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   Chapter 16

The Woodlands By EJBowman Characters: 35948

Updated: 2017-12-22 12:02

Neem knew the festivities were beginning as soon as he could hear much commotion beyond his door: servants and slaves running back and forth, trying to get everything ready. Apparently, they were so busy that they had forgotten to give him his morning meal. He would not complain, however. He was too excited to eat.

I’m going to get out of here soon, he thought happily while staring through the window. Down below, he could see vampires arranging stalls under party tents—as it was raining—and draining the carcasses of other beings to store their blood in barrels. He quickly stepped away from the window upon seeing such a horrific sight.

What if they do that to me?

He quickly shook the thought out of his head. He knew he was a special type of blood slave rather than a throwaway. He had actually wished to be killed quickly, like ‘lesser beings,’ until Rekou sparked new life in him.

Deep in thought, the nymph juddered when the door suddenly flew open. In came a vampire slave with a rag in one hand and a bucket in the other. He barely acknowledged Neem as he dropped the bucket next to the used one. The vampire then wiped down the window, removing the forest spirit’s lip stains from the previous times he had looked through the window.

The nymph’s heart skipped a beat when they suddenly opened the chest and started pulling out fabric.

“What are you doing?” he squeaked, failing to sound calm.

The vampire huffed in an agitated manner.

“We have to make your bed. The King and Queen of Borovnia may want to view this room when on the tour.”

He then continued pulling fabric out of the chest. His sudden pause and look of confusion sent fear through Neem— he knew what the slave had just found

It’s over.

He whimpered when the vampire held up the shell, food he had saved, and scrunched up map. The look he gave the nymph once he opened the map was deeply grave. Much to Neem’s surprise, he quickly dropped the shell and paper back in the chest and slammed the lid down. He kept the food however, as otherwise it could attract insects.

“You have no idea what they’ll do to you,” he hissed.

Neem made the wise choice to not say anything. The vampire did not seem to have the intention of ratting him out, and he wanted to keep it that way.

Again, the vampire stared coldly at him before gesturing for him to get out of the way. Neem complied and watched as he made the bed. Neem had never slept in a proper bed and did not understand the process, but the making of the bed was the farthest thing from his mind at that moment.

“You’d be mad to try and escape,” the vampire explained further as he smoothed down the sheets. “No runaway has ever made it far before the hunters caught up to them. That in itself is a painful experience,” he said while gesturing to his arm. Neem noted the dark blue puncture scars, “but it is much worse upon being returned to Primye Dinastoro. They will torture you until you beg for death.”

“What would they do to me?”

“They will do whatever they think will hurt you most.”

“But you won’t tell anyone about what’s in the chest, right?”

The vampire shook his head, but his lack of eye-contact while he did so concerned the nymph.

“I don’t need to. You will end up in the same place regardless.”

“Thank you,” Neem murmured even though his words were not reassuring.

Only after the vampire left did Neem feel like he was able to breathe properly. He was lucky that all the slaves appeared to be on the same page about not snitching on other slaves. It almost made him feel like he could connect with the group of underprivileged vampires despite the race differences.

Nightfall could not come soon enough, but just as it became dusk, an ominous drum sound could be heard in the distance. Cautiously, the nymph peered through the window in order to locate the sound. He was, however, fearful that he would see more carcasses like he had earlier. Luckily, that was not the case. From what he could see, a large group was approaching on the dirt road leading into Primye Dinastoro.

The walls shook when a loud sound boomed through their own kingdom. Neem instantly fell to the ground and covered his head. His sensitive ears were ringing. After a few moments, it became clear the sound coming from the castle was a sort of wind instrument—just one with a terrible sound.

Well, I think it’s clear to every being in the kingdom that the King and Queen of Borovnia have arrived. Blast—it’s clear to every being to the horizon line.

Neem allowed his joints to relax when the roaring sound died down, but he was mistaken in thinking it had ended. The nymph let out a snarl when the loud groan rattled the whole kingdom again.

Vampires have no taste in instruments. Being loud is not equal to sounding nice.

After another bellow, the horn appeared to finally be abandoned. By that point, the drum sounds were much more prominent, so they were likely almost at the castle.

The nymph slowly went back to the window and looked through it again. The large group were now no longer in sight, but that was because the road curved in the direction of the castle wall’s gates. He remained at the window despite the lack of view. There was nothing else to do in his chambers and he was far too energetic to sleep.

Not long now until Rekou and I get to escape.

After some moments of doubt, he had fully reverted back to full-heartedly believing they would succeed in getting away. Both Rekou and the other vampire slave had warned him of the consequences of getting caught and that there was no room for hesitation when their plan was set in motion.

There was absolutely no chance of sleeping. Even if his adrenaline drained, the sound of the festivities happening outside would keep him awake. He remained at the window, curious about how the vampires partied.

Ignoring the fact they were drinking blood, the gathering seemed similar to that of one in the Woodlands. Once a month, the forest creatures would celebrate the arrival of the new moon—when it was at its most violet—by crushing purple berries to feast on and smear across their bodies. He was thankful that the vampires were not lathering themselves in blood, but he could still see the resemblance.

Looking up at the sky, he realised he had actually missed the last Violet Moon Celebration.

I wonder if the nymphs celebrated it without me. Maybe they’ve already forgotten about me.

Nymphs were not the type to linger on the past, especially if it made them sad. They lived for hundreds of years, but when they did finally die, they were not missed. The philosophy of the species was that the Goddess decided when they were to return to the stars and be with her, so there was no tragedy when it came to death.

If they think I’m dead they won’t miss me. I want them to miss me. I miss them.

Neem shuttered when he heard the heavy wooden door creak. He had been resting his elbows on the windowsill and his head in his hands for what seemed like hours. There was nobody active in the castle grounds any more. Whatever animal blood they had been drinking was apparently strong enough to sedate them.

Two thoughts ran through his head upon hearing the sound: either Rekou had arrived or the vampire slave had ratted him out and the guards had come for him. Both options seemed equally plausible in his mind, so it was quite a relief to see the familiar face of the vampiress peer through the door. He was hoping to see her smiling as well, yet her face was very stern.

“Is it time?” he asked.

Rekou’s instantaneous hushing made it clear that he was being far too loud. It was hard to remain quiet when he was so excited.

“Map,” she ordered in a soft voice—she did not sound very confident.

The nymph hopped off the chest and circled around in order to open it. Right on top of the pile was the crumpled piece of paper and the rainbow shell next to it. He collected both items and passed the paper to her, which she tucked into the fabric around her waist.

There was a small flapping of his mouth when he debated telling her about the slave who had come across the objects, but in the end, he chose to keep it to himself—she looked stressed enough as it was.

“Most of the guards are asleep or distracted… We should remain very cautious, however.”

Neem nodded along, again making the choice to keep his mouth shut.

The same fear that the vampiress had started to consume him as soon as he stepped into the hallway. He felt so exposed outside of his room. If one person saw them, the plan went to shambles.

“Act calm if anyone approaches us,” Rekou murmured. She was clearly having similar thoughts. “All I have to do is explain that you’re being taking to the King, and nobody will question us.”

The journey through the castle was filled with nothing but suspense. It was well past midnight; everyone was asleep.

It took Neem a moment to realise that they were not following the previous route they had taken to get to the garden. They were now in a part of the castle he had never been to.

“Where are we going?” he whispered in the softest voice he could muster.

“The kitchen.”

Her answer was not helpful, but he assumed all would be made clear soon.

The smell of dead animals became all the more powerful as they neared the kitchen. The nymph was rather thankful when the vampiress requested he remain outside while she went in. Yes, being without Rekou made him feel very vulnerable, but he would likely faint if he tried to step in there.

Needless to say, he was quite horrified when the vampiress emerged from the kitchen with a chunk of red meat in her hand.

“W-why?” he gasped.

Rekou let out an irritated huff.

“It’s for the blood wolf. We need to gain its trust before we can ride it.”

Still repulsed, Neem chose to walk to the side of the vampiress that was furthest from the meat. He hated to think that an animal had to die so that they could escape, but he reassured himself that the animal had clearly died for other reasons; now it was simply aiding them even in death.

Both their hearts nearly stopped when they opened the door to the garden. There, they saw a figure leaning against a tree right in front of them. Completely frozen in place, it took Rekou a second to realise the vampire guard’s eyes were closed. A relief, yet anybody leaning against a tree could not be in a deep sleep.

She gestured for Neem to remain dead silent before taking a few more steps forward. Both flinched when the door made a thud sound as it closed. Luckily, the sleeping vampire did not seem to notice.

He could come-to at any moment, the nymph realised. His soul would leave his body right then if the vampire suddenly op

was taken away. Within a matter of seconds, his second foot felt as if it had been shoved into fire.

The nymph could not scream as loud, nor for as long, the second time. He was already feeling exhausted in his constant agony.

* * *

It took Neem a few minutes to order his memories. Before he even opened his eyes, he was greatly confused by the terrible burning sensation in his feet as well as the soft fur beneath him. In his semi-hallucinating state, he thought he was resting on a blood wolf that was eating his feet.

I was trying to escape, he finally remembered. The pain all over his body was a reminder. They burned me. They burned my feet very badly.

Opening his eyes, it was revealed that he was lying on the floor atop a dark, fur rug. He was not in his own chambers—that was for sure.

He gasped when a jolt of pain ran up both legs. Even brushing the soles of his feet against the fur as he stirred was excruciating.

“H-hello?” he asked in a voice barely above a whisper as he looked around the room. He appeared to be by himself, but he wanted to be sure.

Out the window, he thought while glancing to the side. Unlike in his room, there were no bars on the other side of the window.

His impulsive plan fell to pieces as he tried to stand. The pain is his feet was so great that his eyes welled up with tears. He rested against the base of the bed and looked up at the chandelier.

I will die if I don’t get out of here.

Putting both hands on the wooden frame of the bed, he hoisted himself up on his feet. At this point he noticed the end of each finger was crusted with silver blood—had they removed his fingernails? The pain was no indicator as he felt it everywhere.

His attempt at standing was only momentary, and he quickly fell back onto the bed relieving his feet of the pressure. Standing made it feel like iron was being pressed into his soles all over again.

Oh, Goddess, what do I do? Please save me.

Neem rubbed both of his watery eyes before sitting up and bringing his feet close so he could massage them. He did not care about the fact that he was sitting on an unknown bed, all that mattered was easing the pain.

Looking down, it became evident to him that some animal must have been killed and skinned in order for the King to have that rug he had been sleeping on.

Maybe that’s what Klav is going to do to me, he thought with dread.

He again reminded himself that he had to escape, but doing so on-foot was not going to be possible. Even if he did make it out the window, he would face much difficulty successfully getting away. The drop to the ground would certainly hurt, and then his only non-painful method of moving was crawling—that would not get him far at all.

Rekou is getting help. I must endure until then.

The sound of footsteps could be heard beyond the door he was facing.

Unless Klav kills me tonight.

The King was alone—and that somehow made the situation worse. If there were spectators, he would likely restrain himself, but now he did not have to save face for anyone.

“Already on the bed I see,” he said in a malevolent manner. “Excited?”

Neem had absolutely no idea what he meant by that. He chose to remain silent.

Klav strolled casually towards the wardrobe to the side of the window and began undoing his long tunic. The nymph followed him with his eyes but was too afraid to even turn his head.

“I have no doubt you have knowledge about Rekou’s escape, yet the question remains: why would you not go with her? You made it through the crack and then turned around and tried to go back?”

Again, Neem chose to remain silent. He felt any answer he gave would result in pain.

“No matter,” the vampire muttered while hanging up his tunic, “I will have the answers when she is returned to me. Probably within a matter of hours.”

She has to make it to Dacen, Neem thought. If she doesn’t, then we’re both doomed.

The nymph flinched as Klav sat down on the bed next to him. The vampire did not acknowledge Neem’s existence as he unlaced his boots.

Why is he not acting angry? Neem thought as he watched the vampire pull off his boot. The faint sign of a smile on that blue face was unnerving.

The King returned to the wardrobe and placed his boots in the lower shelf. Closing the wardrobe, he then spun around and locked eye contact with the nymph. The same fury seen in his eyes earlier was still present.

“You ready to regret ever being brought into this world?” he asked in a sadistically cheerful manner.

Neem instinctively leaned back and tried to crawl to the side when the vampire stood in front of him and bent down. At first, he had assumed the vampire was just going to bite into his neck and drink his blood, as he always did, but that assumption dissipated once he was pushed further up the bed and the vampire positioned himself on his hands above him. There was a deranged look in his eyes that implied a far darker punishment was about to take place.

He stifled his breath as the vampire leaned down and dug his fangs into his neck. Painful, yes, but nothing in comparison to the aching in his feet.

Oh no, Neem thought, petrified, as the King’s blue hand slid into his garment to his inner thighs. A finger teasing his most private area quickly sent him into a frenzy—he would not be violated like this without putting up a good fight.

Klav hissed as the nymph hysterically clawed at his chest and face. Both of them covered in blood as the nymph jammed his bruised fingers into any part he could attack. His new cuts stung, but they just infuriated him more than anything. It had been quite some time since any slave had tried to deny him.

Neem’s sporadic attack was put to a stop when Klav got up on his knees and slammed his fist down into the little being’s face. The first punch disoriented him, but the second and third drew blood. Both his mouth and nose ebbed silver liquid. Still, the nymph tried to fight. It was not until the vampire placed both hands on his little neck and pressed down hard that he stopped.

“Oh no,” Klav scoffed. “You took away my favourite slave… so now you’re going to take her place until she’s brought back.”

The nymph did not register what he was saying. Instead, he was trying to focus on getting air.

“Hands at your sides,” the vampire commanded.

He begrudgingly complied. There did not seem like any other choices if he wanted to remain conscious.

Neem could not help but let out a small sob as Klav untied the string holding his garment together around his waist. In the confides of the Woodlands, he took no issue with being so exposed, but the King’s malicious intentions made him feel vulnerable.

This feeling was further emphasised was the vampire slowly drew a line from his lips down to his midsection, using his finger. It took every ounce of Neem’s willpower to not recklessly start clawing at the King again.

“You should not have tried to run,” King Klav stated calmly while undoing the lace of his own hosen. “Let alone aided Rekou. Both of you are going to suffer horrifically,” he added.

Goddess, if you’re out there, I beg you to save me.

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