The Waltz of the Thief and the Vampire
By Drew C. Jade
She was a feather, floating across the stage and defying gravity with every leap through the air. With each vibrato of the violin and every quaver of the flute, she grew an invisible pair of wings, convincing the audience she was a real sylph fluttering with ethereal grace.
Little did the audience know that beneath the layers of white tulle and behind her willowy arms was a fierce dragon on the hunt. Neither for flesh nor blood but for gold to fill her trove. Perhaps she should have been a pirate searching for treasure across the seas but stealing from the dead and the lost was not nearly as thrilling as stealing from the rich. And Addy had her eyes set on the golden pocket watch chained to the coat of a duke sitting in the first balcony. It was by far the most expensive piece of clockwork in the theatre, made from the purest of gold and engraved with a rose holding bleeding petals. It had caught her eye on the night of her first performance and every night since. A month later, she needed it. Her dreams were filled tick-tock inside the pocket watch’s heart, and she would not rest until that beat was clasped within her own hand.
With each pirouette in the final spins of her solo, Addy’s eyes never left the shimmering gold.
Tonight, she would go home rich.
Addy hated flowers. For a week she had received the same arrangement of flowers after every performance: dog rose, tuberose, hibiscus, white poppies, and a few hidden flowering quinces. The dancers had flocked around her when they spotted not a name with the flowers, but a thick card etched with the same bleeding rose engraved on the Duke of Hallywell’s pocket watch. No one knew much about him. The girls saw his expensive suits and heavy wallet and knew that he could provide his future wife a life of luxuries. That’s all they cared about.
Why any woman would want to be chained to a man, Addy didn’t understand. The moment the vows were sealed, a lady became property—like a house or a servant. If Queen Victoria didn’t need a king to rule England, then Addy didn’t need a husband to live. Just gold to line her pockets.
Normally, Addy would leave the bouquet to rot on the streets, but tonight she held them in her hand as if she didn’t know their underlying meaning and saw them instead as a simple collection of pretty flowers. She only wished they could help keep London’s cool air off her skin.
Snow was in the wind, blending between the burning smoke tickling at her nose. While the crystallised drops hadn’t kissed the surface yet, the stone wall had become a pillar of ice against her back. Her nails and lips were turning blue, and she longed for the coat she left behind in her dressing room. The hideous brown would have clashed with the white tulle and hidden her tiny waist. If luck sided with her tonight, the Duke would see her shivering and wouldn’t be able to resist saving a damsel-in-distress. Wrapped in his coat, it would be the easiest pickpocket of the century—that was if the Duke ever left the theatre.
Addy tapped her satin shoes upon the pavement with increasing speed. All the other patrons had left, taking the chatter with them and leaving her ears to the quiet hum of the streets under the light of the midnight moon. The only carriage left was draped in black and trimmed with a metallic red. The coachman sat still as a statue upon his perch, as if the air had frozen him over.
“Isn’t it a little late for a lady to be out all alone?”
Addy jumped out of her icy shell, dropping the bouquet. Before they could hit the ground, the Duke caught them. She hadn’t heard his feet make a sound, nor see the shadows move in his presence, but there he was standing before her, holding her flowers, and looking much taller than he did in the audience.
Addy gathered her wits, whisking the fright from her body. “You’ll find, sir, that if you had left the theatre earlier, I wouldn’t be out here all on my lonesome risking my reputation.”
“I don’t recall ordering you to wait for me,” the Duke said. His expression was hard to read, shadows dancing over his pale face. The faintest glimmer in his eye was all she needed to know that he was happy she waited, despite his words saying otherwise.
“How else was I to thank you for the flowers?” Addy plucked a hibiscus from the bouquet, brushing the petals over her lips as if she were catching the scent.
“Most ladies reply in letters.”
“But you see, I am no lady. I am a dancer. A creature desired by all but out of reach even from you.” She pocketed the hibiscus in his coat.
The Duke upturned the right end of his lips. “We’ll see about that.”
Addy grinned. She rose onto her swollen toes, inching dangerously close to the Duke. His eyes never left hers as he let her stroke his cheek. His skin was colder than hers.
“It will take more than flowers to win my heart,” she whispered, her breath caressing his lips. If any late-night walkers happened to pass the theatre, she was close enough to the Duke for her reputation as a pure maiden to be tainted, but she didn’t give a damn what anyone saw.
The pocket watch now ticking in her hand was the only thing she desired.
The Duke leaned forward, inching closer to warm breath upon her lips. Upon the phantom of contact, she pulled away, taking the rest of the flowers once more. “It’s getting late,” she said, innocently tucking a loose strand of her red hair behind her ear.
“Indeed.” If the Duke was disappointed, he didn’t show it, standing straight and adjusting his coat upon his shoulders. “Farewell dancer.”
“Farewell, Duke of Hallywell.”
Revealing his hidden vein of gentlemen, he bowed before whisking away towards the carriage. She watched him walk away, waiting to end his night with one last tease. Just before he hopped inside the carriage, he got out a pocket watch, the one engraved with a bleeding rose.
Addy almost dropped the flowers again. She swore she had grabbed the pocket watch. She remembered it ticking in her hands. She could still feel it–
Where the watch had once been was an envelope, sealed with a blood-red wax. Her name was written in equally red ink. Not the name she went by. The name she was given at birth. A name she hadn’t heard in many years.
The Duke caught her gaze, his smirk turned into a grin. He winked then the carriage drove off leaving her alone to ponder.
Unsure if her hands were shivering from the cold or adrenaline, she broke the wax.
Duke of Hallywell requests the performance of
At the Duke’s Annual Masquerade Ball,
On Friday, 13th of November 1840,
From sunset to sunrise.
Addy crumbled up the invitation and threw it to the ground, the bouquet following. She wasn’t a marionette with strings to be controlled.
But the pocket watch–
She kicked the flowers aside and retrieved the invitation, flattening out the creases. She looked forward to burning it to a crisp, but until Friday the 13th, it was her ticket to her prize. At least she had the satisfaction of stomping over the bouquet and leaving it to the dark of the night.
As the orange sun dipped below the horizon, oil lamps ignited, lighting up the long driveway to Hallywell Manor. Carriages rolled up, wheels rattling on the stone path. Ladies in elegant ball gowns and gentlemen in intricate suits poured out of their rides, laughter and chatter filling the night. Feathers and lace hid their identities and left their smiles free to express their pleasures.
Addy wasn’t supposed to walk among them, but with the aid of a little red and black mask, no one would suspect her lowly blood. She could walk right in like any other guest whether the Duke wanted her to or not. She was going to make sure he knew she still wasn’t his and she would decide how tonight played out.
The footman studied her invitation. She expected him to tell her to walk around to the servant’s entrance. Instead, he gave her a polite smile and stepped aside. “Welcome to the party, Lady Izbaşa.”
“It’s just Addy.” She snatched the parchment, and stepped over the threshold, grinning like a fox.
The melodic twang of the harpsichord greeted her first. Its menacing keys dominated the strings and the woodwind, inviting guests into a fast-paced waltz like nothing Addy had ever seen. Coats had been thrown aside to reveal dresses more scandalous than any of Addy’s costumes. Men had abandoned shirts. They clutched their partners as if they were not watched by hundreds of eyes. It was no way to act at such a prestigious party—yet everywhere she looked men and women were indulging in pleasurable desires among crystal glasses filled with a deep red wine.
All except one man who sat upon a chair on a dais, like a king on a throne. He looked over his guests and found her. He beckoned her to join him. There was no sight of the pocket watch, but Addy knew it would be on his person. He knew it enticed her and would draw her in. She would have to get close if she wanted to leave tonight victorious.
“Let the dance begin,” Addy whispered to herself as she glissaded through the twirling dancers, sliding her pointed feet.
A series of oil footlights lined the dais—perfect for a performance—and an excellent guard to prevent anyone from stepping over to the Duke directly. Even with her invitation, Addy had to walk to the steps at the far side to join him, careful to not let any part of her costume brush over the open flames.
Too many performers lost their lives to the lights of the stage.
Before his throne, Addy curtsied, fluttering out the ends of her tulle skirt. The Duke watched her every move, eyeing her like a spider watched a fly.
“Hello again, dancer,” the Duke said. He extended a hand, inviting her closer.
“I’d say it’s a pleasure, but I believe you have the wrong impression of me,” Addy said. “You see, when I said I was a dancer I meant only on the stage for your guests, not on your lap as some whore to entertain your night.” She glanced at the guests moaning and laughing, bruises speckling their skin.
“You are the one with the wrong impression, not me,” the Duke returned. He rose from his throne, inviting her to stand beside him. “Look out into the hall. What do you see?”
“A bunch of people who need to get a room,” Addy answered. There were some things she didn’t need to see.
“I see pleasure, smiles, laughter. I see people enjoying themselves, breaking free from the restraints of society, and embracing their true nature.” As the Duke spoke, Addy could see it. Every guest was smiling, not with the politeness of obligation but with true ecstasy.
“I thought you were different,” the Duke went on. “That’s why I invited you. Not because of your dancing feet or as a punishment for trying to steal from me.”
The Duke’s smirk cut her off. “I don’t blame you. It’s an elegant watch, but I’m afraid it’s too precious to let a thief take it away.”
“I’ll make sure to take something less sentimental next time,” Addy replied.
“How about tonight, just tonight, you relax.” The Duke wrapped an arm around her waist, and a chill crawled up her spine. “You deserve a night of pleasure, and tonight all your darkest fantasies can come true.”
“What about my reputation?” Addy questioned.
He leaned close, his words tickling the bottom of her ear, cold like the touch of his skin. “What happens in Hallywell Manor, stays in Hallywell Manor.”
Her body wanted to lean back into the Duke and discover what lips laid beyond the breath of his words. Her mind hazed, entrapped by the fingers trailing her bare arms. She couldn’t remember why she was here, but she knew she didn’t want to leave the Duke’s arms.
Her eyes wandered to a couple embracing each other. Pure satisfaction bloomed across the lady’s face as the man nuzzled her neck. Addy wanted to know what sounds she would make if the Duke did the same to her. She was ready to embrace all the Duke spoke of when the man from the couple she was watching pulled away, blood dripping from his lips.
The lady dropped to the ground, lifeless, and neck stained with her own blood. Addy wanted to shake the scene away, but the lady wasn’t the only victim of violence and bloodshed. All around the room, people were dropping to the ground, death in their eyes.
At the first prick of pain upon her neck, Addy pushed away from the Duke, reclaiming her breath. The Duke said nothing. Grinning instead with a pair of sharp fangs. A droplet of her blood hung from their tips.
She should have screamed. She should have run. But all she could do was stare.
“You’re a–” she couldn’t finish.
“Say it, darling,” the Duke drawled, his amusement strong.
“A vampire,” she breathed. “You’re a vampire.”
“Living, breathing, and in the flesh.” He paused, grinning wider. “Well, actually, I’m none of those things.”
Addy shook her head. She danced the impossible every day, but the impossible was supposed to remain on the stage. “No,” she said, denying her senses.
“Yes,” the Duke said. He collected the blood off his fangs and licked his finger clean. “And you’ve been chosen, Adelaide Izbaşa.”
“Chosen? You mean you’ve picked me out like a loaf of bread,” Addy said.
“You’re worth much more than a loaf of bread,” the Duke said. “I only choose the most exquisite and beautiful women to feel the sharp prick of my fangs.”
Addy’s stomach started to churn.
“I promise it won’t hurt. One little prick and you’ll be filled with euphoria. Isn’t that what we all wish for? To die happy and fulfilled.” He inched closer, his fangs grazing over her skin. His words were a siren’s song, compelling her to listen, to agree. “Do you have any last requests?” he asked.
“Dance.” The word jumped out of her mouth before she knew what she was saying. “I want to dance for you,” she quickly added. “You asked me to perform, so let me dance. You wouldn’t want to waste such perfect dancing feet?”
The Duke studied her with a wary eye. She started counting the beats of her thumping heart, expecting each one to be her last.
“Fine,” he finally said. “As long as you dance, you will live, but the moment your feet stop moving, you will be mine.”
The beat of the music was engraved into Addy’s mind. She could no longer feel her body moving, only the pain that begged her to stop. She couldn’t see through the large window behind the dais, the glass blacked out from all light, but sunrise had to be close. Never before had she danced for so long, but she refused to become a vampire’s meal.
When she was a little girl, Addy had listened to many stories about the creatures of the night. Her father had told her every tale and myth about the cold-blooded killers. She could still recall the three most effective ways to kill a vampire; a wooden stake to the heart, consumed by fire, or a simple beheading. Addy had always enjoyed it when her father described the blood squelching as a hunter pierced a vampire’s heart. Unfortunately, Addy was all out of wooden stakes.
Soon it wasn’t going to matter if she knew how to kill a vampire. Her technique was starting to slacken. Her leaps were far from perfect. She didn’t even try to relevé her poses at the risk of her feet surrendering to the added pressure. Try all she might, she couldn’t dance forever.
Upon a grand jeté, she rose higher than ever before, weightless but not free. The Duke slithered into her dance and grasped her waist, guiding her body into a spin. “Give up darling,” he whispered. “You’re torturing yourself.”
She would do no such thing. When her feet returned to the ground, she continued on, prancing across the stage. The Duke followed, clutching her hand, and transforming her solo into a pas de deux. Her body was condemned to moves she ached at the thought of.
“You’re a stubborn one,” he said.
“I value my life,” she replied with what little breath she could find.
“Life is cruel,” the Duke said. He spun her away from his body, towards the front of the dais. She had no control of where her feet went nor the rise of her tulle, kissing the tip of the footlight’s flame. In an instant, her skirt ignited, flames crawling towards her skin. Her screams escaped as she fell to the ground and rolled, helplessly watching the flames grow and spreading a heat that made her wish for the cool air outside.
The Duke ordered no command but within seconds a servant threw a bucket of water over her, extinguishing the flames. It didn’t matter.
The music has stopped. The dance was over.
“You cheated,” Addy spat. The touch of the flames still tingled her skin where the flames had caressed and kept her heart thumping at an alarming pace.
“I did what I had to, to get what I want.” The Duke pulled her up off the ground. Her legs nearly collapsed underneath her. She couldn’t do anything when he tucked a loose strand of her red hair behind her ear. “This could have been a night of fun and pleasure but now the sun is near, and I’ve grown quite the appetite.”
“Can I ask you one question before I go?” Addy asked, her voice scratching against the dryness that had become of her throat.
“I can permit one,” the Duke said, as if he was giving her a jewelled gift.
“If you knew my real name, why did you ever let me into your home?” Addy asked. She didn’t wait for an answer. Her hand had already clasped around the oil lamp flickering bright. She swung it around hitting the Duke square in the shoulder. His clothing caught fire in an instant, but she wasn’t done. She threw a kick high into his chest with enough power to send him back and shatter the window. The rising sun streamed into the room leaving nowhere for the Duke to run and captured his guests in a burning of flesh with no escape. No other sound was more pleasant to Addy’s ears than the cacophony of screeching as a vampire clan was decimated under the giver of life.
“Quarter to six,” Addy read on the pocket watch sitting in her left hand where this time it would stay. “Right on time.”
The only smile left was on Addy’s face as she exited the manor, giant flames consuming everything in their wake.
It was a long walk home. The smell of smoke lingering on her skin and the blood that stained her costume would make it difficult to hitch a ride. Her newly acquired pocket watch could sway minds, but she wasn’t going to part with her treasure.
Addy brushed her fingers across the bleeding rose. It was uncanny how perfectly it matched the two other pocket watches in her collection. Three wasn’t enough. She needed more.
Hidden in her bosom, Addy took out a piece of parchment with words she never went anywhere without. She crossed off the Duke of Hallywell’s name, the third name on her list. There were only ten more names to go.
“And I will burn them all.”
About the Author:
Drew C. Jade is an emerging narrative designer with a passion for telling stories and exploring the emotional turmoil a character will go through to get to the end goal. Her love for stories about fairies and dragons inspired her to write from a young age, and now she can always be found with a journal and pen in her hand, ready to tell her next tale. One day, she hopes she can give someone the courage and joy stories gave her.
She can be found on Twitter at @Drew_C_Jade