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The night-time wind blew across Corlinar in fits of wheezing laughter as a low rumble grew to a roar. Talena gripped a throat, pink and soft. Beneath her fingers she could feel Ceres’ veins puling as her heart raced. The blood from the un-born child the slave girl carried called to her like a rhapsody of drums. So much power contained. Talena would unleash it into her own throat with glee.
Ceres was trying to scream, Talena could feel it, yet even if Ceres still had a tongue the grip on her throat would not release the simplest whimper into the night.
Talena placed her other hand upon the prominent mound of pregnancy before her and leaned in to Ceres’ ear.
“It’s time Ceres. Kaelin mocks me with every un-dead breath he takes. I need this power. Revenge will be mine, should be mine. I will rip his head from his neck and wear it as a crown. I will show him the truth of the universe as I kill his whore.” A wry smile pierced the moonlight and rain as Talena swapped ears. “I will have it so, Ceres. I will have my prize.” Talena’s dainty fingers gave way to talons and her fangs erupted in her mouth. “Give me the power.”
Throwing the petrified girl to the ground, Talena arced her arm ready to strike, ready to reach in and rip the child free of its entombment. Yet as her arm swung with far more than human speed, the cloud of shadow looming overhead coalesced. Wings of smoke and mist congealed solid in less than a human heartbeat and the shadows immense size seamed to concentrate down in front of them. Eyes of burning azure fire swirled and flashed as an all too human hand rippled through the air to Talena’s shoulder.
Time sped forward as the vampire flew through the air like an arrow loosed in battle. It took instants yet golden hair flew astroon as clothes of mud soaked rag ripped further from the force.
With a gasp Talena hit a surface as cold as ice and as unforgiving as marble. Yet as suddenly as she had hit it, within a hairs breadth of travelling time, it began to envelope her. Swirling angry water flowed and splashed as she writhed for a foot hold that did not exist. In the darkness, the silver moonlight danced like faeries over the pools surface as it began to smooth and Talena sank.
For a long moment all was still as Ceres knelt open mouthed looking up at the congealing mist. Its hand formed a body and then a face until all the shadowed vapour was gone. Noraver looked human enough but Ceres knew differently. His face was masterful and handsome yet even as the flames died in his sockets his eyes burned.
A flash from the fountain pulled her gaze as bubbles popped atop the water. More and more followed swiftly as another flash turned the crystal surface into a storm. The fountain erupted in a pillar of boiling water as a plume of hot steam rose high above even that.
Talena stood on the marble edge engulf in it all like the statue that stood behind her. It was larger by far, but her stance was colder than the marble and more still even than that. Slowly the steam cleared and Talena stepped off onto the mucky ground of the courtyard. “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?” she screamed, viciously planting her fists firmly on hips with an audible thud. “Answer me, Noraver!”
The man merely strolled forward, as if without a care. The splashes of mud as he walked made no marks upon his black breaches and the rain appeared not to touch him. Wind neither ruffled his hair nor chilled his skin. Talena shifted her feet as the towering man stopped his advance and met her hesitant, blinking gaze with his own granite stare. “Unlike you, vampyre, I am not playing at anything.” His tone was fierce and his words ended brutally. Even so, his voice charmed faintly, like soft rain falling on a bell. “Your games however are becoming tiresome. They become costly; in flesh as well as time.”
Talena’s brow lowered and her eyes became slits of silent rage.
“Has it been so long you don’t remember how much you owe me? You were dying, gripping onto the threads of un-life given to you until I saw fit to remake you’re shattered self. Our deal was clear, and yet you persist.” That rock hard stare gave little up. His features remained smooth, like an ornate carving, yet his voice lost its chime. “All you had to do was kill them at Teramor. The humans, the Vampyres, everyone… you couldn’t even do that. Not even when they were cornered and you had surprise on your side. Even then, you couldn’t kill them. Couldn’t do that for which you were made. Every living thing should be dust in that place yet they rejoice at their tentative victory. Have you become a vampire without fangs?” Noraver practically spat the last words at her.
Talena shoved her face up at his like a spear. “Well I didn’t know Kaelin’s whore was going to be there. She’s supposed to be dead!”
Then something happened that she was not expecting. Noraver shifted his stance. It was a small detail to be sure, but Noraver very rarely gave anything away.
“You’re behind her being there aren’t you? Aren’t you?” Talena exploded with a whip of her tongue and a sharp figure prodded in his chest. “You know something. Tell me! What’s your dirty little secret?”
Another lash for him.
“I had her in my grasp, as you did Kaelin… and in a similar fashion, lost the prize.”
Talena threw up her hands into the air. “So I’m not the only one who’s finding this difficult. Great Noraver…” She threw a jaunty swing of her hips and a lordly wave in for good measure. “…can’t even keep hold of a girl. Why didn’t you just let her die as Aurora Celes? Call yourself Shadow Dancer. Call yourself Lord of the Void. Call yourself what you will, you’re still pathetic. Why didn’t you just let her die?”
Barely was the last word from her mouth before her throat was cut off from speech. Noravers hand squeezed.
“Why didn’t I just let you die? I got the hair didn’t I? The piece of Natalya you needed to make her clone. It grows within your mute servant does it not? I may not be all I once was, but you should still fear me, Talena. I’m more than a match for a thousand of you.” With a shove he released her.
“That may be so, but we both know this wasn’t the plan. And now the Amethyst Heart is gone”
“Gone. Yes. But its power lives on in her blood. That jewel changed her; we both saw it at Aurora Celes. The sun rose at her whim, not even I have that power… imagine it reversed.” Talena had never seen him smile before, and she wasn’t entirely sure she was witnessing it now, it bore more than a resemblance to a grimace. “Night everlasting! Glorious. Then this world will fall into the Void where it belongs. That is the only plan.”
“Just remember your promise, Shadow Dancer.”
There was that smile again. Her blood thinned just looking at it.
“Do your part and you will be rewarded as we agreed. Just remember your place!” The last cracked with thunder as Talena’s eyes fell as if weighted with granite.
“You will have it.” She said, as meekly as she could muster. Her hands took white knuckle grip of her skirt as in her head she imagined Noraver’s death, and her hands at the heart of it. She heard a blast of angry air from his nostrils and Talena’s knees creaked into the tiniest dip of a curtsy. Her head bowed deeply as she added; “My lord.”
You will die for this.
Raising her head, Noraver was gone. No sign or shadow. Barely a footprint upon the sodden ground marked where he had been. Looking up, the rain began to fall even heavier and wisps of thick cloud parted to display a grey sky beyond. “Not long till dawn.” She whispered almost to herself. “Looks like we both need to find our dark places.” She breathed out heavily. It wasn’t a sigh of relief, more of an ending to the encounter as she saw it.
Kicking mud into the air Talena skipped back to Ceres and the Umbra’Nex watching her. “Set a guard, double the watch and bring me a collar.”
Kneeling, she slowly wiped the silent tears from Ceres’ face. “Don’t want you getting away now, do we.” Talena’s smile was cast into light as the platinum glow of the moon glistened on her rain soaked fangs.