The Speed of Night (Part 1)

The Speed of Night (Part 1)

A Story by Dms
"

A young Abel thief has high hopes that his activities will go unnoticed during the harvest ball in Tir'Simmin Castle. Unfortunately for him, he's not the only one looking to take from the rich.

"

 Abel carefully crept along the rafters, measuring every slight movement of his hands and feet so that not even the tiniest point of light would reveal his presence to the guests in the great ballroom below. The massive chandeliers hanging beneath him gave off a rich light from glass balls wound together in huge clusters like golden grapes. The ballroom itself was decked out in so much silk and golden finery that Abel could barely imagine anything being missed should he decide to lift a bauble or trinket on his way out.

Twenty feet below him, men and women in rich beautiful clothing glided back and forth to the soothing music of string quartet, while along the sides massive tables overflowing with food and drink were picked through by the richest of the rich. It seemed a shame that most of it would be thrown away. Abel sneered as a pompous looking fat man with a finely trimmed mustache and a hairpiece that didn't cover his bald spot nearly as well as he must have thought it did, tossed a buttered slice of rich baked bread into a waste bin and continued talking to a young lady standing next to him. Abel only glared at the man for a moment before the lady had his full attention.

She had hair like onyx, shimmering black and done back in a long ponytail with her bangs just touching her eyes to either side of her face. From above, Abel was not quite too proud to admire her bare shoulders and the tops of her modest but well rounded breasts. He tried to maneuver himself to get a better look at her face, slinking cat-like across the rafters and turning himself on the balls of his feet.

She wore a strapless dress of black and white, with trimmed openings leaving her stomach and lower back bare. Skin tight pants covered her legs underneath and buckled boots came up almost to her knees. She smiled shyly at the disgusting man in front of her, brushing the bangs from her face. Abel saw the light glimmer in her dark eyes even from his distant perch and suddenly wanted nothing more than to be down there in that fat man's place. He shook his head, trying to clear the thought from his mind. He wasn't here to socialize. Besides, he wasn't invited. Oh, if he were caught, the Duke of Tir'Simmin would probably put on a kind face and act as though he were simply being sent on his way, but Abel knew better. If he was caught here, his body would never be found. Not that anyone would look, of course.

Abel moved stealthily back across the rafters until he was over the far side of the ballroom, directly over the Duke's throne. A long tapestry hung from the wall behind it, perhaps a foot of space between the fabric and the wall to keep it from wearing against the hard stone. Abel tied his line to the rafter just above the tapestry and carefully let it dangle down to the floor. He would slide down behind the tapestry, hugging the wall as closely as he could and wind up right behind the throne. Then, he'd simply need to find a moment's opportunity to slip through the door to the adjoining hall, which was another five feet to the left of where he'd land.

It was incredibly risky, but the harvest ball was the only time of the year the castle would be empty enough to attempt it. A few guards would be left elsewhere, but the rest were in and around the outside of the ballroom. They would be expecting thieves to sneak in and try stealing from the guests inside, but it wasn't likely they'd expect someone skipping the main course and going straight for dessert in the Duke's own chambers.

Abel eyed the entire hall, the masses below twirling and churning, the sounds of dry laughter and mindless chatter rising and falling like waves against the coast. It seemed that everyone was too busy being pleased with themselves to take notice of anything but the food they were shoving in their faces and the b***s and asses they were groping on the dance floor. All but her. Abel paused one last time to admire the ivory beauty, now floating through the center of the hall, easily twirling from partner to partner as though she wished to share a moment with every man and woman at the party.

It was just a feeling at first, but then her eyes caught his and held them while she draped her arms around a man's shoulders, and leaned in to whisper something into his ear. Abel froze, thinking he'd been found out. She was whispering to alert the guards. How could she see him? There wasn't enough light in all the heavens to illuminate him where he was. It wasn't possible! But in the next moment the man had turned around with her and was smiling and talking as though she'd merely complimented his horrible ruffled suit. Abel exhaled, catching a bead of sweat that dripped off his brow. Then she was facing him again and smiling. She winked before twirling away to her next partner.

Abel braced himself against the wall and slowly slid down, his spare frame not even brushing against the curtain as he reached the floor and brought his arms down to his sides. There was a single, sleepy eyed guard standing just behind him at the side of the throne. The rest were outside the entrance, screening entry, or near the tables.

It might have seemed foolish to some that the Duke of Tir'Simmin did not have a full compliment of guards inside to protect him, but Abel knew better. The Duke, Reynold Alexander, was a fine swordsman and marksman and never went anywhere without a sword and a pistol at his side. The man took pride in defending himself and had done so on several violent occasions. The fool would love nothing more than to shoot or stab someone in front of all of these people. Abel felt almost giddy, standing directly behind the man with all the noise and lights just inches away from him. Nothing but veil of woven art separated him from the third most powerful man in the kingdom. Of course, once Abel had finished, that figure would likely be reevaluated.

Suddenly, Abel heard a loud bang coming from the other side of the hall and he knew his moment had come. The fireworks were beginning outside, and every eye would be drawn at least for a moment to the Western side of the hall. He took that moment and slipped out from behind the tapestry, naked for only a second as he moved behind the guard, watching the back of every head in the ballroom before he disappeared into the hall.

As soon as he was out of the ballroom, the darkness welcomed Abel and wrapped around him like a warm blanket. He moved like a soft breeze through the castle, stopping for moments here and there to avoid a solitary guard or a restless servant. It was intoxicating. He'd had more difficulty breaking into shops to pilfer clothing and tools. Rushing through the halls of a castle, his black cape billowing out behind him, the straps around his chest, waist and legs clasping him comfortably while he moved, it was as though he'd become something more than a thief.

Abel felt like he could take anything, do anything. He might have been an assassin for all his cunning. How much farther was it to steal a man's life in the night? It certainly wasn't beyond his ability. Still, Abel collected himself as he came to the Duke's chambers. The double doors were unguarded, the darkness of the hall only broken for brief moments as the flashing lights of the fireworks display in the night sky burst to life then died over and over again with such noise that any sound beneath became like a falling leaf near a crashing waterfall.

In mere moments, Abel picked the lock and was inside, sifting through drawers, lifting fantastic necklaces, earrings, bracelets and even a small golden scepter from the foot of the bed. His satchel bulged after minutes and there were still barrels of things he might have taken, but Abel disciplined himself. He'd known he could only take so much. If he tried to take more than would fit in his satchel, he could risk an inconvenient jingle or drop that would give him away. Still...there had to be one more thing he could grasp. Something wonderful to keep as a memento that would remind him of his one great caper long after everything else had been fenced.

Abel relaxed a bit and stood up straight, crossing to the broad windows looking out over the rest of the castle. All the stone sections stretching out below changed hue with the flashing lights, lending an even greater awe to the size of the place. The river that wound just around the edge of the castle below twinkled, each individual ripple carrying a different tint. And here he was at the top of it all, in the Duke's own bedroom, where the third or so most powerful man in the kingdom fucked his under aged bride and dreamed of nothing more than what his life already was because he had everything. Abel scoffed, wishing he had some sort of rash powder to dust over the bedsheets or even a poison to coat one of the goblets on dressers near the bed. It wasn't right for just one man to have so much while others lived and died for next to nothing.

It was then that he noticed a slight glimmer from the side of the bed. Beneath a pillow, something silver and gold and glitter shot with diamonds. But it couldn't be. Abel crossed the room and tossed the pillow aside, looking down in disbelief at the Duke's own crown. He smiled almost cruelly. How much would it tax the mighty pride of Reynold Alexander to have his crown stolen due to his own stupid negligence? Abel looped the strap of his satchel through the crown, then nearly jumped right out of his boots as a silent, but piercing scream reached his keen ears.

It was there for a moment, then gone. Somewhere outside, or perhaps closer, but the booming echoes of the fireworks muted it in the next moment and after several minutes had passed, Abel decided it was only his own excitement that had caused him to hear it. Perhaps it was the cry of sheer triumph in his heart at seizing such a prize. He wondered at it as he slipped back into the hall and flowed back through the castle like black water, every flawlessly silent step taking him closer and closer to absolute victory. But here and there, another scream would sound in between the artificial thunder and he would almost falter...almost.


He found his exit without incident. In fact, he'd seen not a single soul all the way back, as though his senses had become so perfectly sharp that he were avoiding the eyes and ears of the castle guards without even thinking about it. He reached slowly for the door to the ballroom, his hand only pausing a few times before his fingers wrapped around the gilded handle and pulled it just a sliver of a crack to peek inside. He almost opened the door, but stopped, a sudden chill settling into his chest. The fireworks had stopped...so why couldn't he hear any sounds coming from the ballroom?

Perhaps he'd been discovered. Perhaps the Duke was standing in the center of the room, pistol drawn, his pathetic guests waiting to see him kill the man they all knew was about to emerge. It would be just like the man, for all Abel knew. Perhaps that was why he'd left the crown. Perhaps he'd wanted it to seem like some great victory. The noble Duke putting down a thieving dog that dared soil the royal crown. Abel cursed himself for being so foolish. The girl had seen him. She'd merely waited for him to leave the room to tell the Duke, so they could set up this ridiculous display. It was disgusting!

He tried to think, but every moment he knew was shrinking the gap of opportunity he might have to alter his fate. Perhaps if he were quick enough, he could simply dash out and shimmy up his line, then make his escape out the roof hatch and leap for the river? Yes! That would prove once and for all what a worm the Duke was! If he missed his shot and Abel escaped, he would become legendary! It was a chance, but it was better than lurking back into the castle and trying to find another exit or a place to hide for who knows how long. Abel flexed his skinny legs and pushed the door open.

He dashed forward, kicking off the door and to his left towards the curtain, but catching his feet on something soft and tumbling forward to land in a heap behind the throne. He regained his feet in the next moment, not wanting to believe just yet that the lifeless body of the Duke's sleepy eyed guard had tripped him. But as he looked across the ballroom, it seemed that the cold feeling in his chest spread like ice and froze every inch of his body in place.

From wall to wall, bodies were draped over everything. They littered the floors, blood pooled between them, soaked into their fine clothing. They hung over the tables and chairs, throats ripped and sliced and perhaps chewed open, still dripping and draining bright red beads into the tablecloths and rugs. A pair of guards stood erect against the far wall, both stuck there, impaled upon their own swords. The Duke himself lay slumped forward, as though whatever had murdered him had moved so swiftly that he'd not even been able to stand before it was over.

Abel was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the carnage before him that he could barely process it all at once. It wasn't until a soft whimper broke the silence, that his attention was drawn across the room to a weak movement behind one of the tables. A man's hand grasped a table leg, attempting to pull himself into view, but the hand went limp in the next moment. She stood up, wiping a long red streak across her face with the back of her hand. It was the same girl. He was certain. But she was red now. Almost every bit of her was red, as though she'd submerged herself in a bath of blood and let it soak in for several hours. Even her eyes were colored a dark red, but the moment they locked on his they lit up, almost glowing.

Abel took a step back, grasping blindly for his line, thinking about nothing but the simple action of climbing, pulling himself up with one hand over the other again and again until she couldn't reach him. She smiled, almost shyly, fangs peeking out over her lower lip. Then, in an instant, she was standing in front of him. She'd moved so fast that for a split second, Abel could see her in both places at the same time. There was a sort of static in the atmosphere, accompanied by a harsh buzzing sound and then she stood in front of him, now clean, pearly white and beautiful as she had been at the start of the ball. Her full red lips curved into a grin, as though she were reading his thoughts and they amused her. Abel continued moving his hands until he realized at last that the line was gone, fallen from the rafters along with the great tapestry at his feet. The girl stared at him and Abel found that it actually hurt to look into her bright red eyes.

He couldn't speak. What could he say? What could he do? She'd murdered a hundred people in the same time it had taken him to pilfer a pocketful of trinkets. Some of those people had been guards, hard trained and well armed men who were far beyond the martial abilities of a simple thief. All at once the grand illusions he had built up inside himself only minutes before evaporated and he was once again just a foolish young man, taking things that didn't belong to him.

“Hello there,” she said, startling him with her cheerful tone.

Abel had to consciously push air past his lips, forming words as though he were chiseling stone for all the effort it took to speak.

“He...hello...” he squeaked.

“You're the thief I saw in the rafters, aren't you?” she asked.

“Yes,” Abel replied, his knees rattling, threatening to give out from underneath him at any moment.

“I was watching you up there and as you went into the hall back there. You move quickly for a human,” she smiled.

“Th...thank you...”

Abel could feel his eyes beginning to water, or tear up, he didn't know which. It had struck him that these could be his last moments alive. He'd never seen a vampire before, though he'd heard about them. She was so beautiful and so terrifying at the same time that he was trapped between the social fear of speaking with an exotic woman and the natural fear of speaking with a monster that could kill him with a flick of her wrist.

“Did you get what you wanted?” she asked.

Abel nodded shakily.

“That's good,” she said, “I've always felt that great skill deserves reward.”

She closed the small distance between them, hands clasped behind her back, leaning forward. Abel knew what was coming, but he couldn't stop it. It would only be more violent if he tried to stop her. He braced himself, shutting his eyes, each moment expecting razor sharp fangs to pierce his throat...only it didn't happen. She sniffed at him for a moment, then leaned back again until he opened his eyes.

“You live alone, don't you?” she asked, “At least, I don't smell anyone else.”

“I do...” Abel replied quickly, “...live alone. I mean, I live where I can.”

“That's me, also. Do you ever find it hard, being alone?”

“Sometimes...” Abel said honestly.

He could sense it now. She was toying with him. It didn't make sense that a creature like her would slaughter a hundred people then pause to have a meaningless conversation with a thief. If she had feelings at all, she didn't waste them on mortal beings such as himself. Abel wished he had the courage to do something. He wished he could say something brave, or defiant, so at least she would get no further enjoyment out of tormenting him. Then again, perhaps he could use her feigned interest in him to his advantage. Perhaps he could trick her somehow.

“That's sad,” she said, “but what will you do now that you have your prize? Certainly you can afford to move away and find a real home.”

“Oh, I'm not doing this for the wealth,” Abel said with as much confidence as he could muster, “I just wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if I was fast enough.”

“Fast enough for what?” she asked.

Abel nodded towards the Duke.

“Did you see the Duke during the party?” he asked.

She shook her head, grinning with growing interest.

“I only saw him after I noticed you leave the ballroom,” she said.

“Well that was my test,” Abel said, “As I left, I snatched the crown from his head. Then I stole into the castle to see how long it would take for him to notice it was gone.”

The vampire girl eyed Abel suspiciously, her grin spreading until her fangs slid out again. Then, she glanced back at the Duke and seemed to do a double take when she realized his crown was gone. She looked back at Abel, who now held it in his outstretched hand.

“That is impressive,” she laughed, “Even I didn't see you take it.”

“Oh, there's no need to flatter me,” Abel argued, “I'm certain that someone with your speed could have counted the hairs on my fingers as I reached out to take it.”

“No, I really didn't see it,” she insisted.

Her bright red eyes seemed to intensify again, a visible light now contending with the chandeliers overhead, playing off Abel's face. He tried not to squint, or show his growing trepidation. He might be fooling her, but he couldn't be certain. The only thing he knew at the moment was that for some reason, no matter how much it hurt to look at her, he could no longer tear his eyes away. It was as though the two of them were already subconsciously dueling. He with his deception, and she with the natural power radiating from her eyes. Abel knew what the light in a vampires eyes could do. It was already happening. Soon he'd no longer be able to speak at all. He'd be hypnotized and as soon as he stopped speaking, her interest would wane and she would certainly kill him.

“Well it wasn't entirely fair,” Abel said, “After all, you didn't know what I was about to do. If you were looking for it to happen, I'm sure you'd see it.”

“Do you think so?” she asked.

“Say, what if I were to put the crown back and then we can try to reproduce the event. You take your place like you were during the ball...” Abel paused awkwardly, glancing around, “...you know, before everyone was dead. Then, I'll place the crown back on the Duke's head and climb up to my perch. I'll come down like before and see if you can see me taking the crown.”

“You would do that again, for me?” she asked.

“Well, it's not every day a thief meets a beautiful young woman who's faster than he is,” Abel remarked.

She smiled shyly, and turned around, blurring for a moment then appearing on the other side of the ballroom. Abel tried not to grin, taking out his spare line and twirling it for momentum before he threw his grapnel up and around the rafters. He prepared to climb, but quickly remembered to set the crown upon the Duke's lifeless head. He regarded the man just once, his bloodstained face staring down into his own lap. It really wasn't such a bad thing that the man was dead. Abel almost felt like he could thank the vampire for ridding the world of this group of pampered princesses. Of course, he would save his thank yous for when he was twenty feet over the floor and well out of her reach no matter how fast she was.

“Alright, now I'll climb up and show you how I did it,” he called across the room.

She waved cheerfully, her manner bizarre for someone who had just feasted upon a hundred throats. He wondered if perhaps she simply didn't understand the implications of what she'd done. She didn't look much younger than him, but there was something about the way she spoke and the charming squint in her eyes when she smiled that spoke of innocence.

Abel shook the thought as he made his way up to the rafters again. Only when he was at the very top did he risk a look down to see if she was clambering up after him. She wasn't. There she stood in the middle of a blossom of corpses, splayed out in all directions away from her as though she had suddenly exploded and blown bits of her own bones into their brains, killing them all outright in that perfect position, with their colorful dresses and suits forming the pedals of a dead dandelion.

He knew he shouldn't wait any longer. Each moment he continued to play this game was a moment she could take to climb up to him. He pulled up his line as rapidly as he could, and wrapped it back around his waist, hitching it on his belt. The vampire stared up at him expectantly until he began to crawl towards the middle of the ceiling where a loose section of the roof could be slid away for him to climb up and out into the night.

“Wait, that's not the way you went before,” she called after him.

“You know, I just realized that this won't work,” he called back, standing up to take hold of the ceiling, “Because the last time I did it, everyone was still alive. I'm much faster when I'm worried I'll get caught. Perhaps we can try this some other time at a different ball.”

The static sensation buzzed through the atmosphere again, tickling at the backs of his ears. Abel felt dizzy, crouching back down, and then a bright red light shone directly into his eyes. She crouched in front of him with that same innocent smile, her fangs bared.

“What makes you think you won't get caught?” she asked.

Of course, he would have forgotten that vampires could fly. Abel tried to move, but he knew it was over. The light in her eyes burned deep into his own and took hold of his senses. She crept forward until their noses were almost touching.

“I wonder...will you bleed faster than they did?” she asked.

© 2011 Dms


Author's Note

Dms
This is a splinter idea from the novel I'm currently editing (Ripped Awaye, The Forging of Kane). A few of the characters do appear in the book, but it's more of an exercise than anything I ever intend to publish.

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Added on October 8, 2011
Last Updated on October 8, 2011

Author

Dms
Dms

Plain, WI



About
For those of you visiting me for the first time, my name is David Stienmetz. I'm 25 years old, and a six year Army veteran. Since getting out, I've started college, bought a house, had a bad.. more..

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A Story by Dms