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Amid the Ellwood

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It was still raining.  Had it ever stopped?  Mirabelle wasn’t sure.  She wasn’t sure of anything anymore.  How much time had passed since she’d fled into these woods?  Since Lyrae had been turned into an abomination before her eyes?  Since she’d been forced to live off what she could catch with this damn bow in this damned forest. 


She was lost – she’d had to travel deep into the woods to light a fire and she hadn’t been able to find her way back to Veelos after that.  The rabbit meat she’d cooked was long gone and the snare hadn’t caught anything in days. 


Her stomach gnawed at acid – there was nothing else for it to gnaw at.


She was going to die out here – too starved to move.  Unless she could find something soon; she knew that was the cold truth.  She could feel the state of her body if she entered the healing trance, and she had glimpsed her pale pallor in the small puddles the steady rain had surrounded her with.  Her sickness stared at her from a hundred little mirrors.  She felt as if she was already dead – the scene around her was surreal.  She, in her fine armor from Veelos, suited for wear at court, looking like a spectre of death; the little lakes around her; and the sodden earth and drab colors that a constant drizzle always seem to form out of a landscape to finish out the surrealist image. 


Her world had turned into a mix of white (her skin), a glimmer of violet (her eyes mirrored back at her), brown, black, and green. 


She kept turning over the events of Veelos in her mind, but she didn’t see what she could have done to remedy the situation.  The back of her eyelids became an infinite loop of events unfolding in different ways––but they all ended the same.


Perhaps it would be better if she did just die out here.  She hadn’t been able to help anyone.


But she had to try.  Her snare went off and she stumbled through her miniscule mirrors and the mud around them to check the trap. 


Rabbit, again.  Disgusting, but at least she would live another few days.  Provided her kindling hadn't been soaked in the night.

Edited by Bradapalooza

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The forests that surrounded Veelos had become stark contrasts of beauty to the ruination of the shattered city. Neither the fires nor perversion of dark, malignant energies managed to escape the concrete buildings and city-walls. The forests remained unscathed, glorious and thick; not even the constant rain was able to dampen their beauty. The land was a maze of twisting tress and paths overrun with underbrush and shrubbery. Losing your way would not be difficult here.


Raphael’s meandered about the sodden earth at a casual pace. He basked in the great silence that had washed over the land in the aftermath of the assault. Much of the wildlife had taken to safer regions of Orisia, far from the fiends and other nightmarish creatures that sought claim over the island-nation’s great cities.


A strange whoosh caught his attention, and the yelp that followed all but begged him to investigate.


Raphael pushed his way through a thick veil of greenery and into a clearing. There he saw a rabbit dangling from a tree, a snare around its left foot. The cord rose up high above them and vanished into the canopy. However, it seemed that he stumbled across something far more interesting in following his curiosity. Mirabelle, the Knight of Benevolence—one of the queen’s favored pets—stood not five feet to the captured rabbit’s left. Dirt and leaves caked on her armor, which had still not lost its luster; she looked different, feral almost. Somehow, it suited her. After all, what were humans before achieving civility besides mindless, barbaric and savage?


“Hungry, are you?” Raphael’s wicked silver eyes looked at the rabbit, and then back at Mirabelle. “I’m sure you could find something far better within the city,” he mocked, though made no mention of the city’s direction. She was lost, this he knew. Why else would such an esteemed member of the Orisian court be doing out here, hunting for her meal? Even so, there was an opportunity here—a prospect that he would be foolish to ignore.


“The Queen has just arrived in Veelos,” he murmured while approaching the disgraced knight. “I doubt she’ll be addressing the people tonight. It’s been a long journey.” Gabriela’s condition had only worsened as time went on. She needed her rest. “I imagine she’ll expect you to be there, being one of her favorite pets and all.” He plucked a damp, crinkled leaf from the woman’s dark hair. “Though, I suspect you’ll be required to look a little more like your usual self. Groomed and what have you.”


Raphael inspected the leaf before discarding it. “I wonder how she’ll react when she learns that one of her trusted knights abandoned the city in its time of need.” A smirk spread across his pale face. “Even here, I’m sure the punishment for cowardice and deserting one’s post cannot be too lenient. What do you think, hm?”

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Mirabelle stared at Raphael through a haze.  She’d seen him at court – she could pick the sense of his life out of a crowd.  But right now, as he stood an arms-length away from him, she couldn’t sense a thing.  She could barely hear his words – the drizzle drove away most of the menacing murmur of his monologue.


“Queen . . . Veelos . . . pet . . . abandoned . . . city . . . need . . . punishment . . . cowardice.”


A fever-dream – it had to be a fever-dream.  What would Raphael Bartolome be doing in the forest?  What were the chances he’d have found her?  She was further gone than she’d thought.  When was the last time she’d entered the healing trance?  It sapped her strength – she’d avoided it as much as possible.  Had she missed something – how sick was she?––


Hunger. Painful hunger.  The rabbit.


She needed food.  She stumbled to the snare, clumsily cutting the hare free.  She fell to her knees as she bent to retrieve the corpse.  The world was shaking beneath her and she couldn’t find her balance.  Rivulets of rain ran down her face.  That damned dream of Raphael wouldn’t go disappear.  It wasn’t real – it couldn’t be real.  He was as still as a statue. 


Ignore it.


She fumbled with the package of kindling she’d retrieved.  It had survived the storm in the hollow she’d stored it in.  The waterproof furs untangled as she pulled apart the knot––


––and the sickly feral image of Mirabelle shattered as the dry wood crashed into her mirror. 


Her fingers shot out – snatching at the wood, as if by only retrieving the kindling from the water fast enough, she could undo the damage – but, of course, the endeavor was fruitless; she only made things worse, pushing wood deeper into the mud.


She collapsed to the deep-rooted plants that formed the nefarious undergrowth; these roots, that had snatched at her feet while she had run from Veelos, were finally going to secure their tendon-grip on the bare skin of her arms and legs.  They would finally win – those damn demon-plants. 


She frowned at the fever-dream image of Raphael.


“If you were real––“ she spluttered, interrupted by the water that got in her mouth and the slick mud that rubbed against her soft skin.


She rose up slightly.  “If you were real you’d help me.  Or leave . . .”


Her eyes shut with his image still present.


She’d been so close – but not close enough.

Edited by Bradapalooza

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Raphael watched as Mirabelle degraded into a sloppy, clumsy mess. She fell in pursuit of her kindling, splattering mud and grim across the vampyre’s polished armor boots. He arched a brow and tilted his head to the left as she writhed in the forest’s filth; it was almost impossible to discern what she was saying over the patter of rain and her incessant mumbling. His ears twitched as he focused on her mouth to bring clarity to her words. Mirabelle’s eyes closed, and as her consciousness teetered between light and dark, he chuckled.


“Is that what I would do if I were real?” he inquired mockingly, though he did not expect a response. Raphael carefully inspected the woman’s armored body as he stepped closer and circled her. “I suppose that would be the humane thing to do, wouldn’t it? Helping take care of one of the queen’s pets when it has lost its way.”


He tucked the iron tip of his boot beneath her chin and, with a nudge from his leg, rolled Mirabelle onto her back. “She is always going on about how I should try and mingle—make friends, settle down; how this could be my home.” Raphael’s expression became sour. “But, it’s hard. Gabriela shows more favor toward your kind than her own people. Even you would be appalled if you heard the contempt in her tone when she speaks of us, her blood and family; her true kin. You humans have poisoned her against us.”


The rhythm of Mirabelle’s heart was slow, almost non-existent. She’d surrendered to the darkness of her exhaustion, and in mere moments, it would be a permanent slumber. Still, it did little to deter the vampyre from his rant. “It’s hard for me to acclimate. Where I come, there is a certain order to things. Humans are well-taken care of, believe me, but they are our food. If not food, they are our slaves. We are the masters of your race, and no matter how much you struggle, it will always be so. You cannot fight the inevitable.”


Raphael pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. “I’m not sure Gabriela will ever come to understand that. Or, perhaps she just needs someone she can better relate to?”


Mirabelle’s song was even slower when he opened his eyes. Long pauses came between each thump. He lowered himself to one knee, bit his thumb, and then smeared the droplet of blood across the woman’s lips. He rose not a second later and moved to a nearby tree. Crossing his arms, he leaned against the tough bark and waited. “And now that I’ve helped you, it will be your turn to help me.”

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–then complete and total pain: pain madly, clumsily, agonizingly, horrifyingly burrowing deeper and deeper; possessing her body, assimilating and imbibing every particle of her soul – of her flesh; pain gnawing, gnashing, tearing, rending, chewing, fatally subduing and crawling within her.  Pain battering against her like a wild beast, feral with hunger, locked in a cage and surrounded by a feast of food transferred in ephemeral argosy from heaven.  Pain overwhelmed her senses and sent her alone to another realm, leaving her falling, crashing through barriers of stone that loomed up from the darkness as if they were no more than wisps of parchment.


Was this death?  Perpetual, unceasing pain that changes the moment before it could become accustomed to and ignored.  Had she been damned? 


As a Healer she had learned that pain was always mixed with pleasure – but now she could find no pleasure.  She could not find her own body.  Perhaps, she no longer had one.  The tightly-coiled plants had wormed their way into her body and consumed it and she was just a floating cloud of pain.


Had death been like this for Lyrae?  Was she truly dead?  The light of her life had gone out in Mirabelle’s senses – replaced by one of those lanterns that poured out clouds of darkness.  What had happened to her own light?  Did it still burn or had it been snuffed out?  Did–


There was no more pain.  She was back on the cold, slick ground – but she’d collapsed on her side, hadn’t she?  Now she was on her back.  And the forest canopy above her no longer seemed so droll – it was full of color, shades and shades and shades of green.  The demon-plants around her no longer felt so strong.  But Raphael still stood before her.  Perhaps this was just another part of the fever-dream.  They could get strange in their later states – their fatal states.


“Food,” she said aloud.  “I need food.” 


She remembered the kindling collapsing in the rain.  She’d have to find more.  She began to search for a dry spot in this damn drizzle.


And she realized she was walking with all of the grace she normally possessed, if not more.  She froze as her reflection stared up at her from one of her miniscule mirrors – a puddle protected from the rain.  Her skin had lost its sallow coloring – she still looked half starved, but besides her tangled hair and the mud all over her, she looked perfectly healthy.


 Her stomach still gnawed at her.


“Food,” she repeated.  “I definitely need food.”


She began walking the other direction, continuing to ignore her fever-dream of Raphael, until she noticed it was watching her.


“Why are you here?” she demanded.  Why would her brain conjure up Raphael of all people?


What if her brain hadn’t conjured it up at all?


She glanced into one of the mirrors again.  Her skin had always been porcelain-white, but now all of the slight variations of tone that she knew had existed were gone.  Her lips parted as she prepared to speak again – but she forgot what she was going to say.  She had fangs – and they were not fangs like those of The Black Queen – they were sharper, more feral, and much more menacing. 


They were like Raphael’s fangs.


Her stomach gnawed at her again, far worse than before, and she clutched at it, forgetting everything but the pure essence of hunger. 


This time she turned to Raphael.   “I need . . . food.”

Edited by Bradapalooza

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Raphael watched with a great satisfaction as Mirabelle’s body bucked against the ground, twisted and tangled itself its limbs in impossible patterns. But, it wasn’t some sadistic pleasure that made his slow-beating heart flutter with speed. Instead, it was the sense of fulfillment, the content all creators experienced when they tasted the fruits of their labor for the first time; that moment when all their effort proved to be worth it.


Though he’d seen many changlings throughout his life, in all his years of living, he had never once sired another being. Mirabelle was his first attempt at parenthood, and like everything else in his life, he was determined to make sure she was raised properly.


“Food,” she almost groaned. “I need food.”


Raphael seemed content to listen to the child whine and inspect her new body. She was completely oblivious to the transformation that had just occurred, that is, until she caught glimpse of fangs protruding from her mouth. They would remain until her first drink, until the (thirst) hunger – so new and fresh within her – had been sated. Fortunately for Mirabelle, still so lost and new, Raphael was determined to be a sterling parent.


“It can be worse than anything else,” he finally said with a great deal of enthusiasm in his tone. For the first time since their encounter, he moved. He pushed himself from the tree and approached the knight. “I’ve heard others – those who have been changed – say that, at times, it’s worse than any thirst or hunger they knew in their human life. Of course, it’s different for me. I was born with it – the thirst is the only thing I have ever known.”


Raphael grabbed her face without regard and tilted her beautiful porcelain features back. An armored thumb pushed against her upper lip and revealed the elongated fang on her left side. He pressed his thumb against it and carefully stroked the curved enamel; tested its health and permanence. He released her with a hard flick of his wrist, and not a second later she was complaining again.


“I need… food.”


“Yes, yes, I know, child,” he murmured while reaching beneath his long, heavy cloak. He’d retrieved the rabbit from her snare during her transformation, as human was in short supply at the moment. He tossed the dead creature at her feet with a disgusted scowl; her first meal was to be filth, but there was little he could do. “You need to feed and, unfortunately, your furry friend here is the best we’ll be able to do for the moment. You will drink every last drop, and then we’ll begin discussing your new—life.”


And training, as well.

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“Yes, yes, I know, child,” Raphael said, before tossing the corpse of the rabbit at her feet. 


She caught it before it hit the ground.  She wasn’t quite sure how – it was just suddenly in her hands.  She glanced back at Raphael – the distaste he held for the rabbit was blatantly obvious.


“You need to feed and, unfortunately, your furry friend here is the best we’ll be able to do for the moment.  You will drink every last drop, and then we’ll begin discussing your new–life.”


Mirabelle didn’t hesitate – she’d seen feeding before and Raphael had confirmed this was no fever dream.  She’d been changed and she could feel it now.  She sank her cruel fangs into the rabbit and they pierced through the creature with ease. 


She had to suck to get the blood gushing – but it didn’t really gush, it was coagulated and cold.  It oozed out of the corpse, flopping out in chunks.  The texture of it alone was disgusting –– the taste was far worse.  But the pure ache deep in her body was easing; she’d been hungry – or perhaps thirsty was the correct term now – for so long that she didn’t  stop, even though she threw up within her own mouth.  She kept going.  She could feel the dim hint of life that the creature had once possessed flowing into her veins. 


She needed this, even if it was the worst thing she’d ever tasted.  The smell of it gave her a piercing migraine, but she sucked until no more of the sickening blood spurted out of the rabbit.  She even licked her lips to get the last drops that she had missed.


As her tongue passed over a small remnant of some other blood – Raphael’s blood, she knew instantly – a faint shudder of pleasure passed through her body, but the oppressive weight of the cold, heavy rabbit blood quickly smothered that.


She stood still for a moment, opening her mouth to speak to Raphael, to ask him what he intended, why he had done this.  But she had to clench her jaws shut and hold her hand over her mouth to keep the sustenance from spewing out all over the muddy ground. 


It took her several minutes before she felt her nausea had subsided enough to speak without retching.


“I hope rabbit blood is particularly horrible – other stuff tastes better, right?”


Thirst was still predominant on her mind – she couldn’t live on that sick excuse for food.  Raphael raised an eyebrow at her question and she remembered what had brought her to this forest in the first place – and his other words.


“Sorry – I’m just so – that was gross.  Why did you––?”  She stopped herself, remembering Raphael’s importance to the kingdom.  “What did you wish to discuss?”


Her court voice, aimed to please, sounded different now.  Somehow more alluring, more beautiful, more musical; what exactly did becoming a vampire mean?  She knew her vision was better, her sense of smell was enhanced, and so on.  That was obvious from the new plethora of scents and sights present in the forest that only minutes ago had been a drab mix of five colors.  Her sense of touch, too, was far more synesthetic than before.  Each drop of the drizzle that fell from the leaved boughs above her felt wonderfully cleansing – like taking a shower in the palace of Orisia as a human from every single drop.


She was still dirty – but she had never felt so clean.  How far did these sensory changes go?


She wanted to ask – but she waited for Raphael to speak, as was proper.  He had saved her life, she supposed, and she knew there were rules regarding siring, although she knew no specifics.  But she felt bound, not only by her court training, but by something instinctive, to follow his lead.


So she waited.

Edited by Bradapalooza

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Good, good.


Raphael noted his child’s displeasure as she forced herself to feed on the rabbit. Beyond the foul stench of the creature’s blood, he caught a whiff of her vomit (a mixture of the blood and what bits of food she managed to scrape together prior to her transformation). There was a natural aversion to this kind of feeding – it was very rare for one of their species to fine with animal blood, let alone prefer it. He was pleased to see that Gabriela’s skewed morality had not infected Mirabelle.


“No,” he replied in a flat, matter of fact tone. “If you choose to eat like an uncivilized beast, and dine of animals, then that is what you can expect to taste for the rest of your life.” His silver eyes lifted to the canopy. “Consider that a mere glimpse of what your dear Queen chooses to endure.”


He erased the distance between them and took hold of her face once again. Skillfully, he pressured her mouth open with one hand and then forced the armored index finger of his other down the woman’s throat. A second later, he removed the appendage and forced her over at the waist.


“The first thing we’re going to discuss, child, is your diet,” he murmured as she retched. “While the blood of these rodents may be a necessity at the moment, I will make sure that every second is spent in agonizing pain so that you never, ever, crave it. Even at your worst, you will feed from humans, just as I do, or from me if I feel inclined to allow it.” He paused as he felt her body strain in his grasp during a powerful wave of vomiting. “Nod if you understand me.”


He felt her head move in a weak gesture.


“Very good.” He could not hide the satisfaction in his tone. “Now, you may be wondering what this strange feeling inside you is – how you may feel bound to me? You’re sired, Mirabelle. It is no different than the connection a child shares with its mother. No, it will never go away or lessen in strength. It will only become stronger, and the more you fight it, if you fight it at all, the harder your life will become.” Again, he paused as she released deep groan around the bloody vomit being pushed out of her mouth. “You are mine now.”


When the tremors ceased, and the last droplets of vomit fell from her lips, he pulled her up by her shoulders. “I will teach you how to control your senses and abilities.” Raphael’s lips curved into a wide genuine smile. He thumbed away the bile from her mouth and chin, and held her head square so that he could look into her eyes. “And I will also teach you how to hunt and master your thirst. It is a necessity to our lives, but by no means should it control us. You have been sired by a house of royal blood, Mirabelle. You will be stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average changed. My strength courses through your veins now, dear child.”


With a loving pat to the side of her head, he turned and started toward the path from which he came. “Come along now. We have quite a walk ahead of us.”

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Mirabelle started after Raphael and turned his words over in her head.  Truthfully, the forced vomiting he’d caused had been pleasurable.  She’d thought the nausea had passed, but even if Raphael hadn’t jammed his finger down her throat, she would have spewed the disgusting coagulated, heavy rabbit blood in about five more seconds.


His grip had been painfully tight, but she thought there was some tenderness in that.  He’d prevented her from retching all over herself.  She didn’t need to become filthier.  The forest had already insured she was caked in grime. 


His words about feeding on humans had felt . . . right.


That scared her a little – but the taste of that rabbit had been wrong.  It wasn’t intended for consumption by vampyric creatures – for her now.  It’d be like a human living on only plants; possible, but neither healthy nor satisfying. 


How did the Queen live like this?  It was wrong.  From what she knew based on her training as a Healer, a vampire could make the feeding process painless if they wanted, and feeding did not constitute siring.  True, she had not studied the process thoroughly, but since she had performed a great deal of healing on The Black Queen, she’d been obligated to read as much as she could find on vampyric constitutions and the differences between a human, and her research had lead her down into a rabbit hole.


Ugh, rabbit – she nearly retched again at the thought of the word.


What did Raphael know?  She wanted to ask a million questions – but now didn’t seem like the time.  Right now he seemed to want everything to go a very certain way.  She knew siring was a serious matter in vampyric eyes, but there was astonishingly little written or known about the culture.  Mirabelle’s studies only gave her a glimpse – she never would have imagined becoming a vampire felt like this


Mothers didn’t own daughters – was that a misplaced metaphor on Raphael’s part or was the siring relationship truly like one of parenthood and not like slavery.  This was the question she wondered about the most.  She was consumed with it to the point that she didn’t notice how far they had travelled until she glimpsed the glimmer of her porcelain skin as it shone underneath the starlight.


They were out of the depths of the Ellwood forest, onto a trail of some sort.


They were heading for Veelos.  The Queen was in Veelos.  How was she going to explain her failure to protect the town?  How was she going to convey their helplessness in the face of the enemy?  How was she going to explain Lyrae’s fate?–


–How was she going to explain that she’d become a vampire?  Raphael’s vampire, at that . . .


Mirabelle stopped in her tracks.  Her voice held none of the prim and pomp of court – it was her natural voice, touched with a hint of confusion and a quaver of fear.


“Raphael – what . . . I . . . the Queen and Veelos.  I can’t – not yet.  I don’t understand anything about what’s going on.  I can’t face her and explain what happened.  It was horrible.  Can we – can we stop?  Can you explain more of this to me?”


At the last question, she simply gestured at her body.  That was enough she thought.  The change wasn’t that noticeable to her – but that was because she was still herself.  She was sure that the physical enhancements that Raphael had bequeathed her when he had chosen to sire her were very obvious to others.  She felt so agile, so lithe, so graceful – and she’d been graceful and pale enough in the past to be mistaken by visitors to the palace for a vampire before she’d been changed. 


She’d usually laughed that off and smiled to show her perfectly human teeth.  Vampyric individuals were rare, she would explain.  The entire court of Orisia only consisted of a handful.


She couldn’t do that anymore.   


What did she look like now that she truly was a vampire?


Raphael should know – he was, after all, an even older vampyre than the Queen.  And he had sired Mirabelle.  Couldn’t a parent pick their child out of a crowd with a glance?  Shouldn’t it be the same for the one who had sired her?

Edited by Bradapalooza

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There was a hint of impatience in his figure as he came to a halt. But when he faced Mirabelle, his expression was awash with empathy and understanding. Things were moving quite fast, and due to their strange circumstances, they didn’t have much time to slow it down. It was well into the night; the sun would be rising soon and no matter how deep in the forest they were, no amount of canopy shade would protect them from the star’s burning rays. But, he thought to himself as he stared upon his pitiful, beautiful child, I suppose we can take a brief moment to explain some things.


“Stop your sniveling,” he snapped while crossing over to her. “You are a soldier, Mirabelle. Even the most brilliant tacticians and generals suffer defeat from time to time. Sometimes, it may be horrible and you may see things that will change who you are on a fundamental level.” His right armored hand rushed forward and grabbed the collar of her breastplate. “But you don’t whine about and you don’t fumble over yourself like child.”


Raphael pulled her closer. “I’m not sure how much of the city you saw when you retreated, but a good portion was destroyed. It’s quite clear that the city of Veelos was not equipped to handle this attack, and sending the Knight of Benevolence, a Healer, was not going to tilt the scale. Tell the Queen whatever you want—you were forced into the woods defending yourself from a hundred of the mindless civilians, or hunting one of the aggressors as they fled the city.”


“Spin the tale however you wish, Mirabelle. I won’t reprimand you for it, because I couldn’t care less.” His grip on her armor loosened. “It’s behind you. Now, as for you…”


Raphael’s eyes took on a sudden focus. The silver became so intense they glowed like steel in the husks of moonlight penetrating the canopy. He scraped away her grime and filth with his mind’s eye and restored her to the grandeur she, along with all those of the Orisian court, were known for. He stripped away her armor and beneath it found a long, luxurious ebony dress; it hugged her edges and curves as the leaves fell from her dark hair and it took on an unnatural straightness. “… There aren’t going to be any drastic changes. You’re still very much yourself, albeit better.”


Now, Raphael circled her. “You’re a predator now, Mirabelle. Every fiber of your body has been fine-tuned for one simple purpose: the hunt.” A genuine smile of satisfaction spread across his features. “You’ve always been a gorgeous woman, but now, you will be a siren. I’m sure you’ve noticed the alluring timbre in your voice now, so rich and sultry, and the unnatural grace to your every movement? No matter what you do, it will always be there.”


 “However, we are not without our flaws,” he murmured with a noticeable grimace. “Two of the most important things in your life now are avoiding sunlight and feeding. Neglect either of these and you will find yourself in the icy hands of the true death.”


He began plucking more of the leaves from her hair. The wetness from the rain made her look somewhat presentable, though he had no intention of revealing her condition to the Queen so soon. “Now, when I mentioned you being mine, it was quite literal.” Did a parent not claim their children? “I created you Mirabelle and as such, it is my duty and honor to take care of you. As I said, the connection we share will only grow with time. I will always feel you, no matter where you are – if harm comes to you, I will know, and vice versa. But, this does not mean I can control you or make you do anything against your wishes. Being a pureblood, I can simply compel you if that is my desire.”


Raphael flashed a wicked smirk. “But, you needn’t worry. I’ve not compelled any of our kind in over four hundred years.”


“Now, the biggest things you need to worry about right now are, as I mentioned, your senses and the thirst. It can be overwhelming sometimes, and combined with this new drive, can lead you to do something reckless.” He came to a stop before her. “Learning to control your hunger is the first and most important step, but also the most difficult. For the first few weeks, you will not feed unless I am present. Do you understand?”

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Mirabelle nodded.


She could see the wisdom in Raphael’s command.  Already, she was thirsty again; like the slow expansion of a gas from the middle of her being, she knew that thirst would grow until it pressurized and finally exploded.  Then she would be able to think of nothing but sating her desires.


Was Veelos truly as bad as he’d said?  She’d only been able to get glimpses of the ruined town – she’d had no idea what the extent of the damage was.  She pursed her lips.


“I suppose I shall tell the truth.  There was nothing I could’ve done.  I stood twelve feet away from a creature so horrid and powerful that it was able to snuff out my ability to even enter the healing trance.  I only escaped using this,” she finished by flourishing out the earring the Queen had given her – a luxurious stone, perhaps an opal, that could manipulate the shadows.


“I am a soldier – a knight.  And now I am a siren and your vampyre fledgling.  I suppose dawn is approaching; I’ve never seen you look agitated – your face always seemed emotionless before.”  Mirabelle paused, scrapping some of the remaining mud from her face, when a thought occurred to her.  “Oh, I suppose that must be the changes I’ve undergone.”


Her voice had the galloping lilt of a giggle despite the absurdity of the situation.  She’d always thought Raphael was so cold – so frightening; seeing all this emotion across his visage had thrown her off: his protectiveness and care; his annoyance; his determination; his satisfaction at her responses.  Those must of always been there – just undetectable to her human eyes.  Rapheal wasn’t a scary, emotionless creature that prowled about the court.  He was full of passion.


“How long can I go without feeding?  I already thirst again . . . but we must find shelter, no?  And I cannot meet the Queen yet, and from your expression, I don’t think you want me to meet her yet.  I must wash first in any case. ”


She resumed walking – this time at a faster pace, a, somehow, more natural pace.  The changes again, she assumed.


That change in his eyes – could she do that?  That would be a useful tool for a siren.  Did the bond he mention go two ways?  She probed experimentally at her empathetic healing sense without entering the trance.  Raphael’s aura jumped out at her – a bonfire trapped inside a lantern, a far more intense sense than that of any one else she’d ever felt.  It shocked her so much she dropped the healing sense instinctively. 


Well, she was certainly bonded to him.  She didn’t know how he sensed her, and if she’d be able to do the same, but she had the feeling that in the healing trance she’d be able to pick out Raphael from a hundred leagues away if she wanted.

Edited by Bradapalooza

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“Yes,” he said while taking stride. “Everything is more for us, Mirabelle. While we may be quite good at hiding it to the mundane eye, it can be quite hard for us to do the same in the company of beings of our stature. You’ll find you things—hate, love, pain, pleasure—feel a hundred times more potent to you now. Again, it can be overwhelming.”


In spite their naturally accelerated pace, the pair still had a lengthy journey ahead of them until they reached Veelos’ high walls. Dawn was even further away. “You’re not even half-an-hour old, my sweet, sweet Mirabelle. You will feel compelled to drink regularly, and it will be a few days before the initial hold of the thirst wears off.”


Raphael paused his gait and grabbed Mirabelle by the wrist. “We still have a lot of time before sunrise.” His silver eyes flicked to the canopy, piercing its folds, and into the darkness of the sky. “You need to learn how to control your new body before we enter the city, dear. You have no idea how resilient you are now, and in hindsight, how fragile a human body can be. It’s easy to forget the difference in a spike of emotion.”


“You are faster and stronger than any creature currently in these woods,” he explained while gesturing to the world around them with his right hand. “There’s no doubt you can feel it, even in your walk. And while your abilities will continue to ripen with age, they are already well beyond what a newborn should be capable of—a few of the aforementioned liberties.”


In the next breath, Raphael appeared several meters away. Even to her new, focused eyes he would appear as nothing more than a blur against the darkness of the forest. “That is how you move when you hunt. You strike without warning and take what you need from them.” He vanished once more—left not even a blur to mark his path—before appearing behind Mirabelle. His right hand wrapped around her neck, pressing his thumb to her right carotid artery. “This is where you are to feed from.” He stroked the flesh of her neck. “Right here, always.”


When he unfurled his arm from around her body, he spun Mirabelle in a half-circle. Face to face, he nodded off to the side. “Now, go get another rabbit.”

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Raphael’s speed was stunning.  Mirabelle ached to try it for herself.  The stroke of his fingers along her neck froze her in place – she felt that feeding upon humans was right but she couldn’t wrap her head around it so quickly, not in a half-hour; but his words broke her hesitation.


“Now, go get another rabbit.”


The thought of being forced to drink rabbit blood again made her nauseous.  The mere memory of the way the coagulated blood had flopped out of dead veins was enough to sicken her.  She stood before Raphael and entered the healing trance as he bade her to hunt.  The burning bonfire of his life had to be ignored – otherwise it blotted out all the other life surrounding her.  Animals were like a candle in front of the sun until she could focus her healing senses outwards.  Raphael had said all animals tasted the same – but she didn’t think she could stomach rabbit again.  She found the brightest of the burning lights and exited the trance. 


Even her magic was sharper now, she realized belatedly.  As she exited the trance, she knew exactly where to find her prey.  She dashed towards it and the speed was both incredible and unremarkable; incredible because she knew that she travelling at an unbelievable speed compared to the what she could have imagined as a human, but mundane because she had no trouble navigating the trunks of the trees or avoiding any fallen branches that might snap and alert her prey. 


She could sense the wind, and circled downwind from the stag that she had felt.  It probably wouldn’t have mattered – she sprang to capture the stag, and this time she thought she reached a speed close to the edge of what she was currently capable of.  She was on the stag before it could turn its head.


That was unbelievable for a human – but it had been child’s play for her.  She lifted the stag, without killing it, and dashed back to Raphael.  She didn’t even realize she hadn’t needed the healing trance to locate him – his presence was so obvious she came straight back to him, despite the fact he had travelled a fair distance down the trail. 


She waited for him to nod for her to begin.  She had been ordered not to feed unless he was present – perhaps, this had been a test to see if she’d been listening. 


Her fangs pierced the living stag effortlessly.  The creature’s rapid heart beat eased the feeding process, and the blood wasn’t coagulated and cold as the rabbit had been.  That should have made the feeding experience far more pleasant, but it didn’t.  The taste was horrid.


She drank every drop and then threw up at least half of the meal on top of the desiccated stag. 


Still gagging, she wiped her mouth and glanced up at Raphael. 


“It feels dirty.  I feel dirty.”


That was all she got out before she retched again.

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Raphael nodded toward the exsanguinated stag. “The queen’s favorite.”


He waited for her retching to lessen before he approached. Certain that she could vomit no longer, he took her by the face and began wiping away the thick sheet of blood that stained her chin with his cloak. He paid careful attention to her soft, rounded features; he dabbed and stroked until not even a drop marred her ghostly white features.


“There are three ways to deal with the thirst: sating it, fighting it, or that.” He nodded toward to the stag. “Vomit that vile sustenance a few times and you’ll find your thirst more than abated, no matter how temporary. Now, you should be fine until we’re closer to the city walls.” Raphael’s hold vanished and in the next moment he was walking again. “Then, we’ll find you a real meal.”


Raphael knew that it was far too soon for Mirabelle to feed from the vein. There was no doubt in his mind that she’d kill her victim(s), no matter how much she tried to restrain herself. Short of ripping her from the throat, which could have the same effect (but harm her in the process), there would be nothing he could do. But, that was exactly the point. She needed to feel the euphoric high that came with ending a life while feeding; the bliss of, for a short period of time, playing the role of the Creator. Besides, it wasn’t like she was killing a person – they were just food.


There was a mutual silence for the majority of their journey. Raphael allowed the woman to bask in the glory of her new senses, seeing, hearing, and tasting the world around her in a new light. Meanwhile, his mind wandered over the possible outcomes of when Gabriela found out what transpired. He’d saved her favored Knight, hadn’t he? Would she dare be cross with him for such a thoughtful, chivalrous gesture?


“We will keep your condition between the two of us for the time being,” he finally said. “After the queen’s address to the city, I will inform her of your presence and then show you to her once I’ve ensured everything will go well.” The tone in his voice made it obvious this was neither a request nor open to debate. “However, until then, you will remain in my chamber – or whatever chamber I find for you – and you will not leave unless it is with me, or you’ve been give my permission to do so.”


Raphael glanced to his side. “Once we’re within the city, I will tend to you, personally. No matter how much you ache, you will not drink unless it is from me.”

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Mirabelle nodded at Raphael’s words.  She shuddered at the thought of a real meal; both with excitement and a twinge of worry.  She knew it was difficult for fledglings to control their thrist – at least, that was what her research had told her.  But that particular fact had been in several sources, and she’d drank both the rabbit and the stag dry, and those had been disgusting.  If human blood tasted right she doubted she’d be able to stop. 


What would Raphael taste like? 


His plan was a good one.  She would need to compose herself before meeting with the Queen.  And, before, she’d never questioned the Queen’s decisions, but now that she’d been changed, she found herself questioning a great deal of the Queen’s actions.  Feeding upon this filth was probably partially responsible for her slow recovery rate and there was no reason for a grown and trained vampyre to not feed upon a willing human.  She was crippling Orisia with her indecision and fake ethics.  If the Queen had been fully recovered from her incident, would the chaos at Orisia had even happened? 


Did the Queen truly even want to recover?


Raphael came to an abrupt halt.  Mirabelle slid to a stop behind him. 


The she smelled it – heard it: human blood, pumped through veins by a panicked heart.  She struggled to resist the desire to seek them out.  The thirst was overwhelming – a hundred times stronger than when she’d been turned now that she smelt human blood.  But this was a death sentence. 


A death sentence for people that would die soon anyways.  Veelos was in ruins – Mirabelle could see that quite clearly now.   Even with the arrival of the Queen’s retinue and the elite guard, there wouldn’t be enough food to support the survivors of the Veelos incident. 


Killing them would be a kindness, she knew that was true.  It was no lie to justify her thirst.  If she did not feed upon them, they would starve to death.  If she fed upon them, she would learn a lesson and be able to control herself later.  Their deaths wouldn’t be in vain.


But she still awaited Raphael to lead the way.

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