December 14 at 12:00 AM
Photo by Petr Kratochvil
Lord Vangley gazed into the shadows. A young woman with reddish hair that came to her shoulders materialized from the corner of the room. Her eyes were the color sand, so bright and clear they could be mistaken for the sun itself.
"It cannot be," said Vangley. "Aidana, I was told you perished in a fire."
"Is that what Maemi told you? Or perhaps Olivia?" She approached him.
"I marked off a grave for you not long after we established Vissorouy. How is it that you come to me now?"
Aidana did not reply.
Vangley could sense an anger building inside of her. "What a beauty you have become. A vision, or perhaps a dream?"
"Why did you not see me?" she said. "I waited so many years."
"It was better you did not know what I had become. I did not want to disgrace you with my presence, or the temptation of pulling you over to my side."
"I went there anyways, so I could find you." Her fangs protruded. "You did not have to give me away."
"My dear, I have watched you for many nights, even after journeying here. If others knew about my condition they would have extinguished you long ago. As a result, you lived."
"I lived?" Aidana exclaimed. "I spent my entire life searching for you. Did you not love me?" Tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Far too much." Vangley brushed them away.
Suddenly his fingers ignited, the flesh dissolving to the bone.
Aidana grinned. Color fell from her eyes and skin. Her carmine locks tapered down her back and frosted over.
"How your heart bleeds for her. So sad," said Enura. "I am afraid your dear Aidana really did perish. That sin is mine to bear. But she did not die in a fire, that I can assure you. Nor did I."
Vangley reached for the door and fell through. Finally clarity returned to him. There were no doors or windows on the dilapidated ruin; no fire to warm him, nor chair to unwind. All that remained of the manor were a few columns and beams that somehow managed to stay erect.
The old man turned, and stumbled into a bushel of thorns. He forced his way through and fled.
"Run if you like, crawl if you must." Enura followed.
Lord Vangley darted through the forest, favoring his hand. Twigs and thorns tore open his skin, but he did not stop nor look back. He sprinted through the killing fields, hopeful not to arouse the stone lions, if they in fact existed. As he exited the forest, he slammed into a horse lingering near the path.
Vangley hissed at the steed from his back, baring his fangs.
"Father, is that you?" said the shadow sitting atop.
"Laurent?" the elder choked.
"I came as soon as I heard about her," he replied.
"I am afraid she is upon us now. Quickly, we must go." Vangley took his hand and jumped on back of the mare.
Laurent dug in his heels and tugged his reigns. They thundered down the trail, leaving the forest and its baggage behind.
"Take me to the consulate," said Vangley. "I fear that we may not be able to kill this creature on our own."
In the moonlight they galloped, racing over the hills, and down to the shore. They did not stop until they reached Vissorouy and beyond.