Mastering the Darkness Ch. 02byaria_rose©
Three days. Three long, slow days. Callan sat in the meeting, hearing the council members conversing and advising and recommending, but struggling to listen to anything they actually said. It had been three days since he'd been to the village, since he'd recovered the precious jewels and the stones, the last remaining token of his father and the key to immense power; three days since he'd brought the girl back to the mansion. And three days since, as promised, and at Marcus' insistence, he had let the council members decide what to do with her, ignoring the gnawing feeling that he should be the one making the decision.
He shuddered involuntarily as he remembered that day. They had arrived back at the Manor, leaving the village; Marcus had called the council members together and they were arriving from the various lands and planes. This was serious, a matter of utmost importance - the thief had been caught. And the Pothos jewels returned.
In the council room, the very same room that he found himself in these three days later, Callan and his brothers had watched seated around the table as, one by one, the council members had entered the mansion, nodding to the vampires; the more restrained amongst the council ignoring the girl, standing in the corner, top of both arms seized by broad guards who towered above her. The more aggressive members glared at her, projected some of their anger towards her so that it washed over her in waves and made her feel nauseous and light-headed. He remembered observing as she stood, shivering, but somehow still resilient, in the corner. Taking their places around the table, Callan had stood to call the meeting open, and sat back down at the head of the table, the opposite end of the room to the girl, with a little more of a resigned thud into his chair than he had intended. And then: silence.
"Well?" Luc spoke first, his voice smooth and soft, laced with a hint of menace. He eyed the girl, up and down, and turned to Callan. "This... this - human... stole the Pothos?" He shook his head and sighed. Luc was an old vampire, one who had shared in the vast history and significance of the jewels almost as long as Callan and his brothers had. He knew the implications. He knew the consequences.
And more silence. Callan was unusually quiet in his seat; his brother Marcus, restless and sat opposite Luc, answered him.
"Yes. Indeed. This female is a fucking worthless thief, and must be punished. The Pothos are returned to us; all is well and good again, my friends, but the first task on our agenda today is to decide what to with her. Callan has left it up to us to decide; as you may understand, he is a little too angry to make the decision himself." Several men around the room nodded emphatically. "So, my dear council - suggestions? I, for one, say bleed her so that she dies slowly." A slow, fang-bearing smile formed on his dark face. "And so that we may enjoy her. She does smell rather good, after all, and it would be a shame to waste her." A half-hearted chuckle raised around the room at that; the ten council members sharing knowing glances with each other, fangs elongating involuntarily. Callan found his fist clenching underneath the table.
"Yes yes, a good idea." Luc spoke again, his long, straight blonde hair waving around him as nodded his agreement. "Shall we start now? I could do with some light refreshment while we discuss the rest of the agenda - and I see that in his rush to organise today's council meeting, the Master has not laid any on." Another small chuckle around the room, and Marcus leant forward slightly over the table, nodded once more with a smile at his friend, and then raised a hand to beckon the guards to bring the girl away from the corner and nearer the end of the long table.
And Callan's eyes were on her straight away. The guard's hands gripped her upper arms so hard that her skin was flushed white underneath their hands, and they brought her forward so that she clumsily stumbled as she walked, her long auburn hair flowing around her haphazardly. His jaw set and his eyes narrowed at the strange tension running through him. Anger, he reasoned; it must be hot, pure white anger, coming face to face with the thief. And yet.
Brought now from the corner to the opposite end of the table to the Master, she stood still. She was nervous, they could all smell it on her; but she raised her chin defiantly as she looked at each vampire in the room. In truth, she wasn't quite sure what she was doing; but it was worth a try, wasn't it? It had to be. Most of the men glared at her, or looked like they wanted to devour her, or - worse? - both. The Master's other brother - the one who was not Marcus, she noted - looked at her with something between pity and apathy in his eyes. And the Master himself? She looked at him last, stubbornly.
Luc stood, pushing out his chair from behind him and grinning at Marcus, who returned a similar expression. His long fingers tapped the glass council room table momentarily, drumming a quick rhythm excitedly, as he stalked around the side of the table towards the girl. She glanced at him for a split second, and then decided that it would be far much better not to. She moved her glance firmly back to the Master.
And by all the Gods, there was that lip trembling again. Callan cleared his throat suddenly and stood, pushing his chair out decidedly and moving to the coffee table and mini-bar at the back of the room, his back to her. He opened the mini-bar absent-mindedly, only half noticing that it was empty before he closed it up again. He picked up a wine glass from the selection on the coffee table and examined its cleanliness, its purity; an image of it filled with her blood clouding his mind. He slammed the glass back down onto the table.
And he looked in the mirror, above the coffee table; the mirror that reflected to the other end of the council table. And there was Luc; fingers reaching around her neck, eyes closing as he inhaled her scent, smile forming on his face as he bent down towards her pulse. And there was the girl, with her eyes fixed on Callan still.
She met his eyes in the mirror. Fuck.
"Wait." Luc froze, fangs bared and an inch from her neck, his eyes shifting to look towards the Master. Callan turned around to face the council. "Not yet. Luc, sit back down." Luc's eyes widened as his grip tightened desperately around the girl's neck.
"You can't be serious, Master. I was just-"
"Sit." The Master's voice was dark, demanding, and Luc immediately released the shaking girl, pacing begrudgingly back to his seat and exchanging bewildered glances with the other vampires in the room. Marcus looked at his brother in utter disbelief.
"What-" Callan raised a hand, and Marcus was immediately commanded into silence; a little reminder of the Master's true power, so much more than that of anyone else in the room - even his brothers. Callan narrowed his eyes and walked back towards the table.
"Not today." His mind raced privately. "Do you not think, men... that we would be better enjoying her a week tomorrow?" The council members all looked at each other, unsure. One shrugged. "After all," Callan continued, coming to sit back down in his seat, rather cooler now, "have we all forgotten that it is the 3000th anniversary of the founding of the council? I would think it more logical, and, of course, more ultimately enjoyable, if we refrained from... humans, until then." A few of the vampires exchanged unconvinced glances, but the majority began to bow their heads slightly in agreement. Callan could always get what he wanted anyway. Callan looked around the room. "So, my council, it is decided; we will save her until then. A week tomorrow." He looked at the guards, careful - so very careful - not to look her in the eyes. And then he spoke again, darkly.
"Take her away."
Three days. For three dragging days Callan had wrestled with his conscience. For three long, tiring days he had shifted restlessly at night as he dreamed of her in the holding room where he knew they would have taken her and had got, at least half a dozen times, half-way down to where she would be before chastising himself and turning around. It was getting worse and worse. He was determined to stay strong; she had done wrong, after all. She would be punished, enjoyed by the council, as they had decided - as he had given them the power to decide. But yet.
He was tired of this meeting, tired of the Council's advice and musings. He only had himself to blame, in truth; he had disbanded the meeting prematurely three days ago, after the little incident with the girl, and had commanded that they all leave immediately. He himself had rescheduled the meeting for today, for three days' time. So why was he so restless?
"Master?" Callan jolted out of his daze. Thane looked at him questioningly; the most youthful vampire council member, Callan always made sure he was sat to his immediate left, in case of any rash immature outbursts. They were rare, now, after all this years; but it was a necessary precaution all the same. Callan looked at Thane and then back at all the council members, eyebrows raised in slight embarrassment.
"Apologies. Do continue." Marcus cocked his head, looking down the table questioningly at this brother. It was Victor who spoke, though; they all knew his calming tone would be the most effective.
"We were just finished, actually; Marcus asked if you had anything else to add?" Callan met Victor's eyes with a silent gratitude that he had not furthered his embarrassing lack of attention. He turned to his other brother.
"No; no, everything seems in order." He looked around the table at the ancient beings gathered there. "Council dismissed, men. We meet again in five days, for the anniversary of the founding of the council. So, until then." He stood swiftly, bowed slightly to the vampires and strode out of the door commandingly, his strides long and serious. Outside of the room, he chastised himself for his lack of attention, for his normally well-controlled and serious mind racing all the time. He needed to find a way to calm the disquiet inside him; it was most distracting. Still, only five days, and then he was certain that his apprehension would leave him - one way or the other.
Not wanting to face the council again today, he paced out of the council meeting room door, and through the mansion's atrium to the long corridor that run down the opposite side, leading towards his rooms. Disappearing down the dark corridor, he retreated into the blackness and sought comfort from it, feeling it wrap itself around him. He came to his drawing room and entered, closing the door firmly behind him. And sighed.
Walking over dark red carpet, he went past the floor-to-ceiling bookcases and the armchairs and the small dark wooden dining table; past the grand piano and past the glimmering fireplace until he stood, at the end of the room, by the large bay window. Crossing his arms, he looked up into the sky, and down, from the mansion at the top of the hill down to the world below, the world in which he had complete and ultimate power. He sighed again.
With his astute hearing, he could hear the other council members leave; he could hear Marcus saying to Victor that he would go and talk to Callan, and Victor, sensibly as always, sensitive to others' emotions, persuading him not to. He heard a snarl as Marcus left the mansion, presumably to find food. He was having difficulty not enjoying humans until the anniversary day, as Callan had suggested, somewhat on a whim, three days ago. He heard Victor blur upstairs, rather more calmly, and retreat to the East Wing, used by him and Marcus when they stayed at the mansion.
And now it was deadly silent. Callan moved away from the window and went to sit by the fire, thinking of a book to read, when he realised. No one was around. Victor was out of earshot, even by vampire standards. He could feel the temptation in him growing, surging, and even as he fought to push it back down inside him he knew he couldn't. He was alone; and no one would hear if he went to the holding cell; if he went to where the girl was.
In a flash he was out of the room and back into the atrium, down the corridor on the other side, through the door at the end, down the steps, and - finally - at the door of the holding cell. Composing himself, he pulled down the handle and pushed open the door.
He was not expecting what he saw.
* * *
Aching; aching everywhere. Pain and dull aching and soreness. It consumed her, and her breathing was laboured as she took sharp sighs in and out, trying to calm herself through the pain. It would stop eventually, one way or the other. She had to be strong. She would die, if not today then at this council event anyway; not long to wait, either way.
But how long had she been down here? It was difficult to tell. Handcuffs attached to a chain attached to the wall kept her constrained to about a metre's radius; although in truth, her legs were too weak to stand now anyway. There was no way to escape.
And no light, either; it was so dark down here, so she had no way of knowing whether it was day or night outside. That was unsettling; not to know how time was passing. She hoped it was going fast, that it was nearly the day of the anniversary, the day where all this pain would finally stop. She desperately hoped.
Her stomach swelled with a deep rumbling, asking for more than just the little bread and water she was brought every now and then. It was the only sound filling the room, apart from her laboured breathing, and the occasional clink of the chains as she moved.
And there was a man, or two - maybe different ones, but mainly one man - and he would come in, every so often, and she would get slaps and punches and even kicks, until she would inevitably pass out. And she would wake up after the abuse, and find some bread and water next to her; as if it was a reward for still being alive.
Who was the man? She didn't know him; perhaps it was the vampire who had nearly sunk his teeth into her neck in the meeting room. Perhaps it was Marcus, or the Master's other brother. But it wasn't the Master. She knew that much, although how she knew that was a mystery.
Pain consumed her again, washing over her in waves. She groaned softly and lay back down on the hard floor, eyes closing to try to shut out what was going on around her. She succumbed to the darkness as it swept over her; welcomed a relief from the aching.
* * *
The first thing Callan noticed was that there was not just one but two figures in the room; not just the girl, but another. The guards were usually to stand outside and keep outside, unless it was a prisoner of an extremely threatening and serious nature - in which case, they would be kept subdued by having guards in the holding room with them from time to time. To punish them, and hurt them a little, until they were more co-operative. But surely this was not needed here; he had given no command that the girl should be hurt.
The second thing Callan noticed was that one of the figures was standing, and the other on the floor. This, Callan immediately found strange; prisoners would usually have no need to be on the floor, as they had the use of the entire room - the bed, the wardrobes, the bookshelves, the chairs. It could not be said that the Master treated his prisoners badly; he was fair, but not wholly unkind. The only exception to the rule was if the prisoner was extremely dangerous and severely powerful - then, and only then, would they be chained to the wall, so that they couldn't escape.
The third thing Callan noticed was a female voice, a low, laboured groan. And with that, Callan decided that he was done with noticing.
The Master commanded the room's lights to come on with a split-second thought, and tried - struggled - to take in the now illuminated scene before him. The bed, chairs, wardrobe, bookshelves - completely unused. A tall, broad guard standing darkly by the left-hand side wall. And the girl. Callan felt a tightening in his chest as he saw the girl, chained to the wall as if she was a demonic mass-murderer rather than a human; vicious bruises covering every inch of her skin, almost unrecognisable; her face and auburn hair stained an alarming shade of blood red. Dark red, almost brown blood around her on the floor; dried because it must have been days old. A crust of bread and a half-drunk glass of water just in her reach - although she must have been in no state to drink it. The guard glaring down at the girl, a smirk on his face.
The guard looked round at the intruder, his eyes growing wide as he realised who it was. The Master. Callan felt uncontrollable rage surging within him as, with a fang-bearing snarl, too angry to speak, he commanded his power to paralyse the guard. The man fell to the floor, like a statue, unable to move. Glaring at him with searing heat, the Master projected agony onto the paralysed man, knowing that he would be unable to express his agonising pain, to even try and escape it.
Temporarily satisfied, Callan turned his attention to the girl, and was at her side in an instant. She was breathing, but not awake; not surprising, Callan considered. He had a thousand questions, he needed to see blazing pain etched across the guard's face as he explained himself, as he told the Master why he had hurt her, as he succumbed to the intense pain he would put him through - but not yet. He needed to see to the girl first.
He bent down next to her, clearing her bloodied hair away from her face so he could survey the damage properly. He recoiled in disgust at the large purple and yellow bruises covering every inch of her skin, a nauseous feeling washing over him as he imagined the pain she must have felt. The smell of her dried blood filled his nose; an ancient vampire, he no longer experienced mad blood lust, and could control himself well, but there was so much of her blood in this room that somewhere in the back of his mind the blood lust was still stirring. So much blood. He pushed the feeling firmly back down inside himself and swept down to gather her up in his arms, lifting her as if she were as light as a feather. Limbs loose and head lulled back, she was a like a broken rag doll in his arms, and the tightening in his chest worsened as he instinctively held her tighter to him. He went to stride out of the door; turning back to the paralysed guard, racked with pain on the cold stone floor. He used his mind to take the pain away for a second, so that the guard would comprehend what he said; speaking with such darkness in his deep, gravelly voice that he even surprised himself.
"I don't know what the fuck you thought you were doing." The Master looked down at the girl again, and then back to the paralysed guard. "I don't know why you thought you had permission to hurt her. But you will pay. Believe me, you will suffer for this." And with that, he projected searing agony into the man's body again, heard the man's stifling sharp intake of breath, and walked out the room.
In a blur, he was back down his dark corridor, down to the lone guest bedroom that was in his private quarters. No one had used it for years and the place was full of cobwebs and dust, but with a mere thought in his mind as he held the girl, they disappeared, and new furniture adorned the room. The door closed behind him as he took the girl over to the bed, laying her gently on her back, noting her ripped dress and bruised skin underneath; bruises everywhere. He sat, hesitantly, on the side of the bed, looking down at her, watching her laboured, unconscious breathing.
"I'm sorry." The words took him by surprise as he whispered them and they echoed around the silent room. Slowly beginning to come to again, the girl whimpered in pain; Callan wincing alongside her. He considered turning off the lighting, so that she didn't know it was him with her; but then re-thought that idea, not wanting her to imagine for a moment that she was still in that holding room, and still with the guard; still about to receive more pain. Instead, he dimmed the light slightly. She looked up at him through narrowed, blinking eyes, full of pain.