WELCOME TO FAIRMONT
where the tale begins
Rain was falling on the village of Fairmont, hidden between high mountains in a lush valley. Lights were lit despite the late hour, no one really ready for sleep just yet. From the abandoned manor on the hill, Milena watched the tiny humans in the distance. She was waiting for the others to come, if any of them had survived the fire.
The girl was getting hungry, and she wasn’t used to it; there had always been food available back at the castle. Aleksei had been very serious when he said there was no hunting. Not here, not this time. They wouldn’t make the same mistakes and lead their enemies to the clan’s new home.
Mila hated it. She hated the idea of them living among humans and pretending everything was fine. It wasn’t. She could still see the flames lick the tapestries on the walls and the black-clad Knights of the self proclaimed vampire Emperor invading the castle with their soldiers. The oldest vampire alive, the first according to some. She didn’t understand the politics, she never was interested, but Liza told her it was because of Aleksei. The Emperor didn’t like him and saw him as a threat. He thought that the eccentric vampire was building an army to defy him, so he decided to eliminate him and the entire Kasyanov clan.
Anger filled the heart of the young vampire, but also despair. She remembered how Liza and Roza, who were like mothers to her, pushed her out a window so she could run. They stood in the blazing room surrounded by soldiers with no hope of escape. Milena had frozen, she had been helpless. Their had to force her to leave. Now, all she could do is hope.
This new life, it wasn’t for her. She like the wilderness, she liked being isolated from people. Sure, it made it harder to feed, but they had a hunting system that had worked for centuries. Hunters couldn’t track them, but the emperor had all kinds of spies. Because of them, at least half of the clan had burned to death. Aleksei hadn’t even been there.
He found her though. As soon as the clan head knew what happened, he came to her and went to find all the other survivors, scattered around the snowy mountains. He told her they would meet her here, but she was the only one who had made it so far. Who knew what happened on the road, her family might have been killed by the Emperor’s Knights or worse, by Hunters. Meanwhile, she was supposed to smile and play nice with her food? What was her father thinking?
Over the next few days, Kasyanov vampires started to show up. Exhausted and terrified, they came to the mansion under the cover of night to heal from both physical and emotional wounds. It was hard since hunting was out of the question, but they managed with the supplies Aleksei had brought. Liza and Roza made it as well and Mila greeted them with hugs and tears. Even the psychic twins, barely out of childhood, survived.
As more arrived, the place started to look less and less like an abandoned haunted manor and more like their old home. With lights and family around, it was warm even though they had very little and much had to be repaired.
The first few weeks, Aleksei was in town a lot. Business with the village chief, he said. He helped fixing broken windows and torn doors too. Then, one night, he assembled everyone in the great hall and explained how things would be from now on.
“Thank you all for helping to restore this old house. This will be our home from now on and I would like you to be comfortable while I am away. I am so glad we made it this far and I am so sorry for the loss we have all endured. Over half of our brothers and sisters have been killed by the Emperor’s soldiers because he feels threatened by our family. Merely a dozen of us are left, but fear not, you are all safe now. I will not allow this to happen again.
To ensure our safety, your safety, we will need to live by certain rules. It will be hard at first, but you are all survivors. You can adapt to this new lifestyle, I know you can.
The first rule, and the most important, you must not kill. Feed on animals, go to further villages, but do not kill. We have to hide our presence from Hunters, but from the Emperor as well. Leave no trace of our presence anywhere.
No matter what you do, I ask you to please avoid feeding on people here at all cost. They are now our hosts. I have spoken with the village chief and we agreed on certain terms.
They will leave us alone and not investigate us or the manor, but we both expect you to be civil and abide by humans laws. For all they know, that’s what we are, a fallen aristocratic family moving to their isolated little town.
We will also have to keep them safe from outside threats, those they know of and those they cannot ever know of.
To avoid too many questions, I will need all the day-walkers to show up once in a while. Go to the market and buy supplies, food. Be polite, make small conversation with the villagers.
Of course, never, ever, speak to anyone of our true nature. Second most important rule. Our survival depends on this. We cannot bring attention to ourselves.”
Day-walkers were those that could walk under the sun. No one knew what made a vampire immune to the deadly light of day, just like special talents seemed randomly distributed. Mila wasn’t one of the day-walkers, but she didn’t envy them like some might. She was always a night creature, even when she had been a human girl.
“Third rule, never invite anyone to the manor. It’s too risky to allow them in. Let us be private, but never rude. Explain that guests can only be permitted when the master is at home, which would be me, of course. If they ask about me, tell them I’m a researcher and that I travel a lot. You can even say the truth on this matter, that I am a collector of rare things.”
Aleksei smiled and let his eyes rest on each of them; the remaining pieces of a collection that had taken lifetimes to gather. Not remotely close to an army, simply a refined and rare gathering of talents he had transformed into a family.
“I do expect you to come up with your own stories and identities. Be a servant, a steward, a family member, a friend. I have a few ideas for you and Roza will update you on these a bit later.
Milena, darling, come next to me.”
The girl wasn’t expecting this and hesitated a second before separating herself from the rest of the family to join Aleksei who wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She didn’t like being set apart, it brought to much attention to her; she wished for only peace and music.
“Mila will be my daughter in this village. Of course, you are all my children, but they cannot know that. It would be too hard to explain, I’m sorry my dears.
I do expect you to treat her as your master’s heir. I told the chief she is afflicted by a general weakness, therefore people won’t bother her too much. They might ask you about her, because humans are curious by nature.
As time passes, they might notice how we do not grow old. We will have to rotate the people that are going out, come up with stories, have new clan members step in. I will take care of this, do not worry. This will be our home and I hope we will be able to stay here for a long time.
Tomorrow, I will leave with Ellis and two more for a few weeks. Anora will stay here to ensure communication.”
He glanced at the twins who nodded to confirm they understood. That’s how it usually worked since they both were connected to each other. No matter the distance separating them, they could communication telepathically, which is why Aleksei always took one with him. That was how he got word of the attack on the Kasyanov castle.
“I promise you all, we will be back on our feet faster than you will know. For now, let us all rest and recover; adaptation to this new town will take time and energy.”
With those last words, the clan head left the room to finish his preparations for his trip while the rest of the family stayed in the hall. Some were already going to beautiful and dark Roza, who had been one of the firsts to join the Kasyanov clan She was already taking charge, as always; she was the one to take care of everyone while Aleksei was gone.
Wanting to escape stares and comments, Mila started to walk towards the door with the intention to run to her room. Blonde Liza came up to her before she reached the exit and wrapped her arms around her.
“Don’t worry, sweetie, we will be fine. No one will hold it against you, you know that. It’s just a game, a show we will put up for the humans.”
“I know. I just don’t like it. I want things to go back to how they were.”
“We all do, honey… maybe I should call you milady now?”
“Please don’t, that would be strange.”
Liza had raised Mila with Roza, showed her how to eat and hunt. She had helped her master her hunger and her rare gift, the one allowing her to take the form of a pure white leopard. She encouraged her to mix with the others instead of staying alone in her room, facilitating her integration to her new family. Mila couldn’t have her treat her like she was above them, she couldn’t have any of them treat her like that.
After Liza kissed her forehead, the now official Kasyanov heir fled to her room and took up the violin Aleksei had bought from a shop on the first day they had arrived in the valley. It wasn’t as pretty as the rose-wood one he had brought back for her when she first joined the family, but it sang beautifully nonetheless. She liked losing herself in music at night, it was her escape, always had been.
And as the dark hours were coming to an end, the village of Fairmont was transported by a melody from another world, soft but full of sorrow.