Fantasy Fiction posted July 20, 2022

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Adventures of the Vampire and Bard

Strange Source of Peace

by jp88

Darren pulled his burgundy overcoat tighter and brushed freshly fallen snow from his shoulders. Wind howled around his slender frame and the firn crunched under his light steps.

To his left, tucked away in the winter's early night stood small, thatched houses. Snow covered the angled roofs, and only melted where smoke rose from open chimneys. The moon had risen and bathed everything in its silver glow and the vampire rolled his eyes at the serene beauty. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and turned away.

A piercing wail echoed through the night and a cold chill ran down his back. "Oh for..." he grumbled, recognising the voice. He shouldn't get involved in mortal beings' drama, and honestly, he owed Peregrine nothing.

Another scream reached his sensitive ears, the rich tenor vibrated with fear and hopelessness. Darren only realised what he was about to do when he was already halfway there and flickering flames marked the way to the commotion.

"No, no, please, oh-, please, no," echoed towards him.

The vampire sniffed. His pupils dilated until they were only surrounded by a thin band of emerald green. The world shifted into focus. Terror tasted different than fear, and the air reeked of sulphur and iron. He forced the lump forming in his throat back and ignored the stirring darkness in his chest.

"I didn't do anything, please believe me, I didn't-" the loud, frantic voice cut out, replaced with a quiet sob that pulled on Darren's -- well, whatever a vampire had where a heart should be. He strode forward into the village with a quickening pulse and observed the scene before him.

The angry mob carrying torches and pitchforks wasn't an unknown sight. Their anger though was directed at a young man pushed against the rough stone wall. His doublet was half open, dark buttons laid strewn on the ground and the embroidered emblem of the bard's guilt was ripped half off the left breast. The young man's stormy blue eyes were wide open and he clawed against the hand holding his throat hostage in an iron grip. A bruise formed on his face, too fresh for the humans to see, and blood trickled down the corner of his mouth.

The vampire licked his lips. Smells danced in front of his eyes, enticing lemon swirled where he knew the man's blood dripped from his lip. He cleared his throat and forced the thought of a fresh meal to the back of his mind. It had been too long since he tasted the ruby liquid. Darren smiled and bared his white fangs. Sweat and pain lingered in the air, now sweetened with an undercurrent of rising panic. It was almost, almost too much for him.

The bard looked over the head of his captor. His eyes locked on the vampire and they shone brightly with hope and relief. "Darren!" He smiled and managed a little wave with his left hand. His fingers were bright red and stiff. "So good of you to come, would you please tell these friendly people that I am not the monster they are convinced I am. Advocate of my character, champion of my innocence, now would be a perfect moment to step in if you could be bothered-"

"Be quiet," growled the vampire and Peregrine mouthed a silent please. Darren stepped forward. The mob parted around him, glancing from the captive to the immortal being. If the uncertainty in their eyes was anything to go by, they were desperate to decide who deserved their anger more. Darren would rather not be there when they came to a conclusion.

"What did he do?" Darren put his hand on the burly man that held the younger pinned against the wall. Even a mortal sense of smell could pick up copious amounts of cheap ale.

"Slept with the mayor's wife he did," slurred the man and shoved the bard enough to knock his head against the wall. Peregrine gave a little whine but kept his eyes firmly on the vampire.

"I did no such thing, good man. Tell them, Darren. Tell them I don't lie." Peregrine managed to cross his arms in front of his chest and pout.

The man tried to shove the bard again but the vampire's grip on his arm turned to steel. All it took was a flick of his wrist and the man let go. His scream, half anger and half pain echoed in Darren's ears and the darkness reared its ugly head. His father's words rose to the forefront of his mind: "What are they, but cattle to our needs?"

Peregrine crumbled to the ground. Snow clung to his red locks and stuck them to his forehead. "Ouch," he said and rubbed his bruised throat.

The vampire knelt down and regarded him with glinting eyes. He wrinkled his nose and snarled. "He is an idiot." A murmur of agreement went through the crowd. "But an honest idiot." Peregrine's heart beat so loudly against his chest, Darren's attention was immediately diverted to the organ pumping blood through the bard's veins. His own blood throbbed against the restrictive vessel wall and started to heat up. His veins protruded darkly from his nearly translucent skin akin to a spiderweb and he felt the rush in his ears. He drew from it and cloaked himself in the ancient power it brought. Invisible to the human eye, it dissipated from him and surrounded everyone.

Peregrine had wedged his body between the vampire and the wall, now his head popped up above the vampire's shoulder. "I am not an-" he objected and fell silent. The villagers stood still, their gazes focused on nothing. The scent of panic had subsided, replaced with a deep calm. Their pitchforks pointed down and the flickering flames of their torches diminished in the falling snow. Darkness descended over them, and the only sounds disturbing the eery quiet were laboured, short breaths.

Darren grabbed Peregrine's dishevelled shirt and hauled him to his feet. "Come," he ordered and dragged him away. The people turned to follow them with empty gazes. Their brows furrowed and lips twitched, they blinked and life inched back into their pliant bodies. They shook their shoulders, their fingers twitched and the vampire knew they had to hurry.

He exhaled deeply when they were out of earshot. Casting and maintaining a glamour was draining, more so on an empty stomach and when he had to control an entire crowd. He ran a hand through his long blonde hair and hissed at the few strands that came loose and dangled between his fingers.

"Vanity thy name be Darren," said a voice behind him. The musical tenor showed none of the previous terror and Peregrine had the nerve to laugh at his rescuer. "Well, that was something. Walking right into a mob not intent on killing you, that must be a first for you, eh? It is good to see you again, Darren, and dare I say, very timely arrival." Peregrine ran his hands over his shirt in a fruitless attempt to smooth his dishevelled appearance and his face lit up with the brightest smile.

"Do you have a death wish?" growled the vampire. He could tell that the human wasn't seriously harmed. Smelling the blood on him awakened the darkness again and he had to do something. "Must you upset everyone you meet?"

"I don't know what you're referring to." The bard's crestfallen expression told the lie. "I am sorry, okay? I was just talking to her, just talking mind you, and I know I can be a bit much, people have told me before. And- What are you doing?"

"I need a drink."

"Oh there's a little inn, not far from here, next town. I don't think we should go back, they might not be too friendly after you put a spell on all of them, what with their precarious perception of your race in the first place and- Oh. You mean blood, don't you? Are you looking for an animal? You cannot seriously consider harming those innocent..."

"Would you rather I drank yours?" snapped the vampire and strode deeper into the forest.

"No, no, of course not." Peregrine followed, stumbled over a root and struggled to keep his footing. "So as I was saying, I was just talking to this lady. She was so friendly and nice, and I was looking for a friend, and I thought maybe- What?"

"Be quiet," snarled the vampire with his fangs protruding from his mouth. The forest smelled of wet moss and fresh snow, and the vampire frowned. Gone was the metallic sweet taste of fear and he stared at the young man. The smell of humans varied, but they all reeked of fear. He hadn't noticed the absence before.

He crouched down and caught a frog. It wouldn't be pretty, but it would do to replenish. He put it into the satchel slung around his shoulder, unwilling to kill the little creature in front of the bard and his irritatingly innocent eyes. "A friend?"

Peregrine shrugged. "Is it so wrong to want a friend? I've never had one, not really, and I thought- Well I am sure I have thought wrong. People tell me I do that a lot."

"Those people don't sound worth listening to," mumbled the vampire and the bard gifted him the smallest of smiles. "What did you think?"

"I thought, after our last adventure and you not killing me, if you were so inclined-" His voice faltered again and he shrugged at the vampire. The bards face was so fair in the darkness, it nearly radiated, and his teeth clattered against each other.

The cold didn't bother the vampire that much, but he would have to get the bard somewhere warm soon, or at least get a fire going. Or leave him here to his own fate, he thought, but found that he had no real wish to do that. "Spit it out, bard."

Peregrine recoiled and the vampire sighed, his patience dwindling. The events in the village must have unsettled the younger man, he didn't know him to be so sensitive. "I swear to the gods, either tell me what is troubling you or shut up, but I have had enough with those half sentences." It irritated him more than he wanted to admit. The bard could weave words into constructs that had famous ballads pale in comparison. His poetry could enchant equally to the vampire's magic, and this stuttering wasn't right.

The bard huffed. "I thought," he said and the words grew quieter. "I thought, maybe you could be my friend."

The vampire nearly dropped his bag. He'd experienced much in his immortal lifetime, but this was the second first in a day. There wasn't much darkness left in him, now that they had moved away from the intoxicating smell of fear and panic. The remnants evaporated at the vulnerable, young and oh so hopeful words of the bard. A friend. The vampire mulled the thought over. To be truthful, he had never had a friend.

"I understand if you don't want to, of course." Peregrine fiddled with the dark hem of his shirt, face cast down.

The vampire massaged his temples. Five seconds of silence, it couldn't have been more than that, but already this was too much for the bard to bear.

Peregrine started walking. "What was I thinking. Why would you even want to be friends with someone like me. I apologise for troubling you, if you don't mind I'll travel with you tonight because let's be honest, if I leave now I'll get eaten by a wolf, or a snake or whatever infests those woods. I'll be out of your hair tomorrow, and you'll never see me again. I promise the next mob you'll see will be there all for you, none of my doing."

"Pe-re-grine," drawled the vampire and the bard froze mid-stride. He didn't turn around, but shuffled a little heap of snow between his feet. The tremor in his shoulders wasn't lost on the vampire.

"I think-" the vampire started and frowned. He shouldn't struggle with words. So many firsts today. "I can be your friend."

"Oh," said Peregrine and clapped his hands together. "Oh, how wonderful, we will have so much fun together. Can you imagine the adventures we'll get into? The stories I will have to tell, you have no idea..."

The vampire rubbed his temple, ignored the inane babble, and silently apologised to the innocent forest animals who had to live through it. He probed at the dormant darkness and found that it slumbered deeper than it had before.

Sci Fi or Fantasy Writing Contest contest entry
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