(artwork copyright Dies-a-Irae, link 'Black Haired Girl')
ISABELLA- A TRAGIC FIGURE FROM RABBIT LEGACY
As I began writing RABBIT LEGACY, I began to wonder what would make the best prologue. It is my style to include a prologue with every novel so why stop now? I had some great first chapters, but I needed a 'look back'. A chance for the reader to get a little back story that would be instantly interesting and even compelling. I soon realized that I had the perfect Prologue already written -- in my pile of Loose Rabbits.
If you're unfamiliar with this term, go to this link and rectify the situation. Otherwise read on...
This Loose Rabbit became the Prologue of RABBIT LEGACY for several reasons. The #1 being that it fits perfectly. Absolutely perfectly. It introduces my main character, Canaan, who is not in RABBIT CHASING BETH RIDER, and it sets up relationships between Javier and Roman, indicates the relevance of Father Damien to them all, and hints at a possible betrayal of friends.
I have leaked the prologue below. If you've read the Loose Rabbit associated with this, you may notice some slight changes. I have altered it only slightly to make it fit with the plot, but nothing is 'changed' really. I just left out Kilmeade for time purposes... I think you'll like the way it turned out.
Look for RABBIT LEGACY in early Fall 2010. Thank you for stopping by and leave a comment if you will!
RABBIT LEGACY Prologue by Ellen C Maze
1897 New York City
The blood of a brother was not particularly tasty. So why was Javier compelled to honor a stranger in such a way?
Tonight, Roman was moving them to New York to live on the grounds of a Rakum-owned hospital. He was excited at the prospect of having an endless supply of human victims helpless and without recourse. But now that the Rakum who picked them up at the train station was seeking to drink his blood, he wished Roman had not volunteered him so cavalierly.
Javier surreptitiously looked the guy over. He was tall, broad and bound with muscle; much different from the slender figure of his Elder. His every glance exuded confidence and a cool laissez faire that Javier only dreamed of one day developing. Just before he asked his name, he beat him to the punch.
“Call me Canaan.” The Rakum said in a British accent and then turned to remove the sweat-stained harness from the carriage horse. “Can you clean tack, little brother?”
“Yes. Of course.” Javier said as he watched Roman disappear through the door of the attached dwelling to meet their host. Feeling abandoned and awkward, Javier received the traces from Canaan. When both had their arms full, the older Rakum gestured to the barn and Javier led the way.
He was uncomfortable with the stranger for several reasons. Firstly, because since coming to stay with Roman at age eight, he had lived a sheltered life. Now he was twenty, but he could count on one hand how many Rakum he’d met in his two decades. More than that, Canaan was too quiet. Elder Roman explained to him long ago the tendency of their people to keep to themselves; saying that it was appropriate and even desirable that a Rakum remain aloof. But knowing this did not make it easier for Javier to accept. His propensity for chattiness was a bane to his Elder. If Canaan would say more, Javier was certain his nerves would settle.
“I apologize, little brother.” Canaan offered as he pulled open the barn door. “I will attempt to be more communicative.”
Realizing that the older Rakum was a telepath, Javier made an effort to think happy thoughts. Canaan chuckled at that moment and tossed Javier a cleaning rag from a bucket on the floor.
“Ask me a question.” Canaan said as he rubbed moisture from the bridle in his hand.
Javier ran the traces through the cloth and tried to think of something to say. He did not want to give his blood, but he couldn’t very well say that. Canaan made a soft noise of amusement a few feet away and Javier grimaced. The guy was a superior telepath and none of Javier’s thoughts were getting past him.
“Do not fret, little brother. I am not your enemy.” Canaan threw him a wink and hung the cleaned tack on the wall peg. He made a grab for what Javier had cleaned and hung it up as well. “Pretty good job, mate.”
Javier said nothing and watched him push closed the door on the tired gelding’s stall. Canaan collected his oil lamp and checked the animal’s water trough before heading for the door.
“What now?” Javier asked dreading the inevitable.
Canaan grinned and winked. “Shortly, I will begin the tour of the hospital.”
Javier nodded his head and stood from the low stool as if perhaps they would put off the blood-letting. But Canaan gave him a smile. His blue eyes flashed as he leaned against the closed barn door and crossed his arms at his chest.
“I like your Master, Javier. He has a soft spot for you. Speaks of you very tenderly. You’ve lived with him alone for how long?”
“Almost thirteen years. Since I was eight.”
Canaan whistled and shook his head. “I knew you were young, but not that young.” Maintaining eye contact, he lowered his chin and licked his lips. “And Roman is your main buzz? All this time?”
Javier nodded. Canaan was referring to the blood Javier consumed, and since he lived alone with Roman isolated in a forest miles from town, his was the most available. Canaan made a noise of surprise and Javier was curious.
“What? Is that strange?”
“You have no idea.” Canaan laughed and tucked the oil lamp on a set-in wooden shelf. “Rakum are raised in Group-Lairs for a reason. One of those is so they have a variety of blood donors available to them. You were raised in isolation. Why, only the Fathers know.”
Canaan lifted his eyes to the dark rafters above and paused. Javier remained silent. Canaan might be communicating with them as far as he knew. The Fathers were known to spy on their children, and with Canaan about to be promoted to Elder, they could have him under close surveillance. The Rakum lowered his gaze and smiled at Javier again.
“Indeed.” He said, answering Javier’s unspoken observation. “I am two hundred and forty-five years young, Javier, and I have never met a Rakum like you. You are a rarity…”
Canaan sounded wistful and finally Javier’s mouth curved into a smile. Of course he had a notion that he was special; that his situation with Roman was quite singular.
“This is why Roman consented. As a favor to me.” Canaan took a deep breath and stepped off the door, remaining across the floor for now. “Who is your father? Theophilus? Johann?”
Javier shook his head. “Father Damien.”
“Ahh…” Canaan nodded and approached, stopping a few feet away. “I can see that.” He then closed the distance between them and touched Javier’s hair, looking thoughtful. “Your mother was very dark, then? A Gypsy perhaps?”
“Yes.” Javier answered, unnerved at the close quarters. He furrowed his brow and met the other Rakum’s gaze. “What happens now?”
“Do not be impatient.” Canaan chastised. “Have you met Father Damien?”
Javier shook his head and Canaan reached for the collar of his plain white cotton shirt. Unlike Canaan and Roman who dressed to the nines in the fashion of the day, Javier wore plain brown canvas trousers and a roomy white farmboy shirt. He looked down at Canaan’s fingers on his shirt and clenched his jaw.
“Father Damien is an extraordinary Rakum. He sees the future. He can levitate objects. Even a carriage. He is amazing.” Canaan successfully opened Javier’s shirt a few inches and stepped closer. “Can you do that Javier? Move things with your mind?”
Javier inhaled sharply and shook his head. Normally he’d be extremely interested in learning anything about his true Rakum father, but with Canaan close enough to embrace him, he finally began to overtly resist the prospect of volunteering his blood.
“Why do this? Am I that special?” Javier asked in a low voice.
“We do this for training purposes, little brother.” Canaan became still, only inches from Javier’s chin. “To be an Elder, my sense of smell has to be a hundred times better than yours. My sense of hearing and taste too. My eyesight is already much more acute than any other Rakum I know. But I also need experiences. As many as I can gather. I may never meet another Brother like you, with your circumstances. Buzzing mainly from one source—that could cause you to take on the attributes of your donor. Could better prepare you to be an Elder one day. Might make you very powerful…”
Javier did not care at all for the man’s reasons, and he was wounded that Roman would give permission so hastily. He put his hands up and pressed into Canaan’s chest.
“Just be still.” Canaan ordered him and put his long thumbnail to Javier’s throat.
When he had pressed through the skin Javier grit his teeth but made no sound. He’d endured several years of bone-crunching torture already in First Ritual, so a little puncture wound barely registered. But he had not buzzed Roman but a handful of times and the sensation was unpleasant to say the least.
Maybe that was it. Perhaps Roman was testing him.
Javier sighed wondering if he’d ever complete the Ritual. The average Rakum graduated at seventeen and Javier passed that mark three years ago. Even as Canaan pressed his lips to his bleeding throat wound, Javier wondered how much longer he’d have to wait. Roman promised he’d meet Father Damien while in New York. Meeting one of the Fathers was one of the last things a Rakum did before graduation...
Javier pushed against Canaan again a little more forcefully. Canaan held him tightly, one hand behind his neck and the other around his shoulder. And he showed no sign of letting up. Javier did not want to lose too much blood. He had a long night ahead of him and he did not know when his next meal would come. After another few long seconds, the older Rakum still hadn’t let up and Javier returned to his thoughts.
Perhaps he would soon be on his own. If he graduated, Roman would put him out, set him up somewhere and let him start a life on his own. His own Cows. His own interests. His own Brethren to carouse with.
Lightheaded now, Javier grunted and pushed Canaan with real zeal. The larger Rakum’s mouth slipped from his skin and he stood back and rolled his eyes.
“Javier…” Canaan grinned and swallowed dramatically, his handsome face shining with something akin to revelation. “Buzzing only from an Elder… It makes a difference.”
“Fine and well for you, Brother.” Javier began, putting his fingers to his healing throat wound. Canaan held up his hand and wagged his finger in Javier’s face.
“Do not be cross, Little Brother. I have dinner waiting for you.” Canaan stepped to the door and picked up the oil lamp. “Elder Roman says begin the tour. I will show you my favorite floor.”
Javier stepped to the door, shook off the dizziness that threatened his balance, and followed Canaan across the moonlit yard to the hospital rear entrance. He was frowning, but the Elder took no notice of his expression.
“The lunatic ward is in the basement. Come, I will introduce you to my Isabella.”
Canaan pulled open the narrow service entrance and led Javier down an unlit hallway. The hospital was quiet and the lighting minimal as they descended the staircase to the basement. Javier noted that below ground level, the odor of medicine and human waste stung his nostrils. He winced but Canaan laughed.
“You won’t notice it after a while. Especially when you taste the reward I have down here for you.” Canaan whipped out a key ring and opened two locks. “In here, use the keys. Practice opening locks elsewhere.”
Javier nodded but wondered why the oddball rule was in place. Like all Rakum youth, he had learned how to mentally manipulate the mechanisms of the locksmith and no door would ever bar him. But Canaan kept going, without a pause and offered no explanation. When he opened the door, a wall of aromas slammed against his senses but Canaan walked in seemingly unaffected.
“You eat down here?” Javier asked incredulous.
Canaan did not answer and led him down an empty hallway to a door that opened up into a large circular room with stark and filthy walls. The floor was without furniture but snoring bodies slumped everywhere. Unable to stop himself, Javier began diagnosing illnesses left and right until Canaan touched his sleeve and distracted him.
“You can use your powers of healing upstairs. Down here, they all stay as they are. Understand? The lunatics…they are free food. For as long as you want. These rooms…” Canaan gestured to the padlocked doors that surrounded the empty floor. They were approximately twelve feet apart, with a barred window at the top of each. “…the rooms are for the violent ones. But over here…” He led Javier to a door on their right. “…I stashed a little treat for myself.”
Javier stepped over the sleeping form of a pregnant woman with a grey casted arm and entered the room after Canaan unlocked it with a wave of his hand. Javier looked at him sideways, recalling the decree of moments before, but Canaan again offered no explanation of his actions. Javier shook his head and followed the man’s lead.
Inside the smelly ten-by-ten cell, sat a soiled cot and a full toilet basin. On the rough stone floor beside the cot was a woman; short but pretty if he could imagine her without the grime that clung as if a second skin. Her hair had been shorn off recently but it had been black. As he watched, curious as to what Canaan had in mind, the Rakum approached the woman and stood over her. He looked to Javier and whispered low.
“With these people, you can be yourself. They can report vampires all day long, and no one will give them a listen. I take my fill, sew her up, and come back the next week. She never runs dry.”
Javier nodded with understanding.
“So you are hungry, right?” Canaan bent down and lifted the woman to her feet. She came awake slowly but as soon as her eyes focused she took a deep breath to scream. Canaan covered her mouth before she made a sound and trained his eyes on Javier.
“Come and taste this one, Javier. Riding accident. She came in for a broken arm and a concussion two months ago. I found her on my rounds the night they casted her.”
Javier stepped close to the girl and looked into her terrified pale green eyes. She shook and perspired but did not struggle. As Canaan continued his story, Javier put his hands on the woman’s shoulders and considered her throat. When he took blood from the Cows and prostitutes Roman provided, they were invariably older, and usually male. Plus, Roman always took from their arm or wrist. Canaan was a throat guy. Javier listened to him with one ear and put his hand to her cheek and moved her chin aside.
“I intended to heal her arm and send her on her way, but look at her, Javier. She is exquisite. And innocent. Barely sixteen.”
Javier blinked at her age but then pressed his own thumbnail to her taut skin, just below her jaw. He usually used a knife, but he was learning new things in New York.
“So I had her transferred down here. She cemented her fate by telling them she was frightened of vampires. Beautiful, eh?”
Javier’s nail broke through but it took much more pressure than he expected and she gagged and recoiled at the sensation. When he pressed his mouth to her and began to draw of the trickle that leaked from the insufficient laceration, he almost choked with surprise. Canaan was right. The girl was different. Her blood caused his head to rush and his gut to tingle with pleasure. He no longer noticed the awful smell of the basement ward.
“That is her consent you taste, little brother. Her consent.” Canaan paused thoughtfully and Javier barely heard him. “She wrestles with herself, not us.”
Javier may have grunted a reply but he wasn’t sure. The rules of drawing blood from females were not on his mind at present.
“I am leaving her to you, Javier.” Canaan held the girl against his chest from behind. “Isabella. This is your new master. Treat him well.”
The girl squirmed half-heartedly but Canaan was practiced at keeping her silent. Javier drank a little longer and stopped himself. It wasn’t easy to quit her but she was small and Roman taught him to be aware of how much he drew out. Drinking them to death was forbidden. Taking a dying buzz was a crime worthy of severe punishment.
Canaan laughed then, overhearing his thoughts. “Indeed, little brother. In a hospital, with little threat of interruption, it is easy to drink too long. Be very careful.”
Javier nodded and covered Isabella’s wound with his palm until it healed.
“Visit her once a week and she’ll last several months. Visit her once a month and she’ll last several years. Keep her locked up, innocent and untouched by the others, and her blood will always be this smooth. Understand?”
Javier nodded, his head still fuzzy from the pleasure of the meal. “How do you…” he smiled at nothing and continued. “How do you manipulate the mortal physicians here?”
“The Groundsman and the Director are Cows for Elder Kilmeade. They’ll transfer to Roman. Between the two of them, of all of your requests will be met. I will introduce you tonight.”
Javier watched Isabella’s face as Canaan removed his hand from her mouth and lowered her onto the dank cot. She did not make a sound, but watched him with sorrowful eyes.
“I will keep her as long as I can, Canaan.” Javier gave the girl a grin which she ignored and he nodded to his brother. “I will keep her in here and make her last. Roman has to have her. I would like to know what he thinks.”
“Fine. But this hospital is full of Isabellas. On the second floor, there is a charity orphanage. Children and infants. Whatever you are in the mood for. Take a tiny bit from each one. Heal them up. You are in paradise, Javier.”
Javier tried to imagine what Canaan was describing but it was unfathomable.
Canaan abruptly moved to the door and motioned for him to follow.
“Come. Elder Roman is waiting for us in the Lobby to begin the tour.”
As Javier trailed Canaan up the stairs, his thoughts danced on the future. For one year, at least, he would have all the blood he wanted from any number of helpless donors. And a locked up princess named Isabella.
Javier laughed and glanced at Canaan. He was smiling too.