A Conflict of Race


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Chapter 1

     Kyara stood in the alley, just far enough into the shadows that she blended with them effortlessly. She was, like many of her kind, able to hide anywhere, but it was always easier to hide in the darkness.  She watched as people walked by, none of them noticing her and she not caring to give any of them more than a glance. 
     A man across the street caught her attention.  He looked about the same age as she did, though he couldn't possibly be as old as she truly was. She watched him cross the street, his stark ponytail swinging and his t-shirt, blown by the wind, outlining the muscles of his upper body.  His jeans, however, only moved with his footsteps, being too heavy for the wind to bother with. 

     She woke from that restless point between sleeping and consciousness, the time when her mind had always run at maximum speed. In her mortal years it had been the source of her best work, the time when all the inspiration had come to her. That time was now lost to her - locked in the rows upon rows of notebooks that filled her shelves. Her walls were completely covered with them, with the exception of where her bed was, but none of them had been opened in centuries. She didn't dare. The creative writer had died with Kirsten, and she had spent the time since trying her best to banish all thought of that girl and come to terms with being Kyara. 
     Now that the inspiring thoughts were gone, that terrible time was filled with memories - those annoying things she couldn't ignore, and in the case of this one, couldn't give in to. It was just too dangerous. 
     With a sigh, she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, as she did most nights. She had often wondered if that was the problem - the "night" part. As a mortal she'd been a morning person, up with the sun, writing furiously, humming to herself every minute - it wasn't until two or three in the afternoon that she'd start to lag. Now she simply felt dead most of the time - as though she was completely exhausted, even though she hardly ever did anything, besides wondering why on earth she bothered getting up. 
     As her bare feet touched the cold floor, she stood and tried to busy herself with tidying up the non-existent mess to banish the memory from her mind, but it was already there. 

     She timed it perfectly. Just as the man walked in front of the alley, Kyara walked briskly out of the shadows, the stunning black eyes in her eye-catching pale face seemingly intent on the ground as she walked - right into him. She dropped her purse and it  fell to the ground, spilling her makeup, money and assorted junk that she never really used all over the sidewalk as well as the books the man had been carrying. She uttered an exclamation of surprise and scrambled to pick everything up, mumbling "So sorry, I've really got to start paying attention to where I'm going!" The man seemed stunned for a moment. By the time he came to his senses enough to try and help, she was standing up. She met his eyes as she handed him back his books and couldn't help smiling, revealing a pair of small, pointed fangs that could easily be mistaken for slightly misplaced eye teeth. She couldn't tell what it was yet, but there was something different about this one. Most humans, to her, seemed like brainless bags of negativity, all copying one another, but once in a while - 

     Once again, that thought of brainless negativity hit her. What she would give to be a clueless mortal again. She had never been negative - and had never really payed the world’s negativity any notice until she had been turned - but wouldn't let herself think that she had changed that much. The world had become negative and made her negative - she wouldn't accept the thought that the world was the same as always, only she had changed. She always tried to be less negative when she was in public, but she only got more miserable as the years passed - it was getting hard to hide. 

     "A pretty girl like you shouldn't be out alone at this hour" His words startled her out of her thoughts "Come on, I'll make sure you get home safely" She thought a moment. He was a total stranger, and the night world was her world. She'd been relatively alone in it for over a century. Even so, she nodded and turned towards her apartment, shoving the last of her makeup back in her purse as he caught up. 
     She looked up at him and smiled "I've just realized, I'm being escorted by you and I don't even know your name." He smiled back, their eyes locking again "Shikan" She nodded, they had gotten to her apartment fairly quickly "Well, then, Shikan. I hope to see you again. Not enough guys like you around" She smiled to herself, walking through the door and up the steps without telling him her own name. 
     Lost in those eyes, he hadn't noticed until he'd gotten home and tried to tell his brother about her. 

     Kyara's "cleanup" had left her sitting on the floor, holding a photo, as the memory rewound and started over again. 
     "Oh stop it already. He's been dead for what, a century? And we both know it was your fault." Kyara was on her feet in an instant, and glaring into the shadows "Eighty Nine years, on August 12." Coal was, outwardly, as close to laughing at her as anyone who never laughs could get "You had three choices: turn him, forget about him, or get him killed." 
     You'd never guess it, but these two were good friends, and had been since Kyara had managed to forgive him for making her what she was. To tell the truth, she hadn't really forgiven him - but he was the only thing left to make her drag herself through the endless days... or nights. Even as she heard his humor-filled comment, she knew his near-laughter was just a wall between him and his own similar memories, of which she was a part. 
     Her eyes narrowed slightly, but then she turned and sat again where she had been a moment ago. "And if you could go back -" She didn't need to finish the question. He understood. There was no way to win. 
     You could forget - and be stuck with the knowledge that you gave up one small shot at happiness in this miserable life or turn them - and make them as miserable as you. The last option, which many would consider the worst, was to stay with them - and (in their specific case), run from the family constantly until they finally catch you and kill you both. Mind you, if you were lucky, they might spare you and kill them – but what kind of luck is that?
     Kyara often pondered this choice – wondering if she had made the right one.  The first hadn’t seemed like an option, and being a victim of the second she couldn’t imagine inflicting it on him – she had honestly thought she could get away with the third.  She hadn’t understood the power of the family she had unwillingly become a part of.

     She was, technically, a part of Coal's family since he had been born a vampire - but refused to accept it. Unfortunately, they refused to ignore her. They prided themselves immensely on being the last family (to their knowledge) made completely of vampires.  Sure, they could accept a half blood – provided he or she had been turned by one of their own – but a human could never compare to their ranks, and they could not allow one to be a part of their family.  Most other families had given up on this – or would simply disown the guilty party – the Fuilteach family considered them to be weak.  They themselves weren’t really strong, to be fair, but determination and pride can be powerfully controlling once they’ve grabbed a hold on someone.
     Coal’s annoyance at her having a relationship with a mortal (ignoring his initial jealousy) had only been him attempting to protect her. Until Shik, she had never understood Coal's reasoning, but there really was no reasoning, no right decision - only how easy or hard you wanted it to be on each of you.

     Kyara stood slowly and put the photo back in its place as though it were her most prized possession, then let her eyes wander and stare blankly into the mirror behind it. In her mortal life, this had been an altar - the mirror behind it to repel spells against her - now it was only a table.
     She tried to convince herself of that fact, but really it was still an altar, though she had lost all faith in any religion. Now it stood as a constant reminder of all she had lost. 
     It pained her to wake up every morning and see that photo, and then to look in the mirror and see only the opposite wall. Even so she could never convince herself to take them down - as though she knew it would only be worse if she did. 
     Coal stood quietly through this familiar ritual, and when he felt she was ready to face another night he spoke a single word "Coming?" 
     She turned to look at him, resting a hand on the table as she thought. He couldn't help giving her the faintest glimmer of a smile at this - once in a while he still saw the human in her and remembered the good days before he had been forced to make the Decision. It always stood out like that in his mind – capitalized and taunting – with the memorized image of the bright, giggling angel he had fallen in love with centuries ago.
     After a moment she nodded slightly "Ten minutes" and Coal mentally revised that mentally "Twenty minutes..." she had always been too simple to take as long as most did to get ready, but always underestimated the time.

     She had never dressed to impress – but always managed to find clothing that suited her.  Everyone knew that her nicest dress was just as suited for the night streets as it was for an upper class party.  It simply depended on the one or two things she chose to wear with it.  Tonight she emerged in a simple sleeveless dress, in a shade of red only slightly brighter than her own hair.  The straps covered neck to shoulder and the collar came down in a V – stopping modestly long before where many women now wear their collars.  Nothing was lost on that fact, however, as it fitted perfectly to her form until the hip, when it fanned out and fell to just above her ankles.  She wore her plain black hiking boots – never quite being comfortable in anything else – and skillfully tied on her equally plain black cloak, covering any chance of someone thinking she was going somewhere special.  Her hair had been pulled out of the way quickly in a way that seemed to mimic a bun but left stray chunks of hair flying out in all directions from the initial knot.
     Pausing a moment, looking over Coal’s black jeans, old band shirt and leather jacket, she had the sudden feeling she was forgetting something she wouldn’t normally forget, but being so absent minded this evening that she couldn’t think of it.  Finally, as though she had been contemplating him rather than her own problems the entire time, she commented on the fact that he needed a haircut in a way that explained exactly why she didn’t talk to many people these days – she had lost all manner of social skills – and turned away again to grab a belt hanging in her closet. In a moment, the belt was fastened around her waist and eleven daggers procured from a small wooden chest lined the right side of it.  Ten of these were short and made of steel with black leather handles and sheaths – more for throwing than hand-to-hand fighting, though she adapted them easily for both.  The eleventh was longer and made of silver with a jeweled handle and sheath and engravings along both sides of the blade.  This one she never fought with, it was simply a souvenir and reminder and kept hidden at her back, almost impossible to get at quickly if she ever chose to use it.

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Chapter 2

Kyara followed Coal silently through the darkened streets – and he, being used to this silence, chatted relentlessly, going on about gossip and news she cared little about, hoping as always that he might at least make some comment she’d fight him on.  It was a ritual they’d practiced night after night for decades, he being as determined to get her outside as she wished to stay in her tiny apartment, lost in her depression and memories.  The difference was that she hadn’t the will to argue – everything was pointless these nights.  As determined as he was to get her out at night, her not fighting him on it tended to worry him, too.  In all her happiness as Kirsten, she had always been quick to argue just about anything – even Kyara, in her early years, had done so – but her loss of will power had gotten more intense every night.
     They passed an alley and the last dagger at her back seemed to grow slightly heavier as another memory surfaced.  That dagger was not her own – she had no use for such frivolities – but had come into her possession by a series of events that had ended in it being found embedded in the flesh of an old friend (one of the few she had known who was happy as a vampire, always giddy as she had been as a mortal) in that alley.

     Just as this thought crossed her mind, a name Coal was speaking caught her attention. Uilleam.  It took her a moment to connect it with anything, and she stopped in her tracks, staring down the alley as she did so.  She reached behind her and pulled out the jeweled dagger, turning it over in her hands and reading the engravings for the two hundredth time. She had never learnt much Gaelic and could barely take any meaning from it – but it was all in capitals, so that until now she had thought that Uilleam was a word, not a name.
   She re-sheathed the dagger and started walking again, as though nothing had happened, as her mind immersed itself in memory again.

     She had been about thirty, she remembered. Five years after Coal had turned her. Donnchadh had been going on about some guy who hunted vampires – yet another theory of his that everyone else attributed to his paranoia.  He had been happy as a vampire because he had felt all-powerful – nothing he had previously been afraid of could touch him anymore – but this news, wherever he had gotten it from, had turned him back into the person he had been as a mortal. He was always on his toes, ready to jump at anything, expecting the worst every time he took a step.  Kyara, too, had thought he had picked up some false gossip somewhere – they were vampires, they never had anything to be afraid of, it was part of what made life so boring – but she had kept an eye on him, afraid someone might startle him into stabbing them or something along those lines.
     Two weeks had passed like this, and then he had simply disappeared – leaving a short and vague note that seemed to say he thought he was putting his family (which had not been the same as Coal’s) in danger by being so near to them while trying to get information on the hunter.  He would be safe, he assured them, he was taking every precaution – but he could only protect himself, not his family as well.  That was the last she had heard of him until she had stumbled on him one night in the alley.  She had taken the dagger and dragged him out to where the sun would turn him to ash in the morning.

     She hadn’t known what to think of it then, and still didn’t know – but what she had felt was an awful lot like her last hope crumbling.  She had never since met someone happy to be one of her race, and he had given her the hope that she might be able to make the best of it until he, too, had fallen apart.  She couldn’t remember having shed a tear – the body she had dragged out had lost all trace of the Donnchadh she had known – but she had to admit curiosity over this hunter.  This was the first she had heard anything that might have something to do with him – and after all, what did she have to lose?
     Coal had caught up again and started talking about useless facts again, but she interrupted him with “What was that about Uilleam?” and he narrowed his eyes at her slightly.  “How would you know Uilleam?  He’d be my parents’ age, and was killed the year after you were turned.  Unless you heard of him in legend – because he really is a legend.”  This brought Kyara into silence again, but Coal had a hard time stopping a train of through once he’d started “He wasn’t even a vampire, you know, no one really knows what he was – except not mortal – some genius cut off his head, then locked it in a box so that his body couldn’t get to it.  He died of starvation, and most think he wouldn’t have if his killer hadn’t locked the box.”  He was quiet for quite a few minutes before he found something else to add “He did have a daughter, though…”
     Kyara rounded on him in an instant, staring at him wordlessly yet making it clear that he had better keep talking.

     She dropped down from above, the crunch of bone colliding with bone audible to both Kyara and Coal as they stood rooted to the ground as though they’d just seen an apparition of a sort.  To them, this was close enough to what had happened – the girl was definitely not a vampire and had somehow gotten this close to them without them noticing until she had chosen to come into their view.  After a moment, Coal took a step forward, finally registering the fact that the noise they had heard upon her landing was normally to be connected with a limb breaking – but as he did so, the girl stood, acting as though she had simply jumped a couple feet rather than eight storeys.
     “I heard my name,” she said matter-of-factly, seeming to think this would explain everything and make their questioning looks disappear “though I can guess you were speaking of my father.”

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