Robin had dozed off, in spite of himself, and came awake with a start when he sensed a presence. He opened his eyes to see Jackquel smiling at him. Robin couldn't supress a shiver when she knelt before him and he saw blood staining her lips. When she tried to kiss him, he turned his head away, but her fingers tangled in his hair, forcing him to face her. Defiance gleaming in his eyes, Robin hissed, "We're going to have to cure you of your hair fetish."
Jackquel laughed, loving his fierceness. Helpless, yet not defeated. It was a desirable trait in both a man, and a mortal. "We must go now," Jackquel said softly, as she pressed her lips to Robin's cheek, leaving an imprint of blood on the warm skin. She pulled him to his feet, then over to the door which she had left open.
"Where are you taking me?" Robin queried, using his free hand to wipe the blood off his face. He could feel it on his skin and the thought of it made him ill.
"We journey to my home, Robin," Jackquel replied. "To meet my mistress...and your mate."
Robin shrugged off Jackquel's hand, falling in to step beside her. Making a show of being obedient. With genuine curiosity he asked, "And where, exactly, do you live?"
Jackquel pointed to the hills before them, far in the distance. "I live there, with my sisters," she replied.
"What? No brothers?" Robin taunted. But then he stumbled and fell to his knees. When Jackquel bent to help him rise, Robin shifted then kicked her in the chin with his booted heel. He hit her so hard her head snapped back but didn't wait to check the damaging. Rising up he turned and ran.
The moon was full and bright, lighting Robin's way, but that was a disadvantage as well, for it made him an easy target to spot. It was also to his disadvantage that he was in unfamiliar territory. But one thing Robin was certain of, he would have to search for cover in the woods. So he shifted to his left and ran for all he was worth.
It took all of Robin's will power not to glance over his shoulder. He had the sense of Jackquel bearing down on him, but didn't hear footsteps behind him. Once he reached a thick, grove of trees, Robin dived into them. He didn't stop running until his legs gave out. Falling to his knees, Robin labored to pull air into his burning lungs.
Only then did he lift his head and look behind him. No one followed. "Great..." Robin gasped, as he forced himself to rise. But then he gasped as he saw Jackquel standing before him. "How...?"
Eyes glowing golden, Jackquel laughed, then pushed off from the ground. A moment later she was gliding through the air above Robin's head. When she landed before him once more, she saw that he was too stunned to speak. "Would you like to fly, Robin?" Jackquel whispered, gliding forward to take his hand. When he didn't protest she wrapped one arm about his waist, then lifted them both up into the sky.
Stunned disbelief gave way to a heady sense of excitement, as Robin felt the wind tangle in his hair. The beating of his heart pounded like a drum in his ears as he stared down at the ground, far below them. He thrilled to the sensation of soaring like a bird, forgetting...for the moment...the circumstances of his flight.
Jackquel was pleased. She took them far over the trees, covering miles that would have been wasted had they been forced to walk. She hadn't intended to introduce Robin to this aspect of herself so soon, but perhaps it was for the best. Two hours later they reached the edge of her realm, and Jackquel glided slowly to the ground.
"Amazing.." Robin whispered, as he wavered on his feet for a moment. He felt Jackquel's arm steady him and was grateful. But then reality slapped him in the head and he pushed her away. "Where are we?" Robin demanded, gazing around him to see that they were near what appeared to be a small village.
"We're almost home," Jackquel replied. "We'll walk the rest of the way so you can see your new...world...Robin."
He shook his head. "My home...my world...is Sherwood," he stated firmly. But Robin couldn't shake the feeling that this small hamlet was somehow familiar. Humans lived in the village, not creatures like Jackquel.
She sighed and reached for his hand. "You can't go back, Robin," Jackquel said softly. "You will soon be one of us."
"I don't think so," Robin countered, tugging on his hand but unable to free himself from her, vise-like, grip. As he was pulled along he asked, "Why me? Why am I the chosen one?" Up until this moment, Robin hadn't thought much about it. But now it seemed important to know.
"You are a man who is pure of heart and filled with light, Robin," Jackquel explained. "My Queen must mate with one such as you, every thousand years."
Robin swallowed hard. "A thousand years?" he repeated. At Jackquel's nod he asked, "So...how old is your Queen?"
Jackquel smiled. "Two thousand years old."
"So...what happened to the first guy?" Robin queried, with a morbid sense of curiosity.
"He died after the mating," Jackquel replied, with a shrug of her shoulders. "But you will be different, Robin," she was quick to reassure him. "The Queen has chosen you to be her eternal mate."
Robin grimaced. "Lucky me," he drawled. Just then he heard a cry. Someone was in pain. "What's that?" he asked, his eyes searching the shadows and he listened.
Jackquel pulled him forward. "You'll learn soon enough," she replied, for she was anxious to get home. They were so close.
"NO!" Robin shouted, as the cry became a scream. He dug in his heels and yanked hard. Somehow he managed to break Jackquel's hold on him and he wasted no time. Robin turned and ran for the source of the cries. He flew through brush and leaped over fallen logs, coming to a clearing in the woods. What he saw before him brought him to an abrubt halt. A man and a woman, both pale like Jackquel, held a young woman between them. The man's face was at her neck and there was blood staining her bodice. "LET HER GO!" Robin shouted, running forward.
The pale woman, dressed in white, stood before him. Her eyes glowed red and she parted her lips to reveal blood-stained fangs.
"You look sweet!" she hissed, gliding forward.
"ENOUGH!" The word shattered the air and everyone froze. From the sky above, Jackquel glided down to stand before Robin. She faced her immortal sister and her eyes flashed. "This one will not be touched," she snarled, gesturing to Robin. "He is promised to the Queen.
Hearing that, the man dropped his victim and wiped his blood-stained lips with the sleeve of his white shirt. "So he's the one," he drawled. His name was Logai. He was very tall with a bald head, and a body whose slenderness belied his true strength.
Jackquel nodded. "This is Robin Hood," she announced.
The other woman smiled now and glided forward to touch him. "He's beautiful," she breathed, only to find her hand slapped away by Jackquel.
"He's not for you, Malisse!" Jackquel hissed. She turned to face Robin, seeing that he was staring at the dead mortal. "We must feed...to live," she explained.
"You're butchers." Robin whispered, swallowing back the bile that welled in his throat, as he stared at the young woman's torn throat.
Jackquel grabbed his arm, yanking Robin around to face her. One hand lifted, her fingers grasping his chin. "We are the kindred, Robin," she breathed. "Sisters and brothers of blood and darkness. We are the eternal ones."
Robin closed his eyes, wanting to banish the image of her beautiful face, seeing only her lips when they had been stained with blood. Somehow he had to escape this place. Or die. Better death than eternal hell, for he would not become one of them. But Robin's eyes flew open when he heard an unholy scream. To his amazement, Malisse had cried out. Her bodice was shredded with open wounds, like slash marks, they bled freely. She had been attacked.
"GHOLEMS!" Jackquel cried out. In that moment a heavy hand dropped onto her shoulder and she lashed out, knocking the creature from her.
"What's going on?" Robin asked, as he stared at the creatures who had suddenly appeared. They were dressed in ragged clothing. Pale skin and pale eyes glowed with an inhuman light. They snarled like animals and moved with a quickness that was startling.
Jackquel pushed Robin behind her. She would protect him at all costs. But she feared that they would both perish, for the Gholem's hunted in packs, like the animals they were. She and Logai could not defeat them all. Jackquel considered taking to the air, but Gholem's could fly as well. Just as she was about to give up hope, a howl shattered the night.
The shrillness of the howl threatened to shatter Robin's eardrums. He covered his ears and searched for the source of the sound. It seemed to vibrate in the very air and he was stunned by the affect it had on the Gholems. They screamed and scattered, disappearing into the shadows.
Jackquel laughed and glided forward. A moment later a woman stood before her. "Queen Ahava," Jackquel said in greeting, even as she bowed her head in respect.
The immortal, who was tall and thin, with silver-white hair flowing over her shoulders, smiled at Jackquel in return. "You have brought him," she asked, unconcerned with amenities. The time of her mating fast approached.
"Yes...Robin Hood," Jackquel confirmed. She turned to him and smiled at the look on his face. He was stunned.
Robin was, indeed, stunned. By Ahava's beauty and by the realization that she was the one who had made that, godforsaken, howl that had run off the Gholems. This was the woman who he was to be mated too. Robin felt her pale eyes wash over him, and he stood his ground. Letting amusement replace his astonishment, Robin remarked, "You know how to make an entrance, Milady." With those words he offered a courtly bow.
Ahava recognized the gesture as a mockery, but cared not. Her eyes burned with pleasure at the sight of Robin Hood. He was more than she had hoped for. "Bring him to me," she ordered.
"Yes, my Queen," Jackquel replied, moving swiftly to obey. She went to Robin and took him by the arm, dragging him forward when he would have resisted. "Come meet your eternal mate!" Jackquel hissed. But even as she spoke she felt a sense of regret at the thought. If only it were possible. Jackquel would have liked to have taken Robin as her own mate. But that was not to be, so she dragged Robin forward.
"Beautiful..." Ahava whispered, as she studied Robin Hood from head to toe. She then reached out and pressed her cold palm to his face. "His lifeforce is strong," Ahava breathed. This pleased her. His goodness and light would strengthen her once he had crossed over into darkness and blood.
Robin pulled away from Ahava, resisting the urge to shiver, for he felt as if he had been touched by pure evil. She was death. Death, disguised by beguiling beauty. He smiled and queried. "If I wasn't..pleasing..to you, does that mean we wouldn't have to mate?"
It wasn't a question totally asked in jest. Robin was searching for a means to escape. For once he could not rely on his friends to rescue him, for they would have no way of finding him here. Where ever here was.
Ahava knew what Robin was asking. "It is your soul that I need, Robin," she replied. "Your beauty is simply a blessing."
"Interesting word for you to use," Robin drawled. "A...blessing. I would think you'd stay away from such a phrase. Given it's religious connotations and all."
"I do not fear the church," Ahava said, laughter rippling from her like quick-silver. "I fear nothing the mortal world has to offer."
Robin shook his head. "Yet you need us...mortals!" he hissed. "To live. We give you life. I am the means for you to be eternal...and I am mortal."
Ahava bowed her head, conceding his claim. "True, and I was mortal once, Robin. But now I am immortal, and soon you will join me." She clapped her hands, eyes flickering to Jackquel and Logai. Alighting, briefly, on the dead form of Malisse. She turned to Logai.
"Take our sister home and bury her in the crypt," Ahava ordered.
"And what would you ask of me, my Queen?" Jackquel beseeched.
"Take Robin and prepare him for the mating," Ahava replied. "I too, must ready myself." With that she lifted her arms and flew off into the night.
Robin glared at Jackquel, holding ground when she stalked towards him. "Know this," he said softly. "I will not become an abomination."
Jackquel sighed. "What you will become, Robin," she countered, one arm sliding about his waist so that she could take to the air with him, "Is the Prince...of darkness." With that she took flight.
Marion and her companions rode for half a day before conceding defeat. Robin was lost to them. Marion sat on a fallen log, blinking back tears. "Do you think that he's dead?" she asked the Friar.
Before Tuck could answer a rumble of thunder could be heard, then a shimmer of light appeared before them. It did not take form, but from it boomed a familiar voice.
"Robin is with the creatures of the night," Olwyn declared. "He must fight for his soul."
"How do we find him?" Little John questioned.
Olwyn sighed. "You cannot. This is a battle that Robin must face alone. If he wins, he will return to you."
Marion felt anger ripple through her, for Olwyn did not seem overly concerned about his protege. "And if he loses?" she challenged. "Then he dies?"
"Then he will be immortal," Olwyn replied. "But an abomination. A creature of darkness and blood. There are those who would call him...vampire."
"Vampire!" Tuck hissed. He had read about such creatures. "They suck the life's blood out of mortals," he exclaimed.
Olwyn chuckled, but not with humor. He was pleased by Tuck's knowledge. "Yes. That is how they live, off the blood and death of mortals."
Marion shook her head. "Robin would never do that!" she shouted. "He would die first."
"And so he shall," Olwyn confirmed. "One way or another." And, with those cryptic words fading away, the shimmer of light vanished.
"What do we do now?" Little John asked, as he gazed at his companions.
Tuck patted his shoulder, but his eyes were locked on Marion. "We go home,
Little John," he replied. "Then we go home...and pray for Robin's soul."
Robin found himself in a chamber whose walls were draped in crimson velvet and black silk, and lit by what seemed to be a hundred black candles. He paced the chamber from wall to wall, pausing to glance out the window and noting that he was several hundred feet off the ground. The chamber was at the top of a tower. Heaving a sigh, Robin then glanced down at himself. Jackquel had bathed and dressed him as if he were a doll, and he was now outfitted in black leather pants tucked into black, thigh boots. A sheer, white, shirt with a cascade of ruffles down the front and a black, velvet, waistcoat with tight sleeves and a fitted waist, completed his attire. His hair had been washed and brushed so that it fell like silk about his face. He felt like a sacrificial lamb about to be placed on the alter.
Shifting his gaze to his left, Robin grimaced at the sight of the huge bed. It was draped with black satin and red lace. The image of Ahave lying upon it, giving him a lustful look flashed in Robin's head and he gasped in surprise and shook his head to dissolve it. He then heard a whisper of laughter and whirled around.
Ahave stood near the door, which was closed behind her and locked. It was she who had projected the image into Robin's head. She knew he was filled with passion, but suspected that he kept a tight rein upon it. That is what, noble, humans did. Fools that they were. But, tonight, Robin would learn to unleash his passion, to unlock his inhibitions and allow himself revel in the hunger...and the fullfillment that would come once he had crossed over. Once they were mated, Robin would be truly free. Free of mortal restrictions and the prisonment of his pure and innocent soul. The light had made him a captive, but the darkness...and her blood...would set him free.
"So what happens now?" Robin queried, as he took a step away from the bed. He found that he could not ignore the creature before him, however, for Ahava's pale beauty was like a beacon, drawing him to her.
"I will give you my eternal kiss, Robin," Ahava whispered. She was dressed in a filmy, white robe that shimmered as she moved. Now she glided forward to the table near the bed. There was a bottle of wine and a glass goblet. She did not drink but she filled the glass with the ruby liquid then offered it to Robin.
He found himself accepting it, but did not drink. Robin didn't trust her. "What's in here?" he challenged. "Some kind of drug?"
Ahava laughed, not in the least bit insulted. In truth, she admired his suspicion, it proved he was no fool. She also admired the fact that he was bold in the face of his fear. And she could smell his fear, it was stronger than the sweet scent of his blood. "I do not wish to taint your blood with drugs, Robin," she replied. "The wine is untouched. Drink."
But Robin had other ideas. He knew he could not escape Ahava's immortal strength. Had learned from Jackquel that the older her kind were, the stronger they were. At two thousand years old, Ahava would possess a strength surpassed by one one, mortal or immortal. And Robin was determined that he would not become a creature of darkness who survived on the blood of innocent mortals. He would not kill those he had sworn to protect.
So he turned and smashed the goblet into the stone wall, watching as it shattered. A large piece remained in his hand and Robin uses it's sharp, jagged, edge to slice across his wrist. Switching hands, he did the same to the other wrist. Then he dropped the shard and stared in fascination at the blood that pumped out of his veins.
"NO!" Ahava cried. She glided across the chamber and caught Robin as he
collapsed. Lifting him into her arms, blood staining her white robes, Ahava
stared down at the beautiful face. She could feel his lifeforce ebbing out
of him and her eyes glowed red. "I will not let you go so easily, Robin Hood,"
she whispered. And with that she curled back her lips to reveal sharp fangs,
then she bent her head and pressed her mouth to Robin's throat. But even as
she punctured his warm flesh, she felt his heartbeat fade to silence.
End of Chapter Two