We are happy to present a special creative submission that was submitted in the course of our community’s creative contest in 2023. It didn’t enter the contest last year as it was authored by one of our staff members, Luna Luv. We still decided to showcase it this year, because the story illustrates some interesting and relatable points linked to the experience of being sanguinarian.

Don’t miss the interview with the author to learn more about the story’s context.
You can find it added below!

Cheap Wine

A sanguinarian story by Luna Luv

I felt like I’d been standing in that alley for hours before I had beaten my nerves into submission, finally pressing my hand to the door. The rigid mahogany had no handle, and as such the greasy feel of the wood made apparent the countless fingers that had brushed its surface. Gross.

Ephemeral, pulsing bass drowned out most of the sound in the place. A dim orange hue provided an almost hazy atmosphere, the electric buzz barely made out just under the constant hum of countless private conversations, accented by the occasional drink poured on the rocks. The walls were notably barren, with only the occasional signed record from a presumably local solo artist, one charmingly displayed next to the bathroom sign. Wonder if that has any significance. At least the walls were brick and not wood-paneled. 

The Stage, a rather blunt name for a rather blunt venue. A short, flat disc rose from the ground near the far wall of the establishment, something that might have been mistaken as a tripping hazard if not for the patchy curtain hung awkwardly at its sides. The place gave the impression of a seedy alehouse masquerading as a cultural hotspot. 

The bar itself held bottles stacked from waist to ceiling, and I could not help but note its impracticality as the fairly stout bartender struggled to reach a beautifully red Chateau Whatever from its second-highest shelf. Luckily for his patron, his stubby digits managed to get a firm grasp on its neck soon enough. 

And my, what a patron she was — lips the color and complexion of the most forbidden of fruit and a mane of platinum feathers that rivaled an angel’s wings. Thin fingers tipped in rouge lacquer delicately clasped the Bordeaux glass from the barman. Rather than taste its contents, she simply swirled the liquid in contemplation, allowing the dull glare from a cheap overhead chandelier to glimmer off its surface. She looked fun. I put a pin in her for later, just in case this is a bust.

The rest of the bar was, unfortunately, relatively unremarkable. Small, round wooden tables were sprinkled throughout the venue, populated by clusters of guests who appeared to have broken off into their own factions. The cacophony of overlapping chatter brought to mind one of the many items on my “list of reasons to stay home tonight.” Personally, I prefer much more intimate occasions — they really give you the chance to get to know someone. Feel them out. 

The patrons themselves, as segregated as they had made themselves to be, did appear to share a theme. Lace, velvet, and leather, pocked with flashy spikes and lattice constraining plump limbs, noir as the nuit itself. Some nursing cheap liquor, others — men, women, and others alike — with faces painted to contrast the monochrome, the occasional white acrylic peeking out from an upper lip. The greater share of the attendees seemed to have a symbol placed somewhere within their ensemble; a nickel-plated crescent moon no bigger than a coin, its spine dotted with gemstones whose color varied between patrons. 

I slinked away from the bar and made myself cozy near the opposite side of the room as I formulated my angle of attack. I never liked these sorts of things. The whole… “people” thing. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like people. The mingling is the hard part, and always has been for me. Could never seem to get the hang of it, no matter how long I’ve been at it or how hard I’ve tried. I really wanted to use tonight as an opportunity. And the longer I stand here, the more minutes tick by at the far side of the room with brick scratching into my shoulder, as my mind roils and recoils through an ocean of bad ideas of how to strike it up with any of these people, the more I come to understand it might become a missed one. Another one. 

At least I didn’t have to think about it for long.

“Welcome, everyone, to the three-hundredth and fourteenth meeting of House Penumbra!”

The Speaker was a spindly thing of a man, his lanky limbs poking out from a just-too-short tailcoat, accented with silver-threaded spider webs near its ends and a linen-white undershirt emerging from its sleeves. A lune decorated his breast pocket, adorned with opaque black stones. His words were delivered as if he spoke with a forked tongue, an over-pronounced vocabulary enunciated with pauses to provide an air of sophistication his patchy beard failed to match.

The room erupted in genuine applause, the clapping of its couple-dozen attendees bouncing from the stone walls with stinging vigor. Hard not to respect over 300 meetings.

“My dearest Fellowship, tonight Lady Eruvia of Our Dark Council shall shepherd you all through a ritual to attain resonance with the Dark Divine… The Shadow itself.”

More claps and whistles filled the venue. The Speaker paused as a pudgy woman squeezed into a far-too-tight corset briefly curtsied before the crowd, smirking through glossy black lips. The crescent hanging just above her bust was contrasted by small purple crystals. The thought that they appeared to be fake crept into my mind, and I urged the thought away. I really need to get ahold of my judgment.

“This force, this Shadow, sleeps deeply within us all,” The Speaker licked his lips — not from nerves, but to readjust the fang that had slipped from its place nestled along his gum, “It is within and of ourselves. The self at its most savage, its most intimate, its most whole.”

The pressure on my shoulder lightened a bit as I found myself leaning slightly toward the stage.

“Before our ritual tonight, I’d like to hear from our Society. The nature of our practice allows us to more easily harness the essence of our Shadow, so that we may harvest the unenlightened and fulfill our position within The Great Caste as apex predators.”

The crowd laughed and jeered, a few among them howling in varyingly successful imitations of wolves. I had far too much shame to join them, but The Speaker had managed to command my interest. His eyes briefly flickered toward my direction, and I made a note to lessen the intensity of my stare. I haven’t even gotten a chance to exchange words and I’m already making a poor impression.

“Who among us would like to share their experience?”

The remaining whistles fell to a deathly silence, countless heads turning in a desperate attempt to break. After a few moments of eternity, a mousey thing stood from the crowd, their straightened knees barely peaking their crown above their peers.

“In my practice, I find myself calling upon The Shadow directly when I don’t have the strength in me to feed on my own. But a lot of the time, I have difficulty directing where it goes… sometimes I feel like I’ll come to and have drained someone I didn’t mean to.” The Mousey Thing’s eyes darted between muttering heads, oversaturated violet orbs accenting its cuteish mop of dusty brown hair.

“Childe, controlling The Shadow is perhaps the greatest challenge any of us may face… I’m certain many of your Fellows have similarly failed to command its power.” The Speaker paused as the crowd nodded and murmured, a sea of black waves lapping at the shore of the stage. The woman who must have been Lady Eruvia stood again and turned to face The Mousey Thing.

“But make no mistake, it can be bridled. Disciplined, dominated, and directed toward one’s goals with vicious precision.” The Mousey Thing’s eyes appeared to shimmer in admiration as The Lady spoke, the promise captivating in its confidence.

“Shadow magick is a raw, primal art,” my own vision dulling as The Lady continued, “and as such, harnessing this primordial energy requires us to access parts of our spirits that have been slumbering through generations of our ancestors. And yet, it is only through this practice that we are able to wholly know, and become our true selves.” 

“And how?”

Oh. No.

The Lady looked in my direction and gave another of what must be trademarked smirks. I wished it were by sheer shit luck, but the only accident here was my stupid lips not keeping my stupid tongue behind my stupid teeth and not amputating my own vocal cords when I had the chance. 

“My, I believe our coven has been graced by a new face tonight. What may I call you?” I could not tell if the squint in her eye was a poor or genuine attempt at a smile. The tide of heads turned to gaze at the spontaneous inquisitor.

And now, of course, my foolish tongue had chosen to take a well-earned break.

“I… ah…” 

Graced by mercy or impatience, The Lady did not let me finish.

“The question raised by our guest is an important one and is the question I would like to answer for you tonight. Wielding The Shadow is a critical skill necessary for any magickal practitioner to master.” Curious oculi blinked from view and returned to their Lady as she spoke. “In our work we tether soul to soul, taking the essence of the mundane as fuel for our own. We alone, us Vampyres, are the only beings able to pierce the immaterial shroud between mind, body, and soul to access its most precious resources. We alone are able to feed from this prana.”

I felt a nudge at my side, and a muffled psst. I turned in its direction and was met with pursed red lips and white feathers. Her emerald orbs were ringed with dark circles that I hadn’t noticed before, alongside her ripped navy jeans and the petite leather jacket I had some doubt could properly close.

“Kind of bull for them to put you on the spot like that… though you kind of did it to yourself” She spoke in a whisper. I blinked in response. My mastery of the English language is truly unable to be challenged.

“Did you want to stick around for the ritual? I kind of thought it was going to be something else but it sounds a bit less, uh… interesting than I thought it would be.” She threw a short laugh at the end, and my own lips reflected her smirk for a brief moment. I channeled this newfound mouth-momentum in an attempt to restart my voice.

“Ah… No. It’s not seeming like my kind of thing, either.”

“Cool,” her smirk became a true smile, cherry-red lips peeling back to reveal a row of straight, white teeth. “Here, come with me.” 

I followed Her away from the stage, watching hips rock side to side with a subtle-yet-deliberate sway as we returned to the front of the bar. She briefly turned her head back to me.

“Oh, you can call me Veil, by the way,” the orange light of an overhead chandelier danced across the surface of her teeth for a short moment as she beamed another small grin in my direction.

She gestured to a formerly unnoticed cut-out next to the barkeep, three short stairs leading to a section of cozy-looking wraparound booths nested in the lower half-level of The Stage. I didn’t have much time to question why the best seats in the house were located so far from the main attraction. She graciously took a corner seat and motioned for me to sit perpendicular to her. 

“Veil, like… a cloak?”

“More like a valley,” she corrected.


Vale and I sat silently as I wished I could die. I usually didn’t have this much trouble in one-on-one interactions, but I was still somewhat shell-shocked from briefly having the attention of an entire bar. Really not my cup of tea.

“You know, I was really hoping this place would be different,” Vale stopped and waved down the bartender, motioning for another glass of wine. I debated on calling for one of my own.

“Yeah, so was I… I’m not really what you’d call spiritual, haha.” It was my turn for an intentionally-placed laugh. I felt myself settling in a little. At least we had our disappointment in common.

The barkeep returned with another glass of red which Vale briefly swirled in her palm.

“You’d think a ‘Vampyre Society’ would be a bit more… visceral, or something.” Vale closed her eyes as she took a deep sip of the wine, her nose crinkling slightly. “And the wine sucks.”

“You’d think at least the red would be good…” I chuckled weakly at my own joke. “What were you hoping for it to be like?”

“Something sexy at least,” Vale spoke with her hands, a drop of wine splashing on the table. “I mean, sure, an orgy with razor blades is definitely a lot to ask for, but I thought it might be a bit more… active, I guess. Like a nightclub. Not a Ted Talk on magic. I asked around, and only some of them actually use blood — for rituals only. No fun.” 

“Hah, a blood orgy?” My tongue flicked in my mouth as I held my smirk.

“I know, I know, not a real thing…” Her eyes closed as if lost in thought. “But wouldn’t it be so hot if it was? Instead of…whatever tonight has been. ”

“Ah, yeah…” I did my best to hide my disillusionment, making a conscious effort to keep the corner of my mouth upturned. “That’s not what I was looking for, either.”

“What about you? What did you want to find here?” Vale’s eyes attempted to meet mine as my gaze fixated on the Bordeaux between her fingers, crimson liquid cusping the sides of the glass.

“…Company, I think.” Even and especially now, I was so unsure. What the hell was I even doing here? This was an awful idea. “To be honest, I’m not even sure why I tried, haha.”

“Well…” Vale paused, teeth gently pressed into the flesh of her bottom lip. After a few moments of hesitation, she began to dig through pockets of her jacket and pulled out a ballpoint pen with a series of holes chewed through its cap. She swiped a brown paper napkin from the table and scribbled fervently before passing it to me.

“Maybe we can both get what we want,” she met my eyes with a slight smile and a wink, pressing her phone number into my hands. I rubbed my thumb over the dried ink before returning her grin.


I didn’t stick around for the rest of the meeting. Vale peeled out of the bar not too long after giving me her number, and I decided to follow suit after half-listening to a few more anecdotes about spiritual predation. I figured it had been long enough, anyway. I’d had a light meal just before coming to the bar, but I felt absolutely famished.

I left The Stage through the alley-side door I had entered from. The late-night air was cold on my skin, but I didn’t have it in me to shiver. The alley continued down the remainder of the city block before meeting an abrupt end at a stout iron gate that separated the asphalt from a steep drop into murky, blackened water. The consequence of nestling apartment buildings along the edge of the city park, the gates kept local drunks from drowning themselves on a nightly basis. A man-made river had been dug around the perimeter of the faux woodland, a decades-old attempt to provide urbanites a paltry taste of nature. A line of apartment complexes bordered the metropolitan side of the river, the alleyway feeding into one of many lanes capped by gated dead-ends running perpendicular to the steady flow of the water. Not a lot of people came down this way, its darkened passages made it a potentially dangerous journey for anyone out late by themselves. 

I turned the alley corner and stopped at the fourth lane. 



A ragged breath. 

Ah, there you are.

I lifted the scraps of loose trash I had gathered from the adjacent dumpster, an admittedly poor attempt at camouflage. Half-blinded eyes opened wide, an attempt to scream coming as a weak burst of air. His short blonde hair was matted to his face with sweat, a sheen of saliva coating the left side of his face which was tilted toward the ground. 

His throat was gashed open, frayed sinew and shattered rings of cartilage exposed to dry, frigid wind. A hint of exposed vertebra peeked out from the torn flesh, and a faint trail of red leaked from the wound. Every labored breath was absolute agony, the damp air hissing as it burst outward from the newfound passage in the man’s neck. He plead through his eyes as I knelt, and lifted his destroyed body to me.

With one hand I snapped his head to the other side, the broken man giving an urgent huff of pain that speckled blood onto my wrist. I cradled his torso to my kneeling thighs as I tore my teeth through the other side of his throat. The man let out a nearly inaudible groan as I took the rest of him. Incessant bubbles of warm breath cut through the flowing liquid, becoming less and less persistent — until, slowly and gradually, they had ceased entirely. He had been emptied.

I left him there. I had no reason to take him anywhere else.

I dug through my pocket for an alcohol pad and cleaned off my face. My sleeve was stained burgundy. Shit, I’m going to have to burn this shirt. I really liked it.

It was unfortunate the House meeting had been a bust. I was really hoping to find someone else. Maybe someone who could understand.

But, at least I met Vale.

She seems fun.

Interview with the Author

BRS: What is the purpose/intention of your story?
Luna Luv: Honestly, and I know this isn’t quite surprising, I wrote this primarily as a vent piece. But not against psivamps or Courts or the GVC as a whole — at least, not truly. I started my “journey” before adolescence, and for years I tried to search out online spaces to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, but every time I’d find forums or communities that just didn’t really fit what I was going through. And I think part of that was genuine, sure, but I definitely know that my own mentality and biases kept me from hearing information that, while it may not have been coming from someone who knew exactly what I was going through, would have been really helpful in figuring myself out. Coming to some sense of peace. I think that’s something I still struggle with, but it really has gotten a lot better in being in these spaces.

BRS: Does the court in your story depict any particular court?
Luna Luv: Not quite, no. The Court represented in the story is not based on any Court I have attended, but the character’s reaction to the court is very much meant to parallel my negative experiences in interacting within the GVC. Disappointment, disconnection, dismissal — my own judgmental attitude, coming from expectations that were far too high and much too specific. I think I might have found myself a place in the community much earlier if I had listened more, rather than shutting out things I felt irrelevant at the time.

BRS: What scrutiny does the court in your story receive, and why?
Luna Luv: I intentionally wrote the main character to be, well, kind of a judgmental asshole lol. But I also feel there’s some validity in that, at least a little. I never really felt comfortable identifying as a “vampi(y)re.” And that’s not really for lack of trying. When I first entered the VC a few years back it felt strange adjusting to the word, and that never quite settled. I am most definitely a sanguinarian — I know for certain that I will never have a satisfactory quality of life without blood — but in my time within the GVC I have had few and far between moments of feeling genuinely understood by another person. I can count on one hand the people I’ve met within these spaces that have made me feel truly recognized.
But I also never would have met them without the existance of the VC. So to say my relationship is complicated is a pretty fair assessment, lol.

BRS: What audience is this story intended for?
Luna Luv: Sangs, I suppose. Sangs who don’t quite feel represented or understood. But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a sang-supremacist/“trve vampyre” hit-piece against psis, not even remotely. There are others of us in the community that understand you fully, who know what you’re feeling and can identify with what you’re going through… but that doesn’t mean the contributions of those who don’t are any less worthy of being heard. Different perspectives are important, even if they don’t line up 100%, it’s still worth listening to the experiences of others to contextualize your own. You’re a hell of a lot more likely to learn something about yourself when you’re not expecting it.

BRS: What do you want readers to do after finishing this story?
Luna Luv: Don’t take yourself at face value, and ask lots of questions. That’s it really, lol. I don’t mean develop crippling self-doubt and a hazy sense of identity, but there is good in healthy self-skepticism. And skepticism of others. Anyone who’s been involved in the VC for any meaningful amount of time knows we’re full of snake oil salesmen and wannabe cult leaders — and their primary demographic is outcasts who want to feel like that loneliness and sense of detachment has meaning. And maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but that meaning is meant for you to decide — no one else. Just be mindful to maintain some self-awareness and skepticism, or you could be the next narcissistic clown on parade.

BRS: Thank you, Luna.
Luna Luv: You’re welcome!

Sigil of Black Rose Society