Friendly Vampires?

For Week 3 of More Odds Than Ends prompts I received this on from Fiona Grey: The castle was filled with the friendliest vampires [character] had ever encountered. I had to let it rattle around for a while and then this snippet (?) piece (?) popped up. I really don’t know where it came from and I’m certainly not going to go looking in those corners of my brain! Anyway, here are the friendly vampires!

******

Yessenia stumbled through the forest. She wasn’t sure how far she had come, but she was certain it wasn’t far enough yet. Keep moving. Keep moving. One foot in front of the other.

Glancing up, she noted that the sun was low on the horizon. It would be dark soon, but she couldn’t stop now, imminent darkness or no. She couldn’t hear the dogs behind her, but they were there. She knew it. She stepped over a branch, only to trip over another one and fall to her knees.

She took a deep, ragged breath and looked around. Silly girl. There’s nobody here to see you fall. Get up and keep moving. Yessenia pushed herself back onto her feet and started walking again. She kept her eyes on the ground to avoid falling again, only occasionally glancing up to make certain of her direction.

A howl startled her out of her concentrated focus. She froze with one foot in the air and stared around, peering between the surrounding trees. Quietly putting her foot down, she carefully moved to a large boulder that shoved its way out of the forest floor. It wasn’t great, but at least a wolf would have a difficult time climbing it.

The wolf, she supposed it was a wolf, nothing else that she knew of howled like that, howled again, but it sounded further off. Unfortunately, it also sounded like it was moving in the same direction as she was.

The sun set in a blaze of purple, pink, and gold. Yessenia sat on her boulder for a few moments admiring the show. It felt good to focus on something beautiful, even if just for a moment. After the unspeakable loss and fear of the last few weeks, she needed a moment to appreciate the beauty of the sunset.

A few moments later she shook her head and took careful note of her surroundings. She realized that she hadn’t heard the wolf in the last few minutes. Hopefully it had left the immediate area and wasn’t simply waiting for her to walk by so it could attack her.

As Yessenia’s eyes adjusted to the dark, she realized that she could see better than she had expected. Heartened by the discovery, she stood up on her boulder. Staring to the west, watching the last rays of the sun sink below the horizon, she saw flickering light bobbing through the trees and growing larger. It was getting closer. Yessenia quickly clambered off the boulder and squeezed herself as best she could under its slightly raised edge and a nearby tree.

The bobbing light proved to be a torch held up by what appeared to be a young man.

“Hello? Miss? Are you here? I want to offer shelter and help,” he called softly.

Yessenia didn’t move. She had an uncomfortable feeling she knew exactly what he meant by shelter and help.

“I promise. We won’t hurt you. I know you’re here somewhere. Dane said he could smell you.” The man’s voice was soft, and oddly comforting. But what did he mean Dane could smell her? The wolf! He could talk to the wolf? How was that possible? She crouched down even further.

Dry leaves crunched behind her, and she whirled around without thought, hands coming up in a defensive posture. A young man holding a torch stood behind her. His blond hair hung loosely around his face, falling below his shoulders. He was wearing woolen trousers tucked into black leather boots and a light-colored tunic. A leather belt around his waist held a scabbarded sword. Seeing Yessenia’s panic he raised his free hand in a peaceful gesture.

“Please. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. I am Mattias. Will you come with me? I can give you food and a safe place for the night.” He smiled and held out his hand.

Yessenia stared at him. She didn’t feel afraid, but she also didn’t feel that she had much choice. He knew she was out here now. Those hunting her were behind her somewhere and probably closer than she knew. She nodded and placed her hand in his. It was cool to the touch, which she put down to walking through the forest on a cool night.

“Thank you for the offer, I accept. I am Yessenia,” she told him.

“A beautiful name.” Mattias raised her hand to his lips and lightly kissed her knuckles. “Please stay close to me. The path is not terribly clear in daylight, and almost invisible in the dark.” He moved around her and started through the trees. Yessenia made certain she stayed as close as she could without stepping on his heels.

A ten-minute walk found Yessenia and Mattias at the edge of a large clearing. In the middle stood what could only be described as a castle. It wasn’t a large castle, but it was still a castle. Yessenia gaped up at the crenellated walls and the towers on the corners. A gate, opened just enough for one person to walk through, stood in the middle of the wall facing them. Standing in the gap was a woman with a large dog. No, Yessenia corrected herself, it wasn’t a dog. It was a wolf.

She must have hesitated as she walked out of the forest behind Mattias. He stopped and looked back at her.

“That is Marija with Dane. Dane is the one who found you.” He smiled and held out his hand again. Yessenia reached for it despite herself.

As they approached the gate, Mattias snuffed out the torch on the gravel apron in front of the gate.

“As you can see, Marija, I found our wanderer. This is Yessenia. She needs some food and a good bed. I will take Dane and go back along her trail to find those who hunt her,” Mattias told the woman. “If you would, ask the others if any of them would like to join me. Those hunting Yessenia are coming from the north.”

Marija nodded. “I am glad you found her, Mattias. I thought they were done hunting the innocent. I will ask the others to follow you.” She smiled at Yessenia Please come with me. There is food and I will have a room made ready for you.”

“Thank you,” Yessenia managed. She was still in shock over this unexpected rescue. And what did Mattias mean about ‘finding those who hunt her’? She turned to ask him, but he was already striding across the clearing, Dane at his side, back into the forest.

“Excuse me, but where is he going?” she asked Marija.

“To find those who follow you. You are being hunted, yes? Mattias will take care of it. Please do not worry.” She smiled again, and in the brighter light of the gate house, Yessenia thought her teeth looked oddly long.

Marija gestured for Yessenia to follow and led the way into the castle. They crossed the central courtyard and walked up several steps into a large door. Inside it was warm and light with the sound of many voices coming down the corridor. Marija gestured again and pushed open the third door. The sound of voices became louder, and Yessenia found herself in a small banquet room filled with about twenty people. The noise died down as they turned to see who had entered the room.

“Everybody, this is Yessenia. Mattias and Dane found her lost in the forest. Mattias has returned to find those who were hunting her. If anybody would like to join him, he just left,” Marija announced. Several chairs scraped back and seven or eight individuals, including a few women, Yessenia was surprised to note, stood up and moved toward the door.

As they passed, one of the men flashed Yessenia a smile. “Don’t worry, little one. We’ll find them and take care of them for you.” Yessenia jumped. The man had fangs!

She turned to Marija. “May I ask…” she started, but she thought she knew the answer and she despaired.

Marija smiled and Yessenia was oddly unsurprised to see that she too had fangs. “What are you?” she asked softly, resigning herself to dying. She didn’t know who or what the people in this castle were, but the certainty of death settled about her.

“We are vampires. But, I promise, as I know Mattias did, that we will not harm you and you will be free to go on your way in the morning should you choose to do so. This I swear.” Something in her tone told Yessenia that Marija was serious.

“Vampires? But you…I…” Yessenia stuttered.

“We will not harm you. I will explain tomorrow. Please. Come eat. We do not need food, but we do like the taste so I can assure you that this is some of the best food you will ever have,” Marija led Yessenia to an empty chair and waved to one of the servants. A plate piled high with roasted venison, quail, and vegetables appeared before her. A goblet filled with wine materialized next. The smell of the food reminded Yessenia that she had not eaten anything, besides the dried apples she’d stuffed in her bag, in at least two days. She took a tentative bite. Oh, my. The roast was delicious. Before she really knew what she was doing, Yessenia found herself diving into the plate of food in front of her.

More people…vampires came and went from the dining room. They all greeted Yessenia and politely asked if there was anything more, she needed. Finally, she finished the food that seemed to keep appearing in front of her. Marija had been watching and as Yessenia sat back, she glanced over.

“You must be exhausted. A room has been prepared for you and again, I swear that you shall pass this night unharmed.”

“Thank you. Can you tell me…do you know if Mattias has returned?” Yessenia asked, pushing back from the table. One of the men jumped up to hold the chair for her.

“He has not yet returned. I don’t expect to see him before morning,” Marija answered.

Once again, Marija led Yessenia through the corridors, and up a wide staircase. This time the door opened on a spacious chamber, dominated by a huge four-poster bed in one corner. A fire burned brightly in the large fireplace to the right of the door, and a small table with a water pitcher stood to the left.

“The garderobe is through that door there,” Marija said, pointing to a smaller door on the wall to the left. “If you pull that rope, next to the bed, you will call one of the housemaids. I hope you have a restful night.” She smiled again, but this time Yessenia couldn’t see any fangs.

The door closed softly behind Marija, and Yessenia pushed the table with the water pitcher as quietly as possible in front of the door. It wouldn’t stop anybody, especially a vampire, from entering the room, but it made her feel a little bit better.

As she fell into the bed, she reflected that this castle was filled with the friendliest vampires she’d ever encountered!

******

My prompt went to Leigh Kimmel. I jumped up in surprise when the wind blew the elf down the chimney. Luckily I managed to grab him before he caught fire. Head on over to More Odds Than Ends. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of sending one in, pick up a spare and see where it leads you.

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

3 Replies to “Friendly Vampires?”

  1. Oooo, I’d love to see more.

    Who was she running from and why? Does she move on or find a safe haven? Trade protection for protection?

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