Vampire Dancing, page 14
“His name is Pavaine.”
“And you love him?”
Kaline noticed Launa unconsciously touch her belly. “You are bearing a child.”
Launa seemed surprised by Kaline's observation. “I ... believe so.”
“Then I recommend you lose the tight-fitting garments one day soon.”
“Uh, yes. It is early days yet.”
Andred handed his empty plate to Kaline then rose from the table. He took his blade in hand. All the while, he watched Launa.
Crossing the room, Kaline said, “You should not have had that at the dinner table.” She placed the soiled plates on the wooden worktop, then removed a large pot that was half filled with water from the top of a heated cast iron stove.
Andred turned away from the table. “You always tell me this.”
“And yet still you persist,” Kaline returned.
Andred grunted and walked towards the front of the room. He ruffled Malkin's hair then sat in the rocking chair left of the crackling hearth. He placed the blade on the floor.
Malkin looked at the weapon. He adored its lethality. “Will Patches be safe out there?”
Andred closed his eyes and rocked gently back and forth. “I am sure he is nearby.”
“I shall have a look outside,” Amara said.
She got up and opened the door, nudging the sack her father had put down.
A bitter chill slipped in through the gap, causing the flames within the hearth to twitch and the shadows upon the walls to sway.
Kaline carefully placed the soiled plates into the large pot of warm water. Approaching her, Launa said, “Please, allow me to help.”
“You are our guest,” Kaline replied. “Besides, I have a perfectly capable daughter who could be volunteering.”
Pretending not to hear what her mother had said, Amara closed the door and sat back down.
“Did you see Patches?” Malkin asked.
“I think something was moving out there near the trees,” Amara replied. “It could have been him.”
Launa rejoined Amara at the table.
“Was your father disappointed when he found out he had a girl?” Amara asked.
“In the beginning,” Launa replied. She looked at the table. It was full of wear and tear. She thought of Amara and Malkin, growing up at this table with loving parents, imagined all the fun conversations they must have had. What she wouldn't have given to have such a life. “...but he came to appreciate me in time. When I was more ... developed.”
Amara caught herself staring at Launa. The meaning of the woman's words was obvious. Not knowing what to say, she looked away.
Scrubbing plates, Kaline looked across from the worktop. “You are from the Northern region?”
“Yes,” Launa replied. “And I can tell you it is much colder there than it is here.”
“I can tell by your accent,” Kaline said. “It is a little more harsh than our own.”
Amara was grateful for the change of subject. Her mother was a very wise and understanding woman.
“And tell me of this terrible condition you have,” Kaline said. “What is the name of it?”
“They do not know,” Launa replied. “It is a very rare thing - or so I am told.”
“It must be difficult,” Amara said, “not being able to go out in the sun.”
“It can be,” Launa said. “Thankfully, it is not quite so sunny further north.”
“How did you come to be here?” Kaline asked, setting aside cleaned plates.
Launa hesitated. “I ... was with Pavaine.”
“So far from home?”
“Yes. We...” Launa began to fidget with her hands. “My father would not have approved of me being with child. He is very protective of me. I feared he might hurt Pavaine.”
Kaline dried her hands on a piece of cloth. When she was done, she laid it on the work surface and approached Launa.
“You poor thing,” she said. “Your man must be worried for you.”
“This is why I was eager to leave," Launa said. “He will still be searching for me. Darkness will not slow him.”
Andred ceased the rocking motion of his chair. His eyes remained closed. “I shall go look for him at first light.”
“There really is no need,” Launa protested. "You have already done more than enough for me.”
“We shall go together,” Andred insisted.
Launa opened her mouth to object once again, then yielded. “I would be very grateful.”
“Then it is settled,” Kaline said, smiling. “You are welcome to sleep here tonight, before the fire. I will lay down plenty of blankets, make things comfortable for you.”
“Thank you,” Launa said. “I do not know what I would have done if not for you people.”
“Probably died,” Malkin said.
Kaline walked over to where Malkin sat and slapped him across the top of the head. “What a thing to say!”
“Off to bed with you.”
“But I want to wait up till Patches comes home.”
“To bed!” Andred shouted, his eyes still closed.
Malkin flinched, then got up and quietly exited the room. Kaline followed at his back.
Launa looked over at Andred. He was rocking gently in his chair again. He had such a commanding presence. Perhaps this was why he seemed to be of little words. He didn't need them. She wondered if maybe she had been a little optimistic to imagine anyone having jovial conversations around the dinner table in his presence.
Amara sat forward. “Tell me about Pavaine.”
“What do you wish to know?” Launa asked.
“What does he look like?”
“He is tall and his face is smooth, and his eyes are like chestnuts. He is strong, but not a heavy man. Not like your father. When I am in his arms, I feel no one can harm me, and when he kisses me, it feels like I am floating.” Launa looked to the softly glowing lamp by the side of the door. For a time, she became lost to the seductive flicker of its flame.
“He is my savior,” she finally said.
Kaline returned with blankets and a pillow. She began to prepare Launa's sleeping arrangement.
Amara sighed. “I wish I had a man.”
“I am surprised you have not,” Launa said. “You are a good looking woman.”
“I do not go very far.”
“Your parents are protective of you. They are good people.”
“I am almost twenty-nine.”
“Not much older than I. There is plenty of time for you.”
Amara ran her finger along an indent in the table. “I am to meet someone tomorrow evening, in the nearby village, by the well.”
“You see,” Launa said, “always possibility.”
“All I know about him is that he is new to the area, and forges various things out of iron.”
“He will have strong hands. This is good.”
"A friend organized the meeting. She says he is very handsome. But I swear she would kiss a frog."
Both women laughed softly.
Kaline finished preparing the bedding.
Launa rose from her chair. “Thank you very much, Kaline.”
“Time for me to retire,” Amara said, getting up. “I may come with you and Father tomorrow, see this Pavaine of yours - if I can bear to rise so early.”
The more Amara spoke with Launa, the more she liked her. “Perhaps we can be friends.”
“I would like that,” Launa replied.
Amara smiled. “I had better get some sleep then.”
She headed for the door.
Kaline stood before Andred. “It is time for your bed.”
Andred continued to rock slowly in his chair. “Soon.”
“Andred, you cannot be here when this young woman is preparing for sleep.”
“It is alright,” Launa said, approaching Kaline. “I will sleep in my blouse. It is quite long.”
“You cannot sleep in your clothes,” Kaline replied.
“It would not be the first time.”
Kaline turned back to her husband. “Andred, you must come to bed.”
Andred stopped rocking. His eyes remained closed. “When I am ready, woman, and not a moment before.”
“You are embarrassing our guest,” Kaline told him. “You are embarrassing me.”
Andred said nothing, merely started to sway in his chair again.
“No one need bother themselves on my behalf,” Launa said. “I shall be comfortable once I get out of these tight clothes.”
Kaline looked disapprovingly at Andred. “Are you sure?”
“Alright then. Well, goodnight.”
Before leaving the room, Kaline turned and watched Launa loosen the straps on the calf of each boot. She then looked to Andred. She doubted she would sleep until he returned safely to bed. Such an obstinate man, always having to do things a certain way, regardless of risk. She closed her eyes, said a brief, silent prayer for him, then made her exit.
Launa set her boots aside then started to remove her bodice. Once she was free of it, she peeled off her pants, all the while watching to make sure Andred's eyes remained closed.
Thankfully, they did.
She folded and placed the pants on top of the bodice. It felt good to be free of such tight clothing. All she had on now was her blouse, the tail of which hung below her posterior, keeping it hidden from view.
Instead of crawling under the blankets Kaline had provided, Launa quietly strolled over to the window behind Andred's chair. She looked out into the night. The tree tops were bathed in a milky, moonlit hue. She cocked an ear, was sure she heard a wolf cry somewhere in the far-off distance. Or perhaps it was the family dog, Patches; or merely the sound of the wind. The latter was certainly picking up pace.
The chair behind her creaked.
Launa looked round.
Andred was still rocking gently back and forth.
The blade by the side of the chair caught her attention. Not that she thought Andred foolish (the World was, after all, a dangerous place), but she wondered what worried this man so, that he would not let his weapon leave his side.
She crossed over to the bedding and sat herself down, folding her legs. The fire within the hearth popped and crackled, and, for a while, she became lost to the hypnotic sway of flame. Various images relating to past events crossed her mind. Most of them she'd rather have forgotten. They made her feel all used up and old. Strife had an uncanny way of protracting even the most meager stretch of time.
Breaking free of the fire's entrancing display, Launa noticed the rug below the bedding was once a bear. She leaned forward and ran her fingers through the thick, brown fur.
“I killed it myself,” Andred said, his eyes still closed.
Launa looked over at him. He had stopped rocking. Shadowy specters danced merrily upon his weathered countenance.
“Tell me how you killed it?” she said, sitting back.
“Killed it with my bare hands,” he replied.
Launa automatically gazed at Andred's hands. They looked like they were formed out of rock. She wondered what he was thinking. It was so difficult to tell what strong men were thinking. Unless sex was involved.
“You are a very capable man,” she said. “Like my father.”
Andred opened his eyes and looked at Launa. Before now, she hadn't noticed how bright his eyes were. They twinkled like precious stones.
“And you are a very enticing woman,” he replied. “This man of yours is very fortunate.”
“Perhaps,” Launa replied.
Once again, her gaze fell upon the blade by the said of the chair.
Andred said nothing for some moments, merely gazed upon Launa's desirable form. He watched her unfold her legs and curl them to one side. The way she sat now, propped up on one arm, he could see the outline of her right breast through the material of her blouse.
She was looking straight at him.
He rose from his chair, fully expecting her to know what to do next; to assume her role as a woman.
She did not disappoint.
Launa crawled over to where Andred stood and brought her legs into a kneeling position. She gazed upon his bulging crotch and unbuttoned his pants. Reaching inside, she wrapped her digits around his penis. She heard him grunt with anticipation. His member felt long and had considerable girth.
Andred laid a hand on Launa's head. He spread his fingers. Her hair felt so soft, her skull, fragile.
Launa could see the the blade from the corner of her eye. It was almost within reach. She looked up. Andred was staring at her; eager, willing her to open her mouth and place him inside.
She opened her mouth; moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue, and then ... lunged suddenly for the blade by the side of the chair.
Andred gave a dissatisfied growl and grabbed Launa by the hair. He pulled her back, but she already had the weapon.
Launa swung the blade at Andred. She struck with such force that a lesser man would have been brought to the floor.
The blade sunk deeply into Andred's right thigh, but he remained upright. He gritted his teeth and stifled a cry of pain so as not to rouse his family, then, without removing the embedded weapon, threw Launa onto her back and straddled her. He pinned her arms by her sides with his knees.
Launa cried out, but her protest was cut short after Andred placed a hand over her mouth. He then plunged his other hand into one of his pockets and produced a filthy rag.
“Earlier this evening,” he told her, “I wiped the blood from my blade with this.” He gathered the rag into a ball then dug his fingers into the sides of her face.
Launa fought hard to keep her mouth closed, but her struggle was to no avail. Andred was exerting so much pressure she had no option but to part her jaws.
Andred forced the rag into Launa's mouth, then, ignoring her feeble protestations, reached back and began to loosen the lace from one of his boots. When she tried to spit it out, he placed a hand over her mouth again. Once he had the lace free, he used it to secure the rag, knotting it at the side of her neck.
Launa couldn't bear to look at the man straddling her. He was as repulsive as her father. She turned her head to the side.
Andred stroked Launa's cheek. Her skin felt soft against his rough hand. He turned his attention to her bosom. In particular, he liked the way it strained against the material of her blouse. He ran the tip of a finger around the outline of her left breast.
Launa gave a muffled cry of defiance. She struck Andred's back with her knees then dug her heels into the floor in an attempt to push him off. She could see the blade sticking out of his right thigh. He was wounded and bleeding yet seemed not to care.
What kind of man was this?
Andred reached back and began to loosen the lace from his other boot.
Launa knew this one was intended for her wrists. If he was able to bind her, there would be no chance of escape. Out of desperation, she struck his back repeatedly with her knees, but all she achieved was exhaustion.
Andred pulled the lace free and looked coldly upon the struggling woman. All at once, she seemed so insignificant.
Insignificant ... and yet so completely capable of satisfying his every desire.
He relaxed his thighs, allowing Launa to remove her arms. And she did just that, but so much quicker than he ever could have anticipated.
With her arms free, Launa wasted no time grabbing the haft of the blade sticking out of Andred's thigh. She drove the weapon deeper into his flesh and twisted furiously.
Andred cried with pain and tore the blade from Launa's hand.
Rather than wrestle for control of the weapon, Launa dug the thumb of her right hand into Andred's left eye.
“Bitch!” Andred spat.
He pulled Launa's hand away from his face and twisted her onto her front. He then delivered both her wrists into the grip of one hand and pressed them against the base of her spine, after which, he securely bound them with the thick lace from his boot. When he was done, he took hold of her hair and pulled back her head.
He brought his face alongside the struggling woman's and turned her head to face him.
Launa screamed frantically into the gag at the sight of Andred's searing red eyes and long, gleaming fangs. Fear drove her heart at such a rate she felt like she was going to pass out.
Was the rest of this family aware of the monster in their midst?
Perhaps they were all monsters.
Retaining his grip on Launa's hair, Andred withdrew his head from view.
Launa pulled furiously on her bound wrists. Andred had tied the lace so tightly the tips of her fingers were going numb. She wondered what he was going to do next; could feel his breath on her neck. The thought of him so close to her caused her stomach muscles to tighten.
Andred opened his mouth wide then sunk his fangs into Launa's neck. He heard her give a muffled cry and felt her body stiffen bellow him. Warm blood filled his mouth and slithered down his throat. He moaned with pleasure, then reached around with his free hand and gripped her left breast through the fabric of her blouse.
At that moment, the door to the bedrooms opened and Kaline entered the room. Her face contorted into a mask of horror when she saw what was happening.
Their guest's aversion to strong sunlight, her inability to name her strange condition and the toying with her food – even the insistence that she wander the forest at night...
Kaline had gotten Launa all wrong. She had believed she was leaving Andred to slay a monster. Instead, she had left Launa in the clutches of one.
Andred removed his teeth from Launa's neck. His lips and beard were stained with a mixture of blood and saliva. He looked at his wife, unblinking.
She hadn't gotten dressed for bed.
He placed a finger over his lips and said, “Ssh. Close the door quietly or you shall wake the children.”
Keeping her gaze fixed on her husband, Kaline closed the door.
Andred released Launa's hair and stood up. He approached his wife.