Silvered Blood

Siblings. One is obsessed with silver and the other is crazy about blood. She is a psychopath and he is a vampire.

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3. Two: The Endeavour

***

Five Years Later

On the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany

***

The Chinese woman, Wu Lin, stooped low and picked up the broken twig, her pale fingers tightened around it as she examined it with strident black eyes. Her hair was remarkable, for while it was in a plain, crow-black bun, there were two knitting needles, constructed out of glimmering gold, were tightly forced into to it. Nevertheless, the twig she held would appear anything but special to an ordinary bystander. It had been lying under an oak tree, which apparently had been its former host, and had been ripped off by some sudden force, causing it to be unevenly shredded at the top. For Wu Lin, it was not exactly something extraordinary but something handy to find her newest victim.

She took her eyes off the twig, staring at the arid path ahead with disparaging eyes, and then sniffed the twig. It smelled just what she had expected – deer. Ambiguous delight surfaced in her eyes and she dropped the twig with a lofty huff. She instinctively knew where the poor buck had run, where she was going to find it. Inhaling a sharp gasp of breath, Wu Lin tore down the forest path under the obfuscating light of the nightly crescent and was out of sight like lightning.

Moments later, she returned, dragging a writhing buck behind her as her elongated hand clenched its throat. The buck was not dead but there were bruises and scratches all over its body – which must have struck it with the inevitability of weakening it. She walked with a slow pace this time, although it didn’t appear as if she was having trouble with her new burden. Within a matter of minutes, Wu Lin was approaching a cluster of closely-drawn trees within the heart of the forest. At the mere sight of the area, the wounded buck thrashed about in fright but she squeezed its neck, making it choke and quieten down.

Arriving in that portion of the forest was like entering a chamber splattered inky black on all sides. The light of the autumn moon was all there was to aid a normal person’s vision in there but Wu Lin hauled the buck to the centre without any difficulty. There were large tents scattered in the place with a small lantern hanging outside each, depicting some kind of tribe life. Wu Lin walked just a little ahead and then released the buck with insensitivity on the verdant grasses.

“Our dinner is here,” Wu Lin announced quite brusquely, “You better eat while it’s still fresh and warm.”

 

At the words, pale faces started peeking out of every tent and, from one of the biggest and embellished tents, a black man stepped out. By the looks of it, he was the leader of the small community. He was tall and built with a thick beard, charcoal grey by age, that partially hid his lips and his eyes were half-closed but incredibly wary of every little voice around.

“Wu Lin,” he greeted. His cavernous voice rang through the hush of the forest like the hollow rustle of a tree.

“Wasabhu,” Wu Lin replied with a small bow of her head and continued, “I brought the dinner.”

“Yes, yes, I can see,” Wasabhu nodded. Then he looked at the people, coming out of their tents fervently, with a frown and remarked, “This deer is bigger than the last.”

Wu Lin surged her lips together in a thin line. “The last was not a buck, but a doe, and bucks are always bigger than does.”

Wasabhu raised one dark eyebrow but nodded again without a reply. Wu Lin didn’t seem to show any expressive reaction to his behaviour and went back to watching everyone gather around the buck. Behind Wasabhu, his tent’s curtains parted and another man came out, considerably younger than Wasabhu but the same skin colour suggested family relations. He stepped out with a puckered brow but, upon seeing the squirming buck, his face lit up like a lantern.

 

“Da! The dinner! It’s here!” he cried, launching himself towards the buck, only to be held back by his father who displayed noteworthy strength for his age.

“What is this? Did I not tell you to stop being over-enthusiastic about such common things?” Wasabhu demanded heatedly, shaking his son’s arm, “You have a rank as my son but you appear to be doing everything to deteriorate it.”

The young man made no effort to escape the hold but sighed. “Well, I am sorry, Da,” he stated pragmatically, “But I’ve been very hungry. So, let me go and join the others, uh, please.”

“I am hungry too, Zola,” his father snapped, “and what a pity it is that you don’t have warm blood left in you anymore.”

With the seething words, he released his son, Zola, who didn’t wait another moment to get out of his father’s sight. Wu Lin was making sure everyone kept their distance from the buck until Wasabhu joined them but it appeared that Wasabhu wanted to make a ceremoniously unhurried entrance, much to everyone’s frustration. After nearly five whole minutes, he started to move toward the buck, a black-and-red striped shawl draped upon his shoulders. The couple dozen people segregated to make way for him as he continued walking with an outsized bout of supremacy towards the injured deer.

Zola stood and watched diligently while Wu Lin waited for him to be close enough to the deer. When Wasabhu was just a few inches from her, he stopped, and Wu Lin spoke up as blankly as she had done many times before:

“Friends, this is the forty-third deer that has been ill-starred to be our meal of this night. For all of us, it is an omen that we shall not run out of warm blood to feast upon any moment too soon. And now, our leader and chief, Wasabhu, shall start this dinner with the first bite.”

 

There were murmurs of delight from the congregation and, with his usual stateliness, Wasabhu opened his mouth wide and allowed two of his teeth to elongate into sharp fangs which he struck in the bruised buck’s neck. The wounded deer thrashed as the man sucked on its blood with all his potency before straightening and taking a deep breath. He wiped his bloodied mouth with the shawl and took a step back, gesturing at the others to begin; a gesture that immediately caused everyone, including Wu Lin and Zola, to bite every part of the buck, sucking the blood with voracious eyes.

Wasabhu waited until the buck had stopped screaming and the people were done with drinking every last blood drop. He then whispered something to Wu Lin, to which she gave an unpretentious nod, and parted as grandly as he had arrived. Soon as he had gone inside the tent, she declared, again with great vacuity:

“Our leader, Wasabhu, wishes for an audience with all of you in his tent. There is something important he wants to discuss. Everyone should be present within the next ten minutes.”

 

There were scattered whispers and almost everyone departed for their own tents to get arranged for the discussion. Wu Lin, done with her announcement, stared at the dead buck with an insensitive jaw but pitiful eyes. What pain must it have gone through with dozens of vampires sucking out its blood, she couldn’t even imagine. What pain, what suffering! Zola, who had been watching her prudently, neared her as she still stared at the lifeless creature, his looming figure reflected in her gold knitting needles.

“Wu Lin?” he inquired, curious and cautious at the same time, “Is everything alright?”

She didn’t take her eyes off the deer but countered, “Why would you ask such an absurd question?”

“Well…” Zola said, scratching the back of his neck oddly, “You are staring the buck which was our dinner just minutes ago… and…”

“Yes,” replied the young woman, “It is obvious. What is the matter in that?”

Zola found himself getting flabbergasted at her deadpan answers. “And you appear to be feeling sorry for it,” he tried, “Why is that?”

Wu Lin turned her head up to some extent and then looked back at the deer again. “I feel sorry that it is dead,” she stated without expression, “I wouldn’t have felt sorry for it if it died and came back to life like us, but I pity that it is forever dead.”

“Vampires pitying their prey? I will say, this is quite unheard of,” commented Zola with a hint of disbelief. Wu Lin tore her eyes away from the deer and straightened up to look at Zola. She was very thin and tall but appeared to be around the same age as the man before her.

“Plenty of things are unheard of, Zola,” she said as blankly as ever, “My flesh might not be warm and alive anymore but I do have heart, cold as it might be. I can feel sorry for what I want to be sorry, am I correct?”

Even her expressionless voice was so nerve-wracking that Zola couldn’t help being startled. “Wasabhu would not like a vampire amongst us who pities dead bucks,” he warned slowly, “Pitying deer whose blood is our means of survival is simply ridiculous and I suggest you don’t do something like that again.”

“I only pity that it is dead – because of us,” Wu Lin mentioned, “I am the one who hunts all the deer but I only pity when they are dead, when our hunger results in their death.”

“That is how it is meant to be, Wu Lin, and it is useless to pity it,” said Zola, getting his footing in the conversation, “And why is it still here, now that I think about it? Why hasn’t that Ernest thrown it away yet?”

“It is not useless to pity it,” answered Wu Lin, her slender eyebrows slanted just a little, “And I don’t know why Ernest hasn’t thrown it. He must have gone to his tent to prepare for Wasabhu’s talk.” As she spoke, she looked over Zola’s shoulder and, seeing Ernest approaching them, remarked, “Well, he is here now.”

 

Zola turned to find himself staring in the whitish face of Ernest who, though still very similar to what he looked like five years ago, had grown taller and his once-soft facial features were now sharper.

“Finally!” exclaimed Zola with an air of disapproval. He was, after all, the sole son of the chief.

“Pardon?” Ernest frowned, his voice deeper and more mature than his fourteen-year-old self.

“The buck,” huffed Zola, “You have come rather late to take it away.”

“I had a few things to take care of,” replied the other man in a tone which didn’t display outright lack of respect but neither did it show any willing reverence. He bent low and took a tight hold of the deer’s hind leg, starting to drag it away in another direction.

“I am not done speaking with you!” came a sharp reprimand from Zola. Ernest, appearing accustomed to this usual egotism, looked up with a hint of tolerance. Wu Lin only looked at the both men with narrow eyes, not saying anything.

“What do you want, Zola?” asked Ernest, trying to remain unruffled about the fact that Zola really enjoyed ordering him about.

“Just do as I say, boy,” Zola demanded, “And be hasty about it.”

Ernest looked at him square in the face and nod very slightly and reluctantly, his jaw tightened in anger. Zola gave another disapproving huff and marched back to his father’s tent with an inherited amount of superiority. Watching him go, Ernest just groaned and started dragging the buck away as he had initially planned. Wu Lin, turning her head away from Zola’s direction, followed him with a slow pace.

“Another day of Zola’s unnecessary commands,” she remarked rather plainly.

Ernest heaved the buck up ahead effortlessly, his forehead creased with irritation. “I just have got to bear with it,” he sighed, going even further ahead.

“Well, perhaps if you were the son of Wasabhu, things would have been different. I realize that Zola can be a pain but you don’t principally have to put up with it,” Wu Lin stated, her tone wholly blank unlike her words.

Ernest turned around to face her. “What exactly are you suggesting, Wu Lin? That I block him out forever?”

Wu Lin squinted, studying his face with a fixed eye for a moment, and then replied, “I am certain it is not your fault that you look like a rake, Ernest, but you do look like one.”

“How is that even necessary?” Ernest inquired, not very pleased with Wu Lin’s opinion, “Should I change my face?”

“Your personality. Looking flamboyant as you do, he doesn’t seem to appreciate that very much. But, if you can’t completely drive Zola away, you can intimidate him, can you not?” she suggested bluntly as ever.

“If I threaten him, he, being a spoilt little monster, will complain to Wasabhu. I tried that once and that was the day I got the hint to let him do what he wanted.”

Ernest released the dead buck in a shallow mud pool and started walking back, Wu Lin still following him.

“You didn’t threaten him, Ernest; you attacked him,” she reminded, “That is not something you have to do. He is a vampire, you are a vampire – neither of you can kill each other.”

“I appreciate your philosophy,” pronounced Ernest with obvious sarcasm, “However, I cannot simply change my behaviour to be like, say, you. Zola can hardly talk you down because you don’t show emotion – ever.”

Wu Lin raised her eyebrows, her jaw still straight. “That is just what I am,” she replied.

“Yes,” agreed he, “And I am what I am. I do not need to change my ‘rake’ appearance or my personality. Trust me, Wu Lin, I don’t need to change anything all because of Zola. I am not afraid of that egoistical jester and I will leave this little tribe as soon as I find my footing. And when I leave, there is nothing I will have to worry about. Nothing.”

Wu Lin brushed away the branches in front of them, bringing view of the small community. She looked up at Ernest, face expressionless but eyes disappointed. “What about while you are here? You are really that wretched to let Zola trample all over you because you are so patient?”

“So patient,” mocked Ernest with a scoff and added, more seriously, “The only reason I don’t want to confront him is because I don’t want Wasabhu to make me leave, and I cannot leave until I have a standing.”

“If you think hard enough, Ernest, you will find there are other ways to teach him to respect you besides violence,” Wu Lin spoke as they both walked ahead into the community, “I would not be talking to you if I thought what Zola does is fair. I want you to be able to stand up for yourself.”

Ernest stopped and chuckled. “You actually want something nice for somebody?” he badgered, “That is new.”

Wu Lin rolled her eyes just enough for him to notice and kept walking. “You should be glad someone notices how helpless you are,” she fired back without any real expression, “That you are in such a despairing situation.”

Hardly had she spoken those words that Ernest held her arm, bringing her steps to a halt. She looked ahead where he was looking and she was greeted by complete silence. Almost every tent, but two, was empty. Realization struck both of them at the same time – they were late for Wasabhu’s meeting!

“We are late,” she stated, removing Ernest’s constricted hand away from her arm.

One of the tents parted and a man and woman, both pale as all the others, dashed out, hurrying to Wasabhu’s large tent. The young woman, seeing Ernest and Wu Lin, stopped in her tracks and started running towards them. The man, much older than her, looked at her and followed.

“What do they want?” Ernest wondered aloud and, to Wu Lin, questioned, “Is that not the Gauls who arrived here last week?”

“Yes, the father and the daughter. I do not even recall their names,” agreed Wu Lin with distaste.

The man and woman stopped in front of them and the man, the young woman’s father, started speaking in a state of edginess.

“Sire, Madame, have you seen our stone chest?” he inquired, while his daughter only looked around without a sound, “We appear to have lost it!”

“Why would we know anything about your stone chest?” Wu Lin questioned back.

“You don’t understand!” the man cried, “Chief Wasabhu desires information on silver but that small chest was all our study! And it is lost!”

“Silver?” Ernest piped in, suddenly jolting, “Why silver? We despise silver! All vampires must! Why would Wasabhu need to know about silver?”

“He needs the information for a plan!” the father carried on, “It is important! And my daughter and I are the only ones with any information!”

“What are your names again?” asked Wu Lin, “I don’t think we recall.”

“I am Diego,” the man answered in a hurry, “and this” – pointing at his naïve-looking daughter – “is Charlotte. But the chest is important! You have seen it, no?”

“I am afraid not,” Wu Lin replied with her permanent bluntness, “Say, has the meeting already begun?”

“Wu Lin, I don’t think Wasabhu would ask these two for information if the meeting hadn’t already begun,” Ernest answered her before Diego could.

At this, the daughter, Charlotte, looked up attentively and a surprised look appeared on her father’s face as well.

“Wu Lin?” she asked, her voice breezy and lenient, and looking at Ernest, went on, “You are Ernest?”

“Yes, I am Ernest,” replied Ernest with trivial restraint.

“Do we know you?” asked Wu Lin, interjecting with heavier caution.

“No,” she shook her head, “But Chief Wasabhu was demanding to know where you were. You were late for his gathering.” Her accent was much clearer than Diego and her manner was much calmer.

“The meeting!” Ernest and Wu Lin exclaimed in unison, remembering again.

“When he asked to find our stone chest, he told us to keep an eye out for you both as well,” Diego said, taking over the conversation, “Hurry! If we do not find that chest, perhaps he’ll be pleased that we brought you along.”

The four of them sprinted towards the tent, entering to find everyone sitting before Wasabhu as he talked from his chair. The moment his black eyes spotted them, he stopped talking and demanded:

“What took you so long? Did you not know I summoned a gathering!?”

“I was helping Ernest,” Wu Lin replied, blunt and calm, “He was throwing the dead deer away.”

“Yes,” Ernest hesitated but joined in, “We didn’t mean to be late” – in a more reserved tone – “Do accept our apologies.”

“Humph!” Wasabhu exhaled, appearing satisfied with their apology, “Sit down!” As they sat, he turned to the father and daughter. “Where is the information I wanted?” he commanded strictly.

“The chest…” Charlotte began, “I think we misplaced it… We are so sorry.”

“We have only just arrived in this tribe. It will take us plenty of time to get used to everything and the tent is too cluttered to find a small stone chest!” Diego broke in.

The glint of irritation in Wasabhu’s eyes was all too obvious and he quietened down. Wasabhu drew a deep breath to compose himself and asked, “Is there anything you do know about silver that you wouldn’t need that chest for?”

“Nothing useful, no,” Diego shook his head, “Apologies.”

“Nothing at all?”

“Nothing useful,” Diego repeated, “If we find the chest, there’d be plenty to tell.”

 “Well, you are poor examples of Silverbloods, knowing nothing about silver,” Wasabhu seethed, gesturing sharply at them to sit down, “We shall just have to continue without your assistance.”

Charlotte, who had kept quiet during the heat, shuddered and sat close to her father, who gently patted her cinnamon tresses. Wasabhu looked at the assembly, cleared his throat, and began:

“If anyone is wondering why I bring up the subject matter of silver, a thing we have all learned to despise, let me tell you it is only for a most curious cause. I have got word from one of the Olden Vampire Lords that there is a certain town that is simply swarming with silver, a town that is growing in size and could serve to be a potential threat to all of us.”

“A town?” inquired Ernest, “Full of silver? Where?”

“Perhaps if you let me finish, you will know,” Wasabhu rebuked dryly – while Zola, sitting in front of Ernest, smirked – and went on with his talk, “The task that we face is not to demolish the town but to know why the townspeople there have so much silver, and, taking in account how the Mayor there is expanding its boundaries, we have to react fast. The town is located” – clearing his throat ominously at Ernest – “in England, near a city called Liverpool. The town itself is called Moonleaf, though it seems that its original title used to be Town Queenshire.”

Ernest sucked in a sharp breath at the words. “Queenshire?” he stammered, “That’s my home, where I was born…”

“You know the place well?” Wasabhu asked with interest.

“I did spend almost fourteen whole years there!” exclaimed Ernest, but his voice dropped low, “Until I left, that is.”

“Well, isn’t that interesting?” replied Wasabhu while Zola gave a short scoff.

“It happens,” the chief went on, “that I have been asked to bring together a small team to scout the town Moonleaf and I intend to make sure we have unique people to participate in this effort.”

“Different types of vampires, you mean?” questioned Diego.

“Yes. And I think I know just who to pick.” Wasabhu peered at the group and called out, “Zola!”

“Yes, Father?” Zola responded, standing up conceitedly.

“You will be the Scorcher of this mission,” his father decided, “and, Wu Lin, the Death Sprinter shall be you.” Wu Lin, who had already stood up, and Zola exchanged mutual glances and bowed their heads towards Wasabhu. The chief looked at Charlotte and Diego and gave a deep frown.

“Mister and Miss Madrias,” he started, “You are the only Silverbloods in this tribe and your, perhaps extensive, knowledge of silver could aid. You are going on this mission as well.”

“But,” stuttered Diego, “we hardly know what to do. We just arrived a few days back!”

“Indeed,” Wasabhu agreed, “However, the Olden Lords wouldn’t have chosen this tribe to undertake such a journey if we didn’t have all three types of vampires amongst us. You are the only Silverbloods and you need to go.”

“A-are you sure? I mean, is it possibly to do it without Silverbloods?” Charlotte asked in a very submissive tone.

“Absolutely not, young lady,” rebuffed the man, “Although it is all right with me if only one of you goes.”

“No!” cried Diego defensively, “If I go, my daughter goes; and if my daughter goes, then I go.” Charlotte looked at her father with big eyes and he sighed. “We both will go, as per your wish,” he accepted.

Wasabhu nodded and then looked at the crowd again. “Ernest!” he called. Zola turned, his eyes wide in astonishment, as Ernest stood up.

“Yes?”

“I know we already have Zola as the Scorcher of this group, but you seem to know a lot about Town Moonleaf. Your knowledge will prove beneficial and, therefore, I enlist you as the fifth and final member of this team.”

Zola, whose face was propelled with shock, broke in just as Ernest was about to bow. “I don’t believe Ernest is that much of a crucial element of this group, Da. It is only a town; I am sure we can find our way around ourselves.”

Wasabhu glared at him but Zola seemed obstinate to make his point, making his father respond verbally.

“You could certainly find your way around,” replied Wasabhu with a mixture of composure and indignation, “But if Ernest is there to be with you, you will be able to find it in half the time. You are supposed to be back here with your results within no more than a week so it is best we cover up as much time as possible.”

“I understand,” Zola pestered, his tone proving the opposite, “But he is not as fast as you perceive him to be, Da.”

“Well, he is not a Death Sprinter. What would you expect?”

“I expect he will slow us down, instead of helping us cover up time. I know him, Da; Ernest is anything but fast.”

Wu Lin nudged Ernest as he bore Zola’s words with extreme displeasure. “You have to talk him down,” she whispered, “Don’t let him walk over you this time.”

Ernest drew in a heavy breath and nodded at her. “Pardon,” he stopped Zola, raising his hand, “I am the only one who knows the place we are going and I agree that it is necessary to make sure our journey takes as little time as possible.”

“You are the only one who is slow,” Zola answered back, “And, if you are with us, we will never cover up time.”

Ernest clenched one fist behind his back, trying to remain clam. “Fourteen years, Zola, I have lived in that town for fourteen years. I am, in fact, a very essential part of this mission – I know so. Wasabhu, don’t you agree?”

“I agree,” Wasabhu approved without any hesitation, “Zola, Ernest needs to go. He is the guide.”

“Oh, Da! Please, you’d know better!” pushed Zola.

“I understand you have rivalry with him,” declared his father, “But this is a team effort, child. He must go and that is my final decision.”

Zola was forced, with a heap of foot-dragging, to nod and sit down whilst Ernest tried not to seem as pleased as he actually was. Wu Lin sat down and he sat beside her.

“At least that went well,” whispered she, her eyes hinted with pride. Ernest grinned and shrugged playfully at which Wu Lin just shook her head. Zola, who was perceiving rather heatedly, gave Ernest an infuriated look but the latter ignored it.

“You all may return to your tents now,” Wasabhu permitted with a regal gesture of his arm. Everyone stood up, filing out of the capacious tent, but Wasabhu added: “With the exception of our five team members, of course.” The respective people stopped in their tracks and came back to sit before the chief.

“I have to go over the details of this mission with you. Come closer,” he beckoned as they obeyed. Wasabhu pulled out a battered, wood box and, placing it in his lap, opened it. From the box, he drew out a parchment and a few deep-rooted scrolls.

“What is all that?” Wu Lin asked.

“The information the Olden Vampire Lords have sent me. Details – about your journey,” replied Wasabhu, skimming through the parchment, “You have a very specific task: find out why Moonleaf is up to the brim with pure silver in all forms and to try to stop the silver from increasing. Most importantly, make sure you know whether it is a threat to us vampires.”

“What if it is a threat?” Diego started curiously, “We try to escape?”

“Yes and try your best to ensure that you do,” Wasabhu warned, making Charlotte shudder in fright, “And there are rules you must follow. While you are in the town, do not reveal that you are a vampire. To ensure this, you must drink blood only once a day and make sure you clean your mouth freshened at all times. It would be best if you tried not to be befriend any humans if it does nothing to help you in this quest. It also appears we have but a little information about Town Moonleaf, but it will be ensured that you have housing arrangements while you undertake this task. Throughout your mission, your known occupation to the humans should be nothing but travellers. And, one final rule, stay as far away from any church as possible.”

“Do we have time to prepare? When do we leave?” questioned Ernest, looking up at him with a straight eye.

“You have little time to prepare,” came the brisk answer, “Remember, you leave tomorrow at sunset. Your transport will be arranged and you shall arrive at the English coast by nightfall.”

“That is rather pressing,” remarked Diego, “Is it really that urgent of a matter?”

“The fate of all vampires could be at stake and your mission is the only light we have,” Wasabhu decreed, his voice not hollow but encouraging, “I have chosen each of you with a lot of consideration and I am certain you will co-operate and make sure everything remains even.”

“Do we have to take on some false identities for this mission, Da?” queried Zola, folding his arms across casually.

“No need for that, son. Just be ready tomorrow because the endeavour you five are going to set out to do, what you might accomplish and reveal, could just save from a probable disaster. We have little idea of what Town Moonleaf is like so you will be on your own there; but while you are here, I assure you that you have all support you could ask for. So prepare well and, remember, be ready as soon as the sun is gone.”

 

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