Could it really be?
That's right, my wonderful peoples. After that long break, Stini has cut her so-called retirement from fanfiction short and has come back with her stories revamped and ready for your reading pleasure. 'The Minutes to Midnight', 'Red Lovely Chronicles', my Broadway tribute tale 'Every Story is a Love Story', 'Wicked Little Deeds', 'Wild Angels' and 'Can't Fight the Moonlight' are all being rewritten in my very much improved style and I'll be coming out with a brand new story titled 'Night Castle'. As for the book I had officially left to work on, I'm still writing that too and the first chapter will be leaked on my Live Journal account.
I will like to take this moment to thank my wonderful friends Clare, Chrissy, Maja and Veronica for sticking by me and I need to give a big shout out to the fans that stuck with me: b_sparkles, pamplemose, dragon5174 and any others I have forgotten to mention.
Much love to you all.
Read, review and please be nice.
Once upon a stormy night in France...
A cold autumn's rain fell in drenching sheets, hammering down frightful force. However it was that first roll of muffled thunder that caused Ace's dark gray eyes to flash open and dart about in a fever-induced delirium. He found himself within an unfamiliar place, lying atop a pile of damp blankets and cushions.
Though he ached all over, he shoved himself into a sitting position and gulped for the musty air. It was as if his body was starved for oxygen. He didn't care about the stale taste. However, sitting up as quickly as he did sent his world reeling. He raised a trembling hand to his forehead.
As he tried to gather his senses he gazed into the shadows, straining his eyes until his vision finally adjusted. The room was circular, much like how he imagined the interior of a castle's tower might look. In front of him there was a crude wooden chair. And on it there was a small, half-melted candle. That was all he had for light, save for the brief flashes lighting that raged with the storm outside. There was only one window and its shattered glass let in the rain and the cold. Rainwater also seeped through cracks within the ceiling, dripping down and sometimes even hitting his skin like icy pinpricks. Bookshelves lined the walls, yet their many works were either tossed haphazardly onto them or scattered about the floor with pages loose or torn away.
It didn't take him long to realize that this was not a dream and it certainly was not the small, cozy room he rented above a Parisian tavern. Oh, but how he wished he were there, warm in his bed with a coal fire burning.
Sadly wishing did nothing and Ace soon found his thoughts racing.
How did he get here?
His last memory before a haze took over was of him and his troupe. Though not for any reason in particular, they had been celebrating in their rooms. Just good drunken fun. He remembered how he had stepped out onto the roof, playing his violin while his beloved Marco sat in the window with a wine bottle in hand, singing at the top of his lungs. Their music was beautiful, loud and joyful, and both of them became determined to wake all of Paris. It appeared they had succeeded when the angry snarls and the demands for them to stop came from the alleys.
He remembered being overwhelmed with happiness, something he never felt in the monasteries he once called home. Sure, within those walls he was educated, but it didn't feel like home. To them he would always be the orphan they took in one stormy night—the bastard child of a nameless woman who had died on their doorstep. However within the company of the traveling theatre, he was a kindred spirit. Family.
More importantly: he was free.
Exhaling heavily, Ace slumped back against the wall. Closing his eyes, he tried to break through that fogged part of his mind. Dim memories arose. He saw cloaked figure watching him from the dusky alleyway. The image then changed to creatures shrouded in shadow pinning him down, biting into his flesh, feasting on him.
He stamped those images out, trying to convince himself that it couldn't be real. But he could not ignore the dark crimson that stained the white of his loose-fitting shirt. He hesitantly touched his hand to a swollen spot on his neck, letting out a sharp hiss as his fingertips brushed over two tiny punctures in his skin. His mouth opened in a perfect horror, but no sound came out.
It was real.
Those things were real.
A word came to mind, and the stories he had been told as a child. Vampire.
Another roll of thunder, louder and angrier than the first, shook the room. The sudden crash startled him, but within the somewhat softer crackle that followed there was another sound. A long, high whine drew Ace's attention to a heavy wooden door that had been hidden within the shadows of the room.
Though it had opened just a crack, it seemed it would have taken at least some effort to push such a door, yet no one else was there...
Or so he thought.
A whisper in the dark. "Storm eyes..."
Ace felt an icy chill shoot down his spine. And he shivered. It was as if that voice was the darkness itself, surrounding him, coming through the very walls. clambered for that candle. There was just this need to be close to the light.
"Who's there?" he called out.
Creak. The door pushed open a little more, revealing a dim glow that pierced through the back.
He called out again. "Hello?"
Again there was no answer.
Finding the strength within his weakened body—and using that chair for support—Ace shakily rose his feet. Thankfully after a moment the room wasn't spinning anymore, just swaying and going a bit out of focus. He then took an unsteady step forward, bare feet treading the damp floor.
He curled his fingers around the edge of the door and gave it a pull. As he thought, it took more than a light breeze to coax it to move. Just one foot in front of the other, he thought. But getting his body to do as he wanted was another matter. His body felt heavy.
Step. Down a twisting flight of stairs.
Glancing ahead, Ace discovered that the source of that faint glow that had appeared just outside the door was a lighted torch. An iron holder mounted into the stone masonry held it in place. He hurried towards it. And upon reaching that comforting light the blaze of another appeared further down.
It was the start of a trail—one that he had no choice but to follow.
Just where was this it leading?
He reached the base of the stairs and swallowed hard before rounding a corner, stepping into a long hall. The wind howled, rattling windowpanes that were cracked with age. Worn curtains of a faded red appeared violet and then black with the lack of proper lighting. Lightning streaked the skies outside, illuminating the dimly lit corridor a bit more. Just for a second. Then to the left another torch was lit. And then another. Ace was shivering again, using the crumbling stone wall to support himself.
He moved through a labyrinth of hallways both long and short, checking every doorway. Most were locked, checked in vain. But one did open. That was something Ace could be thankful for. If he were to go any further and meet this castle's master, he'd rather not be unprepared.
He entered cautiously, feeling as if the gloom that filled the room were trying to pull him in. There were no windows, but as he peered through the murk he could just make out the shapes of what was there. This particular room looked to be in the same state as the rest of this strange place. Practically in ruin. A large table in the middle of the room was broken in two. A basic chandelier lay between the splintered ends—
It was right beside him.
Ace let out a cry as he stumbled, landing on his rear. He scrambled back into the wall, but afterward he saw that the figure had vanished. That was when he noticed the mirror that hung directly across from him. He stood, narrowing his eyes at it, feeling silly that he'd just been spooked by his own reflection. Stupid mirror...
He approached the mirror—not because he wanted a better look at himself and the terrible state he knew his body was in. He really didn't feel the need to see to believe anymore. What actually caught his attention was the scabbard that hung from a short leather strap from the silver lion's head decorating the very top of the mirror, and the sword that was still sheathed within it.
Ace stood on his toes, trying to snatch the blade free but only succeeding in bringing the entire display down, mirror and all. Glass shattered as it hit the floor.
"Damn it!" he gritted out, crouching down.
This was certainly a fine mess he'd gotten himself into. He could just hear Marco's teasings now. "Honestly, Ace..." he would say. "You are nothing but trouble and more trouble! With a capital T!"
Trouble he was and it was trouble he was in—
A low, taunting tone.
Ace twisted around, snatching up the sword. His hand tightened around the hilt, ready to pull the blade free. "I know you're there!" He hurried for the door, meeting the emptiness of the hall. "I'm not playing your games!"
Did he hear laughter?
His dark gray eyes caught glimpse of a shadow. In the half second it took to face it whatever source had been there seemed to have vanished. He was shoved from behind. Catching himself as he stumbled forward, Ace whirled around once more finding... nothing.
Slinging the strap of the scabbard over his shoulder, he backed out of the room, taking off at top speed. Behind him, the torches that lit his way were extinguished one by one. The darkness was beginning to chase him. His breaths were already ragged as he reached the end of the hall, bolting down another downwardly winding stair. Wherever this was leading him, he prayed that an exit was close by. He'd brave the storm is it meant getting out of this place.
Down another passage.
His heart pounded in his ears as he ran. Breaths were ragged pants. He didn't really know what kept him moving. He just couldn't stop.
A pair of large double doors appeared at the end of the corridor. Once reached, Ace rammed his entire body into them, staggering into the room.
He was nearly blinded by a bright, bright light.
It was a large room, a great hall with a vaulted ceiling supported by tall pillars carved with images of gargoyles. This entire space was illuminated by hundreds of carefully placed candles, it was almost as bright as day. This was the only room where the windows weren't damaged. Stained glass lit up with vibrant colors as lightning exploded behind them.
As Ace wearily ventured onward, his foot touched down in something wet. He glanced down, his eyes widening as he found himself standing in a puddle of blood. Multiple voices of laughter suddenly filled the room as he jumped back.
His head snapped up. "Who's there?"
He looked around, but could see no one. Then, unexpectedly a pair of icy hands rested on his shoulders, taking a firm hold. Ace's body instantly tensed. The owner of these hands leaned forward to say, "You don't remember?"
A tongue dabbed down, licking the puncture marks on Ace's neck. An odd feeling came with it and he shivered. His body was becoming more sensitive to the touch. And he did not like it. Ace shoved away, yanking his sword free from its sheath. Yet when he turned to cut down his foe, he found he was alone once more.
"Show yourself!" he said, biting out the words.
Another voice spoke. "Did you hear that?"
Others snickered. Knowing that the laughter was directed at him, Ace could feel his face heat up.
"Is that what you want, Storm Eyes?" said another.
Something blurred right past Ace. His gaze followed it, eying one of the more dusky corners of the room. Someone was standing there, leaning back on the wall with a knee drawn up. Ace held his ground, lifting his chin as he met this stranger's gaze. It took all the skills he had learned within his troupe to mask all he was feeling at that moment.
"Who are you?" he rasped.
The stranger pushed off the wall and walked into the light. Right away Ace knew something wasn't natural about him. Something was wrong. He was a tall, massive man and could easily tower over him. He wore a black cloak, and it seemed black was all he wore. He had a scraggly coal-black beard and long curly hair of the same shade that fell onto his shoulders.
Ace would have thought the most striking feature of this man were his eyes—they were a dark red in color and they appeared to flicker and glow—but then his gaze dipped down to his mouth. The stranger wore a grin, and by that grin it could be seen he was missing a few teeth.
Only... two long, sharp canines were not among those that were lost.
"They call me Teach the Black," said the stranger. Those red, red eyes glanced at the blade Ace held in his hands. "And what do you plan to do with that?" He arched a brow, looking quite amused. "That isn't one of your stage props, boy."
"You want to see what I can do?" Ace snapped, pointing the sharp shining steel of his blade at the creature. "Come at me!"
Teach's smirk was a cruel twist of his lips.
And in an instant he was gone.
Ace didn't have time to react, or even blink, before a sharp blow to his back knocked him right off balance. He hit the floor hard. Sword clattered on the floor, out of his reach.
He scrambled to his feet, bolting for his weapon and managing to grab hold of the hilt. But a foot appeared to step on the blade. He looked up, catching a glimpse of Teach before his other foot slammed into his jaw, sending him flying backwards.
The wall crumbled a bit as he crashed into it with an unbelievable force. He crumpled to the floor. The coppery tang of blood filled his mouth and he spit it out. Then without warning, two sets of hands took hold of his arms, yanking him roughly to his feet.
"I can see what you like about this one, My Master." said one of his captors. Ace recognized the voice as the one who took hold of his shoulders when he first entered the room. It was a pale man with long, stringy black hair. His face was so white it reminded Ace of stage makeup he wore during every performance.
The other, a tall man with thick curling brown hair and a patch over one eye, nodded in agreement. "It would be a shame to let him waste away..."
"Such a pretty mortal," said the pale man with a grin. Feeling cold long fingers stroke his hair, Ace jerked away.
"Wh-what?" Ace looked between the two men, the two creatures that held him securely before facing Teach once more. His jaw slackened as he watched him vanish from where he stood over the broken sword and reappear with his face inches from his own. He stared into those blood red eyes. "What... are you?"
Even with what he saw, he couldn't bring himself to believe in those old stories. It just couldn't be.
"What are you? He asks," said yet another voice, following with a terrible cough.
"You'd think he'd know by now." He heard a woman say. A glance to the right and Ace could see the shadowed forms of others lurking behind the tall pillars.
Teach took a firm hold of Ace's face, bringing his gaze back to him. "I've been watching you for a long time, Storm Eyes." Ace trembled, trying to pull away as this monster, whatever he was, brushed his lower lip with his thumb. That dark smirk only tugged further up his less-than-pleasing features. "You can say I've become an admirer."
"What are you going to do?" Ace breathed, his voice was quivering but his eyes looked up with defiance.
"I wish for you to join my coven!" Teach replied.
Ace struggled, but couldn't free himself from his captors' grasps. "And if I refuse?"
Teach raised his brows. "Refuse?"—the crimson in his eyes flickered as he leaned forward—"What on earth makes you think you have that kind of choice?"
He bent down, plunging his fangs into Ace's neck.
Ace opened his mouth in a silent scream. Then choking cries gave way to a long groan as his body found twisted pleasure within the agony of being bitten, his life slowly being drained. No, no! He shook, but couldn't quite find the coordination to fight.
The corners of his vision were going black. It took every ounce of his strength to kick out—and by chance he landed a blow between Teach's short legs. Blood spilled from the vampire's lips as he dropped. With a need to get away, Ace then slammed the chests of his captors with both elbows. The breath knocked from them, they instantly lost their grip. His fist shot out, hitting the pale man in the jaw.
Next, Ace dove for the broken blade, scooping up the hilt in his hand before shooting back up to face these creatures. The jagged end that remained of the blade glinted in the candlelight. It was still sharp.
The eyes of the pale man and the tall gentleman with the eye patch glowed with the same read as their master's. They then bared fangs of their own, hissing. But Teach rose slowly, his hand signaling his underlings to stand back. He then turned to Ace with that wicked grin back on his face. Even laughed a little. "Please," he said. "Let me entertain your simple mortal mind with a story—"
And he vanished.
Though weak, dizzy from blood loss Ace gripped his sword, trying his best to steel himself. But he rocked on his feet, gasping for air as he looked left and right trying to predict where Teach may appear next.
He sensed a presence behind him, but once he spun around his broken sword cut nothing.
Teach laughed. "You see... you and your kind live within a world you have created for yourselves, completely unaware that you mingle with another." It sounded as if the vampire's voice was everywhere at once. "And within this other world there are creatures, my kind included, locked forever in a war as old as the time of Man. Our one purpose is to fight and kill off every faction but our own."
A shadow loomed over Ace. He twisted around again, and again his blade slashed only air.
"And how do we increase our chances in this never ending war?" That voice rasped in his ear.
Ace looked down to see his hands were suddenly empty—
The broken edge of his sword plunged into his stomach.
"We find worthy mortals," said the vampire. "And we bring them across to our race."
Blood bubbled from Ace's mouth. He never imagined such pain, couldn't even believe his own eyes as his gaze dropped down to the blade jutting out of his body. Ugly sounds left his throat as he collapsed to the cold stone floor. Tears tracked down his face.
"Poor little Storm Eyes," he heard Teach say, seeing him kneel beside him and wrapping his fingers around the blade.
Ace gasped as he felt the sword twist within his body before being ripped free. That sticky crimson pooled on his chest and he could feel it run down his skin. Through a haze of tears he looked up at Teach, horrified as he watched him lick the blood from the blade and laugh.
"It's so easy to forget how fragile you mortal creatures are," he said, drawing the boy into his arms. "You don't have much of a choice now."
He bit his own wrist, letting his own blood flow. Ace turned his head away as it was then moved to his mouth, offered to him.
"N-no!" he strained to say.
But as he writhed, Teach held him firm. "It's either death or everlasting life! And it would be a shame to let such a storm die..."
Ace spit blood in his face, grating out, "Death!"
He didn't want to die. He really didn't. But if living meant turning into such a monster, he'd fall into death with arms wide open.
Anger flashed in Teach's eyes and before he knew it his mouth was forced open. Don't swallow! Ace thrashed, trying to spit it out. It was too late. The blood dripped hot onto his tongue, sliding down his throat.
His body suddenly felt cold, numb. He struggled for breath but the labors of his lungs ceased. His pounding heart slowed to a stop. The dark gray of Ace's unseeing eyes captured the sudden flash as lightning struck outside...
Yes. I have changed a lot in 'Minutes' for this rewrote. The plot is basically the same, with a few location changes within the beginning. And, yes. I have decided against making Ace a knight. Instead I tore a page free from 'The Vampire Lestat' and made him an actor in a traveling theatre. This was also something a friend said I should do... so I ran with it.
I do appologize to the fans of the older version of the story for the changes, but I do hope you enjoy this new version too.
There is more to come.