We traveled at night and slept during the day. We kept off the main roads and avoided major settlements. But this did not stop rumors from reaching our ears. People talked about a vampire who poisoned and kidnapped a hunter. My father was too ashamed to tell the truth. Once we stopped hearing the rumors, we knew we were far enough away from him and closer to the city of Ravenblack. But the real challenge was yet to come.
We reached the Desert Edge, a fortress that once guarded the living from anything that was able to cross the wasteland. We climbed the tower to the top where she pointed to the east. “There! About thirty miles away is the black carriage,” she said. She then turned to face me. “Only I can ride that carriage, Marco.”
“I know. I must find another way to cross the desert,” I responded. “Do not worry. Soon we’ll be together in Ravenblack City,” I assured her, wiping tears from her gray eyes.
The plan was simple. We were to wait until night fell again where Zara would travel the thirty miles to the carriage. The carriage would then take her the rest of the way to Ravenblack City. I was to travel about one hundred miles to the south, to the White River and take a ferry to the city. Simple.
We started a fire and sat before it, holding eachother tightly. Zara was exhausted, I knew she was. She had not fed in days and it showed. Her lips were dry and her bright gray eyes were dull and lifeless. She had sacraficed a lot to get here, all for me. And though her current state brought me to tears, I had never felt so lucky in my life. She never had to tell me that she loved me. Her actions said it all.
“Zara, why was there a bounty on your head?” I asked her, taking her hand in mine.
She responded slowly, her voice was weak and dream like. “The lord of Brym… I stole his heart.”
It was silly of me to think that I might have been the only human lover she has taken. Afterall, men want a dangerous woman who can seduce them and make them forget that the world exist. Even if it’s just for a minute.
“No,” she said after a pause. She reached into her blouse and produced a necklace. Hanging from the silver chain was a red diamond, cut and shaped like a heart. “I stole his heart,” she repeated.
Zara then jerked and gasped for air. She looked at me with her pleading eyes. She jerked again. This time I saw the bolt on her chest.
“No!” I yelled as I threw myself over her to shield her from anymore bolts. The hunters left the shadows and entered the room. They surrounded us, their crossbows loaded and pointed at us.
“Step away from her, my son.” It was my father.
I held on to her tightly. “Please, do not take her away from me!” I begged.
He kneeled before me and leaned in. “No harm will come to her. Step away from her and she’ll live.”
“You lie!” I yelled.
“Believe me, she will be safe.”
I did not move. If they wanted her, they would have to go through me. My father motioned to one of his men who quickly approached me and hit me on the head with the butt of his crossbow. Two others held me to the floor while the rest took hold of Zara. “Stay away from her! If you touch her, I will slit your throats!” I warned them. They shrugged off my threat.
“This is what you risked your life, your family for? my father asked, pointing at Zara. “Are you willing to throw your life away for this demon whore?”
“Watch what you say about her!” I shouted
He laughed. “Don’t tell me you love her.”
I looked at Zara and gave her a look that said ‘hold on’. “What do you know about love?” I asked him.
He laughed again. “Your mother knew it was dangerous to be with me, Marco. But she stayed because she was devoted. I kept hunting in hopes of living in a better world where trash like this does not exist.” He paused, then softly said, “I failed your mother, but I never stopped loving her. I vowed to her, to never let you out of my sight. I vowed to never let you fall astray. I’m here to make sure you don’t.”
I was hit again. This time I was knocked out.
I woke up hours later, well after sunrise. I was bound, my hands were tied around my back. I immediately searched for Zara. I saw her in the corner, her face bruised and bloody. She was beaten. She saw me and smiled. I smiled back. For that moment, I felt like everything was going to be alright. But I was wrong.
“He’s awake,” one of the hunters said.
My father turned to me. “Excelent. Lift him up. Lift them both up,” he commanded.
They moved us to the center of the room, facing the arched doorway of the tower that led to the ledge. Zara and I were side by side, our tied hands searched to grab hold of eachother. I found her hand and held on to it tightly.
“You may not choose to understand now, Marco, but you will soon learn that I do this to save your soul.” my father said, pacing back and forth. “This succubus has been guilty of crimes against humanity. Murder, torture, kidnapping, arson, deception, theft… the list goes on and on.” He stops. “You know very well of the things she has done. You witnessed many of these things. How many of our men have fallen victim to her? How many more that we do not know about?”
A hunter behind us drew his sword and pointed it at Zara’s back. She looked at me and smiled. Again, the smile told me that everything will be alright. She has a plan, she will loosen her binds, kill the hunters and we’ll be off to Ravenblack City. Our promise land.
“Crimes of this nature require justice,” he continued. “She must pay, and pay she will.”
Two hunters took hold of Zara and led her to the archway. Two others held me in place.
My father turned to her and spoke softly, “I’ll give you the chance to redeem yourself. Walk to the ledge.”
Zara nodded. She gave me one more smile and one more look with tear filled eyes. My father was a fool to trust her, I thought, she would use this opportunity to escape.
But she didn’t.
She walked through the archway and into the sunlight. And as her skin began to sizzle and burn, I heard her voice in my head whisper the forbbidened words, “I love you.”
I couldn’t even scream. I couldn’t even move. And as she erupted into flames, I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t do anything. It was only when her body went over the ledge to the rocks a hundred feet below, that I collapsed. And I wept.
There isn’t much to remember after that. My father waited until nightfall to release me from my binds. A day later, I killed him and his men and continued on to Ravenblack City. I continued killing. I crossed the line and I no longer knew who I was. I wasn’t sure if I even existed. But the horror in my victims eyes gave me acknowledgement of my existence. I craved death and felt an overwelming sense of power every time I took a life. This was all I was- death.
Then, as luck would have it, I came across a vampire named Kevan who must have had pity for me. He turned me and abanddoned me. It was then that I completely forgot it all. I forgot about Zara and the killing. I still killed, but only for blood. It wasn’t until many years later when I had joined the Night Witches that The Voice first spoke to me. It was an echo of my past.
The Voice told me that I was once a great man. He was partly right. I was loved. Zara had sacraficed so much for me. I have never been so lucky.