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"Just so you know, we can't be friends."

"Why not?"

"It's just the way it is."


Thirteen Hallowed Nights

The Ninth Night:

"Friends"

By Corvus no Genmu

The summer heat was fading towards autumn's biting winds but the night sky was still clear, the stars above shining brightly at least in these dark woods. The trees stood tall and close together and most still had a fine collection of emerald leaves whose edges were only just now turning to the color of flames, the branches swaying to rid themselves of dying cargo. It was late in the night, almost midnight, but still the children of the cabin were both awake and sat together in the same bed, finding comfort in each other despite the silence. They sat reclined, leaning against one another, their hands clasped tightly though they refused to look at the other. Though their fights were rare almost inconceivable really, they did have them and it was always about the same thing.

Whether or not he join her forever in the darkness of the night.

Contrary to what you might assume, it was not the girl that had this selfish desire. No, it was the boy who wanted the cursed life not for himself but for the girl that had claimed his heart however unwilling and who in turn gave her heart to him. She hadn't been given a choice, those two long centuries past, and now that she had been given the chance to make one of her own it frightened her terribly. To live forever as a child might sound like a whimsical fantasy but that was a lie for hers was not an immortal life without prices to pay. The sun had been forgotten decades ago, the blue sky but an illusion in her memories, and the thirst, the damnable thirst that forever hounded her, could never be denied.

The thirst for blood.

He claimed to know the pain of it, the risks and the horrors, and still he did not care. He wanted to stay with her forever so that she may have a true companion to stand beside rather than be left alone by the protectors before him. Still she denied him as she had denied them but her will, once strong and unbreakable, was slowly crumbling. The loneliness was greater now than it had been and none of the others had ever filled her silent heart with the joy of true, innocent love.

She was a monster, a creature of the dark to be hated and feared and she held little doubt that she'd meet a painful, agonizing end, by her hand or by another's, if she kept walking this lonely road where company came and went. She had drawn a line for herself long ago, a line that forbade her to ever make another like herself. Better for them to die than to force another to live a cursed life of immortality. Why couldn't he understand that? The boy wondered the same thing about her.

The door to their cabin banged heavily with great, forceful knockings and startled them both terribly.

In an instant, she was at the door with fangs bared, a gentle biting at her lower li. No one came to these woods and with good reason. These were the woods where stories dark and terrible, bright and joyful, were told. The Black Forest of Germany where brothers two walked side-by-side with pen and paper, taking the stories alive and capturing them forever. Tourists and natives alike did not dare to enter the deeper wood by the instinctive idea that maybe; just maybe, some of those stories still roamed free and were not so polite to be captured.

The fact that the wooden steps of the stoop did not creak gripped her heart in fear for few could walk so silently as the dark and not be a part of it. Oh yes, she had met her fair share of monsters and had run from their outstretched hands. She would kill to survive, but she would never take pleasure from it like they, only the satisfaction of hunger satiated and nothing more.

"It is not getting any warmer out here I'll have you know," spoke a voice of strange accent, clearly not a German for he spoke like a Swede of practiced tongue.

The boy, foolish beloved brave thing, pressed himself against her, an axe at hand and a look of determination on his face. She regretted teaching him self-confidence only because that self-confidence was beginning to turn sour with the same foolhardy arrogance that ended the lives of similarly selfless men.

The door trembled from another knocking and this time the voice spoke in a strange almost nonsensical verse. "One for all and all for none, the future time has come. Face filled with torment, your heart beats like a drum."

She hesitated but dared to hope it was who she believed it to be. She shared a glance with the boy and in their silent ways spoke volumes. She wanted him to trust that she knew what she was doing. He assured her that she had that long before. She smiled and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek before she opened the door.

He was old, almost sickly really, and she would never have recognized him had a sudden wind not blown his scent back upon her. A smell of cloudless midnight, where a full moon shined like a torch and told the stars told their stories as cruel and spiteful clouds flickered resentfully on the horizon. The crisp scent of autumn leaves and candies sweet and bitter to the tongue. His eyes were of fresh cut emeralds and his hair was pale like ivory just as it had been when he was young.

"Mortimer?"

The old man smiled tiredly and leaned heavily against his cane. "I go by Monshroud now but yes, it's me." He sighed and his eyes closed from exhaustion. "Might I come in?"

The girl looked to the boy but the words were already halfway spoken. "Please do sir."

Monshroud cracked open an eye and smirked, shooting a sly grin at a suddenly embarrassed girl. "He reads you better than you think he does." The old man shuffled into the cabin and took the chair closest to the fire. "I suppose you both have a lot of questions for me this evening. I know chivalry demands it, but by your leave let me answer the boy's—"

"Oskar." She interrupted, her eyes fierce, a hand clasping the boy's own.

Monshroud nodded amiably. "Oskar's questions." He stared expectantly at the boy who seemed strangely shy at the sudden attention. "Speak boy, I don't bite." His smile was teasing, "That's your vampire's job, yes?"

"Don't call her that!" Oskar snapped, fire now in his eyes as he stared defiantly at the old man who barked out a laugh, leaning back in his chair as it rocked back and forth like a ticking clock.

"Quick to defend the girl's honor aren't you," he spoke more to himself. "You don't treat the word like a whispered horror, with that foolish ideal that silence will make it less than true." His emerald eyes bore onto Oskar and the boy flinched at the strange familiarity in them. "You treat the word as an insult because with its utterance, she is reminded of her nature and you know she doesn't need that." He laughed again looking to the girl who was smiling adoringly at an embarrassed Oskar. "You've found yourself a true diamond in the rough this time…"

Eli smiled and kissed Oskar's cheek, enjoying its pleasant warmth more than she should have and her heart ached for it but she buried it with the pleasure of past and present company. "I know…"

Monshroud smiled and nodded. Good, it makes what I've come here for easier. His eyes met with Oskar's once more. "I've known Eli for a long time Oskar, since the night she was first turned. How and why are between the two of us but I assure you that I'm no immortal, not like Eli at any rate so spare me your anger and resentment. Had I stayed with her she would never have met you."

Oskar flushed again; the old man was turning out to be surprisingly good at reading people. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Now when I first left her, I made her a promise that when I returned, it would be for one of two reasons." Monshroud held up two fingers and brought one down. "The first was if I had found the vampire that had bitten her," He looked to Eli and smiled sadly, "and that when I did, I would kill him by starvation. A grisly end for anyone but alas, the vampire responsible is currently beyond my reach and for that I do apologize, Eli."

Eli's smile was a sad one but it was also understanding. "Don't be, you still have the second reason don't you?"

Monshroud nodded, rocking gently in the chair. "I do."

Oskar frowned, worriedly looking back and forth between them. His eyes widened in alarm. "You're not—"

"My second reason was that if I ever found a way to make her immortality bearable that I would bring it to her." He brought the last finger down and suddenly held out the same hand to Eli who smiled fondly in remembrance and tapped it. He opened his hand to reveal a jeweled ring. The band was gold with the stone was a dark emerald that seemed to glimmer with its own light. He held it out to Eli who took it and stared at it in confusion. Monshroud wasn't done though as he tapped a box that was suddenly at his feet and pushed to the children with his cane.

Oskar lifted the lid and blinked in surprise at the contents. "Lollypops?"

"Blood-pops actually." Monshroud smiled. "Amazing thing magic… you'd be surprised at some of the new conventions the magical world has come up with."

"The magical world?" gasped Oskar while Eli stared impassively into the box. "You mean, magic is real?"

Monshroud chuckled. "You've given your heart to a vampire and you question the reality of magic? Yes it is real as are a great many things." Noting Eli's hesitation he encouraged her. "The box has an enchantment on it that prevents it from ever running empty and a follow-me spell attached to it should you ever have to leave it behind. It will be waiting for you wherever you make your home."

Eli took out one of the blood-pops and gave it a slow look-over. "This will really work? I won't have to feed anymore?"

"Oh, you'll still need to have blood," said Monshroud, tapping the box with his cane. "I've spoken to a few of the open covens and they say these are a fine, if slightly demeaning, substitute. Not sure how they taste though… Go on, give it a try."

Eli unwrapped the packaging and took a small lick. Her eyes lit up and she all but jammed the thing in her mouth, much to Oskar's amusement. Monshroud sat back and nodded in satisfaction. "The ring will protect you from all harm and I've had a spell attached to it to keep anyone but those you trust from removing it. The blood-pops will sate your hunger though I'd wager you'll still want for the thrill of the chase if nothing else. I give you a shield, and I've given you food. Now, I will give you a heart."

"What do you—" Oskar started to ask when Monshroud suddenly jammed the end of his cane over the boy's heart. The boy let out a scream of pain as something started to shine with startling intensity at the cane's end. A strange piece of stone cut into the shape of an octagon. The sound of a dog's howling echoed in the small wooden cabin, drowning out the boy's pained scream before Eli tossed Monshroud aside, clear across the room where he impacted against the wall of the cabin with a resounding crack of his spine.

"Oskar! Oskar, are you alright?" Eli took the unconscious boy's head to her lap, her eyes shining with fear. "Wake up, please, wake up!" She heard a faint tapping sound and she glanced down at his hand, his finger tapping out a simple message. L-O-V-E…

"I'm alright…" the boy whispered, his eyes still closed. "Just… tired is all… I'll be fine in the morning… promise…" He was asleep and Eli breathed a sigh of relief before she lifted the boy up and placed him gently on their shared bed. The pained wheezing behind her turned angry eyes of burning amber back upon Monshroud.

Monshroud who had been the only friend she had in the beginning of her life as a vampire. He had helped her when others would have seen her dead. He made an unbreakable vow with her and held his word for it. He gave her a ring of protection, of what kind she did not know and an endless supply of food, but he had hurt Oskar…

She had all but killed him for it.

"Next time you try to kill someone…" The old man gasped despite the agony he was feeling. "Try and break the neck first…"

"I am sorry… but you hurt him with… whatever it was you did."

"Don't be sorry… he was in pain and you defended him…" Monshroud's smile was weak but it shined brightly in his eyes. "It made what I did… all the better…"

Eli's eyes narrowed and a faint glimmer of fang appeared. "What did you do to Oskar?"

"I made him… into an immortal…"

"What?" gasped Eli.

"He will never age… and he will never die… unless he welcomes Death… into his home…" He shivered and his hand gripped tightly over his heart.

"Why didn't you tell me what you were going to do? What it would entail!" She was shouting now, tears streaming down her face as she stared down upon her first protector. "Why would you make me a murderer again?"

"Today… is the day Monshroud is supposed to die… and I… would rather die… having done one last… bit of good… than slipping away… alone…" His breathing was slowly and she could hear the slowing of his heart. "That… is my selfish… desire…"

"You… you foolish old man…"

"Heh… I suppose I am… but don't worry… I'm sure we… will see each other again… but… do a dying man… one last favor…?"

"Anything."

Monshroud smiled…


Oskar woke with a groan, the light of the morning sun shining brightly in his eyes. He turned his back to it and tried to regain some semblance of sleep when he realized—"The sun!" He shot awake, "Eli!" But the bed as empty, the blanket knocked away. He turned and cried out at seeing the front door opened.

He was alone.

"ELI!" He raced out the door and nearly tripped over a young female form. He was about to yell her name again when he saw a small glint of emerald and gold, and he remembered Monshroud's words. He whispered her name, "Eli?"

"Please… sit next to me, Oskar?" She didn't have to ask, he was already sitting down beside her, his hand clasping her own, the jewel shining between their fingers. She turned to look him in the eye, her own wet with tears flowing down her pale face like rivers. "Is this… a dream, Oskar?" She touched the burnt hole of his shirt where a scar in the shape of a dog's paw lay over his heart. "Is this really the dawn?"

Oskar smiled, her words always a puzzle with another meaning behind them. He had no clue what Monshroud had done to him but he knew that what he had done for Eli was more than enough. "Yeah… yeah it is…"


Twenty years later…

The backdoor opened and a young girl of nine years raced inside, "Daddy! Mommy! I'm home!"

Jacque glanced up from where he was busy preparing dinner as Morrigan watched in bemusement. She was never too good of a cook and her last concoction had to be put down most violently but perhaps that had been intentional on her part. Never mind that Jacque's food was almost, dare she say it, divine in its flavor but it was rather fun to see him preparing meals around the kitchen like he was some head chef in a fine Parisian restaurant. Still, that did not stop her from smiling beautifully at her adopted daughter racing up to her as excited as any nine-year-old should be.

It had taken the better part of the year but Samara had finally succumb to her own desire and referred to both Jacque and Morrigan as her parents rather than by their names. Morrigan thought it cute how Jacque teared up when Samara had called him daddy for the first time and venomously denied her own reaction when the tables were turned back upon her.

"Welcome home, Samara. Anything interesting happen at school today?" asked Jacque as he set about slicing some carrots.

"I met a vampire!"

The knife came down hard on the chopping board and a glass shattered in a manicured hand. Jacque turned a concerned eye to Samara while Morrigan was already beside the girl and looking her over, a dark aura of menace surrounding the woman. While Jacque cared about vampires as much as he did anyone, Morrigan had a healthy disfavor for them thanks to one particularly stubborn, if not powerful, vampire that refused to get his ideals out of the Dark Ages. Still, the sky was dark with heavy storm clouds and only a truly hungry vampire would be roaming the streets before nightfall…

"Mommy, I'm okay really! Eli was really nice and Oskar…" She continued on telling a fabulous recounting of her new friends and how they had inadvertently discovered each other's uniqueness, that which kept them young and separate from the world. Jacque didn't hear, his emerald eyes were glazed over, seeing beyond the present and into the mists of the past.

He smiled.


Some friendships are so strong, they can even transcend lifetimes.