A/N: Just so you know, tindrin, silvaen, and nitor are other intelligent species, besides humans. So are Alio, but I probably won't mention them. This story takes place in a different "worldtime," or dimension.
I couldn't believe it. But there it was, right in front of me. My father's body, badly mangled, laid the shoddy casket. It didn't seem right to bury him in this; a carpenter should at least be laid to rest in one of his own creations. But I had no say in this, I'm just another mouth to feed, another burden to the village. All because of what I was born as. I'm a tindrin, while most of the town is human or silvaen. There's nothing really wrong with being tindrin, but in this place, tindrin girls are nigh useless. We have little physical strength and can't do farm work very well. I have clumsy hands, and couldn't even be of help in a household, so there's definitely no hope for me. I just wondered what would happen now. There's no one to take over Father's business, he never had sons. My mother died shortly after giving birth, and he never remarried.
The priest chanted a few things, meaningless phrases meant to comfort. The casket was closed, and my father was lowered into the ground. I wasn't even crying, and this I couldn't believe. How could I be so heartless, emotionless? But I was feeling something, just not showing it. It was far too much to show.
That was a week ago. Now I was in the old pillory, feeling broken and mindless. The inquisitor's deadly voice rang clear.
"Kitaek Fen, you have been found guilty of all charges of witchcraft. You will be taken over the mountains, to the barbarians of Sonfun to meet your fate." A shocked silence filled the room. But I didn't really care. My father was dead and I was no use to the world. Wasn't it better that I die? Technically, of course, that wasn't a sentence of death. Since I was not yet of age, they weren't allowed to execute me. But they might as well have, because once the monsters and savages of Sonfun have gotten you, you were as good as dead. Or worse.
I was glad at least that no one knew my real name. It sounded silly, but my father told me that giving out your birth name, or 'spirit' name, was dangerous. I couldn't see why, but he'd never been wrong, and I'd listened to him all these years. He renamed me Kitaek, and I used his last name like was expected. No one was ever suspicious. Safirus Akita Elio is the name that my mother gave me before she died, and that is my 'spirit' name. I liked how it sounded, and it was a shame that I didn't get to use it.
The villagers filed out of the chapel, which was used as a temporary courthouse. Someone grabbed my arms, tied them, and unlocked the pillory. I was roughly dragged outside through the back, but I didn't bother to resist. Whoever was leading me picked me up and threw me into the back of a cart, like cargo. That's probably just what I was, anyway. The cart started to move, and it was awfully uncomfortable bouncing up and down and into the other things in the cart. Each impact jarred my bones, and made me feel all hollow inside.
After what seemed like forever, I finally managed to get myself to a sitting position, which was only slightly less painful than before. By the time we reached the base of the pass through the mountains, it felt as if I'd been shaken to pieces.
The cart stopped, and the men began to eat. Apparently, they did not see the need to feed me too, as I would be dead soon. I cursed them with swear words that little girls shouldn't know, but they only laughed, so I shut up and saved my strength.
When they'd finished their meal, the wagon started to move again. I'd readied myself for the ordeal ahead, huddling into a tiny corner, but it still hurt. We rattled through the never-ending maze of rock and snow, and eventually I became tired enough to fall asleep.
"Ow!" I cried. A man pulled me off the cart, bruising my arm in the process and waking me unceremoniously from my fitful sleep. It appeared that we had arrived at a huge, wrought iron gate, with strange carvings up the sides and a large skull gracing the center. It was locked with a huge padlock that didn't seem to have a keyhole.
"How do we get in?" the second man grunted, climbing from the cart to study the door. That was exactly what I was wondering. Maybe the sign had something useful to say, but I couldn't read very well. And even if I could read, I doubt I would have been able to decipher this message, which was probably written in a different language.
"We gotta pay ter get in." the man who had so rudely shoved me off the cart muttered. I was shocked that he could read the sign. Then I realized that he probably couldn't, and that he had used common sense. I was wondering how we would pay, when I felt a screaming pain across my arm.
I cursed loudly in another language. I forgot which one it was though. Apparently, the pain would be from a large gash so generously given to me by the man restraining me. It didn't hurt as much after the initial shock. I wondered if he was just going to kill me now and say that the Sonfians did it. But no, he wasn't cutting me anymore. The next thing I knew, I was being shoved at the gate. My injured arm slammed into the lock, and I screamed. That was completely unexpected.
The blood that got smeared on the lock vanished, and the gate opened up. That was definitely unexpected. But I didn't get to gape, because the man chucked me back into the cart and it started to move again. As we passed through, I felt as if we were entering the gates of hell, or something like that. It was not a pleasant feeling. I still couldn't believe it. Blood was what you had to pay to enter this place? No wonder they called it a monster's country.
There were more pressing matters at hand, however. Like the fact that I was bleeding freely from this wound that the men did not even bother to try to fix. I think it may have started clotting, but I might have been hallucinating from loss of blood. I was pretty sure that I would pass out soon. But then the wagon stopped again. It looked like we were in the middle of nowhere, away from any semblance of road. I guessed they were just going to let me bleed to death out here.
The man who'd been driving was digging a pit. I wondered idly if they were going to wait for me to die, and then bury me. It didn't seem so however, because he stuck a huge wooden pole into the hole and filled it in. Apparently, they were going to tie me to a stake and leave me here. Probably not a great position to have been in, when I was bleeding to death. They might as well have waited, I wouldn't last long.
Once they'd secured me to the stake, a few curses and a scream later, they eyed me nervously, then jumped back into the cart and flew off. I hoped they would fall into a ditch and get eaten or something. I felt woozy. I thought I was almost all out of blood. It was already dark. I bet the smell of my blood would attract wild animals, and then they'd pick my bones clean when I was dead, and… Thinking like that didn't make me feel any better, really.
The glowing yellow eyes that were coming straight at me weren't making me feel too great either. I was probably going to die right then. Those eyes definitely belonged to some sort of beast that would jump on me and rip me apart. My eyes clenched shut involuntarily. I readied myself for the claws to tear into me. But none came. I opened my eyes slowly. There, staring at me, were those eyes, right in front of my face! I couldn't help but scream. The owner of those eyes backed off. Whatever I had expected, it was not what happened next.
"Oh no! Not again! I always scare the good looking girls!" a boy's voice wailed. I shut up, because that was just completely random. Peering through the gloom, I saw the owner of those strange eyes. And it was definitely not a wild animal. This silvaen boy, with grayish hair and a soft face was standing there, muttering about how he could never get a date. This was definitely really strange. He was wearing really odd clothes too, sort of like a robe with silver clasps and random pockets. There was a red neckerchief tied around his neck, with a strange flower like crest embroidered on the corner.
"Sirros! What in the name of Darkness is all that racket? I hope you've dragged us off the road for a good reason." a crisp and proper voice called out in an annoyed tone.
"Milord, there's this young lady here, and oh… she was tied to a stake, that's bad isn't it? Well, I could smell her from the road, and…" the boy babbled on. At least these people didn't look like savages. But looks could be deceiving.
"How many times have I told you to quit the honorary titles in public? If this is a joke, I'll throw you in the dungeons for a good month! You really…" the owner of the polished voice stopped talking when he saw me. The boy, who was probably Sirros, regained his composure.
"Ridillyn, this is…" he lost it again when he realized that he did not have my name, and started to panic. Smooth.
"Right now, I don't care who she is. Untie her, you idiot. She'll catch her death out here, and we really don't need more dead people." the second boy, who was apparently Ridillyn, ordered. He was dressed just as strangely as Sirros. "How exactly did you come to be staked out here anyway?" he asked me. Well, they didn't seem to want me dead, right? Yet.
"Well, my father died, and then they accused me of witchcraft, and then I got staked out here, to die, or get killed by vampires and cannibals, so…" my voice slurred, and my vision clouded. I fought to stay conscious.
"Vampires and cannibals? That's horrible!" Sirros cried. Ridillyn slapped him upside the head.
"Cloth head, don't sound so shocked, you are a vampire. And keep working on the ropes." he snapped. Was I hearing things from blood loss, or did Ridillyn just say that Sirros was a vampire? And it would follow that he was too! Sure enough, I saw that he had dark red eyes. And my worst suspicions were confirmed as Sirros made it to the bonds on my wrists.
"She was bleeding! So that's what that smell was!" he exclaimed, a bit too cheerfully. I flinched at the look in his eyes. The look was promptly wiped away when Ridillyn hit him again.
"Don't act like an animal." he chastised. I sighed in relief, but that relief was short lived. "Miss, would you allow me to clean that injury of yours?" he asked me politely. That was awkward. On the one hand, it would probably do me good to get my arm cleaned and bandaged. On the other hand, he was a vampire! The first hand won when I experienced another bout of dizziness and a stinging pain in my arm.
"Fine." I muttered painfully. He turned and shot a smug look at Sirros, who was gaping incredulously. Then he bent down, held out my arm carefully, and started licking it. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. Figured. When he was done, he reached into one of his sleeves.
"I should really be more organized." he muttered. I wondered what that meant. After rummaging for a bit, he withdrew his hand, clutching a crumpled piece of paper, which he smoothed out. He reached in again and pulled out a long, crooked, stick. I gaped open mouthed at this. He'd gotten those things out of his sleeve. Ignoring my surprise, he glanced at the paper, picked up the stick and tapped my arm with it. I looked down, and started gaping again. I must have looked like some sort of hyperventilating fish by then. The wound was sealed, and starting to scab over. That kind of thing didn't usually happen within seconds.
"See, I told you we might need that spell." he said to Sirros with a supercilious air. "Miss, you still haven't given us your name."
"Kitaek, but please call me Kite." I muttered. I didn't really like being called Kitaek, it sounded too formal.
"Well then, Kite, would you like to come with us? We're headed to Merlis; they're having a market night Amoreve. And it's already Cyneve, we've only tonight to arrive there! Make haste, Sirros, or we'll miss all the decent goods." he shouted the last part, as he was already starting in what was hopefully the direction of the road. Sirros was dashing after him, and I didn't fancy being left behind.
It didn't take long to catch up to them, even in my state of lethargy, which was really strange. I'd thought vampires could move really fast. Then again, I'd also thought that vampires didn't exist. Perhaps Ridillyn would tell me what was myth and what was fact.
"Hey, I have a question. Well, lots of questions."
"Ask away miss, ask away." he said, still ambling along.
"Well, I just want to know more about vampires. Could you run super fast like the stories say?"
"Harrumph, I wish. Then we'd be in Merlis by now, and I wouldn't have to deal with Sirros' awful driving."
"Why don't you drive yourself, Your Highness?" Sirros snapped from behind us. I still had enough energy to snicker.
"One more accidental honorary title, even in sarcasm, and I'll have you on only rimwood for a year." Ridillyn threatened. I had no idea what that meant, but it was probably bad, for Sirros stiffened behind me. "And I concede that my driving is even worse than yours. But your driving is still awful, there's no denying that!"
Sirros grumbled something incomprehensible, and Ridillyn laughed. I guess vampires did have good hearing.
"Are vampires really afraid of sunlight?" I asked him.
"No, but everyone in Sonfun sleeps during the day. It's just how it is, we're more used to the dark." he responded.
"Is everyone in Sonfun a vampire?" If he answered yes, I think I might faint.
"Of course not! We have normal people and necromancers too. Unless you count necromancers as vampires."
"No humans though." Sirros added. No humans? Three-quarters of my tiny village was human, and they were telling me that no one in the entire country was human? Ridillyn must have seen my shocked look, because he explained.
"Humans tend to stay away. They have less magical potential, so it's harder for them to make decent livings here." Wait, wait, magical potential?
"Are you telling me that magic is real?" I asked him incredulously. He laughed again.
"Of course, how do you think I healed you so fast? But magic isn't just waving wands and spouting nonsense, it's actually a branch of science. Or it used to be, when science still existed as a subject. It takes study and hard work to understand magic." I didn't care what it was! Magic was real! Yes! I felt a bit light headed. It probably wasn't good to overexcite myself.
We'd finally reached the road. Parked next to it was another cart, but it had seats and handrails, and looked much more welcoming than my arrival vehicle. Sirros hopped up onto the driving perch and picked up the reins and the whip. Ridillyn climbed in and helped me up, and we settled in the seats. Sirros cracked the whip, but nothing happened. The horse made a sound similar to laughter.
"I'm sorry Kysis, I keep forgetting!" Sirros muttered, flushing. The horse 'laughed' again and started off. The ride was much more pleasant then my previous one. For one, the cart didn't bounce as much, and the cushions softened the impact. I also wasn't tied up. Finally, I had someone friendly to talk to as well. Or at least, he seemed friendly. I still felt wary trusting a Sonfian vampire.
"So, where are you from?" Ridillyn asked me.
"Elta, a bit off of Ken's Wood. It's a farming village." I answered. He nodded.
"Merlis is a farming village too. But there aren't really many mortals there, mostly vampires. I don't think they have any necromancers though, not even the town leader is one. Come to think of it, I don't think they have a town leader." he mused, shaking his head.
"If there aren't many mortals, what do they grow?"
"Rimwood trees." he replied. Probably seeing the confused expression on my face, he added, "Vampires take blood for the spiritual energy it provides. Rimwood berries actually supply nearly as much spiritual energy as blood, although they taste horrendous. The poorer citizens who can't afford to buy blood scrape by on it." That explained his earlier threat to Sirros.
"You can buy blood?" I asked. How strange!
"Yes, some mortals sell their own blood for money. Or they use it to pay for their purchases. It is, again, good for the poorer denizens of the country. Come to think of it, your blood would go for an uncommonly high amount. Do try and remember that if you ever need money badly."
"Why would my blood go for higher than someone else's?" I asked, perplexed. It made no sense.
"You're a young female tindrin. That's as high quality as blood gets." he explained, smirking. I gaped at him. So, while being a tiny tindrin girl was a curse in Elta, it was a blessing in Sonfun? I guess that was good for me, since I was in Sonfun. But wouldn't the quality of my blood provoke vampires to attack me? I shuddered. Ridillyn seemed to read my thoughts. Come to think of it, he might have been doing just that.
"Murder is illegal here, just like in any other respectable country." he said. His crimson eyes were filled with mirth. I blushed. The cart jumped into the air, and Sirros apologized profusely. The horse seemed to be 'laughing' again.
"Are you reading my mind?" I asked, turning my attention back to Ridillyn.
"Of course not, that's impossible. Then again, your face tells all, so I might as well be." I blushed even more, if that was possible. "Stop that, or I might break the law." he said again. I stopped blushing immediately. "Just teasing." he raised his eyebrows, a bemused expression on his face. I tried as hard as I could not to blush again, but I failed miserably. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen anyone change colors that much in such a short time. Except perhaps that time when I nearly strangled Sir Atlee of the Lytian Knights, I think he went from white to red to purple to blue and then a strange green…" I couldn't help but giggle, which made no sense because strangling people, especially one of the Lytian Knights, was not a laughing matter. But Ridillyn snickered too, and that made me feel better. Wait, the fact that a vampire was laughing about strangling someone should not have been making me feel better! What had gotten into me? But it was only nearly strangled, not completely, so…
I stopped having this strange internal conversation with myself when I felt another wave of dizziness. I yawned, and Ridillyn saw.
"Kite, you should go to sleep. Blood loss is best remedied by rest and a decent healing potion. I'm sure we can get some in Merlis, but I don't have any healing potions with me. So you should just get some sleep." he murmured. I nodded and leaned back, and soon enough, I was dead to the world.
I woke in the middle of the afternoon. Ridillyn was curled up in the seat, his hair down and covering his face. He stirred when I sat up. The cart was stopped at the outskirts of town, and I could see Sirros sprawled out over the driver's seat. The horse was nowhere in sight. Ridillyn stood and stretched.
"Kite, make sure you call me Aire in front of other people here, alright?" he said to me as he was stretching. I narrowed my eyes in suspicion. Why would he want me to call him something else in front of others? Was he some sort of escaped fugitive or something?
"Why?" He sighed. He better have a good excuse!
"Er, well, just do it, please." That was really suspicious.
"Tell me why." I demanded.
"There's a crazed murderer after me and I don't want to be seen." he said. No way was I falling for that.
"Tell me the truth. If there was a crazed murderer after you, you wouldn't be going about buying things, would you?"
"Fine. I'll tell you. I'm the crown prince of Sonfun, heir apparent to the throne. I'm out here to escape from the castle a bit, and I want the people here to treat me like I'm just another citizen, not like royalty. There. Now don't tell anyone else." I stared at him incredulously, but then I realized that it all made sense. Sirros kept slipping up and calling him things like 'Milord' and 'Your Highness,' and he said something about dungeons the first time. I nodded at him.
"Alright, I'll call you Aire." I said.
"If you want proof..." he lifted up his right sleeve. Burned into his arm, in great detail, was a huge version of the crest on the corner of Sirros' neckerchief. Around the border was written, in curled script, "Blood Red, Gold and Blue, Nosferatu are unfair, Royalty too. I am both, Woe for you, for I am the unfairest of them all." Well, that was special…
"Oh. Er, that's interesting." I say. Ridillyn was shaking with laughter. I didn't see what was so humorous.
"The expression on your face." He answered my unasked question.
"Are you sure you're not reading my mind?"
"Definitely." He looked around, then jabbed the air. Sirros yelped and sat up, making the cart wobble. Was that air poke magic? "Come on, we're visiting Phaeon's." Was that the name of a store or something? "Phaeon is Astromid's sister." he said by way of explanation. Sirros went off after we got down, probably going to park the cart somewhere safe.
"I'm lost, who's Astromid?" I asked Ridillyn.
"Astromid was Sirros' master before she was destroyed. We still don't know who did it, but she was definitely murdered." He just kept making more questions for me, didn't he?
"What do you mean, Sirros' master?"
"Sirros is a converted vampire. That means that he is the freed servant of a necromancer. His necromancer just happens to be dead. I, however, am a true vampire, born of generations of careful royal inbreeding." Ridillyn grimaced, revealing half a mouthful of sharp teeth. I guess vampires had more than just a pair of fangs.
"How many types of vampires are there?" I asked. This was extremely confusing.
"Only those two. Unless you count necromancers and fairies as vampires."
"I thought fairies were those fluttery butterfly people." He looked at me oddly before cackling really loudly. Since it was broad daylight, there wasn't anyone around, and it looked really creepy.
"Fluttery butterfly people? That's about as far from fairy as you can get. Fairies are humanoid bat like creatures with approximately seven foot wingspans and a lust for taking life. They are quick hunters, but very loud. However, they can disorient flying creatures with their supersonic emissions."
"Oh." Right, I felt really stupid right then.
"Here we are, Phaeon's place." We arrived in front of a clean looking hut. Ridillyn knocked on the door, and a minute later, a disheveled white haired nitor lady with violet eyes opened it. I'd never seen a nitor before, but I could tell that she was one. For one, she didn't look human, silvaen, or tindrin, so she had to be that. Also, only a nitor could have violet eyes and white hair at the same time, because only tindrins and nitori could have white hair, and only silvae and nitori ever had violet eyes.
"Oh, Aire, what a pleasant surprise! Why this time of day though?" she had a slight accent, but I couldn't place what it was. "And who is this?" she exclaimed at the sight of me.
"I'm Kite." I supplied. Phaeon nodded. At least, I assume that she was Phaeon. She invited us in, and we sat down at the table. The place was pretty simple, with a table, a small kitchen, and a fireplace. Doors led to what I supposed were the bedrooms.
"Pleasant to meet you Kite, I am Phaeon. Aire, is Sirros with you?" she asked Ridillyn.
"Of course, how else could I have gotten here all the way from Kastinon?" I'm pretty sure Kastinon was the capital city.
"You could have rounded." Phaeon says. I wondered what that meant.
"And you think it wouldn't have attracted attention if a simple lad like me appeared in a puff of smoke and a glowing blue pentacle in the middle of town?" I guess that was what rounding was. More magic.
"Harrumph. Simple lad, I'm sure. What's that silver streak on your neckerchief?" Ridillyn looked up innocently and shifted the cloth around his neck to hide as much of the silver as possible. There was a knock on the door. I assumed it was Sirros. Phaeon went over and opened the door. Sure enough, there he was, standing at the threshold, but behind him was a tall silvae girl with tired eyes and short raven hair. Her neck cloth was purple and black.
"Kysis, how are you? No offense, but I think you should stay in the stables. If you transformed inside the house, I doubt you would be able to fit through the door." The girl named Kysis nodded reluctantly and turned around.
"Who was that?" I asked.
"Kysis is the night mare who pulled our cart. As the name implies, they only show their true forms at night." Ridillyn told me nonchalantly. I couldn't believe that she was one and the same as the horse that had been pulling us along. She bore no resemblance to it except for the color of her hair.
Suddenly I felt exhausted. I yawned, and Phaeon saw me this time. She insisted that we spent the rest of the day there, so that we'd be up and ready for the night to come. We were lead into a room with two cots. Two? But we had three people! Maybe Phaeon didn't have another cot or something like that. Ridillyn probably saw my face, because he answered my unasked question. Again.
"I sleep on the floor." I was about to ask why, but once again, he answered before I could. "I levitate slightly when I sleep in the dark. It doesn't matter what I sleep on." He flopped down on the ground and closed his eyes. Sure enough, he floated above the ground, his hair dragging on the straw floor. It looked really unnatural. I yawned again. I must have been really tired, because I fell asleep as soon as I hit the cot.