||[Mar. 24th, 2015|11:52 am]
(I recently rediscovered a bunch of stuff I'd written about six years ago. Here's the origin story for one of my Vampire Dark Ages characters. If you like this, check out Children of Elisabet for more.)
I was born on April 1, 1162 in the Transylvanian town of Kronstadt, deep in the Carpathian Mountains. The third of six children, I was put to work as a goose herd as soon as I could walk and wield a stick. Both of my parents were employed as servants at the Keep of the Teutonic Knights. At the age of seventeen, I married a wheelwright by the name of Nicolae. He was older than me by a decade or more, and he said he loved me. Although I didn't love him in return, he treated me well enough.
When the plague came to Kronstadt, Nicolae died first. It was a hard death. I threw myself upon him as he thrashed harder and harder on the bed, hoping to hold him still, to let peace come back to his body. He died spasming beneath me, his body wet with his sweat and my tears. My father succumbed the very next night. And to my horror, each of my brothers and all of their children died one at a time, their faces turning black and their bodies writhing in their death agonies. Why they died and I didn't, I'll never know, but I prayed to God each night to spare them and to take me instead.
My mother, Elisabet, had never been a kind woman, but the deaths of her family caused bitterness and spite to bloom where there should have been sadness and mourning. She blamed me for the deaths of my father and husband. She railed at me for my barren womb, for not getting with child before my husband passed on. She cursed God for sparing me when all of the men and children had been taken.
Elisabet was a difficult woman, but I never considered her a burden. All the love I had given to my family I directed at her. How could I do otherwise? She was all that I had left. Her bitterness grew from loss, and I was determined to make her remaining years comfortable and happy. If she was cruel to me, it was understandable. I was nothing but a reminder of what could have been.
Determined to provide for her, I began to spend more time at the Keep of the Teutonic Knights, partially to help my mother with her duties, but mostly in hopes of meeting a generous suitor. When I was nineteen years old, I entered into a courtship with Dumitru, one of the head servants in the kitchen. He was a lovely young man with thick, curling black hair, heavy-lidded eyes, a large moustache, and a smile that would sneak upon me unawares. Falling in love was an unexpected surprise. It was early spring. He promised to marry me after jumping the fire with me on Kupala's night.
For the first time I could remember, I was happy, but it was not to last. A few nights after Dumutru had asked me to marry him, I was awoken by the sounds of panicking geese. I rushed out to their pen to chase away whatever stalked them, but then I recall no more.
Some time is lost to me, forever. Memories which should exist are stricken from my mind. One evening in late summer, I awoke in a root cellar, encrusted in filth and buried beneath turnips and potatoes. My tattered clothes were a mass of soil, dried blood, and shit. It seemed I'd been sleeping in root cellars, manure piles, and privies for months. I knew I sheltered in these noisome dens for two main reasons: I must keep myself sheltered from the sun and I must keep myself away from the attention of other people--especially the Teutonic Knights. If people knew of my appetites and abilities, they would kill me.
Part of me was missing and something blasphemous had taken its place. I knew things no one should know. I no longer had any appetite for food or drink, but only craved blood. This I obtained by skulking around farms, drinking from cows, sheep, geese, and rats. I was very good at skulking. Too good. I could step into shadows and disappear completely from sight. I could also see things which no one should be able to see. When I concentrated, I could see halos around people: auras which let me determine a person's emotions.
Desperate and confused, I crept back to my old home. It was an abandoned shambles with no sign of my mother. Several years passed, and every night, I would sneak my way to my old home. No one ever moved into the cottage, and when people passed by, they did it in haste while warding against the evil eye. The cottage eventually caved in due to neglect. Elisabet never came back, and I had no idea what had befallen her.
Every now and then, I'd catch a glimpse of Dumutru on his way back from the Keep. I never dared say anything to him. When I realized I was looking at him as much out of hunger as I was of longing, I fled into the forest and wept. To my added horror, my tears were blood.
As I lie in the woods weeping, I heard a low whine. I looked up and saw an enormous wolf with boar-like tusks dip its head to me, then turn and lope away. A name was in my head: Marelle. To this day, I don't know why I knew about her, but I knew I could follow the wolf to speak with her.
For three nights, the wolf led me through the mountains. I took shelter from the sun in caves and took sustenance from the bats which infested them. Each evening when I awoke, the wolf would be waiting.
On the fourth night, I awoke surrounded by a pack of malformed wolves. Some were the size of horses. One was hairless and scaled like a serpent. The muzzles of some were long, hard, and hairless, like the beaks of carrion crows. One wolf appeared normal aside from having another head where its tail should have been. The wolves sat in a circle around me and stared, and those that could, panted and whined. My tusked guide sat among them. From deeper within the cave strode Marelle, the wolves parting to admit her into their circle. Their ugliness served as a contrast for her beauty. I had never seen anyone so lovely, and I threw myself down on the floor before her.
"How can I show my face to one as beautiful and well-born as you?" I asked.
"Rise," she said, and I trembled and lifted my face from the floor. I only brought myself up to my knees, and kept my eyes averted in deference. "Look at me, Margd."
Shy though I was, I tilted my head up and looked her in the eyes. She gazed upon me with a pleased expression, idly rubbing the head of the tusked wolf. Its tail thumped a steady rhythm on the floor.
"Why am I here?" I asked.
"You are my eyes and ears in Kronstadt," she said. "I expect you to tell me of anything unusual that should happen there. If there is any new activity in the Keep, you must tell me. And if any other vampires should appear, you must tell me."
"Of course, lady."
"And Is there anything you wish to tell me now?"
"No, my lady."
She smiled again. "Then you may leave."
I curtsied deeply, and the wolves parted behind me. I backed out of the cave, then turned toward Kronstadt.