I tried to remember why we had come to this place this night. I sought memories that hid in the dark recesses of my fogged mind. I wondered what Ambrose’s reaction would be when I confronted him on the nearing danger. Would he be upset, or would those dark eyes of his soften with too human sympathy? A shiver rippled along my spine at the thought, sending my already pounding heart racing fit to surpass a thunderstorm.
Pausing at a somewhat grimy looking-glass hanging between a pair of floor-to-ceiling windows with tattered drapes, I examined my own countenance. My plain blue nightgown dragged on the floor, curving with the contours of my body, though the heavy robe hid those as well as kept the chill of Father Winter’s frigid fingers away. My curly mahogany hair hung freely around my shoulders and down between my shoulder blades. My flesh seemed pale in the nightly shadows of the abandoned manor, though not nearly as pale as Ambrose’s ghostly skin. My hazel eyes glistened with uncertainty, gazing back upon my own self in search of encouragement.
I turned away from the looking-glass, taking a deep breath to steady myself. I continued on down the dark corridor, mindful of the rubble and cobwebs that had conquered the manor’s interior as Mother Nature had claimed the exterior. Ambrose’s bedchamber finally came into sight, and once at the closed wooden doors, I raised a hand to knock.
Before my knuckles even tapped the roughened and mottled wood, however, Ambrose’s warm voice drifted from within the chamber. “Enter, Solace.”
I hesitated for a bare second, but then I pushed one door inward and walked into the bedchamber.
Ambrose stood at one of the misty, broken windows, a statuesque silhouette of precisely six feet in height against the white backdrop of the blizzard raging outside. His honey-yellow hair brushed his broad shoulders as the icy wind from outside swept past. The wind made his cloak flutter like the wings of some great raven, revealing glimpses of his unlaced shirt, breeches, and leather boots. I drew my robe closer to myself as I went to stand beside him, my bare feet threatening to numb. I gazed out at the blizzard for a few moments in silence, but then I shifted my worried eyes to the vampire beside me.
“Ambrose?” I said softly, touching his arm.
His grey-violet eyes flickered to me, but only briefly.
I reached up on tiptoe to brush my fingertips lightly against his face. Ambrose closed his eyes, leaning into the touch and relaxing slightly. It would have to be enough. “Ambrose, we should not stay here.”
“I know, love,” Ambrose replied quietly, his inhuman fangs visible for momentary intervals when he spoke. “The dawn is near at hand, however, and I would not risk leaving either of our fates to such a headsman as that.”
“The villagers,” I pressed anxiously, “they will find us soon. They will set this place afire without a second thought. It would be better to travel through the blizzard to the cemetery. We would be safe there for the day.”
“I will not put you at risk, Solace,” Ambrose argued gently. “If those mortals find you, you will be burned at the stake simply for loving me.”
“I made that choice of my own free will. I would face the stake rather than leave you now, Ambrose.”
The vampire faced me then, slipping his strong arms around me in a warm embrace. He kissed the top of my head, and said reluctantly, “We have little choice but to separate, Solace. We will both perish should we remain together. Together, they will hunt us down. Alone, we can evade them for a while longer.” He began to draw away, to disappear.
“You cannot do this,” I pleaded, catching his arm. “I have seen your heart, Ambrose, and it is mine. Do not abandon me so lightly....” Tears began to trickle down my cheeks, hot streams that stung my eyes.
Ambrose’s expression became pained. He took my face in his chilly hands and wiped the tears away as best he could. The vampire sighed, a truly torn sound, and murmured, “Together then, but we must make haste. Come.”
We left the abandoned manor for the howling wind and swirling snow of the outside. I lost feeling in my toes first, and then my feet and lower calves, as we trekked through the deepening drifts of snow. Ambrose was unaffected by the harsh weather, and wrapped his cloak about me in an attempt to contain my body's leaking warmth. We were perhaps thirty yards from the abandoned manor when the angry shouts of the pursuing villagers and the baying of their hounds were carried to our ears on the cold wind. They were closer than ever.
Ambrose picked me up, lifting me easily in his arms, and began to run with preternatural speed. I had to hide my face against his chest so my eyes were not dried out from the rush of frigid velocity. Snow filled his footprints almost as quickly as they were created, but the hounds did not need to follow tracks. They had our scents, and the villagers kept encouraging them. Ambrose could not keep running for long, not after running for half the night without once feeding to replenish his strength.
Abruptly, they were upon us. Torches flared and sparked, grasped in raised hands of the vengeful villagers as the armed men surrounded us, pitchforks and ropes in hand. The vicious hounds snapped all around, barking and biting, slavering at the mouth. Ambrose dared not set me down for fear the dogs would tear me apart, but neither could he fight back their or the villagers’ assaults while holding me. He kicked one dog square in the jaw, and caved in another’s skull. The men jabbed their farm tool weapons at him, however, waving their torches at his eyes and brandishing cruel oaths like knives. One of the hounds suddenly ripped at Ambrose’s calf, hamstringing him.
The vampire toppled, snarling like some feral beast, baring his inhuman fangs at the assailants. As the hounds set to tearing at his pale flesh, the mortal men began to stab and beat Ambrose relentlessly. He protected me with his own body as best he could, but I could not escape fate. A pitchfork pierced through his shoulder and deep into my left breast.
I gasped, blood beginning to fill my mouth and dribble forth from the deadly wound. I stared, stunned, up at Ambrose’s face. His usually calm countenance was distorted by pure wrath and sorrow. Before he could fight back, however, the morning sun broke through the snow and storm clouds.
Ambrose shrieked in agony as the sunlight struck him, burning him to ashes even as he fought to survive its murderous heat. Black cracks webbed his beautiful flesh, veins gleaming like fire beneath blotched, translucent skin. I reached up weakly to touch his face, struggling to breathe, shadows beginning to creep over my mind and senses. I watched as Ambrose died, crisped to black ash that crumbled in my hand. Then my arm fell, the shouts and howls of our murderers following me into the depths of death.