DISCLAIMERS: See Part 1

 

FIUR and VLAMME

 

present

 

CHRONICLES OF DARKNESS

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BOOK ONE

SHADOWS AND DUST

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CHAPTER SIX

 

TEMPLE OF PAIN

 

 

 

 

Furiously, the wind rattled on the wooden, closed shutters, as if demanding entry to the highest tower of the Transsylvanian castle. But the shutters stayed locked and the impenetrable darkness still ruled over the meagerly furnished room behind the castle's thick walls. There was nothing in this tower chamber but a bit of moldy straw on the stone floor and a hatch, which led to a narrow spiral staircase and the castle's interior.

Wrapped in a ripped, gray sheet, Sadden lay on her back on the clammy straw and awoke from the harsh sounds of the wind. With great effort she managed to open her tired eyes and stared into the darkness that surrounded her. Her hair, which usually fell across her back in silky waves now stuck to her sweat-soaked body in wet strands. It was nearly impossible for her to speak because she had trouble opening her chapped, dry lips. A hoarse sound came from her chest that slowly formed to a voice, which whispered soundlessly, "How much time has gone by? Well, not enough to free me from my guilt, but enough to drive me to the edge of absolute madness."

Gathering all her strength Sadden tried to move but her limbs didn't exactly follow her wishes. Her face a mask of pain, and with her lower arms supporting her body she crawled across the bare floor until she reached the hatch. With the last of her strength the vampire grabbed the big, iron ring and pulled with all her might and flung it open so the wooden trapdoor burst into tiny pieces as it connected with the stone floor. The shine of torches that illuminated the staircase hurt her eyes for a moment, and she closed them tightly. "Help me...oh please...why are you not at my side? I am coming to you, my beloved..." Exhausted Sadden sank down, near the opening and once more fell into an uneasy slumber.

 

*****

 

Whistling a happy song Andrej came up the stairs and went on his way through a long corridor, across the court and towards the castle's main building. From time to time he looked at the painting he held in his hands. "Yes, this creation of the colors of the wood that are reflected by the lake is perfect, even though I had to hurry to make use of the day's last light."

Happy and contented he looked around. "The sunset glow is the most beautiful light of the day but now the night has wrapped its arms around the world again." Then he added, "Seems we are getting quite a windy night."

He turned back to his picture, regarding his work proudly. "Hmm, the oil color has not dried completely; I guess I will make a frame for my newest landscape picture."

As he took the steps to his workshop his ears picked up unusual sounds that drifted through the quiet of the castle walls. His heart jumped in excitement and he asked himself, "Has Sadden returned from her chosen banishment?"

Andrej put the painting aside and hurried in direction of the music. "But, since when is she playing the piano? Her favorite instrument is the..." He grew silent as the perfect music became louder and took hold of him. Andrej leaned against the corridor's wall, not realizing as the stone's coldness slowly slipped under his clothes. He listened carefully and closed his eyes. A heart-gripping longing had been woven into this strange melody, touching him deeply inside, while his heart was sized by an unbearable, sensual sadness.

Andrej opened the curtain to the music room and began, "Sadden, you are playing more wonderful..." Dismayed he looked to the piano and recognized Lilith, who looked up and was also surprised.

For a tiny moment Andrej thought there was more in her eyes than the usual arrogance, but the old fire of hostility returned soon enough. "It is not Sadden, who's playing!"

Before Andrej could form an answer Lilith continued, "Don't try to deny it. I can feel that you were attracted by the music."

Angry, he avoided her gaze and replied stiffly, "Like you said, I was attracted by the music. Now that you are finally awake, we can begin with another lesson in nature."

Shortly, Lilith glanced at the black and white keys, then she rose to walk over to the young man. In size she came barely up to Andrej's shoulders but her aggressiveness was greater than his. After she reached him, she paused a moment to size him up and then said harshly, "How much longer do you want to stand around here looking stupid? I don't have all night!"

The vampire left the music room and Andrej sent a small prayer to the heavens. His good mood was blown away and gritting his teeth he grumbled, "Oh yeah! It is always such a pleasure to have to spend the night with you!" Then he turned to follow her outside.

Together they left the castle, walking through the big gate while trying very hard not to notice the other's presence. Finally they disappeared as tiny black dots into the woods as the storm ripped dangerously at the trees.

 

*****

 

At the same time Sadden's eyelids weakly fluttered open, and searching for comfort a pair of blue eyes looked around in the dark chamber. It was cold and drafty and the only sound Sadden could hear was the continuing whistling of the wind.

With her tongue she wetted her chapped lips and called hoarsely, "HELLO? Is there anybody who can hear me? I'm too weak..." But only loneliness answered her, as her plea fell on the stony wall's deaf ears. Tears ran down her pale cheeks while she sat up.

"Where are you?" Sadden touched her index finger to her cheek, collecting a lone tear. Melancholy, she regarded the insignificant, little drop and guided it to her lips. "Salty, like the sea. Salt in my wounds...I will come down to you," she hopefully called down the stairs, her voice echoed by the walls.

Determined she wrapped the gray linen more firmly around herself and slid through the trapdoor to the first step of the spiral staircase. Faced with the unexpected strain her legs buckled and she heavily fell to her knees. She managed to rise again and gripped the banisters for support. Slowly and carefully Sadden made her way down the tiny, well-worn stairs.

Seemingly aimless Sadden wandered through the labyrinth of corridors of the castle. Again and again she fell to her knee s as her strength gave out only to get up again and stumble on. Often she grew dizzy and the way in front of her would become blurry . Sadden wavered; hit ting walls until her bare shoulders and arms were covered with bruises and lacerations. Finally she came upon what seemed to be a dead end. The corridor's floor was covered with a well-worn carpet. Eternal candles were burning inside small niches and led the way to a bare, gray wall. Purposefully, Sadden went to the bare wall and paused in front of it. The weakened vampire closed her eyes, gathered her thoughts and after a time she became calm.

Imperceptibly , Sadden came off the floor, not even the tips of her toes were touching the ground anymore. Then she opened her eyes and turned them to the vaulted ceiling. Directly above her was a palm-sized symbol made of stone, showing the full moon. Sadden stretched and the cloth slipped from her naked body and fell to the ground. By now the vampire was floating about four meters above the floor and with her flat hand she pressed the moon, activating an ancient mechanism. Having reached the last of her strength Sadden nearly fell as she slowly floated back down to the carpet. In the place of the dead end was now the entry to a hidden room. Sadden walked inside, not wasting a thought on the cloth that lay on the ground or to cover her nakedness.

The wall closed behind her and the vampire found herself in a high, circular room. Moonlight streamed through the ceiling's window. In front of the opposite wall stood a group of statues that had been made of pure, white alabaster and carefully Sadden made her way towards them. Her fingers trembled as she reached for them and at the end of her strength she fell to her knees, exhausted. Filled with love her voice sounded in this seclusion, her own, private sanctuary. "Lisander... Amitabha... my beloved family..."

Her piercing blue eyes were fixed to the group of figures, endless love shining from their depths. The life-size statues had been reproduced in great detail and anyone who was to look at them would think these figures were only dreaming and could awake at any moment. The group of three statues was dominated by a majestical man, whose longing gaze rested on his mate. One arm was wrapped around his partner's waist, the other rested loosely on his side. Sparkling emeralds were in the place of his eyes and a soft smile curled the corners of his mouth. His adored woman was covered with elegant clothes of Babylon, and she wore real jewelry of fine gems around her neck. She was young in years, but unmistakable was her wavy hair and her chiseled features. It was no other but Lady Sadden D'Azoon herself. Pure sapphires sparkled in place of her big blue eyes, her cheerful gaze on the bundle in her arms. A peacefully slumbering baby lay there, protected by her hands.

Sadden gave vent to her feelings. "I miss you two, so much. Just as much as the first day you were taken from me. The pain is torturing me every second of every night since your horrible death in the flames."

Sorrowful and begging for relief from her pain Sadden gazed at the likeness of her loved ones, but only ghostly silence answered her pleas.

"Time is not healing my wounds... I will never forget... your voices are screaming in my mind, echoes of a time long gone by... but still, I can hear them... just as I still hear the cries of my victims after I took my bloody vengeance ."

The vampire rose and leaned on her mate Lisander while her eyes were firmly fixed at the statue of her precious, little daughter. Sadden rubbed her silky cheek against Lisander's stiff arm, feeling revived by the stone's smooth coldness against her soft skin. She kept that position for a long time and then she began to sing,

 

"How pale your love is sparkling in the risen moon...

Your love for me...

Your images so gentle...

You are frozen inside them...

Trapped there for eternity...

Only your silences are talking to me...

In the realm of my fantasies your lives would be eternal...

Always visible to me, always present, always torturing...

To you I am pulled, it is a smothering feeling, every night...

Lonely, I wait for the passage to cross over, to return to your loving arms..."

 

Tears of never ending sadness ran down Sadden's pale skin and sobbing she sank down, covering her face with her hands. Then she looked up into Lisander's emeralds and spoke haltingly, "It is my indelible fate to continue living until... tell me, my soulmate... Is there an intended purpose, which forces me to still walk this earth?... Alone..."

 

*****

 

Meanwhile, a calm, young man and a fiercely tempered female vampire were doing their best to keep up their relationship of 'not liking each other'.

"Why do you always have this gun with you?" Lilith asked straight out.

Andrej looked down at the weapon in his hands. "There are a lot of wild animals around here, and I want to be prepared if..."

"So, wild animals hmm? You know that I am immune to these weapons, right?" she re s ponded sarcastically .

The young man threw the weapon from one hand to the other, smiling provokingly, "Why are you thinking that I am talking about you, Lilith?"

Slightly offended the vampire didn't answer and so they continued their way through the forest, silently.

Some time later and deeper inside the woods, Lilith's sharp gaze found something beneath some dry twigs and curious she went to retrieve it.

And now Andrej saw what she had found. "Careful! It's a trap to catch wild animals." His searching eyes scanned the ground. "There are some more, probably. I'm quite sure it's not the only one around here."

With great caution Lilith scrutinized the device, carefully removing the twigs and some old leaves. The trap was the size of a plate and made of iron, with sharp teeth around the edges.

Andrej stood next to Lilith and bent down. "If the animal steps on this tiny button in the middle, the iron teeth will snap close and pierce themselves forcefully through the flesh down to the bone. Look." He picked up a stick from the ground and placed it into the middle of the trap. Immediately, the trap snapped shut with such power that bits of bark came loose from the stick.

Resignedly, Andrej mentioned, "The trap catches the animal alive, but after a time it will perish painfully. Unfortunately it is common practice to hunt with these."

Great fury rose in Lilith, but she kept her face expressionless, not wanting the man to know. Without comment she strode over the trap and went on her way, followed by Andrej.

 

 

After awhile they arrived at a lake. It was smaller than the one in which Sadden's castle had been built on top of the emerging rocks. Besides that, this lake was far clearer than the murky, dark depths of the waters that surrounded the castle.

Andrej stared at the calm surface from w h ich the moon was reflected until he had gathered the courage to talk with Lilith, who seemed to be in a somewhat sociable mood. Embarrassed he cleared his throat. "I've been meaning to ask you something for a long time now."

Lilith was relaxed. She even smiled a bit. "Ask away... I won't bite."

Not calmed in the slightest Andrej managed, "I would like to know... uh... what is the most horrible death a vampire can have?"

Anxiously he waited for Lilith's reaction and for the first time he saw traces of fear.

Suspiciously the vampire wrinkled her forehead, "What a strange question. It doesn't have anything to do with a sudden, unpredictable decease of my person, does it?"

When Andrej didn't laugh she realized that he was very serious about this matter. Lilith regarded his face, which was cast in shadows, but by the expression of his eyes she could see the reason for his question. "Sadden, it is about her, isn't it? And you are asking me because you can't ask her. Interesting. You think she is in some kind danger?" she said, as if talking to herself.

"Lilith, please, my motives are of no meaning," he urged impatiently.

The vampire sighed and answered in a soft tone, which Andrej had never heard her use before. "The most horrible death for a vampire is... suicide."

After this explanation, Andrej's face reflected wonder and disillusionment.

Unimpressed, Lilith squatted beside the lake and stirred the water with her fingertips. Then she laughed quietly. "Frankly spoken you seem to be... disappointed. My answer didn't meet your high expectations. I am sure you thought about a very brutal and bloody racket."

His thoughts still tumbling with shock from the simple dissolution he tried to explain his reaction, "It's just... I mean... sure, in religion suicide means you don't go to heaven but to hell, but for vampires..."

Lilith groaned at his ignorance. "It seems I have to go into details for you, so you will understand. For vampires this matter is not as easy as for humans. I can only talk about this from the view of us, who were born as vampires and are of pure blood and members of the big clans. We were made for immortality and we can't get rid of this destiny no matter how we fill our existence. It is not for us to choose how our end will be sealed, or if there will be an end at all."

"Yes," Andrej threw in, vividly, "But I don't see a difference to the suicide of a human there... except immortality, of course."

The man felt Lilith's piercing gaze and retreated some steps as she whispered in a dangerous voice, "It's the pain! The unbearable, horrible pain, that is suffered and which everyone fears! It's an insidious death, where the body is eaten from the inside out, as if from a parasite. The conscience dwindles and madness conquers the mind in a slow process. The guts are practically burning and the bones are rubbing against each other, until there is nothing left of a once flawless body but a small heap of burnt ash."

Andrej was shocked. "How can you know that? You have never been through such a situation, so I don't think you can be judge of that!"

Absent-minded Lilith's gaze drifted over the calm lake's surface as she kept talking in a trembling voice, "You don't need to hope that it isn't so. Once I experienced this desperate torture with my own body, because you forget that we vampires are connected with each other at a level you humans are forsaken. I could feel the horrible pain of a vampire who was killing himself. It was such a feeling of humiliation, dying this agonizing, slow death. In this moment I lost all my powers and I felt a big lump growing in my throat." As if reliving the moment Lilith absently rubbed her throat. "But the most terrible thing were the blood curling screams of death... Those, you can never forget... they are forever etched into the memories."

Andrej kept silent, trying to swallow down what he had just heard. He thought he saw a tear running down Lilith's cheek, but that could have been a deception.

Her voice brought the shaken man back from his thoughts. "Now, do you understand that Sadden would never, ever attempt suicide? At least, no vampire with a clear mind would do that," Lilith finished.

Angrily , Andrej asked, "What are you trying to suggest here?"

"She has not shown herself for weeks... and I know that she loves you humans." Her sizing gaze fell on Andrej, who stood in the shadows of the trees. "She is not normal, and there goes no drop of fresh blood over her lips... in all that time gone by... that's impossible... but maybe... Sadden is keeping a secret, I don't know anything about, yet. But, it's only a matter of time until I find out what's going on."

"Don't you dare go creeping around here! And keep from speculating on things in Sadden's presence!" Andrej threatened. Then, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves and said, "Well, we should go back to the castle. The night will be over soon."

The vampire left it at that and without any protest she followed him.

 

 

On their way back the young man and Lilith had another argument. In Andrej's opinion the vampire should pay respect to humans just as she herself expected to get from them. "You also want to be respected by me, correct?"

Lilith balanced across a fallen beech tree and said, matter-of-factly, "Don't worry; I have no problems tolerating you."

While the young man considered if this answer was some kind of truce, Lilith continued, "Don't think much of it. I've just gotten used to your presence, that's all. That doesn't mean I like you, or anything."

"Right back at you," Andrej retorted, a bit miffed that she could read him so easy.

The vampire wanted to answer, but then she hesitated and pointed her ears to the darkness of the wood, listening carefully. "The howls of the wolves are closer than ever before," she said.

Unperturbed, Andrej continued walking; the grip around his gun became firmer. "If that is all, it's nothing unusual. Now that autumn has begun the packs come down from the mountains to hunt."

"They are suffering," Lilith lamented.

"What did you just say? Sounds to me as if you are feeling sorry for these animals...oh ...yeah... of course, how could I forget about the kinship between the both of you," Andrej finished his sentence mockingly.

Her eyes flashed at him dangerously, and then the vampire answered afraid, "They are crying to each other for help!"

Surprised Andrej looked into her eyes and saw the immortal fire there turn to deep green, human eyes that compared to clear stones of jade. That hit him unprepared and stunned he tried to catch himself, only to blurt astonished, "You can understand the wolves?"

Instead of answering, Lilith asked a question of her own. "What has them so scared?"

Andrej replied seriously, "The hunters, of course. Remember the traps we found?"

Now the vampire was stunned. "The wolves are hunted?"

"Who do you think was being hunted?" the young man asked in wonder.

"But why?" she spat, furiously.

"People are scared of the wolves," Andrej explained, calmly.

"Humans are scared of everyone and everything!" Lilith returned, arrogantly. "But that is no excuse for setting up those terrible traps!"

"At the beginning of each autumn people call the hunters to Ardeal so they will protect them from the packs during the winter, because they believe that the hungry wolves are a danger for the inhabitants and their animals."

"For protection?" Lilith managed to say, scornfully.

"They pay the men for each wolf pelt ," Andrej finished, quietly.

Lilith didn't say a word, just stared at him before she exploded, "BEASTS! I knew it! You humans are disgusting creatures!" The old fire returned to her and the thoughts whirled in her mind.

"I don't like this tone in your voice. There is something going on in your head, I can see that in your eyes. What are you intending to do?" the man asked concerned.

"I want retaliation. An eye for an eye," Lilith replied determinded.

"But... you want... you don't want to kill the hunters, right? I can't let you do that," Andrej stammered, nervously.

"ME? I don't want to get my fingers dirty with that disgusting bunch. No, we vampires don't kill because we are in a mood. We kill so we and our families can survive. No, I only want to teach them what it feels like to step into such a barbaric trap... A lesson they won't forget!"

"What? I don't understand what you mean." But an evil thought was already on his mind.

"You don't have to understand. I will show these men the pain of the poor animals." That said she disappeared between the trees that whispered to each other in the night wind.

Worried Andrej looked after her. "For a short time there was a spark of humanity inside her. And now I am frightened to think about what she intends to do." He paused, then decided, "It won't do anything good to follow her to the hunter's camp. She is going to be there faster than I could search for it. It will be best if I return to the castle and tell Sadden... oh no, that is not possible as long as Sadden... "Andrej didn't finish his sentence but went back to the castle. Alone.

 

*****

 

After having sat with the statues of her family for awhile, Sadden felt a bit better and her mind that was fuzzy from the long time of abstinence began to clear somewhat. Shocked she looked down at herself, "Have I overdone it this time?"

Sadden stretched out her hands and disbelieving turned them from one side to the other. "My skin is starting to disintegrate. I have to quench my hunger right now or else my body will die for good and my soul will be lost forever."

Gripping Lisander's statue for support she pulled herself from the ground and cast one last longing gaze at the figures of her lost family. "I love you with all my heart."

Then she slowly made her way to the secret door, opening it as she pushed slightly against the wall. In the corridor she picked up the ripped linen and wrapped it once more tightly around her body. Swaying, the vampire tried to leave the walls. Again and again she stumbled until she reached the castle's inner court. Exhausted she fought her way to the parapet and supported herself on the cold stone. Her desperate gaze found the sky. "The night is nearly over and I am too weak to get out of this castle all by myself. Nobody is here, Andrej and Lilith have to be somewhere out there in the woods. I have to find another way..."

An idea struck her mind and her face brightened a bit. "He is my last hope. My trusty comrade now I need your speed."

Sadden gathered all her strength and walked down the stairs toward an open, wooden gate, the dim light of lanterns visible from the inside. The vampire slipped through and was welcomed with happy neighing. She found herself inside the stable with big stalls on the left and right side of it. Eight horses were already in there but there was enough room for far more animals. Next to the entry was a door to the saddle chamber and a ladder to reach the hayloft. Sadden passed the oven, where Andrej would sometimes do some forging, and walked to the last and biggest stall in the back of the stable.

Sadden's face brightened even more as she looked through the bars.

Snorting and scraping his large hooves the proud, white horse stood there, his coat shining like freshly fallen snow, waiting impatiently for his mistress.

"Stardancer," Sadden breathed happily and entered his stall. "Hello, my darling."

Sadden wanted to gently stroke his muzzle, but the stallion retreated, obviously hurt.

"I know ; I've been neglecting you for too long. Please, forgive me Stardancer. But, I really need your help right now."

In agreement he snorted heavily through his nostrils and butted her gently with his head.

"Thank you." She grabbed his long, silky mane and pulled herself onto his broad back.

High-spirited he threw back his beautiful head, as if urging his mistress to finally leave the confining stable.

A small smile formed on Sadden's lips as her flat hand stroked his shoulder. "Alright, Stardancer. Let's go, the night is awaiting us."

The stallion didn't need to be told that twice and at a fast gallop they rode out of the stable, over the stone bridge and left the dark castle fading in the distance.

 

 

The velvety coat of the galloping stallion gleamed in the moonlight, his shining mane flew in the wind like fine mist and his clear eyes sparkled like black pearls of the ocean. His stomping hooves dug deeply into the soft forest floor while he floated through the night, until Sadden pressed gently with her thighs to make him slow his gait.

For Sadden it was a very strenuous trip and her time was running out.

Gracefully, the white horse pranced sideways , the nervousness of his mistress was apparent to the sensitive stallion. His muscles tensed beneath his velvety coat and his fearful neighing gave sound to his dismay.

"You can feel my desperation. I can not lie to you." Fear was clearly written in Sadden's eyes once more. "Blood... my elixir of life."

 

*****

 

 

Meanwhile Lilith had collected the set up wolf traps and arrived at a small clearing, the camp of the wolf hunters. All in all there were five simple log huts in a circle around a big camp fire ; smoke was still rising from it.

Carefully the vampire strode over the remains of the last party ; beer mugs and empty bottles of cheap wine. The big, gray wolfhounds, which the hunters used to find the wolves, kept resting and were silent in Lilith's presence , no bark or growl left their lips. Smiling, she patted one dog's large head and stroked another's long, shaggy fur. Her smile left the instant she found a wolf hung up between two trees, blood dripping off him and he was still alive.

Shocked she went to the animal and the traps slipped from her fingers. Lilith ran her hands through the wolf's thick, soft coat. There was still a spark of life in the animal's amber colored eyes.

"Your will to survive is very strong ; but now you don't have to fight anymore." Lilith swallowed hard as the wolf's eyes slowly closed and the vampire buried her fingers deeply into the silver-gray fur beneath his head. Filled with pain, she too closed her eyes, bit down on her lip, squeezed with her fingers and released the poor animal from its torture. Then she took of the ropes that bound him and gently lowered the dead wolf to the ground.

Hurt, she turned away from the sight, now more determined than ever to fulfill her plan. Lilith set up the traps right at the entries of the huts. " Vengeance . An eye for an eye, your fair punishment. The pointless death against nature accompanies you humans and will lead you to your destruction one day."

Thinking about the dead wolves made the blood race in Lilith's veins, her pupils turned to a fiery red and with unrestrained fury in her voice she screamed into the night, "YOU SHALL SUFFER BEFORE YOU DIE, JUST AS YOU DESERVE!!!"

Then she retreated.

Hidden by the shadows of the trees the vampire watched the following scene with great delight. Awakened from her outcry, the men, partly still drunk and still sleepy, stumbled from their huts and right into the traps, unprepared.

Horrible screams of pain rang out, increasing Lilith's blood thirst even more.

 

*****

 

Stardancer's ears turned in direction to the camp and nervously the stallion scraped one of his fore hooves across the ground.

"Did you hear something, too? I think I heard a familiar voice." Sadden considered and then with a slight press of her thighs she forced her white horse to follow the ongoing voices in the distance.

 

"Hm, a handsome lad to start my meal," Lilith mentioned, as she saw a scared young man, who was trying to flee in confusion.

"I choose you to quench my blood thirst for tonight," she said and followed him silently.

 

In a safe distance, Sadden stopped her horse and slid off his broad back.

After she had gotten a general idea about what was going on, Lilith returned and a bit surprised she went to her teacher. The young vampire licked some blood from the corner of her lips, enjoying the taste of her last meal.

Devoutly, Sadden's gaze was glued to her protégée's lips, whose pointy eyeteeth returned to their normal size.

Unsure Lilith regarded her teacher, who was covered with bruises and bleeding wounds. And then she realized the critical situation Sadden was in. "The blood of one human won't be enough to regenerate you completely. But I'm sure you already know that."

Sadden sneered in a weak voice, "What are you suggesting? That I shall suck dry the whole camp just for your enjoyment?"

"No, of course not. Drink from me," the young vampire responded with unusual seriousness.

A dumbfounded look from Sadden hit her, as Lilith pulled up one sleeve of her top, revealing her arm with pulsing veins. "Drink from me. I am serious!"

"No! I can not do that! It is forbidden, because it is another way to gain more powers that are not my own. And you know what else this would mean."

Lilith nodded and held up her arm for Sadden.

Sadden cautioned, "I will receive bits and pieces of your memories and that of your victims. You can not really want that. Memories are very personal..."

Lilith stubbornly repeated, "Drink from me! It will save you... at least for tonight." She pushed her arm directly under Sadden's nose.

The hungry vampire's eyes fixed onto the pulsing vein, as she saw the blood flowing beneath Lilith's nearly see-through skin. Hesitating, Sadden reached with her slender hands for her protégée's arm ; then wrapped them tightly around it. Torn apart she looked at her with big, blue eyes and at this moment she didn't wish for anything else but to thrust her teeth deeply into Lilith's arm and to taste her immortal blood.

"Well, you didn't loose the lust to bite, did you?" Lilith nudged.

"It is not lust I feel when I have to kill a human. It is misery."

"Maybe it helps to think about that I am not going to die if you bite me."

Without warning, Sadden's eyeteeth pierced through Lilith's pale skin, and she started to feed.

A moan escaped her and the young vampire's eyes rolled back, as the fingers of her other hand buried themselves in her master's long, black strands. Lilith had a strange feeling of pleasure as Sadden sucked the blood from her veins. Willingly she let it happen, while she grew weaker and weaker and her legs threatened to give out.

Sadden tasted the unique elixir on her tongue and the strengthening effect it had on her weak body. Her skin regenerated itself and her former appearance returned. Only with great effort did she let go of the wonderful taste, Lilith already laying exhausted in her arms. "Oh no! What has gotten into me? I overdid it."

The bite wound sealed itself and Lilith tried to stand up. "Don't go bursting into tears. I'm tough." The young vampire swayed from side to side, so Sadden had to support her. "Now, don't be foolish."

"I'm not, but you are!" Lilith retorted and dragged her teacher along, closer to the hunter's camp, and showed her the furs and the dead wolf. Forcefully she reproached her master, "How could you let that happen, year after year? Here, where you rule. How could you not know about this?"

Her teacher tried to defend herself, "I keep away from the life of the inhabitants, as you should, too." But inside she knew there was no way of convincing Lilith. Still, she motioned to the blood-soaked men and their comrades, who were trying nearly in vain to stop their bleedings and to care for the open wounds at their ankles.

"If they were to amputate their limbs and burn out the wounds, they could still live with the help of crutches," Lilith said, coldly.

"It is more probable that they will die from tetanus," Sadden countered.

"So what ? Good for them! They made the wolves suffer. The animals couldn't even defend themselves from death. Sadden, they did let them bleed out while still alive!" There were tears burning in Lilith eyes. "They deserve to die just like that!"

Sadden couldn't think of a reply and so she wrapped comforting arms around her protégée , because she knew how Lilith felt. "Yes, I didn't care about it, even though it would have been my duty to do so. But I live by one ground rule, to stay as far away from humans as possible. I have never been in the village, and I never will enter it. Andrej takes care of everything I need. The inhabitants don't know anything about my existence."

Surprised Lilith looked into her teacher's blue eyes. "You mean, they think that this guy is the master of the castle?"

"Yes, that's it exactly and it will stay like that. And that is why I'm begging you to be more discreet, because they shall not know anything about you. It would be horrible if they found out what we are."

"Until today there was no one on the side of the animals. They had no intercessor, but that will change. I will be their ally and protect them with all my might!"

Sadden sighed and released her student from her embrace. "We should hurry. The sun will rise soon and we both need to get some restful sleep."

Lilith nodded, sadly.

Sadden clicked her tongue, Stardancer heard it and came towards them. With her newly gained power she mounted the stallion effortlessly and pulled Lilith up to her. She pressed her thighs and Stardancer broke into a gallop, racing back to the castle.

Still a bit weak, Lilith held onto her teacher and placed her forehead against the strong back.

Sadden smiled and thought, "Your decision to protect the wolves obviously means that you want to stick around for awhile longer than before ; even though you yourself would never admit it."

Underneath the big, bright moon and sparkling stars in a clear sky they made their way back over the bare mountain tops. A big grin of liberation formed on Sadden's lips as the cool night wind blew in her face.

 

*****

 

Andrej had searched the whole castle without finding the slightest trace of Sadden. After he noticed that Stardancer was missing from his stall, he patiently waited for Sadden's return inside the stables. He was sitting on the stony watering trough as his ears picked up the stomping of mighty hooves in the court.

Lilith had already jumped from the horse and retreated to her crypt.

Like a wild Amazon Sadden came riding in on her stallion and Stardancer reared up so Sadden's head nearly touched the stable's ceiling.

High-spirited he neighed loudly, while his mistress slid off his back and greeted the young man, beaming with happiness, "Oh Andrej! It is good to see you again." Then she led her beloved stallion to his stall and rubbed his sweat-soaked coat with a bundle of straw. Engrossed in her task she moved it in circles over the still heavy breathing animal, while Andrej just stood there, speechless.

"Speak frankly, my friend," Sadden said. "I can see that there is something on your mind and I really want to hear it."

Undecided about how he should start he went to Stardancer, who lowered his head, searching for a carrot inside Andrej's pockets. Andrej stroked the stallion between his ears until the horse snorted in satisfaction and shook his long, white mane. Finally he blurted, "I have never seen you so happy after your time of abstinence. You always take a long period of rest afterwards... usually. But now... how is that possible?"

Sadden hesitated, then said, "Let's just say I received a new power, to which I should not get too accustomed .

Not satisfied Andrej answered, "You are talking in riddles. And to be truthful, I don't like that. But it is not only that." Urgently he gazed into Sadden's flashing sapphire eyes and the young man's heart grew heavy because behind the seemingly happiness he could see the great precipices of pain. "Forgive me. I was rash and jumped to false conclusions."

Tired he rubbed his palms across his eyes and sighed. "There is so much going on inside my head. I'm a bit confused and it seems that my sensitivity is suffering because of that." Disgruntled he put his hands inside the pockets of his trousers and began to pace restlessly.

"That is not the truth. And shouldn't you be saying - Somebody is confusing you?" Sadden suppressed a grin and hugged Stardancer's neck, while Andrej made no move to continue talking.

Finally Sadden started, "You don't have to explain anything. I met Lilith and we settled the matter."

The young man refused to believe that, but he didn't say anything more. Instead he mentioned sadly, "After my conversation with Lilith in the woods I realized that I know very little about the world of vampires. Even though I thought until now that there are no secrets between us."

"There are no secrets between us... you just don't know everything about me. This is something completely different and much better and safer for you, because I do not want to put you in any unknown, unnecessary dangers."

Uncomprehending, Andrej looked at the vampire and meant, "I want to know more about you vampires. I find myself asking questions, which I never asked before."

Embarrassed Sadden gazed at the floor and answered, "Please, talk with Lilith about this. She will be able to give you more information than I could. Too long I have lived apart from my folk."

After saying goodbye to Stardancer they left the stables with measured steps. Inside the castle they parted ways and without losing another word they turned into different directions to their chambers.

 

Lost in thought Sadden walked through the corridors that guided her to her rooms , deep inside the castle which only she was allowed to enter. In this part of the big building there were as many windows as inside the catacombs where Lilith slept. She closed the door behind her and freed herself from the dirty sheet she was till wearing. In the glow of eternal candles her sleeping room seemed quite cozy .

Her eyes traveled through the big room, over the dark curtains, which were closed; then to a big bed that had been set up in the middle of a thick, soft carpet, and which bore a canopy of night-blue cloth, and finally her gaze stopped at the masterfully carved chest of drawers, made from light brown cedar. Several utensils lay scattered on top of it. She went to it and sat down on an over-stuffed bench in front of it. Her hair, full and shining again, fell across her naked, white body. Involuntary she reached for the silvery comb and passed it through her long, raven tresses.

After some time Sadden put the comb aside and opened a small silvery box. Beside worthless clasps, hair needles and buckles, there was also expensive jewelry. She reached for the golden seal ring and turned it in her fingers. A rising phoenix had been carved into the ring and Sadden placed a tender kiss on it before she returned the ring to the box. Pain was reflected in her eyes as the usual loneliness took a hold of her while she sat there alone in her room. Like she had countless times before, Sadden brought her thoughts to paper.

From a drawer she took out a small keg of ink, a quill and some pieces of parchment. Then she wrote down the words just as they came to her mind,

 

"I am on the run, running away from my memories.

Even though I know that I can not escape them, because they are following me, like the shadows follow the way of the sun.

Still, I am sharing my loneliness just with them, because dreams are avoiding me.

Alone again, alone with my thoughts.

Bitter is the taste of realization, realization that I am alone, alone with only myself.

 

And at the end of everything there is always sadness."

 

A feeling of tiredness overcame her after she was done writing down her thoughts. She returned the quill and ink to the drawer and was about to go to bed. As the vampire rose from the bench, her eyes fell on a black velvet cloth that covered a mirror on top of the table. Gray dust lay in the folds of the fabric. Sadden's fingers reached for it to pull it off, but in the last moment she took her hand back. "You do not need the mirror for confirmation."

She turned away to go to bed and added sadly, "You are what you are."

Exhausted Sadden slowly lowered her body to the blood-red satin pillows ; she brushed the bangs off her forehead and stared at the starless sky of the canopy above her, her shiny, raven hair spread all over the pillows. The slim, alabaster colored body gleamed white and in this moment Sadden looked like a beautiful Venus . Slowly her lids closed over her deep blue eyes and Sadden became lost in the darkness which lay behind them. Disconnected pictures appeared before her mind's eye and restlessly she squirmed on the sheets. Sadden's naked body quaked in fear and her hands clawed at and clenched the pillows. Again and again she saw flashes of emerald green eyes that looked at her full of kindness.

It was unknown eyes, eyes Sadden had never seen before. In these emerald depths there lay so much compa s sion and sympathy.

Unsure, Sadden jerked up as if awaking from a bad dream and rubbed her eyes. Her whole body trembling she whispered, "Should that have been a small speck of hope? Or was it just an illusion send from my heart to punish me because against all rules I tasted immortal blood? No I can not deny it. My gift of prophecy tells me that these sparkling stars will determine my future and that I don't have to be afraid. Because even without words I understood these unique jewels ; they were showing me forgiveness although I will never be able to forgive myself..."

Tears welled up in her blue eyes and there was a small trace of confidence in her voice, "Could it be that the person whose eyes I saw will give me the salvation I am longing for?"

Restless she lay back down and closed her eyes to return to these jewels and maybe get more information.

A strange emotion took hold of her body ; one Sadden thought she would never feel again, unconditional and sincere love. Her fingertips seemed to suddenly have a life of their own and wandered from the covers to her long legs, over her pale, soft thighs and on upward. The vampire didn't even try to fight it ; she didn't want to fight against this feeling.

Her fingers circled a small navel and caressed her hard stomach muscles. Sadden's sensuous mouth opened a bit and a smile formed on her lips, while she steadfastly thought about the unknown pair of eyes that were stimulating her so much. It seemed to her that the intense gaze was loving her body with the greatest devotion.

Gently, Sadden stroked herself in the warming feeling of unselfish love.

Her body arched and Sadden felt her protruding rips and pelvis bones beneath her smooth, pale skin. A flat hand made its way further upward over her hips and to her chest, her aroused body trembling in the wake of the tender touches. Her firm, shapely breasts bounced slightly as her form writhed under the newly discovered feeling and a long moan of bliss escaped her dry throat.

The dark haired beauty massaged her breasts more firmly until the buds grew hard and stiff, while one hand slowly traveled down, aiming to stimulate her sensitive center, eager to h e ighten and to prolong the wonderful feeling of pleasure.

Straining, Sadden called up the green eyes in her mind to strengthen the feeling of overwhelming lust. The aroused vampire was lost in an intense whirl of senses, her body moving faster and faster to the r h ythm of her caressing hands until she finally reached her climax and her quaking body arched strongly, only to fall back to the cool sheets a moment later, completely satisfied.

"Who are you?" Sadden asked into the silence of her bedroom.

To Be Continued...

 

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