Xeann’s chest heaved heavily as she managed to cross the desert, the moon disappearing as dawn claimed the sky. Sweat rolled down her pale face as she gently placed Amber down on the ground and sat down with a tired sigh. She yawned and rubbed her eyes while looking at Amber. She smiled softly and leaned over to check her pulse. There was still some life in the teenager yet and Xeann sighed in relief, her smile slowly coming back on her face.
‘Good girl, Amber,’ she murmured as she picked Amber up again, cradling her gently ‘Just a few more minutes, we can be able to get you some treatment when we get you to a doctor.’ She glanced up to Vigour Village and grimaced. ‘If we can find a doctor for you…’
Xeann would have never expected a village with such a high reputation in its health and veterinary care to be so rundown, in so much disrepair and soiled. The vampire stopped at the outskirts and examined her surroundings carefully. The once white and immaculate buildings were stained with dirt, mud and other unhygienic sediments. Filthy brown murky water trickled down the muddy barren streets and a rancid smell polluted the once clean air, making Xeann’s nose wrinkle in disgust. Xeann sighed softly to herself as she examined the extremely poorly maintained village with sad, blood red eyes. A tear of sympathy rolled down her cheek and she let it fall off her face and land on Amber’s shoulder. It was just horrible what the Nightmare Blanket did to people and their lives. Bring up disasters and create new nightmares for them to deal with. Without much of a warning too and no-one can get the life they deserved unless they chose to follow the Queen. Of course, hardly anyone liked the idea of being led by a mere sorceress.
‘What an awful way to fall,’ she murmured, wrapping her cloak around Amber more firmly when the young teenager shivered from the cold ‘Let’s hope there are some doctors here somewhere.’
Amber stirred slightly when she heard Xeann’s voice. Xeann smiled softly, happy to have one reaction from the unconscious teenager then looked at the village again. She hadn’t been here before, but Xeann knew that this village would have been bustling with healthy people and lots of healthy and relaxed laughing children, carefree and cheerful before the Nightmare Blanket came. Vigour Village’s reputation was that huge if it reached large cities like the one she lived in. Oh, how Xeann despised the cursed Nightmare Blanket which not only affected her, but all living things. These once white buildings would have been pristinely clean and people would come far and wide to get special treatment for any kind illness, either lethal or non-lethal. Not a speck of dirt or disease could stand a chance of survival in this shiny clean village, once upon a time. This village had once been named Vigour Village due to the wellbeing of its residents and its well-known reputation in healthcare. Now it was merely a failing little village in poor condition with little life since the Nightmare Blanket was created, released and sent to engulf the world, causing misery, anguish and despair everywhere. Neither healthy nor happy didn’t exist in this cruel, suffering and dark world anymore. Especially since the Nightmare Blanket brought back diseases that had been long wiped out and even created some new ones that were currently incurable. Because of the hostile conditions resources were hard to find and get, new antibiotics were difficult to discover and hospital machines started failing so research was near impossible.
Xeann tipped her head up and stared at the fake morning sky above her with a scornful glare, where the Nightmare Blanket swirled through the atmosphere; horrors and nightmares trailing in its wake. If she had her hands free, she would freely make rude gestures to it, even though it wouldn’t do anything much good. Letting off a bit of steam was good for your mental health apparently. It looked like just the normal morning sky from before the Queen’s invasion, coloured by the fake sunrise across the desert but Xeann knew that the Nightmare Blanket was up there somewhere because it was coloured navy blue and often, the illusion of the beautiful calm sky would flicker and the dark layer would reveal itself momentarily. It scared all her children when it did that, it made them feel like they were in some sort of…well, nightmare. A nightmare that you couldn’t escape from, no matter how hard you try to get away from it. You just want to wake up, but no matter what you do, you can’t. You can close your eyes and pretend that none of it is real but you can never escape from the reality before you. Dreams couldn’t exist in her younger children’s minds anymore; it was only pure darkness and the horrific nightmares that would greet them whenever they went to bed to sleep. Xeann had gotten used to it after a few days, but none of her children had. They begged to not go to sleep or be sent to bed but Xeann had to tell them that sleep was necessary for them to be healthy. The look on their faces broke her heart terribly. There had been several rumours of those who had died from the nightmares just because they were too horrible to even describe. Xeann didn’t want to leave her dear children so she could get Vienna but she loved Vienna and the children were in good hands with Crystal. It broke her heart when she saw her younger children watch her leave, fear on all of their faces, as if they were afraid that she would never come back. Xeann knew that there was one thing for sure, she was going to come back home no matter what obstacle obstructed her path.
Crystal was such a kind and pure soul, like an angel. A sweet loving angel that had descended from the heavens, as if she pitied humans and decided that they deserved her presence. Xeann hadn’t met anyone, apart from angels, with such virtue and kindness within her heart. Every one of Xeann’s children adored her since she was bought as a servant. She never complained, never protested and always volunteered to help for anything but Xeann only managed to break her barriers when she saw her crying and struggling with homesickness. She was worried about her children, worried about her husband and most of all; she was worried about what would happen in the future. Crystal was beautiful as well; it had been hard to get her from the auction that Xeann just happened to pass by. All the men had a look of foul hunger in their eyes when she was put on display and eagerly placed their bid for her. The price stung Xeann quite a lot but it didn’t matter, as long as one pure soul was under her wing. She always had been a very charitable woman that it was ridiculous despite the fact she wasted a fair bit of money on herself. People would normally think the opposite as they would be stereotypical because being in the Dark category automatically made people think badly of them.
Xeann gently cradled Amber into a different position so that her head was rested comfortably on her shoulder. She lay her own head on hers and sighed, rocking the young teenager from side to side. With a small smile, she closed her eyes and imagined that she was back at home, cradling one of her own children. She then stared ahead at the village and grimaced. She wasn’t sure if she should leave Amber in such a filthy village now that she was infected and she would be at greater risk of other diseases if she was left here. But Xeann knew she would face certain death if she continued travelling with her. Xeann sighed forlornly and shook her head. She didn’t really have much choice. Amber had to stay here or she would not survive. Xeann wouldn’t dare take a risk when it concerned a child. Having a child die in her arms would prove to be a very traumatizing experience that the vampire would prefer not to experience. Xeann nodded firmly at her decision and brushed the hair out of Amber’s face.
‘I’m so sorry, Amber,’ she sighed ‘But I’m afraid you can’t come any further with me. This is where your short journey ends, I’m afraid.’
Shifting the sleeping Amber carefully in her grip, Xeann began walking down the filthy abandoned streets in search for what was left of the health clinic, careful not to step in anything nasty. Amber’s breathing was barely noticeable and when Xeann pulled the bandages off to check her wounds, she was completely horrified at the infection that covered her entire body. This girl had been suffering from illnesses for too long and it pained Xeann to see such a young girl suffering from such diseases. Being a mother of fifty-two, Xeann had seen her children suffer from minor and major sickness. Not everyone, even angels and demons, was fully protected from illnesses and diseases. Xeann remembered when she got silver poisoning from being shot by a vampire hunter with silver bullets. She was sick for years and was unable to bear children for that time period. Silver poisoning was hard to live through because it would pollute a vampire or werewolf’s blood and then the heart. Heart failure would come after that then death. Xeann felt like one lucky woman when she managed to pull through. Her children were sick with worry because a lot of vampires and werewolves died from silver poisoning, she would have probably been no exception. Even Vienna was worried about her. Though she wouldn’t admit it, Xeann knew that she was worried about her. She had caught her when she had visited her once, asleep next to her.
Xeann gazed down at Amber sadly, who was still unconscious, although she seemed to still be in pain. Xeann gently massaged her furrowed brows, hoping that it would calm her down slightly. Amber moaned and kicked her leg out to show that she still had a bit of life in her yet. Xeann gently swabbed her sweating brow, wishing she had some ice to at least cool her down. Amber said she had a brother that she loved dearly and he was taken away from her along with her mother. A younger brother. Xeann couldn’t understand why this Queen would send her mindless soldiers across the world to do as they pleased and ruin other peoples’ lives. Xeann didn’t, couldn’t, understand why she wanted all of them to live in this terror, this horrible…nightmare where there’s no escape. It was simply unjust, everyone, including werewolves Xeann might grudgingly add with a scowl, had the right to be happy, healthy and live in comfortable conditions. To take away that right is just wrong and thoroughly unreasonable. Who exactly is this Queen and why did she think that she had the right to ruin everyone’s lives and happiness?
Xeann paused and closed her eyes softly, remembering that image of the young woman who was the root of everyone’s problems. She looked no younger than sixteen but the way she dressed and acted, she acted as if she was thirty. She had her long, dark green hair tied up in a high ponytail, without a single hair out of place, styled with several ringlets at the tips. Her fiery magenta eyes almost matched her blood red ones and her skin was as pale as the moonlight. She was a beautiful young-looking woman, garbed in beautiful, dark, regal sorceress dresses with black gothic chokers, diamond studded rings and painted nails. Xeann had to admit, she truly did look and act like a queen when she challenged all of those who could fight. Vienna’s father went to fight her but he never returned. Worried for him, Vienna’s mother went to look for him but she never returned either. Worried for the both of them, Vienna ran off to look for them and Xeann didn’t want to take any more chances so pursued her.
It was a tough decision for Xeann to make. Be a good mother or be a good grandmother, it was difficult for her to decide. She had made a promise to her daughter to look after Vienna until she got back. Now Vienna’s gone, Xeann had to go after her to make sure she’s alright. But she had a baby to take care of too. Cassandra didn’t have an easy birth because of the Nightmare Blanket but it was a miracle that she came out as a healthy baby. None of Xeann’s children had died yet and Xeann would never forgive herself if one of her children died in her arms. Xeann flinched at the thought of any of her children dying and shook her head quickly to get rid of the horrific vision.
Finally spotting a small white building with mud and a bit of old blood splattered on its walls and the health symbol slowly losing its green paint, Xeann shoved the old wooden door open, accidentally knocking it off its hinges and marched to the counter. The door landed on the floor with a loud clatter that echoed in the reception room. The reception room had grey peeling walls and there were several splatters of old and fairly fresh blood along them. Xeann wrinkled her nose as her vampire sense of scent smelt more blood that smelt older and staler further inside the building. Business hadn’t exactly been easy since the Nightmare Blanket came clearly. Well, this business wasn’t the only one that wasn’t running as smoothly. Of course resources were harder to grow and mine so everywhere went bankrupt quickly. Money meant nothing to anyone anymore. The ceiling’s panels looked as if they would fall off and land on Xeann as she walked across the room to the counter at any possible minute. A skinny middle-aged man cowered behind the dark, damp, dirty counter as she lay Amber on the wooden surface and looked at him. His beady eyes were now wide and fearful, his mouth hanging open slightly at the sight of her. Xeann then realised he wouldn’t speak first so she did.
‘She needs medical assistance,’ she said as she took back her cloak and ripped Amber’s bandages off to reveal the yellow pus-filled cuts that covered her lithe body ‘urgently.’ The man swallowed with a quiver and Xeann folded her arms impatiently. ‘I will pay any price you name,’ she promised and raised her voice slightly ‘just do something about her condition!’ She slammed her hands down harshly onto the counter and gave the man a powerful glare. The man squeaked and nodded, calling out in a wheezy and shaky voice.
‘M-Miranda! S-S-Someone needs to be treated for, uh urgently, for…’ He unsteadily placed a hand on Amber’s infection. ‘Z-Zennalpha plague!’
A young pale skinny woman skittered in and spotted Amber with a yelp. She then spotted Xeann and stepped back when she caught the impatient look within her blood red eyes. Her blue eyes widened in terror as she froze in position. Xeann cleared her throat harshly after about a minute which startled the nurse back into focusing her attention on Amber. She ran up to suffering teenager and pressed a hand firmly on her sweating forehead and gasped in horror.
‘Oh the poor thing!’ she cooed and picked her up to take her upstairs ‘We might have enough resources to make some mild medicine that can keep away the infection for as long as possible.’ Xeann warily watched the way Amber was picked up and taken out of her sight. Biting her lip, she frowned unsurely. She never trusted nurses, especially if they had extreme prejudices against vampires like her. Her hospital involvement with silver poisoning and nurses wasn’t the best of experiences for her.
Xeann took a small leather pouch off her belt and tipped it to reveal five large gold coins. She shook out her leather pouch more, nodding when she confirmed that it was empty with no other coins left to tip out to pay the man. Vampires and werewolves couldn’t touch silver coins because nature made them unable to touch silver and the only currency in the world was through gold, silver and bronze coins. Forty-seven bronze coins were worth a silver coin and seventy-nine silver coins were worth a gold coin. Vampires and werewolves had to be paid in either gold or bronze coins. If any silver touched a vampire or werewolf’s skin, they would suffer from the lethal condition of silver poisoning. Xeann dropped the five gold coins on the counter before pocketing the rest in her pouch and attaching it to her belt. The man stared in awe with a slack jaw as the gold coins reflected the dawn’s light into his face. Xeann cleared her throat harshly and he squeaked in fright, grabbing the coins hastily and opening a draw then dropping them in there. Xeann wondered what had scared this man so much. Did she really look that scary to him? Well, if it’s concerning a child then it was possible… Or maybe he was another one of those stereotypical people who judged her by the looks. Oh, Xeann was getting sick and tired of them.
‘We d-don’t have any ch-change…’ he stuttered and Xeann held up a hand for him to stop talking.
‘I’m not going to rob you or anything, I just need that girl to be cured and alive,’ she said calmly before turning on her heel briskly and walked to the doorway ‘I’m putting her in your care and I expect her to be unharmed when you discharge her back to her village, across the desert.’ She turned her head and gave a stern look to the pale man. ‘Spend that money wisely.’ The man nodded shakily and she narrowed her eyes. ‘Oh, and please sort out your prejudices. At a time like this, you can’t afford to be picky.’ The man squeaked and nodded again. She gave a firm nod before pulling her hood up, facing the mountain that loomed over the village and continuing her journey to the Queen’s tower. She had to get Vienna back home safely.
Xeann began ascending the rocky path up the mountains behind Vigour Village, unaffected by the fact her high heel boots weren’t made for this kind of travel. She didn’t even take a small slip or a stumble despite the steepness of the slopes. She loved her high heel boots, always have, always will. Even when people complained that she was tall enough without the heels, Xeann never left her home without them. Her husbands had managed to convince her that she had enough high heel boots at home so she had stopped buying them long ago. Apart from the odd one or two pairs that she simply fell in love with and had to purchase, Xeann hadn’t bought a pair of high heel boots for twenty years. Wearing high heel boots for sixty years gave Xeann the ability to walk absolutely everywhere in them.
Xeann stopped hiking in the middle of the mountain and swabbed her forehead with a gasp. She glared at the fake sun that was created by the Nightmare Blanket and took a swig of blood from one of the gourds on her belt. She wiped her mouth and stood in the shade for a while, regaining her strength. Without the Nightmare Blanket hindering her progress, Xeann was sure that she would have found Vienna by now. Full of dark sorcery and potent elemental power, the Nightmare Blanket only knew how to make everyone’s lives difficult and knew what everyone feared. Last month, Xeann’s son came crying to her when a fake body of his twin sister appeared on his bed. Xeann didn’t know what could have possibly left something like that there until her son described his nightmare to her. It suddenly clicked in when Xeann woke up from a nightmare of her own and one of her children’s heads, a fake one, was on her lap. Xeann wasn’t someone who would faint but that’s what she did when she saw the emotionless eyes on the head.
With another shake of the head to get rid of her memory, Xeann began ascending the mountain again. She wasn’t going to take Vienna straight home once she got her hands on her troublesome granddaughter. She was going to come with her to the Queen and defeat her with her own hands. Xeann didn’t care how young she looked or how powerful she may be, she was going to take down the Queen herself if she had to and make her suffer the nightmares that all of her children had to suffer for the past four months. Xeann would show no mercy to her. As a mother, a grandmother and a good friend to all, who would put aside their differences to accept her as a friend, Xeann would go forward and kill the Queen if she had to.
Xeann eventually reached the peak of the mountain after about half an hour and paused for a breather. A blinding flash went across her eyes and she rasped thirstily. She took out a flask from her belt and flipped it open. Blood flowed down her throat as she drank from it greedily to quench her burning thirst for blood, sighing as she finished. With a satisfied bloody smile, she wiped her lips to get rid of the remnants of blood around her mouth and began to descend down the other side of the mountain, determined to retrieve her granddaughter. She carefully treaded her way down the steep slope, minding to not slip down and slide down all the way to the bottom. She paused as she heard a loud shrill cry and widened her eyes when a shadow was cast over her then she began to run.