Mastering the Darknessbyaria_rose©
"Right. Now. I don't like doing this as much as you, but if you humans will insist on stealing..." The speaker stood in the middle of the small village green, addressing a large, silent, petrified crowd. The crowd all knew why they were there. Something precious had been stolen from the most powerful, ancient vampire in the land; the culprit had been tracked back to their little town, and now the Master and his two brothers were paying their usually peaceful village a rare and unwanted visit, threatening and angry and terrifying. The Master, looked around the crowd, and, with a fleeting glance to the dark skies above in desperation, spoke once again. "This is your final chance. Precious goods have been stolen from me and, make no mistake, I will have them returned, whether freely or by force."
He stood a good foot taller than any of the villagers, his broad, athletic body, jet black curly hair and piercing green eyes enough to threaten anyone; but more so, because the villagers knew why he was here. The slight glimpse of sharp, pointed fangs when he snarled his words was enough to make any human recoil, and this crowd were no exception. The Master's two brothers, almost equally as threatening and imposing, stood either side of him, glaring into the crowd angrily, their fangs also slightly visible. And yet, the mass of people remained deadly silent. The Master shook his head, quickly losing the little patience he had. "If no one comes forward now, I will ransack this place and find the missing goods. And if I cannot find them... I will destroy your settlement and take every single thing of value that this village owns, as compensation." He looked into the crowd of worried faces, growing secretly desperate. "By the Gods, you know I will. I will not hesitate in destroying this place." The Master turned to look at his brother Marcus, who nodded, adamantly encouraging his brother, and turned to address the crowd.
"Do you fucking humans not realise everything we do for you? We protect you, we keep all trouble out of this area, we give you a safe place to live, we offer you sanctuary. We are your salvation, when we could be your damnation. All we ask for in return is obedience and fucking trust." He swore under his breath. "Fucking humans. You know how much those goods meant to us. To our father." He paused and glanced back to the Master, who smiled, darkly, demandingly; and spoke.
"Now then, who can return to me what was stolen?"
* * *
Three years previous.
Those eyes. Those captivating, sky blue, doe eyes, staring up at him with so much innocence. That was why he hesitated; that was why he did it. In years to come, he'd think back on this hesitation with a sharp stab of painful confusion; this, the only moment in time where he could ever acknowledge that he'd shown weakness. It was those eyes, her eyes.
Callan stared at the girl before him. Girl, he affirmed to himself, surely still only in her late teenage years, and yet. So damned captivating. She stared up at him, her back and the palms of her hands pressed against the wall behind her, motionless apart from the tremble of her lower lip, which he observed with intrigue. Yes, she was scared of him, and he should have relished that, revelled in it, but yet. So damned captivating. He narrowed his eyes a little and clenched his jaw, aware that in doing so his fangs began to show at the sides of his mouth, and acutely aware of her heartbeat pacing even faster in terrified response. Hell, he could taste her fear in the air, even through the overwhelming odour of the smoke and the flames, lapping at every house in the village, as his brothers made sure they left no villager alive. Yes, he should kill her, he affirmed to himself. It was his order, to kill every villager he found alive. He could kill her with a mere thought, a blink of an eye, a flick of the wrist. And yet. He found himself unable to break away from her glance.
The flames which engulfed the straw roofs of every house in the village were spreading, intoxicating, and it was no exception in the house that Callan now found himself in. Smoke began to billow through the roof, and he knew that it would not be too much longer until the roof collapsed, killing the girl anyway. Hell, he didn't even need to kill her. All he needed to do was to walk away, and that would be one more worthless human dead. But yet.
The girl began to cough violently with the smoke, forcing her to break eye contact and bend over, eyes streaming. Callan was glad for it. He regained his composure and control, and straightened a little to look down at her: yes, he just needed to leave her here and she would perish. Perfect. He tried to force a dark smile as he turned his back and walked towards the door of the little house; trying to suppress the foreign, almost human urge not to leave her.
As he approached the door, it happened; burning timber and tiles from the roof came crashing down into the middle of the room, and the girl screamed, an ear-piercing, shattering shriek. Callan was used to screams. Hell, only moments before had he stood in the middle of the village with his brothers, burning torch in hand, as the houses began to be burned to the ground on his father's orders. But yet.
Callan, hesitating once again, turned back to the girl, and instantly regretted doing so. Her hair, an auburn shade, he had uncharacteristically noticed before, was grey with ash, and her coughs were more incessant as she struggled to breath. At the moment he turned around, she had lifted her head to look at him, she had whispered please, with those captivating, sky blue eyes. And that's why he did it.
Callan swore loudly and, in a millisecond, had reached the girl, thrown her roughly into his arms, and darted out of the back of the hut. The fresh air of the moonlit night was a welcome relief for her lungs and she gasped, spluttering, as he placed her down on the grass, a little too softly for his own liking. He straightened himself to stand tall again, so tall and imposing over her crouched body, and looked down at her darkly. She gulped, shaking, with trembling breaths, and to his surprise she scrambled onto her feet to stand before him, shorter and so obviously weaker, but, he noticed with a confusing pang in his chest, so defiant, still. Her tear-stained eyes now narrowed a little as her forehead creased into a frown, and she spoke, so softly.
"Thank you?" her whisper, more of a question than a statement, was so small Callan seriously doubted any human would have been able to pick up on it. But he could, and he noticed it. He also noticed the house, the village, behind them burning to the ground; he noticed that there were no more screams, only the sounds of soul-engulfing flames; he noticed that, being shadowed at the back of the hut, at the back of the village, no one would see the girl as she fled into the fields and the forest beyond. And most of all, he noticed the same tremble of her bottom lip. It was then he spoke; and it came out as one long word, dark and demanding and growling so that she would take note. And she did.
In years to come, he would wonder why she too had hesitated; why, once he had rescued her, she just stood and stared at him, as if, she were not scared, as if she felt something other than fear for him. As if.
* * *
A woman stood at the back of the crowd, wiping her sweaty chubby palms on the brown material of her skirt nervously, staring mesmerised, petrified at the three imposing figures stood in the centre of her village. They hadn't made a trip into the local community for three years -- and everyone knew what had become of that particular village. She tried to steady her beating heart with a deep breath and carefully, slowly, looked back round to her little home, only a few metres away. The houses that surrounded the village green were all empty: men, women and children all in the crowd. All empty, except her home. Her daughter and niece lay hiding in there, and for good reason. Ann knew she had to go back to them. Ann knew she had to speak up. Gods, what was she to do?
The crowd was still so deadly silent, so petrified, and the three dark figures turned to huddle together, backs to the villagers, to discuss just how they were going to destroy the village, Ann presumed. People began crying, protesting, wailing. We don't know anything, please, we don't know anything. It wasn't us; it wasn't me.
Ann took this as her cue and hobbled her bulky frame over to the door of her little wooden hut. She creaked the door open as quietly as possible and slipped inside as discreetly as her large build would allow, turning to the right and peering underneath the table to see the two girls crouching, hiding and silent.
"Mama! What are you doing? What if they saw you?!" one of the girls whispered passionately, her eyes brimming with tears, shaking uncontrollably. Her cousin Aria, a year younger than her cousin, was not so teary; calm and composed and collected, she stood resolutely to meet her aunt's eyes.
"What's going on out there? Is everyone out there?" Ann nodded slowly, glancing back to the wooden door and praying that the figures hadn't turned back around to see her slink off. They had demanded the whole village outside, and Ann and her family would be in even more danger if the vampires found out they hadn't complied.
Suddenly, they heard screams and yells coming from some of the villagers, and what she quickly realised to be the sound of burning flames, lit torches. The sound of that same masculine voice as before permeated through the mud walls of the hut, muffled a little, but still overpowering and demonic, growling.
"If you will not cooperate, we will burn your properties and take everything of value. Last chance." Ann's daughter began to sob, clutching the little brown bag of precious metals and jewels to her body. Aria frowned and leaned down to pick the bag up out of her elder cousin's lap, beginning to walk to the door.
"I'm taking these out there to them." Ann's eyes widened and she tried, unsuccessfully, to snatch the bag out of her niece's hand.
"No! Aria, what has got into you, girl? By all the Gods, I will not let you do this!" Ann whispered forcefully through gritted teeth, shifting to stand with her back to the wooden door. Her bulky frame blocked almost the whole doorway, so that Aria couldn't reach around the side to push open the door. Aria sighed, frustrated.
"Look. I'll tell them it was me; they're not to know who it was. Lizzy need never speak about it. I'll say I found them somewhere... in the forest." Aria paused, and frowned again at the insistent blocking the door. "It's all they want; then they'll leave us alone."
"Oh, and do you seriously believe that?" whispered Ann incredulously, spreading herself against the back of the door even more so now.
"What I believe, Aunt, is that they are not bad creatures. I don't believe they're evil. They've protected our villages for years, haven't they? They're angry, and perhaps rightly so, since their father lies dead and all his valuable possessions stolen; but I'll give them back what they want, and they'll leave. It's logical." Ann opened her mouth to argue with her defiant niece, but before sound could escape, the door was flung open with incredible force. Aunt and niece were both thrown halfway across the hut; Aria landed on the floor, as the brown bag split open and the precious metals and jewels which were contained inside scattered all around her, her long auburn hair falling around her face as she landed with an oomph. The imposing figure at the door glanced at Ann, struggling to stand to the left of the door; at Lizzy, crouching on the floor opposite her mother, silent and wide-eyed; and then at Aria, lying opposite the door, the contents of the bag scattered all around her, in the darkness of the back of the hut. His eyes darkened, and with a sneer, he leaned back to beckon over his brothers.
"Guys, you need to take a look at this." Almost immediately, two other figures appeared at the doorway, and Aria tried desperately to gather all the tiny brightly coloured jewels and little metal discs, trying to clear up. She glanced nervously at her aunt, who could only return her stare with a terrified blink and gulp, and a slight shake of her head.
"Alright, Marcus. Well, let's see then. At least we won't have to destroy the whole village now." The three women recognised the voice of the man who had done the majority of the talking outside, and both mother and daughter cowered as he bent down quite considerably to enter the hut, his dark presence almost preceding him, permeating through and around the hut. Aria took a deep breath and stood up resolutely, holding her hands out, the contents of the little brown bag in her palm.
"I took them... I found them and I took them." Aria glanced nervously at Lizzy, silent and trembling in the corner, and carried on defiantly. "But here; you can have them back." The man who had entered the hut, who had spoken, did not so much as spare a fleeting glance at the other two women; he focused immediately on the figure in the shadows at the back of the hut. He could see the jewels, the metals, sparkling and glittering at him in relief, outstretched in the figure's hands. With one swift move he was standing before her, smiling darkly. He had his possessions back, and now he would kill the thief. Just to show them that they don't mess with the Master. His dark smirk turned into a fang-bearing grin. But yet.
"Fuck!" The sudden shout echoed around the tense silence of the hut, tearing out of the vampire's mouth and bouncing off the walls with shock. Those eyes. And they were more sky blue, more doe-like, more captivating than he remembered as they grew wider and wider under his gaze. Those same eyes. They were resolute and strong, even now, and he recoiled a little in surprise. But he was still the Master; the strongest, most powerful vampire, in control of this and many, many other villages, and he was not about to be thrown by a girl with pretty eyes. Especially not when they were a...
"Fucking thief!" Callan's brother Marcus had shifted from the doorway over to the girl in a second, and, in another second, had knocked the girl so that she hit the stone floor again with a deep thud and a groan, dropping the bag which Marcus caught in one swift, effortless movement. He opened the bag and, apparently satisfied, nodded to his brother. "All there." The Master vampire turned away from the girl and spoke, his fangs clearly visible, causing a shudder to run down the humans' spines.
"Mm. I'll take care of the thief. You see to her... accomplices." Immediately, Aria protested, trying to raise her now aching body off the floor.
"No! No, these people are not my accomplices! They knew nothing, I swear! The rest of village is innocent!" Even as the girl dragged herself back to her feet, the vampire standing in front of her, his back to her, had made a small gesture of his hand, and the girl's aunt and cousin were forced out of the house and into the crowd of terrified villagers outside by the two other strong, imposing vampires. It was only then that Aria felt tears start to form, stinging and salty, and she gulped them back as she spoke, her gaze lowered a little to the floor as she tried to get her strength of character back, her voice softer now, pleading. "They didn't do..."
"Your whole village will pay for what you did." His voice was strong, definite, and unnervingly dark, and she shuddered involuntarily.
"But I've returned them..."
"And that makes it all better, I suppose?" His voice now sounded incredulous, and he turned around to face the girl, all dark and glaring and fanged. "You will pay for this." If only humans knew how important the goods are, Callan thought angrily, staring down at the auburn-haired girl. What they meant to him; the last reminder of his murdered father. And the power they contained. The danger if they fell into the wrong hands. She raised her head then, and the vampire snatched his gaze away before their eyes met. Blazing white rage pierced all the way through him, tearing at him. "You are a low thief, despicable, and as such, I expect you know what fate is coming to you." By the end of his utterance his voice had grown softer than he intended it to be, he realised with an inner snarl, as he turned to look at the girl, waiting. She would cry now. Humans always cried when you told them they were going to die; and that always furthered his anger. If only humans realised what loneliness and desolation came with eternal life. He'd be almost glad to die, after all these years. He waited to hear her snivel. But yet. She stared up at him, defiantly.
"I understand. I accept my fate. Just don't punish the others when they haven't done anything." Selflessness, he remarked to himself with a spark of interest. Unusual. This just got interesting. Still, he snarled at her, fangs bared, eyes dark, imposing.
"So you are ready to die, girl, are you? In whichever way I choose?" Again, he waited for her tears, but none came. She simply stared at him, wide-eyed, and slowly, reluctantly, began to nod. He snorted out a short laugh then in disbelief, taking them both by surprise; she was intriguing. He put his forefinger and thumb either side of the underneath of her chin and raised her head up to search into her face for fear, and even he was taken aback by what he found lurking in the sky-blue depths. Such pretty eyes, filled with fear, yes, but stronger than that, such deep, deep sadness... his brow creased a little, as she spoke.
"I am ready to die. That's the truth. I have done wrong and I take responsibility." She paused, hesitating, her voice quieter. "I am living on borrowed time, anyway. I was meant to die three years ago, with the rest of my family." A moment passed, and she spoke again, her voice barely above a whisper, her gaze lowering, avoiding his glance. "As you know." Ah, so she did remember. Silence filled the little room as, for one of the first times in his life, Callan struggled with not knowing what to say.
Aria stared up at the vampire before her, puzzled. He was taking a long time to kill her, and now he had grown silent. Maybe he was silent because he was thinking how he regretted saving the life of a thief three years ago; maybe he was trying to think of the most horrible way of punishing her, of killing her; maybe he was deciding whether or not to dispose of the whole village or just to dispose of her. Maybe he was pausing because a part of him didn't want to kill her.
Aria dismissed that thought as soon as it entered her mind.
He was deep in thought; that was for sure. His green eyes, such an unusual green, were boring down into her face, and she was surprised to see they were softer than she expected. His black curls framed his face, matching his cloak, his clothes, his stubble, a stark contrast to the two little points of white sharp canines which protruded slightly over his bottom lip. He was quite a sight.
His finger and thumb were digging quite forcefully into the underside of her chin now, marking her, and without realising, she gave a little exhaled whimper. Immediately he brought his hand away from her face, and clenched it tightly by his side, all the while never breaking her glance.
In truth, Callan could not tear himself away from her. Her fate was death; that was clear enough. And yet. Somewhere between the intrigue and disgust he felt for this girl, sat the uncomfortable thought of her, dead. She had stolen from him, even after he gave her a second chance to live; something which, in truth, he had never found himself wanting to give to anyone before or since, and it made his whole body rage. He didn't want to talk to her, to see her, to have anything to do with her; a disgusting thief. And yet. Callan shuddered with uneasiness at the thought of having her killed; a foreign emotion to a vampire who believed that with actions came consequences: that with committing a serious crime, came certain, undeniable death.