Micah flicked to the next page of the book absent-mindedly. The story of Lucas Dark was failing to grip him. Much like the inspiration for his next painting that failed to turn up. He was sick of painting that tree. He just wanted it to go away. But the silence in the house was deafening.
It was a strange paradox; he spent the last 13 years in utter loneliness, but he was not particularly used to being alone. During his time with the coven, it seemed there was always someone prodding, watching him, seeing what his next room would be – even when he was in his room on his own.
In comparison, he lived in relative peace now, but he still hadn’t particularly had a lot of time to himself. Morgyn’s visits kept him distracted in the first place, and then Cordelia moved in of course. Since then, the sage wouldn’t come back to the house, sweeping Micah away on dates all over, or having him visit in their quarters in the magic realm instead.
But whenever Micah was at home, Cordelia would be there. She rarely initiated conversations with him, even now, but she did take to watching him paint for some peculiar reason. And later at night, he’d hear her soft snoring through the wall when he was in his painting nook.
But neither Cordelia nor Morgyn were here now, off on whatever jungle adventure Morgyn had in mind, and Micah felt as if his head was going to explode.
He slammed the book shut, giving up on Lucas Dark – compared to Micah’s own life, the events in Lucas’s didn’t really seem all that unlikely. The vampire put the book away and headed out. He’d already fed enough that night, but perhaps the breeze outside and the smell of the woods would do him good.
Micah didn’t go far, instead, he decided to go to get the campfire at the back going. From what he could gather, it was the only part from Cordelia’s original campsite that had remained unchanged.
He’d often see her sit there, roasting dinner in the evenings, in spite of the fact they had a perfectly good kitchen in the house. Micah understood that well, it was little acts of clinging onto the sense of normalcy like that that got him through the early days with the coven. Not that he ever broached that subject with her. He felt it was best she enjoyed that time on her own, unobstructed by the vampire intruder in her life.
A sigh escaped his lips. It didn’t seem fair that the girl’s life got so messed up. But as Morgyn had pointed out in the botanical gardens, life was hardly a matter of what was fair. Micah knew that too well.
His gaze moved away from the flames dancing ahead of him. Would his past continue to haunt him forever, he wondered? He decided to put the fire out, it was pointless – he didn’t need the warmth, and he wasn’t about to roast anything. Just another illusion to cling on.
If only he could turn his memories to ashes that easily. Morgyn didn’t seem to have a problem with that. Although Micah was aware that in itself was an illusion too, and one that came at a cost.
Scanning his surroundings for anything to take his mind off the heavy past, Micah’s eyes rested on the glowing tree. He never did have a look at what was inside, through that passage. As far as distractions went, it would do.
The colour of the tree’s glow changed from one to the next every few minutes. Micah approached it, looking up into the crown, down to the opening. It screamed magic, didn’t it?
Perhaps that’s what it was, another entrance to the magic realm? No, that couldn’t be it, Morgyn wouldn’t have bothered to bring him through the portal if that was the case. Curiosity overcame Micah. He suddenly found it hard to believe it took him this long to explore the tree passage. It was one of those things he’d considered “Cordelia’s.” Then again, she wasn’t here now, was she?
The golden glow he was greeted with on the other side of the tree was blinding. After all, it had been over 13 years since Micah has seen the light of day. It was definitely not something he expected on the other side of the dark tunnel. He hissed, cowering away from the sun instinctively.
He spotted a tree house of sorts ahead of him. Shelter. He had to get out of the sun, stat. He propelled himself towards it, using most of his vampiric energy to speed up the stairs as fast as possible.
Of course, it was still fairly bright outside of the house – he noticed the large windows as soon as he entered. He was hardly shielded here, wasn’t he? It was only now when it occurred to the vampire that the simplest solution would have been to simply return down the tree passage. Genius move there, Micah, he thought to himself.
Would he have enough time to sprint back out to it now, or was that too much sun to handle? Strangely, he felt no burning sensation on his skin in spite of the large windows. He was in no pain. But surely he still had to think quick…
The door to the small kitchen he was in opened, interrupting his frantic stream of thought.
It was that elf. Micah almost forgot about him… A shocked expression quickly spreading across the elf’s face as he entered.
“What are you doing here? How did you get here?” He blurted out at Micah. He was surrounded by several of those strange floating fairies, much like Cordelia’s only they seemed to be a different colour.
“Is this your house?” Micah asked, although the answer was already obvious. He should have realised that was the case, but of course, his desire for self-preservation was stronger when he bolted for the little cottage to shield himself from the sun. Who knew he had that much will to live in him after all…
The vampire calmed down slightly, realising the sun was not harming him. Odd. A coffin was always necessary during the day, even indoors. Then again, it was not daytime, was it? He had to learn more about this place. But first things first.
“I’m sorry I barged in here,” he told the elf. What was his name again? Some kind of flower… Dandelion, that was it. “I meant no harm. I was just trying to hide from the sun. Vampires and the sun are not the best of combinations…”
The elf eyed him up and down uncertainly. “Right… but how did you get to Sylvan Glade?”
Sylvan Glade was the name of this place, wasn’t it? That was what Morgyn had called it, at least.
“I went through the tree,” Micah replied, his tone apologetic. “I’m sorry. I really should have given it more thought. Should have realised you lived here.” He couldn’t believe his desire for a distraction made him so careless. It was so unlike him…
Dandelion seemed to have calmed down, though. “I guess that all makes sense. You meant no harm, and you got through the tree…. You aren’t going to hurt me, are you? Because if you were, you couldn’t be here, so…”
The elf’s muttering made little sense to Micah. He was probably just scared.
“No, I’m not going to hurt you.” The vampire said, hoping he sounded reassuring. “I was just curious, that’s all.”
Another one of those mothlike creatures flew right past Micah’s face. “These things look an awful lot like Cordelia’s sprites.” He mentioned, hoping to put Dandelion at ease. If the elf was to tell him to leave, what would he do? He couldn’t go out there, back into the golden light.
“Uh…” The elf’s expression changed, suddenly sheepish. “They kind of are Cordelia’s sprites. I’m sort of… looking after them while she’s away…”
Micah was puzzled. “Looking after them? I didn’t get the impression they were like pets that needed someone sorting them out.” After all, wasn’t that Cordelia’s whole sprite deal? She wanted the fae gone, not well kept…
“Not like pets, no.” Dandelion acertained. “They do what they want, mostly. But I’ve managed to make them a bit more… well-behaved. So I get them to stay away from her, when I can.” He almost looked proud of himself.
It was clear the elf cared for Cordelia a lot. Micah could still remember him yelling at Verena of all people, all in Cordelia’s name. Dandelion either had to be incredibly selfless, or incredibly infatuated, Micah determined. But that was none of his business.
“I’ve only ever seen them yellow.” He commented non-committedly. “Didn’t realise they could change colours.”
“Yellow means they’re tense.” Dandelion explained. “This turquoise blue is inspired, I think. I played the violin to them before going to bed.”
Of course, he woke him, didn’t he, Micah remembered. The elf was definitely more hospitable than anyone else would be if they were woken by a vampire trespassing in their house and asking about fairies… Micah was suddenly stumped for what to say.
“Oh, are they making you uncomfortable like they do Cordie?” Dandelion misread the vampire’s expression. He turned to the fluttering fae. “Shoo, it’s bed time! I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And amazingly, as he waved them off, the sprites did fly out of the room. No wonder he was proud, Micah thought, Cordelia certainly didn’t have that level of control over them.
Of course, with the sprites gone, there went the subject of conversation too. “Sorry for keeping you,” Micah said uncertainly. “I’ll go as soon as the sun goes down…”
“You might be here a while, then.” Dandelion told him. “The sun never sets in Sylvan Glade.” He sounded so casual, as if he didn’t just deliver the most fatal news Micah could think off.
“That… is impossible!” The vampire managed.
“Not impossible, it’s magic.” The elf shrugged. “I don’t know how it works, exactly. It never gets dark, and it never rains. I mean, it’s probably not even real sun. We are inside of a tree, after all…”
“Right.” It made no sense. And yet it did. There was no explanation as to why Micah was even able to stand it this room, with all the windows, glaring light coming in, without turning into dust. Did that mean the sun couldn’t hurt him outside either? Or whatever it was, if it wasn’t real sun…
“It’s all very old magic, that’s all I know.” Dandelion continued when Micah didn’t say anything else. “I don’t even know about all of the spells that are at work around here… there’s this one, the pure of heart one…”
“The pure what now?” What on earth did that mean, Micah wondered?
“Well, that’s the whole reason you could even get in here, because you meant no harm.” The elf replied, as if that made any sense. “Only the pure of heart can see the tree passage to Sylvan Glade.”
Only the pure of heart? “Is this some kind of sick joke?” Micah gritted through his teeth.
“Not at all.” The elf shook his head. “It’s a protective spell of some kind. If you’re not pure of heart, you can’t even see the tree opening in the first place. It just looks like a tree. And you can’t get in. It’s pretty clever…”
“No.” Micah’s voice flew up. “Your tree is broken. I’m the last thing you’d call pure of heart. I am a monster. I have done the worst things you could imagine.”
Dandelion remained oddly stoic – very unlike how ruled by emotions he was when Micah first met him. “Are you planning to do something terrible now? To me? To anyone?” He asked.
“What? No, of course not!” Micah was taken aback. “But I’m capable of…. I have…” He couldn’t quite bring himself to finish the sentence.
“Hmm…” The elf rubbed his chin, as if in thought. “Like I said, I don’t know how it works exactly. But old magic like that can’t just be broken…”
“Maybe you’re overthinking it.” Dandelion decided eventually. “Maybe your past doesn’t matter. Maybe all it takes into account is who you are right now, and if you wish anyone harm. I mean, how fancy can it really be? It’s a tree. All it’s supposed to do is protect those in the glade.”
“It’s a tree.” Micah repeated, his voice barely a whisper. He didn’t know what to feel anymore. The whole reason he wandered through the tree passage that night was to escape his past, not to confront it.
“You know, since you are here, there’s actually something you could help me with.” Dandelion interrupted his thoughts.
“Oh?” The vampire looked at him, unsure what to expect.
“I’ve been working on something.” The elf said cryptically. “Lulu, uh, I mean L Faba, said those other vampires you lived with might come after us all.”
“They have no way of knowing where we are.” Micah interjected. “I’m not going to tip them off, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“They might still find us,” Dandelion shrugged. “Anyway, they wanted blood, right? My blood, Cordie’s blood… So, I was thinking, what if I gave them something else instead? Something that would work just the same…”
Micah watched him turn away and rummage through the fridge. “I’m not sure where you’re going with this. But I doubt-“
“Here.” Dandelion shut the fridge door and twirled around. He was holding something in his hand.
“What is that?” Micah’s eyes shot to the produce in the elf’s hand. “Some kind of fruit? I don’t think Verena would be interested in fruit. Vampires can’t really eat. Well, we can, but our digestive tract doesn’t quite work right anymore, so it’s just an all-around unpleasant experience.”
“It’s no ordinary fruit.” Dandelion seemed determined. “I made it myself. Just… try it. Maybe use a straw, if that helps you feel like you’re drinking.”
Before Micah could protest, Dandelion opened one of the kitchen counter drawers and plunged a large metal straw into the fruit, handing it over to him.
The vampire sighed. It seemed like going along with it was the best course of action. So he’d have some indigestion after. As absurd as it was, the elf had been stupidly gracious about the whole intrusion. Least Micah could do was humour him.
The taste was odd, but not unpleasant. And somehow, he could even taste those emotions that were typically reserved for drinking blood – the distinct sensation of feeling someone else’s hopes and fears. It was diluted, and Micah could only make out the feeling rather than the memory attached to it, but it was there, in this strange fruit somehow.
“Well? How is it?” Dandelion asked.
Micah only stopped once all of the juice had been sucked dry from the fruit. All that was left in his hand now was the dry pulp.
“How is this possible?” He finally spoke.
“So it works? It could be a substitute for blood?” The elf beamed.
“I don’t know. I’ve already… fed tonight, before coming here.” The vampire admitted. “So it’s hard to say. Do you have more?”
“Not yet. But I hope to grow more. They just need to ripen, that’s all.” A yawn escaped Dandelion’s lips. “I better get to bed. I will let you know when I have more of the fruit.”
“Feel free to stay as long as you like,” Dandelion mouthed over his shoulder as he made his way out of the kitchen. “Just remember, don’t wait for the sun to set. Because you know, it doesn’t.”
A fruit that could replace blood. A sun that didn’t scorch his skin. Micah’s head was spinning. He decided to test his theory about this fake magic sun, stepping out onto the balcony.
He could feel the rays of light touching his face, but there was no burning, no pain. It shouldn’t be possible – none of this should be possible, but here he was.
He climbed down the stairs, as if in a dream. But it couldn’t be a dream. Vampires had no dreams. Neither could they walk in the sunlight though. The precise thing he was doing now, for the first time in 13 years.
He couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen such beauty. The golden glow washed through the whole meadow, glistening on the surface of the crystal-clear water of the small pond. A gorgeous waterfall streamed down from the cliffside. Heck, there was even a damn rainbow dancing right above the water.
It was all so beautiful, and so very wrong. A fruit that could replace blood. A sun that didn’t scorch his skin. The words kept running through his mind over and over.
He could live a charmed life now, couldn’t he? Basking in the sun of this breathtakingly beautiful meadow. Surviving on the elf’s strange fruit. It would be like heaven on earth. But heaven was the last place he belonged.
How could he be allowed redemption, all of these miracles? For all the beauty of the meadow that he found himself in, all he could really see in front of him right now was Carys. Her end. Her lifeless body.
This past decade, all he pined over was the hope that somehow, someday, someone would make a miracle happen and give him another chance at life. But now that one was almost within grasp, he understood how misguided he’d been. He didn’t deserve any of this. He deserved nothing. He should be nothing. It felt like the inside of his head was screaming. And all that his pathetic shell was capable of in response was to drop to its knees and weep.