Mark woke up in complete darkness. He had to. Somebody was slapping his cheeks time and again. He lay on a flagstone floor, very hard, cold and uncomfortable, feeling as if a herd of elephants had stomped on him and left him trodded into the ground. His head was one big hot ache, his limbs just tangles of sore muscles and his neck…a throbbing pain radiated from it, a pain very difficult to locate but also very disturbing. Overall not one of his better mornings. Was it a morning, though? It was difficult to say.
“Mark, boy, wake up, speak to me.”
Mark jerked. It was lord Dreane’s voice, a deep, low rumble he would recognize everywhere. After some more slapping he finally managed to groan something unintelligible – with his mouth completely dry, he couldn’t pronounce a word. Lord Dreane guessed what his problem was; he left his poor head in peace for a moment, disappeared into the darkness and returned with a cup full of cold water.
“Drink boy, slowly…”
The water was like a balm for his parched lips and throat. It tasted a bit metallic but still felt like heavenly bliss. Mark drank all of it greedily.
“Can you speak now?”
“Yeah, I suppose…thank you, sir.”
“What were you doing here, all alone? Why did you look for me at all?”
Mark head was still throbbing like mad but the questions made him remember his mission and Lilian and the secret library…he braced himself, winced and tried to catch lord Dreane’s eyes to gauge his mood.
“You…won’t like it sir.”
A short, stiffled laugh was the last reaction he would expect.
“Do you think I am enjoying myself here, Mark? Being a guest in a house infested by the worst bunch of vampires I’ve seen in the whole century? Come on, spill it, nothing can be worse than that. We are wasting time.”
“Aye, we are, I am sorry, sir. Your daughter…your youngest daughter, Lilian disappeared yesterday.”
Lord Dreane became still and Mark knew that he got his fullest attention. After a moment of uncomfortable silence he plucked up the courage to continue.
“She disappeared after…after entering your secret library, sir. I am also very sorry to admit I helped her.”
“Oh, really.You helped her how exactly?”
“I…picked the lock for her, sir.”
“You did what?” Lord Dreane sounded utterly perplexed and even a bit awed.
“She…I was forced to pick the lock, sir. It was difficult but I managed to do so. No damage done, though. Sorry, I…she made me. I deserve to be punished, sir.”
For some time neither of them said a word. Mark was grateful for the darkness around him for the first time because his master couldn’t see him blush. Finally lord Dreane started to talk.
“So my youngest daughter finally made her first move. With your rather unwilling help. I am impressed that you managed to pick my lock, I really am. It bodes well. Very well.”
Mark didn’t know how to react but no reaction was expected – Lord Dreane just continued his quiet musings:
“Lilian…I did expect it a bit earlier but I think 22 is not bad, not bad at all. I do not intend to punish you, Mark; in fact I should thank you and I hate to say you punished yourself in the most severe manner by coming here and falling into the clutches of that vampiress. Brave but reckless, even stupid of you. I suppose you are still unaware of the consequences of your meeting but I’m afraid the fate of my daughter is more important right now, if you would forgive me for saying so…wait a moment…I need my orb…such unplanned trips can end up in a disaster…we must act right now…here it is…”
Mark noticed a ball of faint light, undoubtedly held by his lordship, which started to twinkle and spin. Then two creatures emerged from it, one bigger and one smaller. Both of them were winged and sparky like faeries. The bigger creature, emitting soft, white light, sat on the floor peacefully; because of her Mark was able to see his surroundings clearer. It was a grim view – he was undoubtedly lying in the dungeons. Lord Dreane inclined his head politely and the fae curtsied.
“What’s your wish today, my lord?” asked the smaller one.
“I need you to track my youngest daughter, free her, transport to my library and report immediately back unless I am busy.”
“As you order, my lord.”
The small fae, cocked her head, twittered something to the bigger one softly and they both laughed like mad. The sound was simply spellbinding – like a peal of the finest crystal pendants, struck with a golden spoon. Mark would love to listen to it forever but it ended pretty quickly; the bigger fairy took the ball from lord Dreane’s hand and both of them disappeared in a little cloud of smoke.
“Stupid, cheeky fae”, muttered lord Dreane.
Mark wanted to ask what the fairies told each other when he sensed somebody’s presence. It was like sweet, aromatic perfume drifting from one direction, a scent so enticing that it was impossible not to follow. Despite his pains and aches Mark got up and went toward the source of the scent immediately, his arms outstretched, his mouth grinning.
Lord Dreane’s shout did nothing to slow him down because slowing down was simply out of the question. The most wonderful person was waiting for him in the darkness and he know perfectly well where, even though he couldn’t see a thing. After a while a pair of arms found and embraced him, making him feel good, warm and secure, envelopping him in the best scents he’d ever smelt…a melodious voice murmured his name…He recognized the voice. It was her. He snuggled into her body covered by the familiar velour dress, welcoming those soft, feminine curves. Finally something went the way it should. She came to rescue him. She came to make him feel better. He wanted to thank her but he didn’t know her name. Feeling rather uncouth, he decided to ask.
“What’s your name?” he whispered into her ear, blushing profusely.
The answer came from behind, uttered in the rumbling, angry tones of lord Dreane:
“Lara, you monster! Release him right now! Leave him alone, you bad vampire!”
Lara hissed and closed her arms around Mark even thighter, really binding him to her. She was freakishly strong and it hurt a bit but he didn’t mind. She answered back but so quietly that only Mark was able to hear it. One single word which made his heart jump with joy.