A Thousand Years Ch. 03byordinaryjourney©
The patrons of the undead filed down the ancient stone halls, their cloaks sweeping silently over the cold floors. They were a somber mass, bringing in a rush of cold air as they opened the great Gothic door to the ceremony chamber.
It was nearing twelve, and the ovals in the walls let in slants of moonlight, illuminating the pale face of the Count, and the tinged fangs he leered through.
"It is time, my dear friends, guests, and...spectators, to begin." The Count's face was expressionless as he appraised the crowd through dark slits, turning his head to the walls, as if waiting for someone.
The guests sat down on the hard stone of the stadium, including, amongst them, the Duke of Ostarbreil, a silent, thoughtful young man, a foreign visitor from the valley lands outside the mountains of Transylvania. He was awarded the privilege of sitting to the Count's left. He watched as the Count turned to his right to talk to a hulking mass in a dark cloak, a shape that could only be Gorv's.
Now a shaking began in the middle of the chamber, as the stone panels began to shift open, and a barricaded stone pit rose out of the depths of the ground. A hissing sound, at once soft, began to grow in pitch and volume, filtering out of the pit. The Duke peered further and saw, with horror, the long poisonous serpents that struggled in an amazon green mass on the pit's floor.
"Please, my dear, have patience." The Count whispered in a soft, menacing tone to a figure behind him, and when the Duke turned, he saw long black hair and a dark cloak engraved V. The ashy face of Vyeila was fixed on the door to the chamber, not even the venomous pit she'd soon be in.
"I have no worries." Vyeila lied through her teeth as she addressed the Count. "He...will...come." The Duke couldn't make out the exact words as the two whispered, but he knew something was wrong.
"Now," The voice of the Count suddenly thundered through the tense chamber. "We must carry out, the Serpent's Sacrifice!"
Two short, brute vampires rushed forward to light the torches around the stone pit, a crackling glow now surrounding the vessel of snakes. The soft murmurs of the room died down into silence, as Vyeila stepped forward, in wooden motion, onto the stone floor, seeming to glide towards the venomous pit.
"It is, with regret, that Vyeila of the Eastland, one of the bloodline Sverpentes, must be sacrificed today." The Count's tone was even and emotionless. "My son, the royal and rightful heir of the Vampirics, has disappeared, and the duty of his bride has not been fulfilled. Thus, Vyeila must die."
Vyeila had now reached the pit and she lifted both sides of her cloak, so the long black sleeves gave to her figure a striking line of grand darkness. Her raven hair shielded her face from the crowd, which now began to turn to one another, fearful of watching what was to occur. Vyeila lifted one foot, and then another, as she stepped into the pit, her arms raised the entire time, and her dark red lips the only recognizable part of her face.
The snakes began to seethe with excitement, and the Duke willed himself to turn away as they entangled over Vyeila's arms and legs. In morbid curiosity, he turned back as she suddenly gave out a shriek of the most barbaric depth, in a language that only the serpents could understand, the whole mass of venom now seeming to become one. Then he saw as a huge, mauve-spotted black snake, the largest one of all, reared its head, positioned just above Vyeila's neck, as her dark eyes suddenly filled with fear, realizing, perhaps, that it might be too late to save herself.
And then the doors burst open. The son of the Count rushed forward, the crowd's faces turning immediately to the long silver mane that surged behind him as he sprinted towards the pit, his navy blue eyes glowing in the firelight of the torches.
"Vladimir," The Count uttered his son's name with a gentle sneer, regarding the entrant like a hunter whose rabbit has just landed in the trap. The Duke's light green eyes widened in recognition as he saw Vladimir. This was the man he'd met on a forest hunting trip he'd taken to Transylvania several years ago, a stranger who'd helped him out of the brambles he'd lost his way in, chasing after a stag.
"Vladimir!" Vyeila's voice was now a high-pitched, banshee-like sound, as the snake hissed in her ear.
He reached the edge of the pit, and with one hand, quickly pulled one of the torches out of their holding, and wielding the fiery weapon, advanced into the pit. His fingers now extended their long nails, and he sliced the snake on Vyeila's shoulder in half, as Vyeila, realizing her plot had worked to lure forth Vlad, quickly tossed the snakes off herself as best she could. She leaped over the edge of the pit. The snakes surged onto Vladimir, as the blood from their mate tainted his hand, and he fought them off bravely, scorching the fire towards their open mouths. The speed and strength of a Vampiric now became apparent to the crowd, as Vladimir, his royal bloodline surging within him, doubled his effort and flung all snakes off himself, leaving masses of bloodied serpents in the pit as he climbed out.
Vladimir faced the crowd. Vyeila was now positioned next to the Count, a satisfied smile on her leering face and her raven locks stained with snakeblood. Vladimir's intuition was immediate. He glanced with disdain at the manipulative, dishonest Vyeila, but focused his attention on his father, the cold Count who now waved a hand to silence the crowd.
"Father," Vladimir's tone was ironic as he approached the throne. "You have all been waiting for me, I see." He laughed bitterly, as he strode forth, his robe bloodied and his hair disheveled. "I hope I haven't disappointed any of you. I hope I put on a good show!" His voice suddenly burst in anger.
"Ah, my son," The Count kept his voice cool, "I am very...pleased, to see you back. Vyeila is too, as you can tell. Who knew that such a tragic day could turn out in such pleasant surprise?" His lips barely lifted into a smile. Vladimir stopped right in front of his father. He recognized the Duke, but didn't say a word.
"Yes, well, Vyeila is safe now, isn't she?" Vladimir mocked a bow to the dark vampress, whose fingers curled ever so menacingly on the shoulders of the Count. Vlad was aware what he had to do now. It was time, yes, finally time. "And you have all seen what you came for today, a show of tradition, a Vampiric ceremony. Which is now, officially, over." He panned the room, left to right, his eyes resting on the masses of vampires in dark cloaks, their onyx hair barely lit up by moonlight. "Truly, the end has come to this falsehood. I, will succumb to this kingdom no longer. No more will I live under this Vampiric oppression. As of today, I announce the end of my engagement to Vyeila. For you see," Vladimir was now the one smiling, turning to face the Count, "I've found the girl, my one and only love."
Vyeila's face clouded over as she became livid with anger. The Count was also taken aback, his shocked face silent. The Duke, however, noted the sincerity in Vladimir's face, seeing that only true emotion could bring such depth to one who had learned to reveal no feelings for centuries.
"No, no! You gullible fool!" Vyeila screeched. She was about to leap from her place next to the Count, but she checked herself. She turned to look at Gorv, a question mark in her eyes. He nodded yes, and suddenly, she broke out into a raucous laugh. The Count remained motionless, with a curt tap of his fingers signaling that Vyeila could carry out whatever dastardly plan she'd now concocted.
"Well, then, Vladimir," Vyeila sauntered forward until she stood face to face with the tall vampire. "How would you feel if your love was no longer, hmm...available? Would you still be so quick to end our engagement if you knew she was no longer in that, barn?" The last word struck Vladimir like an arrow.
Vlad could feel his stomach sinking, dark fears filling him. "What have you done?" He looked at Gorv, whose mouth cracked into a grotesque grin. "Vyeila. You..will pay." Vladimir's voice shook with anger.
"Let's just say, my dear betrothed," Vyeila lifted a hand to place on Vlad's shoulder, but he flinched away instinctively. "That you will be needing...human services no longer." The crowd gasped. A human? So that was Vladimir's downfall, a royal Vampiric, falling for a human girl. It was unthinkable.
"I will ask you only one more time." Vladimir's face fixed in a hard line. "What, have, you done with Melanie?"
"Oh, she's not dead, my darling Vladimir," Vyeila purred evilly, "Yes, you will find out the truth. When the time is right. Unless you anger me. Then you may never find out." Vyeila broke into a dark laugh again. "Do as you please...my dearrr." Her voice slithered.
"Now," the Count rose from his throne, and signaled for the whole crowd to rise as well. "We've had enough talk for today. Quite a spectacle. For all who've been in attendance, I think you've seen the same as I have: a ceremony rendered unnecessary by the return of my son. And so we retire. Until the next ceremony, a more...happy one perhaps. Then, the marriage will occur." The Count smiled serenely, subtly powerful, and, with Gorv and Vyeila by his side, led them out of the chamber, the crowd following.
The Duke slipped towards the back of the crowd, where Vladimir was, still facing his father's throne in silence. The crowd dared not talk to the disgraced son -- a human? Unbelievable. They hurried after the Count, who, after all, was still on the throne. Besides, the marriage ceremony was to occur soon, and it would render Vlad's previous speech of betrayal utterly erased.
"My friend," the Duke's voice was low as he and Vlad quietly walked out of the empty room. "I had no idea you were the Count's son. It is, with regret, that I find us reconvening in such circumstance. But, please, if there's anything I can do to help you, let me know."
"My good friend, I appreciate your kind words." Vladimir turned towards the auburned-hair Duke slowly, fatigue on his face. "But what can I do? You, too, have heard Vyeila's blackmail. I am just one man, my father an entire empire. A dynasty of cold, dark power. What will have I now? The question of freedom isn't even on my mind anymore, now that Melanie's safety comes into play. If what it takes to save her is my marriage, then I must comply." He lowered his downcast face. The Duke thought silently for a bit.
"But," The Duke's pale face glinted with hope in the light from the windows. He whispered, "But what if, I could find out for you? Yes, I could discover the secret from Vyeila's closest guards, and then, you will leave with Melanie, from this land forever." He offered his help without conditions, a gentleman of fine breeding. Vladimir nodded in response, careful to keep his excitement contained.
"I owe you a great deal, Lorenze," Vladimir stated nobly.
"You saved my life." Duke Lorenze recalled. "I'm only doing the same, for your future wife." The Duke shrugged suggestively, but Vladimir felt a bitter note inside as he recalled that Melanie could never, never be his wife.
Vladimir paced back and forth in his royal bedroom, restless after returning from the hunt the Count had just held to celebrate the forthcoming marriage ritual in three days, that of Vyeila and the manipulated Vladimir. Melanie had filled his head the whole time...Melanie who he'd kissed gently just before leaving her (how could he have been so naïve to leave!), Melanie who had snuggled softly into his arms after he'd given her the only pleasure he could, without taking her maidenhood. Ah, if only he could fill her with his desire, entirely, fully. But...if she had a vampire child, she would be bound into his cruel dynasty, forced to undergo the barbaric rituals of his kind, and doomed to suffer forever. He could only think about Melanie, even amidst the clashing of goblets of wine as the vampires drank to prepare for a hunt in the mountains, for food, for blood.
He shuddered, thankful that the Duke had feigned a headache and asked that Vladimir accompany him back to the palace for some human food. Though the Duke was a human, he was an exception. His royal family had financed the Count's earliest attempts to gain power, successful attempts that now rendered the two families like kin.
A knock on the door interrupted Vlad's thoughts. He opened it, and Duke Lorenze slid in, closing the door firmly behind him.
"Any word yet?" Vladimir's eyes were anxious.
"Yes," The Duke muttered under his breath. "She has been locked in the potions room, where Vyeila practices her dark, barbaric arts." Vladimir's hands grasped onto the table in suspense.
"Is she still alive?" Vlad's voice was steely, promising revenge if she wasn't.
"Yes, yes thankfully." Lorenze continued in a low tone. "But she is not well. From the conversation I overheard, hidden in the sculpture of King Vampiric in the hallway, Gorv told Vyeila that Melanie was beginning to hallucinate from food deprivation. They don't give her anything to eat you know, except the bare minimum to stay alive. And they have her chained up in there. The only thing I haven't figured out is where the potions room is." Hearing this, Vladimir's eyes lit with fury, and he stalked over the door, his hands shaking with anger. He twisted the knob, wishing it were Gorv's neck instead.
"I know where the room is," Vlad told the Duke over his shoulder. "And trust me, you don't want to be there when I deal with the perpetrators." He flung the door open, and left. The Duke hurried after.
Outside the potions room, Vladimir told the Duke to step back. He kicked the door and it shook from his powerful force. But it didn't open. Then, he lifted his hands, his anger reaching boiling point, and the royal blood of the Vampirics surged within him, so that he appeared to glow with energy. He rushed forward, his whole body bearing down on the door, which finally broke down under his strength. Both Vlad and the Duke rushed into the room.
Melanie was tied, in chains, to a post against the wall, her arms bent behind her, and her mouth covered by cloth to muffle any cries for help. A guarding serpent, dark green with yellow spottings, coiled at her feet, to keep intruders away. Potions lined the wall and the room reeked of dust. Melanie saw Vlad, and her almost lifeless eyes lifted to regard his tall, statuesque figure. Her long lashes lifted as those beloved golden-brown eyes widened in hope.
"Melanie," Vlad's tone was gentle, soft, a direct contrast to the icy cold tone the Duke had heard at the Serpent's Sacrifice. "Melanie, I've regretted every moment I've spent away from you." He pulled a knife off a cabinet in the room, and proceeded to nail the snake to the ground, then began to untie Melanie, after pulling the cloth off her mouth.
"Oh, Vladimir," Melanie sobbed as soon as the bonds were off, and she collapsed forward in Vlad's arms. He soothed her gently, stroking his palm over her soft brown tresses. Then he lifted her up, into his arms, as she, still weak from malnourishment, rested against his shoulders. Carrying her out of the room, Vladimir nodded at the Duke to close the potions door. And they left, with Vlad finally placing Melanie back at his bedroom chambers.
The Duke waited outside the closed doors, as Vlad settled Mel into the large, mahogany bed. She fell asleep almost immediately, her pale face resting on the luxurious pillows and soft-feathered sheets covering her. Vlad quietly exited the room, where the Duke stood outside.
"Lorenze, I must thank you again," Vladimir extended his hand, and the Duke shook it firmly. "But what has just occurred must be known to no one. I plan to confer with Vyeila, and convince her that the marriage ritual is still to be completed. And then," Vladimir paused, a look of pain fleetingly crossing his face. "I must say goodbye to Melanie. For her own good." The Duke nodded. He didn't question his equal in understanding, knowing that Vlad must have his own wise plans in mind.
Vlad returned to his bedroom, as midnight fell again. He opened the door gingerly, not wanting to disturb Melanie, who was sleeping. He took off his robe and climbed onto the bed next to her, stretching himself out alongside her, content to watch her sleep, her long lashes fluttering as she breathed softly. Vlad then lay on his back, and thought of the dangers he'd put Melanie in. She hadn't asked for any of this, and he, foolish enough to fall for Vyeila's trap, had landed Mel in a lethal situation.
The vampire prince turned to look at her again. Her slender nose just touched the down pillow (Vlad's room was the only with such soft trappings of comfort) as she exhaled and the moonlight barely lit up her face, pale from famine and fatigue. Her fingers curled around the edge of the mattress, as if she were afraid she would be snatched away at any moment. Poor Melanie...she'd certainly gotten the fright of her life. Vladimir leaned down to kiss the fluttering eyelids softly, feeling her light lashes tickle his chin.
After sleeping for a few hours, it was still dark, but Mel stirred in the bed, and her eyes opened cautiously. Vlad had almost fallen asleep himself, and he awoke now when he heard her coughs.
"Melanie, love, you're awake," He put an arm around her to help her sit up on the bed, and then poured her some water. He also showed her the delicacies he'd ordered made. She ate with zeal.
"Vladimir," Mel murmured after she'd finished. "I thought I'd never see you again. I woke up in the barn and you were gone. Then Gorv entered, along with the two farmers we heard. It turns out they were in on the plot. Vyeila knew we were there the whole time, and sent the farmers to trap you. When Gorv took me into the potions room, I fought him with all my strength, but he still ended up binding me to the wall. Then Vyeila came and told me you'd saved her, and would marry her soon. Then.." Mel fought back the trembles stoicly. "Then, she brought in the snake. I..." Vlad's fingers clenched into a fist.
"I'm sorry, Mel, dearest," Vladimir held her close to him, his fingers once again combing through her beige locks. He kissed her head, then turned her face to him. "I..I'm truly sorry. You must believe me." He leaned forward to kiss her, and their lips tangled as he bent her down into the bed, gently, tenderly.
"Vlad, believe me, I do believe you," Mel reached up to stroke his forehead earnestly.
"What happened to you was inexcusable," Vladimir leaned down again to kiss Mel's face, neck, his lips trailing sweepingly over her peach, warm skin. Having been out of the sun for so many days, Mel's pallid appearance also showed a lack of rosy color. Vladimir caressed her lovingly; even when she was tired, she looked so calm and adorable, so warm and enticing, unlike Vyeila and her blood-stained raven locks by far. "Mel, I won't ever forgive myself for your close brush with death." Vlad looked sincerely into her big brown eyes, his own blue orbs intense in meaning. She shook her head, wanting to assuage his guilt.
"I know you were thinking about me the whole time," Melanie spoke the unknowing truth, her eyes gentle with forgiveness. Vlad wanted to speak no more. He pressed his face to hers, and their lips held in a tight embrace. He reached down to pull the edges of her slip off her moonlit shoulders, and trailed pecks over her soft dewy skin. He reached her nipples, and his tongue caressed its pink bud. She mewed against him, and her fingers reached up to grasp his platinum mane. He responded to her touch, and kissed all over her chest, rougher, hungrily.
She pulled at his hair as he went downwards even further, and plied her slip open further. He was now at her curls below, and like before, planned to pleasure her to the fullest. His hands roamed over her milky thighs, and he gently curled his fingers around her legs, to brace himself for the deep enjoyment he was going to give her.