"So, Natasha, what do you think of the American Civil War so far? Is it living up to your memories? Were you even turned then?" The silky voice pulled me from my remote viewing of the past lives of the two vampires that I'd never met. I wasn't going to volunteer where and when I lived to the unknown disembodied voice taunting me. It was pretty obvious to me that it wasn't someone who knew me or my past with my Master Simon, and I didn't feel like sharing such things. I wasn't sure why I'd been dragged back to this particular slice of history but at least I wasn't still killing escaped zoo animals intent of trying to bite my neck back in Balboa Park. I wondered if I was dead just for a minute and then pushed that notion away. If I was, it wasn't like I could change it, now could I?
I shrugged and tried to see anything in the vague gray view of nothingness that I had in front of me and it was pressing in on me suffocating me in the silence. My eyes were open, I was pretty sure, but not positive since there wasn't anything to see.
"Keep watching," his voice commanded, like I had a choice, and I fell back to watching Charles.
1863: South Carolina and beyond ...
Beau had gone back to tell Pee Dee about something, and Charles lost sight of his brother. It was then that he watched Pee Dee Sedgwick get slain. Nobody had horses by then because they'd either died in battle, run away or been killed for food. Horsemeat was a luxury for the starving soldiers, even when it cost them time. They didn't kill their own horses, but the enemy's or so they claimed. It didn't matter because the horses were nearly dead by then due to lack of feed and grass. So it was too far away from where Pee Dee was getting carved up for him to assist the man without revealing his vampiric speed. Thus the 'leader' of the assault was gone and the men around him panicked. The sun rose, and one of the attackers clipped him on the back of the head. Despite his best resolve, he fell to the soil and was unconscious. The next thing he knew he was inside a tent with dead and dying humans, waiting for the vampire that was feeding on the soldiers. He could sense another vampire on the edges but didn't know who it was.
He'd tried to reach out for his older brother, Beau, but there was no response. That concerned him. They'd been able to find each other through all the fights whenever they had been separated in the past few weeks. He hoped it was just the distance between them not something worse.
There were groans and sighs of men fading with the sunlight. It wasn't true dark yet, but dark enough for him to look down and see the death grimace of his closest companion. The boy couldn't have been much more than eighteen, if that, and his face was contorted with the agony of a horribly pain filled death. He was pretty sure the kid had been called Abernathy but he wasn't sure if it was his first name or family name. Not that it mattered now. He'd been pulled into joining the battles with the thoughts of glory and rewards. His family had been dirt-poor living up in the Appalachians with a dozen or so kinfolks in a two-bedroom shack from the camp side stories he'd told. That was all the boys did in the evenings was huddle next to a small fire and tell tall tales of imagined riches and the family they'd left behind.
Abernathy had been slow speaking but not dimwitted like a few of the other boys. He'd picked his words carefully and whittled at a piece of wood in the glow of the fire. His stories were enjoyable to Charles' ears and he'd enjoyed watching the boy as he crafted his words to give a visual while his hands and knife shaped bits of wood at the same time. Charles missed his books and the conversation of the local dignitaries that Beau and he had met over the years. He shook himself free from his mental meanderings and looked around the dimly lit tent. He found that whoever had pulled him from the battlefield had been considerate enough to leave him his sword and his shoes. He'd seen a few dead soldiers stripped of the most unusual things over the weeks. He'd seen that in death there was little room for dignity.
Sighing at the demise of such a young man, Charles continued his way slowly out of the tent. The smell of blood was starting to get to him, and he didn't want to end up doing something he'd later regret. The vampire that had been feasting on the soldiers was more than likely the one that was approaching and Charles wasn't sure he needed that confrontation. Blending in with the humans had put a strain on him in the past few weeks, and it wouldn't take much for his fangs to slide out and him to drain a victim or three in order to face off against another vampire.
He found a slit in the tent that had been poorly mended and ripped apart the loose stitching to make the gap larger. It took a few minutes because he'd taken care to close the opening after he got outside. He didn't need the soldiers raising a cry about a possible missing body and a hole in the tent. Then he wondered where his brother was. Once he was outside he took a deep breath of unfouled air and looked around the gray and rock strewn field. He saw that the tent where the men were dying was furthest from the earlier battle site and on the edge of some fairly full woodland. He walked briskly into the dense brush and inhaled the green smell. Wet earth mixed with the mulch odor of decaying leaves and brush -- an aroma far more welcome than dying men and thick, tempting blood running beneath their ripped and torn skin. The woods were clearing his mind from all the scents and especially the forbidden blood traveling through the soldiers' veins that had been pushing at his nerves.
The wind blew through him and he knew by morning there would be frost on the ground. The winter was quickly winding its way through the hills and valleys despite it only being November. He was pacing through the rough pathways, trying to put as much distance between himself and the tents. He quickly discovered that there were a few stray humans hiding in the woods from both sides of the confrontation. He took one young man and drained him of a pint of blood. Once finished he put the boy out and left him with lovely thoughts of his family and less of the war. It was a necessary deed, drinking the fresh blood, because he had begun to grow weak. The tension that had been pushing at the back of his mind faded and he tried to get his bearings in the unknown wilderness. Clouds and few stars were visible to light his way. He was prevented from immediately being able to determine where exactly he was. He had a vague idea of due north and began to head in that direction away from the field of dead and dying. There was no need to go back into battle since his brother was gone. He figured he'd head back home and eventually Beau would find his way there. The war could go on without him as far as he was concerned.
He rounded another set of bushes and froze. There was a vampire nearby and it wasn't Beau. He'd grown distracted while musing about where he was going. Angry with himself for such an inexcusable lapse, he allowed his fangs to come out and he pulled the sword from its sheath. The blade was true and had aided him in many fights.
To his stunned eyes an oddly dressed pretty woman walked to him with her fangs extended. The fangs caught his attention immediately. She hissed out, "Who are you?"
"I might ask the same of you," he didn't answer.
He wasn't sure if this was the creature that'd been draining the soldiers to their final death in the tents and he certainly wasn't going to take any chances. He kept the blade tilted in her general direction. It seemed like the most logical thing at the time but he felt somewhat silly given she wasn't some huge overbearing soldier but a mere female -- a vampire one at that. So there was no need to be foolish thus he kept the weapon pointed.
"You might and it wouldn't mean that I would answer," she looked at the sword in his hands and laughed.
"What?" He glanced down at the sword and in that instant using her vampiric speed she'd closed the distance between them and was wound in his arms. He couldn't swing the sword and strike at her without taking a chunk of his own skin with the movement. She pushed him back first into a roughly barked tree and asked, "Now, again who are you?"
Charles was at loss for words. Most vampires he'd known had been men and the few females had been submissive minions. Male vampires were stronger and faster than the females he'd seen and always in control. The female vampires tended to the males in his world. This creature was neither submissive nor in any way compliant. He found himself momentarily distracted by her distinctively vampiric scent.
"It doesn't matter," he went to push her off him but the sword in his right hand began to glow. He'd never seen it do that before and from the vampire's gasp she hadn't seen such a thing either.
Grinning into her face he said, "My sword."
She laughed and shied away from the blue-green blade out of his unintentional embrace. He stepped away from the tree as he felt a tingle running from his shoulder down to his fingertips. A light hum seemed to be coming from the metal. He'd killed many humans with his weapon but never a vampire. A thread of an idea was pushing to his head -- he thought that the sword was hungry. It was an alien thought to him but it seemed right.
A shadow whipped out from the trees on the other side of the small clearing where he'd met up with the female. In the distance Charles could easily see that the newcomer was also holding a sword. Shoving the female vampire who was a half step from him roughly aside, Charles pulled his blade up to meet the approaching vampire swinging his blade. The silhouette made its way into the little bit of open ground. He watched a glint of moonlight reveal the attacker. This wasn't another woman vampire, but a very angry deranged looking male vampire. He was pretty sure that this was the vampire who'd been killing the soldiers. There was an air that surrounded the vampire -- a certain feeling of the depravity of his soul that rang true and harmful.
They continued to clash blades and swing for each other's bodies and necks. They both were using vampiric speed and sparks were literally flying from the furious attacks. Charles was thankful that he'd fed or he would have been dead for sure given the speed and strength of the maniac. He was trying to keep away from the thrusts and slices while administering his share of damage. Every time his sword touched the other vampire's skin the blade would shine a bit brighter. The glow was illuminating the small clearing unnaturally. Then it was suddenly over. The female vampire had grabbed a rock and brained the vampire from behind with enough force to send him foreward and impale him onto Charles' extended sword tip. The vamp was pinned like a butterfly to a corkboard at a local museum. The vampire was frozen in stunned disbelief, his own sword fell with a heavy thud to the dirt as his fingers flew up and tried to grasp at the edge of the sword. The attempt was useless and the vampire's mouth was a gasping hole of teeth and blackness.