, I might just find out how bad it has gotten.

I don't know who I am without the vampires to define me – I have been a slave for so long that I have forgotten who I am without that.

The sun is uncomfortably bright now, and I withdraw my hand to return to the strangely comfortable bed.

Yes, I promise that demon voice, because I am just a human and he has claimed me and when a vampire orders a slave must obey and who would I be without him, anyway?

So, I hope you enjoyed that. I am feeling out this story again...but I cannot in good faith make any promises.

I'd like to thank all my readers, especially those who reviewed (even though I'm trash at updating).

Responding to reviewers...

Alieraisu - My dear faithful reviewer, I cannot express my gratitude deeply enough. First of all, congratulations on getting married. That is wonderful news, and I wish you all the best (even though I'm just a wee bit late). Also, to answer your question from July, I removed Faere from this site because I have re-imagined it and it is coming along quite a bit better than it was before. "Regina" is actually the first part of that re-write, starring Ilken and his first wife. Anyway, thank you for being so wonderful, and I'm sorry I haven't been very faithful to these stories.

- Thank you for your reviews, and especially for your insights. I'm so very sorry I haven't updated since January, but I hope you might be willing to be patient with me (and if not, then I hope you might forgive me for my lapses in interest). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Vorpalfox - Thanks for your interest! And, of course, I'm sorry for the hiatus. I only got back to thinking about this story because I have so many other things to do that I wanted something mindless for procrastination purposes...so we shall see how that goes.

XAbsoluteZeroX - I must be honest here and admit that I haven't yet found the time to read your latest update. Whoops. As soon as Christmas break rolls around, I shall sit and read and write you a very nice, long review. Promise. Anyway, thank you for your review, and for your specific comments about the chapter - they are always very intriguing, since I love to see how people react to the plot that I am way too familiar with. Thanks for all your commendations, and thanks for reviewing!

sunskrat - I am beyond sorry that I've left this story to go fallow - and for making you wait so long for an update. I hope you have checked back in to see this latest chapter, and I hope it lives up even slightly to expectations. I shall try to at least finish this story, since I know how horrible it is to read an unfinished story and be left waiting for something that will never happen - I promise that, eventually, Erane and Rakis will get their ending. Happy or not, we shall see ;)

Thank you to everyone who read, and I hope you all enjoyed.

Review, if you'd like. They do keep me very motivated - I would probably delete this story entirely if I didn't hear people telling me what they think about it, keeping me motivated.

Love you all!

~ TheAlabasterPhoenyx