Syral stomped into her room and dropped her bags and cloak to the floor. That arrogant bastard! Ugh! why did Shira even agree to let him tag along?! Acting like he knew everything about everything and lording over them all.
Articles of clothing flew across the room as she stomped about. She needed to calm down, needed to vent, needed…a bath. Yes, she most definitely needed a nice, warm bath. Her hair was matted with filth, and the fine hairs all over her body were so covered in gook that they really did resemble fur.
Finding a bath in the new house—why did they even have a new house anyway?—wasn’t too difficult. She sighed happily at the sight of the bath and tried to scrub most of the grime away as it filled. Steam made her job easier, and soon enough she was able to lower herself into the hot water all the way up to her nose. Slowly but surely her muscles relaxed as she paddled around blowing bubbles just below the surface. It really was a very nice bath. Big enough to move around comfortably, even if she’d been sharing it with someone else—
Syral quickly submerged, her eyes squeezed tightly shut as she shook her head and scratched her fingers roughly through her hair. She really was filthy. No time for daydreaming. And honestly, Pumba had better appreciate what they went through for him! It wasn’t every day she’d follow a companion down into the sewers—
She burst up through the surface with a gasp, the sound of water echoing in the room as it rained down on the stone floors. Really, she was spending much too much time in the bath. She trudged to the edge and pulled herself up, shivering a bit at the cold and ignoring the feel of half-washed hair against her back. Her footsteps echoed as she padded over to her towel and clean shirt, and if she dried herself off a little roughly, well, she was cold and in a hurry to leave.
The remnants of Miria’s things lay in the corner, ready to be seen as she opened the door. She kept her eyes carefully trained on the ground as she shut the door behind her, and artfully picked her way across the messy, clothes-strewn floor to her bed. A cool breeze whistled through the open window and she sighed as she shut it.
‘Look into your heart,’ the paladin had said. Syral flopped down on the bed and growled. As if he knew anything. And saying she couldn’t kill a vampire!
Syral rolled onto her side and curled up, the blanket clutched in her fists. “You don’t know anything,” she muttered through clenched teeth. Shira or Sucaeva would probably say she was being childish, and they’d be right, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.
And who knew; maybe he meant well. Goodness knew she couldn’t keep her feelings in check, and if she was honest with herself, she really hadn’t been able to kill that vampire. But all he had to do was look at her with that calm smile and she wanted to bite him. Her hairs already started to prickle at the memory as her fangs bit into her bottom lip. He had such nerve! They didn’t even need him! She wasn’t just going to sit back and give up Miria’s place—
She pushed herself up and off the bed hard enough to scratch the floorboards and started digging through her discarded clothes. The small pouch lay half-hidden beneath her cloak, and she quickly grabbed it to her chest. The mask pressed against her through cloth and shirt, and the faint crinkling of paper let her know the letters were safe.
Satisfied, she crawled back into bed, curled around the small pouch, and squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to sleep.
The room was bitter cold. Syral sat up and reached for her daggers, only to encounter bare skin; she was still in her night shirt. She scanned the dimly lit room for any signs of an enemy, but nothing stirred. The hair at the nape of her neck stood on end, though, and she carefully slid off the bed, crouched low to the ground, and reached for her daggers lying atop her cloak. The feel of cold metal calmed her, and she sighed.
A cold laugh echoed hauntingly through the room and she jumped up onto all fours to stare at the massive figure at her window. He was pale as death, a black cloak draped over his armored frame, and she hissed as recognition hit. How had he found them?
“Let me in, child” he said softly, and his voice sent chills up her spine. She clutched her daggers tighter, ready to fling them at a moment’s notice. His red eyes caught hers. “I want to know where she is.”
“Never,” she spat, back arched and teeth bared. Her shifted form begged to be released. “I’m not stupid.” She hadn’t intended fighting him without learning at least a little about vampires, and she would never give away Miria.
His smile widened, baring white fangs. “You will submit, mortal.”
Syral threw her dagger at him, only for the blade to be repelled and sent back to her hand. He remained just beyond the open window, his cruel smile taunting. Syral paced back and forth, glaring at the pale face she couldn’t look away from. Each pacing arc brought her closer to the window.
“You can’t resist,” he said again, his hand beckoning. “Invite me.” Syral shook her head and tried to close her eyes.
“No! I know about you. Miria said—” She clamped her mouth shut, and his smile turned predatory.
“Miria? Ah yes, my lovely Miria. You want to fight me as she did? Shall I tell you how I broke her?”
“Shut up!” Syral charged the vampire only to be repelled herself. She crashed into the floor as he laughed, and still she couldn’t break his gaze.
“She didn’t even try to fight. She gave herself up willingly. Like a common whore.”
Syral flung her daggers at his face and he laughed again as they flew harmlessly back. “I’ll fight you! I’ll kill you for her!”
“You can’t kill me. You are as weak as her.”
The paladin’s voice echoed his and she screamed in rage. The fallen paladin’s soulless eyes were haunting. “I will!”
“You can’t even reach me.”
“Because you’re a coward! Come in here and I’ll—!” Syral’s eyes widened in shock as the realization of what she said hit her. But realization came too late, and the vampire stood before her in her room, his hands cold as ice as he crushed her throat.
Syral woke with a scream and clutched at her neck. Her skin was smooth and unbroken—if cold—beneath her fingers, and she curled up in a ball as she hugged herself.
“Just a dream. It was just a dream…!” She repeated it over and over like a mantra, willing it to be true. It had to be true!
She clung to the covers and shivered, unable and unwilling to sleep, and unaware of the chill breeze that entered through her slightly open window.