Nineteenth of the Second Moon, 592

Death and shadow are as ever-present as the mists in my realm.

This winter was very harsh—- by human standards anyway. Human standards no longer apply to me of course, but the cattle have not left their homes as easily. The legends say that this would protect them—-that a vampyr cannot enter a home unless the rightful owner invites them in. Unfortunately for them, this rule does not apply to me as I am the rightful owner of their property.

And their lives.

The ice bound roads have made travel and bandit activity impossible. My hand has been forced several times while I’ve been awake this season. The townsfolk seem so betrayed when the feeble bolts on their doors can’t stop my entrance. I would pity them, but a wolf does not pity the doe.

The hunger had come again and I could tolerate it no longer. I set out into the howling wind of the night sky, searching for smoke from an isolated chimney. The search was a long one as, even with my heightened senses, the heavy wind and snow obstructed my vision. I found my prey all the same, but had wasted most of my night doing so.

A large cottage was off the path up Mount Baratak, and the dwelling looked pathetically small against the immense dark of Baratak. The memory of climbing this mountain with Alek and Illona when I gazed down on my new domain stirred in my breast. I was thankful that Illona heeded my command and left the domain for a better life. I hope she lived a full life, far away from my darkness. But what of Alek? I never found his body. Perhaps the mists offer new surprises for me there too.

I pressed these thoughts out of my head and descended on the cottage. I could hear three distinct heartbeats: an older man and his equally aged wife, and a youthful woman I assumed was their daughter. I was practically licking my lips when I found the door barred. I smiled darkly as the blizzard shrieked around me. With but a small measure of will, the bolt drew back from behind the door and my passage was no longer blocked. I flung open the door and entered the cottage.

It was late at night, but the old man was by the hearth stoking the fire. Perhaps he was getting the breakfast fire ready, or trying to keep the drafty hovel warm throughout the night. It didn’t matter much to me, but he was not as unprepared as I would have liked. The man turned to face me with a hot poker in his hand. He must have known that his death had come through the door. Normally I would gloated, or perhaps stopped my feast before his life died out.

But I was so hungry.

I snatched the poker from his hand and threw it towards the corner of the room. Almost immediately the dry curtains caught flame. I seized the old man and buried my fangs into his throat. His blood was thin and old, but I drank eagerly. His life was gone in a few short gulps.

Due to my accelerated perception, I saw the light before anything else. At first I thought it was the light of the glowing fire, but that was still dull red with a flicker of orange. This light was blinding white and very near to me. And then I felt the crushing, brutal pain.

I screamed with pain and rage. In my frenzied feeding, the old woman had raced up to me and smacked me in the face with some object. I then knew that she held a golden disc in her hand, a relic of the Morning Lord. At the disc’s touch, the left half of my face had erupted in ivory flame, charring and melting the flesh.

I leapt back and dropped the dead man. The woman held up the holy icon and muttered a cursed prayer. Her words ripped through the air and drove me back against the wall. Few times have I felt such a black rage as I did trapped in that cottage. But the fire was growing, and soon the woman would have to flee. And then I would catch her.

She must have sensed my thoughts, because she started to become much more afraid. I could smell her fear from the start, how could she not be afraid? But what started to change was the force holding me to the wall. As her fear grew, her faith weakened. As the flames started to climb the walls, the force diminished enough that I could take a step toward her.

That was it. As I stepped toward her, she saw the futility of her situation. A crushing despair gave way and suddenly there was no force holding me. She screamed to her daughter to run as I appeared beside her. I grabbed at her arm to throw the accursed idol into the fire. I succeeded in this, but I also ripped her arm from the shoulder socket in the process. The resulting geyser of blood was too much to ignore and I buried my fangs into the stump.

There was another scream in the room. Knowing it was the younger daughter, I discarded the mother as I turned to face her. I was going to relish her screams, for they taste so much better when they are afraid. Seeing my blood-soaked visage, the lass did scream—-but I found no pleasure in it.

It was Tatyana once again.

As expected, she looked different. Her hair was almost snow white, the eyes were almost as black as mine. But it was her all the same. She screamed and raced out the open door into the wailing blizzard.

As I raced after her, I cursed myself for not observing this cottage more carefully. Hunger had clouded my judgment. I pursued her, but was barely faster than a mortal man for the mother’s attack had drained my power. Indeed, my left eye hadn’t healed enough to aid in searching for Tatyana. Over the wind, I could barely hear her sobbing or her heartbeat. But even in the blackness, I could see her warmth and follow her footsteps.

Barefoot and gripped in fear, she ran up the mountain pass. She had gotten ahead of me—- just as before. For a moment I remembered her hair drifting through my fingers as she fell so long ago. I panicked at the thought and resisted the urge to change into a beast, for fear that I would be unable to change back as weak as I was. I ran, calling out her name as I ran. She screamed each time I yelled for her.

I kept running, following her footsteps. I sprinted forward, begging Tatyana’s forgiveness and promising her I meant her no harm. The wind died down, and I could see the trail leading up the path. But I couldn’t hear her sobbing any longer. I thought that she had likely fainted in fright. I was relieved: the warmth of her body would be easy to see in the dark.

But very suddenly, the footsteps terminated. The path stretched out ahead and the snow fell all around. It was now deadly silent, and I could hear no heartbeat or cry. There was no depression in the snow where she may have fallen. There were no other footprints of an unseen assailant. There was nothing.

Knowing that she was once again taken from me, I collapsed to my knees and wept. Through the bloody tears, I watched the snow fill in her footprints. Within a few minutes, it was as if she had never been there.

Somewhere in the night, the wind howled again. This time it sounded like laughter.

Nineteenth of the Second Moon, 592

Lost in the Mists ignatiusvienna