Authors: Bre Faucheux
He coughed up the blood and spewed it on the ground. Quickly recovering, he left the area. She lost track of him although she tried following the sound of the gust he created with his rapid steps. She lost him. The sound of the deer rushing passed where he had been was all she could hear. They came across the smell of blood, saw the dead animal lying on the ground and quickly changed direction, stampeding away in the other direction. Their hooves charging against the ground overshadowed any other sound in the area.
It was brief, but she had a mere moment to try and sense what he was feeling. His emotions were easy to digest even with the distance, although being closer made it easier. Something was wrong. He was chaotic, and trying to feed on any living thing he could find.
‘The thirst. It’s driving him to madness.’
Jayden wasn’t near the ravine, but she wondered if he had already been there. She tried to concentrate on the sound of rushing water to bring her hearing back to the falls. The man who found her didn’t carry her far. Less than a mile, the water plummeted from the falls to the river below. She searched over the ripping water shredding rock below and tried to listen for a sign of Jayden. It was faint, but she heard him heaving. He was still trying to get the taste of animal blood from his mouth. She tried reaching for his emotions again. He was too distracted by his disgust for the taste that still engulfed his mouth.
It suddenly occurred to her, he broke his own rules. He had told her not to walk about during the day. Why was he at the falls? Were the Vam-pyr-ei-ak gone?
‘He must have seen them leave. It must be safe to go to him.’
She lingered patiently as it grew darker, laying with her eyes closed and listening to the movements around her. She smelled blood nearby and moments later the wife brought her a jug containing a small amount. It was just enough to sustain her. Madison awoke from her self-induced trance for a moment to take it, and then fell back to her bedding as if she were resting. She still had a desire to know who had been supplying her with fresh blood. It had to be from a living person. She hadn’t thought of searching for the scent earlier as to who had been supplying it.
She lay there continuing to listen as the fires outside were put out with nearby river water and everyone returned to their tents, save a few. Those remaining were guarding the others from the night. She hoped her quick movements wouldn’t alarm them.
She waited for the others around her to take their rest and fall asleep before she quietly stirred. Lifting the flap gently, she stepped out of the tall tent and placed it back down. She turned slowly, knowing a person stood directly behind her. Her eyes met with a young man. He was about her age, perhaps slightly younger. He had a wound on his hand that had been carefully wrapped and treated with herbs. His hair flowed in the breeze behind him and she made out his proud dark features. He was similar to Jayden in stature and presentation. Staring at her, he stepped forward. She didn’t move. He knew that she was dangerous and yet he moved forward. She then saw that it was the same man who had spoken against her to her benefactor that very morning.
‘Why would he give me blood?’
No sooner did the thought enter her mind that she realized that he probably wouldn’t do it for her. He was a guard, the same as the men protecting the tribe as they slept, riding along the edge of their region. His emotions were easy to interpret. He had offered his blood as a means of keeping his people safe. If she had someone to feed from, she wouldn’t be tempted to attack others.
She tried stepping to the side of him, but he blocked her way. She looked at him for a moment, trying to ward him off. He didn’t fear her as she expected him to. She tried again to step around him but to no avail. Knowing she could easily overpower him, she felt a slight anger rush through her. He still wouldn’t move. This wasn’t him trying to stop her from leaving. This was him trying to maintain control. She was a threat to him, and she needed to know her place.
The anger in her began to rise as his demeaning perception of her permeated the air inches from where he stood. She didn’t feel the desire to kill him, or even feed from him. She only wanted him to know his place beneath her, and that she wouldn’t be held back by him.
Without letting her eyes leave his gaze, she ran away from him at a rate no human could possibly match. Her motion was so sudden that he was left staring at the shelter behind her. He turned to see where she had gone, but she was already climbing the hills to the side of the enclosure. She barely made a sound as she ran. She was quiet even with the air moving rapidly passed her. Her feet hardly touched the dirt and rocks, disturbing nothing. The weightlessness was the only feeling she relied on to exhilarate her. She would never grow used to the thrill it gave her. Yet Jayden’s steps had been so heavy. His feet slapped the ground as he ran. She attributed his heavy steps to his growing thirst. He was becoming desperate for blood and made his presence less than difficult to hear coming.
She followed the direction from where she heard the waters crashing to the river. The falls weren’t far and she reached them quickly, stopping as quietly as she had started. She knew her skills now were those of a hunter. She could prey and take what she pleased as silently as any predator could. And knowing that she would never be forced to harm a person again with the thrashing and relentless thirst, only intensified her love for those abilities. They were a form of protection. She could never be harmed in the ways she was before.
She stood silent, listening for anything moving, for any indication that Jayden was close by. She didn’t need to look far. He found someone to feed on. She could smell the human blood coursing his veins, still fresh in his mouth. Running to him, she tried her best to remain quiet as not to frighten him.
Standing behind him, she waited for him to realize her presence. He didn’t immediately recognize her. His emotions appeared shocked once he realized she was there, but his expression didn’t move as he faced her. Madison sensed that he was relieved to find her alive, but he remained ravenous. He tried focusing harder as the blood coursed through him, eventually taming his thirst for the time being.
“Why did you not leave them sooner?” he asked bluntly.
She felt a hesitation before responding. He knew she was given shelter by the natives. Did he know of how the healer helped her?
“I didn’t know how much time had passed. They have some sort of healer. He aided me.”
“With what, pray tell? You look the same to me.”
“The pain is gone, Jayden. The thirst you feel, the burning, all the desires for release, it has fled from me,” she said, choosing her words carefully.
“You still feed on blood,” he said. “I can smell it in you.”
“Yes, I still require it. But I don’t yearn for it as I once did. It doesn’t demand release from my body.” She hesitated, hoping he would take in the true meaning of her words. “I can control it, Jayden.”
He looked at her, every tone of arrogance and confidence dissolving from within him. He didn’t immediately believe her. “They did this to you?” he said accusingly. His voice was almost protective.
“Not to me, Jayden. They did it for me. They helped me.”
He was silent. Looking to the ground, he stepped a few paces away. Madison walked forward and grabbed his arm to feel further into him. He was already growing thirsty again. It was controlling his every thought.
Trying to maintain control, he managed to find words again. “Why would they do that? Why would they aid you? They see us as their enemy,” he said.
“How often are you feeding now, Jayden? Is the thirst getting worse?”
“Answer me!” he yelled.
She stepped back again, giving him space. “They aren’t like the others, Jayden. They fear them as well. All the other tribes live far off to avoid them. They call them the Vam-pyr-ei-ak. All who live here fear them as we do.”
“You saw into their emotions, did you?”
She nodded. “They acted alone in their hostility toward us.”
He seemed to accept this, but still could barely meet her eyes. “I killed all who searched for us.”
Madison’s eyes widened. “All? But their numbers were greater than we imagined. And you said there were more hiding in the mountains.”
“I gave them to the sea just as they did our own. They were owed no better.” His chest rose as he spoke the words.
She half expected him to appear proud of his deed. As if he had cleansed the earth of something vile in its existence. But the solemn aura he permitted to flow from his aura to Madison told her more than she needed to know. He didn’t want to live with the thirst any more than she did. His anger and hatred for their common enemy these past months remained strong as ever, but the pain inside him thrived. It fed on that hatred and nourished its every desire. His disgust with his own actions was as strong as his hatred. She never expected that he could be so conflicted. He was always so self-assured.
“It was easy at the beginning, to take from them,” he continued. “It was their penance for what they had done to us, to your kin, to my new relations. They took life from us and their punishment was to give it back. You were hardly daunted by it when I gathered those few for our sick.” He turned his head to see her. His expression still unchanged.
Madison neared closer to him again. His exterior of pride seemed to be breaking apart in front of her.
“If they were willing to aid you, would you accompany me? If perchance their healer can heal you too, would you desire it?”
He stared at her, his face hollow.
She thought for a moment that he may decline. “You once called it poison, Jayden. This thing inside of us is a kind of poison. We need to rid our bodies of it,” she said.
“They will see your having brought me as a betrayal. Simply because they aided you does not mean they will grant me the same kindness.”
“Only because you feel you no longer deserve it,” she said sternly. He didn’t immediately answer. A tremor passed through him and she felt his thirst rising again.
“I was justified in my actions, mistress, but don’t attempt to condone them.”
“I don’t believe that you feel anything for their loss, Jayden. The others here fear them as well. Nay one of them will be crippled by their loss to this world. We deserve to survive this. And you deserve to be healed of this affliction.”
He inched closer to her. The intensity in his eyes matched the battering of discontentment he felt for himself. Lavishing in the power, and dreading the shame it brewed.
“I reclaimed our honor in what I have done. Don’t attempt to take that from me,” he said, now only a foot away from her. His presence was as profound as it had been when she first saw him. She knew then that the people who cared for her may not do the same for him. His very exterior was frightening to all who didn’t know him as she did. She had only gained witness to what was beneath when he was most desperate, perhaps even afraid.
“I could never seek to take anything away from you,” she said, her voice hushed in an attempt to calm him. “I only wish to guide it to a better purpose. There is a purpose in what has happened. We were meant to survive. But you will be hunted if you continue to drink from them. As long as you live, you will be hunted. Anywhere you go, you will feed on the living. And if that be your way of life, you will be hunted for it.”
He continued staring at her and she attempted to match his authoritative presence. His every emotion doubted her until that moment. Something she said broke through him. Although his face still didn’t falter. “I will follow you part of the way. I want to know of their willingness to provide aid to me before I approach them.”
“You have nothing to fear from them, Jayden. And I cannot ask anything of them. I do not speak their language. You must come into camp with me and stay where I have been given shelter. The fewer there who know of your presence, the better.”
He seemed to understand the circumstances, but didn’t speak.
Madison realized that trying to talk him into the act of asking for aid wasn’t one of his natural methods of seeking help. He needed to have his hand forced.
Without hesitation, she took his arm in her hands, gripping it with as much force as she was able. She thought she heard him gasp, actually gasp, at the sudden action. She pulled him away and ran with him in arm before he could protest. He could feel as justified or pleased with what he had done as he wanted. He could remember every kill and feel satisfaction for avenging everyone he may have cared for. Regardless of whether or not he gave such regard to her after having abandoned her in the woods, he had then tried to save her. That alone in Madison’s mind, gave him slight room for redemption.
She led him through the very path she came through to see him. She eventually let go of his arm once she knew he would continue to follow. He ran with haste beside her, trying to emulate the silence in which she moved. Neither of them made a noise as they rushed over the rocks and trees. She felt Jayden’s emotions beside her and knew he would follow her to where ever she was taking him. He had obviously seen where she was being held as he admitted to having known where she had been.
She brought her arm out to stop him and he did. A gust of air hit their bodies as they halted. The wind they had created was the only sign that they had been there at all.
“Look familiar?” she asked him.