Vampires & Hunters. Beginning

This is the world where vampires aren't that cruel creatures as humans think. The heart is beating in their chest, they breathe the same air as humans, they aren't devoid of feelings and pain. They are creatures, who fight for their place in this world.
Myroslava's childhood ended when she early, only in her 18s, turned into a vampire. In one night, suddenly thrown into a confrontation of hunters and vampires, she must part with her naivety and indecision, to reconsider her views and engage in a fight for her life and the lives of her loved ones.

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5. Chapter 1. Ball

Austria, March 1844

A clatter of horses' hooves and a creak of the wheels of a coach broke the silence of the fallen night. The milky disk of the moon shone in the distant black welkin, surrounded by a white dust of stars, scattered over the sky. The singing of the birds, which were fussily preparing for the sleep, before the sunset had already fallen silent for a long time, unless you count the hooting of owls, which began their hunt.

The nearer they drew to the house, the more the chilling nervousness gripped a maiden. Putting her index finger and thumb of the left hand in a ring, she was unconsciously scratching the inner corner of the thumb tip with the nail. She clenched her hand into a fist but then undone it right away as the coldness of the fingers passed to her palm. Having blown on her hands to warm them a little bit, the maiden hurried to wear gloves, which lay in her lap.

She pushed back the curtain on the coach window. Black curved silhouettes of the trees were passing by behind the glass; the same black leaves were fluttering on them. Their curved outlines terrified, making an unpleasant heat, which originated somewhere in the region of her stomach, sweep across the girl's body to the tips of his fingers, causing a shiver. In well-disposed rows these trees towered along the road like silent guards, protecting the property.

The girl looked at her parents who were sitting in front of her. Both were silent and seemed to be dozing: her father – with his hands crossed on his chest, and her mother – with hands, clasped on her lap.

Only when the first sounds of music were heard and the indecipherable noise from laughter and words came after them, her parents opened their eyes. Her mother’s emerald eyes and her father’s sky-blue ones were glittering in the dark at the cold silver light of the full moon as if they themselves illuminated the space around. Their faces, pale like marble statues, were expressing indifference. At that moment, the thought flashed through girl’s head, whether she would be the same at their age.

At last, the coach stopped. The frosty air in a whirlwind rushed inside when a footman opened the door.

“Gnädiger Herr, gnädige Frau, gnädiges Fräulein, Herzlich Willkommen! [(Ger.) Gracious Lord, Gracious Ladies, welcome!]”

Her father alighted and, holding out his hand, assisted his wife and his daughter. Biting her lower lip, she tried to stop the tremble in her hands so as not to give away her tension to her father.

A huge mansion in baroque was glowing with yellow cards of the windows. A wide marble staircase led up to the massive wooden doors, which were opened and invited the guests inside. The bright light of the hall offended her eyes, accustomed to the dark, but she continued to follow her parents until they reached the ballroom.

Their coming was announced, but it seemed didn’t interest anyone, because nobody’s look was facing the entrance to the ballroom.

Almost nobody’s. Soon, she felt the gaze, directed toward them. Motionless, attentive, studying. Cold. But whose look could be called to possess at least a modicum of warmth here?

Her steps were stiff as she continued to go after her parents. She couldn’t be blamed – it was her first appearance among her own kind. Movement, clumsy and childish in her eighteen years, gave out her immaturity and fear. She was the youngest of all the present, she was too young. Significantly standing out among the guests, who could be given thirty and more by their looks, with her eyes which were full of interest and life, she soon forced others to notice her. Guests whispered behind her back as no one before had turned into a vampire at such a young age.

But among all these stares, she could clearly pick out the first one, still watching her.

“Guten Abend, Swjatoslaw Waleyko, Elisaweta Waleyko [(Ger.) Good evening, Svyatoslav Valeyko, Elizabeth Valeyko],” a man's voice addressed to them.

“Guten Abend, Herr… [(Ger.) Good evening, Mr ...]

“Alfred von Ehrenstein,” the man prompted her father. “Ich freue mich Ihr hier zu sehen. Waleyko ... Sind Sie Russisch? [(Ger.) I'm glad to see you here. Valeyko ... Are you Russian?]

“Nicht wirklich, wir sind aber Slawen. [(Ger.) Not really, but we are Slavs.]

The maiden looked at him for the first time when she heard his name – Ehrenstein. He was the master of the house. He seemed about thirty, but his appearance, as well as of all the present guests, was misleading and wasn’t a true reflection of his age.

“Ihre Tochter? [(Ger.) Your daughter?]” Their eyes met. They reflected the same cooling gaze that followed every movement of the Valeyko’s family.

 “Ja, ihr Name ist Myroslava. [(Ger.) Yes, her name is Myroslava.]

“Sie sieht sehr jung... [(Ger.) She looks very young ...]

“Sie ist nur achtzehn [(Ger.) She's only eighteen],” her mother said.

“Wirklich? [(Ger.) Really?]

The man didn’t avert his astonished eyes from her, which made the maiden feel uncomfortable even more. She would have jumped at any opportunity to escape from this house if only she could.

“Sie sind bezaubernd. [(Ger.) You are enchanting],” Mr. Ehrenstein said, his lips barely touching the back of her hand.

“Sie sind sehr freundlich, Herr Ehrenstein. [(Ger.) You're very kind, Mr. Ehrenstein]” were her first words, said to him, with a telltale tremor in her voice, to which he responded with a discreet smile.

 

The squeaky violin twangs always reminded Myroslava an unrestrained weeping of a soul. Even in the orchestra the violin sounded distant, separately from other instruments, as if it was unwilling or simply unable to open to them. The sadness overwhelmed every sound emitted by it, telling others about its all-consuming loneliness, which it could not overcome. What a relief for it was for Myroslava when this sad melody had stopped.

“Würde Ihre Tochter so freundlich zu mir, um mir ihren ersten Tanz zu geben? [(Ger.) Would your daughter be so kind to give me her first dance?]” Ehrenstein asked her parents, giving her his hand.

“Ich kann ‚nein‘ nicht sagen, oder? [(Ger.) I cannot say ‘no’, can I?]” She smiled and put her hand in a snow-white glove into his.

“Doch! Das, dass ich ein Herr dieses Hauses bin, verpflichtet Sie zu nichts. [(Ger.) By no means! The fact that I am the master of the house obliges you to nothing.]

He led her through the crowd to the middle of the room. There were couples on the floor that had already frozen in anticipation. Standing in the waltz starting position, they looked like still dolls, which, as soon as the orchestra started playing, would come to life and dart off the spot, completely surrendering to the music. For now, they curiously looked at the host, whispering and perhaps even eavesdropping on their conversation.

“Stimmten Sie zu wegen der Angst vor den Folgen Ihrer Absage? [(Ger.) Have you agreed for the fear of the consequences of your refusal?]

“Wenn ich wollte, würde ich auch den Prinzen zurückgewiesen haben. [(Ger.) If I wanted to I would reject the prince as well.]

“Слишком дерзко, г-жа Валейко, не находите? [(Rus.) Too bold, Ms. Valeyko, is it not?]

Stunned, Myroslava asked, “Вы говорите по-русски? [(Rus.) Do you speak Russian?]” And she received a grin in response.

Before she could say anything else, the orchestra began to play, and the couples set off waltzing.

The two did not utter a word from the beginning of the dance. The man’s gaze was wandering around the room for a while, so the maiden, not afraid of getting caught by the excessive curiosity, decided to sneak a good look at her partner.

At first glance, his looks seemed perfect. The carefully picked dress said more about his pedantry than about his accuracy. His appearance also would give the feeling of the cold ideal if the hooked nose and the protruding ears didn’t infringe his correct facial features. His unruly straight hair resembled the wheat field, ruffled by the wind. By the contrast of the scrupulous attire and the carelessly stacked hair, it became clear that this wild hair brought its owner a lot of unwanted hassle. The rare eye color matched his golden hair, with the difference that his eyes were golden-orange as the hue of the wheat, drenched in the red sunset light. In addition to his attractive face, he was tall and of a medium build, and if there was an ordinary human girl in her place, Myroslava didn’t doubt that she would do everything possible to get herself such an admirer. But Myroslava was not a human, and it was impossible to surprise her with the vampire beauty, which had if not all but many vampires.

But it was first for her to feel a man’s touch. He was the first one, with the exception of her father and the dance teacher, who kept his hand on her back. This was nothing special, and at the same time the sensation of the warmth of his hand on her shoulder, which reminded her of their intimacy, caused her embarrassment, and the maiden tried her best not to betray her feelings by hiding under the mask of haughtiness.

“With regard to your question...” Ehrenstein suddenly broke their silence. “Does that surprise you?”

“Not anymore. For a moment I forgot that vampires live a long time,” Myroslava replied dryly and then added, “Although I do not even know your age, Mr. Ehrenstein.”

“Call me Alfred,” he said, shifting his gaze to her.

The sudden desire of her partner shuffled all the thoughts in her head for a second. But she pulled herself together and said, “I'm sorry, Mr. Ehrenstein, but I do not dare.”

“And a persuasion won’t help?”

“You are absolutely right.”

“Well ...” The man took a deep breath, putting up with the stubbornness of his partner.

The orchestra fell silent, and the dancing couples stopped. Soon the silence gave way to talk of guests, and many couples have started to disperse, leaving only a few who wanted to dance one more dance with their current partners.

Myroslava and Ehrenstein stood in the same spot where they stopped dancing. He didn’t let her go, his right hand slipped down from the girls’ blade to her waist, and in his left one – he was still holding her hand. Approaching closer than it was necessary for a dance and then it was allowed to keep up appearances, he leaned toward her and whispered in her ear:

“I enjoyed dancing with you. I hope you will soon change your mind, Fräulein Myroslava.” His hot breath was burning her skin, and the sound of her name, so unceremoniously uttered, made a small shiver run through her body. Having stepped back and let the maiden go, he kissed her hand and then added, “I think you don’t need to know my age.”

After leading the girl back to her parents, the man went to the other guests. She didn’t doubt that he noticed the impression which he created upon her as a treacherous blush, no matter how hard Myroslava tried to hide it, clearly stood out on her yet-to-pale skin.

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