a/n: I am starting to do a bit of editing of this fanfic. I will be adding some, rewording and better developing the characters. I have also restructured the chapters. Hope it's not too confusing. Same story though. Hope you like it. R/R!
The more comments, the more I write.
As I stood waiting, I enjoyed the feel of the autumn air moving through my lungs. The crisp edge to the falling temperatures reminded me of Russia—of home—but I was anxious with anticipation and stiff from immobility as I stood on the street in from this unfamiliar building.
Flashbacks of a previous life plagued me in the times when I wasn't active, and standing here, waiting as my charge slept, I struggled to separate the memories from my concentration. Despite my focus, I could still hear the echo of a memory of my former charge, Ivan Zeklos, and good friend, encouraging me to take a vacation. I hadn't had one of my own since I was assigned to him. He insisted I take time for myself. As obligated, I agreed.
As the day for my leave approached, excitement began to stir inside of me, despite my feelings of responsibility. I contemplated going home but decided against it. I loved my family, but duty bound me to my Moroi charge, a destiny that left no time for brotherly responsibilities. My family understood and respected my obligation—they were even proud of my abilities—but the pain they expressed when I left was unbearable and not an expense I wanted to pay for a short visit. Instead, I decided to roam for several days and maybe read a few new books.
Ivan was please with my plans, and when the day for my leave arrived, he grasped me in a friendly embrace. I can manage without you. He chuckled. You are good to me, but your substitute will take good care of me. An oath that still haunted me.
As I remembered that farewell, I sighed deeply. Through the earpiece I wore now, Luke, a guardian accompanying me on my quest, asked, "You need a break, Belikov? Want me to relieve you for a while?"
We had been waiting outside the home that we believed to be Valissa Dragomir's for several hours. As the last remaining Dragomir, one of the 12 Royal families, Valissa's safety was a high priority, and now, my only priority. I had been assigned to be her new guardian, a task the involved the responsibility of tracking her down after she ran away two years ago, and returning her to St. Vladimir's Academy.
With another deep sigh, I replied to Luke, "No. I'm good for another couple hours." I knew I wouldn't give up my post. It was almost 3:00am and my memories would continue to break the monotony of standing and waiting, but I wasn't going to resign my leadership on this mission for any amount of time. I felt no need to prove myself, just the innate devotion to my new charge that was born into the responsibility of being a guardian. I am one of the best, that why I was chosen for her, and I wouldn't abandon the honor. I took no pride in my status. I was a promised guardian, and this was my job.
As the seconds of the night crept by, the memories continued to flood back to me. After I left another guardian in charge of my friend's safety, I set out on my short lived adventure. Before I even arrived at my first destination, my cell phone began to vibrate. Concern washed over me. My number was only known by three. Ivan, but he wouldn't call after his insistence of my vacation. His new guardian in my absence, but I didn't recognize the number on the phone's display as his. Otherwise, the Royal Court had the only other record of this number, and a call from them was bad news.
I flipped open my phone with no words. They weren't needed.
"Dimitri Belikov?" The lady on the other end asked, though she already knew the answer. Her voice was laced with importance and a very official air.
"Speaking." I acknowledged my identity. I knew what was coming, and my mind was already heavy with regret. As a good guardian does, however, I kept my voice neutral and waited a fraction of a second for her response.
"Guardian Belikov, I am sorry to inform you that your Moroi charge, Ivan Zeklos, and his guardian on duty were killed last night in an unexpected Strigoi attack."
"Thank you for informing me." My response was formal, my voice calm and professional, but my soul was filled with sadness and remorse.
"We understand that you are on leave. Once you return, please come to the Court for questioning and your new assignment." I realized the speaker never identified herself, which neither surprised me nor confused me. I just remembered noticing.
"There is no need to prolong my leave. I will return to Court as soon as possible."
The line went quiet after that and I allowed a few moments of grief to flood me. Ivan was like family and his death was a large loss.
After the moments passed, I pushed my emotions aside and snapped my guardian mask back into place. Protecting Moroi, mortal vampires, allowed no time for emotions or feelings. Strigoi, fierce immortal vampires, seek the blood of Moroi. I am a dhampir, with a powerful blend of human and Moroi blood. My kind are trained to be guardians and protect Moroi from the Strigoi. Our sense of duty comes from our inability to sustain our race without at least one Moroi parent. With such a responsibility, emotions and feelings are a distraction, and I learned the importance of shutting them off in my studies. Putting it into practice was more difficult, but necessary.
I immediately returned to Court and answered questions about the events leading to the attack. I was then immediately assigned to Valissa Dragomir and St. Vladimir's Academy until her graduation.
My memory faded quickly when shattered by the muffled screams of a girl in house we were watching. Her shrieks were muffled by the weight of sleep, and perhaps a pillow. I did not react. Then I noticed a change in the darkness of the room from which I had heard the scream. Movement. The other guardians, ten in all, were chatting with one another through our communication system. I quickly called them to attention, and they fell silent at my command.
I heard a soft, melodic voice call out quietly, "Liss. Liss wake up." The concern in the speaker's voice startled me and all my muscles tensed in response to an unseen danger.
"Andre." The girl who screamed was now moaning, still lost in sleep, fearing evident in her mumbling. "Oh God."
The girl must be 'Liss' or Princess Valissa Dragomir. The oldest survivor of a Royal family assumed the title suiting their status. Since Valissa was the last of the Dragomirs, her rightful title became Princess, a title inherited when her family died several years ago.
"Liss, you aren't there anymore." The first girl frantically sang. "Wake up," she pleaded, her voice sharpened by the worry of the nightmare that made the Princess scream.
It was easy to assume that the girl with the Princess was Rose Hathaway. When I arrived at St. Vladimir's, I was given a file on each girl, and I knew their histories well. Rose was the daughter of the well known and highly respected guardian, Jeanine Hathaway. According her file, however, she lacked the discipline and appropriate attitude to carry such a respected name. Valissa was mostly a quiet individual, though her file was marred by the indiscretions that were certainly influenced by her loyalty to her misguided novice friend.
The girls had been best friends since they began school together at the age of 5. Rose was with the Princess the night her family died in a car accident, and according to her file, it was a wonder that she survived. A notation in the file indicated that their friendship became even closer after the accident, the two hardly seen separated, and Rose began to demonstrate protective behaviors Alberta, the Head of the Guardians at the school decided to observe the friendship closely to determine if Rose could be trained to be Princess Valissa's full time guardian following graduation. A couple of days before the girls' disappearance, they both began acting strange and Valissa seemed frantic and bothered.
Based on the information provided in the file, I held a very low opinion of Rose Hataway. Being raised at the Academy, she understood the value and importance of the Princess. The file made it clear that Rose's defiance of authority was to blame for her disappearance and despite her frantic attempts to stop her friend, Valissa joined her when she left. No guardian would endanger a Moroi as Rose had and I agreed with the school's decision to expel Rose upon her return.
But there was something in the urgency of the movements in the shadows and the concern-filled plea of the girl that gave me a moment's hesitation when I recalled my opinion of her. Despite her record, could her intentions have been misunderstood?
With my heightened senses from my dhampir blood, I could hear the fear in the ragged breathes of the dreaming Princess. As her breathing slowed, I stilled myself, not even realzing until that moment that I had begun to run to the girls. I was at the edge of where the lights met the shadows now, visible, but I didn't even dare to take the step backwards to conceal myself in the shadows. My hearing was more sensitive than a human's, but nothing compared to that of a Moroi. Even one step could alert the girls to our presence, something we really didn't want to do.
"It's okay," Rose comforted Valissa. "Everything's okay."
"I had the dream."
"Yeah. I know." A hint of concern lingered in Rose's voice and I wondered what dream haunted these girls' rest. Several moments passed an the girls breathing seemed to slow. No movement in the shadows. A light came on followed by no other indication that they were still awake. I began to think the girls were asleep again and contemplated moving from the light when Rose spoke again.
"When did we last do a feeding?" Rose paused. "It's been like… more than two days, hasn't it? Three? Why didn't you say anything?"
There was something in her voice that made me nervous about what I was about to witness. Moroi needed blood to survive and where many Moroi gathered, feeders, humans that consented to act as a blood supply, were employed. Moroi saliva is rumored to enhance endorphins and produce a stimulating high for the victim of the bite. Securing a feeder, however, would be dangerous for these girls. Vampires are no longer accepted in human culture so it would be important for them to hide their identity. I didn't hear Valissa's response as I pondered their feeing predicament. I was surprised that in all the time that I studied and search for them, I somehow never questioned how Valissa was ensuring her essential blood supply. The alternative to a feeder entered my mind and my stomach made an uncomfortable lurch. I hardly had an opportunity to entertain the idea before I understood the sacrifice Rose had made.
With the same voice that seemed to contain a symphony, Rose declared, "Come on, let's do this."
Valissa protests just by saying Rose's name. Before Valissa even finished her name, Rose reiterated, "Come on. It will make you feel better."
Valissa hesitated, and then her need for blood won over. The girls shifted positions so they were no longer just voices in the dark. I recognized the blond hair of the Dragomir Princess immediately and identified Rose as the girl with the long dark hair.
Rose threw her hair over her shouldered in a practiced, graceful movement, reveling the smooth, tanned skin of her neck. Suddenly, I was grateful that the other guardians were not observing what I was As irresponsible as I felt that Rose had been to allow her friend to leave the walls and protection of the academy, there was no doubting her loyalty to protecting the Princess.
As Valissa leaned towards Rose's neck, I averted my eyes. Moroi could not survive without blood, but while human blood would sustain them, dhampir blood was more beneficial. But for a dhampir to allow a Moroi to feed was considered degrading and perverse. Many dhampir women were labeled blood whores—some wrongly so—for allowing Moroi to feed during sexual exploits. It was a stereotype that plagued the reputation of dhampirs who chose not to become Guardians and live together in villages. I swore that I would never repeat what I saw to anyone. I would not allow Rose's sacrifice to protect her friend be dishonored by the negative connotation of the label that this knowledge would surely illicit.
I heard a gasp. It was quiet and filled with pain. As it faded and I knew Valissa's venom was dancing in Rose's veins, I felt something I didn't recognize. I felt sick at the action, unable to imagine the loyalty and devotion it held. I was awed by the understanding of sacrifice and duty this seventeen year old felt. But something more stirred. Almost like my desire to protect her name, I had to protect her. I never wanted to hear pain in her breath again.
I suddenly realized I was wrong about Rose Hathaway. She may have an attitude, but she was born to be a guardian. She understood the role and the responsibility better than most promised guardians did.
Less than a minute after her gasp ripped through me, I hear Valissa whisper, "You okay?" as she pulled her hand across her face.
Rose's response was quiet and strained. Her voice, delighted, but weighted with exhaustion that accompanied the loss of blood. "I… yeah." She hesitated. "I just need to sleep it off. I'm fine." She sounded as if she was already fighting the weight of her eyelids.
It was quiet again, but I didn't move from the light casted by the street lamp. I was stunned by what I had seen and questioned if I would have done the same for my charge, for my friend I'd come to regard as family Deciding I probably would not, I wracked my hand through my shoulder length hair with a soft sigh.
My sudden movement startled the cat in the window. I had noticed earlier he was uncomfortable with my presence, but my motion resulted in the cat puffing his fur and glaring down at me, his tail twitching.
"You don't know what you're missing." Rose spoke, presumably to the cat since Lissa left a moment ago to get Rose some food. Her comment sent chills through me. Her longing for the fix apparent. It was appalling and concerning at the same time. I pulled my hair off of my neck, causing the cat to hiss at my me.
I heard a sudden break in the quietness as a floor board moaned under the weight of movement. Rose came to the window scanning the surrounding. I knew if I had moved, she would see me, so I held my breath, holding perfectly still, praying she wouldn't see me. My formal be-seen-not-heard stance would identify me as a Guardian and she would know we were here.
Only a second passed before her eyes settled on me, and she jumped in surprise. Emotions cycled across her face, on replacing the previous in quick succession. Recognition. Fear. Determination. Sadness? I wasn't sure. My gaze bore into her eyes, searching for the reasons and answers to the confusion she caused, but I could tell she couldn't see my face. She squinted through the shadows, analyzing what she could of me.
Hardly two seconds had passed since she came to the window. Luke, realizing I had been seen, steeped to the edge of the shadows to beckon me from the light. I stepped back into the cover of darkness, disappearing from her view.
As my team gathered for my directions, I heard Rose quickly shuffling around before she threw herself from her room. A muffled conversation between Rose, Valissa, and a male, presumably the roommate we researched, ensued. Their words were lost in the walls, but I knew what they were deciding.
Rose and Valissa would try to run.