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Richie leaned over to Altea and questioned, "Do you understand what
"Yes. We are each telling tales of something scary..."
"Or strange, or odd," interrupted Richie.
"Is it my turn?" Altea asked quietly.
Since both Amanda and Richie were close enough to her to hear the
question, both nodded.
Altea was silent. She didn't much like having attention focused on
her, and being a member of this small group still didn't appeal to
her. Her dark gaze shifted to the only one she really trusted,
calling for help. Richie bent to her and whispered: "No one's gonna
bite you, lady. Come on, tell your story." He smiled at her. Altea
looked up at her audience and began to talk. Her voice was low and
"There was a place..."
"...you must NOT go there! Remember, never dare to go to that
The tall woman towered over the little girl, like a giant, her voice
rude and imperious from the lifelong habit of giving orders. She was
also accustomed to always being obeyed without further questions,
thus her coldness and irritation.
Her eyes shone fiercely, then she turned and pushed aside the small
crowd gathered around them. She shouted more, brief orders, following
which a couple of women disappeared quickly, some others took their
horses, and, with the sun shining and sparkling on the weapons they
were carrying, the platoon rode away.
The warriors were gone.
The little girl, no more a child but not yet an adolescent, stood
still. She watched after them, then sighed. One day she would be the
one to give orders, she wished in her heart, but for now others had
total power over her life, over the village, the slaves, over
But not over that place.
It was a place that felt...ancient. A small space among trees, with a
tiny spring rounded by scattered rocks. There was grass growing
equally everywhere, making a nice, smooth carpet for naked toes. Soft
shadows danced around, playing games with the sun's rays, thus
creating a never ending pattern against the silver trunks of the
The leaves whispered gently, moved by a tender breeze, the same
breeze that caressed the spring's surface, and originated little
waves that slowly died away against the small pebbles all around.
There was a green aura, and white light, and dark shadows all over,
in the gentle sounds of the wood. Every shape lived in its own space,
moving in synchrony with the others, breathing in the universal
rhythm of life and nature.
It was a perfect place, untouched, calling irresistibly to tired
souls and curious minds, a place in which you wanted to rest and
laugh and play.
Yet, it was forbidden, and the orders were clear.
None was allowed to go there, ever, for any reason. It had always
But the little girl had a different idea. She spoke with the other
girls. They were restless, all of them, younger and older. With the
warriors gone, the slaves couldn't very well cope with them. Not all
wanted to go, of course. Some of them didn't want to risk the
punishment that awaited those caught in flagrant disobedience. Others
were too tired to even move out of the shelter they shared all
together, as they shared the training, the long hours of endless
rituals, the weight of weapons much too heavy for their still small
So, at the end, only two of the biggest girls decided to go. The
little girl followed them at distance, because she had the idea in
the first place and didn't want to be left behind. But she didn't
want to be beaten and sent back by them, either, so she kept quiet
and moved through the bushes as they were taught.
They arrived in the opening a little before dusk, the two bigger
girls still unaware of the third's presence. They stopped and
surveyed the place with bright eyes, checking for every possible
danger. There seemed to be none, so they prepared their camp for the
night. They moved quickly and silently. Why was this place
prohibited? It was not a sacred place, rituals were never held here,
nor was there any legend, and it looked so peaceful...
The little girl found herself a comfortable niche in an old trunk
nearby and cuddled up inside.
They all went to sleep.
During the night, a cry broke the silence, high and long, tearing the
sleeping world apart. One single cry, only one sob...then no more
sounds were heard.
The little girl didn't dare to come out of her secret hiding place in
the trunk. She heard heavy footsteps passing by, smelled the scent of
putrid fogs raising abruptly from the underground.
She felt safe in that small hole, though it was small and dark as a
"You!" A Voice thundered outside the trunk.
"You!", "You!", "You!", "You!" Other voices joined the first, each
similar and each different from that one, echoing each other in
endless roars. She pushed herself lower, hiding in the dark.
"You!" The Voice claimed her again. "Come out!"
Fear assaulted her, strangling her, coming from nowhere and
surrounding her. Her hands and feet were so cold she couldn't feel
them anymore, as if they were dead. Maybe she was dead, entombed
already and forgotten, and she didn't know yet.
"Come out!" The Voice ordered again.
Her soul moved on its own, following the dark paths of ancestral
memories, answering the eternal call. Her body didn't move.
Long rows of dark-clad figures stood tall, moving slowly in turns
towards the spring. As they had no feet, they walked on their knees,
leaving behind shreds of flesh and streaks of dark, dense blood
leaking from their amputations. Their hands were tied around their
necks, and their eyes were missing, empty eye-sockets staring at the
darkness of the night and at the horizon they only could see.
The figures moved staggering right towards the spring and disappeared
in the darkness that lay beyond the trees. They moved over the dead
bodies of the two girls. The bodies were on the ground, bones smashed
and disarticulated, mouths open, fingers like claws, soaked in their
own blood, already dried.
The little girl floated in horror, feeling estranged from this world,
from the scene that presented itself to her, from her own body
crumpled in a heap inside the old, smelly trunk.
"All who must die, come here. The ritual has begun, the entrance is
She flew from the murmur that insinuated itself into her ears, she
flew from the words, screaming and yelling and hitting herself
wildly, throwing herself against the wood in which she was, felt
entombed now, suffocated by the images still vivid in her mind.
The gods were punishing her for her disobedience. This wasn't a
sacred place, but a haunted, obscure passage to other lands.
Her soul was caught in the bloody hands of the Voice...she was too
little to understand the necessity of this task, she only felt all
the emotions that went rushing through her, the pain, the suffering,
the horror that lay ahead in that realm.
But as the awareness of this hatred filtered through, the impossible,
loud sounds stopped abruptly, and she felt as if she were being
dropped from an incalculable height.
"What-are-you?" The Voice sounded almost incredulous, as if the Fear
itself could be unprepared, scared, outraged...the chorus of
lamentation ended as well, and a silence, a dead silence, fell over
There were no sounds or movements except for the ants at work, eating
and carrying away their supplies from the bodies on the ground.
The little girl observed her hands, bleeding from what seemed a
hundred scratches. She put a hand to her head, and there was blood
there as well. The Voice erupted in her head again, inside her mind,
making her ears bleed.
"You are not for us!" These few words stormed furiously inside and
outside of her, shouted at her with such violence that she collapsed
In the morning, she woke up. The woods were silent. She went back to
her village, told her story, and drove back others to collect the
bodies. There were none. Her story was dismissed, and she was
punished, which meant being beaten and humiliated again and again.
The Rules were to be obeyed. But, secretly, she asked herself why she
wasn't dead, why she had been refused. She knew what she had seen.
Years later, the Priestess called for her presence. It was a rare
event, to be summoned at this young age. When she was called inside
the tent, she held her breath, and entered.
The old woman was sitting in front of a small fire, and gestured her
to sit down.
"The warriors told me you are getting very good," she said. It was
not appropriate to answer, even if it was true. So the girl stared at
the fire, in silence.
"They also told me you went to the forbidden glade." After all this
time, for a moment the girl foresaw more punishment coming her way.
"You had a Vision. It could happen again." She wasn't a liar anymore,
"If you breathe the air in that place, it smells of power. Leaves,
and grass, grow there like nowhere else."
An illusion born out of fumes and vapors? That was it? Or was that
just a way to explain mysteries too horrible? The girl dared to ask:
"What about my companions? They never returned."
The Priestess smiled, but the light in her eyes wasn't reassuring,
quite menacing instead.
"Not all can stand a Vision. A true warrior, yes. A sacred soul that
talk with gods, yes. They were just meat for dogs, and fled away..."
The girl didn't dare to enquire anymore under the gaze of those dark
pools that were observing her so closely. Somehow it didn't feel
safe. She was dismissed, the implication of her being worthy of
becoming a warrior, and maybe even a priestess, hanging in the air.
Before going out, though, she had to stop and asked in a murmur:
"The voices...-in my Vision-" she added hastily, "...refused me.
The Priestess looked at her. "There have been others, that have been
refused. Very few, but still...they were monsters, creatures of
evil blessed by the gods for unknown reasons. They didn't die. Time
will tell," she answered....
...Altea paused. Her gaze dropped down immediately, and she was
already biting her lips. This piece of her past has come out of her
memory without notice. Her cheeks burned hot, and for a moment Altea
seriously thought about running away. What if they asked for
explanations? She had none. She just knew that Richie was watching
her, and she turned her face to him. His blue gaze was so deep with
untold emotions that she almost stood up and turned away for real.
But the young man knew her well enough already. He took her hand and
held it strongly, then said in a quiet tone: "Must have
been...scary." Altea nodded. "All those scars you have...are from
that day," Richie commented, stating it as a fact more than as a
The young woman nodded again. "Mostly," she added.
Richie wondered as to how many things they still did not to know
about each other, but looking at how fragile she looked right now, he
just couldn't help it; ignoring his friends' presence, he stood up
and hugged her tenderly. "Now, I could use a Vision on how my new
piece is going!" The red-headed Immortal exclaimed, obviously trying
to cheer her up. "Do you think you can have one for tomorrow?"
"Oh, stop it, Ryan!" Altea disengaged from the embrace faking
disgust, and went back to her seat. But her tension was gone, and
Richie smiled back to her thankful gaze.
"I met a vampire once," Amanda said cheerfully and received dubious
looks from all around. "Really," she promised....
...It was dark except for the light from the torches on the
overhanging building, and Amanda knew she was in trouble. So maybe
stealing the necklace hadn't been a good idea, but she was quite
willing to give it back. The thing was the three men standing in the
way of all available routes out of the alley didn't seem particularly
interested in returning the piece to it's rightful owner. They were
more interested in the thief and how much fun they could have with
her. It wasn't as if it would be a new experience--you didn't live
five hundred years without learning just how badly the male of the
species could hurt his weaker counterpart, but she really didn't have
time for this right now. If she hadn't thought it would get her into
even more trouble Amanda might have produced her sword.
"Gentlemen," a loud voice suddenly said from behind the thugs, "this
is no way to treat a lady."
Even in her present predicament Amanda took the time to be impressed.
The stranger was tall, and had long graying hair tied back in a neat
ponytail. He wore the clothes of a noble, but he was not a friend of
the local lord and he had no aides so the law enforcement party
seemed to decide to ignore him. All three henchmen had turned to
assess the owner of the mellow tones, and the largest of them seemed
to decide the man was not a threat. As they gauged the interruption
so did the Immortal--she started at his feet and worked up, ticking
off his assets as she went. He had very good taste in fashion, his
body although well hidden under warm clothes was none the less
shapely, and his strong sculptured features were very nice indeed.
There would be definite advantages in swaying this gentlemen.
"That's no lady," the leader of the threesome announced, "that's a
thief, and it's none of your business."
"Oh, sir, please help me," Amanda used her best helpless damsel
imitation, "I think they mean to do harm to my person."
A small smile played at the edges of the stranger's lips and the
Immortal found herself with the distinct impression that he knew
exactly what she was up to. She was quite surprised when he didn't
just turn and go.
"I could never abandon a lady as fair as yourself," he told her
dashingly. "Now gentlemen, you have a choice: leave now or suffer my
From Amanda's point of view this man was either insane or he had
several hirelings hidden further up the alley. She was just hoping
that she could escape in the mess that would follow shortly after the
thugs overcame their shock at being challenged quite so brazenly.
"Are you mad?" the head strong arm seemed to share her opinion.
"Quite the opposite," the stranger replied and for the third time
Amanda tried to ascertain from where his accent originated--it seemed
to be somewhat mixed, "actually I'm rather bored and you seem to be
the only entertainment out tonight."
Definitely short a few twigs from the bundle as far as the Immortal
was concerned, and she prepared to run.
"Well are you just going to stand there?" the noble asked
impatiently, inviting his own downfall.
That did it, the very broad, very thick set leader of the threesome
decided to teach the upstart a lesson. Amanda could barely bring
herself to watch--no matter how handsome the stranger was, he
appeared to be virtually unarmed and he was no match for the man he
was facing. The thug reached out and tried to pull his opponent
towards him by the scruff of his cloak. Her chin almost hit the floor
at what Amanda saw next. Try was the operative word when it came to
the strong arm's attempt to start the fight--the stranger never
moved. It was almost as if he was carved in stone, and eeriest of
all, he was smiling broadly. Then, almost as if he'd had enough of
someone mussing his clothes he casually reached out and picked the
man up by his neck. He bared his teeth in a manic grin and threw the
unfortunate individual against the wall. The hireling did not get up
again. All he had to do was look at the other two and they ran.
Amanda just stood there, frozen to the spot as those open, all
encompassing eyes pinned her down. She felt her knees trembling, and
it wasn't exactly all fear. He walked up to her in two graceful
"Jacob Falconey," he introduce himself brightly, "at your service, my
"Amanda," the Immortal found herself whispering back breathlessly,
and then she did something she just never did--she fainted.
It was warm, it was soft, Amanda's eyes flew open to find that she
was lying on a bed. A bed that was covered with furs, and seemed to
be positioned in front of a very large fire. There he was, standing
with his back to her, silhouetted by the light of the burning wood.
He turned slowly and as he looked at her his eyes caught the glow of
the flames and they seemed almost bestial. Then Amanda did something
else she never did--unless she had a very good reason--she screamed.
It was not a theatrical, feminine scream, but a cry that started in
her chest, rose up her throat and erupted to fill the room. Jacob for
his part just stood there and let the sound fall over him as if he
wasn't listening to her at all. Eventually the Immortal's voice just
gave up and dissolved into nothingness.
"Have you quite finished?" he asked with an amused tone in his voice.
"I'll admit that was an impressive show of breath control, but can
you say it was absolutely necessary?"
Righteous indignation totally wiped away any fear Amanda might have
"I thought it was," she told him pointedly, and wound up again to
show him just how necessary she thought it had been.
"Enough," her host said pointedly, and for all that the Immortal
wanted to throw every piece of verbal abuse she knew at him, her
voice would not come.
Jacob smiled at her in a most annoying manner.
"Let us be civilized about this," he said lightly, "I have a small
meal prepared for us."
Amanda's eyes zeroed in on where he indicated, and they grew as she
saw the size of dinner he considered small. The amount of food on the
table would have fed a family for a week. As she saw the delicacies
Amanda's stomach decided to be most unladylike and reminded her of
why she had stolen the necklace in the first place.
"I think we can be friends now," Jacob decided cheerfully, and the
Immortal suddenly had her voice back.
She looked at her host's smiling face and quickly came to a decision.
Whatever he was and whatever he was doing to her, he wasn't likely to
be able to kill her, and first things first--she was hungry.
"Yes," she replied, not quite sure whether she really agreed, but
happy to play along for now.
"Shall we eat?" the debonair individual offered politely.
The food was very good, and Amanda put all her concentration into
eating it until she had finally gathered up enough courage to ask her
"Are you a demon?" she enquired as she found she couldn't eat another
Her host almost received an apple in the face when he chose to laugh
at that comment. He was, however, the perfect gentleman and he
stopped chuckling when he realized she was offended.
"No," he told her with only half a smile on his face, "I am a
The Immortal just looked across the table for a little while, not
sure how to take the reply. She knew what a vampire was, she'd
traveled most of Europe and the Germans seemed to like the
superstition best. In England the beliefs weren't quite so prevalent,
but at least she now knew where part of his accent came from. The
slightly harder undertones in his voice were more difficult to pin
down. With five hundred years of will power, Amanda decided not to be
"So are you a blood drinking, shroud eating or cattle chasing
vampire?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
Her host grinned at that.
"Blood drinking," he responded as if they were talking about an
everyday culinary habit.
"Well if you're looking for a young virgin you're out of luck," the
Immortal was trying very hard to think about exactly what Jacob could
have planned for her.
Now he laughed again.
"I know," he told her brightly, "you are a woman, shall we say, of
particular charms which are never present in the innocent. An
educated woman is far more interesting to me than a screaming girl."
Amanda glanced at the bed and then back at her companion. Well he was
very good looking and it had been a while--the only thing was she
wasn't too sure about sharing her experience with a vampire. Not that
she hadn't ever tried a little biting before, but then she had been
the one employing her teeth.
"What would you do if I tried to leave?" she asked--well it couldn't
"Be very disappointed," Jacob returned and pouted beautifully.
He really had wonderful lips and Amanda found herself wondering
exactly what they would feel like. She shook herself and fought to
hold off his hypnotic eyes, but even five hundred years of will power
couldn't fight lust.
"Maybe we could talk for a while," her host suggested as the conflict
crossed her face. "I really have no intention of harming you in any
permanent fashion. I was hoping to share the night with a beautiful
He really was just too wonderful to look at--Amanda's mind was
"How old are you?" she asked and dragged her mind back from it's
"Older than this castle," he told her with a gorgeous smile.
The Immortal would have been impressed except so was she. It then
occurred to her that telling him the truth might give her a little
control of the situation.
"I have a confession," she said with her best innocent batting of the
eyelids. "I'm a little older than I look as well."
Jacob looked intrigued, he seemed to have realized she wasn't quite
an average woman.
"What would you say if I told you that you couldn't really hurt me?"
she asked and quickly came to the decision that she was going to
enjoy this no matter what. "I'm a little over five hundred years old,
and I can't die."
Her companion's eyes had lit up, but Amanda decided to prove her
point anyway. She took a knife from the table and stabbed her index
finger. Blood dribbled down the digit and she watched Jacob's eyes
follow the drip like a spider follows a fly. He looked completely
hypnotized and when the wound she had made closed as if it had never
been the vampire appeared blissfully happy. He reached out and took
her hand, drawing the finger to his lips.
"You, my dear, are a marvel," he said, his voice dripping with
desire, and then enveloped the digit in his mouth.
Amanda trembled, the feeling that ran up her arm was incredible.
Desire didn't quite cover the emotions she was experiencing and she
didn't have to look twice to see them mirrored in her companion's
eyes. She was beginning to find the idea of a vampire incredibly
arousing and he appeared to have found equal stimulation in her. They
both stood up at the same time and the Immortal was not in the mood
to waste time. She reached up to the lace on the front of her dress,
pulled it loose, shook her shoulders a couple of times, and much to
Jacob's surprise the entire garment fell to the floor. Amanda was not
wearing anything underneath. When he put aside his momentary shock,
the vampire walked up to her and picked her up in one graceful move.
The furs on the bed were even softer when there was no coarse fabric
to get in the way ...
"...Okay, okay," Duncan stepped in as Amanda launched into her
description, "we get the picture."
The woman pouted at him.
"But I'd just got to the good part," she complained.
"Damn straight," Richie muttered.
"So, what happened?" Altea wanted to know the ending of the story.
"Oh, we got a little carried away," Amanda told her with a smile,
"and I died. When I woke up in the morning he was gone, and I never
saw him again."
The two women looked at each other and shared a "so sad" moment.
The moment only lasted a few seconds, as Duncan requested Amanda's
help with one of the wall decorations. The bar was quickly shaping up
to look like what was supposed to be: a blues bar about to have a
Altea whispered something in Richie's ear, and the pair headed for
the main door. "We'll be back in a few minutes," Richie said.
Once Richie and Altea were out the door, Duncan made the observation
that he had thought Altea was handling the crowd well, and was really
surprised she had lasted until now. Amanda had to agree.
"So, Connor," Joe began, "anything odd ever happen to you on
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