Elana stood at the entrance to the ruined graveyard at the centre of the wood. Light from the torches was already half way down the hill. She could see them bobbing in the darkness as the men who had brought her here ran back down to the village. Fear chased them just as it had stalked them on their way up but then, their Gift protected them. He would not strike if he knew they brought his Gift.
A light wind fluttered the leaves on the branches. Elana hugged her cloak to her, trying to stop her teeth from chattering. She smelt the familiar scent of wool and strove to make her limbs move forward beyond the empty gateway.
The moonlight streaked between the trees. She could see the white slabs of toppled gravestones and the stone box resting this side of the fallen stone wall. The darkness deepened under the huge yew tree, a pool of black so rich it hurt her eyes to look, yet she felt drawn towards the tree's embrace. She smelt him then, not the sweet sickliness of putrefaction, of things long dead, but a dry sharpness that told of thousands of years of fallen leaves. She did not recall her feet moving over the dampened grass but suddenly she was there and could just see his outline against the night sky.
She was glad then that she could hide within her hood so he could not see her fear.
"Have you need of a gift, my Lord?" her soft voiced wavered in the still night air.
"Always, my child." His voice was deep and dark, hovering about her ears with the softness of velvet, yet strong and merciless within. "Come closer that I may see you better."
He moved towards the ruined wall into a path of bright moonlight and for the first time she saw the being she had carried in her heart all these long years. He was as tall as she remembered, his long dark hair falling past his shoulders onto his silken cloak. His face was deathly white in the moonlight, his finely chiselled cheekbones accentuated by the moonlight and his full lips dark and proud. She could not meet his eyes - eyes that would see into her soul, sparkling like coal black diamonds and rich with the wisdom of centuries. She fell to her knees before him and felt the touch of his hand upon her head.
"Why have you come, little one?"
"To offer myself, my Lord."
"Whose choice is this?" His hand felt heavy upon her head and she knew she must answer truthfully if he were to accept her.
"It is the will of my village that I come before you, my Lord, but I have spent my whole life wanting to offer myself to you, truly I have!"
"How can this be so?"
Was it her imagination, or did his voice hold a hint of amusement? Every ten years the village at the foot of the mountain offered its tribute of a virgin to the Vampire King. Most of them went to their doom in trembling fear and not all were accepted. Some made their way home with madness in their eyes, while others were found by the side of the mountain streams with their throats ripped out by wolves. Elana knew her fate was not secure - but she pressed on.
"I have seen you before!" Immediately she knew from his touch that she had surprised him. "Forgive me, I know that I did wrong, but I could not help myself!"
Her whole body trembled until she felt a light touch on her shoulder and she found the strength to continue. "I was just a child when you came before. I hid behind a tree as you drew near to claim her. You spoke to her - but for one brief instance you looked at me and I knew it was my destiny to be your Gift."
The Vampire searched his memories. One tribute in his long life merged quickly into another. He claimed them or rejected them, brought them to that moment of joy and then refreshed his life blood with their own. They joined the ranks of his Dark Angels and he thought no more about them. But this one... intrigued him and he cast his mind back to a moment's gaze upon a startled child. Yes, he remembered and wondered what significance this might have.
For one fleeting moment, her eyes flickered upwards, searching his face, watching for some reaction to her words. She sensed his moment of memory, his dark eyes softening as if her presence now held meaning for him. She was no longer a nameless tribute, a gift to be taken and then forgotten. It had begun.
'Who are the Kindred, Dathos'? Elana recalled her fateful question to the High Priest.
'Why do you wish to know, Elana? Have you been seeking knowledge that is not yours to have?'
'No, Dathos. I saw him when he flew across the mountain. He was like a giant night hawk soaring in the sky. I followed him up to the top of the mountain. He was so wonderful I just wanted to see him. I hid in the thicket when I saw the torches. I heard the voices of the village men and I was afraid they would beat me. They brought Selina with them, she was crying. Some of the men were crying too. I didn't understand why they were so unhappy. When the men left, I was going to go and comfort Selina, but he came and spoke to her and she didn't cry any more. I heard him say that soon she would be one of the Kindred and would be part of him for ever. What did he mean?'
The High Priest looked troubled. 'You heard him speak?'
'Yes, Dathos. I think he saw me too.' She did not understand when the High Priest came and took her in his arms and held her close. She'd been too young to realise the significance of what she'd said, but he'd known. A child had followed a vampire, not any of the Kindred, but the King, himself. She had followed him and she had heard him speak at a time when only the Tribute...the virgin offered to him by the village, should have heard his words. The Gods themselves had shown her fate that day and it was the High Priest's duty to train her in this task, that she might find favour when her turn came to offer herself.
"Do you fear me, Child?" The dark, velvet voice resounded in her head.
"No, my Lord."
It was not him she feared but that she would fail him, that everything she had striven for would be in vain.
"Look at me, Child. Tell me truthfully what it is you fear."
Elana felt his finger lift her chin so she was forced to meet his eyes. "My only fear is rejection, Master. To be cast aside before I have the chance to prove my love."
Love! This was a new concept for the Vampire King. Those who usually stood before him were always awash with emotions. It pleased him to feed from their emotional bodies before he touched their physical selves. Most cloaked themselves with fear and it was a simple task to turn that fear to lust, to blind them to their fate with sensations so strong they yearned for his touch, his release, his tumultuous dance into darkness.
This maid was different. He smelled her fear - but it was only the aftertaste, her emotional body was flooded with a richness he had not perceived in years. How could this be? Why would a maid chosen in Tribute come to him in love, trusting in something he had almost forgotten.
"How can you say this? How could you love a vampire?" His words were cold, mocking.
"I do not know why, or how, only that I do." Her answer shone with the purity of the first snowdrop in winter. He could not doubt her, could only stand in awe before this child, this maid who loved him.
"Come, " he said, "let me see you."
He drew her to her feet then stepped aside as she threw back her cloak, revealing her naked body. The moonlight caught in her hair, a shimmering net of silver. It threw her body into intriguing relief, gilding peaks and shadowing valleys while her skin stretched smooth and perfect over fragile limbs. The sight almost robbed him of breath. He could see no flaw, no blemish on this girl; a cherished virgin with breasts so pert, his fingers ached to hold them, his lips to touch them, while his teeth clenched and unclenched in the fight to conceal his fangs. He would not have her turn from him until she was truly his.
"You are beautiful, Elana."
There, he spoke her name aloud; a name which seared itself upon his brain. Elana, cherished child, born with a single purpose to her short life - to love a vampire.
"Thank you, my Lord."
His words gave her courage and warmth, dispelling the cold stone of fear clenched in the pit of her stomach. She loosed the knot of her cloak and let it fall to the ground, then knelt and unlaced her leather boots, discarding them so she might stand before him and leave this world as she entered it. She stood with her legs apart, as the High Priest had taught her, her naked feet firm upon the ground as she drew energy from the earth itself. The soft breeze played gently with her hair, raising goosebumps upon her skin, the tiny buds of her nipples tingling with hardness.
He moved in front of her and she watched as he touched her with a single finger, tracing an icy line down from her throat, between her breasts until he reached the soft hill of her mons. He held her gaze as his finger trailed lower, rubbing her warm, outer lips until she gave him access to her secret place and the juices gathering there. His cold touch heightened her senses, making her want him deeper inside her. She whimpered as he withdrew from her, bringing his finger to his mouth and savouring her aroma before tasting her.
"Sweet, " he murmured, "so very sweet."
She held her breath, wondering what test he would set her to prove her worth.
"Now you must taste me."
He untied the belt from his waist and drew apart the folds of his garment to reveal the full glory of his aroused manhood. For a moment she stood mesmerised by the size of him, but a light touch on her shoulders urged her to her knees and she grasped him lightly with her tiny hand. Oh, he was cold! Her tongue darted from between her rosebud lips, venturing a first touch and taste of the swollen head. She swirled the first drops of his essence around the tip, discovering the hidden slit and trying to force her tongue within it until she heard him groan and cast a fearful glance towards his face.
"Your touch is like fire to me, little one, but do not fear for it pleases me."
She closed her lips around him, as her tongue danced around his length, drawing him closer until his shaft touched the back of her throat. For a moment, she paused, the words of the High Priest ringing in her ears.
He will be cold, like winter's touch. He needs your warmth to bring him back to life. If he offers you his taste, take him deep within your throat, so that his seed can enter your belly. It will strengthen you for what will come.
She took a deep breath, remembering everything the High Priest had taught her and found that she was no longer afraid. The Vampire King smelled of dark forests and fragrant herbs while his skin felt soft and supple against her tongue. She relished the taste of him as he filled her mouth with his velvet hardness. Once more she wanted him deep inside her and relaxed her throat. Encouraged by his moans, she rolled her tongue around his shaft, massaging him, while her hands explored beneath, cupping his balls, stroking them, feeling them harden beneath her grasp.
"Aaaaaagh!" The groan of pleasure tore itself from the Vampire's throat. How could this maid give so much pleasure with her innocent mouth? He could feel his seed rising in his balls, an icy storm swirling within him. With difficulty he held back, thrust his hands into her hair and forced her to look at him.
"If you accept my seed, you will be mine."
She closed her eyes, nodding her understanding. His grip tightened in her hair as she felt him tense, then pour his seed within her. She swallowed hard, again and again as the bitter fluid gushed towards her belly, filling her until there was no more. Dazed, she felt him grow limp and though her lips clamped tight around his shaft, it slipped from her.
His hands gripped her shoulders as her head fell back. He drew her to her feet and held her as she swayed light-headed, almost dizzy, yet floating in a sea of pleasure. This was the test. Could she survive his seed within her? Her eyes flickered open to see him watching her, his hand gently clearing the strands of hair from her fevered brow. He drew her to him, stroking her soft skin, soothing her with a mixture of sound and touch, willing her body to accept him.
She moved sensuously against him, her skin aching for his touch. He curled around her, leaving a trail of kisses on her face and down her neck. She turned her head offering herself to him and his tongue darted out to prepare the place where he would take her life. His touch inflamed her. She cried out, begging him to feed, to take the gift she offered; but though his fangs protested and his jaw shook, he would not do so. Not yet.
"Patience, little dove," he soothed her, "I will feed soon and you will be transformed, I promise you, but for now relax and let my seed unfold within you, feel its effects and enjoy your new-found pleasures."
The seed of the Vampire King is a potent force that will both protect and destroy you, the High Priest had said. It acts like the strongest drug, heightening your senses so that with every touch you will beg for more. At the same time it is beginning to change your very nature, so that when the King takes your blood into himself, the second burst of seed within your womb will herald the transformation from human flesh to Vampire spawn. Although you will die, the seed will keep you alive until the change has occurred.
His hands brushed across her neck.
"My breasts, " she groaned, "please touch my breasts."
The Vampire King looked down at her, a smile softening his lips. How could he refuse her, this maid of his who was struggling to meet her body's new-found needs. Already he fancied her breasts swelling from his seed as he brushed his palms over them. Then he lifted her in his arms so he could suckle from them, first lapping each nipple with his tongue, then drawing them deep into his cold mouth, nipping them suddenly so a single drop of blood stood proudly upon the surface. He touched it to his lips and then kissed her so that she could taste her first blood. This was another test. Would his seed have begun its work? How would she react to the taste of blood? Her tongue darted out and flicked it from her lips. The blood burned upon her tongue and she craved more, but he laughed and told her she would have to wait.
Holding her close, he walked over to the ancient tomb and draped her cloak upon the cold stone, then laid her down tenderly.
"Open your legs wide, " he told her, "so they hang over the edge of the stone."
She did so, revelling in the extent of her exposure, gazing up at the stars as they swung so low in the sky she could almost touch them. His tongue explored her, tasted her, discovered her hidden depths, delighting her until her whole body filled with strange sensations and she quivered with joy and expectation.
Elana raised her hand, as she sensed him draw closer to her and traced the outline of his rugged shoulder as his shadow engulfed her. His manhood rubbed along the length of her lips as he coated himself in her juices. Suddenly, there was an icy pressure at her entrance, accentuating the heat of her inner core. She reached down to guide him inside her, her fingers touching her engorged nub and sending lightning flashes of pleasure deep within her. He rocked his hips backwards and forwards, testing the strength of her maidenhead.
He kissed her cheek. "Do you yet fear me?" he asked.
"No, my Lord. You have made my body dance with fire and ice. I only seek more; so that I may be consumed in the flames of your passion."
"It will be soon. First there will be pain and then pleasure and at its height I shall take you and darkness will descend. But do not fear, for you will still be with me and soon you will be one with me and you shall feed from me as your first meal as your gift brings me life renewed."
She shivered then at his words, not with cold, but with anticipation of what must come. His strokes became longer and longer and she felt a searing pain as the membrane parted and she was a maid no more. She gasped aloud, but he did not falter. With each stroke she felt the fire within her burning more brightly as the vampire seed fuelled her need of him, to feel the icy fullness of his shaft deep within her. Her body writhed beneath him, urging him forward. She felt his touch once more upon her neck, his lips kissing her throat and then his delicate tongue licking her skin, coating it with his deadly saliva so that when his fangs bit, the skin would part instantly, drawing her blood towards the surface. Each pass of his tongue caused a shudder inside her and made her skin so sensitive she cried out from the pleasure of it.
"Yes, my sweet one, now. Come to me now!"
She felt roaring in her ears and a bright flame of joy burst in the core of her being as his seed shot into her womb, her strong muscles drawing him ever deeper as they pulsed around him. Her body was consumed with both fire and ice, transporting her to a state of such bliss, she hardly felt the nip of his fangs until he began to suck the lifeblood from her.
The link between them was so strong she could almost taste the hot, coppery sweetness pour into his mouth and down inside him bringing new life to his vital organs. She wanted that dark, sensuous vitality, so much so that when he paused for breath, she moaned and writhed sensuously against him, urging him to feed again until she had nothing left to give. Then darkness descended and she knew not where she ended and he began. They were one.