“What a delightful little surprise.” The vampire whispered in Cordelia’s ear. “I was so disappointed when you left the bakery so abruptly, but here you are, right in my home, in Micah’s room of all places…”
The woman lightly stroked through the thick red hair to get it out of the way, her fingers pressing on to Cordelia’s neck. Her touch was cold, colder than the other vampire’s from earlier.
“Get off my dinner.” The man’s voice interrupted them.
Cordelia’s heart skipped a beat, for a moment she dared to hope he’d come to her rescue, but of course, she realised what he’d said. Looks like he’d finally came to claim what was his.
“Your dinner?” The woman repeated, clearly irritated.
“Obviously.” He replied without hesitation, sending Cordelia deeper into despair. “You’re in my room. What makes you think you have the right to snoop around here in the first place?”
“Smell lured me in.” The woman replied. “It’s unlike you to bring food to the bedroom, Micah. Too messy for the delicate flower you are…”
The two of them then proceeded to hiss at each other. Did it matter which one of these vampires killed her? Somehow, the man terrified Cordelia less than the woman did, but it didn’t make a difference. She’d be dead all the same.
He finally stopped the hissing match. “Get out of my room, Alba. You have no business here. As for the prey, Verena was quite clear. This one is mine.”
The woman frowned. “Verena?”
“Yes, she specifically brought her for me. For me alone.” The man reiterated.
The woman looked as if she was going to rip him to shreds. Something she was probably capable of, Cordelia realised. But she did nothing of the sort. “Fine. If Verena wishes to give you the prey I found, so be it. Rest assured I’ll find a way to repay you, dear brother.”
And with that, she left the room.
Cordelia instinctively took a step back towards the wall, away from the man. But there was no escaping. She hit her back on a stack of paintings. He came closer to her.
“You should get some rest.” He told her. “You’ve lost a decent amount of blood tonight.”
“Wh- what? You’re not going to kill me?” Cordelia could practically hear her own heart beating.
His face was motionless. “For now. I will if you won’t shut up.”
She nodded her head, terrified, and watched him walk over to the easel by the window. He started painting, no longer paying her any attention.
She sat down on the bed, shaking. Did he really expect her to just sleep? There was no way…
For a while, she just watched him paint in silence. But her exhaustion eventually made her drift away while listening to the soft strokes of the paintbrush gliding across the canvas.
She awoke with a gasp. It’s ok, she told herself. You’re ok. You’re alive.
She realised the sprites had come to pay her a visit. Surprised her that their colour was the tense yellow, Cordelia would have thought they’d relish at the sight of her misfortune.
The vampire took notice of them too. “What are these things?” He asked, walking over to her. Cordelia flinched.
“They’re called sprites. They’re… some kind of fae that follow me.” She said weakly.
”Hm.” He didn’t offer much in the way of response. But he wasn’t attacking.
Cordelia considered her options. The vampire had ample opportunities to kill her, but he chose not to. “You… you don’t want me to die, right?” She made her bid.
His expression turned an odd combination of fear and fearsome. “I don’t want to kill you. There’s a difference.”
“Just let me go, please… You saved me from the other vampire. You say you don’t want to kill me… Please…” Cordelia begged.
His response was simple. “I can’t. I can’t go against our leader. She brought you here. She wouldn’t look kindly on me releasing you.”
Cordelia’s heart sank. But her mind was racing. There had to be something she could say… Couldn’t he just claim he had disposed of her dead body?
“How would she even know?” She asked.
It was hopeless. She burst into tears.
“I’m sorry. I have to go to sleep now.” The vampire told her. And without as much as another glance at her, he walked over to the other side of the room, stripped out of his clothes and opened the large coffin by the wall, stepping right into it.
It seemed he’d entered a trance-like sleep immediately, his body hovering down into position. Cordelia leapt up and made a run for the window.
She glanced in the vampire’s direction as the coffin closed over him, but he seemed to be completely out.
Not that that was particularly helpful. The glass was thick, and there seemed no way to open the window. What did he do when he needed fresh air in the room? Cordelia shook off the absurdity of the thought. He didn’t. Why would a vampire need fresh air?
If she could manage to throw the large vase next to the easel at the window, maybe she’d manage to crack it. She attempted to lift it, but it was far too heavy. She was trapped.
It seemed to be a cloudy day outside, but the sun was rising.
Did the sun kill vampires, like in the movies? It was hardly sunny outside, but maybe if she managed to open the coffin lid and get the light to shine on him… then she’d be locked in a room with a dead vampire, if it even worked.
Was she actually contemplating killing somebody? Sure, her life was on the line, but was that really how she’d repay him for sparing it so far? Who was she kidding… She was no murderer. Even if killing someone meant saving her own life. Not that it would particularly help in her current situation in the first place.
Cordelia’s eyes lingered on one of the many paintings scattered around the room. A beautiful woman with her eyes closed, as if she were sleeping. She wondered if all of the artwork around her was the vampire’s work. If so, he was clearly very skilled. Of course, that was bound to happen if he was immortal, wasn’t it?
She re-checked the door, but sure enough, it wouldn’t budge. Cordelia wasn’t sure how that vampire woman managed to open it in the first place. Maybe the vampires had a special power to open locked doors. Or maybe she just had a key, the girl scolded herself inwardly.
All Cordelia could do was hope all of the vampires in the house had retreated to their own respective coffins for the day. If her captor needed to hide from the light of day, hopefully that was the case for all of them.
She racked her brain for a way out, but it seemed he was her only option. What did the woman call him earlier? Micah? Micah. He said he didn’t care if she died, but he didn’t want to kill her. Cordelia suddenly burst out laughing. How dire had her situation become if that was her best hope?
But her best hope it was regardless, so she spent the day scouring the room for any clues to help her get into his good graces. Cordelia didn’t know much about art, but she did find his paintings beautiful. And full of pain. But maybe that was just her projecting her own circumstances onto the canvas. Was that not what people did with art, anyway?
She was strangely glad for the sprites’ company. Perhaps her life had truly come a full circle now. No, she couldn’t give up… but she felt so lightheaded.
It was hunger, Cordelia realised. She hadn’t eaten since boarding the train to Forgotten Hollow. Her mind briefly flickered to her stop at the bakery. The first of many mistakes. If she didn’t count this whole trip as one colossal mistake, that was.
Her stomach growled in confirmation, but it was the sound of the coffin opening that Cordelia paid attention to.
The vampire arose from his slumber. “You’re hungry.” He clearly noticed her belly rumbling as well. “We don’t really keep any human food. I’ll try to get you something later. But I need to sort myself out first. Trust me, out of the two us, I need to be the first one to feed.”
“Of course.” She agreed quickly. But the thought of him leaving her alone here filled her with dread. What if the other woman returned? At least him, Cordelia could bargain with. She stood up, making her way towards him. “Micah, was it?”
“Yes.” He grunted.
“That’s a nice name. I’m-“
“I don’t wanna know.” He interrupted her attempt to introduce herself.
She tried a different approach. “The painting you made last night… what is it?”
Micah sighed. “A plant. From an alien planet.”
At least that was an answer, Cordelia thought. Bonding. Good. “Have you been to an alien planet? Or did you see it in a dream?” She asked. Could vampires even dream, she wondered?
He hesitated before replying. “I’m not sure.”
She couldn’t just let him end the conversation with that. Clearly she was on the right track with the art. “Did you paint everything in this room?”
“Yes.” He nodded, but did not elaborate.
“They’re very good.” Cordelia carried on. “So… full of soul.”
“Surprised I have a soul?” He hissed.
“No! That’s not what I meant!” She blurted out. This was dangerous territory. Quick, change the subject… “I just meant to say they were beautiful. Like… the woman in that painting on the floor. Is she someone you know?”
That was a mistake, she realised immediately.
“THAT is none of your business!” His voice was powerful, his fangs suddenly bare.
Cordelia took a step back, but he was quicker, materialising far too close for comfort. He grabbed onto her throat. Any glimmer of kindness in his eyes had disappeared.
“Do NOT make me change my mind.” The way he enunciated his words terrified her.
But then he let go of her, and disintegrated into a dark cloud of mist… that turned into a bat.
If she wasn’t petrified, Cordelia would have to laugh at how absurd it all was. She watched the bat fly off, disappearing into thin air somehow.
Unfortunately, it didn’t feel funny at all.
The sage’s fingers travelled across the organ keyboard. Amazing what a little practice could do, Morgyn thought. But then, it was natural they’d master anything they’d put their mind to…
But it was so difficult to get a moment to appreciate their brilliance in this place. Constant interruptions. Constant pettiness. Today was no different.
“Morgyn!” Simeon stumped into the room, uncharacteristically having lost his equilibrium. “Care to explain why there’s a vampire here, claiming he has something of yours?”
Forget pettiness. The corners of Morgyn’s mouth twirled upwards. “I knew he’d come. Simeon, my friend, relax, this is all anticipated.”
Simeon did not look impressed. “Are you going to shine some light on this anticipated masterplan of yours?”
“I would have thought that as the sage of practical magic, you would know that vampires and light don’t mix.” Morgyn replied, delighting in the other sage’s anger. “But who said anything about a masterplan? It’s all about love…”
“Naturally. You are ‘in love’. Again.” Simeon clenched his fists. “Just… go deal with your mess, and get out of my sight.”
“Thrilled to oblige, as always.” The untamed magic sage cooed, heading into the entrance hall. Sure enough, the vampire was there, talking to no other than L Faba. Better free him from her grasp, Morgyn thought.
L Faba’s eyes shot to Morgyn immediately. “What the hell have you done now?”
As much as Morgyn enjoyed winding Simeon up, L Faba’s annoyance brought infinitely more pleasure than that. “Don’t be rude to our guests, darling L Faba.”
The untamed magic sage turned their attention to the vampire. “Welcome to the magic realm headquarters. I assure you most of us here possess far superior manners to my friend the mischief sage. Now, if you’d like to follow me… I never caught your name?”
“You don’t even know his name?” L Faba screamed at them. “Are you mad? Do you just walk around the human realm, tossing Glimmerstones at strangers!?”
“No, but thank you for the tip, L Faba, I shall try that next.” Morgyn flashed a smile at her. “Now, my vampire friend, where were we? Your name…”
“It’s Micah.” The vampire said quietly.
“Marvellous! Micah, please come along. Let’s chat somewhere more… private.”
“Please, have a seat.” Morgyn gestured towards the sofa once they entered the smaller room.
“A lot of books around here.” Micah observed as he sat down.
“Yes.” The sage nodded with a smile. “A lot of knowledge.”
“Good. That’s exactly why I’m here.” The vampire said impatiently.
Morgyn laughed. “I’m sure I can be of service. I have a lot of knowledge. I might just be willing to divulge a little…”
“See, that’s the problem.” Micah interrupted. “I’m not exactly interested in you picking and choosing what you share and what you keep to yourself. I’m not dumb. You’ll hold out on me.”
This vampire had spunk, Morgyn thought. “You caught me.” The sage admitted with a grin. “What is it that you propose?”
“I want access to your knowledge, undiluted.” The vampire said without a flinch. “I want your blood.”
Morgyn was shocked. “I beg your pardon?”
“Just a little bit,” Micah clarified, making his case. “I’m not after your life. Just a piece of your mind, so to speak. I’d take every precaution to ensure your safety. I’ve become pretty practiced in moderation over my time as a vampire, like you’ve observed yourself.”
Perhaps it should have been expected, dealing with vampires after all, but Morgyn was under the impression they’d asserted enough dominance back in the maze to avoid going down that route. And to a degree, they must have, otherwise the vampire wouldn’t be seeking permission. It was still Morgyn’s call to make, the sage realised, recovering their confidence.
“Absolutely not.” They turned away from the vampire. “It’s unequivocally out of the question.”
“I see.” Micah said quietly. “I’m not sure what you expected. Did you really think you could get involved with vampires without giving up something of your own? We don’t operate that way.”
Not quite the outcome Morgyn had hoped for, but it didn’t matter. The vampire would crawl back, the sage was certain of it. They just needed to practice a little patience. “Then I suppose we have nothing to talk about.”
“Oh, I think we do.” Micah gave the sage a strange defiant look. “You see, I’ve come into… possession of something you care for.”
Morgyn didn’t like his tone. “Yes, Simeon mentioned this earlier. Whatever you think you have, I’m sure it’s insignificant. I’m not missing anything.”
“Anything… or anyone?” Micah said coolly. “I guess this will be a disappointment to her, that you don’t miss her.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Morgyn said slowly, threading their words. They didn’t like where this was going.
“Your companion from the masquerade ball. The red-haired girl with too much courage for her own good.” Micah obliged with the detail.
“Cordelia?” Morgyn immediately scolded themselves for the reaction. Don’t show weakness. Remain in control.
“And I suppose you are expecting that I’ll just let you suck my blood in exchange for her going free?” The sage asked in what they hoped was an authoritative tone.
As expected, the vampire looked disappointed. Inexplicably, he flinched at the mention of Cordelia’s name, but he regained his composure swiftly.
“I’m guessing that’s still a no. Fine. For full disclosure, it’s not really my bargain to make.” Micah said. “I’ve simply come here with a friendly offering. Share a piece of my knowledge, to see if you might be willing to do the same. Apparently not. But just as well. It’s not me who you need to convince to set the girl free.”
“I see.” The sage managed to utter as the vampire stood up. “And who shall have the honour of discussing the matter with me?”
“The grand master vampire I mentioned at the Von Haunt Estate. My maker, Verena Tuveri. If she so chooses.”
Morgyn placed their fingers on their temples to massage them, allowing themselves to close their eyes for a brief moment. So much for not showing weakness. It wasn’t like them to let anyone offset the balance. But even Morgyn wasn’t arrogant enough to rejoice at the prospect of dealing with a grand master vampire.
They sighed, lowering their hand. “So you’re suggesting I make a social call in Forgotten Hollow, I assume?”
“Our house is the ominous looking one by the park, can’t miss it.” Micah told them. “I’m sure Verena will be overjoyed; we don’t get many visitors.”
And with that, the vampire transformed into a bat, leaving Morgyn behind as he flew off.
Morgyn let out a sigh. This complicated things. Suddenly, it was not the sage who had the upper hand. It did not feel pleasant. A sensation Morgyn was not used to. And they did not intend to change that.