Chapter Two: Hunger

When she opens her eyes again, her surroundings have changed -- the warm and welcoming interior of the cottage is dark and dank, smelling strongly of blood, rot and mold. Morgan tries to shake her head and clear the vision but it persists. If anything, rather than fading away, the details become clearer, sharper.

What had been dried herbs hanging from the ceiling when she entered are now bones, frighteningly human shaped bones. Some are bleached white with age, some still covered in dried gore but all are scored with deep scratches...almost like tooth marks.

She tries to rise from the chair but her body doesn't listen to her commands -- everything feels cold, distant and numb. She looks down, thinking she must be tied up but no: there are no visible bonds keeping her tied to the chair. Somehow, she's become paralyzed... Poison? That seems unlikely-- her undead body could resist almost any toxin, unless it was delivered directly through the blood and even then, it wouldn't have much effect... But what else could it be? She's starting to think the old woman isn't mortal after all.

Her eyes dart around the room, trying to find the old woman and doesn't see her, though she can hear something or someone moving around outside. For the moment, it appears she's alone. God damn it! She thinks, cursing her sudden helplessness. There must be some way to escape, some way to force feeling back into her body! She doesn't want to know where the bones hanging from the ceiling came from and she wants hers to join them even less.

Doing her best not to panic, Morgan tries to take in the details of her predicament. First and foremost, she can't move; her heart isn't beating and there's no feeling in her limbs. At least she's not tied up...

The door to the cottage opens and Morgan can feel the old women's eyes on her back. Don't panic, don't panic...you have to stay calm...

The old woman shuffles over, stopping to stand in front of Morgan. Before, she had thought the women's puckered mouth was toothless but now, sharp and jagged yellow teeth protrude from dark purple gums. Her skin is a faint gray, her eyes bleary and red, sunken deep into her head.

Their eyes meet and the old woman snorts. "Now that's a surprise. You should be dead, girl..."

She runs a claw-tipped finger down Morgan's cheek, scoring a deep cut in the flesh. The woman licks the blood from her finger and then breaks into an unsettling grin-- Morgan can see row after row of teeth in that shark-like maw. She laughs, throwing her head back.

"Oohhhh it's been an age since I've seen one of your kind, child! The power in your blood will keep me for quite some time, murder-cursed child of Cain."

The old woman lifts Morgan's arm, holding it up in front of her face...A long, slimy black tongue darts out to drag over the cold, pale skin. All Morgan can do is stare in absolute horror -- unable to speak, unable to move -- as those jagged teeth sink deep into her forearm and pull out a bloody chunk. Her eyes go wide and she wants to scream but only manages a faint squeak. At least she's blessedly numb, unable to feel the pain.

The room starts to spin as Morgan watches the old woman chew, blood and spittle dribbling down her chin like cherry juice. She smacks her lips, eyes closed with apparent pleasure as she savors the taste...

"Oh how lucky I am that my song dragged in such a tasty, tasty morsel."

The words sound distant and far away and once again, all goes dark.

• • •

The next thing Morgan is aware of is horrific pain and the sound of someone snoring. Her heart starts beating and her lungs draw breath -- she can move again but that also means she can feel again. Her hand flies up to cover her mouth and she bites down hard on her lower lip to keep herself from screaming. It hurts, it hurts so fucking badly she can barely even think.

Hunger claws at the back of her throat and the smell of blood -- her blood -- fills her senses. If she doesn't feed soon she's going to lose control... And the last thing she needs right now is to go into a frenzy. She needs to keep her wits about her, she needs to assess the damage.

Slowly,  she opens her eyes and looks down. Her dress is nearly ribbons -- long ragged gashes run down her belly, chunks torn our of her arms in random places. A chunk is also missing from her upper thigh...

Morgan's fangs pierce her lip, the taste of blood filling her mouth. The old woman snorts in her sleep and the covers rustle, causing Morgan to go completely still -- afraid that the woman is waking up... but after a few minutes, the snoring resumes...

Morgan doesn't know what to do, whatever is in the woods might kill her if she escapes but if she stays here...there's no hope at all. Tears begin to well up in her eyes, the pain and hopelessness suddenly overwhelming her.

She's going to die. There's no way around it. Either she's going to die in this cottage or she's going to die in the woods. God damn it, if only she had stayed at the party. The backstabbing and bullshitting of the vampire court was a hundred times better than this. Even if they wanted her dead, no one would lift a finger to do so -- they'd just tear her apart emotionally until she gave up...

She shakes her head. No. She can do this, she can get out of this. She can move again and that means she can get the upperhand -- after all, the old woman is asleep and maimed or not, Morgan is still a god-damned vampire. All she has to do is bite down.

Morgan stands slowly, her legs almost giving out as soon as she gets them under her but she manages to steady herself, placing a hand on the arm of the chair. It creaks faintly but the old woman doesn't stop snoring. So far, so good. She looks around the cottage, finding that at least the  layout hasn't changed. She gives a brief prayer of thanks to whatever god might be listening.

A small round table sits at the opposite end of the room, next to a rickety looking bed. The moldy covers rise and fall in time with the old woman's breath. Piles of bones and ragged old cloth lay in random places throughout the interior of the cottage, making Morgan shudder... does she really want the blood of whatever the woman is inside of her?

Could she simply escape, throwing open the door and running off into the forest? The beast in her belly makes it clear that isn't possible. She needs every bit of strength that she can muster -- at the very least, she needs to heal the chunk missing from her thigh.

Slowly, awkwardly, she makes her way towards the bed. Morgan can barely move her left leg, some of the muscles necessary to lift it having been...eaten. Her foot drags across the floor, the heel of her shoe scraping over the floor boards. The snoring stops.

Morgan goes still again. The covers move aside as the old woman begins to sit up. "Ye better not be trying to escape, Nightingale..." she growls.

Taking a deep breath, Morgan draws on the power of her blood -- she hadn't planned to do this the rough, monstrous way but it doesn't look like she has much of a choice,  it's now or never. The world slows down all around her, the old woman's movements becoming painfully slow as Morgan throws herself towards the bed -- nothing but a blur of white and red. In an instant,  she's got the old woman pinned to the bed. The stench of rot and old sweat is unbearable, the woman's skin leathery and covered in some sort of unidentifiable grime.

"OH YOU VILE, VILE GIRL!" The old woman screams, gnashing her teeth and struggling beneath Morgan's grasp. Her right hand struggles to keep a hold of the bony, withered wrist she's got her fingers wrapped around. "UNHAND ME! HOW DARE YE!"

The old woman sinks her teeth into Morgan's arm again, holding on tight this time. She tries to wrench free of the vampire's grip, but Morgan doesn't back down.

"BITCH! LOATHESOME, FOUL UNDEAD! A CURSE UPON YE--"

The screams are deafening, making Morgan want to clap her hands over her ears. She lets out a snarl of her own and forces her fangs to extend. God, she smells unpleasant but Morgan knows what she has to do and her instincts guide her.

Her sharp fangs easily pierce the flesh of the woman's neck and her screams go silent as the ecstasy of the kiss overtakes them both. The blood is thick and syrupy -- it tastes like earth, decay, rotten leaves and terror.  It makes her stomach churn but her body accepts it, regardless of the foul taste. Morgan swallows down mouthful after mouthful, drawing the blood from the old woman's veins as forcefully as she can, forcing it down.

She shoves the old woman away when she hears the heart begin to slow, gagging on the noxious taste in her mouth. The room is deathly silent and then something overhead creaks. Thatch begins to rain down on Morgan's head, the wood that holds up the roof groans and shudders. Bones and bits of rotten wood clatter to the floor. She runs for the door, trying to wrench it open but it won't budge.

God damn it! Why can't she just catch a fucking break?! Morgan yanks at the latch on the door, the cottage falling down around her ears, sending up dust and mold spores and god only knows what else. The wood of the door frame begins to splinter with a deafening CRACK. The symbols carved into the door flare suddenly with a toxic green light  and sparks fly up from the handle before the door flies open, sending Morgan tumbling out into the clear and crashing into a pile of discarded bones. She shudders, scrambling away from the pile, trying desperately to wipe the bone dust and grime from her body.

Behind her, the nightmare cottage collapses in on itself, leaving only the stone chimney behind. More piles of bones cover the ground around where the cottage stood. Wooden pikes jut up from the ground in strategic places around the edge of the clearing, driven through skulls and decaying corpses...similar spikes line the cobbled path that once led to the door. None of this had been there when she arrived...or had it merely been hidden from her sight, just like the old woman's true countenance?What kind of spell could cloud her vision like that? Just where in the world is she? Surely, it wasn't the pine woods of northern California? No, the trees here are more like oaks -- not a ponderosa pine to be seen. The leaves are a deep, blood red, interspersed with glimmering gold and silver.

The golden light of twilight suffuses the clearing, around her feet the mists swirl but now she can see a dirt path, winding its way through the trees. She looks back the way she's sure she came but there's no path to be seen -- only the gnarled roots and trunks of the strange, red-leafed trees.

She turns back towards the path and frowns. It looks like the only option is to venture deeper into the woods and she doesn't want to spend another second in this gruesome clearing... Wincing from the pain in her leg, Morgan starts down the path, disappearing into the golden mists.


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