***Author's notes to the reader***
Jacquelyn's Ordeal comes to a close. It has been a long journey and I want to thank everyone who has waited so patiently. And special thanks to the one who motivated me to make a conclusion happen. Although these are the concluding chapters, to me, they are drafts that show the conclusion I had envisioned for the story. Perhaps one day I will give them the polish they deserve.
The fate of Jacquelyn was, as is ours, something we cannot control. To reflect this, there are two endings to her tale. I would like to invite you to find a coin and let fate decide which fate awaits Jacquelyn. Should the coin read heads, please read 'Blood and Light'. Else, if tails, please read 'Shadows of the Mind'
Please enjoy your ending of Jacquelyn's Ordeal.
As soon as she closed the door, Jacquelyn’s strength drained away. It had taken all of her willpower to keep herself upright for that final display. Yet now, she was filled with a sense of accomplishment. Jacquelyn had succeeded to vanquish more than just one vampire this evening. That sense of fulfillment quickly subsided as she began to relax. Her body ached and felt incredibly heavy.
She tried to keep her mind focused to dull the pain of her injuries, but she could not dull the sensations from the bite on her neck. Staggering slowly down the corridor, Jacquelyn tried to make her way to escape the manor. Her vision blurred for a moment and she tried to shake it away slowly. Reaching out to try and balance herself against the wall, Jacquelyn’s hand stung. The image of her flashing the vial into the physician’s face raced through her mind. The stinging reminder of her wound forced her to pull her hand back and slump against the wall. Jacquelyn’s legs felt like straw and her knees buckled.
She knelt there, her breathing shallow as her head spun. Her awareness was starting to slip as her mind ran over the events of the evening. She was lost in thoughts for a moment, images of the Count playing over in her mind. The crimson flashes played through her mind and a small smile crept across her lips. The images so dearly tempted and teased her, the allures of soft, warm pleasure she had never experience before were not the thoughts she should be focusing upon, but they drowned out the pains of her injuries. Jacquelyn played out the little scenes in her mind.
She imagined Yvonne, her sister, softly stroking her hair back, whispering to her sweetly. She let out a sigh and pressed her head against the hand stroking her hair. Jacquelyn felt it, the touch and her mind sprung back into awareness as her eyes shot open. Were she not completely spent; she may have even leapt to her feet. Yvonne was there, calling to her and gently brushing her hair and it brought a great sense of relief to Jacquelyn.
“Yvonne, what are you doing here? I thought you were going to hide?” she asked softly, even speaking was an exertion.
“I did, but then I thought about how you were almost defeated by the door lock last time…and I simply could not let it happen to you again.” Yvonne teased softly and Jacquelyn spluttered a small laugh, wincing afterwards.
“Are you hurt? Can you stand up?” Yvonne asked and Jacquelyn simply held up her palm to her, showing the cuts in her hand.
“I will need a little assistance,” she breathed while grimacing, “My arm is surely broken and I might have some bruised ribs.”
Yvonne nodded and wormed her shoulder underneath Jacquelyn’s good arm and carefully helped her up. It was somewhat painful to struggle to her feet, even with Yvonne’s assistance.
“Have you ever considered the life as a slayer?” Jacquelyn asked Yvonne as she stood up again, “I could use an apprentice.”
Yvonne paused for a moment and then giggled, “I am but a humble servant sister, very happy to just serve. And being a servant, I should deliver you from here.”
The pair readied themselves and set off to leave the manor behind them.
They passed through the empty corridors at a slow pace. Jacquelyn’s injuries slowed their progress, but there was little immediate danger now. As they snaked through the manor towards the western wing, the storm continued to increase in intensity. Thunder boomed regularly, shaking the very manor as the rain furiously tapped upon all the windows they passed. The unrelenting winds whipped the rain into almost horizontal rain. It was truly a spectacle to behold; one Jacquelyn had never borne witness to before.
Yvonne led the way through a smaller doorway and into a small circular room. As soon they passed through the threshold, the sounds of the rain died away, as though the storm has spent itself. Jacquelyn drew up her heavy head and gazed around the room. It looked so familiar, an ornate room under a domed roof. It dawned upon her this was almost an exact replica of the room in her mind where the Count had taken her to extinguish her resistance.
The walls of the room however were not lined with windows all around, but instead mirrors. Candles along the walls illuminated every detail of murals which were inlaid in the columns. A skylight in the centre of the domed roof floated above a small garden in the centre, complete with some plants and a raised stone slab. Jacquelyn admired the beauty of the room for a moment before realising it held only one entrance.
She looked to Yvonne, a little confused, “Yvonne, why have you brought us here?” she asked.
The handmaiden however, did not respond. She stood still for a moment, her eyes gazing ahead and Jacquelyn felt her body soften and relaxing. Something was not right.
Before Jacquelyn could say another word, Yvonne suddenly fell to her knees and Jacquelyn stumbled forwards onto hers. She cried out a little as she felt a sensation from the bite on her neck. This time it was not pain, but a buzz, a tingle. It felt odd, but not overly unpleasant. She felt a push from behind as a gust of wind blew past, sending a shiver down her spine as her skin was lapped by the cold air. It extinguished the candles lining the walls and plunged the room into darkness.
Rising to her feet in utter blackness, Jacquelyn listened intently. She could hear her heart pounding in her chest, it was almost deafening in the silence and stillness surrounding her. The sky unleashed one final flash of lightning which for an instantly lit the room. A figure stood on the far side, across the small garden from her. As darkness descended upon the room again, Jacquelyn backed up slowly, hoping to find the doorway. Her back pressed against something solid and she felt her way along with her hand. Letting out a quiet curse, she realised it was the wall and not the doorway. The clouds above rode the winds and stole away, gradually revealing the moon once again and light flooded through the skylight.
As the room became lighter, Jacquelyn could not see the figure that was there, but to her horror, she was confronted with an even more shocking sight. In the mirrored reflections, she could see the Count, standing there, smiling at her. Surely her mind was playing tricks upon her; she had slain him, burnt body even.
‘I told you Master was alive!’ the soft and docile voice in her head chirped happily.
Her bewildered sense could not fathom this. Vampires had no reflections, just a physical form. It was truly disturbing too see only his image in the mirrored reflections and not the physical form.
“You have done very well My little slayer pet,” spoke the Count, his voice filled with strength.
His image began to slowly pace towards, moving from one mirror to the next around the walls. “Slaying My rivals, you have indeed proven to be an obedient and invaluable tool of My will.”
Jacquelyn kept her back to the wall, moving a few paces away from his image in the mirror as it advanced.
“Indeed, you have proven yourself as My greatest prize, congratulations.”
His image spoke as it suddenly vanished. Jacquelyn was on edge, her eyes darting across the room, searching for him.
“I have shall to reward My pet in the manner she is deserving,” his voice whispered in her ear as though almost behind her.
She whipped around to her left and was met with nothing.
Her bite tingled more intensely and Jacquelyn turned again, but this time she saw him, his physical form standing no more than a few feet in front of her. She was caught in his gaze, feeling his will coiling around her. He curled his finger at her, beckoning her to come to him. There was little fight left within her now. Each moment she stared into his eyes was increasing his hold upon her. Jacquelyn’s body trembled as she fought with herself, her desires, wanting to just escape.
She took one step towards the Count and felt such a wave of pleasure and happiness shiver down her back. It was only a matter of time before she surrendered and the Count knew this. Taking another step closer, she gently felt along her hip and drew out the very last item she had taken with her to slay the Lady Il’ldais, her fan.
The Count watched her draw it and smiled in amusement, spreading his arms for her, wanting her to enter his embrace. How tempting the thoughts of his embrace were. To feel his hands slide along her body, to feel her pains replaced with electric tingles of pleasure. Her mind is overwhelmed with crimson flashes of the fantasies he instilled. She simply wanted all of his temptations.
The flashes slipped away and Jacquelyn was face to face with the Count now. He gently drew up her chin and gaze deeply into her eyes. She melted in his gaze, could hear his voice echoing her mind now. His other hand gently caressed her side and it made her want more, her body and mind started to surrender to him. His gaze did not falter and the world started to fade around her, nothing mattered except for him. Part of her clung to the very last of her defences and slowly, her hand rose up his chest, resting the sharpened end of her fan over his heart. Her good arm drew back slowly as her mind began to drift, each thought about what she was trying to achieve was hard fought.
He leaned in and whispered something to her, but Jacquelyn did not hear it, but her body responded. Lust and desire ignited deep inside her and her body was in heat. She let out a quiet moan and quivered. She only needed to find the strength now, the will for one final push. Locking her wrist she paused, his gaze, so mesmerising. The burning desires she felt for him cried out to be satisfied, the soft and docile voice of her surrendered self whispered temptations. Jacquelyn’s body relaxed further and her arm lowered a fraction. Her eyes blinked slowly as they felt so heavy, she was on the verge of surrender, to let herself go and enjoy the blank, mindless bliss. Her legs trembled and this was her final act. Just as her eyes fluttered shut she thrust forward with her arm, striking the end of her fan and collapsing into the Count’s body, hoping it was enough.
Jacquelyn fell to her knees and was forced to push out with her broken arm to catch herself. She caught herself before her face hit the ground, yet she felt no pain as she did. Her heavy eyes opened and blinding white light filled her vision.
‘Perhaps I am dead…’ she though to herself.
She felt empty and completely drained, the blinding light started to fade into shapes and images as she lifted her gaze.
‘We are alive,’ softly spoke her docile mind, ‘and now ready to serve Master.’
Jacquelyn heard the Count, chuckling and his form slid into focus. He stood in the shadows, just beyond the light, the darkness waiting to consume her. Jacquelyn felt completely disorientated and her mind sluggishly tried to make sense of what had transpired.
“How…” Jacquelyn began, her mind unsure of to ask.
“Did I survive?” The Count finished her question.
He paced slowly along the edge of the shadows, as though waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He motioned with his hand and the curtains were drawn a little more, the light around Jacquelyn slowly disappearing into shadow.
“I simply was not slain by you. When you moved to extinguish that last ounce of your resistance, it played a desperate gambit. Of course, going all in was a valiant effort, you were able to…” he paused for a moment, thinking of the right word.
“Gain partial control of mind and body. Of course, I wagered you may try such a thing. And I set up events so that when you made that gambit, it would be confined to your mind. You were trapped in a reality I designed little pet.”
Jacquelyn shook her head in stunned disbelief. She ran through the events in her mind, suddenly realising all the inconsistencies and how painfully obvious they were now. It was almost as if he could sense her thoughts as he continued.
“Yes, you are starting to put the pieces together now. Do not feel so bad, you were able to surprise me on occasion. It was certainly amusing to watch you set fire to ‘Me’. More amusing still was that you eagerly accepted the changes in reality I made for you. Those little pangs in your neck were not merely from my bite, since I have not bitten you yet.”
Jacquelyn’s mind whirled and she timidly reached up to press her neck where he had bitten her. She pressed the spot and felt nothing. Tearing away the makeshift bandage, she felt her skin; it was smooth, soft and untouched. She felt sick, betrayed by herself and weak. Her arms trembled as the strength drained away from her body and she hung her head, hair draping down over her face. She stared at the tiled floor, watching the shadows encroaching upon the light surrounding her, each revelation made the shadows grow, inching closer to her despite the light.
“You should feel very honoured Jacquelyn,” hearing her name she looked up at him.
“I went to considerable efforts to snare you in my web.”
Jacquelyn could no longer be sure of reality and his fantasies. She was trapped in a shifting, uncertain world. There was no longer a reality in which she could believe was true. Perhaps what she believed to be the world now was another one of his creations. She could no longer win against him. This realisation struck Jacquelyn deeply. There was no way to escape, except for one final effort, one last act of defiance.
She drew herself up from the floor, which surprised the Count. A single thing now drove on Jacquelyn. She stook a few shaky steps towards the Count, which left him unsure of her actions. The daylight shining in from behind the curtains beckoned Jacquelyn. It was like a ray of the faintest hopes for her, to have one final glory. She threw herself forward, her feet scrambling to keep her upright as she charged the Count. He looked so confused, utterly taken back in the moments before Jacquelyn tackled him. There was only a single thought on her mind as time slowed down. She heard his muffled cry as the window shattered as their bodies passed through it. Jacquelyn did not notice as the shards cut deeply into her flesh, slicing it away from her. She only smiled as she now was bathed in the light of day. She felt the safe, warmth of the sun shining upon her.
Jacquelyn closed her eyes in the blinding light. She was so tired now, so exhausted. She could feel the dull aches of her wounds as they bled warm, crimson blood. She did not even think about the Count, bathed in the light with her. Now, Jacquelyn could relax, could let go completely. Taking in a last breath, she held it. She was savouring the last of the sweet scent of the day. And she breathed out, sighing as she lost herself in the light. In her final moment, she knew she had made her mentor proud.
Yvonne held the small jewelled cross in her hand as she gazed out the windows into the night. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought about Jacquelyn. The handmaiden had been the linchpin that set off the motions of events. She should have been stronger to not fall for the charms of the vampire. If she had not been so taken, so weak that she would kill Jacquelyn’s mentor, perhaps her sister would be alive now. Guilt was deeply seated in her chest and it dug into her painfully with each breath.
She signed heavily as she let the cross slip from her fingers, falling a short distance before the chain stopped it. “slave, come and attend to your sister, she is in need of your attention.” Yvonne heard the coarse and whispered tone of the Count. She shuddered at the thought. The Count had taken the body and treated it as though it held life. He fawned over the body, talked to it constantly and even tried to command it. Jacquelyn had stolen a great many things from the Count with her final act. His looks and charm were all but gone. His sanity had departed as obsession with her had descended upon him. Finally, Jacquelyn had taken away his prize at the final moment; all his efforts were for naught.
That had all but broken his hold on Yvonne. Only a few strings lingered now and they were going to be cut. Yvonne drew a broken stiletto from her sleeve and looked at it for a moment. She would take little pleasure from driving it into him, his horribly scared and disfigured form. She only hoped it would be some measure of penitence. She replied quietly and hide the blade, “Yes, Master”