A/N: I'm back! Or at least for this chapter. I'm officially out of classes so I'm slowly but surely taking up a few of my stories. This one is obviously the easiest, since I've written all I want to say, I just have to take the time to smooth it out into something fit for a reader! This time around we're going back to the past. Please pardon any spelling or grammar mistakes, I was in a rush to get this out so you all didn't think I'd dropped off the face of the Earth or something. Please, enjoy and if you have any comments, feel free to press the little button down below.
Athlone, Ireland 1861 Return:
"Are you nervous?"
"No," David lied. Annamarie looked at him sceptically. "Yes," he admitted.
"It is alright to be," she reassured him. "It has been a long time since you were last there."
"I am nervous of what I may find," David admitted. "The Famine..."
Annamarie nodded. They had heard of the dreadful famine that Ireland had experienced not too long ago. They had heard of it from another nomad who had been leaving Ireland in 1849, passing through France and heading east. It was a potato blight, which wouldn't have had any effect on vampires, except the humans were dying from it. Or leaving as this vampire was doing. After hearing of the famine, David had wanted to return right away. But Annamarie had appealed to his reasonable side.
"If we go back now, we will face a shortage of humans," she'd said. "That means anyone still there, will be territorial. It would be better to wait it out."
David hadn't liked it, but he'd agreed to wait. Even though he hadn't been in Ireland since they'd left Roland's coven, David still considered it his home. He knew he'd still had family there. His parents had had a boy after he'd disappeared and his brother had passed on the family name to two sons of his own. Although both his brother and his nephews where dead by now, David still felt obliged to check on what may remain of his family.
So after the famine ended and Ireland's population began to rise once more, Annamarie and David began moving towards Ireland. They'd been in Munich for the last couple of years, waiting things out in a relatively calm area. After becoming the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria, Munich had experienced a fair amount of peace and growth. There hadn't been any battles fought, any shortages or famines or plagues that might cause the human population to plummet and issues for the vampire population. In fact, Annamarie had rather liked it there. The city had built a number of new structures and the railroad meant more people came into the city.
But they couldn't stay in Munich forever. Annamarie admitted she would've eventually gotten bored of the place after a few decades. And David was anxious to get back to Ireland.
That's how they found themselves in Athlone, a town in the middle of Ireland, west of Dublin and southeast of Castlebar, where they were headed. David didn't know if his family remained near the castle where he'd lived as a human, but he figured it would be the best place to start. If it happened they couldn't find them there, then there was the possibility that someone in Castlebar would know where they'd moved, or if they were even alive yet.
Annamarie enjoyed being back in Ireland. She liked the green. It seemed like everything in Ireland was perpetually green. In their travels, they'd been to places that hardly got any rain at all and were brown and dusty. They had their own appeals, but it was good to be back. David seemed more at ease in his "native land" as well. The skies were overcast which meant they could move around during the day like the humans did and appear "normal". That made it a lot easier to ask about any surviving Conway members in the area. It was possible they had moved south to a larger city.
When asking around Athlone didn't yield any results, Annamarie and David continued north, closing in on Castlebar. David became even more anxious the closer they came until Annamarie actually physically stopped. David skid to a halt, looking back at her confused. "What is it?"
"You have to calm down," she told him. "You are driving me to insanity. The humans notice when someone is anxious, just as our kind does."
David sighed. "I am sorry."
Annamarie caught up to him, giving him a light kiss. "Whatever we find, we find," she told him. "It may be that they have moved on long ago. It may be that neither of your nephews had any children and the line ended years ago. But whatever we find, we find."
David took her hands in his own and ran his finger over the gold band on her finger. A small smile crept over his lips as he watched images flash over his eyes. For some reason, borrowing his wife's power soothed him. Seeing all they had done through her own memories imprinted on her most prized possession, it reminded David of how far he'd come. It had been many lifetimes since he'd been changed.
"Shall we go?" Annamarie asked him.
David released one of her hands and nodded. They started off again, towards whatever awaited them in Castlebar.
There was a feast of some sort. It was surprising considering the Famine that had sent so many from the emerald isle. Even in the cities there was still a food shortage and people worked hard for every scrap of food and lump of coal. But here, now, there was a party. It looked like a wedding. The entire town had turned out and were seated at long tables, each perpendicular to the head table where a couple in fine clothes sat, laughing, on what was very apparently the happiest day of their young lives. Annamarie and David approached but did not come out of the cover of the trees by unspoken consensus. In truth, the scene before them did not seem like the sort of place for two blood-sucking vampires. This was a happy time, a celebration of a beginning. Vampires only ever brought about the end. A funeral was their type of scene, not a wedding.
A rather tall man stood up from the front table, a huge grin on his face. He had brown hair, very much like David's. When he spoke, he spoke in a booming voice with a very thick brogue, but after listening to David, Annamarie was accustomed to hearing the accent.
"Today is a very happy day as we are fortunate to celebrate the wedding of my son, Brian, and his lovely new wife, Aoife. On behalf of them and the entire Conway Clan, I'd like to say thank you."
As the crowd broke out in loud cheers, Annamarie looked over at David, who seemed surprised. "That was easy. You have a whole clan now. And judging by the festivities, they are fairly well off."
The crowd quieted and Annamarie and David focused again on the large man, one of David's ancestors, who apparently wasn't finished.
"Times have been hard, but all of us here are survivors. And now, look where we are! Castlebar flourishes by our blood and our sweat. Today is not just a celebration of Brian and Aoife. It is a celebration of the fortitude and commitment of each and every citizen of Castlebar!"
There was yet more cheering. Apparently David's ancestor was quite the speechmaker. He let the crowd go for a while before beginning to gesture for quiet again.
"Therefore, it is with great pride but also the deepest sorrow that I announce that Brian and Aoife will be among the first of the Castlebar Conways to make the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the Land of Opportunity herself, the United States of America!"
This was the loudest cheering yet. Some in the crowd even leapt to their feet and soon the entire assembly was standing and applauding the two young people who were positively beaming.
"America," David whispered. They'd heard of it plenty of times before. They'd heard of the British Colonies in the New World, of the rebellion, of the war of independence that created the United States, of more wars and expansion and flocks of immigrants from all over Europe travelling by ship to make their new lives in America. "The Land of Opportunity." A new start, where it didn't matter who your parents were or what you'd done before. Any man could arrive with a few cents in his pocket and with hard work and perseverance, could make himself like a lord. That sounded like what Brian and Aoife planned to do.
The celebration was soon back into full swing and a band struck up a song as the partygoers continued their celebration, despite the clouds overhead that threatened rain. David and Annamarie stayed and watched for a while longer. Annamarie found herself looking at the large man and the young bridegroom and comparing the two for features she saw in David. The hair was the easiest. It was exactly the same, despite the years. Annamarie hadn't known David before he was a vampire so she wasn't sure what colour his eyes had been, but both father and son shared a pair of icy blue eyes. Looking around the crowd, Annamarie was able to find others with similar features. The majority of those present had them. To think, she and David had been prepared to find nothing. She'd actually been worried that that would be the case. All for naught, though. By all appearances, the Conway Clan was thriving in Castlebar.
Eventually the party began to break up as the sun went down and light began to fade. The happy couple left to the cheers and wolf-whistles of those seeing them off and then slowly but surely everything was cleaned up. David and Annamarie watched a bit longer before they finally left as well, sinking backwards into the woods.
"I was so worried, but I guess I did not have to be," David commented, smiling.
"No, you did not," Annamarie agreed. "Your family is thriving. It is refreshing, sometimes, to be reminded how the world moves on, even if we do not."
"I am content with how I am right now," David told her. "That boy is only just beginning his time, but it will pass. I, on the other hand, am allowed to spend all eternity with the woman I love. How can I ever be sad?" He placed a soft kiss on her lips, then her jaw, then down to her neck.
Annamarie chuckled. "You want something, do you?"
David grinned, "Why would you say that?"
"You are being extra charming. You are always this way when you want something."
"Well I may be a vampire, but I am still a man," David replied, switching sides of her neck. They had long stopped, alone among the trees.
"Oh, yes, I am well aware..."
"How romantic. It's just sickeningly so, is it not?" Both David and Annamarie leapt to their feet, landing in crouches the direction from which the very familiar voice had come. It had been almost 200 years since they'd heard that voice, but both knew its owner immediately. Roland stood, arms crossed over his chest, smirking from his spot downwind. It explained why neither of them had been aware of his presence. Had he been upwind, they would have smelled him long before he got near them.
"Yes." The reply did not surprise Annamarie as much as the first voice had. Where there was Roland, there was bound to be his mate, Catherine. The female vampire in question stepped out from behind a tree trunk only a few paces from Roland. Vampires do not physically change in that they do not age, but Catherine and Roland had changed. They'd changed in the way vampires do. They were paler, somehow, and the dark circles under their black eyes were more pronounced. It was very obvious they were both hungry, and had likely been for a while. Their clothing was dirty and ragged, more so than it had ever been when David and Annamarie had been part of their coven. All of these signs pointed to one thing.
Catherine and Roland had not weathered the Famine well. Likely they'd been in the area the entire time, going between England, Scotland, and Ireland. Roland didn't seem like the type to change, and wherever Roland went, Catherine was never far behind. If they had stayed in Ireland during the Famine, likely they'd experienced intense competition for the remaining sources of food. With just the two of them, it was very apparent they'd been unsuccessful.
"What do you want?" David hissed.
"You made a mistake coming back," Roland told him. "When you left, Catherine and I were very disappointed. And we promised that, should we ever see either of you again, we would make that disappointment well known. After all, what is the point of being angry with someone if they do not know it?"
"Well we know now, so kindly leave," Annamarie retorted.
Roland's eyes shot to her and he growled. "Once more, you are on my territory. I warned you the first time, if you ever crossed me, you'd lose your head. I am a man of my word." He lunged and David intercepted him. Roland was weak from lack of blood and David was able to throw him off.
"Run!" David told her. They took off, deeper into the woods away from the town. Annamarie was faster than David, but she slowed so that he could keep pace. Behind them, they could hear Catherine and Roland in pursuit, crashing through the trees.
"We should not have come back," David told her.
"It is too late for that now," Annamarie replied. She was frantically trying to think of some way for both of them to come out of this unscathed. Roland was older and more experienced. He would likely win, despite his weakness at the moment. They had to evade both him and Catherine, now.
"Wait!" David stopped and Annamarie slid, creating a long track in the forest floor. "Do you smell that?"
She did. Annamarie had missed it before, but stopping, the scent was unmistakable. There were more vampires in the area then just them, Catherine, and Roland. Three more. Two were female and one was a male and they had passed by only a few moments ago.
"This way," David urged, turning to follow the trail. Catherine and Roland were getting closer. Annamarie and David raced down the trail, following the scent for a few miles before coming to a clearing and skidding to an abrupt stop. There in the clearing before them were three vampires, two older ones and a young one with flaming red hair. All three dropped to defensive crouches as Annamarie and David burst from the trees, the male subtly moving forward.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Please, we need your help," Annamarie told them.
"That's true," the little redhead commented.
"Who are you?" the male repeated.
"There is little time to explain," David replied. "If you help us send off the two that are chasing us, we will tell you whatever you want to know."
"That is true as well," the girl added.
The male and the older female looked down at their companion a moment before the older female nodded. "Very well." At that moment, Roland and Catherine entered the clearing too. Except now they found five vampires, all better fed than they.
"What is this?" Roland demanded, obviously infuriated.
"You are trespassing," the unknown male replied, his voice hard. "Leave."
"This is our territory!" Roland declared.
"We can determine that right now." The other male stepped out to confront Roland directly, but Roland seemed to think twice, now that he faced an unknown opponent who was more than willing to fight him. He looked to Catherine and the two exchanged an unreadable glance.
"That will not be necessary," Catherine replied. "It was our mistake." She took Roland's arm and began backing up, pulling her mate along. Roland looked to Annamarie and David, murder in his black eyes.
"This does not end here," he threatened.
The others watched Roland and Catherine leave before turning on Annamarie and David. "Who are you?" the male asked for the third time.
"I am David Conway, and this is my wife, Annamarie," David replied. "We are just passing through the area."
"What did they want with you?" the older female asked.
"Roland and Catherine were the leaders of a coven we both left almost two centuries ago," said David truthfully. "Roland does not take what he deems 'disobedience'. We did not expect to run into them; otherwise we would not have come."
"Well I believe you," said the youngest. "I am Maggie, and this is Siobhan and Liam."
The older female and male nodded when Maggie introduced them. They stepped closer, seeming to be a bit more confident, but still wary of Annamarie and David. Siobhan took a deep breath and looked slightly puzzled.
"You have not been in this area?"
"Not in 200 years," David replied.
"You," Siobhan pointed to Annamarie. "You smell familiar. I have smelled a scent very like yours before."
"Perhaps you came across it in England or Scotland," Annamarie suggested.
"No, I do not think so," Siobhan replied. "You claim you are just passing through. Likely, though, your former coven leaders will remain in the area, waiting for you to go. Might I suggest you remain with us for a while?"
"We prefer not to join another coven," David replied. "You have witnessed how the last time faired."
"You do not need to join our coven. You may be our guests," said Siobhan. "It is a brief arrangement. Think of it as more of a favour between friends."