Wrote this a few years ago for a now-defunct ezine. It’s a fairly simple Shadow Walkers short, but it looks at the background of one of the principle characters – Lana.
Not Just A Little Rich Girl
by Lee Hulme
Lana put the last book back on the shelf and yawned. Looking at her watch, she saw it was 10pm and frowned. She had promised herself an early night tonight, but as usual she had gotten caught up in all of the books she surrounded herself with every day and lost track of time.
Sighing to herself, she gave her personal library – a room about the size of a real library, built onto her family mansion for the very purpose – a last appraising look and, closing and locking the door, made her way upstairs.
In bed, she lay with her hands behind her head, thinking about the things she had learned that day. With an indelible memory, such a thing was easy. The difficulty was not in the learning, nor in knowing what she wanted to study, but in tracking down the resources she required.
Her library may look like one of the public sort, but in content it was something quite different. Lana’s interest, indeed her obsession, was with everything supernatural, paranormal, extraordinary. Everything beastly, demon-like and out of the realms of the world most people knew and lived in. To most, she was a respected and learned lecturer, author and database of all such things. And this she was. But her reasons for being so, ah, now those were not so commonly known.
Knowing she would not sleep until she had played out the ghastly scene in her head, knowledge gleaned from countless sleepless nights and countless repetitions, she allowed her mind to backtrack to just under a decade ago, when she was 18 – oh how mature and old she had felt then, how wise and cynical she was. And oh, how her lesson had been learned that night. That night at the restaurant.
An ordinary night, with her ordinary parents. Born to money, never knowing anything different, Lana dressed, spoke and was upper class. She was attractive, perhaps, but mouselike, shy and retiring. Awkward, even clumsy at small talk and social affairs. Her penchant for remembering things was merely a playful pastime, a curiosity, occasionally a game, never anything to be proud of, barely even noteworthy, and sometimes even an embarrassment to her parents. So she kept it quietly to herself, played the dutiful daughter, and year by year became more jaded and unhappy.
Lana loved her parents, but she knew them for what they were – rich in old money, handsome and beautiful, not very bright, not very interesting, unconsciously selfish though never mean or cruel. They had good hearts, she knew, and so she loved them and did her best to please them.
And this night was one just like many others. The expensive restaurant, the fancy clothes, the waiter with a French accent so sharp it could have cut paper – so sharp, Lana suspected, that it was a fake, but no matter. The food was good, her parents smiled and shined , and Lana smiled back and hoped that some of their shine would rub off on her. Indeed she was so busy trying to smile and act as she ought that when the commotion began outside the restaurant, despite that it was directly outside her own window, Lana did not even notice until her parents, slight frowns creasing their perfect faces, looked out to see what was disturbing their perfect evening. Then Lana looked. And saw.
Two men – or were they men? – fighting. But as she watched one man and then the other, as they turned to face her, fighting each other, fighting the few half-hearted passers-by attempting to quell the disturbance, she knew there was something wrong with them, with their faces. A deformity of some sort. Their noses were convoluted and ridged, nostrils splayed back against their faces, almost batlike, a thought confirmed by their ears which were longer and pointed. But their teeth…Lana looked as closely as she could and, yes, their teeth were sharp, and the eye teeth almost twice as long as those surrounding them.
“Vampires!” Lana breathed, pushing her chair back and standing up.
And doing so just in time, for as she did, a third man, completely human – or seemingly so – joined the struggle and a moment later all three had crashed through the plate window and onto the table at which Lana’s parents still sat, frozen now halfway between terror and outrage.
The human-looking man, his red hair wild and his blue eyes fiery was dragged off the table by one of the vampires and they wrestled on the floor. Lana saw the red-haired man fumble in his pocket and produce something which the vampire knocked immediately out of his hand and, when the man lunged after it, pinned him to the floor.
The man looked up at Lana desperately and before she could think, she had stepped forward and picked up the object. It was a sharp piece of wood. A stake. “Vampires,” she said again as she handed the stake to the man on the floor.
He nodded once and confirmed, “Vampires,” before rolling over with a grunt and crushing the vampire underneath him. He stood and turned around, almost stepping on Lana’s feet, causing her to jump backwards out of his way.
The vampire was on his feet in another second and his feet left the floor as he launched himself at Cam, sending him flying backwards onto Lana.
The three of them hit the floor but the man had gotten the stake into position and, even as Lana tried desperately to return some air to her lungs, the vampire exploded in a cloud of dust, sending her into a coughing fit.
The man got off of her and looked back to see if she was alright.
Lana nodded and motioned for him to continue.
He stepped forwards to the second vampire who, Lana was suddenly horrified to see, was dripping blood. Her parents’ blood. Her father lay on the plush carpet, draining his life away even as the second vampire was attached to the neck of her mother.
With an inarticulate cry, Lana leapt to her feet and ran past the man, grabbing the stake from his hand as she went.
The vampire looked up and grinned a toothy, bloody grin. “Come on, little girl,” he growled.
“No!” came a shout from behind her, the man with red hair, Lana knew, but she ignored him and, in imitation of the other vampire, launched herself off the floor, over both parents and onto the vampire, who had not expected such a forceful attack to come from a small, mousy girl like that.
His eyes widened the moment before she hit him with force, and he grunted as they landed on the floor with a jolt that once again knocked Lana’s breath from her chest.
Having the advantage of not breathing, the vampire flipped her over easily and sat astride her. A drop of blood from his mouth splashed her face as he leaned in for the kill, his bloodlust making him forget that there was another, more capable human behind him.
The red-haired man picked up a chair and smashed it hard on the ground. Grabbing a large splinter that had once been a leg, he advanced on the vampire. “Get off her.” he said calmly.
The vampire looked over his shoulder and grinned as he stood up. “I am not so young and foolish as that thing you just killed, thought-stealer. He advanced on the red-haired man, who stood his ground. The vampire issued a lightning-fast punch which the man took squarely on the chin, knocking him flat on the floor. “Also you cannot steal my thoughts.” the vampire said with a chuckle. “I knew you were coming, and I got me some protection.” He raised a foot encased within a scuffed boot and drove it hard into the man’s ribs once, twice. The man rolled onto his side, curled up and spat blood onto the carpet.
The vampire stood back and lifted his boot up high. “The blood of your kind is not of use to me, thought-stealer. But I will take pleasure in crushing that oh-so-talented brain of yours. Tell your friends-” mid-sentence the vampire stopped, jerked backwards and turned around. His eyes grew wide as saucers as he saw the young, mouselike girl and his hands scrabbled at his back, where she had just driven a stake home.
She closed her eyes and covered her nose as he burst into dust, before kneeling by the red-haired man. “Are you OK? Of course you’re not OK,” she touched his face and he opened his eyes. “Somebody get an ambu-”
“No,” he wheezed, coughing out more blood.
“No…ambulance,” he wheezed. “My…friends…are…here.”
As he finished his sentence and closed his eyes, two men raced through the open window and to his side. One was old, white-haired and deeply wrinkled. The other was young, in his twenties, though his eyes when he turned them on her were dark and full of age.
“We can look after him,” the young one said softly. “I give you my word, he will be fine.”
Lana looked at him for a moment, seeing the truth in his eyes, and nodded. “Who…what? I mean…oh…” she turned away and looked at her parents. “Mum…Dad…” she crawled over to them and sat beside them, weeping softly. She heard those behind her get up to leave, and did not turn around. Her eyes were only for her parents. Their deathly pale skin. Their crumpled limbs. Their blood, spread everywhere around instead of inside of them where it ought to be. And the puncture wounds on their neck that told her for certain what had done this. As she sat, a voice spoke in her head and she started.
Looking around, she saw no-one, and frowned.
“Lana…” the voice spoke again and this time she instinctively thought back.
“How are you doing that? Who are you? What are you? My parents, they…”
“My name is Cam. I’m a telepath. The men with me are my friends and they will heal me. Lana, I will visit you soon, but you must do one thing for me, I beg you to trust me. Your parents…they may rise again. Do you understand me?”
Lana shook her head firmly, then her shoulders slumped and she nodded. “Vampires.”
“Yes. Lana I am so sorry. They must be cremated. And soon. Promise me. Else…we will have to do it for you.”
Lana felt the hackles on her neck rise, but the voice in her head was so soft, so gentle, that they lowered again in a moment. “Yes. I will do that. But I will see you again?”
“Soon. I promise.” the voice said, fading now, weak.
Lana looked around once and pale blue eyes locked with hers before falling closed. And in her mind the fading echo of a voice “I am so sorry, Lana, so sorry…”
A week later, tossing and turning in her bed, Lana rose and went to the site where her library was already being built. Looking out upon it, envisioning it, she nodded and went next to what had been the sitting room. For the moment, it was a temporary home for her books. Already there were many of them, everything she could find about vampires. It was a product of her helplessness, a need to learn everything she could about the creature who had killed her parents.
She had cremated them. Even in her grief, she knew she must, and so it had been done. The ashes were buried in a small graveyard plot. A place she would never visit, for her parents had not lived in a graveyard. They had lived in this house, in this world. And this house, this world was where she would somehow find, and honour, and avenge them. Or their memory, at least.
She walked to the front door and, wrapping her dressing gown around her for warmth, she wandered down the pebbled path towards the gate, which hung open as it never had in her parents day, for she had become careless about her own safety now they were gone, now she had nothing, stopping to look at some of her mothers favourite and most admired gardening efforts.
It was as she looked at one of these that she felt a presence behind her and whirled to face it. It was the red-haired man. Cam. The man whose gentle voice she had replayed to comfort her after each reliving of the nightmarish events a week earlier. The voice that had allowed her to sleep. The promise that had kept her getting up and going about whatever business she could find to distract her. He had promised to come, and here he was.
“Cam…” she whispered softly, then strengthened her voice. “I did it. I cremated them. Like you said.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “I know. And I know how hard that was. Believe me, I know. Lana, you saved my life. I ran off into that fight without my friends, and it would have gotten me killed if you had not been there.”
“Well, I think you saved mine too, so that makes us even, right?”
Cam nodded and smiled. “It does.”
Her eyes narrowed. “But they’re still out there, aren’t they? More of them, I mean.”
“Yes. Vampires, and other things. More than I could count. But there are people who fight them.”
“Like you, and your friends,” Lana said. “You’re a telepath…”
Cam nodded. “And my friends, those you saw and, oh, many others, do some amazing things, too. But so do you, I think.”
Lana snorted. “Amazing things? Me? I’m a rich girl. I wasn’t raised to be amazing, I was raised to be as ordinary as possible – always normal, always fitting in with the other rich girls and boys. I can’t do anything.”
Cam shook his head. “But you can. I sensed it in you. I even saw it, some of it. Your mind, your memory, it is…wonderful. Am I wrong?”
“I…I’ve always had a good memory, but…”
“Good? Just good? What book were you reading on your 3rd birthday?”
“The Faraway Tree.” she answered without pause.
Cam smiled. “Not only were you far ahead of your years, but you remember everything you have ever read, everything you have ever written, every word you ever heard spoken, every sight you have ever seen. They imprint themselves onto your memory and file themselves away, information to be accessed, without the slightest hesitation, whenever you require it. You can help us, Lana. You can help us to fight these things. You can help to stop other people suffering like your parents did, like you are and will do for a long time. Will you help us?”
Without a moments thought Lana nodded. “I will.”
Cam smiled. “Then read. Everything you can. Fiction, fact, speculation, obscure and popular, old and new. Everything you can find on everything unusual, out of the ordinary. Everything that is not a part of everybody’s ordinary, everyday life – read it, learn it, know it. And when you’re ready, I or one of my friends will return.”
“How will you know…?”
“We will know,” Cam smiled. “We know where you are, and we will look out for you, protect you, and when you are ready we will know. So read, learn, give lectures, write papers and books, become an authority, and remember, always remember, that when you are ready we will know, and one of us will return to you. And know that on that day, you join the most secret of secret societies, one dedicated to saving the world. And the only one proven, even if only amongst it’s own ranks, who can never tell another soul, to be capable of doing just that.”
Lana’s heart filled with fire as he spoke and she nodded eagerly. “I will do this. I’ll be ready before you know it. And when I am, I will join you.”
Cam beamed at her for a full minute, and then his face fell into an expression she couldn’t quite identify. “I must go. But we will meet again, I promise you that.”
Lana nodded. “I look forward to that day,” she said quietly.
They both turned and walked to the end of the driveway. There they stopped and looked at each other in silence. Finally, Cam leaned in and kissed her cheek before turning and walking away.
Lana looked after him for long minutes, even as the pre-dawn began to fill the world with grey light, before shaking herself out of it and stepping back inside the gate. She turned to walk back to the house, then stopped, turning, wrapped the chain round the gate and locked it. “After all,” she murmured as she started back up the driveway, “I have work to do now, don’t I. Not just for me, but for everyone.” Her eyes blazed as she kicked the front door shut behind her. “I’ll get them. All of those…those things. I’ll see them dead and gone or by any god that might be listening I’ll use my last heartbeat trying.”
Lana shook herself back to the present day and, feeling the fire burning against inside of her, rolled back out of bed and padded downstairs to her library. She had learned and learned and learned. She had published and become a name, an authority, on all of these things. But nobody had yet come to her. Not Cam. Not anyone. She frowned, hearing once again the promise Cam had made, and telling herself not to doubt, to be patient, because the day was surely coming.
She pulled a few books off the shelves and curled up in the big armchair she kept in the back corner of the library to read. By the time the sun began to rise outside, she was fast asleep.
Until she heard a hammering at the door.
Then she woke and came to her feet with a jerk that sent books flying across the floor. “Oh!” she gasped and bent down to pick them up.
The knocking came again and, unused to having visitors, especially at such a time of the morning, she stood again, dropping the books back to the floor and looked around wildly.
A third time, somebody hammered at the door and she composed herself, beginning to walk to the door. “Coming!” she yelled as loud as she could.
But apparently not loud enough. The hammering came again. Only this time it was accompanied by a splintering sound as the door began to break, then a double bang as it split in half and both sides slammed into the wall
Arriving in the hallway as the half without hinges toppled to the floor without a crash, Lana froze, her blood turned to ice, as she saw what was crossing the threshold. And what was on the other side.
On the other side, that convoluted nose, those ears, those teeth – a vampire. No, two vampires. Unable to enter, they simply grinned and waited.
Their companions, however, were allowed inside, and Lana almost wished it was the other way around. For both were huge and covered in fur, with long snouts and teeth dripping saliva. As one they howled to the night, and then advanced, growling.
Lana turned to run and one pounced, grabbing her by the shoulder and dragging her backwards, out of the door and onto the driveway where the vampires could get at her as well.
Lana kicked, bit, screamed and struggled until the werewolf dropped her. She landed clumsily, but a moment later was up and running to the gate.
But over the gate vaulted two others. These, both female, raven-haired, identical twins, were dressed in similarly identical dark leather and wielding swords which glinted silver in the dawn light.. Lana saw they both sported familiar sharp teeth and skidded to a halt. One reached behind her and drew out another sword, which she tossed to Lana, who grasped it, instinctively bringing to mind every sword-fight she had ever read or seen on television or in a film. She turned to face her attackers, felt the two women flank her, and held out her sword, ready.
The two werewolves were first. They rushed down Lana, who sidestepped them with ease and left all four of the vampires to face off against each other while both werewolves howled again and wheeled around to face her.
Praying silently that whatever indelible tool it was that resided in her head wouldn’t let her down now, she stepped forwards, concealing a low swing with a high feint. The sword connected with a leg of the wolf on her left and he howled, in pain this time, and backed off.
To the sounds of the fight behind her, Lana stepped towards the other and waited, watching his eyes intently. When the thing’s body feinted left, they flickered to the right and Lana was there, her sword driving forwards this time, straight through his heart. She felt a rush of movement behind her and whirled, sword just higher than her own neck, and sliced. The head of the second wolf rolled and she had just enough time to see the wolf begin to change back into human form before she was turned back to the fighting vampires.
Where the wolves were bulky and strong but heavy and clumsy, all four of these creatures were lean, deft and graceful. Lana could hardly follow their movements, but something in her head was and knowledge was transmitted back down to her muscles. Before she knew it, Lana was in the midst of the fight, knocking one vampire back while the twins dealt with the other, then stepping back again while they finished the first.
Once both vampires were dust, Lana turned back to the two dead bodies on her driveway. Two men, she saw. Both fairly young. Both now dead as her hand.
One of the twins came to stand at Lana’s side “Do not feel bad, Lana. These men were beasts even when not in werewolf form. And they would have killed you much more slowly and painfully than you have killed them. These are some of the things you wish to fight. And we are two of those who already do. I am Katerina.”
The second twin came to stand at Lana’s other side. “And I am Sapphire.”
“You’re both vampires,” Lana said matter-of-factly.
“Yes,” said Katerina. “For a long time. But we fight for the light, and not the darkness.”
“Your faces. You don’t look like the others.”
“No,” replied Sapphire, “For the vampire, like the werewolf, is cursed to show their deeds in their visage.”
“If you’re bad, you get ugly, if you’re good you don’t?”
“Something like that,” laughed Katerina.
“But your swords. They’re silver.”
“Partly,” Sapphire said with a smile. “They are steel mixed with silver, because silver would not last so long. The hilts are not silver, however, and so we may use them without fear. And when they require sharpening, we take them to another, for silver, even a tiny amount, would burn us through any glove we could wear.”
“You were sent to see me? Awfully good timing.” Lana continued.
“Ah, no, “Katerina answered in her turn, “We have been watching you for a while. There have been people watching you, keeping an eye on you, protecting you, all this time, Lana. Were you not told?”
Lana nodded. “Cam said I would be protected.”
“And so you have been,” Sapphire took Lana’s shoulder. “Come. Inside. Katerina will dispose of those werewolves while we talk.”
Katerina nodded and Lana allowed herself to be led inside.
“Your first kill,” Sapphire said once Lana was seated in a chair in the living room. “How do you feel?”
“Terrible. I think…I think I’d like to leave that to people like you, in future.”
Lana nodded. “I had to, so I did. But I didn’t like it. I felt like it wasn’t even me. I didn’t think, I just acted, and my indelible brain did the rest. And they were men. Men! I’m supposed to be stopping men from being killed, isn’t that the point?”
“Ah, Lana, have I not told you once? Those men, they were beasts even when not shaped as wolves. They kill for fun even when they look like men. They are of the darkness. You are of the light. They, and those vampires, came to kill you, Lana, because of your work, your knowledge. They thought we must eventually come to you and make you one of ours and they could not allow us the knowledge and the resources you possess. But they did not know that you already were one of ours, have been for years, only waiting until it was your time. I believe it is now your time. The others will be told. In time, we will come to you for your help, for your knowledge, when it is needed.”
“But won’t they keep trying to kill me?”
Sapphire nodded. “We will ensure you are still protected. With magic, as well as with warriors such as my sister and I. And we will, if we may, bring another to stay with you awhile. There is a man similar to you, but he is more like a lodestone – he can locate any information we, or you, might need. You need a book that has not been seen in a thousand years? If it still exists, this man will lead you right to it – and then you can see it, and know it for all time. If you are willing, you can make a great team.”
Lana nodded. “Do it. And know that if I need to fight, I will. I just…prefer not to.”
“I understand. My sister and I, we are born to fight. We are vampires, it is what we do. And we will remain with you, and this other man, until you feel safe enough for us to go.”
Lana nodded. “Good.”
Katerina entered the room and nodded. “It is done. The werewolves, they are gone. Sister?”
Sapphire nodded back. “We stay here for now. We send for Mark. And we bring others to ward this house from those of darkness.”
“I have one question, though,” Lana said.
The twin vampires looked at her, waited.
“These people you speak of. You, Cam…who are you all?”
“We are those who walk in the darkness to protect those who live in the light.” Sapphire said with a mysterious smile.
Katerina rolled her eyes slightly at her sister. “Ever the mysterious one, she is. Or tries to be at least. And Lana, speak no more of ‘you’ and ‘they’ – you are one of us now, you speak of yourself. You are a Shadow Walker.”
Lana smiled. “Catchy. And Shadow Walkers…you save the world?”
Katerina and Sapphire exchanged a glance and spoke in unison. “Pretty much, yes. Pretty much.