91 The First Vampire*
He'd met Aegin on the road between Fountain Ridge and Barday. Aegin had clearly been surprised by Rassa's sudden appearance, but he didn't say anything. He didn't say anything when they suddenly appeared in Greenvale Forest on the outskirts of Cordon less than ten minutes later. He did look a little pale though as he turned to catch his breath. Clearly travelling via shadows was not everyone's cup of tea.
The two young men had then worked to construct a funeral pyre. As it was morning, they had to wait until it was night to light it so that they wouldn't be noticed. The last thing they wanted was to be disturbed by those who still lived in Cordon. No doubt they wouldn't be thrilled to see Rassa again. They'd probably jump to conclusions upon uncovering the dead body of his father. Rassa would not let them have the chance to make that outrageous assumption.
They'd lit the pyre and stepped back to watch it burn in silence. The truth was, Rassa had so much to say to his father. Most importantly, that he'd never blamed him. Phillip had chosen his lot in life. He'd wanted a quiet, peaceful life with his wife and child. Instead, fate had thrown him along a path he was not prepared to take. He'd only done his best as new obstacles kept cropping up in front of him, it was all Rassa would ever ask him to do.
"I hope you find peace, father," Rassa eventually spoke, "Wherever you end up. Tell mother I love her while you're at it".
Rassa then turned to look at Aegin, "I'll be back soon".
He didn't give any other explanation, but Aegin knew he needed some time.
Rassa was gone with a breeze, and Aegin sighed as he looked towards the burning pyre. He couldn't help but recall what Phillip had made him promise in the moments before he'd called Rassa over.
"Take care of him, Aegin," Phillip had said, "Promise me you won't ever abandon him because of what he is".
A Vampire. The First Vampire. Aegin wasn't sure he was qualified to stick around, but he'd promised all the same. At the very least, he could do that for Phillip. But more so, he knew he had to do it for Rassa. No one survived what Rassa had unscathed. He may not be showing it now, but it was only a matter of time. He just hoped that Rassa had the ability to pick himself back up, because while Aegin could stand at his side, he couldn't empathise. He had not experienced anything as awful as what Rassa had. But that would never mean he would abandon him.
As promised, Rassa returned as the pyre burned out and only ashes remained. Collecting the ashes, Rassa sought out his mother's grave, and buried the ashes with her. Then, extending a claw, he worked to engrave the stone that had been erected there. The original message was simple: Anna Laurasdaughter, loving mother and wife with a caring soul. Rassa then added afterwards in a script as similar to the original as he could: And her husband Phillip, loyal and brave until his last.
Standing back, Rassa looked down at the grave in silence. He'd only lived eighteen years, and yet, he could not help but make a promise to himself.
Even if he lived forever, he would make sure that their grave would never be forgotten. His reminder of where he had come from.
As the moon rose high into the sky, Rassa stepped back, "Are you coming with me?"
"If you'll have me," Aegin replied.
Rassa gave a small smile in reply, then he turned and stepped forward, only to pause at the figure that stood holding a torch a few metres away. He'd been so absorbed, he hadn't even noticed him approaching.
Rassa hesitated for a moment as he took in the young man's features, then he spoke, "Diggory?"
The young man stepped forward, "So it is you. They said you were gone. That Phillip had gone looking for a dead son".
Rassa appraised Diggory. He was far taller and bulkier than when Rassa had seen him previously, though Rassa could tell it was all muscle. He'd clearly worked hard, as could be seen by the pin on his vest that indicated his knighthood.
"You've been knighted".
Diggory nodded, "It's...it's good to see you".
Despite everything, Rassa could see that Diggory was genuine in saying this. Rassa nodded, "Likewise".
"Did Phillip find you then?"
Rassa sighed then stepped to the side, revealing the gravestone, "He did".
Rassa decided to give no further explanation.
Diggory looked at the grave, then sighed, "I'm sorry".
Rassa shook his head, "It's not something for you to apologise for".
There was an awkward silence. What exactly did you say to someone you hadn't seen in years? After all that had happened, was there really anything Rassa could say? He was not that same boy anymore. Although he did wish Diggory the best...Rassa could not see them crossing paths again.
"I'll have to let Jane know you're okay, she was worried sick about-"
"I should get going," Rassa cut in. If he could barely say anything to Diggory, what was he going to say to Jane?
"Congratulations, Dig," Rassa gave a small smile, "And all the best in future".
Rassa turned to Aegin, who nodded, then before Diggory's eyes, Rassa and the other man next to him just seemed to melt into the shadows beneath them.
Diggory looked around in surprise, unsure of what to think. It had definitely been Rassa but...at the same time, it wasn't. Perhaps he shouldn't tell Jane, she'd only get her hopes up.
Rassa and Aegin appeared in the room of an inn along the road south of Barday. To the side of the room, a young woman lay sleeping, her straw-coloured hair tied back away from her face. Aegin frowned, looking to Rassa questioningly.
Rassa looked at Aegin, then shook his head, "I'll explain in the morning, get some rest. We're moving south".
Rassa shrugged, "I don't know. I guess we'll find out".