Books: 1- 5

Warning: Adult situation.

Authors note: A bit out of character, perhaps, but I think any young child that grew up without appropriate socialization later in life would end up a bit over naïve. Critique and any comments (even, "this is nice, but use less big words!" Would suffice) are encouraged.

1. Immature

Darren wasn't the most insightful of people, but there were some things that even he should have been aware of at his age. His varied social shortcomings in certain areas weren't really his fault; he hadn't had the time that most children did to mature in a normal manner. Worse still, it became clear neither he nor his mentor were comfortable with discussing any of the more adult topics that he would have otherwise picked up from the television and his classmates.

No, this ignorance really wasn't his fault. Not really.

It had been just another night in vampire mountain, and outside the sun was beginning to turn the sky a pleasant golden-crimson. Most of the vampires had already wandered back to their rooms, some drunk, and others simply and ready to turn in after a long night of sparring and gorging themselves on bat broth. Tonight, however, a certain vampire's apprentice was returning to his rooms a bit late, having put in a good seven hours of training with Vanez, who was training him with a strong sense of urgency. This was easy to see and had the adverse effect of making the boy feel both panicked and inadequate.

Exhausted as he was, Darren hardly registered the names of the halls he was passing through, muscles aching and head pounding. His feet dragged along the rough-hewn floor, his movements ragged, and he was desperately propping himself up against the wall. This far away from the main hall the tunnels seemed to always become impossibly cold but his numb body didn't seem to register the sensation; that probably wasn't a good sign.

The boy stopped for a breather, supporting himself on the cave wall. After a few minutes of walking he had sufficiently recovered to lift his head and take in his surroundings, noting with a distinct rush of pleasure that he wasn't too far from the room he shared with Harkat on the outskirts of the warren of tunnels. As he gazed vacantly down the rough walls of the hallway he realized (with the kind of abruptness that seemed almost certain to get him into trouble, as he later observed) how much he could use the general comfort that his mentor was so selective about giving out. With all his bruises and sore muscles any excuse to keep from aggravating them in his hammock was a valid

one.

Maybe if he was lucky Mr. Crepsley would be a bit more sympathetic than usual?

Journey resumed, Darren followed a few adjacent passages, made a few turns, and managed to poke his head in a few wrong doors (for having survived the first trial he still had no sense of direction or distance). After a dodging a couple of projectile boots and yelped apologies he recognized the burlap-covered door to his mentor in the distance, partly hidden by a chunk of rock slanting down from the high ceiling of the tunnel. Darren's pace brightened a bit; he hadn't gotten to see much of the man for quite a while, with him training and Mr. Crepsley ferreting old friends out of hiding. Considering his earlier pace, the expanse of tunnel melted away, and he was quickly at the door. It wasn't in his nature to hesitate.

"Hey, Mr. Crepsley –"

He pulled aside the burlap and pushed into the room in one fluid movement, only to be blinded for a moment by the ink black room within. Strangely there were no candles lit, but he could feel the presence of movement in the room. His eyes adjusted to the gloom in the span of a second and the dark retreated. He almost immediately wished they hadn't.

His surroundings were exactly as they should have been - almost bare, save the narrow coffin in the corner and a small, claw legged wooden table with a few weapons and clothes folded and set carefully on top of it. Darren would have guessed that the vampire who occupied it had simply dozed off earlier that morning if the movement in the coffin hadn't caught his eye. He stared for a moment, shocked, and let out a frightened little squeak. His hands darted up to cover his mouth but it was a second too late.

Arra was perched on top of the shirtless vampire's hips performing thoroughly naughty acts to his chest, very much in the nude. As such, she was the first one to notice the young (now forever mentally scarred) intruder. Her normally low voice rose an octave.

"Darren -" she screeched, jumping up with a snarl and darting behind the raised lid of the coffin. This appeared to break the spell over Mr. Crepsley, who – still wearing his pants, Darren was happy to see – sat up, looking dazed. His befuddlement lasted until he sat up stiffly, pinching the bridge of his nose. Distant though he was, it only took him a moment to notice the obviously disturbed thirteen year old boy with his hands fanned out over his eyes standing in the doorway. His face contorted just a little - and it was that little that one needed to pay the most heed to when he was angry. Clearly very unhappy that he and Arra had been interrupted, he launched himself out of the coffin with a growl.

Kurda Smalht needed a glass of water – so, of course, he had to walk all the way to the kitchens (maybe even the storerooms if he was unlucky) to get it. You could count on the vampires to come up with such an asinine system, he growled in his head. His hair was a mess and he was dirtying up his lovely powder blue pajamas. Still a bit groggy from half a nights sleep, he rubbed one of his eyes and made a right turn down one of the shortcuts he had discovered while mapping the tunnels.

The halls were quiet and the candles in the walls were burning low (he would have to remind Seba to send someone to replace them) and it was strangely surreal. He stopped, straightening one of the candles that had melted onto its niche in the wall. Then, suddenly, he heard a little squeak and his ears pricked up. Attention diverted, he resumed his walk.

About fifty more yards down the tunnel he heard another noise, louder than before. Suddenly, out of one of the uniform tunnel doorways appeared Darren Shan. The boy skidded on the damp, dusty floor, spotting Kurda with wide eyes and scampering over to the young man fearfully and grabbing onto one of the silk sleeves of the pajamas. The panicked glint to Darren's eyes immediately registered with Kurda, who quickly forgot about the glass of water and turned to his friend, concerned.

"Darren, what's wrong?" he asked gently, putting a comforting hand on the adolescent apprentice's shoulder. At first Darren simply stared at him, wide eyed and innocent. His mouth opened but no words followed. The boy shook his head and cleared his throat.

"Oh gods, Kurda, it was horrible! They –" Darren whimpered, stopping as he caught sight of something over Kurda's shoulder. The soon-to-be prince spun on his heel and locked eyes on a disheveled looking Larten glaring daggers at the boy. He took a deep breath and raised his hands in a peaceful gesture, taking a couple of slow steps toward the red haired vampire.

"Hold on, Larten, whatever happened it probably wasn't his fau-" Kurda reasoned, voice cutting off sharply as Mr. Crepsley snarled and took a violent dive at his apprentice. Darren was ready and leapt away, turning tail and bounding down the hall like the devil himself was after him.

As Darren sped off shrieking bloody murder the soon-to-be prince could only stare. A mixture of mortification and confusion had frozen him in place. Larten growled and ducked around the blonde, strides covering twice as much ground as Darren's. However, the half-vampire had the advantage of pure driving fear, and his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground as he sprinted down the hall. A couple of curious heads poked into the hall to see what was causing that bizarre wailing noise.

About two minutes later Kurda managed to shake himself from this stunned stupor and began the task of rescuing the young boy from his infuriated caregiver. When, halfway down the hall sprinting after the two, he looked back and noticed a half clothed Arra sneaking out of Larten's room, he didn't bother to stop and ask.