In a cloud-shrouded sky, the sliver of a winter moon hid from the dark below. On an icy ridge an ancient castle stood hard by, shouldering the weight of time and snow.
Within, cold gray dust lay. Earth dust, moon dust, grave dust. Dust that was old when Carthage fell. Nothing moved in the cold still air save a gentle rippling in the mirrored hall.
A faint glow brightened; the castle’s mistress entered the great hall carrying a candelabra and a gold box. Before her, terrified creatures fled, and following padded her retinue of cats. She strode on long, thin legs, barely touching the carpet which rose to gentle each step. Her black hair streamed behind and her pale features were marked by malice and passion.
As sharp waves of moonlight pierced the aged windows the candelabra appeared to float from mirror to mirror. She paused at the hall table where a note stood folded. She set down the candelabra and read.
“Karyan, my darling, my sweet,” the note read, “I will hurry to you tonight as soon as I am able. Please wait upon my return. All my devotions, VCD.
“P.S. I have you a little present in the study.”
She pressed the gold box to her chest and felt her heart beat against it. She thought of him, so strong, so handsome, so, so thrilling. She sighed, her heart skipping. Her chest burned, thinking of his dark eyes.
The study! She took up the candelabra and continued down the hall, clutching the carved gold box. Cockroaches and mice ran frantically ahead, cats languidly followed.
Three mice darted left toward a cat, then with mousy shrieks ran right. A second cat leapt to block them and they stopped, frozen, in Karyan’s path. She halted. The crouching cats eyed the mice, and their mistress. She laughed, pointing at the mice.
“Dance,” she said.
The mice, two grays and a fat piebald, ran in a little circle, first one way, then the other. Then each chased its tail, demented cogs in a living wheel. Like circus tumblers they then bowled each other over, over, over. The cats hissed and howled their disapproval.
“Dance!” she commanded.
The mice leapt over one another’s backs, and bounded in the air. Rising on their hind legs they held forepaws. They spun, they kicked the air, they rolled. The cats wailed.
“We are not amused,” she said, with a voice like wasps wings. The trio huddled, trembling. She pointed at the fat one, freezing it, and to the others whispered, “Run!”
Run the two grays did, one left, one right. Each to the claws of a waiting cat and was torn apart. She felt her heart race. She addressed the fat piebald.
“You were the worst. What, you want mercy? You carry life inside you? Warm, bleeding life? Am I to be moved by this?” Thoughts of torture and pain filled her, but she tired of the game.
With a slight motion of her finger the litter grew, and grew, and devoured the piebald from within. Clawing their way out they furiously attacked one another. Rippling, the blood red carpet pulled the remains into itself.
Gliding up the stairs her thoughts returned to him. A candle set a cobweb alight. The study doors opened, stirring the must of moldering books, decay, of things old and forgotten.
There on the center table was as small blue vial and a crystal bud vase holding a three stem rose. She swept to it, set down her burdens, gently grasped the vase.
One bloom was fully open, one beginning to unfold, the third a bud. A petal drooped. This she touched, and it dissolved into a drop of blood on her finger. Green eyes wide she stared at the red black globe. She closed her eyes and placed her finger in her mouth.
Ecstasy! Oh blood, oh blood, how she hungered. The flavor of life filled her mouth. Panting, her heart racing, she could not contain herself. She placed the open blossom in her mouth and bit. She was overwhelmed by the rich, perfumed, viscous fluid. She held it in her mouth, rolled it with her black tongue, and finally, slowly swallowed. Her chest burned.
Recovering from her swoon she heard the faint rustle of wings in the air. Turning, she stared into the deep, black eyes of her lover, her Count.
He looked at the rose and smiled a faint, cruel smile. “You have pollen on your lips, my dear.”
“Oh Vlad, Vlad, it is lovely. A blood rose for Valentine’s. So thoughtful. Thank you, my darling.”
“I am pleased you are pleased. And this?” he said, handing her the vial. “Open it my pet.”
She unstopped the bottle and puff of vapor emerged. A child’s scream echoed in the study.
“Vlad, my love. A blood rose and baby’s breath. How you spoil me!,” she said, kissing his cheek. She picked up the ornately carved box. “My darling, this is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
He grasped the box but she did not let go. She stared into his eyes. Deep, deep within she saw the eternity of stars and the depths of the grave. Overawed, she looked at her feet, then slowly lifted her gaze again to his.
“I have never loved before. I have never given my heart to any man. I want you to know how faithful I am to you, how much, how much you mean to me. This was very difficult for me to acquire, but it was the only thing I could give you to show you my love, my total devotion. I want you to have this.”
He touched her hair, she playfully bit at his hand. Vlad, Count Dracuul, lifted the lid and turned the box to the light. Within, resting on consecrated earth, beat Karyan’s heart.
He closed the box. “Thank you, my precious. Happy Valentine’s Day.”