A Vampire's Rewardbywildcat1971_2000©
It happened 10 years ago on a trip to Italy.
Dante was so excited about showing me where he grew up as a child that each night he took me somewhere different. At first it was only places he used to play with friends or hung out as a kid. Later on he took me to the place where he had his first kiss. He smiled and kissed me while we were there, telling me. "Your kiss is the sweetest of all, Marina."
The next night he showed me where he had lived and though the home has long since disappeared from where it once stood, to Dante it was like it still existed. He walked over the land showing me how big the home was and where this room or that room was located inside. He told me of his room upon the second floor and how he would sneak out late at night to climb up onto the roof and look at the stars.
The smile on my beloved's face was so sweet with memories I felt tears of blood fill my eyes. I could see the sparkle of that boy inside the man as he talked of his mother and father and of his grandmother who he loved so much.
Though he was lost to God because of what he had become it did not stop him from walking to the outside gates of his old church that through some miracle still existed. For a very long time he did not speak as I watched the emotions roll across his face.
Then quietly we walked down the road stopping in front of a centuries old cemetery that turned out to belong to his family. He didn't stop to look at his own headstone, didn't even glace at it as he walked straight to his grandmother's grave. He laid a loving hand over the stone, tracing the weathered marker like he would have his grandmother's cheek.
When he kneeled in front of his parent's graves it broke my heart when I heard him whisper, "I'm so sorry that I put you through so much pain and despair. My only regret after all these years of existing is that of hurting you."
"Don't worry, Dante, it won't be much longer before you join them in the cold hard ground." The words came from a voice from behind a large shade tree near his parents grave.
Before I could blink Dante stood up and moved in front of me, blocking me from the owner of the voice. Dante's voice was so cold that I shivered. "What are you doing here Quinton?"
"I heard that my old enemy, I mean old friend, was in town. I'm hurt that you didn't come and visit me, Dante. After all we've been through it was the least you could have done." The sarcasm dripped from his voice.
"If things had of worked out right old friend, you would have been dead a long time ago and I could have enjoyed my last night in town."
"Such bitterness, Dante. I thought for sure you would have been over that little spat by now. Why not let bygones be bygones and introduce me to the lovely lady behind you?"
"You better watch out for this lady, Quinton, she's not as innocent as she looks."
Two underlings came from out of nowhere to stand beside Quinton. "I think I can handle her, Dante. Who knows, I might even let you watch while I show her what a real vampire can do."
My anger rose fast at what his words implied causing my canines to lengthen and my nails to turn into claws. I could tell Dante was already in attack mode by the way that his muscles were contracting underneath his shirt and from the low growl that came from his throat.
Without one word spoken a signal was given and the first underling rushed from Quinton's side. Dante moved in an instant, clashing with the young vampire in an explosion of power between the rows of graves. In one swift move Dante had him by the throat and tossed him through the air to land against the old headstones, causing them to tip over and break against the ground.
I turned my head back in time to see Quinton's other underling start toward Dante. Without thinking I rushed forward, surprising him as I lowered my shoulder into his stomach and drove him off his feet, sending us both crashing into the next row of graves.
I may have been older in vampire years than this underling but I was a bit weaker. We wrestled on the ground with each other, claws scraping and teeth biting. The vicious underling came close to killing me when he pulled back and rammed his fist toward my chest, aiming for my heart. But I was to fast for him and capitalized on his mistake by rolling away from him and coming to my feet, back handing him across the face and hitting him so hard that he flipped over backwards onto his stomach. Only thinking of my survival I pulled him to his knees and dropped down behind him, jerking his head to the side and sinking my teeth in to his neck. His blood spurted out from under my mouth as I tore his jugular. Blood coated my chin and throat as it dripped down to soak into my blouse. Once I drained the underling's body of blood I quickly snapped his neck and broke it, letting his limp and lifeless form drop against the ground.
I turned to see Dante about to finish off the other young vampire when Quinton howled the most frightening sound I had ever heard in my life. Before I knew it I was flat on my back and Quinton was over top of me, his large clawed hand around my throat squeezing so hard that if I had been a mortal it would have killed me. He snarled, dripping saliva onto my face. "Bitch, you will pay for killing my son."
His canines were long and so thick. Even as I struggled underneath him, I had no doubts that I was about to die. He opened his mouth completely and aimed down toward my throat. I closed my eyes waiting for the pain to come when suddenly I felt the weight of his body disappear.
When I got to my feet Dante and Quinton were fighting hard and more headstones were broken as they smashed into them. Tree bark shattered into splinters and leaves fell everywhere when Dante's body was thrown against it.
I looked over to find the first underling that Dante had been fighting struggle to his feet and stagger toward the fighting vampires. I could see that he was a bloody mess from the battle but I didn't show any mercy as I sent a swirling kick to his head, dropping him to the ground.
When I turned back around I saw Quinton had stunned Dante by dropping him belly first across one of his family's headstones. I started over to him when Quinton ran toward me and left his feet, his sharp claws extended and aimed for my chest.
Dante screamed out, "Marina!"
Then everything seemed to go into slow motion. I watched the sharp claws get closer and knew I didn't have time to move, but to my horror Dante stepped in front of me and took the vicious hit.
I heard the sickening sound of Quinton's clawed hand puncture Dante's chest, delivering what I knew would be a deadly blow. The scream of pain that ripped from Dante's mouth echoed in my head as he dropped to the ground before me.
"No!" I screamed as my eyes looked at Quinton's hand dripping my beloved's blood onto the ground.
I howled like an angry animal as my vision turned everything in my sight red. I leaped at Quinton who seemed to be stunned at what had happen and knocked him to the ground. My claws scratched and cut the skin on his face and tore through his shirt to dig into his chest. I curled my hands into fists and punched him over and over as my fury unleashed upon him. I couldn't feel a thing as he tried to defend himself. No matter how hard he hit back, I hit harder. No matter how deep his claws sank, mine sank deeper. With one last move of my hands I broke both of his arms at the elbows. The sound of them cracking fed my rage.
Finally with his arms limp at his sides and unable to defend himself, I reached down and grabbed his neck, ready to break it when a black evilness slid over me. I looked down at him. "There shall be no mercy upon you and your underlings till Dante's death is avenged by my hands. This shall be my quest till my death."
As the final words of my pledge rang out I plunged my claws into Quinton's chest. His screams echoed through the night air as I wrapped my fist around his heart and jerked it from his body. I raised my arm into the air, his heart still in my hand, and turned my head up to the night sky screaming out in rage.
I heard a noise from over my shoulder and seen the other underling scamper away, leaving his master's body behind as he made his escape. I threw Quinton's bloody heart to the ground and rushed over to my beloved's body.
Dante was barely alive as I dropped to my knees beside him. I tore his shirt from his body and gasped at the gapping hole in his chest from Quinton's fist. I jerked my blouse over my head and pushed it into the hole, wanting to stop the bleeding, but I knew he was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop him from bleeding to death.
I lifted him gently into my arms and carried him over to the tree that shaded his parent's grave. I sat behind him and lay his back to my chest, wrapping my arms around him. I heard him gasp in pain and the sound shredded my heart into pieces.
"Marina." He struggled to say.
"Quiet, my love. Don't waste your strength trying to talk," I somehow told him without choking on my words, as his body began to shake in my arms and I held him tighter, pressing my lips to the top of his head.
"I love you, Marina." His broken voice so weak that I could barely make out his words.
"I love you, Dante, with all my heart," I mumbled, unable to stop the sob that burst from my throat.
"If you should ever die Marina, I'll be waiting for you." He choked on his words and began to cough, groaning with pain.
Finally the coughing stopped and he turned his head to where he could look up at me. "Kiss me, Marina."
With red tears on my cheeks I bent my head and placed my lips upon his. His mouth quivered against mine for only a moment before it went slack. My lips were still on his and my arms still held him tight when I felt him slip away into the waiting arms of his final death.
I don't remember how long I held him or how long I rocked with him in my arms before I picked him up and carried him to the empty plot of land where his family's home use to stand. I would have buried him in his family's cemetery but knew the risk was to high of someone spotting a fresh grave there and investigating it.
I used my bare hands to dig his grave. When it was deep enough I climbed out from the bottom and kneeled by Dante's side. I removed the wedding band I had given him years ago and slipped it onto my finger. I left the necklace I gave him from our first year together with him. The necklace held a locket that contained a hand painted portrait of me inside. From the day I gave it to him he never once took it off.
I caressed his face with the tips of my fingers, tracing each cheekbone and each eyebrow and along his jaw line to his chin. Gently I lay my fingertips upon his mouth, tracing first the top and then the bottom lip. I remember the first time he kissed me and I started to cry. Tears falling onto his face, I kissed him for the last time and whispered, "Goodbye my love."
I placed his body so gentle on the cold ground at the bottom of his grave. With each handful of dirt that I covered him with my tears fell harder. When the last bit of dirt was put over him, I stood there sobbing, knowing that not only was my beloved Dante buried there, but so was my heart.
The next night I searched out some of Dante's immortal friends and asked them if they knew where I could find Quinton's lair and his underlings. When they asked why I told them what had happen to Dante and that I intended to find and kill each of his underlings one by one or die trying. Once they knew they were more then willing to help me find Quinton's lair and they found it within hours of my asking.
In the shadows I watched as the underlings came and went. Each step they took my anger grew. Here they are, walking among the living, while my beloved Dante was buried in the ground now, lost to me forever because of their 'father'.
After memorizing faces and scents of those young vampires I began my quest to avenge Dante's death. Every night I took one underling's life, starting with the weakest first. Before each killing I question them on where I could find that underling that left his father behind that night. Some didn't answer willingly. I took great pleasure in torturing them till they gave me the clues I needed to begin my search.
I made sure to kill the underlings in the same fashion as the first: by ripping out their throats and draining them of their blood. I was emotionless except for my anger and grief as I watched them die. My only satisfaction came from seeing the fear that crossed the remaining underling's faces when they discovered their fallen brother's bodies on the steps to their lair.
A month after Dante's death all of Quinton's underlings were dead except for one. That one was the young vampire that fled from the cemetery that night. He never did return to his father's lair to warn or protect his brothers.
My journey took me far and wide for the next year. Traveling through the night to another town, another village, or another city. I left a trail of death and destruction behind me and still to no avail was I able to find him. But my search continued and I will not stop till I find him.
I'm so glad to be back home in the Smoky Mountains.
Every year, after all the tourists have gone and before the leaves fall from the trees, I come back to my log cabin in the mountains, hidden away among the trees. This place helped ease the over two centuries of memories I have unlike anyplace else in the world.
A wonderful man who had a way with wood unlike any other built the one story ranch style cabin over 10 years ago. After months of cutting through red tape and paying off certain individuals he was able to start building my home.
I was never here during daylight hours, but from day one my servants came out and took photographs to show me the progress that was being made. From the hard work of digging the basement to the final shingle being nailed down I was able to watch it all come to life.
And what a beauty it is. The light colored logs had aged over the years and made the cabin blend in with the pines and maples. A curved walkway of stone weaved its way from the circular driveway to the large front porch and a wonderful wood and stain glass front door.
Once in the entryway you could turn right and walk into a small hallway that led to the master and guest bedrooms or you could turn left and walk into the living room with its high vaulted ceilings that made the room feel bigger then it actually was. Along the far wall was an incredible fireplace made of fieldstones that stretched from the floor to ceiling. And from the living room you could see into the rather large kitchen that had a breakfast bar separating it from a very cozy dining room.
The backside of the cabin was the best though with its view of the Smoky Mountains that most mortals would love to have. The wall of the cabin on this side was almost completely glass and gave a feel of the outdoors being in. French doors provided access from the master bedroom, kitchen and living room to the deck that stretched completely across the rear.
That's where I stand right now, out on the deck of my cabin staring out over the mountains. The full moon just rising over the ridge, looked so big and beautiful as it shined it's light down into the valley. The moonlight reflected off the fog below as it creeps across the ground and stretched out like skeletal fingers through the hollows.
I wrapped my hands around the deck rail and closed my eyes, inhaling deeply. The scent of the fall season brought a smile to my face. Then I noticed the different sounds of the night: the hooting of an owl, the breeze blowing through the leaves on the trees and a waterfall splashing on the rocks in a nearby stream. All of them combined together to brought me a peaceful comfort.
I wished that I could come out during the day and see the sun shine onto the mountains, to look upon the array of color that nature has painted over the treetops. No matter how I tried, pale moonlight was just not the same as bright sunshine.
The wind began to pick up and I looked out toward the west, seeing an ominous looking cloudbank slowly rolling its way east, thinking that those clouds looked to be heavy with snow instead of the rain that they should be at this time of year. Since I'm unable to feel the cold I looked over to my right at the thermometer mounted on the railing that the temperature was slightly above freezing and almost right for making snow.
I stepped off the deck and began a walk around of the cabin, checking for any loose items that may be blown away then gather up some wood from the pile and head inside. I could easily live without any heat here but since I brought my two favorite servants, who are more like parents, with me, I need to keep them warm and healthy.
When I walked in my male servant Chad, rushed over taking the wood from my arms and placed it near the fireplace. Chad is one of the sweetest men I've ever had in my life to serve me. I don't know what I would do without him at times with the way he takes such good care of me.
"I didn't get to watch the news this evening, Chad, is there a storm coming?"
He turned around to face me. "Yes, there's quite a snowstorm on the way. It's surprised all the weathermen with coming this early in the year."
"Do we have plenty of supplies to make it through?"
"Yes we do, Marina. Rose and I made a trip to the grocery store this afternoon and your special meals arrived right as we got home."
"Since this is our first storm of the season, will you please be sure to check all the shutters as soon as the weather will allow?"
"That's the first thing on my to do list. So don't worry, I'll make sure not a crack of light gets through."
The shutters are the backup system I had installed for emergencies. If for any reason I'm unable to make it down below to my basement hideaway, I can flip a single switch from every room to activate the shutters and protect myself from sunlight.
I smile at him. "I knew you would think of everything like always. I don't know why I even bothered to ask."
I walk over to him and kissed his cheek. "Thank you for everything, Chad. I really do appreciate the care you have given me all these years. Why, if you weren't married to such a sweet, lovable woman, I would snap you right up."
I watched him blush and shuffle his feet. "It's my pleasure to help take care of you. You know that Rose loves you like a daughter. We both do."
I gave him a quick hug. "Okay, enough of this sappy stuff, I'm going to check the weather report."
Sitting down in a soft leather chair, I faced the wall of windows that looked out over the mountains and clicked the remote in my hand. The local country radio station came on playing a classic song, something about dreams, and then the DJ announced the latest on watches and warnings. The prediction of eight to twelve inches of snow for the higher elevations had not changed since their last update.
Around midnight Chad and Rose came in to wish me good night then retired to the master suite. Not long afterwards I saw the first big snow flake fall. Within minutes that one flake looked to have multiplied into thousands. I sat there in the darken room watching as the flakes swirled in the wind and couldn't resist going outside.
With my head tilted back I looked straight up into the overcast sky letting the heavy flakes hit my face. An old childhood urge came over me and I stuck my tongue out, catching a snowflake.
The first snow of the season had always been a special time for me. Every year it brought back memories of playing with my brothers and sisters as a child in England. Images of snowball fights, sledding and of making snow angels with them filled my thoughts.