This was based on a character that was drawn for me by my good friend Gallac Blackheart. Any flaws in the Millenium characters are due to my ignorance of them - I can't read Japanese.
As always, I don't own Hellsing.
She rolled over and opened her eyes, her jaws stretching in a yawn. She blinked several times in the darkness, remembering her dreams. They had all been disturbing of late, not the normal red and black splatter she normally dreamt, but of ashes and despair, and of a terribly loneliness. People herded and branded like cattle, then piled in heaps and burned. She did not like the skinny pathetic nature of her dream inhabitants. They made her feel… sad. Or sympathy for them, perhaps. Sadness was alien to her nature.
She rose to her feet and stretched her arms above her head, then looked down at her naked form. Everything was where it was supposed to be, which, she thought with a touch of humour, at her age was a blessing. She moved to the door of her little verdon, or caravan, noting the young rabbit bound and twitching slightly just inside it. She smiled and picked it up, carrying it over to a table upon which sat a knife and a pewter mug. She could have done it another way, but hated having to pick fur out of her teeth.
A little while later, she stepped down from the wooden caravan into the fading light of early evening. The firelight revealed a young woman, dressed in what could only be called a white dress, as a shirt could not be that long. Over it, she wore a blue tunic laced at the front, which only covered to her collarbones, allowing an expanse of pale skin to be visible. The white sleeves fell to her wrists, where they tightened, leaving her long fingered hands, tipped with black claws, free. A black band encircled her throat, and a mass of bright red hair fell to the middle of her back. A few thick locks dangled about her face, drawing the eye to her cherry-red lips and the perfect white teeth. But the first thing anyone would notice were her eyes. Brilliantly crimson, they not only reflected the light, but also seemed to absorb it. After her eyes, the sharp, predatory teeth that slightly dimpled her lower lip were to be expected. She was, after all, a vampire.
"Hie, Romani! Come dance!" a young man called out, causing the woman on his arm to sink her elbow into his side. He gave an explosion of breath, and favoured the woman with a mock hurt expression.
"Not with you, she won't!" the black haired woman exclaimed with a laugh in her voice, and tugged him to the circle of dancers around the fire. A violin and a tambourine added music to the air as the couples moved in fast progression about the bonfire as Romani smiled and moved on, to where Adorin, the kapo of the troop, sat with a worried expression on his face. Another young man sat, visibly exhausted, on the ground near Adorin's feet and drank too fast from a large mug. Interested, Romani quickened her step until her shadow fell to Adorin's right. He looked up, and for a moment, the worry fled before relief as he waved at her to sit. She did so, kneeling on the stone and tucking her sensible knee-high boots beneath her, and waited for either Adorin or the boy to speak.
"You've protected our family for centuries, Romani, and you know we thank you for that." Adorin cleared his throat. "You hunt game and keep watch at night. In return, we guard your sleep in the day and provide you with… sustenance. But now I think there is something you cannot keep us safe from." Romani perked up. This sounded interesting. Adorin waved to the boy at his feet. "Young Gimi here has just returned from Germany. And he has bad news."
Gimi nodded. "It's bad," he managed. "There's some madman in power there. He's got the people convinced that they're some kind of superior race or something!" The youth swallowed hard. "Jews, men who prefer men, even Gypsies are being herded into camps." His voice lowered. "And they don't come out again." The pictures from her dreams, of the pathetic heaps of humanity, flashed before Romani's eyes. "And there are rumours that this Hitler even has an army of the undead working for him! He's a sorcerer and his spiuni, his spies, are everywhere!" The boy seemed to deflate, and a tear trickled down his cheek. "The black coats, the Gestapo, got Mihai before we crossed the border. He made a lot of noise so I could get away." Another tear followed the first as he looked down into his mug. "I was so scared," he whispered, "I didn't know if I'd make it back." Adorin rested a comforting hand on Gimi's shoulder as it heaved with a sob. With his other he signalled to his wife Lyuba to come forward and take the boy off. As they moved away to the smaller cook fire, Adorin leaned closer to Romani.
"This dili Hitler has expansion plans." Romani raised an eyebrow at his language. "He's declaring war on every body, and spreading here, to the east. The kumpania are all moving, probably to as far back as Romania. We cannot fight so many. So we have to run." She nodded.
"We should start tonight, kapo. Pack everyone and everything up and head east," Romani said in her sweet, low voice. "Send the women and children on ahead with a guard, and use the rest of the men to hide your trail. I'll follow as far back as is prudent."
"No," he replied sternly. "I know you want to see these evil men, and perhaps assuage your trushalo odji, but I cannot allow it. You will travel with the women, children and old folk."
Romani laughed. "Trushalo odji? Thirsty soul? You have a way with words, you old dog." She sighed. "Bater, kapo. I'll do it because you ask." She turned her attention to the firelight. "I'd best start chivvying them onwards. We weren't going to stop here, so the verdon will still be packed up." She unfolded gracefully and rose to her feet. She gave a wistful smile. "I suppose it's too much to hope some of these Germans are ahead of us." With that she moved towards the bonfire and announced the kapo's moving plans. There was the expected amount of grumbling, but when Liliana, Adorin's grandmother, announced firmly that the wishes of the kapo would be obeyed, the men began to gather and harness the horses and the woman picked up the children and bundled them into the wagons.
Liliana imperiously held out her arm to Romani and demanded a hand up and to her verdon. As she helped the elder across the grassy turf, the old woman walked slower than usual. "Something is happening, isn't it? We're running ahead of a storm. I can feel it." Romani turned her crimson eyes onto the old woman, considering.
"Chovexani," she said, not without some humour. Romani had known Liliana since the woman was born.
"Huh!" was the reply. "I'm no witch, vampire, but I can almost smell it in the air. And my grandson wouldn't do such a thing without good reason." She allowed Romani to lift her up into the front bench behind her horse and bundle the old woman in shawls and blankets. "I just hope we're leaving soon enough," she murmured, looking across the clearing to where Lyuba was scolding her children as a mother hen scolds chicks, shooing them into the grand verdon she and the kapo inhabited. "I just hope." Nicolae, another of her grandchildren, had finished harnessing Liliana's old mare to the shafts of the wagon. She lifted the reins in her twisted hands, then spoke to Nicolae. "Drive Romani's verdon, there's a good lad. She'll want to travel on foot, I'm thinking." Romani smiled, then stepped back and gave a grand bow to the old dame. She'd thought exactly right.
Moments before the command to start out was given, Adorin appeared at Romani's elbow. "We'll be a day behind, making sure you're not followed. You've got Nicolae, Krenar and Artani with you, as well as their sons. They've all got rifles." The kapo seemed uneasy, which was extremely strange. "Keep them safe, Romani."
Romani turned and met the man's eyes with her own. "I am, as always, montshimo to you and yours, kapo. As your servant, I will do all in my power to protect." As she heard the trilled whistle that was the symbol to move out rise into the evening air, she bowed with a spiky grin to the kapo. "Have no fear for your people. Instead, have pity for any poor fool who tries to stop us." With that, she turned and strode off after the kumpania into the waiting dark.
Two days later, Romani's wish came true. It was an hour or so until sunset, and the kumpania was travelling on an old forest road when a barrier was found across it, manned by men in grey and blue uniforms, with an iron eagle badge on the shoulder. The group ground to a halt, and Nicolae kicked the wagon under him with a boot in the sequence that warned of trouble, then jumped off and moved forward with an ingratiating smile. "How can we assist you gentlemen?" he asked politely.
"Quiet, gypsy scum!" the leader snarled. "You are to be taken into custody so your filth will no longer contaminate the world of true Aryan men." Nicolae blinked.
"That's a bit harsh, isn't it?" he asked curiously. The lieutenant wasted no further words, slamming the butt of his rifle into Nicolae's face. The man went down; blood streaming from his nose and broken mouth.
"Any other questions?" he sneered, then leaned forward and spat on Nicolae.
"Yes," a woman's contralto voice said. "How do you plan to keep us here?"
The lieutenant frowned. "We have guns, woman. Now all of you, off the wagons!"
The voice continued. "And how do you plan to hold them without any arms?" Romani stepped from the trees to the left of the barricade, inside the small fortification they'd managed to raise. Her eyes sparkled, and a grin stretched her face. "In harming that which is mine to protect, you've condemned yourself to death. I just thought you'd want to know that." Romani exploded into action. Guns fired at her, and hit nothing but air. Men exploded into crimson clouds as she moved through the ranks, slashing and tearing. The enemy fell, spilling their insides onto the earth and screaming in pain. It was music to Romani's ears. Finally the lieutenant was the only one left, frantically trying to reload his weapon when it was torn from his grasp and sent spinning into the air. He whimpered as Romani pressed her face close to his.
"V… vampire!" he managed in a terrified whisper. Romani cocked her head.
"You know my kind?" She paused, then shrugged. "Well, it doesn't really matter." She clamped her hands on the man's upper arms and leaned close. "As I told you, you killed yourself today." In one movement she sank her fangs into his throat and tore his arms off. The feast ended before it should have, but she thought she'd got her point across. "Move the barricade," she commanded the members of the troop, amused at the sickened expressions on the faces of those who had never seen her in battle before. Then she returned to her verdon. Nicolae stumbled towards her, wiping at the blood on his face.
"I thought you couldn't walk in the sun," he said, awed.
"I'm not damaged by it, if that's what you mean," Romani replied. "I just hate it. Now get your people moving," she added as she slammed the door in his startled face. Her body craved more. A sip from an animal was nothing in the face of that hot, sweet flood. She thought of how Nicolae would taste, and felt the temptation to grab him and drag him close, clouding his mind with hers as she drained every last drop of blood from his body. But she would not. These were her people. Hers. And Romani would see they came to no harm. Not even at her hands.
As the wagon began it's bumpy journey once again, Romani glanced at her coffin, hidden behind some draperies at one end of the wagon. Then she threw herself down on the unused bed at the other end to think. So they were German soldiers, she mused. Pathetic. But how did that one know what I am? Has he seen others of my kind? She turned over onto her back and laced her hands behind her head. Does this Hitler really have an army of the undead? If so, which type? One could make an army of ghouls, but they would be extremely useless as soldiers. They would try and eat the rest of the army. Her ivory brow wrinkled in a frown, then smoothed out as she felt the sun go down. She rose, slipped out of her verdon and to the ground, easily keeping up with the pace of the others. Why does this make me so… uneasy? she thought. Humans cannot know us. We hide from their kind, unless they force or cajole us into servitude. Could Hitler have woven some kind of spell to control a mass of the true Undead? That kind of magic is gone from the world. She increased her speed to move to the front of the procession. "I'm going to scout ahead," she remarked to Nicolae. "Be alert." She faded into the trees, moving on instinct. How many could he have? She could not let the chain of thought go. Any human having control of a vampire was dangerous. And in the hands of a madman, an army of the undead could be real trouble.
The kumpania stopped before dawn in a clearing deep in the forest. "We must have crossed into Poland by now," Nicolae slurred, looking at an old, worn map. "Even if the borders have changed."
"Agreed," Romani replied. "Perhaps it is safe enough to wait for the kapo and the others, then travel on as a unit." Nicolae nodded, then winced and touched his face. He was a good man, Romani knew, but not particularly intelligent. He would feel much better when his brother was back in charge. "We'll give them until tomorrow's dusk to meet with us." Everyone knew that if Adorin hadn't arrived by then he likely wasn't coming at all. The groups broke out the travelling supplies, and a few of the younger men moved into the trees to hunt for the stew pots. Romani stood where she was, a small frown on her face. Something wasn't right, but she couldn't put her finger on it. It nagged at her, arousing her battle instincts. Something was coming. And it wasn't Adorin. She felt the sun rise above the horizon, and bared her teeth in a growl, turning back to enter her wagon.
"Post a guard, Nicolae, and tell them to shoot anything that moves," she commanded him from the steps of her verdon. "And if anything happens, they have me to answer to." She closed the door and crawled into her coffin, cursing the sun as she did every day. Romani pulled the lid down and latched it from the inside, still uneasy. Why did it feel like a storm was about to break? As sleep overtook her, her last thought was of the children. Why did she feel like this was the last time she would see them?
In her sleep, Romani relived her death as she sometimes did. She had been born Tshaya and was beautiful enough to wrap all men around her fingers. She had disobeyed her father one night, and gone walking after the sun went down by the river. One of her swains, Tsinoro, had whispered that he would meet her there, and the two could share kisses and dreams of the future. She had waited in a moon lit clearing, near the sweet song of water over stone, and played with the flowers in her hair. Her father disapproved of Tsinoro, she knew, and that only made it all the more exciting. He wanted her to wed Yayal, the son of the kapo, to increase his standing in the kumpania, but the boy had bad breath that could wilt leaves from yards away. Not something a woman looks for in a man, she thought.
A dark figure moved in the shadows, and Tshaya stood up and opened her arms. "Come to me, my love. Show me how much you care for me," she said in a coy tone. In a blur of speed the man was across the empty ground, crushing her to his chest. His breath was as bad as Yayal's, and as she hitched in her breath to scream she met his burning eyes and was lost.
"My love?" The rough voice was amused. "How sweet. I will show you how much I care." He sank his long, sharp teeth into her throat, and as Romani died, he murmured, "I shall not let such beauty go to waste."
She had awoken in the clearing with the taste of blood in her mouth and a flower in her hands. Tshaya opened her eyes on a different world, one filled with light, even though there was none to be seen. She stumbled back to the kumpania, trembling like a leaf, and crying out as the fires stabbed at her eyes. Her mother had run up, shouting, then stopped dead and backed away whimpering as she looked at Romani's face. The people, most of them cousins, had run away from her. She could not understand it. What had been done to her in the woods? She raised her shaking hands to her face, gaining reassurance that it was all as it had been, that the stranger hadn't hurt her looks.
"Tshaya!" Her father's voice had commanded her, as was often the case. "Where have you been? Where is Tsinoro?"
"I do not know," she replied in a shaky voice. "He was to meet me. Then there was this man…" She trailed off, resting one hand on the weals at the side of her throat. Her father advanced, grabbing her by the arm and raising the other hand to strike her. It fell away as he met her eyes, and he stumbled back.
"Beng!" he exclaimed, staggering back.
"I'm no demon!" Tshaya whimpered. "I don't know what happened to me! Please, father, help me!" She had sunk to her knees and began to cry. "I'm so sorry I disobeyed, father, please, please forgive me!"
Most of the kumpania had wanted to kill her, then and there. But the oldest member of the band had prevailed. "I know this type of demon," he had said, "it is the vampire. They feed on blood, and have unnatural strength. They burn in the sun quite easily. But if we can bring her into servitude, then imagine how our people would prosper!" After much discussion, a Krisatora, or a gathering of wise men from the tribes had been convened. There it was decided that Tshaya would be trained in the arts of war, and used as a weapon against her peoples' enemies. She would be taught to drink the blood of animals, and a curse would be placed on her so she would serve and protect her kumpania. She was renamed Romani, or 'Gypsy woman'. She would never be vujo, or pure, but had the title of Montshimo, or servant. As the years wore on, her people accepted her in a way, but she was never one of them. Romani was the guard dog, the hunter in the shadows, the creature that could be watched but never touched. Young men fell in lust with her brooding darkness, and passionately declared their love for he, but her interest in that side of men had gone with the dark man's kiss.
Romani woke as she felt the sun go down, with a pressure on her mind. She snapped the locks on her coffin and dressed hurriedly, stepping out in to the dusk whilst still tying her tunic. It was quiet. No birds sang in the woods. No people were around the verdon. There was no fire lit. She bared her teeth, and roared in fury. At the sound, armed men stepped from the trees, aiming rifles at her.
"Your people are dead, gypsy. Our orders are to take you… well, alive," an amused female voice said. "We can take you in full of holes, or as you are. It is your choice." Romani gave a sneering grin and turned to the woman who had spoken. What she would have said died in her throat as she stared into the other's crimson eyes.
"So it's true, then. He commands true Undead." She tilted her head to the side. "How did you take them all?"
The woman in uniform gave an icy smile. "You're not the only one who can command minds." Romani nodded.
"I see. But you know something, pawn of Germany? I'd rather truly die than go anywhere with you." She moved so fast she blurred, but not fast enough. A net, woven with silver fell over her body and burned her skin wherever it touched. She screamed her fury and struggled wildly, to no avail. She only stopped moving when a silver tipped bolt touched the end of her nose.
"I'd much rather shoot you, gypsy. But I have my orders."
Romani bared her teeth again. "What's your name, pawn? So I can at least know whom I will kill."
"I am Rip Van Winkle, the Hunter. And I don't think you'll kill me." She did not take her eyes off the captive vampire but raised her voice. "Bring up the coffin!" she commanded. "I saw what you did to the border guards, so I can only assume you are one of the Old Ones. I will take every precaution necessary to complete my mission, and if that includes a silver bolt through your head, so be it." Romani turned her head to see a lead coffin dropped on the ground beside her. The silver was draining her, making her weak, but she started to struggle once more. No, she thought, no! Others wearing heavy gloves began to bundle her up in the mesh and shove her into the prison. She screamed one last time as the lid swung into place.
Light on her eyelids woke her. She felt muzzy from prolonged exposure to silver, but she could feel that she was laying on a cold surface, and that her wrists and ankles still burned. Her eyes snapped open, then focused on face near her own. "Good morning, frau," the man said with a cheerful expression on his plump face. "I just wanted to make sure you were awake before we began." He nodded to someone else, who smelled of chemicals and death. Romani tried to speak, but there was a gag in her mouth, burning her tongue with the taste of silver. As silver tipped knives began to cut into her skin she began to thrash.
Hours later the Major looked at the remains on the table with interest. "Do you think she could regenerate?" The Doc shrugged.
"Given time, something as old as her could heal any wound." The Major frowned as if it was an interesting puzzle someone had handed him. Then his face cleared as another smile curved his lips.
"Put her in one of the silver coffins. Lets call this another experiment." He gave a soft laugh. "We'll check on her every decade or so. But we should be grateful – we've learned a lot." Then he walked away, whistling a happy tune.
All Romany words are from