Vipinun stared hard into the female's eyes, his own eyes as black as the night had become.
‘How can all this be so? How do you know me?’ Vipunin asked.
‘I am descended from a long line of Ciassias of the family of Bernardoni from Gaiole in Chianti. You would be the grand lord who betrayed my ancestor in the week before her marriage to you.’
‘What do you know of this? How do you have the shape, the hair, the voice of my beloved? What are you? Some angel? Some shape changer? Tell me now!’ he growled, his face close to her's.
‘It is as I say, my lord, I am descended from the lady you so cruelly wronged those many years ago. Your legend has been passed down through the generations.’
‘What legend?’ he barked.
‘Oh, of the Great Immortal Lord Vipunin. It says that one harvest night you disappeared from your chateau. You disappeared from the face of this earth, seduced by some Titan-haired goddess who arrived uninvited to join your harvest feast.’
‘So that’s what they say, is it? And why did I run away? What say the legend of this?’
‘Legend says you were bewitched by the goddess of the night people, the Queen of the vampires who wander our earth, taking humans as they will for their own base needs. Legend says you became one of them.’
She looked at him - his blazing eyes, his tall, imposing figure, his rippling waves of black hair – she looked at him and she knew him. She shivered. He was Sibon in vampire form.
The legend stood before her – with the appearance of humanity but she knew he was no longer a man, he was a monster.
‘Do you kill humans, Lord Vipunin?’ she whispered in her steeliest voice. ‘Are Sibon and I going to die this night to give you the succour you need?’
‘Why do you speak of these things? Are you not afraid, Ciassia? Earlier you shook with fright, yet now the way you speak, you are so coolly unafraid. Why is this? You should be afraid.’
Ciassia trembled, but asked, ‘And why is that, my Lord? I have the cross of my most high Lord Christ. See?’ She held it aloft, its jewels sparkling in the night light.
Vipunin jumped back with a terrible Aaarrch sound, his time to be afraid, to tremble in the face of that cursed sign. He was dimly aware of Cuchulain’s growl and Sibon's triumphal applause.
‘Yes,’ Vipunin's voice shook, sounding like it had its source in the fires of hell. ‘I have seen evil...I have partaken in evil...I have seen the dead rise and drink the blood of the still-living. No God can save me. Only curses rain from heaven on us - vilest of creatures. Yet cross or nay, you should tremble if you value your life.’
‘Of your many supernatural gifts, cannot you read my thoughts then, Vampire Vipunin? If you could do so you would know my desire is to run, run through the forest, scream to the night to save me from such as you.’
‘Then why don’t you run then, Ciassia, why do you stand before me so defiantly?’
‘Because I know I cannot outrun a night creature. And because I can read your mind, Vampire, it’s in your face. You don’t mean to kill me, or drink me - you are making other plans.’
‘And what would they be, my Ciassia?’ he whispered menacingly.
The moonlight rained down.
‘I wonder what it must be like for you, my Lord Vampire Vipunin, after all you’ve seen and done, after all these centuries of existence?’
It seemed that even the air held its breath, waiting for Vipunin to answer.
He needed the cool, the dark, the perfect silence of the night.
He needed to change the subject.
‘I have had enough!' he shouted to the heavens, waving his fist at a God he could not see, yet Who he knew saw him in all his vileness.
Both the humans jumped in alarm at the change in atmosphere, the gathering danger.
Vipunin pointed his finger at Sibon, who was still trying to escape Cuchulain's clutches. 'Who is this man?' he called to the night, his voice reverbering from the trees. 'Why does he have my look, my cast?’
‘He has the name Sibon Vipunin Castellina.’ Ciassia said quietly, looking to where Cuchulain had Sibon restrained with an arm around her poor darling’s neck, his fangs all too close to Sibon's lifeblood.
Vipunin’s unbeating heart tightened in his breast. So this was the progeny of his brother’s line. His brother who had lived to become the next Lord, to take his, Vipunin’s vines, his castles, and then even his woman.
What lived in the mask of the man become vampire still craved that life for himself. He smote his breast with his arm, his cry of anguish echoing through the grassy glade.
‘So you, Ciassia, and this inheritor of my grapes, are living the life I would have lived if I had not died?’
He leaned closer, ignoring her sharp intake of breath and the way she shrunk into herself. He noticed she held the cursed cross in both hands, across her chest, as if it were a shield.
His eyes lingered on the peachy creaminess of her skin, the flush of her cheeks, the softness of her eyes - Oh my Ciassia, he whispered, his lips unmoving.
He stepped closer, taking her by the shoulders and crushing her to himself. He smiled grimly when he heard Sibon's gurgled yelling. Not so triumphant now, he thought.
Vipunin ran his head up and down Cassia's delicious neck, licking, smelling, enjoying her fearful intake of breath and her frantic clutching for her cursed cross which now was just an annoyance, sticking his breast.
He smelled her human-ness – the salty flesh, the pulsing blood beneath her soft skin. She was his - to kill, to torment, to feed upon. That first taste would heal all the places within him that were so cold and dead. He would taste life, or a shadow of it. He would revive - for a time.
He felt his eyes changing, his fangs growing.
He kissed her neck, not tenderly, but frantically.
He ran his fingers through the silk of her golden hair, drawing back her head, exposing that creamy throat with its pulse pumping its warm blood through her body. He felt his whole body jerk with tension. He drew her neck closer, wiping his fingers across the pumping pulse, feeling its throb. He lowered his face into Ciassia's defenceless flesh, his iron grip forcing her closer, closer, then made to puncture the tender spot.
Just one delicious bite.
He would change her - keep her for eternity - his to do with as he willed. Like him, she would never grow old.
He ignored Cuchulain's protesting yowls growing louder and louder.
There is no honour amongst vampires, Cuchulain. You should know that by now, brother.
He would do what he wanted.
He was the Great Immortal Vipunin.
Ciassia was his.
Suddenly he was aware of her cries. It was how he had imagined his Ciassia would have cried the night he disappeared and for many nights after. Their love had been so strong. He never imagined they would be parted. He never imagined he would bring her pain.
He could not do it again. He could not hurt this Ciassia after all. There was some leftover shred of humanity in him yet.
It would be like drinking his lover and himself.
I am haunted by humans, was his last thought as he grabbed the yowling Cuchulain and disappeared into the forest - two cloud shadows under a cobalt-blue sky, looking for prey.
THE END – FINALLY!