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J'nali pushed the leather bound book away from her and sat staring at the low burning candles. Their yellow flame flickered with an occasional crackle, the shadows darting back and forth in the far reaches of the room. Her mood was unusually somber even for her. She'd fed earlier in the night so her pale skin had a slight pink tinge. It was perhaps not readily apparent, hidden as it was behind dark red bangs that fell across her face. She sighed and slid the chair back.
"Jareth, tell me again why we must maintain this secrecy. Are we not the more evolved creatures of these lands? We are their better in every way." Her voice was soft with only the slightest hint of an accent. She'd spent less than 100 years of her life in France yet still she could not erase those times from her voice. Perhaps it was because they had been the first years of her life. Humans seemed to learn and forget so quickly. It was not always so with vampires.
"For someone so bright you ask the same questions with alarming frequency." The voice that answered was French as well, but bore no rebuke. "Are there not other matters that hold your interest as well?"
She turned round to look at him, her long dress disappearing into the darkness hovering about the floor. "There are many things that I wish to ask you, but those too you have heard before." There was a subtle sting in her words. She hated it when he sat with his back to her.
"Ah, I was wondering when this familiar string of tunes would be played again. I dared hope we could hear some more pleasant music this evening."
"And why should tonight be any different than the last? We do not change; our opinions waver so slowly they might as well stand still. Time ignores us. We might as well ask the same questions without end." She stood at the large window looking out at the carefully manicured grounds below. There was activity on the cobblestone below as a carriage made its way slowly up the drive.
"J'ni, you are in quite the spirit today. Is something troubling you?" He stood and turned to face her, the blankets of the bed not even disturbed.
"I asked you not to call me that. You know I don't like it."
"What then would you have me call you? Huh? J'nali? As everyone else calls you J'nali?" There was hurt in his voice. No, not hurt. Regret.
"You are no different than the rest. You are not entitled to choose little adoring pet names for me." Her arms were crossed and she stared at him in defiance.
"No different than the rest? Not entitled? I am your father for God's sake. I called you J'ni as a child and you smile. Now I am not entitled?" He was angered and stepped closer to the woman.
"Correction Jareth. You WERE my father, but no more. Now you are my chylde. And you are fortunate that I have kept a closer eye on you than you kept on me. Though I really should thank you for letting those villagers string me up." She leaned back against the wall and raised a hand to her temples. The Blood could grant immortality, but it could not prevent a simple headache. What a strange power it works on us she thought. "Look, I'm not having this conversation with you again. And I think it would be best if you let the matter drop all together. You're a good man, with a kind streak in you. But nothing will ever change between us. I refuse to manifest feelings for you where none exist." She stared at him for a long moment then stepped past him and out into the large hallway, shutting the door behind her with a soft click.
~To Be Continued .........
"The workmen have not finished repairs on the entire estate but your rooms are done Lady Anubel."
It was a soft voice that spoke, her words somewhat lessened as her head found its way to point to the floor. Her hair was pulled back in a simple tail but her lure was not lost on J'nali. It seemed even the servants in the employ of Broodston Estates were blessed with enthralling appeal. If you had to live forever you would do your best to surround yourself with charming sites. And the girl was certainly charming, though J'nali would never admit it. A rush of jealousy crept in and out of her thoughts like a gnat before she was left staring at the girl. She held the bag out to the girl who quickly grabbed it as though she had never held something so desperately in need of being protected.
"It is no great sin to look at me when you speak." J'nali said in a purr as she headed for the stairs stopping for a moment with a glance over her shoulder to make sure the girl knew she was to follow. She could hear hushed voices coming from the main hall and smelt Jareth, but was in no mood to apologize for her earlier jab.
"Have you been in my rooms then?" J'nali turned to face the girl as she kept walking up the stairs backwards. She was smiling at the girl, her elongated teeth barely concealed behind her lips. "I'm sorry, but your name escapes me."
"Veneese ma’am." she nearly whispered.
"And you have been in my rooms Veneese?" She turned back around and crested the stairs. The bench along the wall next to the door to her rooms had a stack of folded clothing and a pair of heeled boots polished to a brilliant shine. The blonde girl sped up to grab the stack and pushed the door open on silent hinges.
"Don't be shy girl.....Veneese. If you don't yet know what you've gotten yourself in for you will soon enough." J'nali was standing near the foot of the bed, looking around in a survey of her things. "Come inside and sit down."
Such light steps the servant took you would almost think she'd already been turned. The grace that carried her across the floor to sit by the window in silence was startling.
"I know who you are, and though it goes against my sense of the possible, I know what you are too." Veneese was straightening the buckle on the pair of boots that J'nali had practically trashed the night before. It seemed like such a long time ago that the townsfolk had crept into the manor house. Seeing the huge mansion nearly restored in such a short span of time made the red haired vampire marvel at the power of wealth. At times it seemed to make the dark gift pale by comparison.
"And it does not cause you concern?" J'nali's body disappeared from view as she slid into the closet and began flipping through clothes.
"If you or any other wished me dead, I would be already." The blonde girl's voice seemed more confident, less reserved.
"Perhaps in the past Veneese." J'nali began, emerging from the closet in a long blood red gown that hid her feet beneath its many folds. Her spectral shoulders were bare down to the long fingers that were clutched to her chest holding the front of the dress in place. She turned around with her back to the girl, twin cords hanging from the top of the corset. The attendant's fingers were fluttering at her back so quickly J'nali was again surprised with the woman's grace. "There is only one way to know Veneese, and unless I'm mistaken, you have not been down that road...yet. But we have rules and we have codes and you will not be harmed by any of this house, especially I so long as you are loyal. We have many secrets and those in turn must become your secrets. We go to our graves before we'd share them with the world and you must do the same." When the strands had been tied in a tight bow J'nali turned around in a wisp of fabric.
"I will not lie to you; there is discord among the Coven just now. The Lord is not happy and I would not have him so saddened, though I’m sure it is my own actions which have grieved him. So how do I look?" She spun around again with a girlish whirl."
"Like an ancient angel." Veneese was still holding the pair of boots but her smile was sincere.
"Well that will have to do...for now." J'nali said as she let her hair down to splay out across her shoulders. "Come speak with me later and we will discuss your new duties here at Broodston."
To Be Continued
J'nali looked across the street to the windows again and saw nothing. The last time she'd been able to see a true reflection of herself she'd been human and looking down into a bowl of water. That had been over five hundred years ago, but she doubted she looked much different. Still, she thought, it would be nice to have something from this century at least. Perhaps when the mess with the break-in at the estate had been sorted out she would have a portrait commissioned. That was really the best any of them could hope for. Sure, her rooms had always had mirrors and she knew many of the others kept mirrors. But they served no real purpose.
With a toss of her hair she headed off to the alley, her heels making their usual racket. She hated being quiet, and why should she even bother. The city belonged to them. The humans would come and go, but they couldn't hope to outlive an eternity. The vampires carried on without end, their only real true concern, to avoid the madness that inevitably came. It was like a horrible Flu. It could kill you and for many it did. But it could be survived. For some it came over and over again much like the seasons. For others once was enough and they got past those connections to mortality that bound them to sane and insane and managed to exist forever without the burden of morality. But the most you could ever claim was that you'd never yet had the flu, not that you'd never come down with it in the future. That was how J'nali Anubel saw it anyways. And she'd been through and survived one wave of the madness. She was colder now, less inviting but any true battle of the mind against the will to live took something, exacted some price.
That was what the sign read above the young man's head. He could not have been more than twenty yet he already carried himself with a since of confidence. That was what had caught her attention even from blocks down the lane. She did not normally toy with humans, taking no joy out of it, but she did not normally wander the streets alone so perhaps that was the reason. The young man she'd sighted was carrying a stick though it did not seem to be for protection, but rather a deterent to boredom. He was dragging it along the metal fence to his right, the tapping it made rang out into the quiet of the night.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
She watched from the shadows as he passed by.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
But this time it was both the rhythmic tapping of the man's stick and the tale tale click of her heels; only she was now behind him. She smiled at him as he glanced once over his shoulder but continued on, looking quickly before crossing the road. He swung his stick at a particularly menacing looking barrel before deciding to abandon the thing all together. Dropping the branch along the curb he kept going, walking for a moment under the soft light cast onto the walk by a shop whose keeper had not gone home for the night.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
He looked over his shoulder again, but paused this time. He seemed to have heard something behind him, but the sidewalk was clear. He pulled his jacket tighter and continued on, his pace quicker. As he reached the next corner he had to wait while a horse drawn wagon crept past with the words PRODUCE written in faded letters finally slipped by and with one step off the curb he heard it again.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
He spun around quicker this time, his right hand flexing as though it now wished to be holding the stick still. But again the sidewalk behind him was empty. He appeared nervous and took a few steps backwards before turning around and nearly running across the street.
He looked to his right and saw J'nali matching him step for step on the opposite side of the street. She turned her head and smiled but continued on to the corner ahead, her heels clicking against the pavement as she went. The man sighed and seemed to visibly relax. Thinking himself quite the idiot he pulled his collar up against the wind and started walking again. He turned his head again, wanting to get another look at the redhead who he thought had been following him. She had been cute after all and he was a confident man. And she'd smiled at him twice so it couldn't hurt. Only, she wasn't there. He craned his neck, but could not see where she might have gotten off to.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
This time he spun around so quickly the bag he had slung over his shoulder slipped free and fell down to the crook of his elbow. But J'nali was there this time and she was still walking towards him. He looked over his shoulder briefly at the corner he'd last seen her at as if trying to work out a puzzle.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
He turned around casually and watched her approach. She sidestepped the bright light of the street lamp overhead and as she passed in the relative darkness outside its beam her pale face seemed to glow.
"Can I help you with something?" he called out as he shifted his weight. He did not seem terribly concerned.
(Tap Tap....Tap Tap)
She did not answer him, but kept walking, her heels clicking on the sidewalk. She smiled again and shook the hair from her face.
"Listen, you gave me a scare for a moment back there. I hope you don't think me rude, but weren't you," His words cut off and he stared at her, his eyes widening.
*Leeland* It was like a whisper but her lips had not moved and it seemed to be coming from all directions at once or from inside his heads, but still her lips did not move.
*Leeland, do not be afraid. Put aside your fear, it taints your blood.*
"Don't be afraid? Shite lady you're scaring the fock outta me!" He took a few small steps back but they were more out of instinct than any real attempt to flee. He was quite beyond that. Besides, part of him was very curious.
J'nali's steps brought her right in front of him and she rested her hands on her hips giving him a smile.
"Hello Leeland," she spoke in her distant accent, the words were dripping with just about every womanly charm he could think of. "It's not polite to stare." She reached up and laid a hand on his cheek before closing his jaw softly.
He could only think of two things. I can't believe she's touching me. And I can't believe how cold her hands are. Why wasn't she wearing a jacket? She dropped her hand abruptly as if reading his mind and frowned.
"You do not like to be touched Leeland?" she asked in that same voice. She began stepping around him, checking him out from all sides. His eyes followed her as far as his neck would reach then he turned quickly to catch her on his other side only, she was not there.
His head snapped up and he looked around until he spotted her further up the street, her red hair aglow from the lights behind her as though it were a halo.
*Is there someplace we can go? Someplace I can warm my blood?*
He knew right then he should run. That he should take off as fast as he could, not look back, never walk this street alone again and tell no one lest they think him a fool. But what we should do and what we do our rarely the same, especially when a thirsting vampire is willing you to follow them.
"I don't understand, how do you keep...." but he was at a loss for words and as he came up to her again, he felt silly for even thinking that she was capable of....well he wasn't sure what he was accusing her of. She looked so nice and normal and absolutely human standing there that he smiled and said, "How do you know my name?"
She smiled too and began walking off slowly, making sure he followed along at her side. "How do I know your name..." she pondered as they both stepped over some hedges and further off the road. He noticed how easily she cleared them even when he himself had gotten hung up.
"I know your name the same way you know mine." It was darker here; they were in some sort of park or garden.
"But I don't know your name." His bag got caught on a branch and he tossed it away annoyed. She was getting ahead of him and he didn't want to let her out of his sight for some reason. He didn't want to miss one single sway of her hip.
"We have a bond you and I. Are you sure you don't know my name?" She stopped under the cover of the trees and watched him.
*J'nali* she sent her thought out to him. *Her name is J'nali. You have always known that.*
She gave him a cold look, but her body was giving off other signals. It did not strike him as odd that despite her claiming to be cold, she was not shivering nor even attempting to ward off the cool night air. Her dress was intricate and looked about as warm as a fishing net. The bodice was cut dangerously low and the red was already creeping into his face and she could see he was getting aroused. But that meant nothing to her. It was always the blood.
"J'nali?" he asked her, his lips dry. "Your name is J'nali." He said it with more confidence this time.
"See?" she answered, taking a step further back into the trees. The moonlight brushed the tops of her pale white breasts that were all but exposed to the man and they were like stone on her chest and seemed not to move at all as she retreated another step into the darkness. "I told you Leeland, we have a bond. Now stop being a silly boy and come here." Her long finger was held out beckoning him forward.
Again he knew he should run. This was just not normal. Beautiful women did not act this way. How was it he'd always known her name? Her body, it's too white. That can't be natural. But again his feet pulled him forward, though it was another part of his body that led the charge.
*Leeland, do you want me to tell you what to expect? This won't be like anything you've felt before.*
Again that strange voice in his head. Was that the way his thoughts had always sounded? This felt different somehow.
"Oh this is not my first time and I know exactly what to expect." The look in his eyes was undeniable. Lust. He was fumbling at his belt trying to get it undone.
*No Leeland, it will hurt, but only for a second.*
The lustful look on his face shifted to confusion. "You mean you're a ..... virgin?" His hands were still working at his belt but making no real headway.
She smiled again. Were those teeth he'd seen?
*Yes Leeland, I'm a virgin. But the days when I could do anything to change that are long gone. I meant for you, it will be painful. Do not fight it and it will pass.*
"You're not making any sense J'nali." He stammered, no longer even bothering with the pants. And why did he know her name. And her breasts, they were unlike any he'd seen before. Very hard and uninviting they seemed to him all of a sudden. She had given up on clouding his mind any longer. She wanted him to panic. She wanted to feel that electric pulse that strummed through the air like the wings of a giant beast.
(Thump Thump.....Thump Thump)
*Ah, there it is Leeland, can you hear it? That's your heartbeat.*
He was quite aware suddenly that her mouth was not moving, her cold eyes were fixed on him with hunger and that voice; he could not get it out of his head.
"What are you?" he asked with quivering lips, covering his ears with his hands. His own heartbeat was deafening. He tried to back away, but his feet would not budge.
"I have been called many things Leeland. In life, J'nali Anubel. In death, the Crimson Crone." She spoke out loud not bothering to conceal her fangs. The man's pulse quickened and it was like a tribal drum in both their ears. "But never cruel. If my mood holds out, you will live to serve me. If it fails, you will die to feed me." She beckoned again with her finger and again he approached though nothing in his body wanted to obey.
"You will be taken care of so long as you take care of me." She reached out her hand and wrapped it around his waist. She pulled him in by the small of his back forcing him to bend his neck closer. When her cold eyes were inches from his she caught the distinct vibe of his thoughts though his own eyes were wide with alarm. *How can something so beautiful be so ugly.* Those were the words he kept repeating in his head as if it were some mantra that would save him. Her eyes narrowed as she stared back at him.
*You will find me and my kind the most wondrous of beings before the end. And my everlasting joy will be to watch you slowly go insane waiting for the gift to be bestowed upon you. But you'll die a mere servant and you'll know only turmoil in the moment of your passing. This is how ugly I can be!*
She forced her thoughts deep into his mind and mixed with the deep fluidic beat of the blood in his veins was the cracking of glass as the first panes of his shattered sanity slipped from his mouth in a silent scream. Her lips were at his throat as a vice, her teeth bit down and the oh so feint sound of tearing flesh was his lullaby as she pierced his throat and the first gush of boiling blood came pouring into her mouth. She could feel the heat of it as it seeped into her pores even as it flowed down her throat and into her own heart.
He was struggling to get away, but it was pointless. She knew the wound at his neck was worse than it needed to be, but he had stung her, insulted her pride, called her ugly. She kicked out with her leg and swept his out from under him. He fell to the ground with her still clamped to his throat like the leech they were so often compared to.
She kneed him once in the groin and he instinctively groaned, sending yet another hot rush of blood down her throat. When at last his heart began to slow she forced herself to pull away. She was straddling the man and looked down at him with a wicked grin, his hands splayed out at his sides. She bit her own wrists and placed it over his mouth almost as a mother would bring a child to her bosom during feeding. Before the wound could heal he was sucking at her wrist and reached a hand up to try and grab hold of it. She grabbed one of his own wrists and pulled his hand to her, running it over her mouth, wiping the blood around until she looked more like a beast than a woman.
*Now do you find me beautiful?!*
"You are more beautiful to me than life itself..." his words were soft, he was weak. But he was smiling an almost dreamy look in his eyes.
*Then you are spared an easy death. Sleep.* She bit at her wrist again and dripped it over his neck. Even as the wound at his neck healed shut, his eyes closed too and he grew peaceful.
J'nali grabbed his bag which lay next to his head and got to her feet. She looked down at the blood on her hands and arms, but it was already dried and flaked away unnaturally with the flick of a wrist. She looked down at the sleeping man and stepping over his body she strolled back to the street, her face no longer pale ivory, but flushed and full of life.