Come into this night

Here we'll be gone

So far away

From our weak and crumbling lives

Come into this night

When days are done

Lost and astray

In what's vanished from your eyes


From "Benighted" by Opeth

Lyrics by Mikael Akerfeldt




Chapter Thirteen

Peril and Pursuit


Our journey to freedom was fraught with peril and upset; and all of my plans and hopes were dashed to the ground by the relentless pursuit of the hunters that trailed after us. Yet as clever as Charlotte's brother thought himself to be, I also had made contingency plans in the event that our journey became something less then easy. Using my Barbarois servant as a contact, I made arrangements to hire several others of the warrior mutants to act as bodyguards and protectors for the remainder of our journey. Once the Barbarois were with us, the odds would definitely shift in our favor and I once again felt my optimism returning. With such fierce and dedicated warriors standing with us, Charlotte and I were sure to reach our destination — Castle Chaythe, the home of our new benefactor, a vampire named Carmilla; quickly and safely.

One thing that I did not fathom into my plans however, was my growing hunger. I had no illusions that Charlotte did not understand what I was, or that she did not know what I required in order to live; and although we never openly discussed it, I am sure that she was well aware of the things that I did in order to survive. I always despaired of her finding me in the throes of bloodlust as I fed on the lifeblood of another human. My greatest fear was seeing the horror and revulsion reflected in her beautiful eyes as she looked upon my blood-smeared mouth and hands. No doubt her disgust would be so great that she would condemn me as some filthy savage monster and run screaming into the night. Just the thought of such a thing happening was enough to make my heart clench in fear and sweat to break out on my brow; and I would do anything — anything to keep that from happening. Unfortunately, it was not too long after we set out that I found out just how hard such a thing would be.


As I have said before, until the night that I took Charlotte away, I had never really used all of my powers to their fullest advantage; and there are several reasons for this. First is that I never really believed that the power I possessed was so strong; second is that I never had any need to test that belief before; and the third — which I also discovered that night — was that using it to such a degree drained my strength so thoroughly, that even though I had fed only hours before, I was so weakened by my efforts that I was in dire need of replenishment; and that is where my dilemma came in.

I had always tried to shield Charlotte from the darker side of my nature — from the things that I knew would cause her distress and perhaps even disgust. I made sure before I visited her that I had fed and that there was nothing in my appearance to lead her to believe that I had only hours before, drained away the life of a mortal just like her. Other than my love and devotion, that was the one thing that I had to give her — a chance to live without the guilt of uncountable deaths, deaths that were necessary so that I might continue living and be with her.

But as we traveled away from the town, I felt a deep fatigue settle over me. I knew that I would have to feed before the night ended and then find my rest; or else I would become too weakened to be of any use should we come under attack by the pursuing hunters, or any other creatures of the night that might sense my debilitated state and seek to exploit it.

As I looked at Charlotte's face, I could see my reflection in her dark amber eyes and saw that the strain I was under was plainly etched upon my pale features. My love had regained consciousness rather quickly; and although she had been a little disoriented at first, she was now quite alert and awake.

"Meier, are you alright?" Charlotte asked me as she clutched my hand. "You're trembling . . . " I raised her hand to my lips and kissed it, "It's only a minor fatigue, my love. I just need to rest and I will be quite well."

"Is there something I can do for you?" She asked as she trailed the fingers of her other hand down my cheek. I shook my head, unable to tell her of what I really needed. Charlotte looked at me for a few moments, almost as if she knew that I was holding something back from her. Still holding my hand, she then laid her head against my chest and I put my other arm around her.

As I held her tightly, I became aware of Charlotte's heartbeat and I could sense the rush of the blood in her veins. Involuntarily my nostrils flared as I drank in the scent of that scarlet heaven that pulsed just beneath her skin. I could feel the hunger beginning to reach out towards the source of that sweet and intoxicating nectar and it took a great deal of my remaining strength to rein that dark beast back in and hold it at bay. I was trembling yet again and my breathing became labored.

Feeling the change in my body, Charlotte pulled away and looked up at me. "Meier, tell me what is wrong. Are you ill?" She shook her head, "No, vampires can't be ill, can they? But I know that you're not well in any case . . . please, tell me what I can do to help you."

How could I tell her? How could I tell Charlotte that I needed to feed, that I needed to kill — and soon, in order to recover? So great was my shame that I could not meet her eyes and I looked away from her. After all we had been through — to come this far — only to have my beloved become repulsed and then reject me was not something that I even wanted to contemplate, but the thought would not leave my head. I did not think that I could go on if she left me and yet if I did not feed and recover my strength, I would be lost to her in any case.

Charlotte gently touched the side of my face and I slowly turned towards her. I heard her breath catch in her throat at whatever it was that she saw in my wine-dark eyes, and I wanted to weep at the sadness that I saw in her face. She cupped my cheek with her hand, "Meier . . . my love, whatever it is we will face it together — I love you and I will stand with you, no matter what."

I put my hand over hers and looked deeply into her eyes, seeing the truth of her words burning brightly. Turning my face into her palm, I kissed it and then held her small slender hand in both of mine. "Charlotte, my precious . . . " I trailed off, still unwilling to confess my problem to her. The two of us sat like that for a short time in silence, the only sounds to be heard were the muffled pounding of hooves and the creaking of my carriage as it sped through the night.

After several minutes however, I began to sense the presence of humans just ahead of us. Opening my senses even further, I was surprised to find that there was a small village not too far away and with a bit more speed it would be possible for us to reach it well before daybreak. I began to feel somewhat relieved — for here was the answer to my current situation, so easy and so faceless. All I needed was to persuade Charlotte to remain in the carriage while I quickly sated my hunger and renewed my strength, and then we could once again be on our way and reach the daylight sanctuary that was waiting for us — where I could rest and continue my recovery.


With Charlotte wrapped contently in my embrace, we settled ourselves down to sleep in the resting house that had been prepared for us. Resting houses — such places truly are a wonder — relics from an earlier time when my kind flourished upon the earth and we traveled freely and without fear; a time when humans bowed to us and we often ruled with an iron hand. Of course those days have long since passed; and it has been more than three or four thousand years since a vampire lord held dominion over humans, like one of those ancient kings that ruled over their peasant vassals. But my kind are slowly fading away — for humans no longer fear us, indeed they hunt and kill us like game in a forest; and there are not many vampires left who have the power to completely transform a mortal into a child of the night. How long will it be before the last of us passes away from memory and our once mighty race ceases to exist?

As I closed my eyes, my thoughts drifted back to my short time in that nameless village just a couple of hours ago. It took some time to convince Charlotte to stay within in the carriage; and although the words were not spoken aloud, somehow I knew that she was aware of what I was going to do and her eyes were sad as I kissed her before departing. As I stepped from the carriage, her soft voice followed me. "Be careful my love."

Although her words touched my heart, they were unnecessary; for the sleeping inhabitants of that village never even had a chance to defend themselves against the monster that rose up out of the darkness and drained them in their beds. Normally, I would have killed my victims as soon as I was done with them; for to leave them otherwise would cause them to become zombies — the walking dead — creatures that have no purpose, no motivation other than to appease the gnawing hunger that burns within them.

While I despise such abominations; I have on occasion, found them to be quite useful in their own perverse, blood-thirsty way. Two or three drained mortals left to revive as zombies could, in no short time, decimate the village and fill it with undead horrors like themselves — and that was my plan as I finished off the third of my victims and prepared to return to Charlotte. A village of starving zombies would be a very unwelcoming surprise for the hunters that followed us, and would hopefully put them off our trail for good; and if not, well the Barbarois were waiting on my arrival the next evening. If the Markus' managed to escape the village, the Barbarois would make sure that they never saw the rise of another sun.


Damn Alan Elbourne and his hunters! Why did I not just allow him to be killed and be done with it? Charlotte would never have known . . . but no, I could not; my guilt would be too great and I would never be able to look in her eyes, knowing that I was both a liar and an oath breaker. In the beginning she had trusted me merely on the promise of my word, and I would not break her trust by breaking my pledge for her brother's safety. But still, how I wish that I had killed him that night the rage had burned through me like the scalding heat of a thousand suns — so much easier things would have been for us.

Not content to hire the infamous Markus family to track and capture us, Charlotte's brother also brought in another hunter — one far more skilled and cunning than even I could have imagined. For indeed, I would never have believed that another of my kind — half-breed though he might have been — would willingly turn his back on his heritage and become a killer of his own blood.

Yes, Alan Elbourne had yet one more card to play; and his trump was D — a dhampir hunter with a reputation that made the Markus family look like children in a schoolyard. Yes, a dhampir — one of those cursed beings who exist in that netherworld between humans and vampires. D — The rumored half-human child of the vampire king himself; and an opponent who would test me to my utmost limits.

While I knew that the human hunters would no doubt kill me without blinking an eye, I was not so sure however, about the dhampir. After our first encounter, when he had nicked me with his blade; I felt that if anyone would understand what Charlotte and I meant to one another, it would be he. After all, a human woman had given birth to him — had loved a vampire enough to bear his child. Or had she? What if D had been the result of something far more sinister on the part of one of my kind? No doubt that would explain his choice to take up arms against us — why he wanted to see us extinct from the face of the earth; or perhaps it was something that ran even far deeper than that?

I found D to be a very complex figure. He possessed an air of nobility and confidence that I have rarely seen. Although I had made a few verbal barbs towards him, he however remained calm and did not allow himself to be baited into anger and carelessness. When Charlotte had called out to me while he and I battled on the roof the carriage, I saw the surprise that flickered in his eyes and the hesitation in his strike; and it appeared that perhaps he had believed me when I told him that Charlotte had gone with me by her own free will. If we could convince him of that, would he let us go — for I would be willing to match whatever price Charlotte's family had agreed to pay him; or would he honor his contract and take her back? D was an enigma to me — as a dhampir he had the choice to live as either a human or as a vampire. Knowing how the mortal world tended to treat such creatures, I was surprised by his choice. I will not go so far as to say that my kind would have welcomed him as blood-kin, but I'm sure that it would have been a somewhat warmer reception then he received from humans.

As I reflect more on that brief encounter and on D's attempt to bargain with the Barbarois, I must grudgingly admit to gaining some respect for the dhampir hunter. He openly dealt with the mutant warriors, even going so far as to pay modest respect to their leader. Although I have no doubt that he could have pounded down the gate and engaged the lot of them in single combat, instead he chose to parley with them in the hopes of avoiding bloodshed. A very noble, if not stupid act; for once the Barbarois accept a contract, it cannot be broken; and they will give their lives to hold up their end of the agreement. But still, it was an admirable ploy in any case.

Yet despite the dhampir's futile attempt and the Markus family's sinister surprise attack, Charlotte and I managed to escape the Barbarois stronghold with our three new bodyguards in tow. Mashira was known to me already — for he had spent time in my service before — and was a brave and skilled warrior. I had trusted him with my life in the past and I was glad to do so once again. I knew that I could count on him — no matter what, he would see that Charlotte and I reached our goal safely. Caroline and Benge were unfamiliar; but if Mashira vouched for them, then I would accept them on his recommendation.

With such powerful and cunning protectors traveling with us to Chaythe, I felt completely secure and confident for the first time since our journey began. Soon our deliverance would be at hand; and once we reached that promised paradise, Charlotte and I would finally be free.

Chapter 14
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