1 The Lady of The Manor

In the frenzy of breath and sweat which followed the attack, he had just survived; William needed a moment to rest. The gash on his forehead left him wondering how serious the injury was. Not a scratch on him from the trenches fighting in Germany but somehow a hooligan got the better of him. That hooligan was big and silent, and William had not the best of vision in the dead of night. The streets of Canterbury were as empty and soulless as his attacker's eyes. The cobblestones felt as though they had recently been paved. William's desire to survive was betrayed by his feet who lessened their haste as soon as the burning pain took hold and the adrenaline dissipated. He reckoned that a safe distance was put between him and the attacker thus running would simply prove to be a futile exertion of his energy better used in other regards. William's slicked-back hair was dishevelled all around, the blood from his forehead polluting the golden strings, enveloping them in a wine-red colour that dripped constantly as the man trudged across the streets imbued in darkness.

Several minutes had passed and he reasoned his path must have taken him outside the town centre. The cathedral's tower was at a mere glimpse in the distance above the rest of the properties narrowly built to keep one another warm when the winds of winter approached. William felt the energy sap from his body. Thankfully, the wound on his head stopped bleeding, though if that was not going to be his demise, the cold would surely take him. Through his glasses, he noticed a flickering light.

''Perhaps a wisp.'' The man thought. Who cared at that point? If he were going to die anyway, what did it matter? He strode toward it. An invigorating feeling overcame him as hope smiled at him. On and on, right foot, left foot, until he reached the elegant portrait of the great manor. His eyes shimmered in the light as a wide grin of happiness stretched across his face.

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As his mother taught him, he knocked three times and waited, or so he thought he would. Within a second or two the door opened. The feminine visage of a lady appeared before him. Her countenance plain with a thirst for company, he alleged.

''Apologies for knocking at this hour, My Lady. But I am in dire need of assistance.'' His soft voice was troubled by the urgency of his injured state.

She stared at him for a while. Directly at his forehead and the dried blood that rested there. Then she broke a delicate smile.

''You must be tired sir. Please come in, I will provide you with some water.'' An uncommon clarity prevailed in her voice. But her accent was not of Britain.

William cleaned his shoes on the mat and followed the mysterious woman.

''Thank you for offering your home to me, Lady…?'' Asked William, genuinely interested.

She stopped dead in her tracks as if a lever had been pulled and her movement halted mechanically. ''Aragon.'' She turned to face him. His head must have been dizzied because the speed with which she moved seemed impossible. That's when he noticed what he hadn't before. Her bloodshot eyes with the pale pupils in the centre.

''She must not sleep much.'' He thought.

''Thank you, Lady Aragon.''

''And you sir, what is your name?''

''I am William Merigold, retired private in the British army.''

Lady Aragon continued walking through the atrium and into the great hall that was the living room. The Manor was illuminated from all corners. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling and a warming fire burned in the hearth. She sat on the chair facing it. Across from her, another chair lay, William took that seat. Lady Aragon held a cup of wine half empty. With her right hand, she played with the cup creating a swirl in the liquid, watching it profusely as William rested his back and warmed his skin. Red droplets began falling on his shirt. William's eyes caught the woman's head as it jerked in his direction. Her long auburn hair fell over her nails. She tilted her head to one side, then to the other.

''You should wash that, William. Before it gets infected.'' Her eyes widened when she remembered. ''How foolish of me to forget. I promised you some water, dear hu… William. I shall return shortly. The restroom is through there.'' She pointed toward a white door at the side of the living room.

''Dear William.'' He muttered with a smile on his face and went to clean his wound. The woman held an arousing allure, though that would not be the first time the man got a taste of such exhilaration. His blood rushed through his veins and excitement took hold. The face that was once bloodied by an ugly wound regained its vigour. Freshly washed forehead, hair slicked back as before the terrible attack and glasses readjusted on his pointy nose, he tucked his shirt in as best he could and soon returned to the living room.

He found Lady Aragon sitting in silence, half her face overshadowed by the blazing flame in the centre of the hearth. The crackling wood gave William an odd sensation of nostalgia. The bonfires they would set in the military camp were just as bright and released the same fragrance.

''I brought your water.'' She said, without even a slight glance.

''Thank you, Lady Aragon,'' William spoke after a few big gulps of the refreshing beverage. ''If I may, are you living here alone?''

''It's the only fate for me.'' She responded coldly.

''I beg your pardon?'' He stood confused.

As if waking from a trance her head turned. ''Apologies for my rudeness. Yes, my father bequeathed me this manor and all his wealth before he passed away. Now I roam the halls and drink myself to sleep in my loneliness.''

''I must say My Lady. I have never encountered such a contentious woman before.'' His intrigue heightened with every sentence she uttered.

She chuckled. ''Have you encountered many women then hum…?'' She paused. ''William.''

He resumed his seat. ''None as eye-catching and astonishing as yourself. A woman of power. I cannot deny that I have an attraction toward you Lady Aragon.'' He spoke candidly.

''You must be tired, William. There is a guest bedroom at the end of the corridor. You may take it for the night.'' She rose from her seat along with her wine glass and walked to the stairs leading to the first floor. ''Have a good night, William.''

''I will stay by the fire a little while longer. I enjoy the warmth.'' He said with a smile.

She nodded as her steps rescinded gradually. ''I remember when I used to as well.''

The woman was truly an enigma. Her words were cryptic and driven by an endless shadow of uncertainty. He thought about her statement. Was she truly by her lonesome? The man dozed off for what felt like five minutes. The balminess of the hearth before him allowed for absorption of resplendent relaxation. William took one last sip of his water and rose to his feet.

He allowed more minutes to pass than he had intended. ''She must be asleep by now'' He reasoned. Surreptitiously the man walked up the stairs of the manor. Locating her room proved to be the easiest task. While the others gathered dust upon them, her red door was as clean as the blood he had lost not long ago. He took a deep breath and held onto the handle with both hands pushing with just enough force to open the door but not hard enough to cause an alerting noise.

Lady Aragon's room was large. A king-sized bed settled in the centre with drapes falling around its edges, preserving the privacy of its inhabitant. A few empty chalices were placed upon the small wooden table at the side of the room and the painting of a great castle adorned the wall adjacent to the bed. It was clearly done with great skill and William admired it. A sweet smell of wine and perfume flew through his nostrils leading his heart to start a quaking pump. ''Where have I heard the name Aragon before?'' He muttered to himself, then shrugged. ''Now back to it.'' His hands reached for the woman's legs behind the drape, or at least the place where they should have been. He was met with nothing. In a sudden annoyance, William flung the drapes aside only to reveal an empty bed. He gawked at the impossibility of the matter at hand.

''Where is she?'' He said, louder than he had planned.

''Right here.'' Her voice struck as a giggling whisper only inches from his ear.

He turned, but once again, nothing other than the oblivion of darkness shrouded the room. ''What? Where?'' He presently yelled with an almost broken voice.

''Here human.'' The Lady said once more, presently from above.

Whimpering his hair jerked upwards but she was gone before his eyes could catch her.

Mumbling he said. ''Wh…What d…d…do you mean hhhhuman?'' His eyes once full of lustful stupor lost their animation.

The Lady emerged with ferocious agility from a shadowy mist following and dissipating behind her. It was as if she levitated, but that was not the worst William had to witness. Her face once a gentle innocence, moulded into the angered countenance of a terrifying creature. Fangs as sharp as polished knives, Ruby eyes as voracious as a rabid lion, auburn hair bleached to an ivory white.

Aghast, William fell on his backside. His body followed an involuntary retracting crawl. Then he saw more. Her nails, long and pointy, stilettos ready to pierce flesh. His facial expressions were of anguish and dread, fear, and ambivalence.

The Lady grinned as she paced slowly toward him.

''What are you?'' He said, forcing himself to utter a full sentence clearly.

''They call us many things. Ghouls, Strigoi, Leeches. But the one I prefer the most. The dignified one. Vampires.''

He was surprised he could keep himself from fainting. ''That's not possible! That's a myth.''

Lady Aragon frowned. ''Hmm. I can't speak for the myths, but I am quite real.''

William found that his crawling was stymied by a wall. ''What are you going to do to me?''

''I haven't had a good meal in a few days, dear human. I will drink your blood and enjoy myself doing so.'' She said giggling.

The man found himself whimpering and making sounds one would not particularly associate with self-respect.

''Please!'' He begged. ''Please don't kill me!'' He looked around with horror, then an idea came to him. ''I won't tell anyone about you. I'll keep your secret.'' A hopeful smile appeared on his lips.

''And what about your secret, eh dear human?'' She asked firmly.

''What do you mean?'' He asked. It was as if his brain erased the entire memory of who he was. His eye twitched reluctantly.

She scoffed. ''You who force yourself on helpless women. You have the audacity to deny your crimes.''

''I… I.'' His resumed pleading was prematurely interrupted by a rush of anger as she dashed across with incredible speed, picked him up and smashed his body on the wall of the room. The man coughed blood and grimaced with each breath. Presently her face was close to his.

''Look at me!'' She shouted, her voice compelling his mind to open his eyes and stare into hers. ''Good. Now you will confess your crimes to me!''

Robotically he began talking. ''I have sullied many women since I returned from the war. I was a deserter so no one would have me. I kill the women I **** so they can't tell anyone it was me. I make them beg me not to do it before I take their honour. I enjoy it and I was going to do it to you as well.'' He woke from the compulsion and shook his head. Fear and regret devoured his eyes. But not a remorseful regret for what he had done. Regret for being caught and stopped.

The Lady's animosity simmered beneath her gritted teeth. ''You! Ugly pile of faecal matter!'' She scowled at him as her grip tightened on his throat. ''You deserve to rot in the deepest hell!'' The distortion in her voice seethed a deep growl. Her left hand grabbed his manhood and pulled with so much might that it easily came off. The human's cries were loud and irritating to the vampire lady.

''My God!'' The words escaping his mouth raised Lady Aragon's eyebrow.

''God? Ha!'' She guffawed as the human squirmed in her grasp. ''There is no such thing! I am your God! I have the power to decide if you live or die and I have made my decision.'' A mocking smirk materialised on her lips. ''Any last words for your God?''

''Please I don't want to die!'' He begged once more.

''That's it? You're awful at dying you know that.'' She said with extreme calmness before she plunged her fangs deep into the human's throat. The blood invigorated her. William jerked and wriggled like a worm in her embrace. His life energy transferred to her, fuelling the vampire with his essence. Once the man's movement had been halted, she retracted her fangs leaving two gaping holes into the side of his neck. His body dropped with a thud on the wooden floor. Lady Aragon licked her lips and her innocent appearance returned, ready to fool the next unfortunate victim that would walk into her manor. That night the streets of Canterbury became safer, but the vampire will always lurk in the shadow, prepared to steal the blood of another. For what is life but death pending? Or so was The Lady's ideology. In the treacherous light of her manor, she waits. Though never is the wait excessively elongated. Never will the world run out of blood for her to relish..