The Story Of A Vigil
At night she had begun to slip over the wall and creep down into the
camps. It hadn't taken long for her to discover that some industrious
inn keeper had created a route from an upstairs window in his
establishment to the roof of the neighbouring house and then to the
battlements that anyone could make use of for a price. The route
suited her needs perfectly. It was well hidden from sight and kept
secret at all costs from the patrolling soldiers and the town
authorities. In fact the only people who did know of it were the
thieves and whores who would climb down every night to ply their
trades in the army camps.
As the whores tended to attract too much attention Ana had purchased
some boy's clothing and styled herself as a thief. After dinner was
finished and she could safely retire to her room without drawing any
suspicions in the minds of her mother and father then the girl would
feign tiredness. Up in her bedroom Ana would change into her
nightdress with the aid of her maid then into her newly acquired
clothing once the other woman had gone. Black curls were tucked up
under a cap to hide them and she wrapped bandages tightly about her
chest to mask ample cleavage. The britches were disturbingly close to
her skin while soft leather boots enclosed her lower legs and a
scratchy yellowed shirt billowed about her slender arms. Over the top
of it all she slipped on a dark blue dress coat. To complete the
outfit a fine rapier with a special wooden inlay was strapped to her
waist on a belt and a stake tucked into the waist band at her back.
The finished look she received on glancing in the ancient polished
mirror she owned always rather pleased Ana. While she no longer looked
exactly like a young woman there was still something decidedly
feminine about her appearance that appealed to the sense of pride she
always felt in her features.
Like she always did, even before the present circumstances, Ana
boosted herself up to perch in the window sill of her bedroom. Easing
herself to her feet and supporting herself by gripping the wall Ana
reached across to the branch of the old cedar tree growing nearest the
house. From there it was simple to swing across to the tree and
position her feet on a lower branch then leapt to the perimeter wall
of her parent's property.
The streets of the town were deserted as Ana jogged silently through
them, keeping close to the houses and avoiding the patches of light
coming from them. There was the light gentle smell of jasmine dancing
through the warm air and in the distance the girl could hear the
sounds of harp music and sweet tingling laughter. As she passed the
church the midnight bell sounded in time to the chatting of the
priests within and Ana was once again reminded of why exactly it was
she continued in her work.
There were two soldiers sat outside the inn as she rounded the corner
and slowed her pace to stride up to the front door. Ana took a deep
breath and straightened her back while keeping her face dipped and
hoping that they wouldn't be able to see her features. The inn door
stood open letting golden light flood out into the street and over the
cobbles and she easily sidestepped the two men who attempted to stop
her from entering and engage in conversation. Inside she was met by
the smell of tobacco smoke and roasting meat mixed with that of the
poor vinegar wine that they'd been reduced to selling. It wafted
through the air to her, drenching her clothes and turning her stomach
It only took a matter of seconds to catch the eye of the man behind
the bar. He recognised her instantly though his expression was one of
surprise. "I thought you weren't going to be back for another two
nights," he said as she approached the bar and leaned against it.
"My plans changed," Ana said looking up at him. There was something
about this man, about the way he talked to her, that made her almost
certain that he knew she wasn't what she was pretending to be.
Gathering her courage the girl looked him in the eye. "Can I come
through or not?"
He nodded, perhaps somewhat reluctantly and waved at the serving girl
who had been circling the room to come and look after the bar.
Ana dipped underneath the divide and followed him through a door that
led to a set of stairs. "I have the feeling that you're going to end
up getting me in one type of trouble or another," he said starting up
them. Ana said nothing in reply and he glanced over his shoulder at
her. "Don't bring trouble here. Remember I'm doing you a great favour."
They'd reached the top and now stood on the landing Ana reached into
her coat pocket and brought out a coin that she handed over to him.
"Will that be enough for tonight?"
"This is only half," he told her holding it up and looking at her
"I won't be coming back."
His eyes widened in surprise then narrowed again in suspicion. "What
are you going to do?" he asked and for just the briefest second Ana
thought she heard concern in his voice.
As confidently as she could Ana replied, "I'm getting out while I can."
"It isn't that bad. The Captain says that we'll have forced them back
a little way by the time the week's out and that reinforcements are on
the way." Ana shook her head and moved to go out the window and make
her way to the roof but a hand on her shoulder stopped her. "I'm sure
they'll take you back," he said.
"What do you mean?"
He gave a short, brief smile. "You thought I wouldn't recognise you? I
don't know what you do all those nights you disappear over the wall
but I know it can't be good and if your family found out then..."
Ana placed a finger to his lips to silence him. "I do what I must and
after tonight it won't matter anymore. I cannot stay here any longer;
I must move on."
"But it can't be safe. Something might happen to you."
It was her turn to smile a little. "I have nothing to fear anymore."
Ana didn't wait for him to speak again but shrugged his hand off and
climbed out through the window and used the makeshift ladder there to
climb up to the roof. Out of curiosity she glanced down and saw that
he was already closing the shutters after her. From here it was easy
to simply walk across the roof tops and found her way onto the
battlements. As usual the soldier's posted there were otherwise
occupied and it was easy to find the boy who was in charge of the rope
ladder that people could use to climb up and down the wall.
Carlos smiled as he saw her approach and waved in a manner that was so
friendly that Ana almost regretted the decision that she had come to.
Over the past few weeks they had come to know each other quite well
and Ana had to admit that she liked the boy. He had been orphaned
early on in the war and had found his way to her town almost by
accident. The local thieves had taken him in and begun to teach him
their trade and from him Ana had learnt many things she needed to keep
up her disguise. Even he though did not know why she wished to know
They spoke briefly before he dropped the ladder over the edge so that
she could climb down. Having reached the ground she tugged four times
sharply on the rope and waited while Carlos had successfully pulled it
up. The ground beneath her feet was not like that in the town. There
was no one here to supply it with the water it so vitally needed to
grow the beautiful trees that people so carefully cultivated within
the town walls and in the daytime the sun scorched all life from its
surface leaving the earth dry and barren. Ana hated looking out at it
all during the light of day.
It seemed to her that the days always seemed longer now. Everyday she
would hide inside with her parents who insisted that she stay where
they could keep an eye on her and listen to the sound of canon and
gunshot outside. There was always a part of her that wished she were
out there helping. In her heart she knew she could make a difference
but every time the thought occurred to her she reminded herself of
Richard's stern face warning her against giving in too much, telling
her of the ancient code of her kind.
When he had turned up in the town two years ago everyone had thought
that he was a madman. They had joked about him just being another
eccentric English man, running away from whatever responsibilities
that he had in his home land. They had watched the cart after cart of
bags and boxes and crates roll into the town with amused expression on
their faces. Yet they had tolerated him because deep down they had
sensed that beneath his serious exterior he was fundamentally a good man.
Ana had known he was a good man. Oh, he had amused her at first too
and she had often laughed about him with her friends. They too had
found the 'strange young Englishman' handsome and mysterious and she
had hardly believed her luck when he had cornered her one evening at a
dance and started up a conversation with her. What he had told her had
hardly been what she expected, what she wanted to hear.
A slayer. She was a slayer. She was to be a mystical warrior who was
destined to fight the forces of evil and save all mankind and
eventually die for it because slayers didn't survive to grow old and
have families. And for a while she had thought he was mad. Ana had
left him standing outside in the garden and rushed back inside and
spent the rest of evening keeping very close to her mother fearing
hearing anymore of his words. But she hadn't said anything to anyone
about him thinking that maybe it was just a seduction that he used on
girls and that had made her feel foolish. She had been glad to know
that no one else ever found out about the meeting between them.
When she failed to hear of him making any similar attempts with other
girls Ana had begun to doubt her convictions. At sixteen she knew she
was pretty but she was also aware that she was not beautiful enough to
inspire such complete devotion in a man. It seemed he was always there
though. Often she became aware of being observed and turned to find
herself looking right into those pale blue eyes. In those foreign orbs
there was knowledge and understanding and to Ana's distress a powerful
It had taken her months to accept his words. The dreams weakened her
resolve never to speak to him of the subject again but what finally
convinced her that he was right, that there was something different
about her, was the day she had broken the lock on Maria's gate by
accident. With strength she had never realised she possessed she had
snapped the annoyingly stiff latch in half to everyone's surprise.
Word of the event must have reached Richard as the very next day he
had gone to her father and offered to teach her languages saying he
had been impressed with her apparent natural ability for them when
they had talked together. In his naivety her father had believed him.
So, much to her chagrin Richard had found a way to hold her as a
captive audience while he preached his words of monsters and destinies
without lessons of English, Latin, French and German. Her father had
never objected to the strange hours of the lessons and the daytrips
that Richard proposed into the countryside and the way he insisted on
no distractions or interruptions while he was teaching to the point
where he suggested all lessons occur at his own home. Still he father
had not objected. He liked the Englishman and trusted him and did not
believe under any circumstances he would behave inappropriately. For
once in her life Ana had wished that he wasn't quite so willing for
her to be more than his little girl.
She laughed at him; even when he talked of strange dreams and unusual
strength because she didn't want to believe him. When he mentioned
speed and agility, new honed senses then she would listen carefully
but show an air of amusement and pretend she didn't believe him.
Occasionally Richard would become frustrated and go off into a rant in
his native language, storming out of the room only to return a few
minutes later to find her sat in the exact same position as she had
left her in with a knowing smile on her lips. Then he would stare at
her for a moment and return to trying to teach her about some demon in
one of his books.
The weapons were the truly interesting part of the day. Richard would
present her with a stake or a knife or a crossbow and place it on the
table before her. To humour him Ana would inspect them then give them
back to him with very little interest apparent in her features and
return to reading whatever book she had been provided with.
"Why won't you at least try?" he surprised her one day by asking. In
uncharacteristic desperation Richard had moved to kneel by her chair,
taking her hands in his and resting them on her lap. "Just once.
You'll understand then."
Ana had sighed, keeping her gaze on his face and trying to ignore the
wealth of emotions his presence always brought over her. Biting her
lower lip lightly she had gently tugged one hand free of his grasp and
cupped the side of his face. His eyes had widened ever so slightly at
her gesture and in them Ana could see an odd softening. Gathering her
courage she had leaned forwards, and brushed her lips against his.
Richard had shot to his feet, nearly displacing her from her seat. His
skin changed from bright red to deathly pale in the space of a few
seconds and she was sure he was going to pass out. Standing she had
taken a step towards the flustered young man to steady him only to
find herself waved away. He struggled with his words for what seemed
like an eternity and Ana had felt her face begin to burn in
embarrassment wondering what had ever possessed her to do anything so
forward. Tears had risen in her eyes and she made to leave only to
find that Richard had stepped into her path.
"Ana," he said. "It isn't allowed. I wish to God it was but the
Council has rules against that sort of thing. I'm your watcher; I can
not be anything else in their eyes."
Shaking her head in disbelief she had heard herself say, "You would
let some council..." Her words trailed off.
Richard stepped closer to her but seemed to have to convince himself
of something to do so. Late afternoon sunlight caught his features
through the open window and she drew in a sharp breath at the sight of
him stood there. "It's not that I don't want to. I... For the good of us
all you must have no distractions from your work."
"I am not a slayer!" she had exclaimed loudly, glad that they were at
his house and not at home. "I do not want to be. You can't make me."
"No I can't. If I had a choice then I would let the responsibility
fall on some other girl who I would never even have to look at because
I could spend the rest of my life here with you. If I had the choice
then I would march straight to your father and tell him I love you but
I can't. There is no choice for me as there is no choice for you."
With wide eyes she had stared at him in shock at the effect his words
had over her. When he made no immediate reply he had run a hand back
through dark hair and turned away from her. "You should go now.
There's nothing more we can do today." Ana had opened her mouth but
changed her mind and hurried from the building.
The next day when she had returned for her lesson the only person in
the building had been Richard's housekeeper. From the woman she
discovered that he had been called away to England and that he had
left a letter. It had been brief and to the point and giving her
instructions of books she could borrow and telling her that he thought
it wise they spent some time apart.
Sinking into a chair Ana had felt her heart break a little. On a spur
of the moment decision she collected the books he had recommended and
several others that covered topics including fighting techniques and
demon lore. By the time he had returned Ana had already been venturing
out into the town cemeteries to seek out vampires on her own. She
could still remember the startled expression when he had wandered into
one of the cemeteries on the night of his return to the town and found
her grappling with a fledgling. At first Ana had not noticed him and
it was only when the vampire's dust had been settling to the ground
that she turned and saw him stood by a grave.
Crying his name Ana had launched herself at him, wrapping her arms
about his middle. After a moment or two, she had never remembered how
long as time had seemed of little consequence, Richard had put his
arms around her shoulders and held her close. Looking up at him she
had said, very earnestly, "Promise me you'll never leave again. I'll
do whatever you say but promise me you'll never leave."
"I... I promise," he said and Ana had smiled brilliantly at him. "You
silly girl," he added, gently scolding her. "You could have got hurt
or killed. You need to work on you reflexes. You..." For a second he
seemed to fade away as she looked at him with expectant eyes. There
was a hesitation then he placed a kiss on her lips and buried his face
in her hair.
It had become her habit to start at the hospital tents. Even to human
sense lesser even than her own, the stink of blood and disease was
evident with Death waiting in the wings. Ana reasoned that the
combined smells would prove tempting to the vampires and had
unfortunately found herself proven right. Within the camp they could
move unnoticed, many having stolen uniforms from their victims, and
pick and choose who to kill. Among the sick and dying mysterious
wounds such as bites marks were hardly noticed as the camp doctor
frantically tried to get his patients back on their feet to fight
again. Besides, history had long taught that people ignored the truth
of what they saw in such cases and would prefer other explanations.
She slipped silently around the tent flap and let it fall back into
place with no whisper. Oil lamps glowed at both ends of the long tent
lighting the sleeping faces of the doctor and the men lying on
makeshift beds. At the far side from where she stood a vampire looked
up from where it had been feasting, blood painting its chin and facial
ridges marred its features. A snarl revealed pointed fangs. Her
clothing was a red dress, stained and torn and clear evidence of the
fact she much have been living as a revenant. Yellow eyes glanced at
Ana and the creature leapt, landing in the aisle just before the young
It did not take her too long to dispose of the opponent who seemed to
have only been recently turned. Inexperience filled every movement as
Ana easily out-manoeuvred her and plunged the stake she was holding
home. She was left standing in the silence amazed that no one else in
the tent had noticed the disturbance.
Exiting quickly before someone did notice her presence Ana made a
brief survey of the perimeter of the tent checking for any rips in the
canvas that someone or something might enter through unnoticed. In the
pale moonlight Ana found one more of the demons creeping around the
area and disposed of him then moved on to the other areas of the camp.
The night stirred on and Ana refused to tire. The vampires she
confronted were predominantly fledglings, converted to creatures of
darkness in only the past few weeks. While the funeral pyres of the
camp were helpful in decreasing the numbers that survived to their
second night Ana had been disappointed by how few had been dismissed
by the flames. They spent their days hiding in the old cemeteries and
vaults of the surrounding villages or in the cellar of burnt out
houses and even sometimes just digging themselves shallow havens under
the earth. Ana could no longer count the number of the beasts she had
One though had evaded her. Every night she scoured the camp and the
countryside desperately searching and yet never wanting to find the
creature because she knew if she did then her heart might burst. Then
Richard's words would echo in her mind and she knew beyond everything
else, in spite of everything else that she should and must do her duty.
"We weren't made to live in the real world," he told her one evening.
They were laid in his bed having just spent a delicious couple of
hours together with the pale moonlight shinning in through the open
window. Though she had been resisting the urge to move knowing that to
do so would bring her one step closer to leaving for the night Ana
shifted against his naked frame and looked up into soft blue eyes.
They had a slightly clouded appearance about them giving him the air
of a man who had been dreaming.
"What do you mean, my love?"
The look he gave her was indulgent. A hand danced across her stomach
and the man wrapped his arm about her waist and pulled her towards him
in order to kiss her. When they parted he said, "Surely you have
realised by now considering all that you know." At her blank
expression he added, "We live in a world that people only dream of. We
live in a world that should only exist in dreams and we must work to
keep it that way. By being in this time, by being placed in these
circumstances we place ourselves in a position of responsibility; one
in which we should look after all that is around us at whatever the cost."
A tremor had grown in her slowly as a sense of impending darkness
stole quickly in Ana's heart and she fought to keep it away. "You are
thinking too much again," she told him almost playfully.
With not the slightest bit of humour in his voice her lover had
replied, "It is my place to do so."
Ana could remember sliding away from him slightly, running for the
seriousness of the sound of his voice and the look in his eyes. Almost
angrily she had said to him, "Some prices are too much."
He had nodded in agreement. "But that does not change the fact that
they must be paid."
The camp was aglow with orange and yellow light from the flames of the
many fire making domes of warmth and protection. As Ana moved with a
predator's grace around their edges she marvelled at the men who
lolled about, talking quietly amongst themselves with little knowledge
of the creatures that moved between their numbers. Occasionally she
caught sight of one or two of them wandering away from the safety of
their companions and followed to ensure that they would remain safe as
her prey invariably made those she guarded the subjects of their hunt.
The chatter eased her, reminded her that these were men and despite
what they were doing to her home town they were still God's creatures
and deserved her protection. They were not the demons that her fellow
town's folk claimed they were, nor were they driven with lusts for
conquests and death but simply men like so many she knew who only
wanted adventure or to live with their profession.
Yet she still found herself distanced, aware that she might be taken
for the enemy if caught within their ranks and so she kept to the
shadows that she fought to drive away from them. Ana backed away
slowly from their haven to continue her vigil in the darkness only to
find her eyes captured by the all too familiar figure of a man stood a
few paces behind her.
He was leaned casually against the large wheel of a wagon and even at
this distance Ana found it difficult to make out the shapes of his
face. From his stance she determined that he had been stood in the
same position for some time, that he had probably been watching her
all the while that she watched the men around the camp fire and the
discovery unnerved the girl somewhat. She had expected to be attacked.
She had expected to be taunted to both truths and lies but she had
never expected to be merely watched. A sensation began to well in her
heart that maybe she had been wrong about the man standing there so
very still, maybe he wasn't one of them, maybe he was still human but
almost immediately there was an answering pain in her gut that warned
her that he was anything but human. It rippled through her as energy
coursed to every inch of her being and yet Ana still felt the numbness
of tiredness seeping into her body.
She stepped forwards, very much aware of the fact the he dwarfed her
and that she suddenly felt uncomfortable in her previously proudly
worn disguise. She felt clumsy, like a child who had just realised
that they had gotten themselves into a situation that they could not
control. It felt like the time she had been caught taking a candle
from the vestry in the local church because she had thought that no
one would notice and she needed something with a little extra light to
help her with a plan to destroy a creature of the night. It felt like
every single one of her peers was suddenly stood before her, each with
stern faces, ready to judge her.
"I noticed," he replied and there was a degree of smugness to his
voice that was alien. He cocked his head to one side and after a
moment longer of studying her said, "You've been searching for a
'cure' haven't you?"
She nodded briefly.
"I could have told you that you would not find anything."
"There has to be something," she objected. "There has to be some way to..."
"To bring me back?" Ana lowered her eyes slightly not wanting to see
the amusement that danced across his features as a low chuckle rumbled
from deep inside of him. "You always were an optimist Ana, my love."
He stepped out of the shadow and more into the dim light from the fire
behind her. For the first time she glimpsed the clothes he wore were
different from the ones she had last seen him in and wondered who he
had been forced to kill to claim them. The cut was not him; it was
much too modern and far too native in comparison to those he had
always worn while he had been alive. It made him look strange in her
eyes and Ana could not get over the fact that this was her Richard
stood before her.
He was stood close to her now, too close in fact and she knew that she
should take a step away before he tried to attack but her feet seemed
to be stuck somehow to the floor and she could only try to calm
herself and measure her breath as he began to circle her. "Tell me,"
he said, pausing on his circuit to stand behind her and lean in close
to her ear. "Have you missed me?" A hand wandered around her waist and
rested on her stomach. Ana found herself being pulled back against a
hard body, unable to do anything in defence as the softness of his
words washed over her. "Have you missed sitting outside on warm nights
talking with me? Have you missed laughing with me and dancing? Have
you missed those hurried little kisses and the way in which I used to
find every opportunity to touch you? Have you missed lying with me in
bed? Eh, my sweet? I can't hear you."
He had been making small circle patterns on the flat of her stomach as
he talked that were too familiar to be comforting. The words stuck in
her throat and Ana had to swallow twice before they would come out.
"You... you're not him."
That low chuckle erupted against from his chest and Ana could feel it
rumbling against her back. "I'm as close to him as will ever exist
again. Don't you want to find out how close, Ana?" His lips were
suddenly on her neck and Ana fought for control over her mixed
emotions, one telling her to lean into him and the other telling her
to flinch away. She kept very still and he brought his hand up to lie
over her heart. "You can tell me whatever you wish to but this, this
does not lie."
In the silence of her mind Ana cursed her heart for betraying her in
more ways than one. Taking a deep breath she broke his hold on her and
stepped away, turning to face him as she did. "I will save you," she
told him in as confident a voice as she could manage.
The small smile returned to his lips giving him a kind of devilish
quality, even more daunting than the sight of the demon inside of him
rising to the surface would have been. "And if I don't want to be saved?"
"That doesn't matter anymore."
He stared at her and ever so slowly realisation seemed to dawn on the
vampire. The creature who had been Richard widened his eyes and the
smirk disappeared. "You won't do it. You'll fail. You don't have it in
"Then I will find it in you; in your memory."
She tried to pretend it was practice as she drew her sword and swiped
it through the air. Richard suddenly smiled at her, baring the white
of elongated fangs and from nowhere drew a soldier's sabre. He moved
quicker that anything she had ever seen in her life. Never before had
she encountered a vampire that was so knowledgeable in the arts of
fighting as this one who stood before her now. It seemed that they
fought for hours, stumbling over each other in the dark and moving
throughout the length of the camp using cat and mouse games to try and
defeat each other. There was an apparently inexhaustible lines of
punches flying back and forth in amongst the frequent attacks with
their blades and eventually Ana felt herself beginning to tire. She
flagged, becoming clumsier and clumsier in her movements until
eventually see fell and she felt the tip of Richard's piece the flesh
between her ribs and then withdraw. Blood welled in the wound and Ana
gasped, crying out in pain as she was suddenly disarmed and he stood
above her with a grim smile on his lips.
Crimson light crept over the distant horizon and slowly drenched the
surrounding countryside as the soldiers began to rise. They crawled
from their beds and sought among the camp for those of them who had
fallen during the night either to the mysterious assassins that took
their chance to creep around the camp or the equally strange disease
that seemed to be sweeping through their number.
To their surprise they found the body of a young boy who on closer
inspection was discovered possess a wealth of dark hair tucked under
his cap and hence be discovered to be a girl. They wondered about the
body, whose throat had been torn out, most probably by the numerous
scavengers that had made the camp their own feeding ground. The body
was taken with those others to the grounds where the dead went
disposed of. Not one saw it twitch as the flame first brushed its