Lauralei had never faced a challenge before in her life. Now, it was all she consisted of. Going through one challenge and moving on to another, and for what? She wished she could place her finger on why she kept going. Maybe it was because she felt it was the only way her father would truly be proud of her. Perhaps it was because she wanted to be released from the prison in which the immortal world had become. It wasn't the typical game of vampires running free, running loose. You had to earn it. Once one got that kind of respect, it was never lost. Once one got that freedom, it was theirs to keep - forever.
The rain had been coming down for days, and it was a wonder that it wasn't snowing. Droplets nearly froze in place upon the woman's skin as she held her bow close against her body, in a defensive position. She was careful not to make any noise in the vast puddles within the woods, trees creaking and falling everywhere around her as the rain got harder throughout the days. This was her nineteenth trial.
Each trial consisted of anywhere between twenty and fifty vampires in an enormous obsticle-like course covering hundreds of miles. Only one was allowed to cross the border onto the next course, and they were constantly monitored by powerful elders that could see their every move and thought. The vampires didn't have to kill each other - they rarely ever did. However, per competition, still only two were allowed to cross. It was up to the competitors on who crossed, and who didn't. These trials weren't as simple as whoever got to the line first. They were quite complicated, and every vampire but two had to submit to the rest in respect to let only two pass. These usually resulted in battles, where the creatures normally became injured, or saw the strength of the other before they were too hurt and bowed down.
Lauralei was one of those vampires that rarely had to put up a fight to get into another trial. They could sense the power in her blood. They could sense that she would kill to get out of here, but they could also sense that if she were to kill, it would be her absolute last resort. She was a very gentle person, who wanted nothing more than her freedom away from this place. Most of the vampires succeeded in getting to the very last trial - trial number twenty. Only one was allowed to come out of this trial, and it was always over the course of ten years. Since vampires aged so incredibly slowly, the elders thought that this was fair. Each trial took a different amount of time, but the last one was indeed very short - only a week to defeat whoever else had made it in hopes of getting out. With all of the trials put together, the last day of it was exactly ten years since they started.
A branch snapped about a hundred yards away, and Lauralei spun and crouched, pulling back her bow and firing it a mere inch away from the face of a frightened girl not much younger than herself. Physically, she was a soft nineteen years, but technically she was somewhere in the 200s. The young woman that nearly got an arrow put through her eye glared at first, and then saw the dangerous glint in Lauralei's purple hues. With hesitation, the other vampire bent her knees slightly and tipped her head with her chin resting above her heart on her chest. A sign of defeat. It was against the rules to bow and then ambush - the elders would come in and kill whoever did it.
Lauralei felt awful for nearly killing her - she'd come so close. In respect for the girl, she walked over to her - who still hadn't lifted her head - and patted her gently on the shoulder. "Good luck." It was all Lauralei said, and the other girl nodded without meeting gazes. With that, Lauralei began to walk the half-mile that ended this trial. She was nervous, and felt butterflies lifting in her stomach. Her opponent in the twentieth trial was waiting for her already, and from what Lauralei had heard, it was another female - but this female wasn't afraid to kill if it meant winning. There were rules to the trials, but they were very tricky and complicated. A vampire couldn't blatantly kill another to win - it had to be settled out in sort of a duel, where as little damage as possible was done. Per injury the wounds were allowed to become more and more severe, almost as a kind of torture to make one of the vampires give up. Sometimes, they just wouldn't give up, and death was the result.
Lauralei made it to the border - a seemingly harmless white pasture fence - and clenched her eyes shut, holding in a long breath. At last, she jumped over the fence gracefully, taking a moment to remember where all of her knives were upon her. There would be no rest, she was sure, and the other vampire was allowing herself to be known a few miles straight ahead. Once Lauralei got there, sure enough, there was a blonde-haired young woman sitting on a low limb that was still attatched to an enormous tree, but it was almost touching the ground. It was on the other side of the field, and Lauralei nodded her head in greeting. The other girl did the same, hopping up off of the limb and walking up with a smile on her face. She was excited.
"My name's Allistair," she said happily, putting forth a hand for Lauralei to shake. Lauralei hesitated before taking the girl's hand to shake it. They were allowed to have pleasant conversation, it was just uncommon. This girl was very young - she was turned around fourteen or fifteen, meaning she was agile and quick. She was almost a full foot shorter than Lauralei, who barely stood at 5'6" herself.
"Lauralei," was all the taller one replied.
Allistair seemed to be confused, and then realized that Lauralei was gazing at her with uncertainty. "Well then... congratulations for making it this far!" She had green eyes to compliment her blonde hair, and this side of the acres wasn't dry, but at least it wasn't raining. Both of them were soaked down to the bone, and it was probably around freezing temperature - just not quite cold enough to turn the rain into snow.
Lauralei merely nodded and stepped back, relaxing the smallest bit. This girl seemed so harmless. Well, not harmless, but... not necessarily a killer, like the rest of the vampires were murmuring.
"I wasn't informed fully... what happens to the loser of the last trial?" The blonde's voice was now very hesitant, and Lauralei's eyes suddenly became a little bit sadder.
"The loser," she started, "if they're still alive - goes back to the beginning; to the first trial so that they have to fight through it all again. They get a year of sanctuary before they have to go back, or if they agree to become a part of the sanctuary - where the elders can always track them, forever, as it's a contract on their entire existence - they're allowed to stay in that sanctuary and not fight any further."
Allistair's eyes fell to the wet ground, taking a few steps back. "I'm not doing this again," she whispered. "I'm sorry. I have to win this. I have to fight. I have to get out."
Lauralei nodded, taking a few steps back as well.
And so, it began.
They both took defensive positions, walking gracefully in an arc around each other. Allistair had a blunt knife, caked in dried blood, whereas Lauralei had her bow. There were various knives amongst her clothing in case her bow snapped or she was disarmed, but as far as she could see, this one knife was all the other girl had left.
Allistair made the first move, lunging forwards quite suddenly and scraping Lauralei's arm. It was the first injury, and this meant that each wound was allowed to get gradually worse.
Lauralei shot an arrow, skimming Allistair's side. Her arrows had silver tips, which vampires were allergic to just as much as the wolves that provided to be their enemy. Allistair snarled loudly, and they exchanged blows with a quickness that human eyes wouldn't have been able to comprehend.
After what seemed like hours, Allistair pinned Lauralei with the tip of one of the purple-haired vampiress's arrows barely sunk into the flesh where her heart was. They were both breathing heavily, exhausted and drained from not having eaten in weeks. Allistair relaxed, figuring that Lauralei was going to submit. The girl thought wrong. As soon as she was relaxed, Lauralei turned the situation so that she was pinned underneath her between her knees, holding a sharp, jagged knife to her throat. "Give up!" she snapped. They hadn't really exchanged much words throughout the whole fight, but her voice was strong enough to make just about any immortal cringe. It worked.
Allistair's eyes filled with tears, and she slowly bent her chin so that it was touching her heart, letting out a soft sob. Only now could Lauralei finally relax, rolling away on her back, still trying to catch her breath. "I can put in a word for you wherever you want," she panted. "You're a good fighter. Perhaps they can put you on Sanctuary Patrol." When she looked over, the girl still had her chin in place, tears rolling softly from green orbs. Lauralei whispered a soft apology and stood, walking a good twenty miles to the end of the trial.
She was greeted with two medical aids, collapsing into their arms. The wounds from Allistair were quite horrendous, now that she was allowing herself to calm down and feel the pain. The other girl and stabbed her multiple times with her own arrows, so there was silver in her blood stream. With all of the things she wanted to ask and do, her vision hazed over in darkness.
Upon waking, Lauralei groaned in pain. She was on a soft, feathery bed, in a large room. Three men were sitting, chatting softly on the other side of the room, when one with dark hair and blue eyes hushed and placed his gaze onto her. She felt it immediately, his mind searching for hers, subdueing her body only to make sure she didn't panic. Lauralei managed to place her chin softly against her heart in respect, for she knew that this was Raphael - one of the worlds' only vampire elders. There was Raphael, Alexander and Nicholas on the vampire counsil as elders. There were very few others. Alexander and Nicholas were twins; Alexander having blonde hair with green eyes much like Allistair's, and Nicholas was slightly taller with long, black hair and silky brown eyes.
Suddenly, Lauralei was sitting up, snarling at the elders, eyes flashing wildly. "NO!" she screamed. "Absolutely not! I refuse!"
Raphael was shocked at the outburst - she was stronger than he thought. He'd placed all the information she wanted to know into her mind with a mere thought.
Lauralei would have to face one last trial, one in the real world. She would have to befriend a werewolf pack, and then destroy it, before she was permanently released from the Elders' hold.
A week later, she was released. She could go anywhere in the world - the Elders would find her, so it wouldn't matter where it was that she went. The entire week was torture for her; pure agony, not wanting to hurt anything. She was... extremely fond of werewolves - which was exactly why the Elders were putting her to this test.
Over a hundred years ago, Lauralei fell in love with a werewolf man; and then the council destroyed him. It broke her heart and made her strong-willed to defeat the trials, to be the only one to go. Werewolves were generally repulsive to vampires, but her genes were quite... strange. She was drawn to them. Her previous lover had been drawn to her, too, and they only knew each other for a short time before realizing their real feelings. Before realizing that it was against every law of the universe to be together and have feelings for each other. And then he was destroyed.
She was placed in a rather un-trusting pack of werewolves, since the immortals had to get along with each other, it was mandatory to have werewolves temporarily stay with vampires and vice versa. Lauralei was... 'hired' as a sort of babysitter to wolves' children while they were out hunting, and she was numb the entire time. The children were learning not to hate vampires so strongly - which was good for the two breeds - and was suddenly transferred to a pack where the alfa was a female, and the rest were males. She'd recently birthed, and Lauralei was helping in tending to her and the little ones. Though the female wolf wasn't too wary of the vampire, the males most certainly were.
All but one.
Lauralei wasn't sure what his name was. He kept away from her most of the time, and was usually quiet. However, now, as she sat in a tree, she saw him approaching her direction casually. It made a soft smile come across her face. The past few weeks, she hadn't really thought about what she was going to do; what her orders from the council were. They never gave her a time frame... so for all she knew, they'd forget about her and not care. "Hey there," she called out. He stopped in his tracks and looked up, and Lauralei's breath caught in her chest at the sight of his eyes. Everything about him was... beautiful, and she couldn't help but look at him almost in awe. "I don't see you much around the pack," she stumbled out, trying to make conversation.