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Mira Ch. 11

by secretme 10/08/08

Mira flinched. It was getting almost painful to be awake. Between the sun streaming in the window and the girls squealing she was developing a vicious headache. Mira reached up absently and started rubbing the join between her neck and shoulder. She didn't even realize that it was precisely where Rillan had bitten her so many times. She always studiously kept that portion of her neck covered. The scars were horrible. Not that she really minded.

The hush that fell over the room managed to break Mira from her internal monologue long enough to notice that Lilith had entered the room. Mira was glad and scared to see the woman. As grateful as she was for the calm in the ridiculousness that was the morning, Mira could guess what Lilith was here for. She left instructions for a new sacrifice to be chosen, prepared, and sent to Rillan over a week ago. Mira hadn't been able to bring herself to do it. Now that the rumors about a secret meeting between the elders and Rillan had been confirmed, Mira expected that he would have reminded them that he needed a new sacrifice. Mira stood up respectfully as Lilith approached.

The old woman smiled sympathetically at Mira. "I rather fancy a walk in the morning air. Come with me Mira." Without waiting for any kind of response Lilith led the way out of the round house and away from town, toward the wooded trails. "There's some privacy this way," she responded to Mira's unspoken confusion.

"Can I do something to be of service," Mira asked.

"You have a strange strength and sadness to your tone, Mira. It's been a great deal of time since a girl as young as you was able to speak to me without a waver in her voice. But I suppose after facing a terror such as Lord Tiernay, your elders would no longer be as intimidating."

Mira felt as though she was being baited for some reason. "Rillan isn't nearly as frightening as we have all been led to believe. He's just lonely," she replied with conviction and annoyance. "Calling him a terror, does him a disservice." Realizing how she had spoken to Lilith, Mira cleared her throat and added, "With respect Milady."

Lilith smiled. "There are so many ways to see, Mira. Eyes are only one of those. I am surprised to find that one as young as you would develop the other visions so readily. There is a great destiny for you I think."

"Yes," Mira said with tears in her eyes. "Marriage to Liam."

"It is a strange woman who can talk about one many with such conviction and yet allow her voice to crack so distinctly in reference to her engagement." Mira looked away from Lilith. "I sometimes believe the fates only keep us around for their own amusement," Lilith said gently and brushed Mira's hair from her shoulders. "You need to send a new sacrifice Mira."

"I knew that was why you came."

Lilith sighed, "Choose a girl and begin preparing the next."

"I shouldn't worry too much for that. If I begin teaching the girls as they should be, then we should need fewer sacrifices."

"You truly believe that," Lilith said with the tone of a mother trying to teach a child a lesson. "Ah, well, I suppose he does too."

Mira turned toward Lilith in confusion.

Lilith shook her head. "There have always been sacrifices. Even with the lessons were as thorough as you intend to make them now. The sacrifices tend to go in cycles. We've had a great many girls die recently in a relatively short period of time. There are a great many more variables that play into it than the type of lessons that the girls are given." Lilith stepped up close to Mira. Lifting her chin she forced Mira to look her directly in the eyes. "I find that in my vast experience over the years, the difference in the sacrifices was within the girls themselves, not what they were told before they met him." Lilith released Mira from her grip. "I think you'll see what I mean as you look amongst the sacrifices for who you will send. It needs to be done tonight. Come, we'll go back to the round house. I'll tell your friends that the planning for your wedding can continue on the 'morrow. You have work to do today."

"A day isn't enough time," Mira said, panicked. "I can't explain it all in one afternoon."

Lilith was already walking toward the round house. "You'll have to find a way. He needs to be fed before he leaves for his next assignment. You of all people should know how he goes about it. It may take some time. And we are drastically short on that."

It was an order, not a request. Mira knew from the tone that she had no choice in the matter. Reluctantly she followed Lilith to the round house and stood by as the announcement was made that wedding plans would need be continued on a different date. The fear that followed the announcement about the next sacrifice to be chose disgusted Mira. He deserves better than that. Tears in her eyes, she resolved to find someone who could handle it. Lilith is wrong. I can teach them. It will be better. They'll live longer. Maybe he'll be happy.

Mira started by asking if there were any volunteers. It made sense to her to think that the braver the girl might be, the better off she would be. Only three girls came forward. Well that makes things a little easier. I suppose it narrows the possibilities enough to make choosing a girl for this evening feasible.

Taking the girls who had volunteered out to the garden so that they could all be alone, Mira found herself trying to come up with a way to pick amongst them. Her mind swam trying to think of all the things about herself that made the situation with Rillan bearable. But she honestly didn't understand what made her different from any of the others.

The girls stood watching her and waiting. It never occurred to Mira that she may be frightening them with her contemplative silence. The girls saw Mira mumbling to herself and pacing. In the morning sunlight, next to the beauty of the garden flowers, Mira's deterioration was all the more apparent. She was gaunt and pale, though still beautiful in a haunting way. None of the sacrifices wanted to know exactly what had changed the Mira they knew before into what they saw now.

Finally Mira turned toward them, seeing bravery fading from her eyes she decided that the best way to go about it would be to allow them to choose themselves. "I think that the best thing to do will be to give you all the crash course and then make the final decision as to who will go, at the end of the day."

The girls all nodded and the lessons began. Mira started by explaining to them how they had to go about looking for Rillan and why. She somehow thought that if they knew why he behaved the way he did then they would be able to handle. As sunset approached, Mira's voice was hoarse and she had lost count of the number of times the emphatic nods of understanding had turned to horror as Mira related her experiences in the vampire's caves.

"Alright then, I'm sorry it has to be this way. There is no more time. I need to know if any of you have changed your minds."

The smallest of the three girls began trembling and crying, however she didn't ask to be dismissed. Mira looked into the eyes of the other two. All she saw was fear. They may not have been crying, but their bravery was gone as well as the other girl's. Mira felt a strange mix of disappointment and happiness. She was afraid for the girls. At the same time she was pleased to find that she wasn't as easily replaced as she had believed she would be. Angry at herself for even thinking that, glared at the three girls.

"I'll be honest with you all. I don't really want to choose amongst you. I don't want to feel responsible personally for sending anyone to their death. I've tried to tell myself that we are all dying. Still, I'm not the fates and I don't relish that kind of power, to decide when. So if any of you believes you can handle it better than the others, I would like to know now." They didn't say anything. They merely stood together, staring doe-eyed at Mira and holding each other's hands.

"I'm sorry, but Lilith is waiting. I only hope that all I've told you today will aide you." Mira decided on the girl in the middle. She had consistently been reassuring the other two all day. When she was chosen the girl nodded understanding and the other two were dismissed to prepare for the ceremony.

"What's your name," Mira asked. It was the first time she had really looked at the girl all day. She was tall and thin, very pretty. She wore her hair in long, dark brown, plates down the back of her head. She had dark blue eyes, similar to Rillan's and fair porcelain skin. A twinge of jealousy shot through Mira, and she quickly pushed it to the back of her mind.

"Aris," her voice cracked. She cleared her throat as if to pretend that fear wasn't the cause for the tremor.

"Come, it's time to get dressed," Mira said and led the way back to the round house.

Trembling in the warm light of the setting sun, Aris stared into the icy darkness of the cave, her white shift blowing slightly in the breeze. Her mind raced endlessly, trying to remind her of why she chose this, attempting to dull the fear in the pit of her stomach, and reminding her of the importance of what she was about to do.

Mira watched from the gate as Aris took her first reluctant steps toward the darkness that Mira saw as so tempting and welcoming. She stared into the shadows for some hint of Rillan, knowing that even if he were there, watching, she wouldn't be able to see him.

"Rillan Tiernay," Lilith intoned over the crowd, "was created to protect and serve the circle. Our guardian. Each generation a group of girls is chosen as companions in his darkness. This is the price of his loyalty."

Mira didn't hear Lilith's speech. Not that it mattered. She knew the speech by heart. It was the same for each of the girls who entered the vampire's cave. Mira's mind was more concerned with the parts of the story that were left out of the flowery farewell and the fact that this time it was intended for Aris. Somehow she felt slighted that the speech was not for her.

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