Finally, the pungent aroma of decaying flesh became too much to bear. Grimacing at the pain it caused her, the dark angel dragged herself up into a sitting position. After the warmth of the animal furs and the velvet blanket that she had been shrouded in, the air of her mausoleum home felt icy cold. Reaching out a withered hand, she pulled herself onto her knees and then finally, her balance unsteady, she stood naked in the middle of the floor. Her weeks of enforced dormancy had left her severely weakened and somewhat vulnerable. Unnourished, even vampires wither and age.
She needed blood and she needed it urgently. But, did she have any strength left to hunt? She was going to have to try then she needed to check on her fledgling. Had the blood from his mother tamed the Rabbia Sanguigna?
Dressing sapped more of her limited strength but, eventually, just as the sun rose over the horizon, she was ready to venture out into the world again. Drawing her cloak around her for warmth, she set out in search of much needed sustenance.
A lone commuter stood on the platform at the station, engrossed in a news article on his phone. Her fangs found his jugular vein before he even realised that he was no longer alone. As his warm blood flowed smoothly down her throat, the dark angel felt life seep back into her ravaged body. With the businessman’s body drained dry, she pushed him off the platform onto the tracks, kicking his bag and phone after him.
If she could feed again before the sun set, she might just recover before the full moon.
A glance at the newspaper the man had dropped informed her it was 20th March confirming she had been dormant too long.
Eleven long weeks and two full moons had passed with no sign of her. Eleven long weeks since she had delivered the two flasks of blood with her gentle kiss. It had been a rare show of tenderness and that kiss was imprinted on his memory.
Every Friday night he had checked the tree for his expected blood ration only to find the hollow empty.
He had been left with no choice but to hunt for himself. The blood from the flasks had sustained him for almost a week before he felt the now familiar hunger start to grow. Before she had vanished, the dark angel had promised that he’d “know” if the blood from his mother had calmed the rage of his Rabbia Sanguigna. Within twenty-four hours he’d noticed a change in himself – a subtle change. He had still craved blood as badly as before but he felt more in control of his desires. Over the next few weeks he learned if he stayed calm and relaxed, the desire melted into the background; as soon as he became angry or frustrated, the urge returned instantly and the desire to taste the warm ferrous nectar from a live creature pulsed more overwhelmingly than ever. Once, when he’d almost lost his temper while driving, he’d felt a sudden craving for human blood. That thought had chilled him to the bone.
Calm……how could he stay calm when the angel had abandoned him and vanished without a trace?
Hunting during the months of winter had proved challenging. He had taken to hunting on his way home from work, feeding from the livestock in the fields behind the village. There had been plenty of sheep to choose from but the blood of the expectant ewes soured his stomach, leaving him nauseous. After a third day of vomiting rings round himself, he decided that sheep were off the menu. At the back of his mind, he recalled the angel’s warning about drinking from expectant mothers and deduced that this must hold true for expectant ovine mothers too.
Cows’ and horses’ blood sustained him. Deer, despite tasting divine, proved too quick for him. A feast of deer blood was a rare treat obtained through sheer dumb luck rather than hunting prowess.
The day before March’s full moon fell on his scheduled day off from work. With the kids at school and nursery and his wife out running errands, he decided to treat himself to a long run along his beloved forestry trails.
It was a clear crisp Spring day, perfect for a long run. He’d hunted on the way home the evening before and, with his music playing through his iPod, was content just to allow the ground to pass under his feet without the need to watch for a possible victim. Deciding to deviate from his usual route, he set off in search of a small remote reservoir far up in the hills behind the village. His plan was to circle the small loch then head east along the trail to the larger reservoir that served the area before doubling back and returning home via the remote B class road that led into the back of the village.
When he reached the trail that led down to the small reservoir, he found that it had been washed out in a storm and was unpassable. Changing his plan, he stayed on the trail he’d been following. The reservoir was about fifty yards off to his right. A movement caught his attention and he paused to gaze over at the shaded expanse of water. For a split second he thought he’d seen someone bathing in the icy water. He could have sworn it was her.
Deciding that his mind was playing tricks on him, he returned his focus to his run and set off again, upping his pace.
Breaking through the surface of the cold water, the angel came up gasping for breath. That has been close! Thank God for that infernal noise he chose to listen to. If she hadn’t heard it, she would never have known he was close. That thought triggered a fresh concern for her. He might be oblivious to it but her fledgling had developed a new vampire talent – silent footfall.
As the water stilled around her, she glanced down at her reflection. Her skin had rehydrated after her breakfast of human blood. There were still dark shadows under her eyes with deep wrinkles around them. A wide white streak had appeared in her raven black hair.
Her trip to Spain had certainly left its mark on her.
There was no time to dwell on things beyond her control. She had neglected her fledgling for too long. It was time to resume his education.
Next morning dawned wild and wet, a strong gusting wind sending wheelie bins flying across the roads. When he left the house, running late for work, he almost missed the sign that had been left on his windscreen A white pebble had been balanced on the wiper blade and a small black feather with a purple tip was tucked under it.
She was alive!
He let out a long, relieved sigh, releasing weeks of tension that he hadn’t realised had built up.
But where and when was he to meet her?
First things first, he had to get to work.
It was growing dark when he finally logged off his pc and gathered up his belongings. His last conference call of the day at four o’clock had over run, ending with an action for him to revise a paper he had prepared before the end of the day. He’d managed to pull the figures together in record time and hoped they met with the approval of those further up the food chain. It had been a long day and it was now an hour and half past the end of his shift. Pausing to wish the security guard goodnight, he left the building and headed across the car park towards his car.
As he unlocked the car, he felt the air move beside him.
“Son of Perran,” whispered a familiar voice. “You ignored my sign.”
“I didn’t ignore it,” he replied as he spun round to find himself face to face with the angel. “I didn’t understand it. I needed to get to work. I was planning to look for you in the cemetery on my way home.”
Staring deep into his soul, her green eyes locked with his brown ones. Unable to look away, he felt her probing into his mind uninvited.
“Praise be” she sighed. “It worked.”
“Your Rabbia Sanguigna is under control.”
“If you’d asked, I could’ve told you it was” he snapped, his hand clenching tight around his car key. “Don’t enter my mind uninvited again!”
“My apologies. That was unforgiveable,” she said, bowing her head. “I needed to see for myself. Needed to know for sure.”
“Yeah and I’ve needed you. Where have you been for the past eleven weeks?”
“Indisposed,” replied the angel softly.
Looking at her properly for the first time, he saw that she had aged. Without thinking, he reached out to touch the white streak at the front of her hair. “What happened?”
“My trip to find your mother took its toll,” she replied evasively. “I drank tainted blood on the way home. That and the effort of keeping the blood warm for so long almost ended me.”
“I’ll recover,” assured the angel forcing a smile. “And you, Son of Perran, are you well?”
“I think so,” he replied sounding a little unsure.
“Is the blood rage really under control?”
He nodded, “As long as nothing winds me up. If I get frustrated or pissed off at something, I can feel it rising. I’ve not reacted to it…. yet.”
“Well done,” she praised. “You’ve shown maturity.”
“You didn’t leave me much choice!”
“True,” she conceded.
“Look, I need to get home. I’m late,” he began awkwardly. “Can we talk later?”
“I need to hunt later.”
“Get in,” said the runner impulsively as he opened the passenger side door. “We can talk on the way.”
“I can’t sit in there,” answered the angel, rustling her wings gently.
“Shit! Forgot about those,” he muttered slamming door shut then not to be thwarted said, “Get in the back. You can lie along the back seat.”
“How undignified,” complained the angel as she slid into the backseat of the car.
“Sorry. It’s the best I can do,” he apologised as he climbed into the driver’s seat.
As he exited the car park, he could feel her eyes boring into him. She watched him in silence for a few minutes before saying softly, “I saw you yesterday.”
“So, it was you I saw at the reservoir?”
“Yes,” she replied. “If it hadn’t been for that awful noise you listen to, I wouldn’t have heard you approaching.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You run soundlessly, son of Perran.”
“You’ve developed some new vampire traits while I’ve been absent,” she observed. “Some full blood traits.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“I’ll make this easy for you to understand, fledgling,” began the angel sounding irritated. “Your partial transformation has failed.”
“Yes, and I am truly sorry about that,” she apologised sincerely.
“So, what does that mean?” he demanded as he stopped the car at a red light.
“From what I saw in your mind, the blood from your mother calmed the Rabbia Sanguigna but it also disturbed the delicate balance of your transformation. Your full blood faculties are developing. You run and walk without making a sound. You could already read minds. You had perfect vision. Now, you also have perfect hearing over long distances, if you choose to listen.”
“I don’t get it,” he said as the traffic lights turned to green.
“Visualise your home, son of Perran,” she instructed. “And listen.”
He did as she asked then felt a chill run through him as he heard his wife talking to the kids as clearly as if he was standing beside her.
“How?” he spluttered, not fully comprehending what was going on. “Why?”
“It had to the blood from your mother. She must be more of a full blood then I detected.”
“Christ, I don’t believe this is happening!” he growled, slamming his hand onto the steering wheel. “So, now what? Am I going to grow a set of wings and go around killing people to survive?”
“In time, most likely.”
“You have to be kidding me? This is not what I agreed to……. You promised me!”
“I know,” she interrupted him. “And you have no idea how dreadful I feel about all that has happened. Maybe if you spoke to your mother. Found out about her history.”
“No way!” he declared loudly. “Besides, she’s disappeared. I’ve not heard from her since Christmas. She’s not been home since her trip to Spain.”
“Yeah,” he muttered sourly. “She’ll turn up. She always does.”
“Has she vanished before?” quizzed the angel sharply.
“Many times, but, sadly, she always turns up.”
“Where does she go?”
“No idea. She never says and I don’t care enough to ask.”
In the rear-view mirror, he could see the dark angel looking thoughtful and he wondered if his mother’s vanishing acts were somehow important.
They drove on in silence for several minutes and, as he indicated to turn off the dual carriageway to take the back-road home, the angel said, “Stop when we are out of sight of the farm.”
“Sure,” he said as large drops of rain began to hit the windscreen.
A loud peel of thunder rattled over head and the rain instantly grew heavier. As he pulled off to the side of the road, the sky lit up with a flash of fork lightning.
“Do you want to wait here till that storm blows through?” he asked as he killed the engine.
For a moment the angel hesitated then said, “No. I need to feed and the storm will afford me some cover. People die easily during thunder storms. Unexpected unexplained accidents.”
A chill rattled through him as he realised that she intended to dine on human blood when she left his car.
“What’s the plan here then?” he asked, still struggling to process the information she’d given him
“We need to resume your education,” she answered simply. “You need to learn our old ways, how to feed properly and how to live unseen and undetected in the human world.”
“How long will that take?”
“Years, I hope,” said the angel quietly. “The partial transformation enchantment should slow your maturity. We can work together to slow the changes. Double your mugwort. That should be strong enough to prevent your wings from budding.” She paused for a second then added, “You need to continue to hunt for yourself. Hone those skills. Not too often. Vary your targets. Choose different locations. You’ll learn in time what your body needs most.”
He ran his hand through his hair and yelled, “This is all a fucking nightmare! And it’s all your fault!”
“Yes, it is,” she agreed reaching through to touch his slender shoulder. “This storm will pass though. You’re young. You’re strong. You’ve matured since the start of the year. With a bit of luck, your life can continue as normal for many years yet.”
The touch of her cool hand was comforting. While it rested on his shoulder, he felt an energy from her easing into his blood. With each breath, he felt his anger abate.
“When will I see you again?”
“Soon,” she replied evasively. “If I leave a pebble for you, meet me that night at dusk by the tree.”
“And if I can’t make it?”
“I’ll come for you,” she said bluntly. “Regardless of where you are. Now, I need to depart.”
Next morning, the area was littered with storm debris. Wheelie bins and tree limbs were scattered around the village and surrounding areas. As he was preparing to leave for work, his wife asked if he would drop the kids off at school first.
“Right, you two, out to the car,” he called as he drained the last of his coffee. “We’re leaving now.”
With the kids safely buckled in, he started the engine and pulled away from the kerb.
“Dad,” said his daughter. “Where did this feather come from? It’s pretty. Can I have it?”
Glancing in the rear view mirror, he saw that his little girl had one of the dark angel’s long wing feathers in her hand.