CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN
Fall of 1371, Year of the Unstrung Harp
Then they’ve taen up the comely corpse,
And laid it on the grund:
‘O wha has killed our ‘ae sister,
And how can he be found?
She could smell him coming from the far side of the cave - and sneered in distaste. Dry wrinkled skin that lacked the sheen and elasticity of youth did not appeal to her, and neither did his blood that trickled sluggishly through the swollen arteries choked with refuse. Her own complexion was, of course, porcelain-white perfection, not marred by the slightest blemish or spoilt by a single wrinkle; as it had always been - thanks to her timely decision to embrace undeath; as it would always remain - in spite of the divine curse that had been placed upon her for daring to be inventive and ambitious beyond her stature. All through her travels in Calimshan, Bodhi had had to take extraordinary measures to protect that perfect skin from the harsh rays of sunlight, and the abrasive effects of sandstorms. But at least the local traditions encouraged well-to-do women to conceal their features under multiple veils or inside a palanquin, and nobody was surprised at her desire to travel at night – it was common practice.
Still, the desert climate was appalling, and the ubiquitous sand that had a tendency to get into every crease and crinkle of one’s clothes and equipment was no less annoying than the sun. The vampire liked her comfort, and finding a quiet place to sleep in the daytime was a problem when you were constantly on the move. And obviously, there was a continuous problem with feeding. Gone were the days when Bodhi had had her personal flock of human cattle, ready to bare their necks at her slightest whim. She had lost everything: her guild had been disbanded, her minions slain, and her coffers looted by the boorish Bhaalspawn. In addition to that impressive sequence of calamities, her personal powers had been somewhat diminished after her last resurrection. Kiransalee explained it by some mysterious balance of the universal energies, but Bodhi suspected that it was the goddess’ punishment for her ineptitude.
Upset by this notion, the elven vampire pushed the lock of dark hair tinted with blue out of her eyes and scowled, baring razor sharp canines behind her luscious red lips. By the Abyss - she was permanently hungry these days! The little boy had given her the most delicious experience one could wish for in a meal, and the mere remembrance of that feast made her purr - but he had been too small. Bodhi wished it could be remedied in the near future. She would not mind massacring the entire village, after her task here was done, as she doubted very much that anybody within a hundred miles of Amkethran would notice the slaughter right away, and by the time they found out she would be long gone, once again tracking her ‘esteemed’ brother across the wastelands and mountains of Faerun.
She sniffed the dusty dry air again and hissed - on top of his other shortcomings, the old man’s latest meal had included garlic, and the vampire instantly recognized the revolting stench. This one was good for nothing, Bodhi decided finally; not even worthy of being chased through the catacombs and used for a snack. She would not enjoy playing with him prior to the kill - it would be too easy, and before he died he would probably lose the contents of his bowels and spoil her appetite.
“Yes, nowadays, I am reduced to stalking remote settlements along the border of the Calim Desert, and interrogating elderly degenerates with disgusting habits,” the huntress thought furiously, “and all because of whom?”
The answer was obvious - as always, all the calamities that befell her were added to the account of one particular individual, who at the moment also happened to be the prime target of her hunt. Naturally, just thinking about Jon made her sneer – the bastard deserved nothing less than what was coming to him. It had been Bodhi’s lucky day indeed when Lloth had cast her eye into the scrying pool and saw Corellon Larethian come up with the crazy scheme of redeeming Joneleth.
“You shall pay for all the indignities I have had to suffer through because of you, brother ‘dear’! And this is but another entry in your long list of offences. All my troubles are your fault: you have failed in your ambitions and dragged me down with you, instead of serving as a springboard for my rise to power. It was your clumsiness in eliminating our enemies that caused my premature demise, and now you are an obstacle on my route to returning!”
Once again, the huntress wondered why her omnipotent mistresses had been unable to pinpoint the exact location of Joneleth’s new incarnation, and had been forced to rely on Bodhi’s tracking skills instead? Perhaps some even more powerful divine magic was cloaking the elven renegade from the drow goddesses’ scrying? The Exile’s retrial by the Seldarine had been concluded in secrecy, yet it was obvious that Jon now had a divine patron of his own – and Bodhi suspected who it was.
She sneered again. Trust the leader of the Seldarine to sympathize with a male, and a gifted mage at that! For all his proclaimed epicenism and beneficence aimed evenly at both genders, Corellon Larethian had always displayed a very strong patriarchal streak, and his personal history with Lloth was, perhaps, the best example of this trait. Who knows, maybe Joneleth had managed to convince the head of the elven pantheon that his relationship was Ellesime was akin to Corellon’s own tragic story of love and betrayal? Such a strategic deception would be well within her brother’s character, Bodhi decided firmly.
In any case, hunting for Jon through half of Faerun was not an easy task. Especially since she had been assured that after his resurrection, he had been fully restored to his former self, and had no scars or other distinctive features. It was extremely unfair, and she cussed at the thought of her brother’s ‘perfect’ luck. Even after Joneleth’s latest stunt with the Bhaalspawn and the Tree of Life, which had landed him in the Abyss, he had been pampered by the powers that be and offered a way of redeeming himself, while her fate was to run after him and try to snatch any scraps of power that fell through his fingers!
“But you are not getting away with it this time!” She thought vehemently. “Hopefully, you will serve as an instrument of my own restoration instead... although first I need to find you among the millions of other nameless drones that populate Faerun, which will be about as easy as finding a particular grain of sand in a desert.”
Finding Joneleth was the main condition of Bodhi’s own permanent release from the Abyss, and she was only too aware of the fact that the clock was ticking: Kiaransalee was a demanding mistress, but from her short meeting with Lloth Bodhi had gained the impression that the top bitch of the drow pantheon was far worse. The Vengeful Banshee was quite insane – but at least she had a weakness that could be thoroughly exploited. Kiaransalee was quite fond of her undead pets, sometimes to the extent of overlooking their small side quests undertaken for personal gains whilst enlisted in her services. Her only condition was that their success always served the major purpose of proving the superiority of undeath over life, and the pre-eminence of revenge over all other passions. These were Kiaransalee’s private fixations, and by catering to her obsessions, one could always outmaneuver her in other important matters.
Whether Lloth could be fooled into allowing Bodhi to continue playing her own power games while pretending to do the Spider Queen’s bidding, remained to be seen, but the vampire preferred not to test the limits of her new patroness’s patience. Not just yet. It did not really matter why Quar-Valsharess wanted Joneleth to stray away from the pathetic and disgraceful path of atonement that he had chosen for himself. Perhaps, it was the Spider Queen’s infamous feud with her former husband, who had all of a sudden shown an interest in the Exile; or maybe Lloth had some long term plan for Bodhi’s brother, the farthest extent of which was as twisted and tacky as any spider web. The vampire did not care. She smelled her likely profit: in his new and supposedly vulnerable state Joneleth was a treasure trove of information, and, potentially, a source of magical power that could be easily controlled.
“I am looking forward to our next meeting, brother,” Bodhi thought with a playful smirk. “I will make you pay for all the years of humiliation that I had to suffer at your hands. This time I will be in control, and you will be a pawn bound in servitude. And ruining your pitiful attempt at atoning for your sins and restoring your connection with the Spirit will be a pleasure in itself!”
Yet so far despite her best efforts the search for Joneleth had proven unsuccessful. In the last six months Bodhi had crossed the entire Sword Coast, lingering in Amn and Tethyr, and finally moving into Calimshan. When she had reached Amkethran, in a very frustrated and agitated mood, her main hope had been to enlist the services of one of her former associates. Saemon Havarian was a notorious swashbuckler and smuggler, and it had been rumored that the desert hovel was his secret hideout.
Bodhi had not found Saemon, for he had been long gone - dislodged from his desert base by an ongoing feud with the infamous Spawn of Bhaal and once again forced to flee the wrath of the enraged demigod entity. What the vampire had discovered instead, (after carefully exploring the wild rumors and speculations of the past few months, brought to her by her human hirelings), was a collective memory of a very tall, clearly elven man, who had stayed in the village for as long as half a year in the care of the local priest of Waukeen, and (according to rumors) suffered from complete amnesia. The strange elf had been brought to Amkethran by the godchild who had scared away Saemon, and who turned out to be the same Spawn, whose soul Joneleth had once appropriated for his own.
The first mention of the Bhaalspawn’s name made the vampire go livid with rage – she herself had been slain by this same enemy, and she never forgot grudges like that. Still, by itself it would not have been such a crucial discovery; there were many nameless refugees drifting through the land in the wake of the Bhaalspawn Wars – in fact, Bodhi had made a habit of feeding on those unfortunate vagabonds, as they were easy prey. But the description of the Bhaalspawn’s sick companion matched that of her late brother almost to the letter, the way Joneleth had been before the Tree of Life catastrophe, and it had seemed too much of a coincidence that this ailing individual’s name had turned out to be Jon.
After reminding herself of that important fact, Bodhi nodded, and shifted her gaze in the direction of the cave entrance - the priest was taking his sweet time. It had been a few minutes since she had gotten a whiff of him, and still she could see only the bobbling spot of light produced by his lantern, and hear the uneasy shuffle of his steps on the uneven floor, accompanied by the low murmur of two voices. The old man was trying to console his companion, she realized with amusement. Clearly, the pathetic miser did not comprehend that the child who was leading him to his death was now her exclusive possession. She knew Dustan could not possibly appreciate any comforting, as he was supposed to revel in his undead condition, and feel nothing but avid devotion to his new mistress. Bodhi did not quite understand why she had slashed her wrist and moistened the corpse’s pale lips with a few droplets of her own blood after feeding on the boy – he was pretty enough, but too weak to be a valuable minion. It had been a momentary fancy that had later turned out to be useful, for now she praised her own cleverness at masterfully luring the old man into the trap.
“The little brat should be punished for dawdling,” she decided irritably, “but maybe first I will make him feed on his former teacher – a perfect solution that will relieve me of the need to deal with the old geezer myself.”
The human and the fledgling vampire were still too far away to make out any details, although like any other of her kind Bodhi could see in complete darkness at least within a range of a hundred feet. Still, she could not make out what was going on exactly, and had to rely on her sense of smell and her sharp hearing. It took the old man almost ten minutes to cross the round antechamber that led into the catacombs, which she had chosen as her present headquarters.
Yes, if there was something one could rely upon while traveling in Calimshan, it was, perhaps, the fact that there was always some crumbling Shoonan ruin buried under the sand and gravel somewhere in the vicinity, and the spot on which the Monastery stood was no exception. It had been built on top of another even older fortress, and its abandoned underground vaults were easily accessible from the nearby cave complex, which in turn had served as burial grounds for many generations of the desert dwellers.
Bodhi found her Amkethran accommodations at least tolerable – the network of caves was vast enough for her to easily evade the search expeditions sent to look for the missing child, and in the meantime, she had secured one of the smaller tombs in the catacombs for her bedchamber. Her allies in the village brought her news and small amounts of goods that she requested. With them, she was posing as an independent agent trading in Black Lotus, who sought to undermine the monopoly of the local smugglers. It was as good a guise as any other, but the vampire was getting bored with the tedious masquerade. Hence, Bodhi had promised herself a feeding frenzy, after she had squeezed the village dry of all relevant information and was ready to depart.
Yet her major predicament was crossing the Great Calim Desert and reaching the populated lands – she could not do it all by herself, as the desert nights were not long enough, and the sun was too bright even in this late autumnal season. There was also no sunset or dawn to speak of; much to the vampire’s chagrin, once the abhorrent orange ball had risen from the horizon, it immediately jumped to the center of the pale sky, as if it naturally belonged there. The huntress knew that once again she would be forced to rely on her living minions, and if she were to expose herself for what she truly were, it could pose serious problems. Her old network of reliable spies and servants had perished after her previous demise, and the temptation to open the casket hidden inside the palanquin in which she traveled, and leave her to perish in the sun whilst eloping with all her funds, would be too great for her new hirelings.
But this was an undertaking to be pondered over in the future, and for now she needed to concentrate on the task at hand. Once again, the vampire scowled at the wretchedness of her interviewee, and pulled the silken chador over her face before sliding quietly out of her hiding place and heading towards the measly human. There was no need to show him her face right away, and so she decided to save the effect of her impressive visage for an appropriate moment.
Chyil reached the far edge of the circular platform that had been carved from the red sandstone almost a millennia ago to honor Bhaelros, (the deity of sandstorms, known in other parts of Faerun under the name of Talos), and placed his lantern on the flat surface of the round bronze table. There were four of these in the cavern, once polished to a high shine and used as sacrificial altars. Calimshan was an ancient land, and its gods changed and evolved with its society. Bhaelros had been a cruel deity, and the fact that he had been abandoned in favor of younger and kinder gods was a definite change for the better. But the old man doubted very much that many of his compatriots – the proud descendants of human nomadic tribes enslaved and interbred with interplanar genies – ever thought of their faiths as a transient ones.
For centuries, after losing its religious significance, the cave with its crooked network of catacombs had served as the village cemetery, until it had finally been shut down by the former abbot Balthazar. Chyil did not like the place. It radiated an air of futility, and nothing could be further from Waukeen’s energetic teaching: to be creative and enterprising for the sake of future generations. Almost a year ago he had been summoned here to cleanse the grounds after the Bhaalspawn’s company had found and destroyed a lich, who had wandered into Amkethran on some private vendetta and had settled in the catacombs. Ever since that unfortunate incident Chyil had been campaigning to seal off the entrance, but in vain. Many villagers had their ancestors buried here, and insisted on being allowed access to the graves.
Today he had been led here by the boy who was no longer alive. The old man shook his head, trying to keep the rising wave of dizziness at bay - the time that was left to him was as meager and precious as a few remaining mouthfuls of water at the bottom of an empty flask would be to someone lost in the great desert. He looked at the intricate pattern of runes and hieroglyphs under his feet, glowing bright orange in the wavering light of his oil lantern, and wondered if his calculations were wrong after all, and what would happen if Dustan’s mistress did not bother to talk to him before ending his life. If she was hungry enough, she would attack him outright, and the few cloves of garlic that he had made himself swallow and that were now giving him heartburn were not going to hinder her for long. His only concern was for the child, but soon it would be out of his hands.
“Don’t worry, little one,” he said carefully, trying to steady his voice and praying that his swelling tongue would let him maintain the conversation, probably one of the most important in his long and eventful life. He could not call it the most important - there were a few other discussions, which he now remembered with great fondness, that had also had great impact on other people’s lives. But if this talk was going to be his last one, Chyil wanted it to be concluded on a cheerful and benevolent note.
“Don’t worry,” Chyil repeated vaguely, patting the little boy on the head with his right hand; his left one was near unfunctional by then, but he did not want it to show. “I wish I could take you with me now, but even if I am not able to, remember what I said. You can fight it. Where there is consciousness, there is hope.”
Dustan only mewled like a hurt kitten and went quiet. He had been hysterical ever since they had entered the cave, and Chyil had done what he had to do, but when it came to actually facing Dustan’s mistress, the animalistic fear drowned all the boy’s other responses – both the remaining human sensibilities, and the dark urges of the newly endued undeath.
“I am glad you have come.” The chill voice that addressed him from the darkness turned his blood into icy slush, despite his supposed readiness. “If a black tarantula could talk that is how it would sound,” the old man thought briefly. He could feel the hair on the back of his head literally rising on its own, and turned his head in the direction of the sound.
“It would have been extremely inconvenient if I had had to fetch you myself,” she purred after a small pause, and glided into the circle of yellow light thrown by his lantern.
Now that he saw the vampire, Chyil began to wonder how long had she been standing there, just out of his eyesight? Unconsciously, he decided that the woman had descended from one of the many small tombs that pierced the walls of the cavern like honeycombs. Normally, the villagers used tall wooden ladders or ropes to reach the higher levels of the catacombs, but Chyil was sure she had not used of one of those.
He gave Dustan’s ‘mistress’ an inquiring look, trying to make out her features and give his near-certain death a distinct face. The creature was of medium height and stature, although incredibly well-built and muscular for a female. The style of the skimpy leather outfit that she favored could be best described as a mix of roguish panache and dark sensuality, but at Chyil’s age it made no impression on him, although he would have chuckled at the sight if the situation was less macabre. Her head was swathed in black silk, but her eyes, the only distinct features of her pale face that were not covered by the veil, sent a jolt akin to an electrical shock through his body. They were of the same fierce, sapphirine-blue color and slanted cut that he had been accustomed to seeing on another face.
“It would have been lethal for you,” the old priest replied placidly in his turn. “And you are well aware of this fact, ‘mistress’ Bodhi. No undead can could enter the House of Waukeen without being immolated on the spot. Consequently, I have not come here to be intimidated, or to play silly mind-games with a vampire. I have come to negotiate.”
“You know my name,” she drawled in the voice of a little girl genially surprised at an unexpected gift. “That is good. An unforeseen pleasure, you might say.”
“Oh, I doubt this meeting gives you much pleasure. But since you want something that I have, and you have stolen something that I want back, I suggest we drop the interludes and discuss the conditions of a possible exchange.”
“Now it is you who does not understand the situation, priest!” She hissed angrily, forgetting her cat-like playful manner, and tearing away her flimsy veil. The sugar-white fangs glistened wetly between her unnaturally red lips.
Chyil examined her face with the utmost interest, noting the elegant shape of the elven ears, the creamy paleness of the skin, the prominent cheekbones, and the finely sculptured nose - slightly too bold for a woman. The resemblance was too prominent to ignore, and he suddenly felt an immense relief on top of his burning curiosity. Whatever her other reasons for seeking out Jon were, one he could clearly read on her face, as her relation to the elf was undeniable even to his inept human eye. Perhaps even the undead had some notion of family, he wondered naively? Yet common sense quickly inundated even his bottomless well of optimism. Obviously, her true motives were most sinister, but at least now the vampire’s link with his former patient had a reasonable explanation that did not necessarily make Jon a villain.
In one undetectably swift move she was on him, her steely fingers entwined in the fabric of his robes at the front, her fanged mouth hovering a few inches away from his face.
“I want to make myself clear, human!” The vampire hissed, and with a faraway part of his brain Chyil noted that in addition to the ferrous smell of stale blood her grisly exhalation had a slight undertone of rot, most likely caused by tidbits of flesh that had stuck to her fangs and had been left to decay in her mouth. “The only ‘bargain’ you are going to get from me is a swift and painless death, in contrast to the long agony of having your skin removed shred by tiny shred, whilst keep you alive and conscious! So I suggest you keep your clever mouth shut, until I allow you to talk.”
She flicked a finger across his cheek, inducing a shallow nick that immediately began to itch, and the old man wondered if she would smell the toxin in his blood before she bit. He doubted she would swallow a lethal dose in one go, unless she was in a feeding frenzy, but it fate would favor him today... Yet the vampire drew away as quickly as she had advanced, dancing on her toes just outside the reach of his circle of light. He heard the sound of something soft being slapped, and a thump of a small body hitting the stone floor, even as Dustan whined and tried to get out of his mistress’ way. That was enough to bring Chyil’s thoughts back on track, overcoming the brief confusion and dizziness caused by his progressing sickness.
“I doubt I would last long enough to give you much satisfaction,” the priest said with an unnatural calmness that surprised even him. “And I suspect that the information that you crave cannot be obtained from any other source, otherwise I would have been dead already.”
“What makes you think I need anything but the gratification of the hunt?” Bodhi asked laughingly. “I assume you understand what I am?”
“Oh, I understood what you are the moment I saw the bite marks on Dustan’s neck. And he told me you wanted to discuss the whereabouts of your... family relation, I assume?”
“You are too clever for your humble station, priest! Some might say too clever to be allowed to live. But I enjoy a sparkle of wit in my opponents. I have to admit - this conversation is proving to be more amusing than I anticipated.”
Once again Bodhi’s lithe body moved with astonishing speed as she jumped on top of the round table that held Chyil’s lantern. There she crouched playfully on all fours, allowing the light to illuminate her fanged visage from below, and grinning at him with the wicked expression of a big black panther that is ready to spring at her intended prey.
“Yes, I would like to learn the details of my dear lost brother’s stay in this miserable dump of a village,” she continued after making sure he was paying full attention. “I believe you knew him under the name of Jon, and that should be enough to get you in a talkative mood. If you tell me something interesting I might even let you walk out of this place alive, as I suddenly feel generous.”
“I believe I have less than an hour to live regardless of your disposition,” Chyil replied evenly. “That is if I do not get the antidote. You have no chance of turning me either; as I am pretty sure you would not enjoy imbibing a fair dose of deadly venom. Perhaps, after I die, you can start looking for another source of information? Yet I doubt that after the note that I pinned to the altar there will be a single person left in the whole village willing to converse with you. After the sandstorm is over, they will check the temple and find my letter. Hopefully, they will be smart enough to abandon the village as quickly as possible and move to the next oasis. You can try to follow at night time, but what will happen if you get caught in the open in daylight? Can you burrow into the sand deep enough to avoid the sun?”
“You are bluffing!” Bodhi cried out in mock disgust mixed with admiration. “Even if you understood that the invitation was a trap, you could not have prepared the poison at such a short notice. Unless, of course, you are a secret worshipper of Talona, who keeps a collection of various ‘interesting’ substances at-the-ready.” She looked at him with renewed curiosity. “But in such a case - why would you even come here to negotiate? What do you want of me in return, priest?”
“There was no need to stock poisons in the house,” Chyil answered, lifting the sleeve of his robe with his right hand to show her the angry swelling of his flesh below the tourniquet that he had improvised out of a piece of rope. His left hand was a bluish-black lump, bloated and almost insensitive, and the numbness was spreading from the elbow up, almost overcoming the dull throb of pain. “The desert abounds with snakes, but this is the work of an even smaller, yet deadlier being. I simply caught a medium-sized scorpion in the backyard and brought it here with me in a saltbox.”
“Dustan!” She swirled around, peering into the shadows beyond the illuminated circle. “If this is true, why did not you stop him, you miserable wretch?”
“M...mistress, please, please don’t punish me!” Was the only sobbing reply. “He did not tell me... and how was I to know it was a scorpion? It happened so quick...”
Chyil’s heart sank again, but he clenched his teeth, intending to pursue his plan to the end. “Your brother, if it was indeed him, left the village a few months ago,” he told the vampire steadily, delivering every word with the profound certainty of a vow. “I have no idea where he went, since he did not tell me anything about his future plans, but he left something behind. I am willing to trade his belongings for Dustan’s freedom.”
“Do not try to barter with me, priest!” Bodhi screeched in annoyance. Her thoughts were running in a closed circle, without much hope of escape. “I can ransack your house and get what I want even after you are dead!”
“Of course you can - but would you know where to look? Besides, I hid the bundle with Jon’s personal things inside the temple, and try as you might, you will never get it out without help from a living creature. I doubt your helpers in the village suspect what you are, and my letter with the whole account of your deeds is pinned to the package. I gather they can read. Will you risk never getting what you need because of the momentary spell of irritation?”
“You are taking too much upon yourself, human!” Chyil could swear he heard the grinding of fangs in the darkness. “Very well – you can have the little wretch. He was never of much use to me as a servant anyway. How are you going to arrange the exchange?”
“I am sure your simple command of release will be sufficient for the boy, and I shall take care of the rest. As for your brother’s possessions... I shall leave the package outside the village in the morning of the day after the storm ends, and will give you one more day to leave on your own. After that, every single soul in Amkethran will know there is a vampire stalking the caves. I doubt your associates would enjoy being stoned to death... such would be their punishment even if they were clueless to your exact nature. Of course, you can take your chances and stay... but sooner or later you will be stuck in Amkethran without a living soul to feed on, and little opportunity to ever get out of here.”
The minutes of their haggling dragged by, and even though the old man could still see the pale spot of the vampire’s face looming in the darkness, his head was now so clouded with toxins that her stream of vile curses and oaths of revenge was mostly lost on him. Neither was he able to feel any joy or relief when she finally gave up and accepted his conditions.
As he dragged his stumbling feet back to the temple, all he could think of was what would happen to Dustan if he, Chyil, succumbed to poison before they reached the safety of the house. The first rush of the coming storm blinded him with handfuls of sand in the face, but he was grateful for the distraction. The pain in his hand and forearm was near unbearable now, and the temptation to open his swollen lips and murmur a simple healing prayer was great – but he knew she was stalking them, and the moment he was rid of pain would also be his last conscious one, and then he would awaken as her most dedicated servant.
Chyil came back to his senses in the early morning of the next day, sprawled on his face before the altar of the Blissful Lady of Plenty, with an empty flask of antidote clutched in his fist. His other hand still throbbed, but it was the subsiding pulse of retreating pain, which he knew very well. The sky outside was dirty brown – the most perfect day for a vampire to come out for a stroll, except that she probably did not like the sand very much. Chyil grumbled quietly to himself, then remembered his task and stiffened, bracing his heart. He had locked the boy in a small tool shed in the garden, whilst nearly fainting from pain. It was all he had been able do for Dustan – but even without a link to his mistress the little vampire had had plenty of chances to get away during the night. Still, you could not force salvation on someone’s head. The choice had to be made consciously, or not at all. That was what the old man was telling himself as he stumbled through the temple and his living quarters to the kitchen, which was connected to the shed by the inner entrance.
When he walked to that door, he half-expected to find the place empty: the lock was flimsy enough, and the fear of what was to come too strong for a small child to handle. Yet when he finally opened it, (with his hands shaking worse than they had when he had pulled the scorpion out of the box), and peered inside, the first thing he saw was a tiny figure curled into a ball in the furthest corner of the room.
“Will it really hurt that much?” Was all he was asked - and how could one honestly respond to such a question? Perhaps it was easier not to know the answer at all...