Deprivation, Part 10.
Allistair waited for Devin at the door with a hint of excited impatience. He had a very specific destination in mind for tonight's stroll. Earlier in the week, he had found a very scenic, almost mystical, spot during one of his nightly wanderings. It was a clearing in the deep woods that seemed almost perfectly circular, carpeted with thick green moss. There seemed to be a platform or dais of worn stone beneath the moss, some relic of the Druids, maybe. At any rate, the clearing was a perfect place to lie back and watch the skies. It was also, of course, an almost too perfect spot for a moonlit tryst. Not that Devin would find that same appeal, but... perhaps the lovely scenery would help the mage relax a little...
The vampire sighed quietly. As usual, the thought of Devin raised a curious admixture of sexual desire and bloodthirst. Since biting Jason, Allistair had unfortunately regained some of his vampiric lust for blood except that now, it seemed entirely focused on Devin. He didn't dare tell the mage of it, however; he was terrified that the defensive young man would drive him away, or worse, destroy him. Besides, it was not an overpowering thirst; Allistair wondered if it really came from biting Jason at all, or if, perhaps, it had been triggered by his and Devin's lovemaking that same night. It was as if his physical desire response had become entangled with his bloodthirst, and both were centered on the same person.
Other than that less than encouraging affliction, Allistair no longer felt any need for blood, and resisting the temptation to feed on Devin didn't seem to be harming him in any way. Maybe, just maybe, it was a psychological response that he could somehow rid himself of...
Or so he would have liked to believe.
The cottage door opened then, breaking his train of thought as Devin stepped outside and locked the door behind him. "All right, what's the big deal?" the mage muttered irritatedly.
Allistair just smiled. By now, he knew that at least half of Devin's gruffness was an affectation. "You did promise we could do whatever I wanted after sundown," the vampire reminded his companion. "Now come on, there's a place I want to show you."
"A place...?" There was a grudgingly admitted curiosity in Devin's voice as they began walking towards the forest's edge.
"Mm-hmm. I found it a while ago. Tonight seems like a nice night to go there..." Allistair explained with a slight shrug. "Even a townie like you could find it pretty enchanting," he added with a slight smirk, waiting for Devin's predictably annoyed reaction.
"Hah! Don't talk to me like you didn't live in downtown London, you bloody "
"But I certainly didn't grow up there," the vampire said archly. "At any rate, I think you'll appreciate the place."
They were walking into rapidly thickening woods, and soon it was too dark for Devin to see the entangling underbrush clearly. He created a small ball of soft light with little more than a mumble, and nearly collided with Allistair, who had stopped to wait for the mage.
"What?" Devin growled impatiently.
"Nothing, just making sure you were keeping up," Allistair replied cheerfully. "It's not too much farther."
The two of them walked on for a few minutes more, leaving the edge of the forest, and civilization, farther and farther behind. Even with his sharp hearing, Allistair found the area very quiet not in an ominous way, but in an almost... reverential way, as if the creatures of the forest were collectively holding their breath.
As they approached the site, Devin, too, seemed to notice the air of stillness. He paused before the clearing came into view, tense as a deer suddenly catching the scent of a hunter.
"Devin? Is something wrong?" The vampire turned to regard his companion with concern. It had crossed his mind that the odd little clearing might have had a trace of magic to it, though if it did, he certainly couldn't tell. His ability to pick up on magical presences was apparently quite limited. It was something he would have liked to ask Devin about, but the mage had been deeply absorbed lately in trying to solve more pressing issues. Perhaps after they had this cure business settled...
Devin was glancing around suspiciously, his eyebrows drawn together in a scowl. "What are you playing at?" he said finally, looking up at Allistair with obvious irritation.
Allistair shook his head, bewildered. "Is there something here, Devin? I can't tell... I just thought it looked interesting..."
"'Looked'?" the mage gazed around at the surrounding forest, as if sweeping for a signal, then looked steadily in the direction of the clearing, his eyes narrowing. "What's there?"
"It's just... a clearing," Allistair said with a helpless shrug. "It looks quite... hmm... well-established. Moss over smooth stones and whatnot."
"...Is the clearing circular?" Devin asked with the air of someone who already knows the answer to his own question.
"Yes," the vampire said hesitantly, afraid that the surly mage was going to tell him he was an idiot for not realizing that the place was... well, whatever it was.
However, Devin simply rubbed his eyes tiredly. "You have no idea what this thing is, do you?" He sighed when Allistair shook his head in negation. "It's some kind of... There're traces of Faerie magic there," he explained, still looking distrustfully in the direction of the clearing. "It's probably an old ceremonial site."
"Ah... I suppose if anyone would choose such a scenic spot, they would," Allistair said with a measure of nervous humor in his tone. "Can... we go see it, or...?" He really would have liked for Devin to see the strange juxtaposition of careful engineering and wild growth. It struck a chord in him, making him realize that there had been a time when civilization was not necessarily antithetical to nature.
Devin seemed to ponder the question quite seriously before replying. "Yes, I suppose it's safe enough." He looked at Allistair with something like concern; it was silly, but the thought that the mage might be worried about him gave Allistair a quiet thrill. "If you feel anything odd, tell me immediately," Devin was saying emphatically.
"All right," Allistair said agreeably. It seemed odd, he thought privately, that Devin was so nervous about the presence of folk of his own kind. Maybe "pure" Faerie didn't like mixed-bloods, and Devin didn't want to encounter any unpleasantness? Or maybe, the vampire thought with a touch of cynicism, the untamed Faerie magic called to Devin in ways that the repressed mage wished he could ignore. It was hard to read anything besides mild annoyance on Devin's face right now; no answers there.
"Come on, then," Allistair finally said after a long silent moment. Slowly, feeling like a trespasser, he led the way into the clearing, stopping several steps away from the trees and turning back to look at his companion.
The mage was following, but slowly; he continually glanced about, thought Allistair guessed that it was more with mage-sight than with his eyes. With a convulsive shudder, he stopped next to the vampire, standing unusually, but pleasantly, close. Still, it was hard for Allistair to enjoy Devin's proximity when he knew that the mage was one loud noise away from panicking.
"Devin... If it's making you this uncomfortable, maybe we should leave," he said tentatively.
The mage shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, though Allistair was familiar enough with his body language to notice the stiff set of his shoulders. "...I promised to spend this evening doing something you wanted to do," he said lowly, sounding a little embarrassed to say that out loud.
Reluctant or not, that admission made Allistair break into a smile. It seemed that Devin's brittle manner was thawing, after all. "Well... if it gets to be too much, we can go," the vampire said sympathetically, echoing Devin's earlier concern. "But until then look!"
He pointed at the darkening sky, where Venus was shining brightly among lesser stars, like a diamond in sand. Maybe it was his overactive imagination, or his good mood, but the sky looked almost preternaturally clear from this place, as if they were looking through a hole in a veil that lay between the rest of the earth and the sky.
"Hm..." Devin seemed to have noticed the unusual quality of the panorama, also. He looked from horizon to horizon slowly, as if trying to detect a trick. "It is quite a view," he admitted finally, glancing at Allistair.
"Isn't it?" Grinning, the pale man gently steered Devin to the center of the circular clearing with a hand under the mage's elbow, then pulled him down into a sitting position on the blanketing moss. Devin didn't utter a word of complaint; he simply let out an uncharacteristically gusty sigh.
"What's on your mind?" Allistair asked quietly.
"I don't know, I was just thinking, I guess... I don't have a lot of friends, you know?... I don't hang out with people and do things like this. I mean... I have colleagues that I correspond with, but..."
"But that's very different from having a close friend," Allistair finished, nodding in understanding. "Though... I was vainly hoping I was a bit more than a 'friend'..." he said with a slightly teasing grin.
Devin snorted in reply. "I meant in general..." he mumbled, looking at the ground uncomfortably.
Allistair had to laugh at the mage's obvious embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Devin... I shouldn't tease you, but you're so adorable when you're flustered." He knew there was a hint of wickedness in his grin now, but Devin only rolled his eyes. "It's true..." he murmured, leaning in a little closer to the mage, who obligingly shifted his shoulders slightly.
"Whatever," came Devin's predictable, surly American reply. The two of them sat together silently for several minutes, gazing up at the sky, which seemed to become noticeably darker. Allistair knew it was a trick of the eyes as they adjusted to the low light, but he liked the way it made the stars stand out even more.
"I know you like astrology I guess you just like the stars in general... but why?"
It was an interesting question. As many nights as Allistair and Jason had spent under the sky even before Allistair had been captured and Turned Jason had never once asked him that.
"I suppose partly because... no matter where you are, the stars are the same." He raised a hand to cut off the comment forming on Devin's lips. "Of course, you see different stars in the Northern Hemisphere than in the South, but... you can see some of the same stars, as well. It's the same sky."
Devin nodded. "It's a constant."
"Exactly," Allistair agreed. "When you're lonely... that's reassuring."
The vampire glanced at his companion, who was looking up in the direction of Cassiopeia with a pensive expression. "I suppose with Luciel around, you don't get too lonely, hmm?"
Devin turned to regard Allistair quite seriously. "You'd be surprised..." he murmured before turning his gaze back to the stars. "Luciel is a great friend, and a great partner... almost like an older brother, I suppose... but sometimes..." He seemed reluctant to put the though into words.
"Sometimes... you wish there was someone closer than a friend?" Allistair suggested quietly.
"Sometimes," the mage admitted with a sigh.
"Don't think of it as a weakness, Devin," the vampire said earnestly, causing Devin to look back at him in mild surprise. "Loving someone is a strength... it shows that you have a soul..."
The mage snorted, but he looked uncomfortable. "Didn't you know? The Faerie don't have souls."
"..." That threw Allistair off for a moment, but he saw the flaw in logic immediately. "You're not a pure Faerie; you're partly human, too. And... would someone without a soul have a guardian angel?" He honestly had no idea, and frowned as he thought about it.
"I really don't know," Devin replied with a shrug. "You'd have to ask Luce though I doubt he'd give you a very satisfying answer," he continued with a slight smirk.
Now it was Allistair's turn to snort in amusement; the angel could be maddeningly evasive at times. He supposed that over several millennia, anyone could learn to talk like a corporate lawyer...
He caught himself. Devin had almost succeeded in changing the subject, but right now, the vampire wasn't going to let it drop. "Whatever the state of your soul... Love is never a bad thing, Devin."
"Yeah, until it makes you crazy," the mage muttered sourly.
"Are you speaking from experience?" Allistair said a little testily, knowing the answer.
"Well, no, but "
The rest of Devin's reply was lost as the vampire silenced him with a kiss. Inwardly, Allistair was glad he had kept it to a simple brush of the lips; the way Devin's entire thin frame tensed at that moment was alarming.
"You're wound tighter than a Swiss watch," he said lightly, studying the mage's expression. The young man was scowling slightly at Allistair's forwardness although, given the fact that they slept in the same bed at night, the vampire wasn't entirely sure why a simple kiss would bother Devin so much but even more worrisome was the slight clenching of his jaw, a sure sign of discomfort. Was it this place, wrecking Devin's nerves, or was it Allistair...?
"Can you really blame me?" the mage sighed. He obviously didn't want to be so skittish...
A half-mad idea came to Allistair then, a way to calm Devin's anxiety and perhaps loosen his inhibitions a little, as well... Jason had done this to him a few times, so his own memories were tainted by the bizarre dynamics of their relationship, but there was no denying that this was something uniquely exquisite...
The vampire discreetly bit down on the inside of his lower lip, just enough to draw blood. Holding Devin's eyes with his own, he gently cradled the mage's face between his hands and leaned in for a real kiss this time.
Lulled by Allistair's unthreatening approach, Devin returned the kiss in his awkward, unsure way, the tautness in his posture slowly dissolving. It took a moment for the first drops of vampiric blood to reach his tongue, but there was no mistaking the sudden sound of surprise: a muffled, confused moan that spoke of incomprehension, desire, and denial. Hearing Devin's baritone rise a half-octave that way made Allistair's pulse quicken; perhaps the dreamlike seclusion of the clearing wouldn't be wasted, after all...
It took several long, delicious seconds for Devin to pull away, breathing hard and looking dazed. As expected, the first stammered words out of his mouth were, "What are you doing?!"
There was a spot of blood on his lip; Allistair stared at it for a distracted moment, then shook himself mentally and met Devin's troubled gaze. "Trying to help you relax," he murmured. When the mage did not reply, he continued, "It's supposed to be quite... euphoric..."
"Vampire blood is," Devin growled, or tried to he still sounded too shaken to be menacing. "But you're not really a true vampire anymore..."
"It didn't work, then?" Allistair asked with a skeptically raised eyebrow. He had heard felt Devin's reaction...
The mage looked down, a betraying flush spreading over his high cheekbones. "It worked, I just "
Finally growing impatient with Devin's shyness, Allistair tilted the younger man's chin up with a light touch and bit down harder on his own lip, widening the already-healing gash and letting the blood well up before kissing Devin again.
A rivulet of blood trickled from the corner of the mage's mouth as he tried half-heartedly to break away, but Allistair held him close. It was safe here; no power-hungry demons or mad, sadistic vampires would encroach. An ounce of vampiric blood even weirdly modified by Devin's own Faerie vitae could do wonders for the mage's strained nerves, at least for one night...
Allistair became aware of two things simultaneously. The first was the unexpected, but quite delightful, sensation of Devin licking at the cut on his lip. That made the second thing much harder to focus on, but Devin's sudden tenseness brought the vampire back into full awareness.
The ground beneath them was humming quietly, the sound reminiscent of the odd vibrations in the air near large electrical power lines. Devin looked around in growing horror as mist and a ghostly blue light began to emanate from the cracks in the ancient stonework.
"Devin what's happening?" Allistair asked nervously. Maybe the young man just leaked a little power when he was aroused? The vampire thought he had read something like that about mages... Could a hint of unrestrained energy have awakened something here?
Devin was wiping his mouth with his shirt sleeve, leaving a red smear on his chin. "Blood," he said tightly, "blood is the most dangerous thing in any zone of magic..." He gripped the pendant at his neck, falling silent.
The vampire eyed a spot of blood on the stone near Devin's knees; had that triggered this? It must have dripped down from Devin's cheek, but...
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the mage's hand drop from the cross pendant. "What's wrong?" he asked in sudden dread, seeing Devin's stricken expression.
"Luciel can't hear me," Devin said numbly. "We're probably inside a barrier."
Indeed, the perimeter of the clearing was glowing brightly, like a ring of celestial fire. Allistair lurched to his feet, pulling Devin awkwardly with him. "Is it just to keep angels out? Can we get through it?" His voice sounded unnaturally high and fast in his own ears. Cursed blood and Faerie circles! Maybe Devin had some idea of what was happening, but this was outside the realm of his reality.
Mist had risen all through the clearing; the vampire thought he could hear the murmur of an angry crowd, though if they spoke in words, he could not make them out. Doggedly, not knowing what else to do, he tugged his apathetic companion towards the edge of the woods.
A whistling noise cut through the low current of voices. Allistair didn't have time to identify the somewhat familiar sound before something slender pierced the earth in front of his feet, right at the edge of the stone circle. A javelin, made from something pale wood? still shuddered from the impact, the ribbons tied along its haft dancing crazily.
Devin snapped back to life suddenly, as if awakened by the sound of the javelin's landing. "Angels' mercy, Allistair... they've come through." He backed up against the vampire, so that they stood back-to-back, looking out into the mist desperately.
"Who? Who are they?" Allistair asked in a strangled whisper.
"Who are we, little blood-drinker?" The unfamiliar voice was high, clear and bright, like a bell's toll, but it was filled with venomous mockery. "Unburied one. Cannibal. Abomination." The speaker's odd, lilting accent lent an extra sting to his words.
Allistair winced with each epithet. Whoever this was, he had a hatred for vampires that ran deep.
"He's not a vampire anymore," Devin said unexpectedly, pulling himself up to his full height. Allistair could feel him trembling slightly. "By my own hand and blood. Leave him be."
"Ah, so speaks the little foundling, blood of Rukath," a second mocking voice rang out from the mist, this one feminine. "What son of the Seven Houses consorts with the undead?!" she hissed. There was an echoing murmur of agreement behind her.
"One who doesn't know any better, because no one's told him," Devin snarled. Allistair was almost shocked at Devin's demeanor towards the Faerie for Faerie they must be. Did he resent them for abandoning him as a child? Did he know something of their obvious dislike for Allistair's kind? Or was the mage angry for another reason entirely...?
The Faerie woman made a surprisingly human "tsk" sound. "Listen to the little wolf pup bark! We shall teach you better," she said, her tone one of dark amusement. "Ia helaν!"
At that command, the air seemed suddenly thick with arrows. Allistair held his breath, afraid to move in that buzzing hailstorm. Devin was forced to step away from him by an arrow that flew between their legs; the vampire reached out to try to grasp the man's hand, and was rewarded with a stinging, tearing pain in his upper arm. He could feel the weight of the arrow shaft dangling from the wound, but the arrowhead was probably barbed; it wasn't going to come out easily. It burned like acid.
"Devin?" he said in a choking gasp. He could hardly see his hand in front of his face in the thickening fog, and the mage was no longer in sight. Were they going to kill the two trespassers? Or simply cut down the "evil vampire" and spirit their kinsman away, with none the wiser?
"Allistair?" Devin's voice carried a hint of panic. "Are you hurt?"
"Devin! I've just been shot in the arm, but " Too late, he heard the low whistle. Before he could dodge indeed, before he could even identify the angle of attack the javelin struck him in the belly, knocking him off his feet. The silver and black ribbons fluttered merrily as he seemed to fall to the ground in slow motion. The impact bounced the javelin out a few inches, making the vampire cry out from the pain he hadn't had time to notice until then.
Some other time, the heartsore agony in Devin's voice might have warmed Allistair with its concern for his well-being, but now it barely registered. The fire in his blood told him that this, like the arrow, was no ordinary weapon. He was going to die here, killed by angry Faerie. Talk about your in-laws from hell, a voice from a confused corner of his mind babbled.
"Do not waste tears on this one," someone was saying callously to Devin. Unable to move, all the vampire could do was listen as many footsteps approached his companion, whose mortal tread seemed fumbling and heavy compared to the others.
"Ow — let go! I'm not coming with you!" There were sounds of a struggle, then the sharp crack of someone being slapped.
"Don't be foolish," a male voice said softly, coaxingly. "We are taking you back where you belong."
"I belong here, curse you all! Let me go!"
More shuffling footsteps, then a muffled cry from Devin. After a long moment, the male Faerie made a retching sound. "He tastes of the foul one. Faugh! What devilry is this, drinking a vampire's blood?"
Love, Allistair thought weakly, feeling the blood seep from the wound in his abdomen. At least the javelin was plugging it up somewhat. That "devilry" is called love, you soulless...thing...
Devin had no reply for the Faerie's question; whether he was silent by choice or not, Allistair could not tell.
"Blood in the circle on Midsummer's Night!" one of the voices said in disbelief. "What fools..."
"Children," another corrected him. "Children who do not know what they play with."
Receding footsteps now, but Devin's were not among them. Were they carrying him? Why did he not speak?
"Devin," the vampire tried to say, but his own blood choked him. Lost, he finally gave in to the terrifying darkness that hovered over him and passed into unconsciousness, sinking like a lead weight in still water.
--- Seriously, though, I've been waiting to get to this point for over a year now,
while the story kept getting longer and longer, and life continued to intrude.
Everything's in place for the beginning of the end... and boy, is it a long end. ;) The confrontation scene here is something I've rewritten in my mind many times,
and unsurprisingly, it rewrote itself again here as I put it on paper. I hope that
was for the best....
And now the story takes its grand left turn. ;)
Seriously, though, I've been waiting to get to this point for over a year now, while the story kept getting longer and longer, and life continued to intrude. Everything's in place for the beginning of the end... and boy, is it a long end. ;)
The confrontation scene here is something I've rewritten in my mind many times, and unsurprisingly, it rewrote itself again here as I put it on paper. I hope that was for the best....