The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 5
Chapter 5

I woke up for the first time in weeks with tears in my eyes. When I opened them, I saw that I was still in Niklaus's room. I remembered the ghosts' fingernails digging through my flesh and shivered, sitting upright.
"Why have you woken, my lady?"
I jumped and turned my head sharply to see Niklaus staring at me peculiarly, his hand behind his head. I realised that I had fallen asleep on his chest, and I wondered whether he slept at all.
"I'm going to my room," I said simply, getting out of his bed. I took the candlestick that was sitting on his beside cabinet and walked toward the door.
"Before you leave," he said deliberately, and I stopped irritably in my tracks, but did not turn around, "Your sword, my lady."
I jumped again when his breath tickled my neck, and I turned around to find him standing directly behind me, holding Tio out for me. I grabbed the hilt, strapped the sword to my back one-handed and left the room, once again in the corridor filled with portraits of torture methods. The next corridor was filled with moonlight, and I wondered why Sebastian or Claude had not pulled the curtains over the floor-to-ceiling windows.
I descended the staircase, glad when I saw no paintings anywhere, and jumped when I saw a long shadow stretching out in front of me, but it was only the trees outside. These curtains were not drawn either.
"My lady."
I jumped once again - my heart felt like going numb at this point - and turned around to face Claude, grinning strangely, his canines longer and sharper than normal and his eyes glowing red. I knew he had to look like this at night, seeing as he was a vampire.
"Close the curtains," I told him, but he did not move or say anything. I said dangerously, "Close the curtains."
His grin widened inhumanly, his eyes growing larger, and fear lapped at my insides. What was going on with him? Just as I turned around to walk away, he appeared in front of me again. I suddenly sensed danger. Why was I in danger? Was it Claude? His instincts? Something else? Not sparing much thought, I broke into a run, swerving around the demented-looking Claude, and made for my room, but I never got near.
A terrified scream escaped my mouth as I saw a slightly glowing, translucent blue light appearing and floating toward me. It had an ugly gash in its neck and it was staring at me with glassy eyes. I recognized this ghost.
"No," I said, a wolfish whimper escaping along with my voice, "No .. No - no, no, no ..."
"Victoria," my mother said.
The voice echoed painfully from inside my head, and I clutched my ears. I shrieked as a cold, withering hand touched my elbow, and I swirled around to see a small, floating boy, covered in cuts.
"Miraxio?" I whispered, backing away, only to come into contact with a slightly squishy, ice-cold bump. I turned around. "Alexudo?"
"Victoria."
The three voices echoed simultaneously inside my head, and I clutched at my ears again, trying to block out their voices.
"You are weak, sister," Alexudo said, but when I looked at him I saw that his lips were not moving. I let out a yell of surprise when I saw that they had been sewn together, "You are weak in this world."
"Sister." I turned again, tears threatening to form in my eyes, to see Miraxio holding out his hand for me. No amount of Dark influence could shield me from the kind of pain or fear I felt then. His lips were also sewn together, yet he was speaking, "Sister, come with us. We can play all day long."
"I don't want to!" I shrieked, backing away but bumping into something again. I turned around and saw Claude's demented expression hovering over me, and backed away again. They were closing in on me, holding out their hands, "Leave me alone!"
"Come, Victoria," Mother said softly, but her voice echoed painfully. Their rotten hands were all reaching out to me, Claude just staring at me silently while the ghosts were trying to grab hold of me.
"No!" I shrieked, trying to run away, but Claude appeared before me wherever I went. I turned my back on him to face the three of them, tears fully formed and ready to fall down my cheeks, purely out of fear, "I still need to avenge you. Leave me!"
"You are too weak, sister."
"We should rather go play."
"Victoria."
My legs started trembling and I clutched at my head, feeling the rotting hands grab hold of my upper arms.
"My lady!"
I fell to my knees and into bare, ice cold arms, and the touch of the ghosts disappeared instantly.
"N-Niklaus?" I asked, allowing him to hold me to his chest. My heart was thumping painfully in my chest, my body trembling, my voice shaking. I was terrified out of my wits.
"What happened?" Niklaus growled. I shook my head against his chest. The weight of the anger in his voice was just terrifying me more. He wrapped his arms tighter around me. I clutched onto his black vest as though my life depended on it, the sight of my family still painted behind my eyelids.
"She told me to draw the curtains, my lord, but they already were," Claude said from behind me, but before he could continue I pulled away, backing away from both of them. They were vampires. It was night time. I needed to be careful. But when my eyes rested on Claude, his eyes were their normal auburn and his face expressionless as always.
"My lady?" Niklaus asked, and I changed my bewildered stare to face him instead. I could not help but notice how his black sleeveless shirt tightly lined his slender but muscled torso. I was surprised that he was wearing modern clothing - loose, long pants and no shoes.
No, I told myself firmly, they're vampires. All they want is my blood. I have to be careful.
"My lady?" Niklaus asked again, taking a step toward me. I backed away quickly, pressing myself against the wall as fear gripped at my insides again. I was in a cursed castle. Vampires and ghosts roaming around every corner. Niklaus raised his hands so that his palms faced me and said, "Why are you frightened?"
I bared my teeth menacingly like a wolf would have if it was in this dangerous situation, and let a low growl escape my throat. I chanced a glance at the walls and saw, for the first time, that all the sconces in the corridor had been lit. All the curtains were drawn.
"Leave," Niklaus hissed angrily to Claude, who disappeared in a blur of black. Did he want me all for himself? All my legendary blood in one meal? I chanced another glance from my captor and looked down the corridor. Most of the doors were open an inch, and glimmering eyes could be seen in the openings. My mind was spinning. I felt as though I was losing control over my body and mind. The only thing besides confusion that I felt was fear.
I was afraid of the shadows the sconces were casting on the stone walls. They looked like ghouls, reaching out to me hungrily. I was afraid of the glimmering eyes in the openings in the doors. Refusing to try and think logically, I convinced myself that there must be more paintings in the rooms, and the ghosts were looking for an opening to get to me, but their way was blocked by my next and biggest fear at the moment. I looked back at Niklaus, who was still staring at me, his palms out. He was a vampire. He did not have a soul. He did not have feelings or remorse. He was trying to lure me closer to drink the last blood of the Black family he would be able to. Lady Winter had said that Niklaus would not be able to defeat Father, so he must have known that I was his last chance to taste Black blood.
I remembered I still had Tio with me. I reached backward and undid the clasp that held the hilt in place, while Niklaus's brow creased with confusion. He did not say anything as I pulled both sheaths from Tio's blades, letting them fall to the floor as the sword was sent upwards, and caught it smartly with one hand.
I was crossing blades with the most dangerous person alive, next to Father. This was my end. I was going to die if I tried to run. I was going to die if I fought him. I was going to join Mother and play with Miraxio all day long.
"My lady, what are you-"
Niklaus was cut off by a demented giggle that escaped my lips without me noticing. It turned into my familiar demented laughing fit as I realised how much blood was going to be spilled tonight.
"I'm going to die, aren't I?" I asked, ending my laughing fit, "You're going to eat me, aren't you?"
"My lady, I do not-"
He was cut off once again when I charged without warning, swinging Tio's blades dangerously. He easily dodged my blows. I Changed and twirled around in mid-air, letting my tail brush his nose. I growled angrily when he did not sneeze: the distraction I needed. I focused Ceilos in my arms and legs and randomly sliced at the air, not really knowing whether I was trying to kill Niklaus, but confused when he did not retaliate. He seemed perfectly calm behind his utter confusion when he dodged my hits.
Suddenly I felt the back of my head hitting the cold tiled floor. Tio fell from my grip when Niklaus pinned me to the floor with his hands painfully gripping my forearms, and I felt my strange mood disappear along with the Change. I took several deep breaths.
"Why did you attack me?" he asked, his hypnotizing black eyes boring into mine, preventing me from looking away.
"You're a vampire," I said, "I thought you wanted to hurt me."
"Have I ever given you reason to think I would fatally harm you?" he growled, and his terrifying anger brought tears back to my eyes. I shook my head jerkily, and his expression softened instantly.
"They won't leave me alone," I said, a tear rolling into my hair.
"Who?" he asked, "Who is hurting you, Victoria? Tell me!"
"They're staring at me," I said, shaking my head. I could feel the eyes behind all the doors boring into me. Niklaus looked up and frowned for a moment.
"Be gone!" he said in a deep, menacing voice that made my stomach churn with fright. I cringed instinctively and shut my eyes tightly as all the doors slammed shut and clutched the sides of my head, the tips of my long, sharp nails digging into my skin.
I was swooped into Niklaus's bare arms and within moments I felt myself being placed on something soft. I opened my eyes to see I was back in his room, lying on his bed. Tio was lying on the windowsill, sheathed. I looked back at Niklaus, studying his confused expression, waiting for him to either say something or kill me already, but he simply stared.
"Manson never experienced these kind of emotions," he said finally, "He does not feel fear at all."
"Why do I?" I asked, my voice trembling.
"I do not know," he said, taking my hand.
"I'm not crazy," I said softly.
"I know that," he replied.
Suddenly he frowned and looked away, but not before I saw his eyes flashing a terrifying red, and I cringed. Systematically, the red faded and his eyes turned back to black.
"I apologize," he said, "I have not fed this evening. I was guarding you."
"You can have some of my blood, so long as you don't drink too much," I said timidly, not wanting to see him like I saw Claude earlier: scary and demented.
"If you feel uncomfortable, I can get one of the maids," he said.
"Don't leave," I told him. I knew that, the moment he was not with me any more, I would start seeing things again. I did not know whether I was hallucinating or not, but his presence seemed to be the only thing to dispel it.
I reached upward and made a small cut on my neck with my sharp nail. Niklaus seemed to be in unbearable pain and seemed to be having a terrible fight with himself. He slowly leaned forward and opened his mouth, revealing his inch-long, knife-sharp canines and closed his glowing red eyes, sinking his teeth slowly into my skin.
I winced at the sharp pain, but forget it as soon as it was replaced by the sense of euphoria.
My sense of security in his arms, however, started crumbling when dizziness began tickling my vision.
"N-Niklaus?" I said, trying to push him back by the shoulders, but then that sharp pain in my neck prevented me, "Niklaus, let go - hey! Let go. Stop drinking!" I cried with panic as my vision swam with stars, and he finally let go. Not giving it a second thought, I pushed him away and got off the bed, backing against the wall, my earlier fear gripping at my insides again as blood dripped from both his mouth and my neck.
His eyes were glassy and red for a moment until he snapped out of it and looked at me sharply, sending a jolt of fear through me, "Victoria, I am so sorry."
I cringed in spite of myself when he wiped his mouth and got off the bed, fearing the worst. For all I knew, he could still be hungry, and the blood dripping from my neck did nothing to ease my dizziness.
"Sebastian!" Niklaus growled angrily, and a whimper escaped my mouth just as the door opened and the butler entered, "Have you fed already?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Bring Griselda to me, along with a bandage," he raged, getting off the bed and storming out of the room, followed by Sebastian.
I pressed my fore- and middle finger to the two holes in my neck to stop the bleeding and slid to the floor, tears streaming down my face. I was alone again. This was the part of the mansion where there were the most paintings. I did not know if the people in the portraits standing against the wall were real or not, but now there was going to be no one to protect me from them. Niklaus was angry with me for pulling away, and he was the only one who could fend them off. I was all alone.
I got up and went to the window, and took Tio. I needed to get back to my room. I looked up sharply as I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. The curtains were not drawn, and the crescant moon shone feebly through the window.
I shrieked as a crow appeared over me, but it was no ordinary crow. I had learned of it in Monster Studies.

Known simply as the Havec, this giant crow is known to plant shadow into the minds of all those around it. Five feet tall in vertical diameter and, with wings spread, seven feet in horizontal diameter, the Havec poses great threat to whichever crosses its path, having claws sharper than the most finely crafted swords.

I unsheathed Tio just as the Havec attacked the window with its claws. I backed away when I was littered with shards of glass, swinging Tio wildly through my dizziness and fear.
"They should all just die because of their uselessness, shouldn't they?" it asked in a deep voice, echoing inside my head, as I backed away, "No one wants to help you. No one can help you. You are weak. You cannot defeat me, Victoria Black, any more than you can defeat your father."
"Shut up!" I shrieked, grabbing the opening in one of Tio's blades and swinging the other over my head so that it sliced the Havec's left foot off, causing pitch black blood to spurt from the opening. It shrieked with force that shattered the rest of the glass on the windows.
I was about start muttering my incantation to Summon Appoloin when it spoke again, "Now that your luck has run out, will you call for help? Will you, once again, prove your weakness? Which angel do you intend on calling, Victoria Black?"
"Stop reading my movements!" I shrieked as my dizziness caused my legs to give way. I knew I would not be able to stabilise my Ceilos. I had lost too much blood. The Havec stretched its wings as wide as it would go, knocking over most of Niklaus's paintings, and reached at me with its remaining clawed foot.
Just as it made to grip my neck, Niklaus stabbed it with his broadsword and, out of reflex, it sliced my right arm open instead, and then everything turned black.

I was in a stone labyrinth at night time, surrounded by pathways where eerie shadows were swirling and forming patterns that set my heart thumping painfully with fear. It was ice cold.
"Victoria," the voice of my mother called from one pathway, and I briefly saw her and my brothers holding out their rotting hands to me.
I backed away from that pathway and turned around to find the ghost with the monocle and missing eye staring at me blankly. I backed away into another direction only to be clawed at by the people that were in the paintings, and the Havec glared at me hatefully from another pathway. I ran through the only pathway where there were no ghosts or other creatures to harm me, only to end up facing three more pathways to choose from.
"My lady?"
I swirled around at Claude's voice, screaming when his glowing red eyes and inhumanly wide, sharp-teeth grin greeted me, so I ran into a random pathway. I stumbled and fell to the stone floor only to come face to face with a severed head which grinned at me wickedly.
"Excuse me," the head said politely, and then a hand from above me picked it up, and I shrieked when the head's body was crawling with maggots. I grabbed onto a nearby branch sticking out of the stone wall to help me up as the man walked away after placing his head on his shoulders, only to find that it was actually a forearm, and the bony hand gripped mine painfully.
I screamed and pulled free, running into a random direction again, following random pathways, going left as much as I could. I felt as though I was on the verge of dying from overexposure to fear, even though I knew it was only a nightmare.
"Wake up!" I yelled at myself, "Wake up!"
But it did not work. As I was about to turn left again, a menacing growl erupted from within my head and a massive wolf with glowing yellow eyes and canines as long as my forearm ran at me. It was not a ghost or an after-image like the previous obstacles were, but a solid, horrifying beast, blood and saliva alike dripping from its mouth as it ran. After uttering the loudest scream yet, I found my feet again and ran in the opposite direction, screaming all the way.
I gasped and yelled as I tripped yet again, my jaw colliding painfully with the stone floor. I turned around, knowing it would be no use to try and run, and watched as the wolf jumped, its teeth seconds from ripping my head off.

"No!" I yelled, sitting upright, wincing at a sharp pain in my arm.
I looked sharply around me, backing away with fright when Niklaus looked at me strangely, with wide eyes. Was he still hungry? I was still on his bed. I looked down at my burning arm and saw nothing but bandages. My neck was also bandaged. I backed away more when he made to stand up, and felt myself tumble backwards and off the bed, only to let out a yell as Niklaus disappeared from his seat and strong, ice cold arms gripped me from behind.
"Victoria, please relax," he pleaded as I back away in another direction, slipping over something. Before I hit the ground, he caught me again.
Was he taunting me? Deliberately trying to get my heart to beat faster so that, if he drank my blood again, more would be pumped? I got up from his grip and saw that I had tripped on several shards of glass.
"Victoria, please," he pleaded again as I backed against the windowsill, feeling the cool wind and letting out a cry of surprise when I slipped on a shard of glass again and tumbled backwards. He grabbed me by the cloth of my shirt and pulled me into his arms, holding me tightly, hurting my bandaged arm and preventing my escape as I started sobbing against my will, tears leaking from the corners of my eyes as he tried soothing me by repeating the same sentence over and over again, "It is going to be all right. Everything will turn out all right."
I relaxed slightly. If he wanted to kill me, he would have done so already. I saw, over his shoulder, Tio lying on his bedside cabinet.
"I killed the Havec," he said softly, "They come here only twice a year, if it is even that often. You needn't be frightened anymore."
I nodded once after saying, "My arm-"
He let me go immediately and drew the curtains closed before leading me to the bed. I lay down and he sat down beside me, starting to remove the bandages.
"Why didn't you just lick it?" I asked, remembering the Havec and its claws cutting through my skin, "I thought that would heal it."
"A Havec is no ordinary being," he replied gravely, "My saliva only dried the blood on the wound to prevent any more from spilling. The rest will take time, but not much. I'm afraid a scar will remain, however."
He placed the bandage beside Tio and I chanced a glance. Suddenly I was glad I was left handed. There was no way I would be able to train with an arm like this. There were two long, thick gashes running down my upper arm, and another reaching from my wrist to elbow on the underside.
Niklaus lifted my arm - I winced at the burning - and ran his tongue across each gash. I saw the scabs darkening slightly and most of the pain ceased.
"Is that better?" he asked, and I moved my arm around. It did not hurt much anymore, and I nodded.
I waited patiently as he wrapped a clean bandage securely around my arm. Afterwards he escorted me to my room and tucked me into bed, caressing my hair to help me fall asleep.
I was almost certain that, if I had to turn one more corner to see a ghost or giant wolf or anything out of the ordinary, I was going to die of a heart attack.

 

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