Lost souls

Talia has to make the biggest sacrifice, abandon her humanity to become a vampire in order to save her sister. However she gets caught up in the dark side of the realm where supernatural creatures dwell and she must try to survive ...

The amazing cover is by the talented @River_Summers :)

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11. Chapter Eleven

Talia felt the thin silver chain laying gently against the skin of her neck and touched the blue diamond that was surrounded by patterned silver. It appeared like the blue iris of an eye with its small facets lighting different blue tones and its dark flat centre that mimicked a pupil. She looked up into the mirror and saw her strange reflection where her eyes had been smudged with a charcoal coloured eyeshadow, her cheeks highlighted with a false pink blush that pretended her skin wasn’t ice cold. Finally her once pink lips were smeared dark red.

    Natasha pinned a final strand of her hair into the elaborate bun and stepped back. She smiled at Talia in the mirror with the same red lips but her eyes were highlighted in soft browns and white gold.

    “What is your opinion?” she asked, wringing her hands nervously.

    Talia stared at the new image of herself and smiled back at her. “I think you have done a great job.” She touched her cheek lightly pretending it may be warm like she could be human again.

***

Natasha was busy talking about the correct way to conduct yourself at these balls, the right way to curtsy, how not to be too shocked if someone kisses you on the lips as a formal greeting, or blatantly ignores you because that’s part of their custom, etc, etc.

   Talia gripped bunches of her dress in her hands to avoid tripping up, especially on the stairs. Not that she believed vampires were meant to be capable of tripping up and losing balance but she did not want to be an exception.

   The stairs were made of marble that appeared like each step had been cut out of the moon and polished until it reflected the silver glow. It curved down gently until it met the second floor.

   She heard footsteps and saw the tip of polished shoes round the corner. The familiar huge build of Seth came striding into view. He was dressed in a smart black suit and with a dark blue bow tie, the suit seemed a little small around his big shoulders but he did not look silly in it. He smiled widely and rushed to Natasha’s side. He stared at her for a moment and rubbed his jaw as he composed himself.

    “Tasha you look stunning,” he said, nervously. He took her hand into his shaking one and kissed it gently. Natasha was beaming and placed her free hand under his chin and lifted it up, she pressed her lips to his for a long moment.

    “You look handsome yourself,” she said, when they parted. He grinned and noticed Talia standing there. His eyes widened and his smile became smaller in surprise like he had never realised she had been standing there all along.

   “You look lovely yourself Talia,” he said politely.

   “Thank you, Natasha helped,” she replied, clutching the diamond.

   “Oh where is my sweetheart Talia?” Matthew’s voice called in a dramatic tone, and she felt his arm’s length across her shoulders. She gripped the diamond tighter until she threatened to turn it to powder. His grinning face came into view. “What has happened to my newborn? I guess I’ll have to take you to the ball beautiful,” he said, winking slyly and tugged at his silver bowtie.

   Talia glanced at Natasha for support but she simply smiled in reassurance.

   “Well,” Talia started, and paused.

   “Yes?” he said insistently.

   “Well I will have to see how I feel, sweetheart,” she replied, copying his smirk as best as she could as she twitched the one corner of her lips upwards.

   He raised his eyebrows in surprise and frowned. “I see swe- Talia, you look nice enough, urmm…”

   She leaned forward, trying not to let him see her nervousness about annoying him. “Sweetheart, you’re lost for words.” Her grin widened. She saw in him clumsily try to clutch for the right words; the sarcastic phrase, some smart comment. But his tongue was unable to find those words. Her confidence increased and she pressed him further. “You going to answer.”

   “You’ll impress people tonight Talia, I need a drink,” he mumbled, and ran around the corner so quickly he was out of sight in seconds.

   Talia stared after him, feeling the strain like a vice around her head squeezing slowly as she had taken his phrase and turned it against him. She almost felt guilty for doing that and hadn’t expected such a reaction. She heard a guffaw from Seth and saw him trying to smother a laugh.

   She felt Natasha slip her arm around hers.

    “Let’s go to this ball, he will meet us there,” she said, and they began to walk. “Lead on Seth.”

   He nodded and went ahead although looked back at them with a concerned expression.

    “Do you think he is annoyed?” Talia asked, feeling guilty about her small victory over Matthew.

   Natasha laughed. “Oh no, you just shocked him that's all. Sometimes you need to use Matthew’s words against him because he is like a naughty child, he needs to be put on naughty step when he plays up one too many times. He will not like being called sweetheart because it’s mocking him but you did well to follow my advice. Do not let him bully you okay?”

   “I wouldn’t.”

   “That’s good to hear.”

***

They arrived at a foyer which consisted of the same marble design as the stairs previously. It was almost a huge hall in itself with equally huge portraits of, Talia assumed, important figures in different clothes that represented a different time period. They were of different ethnicity, men and women, even different creatures had been pictured in these paintings; such as the fairy with her red wings fluttering gently, her pointed ears pricked for listening for danger, her expression was stern. Yet that stern expression was shared by every portrait like any sign of happiness or a smile would betray a fault or weakness in their individual power struggles.

    “Miserable lot eh?” Seth commented, pointing his thumb towards them.

    “Do not show disrespect Seth,” Natasha said, her eyes lingering on a couple of the faces. It made Talia wonder if she knew any of them personally, perhaps she should ask when she has more time to listen to the stories because she was now being lead to the polished light-coloured wood doors which were guarded by two male vampires. Identical twins sharing cropped black hair, a lean physique and a grim           expression.

    One moved across the door and grasped the shining silver handle. Talia glanced back to the portraits quickly as she was lead through the door, noting that the silver frames of them had become rusted and were decaying.

   The foyer was dwarfed by this main hall, the size of the foyer could be compared to a soaring comet travelling through space being engulfed by the sun. The glass ceiling looked like a piece of the night sky had been captured and tied to the metal swirls that divided the ceiling, the stars shouting to catch your attention. There were chandeliers that resembled stars captured in glass and threw the hall into brightness and banished any shadows. Two long tables ran the length of the hall draped in a cream-coloured cloth with polished silver dishes shining brightly making the equally bright foods stand out like splashes of paint on an artist’s palettes, to the point they appear garish. From the top of the stairs, the people seemed to be scuttling about like ants on a forest floor, never stopping to take a break.

   Everything was gleaming, glaring, so bright it was overloading to the vampire’s visual input. It hurt.

  Talia almost stumbled, the chandeliers were too bright forcing her to close her eyes tightly although white still painted the inside of her eyelids.

    “You gotta open your eyes slowly, get them used to the brightness.” She heard Seth say calmly. Reluctantly she followed his advice and allowed the brightness to stream in bit by bit until she had fully opened her eyes to the glory of the ballroom.

    “It’s sure something ain’t it?” Seth said, like he was almost reminiscing about a time when he was dazzled by such a display.

    “Good evening your majesty,” a man said.

    Talia smelled his hot blood and saw an old man with a large pointed nose and deep grooves streaming from his eyes, dressed in a smart black suit. He had bowed down in front of her with one arm tucked behind his back and his other white gloved hand held out in front of him with his palm facing the ceiling. She went to step forward but someone grabbed her shoulder.

   “Get up and bring some blood! Can’t you see she is hungry?” Matthew said impatiently.

   “Of course your majesty,” the man said hastily, and backed away quickly.

   “Why did he call me majesty?” Talia asked, as Matthew led her the down steps into the thicker part of the crowd below.

    “Have you forgotten you are royalty because I am royalty?” Matthew asked, taking two wine glasses from a silver tray that passed them. He handed one to Talia and she saw it was filled with a bright blue liquid. Matthew gulped down a mouthful and she sipped it slowly tasting the sharp tang of berries and fizz.

   “I thought you were turned by a royal traitor?” she said, handing the empty glass back to Matthew. He placed them on a passing tray.

   “Still royalty,” he replied, shrugging. He closed his eyes and began to tremble, only slightly, like he was trying to keep something locked up inside but it was beginning to claw its way out.

    “Matthew?” Talia said in a frightened voice. She felt like her earlier mocking of him was affecting him physically now and she felt deeply upset about causing the distress. Even though he had committed worse crimes against her. An ache squeezed her dead heart in her chest causing her to almost cry as she placed a hand over where it laid. Her other hand brushed his cheek and he opened his eyes. “Did I hurt you?” she asked.

    “No why do you think that?” Matthew said, raising an eyebrow. 

    “I offended you earlier and now you’re upset I’m sorry,” Talia said rapidly. Although she did not know why he would be bothered by such a small slight and why she was apologising when she had refused to before.

    “When did you offend me? And you haven’t upset me at all, I’m tired,” Matthew explained.

    Talia gripped the pendant in her hand. “Older vampires don’t get tired,” she said.

    “Yes I am tired,” he said, nodding his head as if to confirm it to himself that was the reason.

    The man from earlier appeared with a wine glass of blood in his hands and held it out to her. “Your drink, your majesty,” he said, and Talia snatched it from him. She quickly gulped it down in a few huge mouthfuls. The man waited until she had finished and she handed it back to him looking guilty because of her rudeness.

    “I’m sorry I should have said thank you and not just took it from you,” Talia said.

    “There is no need to apologise,” he replied.

    “But I should-” she said, and was interrupted by Matthew’s thumb wiping across her mouth. He took his thumb away that was smudged a red-brown colour.

    “There was a blood stain near your mouth,” he said, licking his thumb clean making Talia cringe at the action.

    A vampire appeared next to the butler and swiped her hand in the air to dismiss him. She appeared as a stern woman wearing a traditional Japanese light green kimono, that was trimmed with light pink at the sleeves and sash that was tied about her slim waist, there were silver flowers connected by shimmering black stalks that twisted through the green.

    “Good evening your majesties,” she greeted, bowing her head down to them. Her brown eyes flickered across Talia’s face in particular.

    “What do you want?” Matthew asked irritably.

    “Nothing,” she replied. “I wished to introduce myself to the new princess, I am Amaya, the Queen’s Darina’s loyal servant.”

    “And spy,” Matthew added. He was fidgeting like he could not possibly stay standing still for one moment.

    “I am a messenger for the Queen,” Amaya replied, straining a smile. “The Queen demands both of your audiences now.” She held out one arm in the direction of the thrones at the far end of the hall. It appeared like a dark speck in the distance.

    “Does she really demand it or did she just ask?” he said, narrowing his eyes at her.

    “She demands it,” Amaya replied.

    “Then we will follow the demand,” Matthew said. “Move ahead and we shall follow your lead, grudgingly of course.” He grinned manically, baring his fangs at Amaya who subtly showed her fangs in retaliation before there was the swish of her dress and she moved forward.

    Talia felt Matthew place his hand on the space between her shoulder blades. “Follow her and don’t worry I will kill everyone in this room to keep you safe apart from Tasha of course, and maybe Seth,” he said, smiling like he had offered her a wonderful idea or concept. She stepped forward, hoping he would not go through with the proposed mass murder and that it was a joke and he was not being serious. Sometimes Matthew could be so frustratingly unpredictable.

   Talia eyed the throne hurdling forward almost like the two ends of the room were being shoved into the middle to meet. A flash of red caught Talia’s eye and she stopped to stare at Natasha dancing with Seth. It was the classic waltz and she had rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. Yet it was Seth that brought warmth to that embrace as he looked down at her with his eyes piercing deeper into her soul, her very being. It was like he had more than a lover held in his arms but another part of his soul, a better part that he could admire and love, almost without the risk of polluting it. She admired it but felt something twist and break in her chest sending shards of bitterness stabbing into her ribcage.

    “Stop staring, we will have a dance later,” Matthew said, his hand pressing on her shoulder as a warning to get moving or there will be consequences.

    “I don’t want to dance with you,” Talia thought, the bitter shards twisting deeper.

   Finally they stopped and the tip of her shoe touched the first stone step of five that led up to the throne. It was made of melted black glass that shone like molten rock in the sun. There were two smaller thrones on each side of her. There were more guards beside the throne, each was expressionless apart from their calculating eyes. Sat upon the central throne was the Queen Darina, her coldness hadn’t diluted one bit from the last time Talia had encountered her, she saw the way they had tried to dress her in warm colours of golds and soft browns of her swirl patterned gown but it did not work. Talia felt like she was a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing and now that wolf had turned her icy blue eyes to her.  

   That stare seemed to consume Talia, swallow her whole like she was being pulled into a whirlpool that threatened to drown her, but she could not struggle against it. And then she saw lights and black dots blaze across her vision and for a moment she thought her second death was rushing to greet her. Then the haze cleared, and she felt the ground beneath her and had in fact slumped to her knees at those steps, along with Matthew who was grimacing and little flutters of curse words floated her way.

    “The girl may approach,” Darina’s voice said clearly.

    Talia knew the invite was for her and forced her hands to push down on the ground to reach the standing position, and tried to remember how to manoeuvre up the steps, lifting one heavy foot after the other. She was in close proximity with the Queen.

   The Queen narrowed her eyes, pursing her lips slightly. “Please sit down Talia, there is no need for you to act as one of my subjects.” She placed her hand on the arm of the throne beside her, gripping it tightly as if that was some release for this annoyance.

   Talia did as she asked and sat on the uncomfortable throne feeling the bumps and crevices of the seat under her butt.

    “If this throne is uncomfortable for a vampire it must be awful for a human to sit on,” she thought, shuffling in her seat. She saw Matthew barely able to lift his head to stare at her fearfully but with an undertone of anger for Darina.

    “Listen to me Talia,” Darina said, her voice commanded this to be followed absolutely. She turned her head to the vampire and tried to look into those blue eyes but found herself too intimidated by them and had to glance away. “You should be less frightened of me, you are royalty after all and I will not hurt you.” Her words cutting subtly like hidden razor blades into Talia’s skin. “Not as long as you are his newborn and he has an important role in this kingdom, one that you may not know yet. Now I know you had the sight as a human, able to see the supernatural. How long have you possessed this gift?”

    “Since I was born I guess,” Talia replied.

    “Nearly a whole nest was lost in the human realm and the only new thing that turns up is you, do you believe it was a coincidence that hunters invaded the night you arrived?”

   Talia felt her stomach tighten and pressure built around her eyes as tears were being built up. “Yes, I don’t know why it happened, he just forced me into becoming a vampire,” she answered, and a few tears slipped down her face. “I swear I don’t know.”

    “Of course you don’t know,” Darina said, her eyes drawn to Matthew. “You have no noticeable talents as a vampire as of yet, everyone who is here has some worth, there is no one who is not useful to my kingdom. I think I have some use for you Talia.” Her hand grabbed hold of Talia’s and held it tightly, her irises seemed to turn translucent and Talia felt an ache, a feeling snaking up her arm like a blood transfusion except the blood was poisoned. Bitterness could be tasted on her tongue, her head hurt from the weight of it as an electrical signal thundered through her head. Her chest felt constricted like she could be breathless, helpless.

    “Would you like a taste of revenge?” Darina whispered in her ear like it was an invitation. “I could give you a taste, like a spoonful of medicine to cure your heartache. I give this gift to you as a friend. I know you want him to feel the same pain as you.”

    “Yes,” Talia replied, the opportunity looking attractive.

   “Make him suffer?”

   “Yes make him suffer,” she repeated, almost feeling giddy with the thought but her conscience was screaming at her now, like Jiminy Cricket telling Pinocchio he was about to do something wrong, but she quickly squashed that bug with a loud satisfying squelch.

    “You may approach us,” Darina said, and they watched Matthew push himself to his feet and walk stiffly to them. He was glaring at Darina and gave Talia a concerned expression, he alternated between these as he stood there. The whole ball had gone silent and Talia saw every vampire and human face watching with anticipation.

    “You know what to do,” Darina said encouragingly, which gave Talia strength.

    Talia stood up and walked forward.

    “Listen to me,” Matthew said urgently.

    “No you be quiet,” Talia said. Silencing him, seeing him retch as he choked on those words, each letter slicing into the soft tissue of his throat. “And kneel,” she commanded in a cold version of her voice, was her voice always so sharp? He had collapsed to his knees, was he so small before? And did she enjoy seeing him so helpless? Were these her true feelings or was this another’s will? She saw a faded image of a boy who was crying in the bedroom after the nightmares and she felt sorry for him, was that Matthew?

    Talia felt Darina had moved beside her, watching the silent ball. Talia lifted her eyes to the numerous faces staring at the display in particular their Queen who stood proudly before them. Talia was hardly important compared to her presence; they admired her as much as they feared her.

    “Your Prince has failed to protect your fellow vampires in the other realm, neglected to see into the future and bring warning of their imminent doom,” Darina said loudly, her eyes landed on Matthew who was terrified. “All because he was afraid to see as the Oracle, he will be forced to look into the depths of time this time and another time again.” She paused and said in a lower voice. “He may not be the perfect subject but he has great value to us, he will be punished accordingly. Take him away.” The guards slipped from behind the throne, effortlessly like smoke.

    “No, don’t do this,” Matthew shouted, bearing his fangs. He tried to fight them off with his bare hands but he was unable to move beyond his kneeled position. “Talia! Let me go!” he cried, as he was restrained.

   Talia saw this happening and she was passive, allowing it to happen like some scene on the TV screen, there was no point in stopping it. Until, Matthew was bitten by one of the guard. It was the one with black hair covering his features. Matthew’s eyes rolled back into his head until it seemed all colour in his eyes had been leached from them.

    Talia began to scream and collapsed onto the floor, curled up on one side, her mouth seemed permanently suspended in that scream. The muscles in her jaw ached and fatigued at one point making her face become slack. She blinked away the blurriness of her tears and saw in the distance Matthew being taken away.

    “Matthew,” she whispered, feeling like she was lost. All hostile feelings towards him fading and she was left feeling like the ropes on her parachute had been severed and she was thundering through the atmosphere, getting closer to smashing into the ground. “Don’t take him away, don’t take him away, don’t…” She shuddered violently and the whole place became distorted like the hall of mirrors at a carnival, metamorphosing into another place, one more constricted and threatened to collapse onto Talia and turn her into dust. She hadn’t the strength to scream but wept hopelessly.

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