Short Story
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                    Moonlight Encounter
                                                        By Rose Titus


There weren’t many of her kind left in the world.  Many had been killed
throughout the centuries, slaughtered in their daylight sleep by the ignorant.  
Butchered for what they were rather than what they did.

She sighed and looked up at the half moon.  She was all alone in a castle
surrounded now by wild forests, her people mostly vanished.  Occasionally
she met others of her kind as they traveled through the land.  They would
stay with her, share her hospitality, and then continue on.  Sometimes they
would ask her to come away with them.  But no, she would say, this was her
home.

She was a princess of her kind, yet outcast from the rest of humanity.  Only
living at night, she hunted through the forests and darkened fields.  She
hunted for blood.

On some nights she would see the shepherds watching over their flocks,
guarding against wolves.  Most were afraid of her.  Sad mindless fools, she
thought.  She shot deer with her bow, sometimes a wild boar, or found a stray
goat, the way most of her kind did.  Then she would drain her quarry as it fell
down dying.  Or sometimes if a bandit attempted to take advantage of a lone
woman wandering through the night.

She was well fed.  The peasants need not worry.

She looked up at the night sky.  Once her people were nearly as numerous
as the stars, her father had told her.  Now they were few.

She wondered if anyone would ever love her.

                                                   * * * * *

He gazed up at the stars and let out a sigh.  His family had arranged a
marriage.  It was time, he was told.  He had never seen the girl, but he was
told that she “was from a good family,” and that she was obedient.  That was
all.  And that she could cook, and sew.  She was strong and would bear many
children.  He did not want this, for his broken heart longed for another.

And he saw her many times, roaming the forests, this nocturnal huntress.  He
watched her from a far distance in the bright moonlight.  He was used to
finding his way in the darkness because of his many years staying awake with
the flocks.  By dawn he would sometimes watch her wander back to the
ancient castle.

He wondered about her.

One day he went alone, not telling anyone, to see where she went to her
rest.  No one else had ever dared to go there, even in the light of day.  He
went, surprised to find an entry.  No one from the village below the hills had
come to this place for almost a century, and so perhaps she feared no one?

He went through and touched nothing, for he was no thief.  He was only one
lost man looking to find his way.  There were worn but fine furnishings,
tapestries, the pelts of many wild beasts, swords mounted on the grey stone
walls.

And then he found her.  She was beautiful.  Pale and beautiful, dark blonde
hair flowing over satin pillows, with lips ruby from the night before.  His heart
hurt with love for her, for he knew she was no demon of the night.  Deep in
his soul, he knew he could love her.  If she would let him.

He left, but told no one.

                                                   * * * * * *

He continued to watch her from a distance and sometimes she would look
back at him in the moonlight.  She was aware of him now, yet she did
nothing.  She did not attack, rip out his throat, as the superstitious people
said she would.  She allowed him to watch her stalk her prey, from a distance,
of course.  This went on for some time.  Often he almost got close to her, and
could see her eyes flash in the moonlight. She walked through the fields on
the way back to her home.  Never speaking, he entertained the fantastic
thought that she could one day care for him.  But no.  He was only a peasant.

He had been taught to read by the monks who had a monastery in the hills
above the village.  They educated him in payment for work done in their
fields.  His father and older brothers told him he was foolish, that he should
have taken the money that was offered instead.  But when he took his sheep
to market he would spend a few coins on a book or two before he left town to
return to his small farm.  His family felt this useless habit of books was a
waste of both pennies and time.  Still, he read of legends from far away lands,
poetry, tales of gods and warriors long forgotten, even the writings of great
philosophers.  He read by the light of the fire on nights that he did not see his
dark princess so he would not be totally alone.

He was the only one in the village who could read.  

The moon was full that night.  It was the night before his bride was to be
brought to his village to be prepared for marriage.  Then his fate would be
sealed.  He would marry and he would continue to tend his sheep, and his
wife would obediently cook, clean, and sew.  She would obediently lie under
him and bear his children.  Then after many years of hard work his life would
come to an end.  He was to be quickly married, yet remain alone in the world.

Sadly he looked around the meadow to see if the vampiress was anywhere
nearby.  There she was, sitting on a large rock where the meadow met the
forest, watching him.  Perhaps she was curious about him also?

He had to act now, for tomorrow would be too late.  Forgive me, his
whisperedÉ  

                                                   * * * * *

She saw the young man slowly approach.  Finally, she thought after so many
nights, he is to come.  And what did he want? She wondered.  Now she would
find out.  But it couldn’t be that, could it?

He came closer to her.  She sat on the rock that had in ancient times been
part of a stone barrier at the edge of the forest and watched him.  He came to
her looking fearful but hopeful.  Then before her, he knelt and took her hand,
and kissed it.  He reached up to open the top of his shirt and silently she bent
to his throat.  He trembled as she bit down, and he let out a soft cry.  He put
his arms around her as she quietly drank.  Together they felt each other’s
warmth on a cold dark night.  They fell down into the tall cool grass and held
each other.  She drank little yet her love consumed him, and she felt the
warmth he felt.  For a moment in time it seemed the movement of the earth
and stars ceased, and nothing existed but their embrace.

As he grew weaker she released him and sat up, “I did not know any mortal
man would ever come to me like you did.  Why?”

He reach up to touch her dark golden hair, “I don’t know why.  I only know
you’ve taken my heart.”

She bent to kiss him.  He tasted his own blood on her lips, “You’ve taken
mine as well, yet I do not even know your name.”

“Owen.”

“Alessandra.”

They rested on the grass and gazed at the starlit sky above.  Slowly he
began to talk about himself and confessed his love of books and poetry.  He
told of his family and how they did not understand him.  Then he sadly told
her of tomorrow.  “They will bring her before me, and I must accept her.  Then
the marriage will be set for before the harvest.  I do not know this woman, but
it is our way.”  He had read tales of foreign lands where marriage was for
love, but that was not in the life of his village.

“When next the moon is this bright, you will gain your strength back.  Come
to the castle, and there you will find many fine old books.”

The sun was coming into the sky.  She left.

                                                   * * * * *

He came then into the castle and found it warmly lit with the glow of the large
fire in the hearth.  She had prepared venison for him.  He ate and she talked
of her people long ago, and how many of her family were killed off during the
day while they slept.  It made him sad to hear it.

“And so what of your family?” she asked.

“They are furious that I did not give my answer.  I told them I wanted to marry
for love.  My father blasted me, saying that too many useless books have put
ideas into my head, and that I was acting above myself, and that I had better
decide to marry her and be quick about it, for he was promised two pigs and
a cow by her father, and so on.”

She laughed and took his hand, “Come then, read to me from some useless
book.  For I have many.”  She told him to pick one from the shelf, and he sat
there by the fire and read tales of knights and heroes and ancient lands.  
She reclined on the bearskin rug in front of the hearth, closed her eyes and
listened as he read on.

She interrupted his story, “And so did the hero marry the princess?”

“I don’t know.  I haven’t come to the end of it.”

“Do you think he would?” she asked.

“Of course he would.  For he loves her, with all his heart, and would surely
die without her.  Do you think she would have him?”

“I think she would,” she pulled him close.  He dropped the book; it landed on
the fur rug.  “Do they know about us?”

“I really don’t care.”  He untied the top of his linen shirt, “Take your pleasure
from me, Princess.”

She bit into him; he moaned softly and shivered.  He held onto her to steady
himself, and he stroked her long golden hair as she drank.  He soon
collapsed from ecstasy and she let him down onto the rug.

She ran a white finger across his throat, caressing his wound.

“I wish we could be together, always,” he said.

“Is that what you truly want?”

“Yes,” he whispered, “To be with you.  Forever.”

                                                   * * * * *

The daylight came and the young shepherd never returned.  Most in the
village claimed that the vampiress took him away with her into the darkness,
drained his blood, and made him like herself.

Some, however, whispered that he ran away to be with a secret lover.
About Rose Titus
Rose Titus works two
jobs to support her
writing habit.  She exists
somewhere in a suburb
in cold, dreary New
England, with three pain
in the arse cats and a
very out of date
Macintosh.  She also
has a restored classic
Buick that gets her to
the grocery store.

Her work has previously
appeared in Lost
Worlds, Lynx Eye, Bog
Gob, Mausoleum,
Midnight Times, Blood
Moon Rising, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
and Wicked Wheels.