Her body rocked rhythmically with the sway of the train's movement and the constant, evenly spaced sounds it produced gently drew her mind out of the fog of drug-induced sleep. Her eyes fluttered open briefly before the pain behind them forced them closed once again.
"He said you aren't to sit up yet." The quiet voice of a child forced her to open her eyes again and turn her aching head toward its source. Her fuzzy vision slowly came into focus on the thin girl that sat next to the bed in which she currently found herself. "So please don't sit up. He'll punish me if you do." The girl sounded more wary than frightened.
"Who…" The groggy woman began to ask when her dry throat protested the action and forced her into a fit of coughing.
"Here." A little hand held out a glass of water. "It's hard to get you to drink when you're asleep." It sounded like an apology. She started to reach for the offered glass when the girl's voice rose in alarm. "NO!" The child squeaked out. "I'll do it. No sitting up." Too tired to protest, she allowed the glass to be lifted to her lips. The water wasn't cool but it seemed like the most refreshing liquid she'd ever tasted. She gulped down the liquid, not event taking a breath before finishing it all.
"Where am I?" She finally asked when the glass was removed.
"On the masters' train."
"A train?" A nod from the little girl was her only answer. "How did I… what happened?" This time the girl shrugged.
"We were stopped for a long time. Before we left again, you were brought on. I thought you were dead but then he told me to clean you and watch over you." The little girl was trying to answer her question but it wasn't working. Everything in her memory was dark and fragmented. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to remember where she'd been before this train. A fire. She remembered something about a fire, and running but everything before and after remained a blur.
"I'm sorry, who are you?"
"My mom called me Anne. Black Hat calls me kid."
"Black Hat…" Saying the odd name forced a new memory. A man. She recalled a man in a long duster and an old, wide brimmed hat that kept his face in the shadows. She was pulled from the new memory when the child spoke up again.
"Yeah, he was the one that brought you on the train. Some of them wanted to feed off of you," Anne absently rubbed her forearm at the mention of feeding, "but he wouldn't let them." The movement caught the woman's eyes and for the first time she noticed the mass of bruises covering the little girl's arms. Then it all came back in a flood of terrifying images, the tortured young queen, the invasion and its ensuing massacre.
She didn't have much time to dwell on her sudden revelation when a voice from the corner startled them both.
"Out kid." A toneless voice broke in. Anne jumped at the sound of the command. She obviously hadn't heard him enter either. She moved quickly toward the door keeping as much distance between her and the unsettling man as possible.
"She didn't sit up. She tried once but I made sure she didn't." It was said quickly and meekly as she scooted backwards out of the room. She pulled the door shut, never once looking directly at the man. He didn't give any indication that he'd even heard her let alone acknowledged her existence beyond issuing the command. Once the door closed, he simply stood in the corner. It felt as though he'd just appeared out of nowhere.
"I was beginning to think you weren't ever going to wake up." He remained still, his face hidden by the shadowed corner and the wide brim of his hat. He saw everything though. The woman on the bed seemed frozen save for the shallow, irregular rise and fall of her chest. His first move was to slightly cock his head to the side. He liked to hear the rapid beat of her heart. It reminded him that he hadn't fed recently; his tongue absently traced one of his elongated canines.
"She would have been greatly disappointed if you had died." The comment seemed to get her attention. He watched as her forehead knotted slightly. "She has developed quite the affection for you after what you did for her." He watched as she attempted to rise. "Don't." His gravely command was delivered in a tone that stopped the woman dead.
"I…" she began before a fit of coughing overtook her. It was the first time he decided to move. The kid had left the water glass on the bedside table. The bottom of the glass still had remnants of water left in the bottom. It was clear she had succeeded in getting their patient to drink but obviously not quite enough. He crossed the room and refilled the glass from the pitcher. He ignored the woman's attempts to move herself away from him. "Drink." He commanded again.
When she continued to cower and didn't attempt to take the glass from him, he moved with a speed that shocked and terrified the woman. Wide, frantic eyes and the increase in her already rapid heart rate easily told the tale of her distress. He descended on her; one hand roughly slipped behind her head and grabbed a fistful of dark hair while the other deftly kept all of the glass's contents from sloshing out. She let out an abbreviated yelp of panic before the glass was none too lightly forced to her lips.
"When I tell you to do something, you do not hesitate. You will not like the consequences… though I might. Now drink." His tone brokered no room for argument. He got what he wanted when she started taking hurried gulps of water, her eyes never stopped trying to see his face. He watched her drain the contents of the glass. He couldn't help but enjoy the movement her neck made with each swallow. It played well with the rhythmic pulse of blood that rushed a fraction of an inch beneath the surface of her delicate flesh. When she'd finished, he set the glass aside. He used his now empty hand to wipe away some of the water she'd allowed to escape the glass that was dripping from her chin to her chest.
"Please…" He heard her whisper out. He smiled, letting her see his teeth. Her already erratic breathing hitched in the back of her throat. "What are you?" He gripped her chin and raised his head just high enough for the meager light of the lamp to allow her to see his entire face. He enjoyed her ensuing gasp.
"What am I?" He asked rhetorically as he stared at her with non-human, amber eyes. "You'll find that out soon enough." He held her like that for a few moments longer, his face dangerously close to hers before he pulled away, retrieving the glass as he went. He filled it once more and held it out to her. "Now drink."
This time a shaky hand reached out for the glass and she did as she was told. He smiled at her easily won obedience. Scared creatures were so easy to control and manipulate and she was absolutely terrified at the moment. He knew this level of fear would gradually lessen but he allowed himself to bask in it while it lasted. Soon curiosity would fight against the fear. She would undoubtedly want to know what was going to happen to her. Until then…
He took the glass from her when she'd completed her task and replaced it on the bedside table. He then moved back to his previous position in the corner of the room. He noticed that she relaxed a relative amount the farther he moved away from her. He smirked, it wasn't going to last.
"She's coming to see you." There went that knotted brow again and the courage that came with a need for understanding.
"Anne, the little girl?" She managed to eek out. He smiled for her again. She didn't take comfort in the expression, her fists knotting in the bed sheets, her whole body tensing at the unnatural sight.
"No, not…" She didn't have a chance to ask for clarification when the door opened. He watched as her attention was pulled toward the unexpected movement. The pasty white flesh of a familiar's hand pulled the door open wide before the pathetic creature stepped back with a submissively bowed head and hunched posture. Black Hat tolerated the slave familiars but he didn't like them. He refocused his sight on the woman in the bed. He wanted to watch her reaction to what she would see next.
She already seemed worried about the appearance of the familiar but the way her eyes widened and mouth opened in a silent gasp made him want to laugh. His respect for the creature that limped into the room kept that inclination in check. He was no longer the most powerful one in the room.
The young queen moved through the doorway and he could feel the small subsonic bursts she sent out as she surveyed the room and its occupants. This nocturnal creature of the underground had no eyes. She had no use for them though she saw everything in different ways. He inclined his head in a submissive gesture when he knew her focus was on him. Though mildly humanoid in appearance, true vampires generally moved about on all fours. The young queen was no different. She was smaller than the average warrior and smaller than her mother by half but she was also still quite young. Evidence of her recent torture was still present in both her gait and the almost bluish scars that covered her translucent white flesh. The young queen moved in an unthreatening manner over to the side of the bed. Black Hat could tell that her efforts to not frighten the human were in vain. The human didn't know enough about their kind to recognize threatening from non-threatening. All she saw was a terrifying beast coming straight for her. He couldn't really blame her though, it was rare for vampire to be this close to a human and not have its intentions be for food or death.
"The princess wants you to know that she will not harm you." The woman's eyes shot to him for a second before returning to the terrifying visage before her. She'd been that terrified of him only moments ago but the young queen had completely replaced him in that hierarchy. "She's pleased you have woken from your coma."
"She's… how do you know?" The woman blurted out in near panic.
"Because she's telling me such." Again her eyes shot to his, confusion and fear painted clearly on her features. "She also thanks you for your service."
"My service…" He didn't even let her pose the question.
"The compassion you showed her. She will not soon forget it." The woman's eyes widened as sudden comprehension washed over her.
"She's the one they were torturing." She absently breathed out. He ignored her comment.
"The princess wishes to know your name." She no longer looked to him when he spoke but kept her eyes glued to the young queen whose eyeless face was now only mere feet from her own.
"Clessa, my name is Clessa." Her fear had abated somewhat. It seemed her fascination with the vampire she'd actually seen before was momentarily winning out over her instinctual fear.
"She wishes you to know Clessa," he let the name linger longer than was needed, drawing her attention as he'd intended; he finished the translation with a smirk, "that while you will not be made a feeder, you have been given as a requested prize." The fear came back. If she'd expected compassion in return, this was not the kind she had hoped for.
"Prize? What does she mean?"
He smiled again. "It means she gave you to me." Clessa's eyes immediately shot back to his. He continued before she could find her words of outrage. "You are mine to do with as I please." He paused for a moment before nodding his head at the princess who was now focused on him. "But," he continued unable to keep the mild disappointment from his voice, "I can not do any permanent damage to you."
The vampire returned her focus to the human, her movement startling Clessa enough that she jumped. "I can leave no bruise or scar. If I feed from you, I must heal the evidence. She wishes you to know that these rare considerations are given to you because of your service to her." He paused again. He didn't want to convey the next sentiment but loyally obeyed his sovereign. "If I ever break these rules, punishment will be dealt out to me in kind."
With that, the door reopened and the young queen moved out of the room. Black Hat bowed his head as she left. The familiar closed the door and they were alone once more.