‘Now that’s a big crater,’ Sarah commented as the girls reached Relevein Town and looked up at the massive dark green wall that shadowed over the small village. Amber slipped off Xeann as she stared up at the large wall that was dotted with caves and caverns. It looked way too high for Amber’s comfort to scale up. Xeann sighed nostalgically while looking around thoughtfully. Most of the buildings had been boarded up and there didn’t seem to be any signs of anyone living in the town anymore. But Xeann could smell the different pulses of people living around here. She smiled warmly when they turned a corner to a different street.
‘That’s where my water broke when I was carrying your Aunt Garnet,’ she giggled while pointing to the corner of the street they were on ‘I was immediately rushed to the medical centre to give birth to her.’
‘Eww! Nan, I don’t need to know about you giving birth to my aunts and uncles!’ Vienna whined and plugged her ears.
‘I wonder if Xoraan still had his sweet shop before the Nightmare Blanket,’ Xeann hummed and began running down the street ‘He was your Uncle Christopher’s father, Vienna!’
‘I don’t care about how many men you’ve slept with either!’ Vienna snarled at her as Amber followed her curiously.
‘I want sweets!’ Sarah exclaimed and began running after Xeann.
‘I don’t think there are actually any sweets left, Sarah,’ Sheela mumbled as she and Saphira trailed after them ‘And if there were, I wouldn’t eat them.’ Xeann stopped at a quaint little shop where the sign was on the dusty floor. Vienna looked around while she bent down and dusted it clean.
‘Where is everyone?’ she asked ‘It’s like a ghost town.’
‘Oh they’re probably around,’ Xeann shrugged ‘Keep your guard up, we might get attacked by scavengers.’ Sheela peered over Xeann’s shoulder curiously as she dusted the sign down so the words were legible.
‘Xoraan’s Candy Corner,’ she read out loud and Sarah began kicking the boarded door down ‘Sarah!’
‘I want sweets!’ Xeann rolled her eyes and stood up.
‘Well, we might as well see if we can scavenge anything from this place,’ she said and helped Sarah take the boards down. Amber watched as they tore the boards away and entered the old sweet shop. She stepped in carefully and looked around at the dusty shelves and empty jars that littered the place. Sarah began looking through the jars to see if there were any sweets left while Xeann pried the till open.
‘What if your Xoraan is still here?’ Saphira asked as she began sniffing around with Vienna.
‘Well, he’s a werewolf so it’s likely,’ Xeann shrugged as she rummaged through the bronze coins, avoiding any contact with any silver coins that could be hiding amongst them ‘Unless he got himself killed in some petty battle like most werewolves… Then again he wasn’t one to pick a fight with anyone…’
‘Wait, Uncle Christopher is half werewolf?’ Vienna perked up at the mention of werewolf and Xeann simpered.
‘Now you’re interested,’ she smirked ‘Yes, Xoraan was a werewolf who happened to come across me when I was going into heat.’
‘We don’t want to know!’ Vienna and Saphira said together. Xeann giggled and shrugged.
‘Long story, short, we agreed to have a little get together every night until I left the school,’ she shrugged ‘It was rather exhilarating, my parents would have died in shock if they had still been alive.’
‘Wow, Nan, so you really don’t hate werewolves?’ Vienna raised a sceptical eyebrow.
‘Really? What was your first clue?’ Xeann raised an eyebrow in a similar fashion to her granddaughter.
‘Well you keep hissing at werewolves and you’re a full traditional vampire so of course I would assume you hate werewolves!’ Vienna snarled.
‘It’s called instincts, Vienna,’ Xeann rolled her eyes ‘Your mother has the same problem and so do your aunts and most of your uncles.’ Vienna whined and sat down with hunched shoulders.
‘May I ask about the age gap?’ Sheela asked while scooping some dust up with her finger.
‘Fifteen years,’ Xeann grimaced ‘To be fair I was twenty-three years old then so it was fine by me.’
‘But why didn’t you marry him?’ Vienna frowned and tilted her head ‘He sounds like a nice guy and you have that glint in your eye when you talk about him.’ Xeann blushed and giggled, fanning herself.
‘Well he sort of already had a fiancée,’ she said sheepishly.
‘What?!’ Sarah yelped as she dropped a jar and turned to Xeann ‘You had an affair? I can’t believe that!’
‘Oh, I’ve engaged in many affairs, my dear,’ Xeann scoffed ‘Although this one was my first admittedly.’
‘So how come you only bore him one child if you slept with him every night?’ Saphira asked with a curious frown.
‘He wasn’t that fertile,’ Xeann shrugged ‘I wonder if he ever managed to get his fiancée pregnant.’
‘Um, Xeann?’ Amber stood by the stairs at the back of the shop. ‘There’s someone here.’ Xeann blinked as she went towards Amber when her nose caught scent of an unfamiliar werewolf and she turned her lips up into a snarl. She ran upstairs and saw a brown injured wolf, standing in front of two young and helpless looking pups that were curled up behind her. Xeann held her hands out calmly.
‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ she said calmly as the rest of the girls came up ‘Sheela, do you have any water left?’
‘Just about,’ Sheela held up the gourd and Xeann took it from her. Xeann passed the gourd over to the wolf. It sniffed the gourd warily before taking it and setting it in front of her pups so they could drink it. The girls froze as the werewolf turned into her human form and looked at them.
‘What are you doing here?’ she asked, her grey eyes glaring at Xeann warily ‘Stay back, or I’ll gorge your eyes out…’
‘Oh, we just happened to be in the neighbourhood and I was just looking around,’ Xeann shrugged ‘I used to come here when I was a young adult for the drama school and I often came here with a group of friends to get sweets.’ The woman got up, her left leg bleeding, and looked up at Xeann.
‘Why are you here?’ she asked and Xeann put on a solemn face.
‘We’ve been trying to track the Queen down as a group,’ Xeann said as she gestured to herself and the other girls ‘We believe she may be near here. My name is Xeann by the way.’ The werewolf sniffed her hand and snarled.
‘I don’t shake hands with vampires,’ she said and snapped at Xeann’s hand. Xeann pulled away sharply and glared at her.
‘Well that’s very civilized,’ she remarked sarcastically and gave Saphira and Vienna the eyebrow. Saphira slowly approached the woman and held her hand out.
‘Saphira,’ she introduced herself.
‘Elzamia,’ the werewolf shook her hand ‘My pups and I are famished. Do you have food?’
‘We have but it’s monster flesh mostly,’ Saphira grimaced ‘Unless your pups will eat Abnormal Creature flesh?’ Elzamia hesitated and sighed.
‘We can’t afford to be fussy now,’ she admitted and Amber handed her some flesh from a small bag she carried. The girls sat around her, aside from Xeann who chose to stand at the back of the small bedroom, sharing the meat amongst them.
‘So are you Xoraan’s wife?’ Xeann asked carefully and Elzamia growled her.
‘Who wants to know?’ she snarled and Xeann held her hands up in alarm.
‘I was a frequent customer and got to know Xoraan very well,’ Xeann explained calmly ‘I knew he was engaged and I never actually met the fiancée…’
‘Yes, I’m his wife, happy?’ Elzamia snarled and nosed her pups as they went back to sleep. Xeann raised an eyebrow.
‘So where is he now?’ she dared to ask.
‘How should I know? He just upped and left the day the Queen took over to try and fight her like the rest of the men. I haven’t seen him since.’
‘And another person who disappeared whilst fighting the Queen,’ Vienna sighed ‘I wonder how many people went to try and fight her…’
‘Ever since your husband left, has anything out of the ordinary happened here?’ Sheela asked and Elzamia snorted.
‘I’ll tell you what’s been happening,’ she grumbled ‘Those soldiers just barge in here and try to snatch my pups! Every day I am hiding from them and taking injuries just to defend my little ones. Although, I haven’t seen a soldier for a long time.’
‘Probably because of our little assassin here,’ Xeann patted Amber’s head ‘She’s been at them ever since day one.’
‘At my village I would have made a mass grave of them if I wasn’t so weak,’ Amber grumbled.
‘I don’t think they’re actually real people though,’ Saphira hummed ‘Sheela, are there such things as metal golems?’
‘Yes but that takes a hell of a lot of magic,’ Sheela grimaced.
‘A hell of a lot? The soldiers must be controlled by Nightmare and Horror then.’ Xeann grumbled and folded her arms sulkily.
‘Have you seen the Queen around at all?’ Vienna asked and Elzamia shook her head.
‘Travellers rarely come by nowadays,’ she explained ‘I was surprised by your appearance, I thought you’d be part of the Queen’s court.’
‘Please,’ Amber scoffed and folded her arms defiantly ‘The day I join the Queen’s forces is when Hell freezes over.’
‘Well if the Queen isn’t here then where could she be?’ Sheela asked with a disappointed look while looking at the rest of the group ‘She said that Iris and Cecilia would be here and that there might be someone here for you, Amber.’ Amber froze and thought back to the Queen’s words.
‘Did she?’ she asked softly. She had been more focused on fighting the Queen, not finding anyone that she held dear. Maybe her father was here? Or Jasper, maybe Jasper could be here? Or was the Queen just playing around with her?
‘Are you sure she said the Cecilia and Iris would be here?’ Sarah asked with a frown ‘She really did say Relevein Town and not any other town?’
‘Positive,’ Sheela nodded ‘I’m sure of it!’
‘No, she didn’t say that,’ Amber suddenly said ‘She said to look around Relevein Town. Not necessarily in Relevein Town…’
‘The crater,’ Xeann said ‘It’s a perfect place to hide. It’s hard to get into the crater and if the rumours are true, it has a lot of defences.’
‘And whatever killed the Flaregona came from the crater,’ Vienna perked up ‘Nan, we need to get in!’
‘I don’t think so, young lady,’ Xeann said with a stern look ‘I’ll scale the crater and check if the Queen really is there. Then we can find a safer way to get to her.’
‘Aw, Nan!’ Vienna whined and Xeann folded her arms sternly.
‘No.’ Vienna snarled and turned her back on her moodily.
‘You’re so boring,’ she grumbled.
‘No, I’m just being a good grandmother,’ Xeann said with her nose in the air ‘I’ll go and start climbing now, I’m not sure when I’ll get back but wait a week and try to come after me after then perhaps.’
‘You’d better be safe this time, Nan,’ Vienna said huffily ‘I don’t want to have to carry your body all the way back to Eventide Town so we have to bury you there as per your request.’ Xeann smiled and ruffled her hair.
‘I’m touched that you consider my wishes even in a dire situation like this,’ she said and turned to the girls ‘Now you can hunt for meat from nearby monsters I believe and Saphira can bring snow to provide you girls with water.
‘Hold up, I can’t just summon snow whenever the feeling strikes me,’ Saphira frowned at Xeann.
‘Well get plenty of rest and eat well,’ Xeann said ‘I don’t mean to pressure you but because it is very hard to come by water nowadays, you’re our current water source.’ Saphira scowled and folded her arms grumpily. Xeann smiled and went out of the sweet shop.
For a seemingly abandoned ghost town, Xeann managed to scavenge some rope and hooks to help her climb the crater. She had considered going through the caverns to see if she could get into the crater through them but she thought it would be better to go to the top so she could have a bird’s eye view. Also, who knows what could be lurking in those caves? Xeann could walk into a death trap without knowing it. As she walked through Relevein Town, she found herself reliving old memories. Like the different places where her water had broken and where she had met the fathers. Xeann giggled as she stopped at the abandoned pharmacy.
‘This is where Abatine and I met,’ she sighed wistfully.
‘Abatine?’ Xeann turned to see a young woman with long silver hair and bright green eyes approach her from the alley. She had a ragged shawl covering most of her face and Xeann tilted her head.
‘Yes, did you know him, dear?’ she asked.
‘He’s my father,’ the woman explained ‘He lives in Zugaite Village…’
‘Ah-ha!’ Xeann snapped her fingers and giggled ‘I knew he would! He always talked about it.’
‘How do you know him? Are you one of his ex-pupils?’ Xeann blushed and shook her head.
‘No, Abatine was one of my lovers when I went to the drama school,’ she explained and held her hand out ‘I’m Xeann.’
‘Sylvia,’ the young woman stepped back warily ‘You went to school with him?’
‘Yes,’ Xeann took her hand back ‘I’m a vampire so that’s why my age hasn’t differed since fifty-six years ago when I met your father. You know, we have a daughter who looks a bit like you.’
‘You had a child?’ Sylvia stepped back again ‘Why didn’t you marry before the birth?’
‘Oh, sweetie, I’m the Vampire Mother,’ Xeann grimaced ‘I already had a husband looking after my children all the way in Eventide Town. I did offer for him to join our marriage but he strongly believed in having a real family. So he made me choose.’
‘And you just left him like that?’ Sylvia looked disgusted.
‘I loved both of them, I didn’t want to have to choose either of them! I wanted both and I could easily have had the option of having them both but Abatine just didn’t like the idea of being committed to a woman who was being committed to more than one person.’ Sylvia sighed and shook her head.
‘I’m sorry, I just feel really sorry for him,’ she shrugged and Xeann bowed her head.
‘Well, dear, I would love to stay and chat,’ she said and wrapped the rope around her shoulder ‘But I need to climb the crater.’ Sylvia looked at her with alarmed eyes.
‘You’re crazy,’ she murmured and Xeann shrugged.
‘Not the first time someone’s called me that,’ Xeann smiled and began heading over towards the crater.