Dania was talking of a new person in the village.
"He is so gorgeous."
"Well, I'll agree with that," said Lucinda.
Sebastian looked at her. "I'm out of the running, then?"
"Course" Lucinda said, grinning cheekily.
Sebastian sighed. Dania continued. "He has short brown hair and brown eyes. He lives on the outskirts of the village. That's all I know really" she sighed.
"I see you like him then, Dania!" commented Susanna.
Dania didn't reply. She stared at nothing in particular, and didn't seem to hear what Susanna had said. Susanna sighed, walked over to Dania, and waved her hand in front of her eyes. Dania started.
"Wakey wakey daydreamer."
Dania smiled, blushing slightly.
"Changing the subject slightly," said Lucinda, "Would you like to come to the village for a while?"
"You might see sis' object of affection, you never know." said Sebastian, and grinned. Dania scowled and stuck her tongue out at him.
"Well, I'm definitely coming. Aran?"
Aran nodded. He wouldn't mind coming.
They rode into Emelan. They stopped outside Lucinda's house and dismounted. While Lucinda knocked for her sisters to let her in, Susanna turned to look at Dania, as she was tapping her shoulder.
"What is it?"
Dania pointed to a young man riding along the High Street and sighed. Dania was right, Susanna thought. He did look nice.
They were let into Lucinda's house. They were guided into the living room where there were some sofas and an armchair. Aran, Susanna and Dania sat on a sofa, Sebastian sat in the armchair, and Lucinda walked off for a moment. When she came back, she brought another young woman with her.
"Tris, these are my friends. Everyone, Trisana Whiteflower."
Tris grinned. Everyone else smiled. Then Tris' eyes alighted on Sebastian.
"Isn't that" she whispered in her sister's ear. Lucinda nodded, and both of them laughed.
"Lucinda. What did you say about me?"
"Nothing, don't worry." Lucinda replied. Then she caught her sister's eye, and giggled.
Sebastian frowned, and then broke into a smile. "Hmm. Were you complimenting me?"
Lucinda grinned. "Maybe, maybe not."
Lucinda and Tris sat down on the sofa. Sebastian immediately sat next to Lucinda. They talked for a while. Dania disappeared after a while. Susanna noticed that she took a very long time coming back.
"I'll go and see where Dania is." She smiled at everyone, and left the room. She looked around the house but Dania wasn't there. She walked out of the front door. She looked around and then saw Dania. She was standing in the road, talking.
Susanna walked over and soon saw Dania was talking to the man Dania had pointed out to her earlier. As Susanna approached, the man left. Dania stood there, waving to him as he mounted his horse and rode off.
"Like him, don't you?"
Dania jumped and turned around. Seeing it was Susanna, she sighed. Then she nodded. "I know his name now!"
"What is it?"
Susanna nodded. She could see that Dania was getting slightly obsessed. "Come on inside. Everyone is wondering where you are."
Dania didn't move. "He said he would like to see me again."
"Oh. Come on."
"You don't like him do you?"
"Course I do, but"
"You don't" interrupted Dania. "I can see you don't."
She stomped off towards the house. Sighing, Susanna followed. Then Dania stopped and turned round. "What has he done wrong? Why don't you like him?" she said, her voice getting louder. "What do you know about him, eh? You can't judge him before you get to know him!" With that she turned and walked inside. Susanna stood there, puzzled. What had come over Dania? She sighed, and followed Dania.
As soon as Dania and Susanna entered, everyone could sense something was not right. Sebastian and Aran quickly said goodbye. Susanna and Dania followed suit. Sebastian took Dania back home, and Aran and Susanna rode back to Susanna's house. When they got there they sat down at the kitchen table.
"What's wrong? What happened when you went to get Dania?" asked Aran, slightly concerned.
Susanna stared at the table, clearly thinking about something else. "She just went strange. She was talking to that Robert person. When she stopped and he went away, she yelled at me."
"He is the new person in Emelan. The one Dania really likes."
"Why did she yell at you?"
"Oh, I don't know." Susanna said, and got up from the table. She walked away and sat on her bed, thinking hard. She didn't want to be asked any questions just yet, she was still trying to work out the answers for herself.
Aran looked after Susanna's retreating form, and sighed. Something about this man wasn't right. He looked at the fire. He stood up and walked over to it, and chanted a few words. The flames roared much higher. He whispered one more word and pictures appeared in the flames. The man??bert??s standing there. He had short brown hair that stuck up a little at the front. He was wearing quite expensive clothes and soft gloves. As Aran watched, Robert walked up some steps and looked at a painting. The surface of the painting wobbled, and the face of Dania appeared on it. Robert grinned, took a potion from his belt and poured a few drops onto the picture. Then he removed his right glove, and Aran looked surprised as a claw-like hand emerged. The claws stroked the picture.
"I will have you, my sweet." He said in a harsh voice, and grinned mirthlessly.
With a blinding flash the image faded and the fire shrank. Aran, shocked, ran into Susanna's bedroom. Susanna was sitting there thinking. He told her what had happened. Susanna looked startled at the thought that this was no ordinary young man.
"What is he doing to her?" she asked Aran.
Aran shrugged. "I haven't got a single idea. Sorry."
"She is in danger. I'm sure of it." Susanna stood up quickly. "We have to stop it." She looked at Aran. "We must."
It was midnight. Susanna and Aran were going on a night expedition to find out more about Robert. In dark cloaks, they mounted their horses. They quietly rode into the village.
"Which way did he go?" Aran asked.
Susanna pointed. They rode stealthily up that road. Soon they came to a house. It had Robert's horse in front of it. They dismounted, left their horses under some cover, and crept around to the back. Aran picked the lock, and they quietly crept into the house.
As soon as they entered the house they reeled from the stench. They couldn't see the source, but it was overpowering. Susanna looked around the room they had emerged into. It looked like a kitchen, but it wasn't very hygienic. There were cobwebs hanging from every corner. There was a thin layer of dust over all of the worktops, and the table.
They crept out of the door, and were standing in a hallway. This was also decorated with cobwebs. Susanna and Aran walked carefully, hoping that the floorboards didn't creak. Susanna was concerned about the speed at which they were going.
"You take the upstairs, and I will take this floor."
Aran nodded, and quietly crept up the stairs, sending dust flying from the carpet.
Susanna looked around. She couldn't see much because of the lack of windows, but she daren't light a candle in case the light is seen. Looking around for doorways, she saw three. She slipped through the closest one, and found herself in a living room. She walked around the rug as it looked as though it hadn't been touched for years. She glanced around. The room was bear. As she walked past the fireplace to get back to the hallway, there was a quiet flumping noise, and soot showered all over her. She didn't wait to see what had caused it; she bit back a scream of panic, and quietly fled the room.
She sighed. Now the next room. What were they looking for anyway? She started to open the door, but it creaked loudly so she left it. She headed for the next room. She reached the door to find it was locked, but the key was in it. It looked like someone had meant to take it with them but forgot. She turned it silently and opened the door.
The room was slightly lit by an orb on the desk of this room. The room itself looked like a study. There was a painting of a landscape on the desk, and a bottle next to it. As she looked at the picture, its surface wobbled and Dania appeared on it. She was lying in her bed, asleep. Horrified at what she had found, Susanna stepped back. The picture solidified and the landscape returned to its surface.
Susanna jumped as footsteps quickly ran out of the house. Slightly slower steps were walking down the stairs. Panicking, Susanna ran to the window in the room. It was locked. She drew her sword, and stuck it through the gap. The window opened with a click. Praying that she would get away unseen and that the window wouldn't creak, she pulled the window up. An almighty screech arose from the window. The footsteps on the stairs were now running towards this study. Susanna jumped out of the window, and landed heavily on the ground outside. She quickly stood up, and ran to the horses. Aran was there waiting.
Susanna mounted her horse, and they rode away as fast as they could.
Robert walked out of his back door, and round to the window that the robber had escaped from. He looked around, and found nothing except a footprint. He memorised the footprint, and walked back to the house.
"Why did you run?"
"Well, Robert woke up," Aran replied, "There was a loud creak and I heard him stir, and then some sort of alarm went off a minute later. I heard him wake up, and ran."
Susanna thought. "I think both of those were my fault. The creak was this door that hadn't been used for ages, and the alarm must have gone off when I entered the study."
"What was it like in the study?"
Susanna explained about the potion and the picture lying on his desk. "What did you find?"
Aran shook his head. "Nothing at all, unless you count dust and cobwebs." He grinned. "Well, lets not do that again in a while??don't think I could stand the smell!"
"I hope he didn't see me."
"I doubt he did."
Sebastian and Lucinda were sitting in the living room with Aran and Susanna. Susanna and Aran had agreed to tell them. Tris had decided to stay at home, and Dania had not come with Sebastian, as she said she felt a bit unwell.
Aran finished the story, and Sebastian sat there staring at the floor. Lucinda looked shocked. They sat there in silence. Then they all jumped as someone knocked heavily on the front door. Susanna stood up and went to open it. It was Niko.
"Hi. Come in. I think you better hear about this new person that has moved into the village."
Niko and Susanna walked into the living room. Susanna was telling him the details about Robert. They both sat down. Sebastian was still staring at the floor. He looked much paler than usual.
"Susanna," said Niko, "I think that there is something badly wrong with that man - Robert. What exactly did you see him do to that picture?"
Susanna told him.
Sebastian stood up. "I must go and see Dania." He walked out the room and rode back to his house. Niko thought, and then said, "Did you get a good look at the picture?"
Susanna nodded. "It was of a landscape."
"Okay. Wait a second. I am going to summon something from my home."
Niko closed his eyes, and he suddenly blazed with blue light. Everyone looked away, dazzled. When Susanna saw the blue light was gone she looked at Niko. He was holding a thick book, and looking though the pictures. Finally he stopped and passed the book to Susanna.
"Flick through the pages and tell me which landscape it was."
Susanna looked slowly through the pages. There were lots of different pictures, but eventually she found the one she was looking for. Aran peered over her shoulder.
"That's the one I saw in the fire."
"That's the one that was in his study." Susanna replied.
She passed the book back to Niko, and pointed to the right picture. Niko put his hand on that picture and suddenly the page twisted. When it stopped, the picture had filled half the page, and runes had appeared underneath. Niko read the runes quickly, and then shut the book.
"He has a portal that can be used to see and hear the person, and cast magic on them. He could only have created one with something personal of hers that connects it to Dania. I wonder what it is?"
"What about the hands? Why do they look so claw - like?"
Niko shrugged. Too much black magic I suppose. Messing with Black Magic makes your hands go like that??ke associating with Hades replaces your eyes with red fire."
Susanna shivered. Dania was in danger.
The door was thrown open by an exhausted and worried Sebastian. He almost ran into the room, and stood there, his eyes wide and staring.
"What's wrong?" asked Lucinda, anxiously.
"Not there. Disappeared. I don't know where to!" Sebastian looked around wildly.
"Who?" asked Susanna.
"Dania. She isn't where I left her. She has vanished! Just vanished!"
Everyone stood up, alarmed at Sebastian's remarks. They all looked at each other, and raced for the horses.
They came upon Dania and Sebastian's mother, who was called Rosa. She was frantic with worry.
"She wasn't acting like normal. She was all pale and she looked unwell. Then she just disappeared. I don't know where she has gone??p;quot; Rosa gulped. She looked shocked.
Everyone looked around Dania's room. There wasn't much to go on, apart from a landscape painting. This painting was different from Robert's one. It showed a different landscape, but still, when they looked into it the landscape turned into green murk, and pictures formed in it. Suddenly Susanna thought of something.
"Let me see Robert."
The painting shimmered. There was Robert standing in his house, in a room that Susanna and Aran had seen before.
"Must be a secret room of some sort."
Susanna nodded. It looked like one. But that wasn't what he was interested in. She was interested in the other figure standing with Robert. It was Dania.
They all stopped outside Robert's house. There was no sign of life. They all ran around to the back door. While Aran picked the lock a second time, they drew their swords. Aran was taking too long. Sebastian pulled Aran back, and ran at the door. His shoulder connected with the door, and the door banged open. Sebastian flew through and charged into the dusty worktop. He collapsed on the ground, out of breath. The others walked in slowly grinning slightly. Aran was looking slightly annoyed with himself for not realising the door was unlocked.
Once Sebastian had recovered, they all looked around the ground floor but, as Susanna had expected, there were no secret passages. They ran up the creaking stairs and searched the first floor. No luck. As they were about to give up, Lucinda found some small stairs. They quietly crept up it and emerged into a plain unfurnished white room.
They looked around, and wondered what they should do now. Sebastian, after glancing around, walked back down the stairs, Aran close behind. Lucinda and Susanna were looking around perplexed. Niko glanced around the room, and then sat down in the middle of the floor. Lucinda and Susanna stared at him, as he closed his eyes. Niko muttered a sentence and they thought that they could see runes made of air drifting from his mouth. Niko stood up and placed his hands on the wall. The wall shimmered, and shined. Then as Niko took his hands away, the wall went dull, leaving a square shining brightly.
Niko walked over to it and beckoned to Susanna and Lucinda. Aran and Sebastian were somewhere in the floor below. Lucinda and Susanna peered over Niko's shoulder. There was also a small dot shining on the end of Niko's finger. He whispered a word and white light shot from his finger, embedding itself in the wall. Slowly a secret door slid open. Lucinda ran to the stairs, called down to Aran and Sebastian that they had found the room, and then followed Susanna and Niko through the door.
Robert was standing talking to Dania. Dania on the other hand seemed to be slightly dreamy. They were sitting on a small sofa facing one wall, so that they couldn't see their visitors. Niko waved a hand, and a shield surrounded Lucinda, Susanna and himself, and then pointed at Robert and shouted a word. Robert slammed into the wall with a cry. Lucinda ran over and grabbed Dania. Dania refused to leave, and wriggled out of Lucinda's grip, so that she could help Robert. Lucinda ran after her, but stopped suddenly. Robert turned slowly, his nose producing a stream of blood that dripped off his chin onto the floor. He put his hand on Dania's shoulder and steered her so she faced her friends. She looked at them, and her face twisted with hate. Robert let go of her shoulder, and Dania fired an arrow straight at Niko's heart. He put up a hand and the arrow crashed into the shield and fell to the floor. Dania looked furious, and drew another arrow from her quiver. Robert stopped her, put his hands on it, and then gave it back. She fitted it to her bow, and fired. Niko tried to stop it, but a burst of red fire showed the arrow had broken through his shield. Niko's raised hand spurted blood as the arrow stopped, the point of it sticking out of the back of his hand. Niko grabbed his bloodied hand, and fell back to mend it. He tried to keep the shield going, but it didn't work. He needed his concentration for his hand.
Susanna and Lucinda looked around in panic. Dania was already fitting another arrow to her bow. Lucinda ran at her and then ducked as the arrow whizzed a few inches over her head. Susanna saw that it was aimed at Niko, and brought her sword crashing down on it, breaking it in two. Niko smiled gratefully, before continuing to heal himself. Lucinda lunged at Robert, who quickly drew his sword. They battled again and again, Lucinda ducking from arrows aimed at her, Niko or Susanna. Susanna rushed over to Dania, and knocked her bow from her hand. She dragged a screaming Dania away from Robert. Dania was struggling like a captive animal, and trying to bite and scratch Susanna. In the end, Susanna had to knock her out with the pommel of her sword. As Dania collapsed to the floor, Sebastian and Aran rushed in. Seeing the chaos, they rushed to help.
Robert saw the reinforcements, and thought for a second, before shouting a single word. A red fire sprung up behind him, and he spoke fast in an ancient language. Niko, the healing half finished, ran over to stop him, but it was too late. Everyone was picked up, and thrown backwards, leaving Robert and Dania standing. Robert whispered another word and a large, barbed net dropped on Niko, Susanna, Aran, Sebastian and Lucinda. Niko told everyone to not move, and spoke a spell that slowly melted the net. Robert, horrified that his net was going, threw a fireball at them, but Susanna summoned a wind, and he fireball blew back into Robert. Robert screamed a word, and the fire vanished from his flesh. His clothes were half burnt and his gloves had turned into piles of ash. Dania looked at his black-clawed hands, and backed away. Susanna saw a small glittering stone on the floor a little way from Robert. Robert, seeing Dania back away, ran over to her, and slammed her up against the wall. He put his hand around her neck, and shouted to the others in the room.
"One move and she's dead."
Niko saw the small stone on the floor, and knew it at once for what it was. Susanna, seeing Niko wanted it, blew it towards them. She slowly picked it up off the floor.
Dania's hand swept round and stared at Susanna. In a totally different voice from, her own, she said, "What is your will?"
Susanna was horrified. She dropped it on the floor. Niko smashed it with his foot. There was a red flash and Dania suddenly seemed to snap out of something and her colour returned to her cheeks. Susanna grinned. Dania moved her leg slowly, while Robert scrutinised the people at the far end of the room. Suddenly Dania brought her foot into his leg. Robert realised his leg was not under him any more and sat down heavily. Dania ran back to her friends. She grinned, and pulled an arrow from her quiver. She aimed and fired. The arrow whistled through the air, and transfixed Roberts arm to his chest. He screamed with pain, and leapt of the floor. Sebastian was furious about his sister being kidnapped, and ran towards Robert, sword drawn.
Robert had no sword arm. He backed away from Sebastian, and then turned and ran to the far corner of the room. He shouted a word, and pointed at the floor with his good hand. The pentacle where he was standing shone. A wall of red light grew from the floor to the ceiling. Dania shot an arrow into it, but it disappeared. The wall disappeared a few minutes later, and there was nothing there. Robert had vanished.
There was a puff of smoke in front of Susanna. Robert appeared, but strangely malformed. His eyes had turned yellow, and as he clamped his jaw over her neck she realised he had some very sharp teeth. She felt drained, and when Robert let go she crumpled to floor. She sat there, deathly pale. Aran ran over and sliced down with his sword. But he never got Robert because he had been kicked powerfully in the stomach. He staggered backwards, wheezing. Robert grinned, and ran over to Dania, but Sebastian was there first. Robert saw this, and ran towards Lucinda. She swept her axe around. Robert ducked the axe, and leapt for her. He missed, and felt a tap on his shoulder. He whisked around. Aran was standing there.
"Game over." Aran said with a grin, and thrust his sword underneath his breastbone. Robert collapsed, black blood flowing out in a river.
Niko knew what Robert was. A vampire. But they could only be killed with a stake. He formed one with magic and stuck it into Robert's chest. Frozen screams rent the air, and Robert collapsed into ash.
Aran withdrew his sword, and cleaned it on the carpet. Sebatian and Niko had picked Susanna up. Susanna felt so weak, that she couldn't stay awake. Everyone rushed back towards her home, trying to get back. Sighing, Susanna collapsed into a coma.
Avalon Publication (Feburary 2001)