WARNING: There is NO foul language, adult situations, violence, or misery. Read at your own risk.
This will be the LAST Vampire Morsel. I will now be working on Patrick’s novella.
As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time. so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…
(You can find mention of Velnya in Legacy of Ghosts. Traven and Jeda are in Ties of Blood & Ashes of Deceit. This story takes place in 1855 near Springfield, Massachusetts.)
Moonlight splashed on the leaves and the last of the summer grass. Velnya peered through the window and let the evening breeze kiss her skin.
“Turn your head, ma biche!”
She is slipping back to French. Oh dear
Velnya did as ordered. Her sister’s brush strokes were more violent than necessary, and Velnya bit her lip to stop a complaint.
“Place your hand just here.” Jeda pressed her fingers against her skull, and Velnya obeyed. This was not the way she had imagined the preparations for her wedding day. In her mind there was a number of cheerful bridesmaids snipping flowers and giggling, discussing the mysteries that young ladies could only speak of behind closed doors; the dreams, the possibilities, the endless years stretching out before them that would promise them happiness.
Instead she had her sister and her cold, angry eyes staring down at her in the mirror.
It was more than she could bear.
She turned in her seat and caught Jeda’s pale hands in her own. “Let’s not fight. This should be a happy occasion!”
“And it would be, if you were not going so far away! Why must he take you to the Nebraska territory? He has a fine house here!”
Velnya sighed and drew her hands back. “I’ve told you already. He’s worried that the hostility between the states will turn into something more serious, and he wishes to be as far from it as possible, and of course he wants to move farther away from his master.”
Jeda’s voice was controlled, but her eyes narrowed dangerously. “The same master he moved here not two years ago to be near? Why the sudden need to get away? And so far away?”
Velnya fidgeted with the lace on her sleeve. “I know, it is far. But not so far as it could be. It’s not as if we were going to a different country.”
“For now,” Jeda bit back. “Who knows what he plans to do in another year, or five!”
Velnya smiled softly. “Of course we won’t. What purpose would such a move serve? Oh, Jeda! It really isn’t so very far as it could be, at least there will not be an ocean between us, and we are not going immediately.”
“No, you will go to Virginia first, to honeymoon on his plantation – another home he will leave behind – and then you will go to the wilds. There is nothing there, only dirt and shacks made of sod! There won’t be any of our kind!”
A soft rap sounded on the door and Traven’s voice floated through, “May I come in?”
Velnya glanced down at herself. She was properly dressed, it was only her hair that wanted finished.
“Yes,” Jeda called, and forced Velnya to turn back. She jabbed a pin into a coil of hair forcefully and added, “Hold still.”
Velnya sat motionless and watched in the mirror as the door opened and Traven walked in. His chestnut hair gleamed in the candlelight and his clothing was more ornate than was the fashion, a remnant of their earlier lives, before they became what they were now.
Velnya had been one for so long, a century at least. Each night the moon had risen to shine on Jeda and her husband and Jeda’s lonely younger sister. Though Velnya was with them, she was always alone; the one who allowances must be made for, the extra, the third wheel.
Traven stopped next to Jeda and spoke to her in soft tones; the furniture had been moved, the guests were ready, the flowers were set, the minster had arrived from Springfield. The words were unimportant. What did men and women have to talk about but the mundane? What mattered wasn’t the conversation, but the way they stood near one another without shyness. The way Jeda’s eyes would stray to Traven and something would soften in their depths. The way they said goodnight to one another every morning.
Velnya was tired of watching it and not having it for her own.
But Jeda wasn’t happy. “It’s not too late,” she murmured. “The wedding could still be postponed until we can convince him to stay. If he truly cares for her he will understand.”
“And what if he doesn’t?” Traven hissed back. “She will not find a better match. He’s an Executioner, Jeda! No, the head of the Executioners! Think of it! You know who his master is! Imagine having such an ally!”
“I am not interested in an ally, but in a husband for my sister! One who will not drag her away to the wilds!”
Traven took her hands and his voice turned into a soothing lullaby, “And would your mother not have said the same of me, bringing you here?”
“That is different! We don’t have to live in a shack and bury ourselves in the dirt!
“And neither will they. They will have a house and all the things of comfort, ma mie. Can you imagine one of his rank and privilege going without? No, he will have only the best and so will your sister. Being gloomy is easier than being cheerful. Instead of seeing the clouds, the separation, you should see the silver lining, such as your sister’s happiness. ” He looked past his wife and met Velnya’s steady gaze. Something in his eyes said it wasn’t her happiness he cared for, but the advantages the match might bring him. “Have you asked Velnya what she thinks?”
Jeda pulled away from him and back to her sister. “Yes.”
“She says she is happy in this match.”
Traven gave a satisfied nod. “As such, there is nothing more to discuss. Velnya wishes to be married, I have given my blessing, and even now the guests and groom are gathered.” He bowed to the ladies and added meaningfully, “ Let us not leave them waiting.” Then he slipped out the door.
Jeda finished her work in silence. Velnya watched her progress in the mirror and noted that she wiped her eyes more than once. Each tear filled Velnya with trepidation.
Despite the assurances Traven had given, they knew nothing of this Nebraska. From what Velnya understood it had only become a territory a year before. She had never seen a frontier and had no idea what to expect. Would there be wooden houses with pianos and chandeliers and carpeting or would it be shacks of sod – whatever that was – as Jeda insisted? Velnya had heard of vampires that, with no shelter from the sun, were forced to dig holes to protect themselves in the daytime. Would she really have to stoop so low? Would they not have proper coffins in a dark room or cellar? She thought of lying under the earth with the worms and the bugs, like one who was dead, and shivered. Surely Traven was right; he had to be.
Jeda helped Velnya to her feet. She placed the veil, then stepped back to eye the effect. When she didn’t speak, Velnya prompted, “Is something amiss?”
“No. It is perfect. You are perfect.” Jeda turned suddenly stern. “Promise me that this is what you want.”
Velnya swallowed hard and a thousand doubts suddenly screamed through her brain. Is it what I want? Do I want to go to the Nebraska territory? Do I want to be married? Or do I want to watch my sister and always be on the outside?
She knew the answer to the final question, and it made the rest superfluous.
“Yes. I want to marry him, Jeda.”
Her sister picked up the bouquet from the washstand and weighed it in her hands, as if it was a physical manifestation of her options. “You know he will be gone much of the time with his work. You will be alone.”
“Only at first,” Velnya assured her. “He’s going to speak to his master and ask to be set free. He’s more than paid his blood debt. Once he does, he will come home to stay. ”
“And will his master let him go?”
It wasn’t something Velnya had considered. “Why wouldn’t he? What could a master gain by holding on to their fledgling? After all, Henri let Traven go.”
Jeda made a soft noise in her throat and looked away. A secret glittered in her eyes, but it was one Velnya didn’t care to know, so she let it pass without comment.
A soft knock sounded on the door. Instead of Traven, it was a woman with hair almost as black as the sisters’. A small boy hung off her hand, his eyes. Velnya recognized them as friends of her fiancé. They were his neighbors in Virginia, and they were vampires, too. That they had made the journey to Massachusetts said much about their relationship with him.
“Yes?” Jeda asked politely.
The woman – Mrs. Jesslynn Cotterill, if Velnya remembered correctly – replied, “Mr. Laurent asked me to see if you were ready.”
“Yes. Tell him to start, please.”
There was a long moment as the two dark haired women surveyed one another; an invisible clash of wills that washed past Velnya. At last Jesslynn broke away. “Of course. Come, Alexander.” Then she tugged the child out the door.
As soon as they were alone, Jeda moved to a bureau and removed a small box. She handed it to her sister. “I believe Mère would want you to have this.”
Velnya opened the box to reveal – “Momma’s cross.” She lifted it out gently and held it in her palm, turning it this way and that so that the candlelight reflected on the silver. “She gave this to you.”
“No, she gave it to us.” Jeda stuffed the bouquet in Velnya’s surprised hands, then tied the necklace around her neck. “Wear this always, ma biche, and it will bring you luck.” She blinked back the emotions. “Come, they will be starting.”
The words had barely left her mouth when the music began. Jeda gave her sister a last look and a quick hug, and then hurried through the door to make her descent as the matron of honor.
Velnya took her place in the hallway and waited nervously for her cue. She could see Traven standing at the bottom of the stairs, ready to walk her down the aisle and give her away. It wasn’t that she disliked Traven. In his own way he had done what he thought best for all of them, but she always felt that beneath the surface of his smooth words and suave demeanor was something coiled, like a snake, waiting for the opportune moment to break lose and reveal his true intentions.
I won’t need to worry about it any longer, she told herself. Nor would she need to worry for Jeda’s safety. She was his wife. No man would allow harm to come to their own wife.
The first strains of the wedding march swirled up the stairs and Velnya straightened her shoulders and glided down the stairs. Her eyes moved from the flowers and gleaming candles, to the assembled guests, each dressed in their finest. Her fiancé had very few guests; only his neighbors from Virginia and a dark haired man he’d introduced as Jamie. The rest were acquaintances of Traven and Jeda, part of the burgeoning vampire society in the area.
At the far end of the room, between two large gilt candleholders, stood the minster – The Guild’s official minster, no less – in his robes and finery, the bible in his hands. And in front of him stood her fiancé. His dark hair hung down his back and he wore his usual black suit. What was different was the rose in his buttonhole.
Though he couldn’t see her face, she felt as though he met her eyes, and a smile stole across her lips. In his face she could see the reflection of her girlhood dreams. Here was her future, her fairytale prince, the man that would take her hand on winter strolls and whisper good night in her ear. His were the arms that would shelter her when she rained tears and the laughter that would celebrate when she bubbled with joy.
And he would be hers for eternity.
She wouldn’t have to be alone ever again.
This is the last for the first collection! Yay! Have to do some editing and then I’ll publish it in July I imagine. Whoo-hoo!
- Claudius now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)
- Elsa now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)
- Herrick now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)