Pania’s eyes adjusted to the light as she muttered an incantation. A small glowing orb appeared beside her, granting a soft illumination of the darkened caboose. She saw that the windows had been completely covered, blocking out any light from the outside world. There were a few artifacts that she knew were not common with any rail cars she’d ever heard of or seen before. They were too familiar, something that could only be equated with the vampire mistress that stood in the centre of the car.
The smile Ya’Row held as she watched Pania held a great deal of malice. Against her pale skin and gothic clothing, it gave way to a very sinister look. Yet, there was one thing that seemed to scream out from Ya’Row’s appearance. A small splash of colour that came from a pin the vampire wore to hold her cloak in place. A single scarlet rose.
“I recognize tha’ symbol,” Pania muttered, more to herself than to Ya’Row. “Those were ‘anded out ta the knights o’ the Order o’ the Scarlet Rose.”
“Quite astute of you, Miss Alow,” Ya’Row replied with a bold voice. “You’ve taken after your parents quite well.” She snickered a bit as she saw the incredulous reaction on Pania’s face, and then continued. “Oh, I know you. And I know your partner Shani. When I began to hunt you both, I noticed the wanted posters. You two have made a name for yourselves on this planet. In much more a way than I ever could.”
“Bu’ ‘ow…” Pania began, only to be quickly interupted.
“Centuries ago, I knew your parents,” she explained to Pania. “Even before you and Shani were born. You see, I was something of their mentors. They looked up to me. But then, I had made a name for myself, becoming the first elven female to attain the stature of a knight of the Order of the Scarlet Rose.”
“Cassandra Felegio,” Pania gasped as she recognized the tale. This knight had been heralded as a champion. “Bu’ Cassandra fell in battle. Fightin’ ‘gainst an evil tha’ threatened Terra-Kal.”
“I did, yes,” Ya’Row replied, all the while moving closer to Pania. “And Terra-Kal was saved, obviously. But I didn’t fall, so much as rise in power. You only know a little of the tale, Pania Alow. You only know what the scholars and historians of the great Stonebridge Library want you to know. But then, I doubt even they know the full story behind what happened that fateful day over one hundred years ago.”
South of Arcanum Bridge, Season of the Sun, Terra-Kal
The trio of riders brought their horses to a quick stop as they neared the border of the war like Myst Elves. The three were unmistakable in their armour, brightly coloured with gold and red, each one wearing a scarlet rose pin against their cloaks. Knights, each on of them, and among them was Cassandra Felegio. She was an oddity. The first woman to be elevated to the station of Knight, she commanded respect wherever she went. There were those who gave her great respect, but there were still those that did nothing to hide their contempt for her.
Both of those factors could have been the reason why the Order of the Scarlet Rose ordered Cassandra and her companions with this most serious of missions. Reports had come in from farmers along the border that regular attacks had been made. At first it was believed to be small skirmishes put together by the Myst Elves, but that soon changed as Patrolers began to find the mutilated bodies of young victims. Consolers were dispatched quickly to deal with the situation, as each victim had been found completely drained of blood.
It meant only one thing; a vampire had risen to terrorize the populace.
This suspicion became confirmed when reports of attacks against Myst Elf communities along the border began. Similar victims were found, and for a time, an unsteady peace had been forged between the great city of Arcanum Bridge and the Myst Elf strongholds to the south. It would only be a matter of time before that peace was shattered, either with the death of the vampire, or the continued terrorism of the undead lord.
Cassandra lead her companions through the thick forests to the south of Arcanum Bridge. If need be, battle mages could be summoned from the school housed within the walls of the city. Cassandra was confident that only three would be enough to take down this creature. After all, she had the Shining Lady looking down upon her and offering her blessing. The further south the trio went, the more the mists began rolling in. The forming mists were perfect for brigands to attack or even the vile Myst Elves to take down quarry. But word had come down from the capital that no Myst Elf scouts would attack the roads. These knights had clear passage, and only a vampire to deal with.
As they pushed on, the air grew still and the very forest grew quiet, as the leaves didn’t even more with the wind. Something unnatural was in the area, and that meant they were close to their quarry.
“Keep a sharp eye,” Cassandra said in a confident voice to her companions. She drew her blade as she looked around the forest with her keen eyes. “Should either of you…” Her words were cut short as one of her companions screamed out as though caught in a trap. Cassandra and her remaining companion searched the area, but could not find any sign of either their friend or the attacker. Quickly, the pair dismounted, holding firm to their shield as they brandished long blades. “Come out, you coward!” Cassandra shouted out to the darkness that surrounded them both. “Show yourself!”
Her words were answered with a gurgling sound followed by a thud as a body hit the ground. Her remaining companion now lay dead, but this time, the vampire revealed himself.
“This was all too easy,” he said softly with a voice that seemed to sooth, yet was filled with bile. “I was hoping for more of a challenge. At least, that was what I was promised.” He chuckled lightly as he saw the look on Cassandra’s face, her frame frozen in place by his presence. “I can see that you are rather confused, so allow me to inform you of what has happened. Your magistrate doesn’t like you. As a matter of fact, you claimed the prize that had been sought by his son. He wants to be rid of you. So, he came to me with an offer. I had no idea that I would be travelling across the very cosmos itself to get here and meet you.”
“What are you talking about?” Cassandra forced herself to say.
The vampire chuckled lightly again and began his explanation. “I’m not an elf. Even being a vampire, I’m not originally an elf. I’m … rather, I was a human.” He waited and watched Cassandra before continuing. “Your magistrate found a celestial door, as he called it, that brought him to my world. A tiny blue planet called Earth. Mind you, where I come from, they are so backwards that they cannot conceive of the wonders of the universe. Many of them continue to argue whether or not Earth actually is the centre of the universe or not. I, however, know it is not. Such was revealed to me when I was turned.” He studied Cassandra for a long while, gauging her reaction, and spoke once again. “What your magistrate does not know is what I have planned. Come with me, Cassandra. Join me, and return to my world, and I’ll show you wonders you could never imagine.”
Cassandra panted heavily, her heart raced as she willed herself to stay, but fear creeping into her being. This vampire had just told her that her superiors had ordered her dead. At least one, with his jealousy, wanted to be rid of her. “I trust in the Shining Lady. I shall see you destroyed.”
Again, the vampire chuckled. “I can hear the fear in your voice. I can hear your heart race.” With each word he took a step closer to her until her was only a foot away, his gaze mesmerizing her. “And I will take that which I want.” He closed the gap and opened his mouth to feed, his fangs dripping with excitement.
But he did not anticipate the paladin’s next move.
As he began to drink from her, she found her strength and drove her holy blade through his chest. As he drained her completely of her life blood, the blade destroyed him, as it’s very pure essence ate away at his form. The damage had been done. Cassandra lay dead at his feet. Soon, he would be nothing more than ash.
On board a train bound for St. Paul, Minnesota, October 1863
“The next morning,” Ya’Row said in a whisper. “I sought out the gates that lead to this world. I renounced my faith, having felt betrayed by the order.”
“But… ye kept the pin given ta all in the order,” Pania forced herself to say.
“Oh yes,” Ya’Row agreed, suddenly behind Pania, as a cold hand wrapped around her waist. “I did indeed keep it as a memento of that which had been the true deceiver. Now, little elf. Are you ready to taste that which was given to me.”