To the unknowing eye she seemed unassuming and non-threatening. A young girl, barely seventeen dressed in a black frilly dress, nothing more than a violin case in her hand walking sullenly down the stretch of busy metropolitan streets. But there is something otherworldly about her too.

She seems impassioned to the world around her, she seems to take no joy in the things around her. Her eyes look as if they look past what she looks at. Everything to her is in the distant. Perhaps it’s just the feeling people get from her, that feeling of the grim reaper, that cold grip of death that shudders through those who connect with her eyes.

Whatever it is, it makes her isolated from most of the world and it is reflected in every aspect of her. Her erect posture, her formal walk, her piercing eyes, her pale skin everything about her cries out that she is part of death. It has been so even before she found her true purpose in the world.

She was a little girl once, so long ago it seems. Her mother was so kind to her back then, as was her father. She lived in a specially funded laboratory building that had seventeen sub-basements. These sub-basements were where she and her family had lived as well as where she grew up. She never knew any other children, only the cold halls of the lab, and the loving touch of her parents.

Then her mother died. It was sudden; an illness from nowhere had struck her and left her dying within a week. She had barely anytime to see her mother or make her peace with what was going on. At the age of six, she was barely able to understand it enough. All she remembers is the day that her father came and told her that mommy wasn’t going to be back. That was the last happy day of her life.

Her father became different shortly after that. He was no longer the warm and caring man he had once been. Instead he was obsessed with his work, whatever it was exactly. She had never really gotten a straight answer from in regarding his work, even as she grew older and could better understand the work he did.

When she was thirteen she contracted the same disease that had killed her mother. Her father however had researched the disease thoroughly by then and had learned how to counteract it. It was a disease that feasted on the bone and eventual the bone marrow of it’s victim, infecting it all. The only solution was to replace the bones and the marrow before it progressed to the point that it was infecting the red-blood cells that the marrow produced.

She never felt human after that moment, she had her skeleton and muscle tissues replaced by some special “imbued” variety that her father had invented. They increased her strength and dexterity beyond her natural levels as well, making her feel more and more like a freak. It was months before she was ever even allowed out of the room they had implanted her with the devices, in fear that they would not stay viable within her.

She asked her father once, why she had to be changed so much that she didn’t even feel normal anymore. Her father told her that she was part of his great work, and he would need her someday. After that she realized her father was dead to her, that she would never feel like he loved her anymore.

Her next few years were lived in both isolation and sadness. She rarely saw her father except on her birthdays, when he would give her a new collection of books, a new doll or a new set of songbooks for her violin. Just gifts to keep her occupied, no real love behind them anymore. The only other person she ever saw was her father’s chief lab assistant, Carrie Knight.

Carrie had rubbed her the wrong way since the beginning. She always flirted with her father openly and vulgarly. Fawning over his directives and always asking that she be called “Mom.” If there was anyone who could truly see the rage and pain that she experienced, it was Carrie. She would speak to Carrie with venom, every phrase and word designed to reveal her true feelings for the woman. Carrie was her new keeper in the laboratory, making sure that she stayed in line and didn’t cause any trouble. She was a prisoner in the only place she ever called home.

And as if in prison was how she lived from that moment on. She found no enjoyment in her gilded cage of books and dolls. Instead she just decided that her life had ended before it had ever gotten a chance to begin. It was then that the dreams started. They were the dreams that would lead her to her future.

They always started the same; she was alone in a blackened empty expanse of space. Standing there solitary and sullen, as she spent all her days since her mother died. While she stood there she would see a tall woman, very similar in build and appearance of herself. The only true differences between their appearances were that the robed woman was older, easily in her twenties, and she had an unusual sigil carved into her forehead. The woman would float into a position in front of her, standing there nude save for a black cloak and hood that hide most of her body and face.

The robed woman held a long weapon, similar to a scythe but instead of a curved blade going out from its end, it instead two curved blades went up from the end of the staff. It was ornate seemingly made of black wood with silver and gold runes inlayed around the whole thing. It was a weapon of pure beauty and when she looked at it, it felt so familiar to her.

When the woman would stand there in front of her at first it just stood there, as if judging her, sizing her up for some task or responsibility. The stare of the robed woman’s eyes were impassioned and cold, distant to the world. When they would connect with her own eyes, she would feel as if the hand of death had just brushed against her.
It was then that the new run of experiments on her started. Her father had her brought to his area of the laboratory nearly everyday with new tests and diagnostics to run. These test seemed to measure something he called “Possessive Potential” and his reports kept referring to her as “the Conduit.” Carrie had even taken great joy in calling her “the Conduit” every time she saw her. It was obvious that her father had some plan for her, though she knew not what.

It was many dreams before the woman seemed to speak to her. It was a speech without movement or hearing. It was more as an understanding of concepts between the two of them, communication beyond words but translated into them. It was in these communications that she was told by the robed woman that she was to be freed from her prison. To achieve her destiny and to destroy those things that had done her harm.

After the dreams intentions were made clear to her, so where the intentions of her father. Carrie decided to “let it slip,” that her father had planned to use her as a conduit for a demonic entity known as Mistress of Nine Planes. This demon’s last form had been the disease that had killed her mother and had almost killed her as well. Carrie had left her with a laugh finding the whole situation as nothing more than the cruelest joke.

She would have many more dreams of the hooded woman before she agreed to accept the power that the woman represented. With this acceptance came surrender. The woman spoke the first real words ever spoken between the two of them, “Surrender your name to me.”

She answered the woman in turn, “Olivia Hotaru Tomo,” a named for both her grandmother and her mother; it was a name she cherished. Yet for the power to release herself from the horror of her situation, she would give it to this woman freely.

[end of part one]

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Blood Stained Porcelin

February 12, 2007

 This was originally going to be the prolouge to a novel I was writing that has been put on hold due to the fact that it almost turned into an Erotica.

The Cell

It was quiet. I was always quiet where she was. It had been nearly seventy years since her sentence had been passed. They had stopped giving her food after four years. They came to look in her private bricked chamber and saw her sleeping the sleep of the dead as the morning sun shone. They thought she was dead, so they reported it and they stopped feeding her.

She had expected that after being declared dead they would have removed her body from her bricked up chambers. Perhaps, they would even want her to rest in peace in the cemetery where her husband and family were laid to rest. She was disappointedly wrong in that assessment of her jailors. Instead they declared her private chambers to be “cursed” and that no man should ever enter it again. A rather smart move for all of them as it saved them from her awakening that evening, but rather poor luck for her, as she remained trapped.

With no blood to sustain her unholy powers, and no food to keep her going from day to day, Erzsébet Báthory had to spend most of her time sleeping and resting her body. She found it rather ironic that she seemed incapable of dying from starvation but could still feel the hunger gnawing at her insides. Making her wish that some morsel of food, either blood or regular, would find itself to her once again.

She glanced at the mirror that stood on her dressing area, she could see it well even in the pitch black that her chambers had existed in for decades. She looked so old, so much older than the fifty years old that was sentenced to this imprisonment. She looked nothing like the eighteen-year-old woman that was found slaughtering virgins to keep her youthful façade. Instead she looked like a hag, actually even older than the one hundred twenty years she had actually been alive.

Her skin was old, gray and leathery, giving her an appearance like a boot that had been neglected in the sun and allowed to crack and break. Her eyes were bloodshot, the irises had faded to nothing decades ago. He body itself no longer fit in the nightgown she wore, it had grown withered and thin, her once firm breasts had become flat, flaccid, hanging bags of flesh. She tried to cry but had no strength or tears to weep.

She could hardly believe that she was once the most beautiful one in the land. She once had, had skin like porcelain, hair like golden silk, and eyes that could bewitch man or woman. Her body was a thing of beauty and perfection, and she never let it become sullied by the seed of a man. She had wrapped her husband around her finger so that he knew his place was not the place between her thighs.

Everyone knew that she was the true power in her husband’s court. They knew that she made all the decisions. She was the one who decided who lived and who died, who was ignored and who was heard. She was believed to be as cruel as she was beautiful, and as a result of both cruelty and beauty, none would dare question her orders or commands. She was the dominant leader of her homelands.

Unfortunately, like all good things, it did indeed come to an end. When her husband died she lost her face among the nobles. Very few would hear the ideas of a woman, even if she were well known and feared. In fact, many began to resent her rule by proxy, and how easily she had maintained it. Her temperament and rumored “hobbies” proved to be the ammunition required to remove her power from her.

She had always thought of her trial as a farce. Or she should say the trial she never received. Instead they locked her in bedchamber, all the windows bricked up, then her door was bricked up, save for a small slot to feed her from. She had to defend herself though letters and through the boy she claimed was her son. The nobility was supposed to be above reproach, but Erzsébet seemed to think that only truly applied to those who the king liked.

And so without trial she was sentenced to the slow cruel death in her bedchamber. She was to be mourned by none, and to rot in her bed for all her days. Fate proved cruel as she lie there, unable to die. She realized that she was, indeed, going to rot for the rest of her days. Just she was going to be completely conscious through the whole thing.

Erzsébet’s introspective thoughts were interrupted by a sound. She had not heard sound of any kind in half a century so she struggled to hear it, her hearing still as keen as her eyesight. It sounded to her like the scurrying of a mouse or a rat. Seemingly haven snuck through the hole that they used to feed her from. And thus, it meant only one thing to her, blood! She needed blood! After hearing the noise, it was the only thought she could muster, she needed blood

She rolled herself to off her bed, breaking her legs and her hips in the processes. The mummification that had begun its work on her had made her bones brittle. Still though her need for the blood of living things pushed her forward. She crawled with broken fingers on broken arms, each pull of her body causing sickening pain and suffering as she crawled her way to the rat.

It looked at her it’s nose twitching, it’s small brain trying to comprehend the damned creature that had crawled towards her. It was instinctively fearful of the creature, though it could not run, it’s legs would not move. The terror instilled in the creature was beyond comprehension for it. Broken hands lunged forward with a last dart of speed and the rat was in her grasp.

She brought it to her mouth; her canines had become sharpened points capable of piercing flesh easily. She dug her teeth into the creatures head and neck literally tearing it off it’s body. The small amount of blood it had in it’s body being sucked out of it. It’s head swallowed out of instinct. She continued to squeeze as much blood as she could out of it’s body before she began to chew it and tear at it, devouring it’s flesh as surely as she devoured it’s blood. Her senses were swimming in the first nourishment of any kind in decades. Her mind slowed and her reason returned to her and she considered this boon.

With the pathetic creatures blood she could escape her prison. She could empower herself with strength beyond anything a mere mortal could possibly know. When she was out she could find more prey. Stronger prey. Human prey. With human blood within her again she could regain what she had lost and had missed the most. With the strength of human blood she could begin the sacrifices anew and restore her wonderful beauty.

With this the only goal in her mind she pounded the bricked up doorway. She would be free soon; the brick had already begun to give way to her new strength. She would be beautiful again. Erzsébet Báthory, the so-called blood countess, would be forever beautiful and forever powerful.

She would see to that.

She walked through China Town with her companion. Doing her best to try to have a good time in light of everything. New York City was such a big place when compared to the small town she grew up in. But that life seemed so far away in comparison of things.

Back then she used her birth name, Lorianne. Her favorite things to do was hang at the mall with her friends, and maybe drive two hours to go see an actual concert when a good punk band actually came with in a hundred miles of her. She would have never believed that she would be in the situation that she was in now.

But when her father died, her life changed. She was so overcome with grief of the death of the “strongest man” in her world that she did nothing but sit in that same mall and sulk. She avoided her friends, never went to shows, just wandering her mall aimlessly, looking for something eternal so that she could accept that life may perhaps be worth living.

She met a Prince one day, a noble and strong man with a kind heart and a gentle soul. He showed her a new path, gave her a beautiful ring to symbolize their new connection and put her on the path of nobility and strength. She decided on that day to prove herself worthy of this Prince, by becoming a prince herself.

She awoke that day. She cast off a lie that had been told to all of humanity and understood the world as it should be for the first time ever. She realized the truth that mankind was meant to be eternal. With that knowledge she drew strength and power from within.

Today she called herself Raggedy Ann, but it had little to do with that fateful day and more with her style of dress. She wore an old fancy white blouse that she had ripped off to be just a shade bit longer than her petite breasts so that they would be, mostly, covered. A pair of blue micro-shorts that looked painted on. Red and white stockings and red legwarmers over those and a pair of blue Doc Martens completed her dress. While her hair was held up into two pig tails with red yarn hair falls, her make up done to make herself look doll like, complete with painted on “blush circles.” Her friends used to say she looked like Raggedy Ann on crack, so the name stuck from there on out.

Her traveling companion on her trip, a young Chinese girl named Yuri, was dressed in a more traditional way. In many ways she looked like she was right out of a traditional Chinese story. A long flowing silk dress in the traditional Chinese style had been what Yuri had insisted on wearing. If she didn’t stand out enough walking around in New York City like that, even in Chinatown, her hair had been bleached to a platinum white color. Raggedy Ann had often wondered why it was that color, though Yuri had often avoided to answer that question.

Yuri wasn’t really a friend in the traditional sense of the word. She was literally Raggedy Ann’s ward, or at least that is how Yuri would try to describe it. Yuri claimed to be a Bride of the Yaoguai, which she explained to Raggedy Ann as being a demon. She was in a long line of these Brides that were married to demons and left in the care of vampires, in order to protect the safety of her home village. Apparently the vampires expected great power when they possessed one of these Brides and had developed an entire ‘knighthood’ based around dueling each other for the rights to the Bride.

Ironically, the vampire knights had chosen the same rose-shaped icon for their own symbol, as was on the ring she received from her Prince. Fate seemed to have worked over time for Raggedy Ann as when she witnessed a man slapping a small blonde Chinese girl, she decided to intervene. That intervention lead to a sword duel between her and a vampire named Satoshi. A duel that Raggedy Ann managed to win, she had always been a good fencer, talking fencing lessons since she was a little girl all the way through college. Yuri explained to her that she would now live with Raggedy Ann, and serve her in all things. That was the role of the Bride.

Or she was supposed to be anyways. Raggedy Ann insisted on breaking that tradition and had treated Yuri more and more like a friend rather than a servant. It was this desire to treat Yuri as something more than the Bride that lead her hear to Chinatown. She brought Yuri to a place where she though she could fit in and be more herself, instead of the demure bride that she acted like.

It wasn’t working.

She had barely even gotten Yuri to walk next to her rather than behind her yet. And the more “natural” setting of Chinatown had seemingly made Yuri even more submissive in action. Raggedy Ann had decided it might just be time to call it a day and get them both home. She paused to tell Yuri that it was time to go home. When she noticed a fifteen-year-old kid marching out of an old building. He was Caucasian but dressed in the clothes of a Chinese peasant. An odd anachronism among the modern clothes, but then again, Yuri was dressed in a similarly old fashioned attire.

The teenager spoke to Yuri in Chinese, something that Raggedy Ann couldn’t even begin to pretend that she understood. The conversation involved the young man seeming to be very desperate. Yuri seemed to respond to these words with fear and with her usual demure nature. She then looked at Raggedy Ann and said something to the young man.

The man looked at Raggedy Ann, “You are the keeper of the Keng Bride?”

“Yuri’s my friend,” Raggedy Ann answered.

“She says that she serves you.”

”That’s what she says,” Raggedy Ann said, getting a bit agitated by this whole line of questioning.

“The master wants to speak with you and the Keng Bride.”

Raggedy Ann frowned, “No,” she said to him firmly.

“Please, he wishes to speak to you about you’re situation.”

”You’re not going to let me go unless I go see this ‘master’ guy are you?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not ma’am,” he said with a bow.

“Fine! Fuck! Whatever!” Raggedy Ann said throwing her hands in the air, “Take us to him.”

The young man bowed and led them into the old building. Inside the building, Raggedy Ann could feel the presence of something unusual. She opened her mystic senses up and felt the energy of a demesne surrounding her. She felt a bit better; at least she was dealing with mages and not vampires. Seemed she couldn’t go out without vampires challenging her for ‘control’ of Yuri.

The interior of the building looked like the inside of a Chinese palace and the very scope of it left Raggedy Ann awe-struck, “Impressive place,” she said aloud.

“It has been maintained as such since the master was a boy,” the young man said.

“And um, when was that.”

“The 1860’s,” the young man replied.

“Um, are you sure this guy isn’t a vampire”

“No, my master walks the path of the Dragon Scholars.”

”Oh, that’s good then,” Raggedy Ann said, unsure of what that exactly meant. She looked at Yuri who was still walking five-feet behind her.

The young man lead her into a large chamber that almost seemed like a throne room, complete with a jewel encrusted throne. On it sat a thin and wizened old Chinese man dressed like a Manchurian lord. Standing to his right was a Chinese man in his mid-thirties dressed in a really good suit and tie; and to the left was a Chinese man in his twenties dressed in the garb of an Imperial Chinese guard. Raggedy Ann couldn’t help but feel a lot out of place surrounded by these people.

“You are this creatures caretaker?” the old wizened man said to her, he seemed to be referring to Yuri.

“No, Yuri is my friend and I protect her,” Raggedy Ann replied adamantly.

“You will turn the creature over to me to be destroyed,” the old man said.

”Who the fuck are you to tell me that!”

“Typical Caucasian, when they feel threatened they respond with profanity,” the old man smiled and shook his head, “I am Xia Long, 3rd Degree Master and Lord of the Replesant Order of Dragon Scholars. I demand you cease you’re cavorting with demons and turn over the demon bride.”

When Raggedy Ann heard his title, she knew she was in deep trouble, but she swore that she would protect Yuri from people who would harm or exploit her, “Well you have no right to demand that I give her to you.”

“Dharma,” he said to the man on his right, “Bring it to me.”

The man in the suit bowed deeply and walked into the shadows. Raggedy Ann looked suspicious and waited, wondering what was next. Moments later the man came out of the shadows with an ornate box that seemed to be made of jade. He opened the box and held it up to Xia Long.

Xia Long reached inside and pulled out an ancient ring made of gold. It bore the same rose seal that the ring her Prince had given her so long ago as well as the same mark that the vampires who were exploiting Yuri wore. Xia Long put the ring on one of his long finger.

“You’re one of them!” Raggedy Ann said angrily, it seemed even mages were total assholes.

“One of them?” Xia Long questioned, “Oh no, the awakened gave up their claim to the Keng Brides long ago. The vampires kept up the games, but they are demonic creatures to begin with. The awakened realized that cavorting with demons was a sure way to destroy oneself.”

”Then why do you have that ring!”

”Because I have sworn to destroy the Brides of the Keng when I find them. So I challenge you to a Duel Arcane for custody of the Bride,” Xia Long said with great conviction.

“Fine! Let’s do this old man!”

“Six Talon, square the circle,” Dharma spoke aloud, “I shall bear witness to the duel.”

The man to Xia Long’s left nodded and took out a bag of powder, pouring the powder out to make a circle on the ground. Xia Long stepped off his throne and stepped into the circle that was being made. Raggedy Ann could feel the magic of the Duel Arcane being cast. He right hand became heavy with the weight of a fiery rapier, she felt herself becoming protected by an invisible force of fate. Xia Long’s hands were filled with an empherma sword of Chinese style and a small buckler of Psionic energy.

He was ready as was she. The duel was to begin. Raggedy Ann looked at him, the initial battle of wills began, she had never actually participated in a Duel Arcane, but Marcus had told her about them. They always started with a test of wills. Raggedy Ann steeled her mind, totally steadfast in her ability to protect Yuri. She felt Xia Long’s will strike at her but she struck back and struck harder.

The contest of wills was over and Raggedy Ann had one, she decided to press that advantage. She charged forward with her fiery rapier and struck home, the magical blade passing through Xia Long’s body and damaging him. Xia Long struck back with a series of surgical-like strikes with his own blade.

Raggedy Ann went to strike again but found Xia Long’s defenses to strong for her to break through again. When Xia Long’s blade stuck through her again she felt for an instant that she was not going to be able to defeat this man. That Yuri was going to be lost to this man and then killed. She felt so weak.

A noble heart never surrenders came a voice in her. The Prince who had awoken her to magic and given her the ring had told her that so long ago. But as she was struck again she felt the last of her will sapped away.

She started to feel her weapon fade into nothingness; it was then she realized the voice she had just heard had not been her Prince. It had been Yuri. Somehow Yuri’s will had added to her own, fortifying her defenses.

Emboldened Raggedy Ann struck again this time finding that her blows could break through the defenses of the wizened master. She stuck him once more and found his weapons fade away.

She had defeated him. She had won the Duel Arcane. Yuri had been protected.

“You cheated! You demon whore!”

“Figures an old fart would resort to profanity when he doesn’t get his way,” Raggedy Ann said with a chuckle. She enjoyed throwing Xia Long’s own words back at him.

“You cheated! I will have your head for this!” he shouted at her. Dharma was already helping him to his feet.

“Master, that is for the Consilium to decide. As far as I could tell, she did not cheat.” Dharma looked at Raggedy Ann, “And thus you and the Bride are free to go.”

Raggedy Ann grinned, “Yeah we’ll be leaving now. Come on Yuri, we’re taking off.” She turned and left as she said it. She would feel much better after she got home and smoke an entire pack of cigarettes.

“As you wish, Miss Raggedy Ann,” Yuri said demurely and walked behind Raggedy Ann.

“And would you stop calling me that!” Raggedy Ann demanded.

“As you wish, Miss Raggedy Ann,” Yuri said.

Raggedy Ann just face palmed as she walked out. It appeared that some things were not going to change.