Chapter 5:

Flashback 5 years

Vampire Lanterns

Demyan sat silently in the armchair under the bookcases of his bedroom. Leaning his forehead against the palm of his left hand. A glass of fresh blood; still steaming was getting cold on the walnut wood table next to him.
He looked haggard with his tired eyes shining in the dark, hollow cheeks and frail body frame. Each year became harder and harder for him to keep going in this stereotypical life of being locked in this castle, going into war, killing, taking abuse and repeating...
His thin shadow bounced in the small flames of the candles. His mind was blank and he directly stared into the ground. He was done with this life. Nonstop obeying his father's orders and taking all the abuse. Under his clothes, he was hiding all those scars and wounds from the tantrums of the King Sava.
His mother avoided him to not get on the bad side as well. He felt empty, lost, lonely and abandoned. The servants were always keeping their distance from him. They feared, he would turn out to be the same tyrant as his father.
The wind from outside picked up and was playing with the curtains, pushing them inside. That caught Demyan's attention and looked in that direction. A light... dancing on the floor from the window... What is it? His curiosity took over. He stood up and slowly walked towards the window to peek out.
From the other side of the forest, a reflection was coming out of a small window on the far right of the bulwark. Demyan got interested in it. Sometimes that light hit his face and the pupils of his gray eyes got thin. It kept going on for a few seconds and then that reflection was slowly going lower.
He panicked... he didn't want it to stop. He ran into his bedroom and looked around. The mirror! Demyan hit it with his fist and it shattered. He chose a big enough piece and picked it up. While doing it, he cut his hand.
He rushed back towards the window and began to reflect the light of the moon back to the source of the first one. He waited... Nothing happened... he lost it. He calmed down and turned back into his room leaving a trail of blood behind. As he was walking towards his bed, the reflection reappeared illuminating his silhouette.
He swiftly spun on his heel and ran back clutching that piece of the mirror and desperately shinning it back over the forest. He was "talking" with someone. This was something new for him. It lifted his spirit and ever since then, almost every night, he was exchanging these light-reflection messages with the stranger on the other site.

The Festival of Lights was tonight. Demyan was preparing to watch it as every year. He sat down at the window pledge by twilight and was waiting with arms crossed. He was leaning against the window frame and sometimes taking a peek at that friendly stranger's window. Because of it, even his appearance improved.
First lanterns began to fill up the sky simultaneously with those swimming out of the sewers into the river in front of the bulwark and next into the sea. Fireworks appeared soon after. Demyan narrowed his gaze. His "friend" let out a lantern as well, which was slowly making its way towards Demyan.
He was amused by it, but he knew it wouldn't make it through the toxic, hot fumes of the Waste Lands. Nothing can fly inside and out of it... but... As it reached the border of the forest and Waste Land, it began to give out a little blue shine and it kept flying towards Demyan. His heart skipped a beat. Will it reach him? His eyes sparkled more and more, as it approached him.
He stepped aside to let it fly inside his bedroom. His gaze followed it patiently. For the first time ever, he saw a lantern up close. Demyan was in awe. The floating lantern began to slowly spin and then something like fireflies of different colors filled his room, lighting it up. They flew around him for a few minutes and then went right up making a small, private firework show under the ceiling.
The lantern finally descended into his hands and lost its light. Demyan turned back towards the window and sent back a reflection message. He was thinking, he needed to express his gratitude. He summoned a bat and gave it an obsidian ring hiding in a small pouch around its neck.
Demyan sent it through the little cave system, over the forest and to the other side of it. He hoped that his "friend" from the bulwark would accept that token as thanks and repeat this experience next year as well. He hoped, it would become a tradition...

This indeed became a yearly event for Demyan, who enjoyed his little secret and dreamed about seeing that festival in person... Until last year... when he had to depart for the campaign, he never missed it. He felt bad for the last year and his friend...

Demyan ran up to the window, looking out at his castle in the Waste Land. Could... she... be...? The door opened and Petrona entered her bedroom with a tray full of food. She dropped it as soon, as she saw what was lying in the palm of his hand.