via Daily Prompt: Banned *Unedited as of 10/26 2016 11:46pm est.
It wasn’t the taste of blood in my mouth or the way I watched Markus crumple back onto the floor that convinced me how much he cared, but the way he refused to look at me did. For a man way older than me he seemed dreadfully uncertain of every decision and this one was no different. He glanced towards me, but quickly shied away, clutching his bleeding wrist. I turned my head towards the ceiling of the dark cave tunnel, watch the way the light poured in and cast shadows over every wall until the shadows grew large and simply became darkness. I should have been dead. I should have simply been another missing woman somewhere in the world, but this vampire chose to save me. This whole mess would have been easy to run from without me, but there I was. I wiped my hand across my mouth leaving a dark red smear over my skin before a wave of weakness came back over me.
“How do you feel?” he asked softly. I heard a ripping noise, and when I looked closely at him I saw he’d begun to tie the ends of his shirt around his wrist to halt the bleeding.
“Well, I won’t be running a marathon any time soon. Not that I…I ever planned on it.” As I spoke my skin began to tingle and I suddenly became acutely aware of the blood flowing through my body. The bruises on my neck and waist throbbed in time with the deep cut on my abdomen and along my spine. Pulsing. Pulsing. Every centimeter of myself began to sing with a rush of overwhelming and awe-inspiring energy that made my heart bound so fast I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My lungs ached as though someone had beaten my chest in, and the struggle for air got more difficult. Was I turning? Was I losing the battle for life? I did not know as my hands shook and I began to squirm on that cold hard ground. As quickly as this all began Markus loomed over me. His usual cool affect evaporated as he pulled me onto his lap, cradling me as though all he wished to do was help me.
“Shh…it’ll be over soon.”
I tried to get out words, but the sounds didn’t even reach my throat as panic made me paw at my own chest. It needed to work. I needed to know what he did. I managed to mouth Did you?’ and that was enough to get him to shake his head sternly.
“No. I didn’t turn you. I…I wouldn’t do that unless you asked. You need to relax, slow your breathing, and let the blood do what it must.”He began stroking my hair, and I tried to do as he said. One breath seemed to half way work but then it felt squeezed out of my lungs by force like someone pressed on a juice box until only air came out. “Shh, keep trying. Slowly…come on.” And I did again…and again and again. With every attempted breath that feeling hit me. Dark clouds peppered with rainbow stars began to pop before my eyes. The pain in my lungs intensified my wounds felt as though the flesh was being pulled together again. The sensation was like straining a muscle and then having someone grab onto the wounded flesh and tightly pulling it taunt until it gave a little…then a little bit more. It hurt like a mother fucker and the adrenaline rushing through me seemed to be running a race through my blood, causing my head to throb. Never in my life had I imagined such feelings to be possible all together. I once read of a condition where people could hear their internal organs and all. It was apparently a very painful and distracting thing. This was a distant cousin, but it made me understand how too much awareness didn’t just swamp your brain. It made every single thing you felt louder, more angry, and more suffocating.
“Don’t black out on me now. You can’t. Not yet,” he begged. I’d never heard him beg in the near year I’d known him. Markus had more pride than anything else and this certainly took the cake. If I died I at least got to hear something remarkable first. The heaviness of my body deepened. For a moment I imagined sinking through the wound on my back and all of me melting through the cave floor down into the warm embrace of the abyss. “Serene! You’re stubborn as hell so don’t disappoint me now.”
Another failed breath. Pressure. Pain. So tired. I did not want to die, but life had never been about what I wanted though sometimes life lined up with that. Life had been about living through pain and sorrow with all the baggage those things brought. That didn’t diminish the promise of joy! Oh I’d had such laughs with family and friends. I’d loved things with such vigor, and so much remained uneaten or untasted. Markus had been tasted, but how I wanted to love him. Just to try…just to see.
He slapped my cheeks lightly a few times sending a sting through my face.I grimaced, tossing my head, trying to grab onto his voice through the encroaching dark.
“No. You do not get to leave me now. You and I have things to work out…I want to figure us out so you damn well better stay with me!” He pressed his lips to my forehead and a small smile came on my face. “I want more of those cupcakes, I want more time, and I want more of you and I trying to figure this out ok?”
One more breath. The air rushed my lungs and I felt them fill as though all the crud and gunk in my slightly asthmatic self was obliterated. My eyes widened as every single ache and pain climaxed into this magnificent yet horrid pop, forcing my back to arch and every muscle to tense until they hurt. After what felt like all too long the sensation left and my body plopped prone onto him as I began to gasp for air. Markus began to laugh running his fingers through his dark hair with a grin that I’d never seen.
“Don’t scare me like that!” he said with a relieved laugh.
“Don’t scare you like that? I thought I was done!” I tried to sit forward, and he took my hand to help keep me steady. As he did the thuds of many feet filled my ears and I heard pebbles being kicked around. Markus’s attention turned toward the tunnel as he scowled, and I tried to stand only to fall down. My wounds may have healed, but somewhere between them and the healing I got a nasty case of vertigo that left me a bit weak and nauseous. He looked down quickly, shaking his head before standing in front me as though he planned to protect me.
“Those must be her guards,” he said.
“Why don’t they just give up and let us leave!?”
Markus pulled his switchblade from his pocket and with a slight movement of his thumb the sharp blade sprung to life. That was all we had left besides ourselves. It wouldn’t end well. I couldn’t stand needless to say throw a punch, and he half drained himself feeding me his blood to save my life. Most wouldn’t have noticed how it affected him. The slight stagger, the slight unease in his stance, and the tiredness in his eyes were subtle things, but undeniable. We couldn’t fight, but we sure as hell would try.
But as the footsteps grew closer they grew softer and less numerous.We may have had a bit more of a fighting chance than I thought. I sat forward, cracking my knuckles, and told myself that shit would be just fine. I didn’t believe it, but I tried. The long shadows of the case drew towards us turning into approaching figures. They stopped in the shadows, whispering far too quiet for me to hear. One tall figure stepped forward, motioning for the others to remain still. The light was just enough that I could see his eyes reflected a dull glow almost like a panthers or a cat at night. He stepped forward again and Markus raised his knife to attack
“It is I.”
That voice must have been familiar, and I had a small guess as to who it was when Markus lowered his hands. The figures drew forward again and the leader instantly reminded me of the man I saw in the portrait hung in Malika’s private office. She, Desaad, Markus, and their Sire. The older man with the silver hair dressed in the latest fashions of 1879. That man whose eyes told of tremendous horrors and wisdom I’d love to pull apart stood there, tall and smiling at us. His trousers were more than bloody, his undershirt torn in several places, and his shoes were as scuffed and dirty as his skin. How long had this man been a prisoner? Still he looked remarkably aged and remarkably as powerful as he looked in that portrait.
“Master…I thought you were-”
“Malika’s goons? Yes, I figured. I’m glad you escaped with your life.” He looked down at me and gave an almost grandfatherly smile. It made me like him a bit more than I probably should have. “And I am glad you escaped with your friend as well. I know how terribly attached you can get.”
“Don’t speak of my relationships like they’re child’s toys or my friends and…her as though they were pets.”
“Ha we’re all someone’s pet something.” The man laughed, nodding his head as he tucked his hands behind his back. He glanced towards a bronze skinned handsome gentlemen that had moved close behind him. “So she is the stranger?”
“What?” Markus said.
I looked up at Markus and nodded.
“That was an old name for what some called…what I am.” It didn’t shock me that their Sire already knew what I was…what I could do. Things like that were juicy if not important details when it came to this strange situation. The elder vampire was kidnapped, tortured, used to take every ounce of rage he inspired in his once treasured adoptive daughter, Malika. He probably asked for an update before he’d even been unchained.
“So you are one of The Empty?”
“Yes, and may I say it is a pleasure to finally meet you, sir.” I had always been taught to respect my elders. Didn’t see why I should stop there. I rose to my feet slowly, doing my best to shake off the vertigo lingering in my mind.
“Ah!” He beamed as though thoroughly pleased with this development. “It is so rare to find a young person with good proper manners! It is nice to meet you as well. However, I wish it were under normal circumstances…and that I must not give such bad news.”
“News?” Markus said. He looked as though something sour had fallen into his mouth, and his brow furrowed.
“You are, so long as you remain with this girl and unaffiliated with any known coven you are hereby banned from doing any significant business with those under my protection.”
The nerve of this man! After all we did to save his triphlin’ ass the first thing he spits out was that garbage. Exiled? “Banned”? For me? Markus never got too into details about how much influence his Sire wielded, but from what she recalled from their interviews the man had considerable power among those who made being an immortal creature in the world of Social Security Numbers, open public records, and google a hell of a lot easier. He protected many, and plenty who Markus on occasion admitted he called friends. They were loyal, or tried to be…and more than that something told me that the man could be far more fierce than he initially seemed. Hell what Malika told me…the murders, the burning, the tortures…all pointed to him being far more cruel than he appeared.
I had to ask. I needed to know. “Why? Because of me-”
“Oh no. Trust me you are not that important though you are most curious,” Their Sire ignored my scowl and just kept going. Yeah, I liked him a bit too soon. “It is you in conjunction with the fact that he has no allegiance. Not to me. Malika shows I can’t trust that now.”
“That is paranoia at its finest,” I said.
“Do you know who you’re speaking to, girl?” The bronze vampire growled, but their Sire just raised a hand to signal him to back down. The handsome asshole did as told, adjusting his coat and looking away.
“What do you mean by significant?” Markus asked. Not a hint of shock or malice hung on his voice. Did he expect that to happen? He remained as still as stone, unmoved by everything, and meanwhile everything he and I did got thrown out the goddamn window. Moments ago I was bleeding out and preparing to meet my maker, and now this? Vampire crap. No. Human crap enhanced like vampirism enhanced everything else.I crossed my arms wishing Markus would just say something, protest, but he said nothing else.
“Well…it is whatever I decide, yeah?” The man laughed and Markus just bobbed his head a slow smirk came on his lips that said he had expected this somewhere in the back of his mind. “We will gladly assist you for the remainder of the week before you leave”
“We need a change of clothes. One or two meals, and then a nice plane ride back home. I’m done with all this.” Markus sighed, looking around the caves slowly. “I’m done with Istanbul…Desaad and Malika loved it here, but…well it is appropriate they are here now.”
“They always deserved each other. He was too afraid to return and she was too afraid to leave. They were rather pathetic really.”
A silence far colder than the caves around us settled over me. Once upon a time Malika called him her father and far more recent than that…Desaad fought tooth and nail to rescue him. Within the grey storm of that man’s eyes none of that mattered. Worse, I sensed he appreciated it all very deeply. He respected their choices, their loyalty, and enjoyed their service whole heartedly. Something about how he said their names told me that much, but none of that changed how he felt or affected him in the slightest. Maybe the elder vampire needed to act that heartless in order to cope, but all I heard was sincere feeling. In his ancient eyes, in the eyes of their creator, they were truly pathetic in ways I could not understand. It made me feel sick again as though a stranger tied a knot in my stomach.
From the corner of my eye I saw Markus ball his hand into a tight fist. “We will leave the day after tomorrow.” His voice did not waver or shift. Not a single note of anger clung to it. “Banished…yes, I can make that work.” He sounded almost hopeful in some twisted way. That made a light bulb go off in my head. Malika did horrendous things in the name of putting the past behind her. But Markus? No, he did a good and loyal thing…and the result ended up the same way. Banned from those who most reminded him of his past. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and I could see the gear turning away in his mind.
“Well, shall we go?” The elder vampire cheerfully asked.
We followed those seven vampires out along the hillside and down the cliffs to their cars. Markus held my hand for the whole way, but besides asking me how I felt he remained lost in the web of his mind. As we sat in a jet black SUV behind two vampires who preferred not to acknowledge us at all a gruesome thought crossed my mind. What if…Markus had some how foresaw all of this in the beginning? What if this was his ultimate plan? What if he had learned far more from his Sire than Desaad or Malika, or even the vampires that followed the man now? How would I know? The answer did not exist as I knew it. It troubled me and followed me through that whole long drive. As much as it did I could not bring myself to truly justify how much it mattered. I could only say…there was far more to learn from my das vampyre…and I hope banishment treated him far better than his Sire.
*This is based on my vampire action+romance series that has yet to be titled starring Serene and Markus.