Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 4

“You don’t remember your name, servant?” Johann said. I frowned, his words cutting. “Others remember you. I know it.”

            I jerked my head up, meeting his eyes. “Tell me,” I snapped. 

            “No,” he said, and I stepped forward. 

            “Tell me!” Something filled me, a need that for once had nothing to do with hunger for blood. Memories of the cat and the old woman wouldn’t leave my head, and there was more, blocked by a haze of alcohol and the image of my master in the alley.

            “You are not human any longer,” Johann said. “Chasing human memories will only hurt you.”

            “Then why did you ask me my name?” I growled. 

            “Because there is a way for you to get them back. To reclaim who you were, in a way.” 

            I backed up, lifting my head as though he had slapped me. 

            “Why are you telling me this?” I growled. “Why would I want that?” The memories began to fade, as they always did, in a haze of indifference, but this time they left edges behind. I should have tried to kill him, back with the others. I probably would have died. Why had I even cared then?

            “Maybe you don’t.” He shrugged, turning to leave. “But if you do, come find me. You have my scent now. If you want something more than to die a mindless, blood crazed servant, that is.” 

            I blinked. “You think you can just go, and I’ll let you?” 

            “If you kill me, you’ll never know.” 

            “I could bring you to my master.” 

            “And he’d kill me.” He began walking away, leaving me alone with only the deer I had killed for company. “It’s your choice, servant. Probably the most important one of your short afterlife.” 

            I could have chased after him. I could overpower him, force him to reveal whatever he knew. 

            My name. Who I had been. Who I was. 

            Instead, I stayed put, until the moon shone directly overhead. I waited for the apathy to return, subsumed by the return of the hunger.

            The hunger returned, but the apathy didn’t.


            I hadn’t been to the village since my master had turned me. 

            The night had turned cold, the cold that permeated the air just before the morning began. I shouldn’t be here, darting through the trees close the to the village borders, just over the river that separated me from them, the bridge mere yards away. The sun would be up soon. 

            The village of Penthorn blended in with the woods, the houses made of the same pale bark. No fires burned in the town square. Winding alleys radiated from the bell in the center of town, framed by thatched houses that looked small and cramped from my spot in the tree above the river. The houses were dim, silent, the only sound the quiet clucking of chickens in the front yard of one of them. Beyond the houses, fields stretched into the distance, and small dots marked sheep that grazed overnight. 

It was familiar. The bell had marked every morning and evening, and even now I could hear the sound every night, wafting even to the castle. No one slept in the alley I had once lain in, though I may just not be able to see them in the various  twists and turns. 

Part of me wanted to enter, immerse myself in a life I had once but could not remember. 

            I also wanted the blood. Hunting in the middle of a village, surrounded by the beating hearts and scents of living people, would be torturous bliss until I sank my fangs into one of them. Then it would be bliss. I licked my lips, the deer forgotten. 

            As I watched, a light flickered to life in the window of one of the houses. I leaned forward in the tree, straining to see. 

            The light traveled, and I realized it was a candle, held by someone inside the house. The window dimmed, and then the front door swung open. 

            “Out you go, Whisk,” a reedy voice spoke. “Out, out. Go and hunt.”    
            That voice struck me hard. 

            “Hey, you boy,” a woman said. She was blurry in my vision, and I stumbled when I tried to stand. “You can’t sleep here. It’s too cold.”

            “I’m fine.” 

            “No. I’ve seen you. You want to freeze to death? Follow me. Sleep on the floor, but I won’t have you sleeping outside in this weather. You’ll catch your death.” Matilda turned on her heel, and like a child, not a twenty-year-old man, I followed. 

            Her house had been warm, and upon laying down on her couch I was asleep in minutes. Her cat had slept on my stomach. I had left in the morning before she woke, my head pounding. 

            I blinked, the memory and sensations of warmth and something deeper fading. This time, though, they left something behind. A hollowness, that had nothing to do with hunger for blood. I watched, unmoving, as the door closed, and Matilda’s cat prowled away into the night, its ears twitching for the sound of rapid heartbeats and tiny feet.

            The sound of wheels on wood made me turn.

            “You chose to be turned, didn’t you?” The hunter’s voice was loud in my ears after the silence of the river and the village.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 3

            I may have survived the hunter, but I knew my new life wouldn’t last long. Once the others had talked to me, weeks into my turning, about a servant who had taken blood from a human from the village to the east without master’s permission. He had been the oldest, according to the female among us, and had finally lost his mind completely. It happened to all of us, eventually, turning into animals.

            Master had killed him. It was fitting, I supposed. He would kill me too, if I didn’t obey.

            A strange fear froze me in place at the thought, and wind scattered the scent of the deer I had been tracking. I wondered if all vampire servants feared death the way I did. The others had rushed to their death without thought. And I had already died once, in a way, hadn’t I?

            I remembered very little of it. My master had stood over me, his blond hair a halo in the light of the streetlamps. The cloying scent of alcohol and my own vomit, and the trash that had littered that alley, still singed my nose in my memory.

            “Do you want to die?” he had asked, his fangs sharp and long. I had thought he was beautiful.

            When I opened my eyes again, it was to the stone wall of the castle and to a hunger that never left.

            The scent of the deer blew with the breeze again, thicker and pungent. Prey was close. My memories scattered like leaves as I broke into a silent, loping run.

            The deer stood out in my enhanced vision, standing like a fool in the light of the stars. I leaped, closing my hands around its neck.

            It’s hooves drew fiery trails down my sides and a lucky kick caught my knee, bone popping. I held on, sharp fingernails digging into the fur of its neck. My jaw clenched, my fangs puncturing the skin of my lip. If I bit now, I would miss the vein and spill precious blood on the leaves.

            Verterbrae cracked, and the animal went limp. My vision fuzzed, drool dripping from my mouth as I leaned down to finally sink my fangs into my prize. It was strange not to have others fighting me for it.

            In a short time, I had sucked the animal dry, my mouth filled with the coppery taste of life. It infused my body, filling me with energy and power. My knee cracked once more as the kneecap slid back into place, and the pain of the torn skin faded as it mended itself.

            I stood, the dark night a little brighter with the energy of the deer’s blood within me.

            “Hold there,” a voice demanded, and I whirled.

            The hunter emerged from the treeline, a crossbow in hand. In his other hand he held a lantern, and it took me only a moment to realize it was another solar flare. He had come prepared.

            “You,” he said. “Servant. Stop right there.”

My muscles thrummed with power from the deer. If he hadn’t been holding two weapons and my stomach wasn’t full, I would have killed him by now.

            He stood upwind of me, and I wished I could scent him. He stood without a trace of fear, his hands steady. I was probably faster, but I couldn’t be sure. Of course, if he wanted me dead he would have fired by now.

            Wind gusted, and the scent of the deer wafted back into my nostrils.
Something flew overhead, the near silence of a hunting owl. I studied the man before me, his well-formed features, tight slacks and short dark hair.

            “You are controlled for a vampire’s servant,” the hunter said. “No desire for human blood?”

            I tensed. “I am not permitted human blood.” Saliva filled my mouth at the thought of it. Of course, if I killed this man, I would have it.

            “Are there others like you?” the hunter asked. He had not moved an inch. “Other servants, aside from the friends of yours I killed?”

            I tilted my head. “You think I’d tell you?”

            “How long have you served your master?”

            I took a step back, some primitive part of my brain firing a warning. I opened my mouth, showing my fangs. “Don’t press your luck, human. You won’t kill me.”

            The hunter did something then that I did not expect in the least.

            He relaxed, dropping his guard. The crossbow lowered, and he took his thumb off of the switch to the flare. He stood straight, facing me like a man. “I am Johann Malire, a hunter of the 5th order. I was sent here to make the vampire lord in this area answer for his crimes in the villages of Timet, Lorash, and Penthorn.”

            I blinked, and for a moment I anticipated killing him. My legs tensed, my mouth opened, and my hands curled into claws.

            Another gust of wind brought his scent. Masculine sweat, pine, a spice that was probably something he chewed, and underneath it all, a tinge of fear.

            He was afraid, and yet still he addressed me like an equal. Not even when I was human had people spoken to me with such respect.

            I relaxed. If he was afraid, then why had he dropped his guard like that, if he didn’t have some sort of trick?

            “So, servant,” Johann said. If he was aware of how close he’d come to death, he didn’t show it.  “Tell me your name.”

            I opened my mouth, then froze.

            My master never referred to me by name. People and places danced through my head of my time as a human, fleeting images of other people taunting me, my time drinking in bars and in alleys, and an old woman’s face.

            But I didn’t have a name anymore.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 2

            The hollowness in my gut was the first thing to break the hunger, and it took me a moment to realize that every other servant was dead.

            I hadn’t known them. It shouldn’t matter. We hadn’t even spoken, only interacting when we fought during our nightly hunts for deer or other animal blood. Without them, there would be more for me. I should be glad.

            But emotion faded quickly. I fought to keep running, to ignore the command in my mind that told me to turn back and kill the man I had been ordered to kill. Doing so would be suicide.

            It was only when I entered the castle gates that I wondered if my master would be angry with me.

            The gates soared over my head, carvings of wolves seated atop the iron bars. The castle blocked the view of the mountain that overlooked it and kept it hidden from curious onlookers. Gray stone melded against dead trees.

            Inside, thousands of scents mingled, mold mixing with cold stone and dead leaves and the sharp scent of my master’s dogs. The scent of blood wound through it all, and saliva filled my mouth.

            I followed the scent, my bare feet silent on the cold stones, and found my master where the stone became plush rugs. A skeleton lay by the door to his room, the bones ancient. A shiver went down my spine, but faded quickly, just like every other emotion or feeling I had. The ever-present hunger replaced it.

            “What are you doing here?” My master’s voice chased away everything else.

            The vampire who had made me strode closer. His blond hair was tied back with a blue ribbon, and deep red eyes met mine. He frowned, and I ducked my head, curling in on myself like a cur. I should have attacked the hunter and been done with it.

            “Where are the others?” my master said, his voice fainter, and the presence of his power lessened on my shoulders and chest.

            “Dead,” I managed. “The man was a hunter.”

            “Damn.” My master turned on his heel, striding down the hall. With a whisper of his power, I was compelled to follow. He always paced when he thought.

            My master’s shoes clicked on the stone floors, the sound loud and echoing down the halls. I heard tiny hearts beating from creatures racing along the floor and outside the open windows, the blazing fast pulse of mice and once the slower beat of a cat that must be hunting them.

            “Why did you return?” my master asked. I tore my gaze away from the windows.

            “I…I could not kill him.”

            “I ordered you to kill him.” My master stopped walking, turning on his heel like a girl in the village who danced for pennies. He was far more graceful, though. “I am surprised you returned. Why?”

            I blinked, mind racing. My master stared at me, red eyes steady, his mouth a firm line. His shoulders were thrown back and square. “I thought you might like to know that he is a hunter,” I said, my fangs snapping on the words. “He is likely hunting you.”

            “I feed only on the unwanted, the criminals, and the freaks of the villages. I am a boon to those humans. Why did they send a hunter?”

            The words brought a strange stabbing pain in my chest that it took me a moment to place. Distant, hazy memories, ones that used to matter, played through my mind.

            I had been a freak. A pale freak, with white hair and red eyes who everyone had taunted. I had been almost blind. They said I had been a punishment to my mother for being a whore.

            But not anymore. My master made me strong. Nearly two months ago, he had given me new life.

            “Well?” My master snapped, bringing me back to the present and to the drafty halls of the castle. “Did the hunter speak to you, make demands, or any such thing?”

            “No.” I had not heard his voice. “He killed the others with a solar weapon. He was going to kill me with a stake, but I ran.”

            “A solar weapon.” My master’s words were cold. “He does intend to kill me, then, not just you.”

            I didn’t respond. There were not many things that could kill a vampire lord like my master, but now I knew that a solar weapon was one of them.

            “And now you are my only servant.” My master frowned. “A disobedient servant.” I ducked my head.

            “Go and feed on a deer in the forest. Do not enter the city. And stay very, very far from that hunter.” My master waved a hand. “Dismissed.”

            Before I could move, my master vanished the way he always did when he was done with me. His command thrummed in my brain, and I headed toward the open window we had passed on our walk here.

            The soft wind rushing and the chirps and chitters from the forest quieted the clamoring in my mind that competed with my master’s order. I had every intention of following it—my fangs lengthened, saliva filling my mouth at the thought of a meal, even if it was just animal blood. I had yet to taste a human.

            But another part of me wondered, even as I crouched into a hunter’s stance and listened for my prey, about the hunter and what my master was going to do.  He had used his solar weapon, but tomorrow night it would be charged again.

            Of course, my master was not stupid enough to charge a hunter like we had. He was no mindless servant.

            Then again, I supposed as I picked up the gamey scent of deer, I wasn’t mindless either. I had survived.

            And I felt sure I would see that hunter again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Wednesday Briefs story: Thrall

Hello everyone! I'm starting a new story for Wednesday Briefs. This one is fit for the month of October--a vampire story!

 Thrall: Part 1 

The man my master had commanded us to kill stood on the other side of the river, his wagon creaking as the wooden wheels began to roll over the bridge. The man was merely a shadow, even to my enhanced eyesight, silhouetted against the orange harvest moon. 

            To my left, another of us chattered her teeth, her fangs emerging from her lips. My own stomach growled at the thought of food, the warm blood that would gush from the man’s veins and feed us. Until now, Master had forbidden me human blood.  Only the best servants could hunt for humans, and I was too new.  

            The wagon moved slowly, the horses straining to pull it over the arched bridge. There were two, both with dark colored coats. One wore a frayed blanket, and the other limped as though its shoes fitted improperly. The man was clearly no wealthy merchant. 

            One of us hissed, a sibilant, high pitched sound that only ones like us could hear. An answering hiss came from the bushes near the river. 

            The lead horse flicked an ear, and the man in the wagonseat shifted his weight. 

            As soon as the first horse set foot on the grassy bank, the one to my left attacked. Four others joined her, dark shapes against the light of the moon swarming toward the animals and their pumping, flowing blood. 

            I cursed in my mind. I had been turned too recently, and compared to them I was slow. I swallowed saliva, my fangs pricking my lower lip, and leaped forward, dashing through the forest.
            Then light flooded the trees. 

            The four who had run ahead first screamed, their hissing drowned out by the sizzling of bodies exposed to solar light. I ducked behind a tree, screwing my eyes shut, the heat of the light prickling on my skin. 

            This was no weak man the master had sent me to take revenge on for some social slight. This was a vampire hunter. 

            And I was just a servant. 

            The light died, fading to a dull orange glow of the first light over the horizon. A solar flare would work once and couldn’t be used again for at least a day. I knew that, from…somewhere. My life before, I supposed. 

            My muscles tensed when the man spoke, a word to his horses or perhaps just to himself. The man was mine. The other servants were dead. I would kill the hunter, take all his blood for myself, and the master would reward me. Me, his newest servant. The command tightened my muscles further and pounded in my head, my master’s words—Kill.

            I peered out from the edge of the trees, my vision sharpening with bloodlust. The man’s heart beat in a slow, steady rhythm. The light on the wagon made my eyes water, even used up as it was, but it couldn’t hurt me. 

            The hunter sat, a gun across his lap. He wore tight leather trousers, and my gaze lingered over his muscular thighs. For a moment I imagined more than just blood. 

            The thought died quickly. Since my master had turned me, any lust but lust for blood never lasted. 

            The man had light brown hair, though it looked red in the fading light of the solar flare. Dark eyes scanned the forest, and then settled on me. 

            I froze, my own thoughts tangled, my body screaming for me to take his blood. His scent, human and sweat mixed with woodsmoke and the bouquet from the village over the river, filled my nostrils.

            He raised the gun. In that moment, I knew I would die. 

            My master’s orders still screamed in my brain, in my very being—Kill. I was a servant. I obeyed. I was a weak vampire servant, nothing more. But I knew I would die if I attacked.    
 I didn’t want to die. 

            His horse snorted. The hunter held his gun trained on my heart. The sharp wooden stake that his gun would fire jutted from the barrel. A servant like me would never survive it. 

            I could attack. I wanted to leap, to try and sink my teeth into his veins, to obey the orders of the one who had made me what I was. My teeth ground against each other, and my fangs drew blood from my lower lip. 

            Instead I turned and fled, without truly knowing why. No shot came from the forest.