Chapter 10: Keel

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Chapter 10: Keel

I awoke to the slow, drawn-out, plaintive squeak of my cell door swinging open – very, very slowly.

Something was... different. Off.

Boras and the king were forceful and direct; neither would creak open the door as if they were costumed characters in a haunted attraction, revelling in the drama of the big theatrical scare. I opened my eye lids a crack and glanced around my cell. A lanky shape in black jeans and a hoodie was slipping through the doorway. How did he get past the guard? I wondered.

The figure crept across the room towards me, hood completely masking its face, just like the vampires on the truck. The key to my cell dangled from one of its pale white fingers. Had it killed Boras or the guard – or both?

I looked for traces of blood on its clothes, but there weren't any. Nor were there any signs of a struggle. In fact, after giving it a cursory once-over, I wasn't sure it could have taken either of them in a fight. It was at least a head-and-a-half shorter than the other Nosferatu I'd encountered.

Am I hallucinating?

Maybe my loneliness had finally birthed me an imaginary friend.

No. Can't be.

A figment of my imagination would have no need to creep.

Could this be it, then? I wondered, as I sat up, never taking my eyes off of the creature slinking towards me. Could this be the thing Boras feared: an opportunistic young vampire with an insatiable craving?

The intruder stopped a metre in front of me, stuffed the cell key into the right front pocket of its jeans and crouched down. It bothered me that it could see my face, but I couldn't see it's. What is it hiding? None of the vampires wore hoods down here; they didn't have to – this was their domain.

"I always wondered what one of you would look like," rasped a male voice from beneath the hood. He sounded thirsty. Not a good sign.

"We're taught about your kind in school, you know," he continued.

"School?" I asked, voice wavering. If I'd learned anything over the last eight weeks, it was that no one ever came down here looking for conversation.

"Never mind that," my visitor snapped, keeping his voice low as if he was worried about being overheard. "I want to see what you can do."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your magic. Show me your magic"

I laughed, and it stunned me, not just because it had been weeks since I'd last done that, but because it'd transformed into a cold, brittle, mirthless sound that reminded me of the king. I suppressed a shudder. I didn't want to have anything in common with that monster.

"If I had magic, do you really think I'd let myself be kept like this?" I rattled the chains to emphasize my point.

"But..." my visitor said, pausing to puzzle it out, "I can smell it on you."

"So you all say," I said, rolling my eyes at him.

He crept a tiny bit closer. If I extended my arm, I could yank back his hoodie and expose him, but I fought the urge, unwilling to put any part of myself too close to a strange vampire's teeth. Lesson learned. Boras would be proud. I still had nightmares about what Harck had done to me in the root cellar, though these days, most of my night terrors were dominated by the king – my lord and boogeyman.

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