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The cave that had become the hiding ground for the resistance lent them no warmth on a dreary day like today. Of course, every day was dreary, and it was hard not to let them blend into each other as each uneventful day passed. It was even worse when Beau thought about the carnage he’d had to leave behind him when his now reduced band of resistors had been attacked.
He couldn’t help but to go over all the what-if’s and think about had he known the attack was coming how many lives he could have spared. It didn’t matter that the attack had been over a month and a half ago, or that he knew he should be over it by now. An involuntary shiver racked his body, and with considerable concern, his wife, Delilah glanced at him earnestly.
“What’s wrong, Beau?” she asked calmly. That was Delilah’s best trait, Beau mused silently. Even in a major crisis, even in the massacre that had taken place six weeks ago, she had never raised her voice, never been scared... not even when that monster grabbed her and Beau had a split second where he thought he wouldn’t be able to reach her in time—no. He shook his head. It was bad enough the memories turned into nightmares every night as it was. He didn’t need to torment himself in the daytime, too.
“I’ve just got... cabin fever,” Beau said evasively. He hated lying to her. Delilah was the one person besides Carmen he could trust with his life, and any lie he spoke to her felt like a treasonous act. Still, he didn’t want her to know what was really going on in his mind.
She pursed her lips, almost disapprovingly. “We barely made it out alive from our last encounter. Are you so itching for another fight like that one?” Her words slammed in Beau, and he sat back, somewhat stunned. He hadn’t known how badly the memories must be affecting her. She pretended as if she was over the fact she’d almost been killed, or worse, turned into one of the immortals herself. But, had Beau stopped to think about her for a moment, he should have known nobody got over something like that quickly.
I’m sorry,” he said truthfully. He hated making her remember. It was one thing for him to bear the pain of losing so many he was close to, it was another thing altogether to be responsible for bringing back those dreadful memories to his wife.
“It’s alright,” she said softly, and Beau knew she’d already forgiven him. He smiled gratefully at her, but the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. He knew she could see that too.
“I can’t say I want another full scale attack like what happened at our last hiding place, but some action would be nice,” Carmen, the only other person Beau explicitly trusted with his life, spoke up.
He looked at her. She still had a faint pink line from where one of those monsters had tried to attack her, and even being the best at magic in the compound, Beau knew it would scar. Ever since magic had been lost in the centuries of vampire rule, it’d gotten more and more difficult to find spells that did the job properly. Carmen’s cheek was a prime example of that.
Along with the strength of their magic being decreased, something that had been contributed to with the loss of wands made specifically for each witch and wizard; most of the spells from the Lost Years were, well, lost. There were many stories, but the specific incantations needed were gone.
“Be careful what you wish for Carmen,” Beau said, a small smile tugging a corner of his mouth upwards. “With our luck, it’ll be just the opposite kind of action we want.”
“I don’t think I’m ready to face any of those monsters yet,” Delilah said, and he saw a shiver go through her. She’d had the worst of it, Beau thought ruefully. No matter how much he had wanted to protect her, he hadn’t been able to.
“Without a plan, none of us are,” Beau muttered.
“So why can’t we form a plan instead of just sitting here?” Carmen asked angrily. She wasn’t the leader of the resistors, but she certainly made her thoughts known every chance she could get. The last battle had sparked something inside her that had become a flame with all the downtime they’d been facing lately. She still simmered with tormenting thoughts of having been able to save some of the lives lost six weeks ago.
“What can a group this small do against an invasion of thousands, if not more, of those things?” Delilah asked with a touch of annoyance. The memories haunted her daily, of her closest friends being killed left and right and the eyes of the un-dead swam in her thoughts making her shudder. Not to mention all the blood and almost being killed or turned herself. She realised that sitting around wasn’t going to make a dent in the war they fought but at this point she was sure staying alive would do them much more good than going out because some of them had cabin fever
. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, but tears still swam in her eyes.
Beau took notice and got up to sit beside his wife. He rubbed his hand on her back in small, concentric circles and she shuddered once more but leaned into his touch, closing her eyes. Carmen let a brief touch of discomfort cross her face but she promptly buried it without a second thought. It wasn’t as if she disliked Delilah, but there was just something about her that Carmen couldn’t quite put her finger on. All she knew was there was something off. And it didn’t help that though every single one of the survivors of that raid had been exposed to the most horrific scenes that somehow though none of them brought anything up from that night, Delilah still did. Carmen hated to think it, but had Beau not been a hundred times stronger in character, physical aptitude, and leadership, there was no way the couple could have led the rebels for as long as they did.
Yet as soon as Carmen thought these things, she shoved them aside. Now was hardly the time to start a power struggle in the camp. Even if she never voiced any of her thoughts, Carmen knew that inwardly her spirit would cow against swearing her loyalty under those she didn’t feel were fit to lead. Not that she could do any better... but still, she wished sometimes she could tell Delilah to simply keep her thoughts to herself.
In the next second, however, at least two within that circle got their wish for a bit more action. And the thoughts Carmen had just been thinking vanished immediately as their close friend and fellow rebel, Aurelia, burst into the camp.
“Beau, Delilah, Carmen! Something terrible has happened!” she huffed and tears began to form in her eyes as she remembered the news Michelle had told her.
“What is it, Aurelia?” Delilah asked calmly, her previous weakness and memories having vanished with the burst of commotion.
Only Delilah’s ever present peace calmed Aurelia down long enough that she was able to say what she had come to say.
“They’ve taken her... they’ve taken Rosetta!” Aurelia cried out, and dropped to her knees.
The feeding would take place soon, Katrina thought as she aimlessly wandered the castle. She had a feeling there was somewhere she needed to be, but it was of no importance to her. Most of her lessons were useless as it was anyway. It was hardly stuff she would ever need to know. Her father, if she could call him that, would never die unless he was murdered, and even if that were to happen against all odds, her older "sister" and her husband would assume the throne immediately.
Where there was one end to the line, surely there was another line just waiting until it happened so they could finally be in power.
And yes, Katrina mused to herself, that would be how she would describe her older sister. Silver was very calculating, patient when she needed to be, and yet so unbelievably evil Katrina knew no other being like their kind possessed that kind of inner darkness.
Katrina would never admit it to anyone, but she hoped life would continue as it had for the last couple hundred years: she could not bear to see her sister usurp the throne any time soon. The times were barbaric enough as it was.
But this was why Katrina felt as if each etiquette lesson, manners class, and anything else her father forced her to attend at the castle was futile, and not even worth thinking about. It would be more likely that the small group of Wizards still left in existence attempted a strike against the castle and started a war, and even that thought was laughable. Yet Katrina was sure she would see that day long before she saw the one where she was crowned Queen. And she didn’t even want to think about if that day ever came which pathetic vampire boy she would be stuck with for eternity.
Katrina contemplated what her father had said when she asked him to switch all of her lessons to ones where she could learn something useful, like fighting against their enemies, and avoiding being staked in the heart. She sighed, thinking of his tight-lipped fake smile, and of how he had assured her no such threat existed as he always had in the past. Then he would ask either her mother or one of the psychologists to analyse why she was thinking such horrid thoughts.
Katrina knew she wasn't really being fair, after all, she had never worried a day about going hungry since the king of vampires had married her mother and changed them. She knew he doted on her the most out of anyone, save her mother, too. There weren't many people in the vampire community that were actually related by blood- after all, most of them had been changed like her, and the ones that weren't were far and few between. The ones who hadn't been changed by another vampire, mostly considered Vampire Royalty, had the vampire gene they carried with them, something that stayed dorment until they committed an Unforgivable act, one that usually ended in murder. All Katrina knew was that blood had to be spilled for the change to occur and she shuddered just thinking about it.
Katrina was so engrossed with what was going through her mind that she only just narrowly avoiding running straight into her older sister, Silver Delarosa. She had previously shared Katrina’s last name but had decided to do something unexpected and had changed it from the powerful Serrano name to the one of her husband, Xanis Delarosa. For awhile, everyone mused, secretly of course, whether it subconsciously meant that if the day ever came, she would support his family before her own, but nobody dared to voice the thoughts or they might never be heard from again. Silver was quick to silence those that didn’t worship the very ground she walked on.
“Katrina,” Silver drawled, rolling her eyes as she brushed her robes off. “What are you doing about these quarters?” Her voice was so cold it created instantaneous goose bumps on anyone who was listening. Yet the voice also had a lilt that made her voice also sickly sweet, as if it were coated in honey. It was deceptive because one never knew whether she was going to be harsh, or keep up the facade that she cared.
“I was...” Katrina started then reconsidered. She saw no point in lying to Silver of all people of her intentions. Silver would see through any lie Katrina concocted anyhow. That was one thing about Silver: with the amount of time she’d been forced to spend around Katrina growing up, she could read her and know her thoughts better than anyone else.
“I was just thinking about some things,” Katrina said carefully. “They led me here. I did not intend to end up here.”
“I am sure you didn’t,” Silver half-sneered. Although she was sorely tempted to made a remark about how perhaps Katrina wished to get her blood supply before anyone else did, as she was nearing the part of the castle where the humans used to feed were kept, she didn’t, because she knew Katrina had no such intentions. It was one thing to say such a thing if it were true, but entirely another to make false accusations for no purpose. Silver was not somebody who did anything at all without a hidden agenda.
“You know better than me that all the lessons Father pretends will be in my best interest have absolutely no purpose. If anything were to happen to him, you would be the next in line, not I.” Katrina’s piercing green eyes met Silver’s black eyes as she said this.
“You would do well not to say such treasonous statements aloud, dear sister,” Silver purred. It was punishable with a lifetime in prison for voicing any sort of sentence that did not support the King. At one time in her life, Silver had to pause and consider if what she said could be construed as treasonous to any pair of listening ears, though she had long stopped having to do so. Everything Silver said was said for a purpose, because Silver did not believe in saying things in folly. When she was leader of the vampire world, she did not want any measly underling to bring up something she had once said in haste, or worse, try and use anything she had previously said against her.
Katrina tried to read what was going on in Silver’s mind, but the connection Silver had to Katrina worked only one way. If her sister had not been raised to be so cold-blooded, Katrina was sure that even with their enormous age difference, they could have been true friends. She did not dare speak that aloud, even more so than speaking anything about her father dying. She would get a piercing, cold laugh that would send chills rocking throughout her body for a comment that she could ever be close to her older sister.
Katrina wrapped her arms around herself as if she were cold; but really, all it took to make her hair stand on end was the thought of that sinister laugh. “I am sure you knew what I intended to say, Silver,” Katrina retorted after snapping back into reality. Silver merely raised an eyebrow at her younger sister, but did not say anything for awhile.
“Dear sister,” she started, her tone conveying she was amused, “do I detect a hint of frustration in your voice? Is it possible you are not content with your life? Do you wish for something exciting to happen to free you from the dull and dreary world of being vampire royalty? Perhaps we should toss you out into the street and see how well a spoiled, pampered princess such as yourself survives out in the real world. Or perhaps I shall ask Father for permission to bring you along the next time a band of rebels tries anything against us.” By the time Silver had finished, she was fiercely hissing each world she said, causing Katrina to cringe slightly with every blow.
“Silver, I... I apologise... you know that is not what I intended for you to get out of what I said!” Katrina protested vehemently. How was it that even though Katrina had practically said absolutely nothing about the things Silver had voiced, that Silver had known every single thought running through her mind?
Silver planted an amused half-smile on her face and watched her younger sister squirm with a delight she hadn’t felt in a great, long while. “Well, my dear sister, as I am sure you are well aware, if there were ever an attack on the privileged life we live here at this castle, there is no way you would be prepared. Think on that before you go gallivanting off, thinking you could use more excitement in your life.” And with those words, Silver stalked off, sick of the conversation and the company.
Katrina stared after her, watching even as her older sister swept her robes out of sight, and blew out a frustrated sigh. Why was it she could never win an argument with Silver? It wasn’t as if Katrina had nothing to say, it was just that Silver seemed to strike down every point Katrina would have brought up, given the chance.
She stalked off, determined to do something about her current predicament even if it took drastic measures. Forget etiquette; forget the duties of a royal princess! But most of all, Katrina thought as she made her way out to the gardens, or her escape, as she liked to think of it, she was determined to put out mind that small sliver of a smile Silver had worn as though she knew everything that Katrina thought. The reality of that would be enough to give Katrina nightmares for weeks.
Pollock mused about the meeting he was scheduled to have in ten minutes time. This meeting was likely to change the way things were in the castle drastically, and he couldn’t be sure if it would be for the better or not, but he knew he had to take some kind of action.
He’d first sensed the discontentment brewing in his youngest daughter a few days ago and hadn’t understood it. Though she hadn’t intended harm towards him, her feelings of anger were stirred up by restrictions he’d given her. After she’d asked for the umpteenth time for lessons on things she thought were interesting
, and he’d refused her which had angered her and he’d been able to get a cloudy reading on her emotions since he’d been the cause of her frustration.
Katrina had claimed she’d have a greater need for lessons that involved protecting herself from the Enemy than she would have use of manners lessons she was taking and he’d obviously argued with her. He’d brought up the idea of needing to find a husband; she was, after all seventeen going on two hundred. She had fixed a look of horror at his joke, and he admitted maybe it was misplaced humour since no woman liked to be reminded of her age, but the core principle had remained. And it wasn’t as if he could tell her the other reason he had refused her battle lessons and would continue to do so for as long as he held power. He hadn’t seen any vampire die by old age yet, so he was certain she’d never find out, either. If she did, he was ruined. It was as simple as that, and he wasn’t willing to take any chances.
He had initially thought maybe her sister, Silver, had planted some of these thoughts into her mind since Katrina had always been the docile one content to do whatever he asked of her. He hoped that would resurface after he told her of his plans to marry her to Zane Vondran. She’d never be forced to marry the boy, but he thought perhaps settling down with a husband might soothe her anxiety to learn other things—dangerous things. And the boy was good looking; Pollock knew she’d have to at least admit that. He also knew that his youngest daughter was a romantic, and that’s when a plan began to form in his mind about how best to approach this.
The great mahogany double doors screeched open, interrupting his thoughts, and he glanced at the time teller on the wall. He realised with surprise the ten minutes had flown by while he’d been pondering what to do with Katrina, and how to avoid the disaster he’d been unable to foresee with Silver. He stood up from the throne chair after the young man who’d entered had stooped into a low, gracious bow before him and beckoned him closer.
“Zane Vondran?” he boomed, though there was no reason to really project his power without an audience to see it. He normally reserved that kind of display for trials or the rare times he addressed the humans personally.
To his credit, the boy didn’t flinch at the intensity of Pollock’s tone. He stood up straight and replied, “That is what they call me, Sire.” Pollock could tell there was a snide undertone to the boy’s response which made his brow furrow slightly. He demanded respect and he always received it without any hint of subordination. Perhaps the boy’s parents were at fault for their son’s insolent behaviour.
Pollock made his way down to get closer to the boy he was about to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to, and inspected him with more scrutiny. He was as handsome as Pollock had been led to believe, and he hoped Katrina would find the boy attractive as well. It was more the attitude of the Vondran boy he was worried about it.
“I would hope you don’t believe everything someone says to you to be fact,” he responded, showing his fangs slightly as a warning. The boy’s head lowered automatically and Pollock was satisfied with the silent apology.
“Of course not, your majesty,” Zane said, and tried his best to keep any hint of sarcasm out of his tone this time. He knew vampires had been beheaded for less and he valued his own too much to risk that.
“Well, now that that’s settled, I’d like to get down to business.” Pollock turned his gaze to a portrait he’d commissioned of each of his family members that were hanging on the throne room’s wall. The portrait he looked at now was his favourite, aside from Celine’s of course, and it was of Katrina. Zane Vondran’s eyes followed his and a smile played upon his lips as he took in the image of the beautiful young princess. “Katrina,” Pollock finished, bringing his gaze back to Zane Vondran.
The Vondran’s were an old vampire family, dating back to the Lost Years, though the matriarch and patriarch of the family had changed since then. Having been turned early into their lives, Zane Vondran’s parents hadn’t had time to conceive children before being stripped of that possibility and they had remained barren for many decades, finally choosing a villager’s son to adopt as their own. Zane had been raised by them, and had known his conversion was coming the day he turned eighteen. As far as Pollock knew, the boy had embraced his destiny, realising correctly that he’d been given an opportunity to live comfortably for the rest of his life—something most of the humans never had the slightest chance at. The boy had realised without hesitation that he should be grateful to the Vondran’s, and had even come to consider them his legitimate parents, though there were many differences between them until his eighteenth birthday five years ago. He had chosen their son because they were old friends of his, not to mention some of his strongest supporters. He had made a mistake in allowing the marriage between Silver and the Delarosa clan. He’d believed his daughter to be completely loyal to the Serrano royal family, but yet there were rumours floating around after she’d changed her maiden name...
“Yes,” Zane purred slightly, a smile on his lips. “Your daughter is very stunning.”
So the boy wasn’t completely senile, Pollock thought. At least he had some idea about why he’d been summoned here today.
He smiled at the Vondran’s boy, and then spoke. “I would like to offer you her hand in marriage, if you would accept. However, there are... conditions.”
“Conditions?” Zane questioned, now somewhat confused. That had probably been the last thing he’d expected to hear the king say.
“Yes, conditions. You see, Zane, my daughter is very precious to me. There is a reason her hand hasn’t been offered to anyone until now. My daughter has very specific notions about what she wants if she were ever to marry, and what my daughter wants, she usually gets,” Pollock explained, amused that he’d been able to garner a doubtful reaction from the proud boy.
Zane hadn’t missed the “usually” his majesty had interjected into that sentence, and he would be lying if he wasn’t curious, but he also sensed now was not the time to inquire. “What sort of things does the Princess Katrina wish to have?”
“She wishes to been wooed, Zane. She’s a hopeless romantic, something I’m sure she inherited from her mother. And it would not be in my best interest to refuse her something that important to her, do you understand?” Pollock asked, and waited carefully while the Vondran boy processed what he was requiring of him.
“I see,” Zane finally murmured, but the king had no trouble hearing him. “So you wish to keep from her this meeting, but yet you want to ensure we will be married. Will you promise a betrothal to me within a certain amount of time; no matter if I’ve succeeded in the task you’ve given me, Sire?”
Pollock paused for a moment, considering the request. He needed to marry Katrina off, and he was almost certain this boy would be able to accomplish what he’d asked. Zane was handsome, and save for the arrogance he saw rooted in the boy’s eyes, he could see he was capable of being a romantic. And yet it wasn’t fair to the Vondran’s to deny them the marriage if Zane truly tried his best to succeed. But he couldn’t dishonour his daughter’s wishes to marry for love; it wouldn’t be fair to her. Yet Pollock was fairly certain that after the months Zane would spend trying to solicit a relationship between them, she’d surely comply with his wishes for them to marry, he thought. If she knew how he felt about the marriage, surely the Vondran boy would have no trouble winning her favour.
“Though I realise entering into this sort of agreement is quite taxing, Zane, I cannot force my daughter into a marriage she does not wish to be in. She will have the ultimate say on whether the marriage goes through, but I can assure you of one thing; Katrina will know how I feel about the marriage and she also knows that part of being royalty requires making decisions that are the best for everyone, not just yourself. I am quite sure she will agree to marry you, even if you do not succeed to win her over.” Pollock finally answered, more sure that Katrina would fall for Zane or at least develop some feelings for him before too long.
“That’s more than fair, sire,” Zane responded immediately. When the king had first started his proposal that Zane work to earn the favour of the youngest princess, he was concerned, but he could see the king was being reasonable. Although it meant he must wait longer to be inducted into the royal family, something he was most certainly longing for, he was in no place to argue with the King. And besides... he was Zane Vondran
. No woman could resist him for long. Katrina would fall for him, and he intended to make sure that would happen sooner rather than later.
“Wonderful. Now we’ll draw up a contract of course, and have you sign it when it is completed. As for—” a loud banging interrupted the king’s thought and annoyance flashed within him at the disturbance. It had better be worthwhile. He had killed for lesser grievances.
The king’s right hand man in his militia came through the doors, bowing low and deep before the king quickly to ensure he wasn’t killed on the spot.
“I deeply apologize, Sire, if it weren’t an emergency, I would have waited until you had finished your meeting,” he said, forcing himself to meet the king’s gaze. Even though he was the most trusted among the king’s staff, he still feared him, and with good reason.
“Well, speak Gabriel!” Pollock demanded imperiously. He wasn’t worried yet, and he was still undecided about whether or not he would punish Gabriel for the interruption or not. The only circumstance he viewed as an emergency was anything to do with Celine or Katrina.
“It’s Katrina, Sire. She’s been captured by The Enemy.” The captain of the guard ducked his head, hoping the king had long ceased to punish the messenger for the bad news he delivered. Though the rest of the blame fell on his shoulders too, since he’d personally assigned the princess’ guards to her, and that was a fact he was sure the king would not overlook.
“How could this have happened? You assigned three personal guards that were required to stay within two hundred yards of her at all times
! Not to mention other palace guards who patrol the perimeter of the castle and the inside as well!” Pollock exclaimed furiously. The guards assigned to her would be dealt with swiftly and without mercy. How hard was it to watch over a seventeen-year-old girl who had no reason to ever even leave the palace grounds?
“It seems she found an escape route from the gardens that we did not anticipate. She was able to confuse her assigned guards within the hedge maze, Sire,” Gabriel said, trying to sound firm and confident. He knew any weakness he exuded would not bode well for his... neck.
Pollock debated for a minute. He knew Katrina was a resourceful girl and obstinate to say the least when she wanted to be, especially when she was antagonised. Pollock knew exactly who was to blame for the beginning of this problem, and he wished he were able to punish her but he knew he could not show that kind of favouritism, especially not without any proof. Slowly, a plan formulated in his mind, and before he had any time to reconsider, he spoke.
“This situation needs to be remedied as soon as possible, Gabriel. The Vondran boy will accompany you and a team of men to rescue the princess at any
cost. Do you understand me?” When the captain had nodded his consent, Pollock continued, this time, turning to Zane. “It’s your first chance to prove yourself to the princess, Zane. I’m sure she would look favourably upon the man who showed up to rescue her from the torture the Enemy is undoubtedly putting her through. They’d have to be completely thick not to realise who Katrina is. I want her rescued as soon as possible. Think of this as an opportunity to meet her on more than favourable terms.”
Though Zane was somewhat shaken by the prospect of going on a rescue mission outside the castle, he nodded his head vigorously. There was no point in arguing, even if the king hadn’t made the points he did. Zane couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. The only problem was he hadn’t been outside the castle walls in eighteen years, and he’d never had any desire too. Now, there was no choice.
A/N- Yes, if you can believe it, it's an update! If there are any readers left with this story, I really do commend you considering there hasn't been anything new since the summer! I really do apologize, RL took a lot of time away from writing and HPFF, both of which had fallen off my radar until just recently, so this thing has just been sitting around almost completed, waiting patiently for me! I don't intend to take such a long absence until I update again, but please know that RL is consuming a lot of time right now. I will try to keep updates as consistent as possible. Thanks for reading my story, and as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially since I got around to introducing a couple key characters this chapter! What do you think of them? Let me know! :)