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April 22, 2024

Strange Bedfellows 64

By Lydia Manx

"Oh, my! Natasha, this battle has excited you. What did you see? Was it someone you know? Or maybe something you recognize? Has my little rearrangement of time suited your curiosity?"

I wanted to shove a sword through the unknown tormentor. The creature that had pulled me from Balboa Park where I'd been fighting off lions, tigers and other assorted escapees from the San Diego Zoo. At least back in the Park I had the support of Simon, my Master, Harry and Renee not to mention the werewolves. Carlos wasn't impressive in his human shape but really did some damage as a werewolf and Marcus was scary in either shape. I still could hear in my brain the rending, gulping and crunching of the various predators on both sides feasting on the fallen. Not that there were many animals left when I'd been snatched out of time to watch the scenes and life of Charles-the-vampire in the past. The Civil War was going strong at the time and Charles was fighting for the South until he'd ended up in a tent with the dying Southern soldiers that had fought in a battle in a nearby field. From there it had started to get very interesting. I didn't reply to the voice and let myself go back again to find out what happened to the vampires. And yes one or two things did tickle my brain but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of being right and gloating. I knew naturally that he was the sort to gloat.

1863: South Carolina, late fall, in the woods a bit away from the battle ...

A jolt of pure energy ran through Charles as the blade found the crazy vampire's heart. He screamed out in victory and power. He could actually feel a wave of emotions rushing through him. There were bits and pieces of people in happy times and their faces in death. He saw Abernathy's face and with that he knew that the vampire who'd attacked him was the same one who'd been killing off the soldiers. Abernathy had been dreaming when the vampire had come into the tent to take his life. The unknown vampire had crept into the boy's thoughts as an elderly uncle wanting to know why the boy was fighting. Charles felt the initial fear from Abernathy as he saw the faux uncle. Abernathy hadn't spoken of this family member when talking around the fires in the evening. His memories of the uncle were twisted and wrong. The uncle had been a predator of the human kind, so for the vampire to taint the boy's nightmares with a reminder of a not so gentler time was beyond cruel. Charles was pretty sure that the vampire had known what sort of creature he'd used to invade Abernathy's mind.

Nevertheless, Abernathy had been taught to respect his elders and carefully answered the fake uncle's inquiry about the war. In Abernathy's mind it was just a horrible nightmare that wasn't showing any signs of ending. He kept trying to redirect the intense probing of the predator vampire. The vampire didn't allow the boy to stray from the war. Abernathy explained slowly that it was his duty to protect his family and the best of the United States of America. He said that his family had come up from the Deep South, which was said with reverence and passion, and that they always had respected the ways of their ancestors. There was a tone of awe when he spoke of his family that Charles was familiar with from the boy's stories.

The vampire had found it strange, obviously, from his follow up questions. He wanted more and more from Abernathy. But Abernathy was wearing down the more the vampire mentally drained him with his probing and questions. Soon Abernathy died with the vampire's fangs in his chest drawing out the last of his lifeblood and memories one final time. It explained why Abernathy had such a horrid look of death on his face when Charles had passed him earlier in the night. What was bugging Charles was where was he when this vampire was preying on Abernathy? Had the vampire seen him? Had he dismissed him as not worthy of bothering with as an opponent until they came upon each other in the clearing, or perhaps he'd not known what Charles was? There had been an element of something broken about the vampire he was fighting, and maybe he didn't easily recognize other vampires. It didn't matter any longer as the female vampire had shoved him onto Charles' blade.

Something had happened with his weapon when he stabbed the vampire. He felt stronger and more alert. He was warmed inside by the energy. The sword was stroking his brain from the inside and it was a taste of sheer pleasure -- and it scared Charles a little bit.

Charles tore the sword through the vampire's chest and severed the arteries to the heart with a quick circular motion. Once the vampire's heart was free from his chest Charles pulled the blade out and with two hands decapitated the vampire. There'd be no returning for this vampire. The aggressive vampire hadn't uttered a single sound other than grunts and huffs during their fight. With his death, Charles was further dismayed to wonder at the vampire's origins and true name. To die unnamed seemed wrong for such a fierce, lethal vampire. The soldiers that had fed the vampire had been nearly dead so that wasn't quite as bad as ripping into humans on the street -- though he imagined some people wouldn't see it quite that way.

The female said, "Well, that was certainly different."

Turning to her nodding he said, "Most definitely. And again you are?"

"Impressed with your sword work." She grinned at him and stepped towards the dead vampire. The head seemed very lifelike but Charles knew it wasn't going to spring upwards and attack. The eyes were dark and hooded not a single sign of life was visible in them. Given it was about a half foot from the rest of the vampire's body it was definitely unable to maneuver up and reattach to the vampire's body and then continue to attack them. There wasn't anything of the vampire left to spirit such a movement, the heart and head were both removed making any sort of recovery difficult. She gingerly toed the lopped off head and smiled. She was taking pleasure in the vampire's demise.

"Guess he won't be joining us." She turned back with a skip further illustrating her delight, and then looking at him, she put her fists on her hips.

Her clothing was odd and it took him a minute to grasp what it was that had distracted him initially. Then it came to him that she wasn't wearing men's riding attire like he'd first assumed, but actually deliberately dressed in men's clothing. She was a strongly featured woman with fair skin and dark hair. The hair was caught up in some elaborate arrangement of twists and twirls that were nearly hidden by the cap she had perched on her head. From a distance with her height and bearing it would be easy to mistake her for finely featured man. It took him another second to figure out that she'd bound her breasts leaving a slight thickness that would be erroneously attributed to a strong chest, not a female's cleavage. To him her distinctive aroma was female vampire, no amount of binding and clothing would distract him from that. She wasn't ancient, but not a newly turned vampire. She'd fed recently from a willing victim. That was something he could easily tell with his vampiric senses. Various vampires had various skills and senses, and one that he and Beau possessed was the ability to smell the age on vampires and the feeding patterns. It had helped them in clearing out their territory in the beginning of living in the Americas. Europe had so many vampires he'd seen and sensed that it was maddening at times. It wasn't so in America.

Shaking his head he said, "And by 'us' you mean ..?"

"Why, you and I. You are Charles -- are you not?" Her eyes glinted mischievously as he started by her use of his first name.

"Did Beau send you?" Charles looked behind her into the brush as if just saying his name would summon him. He hadn't ever thought that he'd miss his older brother's nagging and high commands, but having been without him for a few nights now and not being able to sense him was having an odd effect on him.

"No." She looked momentarily upset.

"What? You have news of my brother?" Charles wanted to shake her but figured out that probably wasn't his best idea. Keeping his hands to himself he looked down his nose to find she'd moved again within arms length. She seemed to find closeness to him important. He wasn't sure why. Human women were easily read and redirected as he willed, but this vampire didn't fall into the proper patterns of any that he'd ever known.

"Not directly. My intention is to get you out of this area. I hadn't realized we would run into the vampire that has been haunting the tents and makeshift graveyards of the soldiers. There is talk of our kind making the way across the battlefields and someone has told the humans how to kill us. With all the death and destruction of everyone's homes and beloved towns it is easy for them to believe in us now. Vampires are being discussed at campsites and by people who couldn't even imagine such as us a year or two ago." Her voice had dropped and she was serious. Charles felt a nervous twitch run through him that wasn't pleasant. That would explain why his brother wasn't communicating with him. Beau could be dead. Truly dead and not able to find him -- that was horrific, but definitely a possibility. His stomach hurt at the thought.

"Who are you?" He asked a bit more stridently than he knew. She looked up at him with a slight grin, and he found her gaze direct and not at all like the other women that he'd known. She didn't need him for anything at all and that was disconcerting to the older vampire. Independent women were rarities in his world, either human or vampire form.

"I'm your best bet of getting out of here alive." She looked at him and turned away not answering.

"But you know my name." He followed her while barely glancing at the now-dead vampire when they walked passed him, as they continue to put distance between them and the camp.

The animals nearby in the woods were already heading in their direction and would make short work of the semi rotting body. The vampire would be gone before dawn and little would be left to inspire much interest. If the body remained untouched by the carrion eaters, the sun would do enough damage to make the vampire disappear. He didn't have time to dig a grave and start a bonfire. The best way in the long term to deal with vampire remains were often debated, but he knew a shallow grave and roaring fire made quick work of the old bones and sinew. It wasn't something he liked doing, but Beau and he had learned over the years how to deal with rogue and intruding vampires.

"Yes, I do," she grinned back over her shoulder.

He shook his head and sheathed the sword. There weren't any other vampires near, and the humans were far enough away that he'd have plenty of time to pull out the blade if needed. She walked with purpose through the bushes and trees. There was no pathway but a thin trickle of water off to the right and an animal trail not much wider than the female's hips. His hips kept getting poked and scraped by the various brambles and vines that seemed to aim for him. He could smell the slight cuts as they filled with his borrowed blood. He gritted his teeth while keeping close to the woman. She was picking up speed as they went deeper into the woods. There was little light coming in as autumn's clouds were covering the treetops and a light mist was beginning to fall. The shadows were growing and her dark clothing was being absorbed by the night. He quickened his pace and closed the gap between them. Her scent flooded him and he was intrigued.

"What do I call you, vampire?" He spoke softly and watched her spine stiffen at the word. It was rare for vampires to acknowledge the name if there was any chance of being discovered. He found it funny to see -- she reacted instantly by spinning to him and stopping dead middle on the almost path.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-11-22
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