The Masters of the Night Anthology, written by Gareth Hanrahan, presents six stories, one for each vampire of the Family. The sixth and last story of this series features the hypnotic Agnieszka. The other five stories were posted in the previous weeks - Laszlo, Imre, Mila, Nevena, and Ishtvan.

The city was as cold as a tomb tonight.

Julia drew the threadbare blanket around herself and shivered. She was wearing her coat beneath the blanket, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe she could take the blanket from the other bed opposite. The landlady said that there’d be another guest staying tonight, but there was no sign of anyone.

Moonlight came through the cracked panes of the little window like spears of ice. Julia’s breath misted in the air. No, she’d have to take the other blanket. Surely no-one else was going to arrive at this hour, and she’d freeze to death without it. The only thing that held her back was the thought of stepping onto the bitterly cold floor.

She had to risk it. Julia unwrapped herself and crept as quietly as she could to the other bed. The old _ oorboards creaked, and someone in an adjoining room muttered a drunken curse before going back to snoring. What an awful place this was! The blanket was a horrible thing too, full of holes and probably infested with lice, but at least it would provide a little warmth.

Just as Julia lifted the blanket off the other bed, the door opened. A young woman – a girl, really, younger than Julia - pale as the moonlight, stood there on the threshold.

The hypnotic Agnieszka.

“May I come in?”

Julia awkwardly dropped the blanket back on the other bed. “Of course, of course. Sorry, I was just… I was…”

“Is it cold in here? You take it. I don’t feel the cold.” The woman crossed the room and sat down on the bed. Julia took the blanket and retreated to her side of the room, conscious of the girl’s eyes, staring at her.

“Well, goodnight.”

“I’m not tired. I want to talk,” said the girl.

“I’m sorry. I’m terribly tired,” said Julia, but even as she spoke, she realized she wasn’t sleepy any more. The shock of the cold, probably. It would be polite to make a little conversation, I suppose, she thought, and the poor thing is probably more scared than I am. Why, she’s just a child. What’s she doing here on her own?

Julia sat up, wrapping the blankets around herself to trap what little heat her body still retained. “But I should introduce myself. I’m Julia.”

“I was born Agnieszka,” said the girl. “Agni is easier for you, I think.”

“Are you all right, Agni? This place isn’t really for unaccompanied girls. It’s not safe.”

“No-one here wishes me harm. Why, are there dangerous people here? Violent men?”

Julia shivered. “Maybe. It’s a cheap place near the docks. You get all sorts of people here.”

Agni nodded. “A place of violent men. Good. I will come back here and make friends with them.” She nodded to herself, then fixed Julia with a cold stare that seemed to go right to her heart. “Tell me of yourself, Julia. What sort of person are you?”

“Oh, I’m just… it’s a misunderstanding, you see. My name’s Julia Winters. I came to the city to visit an old family friend, he used to run a hardware store, but he’s moved away. And then my purse got stolen, and all my money and my train tickets were taken. I’m only here for a night or two until my husband wires me money for the train fare –“

“Liar!” said Agni, laughing with delight. “None of that is true. I smell your lies, Julia. You have no wedding ring on your finger. Tell me truth.”

It’s not a lie, Julia wanted to reply.

It’s none of your business.

Instead, she told the truth. It all came out in a rush – how her father was a drunk who beat her, how she’d planned for months to run away. How she’d befriended Kelvin, a clerk, in the hardware store who did business with her father. They’d exchanged letters in secret, and he’d promised to give her a place to stay – but when she’d gone there, Kelvin had turned on her, tried to make her… told her to…

“They were cruel to you, so you ran.” Agni said as if it was the most natural, ordinary thing in the world. “Why lie?”

“Well, it’s – it’s shameful, isn’t it? I should have, I don’t know, found some way to make it all work. And now I’m here, all alone, with no money and no friends and I don’t know what to do!” Julia wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. Maybe it was so cold they froze in her eyes before falling.

“People were cruel to me, too,” said Agni, quietly. “In my village, when I was young.”

“You’re still young, a child almost!”

Agni scowled. “They called me a witch. The devil’s child. They beat me, too. They stoned me. My father threw the first stone. He cried as he did so, but what good are tears?” She held up her hand against the moonlight, and the fingers seemed all bent and misshapen, like all the bones had been shattered. “Your father, the drunk. Does he live in this city?”

Mesmerize, the blood ability of Agnieszka.


Agni slipped off the bed, extended her broken hand to Julia. “I like you, Julia.”

“Pleased to meet you, Agni.”

She must have fallen asleep then. It must have been a dream.

Such a strange dream, though.

In it, Agni opened the window, and the moonlight streamed in. It was like a bridge, a silver bridge suspended in the night sky, and Agni led her along it, dancing Above the clouds. They ran hand in hand, Julia in her overcoat and her shoes and her two blankets, and Agni barefoot, in a ragged dress. The world was upside down in the dream – the sky was full of dark clouds, and the lights of the city below seemed to be a new constellation of stars.

Certainly it was a dream when Julia found herself standing outside her old house.

There was a light on in the living room downstairs, and through the window she could see her father slumped in his chair, a bottle of bourbon spilling across the carpet.

“You’ll have to invite me in,” said Agni.

“I don’t live here anymore,” protested Julia. “I ran away.”


The spare key was under the porch mat, just like in real life. Julia opened the door – quietly, so quietly, if you wake him he’ll be angry – and stepped inside.

“I invite you in,” she said.

Agni stepped over the threshold, and went straight towards the door to the living room.

“Don’t!” whispered Julia. “Don’t wake him!”

“I don’t have to be afraid any more,” snapped Agni, and she threw the door open.

Julia’s father woke, groaned, then his eyes widened. His face flushed with anger, and he scrambled up, hands clenching into fists. He lunged forward.

“Stop,” said Agni.

He stopped.

“Kneel,” and he knelt.

“Take this,” she said, handing Julia the bourbon. “Go and wait outside.”

The bourbon burned as it went down, a slow heat that made her forget about the cold and turned her cheeks red. When Agni came out, she seemed redder too.

“Let’s go,” said the strange girl, and they walked down the street. In the dream, it was a dream, Julia reminded herself, and how strange it was to know it was a dream while dreaming, and how good the bourbon tasted even if though it wasn’t real – in the dream the street became a snowstorm, white ground falling away beneath her and whirling sky above, like they were flying.

Agni seemed angry. She talked to herself more than to Julia. “I do not like how he made you afraid. I swore, once the Family claimed me, that I would never be afraid again. I am not scared, but the others are. We have many enemies, Julia.”

“Enemies?” stammered Julia. The rushing wind made it hard to hear, and the bourbon didn’t help.

Agnieszka's dark ability: Hollow Call.

“Yes. They want to kill us. They have killed many of us. They are like the men who tried to stone me when I was alive. They fear the dark gifts, and I am so much stronger now. But there are so many of them, and so few of us. We escaped them, and crossed the sea to this city, and here we make our stand. We shall draw the signs of blood Ishtvan designed, and bind all this city to our will. Every living thing here will become ours, our cattle, branded by the sigils we shall draw across the burning sky. Nevena has seen this.”

“You… you say such strange things, Agni.”

The girl’s lips became a thin and twisted smile. “They said that when I was alive, too. Look, we are here.”

The sign said CITY HARDWARE.

“Why are we here?” asked Julia. It’s a dream. It’s a dream. It’s a dream.

“Because I brought you here,” replied Agni. “Because I was once scared and alone, and the Family helped me. Because even the Devil’s child read her Bible, and remembered the story of Job. Because I wish it.” She gestured at the hardware store. Kelvin’s apartment was above the store. “Invite me in.”

“I can’t.” The bourbon bottle was empty, but Julia still clutched it tightly.

“Bah! Another way then!” snarled Agni, and she glared at Julia, eyes unnaturally bright.

The name came up like vomit, and Julia couldn’t help herself. She had to say it.

To shout it.


A light came on upstairs. A face at the window, and a string of curses. Kelvin hurried down to the ground floor, opened the side door. “You stupid little whore, I told you you’d come crawling back, didn’t I? Where else are you going to go? Come inside before you freeze to death, and I’ll find someone to warm your bed tomorrow night. I’m not a running a charity here, Julia.” He stopped. His gaze flickered from Julia’s face to the empty bottle to Agni. “Where’d you get that? And who’s this?”

“I’m no one,” said Agni. “I’m not here.”

And she wasn’t. Suddenly, she was gone, only snow falling past the streetlamps.

“Inside. Now.” Kelvin ordered her.

Julia was all alone. But still, she shook her head.


He took a step towards her.

“Come inside.”

She didn’t have to be afraid any more.

Julia swung the bourbon bottle hard, catching him in the temple. Blood sprayed across the street -

And then she woke up, and it was morning. The bed opposite was empty, and she was somehow sure that no-one had slept in it last night. Julia stretched, and peeled back the blankets. She was still wearing her coat – and in the pocket, she found hundreds of dollars. She stared at the money. There was enough here to buy a train ticket to… to anywhere. Enough to keep her for months.

Enough to start a new life.

She stared at the money in shock and confusion. Some of the bills were speckled or smeared with dried blood.

Words came back to her, half-remembered words from a fading dream.

We crossed the sea to this city, and here we make our stand. We shall draw the signs of blood, and bind all this city to our will. Every living thing here will become ours, our cattle, branded by the sigils we shall draw across the burning sky.

A voice in her ear, as if Agni was right next to her.

“I give you your chance. Run. Run as if I was at your heels.”

Julia ran.

She left the city before they drew sigils of blood across the sky.


With Agnieszka's story, the Masters of the Night - Anthology series is complete. The volume is available in PDF format for download here.

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