Lianna has crossed the bridge from mortality to immortality, having left her entire existence behind. It felt good to be free of the dark cloud that had lingered over her human life. She could start over, she could be stronger, she could be better. But with the sweets comes the sours. The dreams have found ways to haunt her still. Shayla wasn’t done yet. Her ghost had been right about one thing, the key was in the blood. Blood has haunted Lianna from the very moment she entered this eternal existence. A silent vow to herself; she has to conquer the blood before it conquers her.
“Easy, Jezie. Don’t scare her off too quickly now.” Damien’s lips twisted up into a smirk, but the gesture was off. His voice was deep and husky, not the smooth, rich baritone that I had grown accustomed to hearing. One arm draped over my shoulders, his other braced the door frame. It wasn’t quite as casual as he tried for. Worry flashed in Jezabell’s eyes but she hid it quickly as she stepped back from us.
Damien had drank my blood in order to save my life, in order to turn me into a Vampire.
At the time, my blood was tainted with bloodstone and Dragon venom. Both are quite toxic and incredibly painful. He’d known this, and yet poisoned himself willingly. Why? He’d bound himself to do so in a blood promise. That- and he loved me.
The bloodstone had been given to me by a Descendant, a psychic friend from my former life as a mortal. All of this in order to heal my many injuries at the time. This is the same former friend/Descendant who bound Damien in the blood promise.
Descendants are like witches, only they’re real. They’re power is far greater than one would realize.
The bloodstone also helped in severely weakening three Vampire Crossbreeds that were trying to disembowel me. Though however weak they were, they still succeeded in killing me.
I suppose it is lucky for me that Damien had forced me to drink enough of his blood that it managed to bring me back. The downside was that his consequences, as well as the pain of my guilt, were dire.
Of course, he was doing his best to hide it. Though neither I nor Jezabell were blind enough to miss that he was in a great amount of pain. He was fighting death after all.
Jezabell is a part of Damien’s family if you will. Another Vampire who has not only known him far longer than I have, but has lived with him in what they call their House for just a few centuries or so. She’s not the only member of this House either, of course. A House is the Vampire equivalent of a Coven for Descendants or a Pack for Shifters.
Damien claims two sisters and two brothers in total within their House. He brought me here after my human death for a world of reasons that I could only guess at.
Worry flashed in her eyes as she looked over Damien before turning her attentions back to me. “Yes, of course. I’m so very sorry.” The weight of her words matched the suspecting glint in her eyes as her gaze swept past me. “Welcome to our home, Lianna. You must be so overwhelmed with it all. Won’t you please come in?” Jezabell turned as she spoke, skipping ahead of us with her gazelle like grace. Damien kept his arm draped over my shoulders as we walked to the great room.
Their home was practically a palace. Impossibly high ceilings spread up into breath taking slopes, and arches. The embellished molding was utterly spectacular as it seeped from corners, and high beams like lavish frosting on a cake.
A massive chandelier dangled down from the ceiling in glorious black iron. Fully engorged with Austrian crystals, it glittered in the rays of the sun that brightly lit the room. I had never seen anything like it before.
Almost everything fell between shades of pure white and cool black. The floor of the foyer inlaid with ebony marble matched the columns. From the base of each gleaming black column sprawled hand carved molding that curved elegantly like great billowing clouds of smoke. Tendrils enwrapped and danced around the bases in a rapturous, winsome manner.
The walls were a perfect contrasting pearl white. To the left was a magnificent black marble staircase sweeping along the wall with utter grandeur in an upward spiral to higher levels. None to my surprise, the rails, as well the backboards separating each step were carved in magnificent patterns of foliage. Gifted with incredible new sight I could take in every detail in nanoseconds. The staircase was so large that it could have occupied its own zip code. The entire piece seemed to be exquisitely crafted of pure black marble.
Damn. I bet my old loft would fit in one of their closets. Grinning, Damien leaned close whispering, “Only Jezabell’s.” To hide the curl of my lips, my hand covered my mouth.
Jezabell swept us along into the main living area. Everything was so splendid it made me feel completely out of place.
The marble floor began to blend with hardwood in intricate swirling patterns in ways I had never seen before. Almost puzzle like. The wood was nearly seamless, spreading to take over the remaining of the first floor in rich Brazilian rosewood.
A massive area rug covered the floor of the open living room just under the sitting area. I thought it may have been fur for as lush and snow white as it was. Somehow, I doubted Vampires believed much in animal rights. Not that I had ever been a real tree hugger or anything. My brows lift in thought of that as I looked over the rest of the room. The fireplace was big enough for me to stand in. I could smell the ash though it had been cleaned recently.
Substantial pieces of furniture, as if made for much larger people, filled the living room. The couch was almost twice the width of a normal sofa, over stuffed and covered in raw white silk. As well a love seat and single large sofa chair were designed to match.
It was all incredibly modern, but somehow fit for royalty. Two massive white wing back chairs were trimmed to match the Brazilian rosewood with fabric of the same hand woven raw silk topped off the scene of finery. It was overwhelming. To the core of my being I felt like I didn’t belong here. My knee twitched, aching to run from this room and everything in it. Well, all but one.
Damien sat down in the largest chair and pulled me down into his lap. There was immense relief in his eyes as he sunk back into the plush furniture. It pained me to know I had caused it, despite that he had denied it so adamantly.
His eyes flickered to mine with brief acknowledgement of my thoughts. He glowered for a millisecond before turning his eyes away from me. Mind readers. My eyes rolled.
Damien is a mind reader. Yes, it is as embarrassing for me as one would imagine, but after a little while, you just get used to having no private thoughts. Sometimes it comes in handy though, I admit.
The only saving grace was that my mind was not completely open to his. Only my strong emotions and clear precise thoughts were totally accessible to him. I’ve carried complete conversations with him and never said a word myself.
Many Vampires have some sort of extra ability according to Damien. I hadn’t seemed to have developed a gift yet, but I was less than two days into immortality.
Not all Vampires are mind readers in the same aspect that Damien is. His curse runs bone deep. He can’t shut it off. Most Vampires have to think a thought very clearly or directly to another Vampire in order for that thought to be picked up. Though in Damien’s case, he seemed to hear almost everything from almost everyone.
It hurt to have him upset with me, even if he was only bothered by my guilt.
One week ago I was human. Damien had walked with me along the docks of Burlington Vermont. We kissed. He took me home and discovered the extent of my abnormalities. A spirit had haunted my dreams since I’d been a child. I shared her pain both physically, and mentally. I’m being very literal.
Not long after, I thought I had gone crazy and went to see a Descendant. My friend’s mother to be precise. More or less she told me that I was insane. That night, I was attacked by a Crossbreed named Beckett, who happens to be dead now. Crossbreeds are born supernatural creatures that have been bitten, and turned into Vampires. A deadly combination no matter the born nature. Their sanity tends to diminish rapidly with the change.
The day after that, my oldest friend became possessed and attempted to rape, and murder me. I then abandoned my entire life to be with Damien. I didn’t know it would be literally. Before the next sunrise, I was murdered. Which leaves me here, a true living dead Vampire.
My chest felt heavy as if it were beginning to burn slowly. This slow burning pain caused my entire body to tense. I assumed this was from stress. My emotions were potent. More or less, I was doing everything I could to ignore the irritation, and mostly wishing I could hide behind Damien rather than be set atop him on display.
Jezabell’s eyes narrowed as she looked me over and then set hard onto Damien. “What am I going to do with you two? She’s obviously starving. Didn’t you think to feed her?” she scorned him. “And look at yourself, Damien. I’ve never seen you look-”
“I’m fine, Jezabell. Leave it alone. And she fed a few hours ago.” Damien’s eyes narrowed inquisitively on me as I curled into a ball in his lap trying to disappear in on myself. His voice was hard and cold as he’d spoken to Jezabell. Or rather as he had cut her off.
Jezabell turned her head, giving a knowing look to someone who must have been another Vampire. I’d not noticed her before. She’d been standing in a darkened doorway on the other end of the room so still she could have been a statue.
To me she looked like an angel. Such a thing wouldn’t have surprised me at this point.
Her hair was long down her back and seemed made of the most pure blonde silk, highlighted with glistening white rays of the sun. She must have been young when she turned. Sixteen at best, maybe even younger still. The recognition of this led me to wonder how someone so young was brought into this life. I shuddered thinking about how gruesome it could have been if at all like my own. Worst of all, she looked more sickeningly perfect than any of them.
Skin tinted like soft ivory with the slightest warm glow. Brown eyes reflected every color of gold, copper, amber and bronze. She had perfect heart shaped lips blended of soft pink and light peach.
With a light nod of her head she disappeared. I stayed quiet of course, uncertain how to respond to anything now. After a few moments, the young angel returned to the room carrying a silver tray with large wine glasses. Each filled with a dark crimson liquid.
The smell made my head spin. Instantly I knew what the red liquid was. Biting down on my lip, I shut my eyes. Damien spoke to the others with a discontent sigh, “Her appetite is stronger than I expected.”
“I can imagine. The poor dear,” Jezabell, aka pixie pire spoke.
“Damien, she’s positively lovely. You did very well. We have all been so worried. Again, I wish I could have been of more… Well, you know,” the angel’s voice so filled with regret and still so melodic it could make cherubs weep. I forced my eyes open to get a better look at the younger girl.
Kneeling by my side she held up the glass for me. Her hand guided mine to the stem as I trembled from the thirst.
Both women were so beautiful that it stunned me. How they could possibly know anything of the same darkness that was threatening to overcome me seemed impossible. How could creatures so lovely possibly have any darkness what so ever within?
My fingers wrapped around the glass while trying to focus on being careful. It seemed so fragile that I had a feeling the glass may shatter at any second if I was not extra cautious.
The glass hit my lips and the taste was just as over whelming as it had been in the Jeep. Drinking it down too eagerly, I couldn’t keep myself from sucking down every drop in a mere second. The glass cracked from the lip down nearly an inch.
Hearing Jezabell’s voice tainted with laughter brought me back to attention, “Drink, my dear, it’s all right. You have nothing to hide here. We all understand.”
The beautiful angel took the glass, and handed me another with a soft bit of laughter of her own. My fingers trembled still. Both pixie and the angel laughed together. Their voices were as soft as feathers falling. It made me want to die. Oops, I already did. Damien heard my thoughts and laughed hard once for his own bitter amusement. The roughness of it brought me out of the heady dream threatening to pull me away. It must have been the blood. Hiding my face in my other hand, I let out a deep sigh.
“You all make me feel like I’m in rehab,” It was the first I’d spoke aloud. Having not realized I had already finished the other glass, the little angel took it from me, but did not hand me another. For that I was grateful. There was another spider web-like crack throughout the one she took from me. Already I did not like being on display as I drank.
“I brought you here because you’re, well… you’re very young, Anna. An infant if you will.” Damien’s hand rubbed up and down my shin lightly. There was immense comfort in his touch. It also brought on a different sort of craving.
“Yes, a New Blood you called me. I remember,” hope they wouldn’t hold the bitterness in my tone against me.
“You need time to gain your strengths, and understand your weaknesses. You need to learn to control yourself. Not just your urges, but your strengths as well. It’s like being reborn. You have to learn how to be all over again.” Thus the reason they call young Vampires New Bloods. Damien explained all this without meeting my gaze. Damien spoke softly as if only to me. His words and voice made me feel better, but the remorse in his eyes upset me.
It was hard to look at him knowing he didn’t want any of this. Shouldn’t he be happy that I was like him now? Safe to be with him forever. But if that’s not what he wanted… I just whispered with a small nod, “Oh.”
“What Damien is reluctant to admit, is that he’s having a hard time with this.”
“Not like you are, of course. However still, it is difficult. To try to teach the one you love as perfectly as they are and turn them into a monster. To teach them to be a monster. Despite the obvious benefits, it’s still not easy, Lianna,” the angel spoke, though I knew she must be Lara.
He spoke of two women in the Jeep anyway, Lara and Jezabell. How either of these women could compare themselves to monsters was beyond me. It was hard to imagine such perfect creatures, let alone anyone else, could understand the darkness stirring within me now. The demon inside.
Damien, of course, could hear me put all of that together in my head. If it had been possible my cheeks would be on fire as he whispered the confirmation of my realization to me. “Yes, her name is Lara.”
She winked and just smiled. Her hand lay down on top of both of mine, holding them tenderly like a child might. My fingers were shaking still but not quite as badly as before. Her smile was sweet but her gaze seemed far away as if she were thinking about something or somewhere else completely. She wasn’t looking at me, but past.
Lara’s hand squeezed mine softly again as she spoke. Her words were fluid through the air, “We will each play our part in refining you. Teaching you what we each can.”
I had this sudden image of them dressed in turn of the century schoolmarm wear and each of them holding rulers and ready to whack hands for any wrong answer.
The image switched to an old movie. I simply couldn’t help myself. I mumbled, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
Damien’s lips pulled into a smirk. His hands placed tightly onto my hips as he lifted me up, standing me to my feet as he stood up behind me. “Ladies, if you don’t mind I am going to show Anna upstairs. It’s been a rather long couple of days for the both of us.”
“Of course, Damien.” Jezabell’s eyes were caught on each of Damien’s movements as if she could see not just the symptoms of his weakness, but the source of it. Me.
“Do come see me later though.” It may have been paranoia, but I swore she looked at me with the slightest of accusation behind those ebony eyes. Yes, she must have known it was I that had done this to him. Damien nodded silently.
“Thank you,” I spoke softly. Nodding politely to them both, I moved along with Damien. They nodded in return, understandingly. Their smiles were wickedly sweet. Perhaps there was more devil in them than I realized.
As I moved with him, it felt like I was floating. Elegant like a dancer. As if we walked on air. Damien and I moved side by side up the stairs.
The second floor was different from the first by far. The walls were custom painted so that they looked like ancient Italian stone marble in rich colors from creamy vanilla to deep gold.
The floors were deep red in color. Brazilian walnut. Recognizable for I had seen a few pieces of furniture made from the rare and expensive wood in Neesa’s mother’s home. The Descendant who thought me crazed.
Where the first level had been an exquisite black and white palace, the second floor flourished in the Italian renaissance.
Raw dark stone columns as thick as tree trunks lined the hall in-between sets of double doors. Each column carved at the head and foot with tiny sculptures of angels so painfully beautiful they seemed better fit only for the Vatican.
Each set of doors was hand carved artfully such as Belinesian doors. They were all different with intricate scenes of everything from olive groves, to grape vine fields, and wondrous Italian grottos.
My jaw was slack as I walked the curling path in utter awe. Damien was gracious by allowing me to slow to a crawl as we walked so that I could look on at each splendid detail.
As large as the house was, it seemed somewhat surprising there were only two sets of doors on this floor. I was curious if they led to a hall of doors like the Wildflower, Neesa’s mother’s store. Why did I keep thinking of them?
The stairs swept in a large circle, acting as a balcony to the room bellow until it circled the entire room and spread up another story. Looking up and then down, I realized you could see from the bottom level up to the ceiling which was also decorated. In the center of the ceiling, I looked up at a sculpted brass sun.
A statue, tall as Damien, stood at the bottom of the next winding case, in its own little nook. It was life like in its perfection and detail.
A woman with eyes so exquisitely detailed it felt as if they were alive as they watched us even in their absence of color. The entire statue was black as midnight, carved from some beautiful black marble. Her hair curled in a mass of stone tendrils to the floor, tiny flowers wove in throughout the strands.
While her features were beautiful, they seemed to hint harshness. Not evil, no not at all. Just hardened. Almost similar to the face of a female warrior though disguised in the garb of a Goddess. One could have wept at her magnificence.
Before I could ask, Damien stood at my side speaking quietly as if she were too pure to raise your voice in front of. “Her name is Achlys… She is revered as the Greek Goddess of eternal night. She’s also called Nyx. There are those who believe she was the mother of our existence.” Of Vampires.
“I’ve never seen anything like her before,” whispering in turn.
“Few have. Jezabell created her… Achlys was a dear friend to Jezabell for a great many years.” It was hard to identify where my surprise came from most. That Jezabell could create such beauty. Or that she was friends with a Goddess.
Softly his hand placed to my lower back, guiding me to the stairs again.
The art on the second floor changed from masterful columns to paintings so stunning I froze, letting out a soft laugh of awe. My eyes could pick up details I had never seen before now. Each stroke of paint was easily identified on the many paintings hung along the wall from history’s most amazing masters. The cracks in the dried old paint made it look like a puzzle pieced together of a million pieces.
I had studied art history in my years as a human. Nevertheless, I had never seen these paintings before. Yet they were all somehow familiar. By no means was I a scholar but with my new eyes I believed I had identified each one as the work of the greats.
Vincent Van Gogh. Leonardo Da Vinci. Had he painted this for Damien? Another member of this house? The painting was beautiful. Undeniably Da Vinci. Yet it was absolutely savage. A nightmare. Stopping before it, all I could do was take it in, detail by frightening detail. Damien stood behind me, but said nothing. At last I pulled myself away and move on.
Pablo Picasso. Rembrandt Van Rijn. Jan Van Eyck. Raphael and Sandro Botticelli. They were all here, spread throughout the vast hall and leading up to another winding staircase.
Damien allowed me to study each piece, staying always just behind me. “Who is this one?” questioned in a mere whisper of humbled awe. “I don’t recognize this style.”
The painting itself hinted at the style of Michelangelo with such beautiful detailed perfection, but the colors were wrong in every way. This paint was older. The colors were more vibrant and wild, yet dark. Somehow, they shimmered.
The woman displayed in the picture had long black wild curls and much unlike the art of Da Vinci, her eyes and smile were wickedly appealing rather than timid and angelic. The eyes called to you. Much like the statue just down the stairs had been. Obviously though, these were not the same women. This woman was pixie like, with elegant yet sharp features. A narrow chin. The statue of a woman had a square jaw though quite feminine.
The painting was a nude though very tastefully done. The woman lay against a large stone covered in moss. The background was a beautiful waterfall so life like I was certain it must exist somewhere.
“You don’t recognize her? Lara painted her. That’s Jezabell,” he answered calmly, little emotion showing in his voice. “The shimmer you see is crushed pearl.”
“It’s-” It was difficult to form the sentence. The painting was ancient. I could smell the lambskin and the bare ingredients of the paint. Each painting varied slightly because everything came from different resources. They were diverse enough I could detect the differences even if I would not have known each painters work. This seemed easily the oldest here.
Hearing him speak his age and then seeing proof of their years was astounding and almost frightening. It told me more of what I had become.
“Yes, it’s very old… More than a few hundred years. You would have to ask her.” Damien supplied the answer to my unspoken question. His voice so casual on the surface seemed to alarm me for some unknown reason. Despite how content he seemed to be to show me his most beautiful home he was still in pain. How could I have been so cruel to ignore it, I wondered. I turned to him with a forced smile and motioned for him to lead the way without another word.
His blur of speed that I once found impossible to catch sight of now seemed a simple series of movements, even if it was very fast.
Up the next flight of stairs, my fingers brushed the rail as I walked. This staircase was iron. It, too, of course was just as finely crafted. Created to appear as glorious vines and exotic flowers. Mingled with the ivy were exotic birds. The only ones I recognized were peacocks. Splendid.
The banister was a masterpiece. Hm. Never imagined myself thinking that in regards to a staircase. The metal itself had somehow been smoothed so to touch it was as if to touch glass.
Murals decorated these walls in much the same style of the painting I had admired before. These murals dictated scenery of island life. Though of where I could never have imagined. “Yes, it’s Lara’s work. Azores Portugal. Lara and Jezabell lived there for a time.”
I nodded slowly. Of course they did. My favorite part of the mural pictured a grotto filled with greenery. The only plant I recognized was the Ginko trees. Everything about this House made me feel inferior.
“And you tried to tell me my work was good? I will have to remember how good of a liar you are.” My brows rose as I shook my head in disbelief while eyeing him with a playful coyness. I wasn’t just an amateur next to Lara and Jezabell. I fell off the artistry pedestal created by their work completely.
Damien’s brow furrowed darkly as he stood at the double doors down the hall waiting for me to join him. As I did so in a slow human pace, he twisted a knob and held the door open for me to enter.
Entering through that door, Damien took me away to another world.
Literature with Unhindered Arts by Jacquelynn Faye