Chapter 3 Alexa
My alarm disc goes off, waking me up. I snap it and throw it in the bin. It has been three days since we escaped from the human army's base and I have been drinking excessive amounts of blood. Probably to build my strength up to full again. Damon has been quiet ever since we got back, and has been insisting on making me drink. I decide to talk to him today. But when I go downstairs, he is nowhere to be found. I search the huge house from top to bottom, but find nothing. Lastly, I walk into the kitchen and spot a small note on the counter. All it says is:
'Gone to flying practice in the training arena, remember to drink!!!'
Helpful. I wonder...
I make myself some toast, remembering what Viera used to do at breakfast, and smile. I sit in my usual seat, facing Viera's. It makes my heart ache to see it empty, but it's what she chose. She had committed Zenkantha, which is the giving up of one's Vampire self, giving the soul no choice but to turn into its glamour form and go to the Human Realm. So I do still see her, but only when I go to the Human Realm, at the human school I have to attend until I am seventeen. I wear a toned-down version of myself for a glamour, but it's not very strong. In the sunlight, depending on how strong it is, you can see my true self a little. My glamour eyes are brown, but sunlight turns them bright, glistening gold. My fox-like ears don't show up clearly, but you can see them slightly, and they are very clear in my shadow. My wings are quite easy to hide, I just keep them under my clothes there, but they show up. My tail is similar to my ears, in that you can see something, but not very well, unless you look at my shadow.
It's risky doing that in the Human Realm, but I need to be there for Viera.
I smirk as I think of what she would say right now if she saw me eating so little. I close my eyes and picture her scowl as she would stalk into the kitchen and grab a load of food, setting it in front of me and forcing me to eat. For a second, just a second, I forget that she is gone and go to look up at her and chuckle. But the laughter dies in my throat at the empty space above me. I sigh and leave the dining room, too disheartened to eat, leaving my toast on the table. I go to the living room to find Nix, Viera's adopted daughter.
“Hi Nix.” I say quietly. She turns and smiles a little, her ice-blue eyes glowing as if lit from the inside. She gets up and hugs me. She is four years old, or looks it anyway; her long black hair matching her wolf-like ears and tail, her skin is creamy ivory like mine. Vampire ages are hard to guess, as our physical ages are completely different to our true ages.
“Hi Aunt Alexa.”
“I told you Snowflake, call me Alexa.” I smile, using her nickname. Nix means Snow in Latin, which is fitting as she comes from the mountains of the north. She smiles and nods. “Would you like to go to the training arena?” I ask, knowing it would take our minds off of the empty space in our lives.
“Okay.” She says quietly, running off to get her arrows while I grab her sword, my weapons already at hand.
We are out of the door within two minutes, and stop by the Honour Court on the way, to check the situation and get Nix's weekly check over with. Vladimir looks at Nix with sad eyes as he checks her mind for any instability or depression. She is fine, but he watches us leave with worried eyes. Nix's real mother had died to save her daughter from the Lantakay that attacked their village in the northern mountains, going weeks without sustenance, dragging herself all the way to the city I live in, dying on our garden wall to get her daughter to us. Viera had found her and adopted her, wanting to give her a normal life. But when Jacques disappeared in the northern mountains, she had lost all sense of reality, and eventually, she had decided to end it all, reverting to the simplicity of a human's life, killing off her vampire side, going into her glamour. I could bring her back, but I don't know how yet, I need to get to a library and read it up. Nix and I head over to the training arena, and spot Damon, just managing to pull out of a dive, but nearly breaking his ankle landing.
“Alexa!” he calls, Nix giggles but we act as if we had not seen his bad landing.
“Hi Damon!” I smile as he approaches, his black hair is windswept, his eyes bright. “I was just going to help Nix with her training.”
“I'll help if you want,” He says lightly, “I have a couple of little tricks I can teach her!” He winks as he says this, and I know he's going to teach her how to trip her opponent up without getting caught or something. I roll my eyes and we walk to the sword fighting area. We teach her to parry and defend, something Viera should be doing right now. She should be here for her daughter, not going round the human realm living the easy life. No demons to fight, no punishments to carry out, no Honour Court, no worries of being discovered and exposed as a vampire, no duties, no blood drinking, no clue what a Kalenta fruit is, let alone having to eat them to avoid madness and death, the list goes on. All she has to worry about is what homework she's got to do for the next day, what her friends think of her, petty little things that won't matter in the long run. My temper flares as I think this, and my sadness threatens to engulf me, but I force it down, I need to be there for Damon, Nix and the rest of the Realm.
“Heads up Alexa!” Damon shouts as his hand whips out towards me. An object comes flying at me and I catch it reflexively and find myself clutching a bottle of fresh blood.
“Damon...!” I whine.
“You're drinking it, end of story!” He says firmly, looking straight into my eyes, even though little Nix is 'duelling' a dummy under his supervision.
I sigh, roll my eyes and open the bottle. He waits until I'm halfway through it before turning back to Nix and giving her pointers. I laugh as she attempts to roll and stab the dummy and fails dramatically. She sulks and stabs her sword into the dummy and leaves it there. She walks off and sits on the wall, crossing her arms and huffing melodramatically.
I smile, go over to her and sit next to her. She ignores me, her full red lips in a hugely exaggerated pout.
“Sulking doesn't get you trained you know!” I chuckle and she almost smiles, but settles back into a sulk. I pull an arrow out of my quiver and poke her gently, she squeals, grinning, then realises what I did. “See? You can smile!” I laugh and she can't help but join in. I take her tiny hand in mine and lead her to the shooting range. “Now let's see what your aim is like.”
It’s getting dark by the time we get home, Nix is so tired, you can practically see her internal struggle to stay awake. Damon carries her to her room, which used to be Viera and Jacques’ room. Jacques returned too late for Viera, and was so angry and heartbroken that he left the house, unable to cope with the strong presence she left behind. In a way, I feel the same. Every room and corridor has yet another memory to plague me with, it’s a wonder I haven’t gone mad yet.
I sigh and sit on the sofa, Damon joins me after a while, and we say hardly a word. Before long, we decide to call it a night, back to the Human Realm for school tomorrow for me, another long day with nobody but Nix to talk to for him. Oh fun. I’m almost dreading tomorrow, seeing the glamour of Viera without the vampire underneath, her new green eyes and toned down voice. It’s so depressing! But I have to be there for her, just in case.
And until I work out how to bring her back as a full vampire and not a half, that’s how it’s got to stay. I’ve looked through so many books it isn’t even funny, but still haven’t found the right way to do it. I lie down on the sofa, exhausted, and try to settle into sleep. When I finally drift off, visions plague me.
Another blow to the back of my head, and I cough up blood. “I'm sorry!” I wail, and am answered with another blow. “I did my best, please, no more!” But an even harder hit is my only answer.
“You failed, Onyx, and you must be punished.” My master growls above me, lifting the weapon yet again. I coil into a ball and try to shield my head with my hands, but the shackles barely allow me to cover my face. The chains tighten, and I stare at my furious master like a mouse stares into a cobra's eyes before it eats it.
“Please! I'll do better! I promise, PLEASE!” I beg and scream, but it is no use, he beats me and beats me, then leaves me half dead in the chamber to think about my mistakes.
I try to wake up, but another vision drags my consciousness down again before I can even cry out.
This time, I can't afford to mess up, he'll kill me as slowly and painfully as he can if I do. My heart pounds at the thought of this next task, they're so strong and fast, and if they catch me, I'm done for. I take a shallow, ragged breath and shake my chains a little, hoping to ease them a little on my wrists, but if anything, the pain increases. I remember the last girl who failed five tasks in a row, he killed her and made us all watch, the memory still haunts me to this day. This is my fifth, and if I fail this, he'll increase the level of torture and humiliation as a lesson to everyone else.
The snow is so cold on my bare feet, but right now, I have more important things to worry about. I've a knife in my hand, and the house isn't far away now, maybe twenty paces away. Just a knife, against those creatures! What was he thinking?! There it is, I can hear them inside, laughing and joking, at ease with each other.
I'd run away now if I could, try to disappear from the Realm, but the chains are enchanted, and I have no choice, it's do the job or die. I raise my pitiful weapon and bang on the door. It goes dead quiet in there, and I hear movement. The first opens the door, and I falter, he's at least 6ft tall, maybe even taller, and well muscled. His eyes are bright red, and his hair looks like fire, which is fitting as his wings are made of flickering flame. He looks angry and intimidating, and I steel myself for the worst.
“I'm so sorry,” I whisper, “but it's you or me.” And stab the knife into his abdomen, yank it out and stab him again, and again. The other yells in horror and shock and runs over to his fallen companion. This one has silvery eyes and hair, with matching ears and a tail, and I let the knife fly at him. It's made of iron, and burns him when it buries itself in his throat. “I'm so sorry!” I sob at the two dying vampires before fleeing the area, horrified at what I've done, but glad I'm not going to be brutally murdered by my master.
I wake, screaming, as the dying thoughts of Prince Tonla explode into my mind. It's beyond terrible, I can feel every burning wound, and his utter bewilderment, it's one of the most horrific things I've ever experienced. I can't keep my consciousness from his, my mind keeps falling back into his dying thoughts as though it is being pulled in by an unseen force.
“Alexa, what the hell?!” Damon roars, sprinting into the room. I realise I've fallen off the sofa and am sitting on the red and gold carpet of the living room, still screaming. It's not one long scream either, it;s a volley of screams in quick succession of each other. I manage to stop and take deep, gasping breaths, before I can stop myself I'm sobbing, and try to make sense of Tonla's scrambled thoughts. They're becoming so incoherent, and the last thing I make out before his soul leaves the Realm, is his confused question to no one in particular: Why?.
“Prince Tonla's dead!” I cry, to Damon's shock and horror, “I saw it, I saw who did it!”
“Princess Thorn, you're not making any sense!” Prince Vladimir cries, interrupting me yet again. My new title of 'princess' annoys me, but I can't exactly turn around and tell them not to call me that, it's regulation.
“Vladimir, I have visions, present or future, and I saw who killed Prince Tonla!” I say for the third time. “A woman called Onyx was forced to murder him, she used an iron knife to kill him and Etengi. She was chained up hand and foot, so she could move but was still hindered, it was sheer desperation and their complete surprise that caused her to win the fight.”
“From what perspective did you see this woman?” He asks, his eyes fixed on me.
“I could read her emotions and thoughts, but I was standing beside her, like a shadow.”
“Interesting.. Do you know why or how she was forced to do this?”
“Yes, her master, I don't know his name, beat her senseless because she failed her last task, and if she or the other women who work for him fail five tasks in a row, he tortures them to death in front of everybody else. This was her fifth task, and she managed not to fail, so she will still be alive.” Vladimir looks troubled.
“The late Princess Flame failed to stop a man from escaping us once, and he would happily do the cruelties described by you, oh... what was his name...”
“Malachy Donner, sir.” Damon says, and I agree.
Vladimir begins to pace back and forth along, his footsteps silent on the stone floor. “Ah, yes, forgive me, I am becoming rather forgetful as of late.” He says, still pacing. I stretch and shake out my wings before folding them back into a comfortable position.
Vladimir's head snaps up, it seems he's struck by an idea. “Alexa, would you be willing to track this Onyx down? You're the most accomplished flier in the Realm-”
“Prince Vladimir, she got captured in her last mission! What if that happens with this one?! You can't possibly be thinking of sending her to a place where she could either be enslaved or murdered!” Damon shouts, interrupting him, something nobody, nobody, has ever done. I stare at him, openly shocked, and dare myself to peek at Vladimir's reaction, expecting him to be beyond angry, expecting to have to plead for Damon's sake. However, there is no anger in his face, surprise, yes, but no anger. Instead, there is humour.
“My good man, you don't really think I'm going to send her without an escort do you?” He laughs, but Damon does not look amused. “I'll send Demios or perhaps Prince Cole with her!” Damon looks ready to argue, but a quick sweep of my wing keeps him silent. For now.
“Prince Vladimir, I do not think it is necessary to send an escort. So long as I am in the vampire Realm, I can outfly and outfight anything and anyone in my path.” I say confidently, but Damon hisses quietly at me. I nudge him with my wing, but he does not heed my warning.
“Prince, I may not be an Honour Court member, and I may not be a warrior of the standard Demios is, but I am willing to go as her guide and protector. After all,” He looks at me, “She is more important to me than anything.” This is so not the time Damon! I think, half flattered, half annoyed. The other Princes are evaluating my influence as a member of the Honour Court and if I am portrayed as a weak woman, I will never be taken seriously. A serious amount of stubbornness and assurance rushes through me as I make my final decision.
“I will leave alone, in one day's time. If I need assistance, I will call for it.” I tell them both decisively, and bid the stunned Princes goodbye before dismissing myself.