Far Off Unhappy Things
Chapter 12: Luna
By Renko Doremi Rodenburg
Morana had made some initial mistakes assessing her situation, she thought after spending weeks trapped in a binding circle somewhere in the bowels of a vampire castle. She was now, three weeks in, also realizing that her captors had made some mistakes assessing the situation.
She thought she would’ve gone insane with boredom, and the first week she had been. But by now time was flying by. Everytime she closed her eyes a day passed. This was the first time she’d been trapped in a circle, but she was putting together theory and her current reality.
What she had been taught: She was immortal, and her captors were not.
Reality: That wasn’t true. Her captors were unaging, and used to thinking in decade-long timeframes.
However, they weren’t actually immortal- or the first generation of vampire nobility would still be running things, and they weren’t. She’d met more than one, clawing at the edge of the rivers of the damned, howling in confusion while perpetually drowning in waters of forgetfulness.
Second teaching: The binder-wizard wants something from you, and thinks he can keep you in the circle until you agree to give it willingly.
Reality: That wasn’t the case here. Luna, the vampire aristocrat, had some sick idea about keeping her in the circle until her mind broke, so she could re-educate her as a slave or pet.
By now, she had adjusted to sitting in the circle. It was awful, she had important things to do, and that a pathetic worm like Luna was keeping her stuck here infuriated her enough that at times she yelled and screamed at the walls to vent her anger, but she was managing.
Just thinking about Carver and Luna made her boil over, vitriol dripping from her mouth and hissing as it hit the ground.
What she’d been taught: The binder-wizard is ambitious, out of his depth, and easily manipulated.
Reality: That seemed about right.
She put up her hands and stared at her missing fingers. They didn’t regrow, and pale fire kept leaking from them. The huntsman had chopped off a part of her very being, separated her fingers from her. She was diminished in stature, weaker now. If it had been her arm, or her head, she might’ve been irrevocably damaged.
On top of that he had her sickle, and either he or one of the vampires had her mirror.
Anger, again. Hate and rage. “I am a daughter of Hecate, in the service of Hades,” she screamed again. No-one responded. It was possible the room was soundproofed and that nobody even noticed.
She had to get a grip. Control herself. Any hope of escape would be based on deceit and patience, not righteous fury.
And she did have a plan. She closed her eyes, and steadied her breathing.
“Hello dear,” Luna said. Three days had passed.
Morana opened her eyes, slowly. Vulnerable.
“What?” She asked, doing her utmost best to sound starved. “Who is there?”
The vampire noble, now wearing a black dress with a lot of blue frills, bowed for her. “Luna Walkenburg, I’m frankly hurt that you’re pretending you’ve forgotten about me again.”
“I’m dying,” Morana said. “Let me out or let me perish.”
“Oh?” Luna asked. “Dying how?”
“I-” Morana started when she realized she hadn’t thought of that. Instead of answering, she decided to just fall limp on the ground and pretend she was unconscious.
Luna kept standing over her for hours.
“Winter,” she then cursed. There were footsteps, and the door slammed shut. Morana kept still.
And not long after, Luna returned, with others. Morana pretended to struggle to look up. There were four others.
“Don’t struggle, and don’t try anything moronic,” Luna said. “We’ll carry you down and get you something to drink.”
Two of Luna’s associates- vampires in chain armor- picked her up. They weren’t particularly careful with her, and it was degrading to have strangers carry her like this, especially given that she was still naked.
As they carried her out of the room and through several hallways, she did her utmost best to get a reading on the layout of the castle. She’d have more time later if everything went according to plan, but you never knew.
They took her to an infirmary. It was large- rows and rows of beds. It was dreary, too. Not a single window. The forest was under a blanket of eternal darkness, would it kill them to have a window?
“Put her in one of the beds, get Katherine, and leave us,” Luna instructed her servants who did just that.
“You’ll like Katherine, she can be very kind to girls who are good and do as they’re told,” Luna said while pulling a blanket over Morana.
She was boiling over on the inside, but determined to- for once- not screw up. Did this actually work on people? Did they kidnap women then fuck with their head until they were ready to let some vampire call them a ‘good girl’?
Once again, a mixture of anger and shame took hold of her heart. Captured by morons like this, she could die. Her sisters would laugh about this for the coming ten hundred years.
Katherine was a slim woman with a stern face. Like Luna, she was wearing a corset and extensive, flowing black dress. She had brought a tray with a glass of water and a glass of blood.
“I’m sorry,” Katherine said. “I don’t know what your kind needs, I hope this is good for you. Luna kept you locked up for weeks, didn’t she? You must be starving.”
Morana weakly grasped for the glass of water. Katherine sat down on her bed, took the glass, and gently brought it to her lips. “Drink carefully,” she said. “Don’t overdo it.”
“Don’t spoil her,” Luna said, while walking off to do Autumn-knows-what. “I take it you can take care of her?”
“I will, don’t worry,” Katherine said as she raised the glass a little, letting Morana take little sips of the water.
A veritable maelstrom of hate was swirling through Morana’s head, but she played her part.
“Thank you,” she said, trying her hardest to sound sincere.
“Luna kept you locked up for weeks, didn’t she? We’re used to treating vampires here, not nymphs.”
“Yeah,” Morana said.
“You’re pretty,” Katherine said while helping her drink with one hand, and ruffling through her hair with the other. “Not like the usual girls they drag in here.”
Morana lost it. She barely realized what she was doing until she was already doing it, mashing the glass from which she had been drinking into the vampire’s face with enough force to splinter it on impact.
“You stupid fucking whore,” she screamed. “Who in Autumn’s lands falls for this? Do you think I’m slow, maybe? You stupid, Autumn-damned bloodsucking whore!”
Katherine yelped in surprise and pain with shards of glass jutting out of her eyes, but Morana’s victory was short lived. Seconds later, guards dragged her out of bed, locked her arms behind her back and put a knife to her throat.
“Go ahead,” she screamed. “See if that kills me, worthless frigid freaks. I am a lampade of Hades, I will rip your souls out of your-”
One of the guards went through with it, and slit her throat.
She came to in agony. Accompanied with a horrifying, itching pain the rend flesh in her throat stitched itself back together. Breathing was hard, and green flames and dark ichor leaked from the wound. The sticky, dark fluid that made up her blood covered half her body, a disgusting and unclean feeling.
Standing up and looking around, mainly for something to clean herself with, she remembered where she was. Or rather, realized that she didn’t know where she was. Neither in the binding circle, nor in the infirmary, the vampires had moved her to some dingy dungeon while she had been dead. Her cell was small, and contained nothing beyond herself, dust and some rocky rubble. The room was dark, the only light coming from a torch on the far end of the hallway adjoining her cell.
“Finally awake?” a voice rasped from across the hallway. There was another cell there, but it was too dark to see who or what was contained there.
“I was dead, actually,” Morana said, already fed up with whoever was across the hallway.
“You’re very pretty for a corpse,” the voice replied.
She turned and twisted, suddenly self-conscious, trying to cover her genitals with legs and hands.
“You’re not a vampire, aren’t you?” She was asked.
“I am a-” she began to yell, but she wasn’t feeling it. Screaming she was a Lampade had not really helped thus far, and after the fiasco that her attempt at manipulation and escape had been she had decided some things needed to change.
“Go fuck yourself,” she yelled.
“Gladly,” the voice said. “You can help by getting out of that awkward position you’re in now. Depriving me of such sights.”
The urge to scream, yell and rage returned. She felt so powerless. But there had to be something she could do. She wasn’t human. She wasn’t mortal. She wasn’t even a wholly material being, but without her mirror, lantern and sickle she was powerless.
“Say,” she said after moping for a while. “What are you locked up in here for?”
“Sexual harassment,” the voice replied after a while.
“Tsk,” she spat. Even without really putting any feelings into it, her spit made a hissing sound as it chewed into the metal bars of her cell.
That was odd.
That was very odd.
Had they just not thought about that? After going through all the trouble of putting her into a binding circle they had locked her up in an ordinary cell, with bars made of ordinary steel?
Now that she thought about it, Katherine had called her a nymph. She was a nymph, that was true, but it was true in the same way that humans were apes. Her captors seemed to be under some serious misunderstandings regarding her nature- they had screwed up with the binding circle as well.
Had Luna negotiated her release like a normal magician, she would eventually have been forced to accede to at least some of her demands. Instead the vampire had waited until she broke, something that was never actually going to happen, not in the same way it happened to beings who didn’t fully grasp the concepts of eternity.
“What’s so funny?” The voice across from her asked.
“Hmmmmm?” Morana replied, realizing she must’ve been laughing.
“Have you gone mad already? Usually that takes a few weeks,” the voice said.
She spat at the bars of her cell, but without any resentment behind it, she struggled to produce anything beyond a mildly poisonous phlegm.
“What’s your problem?” The voice asked. “We’re stuck here with each other, might as well make the best of it.”
“Say,” she began. “What’d you do if there weren’t any bars between us?”
The voice took a while before responding: “I don’t like where this conversation is going.”
“What is your problem? What is your goddamn fucking problem?” She screamed, frustrated that her attempt to goad whoever that was into pissing her off had failed. It made no sense, whatever she tried there always seemed to be forces working against her.
A sudden sense of clarity came over her. This was it. The rage she needed. The feeling of contempt, not just for whoever was taunting her right now but for all the world. Foaming at her mouth as she fed the feeling more and more, she spat at the lock of her cell. A thick, dark globule of vitriol started to chew straight into the impure steel. Still raging, she kicked at the door and shattered the lock.
“Woah,” the voice yelped.
Slightly delirious, she couldn’t help but stop to taunt the other prisoner.
“Fuck you, I’m leaving,” she said, looking into the cell. Inside was a desiccated corpse, a withered husk of a vampire.
“Ah,” he said. “I’m glad, I suppose.”
“Why?” She asked. The man’s behavior made no sense to her.
“This place sucks,” the vampire said. “I’m glad you’re getting out.”
“What happened to your previous demeanor?” She asked, now genuinely curious.
“Does it matter?” He replied.
“Yes, yes it does, because if I like the answer, I might just let you out,” she said.
“No, you see,” the man said, “This is why I didn’t apologize to you either. You’re in a position of power over me. It’d be insincere. I’d just say whatever you want to hear to be let out.”
“And that matters to you?” she asked, dumbfounded. “Are you really in here for sexual harassment?”
“No,” the man said.
Morana gathered the rest of the resentment she had felt, now rapidly fading from her mind, and spat at the lock on the man’s cell. It took a few kicks, but this lock too, broke.
“I have no blood to feed to you, so ambush the next guard that comes by or something,” she said before turning around and walking in the direction of the light, paying her fellow inmate no more heed.
She did still need a plan. A plan, a weapon, and ideally clothes. Her robes had been shredded when Carver dragged her through the forest, most of her amulets and sigils lost. She’d have to replace them eventually, but until then she’d have to find something else.
There were a lot of cells, but most were empty. At the end of the hallway was a small doorway with a staircase leading up, a torch burning on a scone in the wall and a small wooden chair and table. For a guard perhaps?
If that was the case, it was better to wait for them to come back and ambush them than to blindly walk up and into whatever was above her.
It didn’t take long. A vampire in leather- no doubt human- armor with an ornate scabbard on his belt came down the stairs, woefully unprepared for the naked Lampade waiting to punch him in the face. He screamed, confused, as she pushed him over, climbed on top of him and started hitting him in the face, his half-helmet offering no protection.
Anger and hate built up in Morana as she hammered into him with her right hand. She screamed and cried as her knuckles broke and splintered under the onslaught, dark ichor dripping from her wounds.
The vampire, unnaturally resilient, recovered from his initial surprise and pushed her off of him, rolled on top of her and bit into her throat.
He expected blood, but found ichor and pale fire. Screaming, he caught fire and Morana managed to get out from underneath him. He trashed around, balefire eating away at his face. Her right hand shattered, she resorted to kicking the man with her heels, making some effort to not break her feet as well.
After an arduous ten seconds of violence, the vampire stopped both his trashing and infernal shrieking. Morana tried to center herself, looking at her broken hand buckle and move as it repaired itself. It hurt, but it was a nice pain. She was in control. She had struggled and had come out on top.
The man’s armor was too complicated for her to undo and would not have fitted her very well anyway, but his sword she could use.
She wasn’t used to fighting with weapons, only ever really having wielded her sickle. Some of her sisters had large war-scythes, imbued with the same terrifying power her little curved blade had been. When they took to the battlefield they slaughtered armies, but she was young and not really cut out to be a warrior.
The vampire’s sword was a far cry from either sickle or scythe, and surprisingly heavy. She held it in the light of the torch, and to confirm her suspicions, she turned the beautifully polished blade to use it as a mirror.
In the reflection, only armor lay on the ground. The blade was made of silver.
That made sense. The vampire kingdoms frequently warred, and a normal blade would not be able to take down other vampires as efficiently if at all. She had no idea how they hardened the silver into weapons-grade material, but that didn’t matter.
Silver blade in hand, she walked up the staircase. Even if they subdued her again, she would rise again and try again. She’d give her enemies no recourse but to destroy her body utterly, casting her back into Hades. And then she would return still, this time with her sisters in tow.
The stairs ended in a small, empty crypt in a graveyard next to an imposing, gothic castle. Wind howled through the dark forest, and she already felt shadows creeping up to her. Oh, how she missed her wards.
For a moment she wondered if she should cut her losses, and run off into the forest. But then she’d be lost, and no step closer to her original goal- finding the sister of the Fallen who lived somewhere in the vampire kingdoms.
And she had unfinished business with Luna Walkenburg. Stained in both her own dark blood as well as spattes of the vampire’s, she circled the castle gardens looking for a way in.
The moment she reached one, a large wooden door, a vampiric soldier guarding it yelped in surprise. An agile woman who recovered from her surprise in an instant, and drew her own sword. She charged Morana and thrusted at her, who tried to parry or deflect the vampire’s blade but failed, and got skewered instead.
Stumbling backwards, a massive stab wound in her chest, Morana weakly raised her own blade. The vampire came at her again, this time with an overhead swing. Morana tried to deflect it, but either she misjudged where her opponent was striking, or the vampire had changed the trajectory of her attack mid-swing, and hacked into her wrist, chopping her hand clean off.
Morana screamed in pain, dizzy and her world spinning as she saw the silver blade fall onto the ground along with her right hand. Her amputated hand disintegrated in a flash of pale fire, its essence returning to Morana as her body started to regenerate.
Her opponent gave her no quarter, however, and pressed the attack. Morana tried to dodge or retreat, but found herself too slow.
The next sensation was of water, icy cold water. Confused, her head full of haze and mist, she crawled onto shore. Seeing the stars twinkle around her and tasting briny water in her mouth, she realized her opponent must’ve decapitated her. She was on the shores of Hades, near the Paths of the Dead.
Rolling onto her back, she stared at her left hand. Still missing two fingers. There was a long trek to the palaces of Hades ahead of her, one she wasn’t exactly excited to begin- and she suspected her superiors wouldn’t be exactly happy with her once she arrived either.
Still, she was in nowhere near the amount of trouble both Carver and Luna would find themselves in once she made it back home.