Varga enjoyed nights like these, spent up on the ramparts with his best friend, watching the world below with the clear vision their vampirism granted them. A cool breeze ruffled the leaves of a nearby stand of trees, carrying the scent of a baker’s first offerings of the day. It was one of the few things he missed about being human, food.
Hesper, having never been mortal, tilted her head as she inhaled. Her eyes closed as a small smile formed on her dark lips. Lips Varga had only recently gotten the nerve to greet with his own.
She looked up at him, her usual smirk back in place. No matter what was going on, Hesper was always in good spirits. It almost seemed an odd contradiction, for a death dealer, quartermaster, trap-maker, defense-strategist, and born-vampire to be so cheerful and warm by nature.
“Do you ever wish you’d been human?”
She looked back towards where the bakery likely was, her eyes closing as she gave another sniff of the air.
“Sometimes. Do you ever miss it?”
“But you prefer this.”, a statement, not a question.
Hesper nodded, smiling a little.
“It is good you were turned. The human world has no need of someone so loyal. For them, pledges are something to be taken to join a club in school, forgotten after you leave the school. They are trivial. But for vampires… we survive by them. Our whole world turns by an oath.”
While he was aware how deeply an oath went in the vampiric world, he had never once stopped to ponder over it. They lived and died by oaths, centuries-old loyalties, pledges made during marriages and alliances.
“I hear the new Council member, Semira, intends to send a few of us to the Western Coven, to defend it.”
Varga sighed. He had met the woman twice, so far. He did not much care for her. She was cold, even for their kind. Worse, she seemed to enjoy the pain and discomfort of others. Varga was a predator, with the teeth to prove it, yet he took no pleasure in causing pain. It was not natural to enjoy the pain of others. Even of lesser beings.
“Maybe we’ll both get assigned to the western coven, then we can work in all new safe houses! I can design some new traps, maybe work on those tired, rusty old doors!”
Smiling, Varga leaned to bump his shoulder against hers.
“You really are incapable of being glum, aren’t you?”
Her grin was almost spilling over to a real smile. Her plump cheeks would have reddened like apples if she were human. Even as a vampire, it looked like her face had a faint glow to it.
“I can’t help it. I’ve always been cheerful.”
“An optimist to the core.”
Hesper shook her head, her smile deflating a bit. Varga caught a brief flash of sadness in her eyes. A darkness so quick, he nearly missed it.
“I’m a realist, though I see no need to worry. Worrying doesn’t change anything. Looking at how bad it can be is my job, preparing for the absolute worst-case. It would be too much, with all of that, to also worry and be glum over losses or what the future may hold. Besides,”, she added before leaning in to whisper almost conspiratorially, “with friends like you and Sven, how could I possibly stay sad for more than a second or two?”
The faint whistle blew, reminding them of the rising sun’s schedule. He began moving, turning to offer a hand to Hesper, only to find her backflipping from their former spot to the landing in front of the door. She shot him a cocky grin before diving past the door, and rushing down the stairs below.
Vargo followed, intent on catching her and perhaps talking her into a sparring session. They were well-matched, each with different strengths and weaknesses, both adept at reading the other. What he lacked in speed, he made up for in brute strength. What Hesper lacked in ruthlessness, she made up for in cunning.
Varga had barely caught up when he slammed right into Hesper’s back, nearly knocking her from her feet. When they both straightened, he found the reason for Hesper’s lead feet. Semira. Clad in a revealing, overly tight black gown, her hair and make-up as severe as an ice storm.
Varga bowed, Hesper mirroring the action on his left. He heard Semira’s sigh well enough to imagine she was rolling her eyes at them.
“Too busy acting like children to take care of our Coven, I see. A good thing the two of you will not be up to these silly antics for much longer.”
The Council woman walked off, leaving them dumb in her wake. Both turned on their heels, heading back to their rooms, rather than off to the sparring rings as they might have. Turning, Varga watched Hesper’s face. Anger, embarrassment, pride, and a flicker of fear.
“I don’t think she’s going to send us both away, carraig.”
If she was using her old nickname for him, derived from an accident during their first mission together, then something had her rattled. He didn’t think he had heard her use the name, outside of a battlefield or mission, in over a decade.
“What makes you think so?”
“The way she said we wouldn’t be up to our usual silly games. I think that,” she paused for second, then turned her head glance his way before double-timing it forward to her apartments, “she means to send only one of us. Probably me.”
“Why send you? You’re the weapons master, you’re the one they ought to keep here, protecting this coven from the Lykan threat.”
She did not speak or make to answer him at all, until they were inside her apartment. Thanks to being Death Dealers, they were both afforded small spaces of their own. A born vampire with great skill, education, and usefulness, Hesper had a bedroom with its own tiny bathroom, a sitting area, and a small study. Varga’s apartment was a room with thin wall jutting out about half the width of the whole apartment to separate the bed from the sitting area, and sharing a bathroom with another Death Dealer whose apartment was on the other side of Varga’s bedroom wall.
“I think she’s got intentions, and she thinks I’m competition.”
Varga chuckled. She turned, looking at him incredulously.
“It isn’t funny, Varga!”
Reaching, he caught her wrist to pull her closer, kissing her lips with a quick peck. Then another. Then a full, long, slow kiss. They were both relatively new to this, especially Varga. Though when he felt her long, soft fingers in his hair, he figured he must have been doing something right. Coming up for air they didn’t really need, he smiled as he nudged his nose against the tip of hers.
“I think you’re imagining things, Hess. I’m a lowly, mortal-born Death Dealer and she is a Council member, who has spent years tending to the needs of the Nordic coven. I doubt she has noticed I exist, aside from nearly knocking you into her, just now.”
Hesper shook her head.
“Trust me, she has intentions.”
Varga pulled her closer yet, resting his forehead against hers.
“I’m all yours, Hess. Even if she wanted me, she couldn’t have me. I’m spoken for, and happily so.”
She smiled up at him, one hand turning to intertwine their fingers together, palm to palm as they stood, breathing in co-mingled air.
“I’ll come back. No matter where she sends me to, I’ll get back.”
“I’ll be here.”
vVvVvVv vVvVvVv vVvVvVv
Varga read the message again. There had to have been a mistake. Surely, someone had gotten it wrong. Hesper was the most skilled fighter and weapons master in their coven. Born to be a Death Dealer. She could not have perished on the walls, beating back a small pack of Lykans.
Sinking back against the wall, Varga felt as if he had been ripped open, and everything vital spilled out. Hesper was gone. He recalled their parting words, an oath that she would return, met with a a long, slow kiss. A kiss interrupted by Semira's right-hand man, Neil. Hesper had been ordered to join her unit. Their car awaited and there was no time if they were to beat the sunrise, to the halfway point between their own coven and Thomas's. Varga began to shake as he thought of Hesper looking back and winking at him before she slid into the sleek black car.
Had he known it would be the last time he would see her, he would have told her the full truth. The depth of his feelings. His dreams of escaping their world of constantly battling Lykans, to live peacefully somewhere untouched by the ages-old war. He would have begged her to leave it behind then and there, and join him in self-imposed exile, where they could live out their immortality in peace, sharing a simple life together. He would have promised her anything to keep her from going, had he known.
For hours, Varga did not move. He did not cry. He did not stir. He not acknowledge those who passed him nor those brave enough to address him. Sven, his most loyal lieutenant and friend to both Varga and Hesper, found him there at the bottom of the stairwell, still clutching the status report so tightly that he had cut his own palm with his fingernails that were also preventing full healing. Carefully, Sven dislodged the status report and balled it in his meaty hand before tossing it aside. Word had spread through the coven, over the past few hours, of the falling of Thomas's coven and that only Thomas and his son survived. Of the number of Death Dealers and foot soldiers killed trying to defend the sinking ship. It had been a lost cause and yet the Elders sent the best of their Death Dealers and fighters to die anyway.
Sven helped Varga to his feet, steadying his friend. In the past, it had been Sven who went into shock at hearing news of death tolls, leaving Varga or Hesper to guide him to his shared rooms and tend to him. This time, there would be no help from Hesper and Varga would be alone, to grieve the loss of one of the few he had left whom he cherished. Mortal-born, Varga had long outlived anyone he had loved in his mortal life. He had a few friends with whom he was close, his Sire had been killed by Lykans more than a decade ago, and now he had lost Hesper. Sven worried for his friends. Vampires could grieve themselves to death, much like elephants and dogs. He would need to be vigilant if he intended to protect his friend.
Upstairs, Semira watched as the beefy, brawny soldier with the striking white hair, dragged the blond Death Dealer up the stairs. It seemed the pretty Dealer had not taken well the news of his little girlfriend dying. Semira watched, seeing the hollow shell of what had been one of the coven's best, being hauled like an oversized ragdoll. She wondered briefly if he would still be of use. Then again, she found the broken toys often made the most loyal pets. Loyal and blind. This would be too easy, and she knew she would grow bored of him quickly. Yet, he was so pretty and he did cut such a pleasing picture in his uniform.
She would wait a few days, to make sure he would not be too damaged to be of use, then she would begin sending him out on the worst missions. With the rage he would most likely develop in response to his grief, he would be of great use to her in the coming weeks. She intended to rule this coven, and all the other remaining covens. She had waited long enough, she would wait no more. It was time for a new age for the immortal vampires, where the world would tremble at their feet once more and the lykans a distant memory.