Denara stared blankly at the dark contents of the glass, idly turning it in her hand.

It seemed art to her. So many memories, lives, details were shared through this...medium of mortality. How different it could be each time! The pain, the agony of death. The ecstasy of life flooding once again through her veins. Warmth of life and light fading to cold of death and night. She focused now on the man before her, who twitched nervously at her every movement, from the tap of a finger to a blink of her eye. So Arian had led her to another cowering, fool mortal. If blood was her medium, mortals were her canvas. Mortality. With it, she might create

or destroy, give life or take it. She could mold life to her liking or annihilate it. Heal, poison. Cleanse, taint. All with one simple offering of her slashed wrist. It was all her choice, and decidedly, a heavy burden. Such a price for such a gift. A cursed blessing. Denara sighed, blowing loose strands of her wavy brown hair away from her face. She brought the crystalline glass to her lips and tilted in back, her eyes still fixed on the man, letting the warm liquid slide down her throat. She nearly spat it back in the man's face, but reluctantly swallowed it down. Catching the

flash of hope in the man's eyes, she realized he thought his plan had worked. "Dog?" she asked in a low voice. "You would have me feed on the blood of a dog?" Denara threw the glass at him. His trembling hands could not move fast enough to catch it. Hitting the worn marble floor, it shattered, leaving glittering pieces strewn across the floor. Panic coursed into the man. Denara could smell it on him, rank and heavy, almost like fear. "Mistress Denara, what do you mean?" he replied, wetting his lips anxiously. "Arian told me of your loyalty, said you could be trusted. Will you make a liar of him, Jason?"

she asked, rising from her reclination on the red upholstered couch. "Of course not, Mistress--" he began, backing away as he wrung his hands. No doubt gray hairs were being added to his head. "Fool man," Denara hissed, seizing Jason by neck and lifting him nearly a foot off the ground. "You already made a mockery of him." The man gasped for breath, clawing impulsively at Denara's hand. She released him finally, haphazardly letting him crumble to a heap on the floor. Denara straightened her skirts and returned calmly to her seat on the couch. She folded her hands neatly in her lap, watching the livid red

scratches fade away to again match the pale flesh of her hands. "You have a son, do you not?" she asked the man as he regained his breath and his feet. "And he can recite Homer?" "Yes," he replied shakily, afraid now. "Bring him to me." "Oh, please Mistress! Not my son!" Jason threw himself to her sandaled feet. "You have my most deepest apologies for--" He trailed off as Denara picked her feet up and out from under him with an air of disgust, folding her legs beside her. "You will not bury your son. You have my word on that," Denara assured.

The man stood but paused, hesitant. "Is my word not enough to end your fears?" she asked. "Of course it is enough," Jason answered. He hurried out of the room. "Of course it is," Denara repeated reflect fully. "Of course it is."

Jason returned shortly, pushing his son before him. The latter looked to be about eighteen years of age. Denara had become quite adept at placing ages on faces and figures. Back then; he should have been married off years ago. Denara pondered this curiously for half a moment as she stood. “What is your name?”

she asked. “Alexander,” he replied, bowing slightly. “After Alexander of Macedon?” Jason remained silent. His son glanced at him and hesitated before replying, “I like to think so.” Denara too looked to Jason in his silence. The contrast of his fear-smell with his son’s lack thereof was almost overwhelming. She was not yet used to scenting emotion, a result of her death and rebirth, a variation of Arian’s Dark Gift. “You may leave us, Jason,” she said finally.

Jason glanced at her anxiously, if briefly. The man had yet to meet her eyes. He was wise in

that respect. “My word?” Denara raised her eyebrows. “Return in ten minutes.” “Yes, Mistress,” Jason complied, bowing his way out of the room. Denara studied Alexander, sizing him up. When her eyes reached his, he did not look away. Never before had he seen such eyes—a deep green rimmed in almost black, glinting harshly in the candlelight. Denara smiled slightly to herself. The boy had courage; foolish courage, but courage nonetheless. “Come here,” she said slowly, unblinkingly, not letting his eyes slip from hers. Alexander obeyed, transfixed by her gaze. He

stood before her now, perhaps a foot away, still searching in those eyes. “Answer me truthfully: why does your father not permit you to marry the woman you love?” Reading minds was Arian’s Dark Gift, yet she could receive thoughts, ideas, through one’s emotions as well as he could read them. “She was a prostitute,” Alexander replied mechanically. “And she is no longer?” “No.” “Do you love her?” “I--” Alexander somehow tore his gaze away from Denara and studied his feet intently. “I do. With all of my hear, every fiber of my being—“

“She’s nothing,” Denara interrupted, leaning towards him. “Don’t say that! She--” Denara’s kiss silenced him. He resisted at first; they always did. But she held him still in her arms until he finally gave in. The Thirst pulled at Denara, begged her to take him now, let the life reenter her veins. Yet she waited, sending him visions as Arian had taught her. Make it life to the end, extend it, draw it out so they do not know death is near until it comes, he always said. So Denara gave him the images he wanted to see, him marrying and fucking his beloved little whore, earning his way into high society, becoming a Roman senator, all

meaningless notions to her. When the time was right, she let her lips travel to Alexander’s neck and finally, gently, pressed her teeth into his jugular, fulfilling her Thirst at long last. He shuddered against her, the last of his life flowing into her. His body now cold, she let him fall to the floor, wiping the blood from her chin.

Sensing more than seeing someone at the door, she turned and confirmed Arian’s presence. She knelt next to her victim, biting her wrist to offer Alexander its precious gift of new life. “What are you doing?” Arian asked before she could place her wrist to Alexander’s lips.

“I told his father that he wouldn’t bury his son. I keep my word,” Denara replied. “You have already,” Arian said. He slid something heavy into the room. Denara tilted her head to see Jason’s body at Arian’s feet. She smiled endearingly at him and dropped her arm back to her side, letting the wound heal it-self. “Come,” Arian said. “We must leave this place now. I grow tired of Rome, and I believe Rome grows tired of us.” Denara, obedient, joined him at the door. “Where will we go?” she asked as Arian wrapped an arm around her. “North, I think,” Arian said. They stood in

silence, sharing their Warmth. Soon they were but two cold immortals on their way to a new place and new Warmth, leaving more than two corpses Cold behind them.

Denara and Arian traveled north over the course of several decades, watching the fall of Rome the way mortals watched a sunset. They saw Byzantium rise and grow as it wrested land back from the Germanic Barbarians. Constantine built his Constantinople, and Roman emperor-deities gave way to caesaropapism as Christian emperors cited divine sanction for their reign and immersed themselves in not only politics, but

ecclesiastical affairs as well. Arian kept their coffers full, rising through the Byzantine bureaucracy by his wit and intellect. The empire passed to Justinian and Theodora, and Arian worked his way in with them, sharing a background of poverty and hard work, which Arian fictionalized to serve his means. Several years passed until one night, when Arian brought Denara to meet Justinian and Theodora. Women, at the time, rarely came into the male realm of politics and the state, and accordingly, Denara caused quite a stir with her appearance in the emperor’s court. “Have you ever tasted royal blood?” Arian whispered to Denara as they proceeded

towards Justinian on his throne. “That was your purpose in all of this?” Denara replied. “We cannot live solely on the money.” Denara patted his arm but did not speak, as they had come into earshot of Justinian and his wife. Arian bowed deeply three times before kissing the imperial hands and feet as was due. Denara stood still, studying this mortal in his deep purple robes and ridiculously jeweled crown. Arian glared back at her, a question in his blue eyes. She returned a quick look that only Arian could interpret. He nodded slightly. Guards inched towards Denara. She held her

ground, locking her eyes onto Justinian’s. “Stop,” the emperor ordered of the guards, looking bemused. What nerve this woman had! Nonetheless, she had piqued his interest. “Cantinius,” he addressed Arian, for that was the name he went by at the time, “who is this woman who does not humble herself before me?” “Her name is--” Arian began. “Almora,” Denara cut in. Arian did not need to speak for her. Arian gave her a false look of disapproval. “She forgets her place.” Denara dropped into a deep curtsy. “And she is highly honored to be in your Highness’’

presence.” “Tell me, Almora,” Justinian said, “have you ever seen the splendor of Hagia Sofia when it is lit by lamps?” “No, I have not,” Denara replied. “I have yet to visit Hagia Sofia at all.” “Then I should like to show it to you personally,” Justinian announced, rising. “Come.” He descended his throne, took Denara by the hand, and began to lead her out of the throne room. “Husband?” Theodora called after him. “May I show Cantinius your personal library?” “Do as you will, Theodora,” Justinian replied without turning back.

There was no love in his voice, nor could Denara smell any on him. It was saddening, for she could make out traces of love lost long ago as a result of this man’s newfound power and responsibility. She sighed deeply and wished the blood she shard with Arians did not prevent from scenting his emotions. ==*== “It is magnificent,” Denara breathed, gazing up at one of the domes of the church of Hagia Sofia. “Holy wisdom,” she translated. The gold, silver, and jewels inset in the walls glittered in the light of hundreds of lamps, blinking like stars fallen from the heavens. “Indeed,” Justinian replied, following her gaze.

Denara looked to Justinian, his neck extended upwards. There was the opportunity—would she take it? The Thirst told her to, commanded it of her, but Denara ignored it. “I must be leaving. I make it a point to be home before dawn.” “I can have you taken to your residence,” Justinian offered. Denara shook her head. “It is a beautiful night. I shall walk. It is not far to go.” “Very well,” Justinian said. He accompanied her to the door. Here he paused. “They say these doorframes cure miraculously.” Denara stroked the smooth stone. The doorframe would not miraculously cure Death,

or even the Cold. She smiled sadly, turned away from Justinian and his royal blood, and set out for what was home at present. ==*== Arian was waiting for her. “Did you--” “No,” she interrupted. “I couldn’t kill him.” She dropped onto the arm of his chair. “Nor could I kill Theodora.” Arian sighed. “Her thoughts…she has a brilliant mind. It didn’t seem…right.” “I scented something on Justinian. Perhaps it was…hope? I know not,” Denara said. “What has happened to us?” she asked suddenly, turning her face to Arian’s. “What do you mean?” Arian asked.

“We kill indiscriminately, whether we chose our victims or not. What changed that tonight?” Denara elaborated. “I don’t know, Denara. I just don’t know.” Arian looked sadly at Denara, trying in vain to read her thoughts. He gave up, shaking his head. “I fear I have been careless tonight due to the Thirst. Justinian’s Corpus iuris civilis will have me dead if I am found out. I would reveal our true nature if I am put to death. I cannot let that happen. We will leave tomorrow night.” “Byzantium will not last anyway,” Denara replied. “We learned the limits of selfsustenance from Rome. But I doubt Byzantium has.”

“Have we learned our personal limits of selfsustenance, as you say?” Arian asked. “Have we?” Denara questioned. “Ask me something I know the answer to for once,” Arian scolded. “Fine. Do you love me?” She was afraid of what he might say, but she had no cause to fear. That night, Arian’s actions spoke more in reply than his words ever could have.

It was a warm, surreal summer night, and the kind of night when the dry air almost crackles with electricity as crickets chirp a melancholy serenade to the moon and anything else that will listen. Denara and Arian sought solitude

atop a prominent hill overlooking the small town that, for the past week, had been home. Denara sat propped against an ancient oak, the seeming sentry of the village. Arian laid with his head in Denara’s lap, looking almost peaceful for once, his eyes closed to the stretching tree branches above them. “I think there is one thing I don’t know about you,” Denara said abruptly, shattering the silence around them. “Just one?” Arian asked without opening his eyes. “Yes,” Denara confirmed. “I do not know how you became a vampire.” Arian sat up suddenly. “Why would you need to

know such a thing?” he snapped. Denara reached out to him and gently laid a hand on his shoulder, expecting him to pull away. Instead, he softened beneath her touch, releasing a sigh that seemed to come from the depths of his soul. “I did not mean to be short with you,” Arian apologized quietly, turning to look over his shoulder at Denara. “I do not like to bring up that time of my life. “Then I shall not press you,” Denara replied, lowering her eyes. She settled back against the tree and Arian again rested his head in her lap. He searched her face with his icy blue eyes as she idly stroked his dark hair.

Arian closed his eyes again. He did not need to look at Denara to know what he should do. Catching Denara’s hand, he pressed it to his lips before enclosing it in his own hand and bringing it to rest on his chest. “It was fifty years before I made you what you are. He called himself Osiris, and I should have known better.” “You do not have to--” Denara began in protest.

“Shh,” Arian hushed her. “It is time I told someone.” “My father and mother had been fully initiated into the cults of Osiris and Isis, respectively. They denied the existence of their formerly

beloved gods and goddesses: Bast, Anubis, even Amun Ra himself. They would not allow my sisters or me to worship as we chose, keeping us prisoners of their religious craze, always attracting the wrong kind of attention to themselves. It had come to the point where we had to take to hiding to avoid the Pharaoh’s detection. “One night when my father and I were at the Temple of Osiris, a man entered claiming to be Osiris Incarnate. We were skeptical, of course. But he drank the blood offerings we made to Osiris and did not incur the god’s wrath. He even demonstrated how he could bring the newly dead back to life.

“Fools that we were, we believed. We believed, Denara. In the weeks that followed, more and more people began to believe that this man was indeed the reincarnated Osiris. He began to request human offerings, and we provided them. At first we gave to him criminals and beggars off the streets, but this did not satisfy him. Then he cajoled my father into offering our family: my mother, my two sisters, my father, and myself. “The night that it was our time, we stood before him in varying mentalities. My mother and sisters accepted this self-sacrifice as a way to honor Isis by succumbing to her husband, Osiris. My father was eager to make the

ultimate display of loyalty. And I—I will not lie, Denara, not about this—I was afraid. I knew something about this was not right, yet I was powerless to stop it. “I was the last. I had to listen to their screams. I had to watch them all die, their blood drawn out to feed this…this… blood-drinker. I refuse to even call him a vampire, you see. “I stood there watching them die and doing nothing. For the first and only time I remember, I was…helpless. “Once my father was Cold, Osiris Incarnate came for me. I tried to run from him, but he was too fast, full of new young blood yet craving more, craving my blood. He caught me

easily, ripped my throat open, all the while sending me visions of my family in their final, dying moments of sheer hell and torture—not the pleasant visions as I have taught you to show. I was killed before he drained me of my blood. “When he offered me his blood, I had not the strength to resist. It wasn’t my choice to become what I am, and you must remember that. But remember also that I have come to accept it. You fail to realize that not everyone had the experience you did in your Taking.” Arian finally opened his eyes. “So now you know.” “Oh Arian,” Denara breathed. Never before had

she considered Arian capable of this pain, this fear. Her thoughts were interrupted as she caught a scent on the night breeze. “Arian…” she trailed warningly. “Hate,” she said, determining the emotion. Arian rose swiftly to his feet, pulling Denara with him, still clutching her hand. “It is one who hunts me,” he said after a moment. It took him some time to read thoughts of minds not in close proximity. “Hunts us?” “No. Hunts me.” “Arian…” “Denara, I want you to run. Now.” “What about you?”

“I must face him.” “Not alone!” “He doesn’t want you. He wants me.” “I will not leave you here to die alone!” “I am not asking you to leave me to die. I’m asking you to leave me for you to live!” “Arian, this is foolishness!” “Denara, please. Go! I will find you again!” he said urgently, releasing her hand. “I can’t!” “You must!” Denara looked at him, confused and upset, shaking her head stubbornly. “Go. Run!” Her eyes begged with his as tears welled up

and threatened to fall. But she knew this resolution. Hating herself for obeying, she turned and ran, leaving Arian to face alone what he refused to face with her.

Two hundred and sixty years passed since that night, and Denara had yet to see Arian. She knew he had not been killed, though she did not understand how she could be so sure of this. Denara continued on with her life, and while she did not give up on finding Arian again, he was not first in her mind with so much to consider about her survival and secrecy. After Charlemagne had come Louis the Pious, a

failure militarily and politically compared to his predecessor. But Denara had come to know exactly how to manipulate politics and failures to her advantage. Thus, when the Carolingian Empire finally dissolved in 843, she found herself with a sizeable piece of land, though no records would ever show her as the owner. The lords of manors such as Denara’s relied heavily on Roman military tactics and forming complex alliances with other nobles. Accordingly, Denara was in good standing despite being female. She had learned much from Rome and its troubles, and she had come to be quite admired and quite a figure of mystery, leaving the confines of her Manor

house only at night and never seen in daylight hours. At night she would walk her Manor, her Ibizian hound at her side. The serfs were required to be inside their houses by nine each night. In fact, serfs rarely saw Denara, if ever. She had her retainers deal with all but the most pressing feudal matters. If the serfs saw her only at night, they would talk, and Denara knew silence and absence were better than talk and sporadic presence. This night was like any other as Denara and her hound strode through the fields and meadows and forests of the estate. All was well here for now, yet Denara worried of the rise of

monasticism now that Christians were not persecuted to such an extent, as they had been earlier in her immortality. Religious movements were never to her advantage. Denara turned down a small path amidst the serfs’ houses. At her side, the hound growled suddenly, a warning sound unaccompanied by the usual raising of hackles. She opened herself to the scents of emotions, having learned how to temporarily unemploy her Dark Gift a year or so after leaving Arian to his hunter. The dog growled again and Denara scented the air. Fear. She wrinkled her nose. Unnecessary fear was a detestable smell. In the pitch-black,

moonless night, Denara could see a girl running towards her unknowingly. The ability to see perfectly in the dark was another gift of the immortal blood in her, and a useful one at that.

Denara hushed the dog and stood silently, watching the girl. The girl looked back over her shoulder just as she ran into Denara. She staggered backwards, emitting even more of the fear scent. Denara caught her by the shoulders, bending down to the child’s level. “What might a girl like you be doing out at night? You look old enough to know my rules for serfs,” Denara said. The girl gasped. “Lady Amelia,” she breathed,

for that was the name Denara went by at the time. “Well? Answer my question, girl.” “I was running.” “I saw that. From what?” “I-I should not say.” “Come, you must tell me. Perhaps I can help you,” Denara coaxed, trying to catch the girl’s eyes with hers. The girl refused to meet Denara’s eyes, as would be proper of a serf at the time. Denara could not smell reluctance on this girl. This puzzled her immensely. “If I tell, my father will only hit me more and--” the girl cut off suddenly, knowing she had said too much.

“Your father hits you?” Denara asked. She was not unaccustomed to the evils of which humans were capable. “No. Yes. No—I am sorry my lady. I must go home.” “I thought you were running from home,” Denara said. “I will go back. And I will accept any punishment for being out this late,” the girl replied. “What is your name?” “Ilissa.” “Ilissa, I want for you to come to me the next time your father so much as thinks of hurting you or your mother and sisters. Yes, I know

about them. Do not look so surprised. But do you understand me? Any time at all, you come.” Ilissa nodded. Denara shook her head. “You must promise.” “I promise,” Ilissa said. Denara released the girl and she ran back the way she had come. Denara and the hound turned as one back to the Manor house.

The next day, Ilissa came to Denara as she was waiting for dusk. During the daylight hours, Denara would retreat to the cellar of the Manor house. Here she had had a winding hallway created that led to a large, windowless

chamber. Doors stood every ten feet throughout the hallway as a precaution against sunlight. Only one of her house servants was allowed to come to the chamber during the day if the need arose. His name was Noah, and while he did not know what Denara was, he did know better than to ask questions. In this way, he fetched himself a comfortable living. And so, as dusk fell, Noah led Ilissa down the twisted cellar corridor, closing each door as soon as they had passed through. He knocked cautiously on the last door. “My lady, there is a girl here to see you,” he announced. “Let her in and wait outside the door,” Denara called drowsily, having just awoken.

Noah pushed open the door and Ilissa stepped into the darkness reluctantly. As soon as she entered, the door closed resolutely behind her. Denara could see the girl perfectly in the darkness of the chamber, but out of consideration for the girl, she lit a single candle. This she did quickly, so she would not let the flame climb to her pale fingers. She shook out the match and threw it into a basin of water. “What did he do?” she asked finally. The girl closed her eyes as if even saying this pained her. “He hit me for running away. And he overheard me telling my mother about you and he hit us both.”

Denara sighed. She was about to speak when she heard the slightest noise outside the door. She opened herself to scenting the emotions outside and found only fury. Noah was Cold. The door burst open and a man stalked in. He passed Ilissa and slapped her without so much as a backward glance. She fell to the floor, pleading for her father to stop, to not hurt Lady “Amelia”. “What the hell did she tell you?” he demanded of Denara. Denara calmly told him everything. “She lies!” She makes up these stories to get attention!” the man protested. Denara turned to Ilissa. “Go. This is between

me and your father now.” Ilissa ran for the door. “And do not step in Noah’s blood. He was a good man,” Denara added. She turned back to Ilissa’s father. “I have never laid a hand on my wife or daughters!” he yelled. “Ilissa lies!” Denara shook her head. “You see,” she began, walking around the man slowly. “I know when people are lying to me. I can smell it coming off them in waves. And you are the one lying to Me.” “How dare you accuse me of being false!” the man growled. He drew a dagger, still red with Noah’s blood and threw himself at Denara.

She caught his arm, and in a manner of seconds pushed it backwards to this throat and slid it across his jugular. The man fell gasping to the floor, crimson blood bubbling a sadistic pink at his throat as he tried to draw breath. Denara picked up his dying body and let the blood flow through her mouth and into her veins, giving her Warmth again. She threw the body carelessly to the floor. The next morning they would find the corpses of two men in the chamber, one drained of his blood, and numerous other bodies in the Manor’s dungeons. Wiping the back of her hand across her chin, Denara half-smiled. “Waste not.”

“So you stopped running,” the man said. “So you finally caught up,” Arian corrected. The two stood less than a meter from each other, neither moving. Arian folded his arms, his back rigidly straight. As a child, he had always had good posture. His sisters, Anubis guards their hearts, were the ones who instilled this in him. They told him to carry himself regally even if he never amounted to anything near regal. How one presented oneself was everything, they said. “Well, good sir,” he said finally, “are you going to stand there staring forever?” “I never thought it would come to this. I never

thought I would come face to face with you--” “Oh, so you imagined staking me in the back? Or perhaps as I slept….” Arian took a step forward. His hunter stepped back, maintaining the distance between them. “I--” “You are a coward,” Arian said simply. “I am not!” “Yet you have not tried to kill me even as we stand so close.” “I am no coward!” the man repeated. “Then kill me. Here, a free shot! Take your aim!” Arian flung wide his arms. The man looked horrified at first, but his look turned quickly to one of resolve. A silver-plated

stake clenched in his hand, he approached Arian warily. The tip of the stake touched Arian’s cloak. “Wait,” Arian said. The hunter froze. “I want to know the name of the man who finally killed me.” Of course this was all for show. Arian knew everything about this man, even that he had no real desire to kill Arian, and instead had a strange curiosity in Arian’s state of being. Unfortunately, the man had to die. Letting him live would only complicate things. “They call me Lazarus,” the man said. Arian laughed at this. Amusing, the name the man had just chosen for himself. Did he expect Arian to notice the allusion and make it truth?

The man drew back his arm to deliver a fatal blow to the heart. Arian disappeared as the man brought the stake down. The hunter spun around, searching for Arian’s form in the darkness. Cold hands seized his head, forcing it sharply to the side. Lazarus fell to the ground, neck broken. Arian eyed the man nonchalantly. “Her lies one Lazarus who will not rise again.” He crossed himself in the way the Christians did. “I am no Christ,” he spat bitterly. “Milord?” The boy’s voice drew Arian from his thoughts. His eyes flashed in irritation. “What is it?” he snapped.

“My mother sent me to fetch you. She says you will catch cold in the rain.” Arian suddenly noticed the precipitation as it dented the river below his feet as they dangled off the bridge. He stood quickly. How long had he been sitting here, lingering over memories like a fool mortal? He knew better than any that the past could not be undone by holding onto it. “Lesser beings might ‘catch cold’,” Arian scoffed. “Milord?” the boy enquired, confused. “Tell me, child. Have you ever thought of being immortal? Of having eternal life?” “Eternal life? Perhaps through Christ--” Arian waved him off absently. “Suppose there

is no Christ?” “Then I guess death is the end.” The Thirst tugged at Arian, though he had fed just the night before. It was something about the boy’s thoughts that drew his intrigue as he read them, trying to keep pace with their rapidity. Perhaps Arian should show him death did not have to be the end? No. He shook his head firmly. “Get on home. I will not be returning with you. I cannot stay here any longer. Thank your mother for her hospitality.” Not as if she had had a choice. “Milord?” the boy asked again, but Arian was already gone.

One hundred twenty years later, Arian was still searching for Denara. He was becoming careless again, and quite without meaning to. For some reason he did not quite understand, he would kill his chosen victims but not drink of their blood, leaving them to rot where they fell, never thinking twice about them. He gave up reading mortal thoughts, finding them frivolous and, quite frankly, boring. It had now been so long since he last used his Dark Gift that, had he not known it was impossible, he would have feared forgetting how to use it. Truth be told, he was lonely. It was not company Arian lacked; with his wit and his looks and his charm, he was never without a

slew of paltry women hanging on his every word, attending to his every need. But it was Denara he wanted—no, needed—and they could not give him that. In all his searching, he had not found so much as another Walking vampire. The few he found underground in Rest he dared not awaken to satisfy his need for companionship of his own kind, of those who understood. In 962, the Catholics’ Pope John XII proclaimed Otto of Saxony emperor, thus creating what Adolph Hitler would later call the First Reich— the Holy Roman Empire. But, as Virgil would tell Arian in France in later centuries, the Holy Roman Empire was “neither holy, nor Roman,

nor an empire.” Arian could not disagree. Constant fighting plagued the land, but not the kind that killed men. Religious leaders and political leaders found like Siamese fighting fish in the same puddle of a rice paddy. It was enough to drive Arian away from politics for once. The meddlesome Church made him wary as it was. He became a merchant and made a handsome living in dealing death. He looked down behind him at the body sprawled out on the bed, Cold. Her father was one of his business associates. No doubt he would put a price on Arian’s head once he discovered his precious daughter dead, wrapped in blood-soaked sheets.

Arian had wasted no time in killing her, though he had not intended to do so initially. But the look in her eyes had been pure carnal desire; almost the bloodlust Denara’s eyes would take on when the Thirst took her. Mortals were not supposed to have that look! It had sickened him to the point where he had almost vomited up the girl’s blood, but he had forced it back down his throat. He had not been feeding regularly, even when the Thirst coursed through every fiber of his body and he quivered any time a mortal came within so much as a mile of him. Arian was getting weaker, but by no means weak in the mortal sense of the word. He had needed the girl’s blood. It pulsed

in his veins, but the Warmth had no effect on his melancholically frigid mood. Straightening his cloak, he headed for the door, sparing one glance back for the girl. She looked peaceful. Arian felt a desperate longing to remember what it felt like to be peaceful. With Denara, he had come close to peace, or what he thought was peace. Were could she be? It was not fair that he did not know where to find her, his own creation, his own love! He decided there and then that if he could not be near Denara, he needed to be near her Essence, the little piece of her mortality trapped in the air of the place where she had been taken, where he had taken her. It had

been long, long ago under the statue of Nero near the great Coliseum that he had stolen her mortality to feed his lack thereof. Arian sighed. Was he regretting what he had done to Denara? Should he have let her die like all the others? No. Arian looked up immediately. He found himself halfway to the livery stable where he had left his horse. The streets were empty. Reluctantly, he reopened his mind to intercepting mortal thought. Still nothing. But he felt something, some intangible thing swirling in the air. He spun around, hopelessly trying to find the, the thing that was in his head and everywhere

around him all at once. Finally he stood still, cursing himself for his foolery. It is the blood, he reasoned. I am not used to it. You have always been used to it, Child of Darkness. Arian hung his head, clenching his hands into fists. “Why must my mind torment me so?” he demanded of the still night air. It is not your mind, Child of Darkness. Find your creation and return to Romania. Know that I have called you, Arian. Know and obey. Arian lifted his head again. He continued down the street, purpose renewed. Three longings filled him now; one for Denara, the next for blood and more blood running through his

body, and the third to follow the commands of the thing in the air and his mind. So this, he thought, is what it feels like to be summoned.

It was midnight, and technically the first morning of the new millennium. Arian was watching the statue of Nero from the window in the room of an inn as he had been for the past month. Never yet had he approached it directly. He took roundabout routes to find his victims and to return to the inn. Arian felt foolish, having longed to arrive here and seek out Denara’s Essence, and not having done so yet.

This night was different. He found himself drawn to the Flavian Amphitheatre, the name by which the Coliseum was once called, and its accompanying statue. It occurred to him now how ironic it was that he had Taken Denara here, under the colossus of Nero as the god of the sun. He walked slowly around the bronze statue, surveying its every detail with his enhanced vision. Arian stopped in front of it, gazing up at the once emperor. Something moved, and Arian looked down. A figure became visible at Nero’s feet, her knees drawn up to her chest and encircled by

her arms. She tilted her chin up to look at Arian. “What took you so long?” Denara rose silently and stepped away from the state. In the starlight she was just as Arian remembered her, dreamed her. Having just fed, she still had the living color in her flesh, her usually pale face seeming to be flushed slightly. She stood very still now, a meter or so from him, decked out in the finery of the age. Her dark hair fell loose in wisps around her face, pulled along by the night breeze. Here she felt mortal again, atop her very Essence. She remembered that night long ago when she was but a mortal of twenty-eight years, out late again with her insomnia, for

weeks having dreamt of this maddeningly beautiful creature coming to take her from the tedium of her mortal life. Nero’s statue had cast a shadow long over her in the moonlight. A man had stepped out of the shadows. She remembered it now. “You are the one from my dreams,” she said softly, unafraid, for in this man, this creature, who could find fear? “Yes,” he replied simply in a voice that coaxed her to answer. “I thought they were but dreams--” “Never,” he interrupted, “undervalue your dreams.”

“Your name is Arian,” she said. “You asked me to join you every night for the past three weeks and always just before I was to answer, I would awaken.” “Nothing can awaken you now that you are already awake. Do you have an answer for me now?” She nodded. “And what is it, Denara? What is your answer?” he asked in that hypnotic voice, so full of pain and ecstasy all at once. “Yes. A thousand times, yes.” No longer could Arian bear her staring at him in silence. He reached out to her, took her in his arms, held her tight against his Cold

body, the last of her Warmth ebbing away and into him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, laying her head on his shoulder, her breath cool on his skin. He let his vampire nature take over and again marred Denara’s throat as he felt the pinch of her eyeteeth in his own pale neck. They stood as one, connected by blood, bound together anew by this crimson contract. Arian stiffened suddenly. With his Longing for Denara and blood assuaged, the third Longing took stronger hold of him. Denara backed away from him and looked into his eyes anxiously. “What is it?” she asked in a low tone,

studying his face. She could see a Longing in his eyes, and it worried her. “I have been summoned.” Her eyes widened. “Your creator was summoned. He never came back to you.” “For that I am glad, Denara.” “I know this, Arian. But I would not be glad if you never came back.” “You are to come with.” Denara looked down at their joined hands. “We must go to Romania,” Arian said. She looked back up at him and blinked slowly, thoughtfully, before nodding Before the sun rose that evening, Denara and Arian sought refuge in Rome’s catacombs.

Though it was quite different from the daytime arrangements they usually had, the depths of the winding passageways would prove impermeable to the daylight. They walked cautiously through the catacombs as if they might wake the dead with any noise. Denara could not help but to feel uncomfortable with this sacrilege of Christian burial grounds, having herself been a Christian before she was Taken. They soon reached the very end of the labyrinth-like halls of death, a dead end where the shelves of rock were ironically empty of the prevalent yellowed, ancient bones. Denara felt the sun break over the horizon and watched

Arian drift off to sleep. Being younger than him, she could stay awake a little longer. But soon she felt her eyes close and her body relaxes into the deepest sleep next to death. She stood in a valley enclosed by mountains gray and harsh. The sky was tinged pink in the east; above, it was a gentle violet. She knew what that meant. Why wasn’t she inside? Why was she here? Where was here exactly? Denara turned her head at a rustle of silk to her left. Beside and slightly behind her stood a man she had never seen before. It was clear he was a vampire, but she could not scent his emotions as she could for any vampire or

mortal not somehow related through the crimson contract to Arian and thus, herself. “Child of Darkness,” the man said in a voice like crumbling leather and rotting autumn leaves. “Would you like to walk in the light?” Denara felt the first half-rays of the sun touch her flesh, felt her eyes burn as if she were with fever. The pain now was excruciating. In a few minutes it would be unbearable. She shook her head violently and tried to run, but remained rooted to the ground. The vampire laughed, a sickening noise more full of sadism than humor. “Come, don’t

be foolish.” He brought a long fingernail to his wrist and let the blood trickle down his arm. The Thirst took Denara suddenly, and she was drawn to the blood. But her mind fervently refused to allow her to satisfy the Thirst. “Never from an immortal other than myself,” Arian had warned her long ago. He had made her swear. She had laughed and asked why. Arian would not reply; he just looked at her gravely. Her smile faded and she had returned his serious gaze, understanding what he asked of her. The vampire interrupted her thoughts. “Ah, the sun. I hope you enjoy its Warmth.” The

creature disappeared as the sun found its way over the mountaintops. Denara darted back into wakefulness. She must have cried out, for Arian was sitting up beside her, his eyes full of concern. She buried her face in his chest and he held her close until again she fell into fitful slumber.

Denara ran lightly down the twisted stone staircase, one of countless many in this formerly abandoned castle. Her last victim was now in the moat below the highest parapet, the ripples from the corpse’s fall still scrambling the moon’s reflection into shards of light. With bare feet, she padded down the carpeted hall,

the hanging portraits watching her unblinkingly. She paid them no mind, turning at the end of the hall to another corridor leading to Arian’s study. “Arian, I am bored of this place,” she complained as she opened the door to the room and entered. “Denara, not now. Do you not know that I have a guest?” Arian replied from an armchair before the fire. “I know,” she said, observing the mortal seated opposite Arian. Crossing her arms, she sank into another chair and pouted, “And I do not care.”

“Denara, now is not the time,” Arian continued quietly, raising his eyebrows. “There is plenty of time. In fact, there is so much time and so little to do that I grow desperately weary of this place,” Denara retorted. “I will speak to you about this later. I have business to attend to,” Arian said, turning his attention back to the mortal. “Continue.” Denara watched the pair in their negotiation for a time, not paying much attention to either Arian or this man and whatever it was he was saying. Would Arian really ignore her this way? The longer she sat there, the more likely it seemed to be so. She

stood finally, silent in black velvet, and strode out of the study, slamming the door behind her. To her quarters she returned, with no hint of Arian following after her, not that she had expected him to do so. I would be out of character for Arian to respond to outbursts, and it was out of Denara’s character to have one. But it was something about this place that disrupted Denara. They had been in Romania for at least five years since Arian’s Longing had led them there, and now he had yet to receive further Summons. And so they waited. For what, Denara did not know, and she was fairly confident Arian did not know either.

Denara had gone into her room and now drew back the curtains around the bed with such force that she almost pulled them down. She barely noticed. She lay back on the pillows, staring at the plain stone ceiling and thinking of nothing. Soon she heard footsteps amongst what she had deemed “ambient perpetual noises”, doors closing and opening, echoes of dripping water, creaking wood, and the like. Arian was showing the mortal out. Strange that he had not killed him. Arian’s footsteps traveled to her room. He knocked lightly, fully knowing that she would have heard him coming. “Denara,” he called.

Denara did not reply. Let him understand through this. Arian opened the door. He came in and towards Denara, perching himself on the edge of the bed. Denara rolled over, pressing her face into the pillows. “You must forgive me. I had to take care of some things. The man was nervous enough as it was before you came in. But you probably scented that.” “What ‘things’?” Denara mumbled into the cushion. “Some things,” Arian repeated. “They are not important.”

“Yet more important than I, obviously.” Denara knew she was being selfish and childish now, and again she did not care. “Denara, listen--” “No, Arian. You listen,” Denara interrupted, righting herself and sitting up. “I would tell you a story now, of a vampire who loved her maker more than anything and would follow him anywhere and trust him with every pint of stolen blood in her veins. And this vampire grew tired of waiting for something—perhaps nothing—to happen despite her creator’s faith. And I would tell the story, but I do not know how it ends yet. How would you like it to end, Arian?”

For a moment, Arian studied her face, running a hand through his hair. “I have been avoiding this for too long,” he said finally, half to himself. “I have determined that I was summoned by one of the Elders. When that happens, one is drawn to a general location. Once there, it is up to the vampire to find the one who has summoned him within ten years. I do not know why. That is the way it is and has always been. “I have been searching for the Elder that summoned me since we arrived and I have yet to find so much as a trace of him in this country. So I have hired the little mortal to find him for me.”

“Why the mortal?” “He is a hunter. Still concealing our true nature, I told him to find any vampires he could and report to me about them so I might study them in their ‘natural environment’.” Arian laughed. “He will do it, and much faster than I could, as he can Walk in the daylight.” He looked at Denara, awaiting a reply. “I need to go out,” Denara said, swinging her legs over the side of the bed and sliding to the floor. She stepped into her shoes and went to the glass doors that opened out onto the balcony. She pulled the doors ajar and stepped out into the night. With a jump, she landed on

the balcony railing. She could feel Arian standing behind her. “No,” Denara said, not looking at him. “I need to go alone.” And she stepped off the railing. Arian rested his hands on the gray stone balcony railing as he watched Denara land lightly on her feet and stride toward the livery stable. It seemed he would never quite understand Denara. One moment she would demand his attention, and the next she would push it off completely. And recently she had been even more capricious than usual. A throat was cleared behind him and he turned quickly. "Argande," he addressed the vampire

Elder, bowing slightly. "Why do you not tell her the truth, Arian?" he asked in a voice like crumbling leather and rotting autumn leaves. He came to stand beside Arian in the light of a half moon. "Tell her Argande the Elder has summoned you and you have found him." "It is not so simple," Arian replied, trying to maintain a respectful tone of voice. He turned to face the Elder, looking directly into his gray eyes. "It would require me to indulge her with the details of your Summons." "Yet it must pain you to not complete the simple task I ask of you," Argande said. Arian shook his head.

"That can change." Arian felt his insides wrench as if clasped tightly in some invisible icy hand. He clutched his abdomen, reeling in pain. As suddenly as the torture had begun, it ended. Arian gasped for breath, angry at this humiliation and that Argande knew how to block his thoughts from Arian so he could not have foreseen this. "I told you already," Arian rasped, attempting to pull himself off the stones. "I will not yield her to you as if she were some possession of mine." Argande pushed Arian back to the floor with his foot. "I though I was doing you a service, Arian, asking you first. I find your ingratitude quite...distasteful." He smiled at some joke only

he understood before his features returned to their pale stoniness. Arian pushed Argande's foot from his chest and leapt to his feet, baring his fangs. "Go ask her yourself," he spat. "Trouble me no more with your hierarchal nonsense." "Nonsense? There is obviously much you do not understand about our society, Arian," Argande replied smoothly as he climbed to the balcony railing. "You would do best to remember your place." "After trying so hard to forget it?" "You walk a fine line, Child of Darkness. My benevolence alone permits me to forgive you your statements tonight."

"By all means," Arian said resignedly as Argande disappeared into the night, "do not."

Denara rode out far from the castle on her small white mare. She needed to be alone now. Time spent in Romania was passing slowly, and she was beginning to feel as though Arian was keeping something from her. She tried to ignore all that now, and focus on her horse and the crisp night air. In a valley surrounded by mountains, she stopped her mare and dismounted. A rustle of silk behind her made her turn abruptly. Her horse danced nervously at the end of its reins at the gaze of the newly arrived man. Denara realized with a start that it

was the vampire from her dream in the catacombs. “Child of Darkness,” the man said in a voice like crumbling leather and rotting autumn leaves. “Would you like to walk in the Light?” Denara glanced at the sky. “Dawn will not come for another four hours,” she said. The vampire laughed, a sickening noise more full of sadism than humor. “Your dream was merely a suggestion, not a prediction of the future.” “What do you want form me?” Denara asked, soothing her horse with a pat on the nose. “I come to ask you something, something Arian would not answer for you.”

“Arian?” “Yes. I summoned him.” Denara’s eyes widened. “And he found you?” “That is something you will need to discuss with him,” the vampire replied. “Unless…” “Unless what?” Denara asked bluntly. “You join me.” “What?” “Join me. Together who know what we can do to change our race.” Denara eyed him warily. “Change is not always good.” Dragging a fingernail across his wrist, the vampire let his blood trickle down his flesh. Denara felt a pull to it, like the Thirst, but so

much stronger, so much more urgent. Slowly, with difficulty, she turned away, climbing back up on her horse. “Think of what I m offering to you, a chance to walk in the Light—to be the most powerful creature the world has known!” Denara shook her head, Arian’s words of warning drumming in her brain. Never from an immortal other than myself. “Dracula is the most powerful creature the world has known and will know. To suggest otherwise is treason,” she hissed. “Dracula is dead,” the vampire scoffed. “Unseen for nearly three hundred years.” “Unseen does not always mean dead. You have

my answer, now let me and Arian be.” She kicked her horse to a canter, heading back to the castle. “Remember my offer! I will be waiting if ever you change your mind,” the vampire called after her. Not looking back, Denara said to herself, “Do not count on it.”

Denara walked slowly up the winding staircase, quite unsure of how she should be feeling, what she should be thinking. She entered her quarters silently; sure that Arian would not have moved since she left.

Quietly, she sat down before her mirror and picked up her silver-plated brush. “I am… disappointed, Arian,” she said as she drew the brush through her hair, tousled by the night wind. On the balcony, Arian started. He strode into the room, closing the doors behind him. “Denara….” Arian came to stand behind her, watching they’re murky half-reflections in the mirror. “I-I must explain. I never intended--” “How can you possibly know what I meant?” Denara interrupted. “Whatever you meant, I must explain. I should never have kept this from you. I did find

the Elder who summoned me. His name is Argande--” “So that is his name,” Denara mused. “But Arian, it is fine.” “What?” “I said, it is fine,” Denara repeated. She set her brush down and rose to her feet, attempting to circumvent Arian. He stopped her, grabbing her hand. “No, Denara. It is not fine. It is unacceptable for me to--” “Shh,” Denara hushed, putting a finger to Arian’s lips. “I do not want to hear any more about this. Is that clear?” Arian nodded reluctantly.

“Now come,” she said, tugging at his hand. “The night is still young.” “What are you reading?” Arian asked Denara, seeing her in the library as he entered. “Antigone,” she replied, not looking up from her book. “Socrates? I never did like that man. All he wanted to do was study humans. Humans, humans, humans, day in, day out. And he never said what he meant, just asked these ridiculous questions--” “Arian,” Denara tried to interrupt. “No, I am not done. He wanted everyone to reflect on his or her purpose in life. I myself have never found one. And I told him that

perhaps there was no purpose in life other than to live it. Then he would ask me about death, and what it would mean if there were no purpose in life to be achieved before death.” “Arian,” Denara tried again. “The only thing that shut him up was the hemlock--” “Arian!” “What?” “Antigone is by Sophocles.” “Oh.” Arian studied his hands. “Never mind, then. I will be in the great room if you need me.” Later that evening, Denara walked down the flight of stairs to the great room, another

book open in her hands. “‘…We may well hope that death is a good thing. For the state of death is one of two things,’” she read. “‘Either the dead man wholly ceases to be and loses all sensation; or…it is a change and a migration of the soul unto another place. And if death is the absence of all sensation, like the sleep of one whose slumbers are unbroken by any dreams, it will be a wonderful gain…For then it appears that eternity is nothing more than a single night.’” Denara had made her way down the stairs and was now pacing across the room, Arian following her with pensive blue eyes.

“‘But if death is a journey to another place,’” she continued, “‘would a journey not be worth taking if at the end of it…we should… find the true judges who are said to sit in judgment below? It would be an infinite happiness to converse with them, and to live with them, and to examine them…for besides the other ways in which they are happier than we are, they are immortal.’” She stopped reading and looked at Arian. He thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Sophocles?” Denara snapped the book shut and tossed it to Arian. “Socrates.”

They went to Egypt, having no particular desire to go anywhere else or stay in Romania. Denara was surprised at how eager Arian had been to return to his homeland. For centuries he had refused to return in order to avoid the vile demons of his past, but now he seemed to acknowledge and accept them, or else fight them back into the dark recesses of his mind. They traveled as the nomads did, joining caravans that utilized the cool desert nights to cross the arid lands that would come to be called the Sahara. Before the sun rose each morning, Arian would manage to find some sheltered cave or abandoned building in which they might sleep. Soon, at least in their sense

of time, they arrived in Egypt, coming to stay in an obscure burial valley used by the priests and priestesses of ancient times. As they slowly passed through the valley, leading their camels, Arian scoured the sand banks for the familiar hieroglyphics that marked his tomb. He found them quickly, the years not clouding his memory in the slightest. “There,” he said, pointing to his burial site. Denara handed her camel’s lead rope to him and stepped closer to the sand, clearing it quickly away from the stone slab sealing the tomb. She looked back at Arian. He nodded and she placed her hands on the slab, pushing it aside with little effort. The scents of perfume

and incense reached out into the night before being carried away by the breeze. Arian left the camels and came to Denara’s side. “Will you go inside? We have come so far.” “Yes,” Arian decided. “But I must hunt first. The night will be cold if we do not feed.” Denara nodded. “I will wait for you inside.” They usually hunted alone, as it was. Without another word, she slipped into the tomb, sending another wave of perfume and incense to Arian’s nostrils. Then he turned to the north and was gone. Denara turned in a circle inside the tomb, marveling at the still-colorful hieroglyphics and

paintings on the walls, the solid gold statues, the intricate design of Arian’s sarcophagus, the sheer amount of effort worked into this place. She gave a little sigh before setting herself to making a fire. As beautiful as this tomb was in the dark, it deserved to see light. Fire was a risk, but one Denara was willing to take. She was Cold after not feeding for two days and needed some Warmth, even if its source could destroy her. Light soon filled the tomb, casting shadows on the walls and glittering off the statues. Denara smiled at her little creation and stood, letting the warmth touch her skin. Then she began to dance, to

some inaudible music raging in the air. She heard Arian enter; yet continued. Arian watched her dance, her movements swift and fluid and transfixing, movements no mortal could imitate. Her shadow followed her, growing and shrinking with the changing angle of firelight on her body. To him it was both torture and rapture at once to watch her. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Denara stopped. Her gold bracelets clinked together as her arms came to rest at her sides. The two held each other’s eyes for a long moment. “Did you feed?” Denara asked, breaking the silent ring of music in the perfumed air.

“There is a village not five miles north of here,” he replied, nodding. “Good,” Denara said, brushing past him as she went towards the door. “Dancing in my tomb? Have you no respect for the dead?” Arian asked with a grin. Denara paused at the tomb’s opening. “Come to think of it, no. I do not,” she replied in complete seriousness before she disappeared into the night. She came back half an hour later, Warm from her feeding. Arian had let the fire go out. He never cared for flame, finding it unnecessary most of the time. The sun was threatening to peek over the sand dunes, so

Denara pulled the stone slab back over the entrance to the tomb, shutting out any last hint of daylight. Her eyes adjusted quickly and she walked over to Arian’s sarcophagus. He laid with his hands clasped behind his head, eyes closed, and the engraved lid of the stone coffin only half-covering him. “I cannot close it,” he said softly. “Cannot? Or will not?” Denara asked as she stepped barefoot into the sarcophagus beside Arian. “Will not,” he admitted in a faint voice. He felt Denara’s Warmth as she settled into the sarcophagus.

“Let me help you,” Denara whispered. The stone lid slid into place, casting them into complete darkness. Arian felt Denara’s weight on top of him, the last of her Warmth ebbing into him. He tasted the blood of her prey on her lips as she kissed him. Denara rested her head on Arian’s chest, listening to the absence of sound. “I have not been the man you deserve,” Arian said. “I will not dwell on what you did, but what you do,” Denara replied. “What have I gotten into?” he asked. “So today you question our existence?” she answered.

Arian was silent. “I love you and that is what you got yourself into,” Denara said. She could feel Arian relax under her, and she smiled as he drew her closer to his body.

Denara awoke as soon as she felt the sun sink. Arian’s arms were still wrapped around her and she pushed herself up with some difficulty, sliding open the lid to the sarcophagus. Arian stirred at her movements. He pulled her back down, running his hands down her back as he kissed her neck, his lips traveling across her puncture wounds.

She pushed herself away from his touch. “Arian,” she warned. “Time to get up. Carpe diem, as they say.” “The night is young,” he mumbled, drawing her back down to him again. Denara sighed. “No, Arian. Stop.” Again she distanced herself from him, this time getting to her feet before he could catch her. She sat on the edge of the sarcophagus. “What is it?” Arian asked, sitting up. He brushed her hair back from her face to catch her eye. “What is bothering you?” “Nothing,” Denara lied. She stood up and walked to the entrance of the tomb. “Let us go

feed. I want to do something for once, not just lie about all night.” “Of course,” Arian nodded, joining her. “I need some Warmth. Desert nights are cold.” They walked the few miles to civilization in silence, Arian’s arm encircling Denara’s waist. Descending a sand dune, Denara pointed out desert roses with a smile. “So like human life, their existence a blink in the stare of eternity. The sun will wither them,” Arian remarked. “Death catches all.” Denara sighed. It was just like Arian to find his morbid meanings in anything she found beautiful. She did not reply and they continued on, soon reaching the clustering of buildings,

finally separating to hunt and agreeing to meet in the town’s square. Arian wasted no time in finding a victim. Tonight he killed rather than leave just enough blood for life to continue. The last ounces of blood flowing through mortal veins were what gave him the most Warmth, the most strength. In his early years, he had killed with every hunt, though as time continued, he had found it unnecessary and done so only occasionally. No longer in the mood to feed, Denara wandered about aimlessly, listening to snippets of conversations of those still awake in their homes. She found herself arriving in the town

square as Arian did, and they came to meet by a fountain trickling lazily, almost running dry. Arian could tell she had not fed as surely as Denara could tell he had taken life. He was about to question this when a quiet commotion caught their attention. Simultaneously they turned to locate its source, and saw a man beating a miserable excuse for a dog in a side street. Denara, a soft spot in her heart for any animal, and especially dogs, immediately stepped forward. But she felt Arian catch her arm, and when she turned to look at him, he shook his head. “Do not trouble yourself,” he said softly.

She could smell the man’s anger and the dog’s fear, a combination that infuriated her. Violently she pulled her arm from Arian’s grasp. “This is how you like to see me, is it not?” she demanded. “Some weak, delicate thing with no purpose other than to be yours, your little possession, your omnipresent companion, your goddamned prostitute!” Arian tried to interrupt her, stepping closer. She stepped back, maintaining their distance. All along this was how Arian had been. She had ignored it after their time apart, desiring only to be with him again. Yet she could not put this aside any longer.

“I have stood by saying nothing for too long, Arian, and I cannot take it any longer. You see a dead world where living, where life is worth nothing. You are cold, Arian. As good as cold.” Leaving him speechless, she ran to where the man had been beating the dog, the sad creature alone now. She approached it cautiously where it lay with a broken leg and a mess of blood on its head. Yet still it wagged its tail, this animal with no reason to trust, did. Denara carefully took it up I her arms, ignoring the fleas and mane that covered it matted fur. Arian watched her, knowing what she would do, what she would say to provide some

solace. He knew because he had been there in her arms in his times of need. Turning towards the fountain, he studied the hazy reflection from the pool. An expressionless face, cast in shadows, eyes…cold. She was right. He was cold, even towards her, the one thing he had ever truly loved. Where had his arms been when she needed them? Where had he been those nights when she needed him only to listen? She did not even come to him anymore with how she felt, what was on her mind. Quickly he spun to look after Denara, to call her back, to attempt to explain himself, to repent, but she and the dog were gone. In vain, he searched the town before returning to the

tomb in hopes she had gone there. But he arrived to an empty tomb. Sitting by the door, he waited for her until the sky pinked at the hint of sunrise. He cursed to himself as the first rays cut across the sands, forcing him to seal the tomb and seek the protection of his sarcophagus. Now he had done it. He cursed again as sleep stole over him. Denara cradled the mutt in her arms, stroking its dirty coat. She could feel the life draining from it. The poor thing was simply at its end. Turning, she saw Arian gazing into the fountain. Decidedly she moved away from him and out of the town, holding the dog close to her chest.

The flat land of the town gave way to sand dunes. Denara climbed to the top of one and sat down, laying the dog besides her. It dragged its body closer to her, despite the coolness of her ungorged flesh. She smiled at the limp creature, its eyes closing, its breathing slowing. Within the next ten minutes the dog was dead and cold. Denara buried it in a shallow grave. Brushing the sand from her hands, she looked east, searching for the first hints of dawn. She honestly did not know what to do with herself. With Arian, she had followed blindly. Without him, she had been in search of him. But now she was without him, and had no

desire to search for him and his Cold. Denara knew she would not go far, in case Arian came to his sense or she, hers. Back she went into the town, finding an abandoned building with a cellar that would suit her purposes. She curled up in a corner of the dank cellar, surrounding herself with rotting wooden crates and molding furniture. As the sun rose, she found sleep easily, Arian the last thing on her mind.

When night fell and Arian awoke, he lay staring at the stone lid over him. If he could only read her thoughts! He could hear anyone’s mind at a moment’s notice, yet could do nothing to

read Denara’s. Where was she? Would she come back? Or had that been the last he would see of her? He couldn’t recall later how long he thought of her. At some point he angrily pushed aside the top of the sarcophagus, sending it to the floor of the tomb. He stood up, eyes flashing. Fuck her, then. If she wouldn’t come to him, why should he go to her? This was who he had always been, and she had said nothing before. He told himself that he didn’t need her, whom he could make someone else —no; find someone else—someone who wouldn’t remind him of Denara, someone who would accept him. There was too much left

unfulfilled in those one had taken, too much room for error. Smiling now, Arian exited his tomb, sealing it again. Gauging that he had at least five hours until sunrise, Arian went north. Denara did not awake—she was awoken. From her slumber in the musty corner, she heard someone enter the room and immediately rose to her feet, sinking further into the shadows. Footsteps drew near here now, leaving her cornered. A million things raced through her mind until she realized the one who had entered was one she had met before. “Argande?” she asked.

He was not a creature to be avoided now that Arian was gone. “Never from an immortal other than myself.” What if that too was a lie? Emerging into view came the very Elder Denara had named. “Denara,” he said simply in acknowledgement. His voice seemed more human now; the crumbling leather and rotting leaves that had been so vibrant in Denara’s memory were gone. “Come,” he beckoned, stopping a few feet away from Denara where she stood in the corner. Denara obeyed him, though she did not know why. Stepping over a half-disintegrated crate, she found herself face to face with Argande. Before she knew what she was

saying, she asked, “Are you going to enquire as to if I wish to walk in the Light?” Argande smiled at her, his fangs showing non-threateningly. “Since you so seemed to despise that question when first I asked it, Child of Darkness, no, I will not ask you that. Ah, but I will ask you, where is Arian?” He fixed her in his steady brown-eyed gaze. Denara attempted to scent him unsuccessfully. This irked her, as she did not know whether Argande already knew of their separation or not. She returned his gaze. “I do not know and I do not care.” Argande seemed slightly surprised at this reply but did not further question her. He

stretched a pale hand towards Denara, plucking a cobweb from her hair that lie tangled about her shoulders. The back of his hand brushed her cheek gently and she turned her head away. “Why are you wary of me?” he asked Denara. For a moment she was confused, but then she realized Argande’s Dark Gift was mind reading. She still remembered her dream and previous encounter with the Elder. That was what made her wary of him. Argande perceived this. “I mean you no harm, Denara. Before, I was not in proper sorts. I had lost something very dear to me and I

became obsessed with trying to strengthen and purify the vampire race. You and Arian were strong forces, seeming to draw from each other so much in your early years that your individual strengths grew even stronger. I wanted to harness that power, mix it with mine own. “After you refused I practically went mad with this obsession and then I myself was summoned, by Dracula. He brought me, or rather, forced me, to come to my senses. What I wanted to achieve with your blood, I learned from Dracula, could not be achieved yet. As technology of the mortals advances, we ourselves will be able to manipulate the traits

that so characterize us. Until then, I must wait.” Denara did not want to believe this, to believe an encounter with Dracula would change Argande completely. But the longer she thought on it, the more she could see how he had changed, his voice only part of the whole metamorphosis. Argande watched her before suddenly whispering, “Come stay at me estate with me.” Denara almost leapt at the chance though again she did not know why. After all, she was not too fond of men at this point, and until recently she had been terrified of Argande and his purpose for her. She hesitated before

replying slowly, “Argande…I…cannot…scent you.” He looked relieved at this, though why he had not foreseen it in her thoughts Denara did not know. “Apologies,” he said, and as he did, the scents of his emotions flooded her senses. Most of his emotions she had expected, his arrogance, his faint anxiety, his slight persistent confusion. But what Denara had not expected was his desire for her. It was not the lust she always saw in Arian’s eyes; it was a genuine concern and want for her to be safe and content, melded with a belief that he could provide this for her. Denara could not help but smile. “I should consider it.”

Argande nodded, slipping her a piece of paper with the address of his estate written in his neat script. They parted on such terms and Denara kept the paper with her the nights following, sometimes forgetting it, and sometimes pulling it out just to look at it. Three years later, Argande answered a knock at his manse’s door to find Denara on the doorstep. Arian had no difficulty finding a companion to his liking. He found her in Turkey, blondehaired, blue-eyed, selling herself on the streets to catch her meals. Her name was Ada and she adored Arian, or at least his wealth, as much as he adored her, or at least her body.

There was not much to Ada, Arian had realized one evening after living with her at one of his various estates for three years. He told her this, and not to insult her. Of course, being a woman, Ada exploded at this. "You wonder why she left you?" Ada screamed, throwing anything she got her hands on at Arian. He sat calmly in an armchair, brushing shards of glass and wood from his dark suit. So she had known. Arian had attempted to keep Denara a hidden part of his life, yet inevitably he slipped on his own words. Ada had left the room and Arian watched her thoughts. She was leaving him now, after packing some of the things he had lavished upon her. "Until we

meet again," he said as Ada stormed out the front door, carpetbag in hand, trailing two servants connected by their task of maneuvering her trunk. "Go to hell, Arian." "Gladly," Arian muttered when the door slammed behind her. At least Ada had not appeared to have known how he had been searching for Denara. Standing up from his chair, he reached to the bookshelf and took down a thick volume. He resettled himself and opened the book. Inside, the interiors of the pages were cut out, creating a nesting spot for a stack of documents. They were reports from his spies and the new

breed known as private investigators. Supposedly there were about Denara: sightings, which were unreliable; information on her whereabouts, also unreliable; and the small bit of history that could be found, unreliable as well, and most of which Arian already knew. Arian sighed and closed the book. He had already memorized all of the documents. Arian knew he had told himself he would not search for Denara, and he knew he was now being hypocritical. But he refused to allow himself to part permanently from her on those terms. He was, or had come to be, a respectable man, in his opinion, and however

insincerely, he would apologize to Denara, then allow her to part permanently from him, if that was what she wished. Finding her to apologize was the problem. She seemed to be everywhere, or nowhere. Where could she--. Arian stopped his thought, realizing the only place she would be if she were not dead, and he knew she wasn't dead. Argande.

Consequently, the night Arian managed to find Argande's estate in person was the night Denara arrived. He saw her walk up the front path from his place in the street, leaning against a short brick wall with his face hidden

by a newspaper. The moment Argande opened the door, Arian was next to Denara. "Denara! Don't!" She swiveled to look at him. "Arian?" She could hardly believe her eyes. Remembering him and why they had parted, she folded her arms and said stiffly, "Why in the hell not? Argande has changed from when he Summoned you. Can't you tell?" Denara looked at Argande again and blinked hard. Something was not right, despite what she had just said. "Yes, Arian, can't you tell?" Argande repeated, in a voice like rotting leather and... Denara took a step back. "Argande?" His eyes glazed and burned with some strange

madness, his scent overpowering her with so many feelings that she took another step back. "What..." "You thought I changed? Oh Denara, you are a fool." Argande laughed. Before she knew it, he was two inches from her face, a cold hand gripping her neck. She slapped his hand away as Arian threw himself between the two, shoving Argande back with both hands and all his strength. The Elder stumbled but caught himself at the doorframe. "You are weak," Arian remarked, slightly surprised. Never had he seen an Elder reduced to this at his hands. Wisely, Argande had

blocked his thoughts from reading, as Arian had much earlier. "Who is really weak?" Argande rasped. Pushing off the doorstep he leapt into the air, landing behind Denara. "Merely an illusion, as everything else," he hissed, before sinking his fangs into Denara's neck. She tried to scream and found herself unable. She tried to move and found herself unable. All she could do was lie helpless in Argande's arms as he pulled all the stolen life from her. Arian ran towards Argande immediately, doing any and everything he could to try to free Denara from the Elder's clutches. But the more Argande drew, the stronger he became,

ignoring Arian's blows as if he were a pesky insect. Ultimately, he let Denara's body fall, paler than ever it had been. "What now, Arian? Isn't this what you wanted?" Argande asked, blood dripping from his jaws. Denara's blood. "Yes," Arian said. Argande felt a sharp pain in his heart and his hands explored his chest, finding a wooden stake protruding, Arian's hand on the other end. He turned to ash before even falling to the ground. Arian ran to Denara, cursing. He sliced his wrist with his own fang and pressed it to her lips, kneeling at her side. She was too weak from

her blood loss even to drink at first, but as his blood pulsed into her she healed quickly, clinging to Arian's wrist as she came back form near-death. She knew his limits, or rather, remembered them, and stopped herself just before Arian thought to shake her from his arm. He helped her to sit upright as color flooded into her face.

Denara looked at him with shame in her eyes. "You were right," she said hoarsely. "You were right all along." A tear rolled down her cheek, more threatening to spill from her sodden eyes.

Arian shook his head, rubbing her hand

between his. "No, Denara, I was wrong. I have always been wrong." She made a sound as if to interrupt him, but he continued. "Listen, you are...everything." This time Denara succeeded in interrupting him "I know, Arian. I know that now," she whispered. Arian was about to protest when he realized that she did indeed know. She had learned it from his blood. Denara threw her arms around his neck, pressing her face into his shoulder. Arian wrapped his arms around her. She felt so wonderful in his arms again, so right. A cloud covered the moon, for a moment

casting the scene below it into utter darkness. When it passed, the yellow glow illuminated a pathway, occupied only by a pile of ashes, skittering away on a dark breeze... The End "Do you find me dreadful? What a shame, such a sad disgrace. Such a pretty face, but she's not regretful. Am I beautiful? Am I useable? It's killing time again. Put on your face and let's pretend these killing lights won't kill us all again."

Hey There, If you like this book you would love my others (The Prince of Le-Ronian [coming out soon], The Life of Ian Oond [out go to www.LuLu.com and search for it.]) and there are my books. I am currently Fourteen years old, I live in Toledo Ohio, I started writing books two years ago, and now I’m working on my biggest novel (The Prince of Le-Ronian) I have been working on it for almost half a year, its not going nearly as smooth as this one had, The Prince of LeRonian is about a Boy that was born into a village and not royal ness like he should have been, well his mothers kidnapped (the queen

is) and if I told you the rest it wouldn’t be much of a book to read…  Cya later friends. Jeremy Lewis.