‘You haven’t been outside of your village before have you?’ Xeann asked curiously as she glanced down at Amber ‘You’ve never ever left the village before.’ Amber shook her head.
‘Unless you count a couple of miles into the desert for training then not really,’ she said with a shrug ‘I know a little about what’s outside from what my mum remembers because she came from outside the village. She tutored both me and Jasper. I personally never learnt much from her but Jasper seemed keen to learn about the outside world.’ Xeann smiled.
‘That’s nice of her,’ she commented ‘So she’s from outside the village?’
‘Yes so she began teaching us about different cultures that she knew about first before she forgot anything,’ Amber laughed, Xeann joining in with a discrete simper.
‘Tell me, Amber,’ Xeann said as they crossed through the desert underneath the moon ‘How much do you know about the Queen?’ She looked down at Amber who frowned, stared at the ground at shrugged.
‘That she’s probably got my father in custody and her soldiers really need to polish up their skills if they don’t want to be beaten by a mere teenager,’ she said with a wide smirk ‘Oh, and she sent the world into a nightmarish state, using the Nightmare Blanket which she claims to have made, and that has made survival impossible and that’s because the Nightmare Blanket made certain life forms feral or more feral than usual. It’s also made a lot of natural disasters occur, another factor that has made life hell. If there are any possible factors to why this place is Hell, I don’t know any more because I’m sure that I’ve experienced every factor that there is.’ Xeann raised an eyebrow as she looked up at the stars.
‘Have you ever seen the Queen?’ she asked ‘Were there any projections of her image within your village when she challenged people to come and fight her?’ Amber shook her head then looked up at Xeann.
‘Why, have you?’ she asked inquisitively ‘Were there any images of her in your hometown?’ Xeann scoffed and waved her hand dismissively as she looked at the village on the edge of the nearing horizon.
‘Her picture was plastered all over the place when the Nightmare Blanket engulfed the world,’ she said with a hateful scowl ‘That smug look when she announced her time of reign wanted to make me throw my blades into the holograms. She appeared quite randomly too, on screens of all kinds of technology, in holograms and even in my children’s soup which was fairly scary. But since then, I have never laid my eyes on her again. Her appearance was rather brief though, it’s a wonder how I can remember what she even looks like…’
‘What is the Queen like?’ Amber asked curiously ‘How old does she look? Is she very young or old? Is she really ugly or very beautiful? Did she appear in a sorceress style dress, plain clothes or in armour?’ Xeann tittered lightly as Amber asked and asked to her heart’s content. Amber paused her questions when Xeann placed a hand down on her head a little firmly and stared up at the vampire.
‘One question at a time,’ Xeann said calmly with a coy smile ‘Your first question, what was she like? She looked quite determined when she gave out that little speech so she must be quite dedicated to her cause. Your second question, how old does she look? She looked around about the age of sixteen or seventeen when I saw her, maybe older, but I’m not exactly sure how old she really is…’ Amber’s eyes widened at that answer.
‘But how could she…? No, if she’s sixteen then that’s impossible! No teenager can possibly be able to contain such dark magic in their body…’
Amber frowned in confusion, scratching her head thoughtfully and wondering how on this godforsaken planet a mere sixteen year old could have engulfed the entire world. By the looks of the dark sorcery that cursed this world with disaster, Amber was sure that the Queen would have at least been in her mid-thirties to have mastered such power as a sorceress. Perhaps even older, maybe in her elderly years. Amber was sure that there was a certain age where a sorcerer or a sorceress could take over the world and she was also sure that it wasn’t during the adolescent stage. Xeann chuckled and placed a hand on her shoulder.
‘Not everything is what it seems, dear,’ she said ‘Take a look at me, I look like I’m in my twenties but truth to be told, I’m eighty.’ She laughed louder as Amber spluttered and gaped at her with bulging eyes.
‘B-B-But how?!’ Amber exclaimed ‘You look way too young to be eighty!’ Xeann smiled with a laugh and ruffled her hair.
‘What do you know about how the creatures are categorized?’ she asked. Amber frowned and scratched her head.
‘I know that they’re split into eight main categories,’ she said as she used her fingers to count ‘Uh, the first one is the Light category where creatures such as faeries, sirens and unicorns are placed in because they work more efficiently at day and in the sun. They tend to sleep during night. Um…then their counterpart is the Dark category where creatures such as vampires, werewolves and spectres are placed because they work more efficiently at night and in the moonlight and they tend to sleep during the day…’ Amber gasped suddenly in realisation and looked up at Xeann while pointing at her. ‘You’re a Dark creature aren’t you?!’ Xeann smiled and nodded.
‘Very good recognition,’ she praised, making Amber beam in delight ‘How did you guess that I was in that category?’
‘Well, you’re walking faster now it’s night than when we were walking at sunset,’ Amber said as she glanced back to where her village was ‘Your hair is black which is a sign that you’re part of that category, your skin is very pale and your eyes are blood red which is a sign that you’re…a vampire?’ Xeann’s smile softened somewhat as she watched Amber examine her.
‘I know a lot of Dark creatures with light coloured hair,’ she said sternly with narrowed eyes ‘You mustn’t judge anyone from their hair, no matter their category. It’s known as a false friend in many cases.’
‘O-Oh,’ Amber bowed her head with her cheeks flushing in embarrassment ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.’
‘No harm done, don’t worry,’ Xeann waved off the apology dismissively with a forced smile ‘And yes, you’re correct. I am indeed a vampire.’ Amber looked up again and her eyes widened.
‘Wow…’ she mumbled ‘I’ve never met a vampire before. From my mother’s stories, she made out that vampires were dangerous, too dangerous to even befriend.’ Xeann laughed and shook her head.
‘This journey out of your village will do you some good then,’ she smiled warmly ‘Can you tell me the six other categories?’ Amber hummed wistfully as she stared up at the night sky.
‘There’s the category for Enhanced people like myself,’ she grinned jabbing a thumb into herself proudly and began doing a small strut across the desert with her chin up, earning a small giggle from Xeann ‘We live longer than normal humans and we’re faster, smarter and all our senses are more sensitive than normal humans. Well…most of us are smarter than humans. Our counterparts are the people who use Sorcery and alchemy…’ Amber glanced up at Xeann curiously, biting her lip. ‘That’s what the Queen is, isn’t she?’ Xeann nodded and she gazed up at the sky.
‘She’s too young to know the immortality spell,’ she said contemplatively ‘Unless she really is older than she looks and she took a youth potion or used a time reverse spell or something of the like.’
‘Hmm…’ Amber stared at the sand thoughtfully ‘There’s the Divine category and the Demonic category but I don’t know much about either of them. Apart from the fact that you should avoid demons at all costs and if you happen to come across one, never strike a deal with him.’ She shuddered inwardly.
‘Divine creatures are created in the heavens, they aren’t born normally like you and me,’ Xeann explained, not noticing Amber’s inward shudder ‘Demonic creatures are created in the fiery depths of Hell by Lucifer in a similar fashion. That is what makes them so rare and unique from us. Heaven and Hell are where they belong and everyone tends to stay in the place they were born, or at least visit it often, even if it’s Hell.’ Amber shuddered again at the mention of Hell. She certainly didn’t want to meet another Demonic creature. ‘You have two more categories to list.’
‘Oh! Um…’ Amber tapped her head ‘Normal and Abnormal. Normal creatures are those who survived the Time Age and maintained their original form while Abnormal creatures are those who survived but mutated because they weren’t ready for it.’ Xeann smiled and ruffled Amber’s hair softly.
‘Well done, it looks like your village isn’t as isolated as I thought,’ she said and giggled softly. Amber remained silent as she stared up at Xeann in wonder. She always thought Dark creatures were cold, cruel, mean and unfeeling. But this woman, Xeann, had given her cloak to her to stay warm for the night and she was so warm, so friendly and sounded more motherly than her own mother!
‘How many children do you have?’ Amber asked curiously ‘You must have a lot to be a good mother.’ Xeann sighed as she placed a hand on her head and thought for a while.
‘…I’ve had my fifty second child before the Nightmare Blanket came,’ she said after a while ‘Crystal’s looking after her. …Yes that’s right, I have fifty two children, twenty six girls and twenty six boys.’
‘Fifty-two children?!’ Amber exclaimed rather loudly and dropped her jaw in awe ‘You have fifty-two children?! How on Ethylias do you have fifty two children?!’ Xeann laughed as Amber continued spluttering and gaping.
‘Well, in my area I’m known as the Vampire Mother because of my fertility, my status and my reputation among the vampire society in the town,’ she shrugged dismissively ‘I’ve been having children since I was twenty. I was always eager to be a mother. My parents often encouraged it since I was your age and I eventually succumbed to their suggestions.’ Amber was very shocked but very interested. She had never dared to stray out of the village and she hardly knew anything about the outside world other than its geography and history. Looking at the mountains, she yearned to learn more and meet more people.
‘What was your town like before the Nightmare Blanket?’ she asked curiously.
‘Oh, bustling and louder than any normal town should be!’ Xeann laughed and threw her hands up ‘Eventide Town had two of the best nightclubs around, one was exclusive for vampires like me. A lot of vampires inhabited the town because of that and it was just simply the best place I could have ever wished for a home. I moved there after I left my parents’ home. But I still go back home to for a visit about once a week. Oh, I always met someone new and cute every day. Pity most of my men just came and went, the fathers that came to me for my services tended to be quite young and they left before I could tell them that I was pregnant with their child.’
‘Doesn’t that sadden you at all?’ Amber asked with a frown.
‘Tch, no, of course not,’ Xeann shook her head ‘It infuriates me that they didn’t take my status as the Vampire Mother seriously and just left like that. They could have at least stayed around until their child was born. It takes my children about two years to accept that their fathers just simply didn’t care. I only had two loyal fathers who help look after the children. Sadly, they went off to fight the Queen on the first day that the Nightmare Blanket was released and neither of them has come back.’ Amber blinked away the tears in her eyes and shook her head.
‘My village was lively too,’ she said wistfully ‘We had an oasis near the village to survive on but it dried out when the Nightmare Blanket engulfed the world. So many tourists came for a week’s holiday during the winter because that was when the desert was cool enough to sunbathe without getting sunburnt. There would be so many young children running up and down the streets with their best friends and toys, happy and laughing and smiling and so…energetic.’ Bowing her head sorrowfully, Amber sniffed softly, wiping her nose quickly and held back the coming tears. ‘They…aren’t like that anymore…’ Xeann cooed and placed a hand on her shoulder comfortingly.
‘Hey, I’m sure we’ll figure out how to get rid of this Queen and her horrendous Nightmare Blanket,’ she murmured soothingly, rubbing her shoulder to comfort her further ‘We’ll find your father and your brother too if we can.’ Amber looked up and hugged Xeann tightly, sniffing and rubbing her nose tenderly.
‘I really do hope so,’ she whimpered sadly as she tried to hold in her overflowing emotions as much as she could. Xeann patted her head softly and smiled.
‘Tell me about your father, Amber,’ she said, idly twirling the thin strands of blue and silver hair with her slender fingers ‘What was he like?’ Amber rubbed her eyes and sniffed.
‘Well…he likes drinking a lot,’ she mumbled which caused Xeann to cock an eyebrow in surprised shock ‘But he would only get really drunk in the evening and flirt with mother shamelessly. Jasper and I didn’t mind much, he wasn’t an abusive drunk.’
‘Hmm,’ Xeann hummed, a bit unsure ‘I never had any positive experiences with drunken fathers when I was your age.’ Amber smiled and shrugged.
‘Not many people do,’ she reasoned thoughtfully. Xeann chuckled and shook her head with a sigh.
‘How your mother could possibly cope with a man like him, I might possibly never know,’ she said with a small smile ‘Out of all the men I have met in my life, I could certainly not be able to tolerate a man like that. How on Ethylias did they meet?’ Amber bit her lip thoughtfully and winced.
‘Well…my father works as an assassin,’ she explained a bit sheepishly ‘And he got an assignment to kill mother.’ Xeann gasped in shock horror, staring down at her with wide eyes.
‘No!’ she gasped in disbelief ‘Why on Ethylias was someone like Crystal on a hit list for an assassin?’ Amber shrugged.
‘We’ll never know because father botched the mission and after getting to know mother, he fell in love,’ she explained ‘That’s why we live in the village, far away from easy contact to the outside world. As far as my father’s client is concerned, mother is dead and no longer around to annoy her.’ Xeann sighed and shook her head.
‘Honestly, the nerve,’ she murmured softly with a disappointed sigh and a disapproving shake of the head ‘Who in their right mind would want to kill a sweet loving angel like poor Crystal? Oh, the poor soul, it must have hurt her to find out that someone wanted her dead. Really, envy is such a vulgar sin, don’t ever fall into the temptation of wanting something that another person has, especially if it’s about looks.’ Pausing for a moment, she cupped her chin in thought with a contemplative frown. ‘You don’t know what Crystal’s life was like before she moved to the village?’ Amber shrugged.
‘She didn’t really want to talk about her past,’ she explained ‘Although I do remember that she came from a well off family and she was betrothed before Father whisked her off her feet…literally.’ Xeann laughed and sighed.
‘Oh, I can imagine some man with hidden knives up his shirt coming and sweeping Crystal away into the desert now,’ she giggled and shook her head ‘I assume that Crystal and her betrothed didn’t get on?’
‘Well she liked him as just a friend,’ Amber shrugged as she tried to remember her mother’s story ‘He was head over heels for her immediately after they first met. I guess mother wasn’t comfortable with the marriage so I think she was grateful when father came and took her away.’ Xeann hummed thoughtfully.
‘I suppose she was wanted dead if she was about to inherit something big,’ she murmured and sighed disappointedly ‘Humans these days. They are just too greedy for their own good…’ Amber shrugged.
‘What can you do? Humans are humans,’ she shook her head with a sigh. Xeann smirked and looked up at the stars.
‘Some humans aren’t so bad,’ she smiled wistfully ‘I had a lover that stayed with me for two years.’ Amber looked up curiously.
‘What happened?’ she asked. Xeann grinned.
‘I turned him into a vampire so he could be immortal and stay with me forever,’ she simpered, ignoring the wince from Amber ‘The thing with humans for vampires is that their lives are so short, they can easily just waste away in your hands. I didn’t want that to happen to him, he was just too useful to be wasted. And he also baked some top quality brownies, my children loved him.’ Amber frowned.
‘Well, if you say so,’ she shrugged nervously, inching away warily. Xeann tittered lightly and continued walking. Slowly, the edges of Amber’s vision began to turn black. She found that she couldn’t walk in a straight line anymore and felt really dizzy, awful and sick, like she was in a terrible nightmare that she couldn’t wake up from. Xeann stopped abruptly and grabbed her shoulder.
‘Amber, are you feeling OK there?’ she said as Amber swayed uneasily on the spot ‘Amber, are you alright, dear? Amber!’ Amber collapsed into her arms abruptly and Xeann sighed in exasperation. ‘No, no, Amber, no, stay awake for me please! Look, we’re nearly at Vigour Village, it’s not very far now!’ she said in a panicky way and began shaking her more urgently, bowing her head in despair when Amber didn’t respond ‘Come on, Amber, dear, wake up for me please! We’re almost there! Just open your eyes and look, we’re almost out of the desert! Damn it.’ She stood up with Amber in her arms and began to run for the village by the mountains. Amber didn’t stir and Xeann pressed her fingers to her neck to check for a pulse. There was a weak one and Xeann bit her lip nervously, worried that she might have rescued her a bit too late.
She gently placed a hand on the bandages and widened her eyes when she felt something that didn’t feel like normal cuts or bites. It felt bumpy and squishy and Xeann shuddered when she felt it beneath her fingertips.
‘Come on, Amber,’ she whispered to the teenager ‘Be strong, we’ll get you back up and healthy in no time. Just you wait and see, then perhaps you can see your family when you wake up. Please just bear with it, Amber.’ She continued to whisper and encourage Amber as she slept on in black unconsciousness. Xeann stared up at the moon pleadingly, tears appearing in her eyes. ‘Please, don’t hide your light that helps me travel,’ she whispered to it ‘I beg you, keep your light available for me to travel as quickly as possible for this little child.’ She hiccupped and buried her nose in Amber’s hair as she swiftly ran across the desert that was bathed in moonlight.