Dublin is beautiful at night, B.D. decided to herself as she and Scorch walked along the crowded streets. Everywhere there were lights, music, and laughter. Minneapolis had never offered so much to take in, and this young American decided the Irish were more interesting than she’d previously believed.
Scorch watched the streets they passed very carefully, making sure no one followed them. She and her friends were, they felt, necessarily clandestine, and wanted to keep it that way. If any uninvited soul were to happen upon their meeting... well, it wouldn’t happen twice at any rate. They finally reached the abandoned mansion, a relic from Ireland's monarchial past. Scorch pushed the heavy oak doors open and motioned for B.D. to go in before her. She wanted everyone else to Feel B.D. without her as a filter.
B.D. stood dumbstruck in the doorway, her eyes slowly adjusting to the low light of a few scattered candelabra. Even in the relative darkness, she could make out velvet draperies, presumably covering the windows, and a staircase in the back of this large main hall, leading up to a ledge. It was lined with the same railings as the stairs and ran ‘round the entirety of the room. B.D. assumed there were doors upstairs, and probably some in this room as well, but she couldn’t say for sure. A golden chandelier softly reflected the candlelight from the high ceiling, and B.D. wondered how anyone could manage to get up there to clean. She felt Scorch nudge her in the small of her back then, so she stepped forward to let the other girl in the room. Scorch closed the door behind them, and began to make introductions.
“None of us use given names here, most of us choose to forget them, but we have names nonetheless.” She pointed, and the indicated person nodded as she spoke their names. “Phoenix, Scorpian, Raven, this is B.D.... Belladonna.”
The three sighed in a knowing sort of way when they heard the name of the newcomer, and two of the now smiling faces turned to Raven, who stood and began to walk towards the young women still standing by the door.
As he approached B.D. could see his features more clearly, for the light from a nearby candle washed over his face and body, giving him a glow. He had soft, deep dark eyes that although flawless, looked as though they’d seen a thousand years pass. His skin was pale and clean, his lips bowed slightly, and both begged to be touched. Wild, tight curls fell just past his shoulders in a mass of black and sandy streaks, accented here and there with black feathers and blood-red beads. He wore little, most noticeably a pair of tight, black leather pants and matching boots. Two-inch wide leather cuffs encircled his wrists, and a delicate silver chain hung around his neck. As she watched his graceful, sensuous movements, B.D. could suddenly Feel him. He was across the room. He was next to her. He was in her head. In the air. Out in the city. Deep within the Earth. Flying through space. He was everywhere at once, and B.D. started to worry his presence would suffocate her.
"Sit down please, Belladonna. You are most welcome here." Raven smiled as his words broke though the tension, his voice resonating within B.D.'s body even more that Scorch's had. The velvety baritone, tinged with a haunting Irish accent, made her tremble and her breath quicken. She heard her blood pounding in her ears, and if she had not been so enraptured she would have noticed that everyone else in the room could hear it too.
Raven gingerly took her left hand in his, and placed his right at the small of her back. B.D. started to take a step forward, but at his touch she suddenly found her knees buckling under her and started to fall. With a swift fluid motion, Raven caught her in his arms and carried her instead. With her head resting against his bare chest, B.D. noticed how cool his skin was, how slowly his heart beat.
Raven returned to where he'd been sitting, still holding B.D. in his lap. With a soft touch he stroked her hair and rocked slowly back and forth, singing to her in a near whisper. The melody made B.D. feel much as she had in the hotel room with Scorch; comforted, content, yet uneasy and disturbed. The words, which she would have recognized as Gaelic if she’d thought about it, echoed in the deepest recess of her mind and called to something primal within her soul, as though another's ears were listening.
She let her eyes drop closed and felt her breath’s gradual fall into rhythm with Raven's, her heartbeat also slowing to match his. Her head began to reel from the lack of blood and she thought she would black out. Still, Raven sang and the song held her, their bodies swaying in time to the meter. None of the others in the room spoke a word, only watched the apparent ritual act.
Just as her consciousness began to slip away, Raven's voice hit the final note and faded, till only his breath kissed her ear. B.D. shivered and drew in air as deeply as she could, growing dizzy as her blood regained its usual flow. Raven's heart quickened as well, and he raised one hand to stroke her cheek, his touch as gentle as before. Her eyes fluttered open and she turned them up to meet his. His soft brown penetrated into her turquoise and he smiled. Without realizing it she smiled back, and had the sudden intense urge to bring her lips up to meet his.
Raven's eyes flashed and he whispered, "Later."
B.D. jerked her face away and blushed. Raven gave her a comforting squeeze and then addressed the others assembled there.
"My friends, we have gathered every night for so long, always with little to report, our hope steadily fading. Even my resolve had grown weak, despite Those who guide me."
B.D. listened, both confused and intrigued. She looked up at Raven again, carefully studying his face as he continued.
"But now, tonight, Scorch has brought renewal to our purpose. I am eternally in your debt, Lass, for all you've done for me over the years." He directed a warm smile at the red-eyed girl, who in turn appeared embarrassed and modest about her contributions. She turned the slightest bit to hide her face, and B.D. assumed Scorch would blush, yet her skin stayed just as pale as ever. Raven nodded and went on.
"Let it be noted then, that tonight we may have found our answer, and if this is indeed so, then soon the Tribes will be united and our trials will be alleviated for all time!"
Later in the night, Scorch and Phoenix stood and left, and Raven explained they were off to find food. B.D. thought to herself that Scorch must indeed be hungry, given that she’d barely touched that beef in the restaurant. Raven used the time to fill B.D. in a bit on Scorch and Phoenix‘s past.
“I’ve known Scorch for a very long time, she’s like a younger sister. She even acts like one around me, following me everywhere, much like a puppy. Phoenix is her lover and she brought him here to us. I don’t know how long their relationship will last though, given Scorch’s history with such things.”
Phoenix reminded B.D. of Eric Draven, “The Crow” from the movie and comic books; tall, lanky, dark hair and eyes. Scorch seemed much attached to him now, but considering the almost-incident in the hotel room, B.D. had to concede to Raven’s observation.
After they returned, Raven pulled on a tight, black long-sleeved shirt and got up to leave with Scorpian, also to find food. Scorch took Raven’s place by B.D.’s side. B.D. felt a definite loss when he walked away. She tried to shrug it off and listen to Scorch talk about Scorpian.
“No one knows too much about her. Raven’s the closest to her, and I think they used to be lovers, but I’m not sure. She’s such a little yapping dog at his heels sometimes--”
B.D. couldn’t help but giggle at this, remembering how Raven had compared Scorch to a puppy earlier.
Scorch gave an inquisitive look, but went on. “Anyway... regardless of my opinion of her personality, she is important to us.”
Everything about Scorpian was black; her hair, her eyes, her demeanor, her clothes, the very air about her seemed to cloud with darkness. Somehow though, this didn’t seem at all dangerous or malevolent to B.D., just intriguing and mysterious.
“What about Raven?” B.D. asked, hoping she didn’t sound too anxious.
Scorch’s lips raised in a half smile. “It’s not my place to tell you about him. He’ll reveal himself to you, in time.”
B.D. found it interesting that this last statement made her flush, almost gave her a sexual thrill, the same way both Scorch and Raven’s voices did. Scorch couldn’t have meant “reveal himself” in that way, she decided, it was just her hormones and Raven’s obvious male beauty that put that particular thought in her head. She insisted that’s all it was, despite parts of her body telling her different.
When Raven returned it was all B.D. could do not to run up to him and throw her arms around his neck. He walked over to her, sat back down, and draped an arm across her shoulders. Leaning down he kissed the top of her head, then with his hand turned her face towards his and smiled. B.D. felt as though she would melt, and turned away with a shy look. Gazing around the room then, she noticed that everyone seemed more active, energized, refreshed somehow, and figured the food must have done them untold good. Scorch and Phoenix spoke to each other in low tones, the occasional giggle or chuckle escaping into the dark air, a lover’s conversation if B.D.’d ever seen one. Scorpian sat separate from everyone else, seeming to meditate or stare off into space, it was hard to tell which. B.D.’d kept fairly silent so far, but since there seemed little chance of interruption, she decided to ask Raven a few things that had been floating around in her mind. She gave his ribs a timid poke.
The man turned his head to her and smiled again. “Aye, Lassie?”
B.D. fought the urge to giggle at the somehow flattering pet-name. “Umm, I was just wondering, what was that, uh, song you sang to me earlier?”
Raven looked thoughtful for a moment, searching for the right words. “It was less of a song than it was... an assessment of sorts. I was... checking something.”
B.D.’s intrigue only grew. “Checking what? Something about me?”
“Aye, I was looking for an answer. The song told me what I needed.” His right hand then stroked her hair and he smiled again. B.D. couldn’t help but smile back.
“You could have just asked me, I would have told you anything,” she said, her voice quiet and, she hoped, seductive. When she saw the flash in Raven’s eyes, she assumed she’d been successful. He let out a gentle laugh.
“Well, then I shall have to ask more of you, no?” He ran his index finger along her jaw line back towards her neck, then down her chest, stopping just before he reached her cleavage. He loved that his touch made her breath that heavy, made her heart beat that fast, made her flesh prickle in just that way. It showed him that he and Scorch had been right, this girl was the One they needed. The song wouldn’t lie, he thought to himself.
It was difficult for B.D. not to shiver when Raven’s skin met hers again, but she needed to keep her concentration. She took a deep breath to steady herself before speaking again.
“Umm, what did you want to know anyway?”
Raven’s face got serious at that point, and the room reached a new level of quiet. All eyes were suddenly trained on the two of them again, waiting for Raven’s response. He turned and addressed the group in its small entirety.
“I had hoped that this could have waited, but I also should have expected her to be this inquisitive.” He turned back to B.D., who was waiting with wide eyes and a little fear in the pit of her stomach. Raven softened his voice when he spoke to her again.
“In order to tell you that, Lassie, you’ll have to become one of us."
B.D.'s look went from pure intrigue to one tinged with confusion and apprehension. "'One of us'? What the hell do you mean?"
Raven took a deep breath and laid his hand on her cheek, his Voice increasingly soft as he spoke. "In the world’s old languages, we were called upir or strygia. One modern, though in accurate, term is demon-spawn, and I've even heard such vulgar things as blood-sucker. In short, Belladonna, we are Vampires."
At his words, B.D. started backwards as if she'd been struck, her expression blank. She blinked once, twice, then tears sprang to her eyes and she collapsed forward into Raven's arms, going unconscious.
Over the next few hours, she experienced much but understood little as strange and haunting images flashed through her mind.
She saw the sea from the deck of a wooden ship, the boisterous calls of drunken men and metal clashes of heavy swords surrounding her. The smell of sweat and human blood prevailed over the salty ocean spray.
Next a sultry wind whipped sand in her face, and the heat from the sun above was almost too much to bear. Off in the distance an oasis of palms wavered over the dunes like a mirage.
Then a glorious city sprang up around her, the buildings supported by marble columns, and the people in crowds, listening to wise men expound upon the knowledge of the world. The people dressed in white ankle-length linen shifts that were gathered at their shoulders with golden brooches.
She was transported then to an almost sinister stone fortress surrounded by a bleak landscape, a sense of foreboding penetrating the very air she breathed. There was a crowd gathered outside the gates, calling for justice for some unimagined horror that had befallen this land.
Finally, lush greenery grew all around, and a mysterious, beautiful, and beckoning laugher rang in her ears. She ached to run toward it, join in its revelry, to disappear into this wood and never return.
Then fires. So many fires. And screams for mercy, claims of innocence, and untamed fear of what was to come. Fueling it all was an undeserved sense of righteousness, a damnable surety, and again, a fear, but this was of the unknown and misunderstood. A desperate sense of loss, separation, and suffering overtook her, and even in her unconscious state, B.D. wept.
She was slow to wake and regain awareness of herself. Her head still groggy, she lifted herself up onto her elbows and squinted down her body. A deep red blur was all she could make out at first, a satin sheet covering her form. As her vision continued to readjust to the candlelight, she discerned she now lay on a dark wood four-post bed, with velvet canopy curtains tied back to her left and right. The room was larger than she was used to a bedroom being, but not as impressive as the great hall. Across from her was a dresser with an oval mirror hanging above it, and a door in the corner, presumably leading to a closet. Her senses finally about her again, she became aware of a now familiar presence in the room.
“Raven?” she called out quietly.
“Aye, Lass, I am here,” came his reply from her right.
“Um, what happened to me?"
Raven chuckled. "You fainted.”
"Well I figured out that much." An annoyed scowl crossed her face. "What I meant was, what were, uh, all those images I saw, in my head?"
Raven laughed again. "Those, Lass, are the record of our history that each of us keep in our minds." He stood from the velvet-upholstered armchair in which he’d been lounging, and moved to B.D.’s side. She instinctively snuggled up to him as he put an arm around her, his cool skin bare of the shirt once again. "While you were... gone,” he continued, “I was able reach inside you, and transfer that record to your memory.” He pulled her closer and began petting her hair. “It was the first step to your change. Another night, the final stage will take place." He finished the explanation with a light kiss atop her head.
She knew she’d heard all the words he spoke, but two of them seemed to repeat over and over, echoing in her mind, inside you. She felt her sex clench involuntarily, a stronger reaction than she’d had to Scorch. She bit her lip to stifle a moan, and another chuckle floated down from above her.
“Such sensations are normal when going through the change, do not be frightened or ashamed.”
B.D. raised her head to look at him. “How did--”
“Hushh,” he said in a whisper. “The song, remember? It told me things about you, but also allowed me a stronger connection to you… Deeper, more intimate.” Raven’s voice dropped in pitch with those last three words, and B.D.’s arousal increased, almost causing her to shiver. His brown eyes seemed to grow darker, and she could see clear reflections of the candle flames as she stared into them. His touch soft as ever, he took her chin in his hand and drew her face closer… closer… until their mouths barely touched. B.D. then gasped as she felt Raven’s tongue brush first against, then past her lips.
At that first taste he deepened the kiss, his hand now at the back of her head, his mouth locked with hers as though in hunger. The sound that managed to escape her throat fell somewhere between a squeal and a moan, and she raised a trembling hand to the curls that cascaded over his bare shoulder.
Moving closer, Raven began to roll B.D. onto her back and soon he lay on top of her, taking hold of her wrists to lift them over her head and pin her to the mattress beneath. Using one knee he coaxed her legs apart and settled between them. The pressure of his hips matched that of his mouth, and he could feel her warmth even through their clothes. Stop! he commanded himself, knowing it was not time to let things go any further. He growled, a guttural, animalistic sound, before pulling away from her. As he did, B.D. felt two tiny points scrape her lower lip.
She looked up at him, breathless, her eyes a mix of confusion and disappointment. She still saw the flickering light in Raven’s, but only now did she realize it was not a reflection of the candles in the room, but instead the desire that surged within him. As he panted in an effort to regain control of himself, she now discovered what had scratched at her as he withdrew from their kiss, and became mesmerized by his gleaming fangs. Her voice wasn’t much above a whisper.
“You really are a Vampire…”
Raven’s face melted into a laugh and he sat back on his knees. “I would not lie to you, Lass.” Then a quiet yet stern knocking sounded at the room’s door.
“Yes?” Raven’s voice floated into the hall where Scorch now stood. She turned back to the door from the railing overlooking the main court of the mansion. The group below was waiting to disperse. Raven listened as Scorch pushed open the dark wooden door and half entered the room.
“Raven, it’ll be light soon. We should end for the night, and I should get Belladonna back to rest; the trip and tonight surely have exhausted her reserves.”
Raven stretched. “Aye, Lassie, many thanks.”
Scorch nodded and left. Raven turned back to the American girl nearly beneath him.
“I don’t want to leave,” she said, her voice quiet.
Raven smiled and bent down to nuzzle into her neck, snaking his arms around her ribcage. A light growl accompanied his next words. “Mmm, I know, but you’ll see me again very soon.”
Another shiver passed though B.D. as her own arms went about his neck and pulled him closer. “Promise?” she whispered again.
“Aye, I swear.”