Amber sighed as she picked up a stone and threw it across the wasteland. The guns and cannons on the tower swivelled round immediately and shot it into pieces. The tiny pieces fell onto the dry land, smouldering and letting off tiny wisps of smoke. Amber sighed in frustration. It had been two days since they arrived in Magia Town and nothing interesting had really happened. Xeann was in a coma, it was necessary for Madison’s magic to work on her leg while she was unconscious. Sarah needed to stay put and not break anything else in the town or in her body and Sheela needed a lie down too from fighting the illusions in Magia Forest. Saphira, all in all, was fine, apart from the fact that one of her canines was missing from her fight with Cody. The people here didn’t have the resources to make an artificial replacement though, so she was going to adjust having only three canine teeth. Madison did offer to grow it back but Saphira wasn’t entirely confident about having a new tooth grown, especially now when the Nightmare Blanket loved messing spells up. After all, Saphira could end up having teeth grow out of control in her mouth and that would be a bigger problem than having lost a tooth.
Amber sighed tiredly as she idly turned round and lazily walked back into the abandoned Magia Town with sagged shoulders. She wandered down the dusty streets in one of Sheela’s smaller summer dresses that was given to her to cover her small body over her semi-clean bandages. It felt weird for Amber to wear a dress. She had stopped wearing them since she was ten years old because that was when her assassin training started. Her father commented on the fact that dresses were only useful for an assassin if they were in disguise or working undercover. Brushing some dust off the light turquoise silk material, Amber looked up and stared at the mountain forlornly which separated her from her tiny little home village in the dry desert. Sighing, she hunched her shoulders moodily and wandered by some old unstable wooden market stalls. Licking her dry lips, Amber didn’t really pay attention to where she was going until she crashed into someone. They both fell onto the dusty dirt path, saying their apologies at the same time. Amber opened her eyes and they widened when she saw a young girl with shoulder length pale lilac hair and blood red eyes.
‘Your name is Vienna, isn’t it?’ she asked in recognition ‘Vienna…Murphy?’ Rule No.1 in assassin training: always know who your target is. That’s what Amber’s father kept on telling her, Amber could still hear that irritated tone of his, when she had difficulty finding the right target for her training one session. Amber definitely remembered Vienna clearly from her photo, there was no mistaking that this is Xeann’s runaway granddaughter. Vienna gasped and stood up, her hood falling off her head, clarifying her identification.
‘How do you know that?’ she asked warily, stepping back and giving Amber a vigilant suspicious look.
‘Your grandma is looking for you,’ Amber said as she stood up and stretched her arms out ‘Come on and see her, she’s currently in a small coma in the medical centre while her leg’s healing up. She’s been so worried about you, I bet she would be glad to see that you’re alright.’ She then grabbed Vienna by the wrist and proceeded to take her over to the medical centre. Vienna stayed rooted to the spot determinedly, pulling away from Amber resolutely with a dirty glare directed at the older girl. Amber blinked, looked back and tried to tug her into the direction of the medical centre. Vienna glowered at Amber and snatched her hand back from Amber’s grip.
‘I don’t want to see her,’ she said to Amber’s confused frown and rubbed her wrist tenderly ‘I need to find my parents.’
‘We’re looking for them too,’ Amber reasoned ‘Come on, I’ll just introduce you to the girls who are going to help us take down the Queen’s tower. We don’t have to see Xeann right now, just a bit later when she’s better.’
‘I hate her!’ Amber froze and stared at Vienna’s livid eyes. ‘I really hate my stupid grandmother! She’s nothing but a senseless filthy good for nothing vampire and I will have absolutely nothing to do with her whatsoever! And she sleeps with strange people for money, I’m ashamed of being related to her!’ Amber blinked in confusion, staring at Vienna with a perplexed face.
‘I can understand why you dislike her job, but you’re a vampire too,’ she said pointing to her ‘I thought you were supposed to hate werewolves?’
‘I’m half werewolf, half vampire,’ Vienna sniffed snobbishly, folding her arms while sticking her nose up in the air ‘I refuse to have anything to do with my vampire side, it’s disgusting. You don’t know what it’s like to have to drink other people’s blood.’
‘But, you do feel vampire instincts like your grandmother?’ Amber raised an eyebrow ‘You do drink blood anyway and you do feel hatred towards wolves too?’
‘Yes, but that’s beside the point.’ Vienna glared at Amber fiercely. ‘My grandmother is bossy, the bossiest vampire that anyone could ever know. She keeps on lecturing me about so many pointless things. She makes me do work about how to be a vampire and tries to convince me to be in my vampire form more. And also, she discourages me from being in touch with my wolf form. But I love my werewolf form and I love being a wolf better than a vampire and she just won’t understand why I do! I hate her! She’s so insensitive, so boring, she won’t understand anything that I say to him and she doesn’t even like my dad! It’s just…unfair…’ She pouted childishly and folded her arms. ‘She wouldn’t even go to leave and look for my parents when they disappeared.’ Amber blinked and bit her lip, her grip firm on Vienna’s wrist.
‘Look, we all have a common goal,’ she said calmly to try and soothe Vienna’s anger ‘We all want to take down the Queen and find those who are dear to us or at least know what’s happened to them. Xeann’s really experienced and she’s looking for you and your parents now. She can get us into the tower once she’s all healed up, I’m sure she can. Just give her a chance and you just need to act a little bit civil towards her. You can’t find them on your own.’ Vienna bared her fangs before turning away with a grumpy sigh.
‘But what if she doesn’t want to be civil towards me at all?’ she asked bitterly ‘What if she just grabs me by the ear and drag me back home to lock me up until my parents’ dead bodies come back?’
‘She’s eighty or so, Vienna,’ Amber sighed and rolled her eyes ‘I think she’s old enough to act civil towards you and not take you back home to lock you up or whatever you think she’s going to do to you.’
‘But she hates my wolf blood!’ Vienna sniffed and rubbed her eyes.
‘She’s a full blood traditional vampire,’ Amber remembered what Damon had told her before ‘Of course she’ll have instincts to feel the rivalry between herself and your wolf side. But we have a wolf working with us too and they’re getting on civilly.’ Vienna gaped at Amber then gave her a suspicious look.
‘My grandmother doesn’t work with wolves,’ she said warily ‘She said so herself when Mommy and Daddy met.’
‘Well she accepted your dad to be with her daughter in the end, right?’ When Vienna hunched her shoulders to her ears, Amber sighed. ‘Look, you don’t even need to see her that much, you can just use her to your advantage…’
‘Why should I?’ Vienna snarled.
‘Because she has had eighty years of life experience on Ethylias!’ Amber snapped at her suddenly in a grumpy tone ‘She can get us across the wasteland and into the tower, I have faith in her to know that! My father has disappeared, my mother and younger brother have been taken away to be made into slaves and I can only rely on her to help me bring an end to this…this nightmare of a world! I trust her and if you want to find your parents, I think you need to start trusting her too.’ Vienna looked paler than she originally was then looked away.
‘Why is the wolf working with her?’ she asked curiously.
‘Her cousin got press-ganged into the Queen’s court,’ Amber sighed ‘She can’t stand to see him in pain so she’s having this sort of civil friendship with Xeann because she doesn’t know who else to work with. She’s tried time and again to get to the tower where the Queen is and has failed so she’s putting her trust with Xeann, regardless of the fact that she’s a vampire.’ Vienna hunched her shoulders and sighed.
‘But…will she actually let me go across the wasteland with her?’ she asked ‘She’s way overprotective and she is always against me…’
‘I’m sure I can help you two reach a negotiation,’ Amber promised sincerely with an encouraging smile ‘Xeann’s really nice when you get to know her personally. Perhaps that’s what you should do to get along with her. Getting to know someone can easily change your mind about them. Although Xeann is a bit snappy when she’s hungry for blood…’ Vienna smiled softly.
‘Yeah, I know,’ she murmured shyly.
‘Well come on,’ Amber tugged Vienna over to the medical centre. Vienna followed reluctantly and moved her hand to hold Amber’s so she could squeeze it as eyes from the injured wandered over to her. Amber squeezed it back comfortingly and stopped in front of Madison who was writing in a medical log book by the reception desk. ‘Hey there, Madison, how’s Xeann at the moment?’ Madison tilted her head and smiled softly.
‘She’s finally starting to wake up,’ she informed them then whispered quietly ‘Listen, her hearing will be a bit sensitive for an hour or so when she wakes up so promise to be very, very, very quiet for me when you go and see her, OK?’
Amber nodded with a grateful smile before pulling Vienna down the corridor to Xeann’s room. She quietly opened the door and let Vienna go in first to stand next to Xeann as she slept on her bed. Xeann’s leg looked less mangled than before and there were one or two spots where the Croft’s Raven’s talons had dug into her leg before having the boulder squash her leg. It would take about another day, if the Nightmare Blanket allowed it, for her leg to fully heal and recover. Vienna’s mouth twitched uneasily as she watched Xeann stir in her sleep and took her forest green cloak off to hang it on a chair before sitting in it. Amber noted the rather expensive looking leather bodice and light leather trousers that she wore, torn and worn out. But the style of the clothes matched Xeann’s which had Amber wondering if it was a vampire thing or if Vienna just stole some of Xeann’s smaller clothes before she ran away. Her boots were quite similar too, except they weren’t high heels.
‘What the hell happened to her?’ Vienna whispered, tilting her head to the side curiously ‘It’s extremely rare for her to be this badly injured. Even vampire hunters can’t do this much damage to her.’ Amber raised an eyebrow.
‘You’ve never seen her injured before?’ she asked.
‘Nope, I’ve only seen her in this much pain whilst she was suffering silver poisoning,’ Vienna murmured and looked away guiltily ‘She got it because of me.’ Amber blinked curiously and Vienna sighed softly. ‘I was being hunted by a vampire hunter and grandma took the shot when I found myself in a vulnerable position.’
‘Do you feel guilty about it?’ Amber asked.
‘Yeah, my mum made me feel a little guilty about it because she loves Nan so much and gave me a lecture about being more careful and even gave me a curfew until the vampire hunter was finally eliminated, the bastard.’ Vienna hunched her shoulders regretfully and brought her knees to her chest, hugging them while staring at Xeann blankly. ‘Look, don’t tell her this, but I was hoping for her to stay alive because…well, it was just instincts as a vampire granddaughter to a vampire grandma really because of that stupid stuff about respect to your elders.’ She failed to see the small knowing smirk that spread across Xeann’s ethereal features as she spoke. Amber caught the smirk and smiled softly to hide her own smirk.
‘Well, she got injured because she got caught by a Croft’s Raven,’ Amber changed the subject smoothly ‘She told us that it grabbed her by the leg then trapped her with a boulder, assuming she was dead once the boulder impacted her on her leg. She managed to roll away to avoid certain death.’
‘Oh,’ Vienna murmured quietly ‘Not as bad as I thought then.’ She noticed the eyebrow twitch on Xeann’s face and growled. ‘You can wake up properly now.’ Xeann turned her head to Vienna’s direction and opened her eyes.
‘What brought you here?’ she asked. Vienna jerked her head in Amber’s direction.
‘Your little spy that you sent to find me,’ she snarled in contempt. Amber blinked in surprise at the sudden change of character and narrowed her eyes.
‘I’m a trainee assassin, not a spy,’ she corrected and flounced out of the room ‘Enjoy the reunion. I’m sure you’ll want some privacy.’ She closed the door carefully and Xeann sighed.
‘Right, young lady,’ she said while giving Vienna a stern scolding look ‘We need to talk about you running away to find your lost parents when the world’s just been turned upside down.’ Vienna muffled a tired moan into her arms. Xeann’s eyes softened as she beckoned her granddaughter over. Vienna glowered at her.
‘This is as close as I’m going to get to you,’ she snarled determinedly. Xeann raised an eyebrow.
‘Am I too old for a hug from my only granddaughter?’ she commented with a playful pout and beckoned Vienna again ‘Come on, Vienna, sweetie. I’ve been worried about you, you little terror. The least you can do is give your aging grandmother a hug.’ Vienna snarled and turned away.
‘You are most definitely not aging,’ she muttered ‘And I am no terror nor am I a sweetie.’ Xeann laughed lightly and tutted, wagging her finger at her.
‘I can recount all the times you’ve been a little terror, young lady,’ she smirked and slowly sat up and leaned on the wall behind her ‘You were like your father when you were little, refusing to walk in your vampire form.’ Vienna blushed and glared at her.
‘Quiet, someone could hear you,’ she hissed and scooted her chair forward reluctantly. Xeann chuckled and wrapped her arms around her granddaughter, squeezing her tightly.
‘You know, you could have asked if you wanted to look for your parents,’ she said, combing Vienna’s hair with her fingers softly. Vienna glared up at her, her head resting on Xeann’s shoulder.
‘You would have said no and would have not let me go,’ she scowled distastefully at her ‘I don’t think I had much of a choice but to run away to look for my parents.’ Xeann cocked an eyebrow and flicked her nose.
‘Let me correct you,’ she said as Vienna yelped and tried to pull away ‘I wouldn’t have let you go alone. I would have easily gone with you after making sure things were settled with Crystal and Cassandra. I appreciate the fact that you miss you parents, Vienna, so I would help you find them.’ Vienna glared at her and folded her arms.
‘I predicted that you would rather stay behind and look after Cassandra,’ she sighed and looked away ‘She is only a few months old after all.’ Xeann leaned back and sighed forlornly.
‘I wish she hadn’t been born in a world like this,’ she said placing a hand over her dead heart ‘I miss my poor little Cassandra already. I don’t think she knows me well enough yet and I was still breastfeeding her…’ She hissed in pain as Vienna suddenly slapped her, her blood red eyes glowering at her in fury.
‘You idiot!’ she hissed angrily as Xeann scowled at her while rubbing her cheek soothingly ‘What kind of mother leaves her baby during the period when she’s still breastfeeding!’
‘Well what kind of granddaughter leaves her home without her grandmother’s permission and nearly gives half her aunts heart-attacks when they realise that she’s suddenly disappeared!’ Xeann snarled back ‘I’m not the only one that’s been worrying about you, Vienna!’ Vienna snarled and they began arguing viciously.