The Last Witch Chapter 1 This must be what semi consciousness was like.
When vampires tired of living, rather than destroy themselves, sometimes they’d go into such a state. They called it semi consciousness because even though their bodies slept, they were very much aware. For some, it was temporary, and they’d wake every couple of decades-centuries. Others made the slip permanent; their bodies would forever be lost in the Earth. Was that what was going to happen to her? She wondered, as her consciousness wandered the Earth. It was like she was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. She could see and hear happenings in multiple cities. Mostly, she focused on the dying cries of vampires, and there was one that was most familiar to her. She honed in on that cry. As she got closer, she realized it wasn’t so much a cry as it was an angry scream.
In a small dark room there were two women. They were so old that their skin resembled alabaster. In the middle of a stone room, a blonde lady in rags peered into a water basin. “You’re driving me crazy!” said a dark haired lady with dark amber brown eyes. “You haven’t any clues?” “No,” said the lady in rags. “Haven’t you any guesses?” “No.” “Well, you’d better find something, or I’ll speed you into the afterlife.” “We all gotta go sometime,” said the woman. “Don’t get smart with me. I learned from the best. Your hell will be my making.” “I don’t know what you expect from me, Lyssa,” said the lady, looking up from the basin. “I was born when the last of my kind died out. I barely learned of the old ways before I was shoved into the Roman times. From then on, witch craft was a life I had to forget; even the polytheists hated us. Even today, human-
daughters of the old race are ignorant; they don’t even realize that they’re not wholly human. These things are lost forever, as is what happens to civilizations.” “Yes, well, help me succeed and I’ll restore your kind. You won’t be alone ever again. You can embrace what you never had.” “After 3000 years, do you really think I care about restoring my kind? I was happily resting this last century, until you came along.” She walked over to a stone bench and sat. Gesturing to the basin with her arm, she said, “Maybe you ought to take a look. You have the talisman now.” The amber eyed woman walked up to the basin and peered in. Starr’s consciousness followed her. Images of different parts of the world spun fast across the surface of the water. After hours of looking, she sighed. “Is there no other way?” “Come on,” said the old woman. She held her hand out to her. “Let us combine our strength.”
Credenza slipped her palm into the woman’s and pressed the talisman to her chest. They gazed into the basin for hours more.
Help on the Way Chapter 2 Her inner demon must have been warning her, for her consciousness was suddenly yanked back into her body.
Though she couldn’t open her eyes, she woke to find her snow grave had frozen her solid. She didn’t even feel the cold anymore. She heard movement above her. Starr tried to use her mind to see above her grave – a form of telepathy, but her powers weren’t working. Being frozen solid had impaired many of her vampire abilities.
She panicked when the sound of crunching snow came from right above her head. Whoever it was, she didn’t sense anything familiar about him or her. If the person was a Primordial, she didn’t want to get his or her attention. They’d surely destroy her without a care.
But surely the person knew she was there? And then, as if answering her question, the person left. Sleep dragged her down into the lofty layers of her mind, again.
Starr was back with Credenza, only they were no longer in the cave. They were flying through the atmosphere. The sky was black as pitch, but the stars and the moon lit the way. They flew all night long. She was looking for something. What? Starr didn’t know yet, but it must have been the same thing she was searching for in the basin. Just when the sky was divided between the sun and the moon, they descended into the window of a castle. Starr recognized the architecture, immediately. They were somewhere in Romania.
Credenza landed in a stone room. In the center was a large round table at which she sat. All along the walls, candles came to light by the command of Credenza’s mind. She lifted her hand to her neck and slowly pulled at the chain. From out of her shirt popped the red talisman. Closing her eyes, as if praying for strength, she lifted the chain off her neck and lay it on the desk. The power boost the charm gave her appeared to wear her out. Her posture became looser; her shoulders slouched. “Any luck?” asked an unfamiliar voice. In walked a man she’d never seen before. He was short and dark, and similar to Credenza. “No, not yet, Dracus,” she said, sounding exhausted. “Gwynna doesn’t remember much from the old days. I didn’t expect much, either. When she came to the Primordials, she was already pretty old.” He walked across the room to face her.
“You must find her and the stone because she’s your only hope! Lastly, you must get the grimoire back. I don’t understand how you could be so careless!” “I know that!” she shouted. “I’ve searched and searched. There’s not much more that I can do.” She stood up and walked to the window, where she peered down into the lush forest below. When Credenza looked up, Starr’s consciousness saw the tops of trees extend for miles under the cold gray sky. “I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not going to find her or the stone in any land,” the man said to her back. “What if the Primordials aren’t telling us everything?”
She woke, once more, just as frozen as she was before. Someone was back again. Their footsteps walked over her spot several times.
Starr couldn’t stand it anymore, being trapped there. Despite the risk that the person might be a Primordial, she psychically cried out. Help me! I’m right here; I can’t move my body! There was a murmuring above. Then, finally, there was a heavy sifting noise. After a few minutes, the snow on her body got lighter; sky light bled through her eyelids. Tears of relief leaked out of the corners of her eyes. The weight of the snow became considerably lighter, but her body was still like an ice cube. As the snow thinned out, she sensed that the people digging were familiar to her. More tears leaked out as she realized that one of them was Shane. She couldn’t get a read on the other person though. Yeah, it’s me, Shane spoke into her mind. I can’t move my body! My eyes and mouth are frozen shut.
Just relax. We’re getting you out. So stiff, she was that she didn’t even feel when they’d placed their hands on her and lifted her out of the grave. She heard them walk off. Though she knew Shane would never abandon her, she panicked. The sound of sticks dropping came, and some heavy thuds. Suddenly, a shocking orange color attacked the lids of her eyes. “MMMMMMMMMmmmmm!!!!!” she screamed through frozen lips. Painfully, heat attacked every cell of her body. She screamed again. Thawing was a most painful event, even for a vampire. Her muscles throbbed worse than anything she’d ever experienced. Pain from her joints shot out like knives through her body. An hour later, she slowly, painfully drew back her eye lids, only to shut them again. The moon was so bright it hurt.
Before she shut them, she got a quick glimpse of the man who accompanied Shane: Kris, the German albino. After a while, she was able to move her lips. However, when she tried to open her jaw, she screamed, once more. She still needed to thaw from the inside out. The sharp toned sound of crackling wood attacked her thawing ear drums. “Sorry,” said Kris.
The next morning, Starr was pretty thawed out, though still pretty stiff. She tried to stand, but fell, hard, back to the ground. Shane and Kris woke. “Sorry,” she said, “just testing out my legs.” Kris sat up and tossed more wood into the fire. “So, how’d you guys find me?”
“Psychic cry out,” said Shane. “I heard you call for help. Of course I can’t fly, so I went to Boston to find someone to help me get here.” “Did you find Emil?” “Who?” she asked raising her eyebrows slightly. “The guy I came here with. He works with the Black Fleet.” “We searched the entire mountain,” said Kris, “but we only sensed you.”
Although they tried to talk her out of it, Starr insisted that they search for Emil. Hours later, they’d made it back to the peak where they were initially hit by the avalanche. “Starr, there’s no one here,” said Shane. “What if he is, but we just can’t detect him. You couldn’t detect me when I was buried.” “We could sense your presence, but we just couldn’t pinpoint exactly where you were. Extreme cold has the tendency to throw off vampire sensing abilities. But I don’t believe that Emil is here,” said Kris.
“If that’s true, than Emil just left me here to freeze, forever,” Starr said, trying not to sound upset. “Not necessarily. He’s a young weak fledgling; perhaps he went for help. It would take him a lot longer to get down the mountain than other vampires.” “If we’re wrong, he could be up here for years.” “Well, we can come back and search in the spring, but, right now, we need to get out of here. Another storm will be coming,” Kris said, sounding worried. “This is, after all, only February.” “I can’t leave; I need to get to Valhol.” “Starr, if you go on, and you should get into trouble, we may not be able to help you. As it is, getting this far was quite a struggle,” Shane said with exasperation. “I have to go on because I need to find out what Credenza is up to. Lucenzo said I’m the only thing stopping her from getting back her soul.” Shane’s voice slightly quavered, as she asked, “What are you talking about?”
“While I was under the ice, I was able to connect with him. He explained to me that the Primordials are not the same as vampires. We are different.” “How?” asked Shane. “They’re another race, altogether. Vampires are what happened when they gave humans their blood.” Kris answered. “What humans became, after, was unforeseen.” “Why did they give humans their blood?” “The Primordials were dying out. Only a few were ever able to conceive with humans, likely due to genetic mutations. They gave humans their blood because they were hoping to make them immortal and strong, like them. Plus, in a way, their blood would always live in humans, symbolically keeping the Primordials alive always.” “But what’s this got to do with Credenza?” asked Shane. “Well, as Lucenzo explained it, drinking Primordial blood kills the host, departing the soul from the body. The soul is pure energy, and something that Primordials don’t have; it is also something that humans lose, once they drink the blood and, in a sense, die. Credenza has figured
out a way to bring back her soul from the beyond. She believes that reuniting her soul with her body will make her the most powerful vampire in the world. Neither man nor machine will be able to kill her. He claims that it was Credenza all along behind the vampire apocalypse, and that she’s got plans to try again.” “But Credenza is Primordial,” said Kris. “She can’t have a soul. It’s impossible because they’re immortals.” “Yes, but she’s only half. She was born with a soul, just like Lucenzo and Fernand were. They, too, drank Primordial blood and changed: died.” “But they’re not so strong that we can’t stop them?” asked Shane. “Not yet; every half Primordial has different strengths and weaknesses, but if she gets her soul back, the world will be doomed.” Starr paused a moment to let her words take effect, and then said, “Now, for some reason, she needs Lucenzo, who is still there, in Valhol. I saw her try to make some kind of deal with him while he was in prison.” “So, what’s your plan?” asked Kris.
“I’m gonna break him out.” “Starr!” Kris said loudly. “You could piss off a whole bunch of Primordials! They can kill you with just a thought!” The snowy inclines around them vibrated with the sound of Kris’ voice. Instinctively, Starr grabbed Shane by the elbow and was about to fly off with her, but then the snow seemed to settle. When she was sure they weren’t about to be buried, she said, “Well, what choice do I have? Credenza will be coming for me, of that I’m sure. I don’t know what she wants with me, but that’s the message he keeps sending.” She paused a moment while the snow beneath their feet shifted again. “One way or another, I may not come out of this alive. I could never beat Credenza, physically, so my only chance for survival is foiling whatever plans she’s got. ” They simply stared at her, looking doubtful. “Well,” she said. “I’m gonna get going. Thanks so much for rescuing me. We’d better
get off this peak,” she said as the snow started to shift again. She levitated a foot off the ground before Shane said, “Hey, wait. We’re coming, too.” Shane leapt off the ground, grabbing her elbow, followed by Kris.
Finding Valhol Chapter 3 They took off into the air just as another avalanche came down. When they reached a safe peak, they decided to walk for a while. “The density of this part of atmosphere is why it feels like we’re being weighed down, when flying,” Kris explained. Throughout the day, it never stopped snowing. Temperatures continued to drop the higher they got. Even worse than the weather was the scene that never seemed to change: it was just miles and miles of blinding white rising. Starr was relieved when twilight approached because she’d begun to see color spots everywhere she looked. At midnight, they found themselves out of ground to walk. They faced a rock peak that went straight up into the blanketed clouds. Starr couldn’t help but smile because she recognized it from her dreams. Kris looked over at her and shouted through the wind, “You can’t be serious. This is it?”
“I saw it every time Credenza flew home!” she yelled back. “I’m scared,” said Shane. “Don’t be; it’s perfectly safe. We fly up a few miles, and then Valhol will appear just above the cloud layer. Shane looked as if she would throw up. “You can’t turn back, now,” Starr yelled. “Also, we can’t leave you here! If you don’t trust me, look inside my mind! This is where we need to be.” Shane considered her a moment, and then held out her hands for both Kris and Starr to grab. They soared up into the icy cold comforter of whiteness. In the cloud, they felt especially dense, as the temperature and ice tried to weigh them down. After an hour, Starr was really tired and starting to wonder how much longer she could continue. When Starr started to slow down, Kris fought hard to keep all three of them rising. His inner demon had even come out.
Finally, an hour later, the atmosphere changed. It became lighter and the temperature increased a few degrees. Then just as Starr was thinking she couldn’t go on, they emerged from the dense layers of clouds. They almost flew right past Valhol.
When they landed on the peak, they fell to their knees with exhaustion. Kris looked like he’d been beaten; even Shane, though she didn’t fly, looked like she’d endured hours of torture. Out of human habit, Starr inhaled and choked. There was hardly oxygen that high up; not that they breathed anymore. “This is it,” Starr said hoarsely. It was hard talking up that high. “It’s just how I saw it.” “Yes,” said Kris with gravel to his voice, too. “Lucenzo’s here, alright, but…” he trailed off. “What?” asked Shane who also sounded husky. “Something’s wrong. I can smell him from here, and his scent has a touch of rot to it.”
Starr said, “Let’s go.” “Wait,” said Shane. “Someone knows we’re here. He’s waiting for us.” “Who?” asked Starr. “I don’t know, but he doesn’t seem like he wants to harm us. And I would do anything to get out of the cold, even just for a bit.” “I second that,” said Kris. “Are you sure he’s not dangerous?” “Yes, he says he’s been waiting for us; for Starr.”
They grabbed Shane’s hands and flew over the wall. They landed on the grass, and walked up the entrance, past the same sculptures and over the same bridge from her dream. She kept running until they made it to the diagonal alley that led to the city center. They stopped, for a moment, at a fork she didn’t recognize. “Left,” said Shane. “How did you know?” asked Starr.
“A true and powerful telepath can glean memories, even if you don’t remember them,” Kris answered. They found themselves in the center city structure where they entered through the side door, just like in her visions. Candles lit a long dark hall. There were no decorations, only plain stone floor, walls, and ceiling that went for a few hundred feet. At the end of hall was a thick wood door. Starr grabbed the latch in the middle, and pushed. On the other side of the door was a hall of jail cells with bars made of gold. “Plain metal is like plastic to a Primordial,” said Kris. They walked down the hall. In the last cell on the end, they spotted Lucenzo’s orange-red hair splayed out on a blood stained white furry pouf. His rib cage had been ripped open, and the top of his cranium had been broken open. Beside him, lay his heart and brain; both of which were half eaten.
Overcome with disappointment, she almost didn’t notice the familiar face of a man who sat on Lucenzo’s bed. The man wore a royal blue suit and black horn rimmed glasses. Unlike most Primordials, he wore his hair short. He stood up and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Too Old to Care Chapter 4 Stelar seemed like a mild mannered man. He walked with grace that contradicted the strength and age of his flesh and bones. “What happened?” asked Starr. “Lyssa did this,” he said. “Where is she, now?” “She’s not here; otherwise, Vidar would have killed her on the spot. Lucenzo was the only son he ever really loved.” “Why doesn’t he go after her? She’s out of control,” asked Kris. “Vidar rarely leaves Valhol anymore. Besides, can you imagine a seven and a half foot man with wild eyes circling the Earth?” “But you said Lucenzo was the only son he ever loved,” said Shane. “He’s lost many sons and daughters over the millenniums; it’s a part of life. He’s upset, but not that upset.”
“Lucenzo said Credenza has plans to try and take over the world,” said Starr. “Doesn’t that bother you?” “Do you know how many people have, essentially, ruled the Earth? She’ll just be another empress. Believe it or not, there’s been several, though your history books don’t recognize them.” “So your just gonna stay here on your lofty peak while the world is destroyed?” “Overdramatic little thing, aren’t you,” he said, as if talking to a child. “And arrogant, too. The world won’t be destroyed; it’ll go on and on. Man conquers man, as it has always been and always will. Whether we interfere or not, tomorrow, there will just be another battle. We have a right to retire in peace.” “But you interfered that day on the road, when you apprehended Lucenzo.” “I,” he stressed, “didn’t do anything. Vidar arrested Lucenzo for violating the one rule we have: We do not interfere with the ways of man. Creating those nasty vampires was an abomination.” “Fine, but maybe you can answer a question for me: Lucenzo says I’m preventing
Credenza from getting her soul. Do you know what that means?” “I don’t know. She never confided in us. For the third time, this is merely a resting place, now. We don’t bother with people’s business.” “I know she has living quarters here. May I see them?” “No, you may not,” he said angrily. Starr was about to argue when Shane spoke into her mind. Don’t, she said. He won’t change his mind. He wants to ask us to stay. We ‘ll sneak out later, tonight. Just as Shane said this, Stelar asked, “Why don’t you stay for the night? You look like you’ve had a rough journey. Some others would like to meet you.” They followed Stelar out of the jail, up several flights of stairs. He led Shane and Kris to a room, and then, finally, Starr. Stelar walked in and leaned against the wall. “You still don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked.
“Should I?” “The Royal Library, Denmark?” She looked at him, and it came to her. She’d also seen him at the little pub, before that. “Why have you been following me?” He stood up and walked to the fireplace, where, suddenly, flames came to life. Heat shocked the room, making her skin tingle. Stelar stared at her a moment. He opened his mouth to say something, but then froze. “Yes,” said Starr. “Get some rest. A servant will come get you when dinner is ready.” “That’s not what you were going to say.” But Stelar ignored her, and closed the door as he left. Starr peeled off her heavier clothes, leaving on her underwear and a tee shirt, and climbed into the old bed. The frame was made of wood and layered with a large hand sewn, straw stuffed cushion. It was the itchiest thing she’d ever slept on.
Later that day, in the early evening, a woman knocked on the door. “Yes?” called Starr. The door opened. In walked a young girl, but Starr could tell by her eyes that she was very old. She put a wash basin on the stone shelf. “Cocktails will be served down in the lounge room.” After explaining how to get there, she left.
Starr splashed water on her face. There was another knock at her door. She pulled back the heavy creaking wood. Shane and Kris stood there. “Want to walk down together?” she asked. Down the stairs and a couple dark halls, they went. In a large stone lounge stood Stelar and three other men whom Starr had only glimpsed once in the past. Like the rest of the castle, it was dark and chilly. In the corner stood ancient
yellowed statues of gods while rich, but old, worn tapestries hung on the wall. A large fire was ablaze in the fireplace. One of the men who stood there with a glass in his hand was Vidar. He appeared on the side of the road, the night Lucenzo was taken into custody. Just like that night, he had strange eyes with irises that moved fluidly. Stelar turned around and introduced them to the Primordials. The man whom Stelar called Arin looked at Starr with wide green eyes. “You look a lot like Lyssa,” he said, looking her up and down. “Who?” asked Shane. “Louisa,” replied the dark haired man, Eydis. “Names, like languages, change. In our day, she was known by the Greek name, Lyssa.” “And you’re Kris,” said Vidar with much interest in his voice. “I’ve heard much about you.” “Yes, I was at the boarding school with Lucenzo, before the Germans came.” “I know. I was very angry with him for going to America, rather than returning home.”
“He had no choice,” said Valdis who was almost as fair as Kris. “They attacked in the night. Would you really see him fight alongside those filthy Germans?” “I’d have rather he’d have come home.” “Friend,” said Eydis, interrupting. “How did you come by eyes like that?” “They’re blue. They only look lavender because they’re very light against the vessels in my eyes; it’s an optical illusion.” A lady came in and announced that the table was ready. The Primordials lead them into the dining hall. At a long table, they sat. In the center, a heart and brain had been sliced and garnished. “Do Primordials drink blood and eat raw flesh?” asked Shane. “No,” said Stelar. “We could, but we don’t crave it or need it. These hearts and brains are for you. We understand you must eat and drink regularly, lest you should, what was the term? ‘Vamp out?’”
“In my day, we called vamped out vampires wendigos,” said Eydis. “They often had to be put down.” A man rolled a cart, with a large spitted lamb, into a room. It really was an otherworldly sup, with a mixture of sweet and tangy fruits paired with the lamb. On their bread, honey and dates piled like vegetables. “In our time, vegetables were hard to grow, in this climatic part of the world. We weren’t as sophisticated as the Egyptians or the Romans when it came to farming, so fruit was commonly paired with meat,” said Valdis, looking at Shane. “it’s not so bad,” she said, spearing a date with a piece of lamb and putting it in her mouth. “They seem to go together quite well.” “Why no forks or spoons?” asked Starr. Eydis laughed, “Why? So we can eat like barbarians, shoveling food into our mouths?” Starr noticed Vidar kept his eyes on her, though he spoke to others at the table. “What?” she said annoyed.
“Sestin watched you for many months before you two met. I see his blood is in you, don’t you, Stelar?” “Yes, in fact, I can somewhat smell him on her.” “So you’re not mad that I killed him?” “No, it was his wish. We can’t forever, Starr, something you seem incapable of accepting,” said Vidar. “You’ll learn what we mean, one day, maybe a thousand years from now,” said Stelar. “Someday, you’ll know what it means to be tired.” After a moment of silence, Starr asked, “What was Lyssa like, back in your day?” “Lyssa was always the least liked,” Stelar answered. “She was a strong willed child who didn’t play well with others. We watched her grow – as we kept tabs on all our interbred children – in a rich palace. Her King and father gave her everything she could want, and she always wanted more.” “After she took initiation with us, she became obsessed with winning back her father’s kingdom,” said Arin.
“And she did it, too; beat back the Romans. Lyssa was a Queen greater than Cleopatra, for she had a real head for military affairs. Daius thought it shameful, remember?” Stelar laughed. “He thought we should vanquish her territory, and bring her back here and bury her.” “Who’s Daius?” asked Starr. “An old cow gone to rest,” he replied. Thinking back to a story she’d been told, she asked, “You don’t mean that Lyssa was the Queen of Dacia, do you?” “Yes, her father’s land.” “Do you know a woman named Gwynna?” “She was an initiate; Lyssa’s only friend. They roomed together, here on Valhol. She was the last witch…. Well, one of the last. There may be more but she was pretty much alone when we took her in. We rescued her from some Romans who planned to crucify her,” said Vidar. The rest of the dinner was filled with small talk. Vidar, especially, was curious to know everything about Starr. He wouldn’t stop looking at her with his fluidly orange eyes.
In a weird way, she found him extremely attractive. His gaze reminded her of a feeling she’d gotten from a dream she used to have, repeatedly, as a child. In the dream, there was always a pale faced man with orange eyes who made her feel as she hadn’t felt in a long time: it was a certain nostalgia and a feeling of being deeply in love, which was funny considering she’d never had a real relationship before. Also, she was just a child, yet this dream made her feel erotically alive. A part of her kept wishing he’d stop looking at her, but, after a while, she didn’t want him to stop. Not only was he handsome, but he was strong, powerful, and that was alluring to her.
That night, when everyone retired to their rooms, Starr waited an hour before stepping into the hall. Wait for me, Shane said into her mind. And me, Kris said. A second later, they opened their doors and, together, they tip toed down the stairs, through the halls and out of the castle.