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FIUR and VLAMME

 

present

 

CHRONICLES OF DARKNESS

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BOOK TWO

HEART OF AN ANGEL

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Special Disclaimer: Helena 's song "Hold On" belongs to Fiur and Vlamme so please don't use it without permission.

CHAPTER ONE

 

THE ARRIVAL

Feel the pain inside your heart.

Flee, to get away from the unbearable.

And know that there is no escape but eternal love.

 

 

Europe 1603

 

 

 

 

It was the end of April and the snow in the mountains was finally gone. The first rays of the sun kissed the ground and under that touch nature awoke from its long hibernation.

 

A carriage made its way along the lonely roads in the shade of the mighty Carpathians. Four strong horses pulled the heavily loaded wagon over the narrow, steep path, while another was tied to the back of it. The two passengers of the swaying carriage were fast asleep. Two men with stony features sat on the backseat, their faces covered half way by thick scarves to protect them as they drove from the rough winds that blew strongly in this part of the mountains. From time to time the big wheels and hooves came close to the dangerous abyss, loosening little stones that fell into the depths. But the men were very experienced and not impressed by that. Keeping a firm hold on the reins they stirred the carriage along the stony paths. Finally they reached a lane between two mountains and drove through. On the other side the morning sunlight greeted them and the valley of Ardeal lay at their feet. From that point the way went steadily downhill. The tired horses noticed that they had reached their destination and had to be restrained to keep them from breaking into a full gallop. Despite the coachmen's desperate efforts it happened that the carriage came too close to a mountain's wall. The right rear wheel connected with the mountain, which scared one of the horses and it leapt to the side. The carriage came off its path and drove over the sharp edges of a bigger stone, making the wagon jump. Hearing the sound of splintering wood the men hurried to stop, not wanting to take any more unnecessary risks.

The passengers had been roughly awoken due to the carriage‘s jump and sudden stop. The young woman that had been tossed to the floor scrambled to her feet and brushed her long, disheveled, blonde hair off her face.

"Father! Are you alright?" she asked concerned and helped the older, gray haired man with an also gray beard back into his seat.

"Yes, yes...my child. Being a little shaken is not going to kill a vital guy such as myself. Do not worry, Elea Sophia."

His daughter smiled embarrassed and sighed. She knew about his susceptible health and that he tried to hide his weakness.

"Have we reached the destination of our journey already?" he asked amazed after adjusting his clothes and his daughter picked up his bible that had also fallen to the floor.

From outside angry mumbling could be heard. The face of a driver appeared at the window. Pulling the hat off his head in respect he cleared his throat and said, "Father Everon, there is a broken spoke on one of the rear wheels which we have to take care of, but it shouldn't take that long until we can continue with the journey. We are in luck that it is not a broken axel."

"My good man, it has nothing to do with luck. It was God's help."

"If you say so, Father." The driver grumbled and shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, we cannot do anything about it. I will use the time to read a bit. With the swaying of the carriage it was nearly impossible to do that."

The man nodded and went to help the other changing the spoke.

Everon's daughter placed a blanket over his legs and asked, "May I please go for a little walk, Father? I need to stretch my legs."

Smiling mildly, he nodded. "Just do not go too far."

The young woman jumped from the carriage and wrapped her woolen, gray-brown coat around her shoulders. She went to her horse that was tied to the carriage's back. Gently Elea Sophia stroked the soft muzzle. "My dear Dawn. Did you have a fright? Soon we will be there and then we are going to ride across the fields as fast as the wind." With that wonderful thought the young woman leaned her head against her mare's neck and closed her eyes. But it was only a short moment of peace.

Moving fast she whipped her head around and her eyes flew open. Behind her closed lids an image had formed that irritated her greatly.

Dawn neighed loudly and pranced nervously on her rope.

Elea Sophia was confused and her breathing quickened. She whispered to herself, "Something called to me...and it came from this direction..." She went down the way a bit and looked at the valley. Fog rose from the woods and fields. Her heartbeat grew faster as the foggy veils drifted apart, revealing a castle at the other end of the valley. Instantly she had a feeling that this castle was hiding a secret. "It called to me..." But then she shook off that thought and scolded herself, "You're crazy, Elea Sophia.You're just tired and seeing ghosts, that's all." But still she wasn't able to look away and her emerald green eyes sparkled brightly.

One of the coachmen joined her and his eyes followed her gaze. "You are in luck, Miss. Today we have the first beautiful, cloudless day this year. Never before did I have such a clear view of the castle and I've been driving on this route for years. You know, you can see the castle only from this spot. As soon as we are off this path it just disappears from sight."

The castle was huge and even though it was far away to the young woman it seemed to be close with his thick walls and the slender tower that reached for the sky. Elea Sophia started to shiver and pulled the coat more tightly around her. "You cannot see the castle from the valley?" she asked curiously.

"No. You need to be standing right in front of it and that..."

He was interrupted by the other coachman. "Stop with the silly talk and help me with the load." Grinding his teeth he added, "It's none of our concern. The villagers have to live with it."

Motionless, Elea Sophia stared at the strange castle.

"The journey can continue!" one of the men shouted.

Everon put his head out of the window and asked, "When will we reach Ardeal?"

"Around midday."

"My child, please come here." The priest called to his daughter that stood rooted to the spot. She couldn't take her eyes off it. There were so many questions she had concerning the castle and suddenly it disappeared from her sight and Elea Sophia hurried to the carriage. The journey continued down the winding roads. After a while they stopped at a small wooden bridge with a roaring river underneath. The horses were a bit spooked and one of the coachmen had to calm them. They continued at a slow pace, getting closer and closer to the village. Dreamingly, Elea Sophia stared out of the small carriage window, her thought still on the castle. In her mind's eye she tried to imagine just what was hidden behind the walls. They passed by small fields with working peasants and oxen.

 

They drove through the old gate. It and a high palisade fence marked the village's border. Curious children came running towards them. Screaming and laughing in excitement they accompanied the wagon on its last meters through the village. Expectantly, Elea Sophia, just as her father, took a look around. The houses were close together and lined around the village's center. Black shingles covered the pointy roofs and smoke curled from the chimneys. Frightened women looked from the windows and the men glanced suspiciously at the carriage as it came to a halt in front of the tavern. One of the coachmen freed the load while the other opened the door and helped first the priest then Elea Sophia from the carriage. The young woman was some steps behind Everon as he went to István, who had come out of his house. She smiled as she read the name of the tavern 'The Howling Wolf.'

Friendly, her father greeted the other man. "I wish a good day."

"I wish you a good day as well, honored stranger," István answered and added, "May I offer something to eat and drink for you and your companion...and maybe a place for the night before you leave tomorrow morning to continue on your journey?"

Everon smiled. "Oh, my daughter Elea Sophia and I do not wish to be strangers to you all. I am priest Everon Valeanu and was sent to your village to ask for priest Ion Marlin. Mother church is very concerned for your soul's peace because it has been five years since the last message reached us. I beg you to bring me to Father Ion Marlin."

The words stunned István, just as any other inhabitant, who happened to hear them. Quickly the curious crowd that had gathered disappeared, a fact that Elea Sophia found rather strange.

Nervously István fumbled at his apron, but motioned to Elea Sophia and her father to follow him. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he said, "Please have a drink and something to eat...it's on the house."

Grateful Everon took the invitation. He was the first to enter the house after the owner. Rouven had watched the whole scene from his place where he leaned against the wall. His eyes rested on the beautiful young woman. As she wanted to enter he stepped rudely into her way. He bowed deeply in front of her and reached for her hand, guiding it to his lips to place a kiss against the knuckles. Awaiting her reaction he looked at the unsure smiling woman.

Greatly embarrassed Elea Sophia pulled her hand back and nodded slightly in acknowledgement.

Self-confident Rouven made an inviting gesture to lead her inside.

Elea Sophia hesitated to take his arm and the young man wanted to say something as István's deep bass rang out, "Rouven! Go and get your father! Hurry!"

Rouven rolled his eyes before doing as he was asked, while the young woman stood there dazed. She wanted to finally enter the tavern as she felt a gaze. Turning around her eyes met a tall, sympathetic looking man, with dark blonde hair and warm, but cautious eyes. He was helping the coachmen with the load and as his gaze fell on that of Elea Sophia he nodded shyly and turned back to his work. After friendly returning his nod and taking one last look at him she finally went inside the house. Everything that had happened until now seemed so weird to her. She felt the hidden hostility, especially as Ardeal's mayor stepped into the tavern and came to their table.

Politely she nodded and glanced at the stout, middle-aged man with thin hair.

Nicolae Dimov was very suspicious of the priest as he took a seat at the round table after Everon's invitation.

Elea Sophia looked at the door, but the mayor's son didn't enter as did no other villager.

The priest and the mayor were sizing each other up. Drumming his fingers nervously over the table's top, Nicolae waited and the smile had left Everon's face. Calmly tearing a chunk off the bread loaf the holy man finally asked, "Well, what do you have to confess?"

While Everon was chewing the mayor wracked his brain, searching for the right words that wouldn't come. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead but he didn't dare to lie into a priest's face, so he admitted, "Our beloved Father Ion Marlin is dead." Caught in a trance Nicolae stared at the huge cross on Everon's chest and swallowed hard.

In this moment the priest slammed his palm on the table, making both the mayor and Elea Sophia jump.

"When did my dear friar die?" he thundered and observed Nicolae's reaction.

"Some time ago," the scolded man stammered.

Everon raised his arm and pointed his right index finger accusingly at the mayor, his hand shaking with barely restrained anger. "You will have to bear the consequences of your godless acting! Look at you, sweating and trembling in fear, not able to form one clear thought!" Everon snapped and nearly leapt from his chair.

Trying to calm him his daughter placed a hand on his arm. His fingers were wrapped tightly around his bible but the angry red of his face faded slowly.

Elea Sophia looked concerned at her father and turned to Nicolae. "Please, my father and I have a very exhausting journey behind us. He has to take a rest because he isn't in the best of health."

The mayor looked dumbfounded at the priest, who glared at his daughter and panted since his breathing had not returned to normal yet. "My daughter is a bit quick with her words, but I do feel the tiredness in my limbs and bones." Then his sharp glare returned to Nicolae. "Very well. I will take the offer of the tavern's owner and get a room here."

Nicolae was about to take a relieved breath but then Everon added, "Meanwhile you will make the house of Ion Marlin presentable, so we can move in there."

The mayor couldn't do anything besides complying the priest's orders.

Elea Sophia helped her father to rise and both of them followed István to the second floor.

Nicolae was still stunned by the encounter with the priest. His throat felt dry after the uncomfortable conversation and he called to the bar, "Ljudmilla, bring me a big mug of beer."

István's daughter hurried over and Nicolae nearly tore the mug from her hands. He emptied the wooden mug quickly and slammed it back on the table. Scared Ljudmilla took the mug and retreated.

Nicolae felt his strength slowly coming back and as he left he called once more, "Ljudmilla, tell your father the council will meet at my house. He should join us."

The young woman nodded, but didn't say anything.

Drawing his brows together the mayor strode from 'The Howling Wolf.'

 

*****

 

"I hope that this room will meet your approval, Father Everon," István said and opened the fissured wooden door. The hinges squeaked in protest as the door opened and he motioned for the priest and his daughter to enter the room.

Everon took a look around the meager interior; two small beds with gray, faded sheets, a wobbly table and two chairs that looked like a wrong glance at them would cause them to fall apart. The traces of woodworms were visible everywhere and the old wooden boards groaned underneath their feet.

Isván hurried to the tiny window that was missing a curtain. He opened it to let some fresh air into the small room. Then he kept his position beside the window. Waiting for the foreign priest's reaction he began to fumble nervously with his leather apron.

Everon took a seat on one of the beds and nodded. "It will be fine for the moment, because we don't want to stay here for a long time."

The host took a relieved breath, but Everon added matter-of-factly, "As soon as your mayor makes the old house of Ion Marlin presentable we are going to live there."

István's face lost all color and his eyes widened. He never would have thought that the priest and his daughter wanted to stay in Ardeal forever. István tried in vain to get his composure back and finally he stuttered, "I-if... if you n-need a-anything...uh..."

"Then we will let you know," Everon finished the sentence.

"Yes, everything will happen as you wish," the host affirmed once more before nearly fleeing from the room.

Elea Sophia, who was still standing beside the door, looked at her father and smirked. "It seems to me he is a very god-fearing man."

Everon just declined and snorted in disgust. "I am sure there is not one to be found in this little village, who is god-fearing. Five long years have passed since we received the last message of Ion Marlin. It would not surprise me if he has been gone for that long and these peasants and stockbreeders have kept it from us. I am also sure that it has been a long time since a priest or any other person from the church has sat a foot in this valley. The inhabitants have turned their backs on our holy Mother Church . I have seen it everywhere on our way here, the signs that they follow old rituals and heathen customs. Strange, demonic marks...carved into the frames of doors and windows. It may be that they think it will protect them but I am able to recognize what it truly is. The devil's work!"

Elea Sophia sat down beside her father and placed a calming hand on his arm. She wanted to prevent him from getting too upset in fear of him risking another asthma attack. "But father, how are these poor souls supposed to know how to act correctly if they don't have God's aid through a priest?"

"Exactly this is the point, my dear child. That is why I came to the decision that we are going to stay here. I will make it my task to bring the people of Ardeal back to the safety of the church."

"We are going to stay here? Forever?" she asked, a bit hesitantly.

The gray haired man nodded and placed his right hand flat on the cover of his bible. "We will stay as long as it takes... until I have fulfilled this mission."

Elea Sophia smiled softly. "Well, you have to be rested well before taking on this difficult endeavor. Why don't you lie down and take a nap as your doctor advised before we left for our journey?"

The priest laughed. "You think your old father is not capable of much anymore, can that be? I appreciate your concern, Elea Sophia, but I am feeling fine. But still, I will submit and grant my body some rest. I hope it will not be long now until we can move into our new home."

Even though the pillows didn't look as if they would be very comfortable Everon was positively surprised as he stretched out on the bed. He folded his hands on his stomach and closed his tired eyes.

After he had fallen asleep Elea Sophia left the room on tip-toes. She wanted to go to the stables in order to look after her horse Dawn and make sure that her mare had everything she needed and was taken care of.

 

 

*****

 

The shortly appointed meeting of the village's council at Nicolae's house had just started. With their arms crossed the most important inhabitants of Ardeal were standing in a half circle in front of Nicolae's desk, anxiously awaiting the mayor's words. They still didn't know the reason for the sudden meeting of the council. Their excited voices filled the small room.

"My fellow citizens," Nicolae began and immediately they fell silent and listened. But soon the mayor was interrupted by loud crashing that came from outside.

Everybody but Rouven looked at the door. The young man was leaning against a book shelf, waiting for the things to come. He hated it when his father forced him to attend these stupid meetings. His thoughts were always somewhere else and the long, good for nothing discussions bored him to death. Right at this moment he couldn't help but think about the beautiful, blonde girl he had seen for the first time today.

Rouven rolled his eyes in annoyance because the crashing had woken him from his daydream.

Finally István stumbled into the room, his face red from his run. "I came running as fast as I could," he explained, gasping and panting for breath. He reached into the pocket of his pants and brought out a wrinkled handkerchief to dab at his sweaty face before he took his place beside Mikahel.

Nicolae growled softly before starting a new. "Now that we are complete we can finally begin." A pause followed as the mayor hesitated and didn't know how to tell the others. He knew that a heated discussion would follow and he so wanted to prevent that from happening, but he also knew it was inevitable. "I'm sure you have heard about the visitors that arrived today. As it was finally revealed to me they are going to stay for a while longer..."

All men present looked at Nicolae with wrinkled foreheads, because they didn't know what he was talking about. Except for Istvàn, who paled instantly.

"You mean the strangers that came with the post carriage today?" a small, gaunt man with white, disheveled hair asked. It was Costin Luchian, the village's chronicler. "What is so special about an old man and his young daughter that you called for a council meeting?"

Finally Nicolae just blurted out the whole sordid truth. "The two strangers that arrived in our village today... They are the priest Everon Valeanu and his daughter Elea Sophia."

The gathered crowd looked at the mayor in disbelief. Each of them had lost their voice and only one dared to speak out aloud what everyone was thinking.

"Priest? A priest and his daughter? How wonderful," the chronicler exclaimed sarcastically and brandished his cane. "How could this happen? I thought we had made up our minds five years ago that we don't want another priest here? Who sent for him?" He wrinkled his pointy, long nose and glared at the other men.

"Nobody sent for him. They were sent by the church and came on their own. They wanted to visit Father Ion Marlin. He and Everon have been in the same order," the mayor explained.

"Well, now that Ion Marlin is dead they can go back to where they came from!" Costin continued to rave.

"That's right!" Another man shouted.

"They won't do that," Nicolae responded. "Father Everon ordered me to make the old house of Father Marlin presentable for him and his daughter..."

"What?" Costin interrupted him furiously and the voices of the other angry men rose in volume.

"For how long do they want to stay?" Mikahel asked patiently over the mumblings of the others.

"Well...uh..."

"Out with it!" the chronicler snapped, glaring darkly at the mayor.

"Forever. Father Everon will take the place of the dead Father Marlin."

"And you are going to let him?" the horrified Costin hissed venomously. "I thought we didn't want a Christian to tell us what to do ever again?" To the crowd he said, "Weren't you the ones who shouted the loudest that we shall turn back to our roots?"

Nicolae slammed his fist on the table, jumped to his feet and thundered at the old man. "I have enough of your attacks, Costin! What do you want me to do? Chase away the priest? My hands are tied in that matter! He is here and he knows that our village didn't have a priest in a long time. We wanted to hide it from the church but now it's too late! The priest knows what's going on and I don't want to experience what kind of bad luck we are causing if we go against his wishes. Like you I don't like it, but I can't change it. We have to accept the situation!"

The intimated chronicler looked at the floor and mumbled something. Then he gazed firmly into Nicolae's eyes and said, "Very well. I submit to your authority, but very reluctantly and under the greatest of protests! This meeting will be written in the annals of our community!" With his cane he forced his way through the crowd and left the room, closing the door with a mighty bang behind him.

Nicolae looked at the others. "Is there anybody else, who wants to share his opinion?"

For the first time in a meeting Rouven started to speak. "I don't understand all the turmoil. Weird things have happened in this village with or without a priest present. Not much has changed so why not let the priest stay? Besides... his daughter is a very beautiful girl and I can't wait to get to know her better." He grinned widely at his last words.

His father scowled at him. "I've been expecting something like this from you, my rebellious son. But that is not exactly helping."

Rouven just shrugged his shoulders. "You asked, didn't you?"

Nicolae turned back to the others. "If there are no other objections I declare this meeting finished." He sat back in his chair while the men left the room.

The door handle already in his hand Mikahel hesitated and turned around once more. "There are objections, Nicolae. A whole lot of them. But as you said, it can't be changed. We have to accept it, like it or not."

After the smith had also left Ardeal's mayor supported his elbows on top of his desk and buried his face in his hands. A heavy sigh escaped him. Thoughtful he steered his gaze to the window and outside, where darkness fell. He could hear the distant howling of the wolves, but his thoughts were still circling around the priest's arrival. Nicolae hit the desk with his flat palm and cursed the situation for which he knew no solution. "Damn it!"

 

*****

 

Sadden stood at the window and looked across the wide valley that was slumbering peacefully in the mild moonlight. Her gaze led her far away. But her thoughts were trapped in a dark place. The vampire turned away from the window and her sad eyes fell on the burning fireplace. Not able to take her eyes off the dancing flames, Sadden's mind wandered once more to a different time.

She turned into each direction, but the burning, glowing flames were everywhere. The fire spread around her. It engulfed the room Sadden was in, enveloping everything around her. The heat singed her skin and tears, caused by biting smoke, welled up in her eyes. Helpless, she could only stand there and watch the mighty, all consuming inferno that had been started by a cowardly human hand. Sadden could feel the pain of Lisander and Amitabha. They were not able to escape the hot flames. The pain was stronger than anything she had ever felt in her life. Tortured she fell to her knees, holding her aching chest. An inhuman cry escaped her throat, releasing the unbearable pain of her soul. The scream echoed throughout the castle's corridors for a long time. After some time the vampire came to her feet again, her whole body trembling. A shaking hand found hold on the rough, warm stones of the fireplace and Sadden held on tightly. Desperately she fought against the other memories of that night that reared their ugly heads. She fled from the room, running towards the corridor that would lead Sadden to her sanctuary.

 

 

*****

 

At the same time two totally different persons stepped onto the clearing at the forbidden lake. A bit away from the shore, Andrej spread a woolen blanket on the grass at the foot of an old oak tree, while Lilith took a seat on a smooth boulder right at the shore. There was a reason they had left the castle. Both kept silent because they knew about the specialness of this particular night that returned every year.

Andrej looked at the moon's silvery sickle that stood out sharply against the black sky. He thought about Sadden and the never-ending pain that she felt more strongly tonight than on any other day. Finally his mind went to the midday's encounter in front of the tavern. Then his gaze fell on Lilith, who sat in her white dress that gleamed in the moonlight. Andrej knew she was concentrating on the sounds of the night. The tall man kept silent as the first wolves entered the clearing cautiously and slowly came closer to them. In all the years Andrej had become used to the wild animals as they had to his presence. But still it was special for him whenever the pack joined them here.

 

 

 

*****

 

The house was small but cozy. The women of Ardeal under the lead of Hortensia Dimov, the mayor's wife, did work hard all afternoon till the first evening hours to make the house a place to live in. For five years it had been empty and nobody had taken care of it, so a renovation had been quite necessary. Quickly they had emptied it of all trash, swept and mopped all floors and had placed some provisional furniture inside. They had asked Sergej to bring some wood to the kitchen and also to light the big oven there to bring some warmth into the cold walls.

Nicolae himself made sure that the whole village was present to greet the new priest as he gave the house's key to Everon. But the inhabitants were not sure yet what to make of the new situation so the cheers about the new arrival were rare.

For the first time in five years the small bell inside the tiny church tower sounded again.

 

Elea Sophia rubbed her eyes. She was tired from her exhausting day and all the new impressions and closed the book she had been reading. The young woman glanced at her father, who looked up and smiled lovingly. "Go to bed, my child. You are completely exhausted. I myself will go to bed shortly." While the chamber of his daughter was on the second floor, Everon's sleeping place was beside the warm oven. Elea Sophia nodded and bade her father a good night. She closed all windows and doors of the house and had a last look at the stables where Dawn was resting. After making sure that everything was as it should be, Elea Sophia climbed the small stairs to her tiny chamber under the roof. In her hand she held a simple tallow candle that didn't give much light. With great efforts she finally managed to open the old door to her chamber. Every time the door was opened it left ugly scratches on the wooden floor. Elea Sophia sighed, "Well, I think I will have to ask someone to have a look at that." She placed the candle on the small nightstand beside her bed. Beside that only a small washing place and a stool was inside the tiny room. She yawned widely and stretched her tired limbs. The young woman only wanted one thing and that was to crawl into bed. She undressed, leaving on her long undershirt and knelt in front of the nightstand on which she had placed a saint's picture. With folded hands she whispered her prayers before kissing the silvery cross that hung around her neck. Then she rose and went to the only window in the room. As Elea Sophia was about to lock the shutters for the night she leaned forward and looked outside. Her gaze turned to the sky. "A starless night, how unusual. Only the moon is sending some weak rays to the ground." Dreaming she thought about the day. "But maybe for this place it is not unusual at all. Everything here is different, especially the people." She remembered their arrival. From everywhere came unfriendly, suspicious, even scared glances at them. They had not been greeted with open arms and smiles.

"Maybe soon it will change, when the people here have gotten to know us," Elea Sophia encouraged herself, supporting her elbows on the window's frame and resting her chin on her palms.

"That one young man... what was it the tavern's owner called him? Oh yes, Rouven... well, this Rouven didn't seem to be afraid and he was quite charming." She blushed brightly, recalling the kiss he had placed upon the back of her hand.

"The tavern's owner's daughter seemed to be very nice too...maybe a friendship can soon be formed..." A sigh escaped Elea Sophia's throat. "I hope everything will turn out well and that the people here accept us. What is the saying? 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained'? Starting tomorrow morning I will take Dawn for a ride and who knows, maybe I can already make some friends." The priest's daughter smiled at that thought.

 

 

*****

 

For a while the two castle inhabitants sat silently at the clearing, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Andrej was stretched out on the blanket and stared at the night sky, while Lilith's gaze rested on the calm surface of the forbidden lake. "It still is beyond me and I am sure I will never understand it," Lilith soft voice suddenly rang out.

Andrej sat up and looked at her in astonishment. "What are you talking about?"

"Sadden, of course," the vampire answered matter-of-factly.

The young man had trouble to follow her thought processes. "What about Sadden is escaping your understanding?" he asked, wrinkling his forehead. "You've been here for five years. You should understand her quite well by now."

"As always you do not understand what I am trying to say." Lilith picked up a smooth pebble and tossed it into the lake's dark waters. She looked at the small rings that rippled across the surface due to the slowly sinking stone.

"If you would explain yourself better then we wouldn't have these communication problems, would we?" Andrej replied stubbornly.

Lilith rolled her eyes in annoyance but of course Andrej couldn't see that in the darkness. "I do not understand why she is doing this every year in this night."

"You do know what day it is today, don't you?"

"Yes, of course, the day Lisander and Amitabha died."

Andrej shrugged his shoulders. "Well, then you know what's going on with her. She is mourning her soulmate and her daughter that she lost a long time ago."

"And exactly that is the point I do not understand!"

Completely confused Andrej drew his brows together. He rose from the blanket and sat down beside the young vampire. "You're talking in riddles, Lilith."

"No, I do not. Your human mind is just not fast enough to follow my thoughts!" Lilith snapped at him, disgruntled. Andrej groaned. "Do you want to start another fight or something? I thought this phase was finally behind us. Guess I was wrong about that."

Without responding, Lilith just said, "Sadden has lost them a long time ago, do you not get it? Not a few years or decades ago. Centuries, many centuries have passed since her family died in the flames. She should be over it by now and concentrate on more important things instead of still crying for Lisander."

These words hit Andrej like a lightning bolt. Unable to put the thoughts that whirled in his mind into words, he could just stare at her in disbelief. Eventually he found his voice again. "Do you actually know what you just said? Do you know how cold-hearted that is? Oh, yes, I forgot, there is no sympathetic heart beating in your chest!"

This sentence hurt Lilith's feelings greatly, but she would have never admitted it. "Believe what you want, this is not about me. A great change is forthcoming for all of us and Sadden has to finally release herself from the lethargy she is in!"

But Andrej wasn't listening. "Have you ever heard about love?"

Lilith just wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Pah, love. Nothing more than an emotion that makes you humans weak and is completely overrated."

"What about the love between your parents? As far as I know they are also soulmates. How do you think your mother would react if she were to lose you and Zephriel in such a cruel way as Sadden lost Lisander and Amitabha?"

"That is something completely different! My mother would have vengeance and she would mourn, that is out of question, but she would not mourn for centuries and definitely not when the whole world of the vampires is in grave danger!" Lilith hissed angered, even though she wasn't completely sure of that fact.

As if Andrej was able to feel it, he asked, "Are you really sure of that? Besides, Sadden had vengeance..."

"Yes, and she is deeply regretting it. Another thing I cannot understand. Humans have destroyed her family and she is regretting taking vengeance for that? Obviously she loves humans more than her own kind!" the vampire interrupted him furiously.

Now also angry, Andrej raised his voice. "You just had to start with that again! If it truly interests you so much then ask her why she is regretting it! Ask her what happened that night after the inferno!"

"The fact that she is regretting it is bad enough. The reasons are of no interest to me!" Lilith screamed back, her whole body shaking with anger.

Andrej inhaled sharply, trying to calm himself. Then he looked firmly into her eyes. "It should be of interest to you. Because then you would have a better insight in her emotions and maybe you could understand why she is doing what she is doing every year on this day." He turned away and folded his blanket. Before Andrej left the lake to return to the castle he called over his shoulder to Lilith, "Think about my words...if you are able to."

Lilith couldn't and didn't want to let him leave her like that and so she screeched after him, "Why?! Like you said before, I do not have a sympathetic heart beating in my chest! I would not be able to understand her emotions!"

Andrej didn't answer. He just kept on walking, leaving Lilith behind, who was practically boiling with anger.

As soon as the young man was out of her sight the fury fled and she calmed somewhat. For a long time now she had been hiding a secret. In the deepest and most hidden part of her soul something had awoken, but Lilith didn't want to know anything about it. "Just what kind of demonic power is that? It came from nowhere and is slowly conquering me..." Disgusted Lilith thought about what was going on inside her. "Sadden called her the Sunlioness, I followed her but she did not tell me the meaning of 'The lioness is dead'." Lilith glared up at the castle and darkly she said, "She will tell me the meaning. If she does not know it, who else will? I want it to stop!"In an unconscious move the young vampire placed a hand on her chest, where her silent heart lay resting.

 

*****

 

Her whole body shook under the force of her sobs and it seemed as if the tears would never dry. Sadden crouched at the statues' feet in her sanctuary, rubbing her cheek gently against the cool alabaster stone. "Another year went by since your senseless deaths in the flaming hell and still it torments me that I was not able to protect you both."

Sadden clung to the statue of Lisander and pulled herself up until she stood. Her view was blurry and so she wiped away the tears with an unsteady hand. Gently she cupped the cheek of her soulmate's statue. "Lisander, my beloved. I thought you would come back to me... when I saw the emerald eyes in my visions. The eyes that were so like yours... that shone with never-ending love for me...but the vision is gone from my life... just like you. All I have left are memories of the happiness we shared and this statue." Sadden leaned her forehead against the statue's and closed her eyes. "What I would not give to have you holding me one more time in your arms... that I would be able to look into your eyes to tell you how much I love you."

She kept this position for a while and then her gaze slid to the chiseled image of her little daughter. Sadden walked to her own statue and her fingertips gently traced the stone that made up her beloved child's face. "Amitabha, my sweet, little angel... your father and I wanted to give you the world. You completed our happiness. I will never forget the moment when I held you in my arms for the very first time. Such a wonderful being, created of endless love... you were barely born when you were brutally taken away from me..."

The vampire's thoughts drifted away to the past.

She saw herself, standing in front of her palace. Wherever her eyes fell the hot flames were already raging. The whole building had been swallowed by them. The wind that was blowing strongly in that night across the country added even more strength to the fire. The roaring of the blazing, orange red flames was deafening but it wasn't able to drown out the screams of death from Sadden's family.

Sadden felt the heat on her skin and shut her eyes tightly for a moment, forcing her thoughts and mind back to the present.

Behind her closed eyelids the tears were burning hotly, but the vampire held them back. "There was no way for me to get inside the palace to help you... the fire would have destroyed me too... I could only stand there and watch helplessly. Again and again I am asking myself, how could it have happened? Why did I not see the trap from the beginning? Why did I not recognize their true intentions? What would have been if I had known sooner and would have returned to you earlier? Could I have prevented it all? Would I have been able to save you? I do not know the answers to these questions..." The vampire trailed off and her sapphire blue eyes stared ahead.

"A new vision has seized my mind... the helpless lion cub with the soulful green-brown eyes that are filled with pain and sorrow. It is crying for its mother... the scream of a little human girl... this scream is touching me deeply and I am sure that everyone's heart would be torn apart, if they were to hear it."

With a sad smile Sadden's eyes returned to Amitabha's statue. "I could not save you. I cannot revise that one horrible night, even though I wish I could. But I will do everything it takes to rescue the lion cub as soon as its true identity is revealed to me. Maybe I can atone for some more of my sins I committed in that night, blinded by my thirst for vengeance." She placed a tiny kiss on the little alabaster forehead. "I love you two and I will never forget you. We will be together again... one day..."

One last time she ran her fingers over the chiseled statues and then she left the room. It was time for a ride that would distract her dark thoughts. A smile formed on her lips as she could feel that Stardancer was already anxiously waiting for her.

 

 

*****

 

While Elea Sophia was standing dreamy eyed on her window and looking at the night, her thoughts strayed once more to the mysterious castle she had seen in the morning. "The castle...it was so beautiful, just like in a fairytale. I wonder if anybody is living there..."

Finally she closed and locked the shutters, climbed into bed and extinguished the candle on the small nightstand. Elea Sophia sank back into the pillows and pulled the thick blanket up to her chin. A satisfied sigh escaped her as she shut her eyes and there it was again. The image from the morning formed behind her closed lids and suddenly she felt a sting in her heart. She turned on her side and stared at the closed window. The pale shine of the moon fell through some cracks of the shutter's wood.

Elea Sophia's right hand slid to the cross on her neck and she gripped it tightly like a talisman that was supposed to offer protection. "Just where is it coming from...that strange feeling... and again it seems to me as if something is calling for me..."

Over these thoughts she fell into a deep, restful sleep.

TO BE CONTINUED...

 

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