This chapter reverts to the perspective of Leila Moss.
Quechua: Qanchis kaq Minuetpa Wasin
I did not appreciate how rough the werewolves were with me, and that’s putting it lightly. Their claws tore my dress and pierced my skin, and they gripped me too tightly. I nearly threw up from the smell and the way my body was shaken as they passed me between them and ran around.
To his credit, Evander did his best to protect me. we managed to evade several werewolves and vampires before they managed to corner us. whatever was going on in the main part of the house, they were enraged. Jean-Marc’s house was wrecked, and I had no idea who was hurt or how badly.
I was tossed rather unceremoniously into a strange carriage; it was sectioned off by metal bars so that I was caged in. A man sat across from me, lean and fairly handsome, by most standards, but otherwise very common. Except, that is, for the unusual air about him and the demeanor he showed. As the carriage took off through the pitch-black forest, the young man only stared at me with a lack of interest.
“Are you the one who wanted to see me?” I snapped when I grew tired of his silence.
“No,” he replied flatly.
“Then who is?”
“You’ll meet him soon enough.”
“No,” I growled, “if you went to this much trouble to get me, and you hurt my friends, you can tell me who this is all for!”
Still appearing disinterested, he looked away. I noticed that the windows were all covered by curtains, and that the only light was that given off by a magic crystal set in the ceiling.
“Are you a vampire?” I asked him, my tone still demanding.
“You are so direct,” he replied.
“You noticed, huh?” I grumbled. “I’m not just some helpless girl like in days of old. So, are you a vampire?”
He flashed me a grin that revealed long, pointed fangs, then looked away again.
“Hey, what’s this attitude you’re giving me? What did I ever do to you?”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “You could not possibly understand the inner workings of my bloodline.”
“Heh, that line is so old and worn,” I scoffed. “I can understand a lot more than you think. Come on, tell me why you’re doing this!”
“Stay silent,” he commanded, then looked away again.
I couldn’t get him to talk to me after that. We rode in silence for a long time, me leaning against the bars, basically on the floor, and him poised gracefully on the velvet bench seat across from me. Most of that time, I was too angry to rest, but after enough silence and the steady rhythm of the carriage, I started to doze off.
The dream I had was dark and eerie. It felt like walking through a cave– somewhere ancient and quiet, and somehow magical. I could see two figures up ahead of me, dressed in black and holding hands. One was tall and strong, with dark hair down to his thighs. The other was thin, with shorter hair, but I couldn’t make out any other details. It was nearly impossible to see in there, so all I got were brief glimpses.
“It’ll be okay, Leila,” one of the figures said after a while. “You’re not alone.”
“They won’t hurt you,” the other voice said, that one deeper and richer. “They need your help too badly to truly harm you.”
In the dream, I tried to reply, but I couldn’t speak. The harder I tried, the less I could even think about what I wanted to say. Then it was hard to even think, and then I drifted off into another dream.
Eventually, I was shaken awake. I rubbed my eyes until they focused enough that I could see Xanthus standing above me. There was a faint light outside, and judging by the rich smells of earth and moss, we were in a forest.
“Have you come to tell me what’s going on?” I mumbled. I looked around, but didn’t see the vampire from before.
“We’re under orders not to discuss it with you,” he replied, his tone indicating that he would not be arguing the point. He dropped a cloth bag next to me. “I only came to give you some food. We’ll get moving again in a little while.”
“Wait!” I called when he turned to leave. “Where did that vampire go? And where are we headed, anyway?”
“Matthias and Erik needed to sleep,” he told me. “Once the dawn progresses to later morning, we can continue on.”
“They couldn’t just sleep in here? And who is Erik? Is he–”
“You ask too many questions,” he snarled. Then he hopped off the little step of the carriage, closed the door, and supposedly walked away, muttering to himself the whole time.
I sighed and resigned myself to opening the bag of food to find out what they’d given me. It was morning, and I was feeling a little hungry. There was bread, cheese, dried meat, a couple apples, and a water-skin. Once I finished them off, I tried to reach the windows to see what was out beyond the curtains, but all of them were well away from the bars. I laid down grumpily, not able to do anything else, and saw that there was a trap door in the ceiling above me. It was out of reach, of course, and probably locked from the outside.
After a while of being alone with my imagination, I dozed off and had another strange dream. That time, it was Sleipnir, racing through the darkness, followed by a wolf and a pair of ravens. He was swifter than I’d ever seen him in my dreams before, and his neighs eventually began to sound like Stefan calling my name.
That was all I could remember, because the sound of the carriage door opening woke me up. It was a heavier door than I’d expected any carriage to have, and even its locking mechanism was noisy. The light outside was dimmed by the forest canopy, but I was still sure that it was enough to coax any vampire into shelter. Two men climbed inside, holding their cloaks close around their faces and necks.
“I’ll get the tent packed away, and we’ll be off shortly,” Xanthus told them before shutting the door.
Once they sat down and got themselves comfortable, I could see that one of them was the man from the night before. He gave me a narrow-eyed look, then proceeded to ignore me. The other man was taller, with more refined features and red eyes that spoke of centuries of experience. His short black hair looked as though he usually kept it neat and in control, but a night of fighting and then sleeping in the forest had left it mussed. He gazed at me through bleary eyes as he ran long, pale fingers through his hair.
“There’s no way you’re not a vampire,” I noted as I looked him over. “Are you Erik?”
The man from last night gave me a bitter glare. “Where did you hear that name?”
“Matthias,” the red-eyed man said, glancing his way only briefly. His eyes spoke volumes, and his voice was commanding. “There is no reason to be inhospitable. She is to be our honored guest, after all.”
Then he looked to me. “You are a keen observer, young lady. You’re already renowned for your creative talents, you know, even in our corner of the world.”
“Is that why you kidnapped me?”
For a moment he looked affronted by what I’d said. Then he must have realized that I had a point, because his visage softened.
“I suppose you would see it that way,” he sighed. “I would answer all of your questions, Lady Moss, were I not under orders to keep quiet about our plans.”
“Why, though?” I pressed. “You know where I’m from, right? And you know what that means? So I can’t be harmed.”
“Neither should Tiarnán have ever been hurt,” Erik replied, “but surely Jean-Marc and the others have already told you how that ended?”
“Tiarnán? Who’s that?”
“Tiarnán is the name that Moss used on Earth,” Erik explained.
“Why are you telling her so much?” The younger-looking vampire complained.
Erik shot him a look that could have frozen boiled water in an instant; Matthias backed away from him. “Once we return to the castle, Matthias, I shall see to it that you are properly educated. Until then, I suggest that you defer to me.”
Matthias swallowed hard, then nodded. He dared not speak anymore.
“Moss?” I asked. “The Moss from the ballad? The one from here, who went to Earth and brought back a family?”
Erik nodded. “The very one. He couldn’t have managed without a full name, so Tiarnán Moss was what he took.”
“I see…” I sat thinking for a moment, then asked him, “Did he know there were vampires here?”
“He did. There have always been creatures of light and beasts of darkness in Tierney Ríocht.”
“Is that how Earth got the idea for vampires? Did some from here cross over like Moss did?”
He gave the sort of smile one gives a student who is trying to surpass the master, but is nowhere near ready for it. “The ballad didn’t know how right it was that you would be a spirited and cunning young lady. Impressive as you are, however, I cannot answer that question.”
“Okay… So whose castle are we going to?”
“You shall learn that this evening, milady.”
I huffed, then asked, “What’s the explanation for this carriage, then? Was this cage added just to bring me in?”
“You’re more observant than that,” Erik replied. “Surely you’ve noticed that those bars have been in place for quite a long time.”
“Yeah… okay, I get it; the wear and discoloration are pretty consistent. But why would you have a carriage like this?”
“I suppose it would make more sense to you if you’d been dealing with angry werewolves and hungry vampires for as long as we have.”
When I realized what he meant, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, man! Oh, that– You could only contain me in the same cage you use for them?” I laughed again. “Wow, I’m almost proud of myself.”
Matthias then had a worried look on his face. “Is she delirious?” he asked nervously.
“Not at all,” Erik told him, smiling with something akin to contentment and pride. “Lady Moss is from a new era on Earth, Matthias. She is headstrong and willful, but also sharp and imaginative. I have a feeling that she will serve Tierney Ríocht well, even if she does, as the humans say, keep us on our toes.”