1897 – LONDON
“So, this is the one, huh?”
“It’s really her, isn’t it?”
“Are we going to keep her?”
I didn’t want to open my eyes to their voices. I felt more comfortable staring into the darkness. My body had changed and for the first time in my life, I felt alive.
Troubles persisted as I tried to remember what occurred days ago. I knew my name, Maris, and that my mother worked as a prostitute in a famous brothel located in the Irish slums just outside of London, but I didn’t how I ended up in this unknown location.
Every thought about my mother started off the same. She tried to abort her pregnancy because it interfered with her ‘job.’ After my birth she kept me locked up in the corner of the room in the solid brass baby cradle that one of her clients gave her as payment. She tended to me as least as she could and when I was old enough to walk and understand what exactly was going on, she locked me inside her closet where I remained until sunrise.
With her death from cholera a year ago, I found myself forced to earn my way. I had only two options: follow in her footsteps or leave the whorehouse to fend for myself. I pissed myself at the thought of trying to survive out there; in the world, all alone. At least I knew that I would have two hot meals, my mother’s old ragged bed, and a room of my own if I stayed.
I made a promise to myself. I would take over my mother’s client list. I would stay as long as I had to. I would save up as much money as I could and eventually leave for greener pastures. I struggled, though, as the years passed. Some of her clients enjoyed me while others couldn’t handle the fact that I, a post-puberty teenager, would submit myself to that line of work. But I did and there were nights that I wished I hadn’t. I had reached the midpoint of my savings goal when my life changed forever. I was almost there. I almost made it.
One night three large men with sharp teeth stormed into my room. I didn’t know who they were or what they wanted with me. One of them grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me violently against the wall, demanding that I tell him my name. When I answered his question with a question of my own, he smacked me, slicing the left side of my face. That was when things began to go from scary to downright crazy. He placed his mouth over my opened flesh and began to suck the blood from my wound. That was the last thing I remembered before I blacked out and awoke to three individuals—two females and one male—standing over me.
My stomach felt on fire, becoming unbearable to the point that I snapped back into reality and finally opened my eyes, pleading for their help. Both females looked exactly alike: caramel colored skin and short dark hair, except that one stood taller than the other. The male, dressed in a white shirt tucked into his brown trousers, had short brown hair and a small brown cap. He leaned in close to me and touched my face. His fingers were as cold as ice. I sat up and slid my body along the wooden floorboards to get away from them. A weird, sweet aroma filtrated through my nose and I placed my hand over it, unsure what to think.
“She’s beautiful.” The male reached out his hand to me.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” He reinforced his position by pushing his hand further into my face. Laggardly, I took it and he helped me to my feet.
My eyes wandered over the dark room, sluggishly lit by a candle on top of a wooden dresser. The body of a female lay on the floor next to a dingy, unmade bed. The sweet aroma I smelled came from that direction and without thinking I moved toward it, finding that my body slouched slightly in a full-blown hunting stance. When I reached the body, I immediately recognized her.
“Samantha?” It didn’t look like my best friend whom I’d known for a few years. She had two puncture wounds on the left side of her neck. Her eyelids fluttered. I heard something else: a cadence noise that didn’t match that of her breathing. I called out her name again and this time she managed to open her eyes. Upon seeing my face, a weak smile appeared on her own and she lifted her hand to touch the scar on my left cheek.
I heard footsteps behind me and quickly her smile disappeared, replaced by a look of fear. The male grabbed my arm to pull me away from her but I didn’t want to go with him. I shook his hand off me and something inside me told me to strike. I made a fist with my right hand and I punched, hitting him across the face. The blow pushed him back into the air and onto the floor.
My strength surprised me. I wasn’t a fighter. I’d never punched anyone or anything before. I could barely get the males off of me when they came for their daily service. I stared at my hand as if it weren’t my own and I turned back to Samantha who looked back at me in horror.
“Your eyes, Maris! Your eyes!”
I rubbed my eye, thinking that she referred to an object on my face but I didn’t find anything. I didn’t understand why she would look at me in such a way.
She began to crawl away from me, screaming, “Get away from me, demon!”
Demon? I didn’t see any demon around me. I didn’t believe in those religious figures or anything having to do with Christianity in general.
The male I’d punched stood to his feet and laughed. His eyes had the color of charcoal and two pointed fangs extended from his mouth. He was the demon!
I moved back and heard a deeper, more mature female voice coming from the other room signaling for us to stop. Immediately the boy’s eyes reverted back to brown and his sharp teeth withdrew back into his mouth.
An older adult woman stood in the doorway with her hands straight to her sides. Initially I thought she was their mother, which also made her a demon, but something else startled me about her, something that I couldn’t explain. I felt nothing but joy and a sense that I was safe. I stared at her long dark hair and big brown eyes. Her stained red lips were slightly parted and she wore a beautiful dark blue two piece, full buttoned jacket complete with an overskirt skirt bustled at the rear. A feeling of protectiveness—that I had to somehow accept her dominance over me, submerged my thoughts. I didn’t fear her. I wanted to be near her. I felt like I belonged with her.
“Don’t be scared, Maris.” The woman walked forward and she looked immediately to the male and the two females. “You’ve met my children. This is Finley,” —she pointed to the boy—“this is Branda,”—she pointed to the taller girl—“and this is her twin sister Brandy,”—she pointed to the remaining girl. She then pointed to herself. “I’m Anastasia.” She extended out her arms to me, waiting for me to embrace her. Instead, I had questions and concerns for Samantha.
“What did you do to her?” I asked.
“In due time,” Anastasia replied. “First you have to make your eyes change back and retract your teeth.”
I didn’t know what she meant by that until Finley left the room and returned with a hand mirror. He held it in front of my face and I suddenly knew why Samantha had become so afraid of me. My eyes were black, just like Finley’s eyes had been moments ago. Two medium-length fangs protruded from my gums, hiding my human canines. I also noticed the long jagged scar on my left cheek reminding me of the attack back at the brothel.
“What’s happening to me?” I searched my face and touched my fangs. They were extremely sharp. “What did you do to me?” I asked her.
“I saved you from the vampires.”
“Vampires?” I stared long and hard at myself. “Am I a vampire?” I didn’t want to believe what stared back at me in the mirror. Why had this happened to me? What happened to me to make me look so different?
“No. I made sure of that,” she said. “You must be starving now.” She walked over to me. “Eat.” She forced me to turn back around and face Samantha. I felt Anastasia place her head on my shoulder and a voice penetrated my thoughts.
Drink her blood.
Any other day, I would’ve run for my life away from these new people. Drinking blood wasn’t normal. Part of me knew it wasn’t right but another part of me wanted to gorge. No longer did I see Samantha. Instead I saw a body, full of blood, waiting to be taken. I hungered for it, I craved it. I wanted it more than ever.
Immediately I was on top of her with my teeth embedded into her neck. I felt the warm blood oozing down my throat, squeezing at my desires, making me want more. Samantha tried to scream but instinctively, I knew to cover her mouth with my other hand. I heard the patterned bumps echoing from her chest beginning to slow until I couldn’t hear them anymore. I continued, drinking until I felt full. But I still wanted more.
That’s when Anastasia pulled me away. “She’s dead,” she said.
I felt the warm liquid dripping from the corners of my mouth and I looked at my blood covered hands. “If I’m not a vampire then what am I?” I looked over my shoulder at Anastasia, hoping she would answer.
“She is beautiful,” Anastasia said, acknowledging Finley’s previous statement.
“What…am…I?” I slowly repeated.
“You’re one of us, Maris,” she finally replied. “Ramanga Deamhan.”
MY FIRST NIGHT AS A RAMANGA
That night, with my belly full, Anastasia revealed to me everything I needed to know about my new life. She explained in explicit detail how she stood across from the brothel every night for two weeks, secretly watching me. She saw me perform and cater to sex-hungry men. She’d been looking for me for a very long time. I was special and destined for great things. But she wasn’t the only one interested in me. Several vampires had me on their radar.
Samantha had invited the vampires in. They’d fooled her, pretending to be new customers. Once Anastasia saw they had injured me, she barged in and killed them all. However, she came too late. I was dying and she needed me alive. Her blood couldn’t heal me but it would change me into what she was.
With Finley’s help, she took us to their home nestled in the basement of an abandoned mill house. There she suckled every drop of blood from me and she replaced it with her own, knowing that it took days for a human to be turned. It was a risk because most humans died during the transformation. However, my body proved to be stronger and able to adapt to the change. I guess I was lucky.
I heard the myths surrounding vampires but I heard nothing about Deamhan. Vampire lore existed since the beginning of mankind. Deamhan came shortly after. She said that Deamhan stuck to the shadows to hide their existence from humanity. They hunted sporadically and disposed of their victims carefully. They could read the thoughts of humans and their own and they could also block their own thoughts from being read as well.
Ramanga Deamhan was just one of the four types—clans of Deamhan that I had to be aware of. We were Ramanga, the ones who survived off the psychic essence in the blood of our victims. There was also Lamia, Metusba, and Lugat. We all had the same strengths and weaknesses but our ages played a big part in it. As a young Deamhan, I’d burn faster in the sunlight than she would. I would never be stronger than her and I needed more energy than she did to sustain myself.
Deamhan had rules, The Dictum, that Ancients, the oldest Deamhan on the planet, enforced. These ten important rules helped us to adapt to the always changing world we lived in. However, Anastasia personally didn’t like those rules and she felt the Ancients only created them to keep other Deamhan in check. But in order to maintain a good relationship with the Ancient Deamhan in the city, she pretended to care. She did obey one rule that stated that once an Ancient declared a Decretum, all Deamhan had to obey. An Ancient declared a Decretum on me. The sole purpose was to find me before the vampires did and protect me from any harm. When I questioned why, she moved onto the next subject immediately.
Besides vampires, The Brotherhood, a group of humans who made it their job to know everything about Deamhan, worried her the most. She described them as persistent, annoying, and sometimes vindictive. They worked with the vampires against us, which made them our enemy. But not all vampires worked with The Brotherhood, just vampires from the Dorvo Coven.
At first none of this mattered to me. The only thing I cared about was my next meal; human or animal—it didn’t matter to me. Anastasia ended our conversation by ordering Finley to go into the other room and bring out some clothing she’d picked out for me. I still had to feed and she would take me to find humans so I could be prepared just in case the vampires came back. She later disappeared to dress herself in her evening wear for the night.
I stood alone, staring at my new Deamhan family. I wanted to know about them but I sensed that Branda, the taller twin, didn’t like me as much as the others did. She stood with wide eyes, watching my every movement, until Brandy embraced me in a tight hug.
“We’re siblings now.” She squeezed me then pulled back. “Come. Follow me. I’ll help you freshen up.” She grabbed my hand, took me up a steep flight of wooden stairs, and yanked me outside into the cool air. We walked to the back of our quarters, heading toward a metallic tub filled with water. She undressed me, gathered my clothing, and placed it in a burlap bag. I heard a dull thud and I turned to see the amulet my mother gave me roll toward Brandy’s feet.
Ever since my mother’s death, I kept her amulet close to me at all times. I didn’t know much about it, only that it was a family heirloom, handed down from mother to daughter. She always wore it around her neck, saying that the amulet provided protection but she didn’t know from what.
“That’s pretty.” Brandy pointed to it. “Where did you get it?”
“My mother gave it to me.” I placed the amulet next to the tub. “Family heirloom. She said it was for protection.” I chuckled at the thought. “It didn’t protect me from the vampires.”
“My mother never gave me anything,” Brandy replied.
“It’s probably just some old dinky jewelry.” I climbed into the tub, noticing that the cold water had a weird effect on my skin. She began to bathe me, pouring the water over my head to wet my hair.
“Your sister doesn’t like me.” I closed my eyes as the water poured over my face.
“She doesn’t like a lot of people,” Brandy said. “She didn’t like Finley at first. Sometimes I feel that she doesn’t like me. You know, she was Anastasia’s favorite until you came along.”
“Yes.” She began to wash my back. “The one that Anastasia feels most bonded to.”
“What do you mean ‘bonded’?”
Brandy paused in her activities. “When you’re sired, you feel connected to the one who sired you. In this case, that’s Anastasia. You feel like you’d do anything for her. You’d die for her.” She resumed rubbing the rag over my skin and she lifted my arm. “Some bonds are stronger than others. You can create bonds with others as well.”
“Others? Like humans?”
Brandy laughed girlishly. “I’m unsure about bonding with humans. Anastasia said you were special and that Deamhan had to find you at any cost. Now that she has, you have all of her attention.”
“Why?” I asked. “Who was the Ancient that told you to find me?”
“I don’t know. She’s never told us.” She scrubbed my arm from the shoulder to the wrist and I closed my eyes. With my senses now heightened, every touch felt euphoric to me.
“How long have you been alive?” I asked her.
“My sister and I were sired about twenty years ago,” she replied.
I felt the cold water pour over my face again. I imagined Samantha and how good it felt drinking her dry. However, I felt no remorse for her death and that frightened me.
“Don’t worry about that,” Brandy replied.
I quickly turned to face her. “Did you just read my mind?”
“How did you do that?”
“Can you teach me?”
“Just open your senses,” she said. “Once you do that, you can hear any thought, smell any smell and see far into the distance.”
It sounded easier said than done. I concentrated but heard nothing.
“Try again,” she told me. “This time imagine that you’re reading my mind.”
I looked at her and followed her instructions. I heard small mumbles in an incoherent voice that I couldn’t make out. It made me concentrate harder and soon I heard whispers coming to me from her direction.
“Now, think a thought and force it into my mind,” she said.
I thought about blood and my hunger and she picked up on it easily.
“If you want to block anyone from reading your mind, do what the humans from The Brotherhood do.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“They think about a brick wall. They picture it in their mind. Then when we try to read their mind, that’s all we see.”
I let her continue to bathe me. With a small rag and a hard bar of soap, she lathered my chest. After rinsing me off, I stood up and she began to bathe my legs. She then handed me the wet rag. “You can do the rest, right?”
I cleaned myself and after I finished she grabbed another large rag on the floor next to the tub to dry me off. After grabbing the amulet, she walked back with me to our home and immediately she went to work on my hair. She moved quickly and all I saw was her blurry, rushed movements. They called it Deamhan speed, a speed faster than a human would ever move. She applied makeup to my face, covering the scar on my left cheek. She finished within seconds and handed me a mirror.
I loved the way I now looked. She pinned my brown hair near the top of my head and little curls extended out at all sides. No longer did I look dirtied and unkempt; I could pass for the wealthy citizens in London who lived in their fancy homes with their lap dogs and spoiled children. I dressed myself in a black dress and a white pinafore with shoes a little too big for my feet. I placed my mother’s amulet around my neck and underneath my dress. I heard Finley behind me pick up Samantha’s lifeless body and drape it over his shoulder before walking out the door.
Anastasia appeared from her bedroom, dressed as immaculately as ever. She wore a pinstripe blouse with a matching pinstripe dress that extended to her ankles. She completed her outfit with a dark belt and a yellow plume that adorned the top of her round, dark hat. She placed her hand on my back and she gently pushed me up to a beveled mirror in the corner of the room. There I took more time to admire my beauty.
The color in my eyes was keen-edged. My skin looked smooth and felt smooth as well. I found myself lost in the mirror image of myself, ignoring what was occurring behind me. Branda mumbled and stomped out of the room after Finley. I got the impression that she grew more jealous of the attention Anastasia gave me. Her sister Brandy left after her.
“I look so different.” I touched the white part of my eye and I rubbed the tip of my finger over my lips.
“You are different, Maris,” she replied.
The same sensation I felt in my stomach before began to bother me once again. “I think I’m hungry.”
“New Deamhan need to constantly feed on their first night.” Anastasia opened the door and waited for me. We left our small stuffed quarters and she closed the door behind us.
She took me out into the world; a new baby Deamhan. When we made it into the city, she took me St. Katherine Docks and we admired the huge ships docked to its pier. My senses became overwhelmed as I took in as many scents as I could. With the full moon high in the sky, its whitish glow glistening off the top of the water, I couldn’t help but to think that now I had a purpose. I had something to live for.
We continued and entered into the slums of London. Males of all statures and classes roamed the streets, some looking for prostitutes while others made their way to the local taverns. Groups of women, dressed whorishly, stood on the corners whistling at the men while they bartered their sex and time. A few families hurried down the cobblestone streets on their way home. I stared at everyone and everything, even the two policemen who ushered other humans to move along.
Anastasia didn’t seem amused when a drunkard, lying across the sidewalk, came into view. She stepped over him and continued as if she didn’t see him. I, on the other hand, eyed his drunken state and listened in on his heartbeat, smelling his strong scent of body odor and aging spit.
Anastasia acknowledged my interest in him and she questioned me. “You want him?”
I wasn’t sure and I looked to her for help. Blood was blood to me, but I wanted the best that blood had to offer. I didn’t want seconds and I didn’t want tainted or sick blood.
“If you want him, take him now.” She looked around our environment. “No one is watching.”
I knelt beside the drunk, expecting him to jump at my unexpected appearance, but he didn’t do anything. He mumbled a little, tried to keep his head stable, and he burped. I tilted his head to the right and I felt my sharp fangs drop from my gums. My eyes focused in on the veins beneath his skin traveling in intricate paths. I opened my mouth and I sank my teeth into his neck. When his blood hit my tongue, my body immediately absorbed it. It cruised down my throat, coating my insides like any sweet ambrosia would.
I continued, making sure I paid close attention to his heartbeat. I could continue to drink until there wasn’t a drop left, but something in his blood made me immediately pull back. I began to feel sick and I didn’t want any more. I stood to my feet and wiped the corners of my mouth. “He tastes funny.”
“He should. He is a drunkard, after all.” Anastasia scanned my face, looking for any sign of blood. “They are the worst, next to ailing humans.” She grabbed a small handkerchief from her purse and began to dab my mouth. “Their blood does not make a good meal.”
“What makes a great meal?”
She thought for a moment before replying. “I prefer babies. For you, I think you might come to find that virgins suit your taste.” She dropped her handkerchief. “I don’t know what it is about babies that makes them so appealing.” She thought. “Their psychic energy is pure and fresh. Untainted, perhaps.”
“I don’t want to kill babies.”
She placed her arm around my own and she led me away. “That’s just my preference. Soon, you’ll find what soothes you the most.”
I trusted my sire to show me where I could find the good meals. We continued to walk until we reached an area swarming with humans and taverns. She loved taverns and told me that she spent the majority of her nights seducing and feeding from humans in them. She moved easily from one drunk human to another without being seen. This could only happen if I trained my Deamhan body to get used to blood tainted with alcohol.
“In the past I didn’t have to worry about vampires or The Brotherhood,” she said. “But now they’ve grown bolder and smarter. We have to protect ourselves and each other, Maris, in whatever way we can.”
I stopped walking. “What did the vampires want with me?”
“To eat you, of course.” She placed her arm around my shoulder.
“No, not that.” I wanted to know more. “The Ancient who declared this Decretum on me. Why was it done? Who is this Deamhan?”
“You’ll find out soon. But now you need to eat.” Again she avoided the question. “There has to be a type of human you like. We’ll find that one for you.”
We took a sharp right and turned down a dimly lit alleyway. The cobblestones felt hard underneath my feet and the archway was low over my head. Anastasia stopped suddenly and she looked over her shoulder. I didn’t catch it at first but I could tell by the way her eyes narrowed and her body tensed that someone had followed us.
She pointed for me to stand against the stone wall and remain still and quiet. I didn’t want to disobey her, so I quickly followed her command.
The wind increased and I felt a blow on my cheek that stunned me almost into unconscious. I fell to the floor. As a human, I knew I couldn’t take a blow like that and come out unscathed. Thanks to the Ramanga blood in my veins, I found myself standing to my feet just in time to witness Anastasia place herself between me and a male wearing a standard red vest and white Victorian shirt underneath a brown frock coat. He didn’t resemble anyone who lived in the area. He didn’t smell like a human or a Deamhan.
They rushed toward one another and their movements blurred in the dim light, like two butterflies swarming around each other. This male, who stood a little taller than Anastasia, made use of the wall by running on it and launching his body at her. She ducked as he flew right by her. Anastasia stood up and struck him with her foot in his lower back. He tumbled forward and turned around. He pulled out a long wooden stake from the pocket of his frock coat, gripped it tightly, and turned to me. That’s when I instantly knew that he had come for me.
Part of me wanted to join in the altercation but I didn’t dare go against her order. I also didn’t know if I was strong enough to fight him. Again Anastasia placed herself in his way and he jumped with the stake in his right hand. He took a stab at her but she quickly moved to the right. He stabbed again and she moved this time to the left. In his final attempt he aimed for her midsection and she caught him by his wrist. She took her other hand and pushed at his shoulder. I heard a loud crack and he dropped his stake, gripped his shoulder, and staggered back.
Anastasia kicked the stake off to the side and it glided across the stone floor, stopping in front of me. I knelt down to pick it up when my senses heightened and I looked to my right. He came toward me and I tensed up, not knowing what to do. But she pushed him and he flew back, hitting the wall. Anastasia snatched the stake from me and in a blink of an eye she now stood over him. I saw her raise the stake and she struck.
His body lurched forward and he tried to yank the stake from his body. The skin on his right cheek turned dark and it began to spread, moving over his face and down his neck. He opened his mouth and I saw fangs, longer than my own. His eyeballs sunk into the back of his skull and his body melted right before our eyes. The atrocious smell made me cover my nose. Anastasia stood up and straightened her clothing.
I approached her cautiously, still staring at our attacker’s remains. “He is a Deamhan, like us?”
“No. When Deamhan die we don’t die like that.” She used her right foot and began to poke at the remains. “This one was a vampire.”
“A vampire.” My mouth drooped.
“From the Dorvo Coven,” she replied. “He probably works for Ruby Horne, a very old and powerful vampire.”
“Ruby Horne?” I asked, curious to know.
“She and I have bad history.” Anastasia grabbed the wooden stake and examined it. “She means to hunt and kill all Deamhan.” She placed the stake in her cleavage and pushed it down, concealing it. “But this time she wasn’t after me. She was after you.” She reached out her hand for me to take. “You’re not safe here, Maris. We need to go elsewhere.”
“Go where?” I took her hand.
“To a place where you will be protected and surrounded by Deamhan from all clans,” she replied. “A sanctuary.”
My body signaled the oncoming sunrise by sending a prickly feeling throughout my insides. We returned back home to find that Finley, Branda, and Brandy had already returned and had covered the windows with long wool covers to keep the sunlight out during the day.
Almost immediately, Anastasia began to pack her clothing and she told us to do the same. I still didn’t understand the urgency and I stood helplessly as my siblings began to throw their belongings in large leather bags and later stack them against the wall.
“It’s her, isn’t it?” Branda protested as she pointed at me.
Anastasia didn’t reply.
“You have to protect your precious Maris.” Again Branda continued her spiel. “The vampires want her, Anastasia. Just give her to them and be done with it.”
“And go against the Decretum?” Anastasia stopped in mid movement. “Stop talking, Branda, and pack your things.”
Seemingly exhausted, Finley tossed his packed bag against the wall and stared at Anastasia. “Where are we going?”
“To Silvanus’ sanctuary.”
“Silvanus?” Finley repeated in a tortured voice. “He doesn’t like us, Anastasia.”
“We don’t have a choice,” she answered.
“We do have a choice!” Branda exclaimed. “I’m not dying to protect her. I don’t care what the Decretum says.”
“Silvanus is the one who declared the Decretum. Do you want to be on his bad side, Branda?”
Finally I had the name of the Ancient responsible for my wellbeing, if I wanted to call it that. I saw the look of annoyance on her face, a look of worry on Brandy’s face, and the look of anger on Finley’s face. The name ‘Ruby Horne’ repeated in my thoughts over and over again and soon Finley picked up on it.
“I’m not afraid of Ruby and I’m not afraid of those vampires,” he said. “Let me kill that vampire whore for you.”
“This is not about being afraid of Ruby,” she replied. “This is about obeying an order from the mouth of a Deamhan who wouldn’t think twice about ending our existence. Silvanus wants Maris and Maris he will get.”
“Regardless of what we do, Silvanus will still treat us like dirt on the bottom of his shoe.”
Anastasia exhaled. “Now isn’t the time to argue or complain, Finley. Pack your bags.”
“When will be the time?” Finley asked. “When will we ever stop running and face the vampires? We are just as strong as they are.” He looked at me. “Why is Silvanus so fixated on her?”
Anastasia bit her lower lip.
“You keep telling us that she’s special,” Branda continued. “But you never told us why.”
I also wanted to know the answer to that question.
“That’s not your concern.” Anastasia’s reply angered Branda who dropped her bags and quickly rushed over in my direction, slamming me against the wall. Her fangs dropped and with her eyes darkened, she growled at me.
Anastasia moved against her attack, throwing her off me. Branda landed on the floor and she quickly hopped to her feet.
“You like her more than us?” she asked in a deep grouched voice.
“Did you not hear what I said about Silvanus?” Anastasia replied in a chilled voice.
“I heard,” Branda replied. “I just don’t care.”
I gathered my strength and watched, thinking that Anastasia was going to kill her. But she placed her hands on Branda’s face instead.
“We will do this because we have to.” She looked over her shoulder at the others. “Do not make this harder than it is.” She walked back over to her bags and returned to pack them.
Branda huffed. “Silvanus will throw us out the moment he sees us.”
“That may happen.” Anastasia continued to pack her bags. “Or he will give us respect for making sure that Maris remained unharmed.”
Finley sighed. “How long will we stay there?”
Brandy’s eyes expanded. “Maybe he will finally agree to send us to America like we wanted.”
“He’ll never do that.” Branda jostled her sister. “Stop filling your head with that nonsense.”
“How would you know?” Brandy replied.
“How would you know?” Branda threw the question back in her sister’s face. “You’ve always been quite the daydreamer, sister. You believe anything that comes out of an Ancient’s mouth. You forget that we can only trust ourselves.”
Anastasia slammed her hand on the wall, squashing their argument. “Pack. Now,” she said in a stern voice.
As we packed, we continued to listen while Brandy talked about this new land located across the vast Atlantic Ocean. She said that this place, America, has industrialized cities, unique animals, countless lakes, and unclaimed lands where we could hunt and kill without fear of The Brotherhood and vampires. In the end, even Anastasia became enchanted by Brandy’s vivid descriptions and I too wanted to go there. As a whore, I saved the money I received to get as far away as I could from the city. America sounded distant enough. However, I sensed that this new country wasn’t in my future and that I was destined to remain at this sanctuary under the watchful eye of Silvanus.
I awoke to the sound of horses’ hooves stomping along dirt. My sire and my siblings were already up, moving about, when I raised my head. Anastasia told me to hurry and within seconds, still sleepy and hungry, we loaded the carriage with our luggage and headed away from the city toward what Anastasia called our temporary home.
Along the way she comforted me, saying that I didn’t have to worry. We would be around other Deamhan. I would be safe and protected there until time permitted. I had her word. Throughout the ride, I continued to question why Silvanus felt adamant to protect me. My existence was important to him and when I questioned Anastasia about it again, she told me that he would answer all my questions. In the meantime I had to tread carefully when it came to him. As an Ancient and the oldest Deamhan living in London, he warranted respect. He could easily decide my fate and the fate of my siblings with a mere flick of his wrist. He could deny us safety under his roof and throw us out to the streets to fend for ourselves. I became the deciding factor on how the meeting would play out. I carried the end result in my own hands.
We came upon a huge two-story brick home with land that extended into the horizon. A long, black metallic gate cornered wooden stables that connected to the rear of the majestic home. I’d never seen anything as huge and grand in my life. I heard about these types of home and I seriously thought I’d never get the chance to step inside of one.
A tall human male approached the gate, unlocked it, and opened it slowly. He stood aside, staring straight ahead as if he waited for us to walk in. I grabbed my luggage and proceeded through the gate. As we quietly walked toward the home, I questioned Anastasia about Silvanus’ age.
“He is the oldest Deamhan I currently know and the strongest.”
Her response made me stupefied. “Currently?”
Silvanus stood at the front door holding a silver colored cane which, unlike the human, grabbed my interest immediately. Dressed in a bright white shirt and a golden taupe gentlemen’s vest with silk buttons underneath his medium length stock coat, he took off his tall black hat and bent slightly forward to greet us. As he held out his hand to Anastasia, I noticed a silver pocket watch dangling from his vest.
“Anastasia. I can’t say it’s good to see you…again.” His deep brown eyes moved to Finley, Branda, and Brandy. However, when he turned to me, he didn’t smile. “She isn’t human?”
“I had no choice.” Instead of grasping his hand, she placed her arm around my shoulder like a parent proud of their teenage child. “This is Maris.” Knowing that she showed me off, I held my head high.
Silvanus smirked. “There’s always a choice.” He placed his hand underneath my chin and moved my face to the right to look at my scar on my left cheek. “And who’s responsible for scarring our little jewel?”
Anastasia nodded. “Vampires.”
“Those beasts.” He grabbed my hand and pulled it up to his lips. “It’s nice to finally meet you, my dear Maris.” He kissed the top of my hand. “I’m Silvanus but I assume you know that already.”
I returned his kind gesture with a smile, wondering if he truly found me to be that bewitching.
“Such a pretty name for such a pretty woman,” he said as he gently dropped my hand and stood aside. “Welcome to my sanctuary.” He opened the door.
We walked in to the huge foyer with a tall ceiling. Moonlight hit the shiny marble floor, blinding me for a second. Paintings adorned the walls. I saw a female human maid, dusting a bronze bust statue in the hallway and another walking up the stairs cradling a stack of sheets in her arms. We stood silent in the foyer as he closed the door and walked forward.
“Anastasia, your offspring will stay in this foyer until my minions show them to their rooms.” He motioned for her to follow him. “However, you will come with me. We have catching up to do.” She followed him down a long narrow hall and disappeared around the corner, leaving us alone.
His butler approached us. “Please follow me.” He ascended the stairs and my siblings followed, but I didn’t want to go. The thought of sleeping under the roof of this magnificent house excited me but not as much as the thought of talking to Silvanus and getting the answers to my questions.
I waited until they were out of sight before I followed the scents of my sire and Silvanus down the hallway. I walked by the female maid who moved aside and continued her work. I approached two large opened doors leading to a room with white marbled walls. I saw Anastasia standing in the center. Her body blocked my view from Silvanus.
Anastasia looked over her shoulder at me and she spoke in my mind. Head back.
I heard Silvanus speak. “She came all this way. Might as well let her in.”
I cautiously entered the room. Silvanus stood up from a large throne covered in colored gems and stones. He towered over us, looking like a glimmering African statue. I thought of him as an immortal king and I lowered myself onto my knees to show him respect.
He laughed at the gesture. “I’m not something to worship. Stand up.”
I immediately stood on my feet.
“It’s you who I should be kneeling to, if I knelt to any Deamhan.” He then looked to Anastasia. “I suspected that the descendant would be an aristocrat and not the daughter of a whore.”
“Do you doubt that she’s the one?” Anastasia asked.
“No.” He sat back in his seat and I moved back, cowering behind my sire. “I didn’t mean to humiliate you, Maris.” Upon seeing my reaction, he smiled at me. “You’re just, unusual is all.”
I held my head high, pretending to not be bothered by his comment.
“If I come off as brash and insincere, please don’t think of me that way. I’m just upset with your sire,” he said. “It seems that she can’t follow a simple Decretum.”
“I did what you asked of us all,” Anastasia replied. “I protected her. I brought her here safely to you.”
“Yes, but as a Deamhan and not as a human.”
Taken aback, I looked at my sire who didn’t have the guts to look back at me. Instead her eyes remained forward and her face expressionless.
“Maybe it’s better that she’s this way in the long run,” Silvanus continued. “As a human, she wouldn’t be able to protect herself from the Dorvo Coven.” Silvanus repeated the name with a hint of distaste in his voice. “They will still come for her, especially Ruby, and she won’t stop until she has her but now, since Maris is one of us, that will make Ruby’s task quite difficult.”
“She wouldn’t be stupid enough to come here,” Anastasia said.
“Oh but she will.” Silvanus’ reply left my sire tongue-tied. “When have you ever known her to give up so easily?” He repositioned himself in his chair. “And now Maris is bonded to you, which gives you leverage over Ruby and over me. What devious game are you playing, Anastasia?”
“Would you have been content if I left her to die, then?” she asked.
“Of course not, but I know you. I know how you work. I know what you will do before you do it. You waited until she was almost dead to come in and save her pending death. That would make siring her your only reasonable choice.”
I listened intently to his strong accusations, all the while refusing to believe what he said. Anastasia saved me and I thanked her for it. She protected me from the vampire who came for me the first night after my transformation, and I would always thank her for it, regardless of what Silvanus thought of her.
“I’m no longer the woman you remember from your past,” Anastasia said to him. “I’ve changed.”
“Changed?” He spoke with clenched teeth. “Why are you lying to me in my own home?” He pointed at her. “May I remind you that you are only alive because I promised your sire, who is my sibling, that I would spare your life? I promised her that I would give you plenty of opportunities to right your wrongs against our kind.”
I immediately sensed fear in my sire.
“And I thank you for that. However, regardless of what I do from here and now, you will never trust me,” Anastasia replied. “You will always think wrong of me.”
Before I opened my mouth to speak, in one blurred movement, Silvanus rose from his chair and stood in front of Anastasia. He placed his hand around her throat and lifted her just inches from the floor. Immediately my protective instincts kicked in and like clockwork, he glared at me and mouthed the word, “no.”
I stood still, watching him choke her. I heard the bones in her neck crack and instead of fighting back, Anastasia took the punishment. Her eyes fluttered and she held onto his forearm.
“You’ve been a Ramanga for what—almost two hundred years now, maybe three hundred?” He continued. “And you still roam the countryside like a mad, wild, Deamhan orphan. You sire unwanted children and keep them around like servants, all willing to do your bidding because of their bond to you. You’ve used Deamhan for your own protection and now you tend to do the same with Maris. But I tell you now, Anastasia that will not happen again.”
Unable to help her, I did the next best thing that came to mind. I dropped to my knees, crawled over to Silvanus, and I begged for him to spare her. I didn’t care if my act was low and embarrassing. All I cared about was Anastasia and her wellbeing. He ignored my helpless attempt, but I pleaded to him again.
“She is all we have,” I said to him. “She is all we know.”
“That is your bond talking nonsense,” he replied to me.
“Bond or not, she is my sire,” I said in a harsh tone. “If you kill her, I will gladly die along with her.”
He quickly eyed me.
“I will fight you until either you kill me or I kill you,” I spurted back at him.
Silvanus quickly let her go and Anastasia fell onto her back. His light brown eyes, now dark, beamed into my soul. “Are you threatening me, dear Maris?”
I swallowed hard. “Yes.”
“You’re still young.” He stepped back and straightened his jacket. “You clearly don’t know anything about your sire.”
I stepped back and watched him rub his hands together. “You were going to kill her,” I said.
He nodded. “That I was.” He walked back to his seat.
“And you expect me to stand back and watch?”
“No.” He sat in his seat. “I would expect you to do what you could to save her.”
I reached out to grab Anastasia by her wrist to help her to her feet but she pulled away from my weak gesture.
“You’re strong minded. It’s a rare trait in the Deamhan world,” Silvanus said to me. “I can see that your mind is worried about your family. But I’m telling you now, you don’t have to worry. I will not throw them out onto the streets. They will stay here until necessary preparations are made.”
“Thank you.” Anastasia stood to her feet and rubbed her throat.
“Don’t thank me. Thank Maris. Her close-knit bond with you saved your life. What you do starting here and now will determine if your family is worthy to stay in my protective sanctuary. Now leave us. I need to have some time alone with the newest addition to your family.”
I watched Anastasia turn around and walk out, closing the doors behind her. Left alone in a monumental room with him, I started to become wary of his intentions and I thought that he would punish me for the threat I made earlier.
“I will make the necessary preparations. It could take weeks, maybe months, to secure your passage to America.” He scrunched his nose. “I never understood why America, of all places. It’s such a dirty country. Why not Greece or Italy or any other place full of like-minded, sophisticated individuals?”
“Although there is a high chance that Ruby and her vampires will follow you there,” Silvanus said. “But you will be safer there with her than here, trust me.”
“Yes. She is a very old Deamhan, much older than myself. She is the one who ordered me to declare the Decretum.”
I didn’t care about that old Deamhan. I shook my head. “What about my family?” I asked. “I don’t want to leave them.”
“You have to and you will.” He lifted his body to sit up straight. “Maris, this is much more than your asinine bond with your maker. This is about the future of our kind.” He read my thoughts and now, educated in my feelings toward my family, he leaned toward me. “You are unfortunate to have Anastasia as your sire.”
“I don’t want to leave my family because some old female Deamhan commands me to.”
He raised his hand to interrupt me. “She isn’t just some old Deamhan. She is wise and knows everything. Show more respect.”
I silently stood down.
“Many Deamhan, including your sire, don’t know of their lineage,” he replied. “They show no regard for those who came before them. Most think that once they are Deamhan and no longer human, they can do what they want to do. They let their primal instincts take over and they kill whenever and whomever they want.”
I opened my mouth again but he reinforced my silence by raising his hand again.
“I’m not done talking, Maris,” he replied. “They don’t worry about the implications of their horrors and the pain vendettas they cause among humans, vampires, and other creatures in the world. They don’t understand that all species are in fact closely related.”
I tilted my head slightly to the right, confused as to why he was telling me about this and what it had to do with my bond to Anastasia.
“I’ve witnessed several Deamhan throughout the centuries throw their lives away, your sire included. They all thought they were untouchable and truly immortal. They traveled from city to city, town to town, killing everyone in their path because they could. Even the oldest of the old could not control them for they were too many. This old Deamhan tried but her only desire was to make sure that your ancestors were safe from any harm. Other Ancients came together to try and solve this ongoing and out of control problem. Lucius, a Lugat, Nicias, a Metusba, Marjolaine, a lovely and beautiful Lamia, and Gennadios, a Ramanga—they believed that rules were needed to secure the survival of our species. They wrote down those rules and created The Dictum.” He lowered his hand. “Now, you can talk.”
“What does this have to do with my bond with Anastasia?” I asked.
“Because your sire has broken these rules too many times to count. She breaks them now.” He continued. “I’ve been alive for a very, very long time, Maris. You aren’t the first or the last human she will sire. Heed my words, young Deamhan.” He moved in closer to me. “You will have to break your bond with her if you are to survive—and believe me, your survival is of the utmost importance to myself and other Ancients. If not, she will use you as bait. She will turn on you and throw you away like unwanted trash. You are of use to her because of her history with Ruby. She is just one of the Deamhan who spent the earliest moments of her life killing without remorse and without thought. Hence, you will go to America to be away from her and to be away from her history that is catching up to her.”
I remained quiet as my brain processed this new information.
“I remember Anastasia when she was a young one, like you are now. Over time she grew to be the Deamhan you know today. She has survived off the backs of her offspring and other Deamhan. She has made enemies and now they are your enemies. Both Deamhan and vampire hunt her and you are too important to be caught in the middle of her squabbles.” He cleared his throat. “Believe me when I say that you are worth gold to me and to all Deamhan.”
“How is it that I’m this important?” I asked.
“You are descended from the humans who created our kind,” he replied. “The knowledge is in your blood.” He extended his arms. “Would you like to see?”
I opened my mouth but I couldn’t find my voice. He then placed his hands on my forehead and immediately a flurry of images crashed into my thoughts in rapid movements. The staggering pressure lifted me to my toes and made me close my eyes tightly. In the darkness, I saw the visions he sent of Anastasia in her early years; killing, siring, killing, siring. I saw buckets of blood showering these visions like rain glistening off the leaves on a tree. Over and over again these images didn’t stop until I saw how my sire viewed me. What Silvanus said was true. She saw me not as her offspring but as a bargaining chip with vampires and Deamhan alike.
I then saw how she viewed Finley, Branda, and Brandy. She used their bonds with her as a way of securing her survival, just like her own sire. She cared little if nothing for us or any Deamhan, including Silvanus. The night of my attack she watched and let the vampires attack me, bringing me near death, before she intervened. Her main goal wasn’t to save me but to sire me.
“Bonds are tricky little things,” he said. “They can be broken, mended, and created anew.”
The images suddenly changed. Now I felt Silvanus digging through my mind and my head began to throb in pain. I wanted to force him out, but he proved to be too strong and countered my attempt. I saw vampires and humans surrounded by death. At first the humans ran from them but in the end, they stood tall against the vampires. Power exuded from them; a dark energy that made the hair on my arms stand firm. Then I saw Deamhan standing with the humans against the vampires. Balance restored, they pushed the vampires back, but it only lasted for a short time. The Deamhan turned against the humans and like oil in water, each group separated into its own entity. Death had embedded itself into every inch of a Deamhan, down to our very core.
Finally, I managed to force myself away from his touch and I stumbled back, looking wide-eyed at him. He had shown me things that I didn’t want to see or know. No longer did I have a desire to remain bonded to Anastasia or anyone for that matter. He proved to me that not only was I now damned like all Deamhan, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
He slowly dropped his hand. “The energy in you is different. I felt it.” He leaned back in his chair. “You are the one, Maris.”
Still reeling, I stepped back. “How did you do that? How did you show me those images?”
He shrugged as if what he had done wasn’t that big of a deal. “I’m an Ancient, my dear. I can do many things.” He reached out and caressed my cheek. “I wanted you to see just how important you are.”
“All I felt was death circling inside me,” I replied, “and a feeling that we are all damned.”
He dropped his hand. “We are all damned. We’re death.” His eyes moved to my chest. “What is that dangling from your neck?”
Immediately I placed my hand over my chest and stepped back. “Jewelry that my mother gave me a long time ago.” He went to reach for it but again, I stepped back. “It’s dear to me. It used to belong to my mother.”
Silvanus dropped his hand. “It’s more than that. Let me see it.”
I felt reluctant to show him but he continued to gawk until I slowly pulled it from underneath my clothing. He stared at it for what felt like hours before speaking.
“You don’t feel it?” His eyes moved to my face. “You don’t feel its power?”
I looked down at the amulet. “No, it’s just a family heirloom.”
“It’s much more than that.” He snapped out of his stare by shaking his head. “It will protect you.”
“It didn’t protect me from vampires.” Now interested, I took a closer look at the amulet. “I don’t feel anything or any power coming from this.”
“Not vampires. Deamhan. Just keep it close. Don’t tell anyone what it can do; not even your siblings and definitely not Anastasia.”
Still yearning to know what he sensed from the amulet, I stepped forward. “How can this protect me from Deamhan? It didn’t protect me from Anastasia when she sired me—”
He quickly moved back from me. “It’s time for you to go.” For the first time I saw fear in his face, which caught me off guard. He waved me away. “Take your trinket far from me. I don’t like being in its presence.”
I didn’t want to leave but he gave me a fierce look that made me quickly leave his chamber without question. Still befuddled, I found myself at the fork in the middle of two long dusty roads with one road calling at me to run away from this new life and the other to embrace it. Maybe Anastasia wasn’t the only mother figure in my life keeping secrets. Maybe my own mother kept secrets from me and if so, why? I desperately wanted to know what my life now meant.
Everything I witnessed felt like a confused family tragedy, played out in dishonor, murder, and betrayal. Was this the new life that I now lived? How had I turned from just one unimportant whore to an important individual in the eyes of Deamhan? I didn’t want that burden and I blamed Anastasia for forcing it on me.
I damn well didn’t want to be bonded to her anymore, but a part of me couldn’t imagine my Deamhan life without her and my siblings.
Maris. The Brotherhood Files is available on Amazon
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